Vitamin D protects against colon cancer

January 26, 2010

A huge European study now confirms that vitamin D may lower the risk of colon cancer by 40%.

The Danish Vitality Council has in several previous newsletters refered to scientific studies showing that vitamin D may lower the risk of cancer, and we have even been urged by journalists to withdraw those statements. Fortunately we have not complied.

A few days ago British Medical Journal published the largest study ever of the link between diet and health, known as the EPIC study, and this is just one of many results, we will see in the near future from this huge study.
More than half a million mostly healthy people from ten European countries have been closely studied and followed over 10 years by researchers from across Europe.

Participants completed detailed dietary questionnaires, and they have been checked with blood tests to identify their nutritional status.

At the time of analysis 1,250 cases of colon cancer had occurred and after comparison with a healthy control group researchers found that those who were low in vitamin D in their blood had significantly higher risk for this type of cancer.

Unlike many other studies this is characterized by being a prospective study. Thus looking-forward from the start time, and based on a group of healthy people. The study also distinguishes itself by involving so many different countries, cultures and – not least – food cultures.

Vitamin D, we primarily get from the sun, and a little bit from the diet. Danes are not the most tenacious fish eaters and much of the fish we eat is farmed and therefore does not include the fatty acids and other substances, we think they contain.

So we’re back at sunlight as the main natural source of vitamin D.

However, some of our ancestors for inscrutable reasons have found reason to settle north of the Alps, and it leads to midday sun high enough in the sky to make enough vitamin D in the skin for only 3-4 months a year (providing we have enough cholesterol).

So we must therefore tend to sunbathing when the Sun is at its highest point, ie the middle of the day, without sunblock, and therefore only half an hour, so we do not risk burning.

If it gets too complicated, you can also just grab a vitamin D capsule as a supplement. It is perhaps a little easier, and it can be done the whole year.
The dosage is somewhat controversial and should ideally be measured in a blood sample, but most serious scientists recommend between 2,000 and 4,000 IU, equivalent to 50-100 micrograms daily.

It will take a long time before we again will see such a thorough, multi-national study including so many people over such a long period.

So it is not just any study. It has high validity and ought to push the critically low RDA-value we have today.

By: Vitality Council

Litterature:
Jenab, M. et al (2010). Association between pre-diagnostic circulating vitamin D concentration and risk of colorectal cancer in European populations: A nested case-control study BMJ, 340 (jan21 3)
Can be downloaded directly at: www.bmj.com/cgi/content/abstract/340/jan21_3/b5500

Vitamin D against atherosclerosis

January 28, 2008

Vitamin D counteracts the development of atherosclerosis and prevents fatal complications of high blood pressure – but vitamin D deficiency is very widespread.

We are not done with vitamin D. More and more information is streaming in about this amazing substance, which is actually not a vitamin but a hormone created in skin exposed to sunlight.

Now we will look at vitamin D’s effects on the heart and circulation. It seems as though the risks of blood clots in the heart and the brain are far lower in people who get enough vitamin D, which is to say people who get more than most. This “vitamin” is especially effective at lowering the risk in people with high blood pressure.

This find appears in a recent report from Farmingham, a little town in Massachusetts where the health and lifestyles of thousands of people (and their descendents) has been registered since 1948 in order to find lifestyle related reasons for cardiovascular disease. The Farmingham study is, without a doubt, the most famous of its kind. When we today take for granted that exercise, healthy diet, and aspirin prevents cardiac death it is the Farmingham project that we should thank.

The report in question is on a part of the study involving 1,739 people aged 50 – 70 who were free of cardiovascular disease at the beginning of the study. From 1996 to 2000 their vitamin D status was measured with blood tests after which their health was monitored for an average of 5.4 years (up to 7.6 years). Who suffered blood clots?

Those who had the least vitamin D in the blood! After seven years blood clots in the heart or the brain (stroke) was registered in one in ten with vitamin D levels over 37 nmol/l, but in no less than one in four of those with levels under 37. After correcting for differences within the group such as age, sex, cholesterol levels, smoking, diabetes, and so on, the group with the highest vitamin D levels still had a cardiovascular risk 60 % less than that of the group with the lowest levels. If these numbers are right, vitamin D is more important for cardiovascular health than aspirin or cholesterol medicine.

