Well, it’s always a good time to think about vitamin D, but since we’re heading into November fast, its now that those great vitamin D levels of the summer (that is, if you actually got out into the sun this summer) start waning. Vitamin D is used in a myriad of mechanisms throughout the body. Since you’re been paying attention to this blog, you know how important it is.

The ‘new’ things in this post aren’t all that different than what you’ve been hearing me harp on for months now, but I did come across a few things I hadn’t seen:

Keep that 25 (OH) Vitamin D level above 40ng/ml. You can thank me later.

Who needs to see yet another vitamin D post from me? Seems like I covered it all before. You may be saying ‘I get it already.’ Well, this time, the focus is a little more specific – it’s about giving our mothers and children their best shot at a healthy delivery.

In the April journal of the Obstetrics and Gynecological Survey, there was an alert put out to all Obstetricians, Gynecologists and Family Physicians regarding the mounting evidence of a a strong association between some common complications related to pregnancy and child birth (preeclampsia, spontaneous preterm birth, gestational diabetes, and fetal growth restriction) and the mother’s vitamin D levels.

In fact, they highlight the “significant, intractable disparities” that exist in rates of major pregnancy outcomes between black and white women. Given, as I have noted before, that only THREE PERCENT (3%) of black people in the US have sufficient levels of circulating Vitamin D, it should not be surprising that these scientists believe there may be a connection. You may recall that this ‘sufficiently’ level is 30 ng/mL which is still not optimal (50 ng/mL). While we do not have broadly-collected data on this statistic, one would expect the percentage of black people in the optimal range to be very close to –0-.

There is a summary of this report available on PubMed. Also, our just slightly offbeat, but always on point Dr. Joseph Mercola has a very comprehensive write up on the topic entitled "How Sunshine Can Prevent Birth Defects". Here’s just a sample of the things Dr. Mercola covers in this eye-opening article:

  • Birth Defects
  • Vitamin D Deficiency and Brain Damage
  • Maternal Vitamin d Deficiency Causes Learning Disabilities
  • Dyslexia, Poor School Attendance, Low Apgar Scores And Low Birth Weight
  • African-Americans Are at a Much Higher Risk
  • Severe Vitamin D Deficiency More Than 20 Times More Common in Young Black Women

You don’t have to wait for all the studies to come in. Hopefully I’ve convinced you to alert all those who are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant need to get their Vitamin D in to the optimal range (remember, 50ng/mL).

Here’s an innovative idea: let’s say you have one of those myriad ideas about how to keep people healthy that does not involve a new molecule (pharma) or zapping a patient with neutron gamma rays (medical devices). The oft-repeated lament is “Nobody’s gonna fund that, there’s no money in it!”

But if it’s dirt cheap and so helpful, you ought to be able to convince some large number of people (how presumably have been helped) to chip in to fund the research, huh?

Well, that’s the big idea at Grassroots Health (http://grassrootshealth.net). As far as I can tell, their only (first?) area of interest is in Vitamin D sufficiency (http://grassrootshealth.net/daction). They essentially have people sign up for $60/year. By signing up, members agree to participate in an observational study tracking circulating Vitamin D concentrations (25(OH)D) against a bunch of health conditions. The long-term plan is to build up enough cash to do a clinical trial of a to-be-determined design.

Could be the start of a new model – and give the disaffected throngs a way to push their priorities and note be dictated to by the medical-industrial complex.

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.

Female Hormone Restoration

August 30, 2009

Well, it’s time to get back in the saddle.

I’ve been reluctant to get this post out there for many weeks. In large part because it covers a subject about which I have no direct experience and never will. I have an enormously healthy respect for the female endocrine system and bow down to its complexity and nuance. Us guys don’t have a clue. However, I have been getting more and more inquiries from the women in my life to share what I’ve learned over my years of reading about health issues.

