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» LymeNet Flash » Questions and Discussion » Medical Questions » The Vitamin D Debate

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Author Topic: The Vitamin D Debate
LymeNet Contributor
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Posts: 246 | From Grass Valley, CA | Registered: Jun 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator

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the below is from ABOVE link....


The vitamin D debate

Feb. 13, 2008

It's been cold and remarkably un-sunny in my neck of Canada recently -- climatic conditions which I have been repeatedly told in the past year should lead me to start scarfing down vitamin D pills, and do it in amounts which likely exceed Health Canada's daily recommended dosage.

And even more importantly, I've been told I should also counsel you to ignore the existing suggestions and strike out on a vitamin D health path of your own, one which might see you taking up to five times today's suggested dose. (That's what one advocate announces he is doing).

And if I don't, it is my fault -- well "my" as in all the media -- if you readers get cancer, multiple sclerosis, flu, autism, depression, diabetes, loose teeth, stroke, heart disease, osteoporosis, fractures and God knows what else.

I know that, because last year 15 scientists from around the world scolded journalists in an American Journal of Clinical Nutrition editorial for effectively condoning ill health.

"We do not think that the public media present the vitamin D story in a complete and accurate manner," they said.

"Reports about vitamin D inadequacies are presented straightforwardly, but when it comes to discussing the intake of vitamin D needed to correct the situation, outdated official recommendations for vitamin D are propagated by the public media.

This probably occurs because of restrictive editorial policies driven by concern about possible litigation if media were to advise a 'toxic' intake greater than the [present upper intake level]," they -- including Reinhold Vieth of the University of Toronto -- wrote.

Well, one should take this kind of criticism to heart. I have, in the last little while, specifically been looking at a paper that came out last year in the AJCN.

I did this because it made many people's top 10 science stories of 2007 and because the finding was described in various Canadian media as strongly influencing the Canadian Cancer Society's decision to recommend that people in this country take much more -- upwards of two-and-a-half times today's recommended 400 International Units -- vitamin D on a daily basis.

The study compared over a lengthy period -- four years -- the cancer rates in women taking vitamin D, taking calcium without vitamin D, or taking nothing.

Researchers at Creighton University in Nebraska then reported a 60 per cent decrease in collective cancer rates for the vitamin D takers when they took what was something more than twice the currently recommended dosage.

While the cancer numbers were small -- only 50 cases in total -- the CCS decision meant there was lots of coverage of the research. I found upwards of 50 reports in magazines, newspapers, radio and television, but absolutely zero coverage of the criticism of the paper that appeared in the journal in recent months.

In one letter, three scientists in Texas pointed out a number of issues, not the least of which being an Iowa study which suggested that when breast cancer was looked at there was indeed a fall in cancer numbers for the first five years when a vitamin D supplement was taken.

But this balanced out at 10 years and there actually seemed to be more breast cancers among women taking vitamin D after 15 years.

It is precisely these sorts of yes/no/maybe results that make science and medical writers very, very, very, very cautious about blithely recommending dose rate increases.

Then there were the questions raised by Manish Sood of the Toronto General Hospital and Amy Sood of the University of Toronto faculty of pharmacy.

They pointed out that some had suggested the incidence heart disease might grow as a result of increasing the vitamin D dosages and recommending, as the CCS did, that supplements be taken year round or during fall and winter months depending on skin colour and other factors.

In light of the CCS recommendation and a possible heart disease side-effect, they concluded their letter saying: "As Canadians, we ask the question -- have we just traded one problem for another?"

Sounds reasonable, but their concern was brushed back by paper authors Robert Heaney and Joan Lappe of Creighton, who responded that there is no evidence of heart problems with vitamin D doses up to 10 times what they had given people.

They added, "the issue of vitamin D toxicity was exhaustively reviewed in this Journal just a few months ago and Sood and Sood may find some reassurance in that report."

