Saturday, January 31, 2009

Is your high-blood-pressure (hypertension) medication slowly killing you? Try vitamin D.

The Web MD alert today discussed the “Seven side effects of your blood pressure medication.”[1] Here are the common side effects that they listed for these noxious drugs: 1. fatigue and dizziness, 2. persistent cough, 3. frequent urination, 4. Fluid retention, 5. sexual dysfunction in men, 6. heart arrhythmia, and 7. allergies. They forgot to mention that beta blockers, a popular med for hypertension, has been shown to double the death risk from heart attacks, congestive heart failure and other major cardiovascular events.[2]

It is interesting that this article fails to mention that a change in nutrition that dramatically reduces fat, sugar, processed foods and animal products is quite effective in preventing and reversing hypertension, with the only side effects being weight loss, increased well-being, greater endurance and increased energy.

Furthermore, the article ignores the fact that men who have low vitamin D levels are more than six times as likely to be hypertensive as those who have high levels, or that women with low levels are nearly three times as likely to be hypertensive. [3]

A cocktail of laboratory-produced chemicals has never been the answer to our health problems. God has already provided us with an astounding internal laboratory that will produce what we need when given the raw materials of whole plant foods and plenty of sunshine. In the winter, however, it may be necessary to take supplements or use a tanning bed (never burn). These methods are certainly more natural and a lot less dangerous than hypertensive drugs.

[2] Wassertheil-Smoller, et al. Association between cardiovascular outcomes and antihypertensive drug treatment in older women. JAMA. 2004 Dec 15;292(23):2849-59.
[3] Forman, J. et al. Plasma Hydroxyvitamin D and risk of Incident Hypertension. (Hypertension. 2007;49:1-7.)

Are nursing mothers killing their infants with vitamin D-deficient breast milk? Part 2. How much vitamin D do mothers need?

The previous post discussed the crisis presented by vitamin D deficient breast milk furnished to nursing infants by their mothers. We established that the recommended amounts for supplementation are woefully inadequate to take care of the illnesses in children (rickets, autism, etc.) that are being caused by low vitamin D levels in breast milk. We also made it clear that breast milk is the perfect food for infants, but only if it has adequate vitamin D. So how much vitamin D is necessary from sunlight, tanning beds or supplementation to assure optimal vitamin D levels for both mother and child?

This is critically important information: Nursing mothers need at least 6,400 IU of vitamin D3 daily. [1] That amount can be easily produced by full-body exposure to summer sunshine in a few minutes, or a tanning bed (never burn) can also produce vast quantities of vitamin D in a short period. For those who wish to avoid the sun at all costs, supplementation is essential. Remember that in northern climes, there are several months in the winter where little or no vitamin D is produced by exposure to sunlight. In such areas, either sun lamps or supplementation are critical to the health of the infant and mother alike.

[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.

Nursing mothers: Is your breast milk, nature’s perfect food, making your baby ill with vitamin D deficiency?

Posted on the online edition of US News and World Report for January 30, 2009 is a headline that screams, “Vitamin D Deficiency Puts 40% of U.S. Infants and Toddlers at Risk.”[i] The article goes on to say that breast feeding is a known risk factor for vitamin D deficiency in infants.

Though the information presented in the article is correct, I fear that such headlines appear as an indictment of breast milk, obviously the very best food for infants. Nursing mothers should realize that the problem is not with breast milk, but rather with their own vitamin D deficiency; no vitamin D-deficient nursing mother can provide anything but deficient breast milk. The problem lies in the fact that the American Academy of Dermatology, the American Cancer Society and other “health organizations” have frightened women out of the sunlight and away from tanning beds, either of which can maintain high vitamin D levels. As a consequence, we have a pandemic of vitamin D deficiency in infants that has lead to autism, rickets, brain disorders, soft skulls, heart failure and diabetes, among other disorders (see my book for the discussions).

For instance, after a century of knowing exactly how to prevent rickets, this disastrous children’s disease is returning, and cases are being reported as far south as Texas, Georgia and North Carolina.[ii] Not surprisingly, 83% of cases occur in black children, and 96% are breast-fed, indicating a lack of vitamin D in their mothers’ milk. We must educate expectant mothers to get out in the sun during their pregnancies or at least take a potent vitamin D supplement. Before and after giving birth, these mothers should assure that both they and their babies maintain optimal serum levels of vitamin D. Too many nursing mothers, especially African Americans, are providing vitamin D-deficient milk. Drs. Bruce Hollis and Carol Wagner have shown that 2,000 IU of supplemental vitamin D daily for nursing mothers falls woefully short of achieving healthful serum levels in their babies.[iii] Until lately, the typical multivitamin contained about 400 IU. Is it any wonder that deficiency exists in breast-fed infants? The next post on this blog will tell you exactly how much vitamin D is necessary for nursing mothers to achieve optimal levels for their own health and the health of their infants.

[ii] Weisberg, P. et al. Nutritional rickets among children in the United States: review of cases reported between 1986 and 2003. Am J Clin Nutr 2004;80(6 Suppl):1697S-705S.
[iii] Hollis B. et al. Vitamin D requirements during lactation: high-dose maternal supplementation as therapy to prevent hypovitaminosis D for both the mother and the nursing infant. Am J Clin Nutr 2004;80:1752S-58S.

Friday, January 30, 2009

How much vitamin D do you need to reduce risk of cancer, osteoporosis, heart disease, gum disease, diabetes, hypertension, etc.?

My book cites research from over 800 medical/scientific journals research that consistently demonstrates a direct correlation between vitamin D deficiency and more than one hundred diseases and disorders. Only those whose heads are buried in the sand could believe that optimal levels of D are not necessary for excellent health. However, along with vitamin D’s newfound popularity, there is bewilderment about what is “optimal.”

What is the optimal level of vitamin D?

Dr. Bruce Hollis and his colleagues conducted research in which they determined that no circulating vitamin D3 can be measured in the blood until 25(OH)D levels are greater than 40-50 ng/ml.[1] This means that all vitamin D3 is used by the tissues to make 25(OH)D until the level is greater than 40-50. At that point, vitamin D3 begins to be measurable, meaning that the tissues are no longer so “hungry” for D3 that they use up every molecule made by the skin or taken orally. Therefore, optimal levels are probably somewhere over 50. Dr. John Cannell and I, in researching our book on vitamin D and athletics, found that athletic performance improves up to about 50-60 ng/ml and declines slightly at higher levels. In addition, a recent study showed that those with high vitamin D levels lived 26% longer than those with low levels; however, beyond 50 ng/ml, higher levels did not confer further advantage.[2]

How much vitamin D does it take to produce the optimal level of 50-60?

