Tuesday 31 October 2017

What should go in your family's first-aid kit?

A well-stocked first-aid kit can help you respond effectively to common injuries and emergencies. Keep at least one first-aid kit in your home and one in your car. Store your kits in easy-to-retrieve locations that are out of the reach of young children. Children old enough to understand the purpose of the kits should know where they are stored.
You can purchase first-aid kits at many drugstores or assemble your own. Contents of a first-aid kit should include:
Basic supplies
Adhesive tape Antibiotic ointment Antiseptic solution or towelettes Bandages, including a roll of elastic wrap (Ace, Coban, others) and bandage strips (Band-Aid, Curad, others) in assorted sizes Instant cold packs Cotton balls and cotton-tipped swabs Disposable latex or synthetic gloves, at least two pair Duct tape Gauze pads and roller gauze in assorted sizes First-aid manual Petroleum jelly or other lubricant Plastic bags for the disposal of contaminated materials Safety pins in assorted sizes Scissors and tweezers Soap or instant hand sanitizer Sterile eyewash, such as a saline solution Thermometer Triangular bandage Turkey baster or other bulb suction device for flushing out wounds
Activated charcoal (use only if instructed by your poison control center) Aloe vera gel Anti-diarrhea medication Over-the-counter oral antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl, others) Aspirin and nonaspirin pain relievers (never give aspirin to children) Calamine lotion Over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream Personal medications that don't need refrigeration If prescribed by your doctor, drugs to treat an allergic attack, such as an auto-injector of epinephrine (EpiPen, Twinject, others) Syringe, medicine cup or spoon
Emergency items
Emergency phone numbers, including contact information for your family doctor and pediatrician, local emergency services, emergency road service providers and the regional poison control center Medical consent forms for each family member Medical history forms for each family member Small, waterproof flashlight and extra batteries Candles and matches Sunscreen Emergency space blanket First-aid instruction manual
Give your kit a checkup
Check your first-aid kits regularly, at least every three months, to be sure the flashlight batteries work and to replace supplies that have expired.
Consider taking a first-aid course through the American Red Cross. Contact your local chapter for information on classes.
Prepare children for medical emergencies in age-appropriate ways. The American Red Cross offers a number of helpful resources, including classes designed to help children understand and use first-aid techniques.

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Exercise is Nature's Antidepressant!

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Superfoods to the rescue!

There are so-called “superfoods” for weight loss, “superfoods” that fight cancer, and even “superfoods” that we should feed our teens, but the question remains: what actually are superfoods?
Are they heads of broccoli or kale wearing capes, gogi berries sporting a wonder woman head band or tiny chia seeds and cashews sporting muscles in powerful-looking costumes?
Superfoods are not replicas of heroes with super powers, but nutrient-dense foods that have some health benefits. Popular in the United States, the term “superfoods” has been prohibited since 2007 in the marketing of food in Europe, unless accompanied by specific, authorized health claims supported by credible scientific research.
Though superfoods are promoted for their ability to prevent or cure disease, Suzanne Pearlman, who holds a master’s of science degree in nutrition, described the term as a marketing gimmick used to encourage the sale of specific foods that may not actually cure diseases.
“I guess I get frustrated with gimmicks, such as when certain products come on the market and it’s described as the next cure-all and be-all for so many diseases,” Pearlman said. “It really gets down to eating a healthful, whole-food diet and regular exercise. One food isn’t going to do it all.”
Pearlman believes many foods are health-promoting, including greens like kale. In her Dover practice, Nutritional Balance for Life, she develops an individual meal plan to help her clients reach their goals, often related to diabetes, dementia, compromised immune systems, eating disorders or other health conditions.
Nature offers an array of colorful, whole fruits, vegetables and grains and Pearlman said eating a wide variety helps humans achieve and maintain a strong healthy state.
“You can eat more of a certain food to help boost your system if you are deficient in certain nutrients, but it depends on what is happening for the individual because one person’s food can be another person’s enemy,” said Pearlman, who is an adjunct professor of personal nutrition, human biology and anatomy and physiology at N.H. Technical Institute – Concord’s Community College.
“When I see a client, I don’t have a list of fixed foods to focus on, I look at the whole picture. I don’t focus on the superfood of the week or month.”
Even though Seacoast Chef Teri Hull of Rye agrees the term superfood is a marketing term with no scientific backing to the label, she appreciates the image it suggests.
“It evokes this image of a head of broccoli with superman or a superwoman cape coming to the rescue,” she said with a laugh. “Actually a superfood is a highly nutrient-dense food and for people who are new to a whole foods diet there’s no need to be intimidated by this perception that superfoods are just spirulina, bee pollen and kelp. To add more superfoods to your diet, you can eat more berries, wild salmon and greens.”