Strong immune system
The beneficial effects of vitamin D seem to be even greater for those with high blood pressure, which is the most important cause of cardiovascular disease. Among participants with high blood pressure the risk for those with vitamin D levels over 37 was half that of those with levels under 37.

This result is similar to that of other studies which have shown that low vitamin D status and high blood pressure and clogged cardiac arteries are related. The Farmingham has an even stronger message: If you lack vitamin D you are at risk of a heart attack within the foreseeable future.

Does this mean that vitamin D prevents atherosclerosis? Yes, this seems to be the case. This fits in well with other known effects including: that vitamin D counteracts an important hormone (renin) which is responsible for raising blood pressure and that when heart cells which normally use vitamin D are prevented from using vitamin D (through genetic manipulation) in experiments on mice, blood pressure rises quickly.

Without eating fatty fish is you get almost no vitamin D from October to May. Deficiency is therefore very widespread. In a European study of teenage girls more than one out of every three had severe anemia (blood percent of under 25 nmol/l). Over 90% of these girls would have, if they lived in Farmingham, ended up in the study group with severe atherosclerosis.

How much vitamin D is it wise to take? There is no rule of thumb, but it should be considered that a typical vitamin pill contains 200 units whereas one out of every two adult Americans need 1,000 units in order to have an “acceptable” vitamin D status (which is a concentration of 75 nmol/l – most American researchers recommend 75 – 150 nmol/l). It is also understood that it is completely safe to take up to 2,000 units daily.

Luz Tavera-Mendoza and John White, two molecular biologists from the American McGill University have shown that vitamin D causes the skin and the immune system to form antibiotics (cathelicidin and more) which kill bacteria, including tuberculosis bacteria. This is probably the explanation for the earlier idea that it is possible to cure tuberculosis with sunlight. These two researchers have written an easy to read summery of recent research and even reveal what they take as supplements during the dark months.

Luz, who is a younger woman, takes 1,000 unites (25 micrograms).
John, who is a younger man, takes 4,000 units (100 micrograms).

By: Niels Hertz, MD

References:
1. Wang TJ et al. Vitamin D deficiency and risk of cardiovascular disease. Circulation 2008;117:000-000.
2. Tavera-Mendoza L, White J. Celle defences and the sunshine vitamin. Scientific American 2007 (11):36-44.

circ.ahajournals.org
www.sciam.com

Healthy and Safe

October 25, 2007

There are over 480,000 published peer-reviewed research studies on food supplements or ingredients used in food supplements, and the vast majority of these show positive effects. There are only a small handful of studies that have shown negative effects, these generally being associated with high doses or synthetic forms of ingredients like vitamin A, beta-carotene and vitamin E.

In the case of vitamin A, there is no doubt that high doses of this fat soluble vitamin can be harmful and an upper safe level or maximum permitted level for this vitamin makes perfect sense.

There are three key studies showing negative effects of beta-carotene on diseased or high-risk patients, but these have all used synthetic beta-carotene, in the absence of natural carotenoid complexes found in natural carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables which have been found to be potent cancer-fighting nutrients. Ironically, these natural ‘mixed carotenoids’ are disallowed by the Food Supplements Directive.

Finally, there are four key negative studies on vitamin E, all of them conducted with synthetic vitamin E, which comprises only one of the eight vitamin E forms found in nature, but in its esterified form. This form, alpha-tocopherol, the only vitamin E form allowed by the Directive, actually reduces the body’s absorption of gamma-tocopherol which is the key antioxidant form of vitamin E found in food sources.

By: Robert Verkerk, The Alliance for Natural Health, United Kingdom

Vitamin C inhibits cancer. But How?

September 18, 2007

New research sparks new theories about how vitamin C inhibits cancerous growth.

A great deal of research indicates that vitamin C has a considerable inhibitory effect on the growth of cancer cells.

The biochemical effect of high-dose treatment with vitamin C is reasonably understood; vitamin C acts as a pro-oxidant on cancer cells at such doses. This causes increased free radical strain on the cancer cells and thereby acts as a poison to the cancer.

In moderate doses, the kind of doses which we can get through our diets, vitamin C is an antioxidant. But even at these doses, vitamin C has shown an inhibitory effect on the growth of cancer cells.

It was therefore believed that vitamin C blocks the free radicals which cause the cancer forming mutations in the cells, and that the reason for its protective effects is that it protects the cells’ DNA.

This is presumably not the whole truth.

