Forget the Goggles: Chlorophyll Eye Drops Give Night Vision


What the dragonfish discovered through evolution, the U.S. military wants to apply to the battlefield.

Seeing in the dark could soon be as easy as popping a pill or squeezing some drops into your eyes, thanks to some new science, an unusual deep-sea fish, and a plant pigment.

eyedropmedia

In the 1990s, marine biologist Ron Douglas of City University London discovered that, unlike other deep-sea fish, the dragonfish Malacosteus nigercan perceive red light. Douglas was surprised when he isolated the chemical responsible for absorbing red: It was chlorophyll. “That was weird,” he says. The fish had somehow co-opted chlorophyll, most likely from bacteria in their food, and turned it into a vision enhancer.

In 2004, Ilyas Washington, an ophthalmic scientist at Columbia University Medical Center, came across Douglas’s findings. Washington knew that the mechanisms involved in vision tend to be similar throughout the animal kingdom, so he wondered whether chlorophyll could also enhance the vision of other animals, including humans. His latest experiments in mice and rabbits suggest that administering chlorophyll to the eyes can double their ability to see in low light. The pigment absorbs hues of red light that are normally invisible in dim conditions. That information is then transmitted to the brain, allowing enhanced vision.

Washington is now developing ways to deliver chlorophyll to human eyes safely and easily, perhaps through drops. He believes that a night-vision drug would be most useful on the battlefield, so it is no surprise that the U.S. Department of Defense is funding his work. “The military would want this biological enhancement so they don’t have to carry nighttime goggles” during operations in the dark, he says.

Cancer Survivors Celebrate Their Cancerversary.


Cancer Survivors Celebrate Their Cancerversary

ANGIE WANG
December 6, 2013

The attendant walked into the hospital waiting room and called my name. I took a deep breath and hurried through the door. “I’m always surprised when my name is pronounced properly at a doctor’s office,” I said.

He chuckled. “You’ve been here before.”

“Yes,” I said. “Today are my five-year scans.”

“You’re a frequent flier!” he said. “Good luck.”

I lay on the bench and slowly slid into the doughnut-shaped machine. As I did, I noticed the ceiling. It was painted with a scene of sunlight peeking through some leafy branches.

For all the cruel randomness and vagaries of cancer, the disease, as a brand, is extremely consistent. There are the recognizable symbols: the bald head, the yellow wristband, the pink ribbon. There are the well-known treatments: chemotherapy, radiation. There are the familiar expressions: Stage IV, metastases, remission, cure. But of all these elements, perhaps none is more enduring than the metric of the five-year survival rate.

When I first learned that I had aggressive bone cancer in my left leg in 2008, I did what many patients do: I immediately searched out the five-year survival figures. I then did the grim calculation of how old my children would be at that time and whether I would outlive my parents. Over a brutal year of chemo, surgery and rehabilitation, I kept an indelible ticking clock in my head. Sometimes I wondered, “Why won’t the clock speed up?” Other times, “Why won’t it slow down?”

And as I slogged through subsequent years of scans — first every three months, then every four, then every six — and experienced what survivors call “scanxiety,” I imagined what the five-year benchmark would feel like. Like an actor practicing my Oscar acceptance speech, I even rehearsed exactly what I would do: break down in tears, give a party, buy plane tickets to Hawaii.

And yet, as I approached the milestone in recent weeks, I began to feel more ambivalence. What happened? Or, had I been wrong all along?

The concept of the five-year survival rate for cancer was introduced in the 1930s. Initially, the designation was used for blood cancers, which grow fast and were extremely lethal at the time, said Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee, a cancer specialist at Columbia University Medical Center and the author of “The Emperor of All Maladies,” which won a Pulitzer Prize. For those patients, reaching five years was considered something of a miracle. “The idea was you could define a time point where it would make sense to think about that cancer as being cured,” Dr. Mukherjee said. “From there it crept backward into all cancers.”

By the 1950s, five-year survival figures were becoming standard, and by the early 1970s the National Cancer Institute began releasing regular statistics for most forms of the disease. In the face of such authoritative endorsement, the public accepted these figures as meaningful.

But from the very beginning, many scientists were uneasy with grouping all forms of cancer under one metric of survival. “Five years is quite an arbitrary number,” said Julia Rowland, the director of the National Cancer Institute Office of Cancer Survivorship. “For some cancers, if you haven’t had a recurrence in two years, your rate of recurrence drops considerably. For others, like breast cancer, you can have a recurrence at any time.”

For these reasons (and more), Dr. Mukherjee called the five-year figures a “vestige of the past” and predicted that in the near future they would be replaced with more individualized benchmarks. “Just as it makes sense to personalize cancer therapy, it also makes sense to personalize what survival means to an individual patient,” he said. Until then, he considers the five-year survival figure an “instrument of convenience.” In his book he tells the moving story of delivering flowers to a patient when she reached the date. “I was responding to the iconography,” he said. “We mark birthdays, and if you’re a cancer physician you mark survival days.”

