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March 6, 2014 2:20 PM   Subscribe

Causal link found between vitamin D, serotonin synthesis and autism in new study
posted by Evilspork (94 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh man, could vitamin D deficiency be the key to the autism epidemic? It would be crazy if it wasn't any new virus or any chemical contaminant that caused it, just the issue of people staying indoors and using sunscreen. It would also explain why it seems to hit the children of white-collar workers so often. In particular, it seems to hit people who watch their health the most, which makes sense (no drinking vitamin-D enriched milk, heavy use of sunscreen).
posted by Mitrovarr at 2:25 PM on March 6 [6 favorites]


THE SUN MUST BE BLOCKED OUT FOR THE GOOD OF JENNY MCARTHY'S CHILDREN!

Upon further inspection of article: THE SUN MUST BE MAGNIFIED WITH A GIANT MAGNIFYING GLASS OR SOMETHING FOR THE GOOD OF JENNY MCARTHY'S CHILDREN!
posted by mediocre at 2:25 PM on March 6 [21 favorites]


The good doctor says: eat turkey and cheese sandwiches on the beach.
posted by grumpybear69 at 2:26 PM on March 6 [6 favorites]


Read something at least a year or so ago (quite possibly here) suggesting that Vitamin D would be a useful avenue of investigation based on the experience of the fairly large Somali expat population in Sweden, among which autism is rampant. IIRC, the disease is literally unknown in Somalia - there isn't a word for it. They call it "the Swedish disease."

And so the hint was that reduced sunlight exposure and lower vitamin D levels had something to do with it.

Whether that's actually connected or not, this sounds like a real first stab at an approach toward dealing with the growth of autism, so that's good news regardless.
posted by Naberius at 2:26 PM on March 6 [14 favorites]


B-b-but vaccines!
posted by JHarris at 2:28 PM on March 6 [8 favorites]


How long until the anti-vaccine types apologize, do you think?
posted by msalt at 2:30 PM on March 6 [11 favorites]


The actual paper.
posted by theodolite at 2:32 PM on March 6 [18 favorites]


There is some research that shows that endocrine disruptors (think Agent Orange) can have an impact on endocrine function the next generation. As we pour more of these sorts of chemicals into the environment, it's not surprising to me that we would see strange knock on effects. All of the chemicals have a very small impact individually - so small that they generally are considered fit for human consumption in vast quantities. Are we going to see the genetic ghosts haunt future generations?
posted by stoneweaver at 2:33 PM on March 6 [3 favorites]


Jokes aside, this is interesting news. But it seems more like a causal relationship to serotonin, oxytocin, and vasopressin then to autism directly. Regarding Somali autism, I read not too long ago that autism effects people especially strongly in Somalia. So there is something to be said for differing views from differing sources.
posted by mediocre at 2:34 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


Isn't this proposed causal link between vitamin D and serotonin, oxytocin and vasopressin? Is there already a causal link between these three and autism?
posted by fonetik at 2:34 PM on March 6


How long until the anti-vaccine types apologize, do you think?

Some time after the heat death of the universe. Facts are not things which are relevant to their worldview.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:34 PM on March 6 [22 favorites]


And so the hint was that reduced sunlight exposure and lower vitamin D levels had something to do with it.

Explains Seattle's tech culture.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:35 PM on March 6 [9 favorites]


How long until the anti-vaccine types apologize, do you think?

Technically, the anti-vaxxers could be correct as well. This research doesn't rule out there being other factors that could contribute to autism; maybe someone with a borderline amount of Vitamin D can be pushed over the edge by an MMR jab. They can't, of course, but this research doesn't say one way or another.
posted by BungaDunga at 2:36 PM on March 6 [2 favorites]


Yeah, this is interesting because Oregon has one of the highest autism rates in the country, and the speculation has been maybe that it's kids staying inside and being exposed to more lead/household chemicals/etc. But if it's Vitamin D related? Interesting.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:42 PM on March 6


So why the drop-off in vitamin D in recent decades?
posted by IndigoJones at 2:45 PM on March 6


Kids don't play outside as much.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:47 PM on March 6 [2 favorites]


More kids staying inside rather than playing outside?
posted by Slinga at 2:47 PM on March 6


And probably drink less fortified milk.

This is pure speculation on my part.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:48 PM on March 6 [2 favorites]


So why the drop-off in vitamin D in recent decades?