Many years ago a famous professor by the name of Warburg was among the first to maintain that cancer cells grow in oxygen poor tissue. Today this is common knowledge, but there lacks knowledge on how this occurs. Ten years ago Gregg Semenza of John Hopkins University found that cancer cells are dependent on a protein called HIF-1 (hypoxia induced factor), which helps the cells by compensating for lacking oxygen in the surrounding tissue and thus allows cancer cells to convert sugar to energy without oxygen. HIF-1 also catalyses the creation of new blood vessels so that hungry cancer cells can get fresh supplies of nutrients and oxygen. If a cancer grows aggressively, it quickly uses up its oxygen supply and becomes entirely dependent on HIF-1. The HIF-1 protein is dependent on the presence of free radicals, which are also necessary for many other processes in the body. A powerful antioxidant like vitamin C eliminates the surplus of free radicals, which causes HIF-1 to become ineffective and thus inhibits cancer growth.

This new theory is based on a study done by a research group at the centre of oncology at John Hopkins University in conjunction with Dean Felsher of Stanford.

They set out to study antioxidants’ roles in cancer growth and found, to their great surprise, that antioxidants destabilise the protein on which cancer cells are dependent. As professor Chi Dang from John Hopkins University wisely stated, “By uncovering the mechanism behind anti-oxidants, we are now better suited to maximize their therapeutic use.”

By: Claus Hancke, MD

Reference

HIF-Dependent Antitumorigenic Effect of Antioxidants In Vivo. Cancer Cell, Volume 12, Issue 3, 11 September 2007, Pages 230-238Ping Gao, Huafeng Zhang, Ramani Dinavahi, Feng Li, Yan Xiang, Venu Raman, Zaver M. Bhujwalla, Dean W. Felsher, Linzhao Cheng, Jonathan Pevsner et al.

www.cancercell.org

Vitamin D inhibits cancer

June 26, 2007

An overlooked but very sensational study suggests that vitamin D could inhibit almost 80% of all cancer cases. We just need much more than we normally get (1).

One out of every three people in Britain die of cancer and a world without this feared disease seems utopian. But if an American study is correct, we can approach this unattainable goal with a historic leap forward. We just need more, much more, vitamin D, and maybe also more calcium. According to the study, a combination of calcium and vitamin D can reduce the risk of cancer by about 60%. Additionally, it seems that if cancer is avoided during the first year of taking supplements, then the risk of cancer the following year is reduced by nearly 80%! It is hard to expect more.

It is strange that such sensational news has received almost no official consideration. Especially because it comes from a highly trustworthy double blind, randomised trail published by highly respected researchers.

The participants in the study were 1,180 women with an average age of 67. They were from Nebraska, which is just as far south as southern Italy and receives a lot of sun. Not surprisingly the women had on average good blood levels of vitamin D before the study.

In the study 446 of the women received an advantageous daily supplement of as much as 1,100 units (27.5 micrograms) vitamin D. This is at least five times more than the contents of a normal vitamin pill and about three times the recommended dosage for people over age 60. They also received 1.5 gr. calcium (as carbonate or citrate), which is about the amount of calcium in a litre of milk.

Another 445 women received only calcium and 288 received placebo. Neither the women nor the researchers knew who got what. The study lasted for four years while it was noted who and how many got cancer.

We now have the results. The group which received the vitamin D and calcium was subject to many fewer cases of cancer than the group which received placebo. The difference was not coincidence! It was statistically extremely solid. The biggest difference (77% lower risk) was shown during the last three years of the study. The researchers surmised that this was because some of those who got cancer in the beginning of the study already had undetected cancer before the study started.

It could be true
The women who just received calcium also had a lower risk of cancer (40%). This finding was not completely certain statistically. The cancer risk for these women did not, as in them who received both vitamin D and calcium, become more reduced after the first year. It is therefore uncertain if this effect is actual or just the result of coincidence.

On the other hand, at least two further arguments indicate that vitamin D actually works. The first is that the women who had the poorest vitamin D status before the study, were those helped the most, their risk was the most reduced. The vitamin D status of the participants during the study also played a role, the lower the status, despite the supplements, the larger the cancer risk. The second argument that vitamin D has this effect is that the risk was directly link to the amount of vitamin D used.

