Thursday, July 8, 2010

Food poisoning is increasing rapidly. Is vitamin D deficiency the reason?

According to the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), there has been an explosion in USA food poisoning since 1994.[1] In addition, the OCA states, “Food related illnesses are on the increase. At the end of 2000, more than 250 foodborne diseases were described, but in the vast majority of cases, the causal agent is unknown. Diarrhea and vomiting are the most common symptoms, with serious after-effects that include blood poisoning, abortion, infections, blood in the urine, and death. Chronic disorders of the heart and nervous system can also result, as well as arthritis, renal disease, and disease of the digestive system.”

The OCA further emphasizes, “To see foodborne illnesses in perspective, total illnesses from known pathogens are estimated at 38.6 million, and that includes 5.2 million (13%) due to bacteria, 2.5 million (7%) due to parasites and 30.9 million (80%) due to viruses. The breakdown for foodborne illnesses in terms of known etiological agents is similar, with the highest proportion due to viruses.”

The OCA’s main concern is the proliferation of genetically modified foods (GMF), which it feels may be responsible for the increase in foodborne disease, and indeed GMF may be one of the causes. However, recent research regarding vitamin D may provide further answers to the surging risk of these illnesses. In a previous post I stated that blood levels of this all-important hormone are dropping precipitously in the American population, with a near doubling of the prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency that existed 10 years ago. Now, 90% of Blacks, Hispanics and Asians, and 75% of the white population suffer from the disorder. [2]

But how does that fact relate to foodborne illnesses? Research by Wu and colleagues[3] showed that pathogens such as salmonella are killed in the intestine by vitamin D, provided that there are vitamin D receptors available. The researchers found that in mice with no vitamin D receptors (VDR), intestinal salmonella quickly caused severe illness and death; in those with receptors, there was little or no illness.

Of course, VDR’s do not work unless vitamin D is available. Since 90% of vitamin D in the body is provided by the stimulation of cholesterol in the skin, non-burning sunlight exposure is vitally important in keeping vitamin D at optimal levels.

Here are the mechanisms by which vitamin D may thwart food poisoning:
Vitamin D has been known for some time to be able to stimulate the production of a potent antibiotic, known as cathelicidin, which breaks down the cell walls of both bacteria and viruses. However, it is not a “broad-spectrum” antibiotic, defined as an antibiotic that kills both the disease-causing pathogens, and friendly intestinal bacteria that work to keep such pathogens at bay. Vitamin D also works by stimulating the immune system’s army of cells such as T cells[4] and macrophages[5] to attack and destroy pathogens.

So, it is entirely possible that the surge in foodborne illnesses is due to vitamin D deficiency, which results in a compromised intestinal immune system. It is time to return to the sun.

Also, see my blog on vitamin D and Diarrhea.

[2] Adams, J and Hewison, M. Update in Vitamin D. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2010;95: 471–478.
[3] Wu S, Liao AP, Xia Y, Li YC, Li JD, Sartor RB, Sun J. Vitamin D Receptor Negatively Regulates Bacterial-Stimulated NF-{kappa}B Activity in Intestine. Am J Pathol 2010;Jun 21. [Epub ahead of print]
[4] von Essen MR, Kongsbak M, Schjerling P, Olgaard K, Odum N, Geisler C.. Vitamin D controls T cell antigen receptor signaling and activation of human T cells. Nat Immunol 2010;11:344-49.
[5] Kamen DL, Tangpricha V. Vitamin D and molecular actions on the immune system: modulation of innate and autoimmunity. J Mol Med 2010;88:441-50.


Dmorrow said...

Solar energy is always useful for Home Solar Power, cars and etc.. but at least we should pay attention to our body.. as many of us are lacking Vitamin-D... this scarcity must be overthrown-ed..!!!

Doug said...

I dont think this works in humans. I take 6000iu ED and got food poisoning this week quite bad.