Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Can vitamin D and Sunlight make you smarter?

The preponderance of evidence suggests that higher blood levels of vitamin D correlate to better cognitive ability (ability to think), so if you want a higher IQ, it behooves you to keep your vitamin D levels high. In the winter in the Northern US, Northern Europe, Canada and other high-latitude countries, this may mean supplementing with 3,000-5,000 IU daily for most people and up to 6,400 IU daily for nursing mothers.[1] Another alternative is to use a tanning bed two or three times weekly or take frequent tropical vacations (unless you have type-one skin that does not tan—never burn).

The latest scientific paper on cognitive abilities as compared to vitamin D levels shows that persons who have the lowest levels are more than twice as likely to be cognitively impaired as those with the highest levels.[2] I was not surprised at the results of this study; in my book, I had documented other research indicating that in elderly people with the highest levels of vitamin D scored 3-5 times higher on two cognitive tests than those with the lowest levels.[3] Those with the lowest levels were also 12 times as likely to be depressed.

When we consider that vitamin D is absolutely essential to proper nerve function and development,[4] [5] and that there are vitamin D receptors throughout the central nervous system,[6] it stands to reason that mental abilities would be compromised by poor vitamin D status. It also follows that depression would be higher in those whose levels are low. Therefore, it follows that sunlight and vitamin D may make you both smarter and happier.

[1] Wagner C. et al. High-dose vitamin D3 supplementation in a cohort of breastfeeding mothers and their infants: a 6-month follow-up pilot study. Breastfeed Med 2006;1:59-70.
[2] Llewellyn, D. et al. Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Concentration and Cognitive Impairment. J Geriatr Psychiatry Neurol Online. December 10, 2008.
[3] Wilkins C. et al. Vitamin D Deficiency Is Associated With Low Mood and Worse Cognitive Performance in Older Adults. Am J Geriatr Psychiatry;2006;14:1032–1040).
[4] McCann J. et al. Is there convincing biological or behavioral evidence linking vitamin D deficiency to brain
dysfunction? FASEB J. 2008;22:982-1001.
[5] Carlson, A. et al. Is vitamin D deficiency associated with peripheral neuropathy? The Endocrinologist 2007;17:319-25.
[6] McCann J. et al. Is there convincing biological or behavioral evidence linking vitamin D deficiency to brain
dysfunction? FASEB J. 2008;22:982-1001.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Does Vitamin D help prevent Type-one Diabetes?

A new study shows that most type-one diabetic children have low levels of vitamin D.[1] Dr. Lori Laffel, senior author or the research, expressed surprise that only 24% of the children studied had adequate levels. The researchers then suggested that the children be supplemented with 400 IU daily.

What makes this research and its recommendations so interesting is that it is already established that supplementing 2,000 IU per day in children correlates to an 80% reduced risk of type-one diabetes.[2] Why the surprise? Do these people read the research? Type-one diabetes is an autoimmune disease. In my book, I thoroughly cover the research showing that vitamin D is exceptionally effective in reducing autoimmune disorders. A study like this one is a case of "discovering" something that is already known and then expressing shock. Children need summer sunlight (without burning) and in winter they need sufficient vitamin D supplementation to maintain their summer levels. Believe me; 400 IU does not cut it.

Check with you doctor, and be sure your children have optimal levels of vitamin D, which will probably require at least 1,000 IU daily.

[1] http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2008-12/jdc-jrf121508.php
[2] Hypponen, E. et al. Intake of vitamin D and risk of type 1 diabetes: a birth-cohort study. Lancet 2001;358:1500-03.

I told you so! A new study shows that vitamin D is critically important to prevent breast cancer.

There was an uproar recently about a study indicating that vitamin D supplementation had no affect on breast cancer risk.[1] The press picked it up and regurgitated it ad nauseam as if were the end-all-be all of scientific studies. I told you then that it was bad research because it used a miniscule quantity of vitamin D—400 IU per day—rather like trying to attack an elephant with a bb gun. In fact, a 400 IU daily supplementation for seven weeks has been shown to lead to reduced vitamin D levels in winter, whereas tanning bed exposure raises vitamin levels by 150% in the same time period.[2] It should be no surprise that a vitamin D supplement that is so tiny that it leads to deficiency would not help women to prevent breast cancer.

Now we have a new study from Germany showing that women with the highest vitamin D levels have a 55% reduced risk of breast cancer compared to those with the lowest levels.[3] Another study showed that three years of supplementation with calcium and vitamin D correlated to a reduced risk of all cancers in women by up to 77%.[4] However, the supplementation was 1,100 IU per day, not 400.

What can I say? I told you so.

[1] Chlebowski R, et al. Calcium Plus Vitamin D Supplementation and the Risk of Breast Cancer. JNCI Published online 11-11- 2008.
[2] Holick, M. et al. Boston University. "Effects Of Vitamin D And Skin's Physiology Examined." Science Daily 21 February 2008 .
[3] Abbas, S. et al. Plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D and premenopausal breast cancer risk in a German case-control study. Int J Cancer 2009;124:250-5.
[4] Lappe, J. et al. Vitamin D and calcium supplementation reduces cancer risk: results of a randomized trial. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;85:1586–91.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Vitamin D, Flu and the Immune System: Part 2

We now have the answer to preventing the next flu pandemic. This is the second part of the blog on flu. See the first for the background information.

Dr. John Cannell and his colleagues wrote a remarkable paper[1] showing that cold and flu outbreaks are almost completely seasonal. In the northern hemisphere, they occur in December through March. In the southern hemisphere, outbreaks occur June through September—almost exclusively in winter in both hemispheres. The outbreaks of flu and colds in each case occur in times of lowest UVB light and therefore the time of least vitamin D production. It follows then, that essential cathelicidin production is also extremely low during winter, which dramatically dampens the immune response. It would stand to reason, if the theory is correct, that flu and cold outbreaks would occur mainly in winter in both hemispheres. It also stands to reason that increasing vitamin D blood levels by supplementation would be able to reduce the incidence of colds and fly in winter. This is exactly the case.

Shortly after this paper’s publication, other researchers reported results of a three-year study of African-American women.[2] One group was given a placebo and another group received 800 IU per day for two years and 2,000 IU during the third year. The placebo group experienced three times as many cold and flu cases as those who received 800 IU. The 2,000-IU group had only one cold or flu case the entire year, and none in winter. The placebo group had 24 cases in winter—that is a 24:0 ratio!

These findings are especially important because flu shots are not very effective. A review in the British Medical Journal came to the following conclusion: “Evidence from systematic reviews shows that inactivated vaccines [flu shots] have little or no affect on the effects measured.”[3] Perhaps flu shots do save some lives, but there is little doubt that vitamin D does a profoundly better job. Considering that daily supplementation with 2,000 IU per day of vitamin D can cost as little as $10.00 per year, a tremendous financial burden could be lifted from the health-care system and from the budget of elderly persons!

Approximately 36,000 people die yearly from flu in the USA, and it is estimated that a pandemic similar to the one in 1918 could kill a billion people worldwide. It simply does not need to happen. The solution: maintain higher vitamin D levels. This can be done during winter by vitamin D3 supplementation of at least 2,000 IU, and as much as 5,000 IU per day in the absence of UVB exposure. Do not use vitamin D2; it is not nearly as effective.