People aren't taking their cod-liver oil.
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:48 PM on March 6 [6 favorites]


and sunscreen. I blame that fake commencement address.
posted by msalt at 2:49 PM on March 6 [9 favorites]


Stupid fake Kurt Vonnegut.
posted by grumpybear69 at 2:51 PM on March 6 [16 favorites]


Is typical soy milk fortified?
posted by Big_B at 2:52 PM on March 6


Ah. So we should fortify MMR vaccines with vitamin D.
posted by aubilenon at 2:56 PM on March 6 [12 favorites]


Is typical soy milk fortified?

Nope.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:56 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


My 7 year old son has a ADHD/ASD/Some other undefined writing related issue diagnosis, and one of the first things our MD had us do (while waiting for testing to confirm the ASD, etc) was some vitamin supplements (although D wasn't one of them). Amazingly. the vitamins did (and do) help -- although not enough. One reason I think it's "not enough" is we couldn't actually find for sale (anywhere, at any price) supplements made for kids that were 100% RDA of the things we were targeting (one of them is zinc). I'll be interested to see if the supplement industry jumps on this. Given all that's written about the role of nutritional deficits in both ADHD and ASD, I'm really surprised nobody's making anything that targets that market for children already.
posted by anastasiav at 2:57 PM on March 6 [3 favorites]


No one in this forum, as far as I know, has advanced the vaccine theory and it's been discredited for years. And yet, people seem to want to talk about it because of residual anger over the anti-science types who put it forward. I think that's unfortunate since it doesn't really add to the discussion.
posted by cell divide at 2:58 PM on March 6 [11 favorites]


Stupid Baz Lurhmann, first he completely misses the point of Great Gatsby now he retroactively gives everyone autism.
posted by mediocre at 2:58 PM on March 6 [13 favorites]


cell divide, there are still a disturbing number of people out there who are anti-vaccination. That fact is bound really tightly into any discussion about possible causes of autism.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:59 PM on March 6 [15 favorites]


Vitamin D deficiency has long been a leading theory as the cause of multiple sclerosis, as well, because MS is noticeably more prevalent in high-latitude areas. Most people don't know that until they get diagnosed with MS.

I'm excited that they're making progress on understanding this issue, but it's interesting how even a solid theory doesn't always lead to widespread behavioral change to prevent disease. First you have to get the word out that a dietary and/or behavioral change can actually reduce the risk of a major disease, but second you have to convince people that the risk is worth the lifestyle changes. Witness the health effects of the typical American diet and sedentary lifestyle, along with people's lack of interest in changing what they eat, even after they've been diagnosed with heart disease or diabetes.

Then again, when they figured out that low folic acid levels in pregnancy causes spina bifida, we were able to reduce the incidence of that birth defect quickly by requiring supplementation of folic acid in bread and other commonly-eaten foodstuffs. Maybe some government regulation could increase people's consumption of the vitamin, but I doubt individuals would really supplement enough to do any good if left to their own devices. The push to get kids to play outside more is certainly fighting an uphill battle already; I'm not sure how we can encourage that more than we're already trying to do.
posted by vytae at 3:00 PM on March 6


Well! I am about to move my young family to Seattle. I guessss I am going to be taking my vitamin D supplements and making sure my kiddos do too.
posted by town of cats at 3:01 PM on March 6


(although D wasn't one of them)

Vitamin D in the form that this article is talking about cannot be purchased over the counter. It is not even a vitamin, but closer to a hormone. I don't know how it came to be popularly known as a vitamin, and wonder how many people think the the "D" supplements they are taking are 100% useless for what they are thinking.

I was diagnosed with a massive D deficiency a while back, and given a prescription for the hormone proper at levels I thought were frankly insane. But I guess my deficiency was significant enough to quite hundreds of thousands of units weekly for quite some time.
posted by mediocre at 3:01 PM on March 6 [2 favorites]


Read something at least a year or so ago (quite possibly here) suggesting that Vitamin D would be a useful avenue of investigation based on the experience of the fairly large Somali expat population in Sweden, among which autism is rampant. IIRC, the disease is literally unknown in Somalia - there isn't a word for it. They call it "the Swedish disease."