Patients, too, mark survival days. Almost everyone I know who’s been told they have the disease can tell you the date. But how to recognize that “cancerversary,” especially the five-year one, is a source of surprising unease. In conversations with nearly two dozen survivors, I found patients divided almost evenly between those who view their five-year “cancerversary” as a joyous occasion and celebrate with gusto, and those who view it as a more solemn day and acknowledge it with quiet gratitude and continued vigilance.

On the joyful side, one breast cancer survivor told me she held a “queen party” at which she decorated a cake in the shape of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation crown and wore a purple ball gown and crown of jewels. Another told me that on her “five-year celebration day,” her husband treated her to lobster tail and crab legs at Red Lobster.

A veteran of testicular cancer told me that when he hit five years, he felt invincible and started running across streets and dropping his surfboard into disproportionately huge waves. “Then I settled down a bit,” he said. “But I still cannot be killed.”

On the more subdued side, one breast cancer survivor who learned she had the disease in her early 30s told me that every year on her “cancerversary” she sends out “a sappy email to all the wonderful people in my life, thanking them for all they’ve done, and continue to do, to make my life so special.” When she hit five years, she asked her doctor what to think.

“Well, five is better than four,” he said, “but six will be even better.” She’s now at eight.

The parents of a boy who was found to have Stage IV neuroblastoma at age 4 told me that when they approached the five-year mark, they planned a party. “But when the time came, we just felt too superstitious about it,” the mother said. “Why tempt fate?” The boy reached the mark of eight and a half years this week, she said, and is healthy and happy.

As for me, when my oncologist announced that my scans were clean (I had reached five years with no sign of cancer), I did a small fist pump but was otherwise more stone-faced and sober than I had anticipated. I spent a few minutes grilling him about ongoing challenges, and he asked me to come back in a year for my next appointment. When I stepped outside, instead of sobbing uncontrollably as I had after previous scans (and instead of buying those tickets to Hawaii), I stood in silent awe at my good fortune. Unlike winning an Oscar, I had done little to earn this moment. I am among the lucky ones, at least for now: My biology had taken the chemistry. Like anyone in this situation, I have met many who never made it this far.

Four years ago, on the first anniversary of the diagnosis of my cancer, I saw my surgeon, John Healy, and asked what message he would give my daughters if I died. He said he would tell them what he has learned treating this disease for decades. “Everybody dies,” he said. “But not everybody lives. I want you to live.”

That has been my motto ever since: to live. If my cancer comes back, I want to have learned that lesson. If it doesn’t I want to have learned it, too. It’s the message I took from one year; I take it today from five years; and I hope to take every year that I slide back into the doughnut hole and look up at the sun peeking out through the leaves.

 

Human stem cells converted to functional lung cells.


For the first time, scientists have succeeded in transforming human stem cells into functional lung and airway cells. The advance, reported by Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) researchers, has significant potential for modeling lung disease, screening drugs, studying human lung development, and, ultimately, generating lung tissue for transplantation. The study was published today in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

“Researchers have had relative success in turning human stem cells into heart cells, pancreatic beta cells, intestinal cells, liver cells, and nerve cells, raising all sorts of possibilities for regenerative medicine,” said study leader Hans-Willem Snoeck, MD, PhD, professor of medicine (in microbiology & immunology) and affiliated with the Columbia Center for Translational Immunology and the Columbia Stem Cell Initiative. “Now, we are finally able to make lung and airway cells. This is important because lung transplants have a particularly poor prognosis. Although any clinical application is still many years away, we can begin thinking about making autologous lung transplants — that is, transplants that use a patient’s own skin cells to generate functional lung tissue.”

The research builds on Dr. Snoeck’s 2011 discovery of a set of chemical factors that can turn human embryonic stem (ES) cells or human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells into anterior foregut endoderm — precursors of lung and airway cells. (Human iPS cells closely resemble human ES cells but are generated from skin cells, by coaxing them into taking a developmental step backwards. Human iPS cells can then be stimulated to differentiate into specialized cells — offering researchers an alternative to human ES cells.)

In the current study, Dr. Snoeck and his colleagues found new factors that can complete the transformation of human ES or iPS cells into functional lung epithelial cells (cells that cover the lung surface). The resultant cells were found to express markers of at least six types of lung and airway epithelial cells, particularly markers of type 2 alveolar epithelial cells. Type 2 cells are important because they produce surfactant, a substance critical to maintain the lung alveoli, where gas exchange takes place; they also participate in repair of the lung after injury and damage.

The findings have implications for the study of a number of lung diseases, including idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), in which type 2 alveolar epithelial cells are thought to play a central role. “No one knows what causes the disease, and there’s no way to treat it,” says Dr. Snoeck. “Using this technology, researchers will finally be able to create laboratory models of IPF, study the disease at the molecular level, and screen drugs for possible treatments or cures.”

“In the longer term, we hope to use this technology to make an autologous lung graft,” Dr. Snoeck said. “This would entail taking a lung from a donor; removing all the lung cells, leaving only the lung scaffold; and seeding the scaffold with new lung cells derived from the patient. In this way, rejection problems could be avoided.” Dr. Snoeck is investigating this approach in collaboration with researchers in the Columbia University Department of Biomedical Engineering.

