Vitamin D and Winter Well-Being

· The Epoch Times·
December 11 - 17, 2006
Vitamin D and Winter Well-Being What’s Your Grade?
Special to The Epoch Times
Contracted days come as part and
parcel of this time of year and leave
us short on sunlight. One important
effect of sunshine is that it drives the
body’s production of vitamin D—a
key nutrient. A combination of wrapping up for winter and a dearth of
sunlight can leave us low in vitamin
D. So what can be done to ensure we
keep levels of this nutrient up at this
time of year?
Besides sunlight, the other major
source of vitamin D is our diet. Cod
liver oil is a significant source of vitamin D. For more than a hundred
years, taking cod liver oil has been
advocated for its ability to ward off
rickets and to ease stiff and creaking
The ability of cod liver oil to supply the body with vitamin D may
have important implications for both
body and brain. For instance, there
is evidence from both test-tube and
animal experiments that shows vitamin D has the ability to reduce the
risk of the development and spread
of cancerous tumors. Not surprisingly, studies show that increased
sunlight exposure is associated with
a decreased risk of several forms
of cancer, including those of the
breast, prostate, and colon. Vitamin
D is also crucial for bone health and
seems to help protect against multiple sclerosis.
Some research suggests that vitamin D deficiency may play a part
in seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
—sometimes referred to as “winter
blues.” In one study, just five days of
treatment with vitamin D (at a dose
of 400 or 800 IU per day) was found
to improve winter mood [1]. Further
evidence for the potential for vitamin D to alleviate SAD came from
research in which individuals were
treated with either 600 or 4,000 IU
of vitamin D each day for at least six
months. Both dosages of vitamin D
led to improvements in the participants’ mood and general well-being,
with those on the higher dose of vitamin D benefiting the most [2].
Cod liver oil, like other fish oils, is
also rich in omega-3 fats. These come
in two main forms: docosahexaenoic
acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic
acid (EPA). A high consumption of
these fats has been linked with a reduced risk of cardiovascular conditions such as heart attack and stroke.
Omega-3 fats have a natural anti-inflammatory effect in the body, and
there is some thought that this biochemical benefit may be part of the
explanation for why cod liver oil can
provide relief from conditions like
osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. And like vitamin D, these fats
also have benefits for the brain. DHA
appears to be important for the structural integrity of the brain, while
EPA seems to have a more important
role in the day-to-day running of the
brain. Omega-3 fats show promise in
the prevention and/or treatment of
many mental ailments, including depression and dementia.
To get reasonable levels of vitamin D and omega-3 fats from cod
liver oil, one needs to take 1 to 2 teaspoons a day throughout the winter.
Fortunately, cod liver oils that have
been naturally flavored (often with
Pass or Fail?
What have you learned from this
column during the past year? I hope
I’ve been a good teacher and you
pass this test with at least 50 percent
of the questions right. But don’t get
depressed if you flunk the test. I’m
not going to tell anyone! And it may
even help you when playing Trivial
Louise Valentine/The Epoch Times
VITAMIN D SOURCE: Cod liver oil is especially helpful in the winter in the
more northern latitudes, where vitamin D from sunlight is already diminished.
lemon or orange) are now available
and represent a good option for those
who do not like the taste of plain cod
liver oil.
1. Lansdowne, A.T., et al. Vitamin
D3 enhances mood in healthy subjects during winter. Psychopharmacology (Berlin) 1998; 135(4): 319–23.
2. Vieth, R., et al. Randomized
comparison of the effects of the vita-
min D3 adequate intake versus 100
mcg (4000 IU) per day on biochemical responses and the wellbeing of
patients. Nutrition Journal 2004;
Dr John Briffa is a London-based
doctor, author, and health writer
with an interest in nutrition and
natural medicine.
His website is
Pancreatic Cancer
Linked to Sugar Intake
SUGAR: Consumption of sugar has
been associated with an increased
incidence of pancreatic cancer.
NEW YORK (Reuters Health)—
Eating lots of sugar and sugar-sweetened foods could increase a person’s
likelihood of developing cancer of the
pancreas, by far one of the deadliest
types of cancer, Swedish researchers
Dr. Susanna C. Larsson of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and her
colleagues found that pancreatic cancer was significantly more likely to
strike men and women who added the
most sugar to their food and consumed
the greatest quantities of soft drinks.
The researchers followed 77,797
men and women aged 45 to 83 for an
average of about seven years. Those
who reported eating five or more servings of added sugar daily, for example
sugar added to tea, coffee, or cereal,
were 69 percent more likely to develop
pancreatic cancer than those who never added sugar to their food or drink.