The paper itself, linked upstream, cites this Swedish study as well as a confirming one among Somalis in Minneapolis.
posted by beagle at 3:02 PM on March 6 [3 favorites]


There's close to no information in that paper. The authors note the presence of Vitamin D response elements in the promoters of some autism-associated genes by a computer analysis, then shrug their shoulders and go 'maybe?' They don't do any of the conventional in vitro assays to even show that these are functional. Unless there's a part 2 I'm not seeing this is basically an untested hypothesis.
posted by monocyte at 3:02 PM on March 6 [12 favorites]


No one in this forum, as far as I know, has advanced the vaccine theory and it's been discredited for years. And yet, people seem to want to talk about it because of residual anger over the anti-science types who put it forward. I think that's unfortunate since it doesn't really add to the discussion.

It's the same in any weather/climate thread. "How long before someone comes in and says this disproves global warming! Faves button to the right!" But nobody ever comes in and claims that.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 3:10 PM on March 6 [6 favorites]


I'd think that if there is a significant effect of sunlight, this should have been obvious on maps of autism rates, no?
posted by jeather at 3:18 PM on March 6 [2 favorites]


I got the impression from the article (I am not a scientist. I don't often read science studies.) that the corrective measures would, at least, start with Vitamin D supplements for the mother, much in the same vein as folic acid.
posted by oddman at 3:23 PM on March 6


I'd think that if there is a significant effect of sunlight, this should have been obvious on maps of autism rates, no?

Well, that was my point sort of with the speculation that this may be why Autism rates are higher in the pacific northwest.
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:24 PM on March 6


Mediocre: Vitamin D in the form that this article is talking about cannot be purchased over the counter. It is not even a vitamin, but closer to a hormone. I don't know how it came to be popularly known as a vitamin, and wonder how many people think the the "D" supplements they are taking are 100% useless for what they are thinking.


Can you elaborate on this? I was instructed by my doctor to take over-the-counter D3 when I was deficient, and was under the impression that prescription D3 was the same, just stronger. Unless I missed it, I don't see the article advocating for a particular form of supplementation.
posted by HotToddy at 3:26 PM on March 6 [3 favorites]


Yes, but it should be much more visible than just one part of the country being slightly higher. But then it would be hard to take out other confounding variables. This is why I'm not a statistician.
posted by jeather at 3:26 PM on March 6


Vitamin D in the form that this article is talking about cannot be purchased over the counter. It is not even a vitamin, but closer to a hormone. I don't know how it came to be popularly known as a vitamin, and wonder how many people think the the "D" supplements they are taking are 100% useless for what they are thinking.
I think you're wrong about this.

From the paper:
Vitamin D hormone has been proposed to play a role in autism based primarily on a correlation between autism incidence in populations with low levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is converted to its biologically active form 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (calcitriol), herein referred to as vitamin D hormone, a steroid hormone that appears to regulate the expression of 900 different genes, a large number of which impact brain development and function (40, 41).
So yeah, they mention the vitamin (and how it gets converted to it's biologically active form, the hormone Calcitriol). And the commonly available Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol) does indeed have a metabolic pathway to Calcitriol, the Vitamin D hormone.
posted by yeoz at 3:27 PM on March 6 [16 favorites]



It's the same in any weather/climate thread. "How long before someone comes in and says this disproves global warming! Faves button to the right!" But nobody ever comes in and claims that.


Except in the case of vaccines and autism, we actually have had at least one person comment who apparently believes there is a link. (There might be more, but I'm not going to go back and look at every autism/vaccine discussion.)
posted by longdaysjourney at 3:27 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


[Let's maybe not get into a derail about whether there will be a derail?]
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:28 PM on March 6 [11 favorites]


I'd think that if there is a significant effect of sunlight, this should have been obvious on maps of autism rates, no?

Sure, but keep in mind that any geographic variations may be masked by socioeconomic variations. Also there is a lot of variation simply due to differences in diagnostic criteria and population mobility. Still, look at this map of autism rates by US state. Basically all of the higher rates except Virginia and Maryland are north of the Mason Dixon line, if you discount California because it has a pretty long north-south dimension.
posted by beagle at 3:38 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


I worked for a spell as in autism research, and I'll write up a longer post about this when I'm not about to get on to the subway, but for the time being I'll say this: anyone who says "X causes autism" is trying to sell you something, full stop.
posted by Itaxpica at 3:38 PM on March 6 [14 favorites]


I've been interested in the issues that Somali immigrants to northern Europe and the northern US have had with autism since I was diagnosed with a pretty significant Vitamin D deficiency.

