Monday, February 20, 2012

Good Day Sunshine

Well, the great winter snowstorm of Presidents Day, 2012 fizzled out almost completely.  We had a little snow in the air last night after the rain, but by morning, nothing remained, the street was clear and dry, the wind was blowing in post storm mode and the sun is shining, all of which is a long, slow introduction to the topic of Vitamin D.  Vitamin D is unusual among vitamins in that we produce it ourselves in our skin from the action of ultraviolet light on precursor compounds.  Vitamin D has been much in the news as of late with the recent discovery that a great many people in the US are deficient in Vitamin D, with a wide variety of symptoms (maybe) as a result.  

This follows years of warnings about the dangers of sun exposure, the decline of the ozone layer (a severe problem for those sunbathing in the center of Antarctica), and the medical industry insisting that we cover every inch of skin with clothing or slather it with gobs of chemicals designed to absorb the offending rays, much like a smart vampire in a cheap John Romero movie might.

Instapundit has had links to recent articles on Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency linked to slow language development in children
Mothers who had low vitamin D levels while they were pregnant are more likely to have a child with a language impairment than mothers who had higher levels of the vitamin, according to an Australian study. While the study, published in Pediatrics, did not show that low levels of the vitamin itself caused the issues, researchers said it pointed to a "plausible association" that warranted more attention.

Earlier studies had shown some links between low vitamin D during pregnancy and problems in children such as weaker bones, asthma and poor growth, said Andrew Whitehouse, lead author of the study, who was based at the University of Western Australia.
This has me wondering if some of the recent increase in the diagnosis of autism in children may be linked to Vitamin D deficiency, either in utero or as children.  Certainly language disorders are a classic symptom of the various colors of the autism spectrum, and the definition of autism does not have a perfectly fixed definition, or a conclusive diagnostic test.  Certainly the frequency of autism diagnosis has increased in recent years largely as recognition of the condition has spread (I would be tempted to call it a medical fad, but it's much too serious for that to the parents with an autistic child), but perhaps some fraction of the increase is due to an increase in Vitamin D deficiency due to our increasingly indoor life styles and sun shine aversion.

An epidemic of Vitamin D deficiency in black people
In November 2010, the Journal of the American Medical Association stated, "Addressing the vitamin D needs of African-Americans may be the single most important public health measure that can be undertaken due to the widespread vitamin D deficiency in the Black population." The study highlighted the worldwide, chronic and silent epidemic of vitamin D deficiency among Black people that triggers many health complications...

"A white person will make enough vitamin D by getting exposed to the sun for only 10 minutes. It can take more than two hours for a Black person to get the same quantity of vitamin D," stressed Allison-Francis.

Due to this deficiency, Black people are consequently more exposed to serious diseases such as cancer, high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, mental illness...and the list is sadly even longer.
Not much to say here, except that nature doesn't play fair.  The melanin in dark skin that protects against the sun's UV rays also blocks the production of Vitamin D.  As black people become increasingly ensconced in the middle class world of offices, their exposure to sun has certainly gone down accordingly.  Two hours a day could be hard to achieve, especially in winter.  Supplements are probably in order.

Vitamin D deficiency tied to prostate cancer risk
Vitamin D may turn out to be a ray of hope for men with prostate cancer. Laboratory and population-based research suggest that adequate levels of vitamin D reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer and may help suppress the growth and spread of prostate cancer cells in men who already have it. A significant proportion of older men have suboptimal levels of vitamin D, especially during the winter and spring months.
So, yet again, our own lifestyles may be a significant contributor to an epidemic of a cancer that affects more men than breast cancer affects women. 

So, now Skye is begging for her walk; it's cold and windy but the sun out, so it's time to go make some Vitamin D...

The young woman featured in this video is apparently Sue Lyons, the star of Stanley Kubrick's movie version of "Lolita" (1962), and Donovan's girlfriend in 1965-67, until he surreptitiously slipped some LSD into her drink.

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