Monday Musings: Vitamin D, Toxic Strawberries, New PUFAs Coming Soon

A quick look at Google Trends shows a clear, undeniable trend: that of regular folks armed with curiosity, questions, and Internet connections taking their health into their own hands and searching for information on “vitamin D.” Search traffic for the keywords is at an all-time high, having steadily increased for years. But just as people are discovering importance of getting enough vitamin D, either through sunshine or supplementation, out comes the official paltry new vitamin D guidelines.

As far as I’m concerned, vitamin D deficiency is one the biggest health issues in this country. I’ve written extensively on the topic here, here, here and here. I’ll continue to get sunlight when it’s available and supplement when it’s not. And I’m sure my fellow paleo bloggers will do the same. (As mentioned yesterday, Dr. Davis does a good job explaining exactly how paltry the new recommendations are.) This is a perfect example of why we distance ourselves from CW. What do you say? Has the latest report changed how you view vitamin D?

Next on the musings list, California strawberry lovers may want to consider – if they haven’t already – sourcing organic, local, or homegrown berries from now on. State regulators just approved the usage of methyl iodide, a potent pesticide, in place of methyl bromide, which wasn’t too shabby in the first place. Methyl iodide is applied directly to the soil, and it’s water-soluble, meaning there’s a darn good chance it makes its way into the water table where it can be enjoyed by everyone. There’s also the fact that it contains an iodine atom, which, as you know, is the mineral our thyroid glands use for production of thyroid hormone. After the Chernobyl disaster, area thyroid glands took up highly toxic radio-iodide because it looked an awful lot like normal, awesome iodine, and the result was widespread incidence of thyroid cancer. Now, methyl iodide isn’t as toxic as radio-iodide, but, as this paper (PDF) comparing the toxicities of methyl iodide and methyl bromide to each other shows, all of methyl iodide’s toxic effects happen via the thyroid.

Last, for those of you who yearn for the soothing, nourishing taste of vegetable oil but fear its oxidative potential, scientists at UCLA have just devised a method for stabilizing PUFAs. Replacing the fragile, defenseless hydrogen atoms with deuterium (an isotope of hydrogen with an extra neutron) atoms seems to remove the oxidative potential of the polyunsaturated fatty acids while preserving their function in the body. Hmm. Even if I trusted their claim that these new fats would act just like normal PUFAs, only without the oxidation, I’d still pass. Heck, the main problem is that we get too much total omega-6 in our diets, oxidized or deuterium-stabilized. No thanks.

Should we change our stance of vitamin D? Does methyl iodide warrant planting your own strawberries? Are you going to start whipping up batches of deuterium-enhanced mayo? Let me know in the comment board and Grok on!

TAGS:  toxins

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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44 thoughts on “Monday Musings: Vitamin D, Toxic Strawberries, New PUFAs Coming Soon”

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  1. I am not going to change my Vitamin D intake at all. This is my life we are talking about after all, and I don’t feel like gambling it on CW.

  2. Dang, PUFA? More like PUKA. Strawberries that are like painted cardboard balls, and vitamin D levels. It is enough to make one shake their heads.
    I tried my hand growing strawberries this year, and as far as I know, they were good. (See, the birds got to them before I could. LOL)
    I think that being it is December, we should perhaps leave the strawberries by the stand where they belong. We don’t need to eat the pesticides sprayed on them for wanting them out of season. Preserves, anyone ever hear of them?

  3. I’ve read it is possible to get your yearly amount of Vit D from decent sun exposure during the summer. Anyone else heard anything like that?

    Also, I’ve read that if you get excess Vit D from the sun your body just breaks it down, so it is impossible to overdose purely from the sun.

    So get you some sun!

    1. The body does store vitamin D in a stable form. With enough supply in the summer the store lasts several weeks, but as far as I know it’s not enough for 3-4 months of almost no sun.

    2. Yes, that sort of advice is exactly how we got where we are now with vitamin D. Because I don’t believe for one minute that people are as good about applying sunscreen as they say they are. I know I never was. Even when I managed to get it on my skin I would almost never reapply.

      There’s a reason people in far northern latitudes adopted fish as a dietary staple. Look at the charts for foods with appreciable vitamin D content and you’ll see sockeye salmon near the top of the list.

      I’m waiting for them to figure out vitamin A’s also shorted in the American diet. That dude from the Vitamin D Council claims ’tis not so but the more I read about people’s beta-carotene conversion ability vis-à-vis the most common birth defects in the developed world (urinary tract, the development of which is mediated by vitamin A–and heart defects are up there too, heart development also mediated by vitamin A), the more I’m convinced he’s full of it. But then he buys into the same tired CW that beta carotene and retinol/retinoic acid are exactly the same thing.