Each intake of 100 IU per day of supplementation raises the blood levels of vitamin D about 1 ng/ml. Therefore, if there were no sun exposure or a source of dietary vitamin D, it would require 5,000 IU of supplemental D3 per day to achieve a level of 50. This rule of thumb, of course, varies according to the size of the person; a large person will require more vitamin D than a small person. It is also interesting to note that men who have high levels of vitamin D (due to outdoor summer activity) must take 5,000 IU during winter to maintain those levels.[3]
A special case: nursing mothers

Nursing mothers must furnish sufficient vitamin D3 for themselves and their babies; if they are deficient, the babies have a greater risk of autism, schizophrenia and osteoporosis as they grow older. Dr. Hollis and his colleagues have demonstrated that nursing women need at least 6,400 IU per day to maintain adequate levels of 25(OH)D in both mother and child.[4]

Remember that in Caucasian skin, twenty minutes of full-body sunlight exposure (both sides) will produce from 10,000-20,000 IU of vitamin D. A good tanning bed will produce about 10,000 IU in ten minutes. In either case, be sure not to burn.

Hopefully, this information has reduced any confusion about optimal levels of vitamin D and how to maintain them. Get those levels up to 50-60 ng/ml!

[1] Hollis, B. et al. Circulating Vitamin D3 and 25-hydroxyvitamin D in Humans: An Important Tool to Define Adequate Nutritional Vitamin D Status. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2007 March; 103(3-5): 631–634.
[2] Melamed, M. et al. 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and the risk of mortality in the general population. Arch Intern Med. 2008 Aug 11;168(15):1629-37.
[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.

Are “flesh-eating bacteria” more likely to consume you in the winter when you are vitamin D deficient?

The real name for flesh-eating disease is necrotizing fasciitis. It is caused by a type of strep bacteria that is extremely virulent and causes quick infection and death of the tissue it attacks; it does not, however, “eat flesh.” Necrotizing fasciitis is seasonal, and like so many of the diseases I have discussed, has a much higher incidence in winter.[1] It is likely that sunlight-stimulated vitamin D produces the natural antibiotics (cathelicidins) necessary to keep the disease at bay during summer. It is also interesting to note that Vitamin D3, applied directly, has been effective in treating the injury caused by the bacteria.[2]

I don’t know what your opinion is, but if high vitamin D levels will help me to stave off something called “flesh-eating bacteria,” I believe I’ll spend a lot of time in the sun.

[1] Vlaminckx, B. et al. Long-term surveillance of invasive group A streptococcal disease in The Netherlands, 1994-2003. Clinical Microbiology and Infection 2005;11:226-31.
[2] Sakai, H. et al. A verrucous lesion on skin grafted after necrotizing fasciitis in a diabetic patient successfully treated with combined topical 5-FU and tacalcitol. .J Dermatol. 1997;24:573-7

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Can't get pregnant? Conception may be as easy as 1,2,D3

I have previously posted on vitamin D and fertility, but I think it bears repeating, since many couples have a difficult time in trying to produce a pregnancy.

A recent 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 women who are having difficulties in conceiving, and for well their husbands who are probably vitamin D-deficient, this information is critically important. Pass it on!

Be true to your teeth and they won’t be false to you! Here is more research on dental health, sunlight and vitamin D.

Recent research has found that pregnant women who are deficient in vitamin D give birth to children whose tooth enamel is weak, and who are at much higher risk of dental caries (cavities).[i] It is also known that in northern areas, vitamin D deficiency correlates to poor development of tooth enamel.[ii]

It is shocking that this relationship has not been promulgated to the dental profession for decades, because it is hardly new; the earliest research goes all the way back to 1934! The studies on sunlight and dental cavities were reviewed by Dr. Zane Kime[iii] in 1980; one showed a direct correlation between hours of available sunlight per year and the number of dental caries in Caucasian boys 12 to 14 years of age. In geographic areas with less than 2,200 hours of available sunlight, there were 486 cavities per year per each 100 boys. In areas where there were 3,000 or more hours of sunlight, there were only 290 cavities per year per hundred.[iv] The frequency of cavities was also higher in winter than in summer months.[v] Why would this be? In summer, large quantities of vitamin D is produced by exposure to sunshine, and the more the exposure, the greater the vitamin D production. In winter there is little vitamin D production. Still other research showed that 1,000 IU daily of vitamin D in children stopped cavity formation in its tracks.[vi]

Nevertheless, the "Powers of Darkness” continue to spew their anti-sun propaganda and it is they who are primarily responsible for much of the poor dental health and other disasters that plague our children and our adults who hide from the sun.

In winter, vitamin D levels must be maintained at high levels (40-60 ng/ml) to protect teeth. For those not willing to use a tanning bed, supplements (3,000-5,000 IU per day of D3 for adults) are necessary to maintain healthful levels. Remember always to avoid burning in the sun or from excessive exposure to tanning beds or sun lamps.

[i] Schroth, R. et al. Influence of Maternal Vitamin D Status on Infant Oral Health. Presentation at the General Session of the International Association for Dental Research, Toronto, Canada, July 4, 2008.
[ii] Schroth, R. Prevalence of caries among preschool-aged children in a northern Manitoba community. J Can Dent Assoc. 2005 Jan;71(1):27.
[iii] Kime, Z. sunlight Could Save Your Life. World Health Publications, Penryn, CA 1980 pp 180-81.
[iv] East, B. et al. Mean annual hours of sunshine and the incidence of dental caries. Am J Pub Health 1939;29:77.
[v] McBeath, E. et al. The role of vitamin D in control of dental caries in children. J Nutr 1938;15:547.
[vi]McBeath, E. Vitamin D studies, 1933-1934. Am J Public Health Nations Health 1934;24:1028-1030.

How soon will you lose your teeth? With vitamin D, maybe you won’t!

AOL just asked the tooth-loss question on their front page; unfortunately, the article they linked to never mentioned vitamin D as a prophylactic against dental disease and loss of teeth. I was immediately reminded of research showing that periodontal (gum) disease and cavities were both related to low levels of vitamin D deficiency. Yes, you heard that correctly. Vitamin D plays a vital role in dental health, especially the health of gums and bones.

So before you subject your teeth to $20,000 worth of cosmetic dentistry in order to display those pearly whites, be sure your gums are healthy; otherwise, those beautiful teeth may not hang around very long. Beyond vitamin D, good oral hygiene and good nutrition are also vital.

Periodontal disease (PD) attacks the gums and bone around the teeth, causing inflammation, bone loss and subsequent loss of teeth. It is the number-one cause of tooth loss.[1] When the reasons for tooth extraction are analyzed, about 51% of teeth are extracted due to PD.

