Monday, May 30, 2011

Could the asthma upsurge be due to sunlight and vitamin D deficiency?


According to the Centers for Disease Control in May 2011, “about one in 12 people in the United States now has asthma—a total of 24.6 million people and an increase of 4.3 million since 2001.”[1]

Researchers in Boston have hypothesized that the decrease in sunlight exposure and resultant vitamin D deficiency is responsible for the asthma epidemic.[2] Others show the same facts: the increase in asthma has paralleled the decline in sunlight exposure, and asthma risk is 40% lower in children of women who have the highest vitamin D consumption during pregnancy.[3] Is it time to return to the sun?

Another study shows an asthma reduction of 52-67%.[4] In that study, THREE-YEAR- OLD CHILDREN WHOSE MOTHERS WERE IN THE HIGHEST QUARTILE OF VITAMIN D CONSUMPTION DURING PREGNANCY HAVE A 61% REDUCED RISK OF A “RECURRENT WHEEZE,” A SYMPTOM OF ASTHMA, WHEN COMPARED TO THOSE WHOSE MOTHERS WERE IN THE LOWEST QUARTILE. The researchers believed that inadequate D levels in the fetus leads to improper development of the lungs and immune system, and they demonstrated that each 100-IU increase in vitamin D consumption resulted in a 19% risk reduction.

A scientific experiment from Australia also demonstrated that when asthmatic mice were exposed to ultraviolet light, before being exposed to an asthma-causing allergen, asthma symptoms were reduced.[5] Considering the yearly $700-million expenditure for Australian asthma-treatment, regular sunlight exposure seems a small price to pay. Tanning beds, like the sun, put forth ultraviolet light to produce vitamin D. These researchers were really using tanning beds for mice! Finally, another recent study from Spain has shown that children exposed to the most sunlight have lower risks of asthma.[6]

Steroids are used as an asthma therapy, but in some individuals, asthma is resistant to steroids. However, when vitamin D3 is added to the steroid treatment, symptoms are greatly reduced.[7] Perhaps sufficient supplementation or sunlight exposure could eliminate steroid need completely. This is the bottom line: children and adults are meant to play outdoors or otherwise be exposed to non-burning ultraviolet B (UVB) light—the most natural way to produce vitamin D. Every child should have a natural life playing outdoors, and both children and adults should regularly have sunlight exposure. It is critical for human health. What a travesty to deprive our children of healthy, normal lives because the Powers of Darkness need to make money selling sunscreens. Be careful not to burn, and enjoy the sun!

[1]Vital Signs: Asthma Prevalence, Disease Characteristics, and Self-Management Education --- United States, 2001--2009 MMWR, 2011; 60(17);547-552

[2]Litonjua, A. et al. Is vitamin D deficiency to blame for the asthma epidemic? J Allergy Clin Immunol 2007;120:1031-35

[3] 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.

[4] Devereux, G. et al. Maternal vitamin D intake and early childhood wheezing. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;85:853-59

[5]Hart, P. et al. Sunlight may protect against asthma. Perth (Australia) Telethon institute for child health research. Quoted in Australian AP Oct 24, 2006.

[6] Arnedo-Pena, A et al. Sunny hours and variations in the prevalence of asthma in schoolchildren according to the International Study of Asthma and Allergies (ISAAC) Phase III in Spain. Int J Biometeorol 2011;55:423-434.

[7]Xystrakis, E. et al. Treatment of Steroid-Resistant Asthma. J Clin Invest 2006;116:146-55

Can sunlight influence fertility and sexual behavior?


Now that I have your undivided attention, let’s look at the evidence.

Sperm quality and number is superior in men with high vitamin D levels compared with men who are deficient,[i] and other research shows that FEMALE RATS MATED TO DEFICIENT MALES HAVE 73% FEWER SUCCESSFUL PREGNANCIES THAN THOSE MATED TO VITAMIN D-SUFFICIENT MALES.[ii] The ovaries and testes of rats that lack vitamin D receptors (VDR) do not function properly,[iii] and vitamin D deficiency profoundly reduces sperm production;[iv] but that condition is reversible when vitamin D is optimized,[v]--an important fact—since human sperm also contains VDR.[vi]

Dr. Anne Clark assessed the vitamin D levels of about 800 men who were unable to produce a pregnancy in their wives.[vii] About a third had low D levels. After lifestyle changes and vitamin D supplementation, 40% of the men were able to impregnate their wives.

