Did you know that at least half of Americans are deficient in vitamin D? Estimates range as high as 75% of the general population, with an even higher prevalence among African Americans and Hispanics. Despite the common foods fortified with vitamin D (milk, orange juice, cereals), the deficiency rates are creeping up with every year.
The more we learn about vitamin D, the more important we understand it to be. Vitamin D helps to maintain healthy bones, slow the aging process, and support the immune system, as well as controlling more than 1,000 different processes in the body. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a range of health problems, including depression and anxiety. This is why we should pay attention to the recent research indicating that vitamin D is essential to the production of serotonin, a brain chemical that plays a crucial role in regulating mood and fighting anxiety.
Vitamin D, Tryptophan, and Serotonin Production
A study published this year by Dr. Rhonda Patrick and Dr. Bruce Ames found that the body requires adequate levels of vitamin D in order to convert the amino acid tryptophan to the “feel-good” neurotransmitter serotonin.
We already know that serotonin plays a key role in controlling anxiety and depression, but this study suggests that those who are deficient in vitamin D may not be producing enough serotonin to keep anxiety and mood problems at bay.
Vitamin D Deficiency A Growing Problem
Vitamin D is often called the “sunshine vitamin,” because our primary source of the nutrient is sunlight. While some foods are fortified with or naturally contain small amounts of vitamin D, food won’t provide enough to meet our daily requirements. In fact, even most multivitamins do not have enough. The problem is so bad that it has been labeled a pandemic.
There are several reasons that the majority of us don’t get enough vitamin D:
- We spend more of our time indoors than we do exposed to the sun outdoors
- Sunscreen blocks the UVB rays that trigger vitamin D creation
- High levels of body fat inhibit the release of vitamin D into the blood stream
- Darker skin is less efficient in creating vitamin D (95% of African Americans are vitamin D deficient)
- We generate vitamin D from the sun much less efficiently as we age
How Can I Prevent Vitamin D Deficiency and Boost Serotonin Levels?
When I learned I was vitamin D deficient, I started eating more foods high in vitamin D, like salmon, and began taking supplements, at the suggestion of my doctor. This is the most common advice given for vitamin D deficiency, and it’s certainly preferable to increasing the risk of skin cancer through more sun exposure. But unfortunately, I’m not very good at remembering to take a bunch of different supplements every day, and I admit I fell out of my vitamin D regimen pretty quickly.
So you can imagine how excited I was when I heard that Tranquilene — the supplement I’ve relied on to manage my anxiety for three years (and never forget to take!) — has added vitamin D to its formula.
Last week, I talked to Tranquility Labs founder Rob Barry about the improved formula, and he emphasized the importance of following the latest research.
“Staying on top of the most current research is absolutely central to our mission,” Barry said. “Tryptophan has always been a key ingredient in Tranquilene. Now that the link between vitamin D, tryptophan and serotonin has been established, it only made sense to adjust our formula. We want to offer our customers the best possible product for anxiety relief.”