“I am excited about this collaboration with Hans Snoeck, integrating stem cell science with bioengineering in the search for new treatments for lung disease,” said Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, PhD, co-author of the paper and Mikati Foundation Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Columbia’s Engineering School and professor of medical sciences at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

 

Coronary Risk Varies by Breast-Cancer Radiotherapy Technique.


Estimated 20-year risk of “major coronary events” stemming from radiotherapy of early-stage breast cancer was highly dependent on whether therapy was delivered from the right or left side, with the patient in the supine or prone position, and especially on patient baseline cardiovascular risk status, in a small prospective study[1].

Left-sided radiotherapy in supine-positioned patients, especially those with high baseline risk status, posed the greatest risk in the analysis. Prone-positioned patients treated from the right side (the fields exclude the heart), especially those with low baseline risk, had the lowest estimated risk. The analysis from Dr David J Brenner(Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY) and colleagues is published online October 28, 2013 as a research letter in JAMA Internal Medicine.

In light of the pronounced effect of Reynolds-score baseline risk status on late coronary risk, the group proposes that “radiotherapy-induced risks of major coronary events [would] likely to be reduced in these patients by targeting baseline cardiac risk factors (cholesterol, smoking, hypertension), by lifestyle modification, and/or by pharmacological treatment.”

The group estimated risks related to radiation dosing by direction and body position based on a historical series of women receiving breast radiotherapy from 1958 to 2001. They prospectively applied those estimates to two radiotherapy treatment plans, based on the patient in supine and prone positions, devised for 48 women with stage 0 through IIA breast cancer.

Their findings:

  • Estimated mean cardiac radiation dose from the left side was 2.17 Gy with the patient in the supine position and 1.03 Gy for the patient in prone position.

  • With right-sided radiation, estimated doses were 0.62 Gy and 0.64 Gy for supine and prone positioning, respectively.

  • For treatment from the right or left side, the excess risk of coronary events (MI, coronary revascularization, death from ischemic heart disease) rose with rising baseline CV risk.

  • For treatment from the left side, prone vs supine positioning consistently lowered coronary risk, regardless of baseline risk.

  • For treatment from the right side, the excess coronary risk was similar for supine and prone positioning at each baseline-risk level.

  • Differences in radiotherapy side and body position most influenced coronary risk among patients with a high baseline risk.

Estimated Patient-Averaged Lifetime Excess Coronary Risk (95% CI) Associated with Contemporary Breast Cancer Radiotherapy, by Baseline CV Risk

Radiation delivery, body position Low baseline CV risk High baseline CV risk
Left side, supine 0.22 (0.08–0.36) 3.52 (1.47–5.85)
Left side, prone 0.09 (0.05–0.13) 1.31 (0.86–1.86)
Right side, supine 0.05 (0.03–0.07) 0.79 (0.57–1.06)
Right side, prone 0.06 (0.03–0.08) 0.84 (0.57–1.18)

*Coronary risk=20-year risk of MI, coronary revascularization, or death from ischemic heart disease

“In breast-cancer radiotherapy today, there is considerable variability in the dose received by the heart and in the extent of preexisting risk of ischemic heart disease. Thus, there is likely to be considerable variability in the cardiac risks of radiotherapy,” write Drs Carolyn Taylor and Sarah C Darby (University of Oxford, UK) in an accompanying commentary[2]. It was their group’s analysis of historical data on which the current dosing-risk estimates were based.

“Our dose-response relationship can be used to provide reassurance for the majority of women that their absolute risk of ischemic heart disease from breast-cancer radiotherapy is likely to be small compared with the likely absolute benefit from radiotherapy. It can also be used to identify the minority of women for whom the benefits of radiotherapy do not clearly outweigh the risks, including those for whom adequate coverage of the target tissue cannot be achieved without a high heart dose.”

Surprise! Vitamin D Can Help or Hinder Your Weight Management.


Vitamin D, once thought to influence little more than bone diseases such as rickets and osteoporosis, is now recognized as a major player in overall human health. Most recently, new studies suggest that your vitamin D status can even help or hinder your weight management, which I’ll review below.

It’s a tragedy that dermatologists and sunscreen manufacturers have done such a thorough job of scaring people out of the sun. Their widely dispersed message to avoid the sun as much as possible, combined with an overall cultural trend of spending more time indoors during work and leisure time has greatly contributed to the widespread vitamin D deficiency seen today.

