Study: Vitamin D levels linked to improved mood and mental health
11/29/2021 // Zoey Sky // Views

Vitamin D is often associated with bone health since the sunshine vitamin is essential for maintaining strong, healthy bones. You also need vitamin D for thyroid health, optimal gut and immune function, healthy brain development and function, and a healthy pregnancy.

According to a recent study, there's also a crucial link between the sunshine vitamin and your mood and mental well-being.

Vitamin D intake and your mental health

Within the last decade or so, researchers have conducted numerous studies to understand the link between vitamin D and the brain. Some studies have identified the presence of vitamin D receptors and metabolites throughout the brain, which suggests that the vitamin plays a role in both cognitive function and mood regulation.

Aside from brain health, research has also found that vitamin D can affect gut function and health by promoting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and supporting the integrity of the gut lining. This hints at vitamin D's role in your mental health since there is a "complex and deep relationship between gut health and mental well-being."

Many studies also point to the connection between vitamin D status – or how low or high your vitamin D levels are in the blood – and your mental health. One 2020 review reported that, based on the findings of numerous studies, people with mood concerns often have lower vitamin D levels.

A paper released in 2010 called for more research on the use of vitamin D supplementation to support emotional health because it was a "simple and cost-effective solution for many" with mood concerns. (Related: A worldwide health problem: Numerous studies warn that low levels of vitamin D can increase premature death and disease risks.)


Scientists still have a lot to learn about the exact mechanisms that connect vitamin D and mental well-being, but recent studies suggest that the vitamin's role in the regulation of melatonin and serotonin, two hormones that affect mood, has something to do with it. According to preclinical research, vitamin D can help buffer the brain from oxidative stress and inflammatory pathways.

Circulating vitamin D levels and mental health of young people

For their systematic review, scientists analyzed 15 studies published in the peer-reviewed journal Clinics.

Their findings highlight the importance of vitamin D for maintaining mental health. According to the review, a lot of studies have identified "consistent links" between vitamin D and "overall mood and feelings of anxiousness."

The scientists reported that based on current evidence, boosting circulating vitamin D levels can significantly improve mental health, especially in young people. They also warned that having circulating vitamin D levels lower than 20 ng/mL, which is considered a clinical deficiency, is linked to "suboptimal mental well-being."

Unfortunately, an estimated one-third of American adults suffer from vitamin D deficiency.

Foods rich in vitamin D

Maintaining optimal vitamin D levels is crucial for many aspects of your health, especially if you want to improve your mood and mental well-being.

Many health experts say that 50 ng/mL is the ideal concentration of vitamin D in the blood. You need a daily intake of at least 5,000 international units (IUs) of vitamin D3 to maintain optimal blood levels.

There are two types of vitamin D in the human diet. Vitamin D2, which comes from plants, and D3, which comes from animals.

Cholecalciferol, or vitamin D3, is the vitamin that your body naturally produces. Vitamin D3 is the most sought-after form of vitamin D, as it's more easily absorbed and utilized by the body than vitamin D2.

Listed below are superfoods rich in vitamin D3:

  • Canned sockeye salmon
  • Cisco
  • Cod liver oil
  • Fish oil
  • Halibut
  • Herring
  • Mackerel
  • Organic soy milk
  • Rainbow trout
  • Rockfish
  • Sturgeon
  • Swordfish
  • Tuna
  • Whitefish
  • Whole milk
  • Yogurt

Aside from eating foods rich in vitamin D, you can also take supplements to ensure that you get enough of the sunshine vitamin regularly. Follow a healthy diet and maintain your circulating vitamin D levels to ensure your overall well-being.

Sources include:

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