I previously wrote about the close relationship of inflammation to cardiovascular disease (CVD). In that article I established that vitamin D was anti-inflammatory, and that high vitamin D levels related to a 60% reduction in heart attacks. There is also a close relationship between CVD and PD. Men with PD who are under 50 years of age have a 72% greater risk of CVD.[2]

In the case of PD, bacteria that live in dental plaque cause an immune cell response that releases inflammatory chemicals—the body’s way of trying to destroy the bacteria. Unfortunately, these chemicals cause inflammation of the gum and bone tissue, leading to PD.[3] It is not surprising, then, that the anti-inflammatory properties of vitamin D would reduce both CVD and PD.

Vitamin D and sunlight are also known to dramatically prevent or even reverse osteoporosis. (See my earlier blogs). The bone that holds the teeth is called the alveolar ridge, and if it degenerates, tooth loss is increased. Research has shown that that osteoporosis is closely related to alveolar ridge bone loss and loss of teeth.[4] So does vitamin D reduce the risk of alveolar bone and thereby prevent tooth loss? One study showed that subjects who were supplemented with both calcium and vitamin D had a rate of tooth loss that was 60% lower than those not supplemented![5]

It might seem that using an osteoporosis drug might be the answer to maintaining the alveolar ridge, but don't even think about going there. One of the most popular anti-osteoporosis drugs, Fosomax, may cause bone death in the jaw, resulting in pain, swelling, gum infections, poor healing of gums and loose teeth. Not the result we want to maintain our dental health![6]

The message: maintain optimal vitamin D levels; it will help protect agains teeth loss with none of the side effects of noxious osteoporosis drugs.

[1] dental 2006.
[2] DeStefano, F. et al. BMJ 1993;306:688-9.
[3] Page, R Compend Contin Educ Dent 2002;23:11-14.
[4] Tezal, M. J Periodontol 2000;71:1492-8.
[5] Krall, E. et al. Am J Med 2001;111:452-56

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Will you or your parents spend your last days in a nursing home? Can vitamin D and sunlight make a difference?

One of the callings I have had in my church is to help to administer church meetings for elderly men and women who are confined to nursing homes. Many of these sweet people are physically or mentally disabled and need care. Such facilities have been referred to as “centers of supervised neglect,” and I hope that I never need to spend time in one as a “patient.”
Interestingly, there is a direct correlation between vitamin D levels and the risk of being admitted to one of these homes. In fact, persons with the lowest levels of vitamin D are 3 ½ times more likely to be admitted to a nursing home.[1]

Vitamin D deficiency also correlates quite closely to falls, cognitive decline, muscle weakness, depression and mood disorders, all of which may lead to nursing-home admission. In the last blog, I made the case that Alzheimer’s may be, at least partially, a vitamin D deficiency disease. The solution to preventing this problem may cost about $20 per year in supplements (3,000- 5,000 IU daily), or simply making sure that the elderly are regularly outside in summer sunshine when available (never let them sunburn). In winter, supplementation is imperative.

[1] Visser, M. et al. Low serum concentrations of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in older persons and the risk of nursing home admission. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2006;84:616-622.

Losing your mind: Is Alzheimer’s disease in your future or your parents’ future? Can sunlight and vitamin D prevent it?

I have previously posted regarding the effect of vitamin D on cognitive disability, autism and other brain disorders. With all of these disorders, there is a clear correlation between sunlight and/or vitamin D deficiency and decreased brain function. Considering that most elderly people are severely vitamin D deficient and that there are vitamin D receptors throughout the brain, it would not be surprising to also find the same correlation with Alzheimer’s, which IS a brain disease. An excellent paper by Dr Fredrick Dyer[1] makes a case that Alzheimer’s is, at least in part, a vitamin D-deficiency disease.

Dr Dyer makes the point that many diseases or disorders—those that are well-established as correlating to vitamin D deficiency—are themselves risk factors for Alzheimer’s. These include depression, osteoporosis, diabetes, poor cognitive abilities, periodontal disease, inflammation, tooth loss, low cognitive performance, poor strength, depression, congestive heart failure, peripheral artery disease, hypertension and arterial plaque. In other words, Alzheimer’s shows a “co-morbidity” with these disorders, meaning that they may have the same underlying causes. Lack of sunlight/vitamin D is likely one of those causes.

Until we know for sure, it is certainly a great idea to maintain high levels of vitamin D in ourselves and in our aging parents; there is no downside, and it may prevent us from losing our minds.

Another excellent paper on vitamin D and Alzheimer’s will be published soon; I will keep you posted.

[1] Dyer, F. Deficient Vitamin D in the Pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s Disease. Unpublished manuscript furnished to author December 2008. Used by permission.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sunlight, vitamin D, sunscreens and drama: is Hollywood (or TV drama) beginning to pay attention?

A friend just told me about watching an episode of Law and Order, Special Victims Unit. The storyline involved a woman who had been locked up for four years, and one of the characters in plot mentioned that the victim of this heinous crime was terribly deficient in vitamin D. Amazingly, he went on to say that a whole generation is now vitamin D deficient due to applying sunscreens when venturing outdoors.

Hallelujah! Is the media starting to wake up to one of the most atrocious crimes of all—vitamin D deficiency brought on by the advice of the American Academy of Dermatology and other “professionals” who insist that we never go outside without "protection?" I hope so. The media are a powerful force for either good or evil in society, and it appears that at least this one time, they got it right.

Another benefit of vitamin D for women: reduced risk of caesarian section.

I have already written about the benefits of vitamin D for the reduction of breast cancer, autistic births, pre-eclampsia and infection of the placenta. Research now shows that the risk of giving birth by caesarian section is dramatically increased by vitamin D deficiency in pregnancy.[1] The authors of the research point out that childbirth is a muscular activity, and that muscle weakness is an established symptom of vitamin D deficiency.

No thinking person can believe that caesarean section is a normal way to give birth, yet nearly one-third of all births are by caesarian section. It is obvious that something is seriously wrong, and that "something" in most cases is likely vitamin D deficiency. The research pointed out that those with low levels of vitamin D had four times the risk of caesarian section as those who had higher levels. However, many in the group with higher levels had nowhere near optimal levels of vitamin D. If they had had optimal levels, it is likely that they would have been even more protected.

Ladies, this is just one more reason to make optimal vitamin D levels a priority. Get yours checked and make sure your levels of vitamin D [25(OH)D] are at least 50-60 ng/ml. You can get an inexpensive and accurate test—without a physician’s prescription—by visiting You can also get out in the sunlight during spring, summer and early fall, and supplement or visit a tanning bed in the winter. Remember never to burn!

[1] Merewood, A. et al. Association Between Vitamin D Deficiency and Primary Cesarean Section. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2008 Dec 23, 2008 [Epub ahead of print]

Sunday, January 18, 2009

How to get vitamin D during winter months?

How does one get enough vitamin D during the winter months?

USDA recommended it correct? Will it help?

The government USDA recommended amount, is it enough?