Can it really be true that something as cheap as vitamin D can be so beneficial? We know that the vitamin regulates at least 200 genes, many of which control the cells’ growth and degree of specialisation. Animal studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency promotes cancer growth. For more than 60 years it has been known that cancer is less common in countries where the sun is high in the heavens leading to the production of more vitamin D in the skin. It has also be proven time and time again that low vitamin D status and high cancer risk in people go hand in hand (2,3).

The only thing that has been missing is a proper study with sufficient supplements so that cause and effect could be analysed. We now have just that study!

The women in Nebraska had a typical vitamin D status (25-hydroxy-vitamin-D3 in the serum) of 71 nanomolsl/L before the study. This is a very acceptable value. But the supplement increased this value to an average of 96. This is normally regarded as too high.

Vitamin D status is measured with a blood test! It is most important during the winter, when it is the lowest. According to the Nebraska study, this level should be no less than 100.

By: Vitality Council

References: 

1) Lappe J M et al. Vitamin D and calcium supplementation reduces cancer risk: Results of a randomized trial. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;85:1586-91.

2) Feskanich D et al. Plasma vitamin D metabolites and risk of colorectal cancer in women. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2004;13:1501-8

3) Ahonen M H et al. Prostate cancer risk and prediagnostic serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels (Finland). Cancer Causes Control 2000;11:847-52

www.ajcn.org
cebp.aacrjournals.org
www.springerlink.com/content/0957-5243

Folic acid for stroke – and to remember

June 12, 2007

You must remember your folic acid, otherwise you forget it.
This sounds like nonsense, but its not.

Folic acid helps keep the brain in good shape, and if you don’t get enough you might have problems thinking clearly and remembering when you get older.

Folic acid is the vitamin that fertile women should take (0.4 mg per day) unless they are 100% sure that they will not become pregnant. Far from all do this, even though folic acid prevents children from being a lifelong invalids due to spinal chord herniation (spina bifida) and reduces the risk of cleft lip and palate! That it is preventative is so called new knowledge (1) which is to say that it was pointed out, but ignored, over twenty years ago.

But folic acid also helps the memory and thought ability. Who do we know this? The English neurologist Edward Reynolds demonstrated it 40 years ago in hi article in The Lancet. He showed that 26 epilepsy patients who suffered folic acid deficiency due to their medicine improved when they received folic acid (2). This has since been forgotten.

Now there are new studies. One had negative results. Its authors concluded that folic acid has no effect on cognitive function, which did not improve for study participants who received 0.4 mg folic acid daily (without vitamin B12, in which they were mildly deficient) (3).

There is a simple explanation for this: the only lasted 24 weeks. This is not long enough, which will be explained below, but first a couple of other results.

An issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition from last February included an article which outlined that the more pronounced folic acid deficiency in elderly people, the poorer (statistically) their cognitive function. The likelihood of decreasing cognitive function was more than doubled in those with a deficiency of folic acid (4). There are many people with folic acid deficiency because folic acid is primarily found in liver and leafy vegetables, which many people push to the side if their plates.

20% fewer strokes
Lack of folic acid is shown roughly by finding increased blood levels of the substance, homocysteine. It is an amino acid which is poisonous to the blood vessels (among other things) and which is believed to lead to atherosclerosis, but that the body nonetheless creates. Normally it is neutralised in part by folic acid. If you lack folic acid, you homocysteine levels rise.

A link between lowered cognitive function and homocysteine has been shown in Sweden (5). There it was shown that elderly people with documented memory problems often had high levels of homocysteine. This was only true with the poor memory was found along with atherosclerosis, which homocysteine is believed to promote!

In addition, Dutch researchers recently showed in a randomised trail that a supplement of folic acid (o.8 mg daily) for 50 – 70 year olds not only reduced their levels of homocysteine, but also statistically improved the “brain functions which have a tendency to decline with age.” Memory, reaction time, and the ability to speak quickly and fluently were bettered. The study lasted for three years, which is a necessary time period (6).

If that is not enough, a comprehensive study of eight randomised studies has recently shown that the risk of stroke resulting from atherosclerosis generally is reduced by 20% when taking folic acid supplements. The studies which lasted longer than three years showed the best results. Participants who had already had a stroke were less protected and if those who were lucky enough to live in a country where food is enriched with folic acid (USA, Canada) showed fewer effects.

We should remember our folic acid. The daily dosage should be between 0.4 and 0.8 mg daily.