People who consumed two or more
servings of soft drinks a day had a
93 percent greater risk of pancreatic
cancer compared to those who abstained from these beverages. Eating
sweetened fruit soups or stewed fruit
increased risk by 51 percent.
But there was no association between sweets, marmalade, or jams
and pancreatic cancer risk, possibly
because these foods are eaten less
frequently and in smaller quantities,
Larsson and her colleagues write.
Factors involved in the loss of sensitivity to the blood-sugar processing
hormone insulin, such as sedentary
lifestyle, obesity, and diabetes, have
all been tied directly to pancreatic
cancer, a disease that kills the vast
majority of people diagnosed within
five years, Larsson and her team note
in the American Journal of Clinical
Eating too much sugar could therefore conceivably boost pancreatic cancer risk by putting greater demands
on the pancreas to produce insulin
while reducing sensitivity to the hormone, as well as through a number of
other potential mechanisms.
“Given the ... implications of these
findings and the poor prognosis of
pancreatic cancer, further research on
sugar and high-sugar foods ... is warranted,” the researchers conclude.
Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, November 2006
NEW YORK (Reuters Health)—
People who flavor their diets with
plenty of onions and garlic might
have lower odds of several types of
cancer, a new study suggests.
In an analysis of eight studies from
Italy and Switzerland, researchers
found that older adults with the highest onion and garlic intakes had the
lowest risks of a number of cancers—
including colon, ovarian, and throat
The findings, which appear in the
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, are in line with some past research. But those studies were mainly
conducted in China, and it is unclear
if the results are different in Western
Dietary habits are substantially different in China, with garlic intake, in
particular, being far higher, Dr. Carlotta Galeone, the lead author of the
new study, told Reuters Health.
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Onions and Garlic Antidepressants
Keep Cancer Away Raise Suicide Risk
in Young Adults
Spinal-cord injury patient was able to walk following scalp acupuncture*
250 W. 57th Street #1003
New York, NY 10107
The first 10 questions are true, the
rest false.
Stroke patient stands up immediately
Tel: 212-683-9891 / 718-672-1328
1. Men who don’t shave daily enjoy
less sex and are more likely to suffer
a stroke and heart attack.
2. Abdominal hernias are repaired
to decrease the risk of strangulation
of the bowel. But recent studies show
that there is no need to operate on all
3. A waistline of more than 40 inches (100 centimeters) for a man and 35
inches (90 centimeters) for a woman
is a risk factor for heart disease.
4. Seventy-five percent of cases of
sudden death during sexual activity
occur in those involved in extramarital sex.
5. Men with high levels of lead in
their bones have three times the risk
of developing cataracts and are twice
as likely to have hypertension.
6. Leeches can be helpful in treating
post-operative complications when a
severed limb has been rejoined and
excessive swelling threatens to decrease the flow of oxygenated blood
to the extremity.
7. Magnesium is a natural antispasmodic and can help to ease the pain
of angina and decrease the risk of an
abnormal heart rate.
8. The kinetic energy of a rotating power blade of a lawnmower has
three times the muzzle energy of a
.357 Magnum pistol and can cause
serious eye injury.
9. Low-intensity laser therapy can
ease the pain of arthritis and herniated lumbar disks, and heal diabetic
10. The diagnosis of depression is
often missed in more males than females due to their macho image.
11. Older drivers can adapt to night
driving as well as younger drivers as
long as they take vitamin E.
12. It’s not possible to catch herpes
by sitting down on a public toilet seat
as the virus is quickly killed on exposure to the air.
13. You only require 10 grams of dietary fiber daily to ensure soft bowel
movements and decrease the risk of
developing hernias of the large bowel.
14. High doses of vitamin C increase the risk of cataracts, arthritis,
and kidney stones.
15. X-rays are far superior to colonoscopy in diagnosing cancer of the
large bowel.
16. Mitral valve prolapse is a serious heart condition that always requires surgery.
17. A short afternoon nap does not
increase mental and physical performance.
18. Studies show that the worst
time to have a surgical operation is
Tuesday morning at 8:00 am. The
best time is Monday morning.
19. Women experience the same
symptoms of heart attack as men.
And the results of bypass surgery are
just as good as those for men.
20. Headache is more often the result of white wine that contains 200X
more histamine than red wine.
21. Ninety-five percent of the time,
gout affects females because they eat
more foods containing purine, which
produces low amounts of uric acid.
22. A lack of estrogen is responsible for hot flushes, insomnia, and fatigue, but rarely results in thinning of
the vaginal lining and painful sexual
23. Fatty disease of the liver and
cirrhosis are always the result of
excessive alcohol consumption and
never the result of obesity.