Vitamin D is actually not a vitamin at all but a potent neuroregulatory steroidal hormone, shown to influence about 10 percent of all the genes in your body. We now know this is one of the primary reasons it can impact such a wide variety of diseases, including:

Cancer Hypertension Heart disease
Autism Obesity Rheumatoid arthritis
Diabetes 1 and 2 Multiple Sclerosis Crohn’s disease
Flu Colds Tuberculosis
Septicemia Aging Psoriasis
Eczema Insomnia Hearing lossex
Muscle pain Cavities Periodontal disease
Athletic performance Macular degeneration Myopia
Pre eclampsia Seizures Fertility
Asthma Cystic fibrosis Migraines
Depression Alzheimer’s disease Schizophrenia

Vitamin D Deficiency Contributes to Weight Gain in Older Women

A new study of more than 4,600 women age 65 and older shows that having low vitamin D levels can contribute to mild weight gain1. Previous research has already showed that obese individuals tend to have low vitamin D levels. Women who had insufficient levels of vitamin D gained about two pounds more compared to those with adequate blood levels of vitamin D during the 4.5-year long study. Those with insufficient levels also weighed more at the outset of the study.

According to Medicine.net2:

“The study can’t say whether low vitamin D is causing the weight gain or just reflecting it.”The study is the first step that we need to evaluate whether vitamin D might be contributing to weight gain,” [lead researcher Erin] LeBlanc says. But there are some theoretical ways that low vitamin D could contribute to weight gain, she says. Fat cells do have vitamin D receptors. “Vitamin D could affect where fat cells shrink or get bigger.”

Here, vitamin D levels above 30 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) were considered “sufficient.” As I’ve previously reported, based on the latest vitamin D research this is still far below optimal, so it’s difficult to say what the outcome might be if you were to actually optimize your levels by getting your blood level above 50 ng/ml. Still, despite this low “sufficient” level, 80 percent of the women in the study were found to have insufficient levels, meaning below 30 ng/ml. This gives you an idea of just how widespread this problem really is.

Vitamin D Deficiency Common among Adolescents Evaluated for Weight Loss Surgery

A second study found that more than half of obese adolescents seeking weight loss surgery are deficient in vitamin D. Eight percent were found to have severe deficiencies, and teens with the highest BMIs were the most likely to be vitamin D deficient. Less than 20 percent had adequate vitamin D levels. The research correlates with previous studies showing vitamin D deficiency in adults seeking bariatric surgery. (The results were presented at The Endocrine Society‘s 94th Annual Meeting in Houston on June 26.)

According to Science Daily3:

“This is particularly important prior to bariatric surgery where weight loss and decreased calcium and vitamin D absorption in some procedures may place these patients at further risk,” said study lead author Marisa Censani, M.D., pediatric-endocrinology fellow at Columbia University Medical Center, in New York City.

… “These results support screening all morbidly obese adolescents for vitamin D deficiency, and treating those who are deficient, particularly prior to bariatric procedures that could place these patients at further risk,” Censani said.”

In the US, bariatric weight-loss surgery, such as gastric bypass surgery, is becoming increasingly common among all age groups, including children. Gastric-bypass surgery involves surgically removing a section of your stomach, which limits the amount of food it can hold. However, this procedure is fraught with risks, and maintaining proper nutrition post-surgery is a common challenge that can result in malabsorption syndromes. It’s important to remember that vitamin D, as well as vitamin A, E, and K are fat-soluble, and need a certain amount of healthy fat to be absorbed properly.

What is the OPTIMAL Level of Vitamin D?

The ideal way to optimize your vitamin D levels is through adequate, safe sun exposure or using a safe tanning bed. However, whether you’re tanning or using a vitamin D supplement, it’s important to get your vitamin D levels tested to ensure you’re within the optimal range of 50-70 ng/ml. For more information about proper sun exposure and how to determine whether you can actually get enough vitamin D from the sun at your location during different times of year, please see this previous article.As mentioned earlier, the “normal” 25-hydroxyvitamin D lab values are typically between 20-56 ng/ml. “Sufficient” levels are often considered to be around 30 ng/ml, as in the studies above.

However, this range is too broad to be ideal, and too low to support optimal health.

Beware that any level below 20 ng/ml is considered a serious deficiency state, increasing your risk of as many as 16 different cancers and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. The OPTIMAL value that you’re looking for is 50-70 ng/ml. Keeping your level in this range, and even erring toward the higher numbers in this range, is going to give you the most protective benefit.

But how do you get within that range?

While vitamin D experts typically recommend 35 IU’s of vitamin D per pound of body weight, it’s important to understand that there’s no one dosage recommendation that will be applicable for everyone. The only way to determine how much vitamin D you really need is to get your levels tested at regular intervals to make sure you’re staying within the optimal range of 50-70 ng/ml, and adjust your dosage accordingly. If you’re supplementing, you may find that you don’t need to supplement during the summer, if you’re getting sufficient amounts of sun exposure, for example. But you won’t know if you don’t get your levels tested.

What is the OPTIMAL Way to Obtain Vitamin D?

There is simply no question in my mind that you were designed to receive your vitamin D from ultraviolet B exposure on your exposed skin and ideally this should come from the sun. For virtually the entire history of the human race this is how vitamin D was obtained.  Although vitamin D is in some animal foods it is in relatively low quantities and to my knowledge there are no known ancestral populations that thrived on oral vitamin D sources. Although we can absorb vitamin D orally because it is a fat soluble vitamin, there is strong emerging research that suggests this lacks many of the benefits of vitamin D.

