Vitamins the Answer

Sunday, May 27, 2007

I have heard it told from a Harvard authority who ought to know that the biggest single benefit to public health in the last few centuries has come almost entirely from better public sewage practices.

But in the realm of the army of medical researchers we fund annually, surely one of the most important discoveries of all time was an accident—the existence of antibiotics. These compounds, which we depend on for our health, are not to be taken for granted. I had an East German friend whose cousin died because the Communist Authorities had refused to issue her antibiotics for an ear infection. I guess good German socialists were supposed to be tougher than mere bacteria. Antibiotics are head and shoulders above all other medicinal compounds put together in their value to our health.

Which is not to slight other more recent discoveries which have proven to be quite beneficial. I myself can no longer live a fulfilled life without daily doses of Ranitidine and Prozac. I would never voluntarily give these up. Andrew Sullivan is alive only because of recently discovered anti-viral compounds.

Yet despite the clear benefits of medicinal compounds for solving health problems, there has been a quiet revolution in medicine in recent years, a revolution in the very way in which we view disease.

A four-year clinical trial involving 1,200 women found those taking the vitamin had about a 60-per-cent reduction in cancer incidence, compared with those who didn't take it, a drop so large — twice the impact on cancer attributed to smoking — it almost looks like a typographical error….

One of the researchers who made the discovery, professor of medicine Robert Heaney of Creighton University in Nebraska, says vitamin D deficiency is showing up in so many illnesses besides cancer that nearly all disease figures in Canada and the U.S. will need to be re-evaluated. "We don't really know what the status of chronic disease is in the North American population," he said, "until we normalize vitamin D status.

My mother informed me the other day that B-12 deficiency runs in her family, and it might account for various health problems. Maybe vitamins are an answer after all?


chuck said...

I started taking extra vitamin D supplements two years ago. My reasons were three. First, I read a report on the ongoing research in Science News. Second, the amount the body produces when exposed to the sun were orders of magnitude larger than the minimum daily requirement, which I thought was a broad hint. And lastly, there were the speculations that us pale folk are pale because of the need for vitamen D synthesis in northern climes. If the selective pressure was possibly that great I figured there was no point in playing dice with Darwin.

Now, the last reason is a bit curious becuase I don't believe the Eskimo are regarded as Caucasion. Of course, there is also the question of why Eskimos don't get scurvy. I read somewhere that they got vitamen C from eating the fat around the adrenal glands of seals, and maybe the vitamen D comes from something similar.

Anyway, vitamen D is cheap, the pills are small, and it can't hurt a pasty indoor guys like myself.

richard mcenroe said...

I thought the only reason Sullivan was still alive was because you were taking the rantidine and prozac...?

Morgan said...

My thinking is similar to Chuck's - if people living in northern latitudes adapted to produce more vitamin D even though they were outside a lot of the time, I can't see that it makes a lot of sense for their descendents, living at the same latitudes and indoors most of the time, to even further limit exposure to the sun. It might make for smooth skin and a reduced risk of skin cancer, but if that were all it did, we'd all have really dark skin - and probably fur, too.