Type 2 diabetes has long been linked to higher risk of depression in women, and previous research has associated both of these conditions with pain. But a new study suggests that vitamin D supplementation can reduce both depression and pain in women with type 2 diabetes.

A team of researchers, led by Todd Doyle of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, presented their findings at a research conference at Loyola's Health Sciences Campus.

The investigators note that there are limited studies looking at how pain could affect the treatment of depression in individuals who have type 2 diabetes, and they say that so far, studies have not determined how vitamin D supplementation may play a role in the association of pain and depression with type 2 diabetes.

With this is mind, the team conducted a study looking at how vitamin D supplementation affected women with type 2 diabetes who were also suffering from depression.

At the baseline of the study, 61% of women reported neuropathic pain, such as shooting or burning pain in their legs and feet, and 74% reported sensory pain - numbness and tingling in their hands, fingers and legs.

The women were required to take a 50,000 IU vitamin D2 supplement every week for a period of 6 months.

Depression and pain 'improved' with vitamin D

At the end of the study period, the women's depression levels significantly improved following vitamin D2 supplementation.

Furthermore, women who suffered neuropathic and/or sensory pain at the beginning study also saw their symptoms decrease at 3 and 6 months following vitamin D2 supplementation.

Commenting on the findings, Todd Doyle says:

"Pain is a common and often serious problem for women with type 2 diabetes and depression. While further research is needed, D2 supplementation is a promising treatment for both pain and depression in type 2 diabetes."

The investigators say they have now received funding from the National Institute of Nursing Research - a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) - which will enable them to conduct a trial looking at how two different doses of vitamin D3 supplements may affect the health outcomes of women with type 2 diabetes.

"Vitamin D has widespread benefits for our health and certain chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes," says Sue Penckofer, co-author of the study and professor at the Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing.

"This NIH grant will allow us to shed greater light on understanding the role that this nutrient plays in managing the health of women with diabetes."

The benefits of vitamin D

Vitamin D has many important functions in the body. It helps to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, which are needed to maintain bone and teeth health.

Previous research has suggested that vitamin D deficiencies may negatively impact our health. Medical News Today recently reported on a study suggesting that low vitamin D levels may damage the brain.

Other research has linked vitamin D deficiency to increased risk of anemia in children and faster aging of bones.

The body gets the majority of its vitamin D from the sun, but the UK's National Health Service (NHS) notes that many foods are good sources of vitamin D. These include:

  • Oily fish, such as salmon, sardine and mackerel
  • Eggs
  • Fortified fat spreads
  • Fortified breakfast cereals
  • Powdered milk.