  4. I was taking some extra vitamin D in the form of supplements, but I think I supplemented a bit too much, because I got terrible headaches, which are not at all usual for me.

    Now I just rely on sunshine. I love my naked sunbathing sessions! My dog likes to sunbathe with me.

  5. The same day their report was released I read this study:

    “Vitamin D for cancer prevention: global perspective”.

    RESULTS/CONCLUSIONS: It is projected that raising the minimum year-around serum 25(OH)D level to 40 to 60 ng/mL (100-150 nmol/L) would prevent approximately 58,000 new cases of breast cancer and 49,000 new cases of colorectal cancer each year, and three fourths of deaths from these diseases in the United States and Canada, based on observational studies combined with a randomized trial. Such intakes also are expected to reduce case-fatality rates of patients who have breast, colorectal, or prostate cancer by half. There are no unreasonable risks from intake of 2000 IU per day of vitamin D(3), or from a population serum 25(OH)D level of 40 to 60 ng/mL. The time has arrived for nationally coordinated action to substantially increase intake of vitamin D and calcium.

  6. Hmm. I just misread…

    “I’ll continue to get sunlight when it’s available and supplement when it’s not. And I’m sure my fellow paleo bloggers”

    …as ” PALE bloggers” and it made perfect sense.

  7. Grok probably did not supplement vitamin D, but the talk about how it prevents cancer, which I think he was also less susceptible to than we are, has got my attention. Therefore, I’m supplementing vitamin D, 6,000 IU/day.

    Meanwhile, I’m also trying to cut way back on fructose, in an effort to lower my uric acid levels, hoping to not have to go on gout meds for the rest of my life.

  8. Given that everyone responds a bit differently to supplementation, it is probably a good idea to test your blood to see the amount of vitamin D circulating in your system. I have tested 3 times in the past year with value ranging from 22 ng/ml to 46 ng/ml. The lowest value was entering the winter having only taken about 2000 IU daily via fermented cod liver oil. The highest value was about 4 months later after adding 5000 IU per day.

  9. Vitamin D deficiency is a big issue here in upstate NY. I actually prescribe Vit D3 supplements to my weight loss clients I work with to help. It always makes them feel better – in fact, I rarely miss a day of my Vit D3 and sunlight (in the summer).

  10. Strawberries, how very timely, or rather how very not! I’ve been pondering this one the last month or so. I try to only buy food that comes from a certain radius from here and extend that to Spain and Italy for some fruit and vegetables with very short seasons here in northern Scotland. I always try to buy Scottish, then British first off.

    So, strawberries, how can they still be coming from Southern England (Kent) in December? Artifical light and heating? Or something more sinister – they still look varied and ‘natural’ and taste OK although not as sweet as during the summer months. Anyone else been pondering this one? I can understand Spanish and Italian fruits as even till the last few weeks their southern temperatures were still pretty good … but Kent, in late November, hardly a winter sun destination!

  11. It would probably been a good idea to mention that deuterium (hydrogen-2) is naturally present at about 2% of the level of hydrogen-1. It isn’t like this natural isotope is anything new to our bodies.

    That isn’t to say that consuming large amounts of deuterated lipids will definitely be harmless the long term. However, experiments using heavy water (water with hydrogen-1 replaced by hydrogen-2) haven’t shown any problems at reasonable doses, so I’d keep an open mind on the question.

    1. Gary Taubes talks in GCBC about an experiment done in the early 1900s with deuterium-tagging of food to see where it goes in the body. Fascinating stuff. I don’t think his experimental subjects, who were human beings, were any worse for wear afterward.

      (Was interested to learn that anything that can be changed into fatty acids is, and then immediately stored in the adipose tissue, before the body even uses it for fuel. In people with normal metabolisms the fatty acids are then released from the fat cells in between meals to provide energy. In fat people this release does not happen, or happens less often. The reason? Insulin.)

    2. “His” being the guy who ran the study, not Gary Taubes. Must! Watch! My antecedents!

  12. I suffer terribly from S.A.D. in the winters up here in the Pac NW, so Vit. D is critical for me in order to function. I take one 4,000 IU gel capsule daily. I would very much like to have my doctor monitor my levels, but being among the ranks of the uninsured and unemployed, I have to guess on things. Based on how my body feels, this seems like a good amount to keep me going in winter.

    As for strawberries, I grow my own anyway, so no worries there. 🙂

    1. Longtail,

      Realizing that finances will dictate your spending habits, you can test for Vit D yourself with a simple finger prick and drop of blood you can mail in or take to a local lab. I think it costs $50-60 to test, but it is an investment in your health and so might be worth it. Just search on line for testing centers. is doing a study and offers testing, for example. I would bet you are doing pretty well for yourself at 4000 IU daily, but some people are either too high or low on this dose, so it just depends on your comfort level with that.