Is Sun the Enemy Video? Sun Scare?

Video discusses sun it our enemy or just made out to be?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Vitamin D and depression: how SAD!

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of winter-time depression experienced by people those who live in northern latitudes such as those of New York, Seattle, all of Canada, and Northern Europe. I believe it is primarily a disorder of sunlight/vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D, when administered in late winter, produces a positive effect on mood in only five days.[1] One theory for this is that vitamin D stimulates the brain to produce more serotonin. In a wintertime experiment, serum vitamin D levels doubled in six months through supplementation and dramatically increased scores on a wellbeing assessment.[2] Two groups were given either 1,000 IU or 4,000 IU of vitamin D daily. And although both groups improved, the higher dose produced better results.

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 highest. 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![3] In addition, the researchers measured cognitive ability (mental capabilities). In two of four tests, those with vitamin D deficiency exhibited cognitive performances that were 5.22 times and 3.22 times poorer than those who were not deficient.

Everyone that has ever ventured outside on a sunny spring day after a long winter, or even visited a tanning bed during winter, know how much the mood is elevated by the experience. It is likely that the combination of light and vitamin D produce the effect. Keep your vitamin D levels high this winter!

[1] Lansdowne, A. et al. Vitamin D3 enhances mood in healthy subjects during winter. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 1998;135:319-23.
[2] 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.
[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).

Vitamin D reduces the risk of placental infection: another boon for women.

Earlier, I wrote that autism was linked to vitamin D deficiency in pregnant mothers, and that women's cancers were dramatically reduced by regular sunlight exposure. Now, research indicates that the risk of placental infection is impressively lowered by increasing vitamin D levels.[1]

This research did not surprise me. Immunity is enhanced by high vitamin D levels through the increased production of an antimicrobial peptide called cathelicidin, which keeps both bacterial and viral infections at bay. This is the exact reason that flu occurs almost exclusively in winter months in both hemispheres; blood levels of vitamin D are much lower in winter months (see my earlier posts)

In this research, placental cells were exposed to E. coli bacteria and then treated with vitamin D. The treatment reduced the risk of infection by about 50%.

Remember that there is also a dramatic reduction in the risk of breast and ovarian cancer among women with high sunlight exposure and high vitamin D levels; now we can add one more advantage of vitamin D to the list of benefits for female reproductive tissue.

[1] Liu, N. et al. Vitamin D Induces Innate Antibacterial Responses in Human Trophoblasts via an Intracrine Pathway. Biol Reprod 2008 Nov 12. [Epub ahead of print]

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Increased sunlight exposure means decreased prostate cancer.

How much do sunlight and vitamin D help to prevent prostate cancer? In 2005, Dr. Esther John and colleagues reported on research in which they compared the lifetime sun exposure of 450 men with advanced prostate cancer with that of 455 men who did not have cancer.[1] The men were divided into five groups (quintiles) according to the amount of sun exposure they had received. The results were impressive. The men in the highest quintile (fifth) of sun exposure had only 51% of the risk of prostate cancer as did those in the lowest quintile.

Several other studies have shown that high sun exposure over a lifetime relates to a considerably lower rate of death from prostate cancer.[2] [3] [4] [5] The last study[5] showed that those who were born in a state with high solar radiation had a reduced risk of 49%.

Perhaps the most impressive research studies were done by Dr. S Moon and colleagues where they compared sunlight exposure and prostate cancer risk.[6] The subjects in two of studies were divided into four groups (quartiles) according to the lifetime sunlight exposure they had received. Those in the lowest quartile of sunlight exposure had more than three times the risk of developing prostate cancer as those in the highest quartile.

Dr. Moon’s group noted that when sunbathing was compared with prostate cancer, men in the lowest exposure quartile (fourth) of sunbathing had 5.33 times the risk of prostate cancer as those in the highest quartile. Sunbathing is obviously a great habit for men, provided it isn’t overdone. Other research has indicated that “higher levels of cumulative exposure, adult sunbathing, childhood sunburning and regular holidays in hot climates were each independently and significantly associated with a reduced risk of this cancer.”[7] Nevertheless, it is always best to avoid sunburn.

Can there be any doubt that sunlight and vitamin D are essential to a good prostate health?

[1] John, E. et al. sun exposure, vitamin D receptor polymorphisms and risk of advanced prostate cancer. Cancer Res 2005;65:5479.

[2] Freedman, D. et al. sunlight and mortality from breast, ovarian, colon, prostate and non-melanoma skin cancer: a composite death certificate based case-control study. Occup environ Med 2002;59:257-62.

[3]Hanchette, C. et al. Geographic patterns of prostate cancer mortality: Evidence for a protective effect of ultraviolet radiation. Cancer 1992;70:2861-69
[4] Schwartz, G. et al. Is vitamin D deficiency a risk factor for prostate cancer? [hypothesis] Anticancer Res 1990;10:1307-11.

[5] John, E. et al. Residential sunlight exposure is associated with a decreased risk of prostate cancer. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol 2004;89:-90.

[6] Moon, S. et al. Ultraviolet radiation: effects on risks of prostate and other internal cancers. Mutat Res 2005; 571:207–219.

[7] Bodiwala, D. et al. Prostate cancer risk and exposure to ultraviolet radiation: further support for the protective effect of sunlight. Cancer Lett 2003;192:145-49.

Can vitamin D and sunlight exposure prevent type-two diabetes?

There are two types of diabetes: type-1 and type-2. Type-1 is generally known as “juvenile” diabetes, and type-2 is known as adult-onset diabetes. In type-2 diabetes (90% of all diabetes), insulin is sometimes necessary, but the real reason for the disease is the body’s inability to use its own insulin (insulin resistance).

Diabetes is increasing out-of-control as the population becomes increasingly obese and increasingly avoids the sunlight. During the 1990s, obesity increased by 61% and type-2 diabetes increased by 49%.[1] In 2007, the health-care and lost-productivity costs of diabetes were $174 billion, an increase of $42 billion over 2006.[2] Diabetes costs are now approaching those of cancer.

In an earlier post, I discussed the dramatically protective affect of vitamin D against the development of type-one diabetes (T1). Now we have a new study pointing to the fact that the epidemic of type-two diabetes (T2) is due in part to vitamin D deficiency. Researchers show that insulin sensitivity (necessary to prevent T2) is profoundly improved by vitamin D[3] supplementation. This is the second double-blind, interventional study (“gold-standard” research) to indicate that the risk of T2 is impressively reduced by supplementation. It confirms earlier observational studies, as discussed in my book.