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Monday 30 October 2017

Scientists devise the ultimate anti-cancer diet!

Scientists have come up with the ultimate anti-cancer diet that could prevent—and even reverse—the disease.
A diet that includes apples—and especially the peel—red grapes, turmeric and green tea will give the body all the chemicals that have been proven to have cancer-fighting qualities.
The chemicals can shrink prostate cancer tumours, but they are likely to be effective against other cancers as well, say researchers from the University of Texas at Austin.
Instead of looking at the chemicals in isolation, the researchers wanted to see just how effective they were in combination—and so eventually came up with the diet.
The chemicals work together to help reverse inflammation, which is known to play a key role in the growth of cancer cells. Inflammation—brought about by chronic infections, auto-immune disease and even obesity—damages healthy cells, and makes them more susceptible to cancer.
In all, the researchers tested 142 different compounds on human cell lines in the laboratory until they came up with their winning combination, which includes ursolic acid, a waxy chemical found in apple peels and rosemary; curcumin, the bright yellow plant compound in turmeric, and resveratrol, which is in berries and red grapes.
By combining the chemicals, the researchers discovered that they stop cancer cells from absorbing glutamine, an amino acid that helps them grow and spread.

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What Supercross Racers Can Teach You About Your Own Fitness!

When you're racing a motorcycle, your heart beats as fast as humanly possible. Whether you're hopping along the straightaways or jumping a bike 20 feet in the air, you need to stay focused and ward off the distractions of a roaring crowd and constant fireworks.
At the Monster Energy AMA Supercross in Las Vegas, rider Marvin Musquin overcame all of those challenges and more to take home $1 million — the second rider ever to claim a seven-figure check from the competition. This year's competition was also unique in another respect: for the first time, every racer on the dirt wore heart monitors that not only recorded their exertion levels throughout the race for trainer analysis, but also broadcasted that same real-time data to the stadium’s screens.
During the competition in Las Vegas, riders wrestled 200+ pound bikes around banked turns and over 20-foot jumps, their hearts spiking above the 190 BPM mark and staying there for 15 laps. The heart rate displays showed this spike in real time, providing a fun gimmick to bring fans closer to their favorite riders.
The race organisers hoped the heart monitors would help fans understand how hard the racers work. But the data also served another purpose: to help trainers and medical professionals understand heart function and recovery during any athletic competition.

The tracking tech was created by LITPro, a Temecula, Calif.-based developer of race-tracking software. LITPro President Michael Ford says LITPro needed to upgrade its existing technology before its new heart monitors could work. Using a form of GPS, LITPro had to track the racers' rapidly beating hearts, turn to turn and jump to jump.
motocross heart rate

“We had to reinvent GPS as it currently only offers a data point every second," Ford explained. "Our HD GPS now reports 20 times per second. That allows us to add other metrics such as acceleration and G-force to our heart rate monitoring.”
Examining heart rate and recovery offers tremendous insight into how efficiently the human body works. Musquin, for instance, utilizes LITPro’s heart rate monitoring technology for races, practices and time trials, but he also has the unit attached while exercising with fitness expert Aldon Baker.
“We’re learning that the primary signs of fitness are heart rate and recovery,” Baker told Men's Health. "The biggest challenge I face is trying to find ways to train Supercross athletes up to the same heart rates as when they race. These guys have been racing since they were five years old, so they’re not afraid out there during a race. But their heart rates are still higher at race time than at any other time. That’s all adrenaline — all competition.”
To push his riders’ fitness levels as close to race conditions as he can, Baker has them switch between practice riding to intense cardio and strength training days. Regardless, the athletes do some cardio every day unless they are injured.
motocross heart rate

Ford and Baker foresee all of this training and racing data finding its way into the mainstream fitness realm. After collecting and analyzing all of the heart rate data, Ford and LitPRO want to take their findings to other circuits and sports beyond motor-racing to aid a wider swath of athletes in training.
Still, there's something exceptional about Supercross.
“I don’t think anyone realizes the exertion these guys manage during a race,” Ford said. “Football players get a break after every play. Basketball players stop for fouls. Our racers have to manage that bike with the throttle wide open, against G-forces and through all the impacts. That’s why this is the perfect sport to drive this research.”

