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

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

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

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

Vitamin D Could Prevent Every Third Cancer-related Death

April 21, 2006

Several of the World’s leading vitamin researchers advocate a much higher vitamin D-intake. They believe that up to every third death from cancer may be prevented.

“I challenge anyone to find a field or a nutritional substance or any other factor with as effective cancer-fighting properties as vitamin D.”

So said Edward Giovanucci, professor at Harvard University, last year in a speech to the American Society for Cancer Research.

More and more agree with Giovanucci, amongst them, several professors from well-renowned universities. A few months ago Cedric Garland, an absolute pioneer in the field, stated that it has been proved that the risk of cancer can be lowered dramatically with vitamin D. These are big words. Garland is a professor at the University of California in San Diego.

Giovanucci has together with six others, of these, no less than three are professors from Harvard, confirmed the claim further. In a quite laborious study they have confirmed the close connection between a vitamin D deficiency and cancer.

Since World War II it has been known that especially cancer in the alimentary canal is seen relatively seldom in southern countries. Since sunlight is the most important source of vitamin D, it has earlier been guessed that it was vitamin D and not the sun, which offers protection. In numerous studies the incidence of cancer has been found to be highest where sunlight is weakest, and where the content of vitamin D in the blood is lowest. We are children of the sun. At the same time laboratory research in recent years has shown that this vitamin inhibits the growth of abnormal cells, counteracts the spread of cancer and prevents the formation of blood vessels in tumorous masses.

Giovanucci now finds further proof of the connection. Earlier in humans there has only been found an indirect connection between vitamin D and cancer. There has been a lack of data from whole groups of the population, that have had their blood content of vitamin D measured, and have then been followed for a number of years. But Giovanucci has found something to substitute this data.

Mega doses of Vitamin D
They took 1095 men from the big population study “Health Professionals Follow-Up Study”. These 1095 men had had their vitamin D-status measured (this means the content of vitamin D in the blood). In addition, a lot of things were known about their personal habits etc. Would it be possible to go backwards and calculate their vitamin D-status from their personal habits? Yes! An estimation of the approximate vitamin D blood content could be made, when the individual’s skin colour (eg. race), body mass, height, place of residence (southern/northern in the USA), the amount of physical activity, time of year and the content of vitamin D in the test subject’s diet and possibly supplements was known.

In this manner the group worked out a point-system for the direct calculation of vitamin D status. What especially contributed to a low status was a northern place of residence, dark skin colour, overweight and lack of exercise. The calculations proved correct for the 1095 test subjects. But would they be correct for other people? They were checked for another group of men with known vitamin D status. They were consistent!

Every single subject, of the 47,800 men in Health Professionals Follow-Up Study now had their vitamin D status calculated. In the course of approximately four years, about one in ten got cancer. About half that died from it.

To find the significance of vitamin D, they chose to compare dead men whose plasma values for vitamin D (25(OH)D3) deviated by 25 nmol/L (nanomol/liter). It was found that the risk of dying from cancer was no less than 29 percent lower in men with a high vitamin D status. Concerning cancer of the alimentary canal – it was 45 percent lower for men, who were otherwise identical with regards to age, weight and level of physical activity.

If these results are correct, every third death from cancer may be prevented in the course of a few years. Also in the UK. This is nothing but a sensation. But if one wishes to increase the plasma level of vitamin D by 25 nmol/L, one must receive a supplement of no less than 1,500 units of vitamin D during the winter. This is achieved if a supplement of four vitamin D tablets of 10 mcg (micrograms) is taken daily from August until April.

1,500 units will probably shock many. Is it not toxic? No, it is quite certain that there is no risk, even with a permanent supplement of 2,000 units daily. For comparison, the skin produces 20,000 units during half an hour in the sun in the summer.

Garland, who was mentioned above, recommends 1,000 units (25 micrograms) a day. Others say 2,000. Giovanucci and his colleagues from Harvard strongly recommend 1,500.

