Relationship between Vitamin D status and Depression in Tactical Athletes
by Benjamin Bunting BA(Hons) PGCert
Written by Ben Bunting: BA, PGCert. (Sport & Exercise Nutrition) // British Army Physical Training Instructor // S&C Coach.
For tactical athletes, their physical fitness is crucial for success in their chosen career. If they aren't in peak condition, they could be injured easily during training or the heat of battle.
Research shows that vitamin D deficiency is associated with multiple mental health outcomes, including depression. This is particularly relevant to military, police and fire fighters who are exposed to dangerous situations and often have limited access to sun exposure.
1. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with depression
It is well known that vitamin D is essential for healthy bone and muscle function, immunity, inflammation, and respiratory function. Moreover, it is important for psychological and mental wellbeing and may also play an indirect role in fighting depression by regulating the levels of serotonin and dopamine. It is a fat-soluble steroid prohormone produced by the skin when it is exposed to sunlight and ultraviolet-B radiation (UV-B).
The relationship between vitamin D status and depression has been studied extensively in various population groups, including the general public, pregnant women, people with gout, chronic spinal cord injuries, stroke, and multiple sclerosis. It is theorized that depression is associated with a deficiency in vitamin D because it results in an inverse correlation between serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25-OH)D concentration and BDI-II scores, which indicate the severity of depression.
Multiple clinical studies have shown that a high dose of vitamin D supplementation reduces the levels of depressive symptoms in patients with major depression or postpartum depression. The effect of the supplementation was more pronounced in the cases of severe depression than in those of mild or moderate depression and was observed more frequently among women compared to men.
However, the evidence from randomized controlled trials is limited and there are many limitations in the existing literature on this subject. A broader study of this subject is required.
This is because vitamin D deficiency affects several neurotransmitters in the brain, including melatonin, serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. In addition, low serum vitamin D is often accompanied by other psychiatric symptoms such as insomnia, fatigue, irritability, and anxiety.
A cross-sectional study of 237 participants in Kuwait showed that a low plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration 50 nmol/L was associated with a higher rate of depression. Moreover, a low serum vitamin D concentration was more common in older adults with a history of depression than in younger subjects.
This study is the first to evaluate the association between serum vitamin D concentration and depression in a larger sample of adults. It also addresses some of the limitations of the existing literature on this subject such as measurement of serum 25-(OH)-D concentration and depression scoring. It therefore serves as a basis for further research.
2. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with suicide
Vitamin D is essential for the function of skeletal muscle, bone health, immune function, and neurotransmission. It also helps prevent calcium buildup in the body. Studies have shown that people with low vitamin D levels are more likely to have depression and suicidal thoughts.
In addition, there is evidence that a higher intake of vitamin D may lower the risk of suicide in patients with bipolar disorder. However, there is not enough research to understand if this effect is true in people without bipolar disorder.
To investigate this relationship, Lavigne and Gibbons analyzed data from 1.3 million veterans in the U.S. They compared those who took vitamin D supplements to veterans of similar demographics and medical history who did not take them. They found that those who used supplements had a 45% lower rate of suicide attempts or self-harm behavior than veterans who did not.
The researchers compared people who were listed as having at least one medical or pharmacy interaction noted in their records between 2010 and 2018. They looked at about 490,885 veterans who received vitamin D3 supplements and 169,241 veterans who received vitamin D2 supplements. They matched the veterans by age, gender, military service, blood levels of vitamin D and other factors, then compared them with a group of veterans who did not receive supplements.
They found that there was a significant association between a higher rate of suicide attempts or self-harm behaviors and higher serum vitamin D levels before they started taking supplements. This association was strongest for Black veterans and those with the lowest blood levels of vitamin D before they started taking supplements.
Their findings are important because they demonstrate that vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor for suicide. They suggest that future studies need to examine additional factors that may influence the rate of suicide in people with vitamin D deficiency.
They recommend that people who have a high risk of suicide ask their doctor about vitamin D supplements. They say that these supplements may not be as effective if there are other co-factors present, such as drug interactions or other nutrient absorption issues.
3. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with anxiety
A recent study investigated the relationship between vitamin D status and depression in a tactical athletes. This study showed that vitamin D deficiency was associated with higher levels of anxiety and depression among the participants.
As a result, it is important to maintain sufficient vitamin D status. There are several ways to do this. Sensible sun exposure (sunbathing 5 to 30 min/day at solar noon), dietary intake, and regular supplementation are all effective ways of maintaining adequate vitamin D.