If vitamin D increases fertility, we would expect conception rates to be higher in summer than in winter—and, so it is. Conception rates are highest in late summer.54 For those who are having difficulty producing a pregnancy, conception may be as simple as a sunny vacation.

And what about sexuality? There is a direct correlation between high D levels and high testosterone levels in men.[viii] Since testosterone is the “love hormone” in both sexes, libido might be increased by sunlight exposure. Also, D supplementation in testosterone-deficient men increases testosterone by 25% in one year.[ix]

This has been known for decades; in 1939, Dr. Myerson measured circulating testosterone in men and exposed their various body parts to UV.[x] AFTER FIVE DAYS OF CHEST EXPOSURE, TESTOSTERONE INCREASED 120%. WHEN GENITALS WERE EXPOSED, TESTOSTERONE INCREASED BY 200%! Considering the current cultural obsession with sex, I’m surprised that no one has followed up on Myerson’s work. The light emitted from tanning beds is the same type of light used by Dr. Myerson. I expect that many people may have a totally new concept of the much-maligned tanning bed if this information is widely promulgated.

[i] Bjerrum, Poul et al. Vitamin D is positively associated with sperm motility and increases intracellular calcium in human spermatozoa. Human Reproduction 2011;26:1307-1317.

[ii] Kwiecinski, G. et al. Vitamin D is necessary for reproductive functions of the male rat. J Nutr 1989;119:741-44.

[iii] Kinuta, K. et al. Vitamin D is an important factor in estrogen biosynthesis in both female and male gonads. Endocrinology 2000;141:1317.

[iv] Sood, S. et al. Effect of vitamin D deficiency on testicular function in the rat. Ann Nutr Metab 1992;36:203-8.

[v] Sood, S. et al. Effect of vitamin D repletion on testicular function in vitamin-D deficient rats. Ann Nutr Metab 1995;95-98

vi] Corbett, S. et al. Vitamin d receptor found in human sperm. Urology 2006;68:1345-49

[vii] Clark, Anne. Fertility Society of Australia conference in Brisbane - paper presented by D. Clark - research was part of a doctoral study by University of Sydney student Laura Thomson. Oct 19 2008

[viii] Wehr, E et al. Association of vitamin D status with serum androgen levels in men. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf) 2010;73(2):243-8

[ix] Pilz, S. et al. Effect of vitamin D supplementation on testosterone levels in men. Horm Metab Res 2011;43(3):223-5

[x] Myerson, A. Influence of ultraviolet radiation on excretion of sex hormones in the male. Endocrinology 1939;25:7-12

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Vitamin D, Sunlight and Pneumonia

A new analysis of vitamin D levels among winter pneumonia patients has produced some very interesting observations:

1. Those admitted to the Waikato, New Zealand hospital with severe vitamin D deficiency were more likely to die within a month compared to those who had normal or only slightly low levels.

2. The overall death rate was 29% for those with severe D deficiency, and only 4% for those with higher levels. This could indicate that vitamin D deficiency causes a 700% increase in the risk of death by pneumonia. Follow this link to read more about the research:

The authors noted that sunlight is the best source of vitamin D, and that winters in Hamilton, New Zealand area, like most temperate areas of the world, do not allow sufficient sunlight to stimulate vitamin D production. They also state that pneumonia is the single largest cause of death in children worldwide, killing about 1.6 million children under the age of five each year.

What a horror that so many countries, by means of their health departments and dermatological societies, are frightening children and their parents away from the sunlight during the seasons of the year when it is available. This ensures that vitamin D deficiency will ensue in winter. Also, at the very least, supplementation of vitamin D3 should be recommended during winter—supplementation of about 1,000 IU for every 25 pounds of bodyweight.

This is not the first time the relationship between pneumonia and sunlight has been observed. In 2003, Dr. Dowell and his colleagues showed that the disease is seasonal, with the lowest rates in summer, an increase in fall and a peak in winter.[1] This relationship exactly mimics the quantity of sunlight exposure available in different seasons. Other research has pointed out the same relationship,[2] [3]and still other studies have shown the importance of vitamin D in prevention of pneumonia and related infections to it,[4]

A popular fitness guru used to scream the slogan, “Stop the insanity!” I agree with her advice as it relates to sunlight exposure and would like to scream that it is insane for medical and governmental organizations to frighten their citizens out of the sunlight. Sunshine has become one of our most critical health needs, and those who would have us avoid it at all costs have blood on their hands.