Given this disagreement I, too, needed reassurance and so I went to the review where I found something very non-reassuring.

Heaney and Vieth had co-authored the toxicity study with two employees of the Council For Responsible Nutrition, a Washington D.C.-based lobby group and trade association for ingredient suppliers and manufacturers in the dietary supplement industry -- that is to say, the official representatives of the people who would make vitamin D.

And their roles were anything but minor. One applied "risk assessment methodology" to the results and the other "searched literature and summarized relevant findings."

Ultimately what the four wrote looks extremely authoritative, and might well be so, but to my mind this collaboration represents not an apparent conflict of interest, but a genuine conflict of interest.

And let me explain it with a simple equation.

Let us assume that one-third of the people in North America decide, based on the CCS recommendation, to more than double their vitamin D dosage and this costs a bare $20 per person a year. That translates into an extra $2 billion going to vitamin D manufacturers and sellers.

All of this made me go back to the original Creighton paper and look to see if there was any indication of specific conflicts of interest among the researchers in it.

The paper says no, with resounding vehemence: "None of the authors was affiliated in any way with an entity involved in the manufacture or marketing of vitamin D."

Then it goes on to mention that one author, Robert Recker, was on the scientific advisory boards of Roche and Proctor & Gamble, and Heaney was on the scientific advisory board for the International Dairy Food Association and the speaker's bureau for P & G.

It's true that Roche doesn't make vitamins today -- but it sold the business in 2003, a time that the Creighton experiment was ongoing. The sale, by the way, was announced at the same time Roche said it had resolved lawsuits growing out of its involvement in vitamin price fixing.

But Proctor remains in the business, in that it has licensed its Olay name to another company to produce Olay vitamins, which include vitamin D in a multivitamin supplement.

Not to mention the fact that Heaney reported in 2006 that he had a "financial relationship with SmithKlineGlaxo" -- a company which directly produces vitamin D.

And oh, yes, it seems almost everyone doing vitamin D research -- Vieth included -- gets money from dairy farmers associations in either Canada or the U.S.

So I sent Recker and Heaney an e-mail asking for an explanation and Recker responded: "Neither Dr. Heaney nor I have any affiliation with the company that supplied the vitamin D for the study. We have not had affiliation with the vitamin D work for the companies you mention. I have been a scientific adviser to Roche, P & G and Smith-Kline-Glaxo, but not in their vitamin D work."

Interestingly finely parsed, but when I Google "Recker and Glaxo" I find him quoted in a company press release endorsing an osteoporosis website the company supports -- a site that advocates taking vitamin D and which points out that if you have problems getting it naturally, you can buy supplements that will fill in the gap.

Recker responded in his e-mail to me that, "I do not include the statement in the press release as a potential conflict of interest since I was not making the statement out of any affiliation with GSK. I have not participated in any of the studies nor in any advisory capacity to GSK regarding any vitamin D product. There is often some confusion about what constitutes a potential conflict of interest, as might be the case here. My institution does not require that I list this as a potential conflict of interest in its management of faculty relations with industry."

Parsing a parse, if you ask me.

I then had a lengthy discussion with Vieth who quite candidly said he had been delighted to join up with the manufacturers' association employees in the toxicity review paper because he had long admired them for being good scientists. "I was honoured when they asked," he told me.

As to money conflicts he doesn't think that was a big issue because vitamin D is a generic product and can be made for very little. He said the pure form of the substance costs about $3,000 a kilogram to make, a figure that translates into the dose each of the women in Nebraska took to ward off cancer costing about 3.5 cents a year to make.

Then he told me he had been angered when his name had been taken off some scientific papers after he, in complete openness, told agencies and journals that he and his wife have set up a vitamin D company in Toronto called Ddrops Inc.

She is now the company's president and it sells a year's supply of 1,000 IU liquid vitamin D for about $20. "I was told my name was being taken off papers because of my wife's occupation. That is something I find infuriating and upsetting," he said.