By: Vitality Council

 

References:
1. Bille C et al. Folic acid and birth malformations. BMJ 2007;334:433-34.
2. Reynolds E. Folate and aging. Lancet 2007;;369:1601.
3. Eussen SJ et al. Effect of oral vitamin B12 with or without folic acid on cognitive function in older people with mild vitamin B-12 deficiency: A randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;84(2):361-70.
4. Haan M et al. Homocysteine, B-vitamins, and the incidence of dementia and cognitive impairment: Results from the Sacramento area latino study on aging. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;85:511-7.
5. Nilsson K et al. Plasma homocysteine is elevated in elderly patients with memory complaints and vascular disease. Dement Geriatr Cogn Discord 2007;23(5):321-6.
6. Durga J et al. Effect of 3-year folic acid supplementation on cognitive function in older adults in the FACIT trial: A randomised double blind controlled trial. The Lancet 2007;369:208-16.
7. Xiaobin Wang et al. Efficacy of folic acid supplementation in stroke prevention: a meta-analysis. The Lancet 2007;369:1876-82.

www.bmj.com
www.thelancet.com
www.ajcn.org

Summer sun prevents multiple sclerosis

April 10, 2007

Still more supports the theory that vitamin D can prevent multiple sclerosis. Enjoy the sun while its there.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a feared disease. Many believe that sclerosis is synonymous with a life in a wheelchair, and many have heard about tragic examples of how the disease can progress. It is worth remembering that even 20 years after the emergence of the disease, 75% of patients can walk unaided. Also, the death rate for those suffering from sclerosis is not much higher than that of the rest of the population.

On the other hand, MS affects especially younger people, primarily women. It is disquieting that the frequency of this disease has increased in the last 50 years and continues to increase. Over 80,000 people in the UK suffer from MS, which at a prevalence of over 140 people per 100,000 the highest in the industrialised world.

MS is an “autoimmune” disease, which is to say a disease where the body’s immune system turns against the body itself. In the case of MS the so called myelin sheaths which coat and isolate the nerves are attacked. On average, every fourth person with MS also suffers from another autoimmune disease, for example psoriasis, arthritis, or metabolism diseases.

Can one prevent MS? It is tempting to have this thought when one notices the enormous geographic variations. In England, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Germany, and Canada the frequency is about the same. In Greece and Turkey it is about half as common while in northern Spain and Italy the frequency lies in between that of these areas.

These and other figures support a growing belief that MS has something to do with lack of sunlight; or more accurately, lack of vitamin D, of which the sun is the most important source. Vitamin D has in studies prevented an experimental form of MS (EAE, Experimental Autoimmune Encephalitis). In countries north of a latitude of 42, corresponding to Corsica, the sun is so low during the winter months that vitamin D practically cannot be produced in the skin. The result is widespread vitamin D deficiency.

Less than half the risk
Researches from Harvard University among others analyzed the problem in more detail. They studied 257 blood tests from military personnel who contracted MS between 1992 and 2004. The blood tests were taken and frozen before these people became sick. The question was whether they had remarkably little vitamin D in their blood when compared to people who did not contract MS.

It was shown that they did. 25-OH-D, the best measure for vitamin D status, was measured in both the sick and a large number of healthy people who were randomly chosen from 7 million personnel. It was found that “high circulating levels of vitamin D are associated with a lower risk of multiple sclerosis.” Low vitamin D levels were especially risky for people under 20 years of age.

How much vitamin D is enough? When the level of 25-OH-D was at least 99 nannomol/litre serum, the risk of MS was the lowest at about 40% average. The difference was statistically certain. For comparison, levels under 50 are indicative of insufficient levels of vitamin D. Such values can be found in most people during the winter.

The theory that vitamin D prevents MS is thus strengthened. One should attempt to distance oneself from vitamin D deficiency. This is easy during the summer, but from October to April it requires, for the majority of those in our latitudes, supplements.

By: Niels Hertz MD

References:
1. Munger L et al. Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D levels and risk of multiple sclerosis. JAMA 2006;296:2832-2838.
2. MS prevalence data for selected countries: http://www.mult-sclerosis.org/prev_tab.html
3. Newsletter from Vitalrådet dec. 27. 2006

jama.ama-assn.org

Early old age without vitamins and minerals

January 15, 2007

Without sufficient vitamins and minerals, old age comes too early. This is because the organism ignores the future when resources are limited. If it needs to, it does what is best for the present.

