Sugar KillsWell, if you wanted to call me a Gary Taubes fanboy before, I guess you’ve got one more reason to now as here’s one more post about his writings.

Back in October 2010, I authored a post entitled Sugar – Public Enemy Number One. The main takeaway I intended for the article was to argue that if all the diet books and nutrition gurus in all the world would just agree on this *one* thing: elimination of refined sugars from the diet (including fruit juices, by the way) that would be the single most important contribution they could all make to our public health. This would result in vastly healthier people and dramatically lower health care costs.

Back in January when Gary took his show on the road to Seattle, he mentioned he was working on this big article for the New York Times about sugar. The summary was he was taking a look into the claims of Dr. Robert Lustig of UCSF who came out and said fructose was a toxin – in the concentrations consumed in the SAD (Standard American Diet). Now that Gary is a left coaster, he’s gotta make nice with the neighbors (he even got his new BFF Michael Pollan to say nice things about his new book – nice going :)). The net of all this is a ‘little’ piece in the New York Times called Is Sugar Toxic?. Of course, Gary doesn’t do ‘little’ so don’t expect a reader’s digest version, but you should expect a thorough and well reasoned article.

Of course, I want you to read it, but the summary is he thinks there’s something to the idea that sugar should be considered a toxin. One small step for man …

At the risk of changing my ‘Health Man’ blog into the ‘Vitamin D’ blog, I come to you – once again – with more vital information about Vitamin D.

In a previous post, I make reference to mindboggling degree of Vitamin D deficiency among African-Americans – 97% are deficient. While we focus on African-Americans due to the relatively large population of Americans of African descent, these issues should be of concern for all people living in temperate climates with melanin-rich skin pigment.

Little did I know that in February of 2005, the Vitamin D council offered a publication titled: Racial differences in vitamin D status. In a very brief six pages, it wallops you with fact after fact, study after study that strongly correlates the much higher incidence of mortality and morbidity among African-Americans with their relatively poor Vitamin D status.

In the hopes of piquing your interest in reading this, here area a few stunners:

  • Blacks are about ten times (not 10%) more likely to be vitamin D deficient than are whites.
  • Vitamin D deficiency in African American mothers may explain the fact that black babies are more than twice as likely as whites to have low-birth-weights.
  • Breast milk of black women often has undetectable levels of vitamin D.
  • Fourteen diseases/conditions that have a higher incidence among African-Americans (eg, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, obesity) also correlate with Vitamin D deficiency

This will take so little of your time to read. I hope it leads you to take ACTION.

Vitamin D Council Newsletter, February 12, 2005, “Racial Opportunities”

Know Your Chances: Understanding Health Statistics

While there may be more thoroughly-investigated and references books on the topic of understanding health statistics, I find this one the most accessible. At a very light 130 pages (lots of tables, pictures and charts) it’s an extremely quick read and gets to the heart of the matter. That heart is “Don’t get flummoxed by misleading health ads.”

The very patiently and cogently explains the difference between absolute risk (Zocor reduces the chance of death from heart attack by 42%) and relative risk (Zocor reduces the chance of death from heart attack from 8.5% to 5%).
Of course, this could be applied to well-meaning public service announcements meant to scare us into action as well.

The authors have been taking the lead to get the US FDA to require a “Drug Facts Box” for all direct-to-consumer print advertising. Such a box would not just include the most favorable way of describing clinical results (see above) it would also require the maker to list the common side effects and their likelihood as well. It would be a big step in the right direction. To get background on their work, take a look these two reports:

Highly recommended due to it’s ‘punch per page.’
(2/10)

Vitamin D on the brain

January 6, 2010

VitaminDLogo The drumbeat regarding the essential role circulating vitamin D plays in human health is getting louder and louder by the day. I personally find this especially gratifying because I’ve been alerting friends and family to the importance of vitamin D for years. My latest find on this topic, however, could be cause for concern for many who make a good living off of the negative health effects that closely correlate with rampant vitamin D deficiency.

University of California Television (uctv.tv) has an entire video series on the topic: Vitamin D Deficiency: Treatment and Diagnosis. You may watch it streamed directly from the site, or download the individual audio or video files for playback locally. I find that even though there are often presentations that go along with the talk, the audio by itself is quite useful in most cases.

