The sun vitamin

Briana Hayes
Staff Writer

With winter in full swing, spring seems so far away. Months of cold winds and slushy streets await Boston and seem like they will never end. Some people during the winter months experience a disorder known as Season Affective Disorder (SAD).

SAD is a mental condition that occurs when people experience extreme levels of depression during the winter. While this disorder is a sort of medical mystery, most professionals believe it is due to vitamin D deficiency.
The symptoms of this disorder include decreased energy, increased appetite, and the desire for sleep. Like depression, SAD symptoms include lack of interest in normally pleasurable activities, weight gain or loss, and irritability.

While this disorder can occur during any season, it mainly occurs during the winter months because of the shorter days, colder temperatures, and the amount of time that is spent indoors. With the lack of sun comes the lack of vitamin D.

Vitamin D is known as the “sunlight hormone.” This is because when sunlight’s UV rays hit our skin, we produce vitamin D to fulfill our daily needs. The levels of vitamin D we receive are naturally lowered and therefore we experience insufficient amounts.

One of the most commonly known benefits of the sunshine vitamin is promoting the absorption of calcium and thus promoting healthy bones.

By receiving the recommended amount of vitamin D every day, a person can significantly increase his or her bone health and decrease the chance of developing osteoporosis.

In addition, newer studies are focusing on the intrinsic importance of the vitamin in preventing Type 1 Diabetes and lowering blood pressure. By lowering blood pressure, you also lower your chances of heart attacks.

Vitamin D and its purposes also date back to prehistorical times when food was scarce during the winter months. When the food was scarce, it became biologically beneficial if a person was able to enter a form of hibernation, where fat would be more easily stored on the body.

Since the main sources of vitamin D was the sun, this evolutionary benefit was initiated by the lack of sun. This explains weight gain when vitamin D levels are low in the winter.

Furthermore, mentally someone’s body may put him or her in a form of hibernation mode during the winter months. This idea begins to explain the importance of vitamin D in preventing SAD.

However, another theory regarding vitamin D and SAD exists. Vitamin D has the ability to increase serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is responsible for digestion, mood, hunger and sleep.

When serotonin in the body decreases, our moods tend to worsen. Increasing vitamin D intake would therefore increase someone’s mood.

In order to increase levels of vitamin D during the winter months, where the sun seems to disappear, supplementation is recommended. In addition, food such as milk, eggs, and fish contain high levels.

Also by receiving adequate amounts of B vitamins, calcium and magnesium, vitamin D will be better absorbed in the body.

Winter can be long and harsh, but that doesn’t mean it has to be.