Clinical Edge

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Vitamin D fails to prevent late-life depression

Key clinical point: Long-term vitamin D supplementation does not prevent depression or improve mood in adults

Major finding: The risk of depression or depressive symptoms was not significantly different between the vitamin D group and the placebo group (609 vs 625 depression or depressive symptom events).

Study details: The randomized clinical trial involved 18,353 adults aged 50 or older and took place over a 5 year period.

Disclosures: The authors disclosed several partnerships with pharmaceutical companies.


“This randomized clinical trial of 18353 adults demonstrated no benefit of vitamin D3 (2000 iu daily for ~5 years) over placebo in prevention of depression in persons above age 50, with and without a history of depression. Vitamin D3 did not prevent depression, with or without omega-3 supplementation. Strengths of the trial include the large sample, ethnic diversity and objective confirmation of medication adherence from blood levels.

The study results, which are consistent with prior smaller studies, provide substantial evidence that vitamin D3 supplementation does not prevent depression. Notably, the study volunteers had, on average, normal 25-hydroxy vitamin D levels (31.1 ng/ml). In the subgroup of persons with low 25-hydroxy vitamin D levels (< 20 ng/ml), vitamin D3 supplementation did not prevent depression either, but statistical power for this subgroup analysis was more modest. Thus, further research, as to whether vitamin D3 supplementation prevents depression in persons with low 25-hydroxy vitamin D levels, would be helpful.”

A Gita Ramamurthy, MD
Director, Psychiatry Consultation-Liaison Service


Okereke, O et al. JAMA. 2020;324(5):471-480. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.10224