March 9, 2008

Sunshine vitamin...

I found this piece on vitamin D and disease prevention.from Canada's Globe and Mail (Thanks to Glenn) intriguing. I've been taking extra Vitamin D for a few years, but this has a lot of stuff I hadn't heard of. A lot of this research is coming from Canada, and Scandinavia, where there are lots of people living at high latitudes who are not exposed to much sunlight. But nowadays we are all turning into zombies who sit inside and stare at computer screens.

In the summer of 1974, brothers Frank and Cedric Garland had a heretical brainwave.

The young epidemiologists were watching a presentation on death rates from cancer county by county across the United States. As they sat in a lecture hall at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore looking at the colour-coded cancer maps, they noticed a striking pattern, with the map for colon cancer the most pronounced.

Counties with high death rates were red; those with low rates were blue. Oddly, the nation was almost neatly divided in half, red in the north and blue in the south. Why, they wondered, was the risk of dying from cancer greater in bucolic Maine than in highly polluted Southern California?....

[...]

...A 2001 Finnish study found that children given 2,000 IU daily cut their risk of getting juvenile diabetes by 80 per cent.

The strong correlation between latitude and the incidence of multiple sclerosis has led researchers to suspect the trend is related to vitamin D status. In the U.S., for example, MS rates are four times higher in northern states, along the Canadian border, than in the southern parts of the country. Similarly, Australian research shows the incidence of MS increases the farther people live from the equator. The highest incidence rates in the world are found in Northern Europe and Canada....
....The simple answer may be that Vitamin D interacts with an unusually large number of our genes, working like a master switch to turn them on or off. Researchers believe a deficiency of the vitamin leads to a deficiency of the proteins manufactured under the direction of these genes, which then undermines key defences against seemingly unrelated diseases such as cancer, diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

John White, who has been studying the antimicrobial activities of vitamin D at McGill University in Montreal, says that "virtually every cell" in the human body has receptors for vitamin D and that hundreds of different genes may be regulated by it.

Vitamin D's most profound gene-influenced activity appears to be in keeping healthy the broad category of cells known as epithelium, which line the outsides of our organs and the surfaces of the structures in our body.

Even though these lining tissues amount to only about 2 per cent of the weight of our bodies, they are the source of about 85 per cent of cancers, those known as carcinomas.....
Posted by John Weidner at March 9, 2008 6:08 PM
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