An earlier study of adults with impaired sugar tolerance and insulin resistance (both risk factors for T2) came to even more impressive conclusions. For three years, half the group received a placebo and the others vitamin D plus calcium. The blood-sugar rise was fifteen-times higher in the placebo group, and the increase in insulin resistance was eighteen-times higher.[4]

The answer to T2 prevention: reduce junk-food consumption and achieve optimal levels of vitamin D (60 ng/ml). How? By non-burning sunlight exposure in summer and non-burning tanning bed exposure or supplements in the winter.

[1] Mokad, A. et al. The continuing epidemics of obesity and diabetes in the United States. JAMA 2001; 286:1195-1200.
[2] American Diabetes Association news release, January 2008
[3] Nagpal, J. et al. A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of the short-term effect of vitamin D3 supplementation on insulin sensitivity in apparently healthy, middle-aged, centrally obese men. Diabet Med. 2009;261:19-27
[4] Pittas, A. et al. The effects of calcium and vitamin D supplementation on blood glucose and markers of inflammation in nondiabetic adults. Diabetes Care 2007;30:980-86.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Sarah Palin, Vitamin D and tanning beds part 6: conclusion

This may surprise you, but I believe it is a good idea to be checked regularly by a dermatologist to assess any changes that may occur to your skin. That advice, however, is most important for those who do not use tanning beds or get regular sunlight, since more melanomas occur among those who receive little or no UVB (see previous posts).

So let's do a few mathematics. Scientists now estimate that maintaining a vitamin D blood level of 55ng/ml would prevent the breast-cancer deaths of 85,000 US women yearly.[1] Melanoma, on the other hand, takes the lives of about 3,020 women per year.[2] If you assumed that tanning causes 3,020 deaths from melanoma (which it does not), but prevents 85,000 breast cancer deaths, which would you rather take a chance with? Such an analysis, of course, would not even take into consideration the other diseases that are prevented by high vitamin D levels.

For example, Australian researchers did an analysis to determine the risk of death from bone disease that would occur if the anti-sunlight advocates had their way. For the purposes of their analysis, they assumed that sunlight caused melanoma. They then calculated that for every case of melanoma death and disability prevented by avoiding the sun, there would be 2,000 cases of death disability caused by bone diseases alone due to lack of vitamin D.[3] The good news is that sunlight does not cause melanoma; we have already established that regular exposure prevents melanoma.

If Sarah Palin is using her tanning bed in a safe and sane manner, she has one of the best health-promoting devices ever developed. The vitamin D she receives from the UVB light is reducing her risk of twenty cancers and is also reducing her risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, hypertension, MS, lupus, diabetes and approximately 80 more diseases in which vitamin D deficiency is implicated. So Sarah, go ahead and enjoy that tanning bed!

[1] Garland, C et al. What is the dose-response relationship between vitamin D and cancer risk? Nutrition Reviews 2007;65:S91-5.
[2] American Cancer Society Statistics 2008.
[3] Lucas, R, et al. Estimating the global disease burden due to ultraviolet radiation exposure.
Int. J. Epidemiol. Advance Access published February 14, 2008.

Sarah Palin, vitamin D and tanning beds: part 5

In the last installment of the Sarah-Palin/tanning-bed saga, we presented some of the positive research on tanning beds—research that has been mostly ignored by the American Academy of Dermatology and by the press. Since the volume of positive research regarding tanning was too great to treat in one post, we continue it here.

One of the latest studies showed no significant increase in melanoma with tanning bed use.[i] Have you ever heard of that research? Another study of five European countries showed that in France, where 20% of the population used tanning beds, their use was associated with a 19% increase in risk of melanoma.[ii] But in Sweden, where 83% of the population uses tanning beds, there was a 38% decrease in melanoma. Overall, the risk of melanoma was reduced by 10% in tanning-bed users, although individuals with fair skin and a high number of moles were at increased risk. I ask again, have you ever heard of that research? Of course not; it doesn’t sell sunscreens and does not help the drug business. Clearly, studies that indict tanning beds without taking into consideration skin type are flawed, and if they do not also differentiate between tanning and burning, they are doubly flawed.

We have clearly stated that burning correlates to an increased risk of melanoma. Unfortunately, most of the studies that associated tanning beds with increased melanoma did not control for burning. A very light skin that does not tan or has many moles or a skin condition that is sensitive to UV may preclude tanning-bed use by some individuals. Others who may have adverse effects to tanning bed exposure are organ transplant recipients or those taking photosensitive prescription drugs. If you do not know if your drug is photosensitive, ask a pharmacist.

The next post will finish this discussion about Sarah, vitamin D and tanning beds. Stay tuned!

[i] Clough-Gorr, K. et al. Exposure to sunlamps, tanning beds and melanoma risk. Cancer Causes Control. 2008;7:659-69
[ii] Bataille V, et al. A multicentre epidemiological study on tanning bed use and cutaneous melanoma in Europe. Eur J Cancer 2005;41:2141-49.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Sarah Palin, vitamin D and tanning beds, part 4: The truth about tanning beds and melanoma

We have discussed in this “Sarah Palin” series, the fact that she was probably correct in installing (with her own money) a tanning bed in the Alaska Governor’s mansion. We showed that melanoma risk has increased exponentially as sunlight exposure had decreased. We also showed that melanomas occur most frequently on areas of the body that receive the least sunlight. As Dr Frank Garland stated in a conference of vitamin D Scientists in San Diego, California, “Melanoma is a disease of indoor office workers.”[1] He and his brother, Cedric had done research showing that indoor workers had about a 50% greater risk of melanoma than outdoor workers.[2]

In this blog I make the point that not all of the research on tanning beds is bad, although you’d never know it by the broadsides coming out of the American Academy of Dermatology, the American Cancer Society and others who have a very strong financial interest in hiding or refuting any positive news about either sunlight or tanning beds. This and the next article in the series will discuss some of the positive research that has appeared in medical and scientific journals and been ignored.

Several studies have investigated the relationship of tanning-bed use to melanoma and a review of 22 investigations done from 1979 through 2002 showed that only four indicated tanning beds increased melanoma risk; eighteen showed no association.[3] One that showed an increased melanoma risk was conducted by Dr. Philippe Autier and colleagues in Belgium in 1991.[4] However, in 2002 Dr. Autier conducted another study in which no association between tanning bed use and melanoma was found.[5] This report stated, “No result suggested a dose-response curve, and no association was even present for subjects who reported more than 35 hours of cumulated tanning bed use at least 19 yrs before the interview. Our study doesn’t support the possibility that tanning bed use could increase melanoma risk.” Isn’t it interesting that such reports usually die in obscurity?

