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CMAJ. 2010 November 23; 182(17): 1886.
PMCID: PMC2988540

Vitamin D for mental health and cognition

Serdar M. Durson, MD PhD, Professor of psychiatry and neuroscience

Hanley and colleagues have written an excellent article.1 Further, vitamin D and receptors have been increasingly implicated in the pathology of cognition and mental illness. Vitamin D activates receptors on neurons in regions implicated in the regulation of behaviour, stimulates neurotrophin release and protects the brain by buffering antioxidant and anti-inflammatory defences against vascular injury.2 There is growing evidence for a relationship between vitamin D receptors in the brain, hypovitaminosis D and abnormal executive cognitive functions,3,4 major depression,5 bipolar disorder6 and schizophrenia.7

Further studies are needed to investigate the impact of vitamin D supplementation on cognition, mood disorders and schizophrenia. Given current evidence, ensuring normal vitamin D levels may be critical for prevention and treatment in people at high risk of mental and cognitive illness and for treatment in those for whom mental illness has already been diagnosed.


1. Hanley DA, Cranney A, Jones G, et al. Vitamin D in adult health and disease: a review and guideline statement from Osteoporosis Canada. CMAJ. 2010;182:1315–19. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
2. Cherniack EP, Troen BR, Florez HJ, et al. Some new food for thought: the role of vitamin D in the mental health of older adults. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2009;11:12–9. [PubMed]
3. Grecksch G, Rüthrich H, Höllt V, et al. Transient prenatal vitamin D deficiency is associated with changes of synaptic plasticity in the dentate gyrus in adult rats. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2009;34(suppl 1):S258–64. [PubMed]
4. Pogge E. Vitamin D and Alzheimer’s disease: is there a link? Consult Pharm. 2010;25:440–50. [PubMed]
5. Lee DM, ajar A, O’Neill TW, et al. Lower vitamin D levels are associated with depression among community-dwelling European men. J Psychopharmacol. 2010 Sep 7; [Epub ahead of print]
6. Yan J, Feng J, Craddock N, et al. Vitamin D receptor variants in 192 patients with schizophrenia and other psychiatric diseases. Neurosci Lett. 2005;380:37–41. [PubMed]
7. McGrath JJ, Burne TH, Féron F, et al. Developmental vitamin D deficiency and risk of schizophrenia: a 10-year update. Schizophr Bull. 2010;36:1073–8. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

Articles from CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association Journal are provided here courtesy of Canadian Medical Association