Updates on Vit A, Vit D, Calcium, and the PSA Test
This blog is going to be a collection of some news stories related to subjects covered in my book, Health Secrets for the 21st Century.
Vitamin A May Prevent Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
As my faithful readers are aware, I am one of the few in the nutritional field who believe that vitamin A is commonly deficient in the West. This flies in the face of most medical authorities who have maintained, for some time now, that vitamin A is particularly dangerous for pregnant women, and is linked to osteoporosis. As previous blogs have indicated, there is a lot of science that debates this idea, even if it is seldom put forth to counter this negative view of vitamin A. So imagine my pleasant surprise to see a news story on vitamin A curbing the effects of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder that did not even include the standard warning to pregnant women. (Study)
This new research was reported by Abraham Fainsod, professor of genetics and biochemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His research suggested that vitamin A could work like an antidote to the damaging effects of alcohol on embryos, especially during the early phase, when the central nervous system and the head are developing. The study was done on frogs, so they will next try to reproduce the effects in mouse studies, which are closer to mammals.
An excess of alcohol prevents vitamin A from converting to retinoic acid, an internal biological form of vitamin A. This form of vitamin A is necessary for cell development and revitalization of cells which, they point out, is why vitamin A as retinoic acid is commonly the main ingredient in anti-wrinkle topical creams.
Vitamin D Prevents Premature Birth
Pediatric researchers at the medical University of South Carolina found that women taking 4,000IU of vitamin D per day had half the risk of premature delivery as women who only took 400IU of D daily. And “not a single adverse event” related to the higher vitamin D dose was observed. Low vitamin D in pregnancy has also been linked to increased risk of pre-eclampsia, which is a sudden increase in blood pressure that can be dangerous to mothers and their babies. The higher doses of vitamin D also showed in the baby at birth, indicating that vitamin D crosses the placenta to reach the baby. Researchers said that vitamin D appeared to increase blood and oxygen flow to the placenta, also increasing nutrient delivery to the baby. The higher blood levels of vitamin D were associated with lower rates of preterm labour, preterm birth and infection. Premature birth is the leading cause of death of newborns in Canada. (Study)
More News About the Dangers of Calcium
My other theory that is contrary to the mainstream medical approach, has to do with the dangers of too much calcium, well discussed in my book. In 2010 more information came out to support this thesis from a study published in the British Medical Journal, based on work done at the University of Auckland , New Zealand. This research was follow up from the team that first raised concerns about the safety of calcium a few years ago.
That original study, quoted in my book, was based on a five year study of over 1400 women, where they found a high rate of heart attacks and strokes amongst the women taking calcium versus those on the placebos. To follow up on this they joined with British and U.S. researchers and analyzed 11 random controlled trials that involved a total of 12,000 subjects. Their conclusion was that those on calcium supplements seemed to have a 30 per cent greater risk of suffering from heart disease. (In this overview vitamin D was not included with the calcium.)
Dr. Ian Reid, the senior author of the study, said that calcium supplements may only reduce the chances of fractures by 10% anyways, and so may not be worth the potential risk. The researchers are not sure of the mechanism by which the risk factors went up (whereas my theory is plain: it depletes magnesium from the body). They suggest that the pills lead to a fast rise in calcium blood levels which may damage blood vessels. Food sources of calcium are released at a much slower pace “so you just have a steady trickle of calcium into the bloodstream.” (Study)
More Bad News About the PSA Test
In Health Secrets I discussed the debatable value of the PSA test as an indicator of prostate cancer. Recently a 20 year study of prostate cancer screening, observing 9,026 men, was published in the British Medical Journal. The trial was done in Sweden (Karolinska Institute in Stockholm) randomly picking one out of every 6 men to be screened every third year, with the rest of the men being the control group. “After 20 years of follow up, the rate of death from prostate cancer did not differ significantly between men in the screening group and those in the control group.” Basically the blood tests and digital rectal exams helped to detect the cancer but did not reduce the number of deaths due to it. (Study)
Another U.S. study (published in the New England Journal of Medicine), followed 75,000 men aged 55 and up for just over a decade. Half of the men had annual digital rectal exams, PSA tests or both, the other half did not. Again, in the end (no pun intended) the death rate from prostate cancer “was very low and did not differ significantly” between the two groups. Heather Logan from the Canadian Cancer Society actually went so far as to comment: “All and all it is really not a very effective tool to screen for prostate cancer.” I would venture to guess that the reason that these tests don’t do more to save lives is that the current approach to cancer treatment is as or more deadly than the disease itself.