It has been known and studied for years that vitamin D is an important nutrient to consume to prevent osteoporosis for adults, especially women, and rickets, a disorder that creates a softening of bones in children. Vitamin D can be consumed through foods such as milk, yogurt or other dairy products, fatty fishes, from sun exposure or through vitamin D supplements. Recent studies show even more reasons for college women to take vitamin D supplements.
Vitamin D can prevent many mental health disorders and related symptoms in women. The solution to severe moodiness, depression, bloating or overeating before one’s menstrual cycle may be an increase in vitamin D. Recent studies have shown that taking a vitamin D supplement can decrease the likelihood of women developing premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
Elizabeth Bertone-Johnson, an associate professor of biostatistics and epidemiology in the UMass Department of Public Health has a five-year $868,857 grant from the National Institute of Health and the National Institutes of Health to study women’s mental health with an emphasis on how vitamin D relates to women’s health.
Bertone-Johnson began conducting a study in 1989 to determine if there is a correlation between PMS and vitamin D. It was confirmed through studies that a high intake of vitamin D may reduce the manifestation of PMS symptoms. This was determined through a case-control study through the Nurses’ Heath Study II. The participants involved women nurses between the ages of 27 and 44 who didn’t suffer from PMS, along with 1,057 women who developed PMS over 10 years of follow-up, and 1,968 women who reported having no diagnosis of PMS nor minimal pre-menstrual symptoms. An analysis of intake of calcium and vitamin D was measured in 1991, 1995 and 1999 by a food frequency questionnaire.
Bertone-Johnson says, “Women with high intake of vitamin D mostly from food sources, dairy foods, fatty fish, fortified orange juice and fortified cereals have a significantly lower risk of developing PMS. There is a 30 to 40 percent less risk. So we found that intriguing.” This study was published in 2005.
The study was not based on having pre-menstrual symptoms but rather, significantly suffering from the disorder to the point where the symptoms interfere with their personal life. Although most women are affected by some type of pre-menstrual symptoms that may create discomfort emotionally or physically, only 10 to 15 percent of women actually suffer from premenstrual disorder, according to Bertone-Johnson. Therefore, to ensure that the women in the Nurse’s Health II cohort do clinically meet the definition of having PMS their symptoms were evaluated in advance.
Bertone-Johnson says, “of the women who reported PMS, we sent them an initial questionnaire to evaluate [the] impact on their interpersonal relationships, things like work performance, ability to parent and established diagnostic criteria to really determine [which] ones who reported PMS have the symptoms reported in the literature.” Thirty-six percent of the women who self-reported having PMS were validated as having a moderate to severe level of the disorder. The women in the control group were confirmed as never having PMS, Bertone-Johnson explains. Bertone-Johnson is currently recruiting for a similar PMS and vitamin D study on campus. This study would have a similar set-up only using a different demographic – primarily college women in the UMass population. The preliminary findings to this study on PMS and vitamin D in college women has found a strong correlation between PMS and vitamin D. The preliminary findings show that women who consume vitamin D have a 70 percent lower risk of PMS.
Often birth control pill such as YAZ, which contains drospirenone and ethinyl estradiol, or anti-depressants such as Paxil or Zoloft are prescribed and have been marketed by pharmaceutical companies to treat PMS. Both birth controls and anti-depressants, although effective, have a lengthy list of serious possible side-effects. There are few, minimal side-effects to over-consumption of vitamin D. According to Bertone-Johnson, in order to receive the benefits, one must consume above 200-400 IU of vitamin D per day. “Most experts suggest 1000-2000 IU per day,” Bertone-Johnson explains. Along with the foods and supplements that contain vitamin D, experts recommend 15 minutes of sun exposure per day to stimulate vitamin D synthesis.
Lisa Linsley can be reached at email@example.com