Vitamin D deficiency and the Black Death?

First of all, almost a season has passed since I last blogged and I apologise for that as I have given in to ‘lazy updates’ through tweeted news alerts. Secondly, I have been involved in a handful of projects that have taken my spare time (more info as they reach fruition), and will continue to do so; but vitamin D campaigning is a permanent ongoing concern, so I will never abandon it indefinitely – at least not until we have “won” (however that can be quantified).

A news piece I spotted today inspired me to want to comment about it: Black Death skeletons unearthed by Crossrail project. [Link at bottom]

“Skeletons unearthed in London Crossrail excavations are Black Death victims from the great pandemic of the 14th Century, forensic tests indicate.

Their teeth contain DNA from the plague bacterium Yersinia pestis and their graves have been dated to 1348-50.

Analysis of the skeletons’ bones and teeth indicates that:

  • Many of the skeletons appear to suffer signs of malnutrition and 16% had rickets. [emphasis added]

“The combination of a poor diet and generally a struggle means they were very susceptible to the plague at that time and that’s possibly one of the explanations for why the Black Death was so devastating.””

There’s no doubt that plague bacterium would reduce vitamin D levels and also diminish appetite, but poor nutrition and vitamin D deficiency (the classic extreme manifestation being bone disease, like rickets) beforehand would not help either as these create a state of immunodeficiency that makes it easy to become ill. In other words, we’re seeing that immune defence is probably more powerful than offense against particular pathogens.

[Source: BBC News]


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