Under any circumstances: If you want the full advantage of vitamin D, it seems that the need is far greater than what we have gotten used to believe. Maybe it is close to what stone-age people received naturally from their diet.

By: Vitality Council

References
1. Giovanucci E et al. Prospective study of predictors of vitamin D status and cancer incidence and mortality in men. J Natl Cancer Inst 2006;98:451-9
2. Garland CF et al. The Role of Vitamin D in Cancer Prevention. Am J Public Health. 2006;96(2):9-18. 2005 Dec 27; [Epub ahead of print]

jncicancerspectrum.oxfordjournals.org
www.ajph.org
www.iom.dk

Calcium supplements with vitamin D against colon cancer?

February 18, 2006

A large study attempted to show whether or not calcium and vitamin D prevent colon cancer. It was a strange study, using low doses over a short period.

There are probably those who believe that the latest study on calcium and vitamin D shows that neither is good for anything. But we should hesitate before going to that extreme. One can also believe that the study was not suited to draw this conclusion. Or, as it is stated in a leading editorial in “The New England Journal of Medicine:” the conclusion should be interpreted in light of the study was complicated and in light of the probability that the doses of calcium and vitamin D were too low.

The debate regards the insidious and widespread cancers of the colon and rectum. Half of a group of 36,282 American women between the ages of 50 and 79 took part in a seven year study where they received daily supplements of 1,000 mg calcium and 400 units vitamin D to see if reduced their risk of these diseases. The supplements given are the same as two normal calcium and vitamin D vitamin tablets, which many take to strengthen their bones. After the seven years the researchers assessed the number of women who developed colon and rectum cancer. The result was disheartening: Whether the women received supplements or placebo had not effect on the risk.

There was a single positive find buried in the data. The women who had the least vitamin D in their blood during the study had with statistical certainty the greatest probability of developing colon cancer. This could indicate that vitamin D has a positive effect. There was also a tendency, but only a tendency, that these women had the greatest benefit from the supplements.

Quite a lot of things contribute to that this conclusion be taken with a grain of salt. This is partially due to that the study was very complex.

Possibly the most important objection is that it “only” lasted seven years. It is believed that colon cancer takes 10-20 years to develop before it is diagnosed. It the supplements prevent a new cancer from forming it is clear that for this reason no effects will be found as early as after seven years. This has been considered: Participants in the study will be monitored further for the next five years.

Strong objections
If the goal was to show a difference within the seven year period, those responsible should have at least ended the study by examining the intestines of all of the participants in order to find early cancer stages, or polyps. This did not occur. There was neither the money nor the resources necessary to do over 35,000 intestinal examinations. It was only possible to establish that the number of independently undertaken intestinal exams and the number of discovered cancers in the two groups were about the same. But maybe nothing more can be expected.

One confusing detail is that the study participants were allowed to continue taking the supplements that they had taken before the study along with the supplements that they received as a part of the study. On average they received 1,100 mg calcium and 350 units vitamin D, both close to the recommended dosages, before the study began. Many of them therefore must have received very large doses of calcium, over 2,000 mg, per day. Is it reasonable to guess that this is the reason for the slightly increased frequency of self-reported kidney stones? 2.4% of those who received supplements and 2.1% of those who received placebo, got kidney stones during the seven years.

Also, the average age was relatively low (62), which reduced the risk of cancer, and therefore weakened the study. It was further weakened by the fact that more than one out of four participants did not finish the study. Whether this dropout rate is because calcium pills can cause constipation is not considered in the article.

Just as important, the dose of vitamin D, as referred to in the editorial, may have been too low. Recently it has been estimated that about 1,000 units daily is necessary for most people in order to achieve any supposed cancer preventing effect. This amount of vitamin D (or more accurately 25-(OH)-vitamin D) is necessary to achieve a serum concentration of over 30 nano-grams per litre (75 nanomols per millilitre). Nevertheless, only a minority of the study participants received this amount.

