…4yrs later

There’s a good reason for brushing off the cobwebs here on this hot day to create a new post – the UK government has achieved a milestone (enough to pop one party popper) by recommending that everyone takes vitamin D pills in the darker seasons. Unfortunately, the recommended amount is still an almost worthless 400 IU (better than nothing, I guess) and many of us will need pills throughout the year. The media also seem to be reporting the classic skeletal benefits only.

If you’re interested in the SACN report you can find the PDF here.

It’s also nearly the 4th anniversary of the publication of Prescribing Sunshine. While the book hasn’t set the world on fire (no thanks to my admittedly limited and lacklustre promotion attempts) it does trickle across to new readers and I’m happy at some reach over none at all. In hindsight I probably would have omitted some topics or tried for greater sensitivity, but in not doing that I think my book stands out and delivers a mix of anger, sadness, optimism and awe. (If you haven’t read it yet click the link on the side.) I have no plans to revise it, I’m interested to see how it stands the further passage of time.

This year has also seen cholesterol scepticism go mainstream. Media figures like Dr. Aseem Malhotra are pointing at excessive sugar intake as the enemy (though how dangerous is sugar to the vitamin D replete?) and though statins are still being dispensed, it’s less ‘mad’ to champion fat consumption.

Most of my activism time is directed towards HIV scepticism these days because it’s still a subject that’s not gaining much ground. When the 2015 Penrose Inquiry report was released regarding the alleged HIV infection of Scottish blood recipients, the news was unfortunately overshadowed by the Germanwings plane crash tragedy. I read the executive summary of the inquiry and I wrote about the even greater miscarriage of justice, for the Immunity Resource Foundation’s blog. Read here. Most of the posts there are mine too.

I’m not going to lie and say that I’m fully back to blogging here (or even tweeting, for that matter) but until vitamin D is fully appreciated by the masses, in the words of Arnie, I’ll be back.

 

Same suit, fixed tie

Prescribing Sunshine has been rejacketed. The minor modification looks much smarter and addresses the unintended skewed egg look of the sun on the paperback.

For some odd historical value, previous cover images will remain on this blog and at prescsun.com, foreseeably.

This blog has and will remain indefinitely in hiatus until any major events regarding vitamin D take place. Until then you may wish to follow me on Twitter for bite-size news.

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]

Doctors turning against the cholesterol hypothesis

Blood pressure and cholesterol levels are not the most accurate way of assessing the risk of heart attack and stroke, doctors believe.

Instead, measuring calcium build-up in the arteries [emphasis added] gives a better indicator of the likelihood of heart problems, they say.

In comparison, the traditional ways of assessing who should be prescribed preventative drugs such as statins are inaccurate.

…People with little or no calcium deposits in the arteries detected on CT scans are unlikely to suffer a heart attack or stroke, a study found. But doctors may have prescribed statins based on other factors. The study suggests up to a third of patients were taking them unnecessarily.

Calcium build-up in the arteries marks the calcification of plaque, which results in hardening that can lead to heart attacks.

The latest study, published in the European Heart journal, adds to mounting evidence about the value of calcium scans in predicting heart attack risk.

The technology is little used in the NHS, where there is limited availability of expensive scans, but widely used in private clinics.

Instead patients mostly have their risk calculated on family history, medical factors such as cholesterol and blood pressure levels, and lifestyle habits.

So, how to keep your arteries from clogging up like the heating element in your washing machine when a descaler isn’t being used? You guessed it, read my book.

[Source: Daily Mail]

Merry Xmas & Happy New Year!

Backlash?

Today the media has been fanning the outcome of a review that doesn’t think much of vitamin D supplementation. Some quick dismantling is required.

Prof Philippe Autier, from the International Prevention Research Institute in Lyon, carried out a review of data from 290 prospective observational studies and 172 randomised trials looking at the effects of vitamin D levels on health outcomes, excluding bone health, up to December 2012.

Stop, stop! The vast majority of reviews from time immemorial to present day rely on data that has three problems: use of vitamin D2, non-physiological dosages and deeply conservative recommended vitamin D levels.

…[T]he results of the clinical trials – where participants were given vitamin D supplements – found no reduction in risk, even in people who started out with low vitamin D levels.

Well, people with low vitamin D levels will probably find negligible improvement on the long-established RDA.

…[Autier said:] “Ageing and inflammatory processes involved in disease occurrence… reduce vitamin D concentrations, which would explain why vitamin D deficiency is reported in a wide range of disorders.”

Sure, illnesses reduce vitamin D levels, but for that reason one should not rule out vitamin D deficiency as an initial enabler of disease too.

…Peter Selby, consultant physician and honorary professor of metabolic bone disease at Manchester Royal Infirmary, said the French review was limited.

“It could very well be that the apparent negative results of this study have been obtained simply because they have not been looking at people with sufficient degree of vitamin D insufficiency to have any meaningful biological effect.”

This can be true, but, as above, I think the historical RDA negates most studies. Vitamin D work since the last 10-15yrs is often of the most value.

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), an independent group of scientific experts who advise the government on nutrition, is currently reviewing the dietary recommendations for vitamin D for all population groups in the UK.

Don’t hold your breath over SACN! Act now!

[Source: BBC News]

Poverty or lack of D to blame for illnesses?

[A] study commissioned by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in Scotland and the Scottish Government claims the country’s inhabitants do get healthy levels of sunlight.

…The researchers said their findings indicated that average blood levels of vitamin D in adults living in Scotland are safely above the level thought to be beneficial.

According to the researchers, the study gives added credence to other documented links between vitamin D levels and wealth, with those from deprived areas and with the lowest incomes exhibiting lower levels of the vitamin.

While it is true that the wealthy can have better access to foods with more vitamin D and are able to take holidays to sunny countries quite frequently, vitamin D as a supplement is surprisingly cheap to even out this disparity.

I do not believe, however, that the Scottish as a whole get usable sun even though their skin colour is adapted for less sunshine. The definition of adequate levels must certainly be poor. Rich people can get illnesses treated better and faster than the poor, off-NHS, but they are not totally immune from the diseases that affect the impoverished.

[Source: Herald Scotland]

New study predicts better markers of health and less death in vitamin D replete HIV+s

Although the odds of death were not associated with the baseline vitamin D level, they “decreased significantly by 46% for a 2-fold higher level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D,” Dr. Viard reported.

…”Similarly, CRP [C-reactive protein] was higher in cases than in controls at the latest sample for AIDS-events and death, and it was also higher at baseline for people who were going to die.  CD14 levels were higher in cases and in controls for AIDS events and death.”

…CD4 counts increased by 7.00% per year for people deficient in vitamin D and by 11.14% per year for people nondeficient in vitamin D (both   P < .01), but not at all for patients who were severely deficient.

…Asked for perspective on these findings, session cochair Andrea Antinori, MD, from the National Institute for Infectious Disease in Rome, Italy, who was not involved with the study, told  Medscape Medical News that he found the results interesting because “probably we don’t have much information about the role of vitamin D, and more interestingly, not only its role in bone mineral density and fracture in the long term but even in immune activation inflammatory pathways” that can increase other risks, for example, for cardiovascular disease.

In other words, remaining haziness on vitamin D’s immune-enhancing functions makes it hard to discern if AIDS is exclusively or at all caused by HIV.

[Source: Medscape]