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This Two Other Hormones Need your Attention in Menopause Besides Estrogen!

Menopause Besides Estrogen

In this period the woman’s body reduces the production of hormones such as estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. And for this reason many woman use hormone replacement therapy.
Sudden sensations of heat, vaginal dryness and brittle bones are some of the things that can be experienced during menopause. Weight gain around the abdomen can be also caused.
To treat this woman are usually prescribed estrogen with progestin or only estrogen therapies.
Most affected hormones
This hormone is the main female hormone. The reduced levels of this hormone can cause changes in woman’s body.
Symptoms that can be experienced are: sudden sensations of heat on the chest, neck and face, sleep problems, night sweats, tension, fatigue, headache, tenderness.
Also with dropped levels of estrogen can cause weight gain in the abdominal area. Low levels of estrogen can lower the metabolic rate.
This female hormone is also provided by the ovaries. This hormone is helpful for egg fertilization.
The menstrual cycles stop because of its deficit of this hormone during menopause. Lower levels of progesterone can cause irregular cycles, heavier bur rare cycles etc.
This male hormone is also produced in woman’s body but in small doses. Low levels of testosterone in woman’s body can cause libido reduction.
How to treat menopause symptoms
Hormone therapy can help in reducing some of the mentioned symptoms such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness and loss of calcium. Sometimes this symptoms will go away with time with no need of treatment.
Some woman can have difficulties overcoming this symptoms, so consulting a doctor is the best choice.
Heart attack, stroke, breast cancer, blood clots etc. are some of the risks that can occur by using hormone therapies.

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Sunday 29 October 2017

Coconut oil: How five common claims about the 'superfood' stack up!

PHOTO: Is coconut oil all it's really cracked up to be, or is it just another fad? (Flickr: Hafiz Issadeen, CC BY 2.0)
Coconuts have been a valued food in tropical areas for thousands of years, traditionally enjoyed as coconut water from the centre of the coconut, coconut flesh, or coconut "milk" (made by steeping the flesh in hot water).
Solid white coconut oil (I'll use this popular term, although technically it's a fat not an oil) is now the darling of celebrities and bloggers, paleo enthusiasts and sellers of so-called superfoods.
Claims for its supposed medical value reverberate around the internet, but how well do they stand up to scientific scrutiny?

1. It helps you lose weight

No study has found coconut oil helps weight loss.
The claim made on hundreds of internet sites that it has some special ability to get rid of body fat is based on the erroneous idea that coconut oil is synonymous with a semi-synthetic laboratory product known as MCT oil.
Unlike regular edible oils, MCT oil is soluble in water and was originally designed for use in tube feeding or for people who were malnourished because they lacked normal enzymes that split fat.
Unlike most fats that are absorbed into the bloodstream, MCT oil is absorbed directly into the liver. This means it can be used more rapidly for fuel than other fats.
There is some evidence MCT oil may help with weight loss, although the dose required and its side effects — at least initially — can include nausea, stomach cramps and diarrhoea.
Even so, internet sites that assume the effects of MCT oil also apply to coconut oil are wrong. The two products are not equivalent and you can't switch the findings of one to the other.
MCT is made up of two fatty acids — caprylic and capric acids. Coconut oil has small amounts of these acids, but its dominant fatty acid is lauric acid. Lauric acid is not digested in the liver but is digested and metabolised in the body like the fatty acids in other edible oils.
If munching on a piece of coconut flesh (which is a reasonable source of dietary fibre) helps you eat less overall, that could be useful.
However, a study of different fats, including coconut oil, found no beneficial effect on hunger, fullness, satisfaction or current thoughts of food.

