Vitamin D supplementation for the prevention of depression and poor physical function in older persons: the D-Vitaal study, a randomized clinical trial

Am J Clin Nutr. 2019 Nov 1;110(5):1119-1130. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqz141.


Background: Depressive symptoms and impaired physical functioning are prevalent among older adults. Supplementation with vitamin D might improve both conditions, particularly in persons with low vitamin D status.

Objective: The D-Vitaal study primarily aimed to investigate the effect of vitamin D supplementation on depressive symptoms, functional limitations, and physical performance in a high-risk older population with low vitamin D status. Secondary aims included examining the effect of vitamin D supplementation on anxiety symptoms, cognitive functioning, mobility, handgrip strength, and health-related quality of life.

Methods: This study was a randomized placebo-controlled trial with 155 participants aged 60-80 y who had clinically relevant depressive symptoms, ≥1 functional limitations, and serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] concentrations of 15-50/70 nmol/L (depending on season). Participants received 1200 IU/d vitamin D3 (n = 77) or placebo tablets (n = 78) for 12 mo. Serum 25(OH)D was measured at baseline and 6 mo; outcomes were assessed at baseline, 6 mo, and 12 mo. Linear mixed-models analyses were conducted to assess the effect of the intervention.

Results: The supplementation increased serum 25(OH)D concentrations in the intervention group to a mean ± SD of 85 ± 16 nmol/L compared with 43 ± 18 nmol/L in the placebo group after 6 mo (P < 0.001). No relevant differences between the treatment groups were observed regarding depressive symptoms, functional limitations, physical performance, or any of the secondary outcomes.

Conclusions: Supplementation with 1200 IU/d vitamin D for 12 mo had no effect on depressive symptoms and physical functioning in older persons with relatively low vitamin D status, clinically relevant depressive symptoms, and poor physical functioning. This trial is registered with the Netherlands Trial Register ( under NTR3845.

Keywords: 25(OH)D; depressive symptoms; functional limitations; older adults; physical functioning; physical performance; prevention; randomized clinical trial; supplementation; vitamin D.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Depression / prevention & control*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Female
  • Hand Strength
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Functional Performance*
  • Quality of Life
  • Vitamin D / administration & dosage*
  • Vitamin D / analogs & derivatives
  • Vitamin D / blood


  • Vitamin D
  • 25-hydroxyvitamin D

Associated data

  • NTR/NTR3845