I am totally aware that there could be a lot of psychosomatic stuff going on here, but when I am low on my Vitamin D levels... a lot of stuff goes wrong with me, in terms of sensory processing. Being outside in crowds feels like I'm constantly being scraped down with sandpaper. Sounds are too loud. I get anxious and I flap my hands around a little bit.

I don't want to come off as all "Look! This is the answer!" because obviously it's very complicated and it's not one thing. But I do think it's something that's worth looking into and I'm curious about how this line of research develops in the future.
posted by Jeanne at 3:41 PM on March 6 [2 favorites]


The bitter lesson from cancer research is, don't get too excited by promising results. It's still a long way from that to an effective therapy. It would be so great if this brings help to families, though, that it is of course easier to say that than to do it.
posted by thelonius at 3:44 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


So why the drop-off in vitamin D in recent decades?

I'll bet that in addition to things like sun avoidance (be it via sunscreen or videogames), and liver avoidance (because liver is yucky and maybe poisonous-ish according to certain dietetics undergraduates I've known), a lot of it's probably got to do with the avoidance of eggs (which contain vitamin D) due to their cholesterol (which you need to synthesize vitamin D from sunlight). People used to eat a lot of eggs. Like, so many eggs, you guys.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:46 PM on March 6 [11 favorites]


So why the drop-off in vitamin D in recent decades?

People working ridiculous hours at work, not going outside enough even during summer? That seems to be a trend also, and is much of the source of my own fish-belly pale skin.
posted by limeonaire at 3:53 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


Can we at least take away from this that Vitamin D is good stuff and that we want it?
posted by Navelgazer at 3:55 PM on March 6 [2 favorites]


People used to eat a lot of eggs. Like, so many eggs, you guys.

Anecdote does not equal data, BUT:

For my own child, he has fewer behaviors when he has eggs for breakfast, to the point where his teacher can pinpoint eggs or no eggs for breakfast with startling accuracy. We attributed it to the protein, but maybe it's the D? (Local eggs FTW!)
posted by anastasiav at 3:58 PM on March 6 [3 favorites]


"So why the drop-off in vitamin D in recent decades?"

Atari=Autism
posted by klangklangston at 4:08 PM on March 6 [3 favorites]


Any idea from all this whether the role of Vitamin D is more important during development of the fetus (i.e., important mainly to the mother) or is it mostly important to the child during infancy?

Also people with red hair (i.e. carrying the MC1R gene) have a greater ability to synthesize Vitamin D without sunlight.. are the rates of autism lower in people with red hair? At the other end of the spectrum, the Somalis in Sweden have a much higher melanin concentration than native Swedes so perhaps having a much lower ability to synthesize Vitamin D might have something to do with this?
posted by crapmatic at 4:14 PM on March 6 [4 favorites]


"So why the drop-off in vitamin D in recent decades?"

Unanticipated blowback from slathering every possible square inch of exposed skin with sunblock?
posted by blue suede stockings at 4:46 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


So why the drop-off in vitamin D in recent decades?

People don't go outside anymore. A lot of people I know spend less than one hour per day outdoors on average, probably less than 20 minutes during the week, and I live in a fairly outdoorsy place. I imagine it's worse in many circles.

I spend about 2-3 hours outside each day (biking to work and walking/running the dog). Coincidentally I'm one of the only people I know who has never tested deficient for Vitamin D.
posted by fshgrl at 4:51 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


The sunlight theory seems unlikely given that most autism is diagnosed (or diagnosable) in toddlers. How much time could children be expected to have spent outside at such a young age (with or without sunscreen)? Or is it supposed to be about prenatal maternal Vitamin D levels?

I do remember that the pediatrician always recommended Vitamin D supplements for nursing infants because breast milk lacks sufficient Vitamin D. Someone should superimpose breastfeeding rates with autism rates.
posted by Mallenroh at 5:09 PM on March 6


liver avoidance (because liver is yucky

It is a shame people feel that way, because Chicken Liver Pâté is OMG so good.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:09 PM on March 6 [3 favorites]


Link to the full text pdf for the curious.
posted by warm_planet at 5:12 PM on March 6


And the commonly available Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol) does indeed have a metabolic pathway to Calcitriol, the Vitamin D hormone.

I stand corrected. My doctor seemed to stress the importance of the over the counter not being sufficient, but that was probably because I had a particularly notable deficiency.

Also people with red hair (i.e. carrying the MC1R gene) have a greater ability to synthesize Vitamin D without sunlight..