I looked for other studies that might have come to contrary conclusions and found one from 2007.[6] It was a meta-analysis of 19 studies that concluded tanning beds do increase the melanoma risk. However, when Dr. William Grant assessed the meta-analysis, he noted that the studies failed to take skin type into consideration.[7] He re-analyzed the data and determined: “These results indicate that when studies largely influenced by inclusion of people with skin phenotype 1 [light-skinned non-tanners] without adjustment for skin phenotype are removed from the meta-analysis, no significant relation is found between tanning bed use and risk of CMM [cutaneous malignant melanoma].” There is no doubt that non-tanners, especially if they have large numbers of moles, need to be extremely cautious when they are exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light, whether from sunlight or tanning beds, the reason being that they burn so easily. More than a few seconds of exposure can burn this skin type. However, it appears that all other types can benefit from moderate UV exposure.

Stay tune for more on tanning beds and melanoma in the next chapter regarding Sarah’s tanning bed.

[1] Garland F. Address to the Grassroots health Vitamin D conference, December 2, 2008.
[2] Garland F. et al. Occupational sunlight exposure and melanoma in the USA Navy. Arch Environ Health 1990; 45:261-67.
[3] International Smart Tan Network 2006. Research shows no connection between tanning and melanoma: Why this is misunderstood.
[4] Autier, P. et al. Cutaneous malignant melanoma and exposure to sunlamps and tanning beds: a descriptive study in Belgium.
[5] Autier, P. et al. tanning bed use and risk of melanoma: results from a large multicentric European study. Poster at the XVIII International Pigment Cell conference held 9-13 September 2002 at Egmond, The Netherlands.
[6] International Agency for Research on Cancer Working Group on artificial ultraviolet light (UV) and skin cancer. The association of use of tanning beds with cutaneous malignant melanoma and other skin cancer: a systematic review. Int J Cancer 2007;120:1116-22.
[7] Grant, W. Insufficient evidence exists to link tanning bed use to risk of melanoma for other than those with skin phenotype 1. Sunlight, Nutrition and Health Research Center (SUNARC). March 9, 2007. www.

The latest on vitamin D and cancer: Dr William Grant’s brilliant review.

Dr William Grant, who writes and compiles research as fast as I can read it, gave me a tremendous assist in keeping me abreast of the current research as I wrote my book. His latest paper is entitled “How strong is the evidence that solar ultraviolet B and vitamin D reduce the risk of cancer? An examination using Hill’s criteria for causality[1]” Although the link between vitamin D deficiency and cancer should well-established, there are those who stubbornly demand more proof while millions more die of cancer caused by vitamin D deficiency. In this paper, there is sufficient proof to convince all but the most biased reader. He uses a well-accepted scientific assessment, known as Hill’s criteria for causality, which determines whether the presence or absence of one factor causes the presence of another. In this case the “causal” factor is vitamin D deficiency, and the caused factor (result) is cancer.

Here are the qualifications for causality as established by Dr. A Bradford Hill:
1. Strength of association
2. Consistency (repeated observation)
3. Specificity (one agent, one result)
4. Temporality (exposure precedes effect)
5. Biological gradient (dose-response relation)
6. Plausibility (e.g., mechanisms)
7. Coherency (no serious conflict with the generally known facts
of the natural history and biology of the disease)
8. Experimental verification (randomized, controlled trial)
9. Analogy with other causal relationships

Using these criteria, Dr. Grant discusses the voluminous research pointing out that the vitamin D-deficiency theory of cancer causality in most deadly cancers satisfies most, if not all, of Hill’s criteria. In other words, there is little doubt that vitamin D deficiency is a primary cause of cancer. For those who are scientifically inclined, I suggest you read the paper, which you can find online by searching the citation below. If you are not so inclined, take my word for it; this paper makes an irrefutable case. Neglect your sunlight and your optimal vitamin D levels at your peril. But remember, never burn!

[1] Grant, W. How strong is the evidence that solar ultraviolet B and vitamin D reduce the risk of cancer? An examination using Hill’s criteria for causality Dermato-Endocrinology 2009:1:14-21.

Sarah Palin’s tanning bed, part 3. Will the tanning bed kill her, or will the vitamin D save her life?

Sunlight exposure and tanning have been vilified by many (but not all) dermatologists some of who call them “cancer machines.” There are movements afoot to make it illegal for those under the age of 18 to even use them. Perhaps we will soon see the “sunlight police” patrolling the beaches and arresting those who do not wear sunscreens. Don’t laugh, it could happen. As I have already indicated in previous blogs, melanoma is the excuse for this madness, but melanoma is more common in those who stay out of the sunlight.

This is all woefully ill-advised. Hundreds of thousands of lives could be saved by maintaining high levels of vitamin D, which tanning beds produce in abundance. Every beneficial effect of vitamin D that is produced by sunlight (ultraviolet light or UVB) exposure is also produced by the use of high-quality tanning beds. And is it really UV light that causes melanoma? In my last “Sarah-Palin” blog, I presented evidence that as we have moved out of the sunlight by opting for indoor jobs, there has been an incredible 25-fold increase in melanoma. I also pointed out that 78% of melanomas occur on areas of the body that are seldom exposed to sunlight. What’s more, the risks associated with UV overexposure do not appear to be related to regular, non-burning exposure. Remember that the key to safe tanning of any kind is NEVER BURN. The following is a list of tanning-bed benefits:

1. Tanning-bed use dramatically increases serum-vitamin D levels and bone mass.[1]
2. Whereas a daily 400 IU vitamin D supplement does not maintain healthful levels, tanning bed use increases vitamin D levels by 150% in only seven weeks.[2]
3. Tanning-bed use reduces chronic pain.[3]
4. Sun lamps are now being recommended by at least one British physician for use by pregnant women who will give birth in a winter month. The recommendation is being made to protect the unborn child from osteoporosis during adulthood.[4]
5. High quality tanning beds, because they provide UVB to both sides of the body simultaneously, stimulate the production of up to 15,000 IU of vitamin D in less than ten minutes.[5] Ten minutes of tanning-bed exposure can be done on a lunch break. That means they are more efficient than summer sunlight. Of course, those with darker skin will require a longer time to produce the same amount of vitamin D.
6. Tanning beds may be used regardless of outside weather, time of day or time of year.
It appears that Sarah is on the right track. We will shortly present specific research regarding tanning beds and melanoma. You may be surprised. Stay tuned!

[1] Tangpricha, V. et al. Tanning is associated with optimal vitamin D status (serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration) and higher bone mineral density. Am J Clin Nutr 2004;80:1645-49.
[2] Holick, M. et al. Boston University. "Effects Of Vitamin D And Skin's Physiology Examined." Science Daily 21 February 2008 .
[3] Kaur, M. et al. Indoor tanning relieves pain. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed 2005;21:278.
[4] Bukhari, M. et al. 108. Sun Lamps help Unborn Babies Beat Osteoporosis. Quoted in London Times April 27, 2008.
[5] Grant, W. Personal communication with the author, June, 2006

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Vitamin D deficiency correlates to risk of pre-eclampsia

This blog will be one of three that will discuss the impact of vitamin D deficiency on health problems specific to women and/or their newborns. First let’s discuss a common disorder of pregnant women called pre-eclampsia.