PHOTO: Coconut flesh being dried for cold pressing into virgin oil at the Solomon Islands. (ABC News: Sean Murphy)

2. It reduces heart disease risk

Careful studies show the overall effect of coconut oil on increasing LDL cholesterol (which increases the risk of heart disease) is greater than with cornsafflower or a mixture of soybean and sesame oils.
It is, however, slightly better than butter.
Plenty of evidence from studies of people living traditional lifestyles with coconut (as flesh or the creamy liquid squeezed from the flesh) as their major source of fat show low levels of heart disease.
They include 1960s studies of lean and active Pacific Islanders whose diets consisted mainly of fish, octopus, taro, breadfruit, bananas and coconuts.
The same applies to the very lean people of Kitava (a small island of Papua New Guinea), with their traditional diet of yams, cassava, sweet potato, taro, banana and other tropical fruits, fish and coconut.
Their diet is not only low in fat, but also has little alcohol, salt, sugar, dairy or processed foods.
In contrast to these restricted diets of past times, coconut has not been able to protect against big changes in diet and activity. In Samoa, for example, coconut consumption hasn't changed, but the total daily diet contributed 3,800 kilojoules (900 calories) more in 2007 compared with the 1960s.
Pacific Islanders now top the world obesity tables, heart disease rates are high, and type 2 diabetes is three times more common than in Australia — all in spite of consuming coconut.
As one recent review of 21 research papers and a further review have shown, coconut oil cannot be relied on to reduce blood cholesterol or protect against heart disease.

3. It kills bacteria and viruses

Some internet sites claim coconut oil can kill viruses, fungi and bacteria due to its content of monolaurin, a compound derived from lauric acid.
Studies in mice show monolaurin can provide some protection against the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus (responsible for some staph infections), but researchers doing this study found no effect with either refined or virgin coconut oil.
In particular types of infection, there is some possibility monolaurin might be of use, but it's not valid to extrapolate from this to make claims about coconut oil when there's no evidence the body can make monolaurin from coconut oil.
Instead, a manufactured form of monolaurin (glycerol monolaurate) is found in coconut oil and is popular for its emulsifying and moisturising properties in cosmetics, detergents and soaps.
These properties in coconut oil could support its benefits as a surface moisturiser or make-up remover.

4. It repairs your hair

Several papers published in the Journal of Cosmetic Science claim that coconut oil applied to hair is better at penetrating the hair shaft than mineral oil.
This could be useful and it's unlikely that coconut oil massaged into hair will have any adverse effect on human health, so if it appeals, it may be worthwhile to use it for this reason.

5. It whitens your teeth

This claim is another extrapolation of the idea that coconut oil can kill harmful organisms.
The practice of swishing oil in the mouth (called "oil pulling") for 10-30 minutes before spitting hails from Ayurvedic practices in India and supposedly draws out toxins.
If it makes you feel sick or headachy, that's meant to be proof you are extracting toxins.
There's no scientific evidence to support this practice and it should not replace proper dental care.
Rosemary Stanton is a nutritionist and visiting fellow at the University of New South Wales.

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Amazon takeover of Whole Foods may be good for small businesses in natural food industry!