Keep an eye on Bruce Ames, the American biochemist and professor from Berkeley University. He is the man behind the worldwide renown Ames test, a quick method of establishing whether or not substances in food and the environment are cancerous, which is to say whether or not they cause mutation. He is also the author of uncountable numbers of scientific articles and has proposed some very important hypothesises in the field of nutrition. In 1999 President Clinton handed him the “American Nobel prise,” the National Medal of Science, for his contributions. At an age of 78, Ames is still extremely active.

Ames is among those who insist that there is, in uncountable ways, relationships between shortages of vitamins and minerals and cancer, mutations, and aging. But earlier than others, he also sought to explain these relationships bio chemically. It is highly important that we turn to long term studies involving thousands of people for these biomechanical mechanisms to be tested. When Ames invented his mutation test, he simplified detection of cancerous substances with one blow. Long term animal studies became unnecessary. Now he also wants to make long term human studies unnecessary in the study of nutritional deprivation.

The relationship between nutritional deprivation and cancer has been documented with extensive references in last November’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. For example, mutations, cancer, and early aging are seen early in association with magnesium deficiency. Vitamin D deficiency is believed to be the reason for 29% of all cancer in men. There is a relationship between deficiency of n-3 fatty acids from fish oil and malignant melanoma (skin caner), between selenium deficiency and cancer, and between potassium deficiency and heart disease. Lack of the B vitamin folic acid, vitamin B12, thiamine, and niacin also are associated with mutations and cancer. Even iron deficiency leads to mutations.

If all of this, and more, is an expression of a causal relationship, then nutrient deficiency should naturally be combated. Deficiency is, as we all know, extremely widespread. We receive large amounts of carbohydrates and fats, but few vitamins and minerals. One in every two Americans receive less magnesium than recommended, 90% receive too little vitamin E, 30% receive too little vitamin C, and so on… and so on.

Mutations can wait
If these many nutrient deficiencies are really the reasons for cancer, aging, and mutation, than what is the explanation? According to Ames, cells, and therefore the organs that they compose, prioritise when they temporarily or permanently lack something. A cell which as a result of a deficiency cannot accomplish all of its tasks, choose, for example, to prioritise the production of energy over the reparation of mutations. Correspondingly, scarce resources cause the organism to prioritise the production of red blood cells over the production of white blood cells, which is to say over immune system maintenance. The principle behind this is the same as when blood is directed to vital organs, such as the heart and lung, after blood loss. The organism must survive now, even though the price is weakening in the long term.

Prioritising is nonetheless only one reason for mutation and aging. A more direct connection is that nutrient deficiencies cause problems for the cells’ energy factories, the mitochondria. They are weakened by vitamin B (biotin) deficiency, pantoic acid deficiency, riboflavin deficiency, B6 deficiency, among others. Without these nutrients, the mitochondria cannot produce the enzymes necessary for energy production. Without energy nothing works in the cell, including the defence against mutation

Ames and others are now trying to find out how much nutrients we need to hold the number of mutations to a minimum and to keep the our mitochondria intact. This is not easy, but it is easier than undertaking expensive, and in many ways, uncertain, decade(s) long population studies. Also, who would finance such expensive studies?

In recent years we have seen a number of studies of supplementary vitamins E and C, selenium, beta-carotene, and vitamin A. Many of these were poorly done, more have been misinterpreted, and some have been proven. Few have become wiser. Is this the way forward? Or has Ames again shown a better shortcut?

While we wait for better knowledge, we should, according to Ames, take reasonable supplements of vitamins and minerals. Everything points towards that this is wise. And there are no risks.

By: Niels Hertz, MD

Reference:
Ames B. Low micronutrient intake may accelerate the degenerative diseases of aging through allocation of scarce micronutrients by triage. PNAS 2006; 103:17589-94.

www.pnas.org

Again, uneasiness regarding the pill

July 31, 2006

The pill (contraception in pill form) drains the body of the antioxidants, vitamin E and Q10. This could mean that a supplement would make it much safer to take the pill.

More than 100 million women worldwide use the pill as contraception. The pill is believed to be remarkably safe, and it is easy to forget that it can have serious side effects. According to a Dutch report from 2003, users of the pill have a 3-6 times higher risk of developing blood clots in the veins, which is a dangerous condition. In addition, they have a 2-5 times higher risk of developing blood clots in the heart or of suffering from stroke. These numbers are the same for the modern forms of the pill, which have few other few side effects.