What can be concluded from this? The editorial gives some suggestions for new studies. Much indicates that vitamin D, and maybe calcium, prevents cancer. But we still lack sufficient knowledge.

By: Vitality Council

References:
1. Wactawski-Wende J et al. Calcium plus vitamin D supplementation and the risk of colorectal cancer. N Engl J Med 2006;354:684-96.
2. Forman M C et al. Calcium plus vitamin D3 supplementation and colorectal cancer in women. N Engl J Med 2006;354:752-4.
3. Garland C F et al. The role of vitamin D in cancer prevention. Am J Publ Health 2006;96:9-18.

Vitamin D Prevents Cancer

December 30, 2005

A new and much discussed analysis, has shown that nearly every other cancer case can be prevented by D vitamin, if everyone is getting the suffient dosage, which almost no one is.

It has now been proven that the frequency of cancer can be reduced dramatically by increasing the population’s vitamin D intake.

This is the claim of the American researcher Cedric Garland, who is a professor of epidemiology at the University of Southern California, San Diego. He is behind the largest analysis of vitamin D research and cancer to date. 63 studies from 1962-2004 were analysed.

As a whole they strongly indicate that if the population’s intake of vitamin D is set up to 1,000 units per day, the frequency of colon cancer would be halved while the number of breast cancers and ovarian cancers would be reduced by a third. The 1,000 units of vitamin D (25 micrograms) would be, with certainty, without side effects. This is the same as five times the normally recommended dose, which only few receive.

Garland, who has studied vitamin D for 25 years, is very certain of his results. In a statement given to the BBC and The Independent he declared that there is now such an overwhelming amount of indications from the best observational studies, that governmental action is warranted.

It is worth noticing that these internationally respected media concerns both came with detailed reports, which also were followed by a leading editorial in The Independent. The study itself was published in the February 2006 issue of the American Journal of Public Health. The results were also published beforehand online in an extensive statement on the university’s (UCSD) official homepage.

Garlands interest for vitamin D was awakened when he noticed in the 1980’s that the risk of colon cancer and breast cancer in the northern United States was double that of the risk in the Southern states. He and others started a 12 year study, which lead to a hypothesis that the reason behind this phenomenon is sunlight’s ability to create vitamin D in the skin. This theory has subsequently been tested in many ways. It also fits with the increased cancer frequency in cities, when air pollution containing sulphur dioxide blocks the vitamin D producing short ultraviolet solar radiation.

This also fits with the diet and cancer studies on workers in Chicago and with the low frequency of breast cancer in Japan, where though there is little sunlight, the diet is largely fish based. Fatty fish are just about the only regular source of vitamin D outside of the summer months in Japan, Chicago, and Northern Europe. Additionally, the theory fits well with the fact that the many people, who for genetic reasons utilize vitamin D poorly, are strongly overrepresented among those who suffer cancers of the colon, breast, prostate, and more.

More and more indications
The faithful subscribers to this newsletter may remember our accounts of the studies of the last year which have shown that women with low vitamin D status have much more frequently lumps in their breasts than others. This is a relationship which fits with a higher risk of cancer.

They may also remember that an American (as well as a large Norwegian) study showed that the possibility of beating many cancer forms is best when the cancer is found during the summer, when vitamin D status is highest.

This indicates that the vitamin not only prevents cancer, but also inhibits cancer growth. Concordantly with Garland’s claim, African Americans have a lower chance of recovery form breast cancer than Anglo Saxon individuals. This may be due to a reduced vitamin D status brought on by the reduced ability to absorb vitamin D which comes with dark skin colour.

These results and others are strengthen by animal studies where it has been proven that vitamin D promotes cell death in abnormal cells in the process called apoptosis and has a general dampening effect on cell growth. This last principle is utilized by psoriasis salves, which contain a vitamin D – like substance which inhibits the overwhelming growth and lack of cell maturation which characterises this skin disease.