The flu season is upon us. This year, work to maintain adequate vitamin D levels and kiss the flu goodbye!

[1] Cannell, J. et al. Epidemic Influenza and vitamin D. Epidemiol Infect 2006;134:1129-40.
[2] Aloia, J. et al. Colds and Flu. Letter to the editor. Epidemiol Infect Jan 15, 2007.
[3] Jefferson, T. et al. Influenza vaccination: policy versus evidence. BMJ. 2006;333::912-15.

Vitamin D, the Immune System and the Yearly Outbreaks of Flu

This year, kiss the flu goodbye!

Vitamin D boosts the immune system and enhances the body’s ability to kill bacteria or viruses—intercellular invaders—that make their way into body cells. When a mechanism known as a toll-like receptor (TLR) recognizes the invaders, it causes direct anti-germ activity by stimulating the action of peptide proteins that bind to and kill viruses, bacteria and fungi.[i] [ii] [iii]
The peptides are called cathelicidins, and they do their work by breaking down the cell walls of viruses and bacteria.[iv] The gene that turns on cathelicidin is a direct target of vitamin D. Therefore, it is vitamin D that triggers the action of cathelicidins against all of these “invaders, [v] including the viruses that cause flu and colds.

It is important to understand that ultraviolet B light (UVB) is the wave length of sunlight that, when it contacts the skin, stimulates the skin to produce vitamin D. The skin does not produce any vitamin D unless UVB is available. UVB, plentiful in summer sunshine, is filtered out in winter at high latitudes because of the sun’s position in the southern sky (northern sky in the southern hemisphere). This is called “vitamin D winter.” Blood vitamin D levels, therefore, become very low in winter unless some other method is used to keep them at desirable levels. So what does all this have to do with flu and colds? I will post the answer in my next blog.

[i] Zhang, L. et al. Contribution of Human -Defensin 1, 2, and 3 to the Anti-HIV-1 Activity of CD8 Antiviral Factor. Science 2002;298:995-1,000.
[ii] Wang, T. et al. Cutting edge: 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 is a direct inducer of antimicrobial peptide gene expression. J Immunol 2004;173:2909-12.
[iii] Herr, C. et al. The role of cathelicidin and defensins in pulmonary and inflammatory diseases. Expert Opin Biol Ther 2007;7:1449-61.
[iv] Liu, P. et al. Toll-like receptor triggering of a vitamin D-mediated human antimicrobial response. Science 2006;311:1770-73.
[v] Gombart, A. et al. Human cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide (CAMP) gene is a direct target of the vitamin D receptor and is up-regulated in myeloid cells by 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3. FASEB J 2005;19:1067-77.

Sunlight, vitamin D, flu and schizophrenia.

This is my third post concerning the relationship between vitamin D deficiency and brain disorders. Now I make the case that a major cause of schizophrenia is lack of sunlight or other source of vitamin D.

People born in seasons of little sunlight have higher schizophrenia risk.[1] Schizophrenia is also more common in dark-skinned migrants to cold climates, and increased rates of schizophrenia are observed in urban compared to rural settings.[2] Migrants to colder climates are 4.6 times more likely to develop schizophrenia than are natives.[3] Another indication, proposed by Dr. William Grant,[4] is the correlation of influenza during women’s pregnancies to increased schizophrenia in their children. Indeed, an investigation in Denmark demonstrated that flu during pregnancy predicted an 820% increased incidence of schizophrenia in children.[5] That result could be due to brain damage resulting from the high fevers common to flu; it has been shown that there is a close relationship between fever in the pregnant mother and the risk of later schizophrenia in her children.[6]

But what does this have to do with vitamin D or sunlight? Earlier I established that in summer, when vitamin D production is high, flu is nearly non-existent and that vitamin D supplementation in sufficiently high doses reduces the risk of flu to almost zero in the winter. Vitamin D stimulates the production of cathelicidins in the immune system. Cathelicidins destroy the cell walls of viruses, thereby keeping the flu at bay. Therefore, vitamin D, by preventing flu, may help reduce schizophrenia risk provoked by fevers during pregnancy. Vitamin D, then, has a direct affect on the brain that reduces the risk of schizophrenia and an indirect effect by reducing the risk of flu. A further dramatic indication is that infant boys who are not supplemented with vitamin D are 12 times more likely to develop schizophrenia in later life compared to those who receive supplementation.[7]

Vitamin D receptors are prevalent throughout the brain. Those receptors are there for a purpose: proper brain development and function. If we allow deficiency in our children, we do so at their peril.

[1]McGrath, J. et al. Long-term trends in sunshine duration and its association with schizophrenia birth rates and age at first registration—data from Australia and the Netherlands. Schizophr Res 2002;54:199-212.
2 McGrath, J. et al. Hypothesis: Is low prenatal vitamin D a risk-modifying factor for schizophrenia? Schizophr Res 1999;40:173-77.
[3] McGrath, J. et al. A systematic review of the incidence of schizophrenia: the distribution of rates and the influence of sex, urbanicity, migrant status and methodology. BMC Med 2004;2:13-35.
4Grant, W. Personal communication with author, June, 2006.
5 Byrne, M. Obstetric conditions and risk of first admission with schizophrenia: a Danish national register based study. Schizophr Res 2007;97:51-59.
6Edwards MJ. Hyperthermia in utero due to maternal influenza is an environmental risk factor for schizophrenia. Congenit Anom (Kyoto);2007;47:84-9.
7 McGrath J, et al. Vitamin D supplementation during the first year of life and risk of schizophrenia: a Finnish birth cohort study. Schizophr Res. 2004;67:237-45.

Monday, December 15, 2008

African Americans and Vitamin D, Part 4: Sickle Cell Disease

Sickle cell disease is a disease of black people. It causes a usually fatal anemia and is marked by sickle-shaped red blood cells. It is also characterized by joint pain, fever, leg ulcers, and jaundice. It has recently been reported that vitamin D deficiency is five times more common among blacks who have sickle cell disease.[1] [2] Whether the disease, thought to be totally genetic, could be prevented by maintaining vitamin D at optimal levels is unknown.

We do know that vitamin D treatment of sickle cell patients increases bone density,[3] and it is likely that raising vitamin D to optimal levels would reduce the high risk of degenerative diseases that are found in all African Americans with low levels (see my previous posts on the subject). In my opinion, it is imperative to act immediately to assure that African Americans and all Americans optimize their blood levels of vitamin D. The research is in; the conclusion that vitamin D deficiency is causing a health crisis is incontrovertible. The time to act is now!

[1] Rovner, A. et al. High risk of vitamin D deficiency in children with sickle cell disease. J Am Diet Assoc. 2008;108:1512-6.
[2] Buison, A. et al. Low vitamin D status in children with sickle cell disease. J Pediatr. 2004;145:622-7.
[3] Adewoye, A. Sickle cell bone disease: response to vitamin D and calcium. Am J Hematol. 2008;83:271-4.

