Monday, November 15, 2010

Sunlight Deficiency and Rickets--a Terrible, Unnecessary Disease

The Front page of a British newspaper, The Telegraph, leads with this headline, "Middle Class Children Suffering Rickets." [1] It continues by stating that rickets is a 17th Century disease that is now caused by covering children in sunscreen and limiting time outside in the sunshine.

Dr. Nicholas Clarke, who is alarmed about the dramatic increase in the disease in just 24 months, states, “We are facing the daunting prospect of an area like Southampton, where it is high income, middle class and leafy in its surroundings, seeing increasing numbers of children with rickets, which would have been inconceivable only a year or so ago.”

Every physician in the world knows that rickets is a vitamin D-deficiency disease caused by a lack of sunlight, which is the most natural source of vitamin D. The fear of developing melanoma has driven us to slather ourselves with sunscreens that block up to 99% of vitamin D production. It has also caused us to otherwise avoid the sun like the plague, which ironically, brings on a plague of rickets, other bone diseases, cancer and heart disease, as well as myriad other maladies I discuss in my book.

The advice by the Powers of Darkness to avoid sunlight is one of the biggest frauds ever perpetrated on the public, whether in England or America. We know from an impressive analysis by Dr. Robyn Lucas and colleagues[2] that if those who would have us avoid the sunlight were totally successful, the outcome would be disastrous: for every case of death and disability caused by sunlight avoidance, there would be 2,000 cases of death and disability (caused by bone diseases alone) caused by sunlight avoidance! Of course, one of those diseases is rickets. Rickets, originally thought to be a disease of poor children who didn’t get enough sunlight due to working indoors, was thought to have been eradicated 80 years ago. It is now increasing rapidly. The blame can be placed squarely on the shoulders of those who profit from frightening us out of the sunlight. Non-burning sunlight, when available, can easily prevent or reverse this disease, and vitamin D supplements or tanning lamps can help raise vitamin D levels in pregnant mothers and their offspring-to-be. It is time to return to the sunlight! Just be sure not to burn.

[2] Robyn M Lucas, Anthony J McMichael, Bruce K Armstrong and Wayne T Smith. Estimating the global disease burden due to ultraviolet radiation exposure. International Journal of Epidemiology ;37(3):667-8.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


A most interesting piece of research on the relationship of heart disease to blood levels of vitamin D was recently published in the American Journal of Cardiology.[1] Researchers from the Intermountain Heart Collaborative (IHC) Study Group studied 41,497 subjects with at least one vitamin D measurement from 2000-2009. The prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in the subjects was 63.6%. The researchers found that during that time period, those with the lowest levels of vitamin D had highly significantly increased risk of developing diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol and triglycerides) and peripheral vascular disease, all diseases in their own right, and all risk factors for developing heart disease. They also found that those who had none of these risk factors, but who had severe D deficiency, had an increased risk of developing diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidemia.

Low vitamin D levels were also correlated closely to coronary artery disease, myocardial infarction (heart attack), heart failure, stroke and overall risk of death (not surprising). Of particular interest was the fact that hypertension was nearly 90% more likely in those with low vitamin D levels (less than 15 ng/ml) compared to those who had high levels (greater than 30 ng/ml). Unfortunately, the analysis did not compare those who were severely deficient with those who had "optimal levels," which I would consider to be 60 ng/ml or more. Had they done that, it is likely that the differences in disease and death rates would have been even more impressive. Other findings of this study showed that infections, kidney failure and fractures were more likely among those with the lowest levels of vitamin D.

This research is one of the best conducted and controlled that I've seen, but it is hardly the only finding that showed a dramatic increase in these diseases when comparing people with low vitamin D levels to those with higher levels. One of the most impressive compared the risk of heart attack with vitamin D levels and found those with the lowest D levels to have 2.4 times the risk of heart attack compared to those with the higher levels.[2]

As you can see, vitamin D makes a difference. if you'd rather not have a heart attack, it behooves you to optimize your vitamin D levels!

There are another dozen research papers that point out a terrific difference in heart disease rates among people with different vitamin D blood levels; however, they all come to the same conclusion. Get some sunlight and optimize your vitamin D levels!

[1] Jeffrey L. Anderson, MD, Heidi T. May, PhD, MSPH Benjamin D. Horne, PhD, MPH
Tami L. Bair, BS Nathaniel L. Hall, MD,, John F. Carlquist, PhD, Donald L. Lappé, MD, and
Joseph B. Muhlestein, MD Relation of Vitamin D Deficiency to Cardiovascular Risk Factors,
Disease Status, and Incident Events in a General Healthcare Population. Am J Cardiol 2010;106:963–968)
[2] Giovannucci E, Liu Y, Hollis BW, Rimm EB. 25-Hydroxyvitamin D and risk of myocardial infarction in men. Arch Intern Med 2008;168:1174–1180.