The optimal daily vitamin D dose, especially during the winter months between October and May, is according to Garland about 1,000 units (or 25 micrograms) per day. This recommendation is based on a study from October 2005. The 1,000 units lead to a concentration of the vitamin D precursor 25-OH-vitamin D of about 80 nmol/l (nanomol per litre), which Garland found to lead to the lowest risk of colon cancer.

Much also indicates that Garland is correct that vitamin D supplements could save thousands of lives. If this is the case, than any media claim that we get superfluous vitamins is contrary to public health.

By: Vitality Council

References:
1. Garland CF et al. The Role of Vitamin D in Cancer Prevention. Am J Public Health. 2006;96(2):9-18. 2005 Dec 27; [Epub ahead of print].
2. Gorham ED et al. Vitamin D and prevention of colorectal cancer. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2005 Oct;97(1-2):179-94. Epub 2005 Oct 19.
3. Garland CF et al. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D and colon cancer: eight-year prospective study. Lancet. 1989 Nov 18;2(8673):1176-8.
4. Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor. Revealed: the pill that prevents cancer. The Independent 28.12.05.

New Theory on the origin of the flu

November 15, 2005

A recent theory claims that one does not catch the flu from contagious people, but by the activation of a dormant virus activated by vitamin D deficiency.

Serious medical journals do not often engage themselves with what private individuals think. In the latest issue of “The British Medical Journal” an exception is made on the journal’s last page, which is written regularly by the pretty named but anonymous female doctor, “Minerva.” Minerva has given her readers interesting scientific news, great and small, every week for decades.

This time she has pointed out a “blog” (an internet forum) with a gripping story on the virtues of vitamin D and why the flu sets in during the winter. She relates that the blog’s author is a member of “The vitamin D council,” a non-profit organisation which wishes to combat vitamin D deficiency.

Minerva recounts that he may be just another person who has hopped aboard the flu bandwagon. But could he possibly have found something important?

The blog is written by the Californian Dr. John Cannell. He explains, including many citations, first and foremost his theory about how the flu arises. The theory states that the flu is not so much the result of contagion, but more the activation of a dormant virus which we already have in our bodies. This virus can be activated and cause the flu when we are weakened by vitamin D deficiency during the winter. It is similar to the mechanisms behind cold sores, where the virus is dormant but can be activated causing a break out.

Does this sound like nonsense? In 2003, a department in the United State’s Center for Disease Control (CDC) disclosed that they had been unable to find any English language documentation for the flu being able to be infectious from person to person.

The recently dead epidemiologist, Edward Hope-Simpson discovered that when the elderly get shingles, it is caused by the same virus which causes chickenpox as a child. It becomes dormant in the body but can cause shingles when one is weakened by age.

Hope-Simpson became interested in the well known, but quite strange, fact that the flu only arises when the sun weakens during the winter. In the tropics, one gets the flu during the rainy season. He found that influenza outbreaks with exactly the same virus occurred year after year at almost exactly the same time in two far separated places, Prague and his English home town, Cirencester. With the help of old church records he found that, despite our faster daily lives, flu epidemics arise at the same time of year as they have for the last 400 years. This is true even in isolated towns; in such places the flu comes at the same time as in big cities.

Therefore, Hope-Simpson believed that flu epidemics are not cause by infection, but by a weakened state caused by the absence of sunlight. Canning now adds that vitamin D has a meaningful effect on the immune system and that the Japanese, as far back as 1945, found that it can protect rats against the flu. The well known vitamin D deficiency during the winter could be the reason for the weakened state that Hope-Simpson postulated.

Canning proposes that we should stock up on capsules of 50,000 units vitamin D in the event of a bird flu pandemic. He does not know if this will do any good, but says that it might save your life.

In any event, as Minerva also believes, his blog (as Minerva also believes) gives us something to think about.

By: Vitality Council

References:
1. www.knowledgeofhealth.com/report.asp?story=Why%20Flu%20Epidemics%20Occur%20in%20Winter
2. Minerva. British Medical Journal 2005;331:1152.

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