The majority of the research documenting the benefits of optimized vitamin D levels was done with those that had not taken oral vitamin D but had increased their levels naturally through exposure to the sun. I personally have not taken any oral vitamin D for over two years and have been able to consistently keep my levels over 60 ng/ml.   This is partly related to the fact that I work in a sub-tropical environment in the winter.

If I could not do that there is no question that I would still not use oral vitamin D but would use a high quality safe tanning bed that used electronic ballasts that did not emit any dangerous EMF.

How to Know if You’re Getting Vitamin D from Your Sun Exposure

The caveat here is that not all sun exposure will allow for vitamin D production. The key point to understand is that sunlight is composed of about 1500 wavelengths, but the only wavelength that makes your body produce vitamin D are UVB-rays, when they hit exposed skin. The UVB-rays from the sun must pass through the atmosphere and reach where you are on the earth in order for this to take place. This obviously does not occur in the winter for most of us, but the sun’s rays are also impeded during a fair amount of the year for people living in temperate climates.

So how do you know if you have entered into the summer season and into the time of year, for your location, where enough UVB is actually able to penetrate the atmosphere to allow for vitamin D production in your skin?

Due to the physics and wavelength of UVB rays, they will only penetrate the atmosphere when the sun is above an angle of about 50° from the horizon. When the sun is lower than 50°, the ozone layer reflects the UVB-rays but let through the longer UVA-rays.

So the first step is to determine the latitude and longitude of your location. You can easily do this on Google Earth, or if you are in the U.S. you can use the TravelMath Latitude Longitude Calculator to find your latitude and longitude. Once you have obtained that you can go to the U.S. Navy site to calculate a table to determine the times and days of the year that the sun is above 50 degrees from the horizon.

Translated to the date and time of some places on the globe, it means for example: In my hometown of Chicago, the UVB rays are not potentially present until March 25, and by September 16th it is not possible to produce any vitamin D from the sun in Chicago. Please understand it is only theoretically possible to get UVB rays during those times. If it happens to be cloudy or raining, the clouds will also block the UVB rays.

Even Easier if You Have Apple System

Alternatively, if you have an iPhone or iPad you can download a free app called D Minder, which will make all the calculations for you. It was made by an Apple developer who was motivated to simplify the process after he watched the video above.

From a health perspective it doesn’t make much sense to expose your skin to the sun when it is lower than 50 degrees above the horizon because you will not receive any valuable UVB rays, but you will expose yourself to the more dangerous and potentially deadly UVA rays. UVA’s have a longer wavelength than UVB and can more easily penetrate the ozone layer and other obstacles (like clouds and pollution) on their way from the sun to the earth. UVA is what radically increases your risk of skin cancer and photoaging of your skin. So while it will give you a tan, unless the companion UVB rays are available you’re likely doing more harm than good and should probably stay out of the sun to protect your skin.

During the times of the year when UVB rays are not present where you live you essentially have two options: You can use a safe tanning bed or you can swallow oral vitamin D3.

During the summer months, you can generally get enough vitamin D from just spending some time outside every day. Under optimal environmental exposures your body can produce about 20,000 IU of vitamin D per day with full body exposure, about 5,000 IU with 50 percent of your body exposed, and as much as 1,000 IU with just 10 percent of your body exposed.

In the winter months however, and/or times of the year when insufficient amounts of UVB rays reach your location, you will most likely not get enough vitamin D. In that case, I recommend using a safe tanning bed, which is still better than oral vitamin D.

One of the caveats here is to make sure you’re not being exposed to harmful EMF exposure. Most tanning equipment, and nearly all of the early beds from which these studies were conducted, use magnetic ballasts to generate light. These magnetic ballasts are well known sources of EMF fields that can contribute to cancer. If you hear a loud buzzing noise while in a tanning bed, it has a magnetic ballast system. I strongly recommend you avoid these types of beds and restrict your use of tanning beds to those that use electronic ballasts.

Warning: Newer Vitamin D Tests Often Inaccurate, Study Finds

Doctors are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of vitamin D,According to Medscape, vitamin D testing has increased six- to 10-fold over the last decade, and has become one of the most frequently ordered lab tests. However, it’s important to know that there can be significant differences between available vitamin D tests, and according to a recent study, two newer tests appear to be inaccurate more than 40 percent of the time.

The findings are still preliminary and have not yet been peer-reviewed. The study was presented at the annual meeting of The Endocrine Society in Houston on June 23-264. According to Medscape.com5:

“Researchers say newer tests tend to overestimate the number of people who are deficient in vitamin D… The new tests, made by Abbott and Siemens, were approved by the FDA last fall. They’re part of a wave of faster, less expensive tests designed to help laboratories keep up with a boom in demand for vitamin D testing… Holmes and his team wanted to see how well the new tests performed compared to an older, more expensive, and more time-consuming reference method… They ran blood samples from 163 patients on all three tests.