However, some conditions may make it difficult to obtain sufficient vitamin D. These include a lack of sun exposure due to uniform sleeve worn down, shade-cover-seeking behavior, nighttime operational requirements, and the use of sunscreen. Also, heavy field loads that military personnel carry are known to affect their skeletal muscle function.
The effects of vitamin D on skeletal muscle function have been studied in multiple populations. The results of these studies show that increased vitamin D concentration and supplementation increase skeletal muscle strength.
In other studies, vitamin D has been shown to reduce pain and inflammation in muscles. It is believed that this is due to an association between the metabolites of vitamin D and its receptors on nerve cells in the skeletal muscle. This can help reduce inflammation and improve muscle performance.
This effect of vitamin D on skeletal muscle function has been found in both healthy adults and in athletic populations such as athletes. For example, high-level professional athletes who were vitamin D deficient exhibited reduced muscle strength and power compared to those with sufficient vitamin D concentrations.
Therefore, it is important to maintain sufficient vitamin D to ensure optimal skeletal health. For athletes, the best way to achieve this is by obtaining sufficient sun exposure and supplementation of at least 1,500-2,000 IU/day.
It is also essential to avoid excess adiposity and body size, as this can decrease vitamin D synthesis and storage in fat tissue. In addition, athletes who are taking medications that affect vitamin D metabolism or have a genetic predisposition to vitamin D deficiency may need to take higher doses of vitamin D.
4. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with fatigue
Vitamin D is essential for bone health and muscle strength, but it also plays a role in immunity and inflammation. Therefore, it is a good idea to keep your levels up in the winter as recommended by Public Health England.
A deficiency of this vitamin can be caused by a number of factors, including poor dietary intake or insufficient sun exposure. For example, if an athlete does not consume foods fortified with vitamin D or if they are living in areas with limited sunlight (35 degrees north or south) during the winter months, supplementation is likely to be required.
Different studies have shown that low serum 25(OH)D levels are associated with reduced athletic performance and/or muscle injury. For instance, athletes who have deficient vitamin D levels have lower total skeletal muscle mass and lower strength. In addition, they are more likely to suffer from fatigue than those with optimal vitamin D status.
However, it is important to note that the severity of symptoms may depend on a number of factors. For instance, a person with a high BMI who is overweight or obese may not have sufficient vitamin D levels because of the extra fat in their bodies that absorbs UVB radiation.
The first thing that a person should do to maintain optimal vitamin D status is to get regular sun exposure. This can be done by getting 5 to 30 minutes of sun exposure on the arms, legs and back at close to solar noon several times a week without sunscreen. This usually leads to sufficient vitamin D synthesis and status.
Insufficient sun exposure is the most common reason for vitamin D deficiency amongst athletes. Fortunately, vitamin D is readily available in the form of supplements.
Taking a daily or intermittent dose of vitamin D can significantly raise serum 25(OH)D levels. The amount of time it takes for serum levels to rise depends on a number of factors, such as initial vitamin D concentrations, sun exposure, normal dietary intake, age, body weight and skin type.
Increasing your vitamin D intake and taking supplements are important to prevent vitamin D deficiency, which can lead to depression and other mental health issues. Having a doctor or other healthcare professional test for vitamin D is another step to help prevent these problems.
Mental health is a very important factor for a successful and long-term rehabilitation of tactical professionals. In fact, according to Ruderman Organization, police officers and firefighters are five times more likely to develop depression or PTSD than civilians.
Tactical professionals face a high level of stress and pressure in their jobs that can be difficult to deal with. Moreover, their careers often require a lot of physical exertion, which can lead to the development of fatigue and stress-related disorders.
Therefore, it is important for them to have a healthy and active lifestyle in order to maintain their physical and emotional well-being. Among other factors, diet plays an important role in this regard.
Dietary habits can influence the synthesis of vitamin D in individuals (Wahl et al. 2012). For instance, vegans and vegetarians have lower plasma 25(OH)D concentrations than meat and fish eaters (Crowe et al. 2011).
Sun exposure is essential for synthesis of vitamin D. However, insufficient sun exposure can reduce the amount of vitamin D synthesis that is achieved (Halliday et al. 2011).
Body size and excess adiposity can also compromise vitamin D synthesis, although it is not known whether these conditions result from adipose volume dilution or sequestration of vitamin D in the fatty tissue.
A combination of dietary intake, sensible sun exposure and supplementation is required for a sufficient level of serum 25(OH)D. In the winter months, it is recommended that athletes living at >35deg north or south take vitamin D supplements to ensure they have sufficient levels of 25(OH)D in their bodies.