In recent years, a special focus has been placed on the functions of vitamin D, or better called hormone D -according to experts-, which go beyond its recognized bone functions. Vitamin D is a powerful hormone whose main functions are the intestinal absorption of calcium and phosphorus and bone mineralization. But, in addition, different epidemiological studies have shown an association between vitamin D deficiency and the appearance and greater severity of numerous chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, autoimmune diseases or some cancers. In psychiatry, hypovitaminosis D has been linked to depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, other psychoses, and autism.
At the neurological level, the aforementioned hormone is necessary for normal brain development and has neuroprotective functions thanks to its involvement in the modulation of neurotransmitter synthesis, nerve growth factor and the reduction of oxidative stress.
Scientific evidence suggests that there is a relationship between vitamin D deficiency and various mental illnesses. Specifically, in a recent study conducted on psychosis in the United Kingdom, only 25% of patients had levels above 20 ng/ml of 25-hydroxyvitamin D.
Similarly, there is clinical research showing the correlation between vitamin D deficiency and other psychiatric illnesses such as depression, autism, or suicide.
“Vitamin D is a vulnerability factor for psychiatric illness. People with mental illness tend to go outdoors less and have poorer nutrition, especially in acute moments of illness. Therefore, they are a population at risk of deficit, higher than the risk in the general population”, comments the Dr. Ana González-Pinto, President of the Spanish Foundation for Psychiatry and Mental Health.
Specialists highlight the importance of identifying and treating vitamin D deficiency, since it could provide important benefits for psychiatric patients and even have a positive effect on the course of the psychiatric illness itself.
“Given the high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in mental illnesses and its relationship with the appearance of different comorbidities, greater awareness among professionals in the field of psychiatry would be desirable. And, to deal with the problem, the levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin-D should be determined in psychiatric patients and supplementation in cases where it is necessary, “says the specialist.
Experts stress that mental illnesses are complex and require multiple approaches, and vitamin D may be a factor in a subgroup of patients. There are different options for the treatment of vitamin D deficiency. One of them, calcifediol, has a number of advantages over another therapeutic option, cholecalciferol, as it is more powerful, faster, does not require hepatic hydroxylation, and is better absorbed. Therefore, calcifediol raises serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin-D3 to a greater extent and more rapidly than cholecalciferol.
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