I’m timing this post with the online availability of an extensive take on the bio-identical hormone replacement issue from Life Extension Foundation. Many of you may remember that the goddess of daytime TV herself, Oprah Winfrey, took on this issue (quite courageously, in my opinion) back in January. She clearly promoted the idea that the decline in hormone creation that comes with peri-menopause and menopause can be offset (carefully and under the care of a knowledgeable physician) by using compounds that are identical to those synthesized by your own endocrine system (hence the term bio-identical). This is in contrast with the FDA-approved (and quite often detrimental) compounds synthesized from the hormones of horses that do not have a chemical structure like those hormones circulating in human beings.

For this, she gets slammed by Newsweek (whose major advertisers include pharmaceutical makers) for putting forth Crazy Talk.

Life Extension has Oprah’s back. If you have any interest in this topic please carefully read this recent article at Life Extension that goes into considerable detail on this controversy and provides a good foundation for understanding the issues pertaining to female hormone restoration.

If you want to go into more depth, there are a couple of authors whose work I’ve read helped me understand the complexities in my own simple way – and I think might have much better guidance than I can give you:

The Natural Hormone Makeover: 10 Steps to Rejuvenate Your Health and Rediscover Your Inner Glow

I consider Dr. Cohan a mentor even though I’ve never met her. It is primarily through her work I came to understand how little I knew. But once I read it I was hooked. She goes into substantive detail about how to best manage your hormone balance (for women at any age) to ensure optimum health and get maximum energy.

The Savvy Woman’s Guide to Testosterone: How to Revitalize Your Sexuality, Strength and Stamina

One of those unfortunately-titled books, because it’s about way more than testosterone, but I think the publisher thought it might sell better with the title. I like it as a complement to Dr. Cohan’s book because it covers much of the same material from a different angle.

There are other books out there too: The Venus Week, several of Dr. Christiane Northrup’s books that provide other points of view, but for my money Dr. Cohan strikes the right balance on a number of fronts.

The whole idea for this blog was kicked off by friends asking for more information – so I figured I’d write once.

Writing is great, but I’m also very interested in keepin’ it real. So I started a real live face-to-face get together through meetup.com. You can find the meetup here: http://www.meetup.com/Mens-health.

For those of you in Seattle and environs, check it out.

Longevity 101

January 7, 2009

Now we step a bit further into the weeds.

I’ll reiterate the impetus for starting the blog was really personal. I’m not an MD, OD, Naturopath or even a healer (at least not a credentialed one). I started this blog after getting requests from family and friends to put the things I had shared with them in one-on-one communications (verbally or in e-mail) in a form that anyone could access. So there’s that and there’s also the desire I had on my part to pull together several disparate areas of knowledge related to health that I hadn’t seen synthesized before (still looking, by the way).

So even though I’m not in a position to give you any personal guidance (again, have a discussion with your doctor if you want to act on any of my recommendations), I have a high degree of confidence in my points of view and have seen very beneficial effects in my own life.

I’ve said on many occasions (out loud in the presence of others) that I intend to live a robust, active life into the 22nd century. Most just let it go because they probably just feel embarrassed for me. I mean, based on my appearance and demeanor, it probably doesn’t appear that I’m a crackpot on the lunatic fringe (insert photo of wild-haired, beady-eyed codger muttering to himself in a corner here). But I really do mean it. So as not to make this post too long, I’ll include book notes from the various authors that have lead me to the very idea this might be possible under separate cover. In this post, I’ll just state my basic assertion:

By combining dietary health, adequate exercise, consistent dietary supplementation, active hormone management and limiting exposure to environmental insult (whether it’s falling off a ladder or exposure to toxins) , one can prevent the onset of the major causes of death (diabetes, heart disease, neuro-degenerative diseases, etc.), thereby enabling maximum active life span.

The ‘how’ gets more involved, but if you stick with me, I think you’ll find the ‘how’ to be manageable – and more than worth it.

’till next time …