If the risk of disease is low, (because of being young and otherwise healthy) than a low percentage increased in risk does not so important. But why is there any increase at all? Light has been thrown on this question by researchers of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. They have proven that users of the pill have lower vitamin E and Q10 levels in their blood than women who do not take the pill. Vitamin E and Q10 are well known antioxidants.

This is nothing new. Already 15 years ago, researchers believed that vitamin E could reduce the risks associated with the pill. It was also known that the pill drains the body of antioxidants, which can be directly linked to an increased risk of blood clot formation. When one lacks vitamin E, the fats in the blood become oxidized, thereby stimulating the platelets to stick together causing the formation of blood clots. Logically, it was suggested that vitamin E should be combined with use of the pill.

The pill uses up the body’s vitamin E and Q10 reserves. This has been proven again, this time in a study where 15 users of the pill in their forties were compared with women in the same age group who did not take the pill. The differences found were statistically valid, and although this was a small study there were no doubts regarding the results. These results were known before the study was completed; the problem was that nobody had been paying any attention to them.

Unsolved problems
Why does the pill strain the bloods vitamin E and Q10 contents? The pill raises the body’s oestrogen levels. This is why the ovaries go into hibernation so that ovulation is inhibited. The body registers a hormone level high enough that the ovaries can take a break. Even normal (physiologic) levels of oestrogen stimulate the formation of free radicals and therefore cause an increased use of antioxidants. This has been shown in an American study of the cells which compose the inner walls of the blood vessels (endothelium cells). They also showed that free radicals resulting from the presence of oestrogen caused the cells to grow, causing the blood vessels to thicken. It is believed that this increases the risk of blood clots. It also indicates that antioxidants could prevent such side effects.

For practical purposes, women with an increased risk for side effects are advised not to take the pill. This includes women over the age of 35, women with high blood pressure, and so on. All women with an increased risk of blood clots should refrain from using the pill. This causes some amount of contemplation. Who knows if they are in the high risk group? Is their risk so low that a five fold increase in risk is acceptable?

Aside from these problems it is important to know that if you use the pill, your defence against the formation of free radicals is weakened. Even though this is well known, no one has, until recently, thought to reduce this risk with the use of antioxidants.

An important question follows: What is the long term prognosis for women who took the pill for many years when they were young? During the many years they took the pill, they had reduced levels of vitamin E and Q10 in their blood. In the short term, this increased the oxidation of the blood’s fats which increased the risk of blood clots. But does it cause problems in the long term like smoking and high blood pressure? As yet, we can only guess.

By: Vitality Council

References:
1. Palan PR Magneson AT, Castillo M, Dunne J, Mikhail MS. Effects of menstrual cycle and oral contraceptive use on serum levels of lipid soluble antioxidants. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2006 May;194(5):e35-8. Epub 2006 Apr 21
2. Felty Q. Estrogen-induced DNA synthesis in vascular endothelial cells is mediated by ROS signaling. BMC Cardiovasc Disord 2006 Apr 11;6:16
3. Ciavatti M, Renaud S. Oxidative status and oral contraceptive. Its relevance to platelet abnormalities and cardiovascular risk. Free Radic Biol Med. 1991;10(5):325-38
4. Saha A, Roy K, De K, Sengupta C. Effects of oral contraceptive norethindron on blood lipid and lipid peroxidation parameters. Acta Pol Pharm. 2000 Nov-Dec;57(6):441-7.
5. Tanis BC, Rosendaal FR. Venous and arterial thrombosis during oral contraceptive use: Risks and risk factors. Semin Vasc Med. 2003 Feb;3(1):69-84
6. Crook D, Godsland I. Safety evaluation of modern oral contraceptives. Effect on lipoprotein and carbohydrate metabolism. Contraception. 1998 Mar;57(3):189-201

Vitamin D Can Be Used As Heart Medicine

May 23, 2006

The warnings against direct sunlight in the summer should be taken with a grain of salt. The vitamin D synthesized in the skin in the wonderful sunshine, prevents, amongst other things, weakening of the heart, if we look at the latest research.

