Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
18 Oct

Don’t Let “D” Stand for Deficiency

Remember how we’re always going off about the importance of getting enough vitamin D in your life? How outdoor activity – and vitamin D producing sunlight – is important for any Primal Blueprinter? It seems some recent scientific research is again making this point for us.

Vitamin D and Parkinson’s

Cat Napping in Sun

Come to think of it, I’ve never heard of a cat with Parkinson’s…

Scientists already know that vitamin D is a basically benign, beneficial addition to anyone’s health regimen (you’ll see just how helpful some scientists think it can be in the next section). They also know that Parkinson’s disease most affects the substantia nigra, a part of the brain with incredibly high levels of vitamin D receptors. Following basic common (neurological) sense, that would suggest that vitamin D plays a major role in the function of the substantia nigra. Another, potentially logical step is to assume that vitamin D and Parkinson’s disease are therefore related. With that in mind, Emory University scientists took a look at vitamin D levels in both healthy elderly people and people afflicted with Parkinson’s disease. They discovered that a link between vitamin D deficiency and Parkinson’s disease definitely exists – it’s just that they’re not yet sure if low levels of vitamin D cause Parkinson’s, or if Parkinson’s causes low levels of vitamin D.

Correlation has been established – 55% of elderly Parkinson’s patients suffer from low levels of the crucial vitamin, as opposed to just 36% of healthy elderly people. And causation seems apparent, but it’s the classic “chicken or the egg” scenario. Scientists just aren’t sure which is the chicken, and which is the egg.

Obviously, further investigation is needed. The research team hopes to discover at which stage in the development of Parkinson’s does vitamin D deficiency occur, for one. And they also plan on looking into dietary supplementation as a treatment for Parkinson’s disease. If these avenues are pursued, we should have a pretty clear outlook on the link between Parkinson’s and vitamin D.

Supplementation

Child on Floor

This kid doesn’t have rickets. Coincidence? We think not.

It’s a damn good idea to take vitamin D. Don’t take our word for it, though; the American Academy of Pediatrics has just doubled their daily recommended dose of vitamin D to 400 IU. That may be the new recommended dosage for children (see: Pediatrics) rather than adults, but adults are people too, so it’s a good idea for everyone to get plenty of vitamin D. But what can vitamin D do for you, exactly (besides potentially help Parkinson’s patients)? Well – considering that vitamin D deficiencies have been shown to cause rickets, lethargy, growth failure, irritability, infant respiratory infections, and late life osteoporosis – quite a bit.

That’s not all, though. New research suggests that vitamin D may shore up our bodies’ first lines of defense and play a huge role in the prevention of autoimmune diseases. One scientist even calls vitamin D a “hormone” that “acts directly on cells to promote gene transcription.” According to him, no other vitamin wields such power and influence in our bodies.

Though we are skeptical of any recommendations that come from the American Academy of Pediatrics after their recent recommendation to give statins to children (seriously, read it and weep), we’re going to have to side with them on this one.

It’s Saturday, people! If the sun is shining, get out and bask in those healthy rays!

~Jetta Girl~, monagrrl Flickr Photos (CC)

Further Reading:

The Beginning of the End? – Statins for Children

Let the Sun Shine In

Sunscreen May Not Be Your Friend

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I know i always feel wonderful to be out when the sun is shining. It just makes you feel so much better! I love it when i take walks in the park and i see people taking their very small children for walks, and even some babies in strollers. It’s great to teach them that early in life that the sun is so good for you. My ShihTzu dog even enjoys playing outside in the sunshine, great for the dog,too!

    Donna wrote on October 18th, 2008
  2. My daily walk during lunch at work is only one extra hour in the sun but it work wonders for my mood! I also enjoy the extra sun I get when on my motorcycle rather than cramped in my car.

    Son of Grok wrote on October 18th, 2008
  3. O.K., I’m odd but I do not like the sun or heat. I feel my best in the winter.

    Anyone with hypothyroidism is probably deficient in vitamin D as well. It’s difficult to convert sunlight to vitamin D in these folks. Testing vitamin D 25(OH)is a good idea to know where you’re at.