There are two talks that bear particular note:

VitaminDCancer

Vitamin D Prevents Cancer: Is It True?
First Aired: 09/28/2009
In a new study, researchers at the UCSD School of Medicine and Moores Cancer Center used a complex computer prediction model to determine that intake of vitamin D3 and calcium would prevent 58,000 new cases of breast cancer and 49,000 new cases of colorectal cancer annually in the US and Canada. The researchers’ model also predicted that 75% of deaths from these cancers could be prevented with adequate intake of vitamin D3 and calcium. Join Carole Baggerly with GrassrootsHealth as she discusses this new research.

DLightful

D-Lightful Vitamin D: Bone and Muscle Health and Prevention of Autoimmune and Chronic Diseases
First Aired: 03/11/2009
Can vitamin D help prevent certain cancers and other diseases such as type 1 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain autoimmune and chronic diseases? To answer these questions and more, UCSD School of Medicine and GrassrootsHealth bring you this innovative series on vitamin D deficiency. Join nationally recognized experts as they discuss the latest research and its implications. In this program, Michael Holick, MD, discusses vitamin D relating to bone and muscle health and the prevention of autoimmune and chronic diseases.

There are also a raft of resources at the GrassrootsHealth site.

One picture says many, many volumes on this topic. It’s entitled Disease Incidence Prevention by Serum 25(OH)D Level. The story it tells is that there are clinically-verified correlations between the incidence of specific conditions and levels of circulating Vitamin D. Based on this large (and growing) body of evidence, it is reasonable to infer that by increasing our serum Vitamin D levels into the optimal range of 50 ng/ml, the following conditions could be reduced at the indicated rates:

  • Breast Cancer: down by 83%
  • Ovarian Cancer: down by 17%
  • Colon Cancer: down by 60%
  • Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma: down by 18%
  • Type-1 Diabetes: down by 66%
  • Fractures (all combined): down by 50%
  • Falls (women): down by 72%
  • Multiple Sclerosis: down by 54%
  • Heart Attack (men): down by 30%
  • Kidney Cancer: down by 49%
  • Endometrial Cancer: down by 37%

This topic is especially relevant to me and my family. As an African-American who lived his entire life above the 38th parallel (Chicago, Minneapolis, Washington, DC and Seattle, to be precise), the absence of adequate sun exposure during most months of the year had a profound effect on my health (primarily in the very early onset of severe periodontal disorders, seasonal allergies, lower bone density). This is a message that literally needs to be trumpeted from the rooftops for everyone – especially anyone who skin has a lot of melanin (like mine).

The optimal range (50 ng/ml) must be put into context: In A recent NHANES study (2001-2004), only 3% of black folks were in the ‘sufficiency’ range of >30 ng/ml. That is not a typo: three percent – and remember, the optimal range begins at 50 nl/ml. Of even greater concern is that prevalence of deficiency (<10 ng/ml) is at 29%.

This is the real pandemic.

The kicker here is that vitamin D is about the least expensive dietary supplement available. At about $.05 (that’s FIVE CENTS) a day, most of us can, over time, get our levels in the optimal range.

So, what is a person to do? Obviously, I am not your physician, so I cannot give you medical advice. However, I have it on extremely good authority that it is safe practically everyone to take 1,000 IU (international units) of oral vitamin D daily (you want the D3 form, not the D2 form). If you do not know your vitamin D levels, make a beeline to your doctor’s office to get tested. Please do not simply accept the ‘normal/not normal’ pronouncement from your doctor. Obtain the actual test results and read it for yourself to determine your levels. Ideally, you will want to test at least twice a year (once at the end of the winter, and again at the end of summer) to make sure you’re staying in range. Just so your expectations are appropriately set, it took me about two years to get my levels stabilized in the optimal range.

Please, please, PLEASE, do what you can to raise awareness of this inexpensive and powerful way to improve our health.

p.s. I have been alerted by one of my readers – who is also a physician – that I should take care to warn people who have kidney problems (renal disease, renal failure) or elevated creatinine levels (which is an indicator of diminished kidney function)that they should always check with their physician before taking any dietary supplements.