Interesting, I never knew this one single benefit to being ginger. I grew up very self conscious about my tendency to over-freckle when I get too much sun.
posted by mediocre at 5:54 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


BTW, if you don't drink dairy, just remember that leafy greens like spinach have tons of Vitamin D. Supplement pills are probably bunk!
posted by zardoz at 6:02 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


Hm. These sorts of stong-seeming possible mechanisms with putative clinical connections appear all the time in biomedical research, psychiatric/neurological or not. Show me a randomized controlled trial, and I'll believe it.
posted by Keter at 6:22 PM on March 6


I was diagnosed with a vitamin D deficiency a few years ago and put on supplements. I noticed a real difference in how I felt. I continue to take a high-quality D supplement, as I'm the indoorsy type.

Maybe there's a happy medium between "Slather every inch of your skin with strong sunblock" and "Slather every inch of your skin with baby oil and broil in the sun." It probably won't hurt most people to get more sun than they are getting. Some people really do have an increased susceptibility to skin cancer and have to take extra precautions; I do. I avoid burning, but I don't shun the sun like it's my greatest enemy.

It will be very interesting to see how this plays out. It's likely that maternal Vitamin D levels matter, as well as the child's.

(And I hate liver. But I love spinach!)
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:23 PM on March 6


Anecdote does not equal data, BUT:

For my own child, he has fewer behaviors when he has eggs for breakfast, to the point where his teacher can pinpoint eggs or no eggs for breakfast with startling accuracy. We attributed it to the protein, but maybe it's the D? (Local eggs FTW!)


IIRC vitamin D levels change really slowly, like it takes a few weeks of high dose supplements for most people to start feeling noticeably better - it may be the protein or something else. Whatever it is it sounds good, though!
posted by jason_steakums at 6:30 PM on March 6 [2 favorites]


Vitamin D does not come from spinach. Perhaps you are thinking of Vitamin A (or rather beta carotene, which can be converted to Vitamin A)?

Most of the good dietary sources of Vitamin D are animal-based, so people cutting down on their dietary cholesterol/animal product intake may be related, as well as the increased indoor time, fear of skin cancer, etc.

Eggs have a lot of other interesting things in addition to protein and Vitamin D -- cholesterol, choline, A, zinc, etc.
posted by pie ninja at 6:56 PM on March 6


Vitamin D is loosing its luster.
posted by stbalbach at 7:05 PM on March 6


> I stand corrected. My doctor seemed to stress the importance of the over the counter not being sufficient, but that was probably because I had a particularly notable deficiency.

Most of the common multivitamins and even the solely-Vitamin-D supplements at your local drugstore chain are Vitamin D2, not D3. That's probably what your doc was thinking when he said "over-the-counter."

D3 in high-dose formulations (1000, 2000, 4000, 5000 IU) is totally available without a prescription, but you've generally got to to go a health-food store to find them, or Amazon, of course.
posted by desuetude at 7:09 PM on March 6 [2 favorites]


Ye gods, what awful writing.
Except for bone health, it found no evidence that vitamin D helped with any other diseases.
That sentence doesn't mean what they are implying it means.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:12 PM on March 6 [3 favorites]


In other news about maternal health and hormone synthesis in foetus/children, ADHD linked to paracetamol taken during pregnancy, says study.
posted by Kerasia at 7:29 PM on March 6


My bottle of D3 2,000 IU is sitting next to me and it would have been purchased at either Walgreen's or CVS. However, I'm in Minnesota and I imagine we have lots of demand for it here.
posted by soelo at 7:36 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


There might be more here than just autism, as well. Lowered serotonin levels in the brain are also a primary cause of depression - this might be a good explanation for Seasonal Affective Disorder, as well as depression. Slightly different levels of enzymes leading to different expressions resulting from lowered Vitamin D?
posted by Punkey at 7:36 PM on March 6


researchers show that serotonin, oxytocin, and vasopressin, three brain hormones that affect social behavior related to autism Well lets not dick around, I need some serotonin, oxytocin and vassopressim injections. Stat like now.
posted by vicx at 7:49 PM on March 6


Oops, I always thought spinach had Vitamin D. I've assumed the wrong thing for years. Maybe I'm mixing it up with calcium.