[1] Dowell, S. et al. Seasonal patterns of invasive pneumococcal disease. Emerg Infect Dis 2003;9:573-9.

[2] Leow L, Simpson T, Cursons R, Karalus N, Hancox RJ. Vitamin D, innate immunity and outcomes in community acquired pneumonia. Respirology. 2011;16(4):611-6

[3] White AN, Ng V, Spain CV, Johnson CC, Kinlin LM, Fisman DN. Let the sun shine in: effects of ultraviolet radiation on invasive pneumococcal disease risk in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. BMC Infect Dis. 2009 Dec 4;9:196.

[4] Oduwole AO, Renner JK, Disu E, Ibitoye E, Emokpae E. Relationship between Vitamin D Levels and Outcome of Pneumonia in Children. West Afr J Med 2010;29(6):373-8.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Tanning beds, sunlight, vitamin D and superb bone strength. Can tanning beds produce the World’s strongest bones?


Can tanning beds or sunlight produce sufficient vitamin D to produce superbly strong bones? The answer appears to be “yes.”

I am part of an email list of persons who are intensely interested in vitamin D research and who share articles on vitamin D and sunlight as preventive therapies for various diseases. I recently received a most interesting email from Rufus Greenbaum, who lives in the UK and who organizes vitamin D symposiums there. He had met a man who had been using a tanning bed twice weekly since 1970 and who had just completed a bone densitometer test, known as a DEXA scan. On viewing the results of the scan, his doctor told him “You have the strongest bones that I have ever seen.”

That news certainly came as no shock. Conventional tanning beds produce vast quantities of vitamin D in short periods of time,[1] and vitamin D is absolutely essential for optimal absorption of calcium in the gut.[2] [3] Without calcium absorption, vast quantities of ingested calcium will make little difference to bone strength; much of the calcium will be passed through the intestine and flushed down the toilet. It is already known that people who use tanning beds have dramatically stronger bones and higher blood-vitamin D levels than those who don’t use them.[4]

Both tanning beds and sunlight enhance the levels of vitamin D in the skin by producing UVB light, which converts cholesterol in the skin to vitamin D. In fact, ninety percent of the vitamin D produced in the US population is due to sunlight exposure.[5]

Research has shown that daily sunlight exposure in elderly women, during a period of one year, increased serum vitamin D levels by 400% and decreased the risk of hip fractures dramatically.[6] A control group, who did not receive sunlight exposure, had six fractures for each fracture experienced by the sunlight-exposed group. The message is that sunlight exposure may decrease the risk of osteoporotic fractures by 84%! Finally, and even more impressively, research from Spain showed that among women who actively sought the sunlight, the risk of fractures was only one-eleventh that of women who spent most of their lives indoors.[7] This begs the questions: Should we really avoid sunlight and tanning beds like the plague? Is such avoidance worth the risk of dying from osteoporotic fractures?

The key to safe exposure to sunlight or sunlamps is to be sure not to burn. And for those who are frightened about melanoma, please read my previous blogs on the subjects:

[1] Grant, W. Personal communication with the author, June, 2006

[2] Heaney, R. et al. Calcium Absorption Varies within the Reference Range for Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D. Journal of the American College of Nutrition 2003; 22: 142–146.

[3] Heaney, R. Vitamin D and calcium interactions: functional outcomes. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;88(suppl):541S–4S

[4 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.

[5] Reichrath J. The challenge resulting from positive and negative effects of sunlight: how much solar UV exposure is appropriate to balance between risks of vitamin D deficiency and skin cancer? Prog Biophys Mol Biol 2006;92(1):9-16

[6 Sato Y, Metoki N, Iwamoto J, Satoh K. Amelioration of osteoporosis and hypovitaminosis D by sunlight exposure in stroke patients. Neurology 2003;61(3):338-42.

[7] Larrosa, M. Vitamin D deficiency and related factors in patients with osteoporotic hip fracture. Med Clin (BARC) 2008;130:6-9.