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Loyola Researcher Receives $1.5 Million Grant To Study Vitamin D Supplementation in Women with Diabetes and Depression

MAYWOOD, Il. – A Loyola University Chicago Niehoff School of Nursing researcher has received a four-year, $1.49 million grant (R01NR013906) to study whether Vitamin D can improve mood in women with diabetes who are depressed.

The study also will examine whether vitamin D supplementation can reduce blood pressure and affect how well women manage their diabetes. The grant is from the National Institute of Nursing Research at the National Institutes of Health.

Principal investigator Sue M. Penckofer, PhD, RN, FAAN, and colleagues hypothesize that women receiving vitamin D will report fewer depressive symptoms. In turn, their improved mood will help them to better manage their disease by, for example, eating properly, taking their medications, and getting enough exercise. A small pilot study at Loyola found that vitamin D conferred such benefits.

“Vitamin D supplementation is potentially an easy and cost-effective therapy, with minimal side effects,” Penckofer said.

Penckofer and her Loyola co-investigators plan to enroll 180 women who have Type 2 diabetes, show symptoms of depression and have low levels of vitamin D in their blood. Women will be randomly assigned to receive either a weekly vitamin D supplementation (50,000 International Units) or a matching weekly placebo for six months.

Earlier studies have found that depressed people have elevated levels of inflammatory biomarkers, notably cytokines and C-reactive protein (CRP). The study will explore whether vitamin D supplementation decreases inflammatory biomarkers, thus providing evidence for a plausible mechanism for how the vitamin works as an antidepressant.

The study is titled “Can the Sunshine Vitamin Improve Mood and Self-Management in Women with Diabetes?”

About 1 in 10 people in the United States has diabetes, and the incidence is projected to increase to 1 in 4 persons by 2050. Women with type 2 diabetes have worse outcomes than men. The reason may be due to depression, which affects more than 25 percent of women with diabetes. Depression impairs a patient’s ability to manage her disease.

Many Americans do not get enough vitamin D, and people with diabetes are at especially high risk for vitamin D insufficiency or deficiency. Reasons include limited intake of foods high in vitamin D, obesity, lack of sun exposure, and genetic variations.

Penckofer is internationally known for her research on vitamin D, diabetes, and depression. In October, she will be inducted as a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing for her scientific contributions in improving the health and quality of life of women with chronic disease. And she recently was appointed as the first nurse researcher to the Chicago Diabetes Center for Translational Research.

Co-investigators are Angelos Halaris, MD, PhD; Ramon Durazo, PhD; Pauline Camacho, MD, and Joanne Kouba, PhD, RD.

The Loyola University Chicago Health Sciences Division (HSD) advances interprofessional, multidisciplinary, and transformative education and research while promoting service to others through stewardship of scientific knowledge and preparation of tomorrow's leaders. The HSD is located on the Health Sciences Campus in Maywood, Illinois. It includes the Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing, the Stritch School of Medicine, the biomedical research programs of the Graduate School, and several other institutes and centers encouraging new research and interprofessional education opportunities across all of Loyola University Chicago. The faculty and staff of the HSD bring a wealth of knowledge, experience, and a strong commitment to seeing that Loyola's health sciences continue to excel and exceed the standard for academic and research excellence. For more on the HSD, visit LUC.edu/hsd.

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