African Americans, Part 3: Vitamin D and Rickets

Rickets, a deforming, crippling bone disease of infants and young children, is a well-established vitamin D-deficiency disease. Children with adequate levels of vitamin D simply don’t get rickets. Nevertheless, rickets has made a comeback, and between 1990 and 2000 increased by 400% among black children.[1] The reasons:

1. The Powers of Darkness (the POD or sunscare industry) insist that all children be “protected” from sunlight, meaning that the most natural method of vitamin D production—sunlight exposure—is denied to infants, young children and expectant mothers—mothers who must produce sufficient vitamin D to meet their own needs and the needs of both their unborn babies. Sunscreen “protection” reduces vitamin D synthesis in the skin by 99.5%[2]. This is a disaster for black children and expectant mothers who are already vitamin D-deficient.

2. The food that is fortified with vitamin D for mass consumption is milk; however, much of the black population is intolerant to lactose (milk sugar) and cannot drink milk. This intolerance has been known of for decades, and yet the “authorities” continue to fortify a food not conducive to health in black Americans. Was this done purposely? I certainly hope not. It is probably incompetence rather than conspiracy, but it seems too stupid.

3. Black skin can take 6 times longer than white skin to make a given amount of vitamin D.[3] Therefore, to suggest that African Americans avoid the sunlight is criminal. Yet, despite protestations to the contrary by the POD, we have become a nation of indoor dwellers—perhaps the only true cave men that ever existed. This assures that blacks, who already have a very difficult time making vitamin D, are further denied this life-giving hormone.
When these factors combine, they produce the vitamin D deficiencies that lead to rickets—a 100% preventable disease. The POD are responsible for the resurgence of this disease.

Will the Powers of Darkness be overcome by light and truth or will they continue to spread the message that results in death and destruction?

[1] Schwartz, R. Science News Aug 17, 2000.
[2] Matsuoka, L. et al. Sunscreens suppress cutaneous vitamin D3 synthesis. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 1987; 64:1165-68.
[3] Harris, S. et al. Seasonal changes in plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations of young American black and white women. Am J Clin Nutr 1998;67:1232-36.

Sunlight, vitamin D and African Americans, Part 2

In my previous post, I discussed reasons to believe that the generally poor health of African Americans is due in large part to vitamin deficiency. Here are more reasons to believe that the need for vitamin D is critical among this population.

1. Heart disease is twice as prevalent among black men as white men.[1] Although part of the discrepancy may be due to more smoking among black men, it is probable that a significant part is due to vitamin D deficiency. Low sun exposure and low vitamin D levels correlate to increased inflammation, higher cholesterol and hypertension, all risk factors for heart disease.

2. Heart failure is also much more common among blacks[2]—not surprising since we know the efficacy of vitamin D in preventing heart failure.

Now let’s discuss what is perhaps the most important study for African Americans. It is often argued that the excessive rates of cancer, diabetes, hypertension, etc. among African Americans are due to lack of access to health care. If that were the case, black physicians would have approximately the same lower rates of disease as their white counterparts, since black physicians obviously have high access to health care. However, research shows that even black physicians have a much higher incidence of cancer than their white counterparts.[3] But when black physicians have habits that provide higher vitamin D levels, they have approximately the same cancer rates as white physicians. Had the rates of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and other diseases also been studied, along with measurements of serum vitamin D levels, I believe the pattern would have been even more clearly established.

Since African Americans have only 50-75% of the serum levels of vitamin D as whites,5 part—perhaps a large part—of the discrepancy between the health of the races could be rectified by nothing more than vitamin D supplementation of about 5,000 IU daily. That is very good news indeed!

[1] USA Department of Health and Human Services 1998. Tobacco Use Among USA Racial/Ethnic Minority Groups — African Americans, American Indians and Alaska Natives, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: USA Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
[2] American Heart Association. Heart and stroke statistics – 2004 update.
[3] Giovannucci, E. et al. Cancer Incidence and Mortality and Vitamin D in Black and White Male Health Professionals: Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2006;15:2467–72.

Critical vitamin D deficiency and critically poor health among African Americans: Part 1

Why do African Americans suffer more from heart disease, cancer, hypertension, diabetes and other degenerative diseases than white Americans? One reason is that vitamin D deficiency is far more common in blacks.

In my book, I documented the relationship of vitamin D deficiency to dramatically increased risk of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and numerous other diseases and conditions--105 in all. If dark-skinned Americans are more likely to be deficient, it stands to reason that they would be more likely to succumb to those diseases.
Here are some interesting facts that relate vitamin D deficiency to poor health in black Americans:

1. When USA white and black women are compared for vitamin D levels, black women are ten times more likely to be vitamin D deficient.[1]

2. In patients in Minneapolis, Minnesota who were being treated for chronic pain, 100% of African Americans, along with Native Americans, East Africans and Hispanics were vitamin D deficient.[2]

3. Vitamin D is known to be a potent inhibitor of tuberculosis. African Americans have lower resistance to tuberculosis, lower levels of D and lower ability to produce cathelicidin, a natural internal bactericide.[3]

4. A 37-year-old disabled Black woman with myopathy (a muscle disease) and severe vitamin D deficiency was able to leave her wheelchair and function normally after six weeks of vitamin D therapy.[4]

5. Vitamin D deficiency leads to increased death from the major internal cancers, and a disproportionate number of those cancer deaths occur in African Americans.[5] Dr. William Grant, in summarizing the findings of his study on African Americans and cancer, wrote that “Solar UVB was found significantly inversely correlated with mortality rates for breast, colon, esophageal, gastric and rectal cancers for black Americans.” Other research in 2008 corroborated his findings, showing that in the Southeast USA, vitamin D deficiency is about four times more common in African Americans as whites, suggesting that the greater cancer risks among African Americans is due to that deficiency.[6]

Shortly I will post another blog citing research that further establishes vitamin D deficiency as a likely culprit in the poor health of dark-skinned Americans.

[1] Nesby-O’Dell, S. et al. Hypovitaminosis D prevalence and determinants among African American and white women of reproductive age: third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988-1994. Am J Clin Nutr 2002;76:187-92.
[2] Plotnikoff G. et al. Prevalence of severe hypovitaminosis D in patients with persistent, nonspecific musculoskeletal pain. Mayo Clin Proc. 2003;78:1463-70.
[3] Liu, P. et al. Toll-like receptor triggering of a vitamin D-mediated human antimicrobial response. Science. 2006;311:1770-73.
[4] Prabhala, A. et al. Severe myopathy associated with vitamin D deficiency in western New York. Arch Intern Med 2000;160:1199-1203.
[5] Grant, W. Lower vitamin-D production from solar ultraviolet-B irradiance may explain some differences in cancer survival rates. JNMA 2006;98:364
[6] Egan, K. et al. Vitamin D insufficiency among African Americans in the southeastern United States: implications for cancer disparities (United States). Cancer Causes Control 2008;19:527-35.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