The Abbott Architect test was outside an acceptable margin of error — meaning that the results were either 25% too high or too low, about 40% of the time.

The Siemens Centaur2 test was either too high or too low in 48% of samples.

… The new tests use blood proteins called antibodies that bind to vitamin D. They’re faster because they look for vitamin D in samples of whole blood. In the older, reference method, vitamin D is separated from the blood and measured. The older test can also measure two different forms of vitamin D: Vitamin D2… found in fortified foods and… high-potency supplements that doctors prescribe… and Vitamin D3, the form of the vitamin that the body makes naturally after skin is exposed to sunlight.

The newer test can’t distinguish between the two different types of D.

Holmes says vitamin D2 seems to confuse the tests. He says the tests’ inability to accurately measure that form of the vitamin means that doctors can’t tell if their patients are getting any benefit from it or if they’re taking their supplements as directed.

… In absolute numbers, the reference test showed 33 patients out of 163 were deficient in vitamin D, while the Abbott test showed 45 people were vitamin D deficient, and the Siemens test pointed to deficiency in 71 patients.” [Emphasis mine]

Your Best Bet for Regular Testing: Sign Up with the D*Action Project

To avoid such testing problems and help you get on an inexpensive, regular testing schedule, I highly recommend joining the GrassrootsHealth D*Action Project6; a worldwide public health campaign aiming to solve the vitamin D deficiency epidemic through focus on testing, education, and grassroots word of mouth. When you join D*action, you agree to test your vitamin D levels twice a year during a 5 year program, and to share your health status to demonstrate the public health impact of this nutrient.

There is a $60 fee each 6 months for your sponsorship of the project, which includes a complete new test kit to be used at home (except in the state of New York), and electronic reports on your ongoing progress. When you finish the questionnaire, you can choose your subscription option. You will get a follow up email every 6 months reminding you “it’s time for your next test and health survey.”

This is probably one of the least expensive and most convenient ways to take control of your health. To join now, please follow this link to the D*Action sign-up.

Source: Dr. Mercola

 

Surprise! Vitamin D Can Help or Hinder Your Weight Management.


Vitamin D, once thought to influence little more than bone diseases such as rickets and osteoporosis, is now recognized as a major player in overall human health. Most recently, new studies suggest that your vitamin D status can even help or hinder your weight management, which I’ll review below.

It’s a tragedy that dermatologists and sunscreen manufacturers have done such a thorough job of scaring people out of the sun. Their widely dispersed message to avoid the sun as much as possible, combined with an overall cultural trend of spending more time indoors during work and leisure time has greatly contributed to the widespread vitamin D deficiency seen today.

Vitamin D is actually not a vitamin at all but a potent neuroregulatory steroidal hormone, shown to influence about 10 percent of all the genes in your body. We now know this is one of the primary reasons it can impact such a wide variety of diseases, including:

Cancer Hypertension Heart disease
Autism Obesity Rheumatoid arthritis
Diabetes 1 and 2 Multiple Sclerosis Crohn’s disease
Flu Colds Tuberculosis
Septicemia Aging Psoriasis
Eczema Insomnia Hearing lossex
Muscle pain Cavities Periodontal disease
Athletic performance Macular degeneration Myopia
Pre eclampsia Seizures Fertility
Asthma Cystic fibrosis Migraines
Depression Alzheimer’s disease Schizophrenia

Vitamin D Deficiency Contributes to Weight Gain in Older Women

A new study of more than 4,600 women age 65 and older shows that having low vitamin D levels can contribute to mild weight gain1. Previous research has already showed that obese individuals tend to have low vitamin D levels. Women who had insufficient levels of vitamin D gained about two pounds more compared to those with adequate blood levels of vitamin D during the 4.5-year long study. Those with insufficient levels also weighed more at the outset of the study.

According to Medicine.net2:

“The study can’t say whether low vitamin D is causing the weight gain or just reflecting it.”The study is the first step that we need to evaluate whether vitamin D might be contributing to weight gain,” [lead researcher Erin] LeBlanc says. But there are some theoretical ways that low vitamin D could contribute to weight gain, she says. Fat cells do have vitamin D receptors. “Vitamin D could affect where fat cells shrink or get bigger.”

Here, vitamin D levels above 30 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) were considered “sufficient.” As I’ve previously reported, based on the latest vitamin D research this is still far below optimal, so it’s difficult to say what the outcome might be if you were to actually optimize your levels by getting your blood level above 50 ng/ml. Still, despite this low “sufficient” level, 80 percent of the women in the study were found to have insufficient levels, meaning below 30 ng/ml. This gives you an idea of just how widespread this problem really is.

Vitamin D Deficiency Common among Adolescents Evaluated for Weight Loss Surgery

A second study found that more than half of obese adolescents seeking weight loss surgery are deficient in vitamin D. Eight percent were found to have severe deficiencies, and teens with the highest BMIs were the most likely to be vitamin D deficient. Less than 20 percent had adequate vitamin D levels. The research correlates with previous studies showing vitamin D deficiency in adults seeking bariatric surgery. (The results were presented at The Endocrine Society‘s 94th Annual Meeting in Houston on June 26.)