A little additional research found that Elaine Vieth has told the Hamilton Spectator that pharmacies initially had little interest in selling her product, which can be sprinkled on food or in drinks, but that after the Creighton cancer study appeared she sold 30,000 bottles within two days.

I am not often struck speechless by life's contradictions, but here I am. Who would have thought that the research pertaining to what Ddrops markets as "the sunshine vitamin in just one drop" could be so conflicted?

Nonetheless, let me be absolutely clear. I cannot say that any of the findings of any of the researchers I cite -- particularly when it comes to vitamin D's cancer preventative effects -- are erroneous because of the scientists' commercial connections.

Vitamin D may indeed turn out to be the next best thing since free e-mail and ballpoint pens, but I will say that a careful journalist, a prudent journalist, a wise journalist would look at this tangled mess of conflicted interests and results and proceed exceedingly carefully in promoting a massive change in vitamin D dosage levels.

I will say that Health Canada should not be stampeded into doing anything reflexive when it comes to raising vitamin D dosage levels.

And I might also suggest that if university scientists are looking for a less conspiratorial explanation for their perception that media has been loath to join a crusade to raise the dosage levels, they would do well to consider how it looks to outside observers when researchers blithely associate with those who benefit financially from these changes.

And that advice is good on both the sunniest and the cloudiest of days.

Related link:
Take vitamin D to reduce cancer risk, Canadian Cancer Society advises

External links:
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition editorial on vitamin D recommendations

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition article on vitamin D toxicity

Creighton University backgrounder on cancer/vitamin D

(Note: CBC does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of external sites - links will open in new window)

[ 02. March 2008, 04:55 AM: Message edited by: bettyg ]

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We're still stuck on chemicals. We're always stuck on chemicals. Even when every single chemical reaction in our bodies involves an electromagnetic exchange of electrons.

I give up.

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Great post Betty. I am printing this up to show to people who do not question the recent "must have tons of Vit D" movement.

Their doctors are not even thesting their 1,25-D before having them take 10 grams sometimes.

I don't trust it one bit.

Posts: 584 | From Rhode Island | Registered: Jun 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
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Were these normally healthy people taking vitamin D? Some people jump on a bandwagon without need.

I can see where this is going to make the pharma guys sit up and squalk. They really tried to poopoo bio-identical hormones when their synthetics were proven to cause health problems.

Start low...D3...if you're low. Don't go above 3-5000IUs...15 minutes of sun, better.

Posts: 2903 | From AZ | Registered: Feb 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
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Start low...D3...if you're low. Don't go above 3-5000IUs...15 minutes of sun, better.

Good rule of thumb...

Posts: 442 | From Biddeford, ME | Registered: Nov 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
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Before undertaking any course of action, it's always wise to get the proper tests done. Most lymies are already high in the biologically active 1,25D, but don't realize it because that's not what commonly tested.

High 1,25D increases the rate at which bone is reformed. When that rate is too high, it leads to excessively rapid turnover, and weakness in bones and teeth.

Like others have reported here, a few years ago I experienced a rash of cracked and chipped teeth. Once I learned that my 25D was low and 1,25D high, I stopped ingesting vitamin D and reduced my light exposure. Since doing so, the cracking and chipping of my teeth has stopped.

When reading vitamin D guidelines online, remember to check if they mention lyme. If not, those rules are for "normal/healthy" people, and do not take into account that the vitamin D system of lymies has been hijacked by the infection.

Posts: 727 | From USA | Registered: Mar 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
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I read some of the posts above however found them very confusing (blame it on having a bad day) however can anyone make it simple for me.

On a program I watched it was recommended, I believe, 1000mg a day which I started taking and have experienced a hugh increase in lyme symptoms .

Can anyone shed light on this whether I am doing the correct thing by taking vitamin D? Also could the Vit. D cause a herx?

Posts: 139 | From nj | Registered: Mar 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator

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