More on vitamin D and brain disorders

Vitamin D research continues to amaze. The evidence mounts that vitamin D deficiency has a profound negative influence on the function of the brain. Previously, I wrote of the compelling evidence that autism is a vitamin D deficiency disease and also presented research indicative of a role of vitamin D in reducing depression, elevating mood and increasing happiness. Now, we see that in a small study of seventeen psychiatric patients, two were borderline deficient and 15 were deficient. Seven had such low levels that blood tests could not produce an accurate reading. Encouragingly, the researchers recommended that mental-health inpatients receive adequate exposure to sunlight.[1]

In my book, I documented the critical importance of sunlight/vitamin D to the development and health of the brain:

1. Prenatal vitamin D deficiency in animals profoundly alters brain development. [2] [3] Dr. Darryl Eyles and his colleagues state, “rats born to vitamin D(3)-deficient mothers had profound alterations in the brain at birth. The cortex was longer but not wider, the lateral ventricles were enlarged, the cortex was proportionally thinner and there was more cell proliferation throughout the brain… Our findings would suggest that low maternal vitamin D(3) has important ramifications for the developing brain."[2]

2. Rats born to vitamin D-deficient mothers also have permanently damaged brains into adulthood[4] and exhibit hyperlocomotion (excessive movement from place to place) at the age of ten weeks.[5] Could this relate to hyperactivity in our children? Such rats also show impairment in learning and memory skills.

3. People hospitalized for bipolar disorder, and who are exposed to sunlight daily, are able to leave the hospital almost four days earlier than those who are not exposed, [6] and people hospitalized for seasonal affective disorder (SAD) also have shorter stays when they are placed in rooms on the sunny side of the hospital.[7]

4. Two studies of mice with abnormal vitamin D receptors (VDR) in the brain found an increase in anxiety, aggression, poor grooming, maternal pup neglect and cannibalism.[8] [9] Abnormal VDR cause a situation similar to vitamin D deficiency; the vitamin D that is available cannot properly stimulate the genes that prevent the anxiety, cannibalism, etc.

5. Another vital function of vitamin D is in inducing the production of nerve-growth factor (NGF), a protein that is essential for proper development of nerve cells in the brain and elsewhere.[10] [11] It is obvious that if vitamin D is not present, nerve cells will simply not develop as they should in the central nervous system and brain, leading to the mental disorders we discuss here.

Can it be that the Powers of Darkness (the “sunscare” promoters) are partially responsible for the widespread depression, negativism, anxiety and psychological disorder that plague our society to a greater extent each year? Their efforts, coupled with modern indoor lifestyles, are leading to increases in a plethora of diseases, some of which are disorders of the brain. I believe it will be only a matter of time until vitamin D deficiency in pregnant women will be correlated to abnormally low IQ in the children they bear. In this blog, we have already discussed autism as a vitamin D deficiency disease, and there is an indication that women who conceive in the fall and winter tend to bear more dyslexic children,[12] as well as children with other learning and reading disabilities.[13] [14] The nervous system’s critical time to develop neural connections is in the first months after conception. If the pregnant woman is low in vitamin D during that time, it could affect the development of the fetal brain.

Activated vitamin D is a potent hormone that is essential for proper brain development. As a society and as parents, we cannot wait for more research before acting on the crying need for optimal vitamin D levels. Our mental and physical health, as well as that of our children, depends on it!

[1] Tiangga, E. et al. Psychiatric Bulletin 2008;32:390-93
[2] Eyles, D. et al. Vitamin D3 and brain development. Neuroscience 2003;118:641-53.
[3] McGrath, J. et al. Vitamin D3-implications for brain development. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol 2004;89-90:557-60.
[4] Feron, F. et al. Developmental vitamin D3 deficiency alters the adult rat brain. Brain Res Bull. 2005 Mar 15;65(2):141-8.
[5] Burne, T. et al. Transient prenatal Vitamin D deficiency is associated with hyperlocomotion in adult rats. Behav Brain Res 2004;154:549-55.
[6] Benedetti, F. et al. Morning sunlight reduces length of hospitalization in bipolar depression. J Affect Disord 2001;62:221-23.
[7] Beauchemin, K. et al. sunny hospital rooms expedite recovery from severe and refractory depressions. J Affect Disord 1996;40:49-51.
[8] Kalueff, A. et al. Increased anxiety in mice lacking vitamin D receptor gene. Neuroreport 2004;15:1271-74.
[9] Kalueff, A. et al. Behavioral anomalies in mice evoked by Tokyo disruption of the vitamin D receptor gene. Neurosci Res 2006;54:254-60.
[10] Kiraly,S et al. Vitamin D as a neuroactive substance: review. Scientific World Journal 2006;6:125-139.
[11] Carlson, A. et al. Is vitamin D deficiency associated with peripheral neuropathy? The Endocrinologist 2007;17:319-25.
[12] Livingston, R. et al. Season of birth and neurodevelopmental disorders: summer birth is associated with dyslexia. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 1993;32:612-6.
[13] Badian, N. Reading Disability in an Epidemiological Context: Incidence and Environmental Correlates. J Learn Disabil. 1984;17:129-36.
[14] Martin, R. Season of birth is related to child retention rates, achievement, and rate of diagnosis of specific LD. J Learn Disabil 2004;37:307-17

Vitamin D, sunlight, septicemia (blood poisoning) and hospital deaths: Is there a relationship?

Septicemia is a severe and often deadly blood infection and is a form of sepsis, defined as an infection of tissues by bacteria. Noxious bacteria do considerable damage by attacking tissue, including blood. However, when they die or when their cell walls rupture, they release a poison (endotoxin), which may do more harm than the bacterial attack itself. Sunlight and vitamin D may have a protective affect on preventing this often-deadly disease.

Much of this information comes from two excellent papers, one by Dr. William Grant,[1] who alerted me to this research, and the other from Dr. N Mookherjee and colleagues.[2]
Sepsis accounts for 500,000 emergency-room hospital visits per year in the USA, and the typical stay is nearly five hours.[3] It is one of the most deadly of medical conditions[3] and often results in multiple organ failure and death.[2] There are about 750,000 cases per year, and about 3% of all hospital admissions result in a case of sepsis.2 Sepsis is one of the top-ten causes of death in the USA and the second leading cause of hospital-associated deaths outside of coronary intensive care units. In North America sepsis and its related disorders kill more people than heart attacks, colon cancer, breast cancer or AIDS. And in the case of severe sepsis, antibiotics have not improved survival. They may, in fact, worsen the condition.[2]

Dr. Grant points out that septicemia incidence is highest in the winter and lowest in the autumn, that rates are also generally highest in the Northeast and lowest in the Southwest,[4] and that African Americans (who have lower levels of vitamin D) have 1.7 to 4.3 times higher incidence rates than do whites.[5] There is also a rapid increase in risk with age, and several other chronic and infectious diseases are closely associated with that increase.[1] All of these factors indicate vitamin D deficiency; therefore, such a deficiency could play a strong causal role in septicemia, especially since deficiency inhibits the production of cathelicidins, which not only break down the cell walls of noxious germs, but also help to reduce the endotoxins resulting from the breakdown.[6] [7] [8]

In my book, I discuss the fact that in Australia, melanoma rates have skyrocketed since 1980 when the anti-sun campaign began in earnest.[9] Sepsis rates jumped simultaneously and both diseases coincided with the widespread use of sunscreens.[1] The same is true for viral respiratory infections, most cancers, congestive heart failure1 and several other diseases that follow similar patterns. Dr. Grant states that the incidence and prevalence features of sepsis are similar to the epidemiological features of vitamin D deficiency based on summertime solar UVB light that produces vitamin D.