This patient suffered from hemiplegia
after a stroke. She was bedridden
before treatment, but after the first
treatment, she was able to stand up.
These latest findings suggest the
anti-cancer benefit of these vegetables extend to Western populations,
according to Galeone, a researcher at
the Mario Negri Institute of Pharmacologic Research in Milan, Italy.
It’s still not certain that onions and
garlic have a direct effect on cancer
risk. It’s possible, for instance, that
onion and garlic lovers also have an
overall diet that protects against cancer, according to Galeone and her
On the other hand, they note, animal studies and lab experiments with
cancer cells have found that certain
compounds in onions and garlic may
inhibit the growth of tumors. Sulfur compounds found in garlic and
antioxidant flavonoids in onions are
among the potentially protective substances.
The current findings are based on
results from eight studies conducted
in Italy and Switzerland. Each study
compared healthy older adults to patients with a particular form of cancer, asking participants for detailed
information on their diets, physical
activity, and other lifestyle habits.
When it came to colon cancer,
Galeone’s team found that men and
women who ate seven or more servings of onions per week had less than
half the risk of those who shunned
the vegetable. Similarly, garlic lovers
were a quarter less likely to develop
the disease than people who maintained garlic-free diets.
The vegetables were also linked to
lower risks of cancers of the mouth,
throat, kidneys, and ovaries.
Given what’s known about the biological activity of some onion and
garlic compounds, it wouldn’t be a
bad idea to spice up your diet with the
vegetables, according to Galeone.
It’s probably wise to mix them with
plenty of other vegetables, however.
Some research has found that garlic
and tomatoes may have “synergistic”
cancer-fighting effects, Galeone and
her colleagues note.
Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, November 2006
WASHINGTON (Reuters)—Antidepressants appear to raise the risk
of suicidal thoughts and behavior
in adults younger than 25, Food and
Drug Administration (FDA) staff
said in a recent analysis.
Antidepressants already include
strong warnings that they may trigger
suicidal thoughts and attempts in some
children and teenagers, but the FDA
has been studying whether adults are
also at risk and if similar cautions are
needed for older patients.
“When results are analyzed by age,
it becomes clear that there is an elevated risk for (suicidal thoughts or
behavior) among adults younger than
25 years of age that approaches that
seen in the pediatric population,” an
FDA staff summary said.
The agency will present its review
of 372 trials that compared antidepressants to placebos and involved nearly
100,000 patients to an advisory panel
of doctors and scientists at a public
meeting due to be held Dec. 13.
Dr. David Fassler, a psychiatrist at
the University of Vermont College of
Medicine, said the possibility of an
increase in suicidal tendencies among
young adults deserved further study.
“However, the incidence of such
events was also well below what one
would generally expect in depressed
patients,” he added.
Still, Dr. Kelly Posner, a Columbia
University researcher who worked
with the FDA to analyze the data,
cautioned against drawing a link
between the drugs and younger patients. A number of factors, including the medicines allowing patients
to discuss their suicidal tendencies,
could be at play.
FDA reviewers said there was also
“a slight suggestion” that drugs in the
inhibitor (SNRI) class may have a
“greater effect” in those younger than
25 compared to selective serotonin
reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). It was
unclear if the reviewers meant the suicidal risk was higher in either class.
SSRIs are some of the most widely
used medications for depression and
include Forest Laboratories Inc. Lexapro, GlaxoSmithKline Plc’s Paxil, Eli
Lilly and Co.’s Prozac, and Pfizer’s
Zoloft. SNRIs include Wyeth’s Effexor and Lilly’s Cymbalta.
Glaxo said in June that it added
findings to the Paxil label from a
study showing young adults who
took the drug in clinical trials were
more likely to report suicidal behavior than others who got a placebo.
The company said at the time that it
was hard to tell if the drug caused the
Complicating matters is that suicidal thoughts or behaviors can be
symptoms of depression itself—an
illness that can leave patients feeling
anxious, sad, and hopeless, with less
interest in activities and decreased
About 9.5 percent of American
adults experience some kind of mood
disorder, including depression, each
year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
The FDA first began addressing
suicide risk with antidepressants
in 2003 after it received reports of
children and teenagers who thought
about or attempted suicide.
It ordered new warnings for youth
on the drugs in 2004 and said it would
also study the risk in adults.
The FDA said it would ask the advisory panel to discuss the analysis
and agency plans to modify antidepressant labels. The panelists will not
vote on specific questions, and the
FDA will make the final decision, the
agency said.
The FDA documents did not say
what label changes are being considered. FDA spokeswoman Susan Cruzan said the agency would discuss
options at the panel meeting.
The FDA staff summary is posted
on the agency’s Web site at http://