Monday, December 21, 2009

Do 250,000 North American babies die each year due to vitamin D deficiency?

Recent evidence has shown that pregnant mothers who were given 4,000 IU (ten times the usual dose) of vitamin D daily had only half the risk of giving birth to premature babies as those who were not supplemented. [1] That amount can also be produced by about 20 minutes of full- body exposure to non-burning sunlight at midday.

The importance of this information is shown in the fact that annually, half of all premature babies die in the first month after birth, according to the March of Dimes.[2] In North America, about 500,000 premature births occur annually.[2] If vitamin D supplementation could prevent half of these deaths, that would save the lives of 250,000 babies per year. Worldwide, the lives saved might be as many as 7 million, since approximately 13 million babies are born prematurely each year. We also know that the average cost for each premature baby in the first year of life is about $49,000.

Premature babies, of course, are also low-birth-weight babies in most cases, which present an additional problem. Here is one more reason for mothers to get back in the sunlight: the potential for low birth weight in their babies.

Low birth weight is associated with poor mood, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure and other problems during childhood and afterward. Recent research shows that low birth weight is related to exposure by pregnant women to winter temperatures during a critical developmental time for the fetus.[3] [4] This could indicate vitamin D deficiency of the pregnant mother during “vitamin D winter,” the time of year in northern latitudes when the sun is too low in the sky to produce vitamin D. The answer, of course, is to use a tanning bed or take vitamin D3 supplements (3,000-5,000 IU) during the winter. Remember never to burn!

Those who make a living frightening people out of the sunlight are responsible for much of the vitamin D deficiency in the population of North America. Don’t expect them to change. Non-burning sunlight is a wonderful gift for health, and we must stop the insanity that is causing vitamin D deficiency. The child needs every possible advantage prior to birth, and one of the advantages is a mom with high vitamin D levels. The only source of vitamin D for the fetus is the mother’s body, and the only natural way to obtain vitamin D is exposure to sunlight.

[1] Hollis, B. and Wagner C. Report from an international conference on vitamin D in Bruges, Belgium.
[2] March of Dimes statement Oct 4, 2009, based on World Health Organization (WHO) statistics.
[3] [1] Elter K, et al. Exposure to low outdoor temperature in the midtrimester is associated with low birth weight. Aust N Z J Obstet Gynecol 2004;44:553-7.
[4] Murray, L. et al. Links of Season and outdoor ambient temperature: effects on birth weight. Obstet Gynecol. 2000 Nov;96(5 Pt 1):689-95.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Melanoma: Midsummer Night’s Dream or Vitamin D-Deficiency Nightmare?

One of the most interesting medical research papers to arrive in recent memory is a 2009 study reported in the British Journal of Dermatology entitled, “Melanoma epidemic: a midsummer night’s dream?” [1] In it the authors make the case that melanoma is not caused by sunlight, but rather by an increasing diagnosis of benign lesions as melanoma. In other words, small spots on the skin that are harmless, and that in the past would have been classified as benign, are now being called stage-one melanoma. The authors point out that new diagnoses of stage-one melanoma have increased dramatically over the past few years, but new diagnoses of stage-two, -three and -four melanomas have not increased at all.

Some have suggested that the lack of increase in the latter stages of Melanoma is due to quick removal of the type-one melanomas, which prevents their progression to full-blown cancers. However, the authors point out that those in the study with type-two, three and four melanomas had not been previously diagnosed with type-one, and therefore could not have been “saved” by removal of type-one; the advanced cases were new presentations--people who had not been previously diagnosed with any stage of melanoma.

The case of these dermatologists—that melanoma is a “midsummer night’s dream”—is compelling. Obviously, millions of people who had nothing more than harmless lesions have been diagnosed with melanoma and have had their lesions removed surgically.

The researchers ended their analysis with this statement: “These findings should lead to a reconsideration of the treatment of ‘early’ lesions, a search for better diagnostic methods to distinguish them from truly malignant melanomas, re-evaluation of the role of ultraviolet radiation and recommendations for protection from it, as well as the need for a new direction in the search for the cause of melanoma.”

I can only say “amen” to this conclusion. However, these are not the first dermatologists to question the “epidemic” of melanoma and deny that sunlight is the cause. Dr. Bernard Ackerman, a celebrated dermatologist, wrote a monograph of several hundred pages entitled, Sunlight and the “Epidemic’ of Melanoma, Myth on Myth, in which he made the same argument about the supposed melanoma epidemic being due to incorrect diagnoses.[2] Dr. Arthur Rhodes, another dermatologist, has also given examples of many people who have died with real melanoma that occurred on areas of the body that were never exposed to sunlight.[3] These unfortunate people, believing that the lesions they discovered could not be melanoma because there was no sun exposure, failed to get help until it was too late.

Meanwhile, the world becomes more and more deficient in vitamin D due to the efforts of the “sunscare” movement that would have us believe that sunlight, one of God’s greatest gifts to living beings, is public enemy number one. This has resulted in incredible rates of vitamin D deficiency which have further resulted in an increase in at least 18 major cancers including breast, prostate and colon cancers. It has also resulted in increasing rates of heart disease, infections including flu, autism, and numerous other maladies that I discuss and fully document in my book. Never has there been a greater fraud than the push to scare people out of the sun to avoid a disease—melanoma—that is not an epidemic at all, and whose risk is increased by sun avoidance. Non-burning sunlight exposure is absolutely necessary for optimal human health.

Not only is the “epidemic” of melanoma a midsummer night’s dream, it has become a vitamin D-deficiency nightmare.

[1] N.J. Levell, C.C. Beattie,* S. Shuster and D.C. Greenberg* Melanoma epidemic: a midsummer night’s dream? British Journal of Dermatology 2009;161:630–634
[2] Ackerman, A. Sun and the “Epidemic” of Melanoma, Myth on Myth. Ardor Scribendi, LTD, New York, 2008
[3] Rhodes, A. Guest editorial, Melanoma’s Public Message. Skin and Allergy News 2003;34:1-4