/looks at spinach, raises one eyebrow
posted by zardoz at 7:50 PM on March 6 [2 favorites]


Although there is a metabolic pathway from cholecalciferol to calcitriol (per others in this thread and my oh-so-thorough wikipedia-ing), wikipedia says the hydroxylation of calcifediol (the intermediate) to calcitriol is tightly regulated, so it's not obvious to me that megadoses of cholecalciferol would actually help a lot, except in a "pushing lots of stuff through a small pipe" kind of way. Can anyone who knows more biochemistry than I do clarify?

(That said, I'm autistic with chronic hypovitaminosis D, so... anecdata?)
posted by dorque at 7:54 PM on March 6


Yet another reason to bring back Sunshine Beer!
posted by scody at 8:06 PM on March 6 [5 favorites]


Ok, so, just got back from reading the paper. It doesn't look like Part 2 is out yet, so maybe it addresses some of our concerns, but my partner (a computational biologist) and I are not deeply impressed with this paper. I have an interview tomorrow and need to go to bed, but if someone like Blasdelb has not come in by tomorrow evening to break it all down, I'll try to do it.
posted by dorque at 8:17 PM on March 6 [3 favorites]


Can you elaborate on this? I was instructed by my doctor to take over-the-counter D3 when I was deficient, and was under the impression that prescription D3 was the same, just stronger. Unless I missed it, I don't see the article advocating for a particular form of supplementation.

I've been recently put on a Vitamin D supplement by my doctor after showing an insufficiency in a blood test, and by units it's not even stronger than what I could get over the counter. What it seems to be is cheaper (which I appreciate) and also a liqui-gel (which may or may not mean something in terms of efficacy, I don't know)...
posted by rollbiz at 9:14 PM on March 6


Anecdata: 4000IU D3 daily keeps me happier during our endless grey winters.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:21 PM on March 6


How long until the anti-vaccine types apologize, do you think?

Don't hold your breath: You Can't Change an Anti-Vaxxer's Mind. A new study examined multiple strategies for communicating about the safety and importance of vaccines. None of them worked.
posted by homunculus at 12:59 AM on March 7 [4 favorites]


Direct sun exposure during the winter months may not be a significant source of Vitamin D, depending on where you live. Except during the summer months, the skin makes little if any vitamin D from the sun at latitudes above 37 degrees north or below 37 degrees south of the equator (Map).
posted by rainman84 at 5:03 AM on March 7


I get my D3 tablets (the oil capsules, which are absorbed better) from Target, so at least in my neck of the woods, D3 sources aren't hard to find.

I started taking them after a blood test and a recommendation from my doctor. The seasonal affective disorder symptoms I'd been getting since middle school have mostly lifted, which I think has to be related.

I think the newer research is mostly questioning the direction of causation -- does low Vitamin D status cause poor health, or does poor health cause low Vitamin D status? Initially we hoped it was the first one, but now it's starting to look like a bit of both. Also, there are some negative side effects from getting too much Vitamin D, so it is possible to overdo this particular intervention. (Although I still take it. The evidence is there, and anyway, SAD sucks.)
posted by pie ninja at 5:53 AM on March 7


I stand corrected. My doctor seemed to stress the importance of the over the counter not being sufficient, but that was probably because I had a particularly notable deficiency.

I have such a notable deficiency that D is literally undetectable in my blood unless I'm taking D supplements. I try to avoid the over the counter ones because I have to take 14 pills to equal one of the prescription strength. That's likely what your doctor was trying to help you avoid. The over the counter would be 100% useless for me (as your doctor implied) if I took the recommended dose on the bottle. You do have to be watchful that you get D3, though. I once had to stopgap with over the counter and got D2 and it was horrible. HORRIBLE.
posted by stoneweaver at 7:27 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]


Don't hold your breath: You Can't Change an Anti-Vaxxer's Mind. A new study examined multiple strategies for communicating about the safety and importance of vaccines. None of them worked.

Hmm. I haven't read the original paper, but this report has a slightly different take on it:
"Current public health communications about vaccines may not be effective," Nyhan and colleagues write. "More study of pro-vaccine messaging is needed."
Seems like there's a difference between 'what we're doing might not work, we should investigate alternatives' and 'nothing will ever work because these people are idiots who will never change their minds'. (Although, from a public-health perspective, I wonder if the gleeful pile-on of anti-vaxxers as stupid and incapable of reason that we pro-vaccination types tend to get into isn't itself damaging to the overall cause. Yeah, we can all high-five each other about how much smarter we are than Jenny McCarthy, but sometimes it feels like a kind of performance art we put on to bolster our own feelings of superiority because anti-vaxxers make such an easy target. People don't tend to listen to you when you've already made it clear you think they're idiots who can't be reasoned with, and after all the point isn't to prove we're cleverer than they are - it's to get them to vaccinate their kids.)