    Crystal wrote on October 18th, 2008
  4. Interesting, well i definitely got my vitamin D quota today.

    Dr Dan wrote on October 19th, 2008
  5. I was skeptical when my physician husband insisted I test my Vitamin D level, after all, I take calcium with D supplements and am outside on a regular basis, walking rounds of golf, biking or skating, just about every day.

    My level, while not extremely low, warranted a therapeutic dose and then a more conscientious regimen of supplementation.

    I treat my slightly low thyroid level and B12 with sub lingual tablets.

    Vitamin D is being linked to so many things lately, it is beginning to sound like a “miracle.”
    Trust it or not, it certainly wouldn’t hurt at all to get with the program.

    My husband’s test results were that he is VERY deficient, so this is not gender specific.

    Pat wrote on October 19th, 2008
  6. Getting more sun is great, but let’s not overdue it. Don’t want a long line at the Dermatologists in years to come with cases of skin cancer. My in-laws were in that group – get lots of sun they always said, but they are paying for it now. I was never a sun worshiper – get a few minutes each day, but that’s about it. Doctors have always told me to watch out – blonde hair and blue eyes makes me a prime candidate for skin cancer.

    Joann wrote on October 19th, 2008
  7. I’ve had a basal cell skin cancer removed in my 30s (I think from too many polyunsaturated oils in my diet), but increasingly didn’t feel well in the years afterward when I scrupulously avoided the sun (also due to undiagnosed milk hypothyroidism). Now I try to get some sun, but in small, frequent doses, taking care not to burn or even tan much (I’ve never tanned well with Irish-German heritage).

    Most of the research on which geographical locations seems to focus on obviously sun-deficient winter regions, like Boston and the Pacific Northwest, Canada, and other locations relatively far from the equator. In Denmark, for instance, all babies are given Vit D3 drops, but my pediatrician chuckled and said it wasn’t necessary for babies in Southern California (yet it’s often cool on the coast and babies are often well covered in clothing and usually protected with sunshades, hats, or indoors. It is commonly assumed that sunnier warmer climates make Vit D deficiency nearly impossible. Not necessarily true.

    Even living the past 13 years in sunny Southern California and supplementing making an effort to get some prudent sun exposure plus taking D3 last year, my Vit D levels measured in the lower end of the reference range (40s), so I have raised my dose to 5,000 iU a day, which is still less than the potential of 10,000iU a day that a human is capable of making (so I’m not exceeding a physiological dose). I’ll test again in late winter to see how my dose is doing. Who knows how low my levels were without sun or added Vit D3?

    I know several other women my area of sunny So Cal who tested far lower than I did, with deficient levels one would expect in a Seattle climate, even though they thought they were covered with a low dose of D2 and consuming D2 fortified skimmed milk. Two are middle aged and work during the week indoors but spend a lot of their leisure time outdoors; one is very tanned. The third woman is much older and retired (and treated for hypothyroidism since early adulthood), but stays at home most of the time and indoors due to multiple health issues (and I’m sure she is careful to avoid sun exposure even in her garden). They’ll all need much larger doses of Vit D3 (not D2) to get their levels even into the reference range (30-100 ng/mL), let alone into the middle of the range. But I wonder if their doctors will adequately address their supplementation needs?

    I am even giving my son a D3 supplement now that he’s indoors most of the school days; 1000iU per 25 pounds is the Vitamin D councils recommendation for children. I’ll back off that dose come summer, when he’s outdoors a lot more.

    Anna wrote on October 19th, 2008
  8. Thanks for referencing current research on Vitamin D at Emory. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation to give statins to children is another giant mis-step in the history of medical practice. These are the same people who brought us Ritalin. LDLs are not the problem. People have high circulating LDL levels because they have too much fat in their diets. LDLs rise because of the need to cart around all those excess fatty acids. Saying LDLs are “bad cholesterol” [as all these docs do] is like shooting the messenger.