    1. Yeah, until you’re stuck inside all winter because it’s snowing. Especially if you live north of South Carolina and aren’t getting enough UVB even on sunny days because the sun’s at the wrong angle relative to your geographical area.

  13. And then there’s this:

    Is there evidence that vitamin D can help reduce pancreatic cancer risk?

    There is conflicting evidence about vitamin D’s relationship to risk of pancreatic cancer. A study of more than 120,000 men and women from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study and the Nurses’ Health Study showed that participants with higher dietary intake of vitamin D had progressively lower risk of pancreatic cancer, compared with those who had the lowest intake (24). The estimates of vitamin D intake were based on detailed dietary information provided through questionnaires. Participants were followed for 16 years for the incidence of pancreatic cancer, and 365 cases were identified.

    In a study of men and women enrolled in the PLCO Screening Trial, no association between vitamin D level and pancreatic cancer risk was observed. The PLCO study examined vitamin D levels in blood from 184 individuals who were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer during nearly 12 years of follow-up and 368 matched cancer-free control subjects (25). In contrast, among Finnish male smokers participating in the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene (ATBC) Cancer Prevention Study (26), higher blood levels of vitamin D were associated with an increased risk of pancreatic cancer. More recently, in the NCI Cohort Consortium Vitamin D Pooling Project of Rarer Cancers (see Question 11), men and women with the highest blood vitamin D levels (greater than 100 nmol/L, or 40 ng/mL) had twice the pancreatic cancer risk of men and women whose blood vitamin D levels were in the normal range of 50-75 nmol/L (20-30 ng/mL).

  14. Chances are that if you’re not getting enough safe sun exposure and you’re deficient in Vitamin D AND you’re susceptible to SAD, Vitamin D will help you feel better. But it’s not a substitute for natural sunlight and resetting your body clock with bright light in the morning.

    Timing on the report last week was interesting. The day before it was released I wrote my first blog post recommending Vitamin D supplementation to my winter blues readers, based on a couple of sites Mark has referenced. Was feeling kinda stupid after the report was released until I read the links he offered today and the sane rebuttals.

    Thanks, Mark, for the healthy perspective and resistance.

    1. Again. You have to have the right kind of exposure to UVB rays for sunlight to be a good source of vitamin D. It’s not enough to say “just go out in the sun.” People do go out in the sun. Everybody says they use sunscreen. That’s a load of crap. There are some who do and always will, but most people are very slipshod and haphazard about it. The simple fact is most of the United States is too far north for optimum UVB exposure for almost half the year–longer if, say, you live in Alaska.

      There’s nothing wrong with eating foods rich in vitamin D if you’re that scared of supplements. (I mean “you” generally but if it also applies to you personally, there you go.) And if you decide supplements help after all, get them sourced from natural substances. I make sure mine’s sourced from fish liver oil.

  15. After nearly 100 years of killer trans-fats in hydrogenated oils, I’m leery of consuming another Franken-oil. I think I’ll stick with olive oil.

    1. But, not all Driscoll’s are organic. Be sure to check the label or you’ll get more than just berries.

  16. And in the Bad Science department…
    My daughters high school is participating in a vitamin D study sposored by a local doctor. It is double blind, placebo controlled. So far so good. Each volunteer will get their levels measured, then get the placebo or 1,000U a day, for one month. Yup, one month. Then they will answer a survey about if they got a cold, flu or otherwise got sick or not during that month.
    Gee, I wonder what that “study” will show?
    Being that D is fat soluble, and that it takes time to get the level up, it makes me wonder where that doctor went to med school. Glad she’s not my doctor.
    It almost makes me thing she’s trying to disprove the vitamin-D-prevents-colds-and-flu theory.
    I told my daugheter to participate just so she could get her level checked, since she already takes 2500U/day.

  17. My doc told me to take Vitamin D as I live in a very foggy place in Northern California, not a lot of sunlight here. I only take about 1000 IU a day.

    Toxic strawberries? probably won’t buy my own but will continue to buy organic.

  18. Does anyone know what other crops use methyl iodide? Is this just new to most agriculture or is everything else using it anyway and strawberries are just the newest contaminated by it?

    1. I know they were using methyl bromide on tomatoes, so it’s not much of a stretch to see them using methyl iodide on them as well, eventually.

      By the way, methyl bromide is bad for your thyroid too. Bromide’s in the halogen group on the periodic table, just like iodine is and the thyroid is known to be “confused” by halogen group elements that wind up in the diet. Fluoride’s another one that is taken up sometimes. Make sure you are getting enough natural iodine in your diet because it’s really hard to avoid the other halogens–they are in *everything* these days.

  19. Funny you mention pesticides on strawberries. Two years ago my physician told me that the amount of pesticides on strawberries is so high that it’s not worth eating them unless they’re organic. Good advice then, even better advice now!