Amazon lowered prices on key items at Whole Foods Market, on its first day of acquisition. Here's a before-and-after comparison of five food prices. USA TODAY
Jennifer Constantine, founder and CEO of JC’s Pie Pops, surprised a group of industry executives at the Natural Products Expo East show last month with her enthusiastic reaction to Amazon's purchase of Whole Foods.
“One gentleman said ‘a lot of the young brands your size are terrified and they think they are going to get erased.’ But I think that’s the wrong way to look at it,” Constantine, said. “If you’re a little brand and you’re not really making it happen, it’s going to hurt. But if you sell, then you’ve got a much bigger platform now.”
JC’S Pie Pops, based in Los Angeles, was formed in 2013 after Constantine, a songwriter by trade, accidentally froze her homemade Panna Cotta, an Italian dessert meant only to be chilled. Whole Foods helped Constantine break into the specialty food market by selling her product in a handful stores. With $5.3 million in sales last year, JC’s products are now dozens of chains including Publix, Giant, Sprouts and H.E.B.
For entrepreneurs in the natural food and products industry like Constantine, Whole Foods has served as a launchpad of sorts for companies looking to get on mainstream store shelves. Companies and local farmers often would get into one or two locations and grow from there if their products took off. Like the big supermarkets and food manufacturers who are nervous about Amazon's size and power, many small suppliers can see benefits of the combination, but are also concerned what it could mean for them. 
“I’m a little nervous because we’re a smaller player, but as an entrepreneur, I’m excited about the distribution potential,” says Anupy Singla owner of Chicago-based Indian as Apple Pie and author of three cookbooks. She started selling spices in 2015 at her local Whole Foods and now has products in about a dozen stores. Starting small gave her the time to develop products right, she said.
Amazon “may mean I can actually reach more consumers now. That’s really what we’re talking about on one level, for entrepreneurs,” she said. “Even though there’s uncertainty.”
Whole Foods has been important for startups because it brings credibility through rigorous requirements in organic and natural categories, says Natalie Shmulik, a consultant at The Hatchery, a food business incubator in Chicago that provides entrepreneurs kitchen space, consulting, classes and other services. 
Change was already afoot at Whole Foods prior to Amazon swooping in.  The chain was already streamlining its purchasing process before the Amazon deal closed in August, shifting to regional buyers and more approval through its Austin headquarters rather individual stores or regions, according to business owners, venture capitalists and others in the industry. Previously small business owners often dealt with the buying manager for an individual store or region which could make it cumbersome to expand.
Denver-based Birch Benders broke into Whole Foods through a single store in Boulder, Colo., after the company formed in 2011 and worked its way into the region. Now available in 7,000 stores in different chains nationally, says CEO and co-founder Matt LeCasse.

“We’re in a position where we’re not overly concerned about the acquisition. We’re Whole Foods number one pancake brand,” LeCasse said. “What’s been really exciting for all of us is that it’s just been a huge endorsement of the natural food industry, that our goal of getting better food into every American household is working.”

What might shift is the ability for a startup to charge more during product development as Amazon focuses on profit margins and centralizes some buying. That means products may need to be farther along before startups present to Whole Foods.

“What may happen is the stepping stone is just going to change,” said Ron Tanner, vice president of philanthropy, government and industry relations at the Specialty Food Association. “It’s going to be specialty foods store, it could be a local grocer, it could be other things and then they move into larger stores as they go forward.”
For its part, Whole Foods said it’s committed to developing small, local businesses.
“All Whole Foods Market stores will continue to sell local products, and our buyers remain committed to discovering and incubating local and innovative brands,” spokeswoman Betsy Harden said in an e-mailed statement. “Local suppliers and products are crucial to the success of the company and our ongoing work in category management helps streamline processes that ensure each store has the best possible curated selection of local and national products available for shoppers."

If Alejandro Velez's experience with Amazon is an indication, natural food and products companies may find the behemoth to be a good partner. Velez formed Back-to-the-Roots fresh out of UC Berkeley in 2012 with fellow alum Nikhil Arora after using their fraternity kitchen to grow mushrooms out of used coffee grounds. Whole Foods, he said, was "the first to believe in us."
Now, Back-to-the-Roots, based in Oakland, has 21 employees, sales in the “millions” and sells products like a fish tank that doubles as an herb garden. Velez also advises and sells on Amazon Launchpad, a section of the online giant’s website focused on startups.
“I keep hearing a lot of brands talking about negative impact but this, but I couldn’t be more excited about the potential,” said Velez. “Too many people are writing it off as if this is going to become a store that loses its values and its soul and its purpose. There will just be more structure, and I think that’s good.”

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It's D-lovely!

Health authorities keep telling us that too much vitamin D is toxic, but new research shows that very high dosages of the vitamin—up to 200,000 IU—can help to repair skin damage like sunburn. Cate Montana investigates.

