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A vitamin D deficiency may heighten your risk for Seasonal Affective Disorder.

A vitamin D deficiency may heighten your risk for Seasonal Affective Disorder.

While low levels of vitamin D have been associated with a wide range of health risks, from asthma to cancer, a new study conducted at the University of Georgia has found another condition to add to that list: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Although there is no definitively proven cause for SAD — a seasonal depression that stretches through the winter and has been found to affect as many as 10 percent of Americans — most studies on the subject point to a lack of sunlight as the likely trigger for it. Some researchers have speculated that receiving less sunlight during the autumn and winter months disrupts the part of the brain that governs sleep, hormone levels and mood. Others have hypothesized that getting too little sunlight may also create an imbalance of serotonin and dopamine, the neurotransmitters that determine moods.

So the recent discovery that vitamin D deficiencies may also be a culprit in inciting SAD is not particularly surprising, and according to the researchers, actually provides a "logical" explanation given what we know about the disorder.

"We hypothesize that rather than functioning primarily as a proximal or direct sub-mechanism in the etiology of SAD, vitamin likely functions in a more foundational and regulative role […] associated with the depressive and seasonality factors," said study co-author Alan Stewart in the official findings, published in the journal Medical Hypotheses. "Studies show there is a lag of about 8 weeks between the peak in intensity of ultraviolet (UV) radiation and the onset of SAD, and this correlates with the time it takes for UV radiation to be processed by the body into vitamin D."

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