Saturday, January 16, 2010

Prevent Cavities and Anorexia: Incredible Vitamin D Misinformation

Optimizing vitamins B1, B3, C and D prevents cavities and anorexia. Read more here. Prevention of cavities is associated with reduced risk of a whole host of modern chronic diseases including cancer, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Read more here.

Vitamins A, B1, B3, C and D are special because they are the only four vitamins associated with named vitamin deficiency diseases. These are night blindness, beriberi, pellegra, scurvy, and rickets respectively.

A clear understanding of the state of knowledge regarding the clinical use of these five vitamins makes it easier for literate people to use them. Unfortunately, writings about vitamin D - even from the most authoritative sources - are filled with misinformation.

The misinformation from the mainstream medical community is largely one of omission. Overwhelming evidence has proven that the R.D.A of vitamin D of 400 IU is too low, yet the R.D.A. has not been raised. The R.D.A. really relates to vitamin D obtained from food. The mainstream medical community is largely silent regarding recommendations for generating vitamin D in the skin via exposure to sunshine. There are no warning labels about the dangers of sunblock, and the dangers coming from the multiple ways modern life results in inadequate sun exposure. For example, working night shifts, working underground, wearing a habit all the time, staying indoors all the time, and on and on. On the contrary, mainstream medicine warns people about the dangers of sunshine and markets sunblock lotions as safe and effective.

Mainstream medicine is also guilty of misdirection. Vitamin D is not a vitamin. It is not an essential nutrient. It is not necessary to eat any because vitamin D is produced in the body from ordinary food combined with skin exposure to direct sunlight. With few exceptions, humans evolved to produce vitamin D in their skin. Sunshine is essential for good health. Using pills instead of sunshine is asking for trouble.

Vitamin D boosters are doing a great job setting the record straight regarding the misinformation from the medical community. But vitamin D boosters are responsible for misinformation of their own. There is a reluctance to take the toxicity of vitamin D seriously. Here's a typical quote (read the whole entry here) denying the toxicity of vitamin D:

"Without evidence to support it, the board arbitrarily set the safe upper limit for vitamin D consumption at 2,000 IU/day. One can take a 10,000 IU vitamin D supplement every day, month after month safely, with no evidence of adverse effect. (Am J Clin Nutr 1999;69:842–856)."

Well that's just great. And even worse it's supported by an authoritative reference in a peer reviewed journal. Wonderful. There is overwhelming clinical evidence that daily vitamin D doses above 2000 IU cause side effects. I have written about this in detail here. My column on vitamin D toxicity attracted compelling testimony about the harm being caused by vitamin D supplements. Evidently I'm a very unusual scientist since I'm able to fully appreciate both the benefits and the risks from the use of vitamin D supplements.

Here's the second major piece of misinformation spread mostly by vitamin D boosters. It is claimed that there is inadequate solar radiation to produce vitamin D in the winter. The same article contains a typical quote:

"The majority of the world’s population now lives above latitude 35° N and is unable to synthesize vitamin D from sunlight for a period of time in winter owing to the angle of the sun. At a large solar zenith angle, ozone in the upper atmosphere will completely block UVB radiation. In Seattle (47° N) and London (52° N), from October to April UVB photons are blocked by the atmosphere so one’s skin cannot make vitamin D."

I can rebut this argument on first principles. If UVB makes it through the ozone layer in the summer, increasing the pathlength of the light through the upper atmosphere by less than a factor of ten (what happens in the winter), will not completely block the radiation. It may reduce the UVB by a factor of ten, or even a factor of 50, but it will not block it altogether. How much UVB is really needed? The objective is to produce just 25 micrograms of vitamin D. Getting out into the winter sun at noon in northern latitudes with the shirt off for an hour is highly likely to produce plenty of vitamin D. I'm not going to believe this nonsense until I'm provided with much better data. Amazingly, I've been unable to find good data on this subject.