Sooner or later in the course of the summer a dermatologist will appear on television to warn against direct exposure to the sun. It may lead to skin cancer and also threatening is the feared, deadly birthmark cancer, the incidence of which has risen dramatically in step with more and more people desiring a tan. This is partly true.

On the other hand it is prudent to be skeptical when someone advices us to act against what is natural. Can it really be true that the sun is so dangerous when people in our part of the world have been far more exposed to the sun through thousands of years?

Vitamin D is made in the skin when it is in the sunlight, but not from September till May, when the sun is too low on the horizon to be used for this in our part of the world. Since our diet only contains minimal amounts of this vitamin, in the wintertime we use the vitamin which has been built up in the skin in the course of the summer. During the winter approximately 85 % of the daily D-vitamin usage is taken from reserves, even in cases where the diet is rich in D-vitamin. All in all, approximately 100 mcg. is used in a day.

But what happens if the reserves are too small?

In the past half-year a number of studies have shed light over the mysteries of vitamin D. According to one study, the vitamin can help against tuberculosis, which we know was a widespread disease in the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, when many people lived under dire conditions in the cities.

Another study of over 14,000 Americans showed that the people with the largest D-vitamin reserves generally had far better lung function than those with the smallest stores. The difference is as big as the difference between ex-smokers and people who have never smoked before. A possible explanation is that the D-vitamin secures the necessary repairs of worn-out cells.

At about the same time, one of the veterans of vitamin-D research, the American Cedric Garland, concluded that now the proof that vitamin D protects against cancer (especially breast cancer, cancer of the colon and prostate cancer) was very strong. Strong enough to make him regard the connection as definite. He has reviewed all relevant research done since 1966.

Weak Heart and Arthritis
His claims can be compared to the fact that David Feldman of Stanford University now wants to conduct an experiment with calcitriol (the active form of vitamin D, which is made in body from vitamin D in the skin or the food) and ordinary arthritis medication against prostate cancer. In laboratory studies he has found that calcitriol slows the growth of prostate cancer by 25 %, while the combination with arthritis medication slows it by 70 %. A true break-through if it is true.

Everyone knows that vitamin D is necessary for the bones, but it is also necessary for the muscles. A deficiency leads to both muscle pain, weak muscles and for example, a tendency to fall in the elderly. But what about the heart? The heart is also a muscle, and weakening of the heart (cardiac insufficiency) because of atherosclerosis or increased blood pressure occurs in as many as 50,000 Danes. It is a dangerous condition with a high mortality rate.

A German study of 123 patients with a weak heart showed that on average they had quite small amounts of vitamin D in their blood stream, close to a deficiency in the traditional sense. Half of them were given supplements of 50 mcg. D3-vitamin each day for nine months. This is five times as much as the elderly are traditionally recommended given, and is also the upper limit, of what is not dangerous to ingest.
The study was too small to show a difference in mortality, but it did show something interesting. It concerns the protein TNF-alpha, which is produced by the white blood cells in connection with inflammation. TNF-alpha is meant to be a major cause of weakening of the heart. In the patients left untreated, the blood’s content of this protein increased by 5 %. In those treated, there was no worsening. This indicates a stabilizing effect on the inflammation.

This is especially interesting for another reason. TNF-alpha is an important cause of pain and swelling in arthritis. So important that new types of arthritis medication, which blocks TNF-alpha, fittingly, are considered wonder-drugs. If vitamin D decreases the effect of TNF-alpha on the weakened heart, maybe the same happens in arthritic joints. This would also confirm the old assumption that vitamin D protects against arthritis.

When in the sun, one should be sensible and avoid sunburns. Stay in the shadow if the sun is very strong and do not lie about for hours in the sun all covered up in greasy sun lotion.

Also important to know is that it is a risk rather than a virtue to stay out of the sun in the summer.

By: Vitality Council

References
1. Schleithof S S et al. Vitamin D supplementation improves cytokine profiles in patients with congestive heart failure: A double blind randomized placebo-controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;83:754-9
2. Heaney R et al. Human serum 25-hydroxycholecalciferol response to extended oral dosing with cholecalciferol. Am J Clin Nutr 2003;77:304-10.
3. Moreno J, Krishnan AV, Feldman D. Molecular mechanisms mediating the anti-proliferative effects of Vitamin D in prostate cancer. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2004 Nov;92(4):317-25

www.ajcn.org
www.elsevier.com/wps/find/journaldescription.cws_home/333/description