On the subject of Vitamin D deficiency, the big health concern here is over rickets. Rickets, ffs. Horrifying and surreal to think that we're dealing with the resurgence of a malnutrition and daylight-deprivation condition best known from the Victorian slums.
posted by Catseye at 8:00 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]


This thread inspired me to grab a little carton of skim at the cafeteria. MILK POWER! I feel stronger like Popeye already.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:17 AM on March 7


Other reasons rates may have risen since the 1970s (ie less Vitamin D):

fewer people work outdoors, jogging outside turned into gym workouts, more driving and less walking/mass transit, more vegetarians, computer games, nervous parents, the Internet.
posted by msalt at 9:32 AM on March 7 [2 favorites]


My roommate has cod liver oil in the fridge, maybe I'll start sneaking some of it.
posted by gucci mane at 9:35 AM on March 7


This thread inspired me to grab a little carton of skim at the cafeteria. MILK POWER! I feel stronger like Popeye already.

Um, skim milk isn't going to help. You need to have fat to bind with the D or it won't get into your system. I assume that you had it with a meal that had fat, but if not you may want to at least switch to 2%.
posted by stoneweaver at 12:14 PM on March 7 [6 favorites]


Woot! Justification for the shovelful of butter I add to my morning porridge!
posted by five fresh fish at 2:41 PM on March 7 [4 favorites]


My son needs regular blood tests for the range of mysteries associated with his health and development. We live in Australia and spend a LOT of time outdoors, particularly at the beach (practically every second day). I would say that the quality and strength of the sun in our area would probably be as high as anywhere on the globe - and as a result, skin cancer is a big problem here.
It is recommended that before you step outside on any day - overcast or not - that you smear yourself from head to toe with the highest strength sun cream, wear hats, etc. And of course, being responsible parents - we've always done this.
My son has extremely low levels of Vitamin D as a direct consequence of this - so much so, that we had to administer D orally for a period to bring this up to normal levels.
It's widely known here (at least in the medical establishment) that over 30% of Australians are lacking in D most likely as a consequence of the amazing ability for the aforementioned practises to avoid sunlight.
In my son's case - the Vitamin D administration seemed (maybe coincidentally) to rid his system of the head to toe eczema that was afflicting him, and it's never returned.
Getting sunburn here is very easy and happens quickly - so moderating exposure is a tricky compromise. I have been kind of surprised by the lack of general concern/awareness in the broader community however - particularly given the studies that exist that illustrate the impact of such a strict regime of avoiding sun exposure.
posted by a non e mouse at 3:33 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


> Well, that was my point sort of with the speculation that this may be why Autism rates are higher in the pacific northwest

Except that they're not. Indiana has a higher rate of diagnosis than Washington State does. Rhode Island and Oregon are almost tied. And then there's Minnesota.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:40 AM on March 8


I have such a notable deficiency that D is literally undetectable in my blood unless I'm taking D supplements. I try to avoid the over the counter ones because I have to take 14 pills to equal one of the prescription strength.

Similar situation for me. My deficiency was so bad that my doctor said the only thing that would meaningfully boost my levels was the megadose Rx pills -- the OTC wouldn't help unless I took handfuls of them. (But once I got into the normal-ish range, she said the OTC supplements would be fine for maintenance.)
posted by scody at 10:01 AM on March 8 [1 favorite]


My vitamin D level was low (40 nmol/L or 16 ng/mL) so my doctor told me to take 3000 IU/day with a glass of milk, and to lower it to 2000 IU in the warmer months. Not a prescription pill, just 3 regular 1000 IU D3 tablets, not calcium-enriched, with milk.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 5:38 PM on March 8


Hm. Oregon and other Northwest states have high rates of skin cancer. I've assumed that's because what little sun we get in summer, people tend to overdo it. But, I dunno.
posted by amanda at 8:35 PM on March 8


Children with vitamin D deficiency may be at greater risk of food allergies (at least in Australia).
posted by goshling at 11:00 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]


Another article about D deficiency being linked the all sorts of auto-immune and neurological conditions.
posted by goshling at 6:45 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]


Interesting how the stereotype of the sickly, pale, allergenic and over-protected kid is borne out by science.
posted by msalt at 10:42 AM on March 23


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