    Lowering dietary fat is the issue, not medication to modify the EFFECT of the problem. But in America no one wants to take personal responsibility for anything. Overweight kids need responsible parents and healthy lifestyles, not more meds.

    So ends the rant. :-)

    Total Lifetime Fitness wrote on October 20th, 2008
  9. TLF – You are in the wrong place if you think you’re going to find people backing your “Lowering dietary fat is the issue” claim. Read these:

    http://www.marksdailyapple.com/definitive-guide-to-the-primal-eating-plan/

    http://www.marksdailyapple.com/cholesterol/

    Jerry the Frog (of the Bull Variety) wrote on October 20th, 2008
  10. Jerry – No worries! As my buddy at Trader Joe’s says, “No fat, no fun!” Fat IS a critical part of normal daily nutrition. Of course all our cell membranes need fat for the cell’s lipid bilayer; axons need fat for their myelin sheaths, and brain cells need sphingomyelin. We wouldn’t get too far without fat. The problem is too much daily fat – that’s where the LDL issue arises. The question of how much – well, that’s individual. If your waistline is expanding, if your serum cholesterol is rising, you’ve got too much fat going on.

    Total Lifetime Fitness wrote on October 20th, 2008
  11. TLF said “The problem is too much daily fat – that’s where the LDL issue arises. The question of how much – well, that’s individual. If your waistline is expanding, if your serum cholesterol is rising, you’ve got too much fat going on.”

    That explanation doesn’t jive with my understanding of the biochemistry. Insulin must be high to store fat, so if the waistline is expanding, then too many carbs are being consumed an insulin is high (might be very high if there is insulin resistance). Dietary fat can be burned, used as structural material, or stored as fat (but insulin needs to be high to store it). Excess carbs (beyond what can be burned for energy) are converted to fatty acids in the liver and stored as fat (with the help of insulin). A low fat, high carb diet (especially if excess carb calories are consumed) is actually a high saturated fat diet once the liver’s work is done.

    Simply looking at LDL (which is too often not even measured by labs unless a more sophisticated test is used), but instead “calculated” with a formula using the other lipid values. Calculated LDL tells nothing about the number of LDL particles, nor their size and structure. Numerous small dense particles result from eating the SAD, or even a whole foods diet high in sugars and starches. This kind of LDL particle, being stickier and carrying more Lp(a) are associated with negative health outcomes (disease).

    Less numerous, but large and “fluffy” LDL particles result from diets low in sugars and starches (especially wheat) and low insulin levels; they’re not associated with disease. So one has to know what “kind” of LDL predominates in order to determine if a “high” LDL level is even an issue.

    HDL2 (considered protective) goes up in response to consumption of natural fats, especially saturated and monounsaturated fats, also exercise. Lots of PUFAs in the diet are not historically part of the human diet (only in recent generations) and are associated with negative health outcomes.

    Anna wrote on October 21st, 2008
  12. Now it’s winter I really need to make more of an effort to get outside on my lunch breaks. I walk to and from work but as it’s getting darker for longer I don’t think this is getting me sufficient exposure to the sun.

    Tom Parker - Free Fitness Tips wrote on October 21st, 2008
  13. Hi Joann, just wondering what kind of food did your inlaws eat? Perhaps their diet caused the skin “cancer”?! Thanks

    Terrilee wrote on December 6th, 2008
  14. Dear Mark,

    In light of my recent education on Vitamin D I have been making conscious efforts to increase my sunlight exposure, ideally around noon. I try to expose as much of my body as possible when in the sun in order to activate as much vitamin D peoducers as possible, but when I go out onto my front lawn in my American flag speedo, I get strange looks. Though my primal body is nothing to scoff at (I thought they might even enjoy the spectacle), the neighbors have made some slight complaints, saying that “other old people” live here and are more…let us say…reserved. So what do I do? I live in a quiet neighborhood, but the houses are quite close to each other so there’s really no place I could go with sunlight without being seen. Can they press charges? What am I to do?

    Sincerely,
    Nearly Naked in Newark

    Justin wrote on April 22nd, 2009

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