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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) Treatment
Luckily for those who can't get the extra sun their body needs to produce enough vitamin D on its own, it has been found that vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) supplements can be very effective at treating SAD. Although the number of studies published on the subject is quite low, all have produced favourable results.
An important and widely cited study conducted at The Department of Medicine, Union Memorial Hospital, Baltimore, compared the effects of a single 100,000IU vitamin D injection to 1 months bright light therapy on the condition of 15 SAD patients6. Eight patients were given vitamin D and seven were given light therapy. Before and after treatment each patient was evaluated using the Hamilton Depression scale, the SIGH-SAD, and the SAD-8 depression scale. The results showed that every patient given vitamin D improved on all 3 depression scales, whereas the patients given bright light therapy failed to significantly improve on any. The study also found that both treatments elevated vitamin D status after 30 days but that the vitamin D injection raised levels twice as much as did bright light therapy.
The amount each patients vitamin D levels had risen also correlated strongly with the reduction in symptom severity achieved. So in this study at least, vitamin D was actually a lot more effective than bright light therapy for the treatment of SAD. It should be noted however that 15 participants is a low number to get very accurate results and that bright light therapy has proven effective in many other studies.
Other studies have used oral vitamin D3 supplementation, also with positive results. One such study gave SAD patients either 400iu of vitamin D3, 800iu of vitamin D3, or a placebo, for 5 days during late winter under double blind conditions (patients or researchers didn't know who got which treatment until results were in). The study found that even after such a short treatment period the patients given the vitamin D, in either dose, significantly improved7. Higher doses have been used in other studies, typically 4000iu per day. This has been found to be a safe dose with even more positive effects on mood than lower doses8.