According to Science Daily3:

“This is particularly important prior to bariatric surgery where weight loss and decreased calcium and vitamin D absorption in some procedures may place these patients at further risk,” said study lead author Marisa Censani, M.D., pediatric-endocrinology fellow at Columbia University Medical Center, in New York City.

… “These results support screening all morbidly obese adolescents for vitamin D deficiency, and treating those who are deficient, particularly prior to bariatric procedures that could place these patients at further risk,” Censani said.”

In the US, bariatric weight-loss surgery, such as gastric bypass surgery, is becoming increasingly common among all age groups, including children. Gastric-bypass surgery involves surgically removing a section of your stomach, which limits the amount of food it can hold. However, this procedure is fraught with risks, and maintaining proper nutrition post-surgery is a common challenge that can result in malabsorption syndromes. It’s important to remember that vitamin D, as well as vitamin A, E, and K are fat-soluble, and need a certain amount of healthy fat to be absorbed properly.

What is the OPTIMAL Level of Vitamin D?

The ideal way to optimize your vitamin D levels is through adequate, safe sun exposure or using a safe tanning bed. However, whether you’re tanning or using a vitamin D supplement, it’s important to get your vitamin D levels tested to ensure you’re within the optimal range of 50-70 ng/ml. For more information about proper sun exposure and how to determine whether you can actually get enough vitamin D from the sun at your location during different times of year, please see this previous article.As mentioned earlier, the “normal” 25-hydroxyvitamin D lab values are typically between 20-56 ng/ml. “Sufficient” levels are often considered to be around 30 ng/ml, as in the studies above.

However, this range is too broad to be ideal, and too low to support optimal health.

Beware that any level below 20 ng/ml is considered a serious deficiency state, increasing your risk of as many as 16 different cancers and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. The OPTIMAL value that you’re looking for is 50-70 ng/ml. Keeping your level in this range, and even erring toward the higher numbers in this range, is going to give you the most protective benefit.

But how do you get within that range?

While vitamin D experts typically recommend 35 IU’s of vitamin D per pound of body weight, it’s important to understand that there’s no one dosage recommendation that will be applicable for everyone. The only way to determine how much vitamin D you really need is to get your levels tested at regular intervals to make sure you’re staying within the optimal range of 50-70 ng/ml, and adjust your dosage accordingly. If you’re supplementing, you may find that you don’t need to supplement during the summer, if you’re getting sufficient amounts of sun exposure, for example. But you won’t know if you don’t get your levels tested.

What is the OPTIMAL Way to Obtain Vitamin D?

There is simply no question in my mind that you were designed to receive your vitamin D from ultraviolet B exposure on your exposed skin and ideally this should come from the sun. For virtually the entire history of the human race this is how vitamin D was obtained.  Although vitamin D is in some animal foods it is in relatively low quantities and to my knowledge there are no known ancestral populations that thrived on oral vitamin D sources. Although we can absorb vitamin D orally because it is a fat soluble vitamin, there is strong emerging research that suggests this lacks many of the benefits of vitamin D.

The majority of the research documenting the benefits of optimized vitamin D levels was done with those that had not taken oral vitamin D but had increased their levels naturally through exposure to the sun. I personally have not taken any oral vitamin D for over two years and have been able to consistently keep my levels over 60 ng/ml.   This is partly related to the fact that I work in a sub-tropical environment in the winter.

If I could not do that there is no question that I would still not use oral vitamin D but would use a high quality safe tanning bed that used electronic ballasts that did not emit any dangerous EMF.

How to Know if You’re Getting Vitamin D from Your Sun Exposure

The caveat here is that not all sun exposure will allow for vitamin D production. The key point to understand is that sunlight is composed of about 1500 wavelengths, but the only wavelength that makes your body produce vitamin D are UVB-rays, when they hit exposed skin. The UVB-rays from the sun must pass through the atmosphere and reach where you are on the earth in order for this to take place. This obviously does not occur in the winter for most of us, but the sun’s rays are also impeded during a fair amount of the year for people living in temperate climates.

So how do you know if you have entered into the summer season and into the time of year, for your location, where enough UVB is actually able to penetrate the atmosphere to allow for vitamin D production in your skin?

Due to the physics and wavelength of UVB rays, they will only penetrate the atmosphere when the sun is above an angle of about 50° from the horizon. When the sun is lower than 50°, the ozone layer reflects the UVB-rays but let through the longer UVA-rays.

So the first step is to determine the latitude and longitude of your location. You can easily do this on Google Earth, or if you are in the U.S. you can use the TravelMath Latitude Longitude Calculator to find your latitude and longitude. Once you have obtained that you can go to the U.S. Navy site to calculate a table to determine the times and days of the year that the sun is above 50 degrees from the horizon.