There is another indication that vitamin D deficiency is at least partially responsible for the alarming death rate from septicemia and for the hospital deaths that this deadly disease causes: when vitamin D levels are low, parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels tend to by high. Consider that among older hospital patients with hip fractures, high PTH is associated not only with accelerated bone loss, but also with a doubling of injury to the heart and an 18.5 times increase in the risk of hospital death when compared to patients with high levels.[10] Certainly, there is no downside to educating the public of the need to keep levels of vitamin D high, as it likely affords significant protection against this emerging killer, septicemia.

[1] Grant, W. Solar ultraviolet-B irradiance and vitamin D may reduce the risk of septicemia.
Dermato-Endocrinology 1:1, 1-6; January/February 2009.
[2] Mookherjee, N. et al. Cathelicidins and functional analogues as antisepsis molecules. Expert Opinions on Therapeutic Targets 2007;11:993-1004.
[3] Wang, H. et al. National estimates of severe sepsis in United States emergency departments. Crit Care Med 2007;35:2461-2.
[4] Danai P. et al. Seasonal variation in the epidemiology of sepsis. Crit Care Med. 2007;35:410–15.
[5] Danai P. et al. The epidemiology of sepsis in patients with malignancy. Chest. 2006;129:1432–40.
[6] Giacometti, A. et al. Cathelicidin peptide sheep myeloid antimicrobial peptide-29 prevents endotoxin-induced mortality in rat models of septic shock. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2004;169:187-94.
[7] Giacometti, A. et al. The antimicrobial peptide BMAP-28 reduces lethality in mouse models of staphylococcal sepsis. Crit Care Med. 2004;32:2485–90.
[8] Cirioni O. et al. LL-37 protects rats against lethal sepsis caused by gram-negative bacteria. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2006;50:1672–9.
[9] Montague M, et al. Slip! Slop! Slap! and SunSmart, 1980-2000: Skin cancer control and 20 years of population-based campaigning. Health Educ Behav. 2001;28:290–305.
[10] Fisher, A. et al. Relationships between myocardial injury, all -cause mortality, vitamin D, PTH, and biochemical Bone turnover markers in older patients with hip fractures. Ann Clin Lab Science 2007;37:222-232.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Is Autism a Vitamin D-Deficiency Disorder?

Autism is increasing exponentially and is related to vitamin D deficiency. As I have pointed out in my book, both children and adults with autism typically show difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities.”[1]

The cost of autism is about $35 billion annually, and the societal cost for each case is about $3.2 million.[2] The most alarming increase in autism is observed over the past few decades, and its incidence is currently growing at the rate of 10-17% per year.39 Dr. John Cannell wrote a compelling paper on how autism could be caused, at least in part, by lack of vitamin D during brain development.[3] Much of this post discusses his primary arguments.

Cannell points out that in 1989, about the time autism began its most rapid increase in incidence, the American Medical Association Council on Scientific Affairs first warned of the perceived dangers of sun exposure and advised keeping infants out of the sun as much as possible.[4] In 1999, when autism risk began to really skyrocket, the American Academy of Pediatrics advised to keep infants out of direct sunlight and to make sure activities minimized sun exposure.[5] In 2002 the Centers for Disease Control reported that the efforts had been quite successful.5

It is quite possible that the result of all of this “protection” has been an increase in autism, since the increase in the incidence of autism has closely paralleled the increase in “sunscare efforts.” Vitamin D is absolutely essential for brain development[6] [7] and that children are deficient because of sun “protection” measures that lower vitamin D levels. My opinion is that this is the major reason for the surge in the rate of autism.

Here are more of Dr. Cannell’s autism/vitamin D-deficiency links:

Both autism and vitamin D deficiency are associated with abnormally high inflammation.[8] [9]
Low consumption of vitamin D-rich seafood in pregnant women correlates to increased risk of their children’s low verbal IQ’s, poorer social performance, communication and motor skills.[10] [11]

Dark-skinned people are far more likely to be vitamin D deficient because they require more sun exposure to produce it. If the theory is correct, the rate of autism among black children would be higher than that among white children due to maternal vitamin D deficiency and fetal insufficiency that would influence brain development. This is exactly the case; children of mothers who have emigrated from Uganda to Sweden, for example, have an autism rate of 15%, which is 200 times that of the general population.[12] Far less sunlight is available in Sweden than Uganda, and the season available for vitamin D production is much shorter in Sweden. This puts the Ugandan women at a severe disadvantage in producing enough vitamin D for the developing fetus.

There is a close correlation between latitude and autism among countries; the higher the latitude, the higher the rate of autism.[13] High-latitude countries have higher rates of vitamin D deficiency due to a shorter season in which UVB is available to stimulate its production in the skin. The same relationship of latitude to autism exists within the states of the USA, with northern states having higher rates of autism.[14] [15]

In winter, when vitamin D production is low, birth rates of autistic children peak.[16]
Rickets and autism show similar urban/rural distribution rates. Rickets is an accepted vitamin D-deficiency disease, and urban children have significantly higher rates of both diseases.[17] Pregnant rural women and their children tend to be outside in the sunshine more their urban counterparts, and in urban settings, more air pollution blocks out UVB light, the wave length that stimulates vitamin D production; poor air quality is directly correlated with autism[18] and with profoundly lower serum levels of vitamin D.[19] It is also interesting to note that the Amish of Pennsylvania—mostly rural farmers—have extremely low rates of autism.[20] According to Dr. Heng Wang, who treats Amish people in rural Ohio, their rate of autism is 1 in 1,500, compared to 1 in 166 nationally.[21]

Finally, where precipitation rates are high, rates of autism are also high,[22] [23] suggesting a link with sunlight deprivation. Cloudy, rainy weather blocks the UVB light necessary to produce vitamin D.

The argument that autism is a vitamin D-deficiency disorder is compelling, but until the theory is proven, it would certainly be prudent to assure that pregnant women and young children maintain optimal levels of vitamin D. There is no downside, and the potential to halt an unnecessary disease that is devastating to youngsters, their parents and society.