Pre-eclampsia is characterized by edema (fluid accumulation), high blood pressure and excessive protein in the urine. Pre-eclampsia can progress to eclampsia, which can cause convulsions, coma and death. An investigation found a dose-response relationship between blood vitamin levels and pre-eclampsia—the lower the D levels, the higher the risk of pre-eclampsia.[1] A decline of 20 ng/ml of vitamin D predicted a doubling of the risk of pre-eclampsia. Additionally, newborn children of women at risk for pre-eclampsia were twice as likely as other children to be vitamin D-deficient. This is important, because vitamin D-deficient newborns are likely to develop rickets and suffer from convulsions.[2] The simple expedient of summer sunbathing, winter tanning-bed use or vitamin D3 supplementation could save so much grief for women and their newborns. Spread the word!

[1] Bodnar, L. et al. Maternal vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of preeclampsia. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2007;92:3517-22.
[2] Camadoo, L. et al. Maternal vitamin D deficiency associated with neonatal hypocalcaemic convulsions. Nutr J 2007;6:23.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Is asthma a disease of sunlight/vitamin D deficiency?

Yes. Asthma, to a great extent, is caused by sun avoidance and consequent vitamin D deficiency.

Asthma, a devastating respiratory illness, is increasing rapidly in the US. The latest statistics I have show that the overall prevalence of asthma increased 75% from 1980-1994, and asthma rates in children under the age of five increased more than 160%.[1]

There is little doubt that the profound increase in asthma in the last few decades has been caused to a great extent by our societal exodus from sunlight exposure along with the increased use of sunscreen, which can inhibit up to 99% of vitamin D production by the skin.[2]

Drs Litonjua and Weiss, in a medical hypothesis presented in 2007, made a strong case for vitamin D deficiency as a major player in the increase in asthma incidence among both children and adults.[3] They hypothesized the following:

1. “… as populations grow more prosperous, more time is spent indoors, and there is less exposure to sunlight, leading to decreased cutaneous vitamin D production.”
2. “Vitamin D has been linked to immune system and lung development in utero, and our epidemiologic studies show that higher vitamin D intake by pregnant mothers reduces asthma risk by as much as 40% in children 3 to 5 years old.”
3. "Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with obesity, African American race (particularly in urban, inner-city settings), and recent immigrants to westernized countries, thus reflecting the epidemiologic patterns observed in the asthma epidemic."

Other research demonstrates that vitamin D reduces the production of inflammatory chemicals (chemokines) in the respiratory passages,[4] which would dampen the asthmatic response.

Another study assessed the asthma risk of children whose mothers had the highest vitamin D consumption during pregnancy, and compared them to children whose mother had the lowest levels. The high-vitamin D group showed an impressive reduced risk of asthma of 52-67%.[5] The researchers believe that inadequate vitamin D levels in the fetus leads to improper development of the lungs and immune system.

Still other research, conducted on three-year old children whose mothers were in the highest quartile (fourth) of vitamin D consumption during pregnancy, showed them to have a 61% reduced risk of a “recurrent wheeze,” a symptom of asthma, when compared to those whose mothers were in the lowest quartile.[6] Each 100-IU increase in vitamin D consumption resulted in a 19% risk reduction. That's about the amount that could be produced in the summer sunlight in one minute, or a good tanning bed in half a minute! How sad that these women have been frightened out of the sunlight, the natural way to produce vast quantities of vitamin D.

[1] Centers for Disease Control. Surveillance for Asthma - United States, 1960-1995, MMWR. 1998; 47 (SS-1).
[2] Matsuoka, L. et al. sunscreens suppress cutaneous vitamin D3 synthesis. Journal Clini Endocrinol Metab 1987; 64:1165-68.
[3] Litonjua AA, Weiss ST. Is vitamin D deficiency to blame for the asthma epidemic? J Allergy Clin Immunol 2007;120:1031–1035.
[4] Banerjee, A. et al. Vitamin D and glucocorticoids differentially modulate chemokine expression in human airway smooth muscle cells. Br J Pharmacol 2008; 155: 84–92.
[5] Devereux, G. et al. Maternal vitamin D intake and early childhood wheezing. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;85:853-59.
[6] Camargo, C. et al. Maternal intake of vitamin D during pregnancy and risk of recurrent wheeze in children at 3 y. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;85:788-95.

Does vitamin D deficiency relate to anxiety and panic?

If you suffer from anxiety or panic attacks, you should read the following and then assure that your blood-vitamin D levels are optimal. Your 25(OH)D, or calcidiol, level should be between 50-60 ng/ml.

Anxiety is pandemic in the USA, and according to a 2007 research study, vitamin D deficiency correlates very closely to anxiety in people who suffer from fibromyalgia.[1] Also, two studies of mice with abnormal vitamin D receptors in the brain found an increase in anxiety, aggression, poor grooming, maternal pup neglect and cannibalism.[2] [3]

Though more research is needed before drawing definitive conclusions, it is likely that vitamin D plays a part in this disorder. I discussed in an earlier blog the evidence for vitamin D deficiency as a cause of brain and nervous-system disorders, and anxiety fits that category. The mice studies just cited also make one wonder if the horrible increase in both paternal and maternal child abuse is not due in part to the fact that the American Academy of Dermatology and others of the “sunscare” industry have done such a good job in frightening people out of the sunlight, thereby creating our critical, widespread vitamin D deficiency—food for thought.

[1] Armstrong, D. et al. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with anxiety and depression in fibromyalgia. Clin Rheumatol. 2007;2):551-4.
[2] Kalueff, A. et al. Increased anxiety in mice lacking vitamin D receptor gene. Neuroreport 2004;15:1271-74.
[3] Kalueff, A. et al. Behavioral anomalies in mice evoked by Tokyo disruption of the vitamin D receptor gene. Neurosci Res 2006;54:254-60.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Sarah Palin, vitamin D and tanning beds, part 2.

To determine whether Sarah Palin was justified in installing a tanning bed in the Alaska Governor’s mansion, we need to decide whether or not the fear regarding sunlight as a cause of melanoma is justified. Tanning beds, you see, emit the same type of ultraviolet light (UV) as summer sun. First of all, let’s take a look at the history of UV exposure since 1900. That year, approximately 75% of the population of the US worked outdoors; today, only 10% work outdoors.[1] Yet, with this profoundly decreased exposure to sunlight, melanoma has increased dramatically in every age group since that time; for example, the lifetime risk of melanoma in 1930 was one in 1,500, whereas the risk today is one in 60. Is there something wrong with this scenario? If sunlight exposure causes melanoma, shouldn't melanoma incidence decrease with decreasing sunlight exposure?