Translated to the date and time of some places on the globe, it means for example: In my hometown of Chicago, the UVB rays are not potentially present until March 25, and by September 16th it is not possible to produce any vitamin D from the sun in Chicago. Please understand it is only theoretically possible to get UVB rays during those times. If it happens to be cloudy or raining, the clouds will also block the UVB rays.

Even Easier if You Have Apple System

Alternatively, if you have an iPhone or iPad you can download a free app called D Minder, which will make all the calculations for you. It was made by an Apple developer who was motivated to simplify the process after he watched the video above.

From a health perspective it doesn’t make much sense to expose your skin to the sun when it is lower than 50 degrees above the horizon because you will not receive any valuable UVB rays, but you will expose yourself to the more dangerous and potentially deadly UVA rays. UVA’s have a longer wavelength than UVB and can more easily penetrate the ozone layer and other obstacles (like clouds and pollution) on their way from the sun to the earth. UVA is what radically increases your risk of skin cancer and photoaging of your skin. So while it will give you a tan, unless the companion UVB rays are available you’re likely doing more harm than good and should probably stay out of the sun to protect your skin.

During the times of the year when UVB rays are not present where you live you essentially have two options: You can use a safe tanning bed or you can swallow oral vitamin D3.

During the summer months, you can generally get enough vitamin D from just spending some time outside every day. Under optimal environmental exposures your body can produce about 20,000 IU of vitamin D per day with full body exposure, about 5,000 IU with 50 percent of your body exposed, and as much as 1,000 IU with just 10 percent of your body exposed.

In the winter months however, and/or times of the year when insufficient amounts of UVB rays reach your location, you will most likely not get enough vitamin D. In that case, I recommend using a safe tanning bed, which is still better than oral vitamin D.

One of the caveats here is to make sure you’re not being exposed to harmful EMF exposure. Most tanning equipment, and nearly all of the early beds from which these studies were conducted, use magnetic ballasts to generate light. These magnetic ballasts are well known sources of EMF fields that can contribute to cancer. If you hear a loud buzzing noise while in a tanning bed, it has a magnetic ballast system. I strongly recommend you avoid these types of beds and restrict your use of tanning beds to those that use electronic ballasts.

Warning: Newer Vitamin D Tests Often Inaccurate, Study Finds

Doctors are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of vitamin D,According to Medscape, vitamin D testing has increased six- to 10-fold over the last decade, and has become one of the most frequently ordered lab tests. However, it’s important to know that there can be significant differences between available vitamin D tests, and according to a recent study, two newer tests appear to be inaccurate more than 40 percent of the time.

The findings are still preliminary and have not yet been peer-reviewed. The study was presented at the annual meeting of The Endocrine Society in Houston on June 23-264. According to Medscape.com5:

“Researchers say newer tests tend to overestimate the number of people who are deficient in vitamin D… The new tests, made by Abbott and Siemens, were approved by the FDA last fall. They’re part of a wave of faster, less expensive tests designed to help laboratories keep up with a boom in demand for vitamin D testing… Holmes and his team wanted to see how well the new tests performed compared to an older, more expensive, and more time-consuming reference method… They ran blood samples from 163 patients on all three tests.

The Abbott Architect test was outside an acceptable margin of error — meaning that the results were either 25% too high or too low, about 40% of the time.

The Siemens Centaur2 test was either too high or too low in 48% of samples.

… The new tests use blood proteins called antibodies that bind to vitamin D. They’re faster because they look for vitamin D in samples of whole blood. In the older, reference method, vitamin D is separated from the blood and measured. The older test can also measure two different forms of vitamin D: Vitamin D2… found in fortified foods and… high-potency supplements that doctors prescribe… and Vitamin D3, the form of the vitamin that the body makes naturally after skin is exposed to sunlight.

The newer test can’t distinguish between the two different types of D.

Holmes says vitamin D2 seems to confuse the tests. He says the tests’ inability to accurately measure that form of the vitamin means that doctors can’t tell if their patients are getting any benefit from it or if they’re taking their supplements as directed.

… In absolute numbers, the reference test showed 33 patients out of 163 were deficient in vitamin D, while the Abbott test showed 45 people were vitamin D deficient, and the Siemens test pointed to deficiency in 71 patients.” [Emphasis mine]

Your Best Bet for Regular Testing: Sign Up with the D*Action Project

To avoid such testing problems and help you get on an inexpensive, regular testing schedule, I highly recommend joining the GrassrootsHealth D*Action Project6; a worldwide public health campaign aiming to solve the vitamin D deficiency epidemic through focus on testing, education, and grassroots word of mouth. When you join D*action, you agree to test your vitamin D levels twice a year during a 5 year program, and to share your health status to demonstrate the public health impact of this nutrient.

There is a $60 fee each 6 months for your sponsorship of the project, which includes a complete new test kit to be used at home (except in the state of New York), and electronic reports on your ongoing progress. When you finish the questionnaire, you can choose your subscription option. You will get a follow up email every 6 months reminding you “it’s time for your next test and health survey.”

This is probably one of the least expensive and most convenient ways to take control of your health.

To join now, please follow this link to the D*Action sign-up.

Source: Dr. Mercola