[1] Autism Society of America web site, accessed January 29, 2008
[2] Ganz, M. The lifetime distribution of the incremental societal costs of autism. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2007;161:343-39.
[3] Cannell, J. Autism and vitamin D. Med hypothesis Oct 24, 2007. Epub ahead of print
[4] JAMA 1989;262:380-84. No authors listed
[5] Cannell, J. Vitamin D newsletter, May 2007.
[6] Eyles, D. et al. Vitamin D3 and brain development. Neuroscience 2003;118:641-53.
[7] McGrath, J. et al. Vitamin D3-implications for brain development J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol 2004;89-90:557-60.
[8] Ashwood, P. et al. The immune response in autism: a new frontier for autism research. J Leukoc Biol 2006;80:1-15.
[9] Cantorna, M. . Vitamin D status, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3, and the immune system. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Dec;80:1717S-20S.
[10] Cantorna, M. . Vitamin D status, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3, and the immune system. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Dec;80:1717S-20S.
[11] Hibbeln, J. et al. Maternal seafood consumption in pregnancy and neurodevelopmental outcomes in childhood (ALSPAC study): an observational cohort study. Lancet. 2007 Feb 17;369(9561):578-85.
[12] Gillberg, C. Et al. Autism in immigrants: children born in Sweden to mothers born in Uganda. J Intellect Disabil Res. 1995;39:141-4.
[13] Grant, W. Epidemiological evidence for supporting the role of maternal vitamin D deficiency as a significant risk factor for the development of infantile autism in those born prior to 1985. Unpublished manuscript.
[14] McNally, R. et al. An infectious aetiology for childhood brain tumors? Evidence from space-time clustering and seasonality analyses. Br J Cancer 2002;86:1070-77.
[15] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevalence of autism spectrum disorders–autism and developmental disabilities monitoring network, 14 sites, United States, 2002. MMWR Surveill Summ 2007;56:12–28.
[16] Stevens, M. Season of birth effects in autism. J Clin Exp Neuropsychol 2000;22:399–407.
[17] Williams, J. et al. Systematic review of prevalence studies of autism spectrum disorders. Arch Dis Child 2006;91:8-15.
[18] Windham, M. et al. Autism spectrum disorders in relation to hazardous air pollutants in the San Francisco Bay area. Environ Health Perspect 2006;114:1438-44.
[19] Agarwal, K. et al. The impact of atmospheric pollution on vitamin D status of infants and toddlers in Delhi, India. Arch Dis Child. 2002;87:111-13.
[20] Waldman M, et al. Does television cause autism? National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper 12632, 2006. http://www.econ.cudenver.edu/mocan/data%20for%20courses/Autism%5B1%5D.w12632.pdf (accessed Feb 2, 2008.).
[21]Wang, H. Quoted by Dan Olmsted in The Age of Autism: One in 15,000 Amish. UPI June 8, 2005. Available online at http://pittsburgh.indymedia.org/news/2005/06/18948.php.
[22] Waldman M, et al. Does television cause autism? National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper 12632, 2006. http://www.econ.cudenver.edu/mocan/data%20for%20courses/Autism%5B1%5D.w12632.pdf (accessed Feb 2, 2008.).
[23] Waldman,M. Autism prevalence and precipitation rates in California, Oregon, and Washington counties. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2008 Nov;162(11):1026-34

Vitamin D may help your economic depression and decrease your financial aches and pains this winter.

If you are feeling some depression due to the economic downturn and are experiencing the aches and pains of a shrinking portfolio, your answer may lie in taking a vacation to the tropics or at least increasing your intake of vitamin D. No, it won’t improve your bottom line, but it could help you to feel dramatically better while you suffer through the economic doldrums.
When we become financially depressed during winter, it only adds to the natural depression we feel due to lack of sunlight. That depression is known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Furthermore, the pain of pecuniary woes adds to the physical pain experienced by so many people who are deficient in vitamin D.

Did you know that those who suffer from SAD are almost always vitamin D deficient and that when vitamin D supplements are provided in winter, they improve mood in only five days?[1] Or were you aware that 75% of depressed patients (SAD patients in winter) reduce their depression levels with the use of vitamin D?[2] There are at least two more recent papers showing that depression is lifted by the use of vitamin D supplements.[3] [4] In one of them, 4,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D were given to depressed patients during Canada’s long winter. The result was a profound increase in blood vitamin D levels and an even more dramatic increase in the subjects’ sense of wellbeing.4

In another investigation, researchers studied the association between vitamin D levels and the risk of mood disorders in the elderly. The results were impressive. Those whose vitamin D levels were deficient—defined as less than 20 ng/ml—had 11.7 times the incidence of depression when compared to those whose vitamin D levels were higher. Usually an association is considered meaningful when a measured factor correlates to a 50% increase or decrease. In this case, the correlation between vitamin D deficiency and risk of mood disorders was a staggering 1,169 percent—a nearly 12 times increase in depression risk![5] Elderly people seldom get in the sunlight and are consequently depressed. The elderly who have low levels of vitamin D also are three-and-one-half times as likely to be admitted to a nursing home as those who have higher levels.[6] It is criminal to let elderly persons die of depression, fractures and all of the other maladies correlated to their critically low vitamin D levels. This research is no secret, and someone needs to get the word out to the elderly and to all others interested in better health.

Now let's discuss pain:

Dr. Stewart Leavitt recently posted the results of a review of 22 scientific studies on the relationship of vitamin D deficiency to chronic pain. (http://Pain-Topics.org/VitaminD). This 2008 analysis is just the latest of many studies on vitamin D and pain, most of which have been ignored by the physicians that treat the disorder. In total, there were 3,670 patients with chronic pain, and 48% of them showed significant vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D supplementation was very helpful in alleviating the pain.[7] Dr. Leavitt states: “When supplementation was provided for improving vitamin D status, pain and/or muscle weakness were resolved or at least subsided in most cases, and there were associated improvements in physical functioning.”

Pain is common in winter, and it has been known for some time that vitamin D or sunlight therapy is effective for its alleviation. For instance, In one interesting study, conducted on chronic pain patients in Minneapolis, Minnesota (45 degrees north latitude), it was found that 100% of African Americans, American Indians, East Africans and Hispanics were vitamin D deficient, as were most Caucasians.[8] In summer sunlight, dark-skinned people take up to 6 times as long to produce the same amount of vitamin D as light skinned people, making dark skinned people much more susceptible to vitamin D deficiency. Indoor lifestyles and the advice to slather with sunscreen, which can reduce vitamin D production during sunlight exposure by 99.5%[9] puts dark-skinned people at a considerable vitamin D deficiency disadvantage. In addition, during the winter at high latitudes in areas such as Minneapolis, there are several months where little or no vitamin D is produced by the skin due to the sun’s position in the southern sky; that is why vitamin D deficiency and it subsequent depression and pain are so much more pronounced in winter. It is absolutely essential for dark-skinned adults to take vitamin D3 supplementation of 4,000 to 5,000 IU per day year around or regularly use a tanning bed to stave off pain and to reduce the excessive risk of cancer, hypertension, diabetes, etc., that plague them. It is also critical for most Caucasians during winter. Remember that vitamin D3 is the only type of vitamin D that should be used.

Another impressive result comes from a clinical observation of five vitamin D-deficient patients who suffered from myopathy, a disease of bone and muscle tissue. They were confined to wheelchairs and experienced severe fatigue, weakness, and chronic pain. After receiving 50,000 IU per week of vitamin D, all regained enough strength and energy within four to six weeks to be mobile and functional, and their aches and pains disappeared.[10] Other research reported that five chronic-pain patients at John Hopkins University Medical School were treated with vitamin D, and their pain resolved within a week![11]

Vitamin D is a potent anti-inflammatory and also helps to strengthen bone, joint and muscle tissue. Be sure to maintain optimal levels (50 ng/ml or 125 nmol/L) in order to avoid the aches and pains of winter.

So there you have it. Monetary woes this winter may increase depression and cause financial pain, but there is no reason to worsen the problem with severe physical pain and chemical depression. You have the answers before you. A year of vitamin D supplementation at 5,000 IU per day will cost you about $10.00 at Bio-Tech Pharmacal, and that will not cause you any additional financial pain or depression. Their web site: http://www.bio-tech-pharm.com/catalog.aspx?cat_id=2. By the way, I have no financial interest in that company and simply recommend them as an exceptionally high quality, low-price source of vitamin D3.

Lose the blues and be happy and well this winter!

[1] Lansdowne, A. et al. Vitamin D3 enhances mood in healthy subjects during winter. Psychopharmacology 1998;135:319-23.
[2] Gloth, F. et al. Vitamin D vs. broad spectrum phototherapy in the treatment of seasonal affective disorder J Nutr Health Aging 1999; 3(1):5-7
[3] Jorde R. et al. Effects of vitamin D supplementation on symptoms of depression in overweight and obese subjects: randomized double-blind trial. J Intern Med 2008 Dec 1;264(6):599-609. Epub 2008 Sep 10.
[4] Vieth, R. et al. Randomized comparison of the effects of the vitamin D3 adequate intake versus 100 mcg (4,000 IU) per day on biochemical responses and the wellbeing of patients. Nutr J 2004;3:8.
[5] Wilkins C. et al. Vitamin D Deficiency Is Associated With Low Mood and Worse Cognitive Performance in Older Adults. Am J Geriatr Psychiatry;2006;14:1032–1040).
[6] Visser, M. et al. Low serum vitamin concentrations of 25 hydroxyvitamin D in older persons and the risk of nursing home admission. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;84:616-22.
[7] (http://Pain-Topics.org/VitaminD)
[8] Plotnikoff G. et al. Prevalence of severe hypovitaminosis D in patients with persistent, nonspecific musculoskeletal pain. Mayo Clin Proc. 2003;78:1463-70.
[9] Matsuoka, L. et al. sunscreens suppress cutaneous vitamin D3 synthesis. J Clin Endocrinology & Metab 1987; 64:1165-68.
[10] Prabhala, A. et al. Severe myopathy associated with vitamin D deficiency in western New York. Arch Intern Med 2000;160:1199-1203.
[11] Gloth, F. et al. Can vitamin D deficiency produce an unusual pain syndrome? Arch Intern Med 1991;152:1662-4.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Heart failure predicts an increased bone fracture rate. Is vitamin D deficiency the reason for the correlation?

A recent and interesting medical paper says that researchers have “discovered” that persons diagnosed with heart failure in hospital emergency departments have a dramatically increased risk of bone fractures. [1] The researchers stated that after one year, those diagnosed with heart failure (HF) had four times the risk of any fracture and more than six times the risk of hip fracture when compared to those who came to emergency departments for non-HF reasons.

One of the authors stated that it is not known how heart failure promotes bone fractures. My answer, of course, is that heart failure does not promote fractures; the risk of each of these terrible diseases is profoundly increased by vitamin D deficiency. We know, for instance, that lack of vitamin D in the blood can cause rickets, osteoporosis and osteomalacia. The earliest known value of vitamin D was in the prevention of rickets, the horrible, deforming bone disease of D-deficient children. Osteoporosis (brittle bones that are susceptible to fractures) also develops if there is insufficient vitamin D in the blood.

One of the most compelling studies on fracture risk was done by Dr. Sato and his colleagues in Japan.[2] They studied the effects of sunlight—or the lack thereof—on the bone mass of elderly women who were either exposed to sunlight or were kept inside a care facility. Over twelve months, 129 women were exposed to sunlight every day, and another 129 received no sunlight exposure. The results were startling: in these sedentary women, the sunlight group increased bone mass by an average 3.1%; in the non-sunlight-exposed group, it decreased by 3.3%, a difference of 6.4%. This is important, because high bone mass prevents fractures. The risk of fracture increases two to three times for every 10 percent drop in bone density.[3] In Sato’s study, however, the women who stayed indoors out of the sunlight had six times as many fractures as those who sunbathed outdoors. Also interesting to note is that vitamin D levels in the sunlight-exposed group increased by 400%.

An investigation in Spain concluded that women who actively participated in sun exposure had one-eleventh the chance of a hip fracture as those who did not![4] Another in Switzerland found that only 4% of hip fracture patients had vitamin D blood levels of 30 ng/ml.[5] In other words, 96% were vitamin D-deficient.

So what does this have to do with heart failure (HF)? Much more than you might imagine! Vitamin D deficiency appears to dramatically increase the risk of HF, just as it increases the risk of osteoporosis and fractures. Inflammation is common with HF, and is often caused by proteins called cytokines that are either pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory elements of the immune system. Vitamin D has an amazing ability to inhibit pro-inflammatory cytokine production[6],[7]while stimulating the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines[7]and is particularly useful in improving the cytokine profiles in patients with congestive heart failure.[7]

In France, deaths from HF are 20% higher than average in January and 15% lower in August—a swing of 355 [8] Similarly, in Spain HF hospital admissions are 25% higher than average in January and 33% lower in August.[9] That is a 58% seasonal swing! We know that vitamin D levels are much higher in summer than winter, so it is highly likely that the higher HF rate in January is due to lower vitamin D levels.

Further corroborating the idea that vitamin D deficiency leads to or exacerbates heart failure is the fact that the incidence of heart failure in black Americans, compared to white Americans, is 40% higher in men and 100% higher in women.[10] Remember that dark-skinned people living at high latitudes have lower vitamin D levels—an easily-remedied situation. Not surprisingly, heart failure is related to low vitamin D in all races, and most sufferers have serum levels below 20 ng/ml, which is quite deficient. Adults with this condition also show a history of sedentary, indoor living.[11]

Tragically, newborns also suffer heart failure, and until lately studies had not considered vitamin D deficiency as a possible cause. However, in a study conducted in southeast England, sixteen infants were identified that had suffered HF between 2000 and 2006.[12] Six were of Indian and ten of African ethnicity. Six of them suffered cardiac arrest, three died, eight were placed on lung machines, and two were referred for heart transplants. The average serum vitamin D level of these children was only 7.4 ng/ml, and some of the infants had undetectable levels. Obviously, a few dollars worth of vitamin D could have prevented this catastrophe.

So there you have the answer. Both heart failure and fractures have a common underlying cause, and although there may be other factors that lead to heart failure and fractures, vitamin D deficiency is the certainly the most easily remedied. When will the world wake up to the crying need to optimize vitamin D levels?


[1] van Diepen, S et al. Heart failure is a risk factor for orthopedic fracture. A population-based analysis of 16 294 patients. Circulation 2008; Available at: http://circ.ahajournals.org.
[2] Sato, Y. et al. Amelioration of osteoporosis and hypovitaminosis D by sunlight exposure in stroke patients. Neurology 2003;61:338-42.
[3] Nguyen, T. et al. Prediction of osteoporotic fractures by postural instability and bone density. BMJ 1993;307:1111-15.
[4] Larrosa, M. Vitamin D deficiency and related factors in patients with osteoporotic hip fracture. Med Clin (BARC) 2008;130:6-9.
[5] Bischoff-Ferrari, H. et al. Severe vitamin D deficiency in Swiss hip-fracture patients. Bone 2007 Nov 28 [Epub ahead of print]
[6] Muller, K. et al. 1,25-Dihydroxyvitamin D3 inhibits cytokine production by human blood monocytes at the post-transcriptional level. Cytokine 1992;4:506-12.
[7] Schleithoff, S. et al. Vitamin d supplementation improves cytokine profiles in patients with congestive heart failure: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;83:731-2.
[8] Boulay, F. et al. Seasonal variation in chronic heart failure hospitalizations and mortality in France. Circulation. 1999;100:280-86.
[9] Martinez-Selles, M. et al. Annual rates of admission and seasonal variations in hospitalizations for heart failure. Eur J Heart Fail 2002;:779-86.
[10] American Heart Association. Heart and stroke statistics – 2004 update.
[11] Zitterman, A. et al. Vitamin D insufficiency in congestive heart failure: Why and what to do about it? Heart Fail Rev 2006;11:25-33.
[12] Maiya, S. et al. Hypocalcaemia and vitamin D deficiency: an important, but preventable cause of life-threatening heart failure. Heart 2008;94:581-84

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Don’t be deceived! Adequate Vitamin D DOES profoundly reduce the risk of breast cancer!

In spite of numerous studies that demonstrate a profound reduction in risk of cancer with increased sunlight exposure and vitamin D supplementation, a new study appears to completely contradict the idea that vitamin D has anti-cancer properties, especially for breast cancer. [1]
Don’t be deceived. The researchers obviously have not kept up on vitamin D research, or they have deliberately conducted a study with the express intention of misleading the public, meaning that the so-called “research” falls somewhere between incompetence and deception.
First of all, the amount of supplementation used was 400 IU daily. That miniscule amount is like feeding a starving woman nothing more than a daily peanut! 400 IU is barely sufficient to prevent rickets, much less stave off cancer. More than a year ago, another study, this one done by researchers who understood vitamin D, showed that supplementing about 1,100 IU along with calcium for four years reduced the risk of all cancers in women by 60-77%.[2]

Summer sunlight can stimulate the skin to produce up to 20,000 IU of vitamin D in 20 minutes of full-body exposure. As I stated, 400 IU is almost NOTHING. In winter, most men and women need at least 3-5,000 IU daily to maintain healthful summer levels[3], and nursing mothers need at least 6,400 IU to maintain adequate serum levels for both themselves and their infants.[4] This research is no secret, and yet the researchers who conducted this new study used 400 IU. It makes one wonder if they even bother to read the research. A short time ago I posted the following material on vitamin D and breast cancer, and it bears repeating here:

There has been a concerted effort by the “Powers of Darkness” to ensure that children avoid that most natural of childhood activities—playing outdoors in the sun. Yet, it is known that girls who have the greatest exposure to sunlight during the ages of 10-19 have a 35% decreased risk of cancer as adults when compared to those who had the least exposure.[5] Sunlight is essential for optimal human health and it is criminal to deprive children and adults of mankind’s most healthful friend. It is likely that much of sunlight’s cancer-preventive properties are mediated by vitamin D.

Adult habits of sun exposure also make a profound difference in the risk of breast cancer. Dr Esther John and colleagues conducted research on the sun-exposure habits of women and correlated those habits to the risk of developing breast cancer. Those women who had the greatest exposure to sunlight were 65% less likely to develop breast cancer.[6] Isn’t it interesting that the most potent anti-cancer agent may be something that the cancer societies have defined as a carcinogen (something that causes cancer)? That anti-cancer agent is sunshine, which produces vitamin D. Research shows that women with a combination of a genetically susceptible tendency to breast cancer and a low blood level of vitamin D (less than 20 ng/ml) have nearly seven times the breast cancer rate as those without a family history of susceptibility genetics and a blood level above 20 ng/ml.[7] Another investigation pointed out that those women with the highest serum levels of vitamin D had a 69% reduced risk when compared to those with the lowest levels. There was a striking dose-response relationship between higher vitamin D and lower breast-cancer risk.[8]

Vitamin D also makes a terrific difference in the progression and spread of breast cancer after it is diagnosed. Blood levels of vitamin D at the time of diagnosis of breast cancer accurately predict a woman’s survival. The cancer is much more aggressive in those whose serum vitamin D levels are low; they are 94% more likely to have the cancer metastasize (spread to other tissue) and 73% more likely to die within ten years of diagnosis.[9]

So what is the bottom line? Another analysis estimated that maintaining a vitamin D blood level of 55ng/ml would prevent the breast-cancer deaths of 85,000 US women yearly and that the deaths prevented worldwide would be 350,000;[10] still another showed that moderate sunlight exposure combined with 2,000 IU of vitamin supplementation would be sufficient to produce the levels necessary to achieve such a reduction in breast-cancer risk and death.[11] It is likely that the combination of supplementation and sunlight furnishes at least 3,000 IU daily. Is it any wonder that 400 IU made no difference in breast cancer rates? We must no longer ignore the beneficial health influences of sunlight and vitamin D on breast cancer or any of the other myriad disorders such as heart disease and osteoporosis that correlate so closely to vitamin D deficiency.

[1] Chlebowski R, et al. Calcium Plus Vitamin D Supplementation and the Risk of Breast Cancer. JNCI Published online 11-11- 2008.
[2] Lappe, J. et al. Vitamin D and calcium supplementation reduces cancer risk: results of a randomized trial. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;85:1586–91.
[3] Heaney, R. et al. Human serum 25-hydroxycholecalciferol response to extended oral dosing with cholecalciferol. Am J Clin Nutr 2003;77:204-10.
[4] Wagner C. et al. High-dose vitamin D3 supplementation in a cohort of breastfeeding mothers and their infants: a 6-month follow-up pilot study. Breastfeed Med 2006;1:59-70.
[5] Knight J. et al. Vitamin D and reduced risk of breast cancer: a population-based case-control study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2007;16:422-9.
[6] John, E. et al. Vitamin D and breast cancer risk: The HANES 1 epidemiologic follow-up study, 1971-1975 to 1992. Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention 1999;8:399-406.
[7] Lowe L. et al. Plasma 25-hydroxy vitamin D concentrations, vitamin D receptor genotype and breast cancer risk in a UK Caucasian population. Eur J Cancer 2005;41:1164-699.
[8] Abbbas, S et al. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D and risk of post-menopausal breast cancer--results of a large case-control study. Carcinogenesis. 2008;29:93-9
[9] Goodwin, P. et al. quoted in Medical Health Articles Sept 26, 2008 (http://google-sina.com/2008/09/26/low-vitamin-d-levels-raise-breast-cancer-death-risk-by-75-percent/)
[10] Garland, C et al. What is the dose-response relationship between vitamin D and cancer risk? Nutrition Reviews 2007;65:S91-5.
[11] Garland, C. et al. Vitamin D and prevention of breast cancer: pooled analysis. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2007;103:708-11.