Other troubling facts for the dermatologists who march in lock-step with official policy: seventy-eight percent of all melanomas occur on areas of the body that are seldom exposed to sunlight,[2] and people who work indoors develop 50% more melanomas than those who work outdoors.[3] Furthermore, among black people, nearly all melanomas occur on the soles of the feet and on the lower legs.[4] Melanomas in women occur primarily on the upper leg and in men occur primarily on the back.[5] These cancers also occur inside the mouth,[6] on sex organs[7] and in the armpits[8]—all areas of little or no sunlight exposure.

So here is my question for you to consider: Do you believe that sunlight causes melanoma? In other words, is the “sunlight creates melanoma” theory reasonable? Stay tuned for part three.

[1] Genuis, S. Keeping your sunny side up: How sunlight affects health and well-being. Can Fam Physician. 2006 April 10; 52(4): 422–423
[2] Christophers, A. Melanoma is not caused by sunlight. Mutation Research/Fundamental and Molecular Mechanisms of Mutagenesis 1998;422:113-17.
[3] Garland F. et al. Occupational sunlight exposure and melanoma in the USA Navy. Arch Environ Health 1990; 45:261-67.
[4] Crombie, I. et al. Racial differences in melanoma incidence. Br J Cancer 1979;40:185-93.
[5] Hakansson, N. et al. Occupational sunlight exposure and cancer incidence among Swedish construction workers. Epidemiology 2001;12:552-57.
[6] Burgess, A. et al. Parotidectomy: preoperative investigations and outcomes in a single surgeon practice. ANZ J Surg. 2008 Sep;78(9):791-3.
[7] Ribé, A Melanocytic lesions of the genital area with attention given to atypical genital nevi J Cutan Pathol. 2008 Nov;35 Suppl 2:24-7.
[8] Rhodes, A. Melanoma’s Public Message. Guest editorial, Skin and Allergy News 2003;34

Friday, January 2, 2009

Serum vitamin D levels, heart attack and stroke: Vitamin D can save your life!

It has been some time since I posted anything about heart disease, and since I have been asked to send my agent something to present to Larry King, I thought I might as well post it as a blog, too. Suffice it to say that there is no blood test more important than vitamin D [calcidiol or 25(OH)D].

Two 2008 studies show the dramatic influence of blood vitamin D levels and the risk of heart attack. Dr. Thomas Wang and colleagues compared the risk of stroke and heart attack with serum-vitamin D levels and found a 62% increased risk in those with lowest levels compared to those with highest levels and also showed that those with low D levels and high blood pressure had double the risk.[1] Dr. Edward Giovannucci, of Harvard University, and his colleagues reported even more impressive results.[2] They found that men whose serum levels of vitamin D were less than 15 ng/ml had nearly 2.5 times the rate of heart attack as those whose levels were above 30. Their research also showed that mid-range vitamin D levels showed a mid-range risk of heart attack and stroke, meaning that vitamin D levels directly predicted the risk of heart attack at all levels. The researchers stated, “Low levels of 25(OH)D are associated with higher risk of myocardial infarction in a graded manner, even after controlling for factors known to be associated with coronary artery disease.”

Still other research showed that classic risk factors for cardiovascular disease were higher in those who ranked in the lowest quartile (fourth) of vitamin D levels compared to those whose levels were in the highest quartile.[3] Hypertension was 30% higher, diabetes 98% higher, obesity 129% higher and triglycerides 47% higher.

This idea is not really that new; it has simply been ignored. In 1990, a study in New Zealand found that those below the median level of serum vitamin D suffered 57% more heart attacks than those whose levels were above the median.[4] They also noted that the greatest number occurred in winter and spring, and that the reduced risk among those with higher levels pertained to all seasons. All of this indicates vitamin D deficiency as a major cause of heart disease. Do not ignore this information if you have a heart!

[1] Wang, T. et al. Vitamin D deficiency and risk of cardiovascular disease. Circulation 2008;117 pre-publication copy.
[2] Giovannucci, E. et al. 25-hydroxy-vitamin D and risk of myocardial infarction in men. Ann Intern Med 2008;168:1174-80.
[3] Martins, D. et al. Prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors and the serum levels of 25-Hydroxyvitamin D in the United States. Arch Intern Med 2007;167:1159-65.
[4] Scragg, R. et al. Myocardial Infarction is inversely associated with plasma 25-hydroxy vitamin D3 levels: a community-based study. Int J Epidemiol 1990;19:559-63.

Great news! An inexpensive vitamin D test is now available.

When I first started advising people to have their blood levels of vitamin D tested [25(OH)D or calcidiol], the cost for the test at our local LabCorp was about $150, which was prohibitively expensive. Though the prices have come down rapidly, most labs still charge as much as $60-$100. The great news is that Carol Baggerly, through her non-profit organization, Grassroots Health, has arranged for tests for only $30. The following is an excerpt from an email I received from Carol today:

1. Sign up to participate in an international effort to solve the vitamin D deficiency epidemic now.
2. Get your vitamin D tested for only $30 with a blood spot test from ZRT
logon to
3. Fill in the health questionnaire
4. Order your test kit--choose your subscription option; it's a 5 year project and we need to have vitamin D measurements each 6 months for that period
Spread the word: get at least two more people to do the same.

The importance of this test cannot be overemphasized; it is the most critical of all blood tests, even surpassing tests for cholesterol, triglycerides, etc.

I have no financial interest in this testing and post this information simply to do my part in enhancing human health through vitamin D awareness. I also attest that at that price, Carole and her organization are making nothing; hers is a labor of love.

The test is available in every state but New York.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Sarah Palin, Tanning Beds and Vitamin D: Who is correct, Sarah or the American Academy of Dermatology?

Sarah Palin, in addition to taking the country by storm as the Republican Vice-Presidential nominee, created a controversy by purchasing (with her own funds) and installing a tanning bed in the Alaska Governor’s mansion. Now a controversy is brewing[i] between the International Tanning Association (ITA) (which supports the use of tanning beds) and dermatologists who pillory tanning or any “unprotected” exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light including sunlight; they claim that the vitamin D produced by UV does not justify the increased risk of melanoma that it supposedly produces. I speak here not of all dermatologists, but only those who parrot the official mantra of the American Academy of Dermatology. As you will note through my blogs, there are enlightened dermatologists who do not agree with that official policy.

This blog introduces a series that explores the truth about sunlight, tanning beds, sunscreens and melanoma. I will also continue to post my opinions on breaking vitamin D research, but will continue the “Sarah Palin” series until we determine whether Sarah is correct to use a tanning bed in the Governor’s mansion, and if I am also correct to use one in my own home during winter, as I currently do. Stay tuned!

[i] CBS 11 News: