Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Breast-cancer prevention and treatment with vitamin D and sunlight: Is the most potent anti-cancer agent being ignored?

Note: The comments on this blog are for information only. Do not make any changes in sunlight exposure, tanning-bed exposure or nutritional habits without first consulting a medical professional.

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. 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. 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) had nearly seven times the breast cancer rate as those without a family history of susceptibility genetics and a blood level above 20 ng/ml. 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.

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.

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; 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. 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.

(References for the statements in this blog are found in my book.)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Weight loss surgery, vitamin D and bone loss

Note: The comments on this blog are for information only. Do not make any changes in sunlight exposure, tanning-bed exposure or nutritional habits without first consulting a medical professional.

The obesity pandemic, brought about by horrendous eating patterns, lack of exercise and (in my opinion) lack of sunlight and vitamin D has spawned millions of nutritionally bizarre diet programs and numerous strange medical procedures. One of the strangest is gastric bypass surgery, a procedure that cuts calorie absorptions by bypassing the intestinal area that absorbs nutrients. It is another case, similar to open-heart bypass surgery, of a surgery that “bypasses” the real problem: preposterous lifestyle habits.

Any thinking person realizes that a surgery that reduces the calorie absorption also reduces the absorption of calcium and vitamin D. It is a recipe for osteoporosis and hip fractures; these nutrients are essential for optimal bone health. A recent study Dr. J Fleischer and colleagues at Columbia University (J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008;93:3735-40) has shown that one year after gastric bypass, bone loss at the hip was 8%. Just how important is this finding? One assessment showed that the risk of fracture increases two to three times for every 10 percent drop in bone density, and another showed that for every loss of 0.12g (.043 oz) per square centimeter (.15 square inch) of bone mass, the risk of a fracture increased by 360% in women and 340% in men!

Remember that this bone loss was reported only one year after the bypass surgery. If this rate of bone loss continued for several years, it would weaken the skeleton to the point that the slightest movement would cause a fracture. The bypass procedure is a horror, and the bone loss brought on by lack of absorption of calcium and vitamin D, is even worse.

In the case of decreased absorption of vitamin D, increased dietary intake of vitamin D may or may not work to improve bone strength; it is likely that only a very small quantity of the increased intake would ever make it to the system. The only way to ensure adequate vitamin D levels in the blood is to expose the skin to sunlight or light from sunlamps such as those found in conventional tanning beds. Vast quantities of vitamin D are produced in this manner, and the entire quantity is delivered to the blood, where it can work to increase calcium absorption in both the intestine and in the bone. Calcium absorption in the intestine, for instance, is 65% higher in people whose vitamin D levels are at the low end of “normal” when compared with those who are at the high end of normal.

Osteoporosis is not inevitable, and is to a certain extent reversible (see my earlier blog on the subject). It is a problem caused by excessive animal protein consumption, smoking, lack of activity and vitamin D deficiency. Now we have added another revolting cause: the doctor’s scalpel. I wonder just how many doctors advise their patients about bone loss and vitamin D before performing this monstrosity.

(Documentation for the statements in this blog is available in my book.)

Vitamin D and infertility part 2

Note: The comments on this blog are for information only. Do not make any changes in sunlight exposure, tanning-bed exposure or nutritional habits without first consulting a medical professional.

We previously discussed the relationship of fertility to vitamin D, but a new report adds credence to the idea that infertility may be due in great part to vitamin D deficiency. Dr. Anne Clark, who works at the Fertility First clinic in Sydney, Australia, assessed the blood levels of vitamin D among about 800 men who were unable to produce a pregnancy in their wives. About a third had low levels of vitamin D. Interestingly, after a regimen of lifestyle changes (stopped smoking, coffee drinking and alcohol consumption) and vitamin D supplementation, 40% of the men were able to impregnate their wives, probably due to improvement in the quality of sperm.
Dr Clark stated that "Vitamin D and folate deficiency are known to be associated with infertility in women, but the outcomes of the screening among men in our study group came as a complete surprise."

Though it may have surprised Dr. Clark, the results of her findings should not be surprising to those who read my previous blog on vitamin D and infertility. In that blog, I mentioned that female rats mated to vitamin D-deficient males produced 73% fewer pregnancies. Nearly all tissues of the body contain vitamin D receptors (VDR). For the testes to function properly, those receptors must be stimulated by vitamin D. For couples who are having difficulties in producing a pregnancy, this information is critically important. Pass it on!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Benefits vs. risks of sunlight exposure: 2000:1?

Note: The comments on this blog are for information only. Do not make any changes in sunlight exposure, tanning-bed exposure or nutritional habits without first consulting a medical professional.

In 2007 at the Smart Tan International Conference in Nashville, I presented data on the risks and benefits of UV exposure. I looked at the number of deaths caused by heart disease, cancer, MS, osteoporosis, influenza, etc. and estimated the proportion of those deaths that might be prevented by achieving higher vitamin D levels through UV exposure. I concluded that for every death caused by UV, there were 275 lives lost by underexposure to UV. That seemed to be a very conservative estimate. However, it may have been far too conservative. I may have grossly underestimated the benefits of sunlight. Dr. Oliver Gillie from the UK, through his new book, alerted me to the following research which was published this year.

Dr. Robyn Lucas and colleagues from Australian National University recently performed an analysis on benefits and risk based on the number of lives that would be saved and disabilities prevented by regular sunlight exposure vs. deaths and disabilities caused by following the United Kingdom’s “sun protection” recommendations exactly as written; basically that people apply sunscreen every time they venture outdoors, and that they always stay covered with clothing and wear a hat. In other words, avoid nearly all sunlight exposure. (Lucas, R. et al. Int J Epidemiol 2008;37(3):654-67.) They assessed the burden of disease and death by “disability adjusted life years” (DALYs). They concluded that total abstinence from UV exposure would cause about 3.3 billion DALYs, whereas normal sunlight exposure would cause 1.6 million DALYs. This is a ratio of 2,000:1. In other words, 2,000 cases of death and disability are created by total sunlight avoidance for every case of death or disability caused by sunlight. That might have been impressive enough, but the research done by Dr. Lucas considered only musculoskeletal diseases that would result from total avoidance of sunlight—diseases such as rickets, osteoporosis, osteomalacia, fractures, muscle weakness, tendency to fall, etc.—no assessment of cancer, heart disease, MS, diabetes or some of the other 105 disease, mentioned in my book as being due in part to vitamin D deficiency, were considered in this analysis.

It is safe to say, based on the profound cancer-reducing influences of vitamin D, along with the other disorders that have been shown to correlate so closely to deficiency of that marvelous hormone, that at least 4,000 DALYs would occur with total sun avoidance, compared to one DALY from sunlight exposure. Dr. Gillie states in his book, Scotland’s Health Deficit: an Explanation and a Plan, that many people in the UK accepted the advice to stay out of the sunlight, “did what was advised and as a result obtained no effective sun exposure, obtained virtually no vitamin D other than the very small amount available from food, and put themselves at great risk of serious illness or death.”One wonders at what point the advice to avoid the sunlight moves out of the realm of stubbornness and stupidity and into the realm of criminality.

Sunlight, vitamin D, sexual performance and fertility

Note: The comments on this blog are for information only. Do not make any changes in sunlight exposure, tanning-bed exposure or nutritional habits without first consulting a medical professional.

Can sunlight or vitamin D make a difference in sexual behavior or fertility? That is a difficult question, but there are indications that sunlight exposure or vitamin D intake do influence hormones, fertility and sexual behavior. Now that I have your undivided attention, let’s examine the evidence. After all, with the current ridiculous preoccupation with sex, if we could somehow increase sexual performance through the use of tanning beds, the industry could take its place right alongside “male enhancement” drugs! That, unfortunately, is not going to happen; there is no evidence of such an effect of vitamin D. Nevertheless, what we do know about vitamin D, sexual activity, sperm and fertility is interesting. It is exceptionally important to women who want to become pregnant.

In 1939, Dr. Abraham Myerson measured initial levels of circulating testosterone in men and exposed their various body parts to UVB light. After five days of chest exposure sufficient to cause reddening, circulating testosterone increased by 120%. After eight days without additional UV exposure, testosterone returned to initial levels. When the genital area was exposed, testosterone levels increased by 200%! Considering our sex-obsessed society, it is surprising that no studies followed up. Some doubt has been cast on this work, because testosterone levels tend to peak in winter, when UVB is not available from sunlight.
Other experiments show that rats maintained on D-deficient diets produce fewer sperm, but sperm production increases when vitamin D is again provided. Vitamin D restores fertility to deficient rats and proper testicular function in deficient chickens. Female rats mated to deficient males also have 73% fewer successful pregnancies than those mated to vitamin D-sufficient males. The ovaries and testes of rats that lack vitamin D receptors (VDR) do not function fully and properly, and vitamin D deficiency profoundly reduces sperm production. However, that condition is reversible when vitamin D is restored to optimal levels. Also, most women who are infertile due to polycystic ovary disease, resulting in loss of menstrual cycles, experience restored menstruation and can become pregnant when vitamin D levels are increased.

If vitamin D increases fertility, conception rates should be higher in summer than in winter. In higher latitude countries, where UVB availability varies dramatically during the year, conception rates are indeed at their highest in late summer and birth rates are highest the following spring.
Vitamin D levels are exceptionally low in people with chronic kidney disease, and sufferers generally experience sexual problems, including erectile dysfunction in men, decreased libido and fertility in both sexes, and menstrual abnormalities in women. Whether vitamin D is responsible or simply a result of kidney disease is not known.

Considering this information, it might seem that vitamin D deficiency would be an effective method of birth control if one were willing to accept a greatly increased risk of depression, cancer, heart disease, MS, diabetes and osteoporosis!
(All references for the above are found in the book, Vitamin D3 and Solar Power)