Vitamin D is vitally important to health. It's long past time to increase funding for vitamin D research and to clear up all this misinformation.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Niacin, Thiamine, and Wound Healing: Fantastic Proof for Vitamin C

If your body is injured, there is much to gain and nothing to lose by getting extra vitamin C, vitamin D, niacin, and thiamine. There is strong scientific support for this assertion. With that said, in light of the large sums of money spent by the medical industry treating and caring for the injured, little is invested in careful scientific studies directed at further elucidating the role of the only four vitamins associated with named deficiency diseases (scurvy, rickets, pellegra, and beriberi respectively) in the healing of various types of injuries. Plenty of resistance to the idea that injured people will benefit from extra sunshine (more vitamin D) and vitamin C, niacin, and thiamine supplements remains. The quantity and quality of the scientific research has not yet convinced enough people to act. Medical professionals are more to blame than the rest of us, but they are, for the most part, not hypocritical. In fact, I expect that medical professionals are less likely than the average person to get the full benefit from these four special nutrients because medical professionals are more likely to follow the recommendations of their colleagues on the food and nutrition board.

Using vitamins optimally isn't easy. I've known now for many years that vitamins accelerate wound healing and have only recently discovered how to take advantage of my knowledge. I originally thought that taking supplements was the best I could do. I just didn't appreciate how practical and effective topical application can be. I am constantly subjecting myself to minor skin injuries - most often to my fingers. I keep a small bottle of ground up vitamin C and niacin tablets (80 wt% vitamin C, 20 wt% niacin) in the kitchen along with a tube of topical analgesic cream. When I get a minor burn or scrape, I rub powder into the injury with the cream and put on a band-aid. I have found this to be remarkably effective. Read more here.

I'm writing today's blog to call attention to a fantastically detailed study of the role of vitamin C in wound healing. The study was carried out by Hoffman La Roche - a leading manufacturer of vitamins. It looks to me like the study was carried out at the request of the fish farming industry. More likely than not, fish farmers discovered that adding alot of vitamin C to their feed was improving yields of fish. Adding vitamin C is expensive, and there was a need to figure out how to optimize the feedstock formulation to minimize the cost of bringing the fish to market. I place fish farming in the world of commodity manufacturing and healing injured people in the world of the service industry. These are two very different worlds which might partially explain the lack of attention that these results have gotten in the medical world.

OK. So here's the study. A large number of fish were divided into three groups - 20, 150, and 1000 mg vitamin C per kg of feed. Humans consume an equivalent of roughly 3 kg of food per day so these doses roughly translate to taking 60, 450, and 3000 mg of vitamin C per day in highly divided doses (in other words taking a small vitamin C supplement with every serving of food and beverage). All the fish were identically wounded (cruel - but not so cruel with fish) and the healing process was monitored with time. Here are the conclusions:

Conclusions: (1) dietary vitamin C intake influences the rate of wound healing in rainbow trout, (2) increasing the dietary level of vitamin C from 150 to 1000 mg AA/kg feed enables the establishment of larger pools of AA in various tissues, and (3) with larger tissue AA pools, the increased AA demand following wounding does not become a rate limiting step, thus healing may proceed more quickly.

To read the entire abstract, click here

A much less expensive study was done in the 1980's with a few rats. This study proved that very high doses of vitamin C dramatically accelerated the healing of wounded rat tails. The researchers found conditions under which treatment with high doses of vitamin C saved the entire tail of the rat, medium doses saved half of the tail, and doses associated with the vitamin C available from a normal diet (roughly 1 RDA) resulted in most rats losing their entire tail. The reference is "Spillert et. al., "Protective Effects of Ascorbic Acid on Murine Frostbite" in Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Volume 498, 1987.

Overwhelming evidence also supports the effectiveness of high doses of vitamin C for healing wounded skin, including an incredible double-blind trial using severely burned sheep. Read more here.

Similar studies are not going to be carried out with growing children. If scientific evidence from rats, sheep, and fish is insufficient to change the behavior of the medical industry, then scientific evidence is insufficient to cause the change and some other additional advocacy will be required before people get the full benefit of this knowledge.

I try to review all the vitamins studies I can find on the web - so I've seen alot of studies. I would like to see more studies on niacin, thiamine, and vitamin D and wound healing. For vitamin C, more studies will provide little in the way of additional knowledge because the evidence is already conclusive. While healing from injuries, it is useful to take as much vitamin C as you can and to use it topically as well. Read more here, and here.

While waiting for more studies, there is much to gain and almost nothing to lose (you half to learn to avoid or manage minor side effects) by also getting extra sunshine (more vitamin D), niacin, and thiamine.