Rare is the person who hasn't had the misfortune of experiencing sunburn at least once in their lives—usually a lot more often than that. And that is not a good thing. Studies show that the number of sunburns experienced over the course of one's life is directly related to an increased risk of melanoma, if the sunburns occurred in adolescence, as well as basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) if sunburns occur in either adolescence or adulthood.1
But a recent study conducted on the effects of high-dose oral vitamin D and sunburn holds out the hope that if you do mistakenly get sunburned, a mega-dose of vitamin D just might help you dodge its worst effects.
It all started with an experiment in mice to see if high doses of vitamin D could help mitigate the effects of skin injury and assist in wound healing. When vitamin D was indeed found to reduce inflammation, lessen wound damage and bolster the overall health of mice with chemically induced skin injuries, Dr Jeffrey Scott, a dermatologic oncologist who specializes in skin cancer surgery at the University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center in Ohio and co-author on the original study, decided to see if a high, one-time oral dose of vitamin D could help reduce the effects of sunburn in humans.
In his study, 20 healthy adults were randomized to receive either a placebo or a 50,000 IU, 100,000 IU or 200,000 IU dose of vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) one hour after an experimental sunburn was induced on one arm by the application of ultraviolet blue (UVB) radiation.
"It definitely reduced the visual redness on the participants' skin," says Dr Scott. "But it didn't completely eliminate the sunburn." And the highest doses of vitamin D were clearly the most effective. Of all the subjects who were given these experimental sunburns, only the subjects who received the highest amounts of vitamin D had less redness.
"We're speculating that vitamin D, because we produce it in our skin, may have some homeostatic regulatory role," says Scott. "Not only are our bodies producing it to generate more vitamin D for bone health, but our bodies may be producing it to help protect us from external insults from the environment. We don't have any data from our paper—our study wasn't designed to ask that question. But... if vitamin D can be anti-inflammatory, could it be that it's acting in this fashion in our skin, as it's being produced on a continual basis?"
The sunshine vitamin
Vitamin D comes in two forms. Vitamin D2 is found in mushrooms exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D3 is created in our epidermis when our skin is exposed to UVB radiation from the sun. UVB light stimulates a chemical in the skin's epidermis called 7-dehydrocholesterol to produce vitamin D. Vitamin D3 is also found in some fatty fishes, such as salmon, herring and mackerel.
Vitamin D from both sources—within our skin and derived from our diet—is actually biologically inert and has to be processed by the liver and then the kidneys in order to create its bioactive form, called calcitriol (1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 or 1,25(OH)2D3).2 Calcitriol, while technically derived from a 'vitamin,' is actually a hormone, with critical effects on many organs in the body via the endocrine system.3
For decades, vitamin D was thought to exist simply to promote bone health, because lack of vitamin D was found to be responsible for under-mineralization of the skeletal system leading to the condition known as rickets. Vitamin D deficiency can also cause bone softening, known as osteomalacia. Laboratory experiments have shown that vitamin D strengthens bones by stimulating the intestinal absorption of calcium and phosphate, as well as mobilizing calcium and phosphate stores in the body as they're needed for skeletal growth and bone repair.
Today we know that vitamin D plays an enormous number of roles in maintaining the body's health, as vitamin D receptors are found in most kinds of tissues and cells.
Vitamin D assists transcription—the first step of gene expression where a segment of DNA is copied into RNA, and recently it has been the focus of significant attention for its role in the immune system.
Vitamin D controls genes responsible for the production of antimicrobial agents such as cathelicidin, which the immune system uses to fight off potentially harmful bacteria.4 It has also been suggested to stimulate the immune system to attack certain forms of cancer.5
Vitamin D deficiency is related to the progression of tuberculosis6 as well as the risk of cardiovascular disease7 and chronic kidney disease.8 Vitamin D stimulates the production of insulin, and vitamin D deficiency is also associated with insulin resistance and diabetes.9 Having a low level of vitamin D has been linked to the presence and severity of adult asthma.10 Vitamin D has also been found to have antiproliferative effects, suggesting a possible role in cancer prevention, with vitamin D deficiency particularly linked to a higher risk of colon cancer.11
Vitamin D and inflammation
Scott's study on the effects of vitamin D on sunburn clearly support it having anti-inflammatory properties. And Scott says he and his co-workers have an idea of just how that occurs. "What we think is happening—what our study has data to support—is that it's activating a type of immune cell that helps to resolve inflammation and helps speed up wound healing. Vitamin
D somehow activates that cell that then goes into the skin and helps calm inflammation."
Scott's is not the first experiment to reveal the anti-inflammatory role of vitamin D and its impact on the body. Vitamin D has recently been found to affect the regulation and production of inflammatory cytokines (small proteins secreted by cells in the immune system responsible for intracellular communication and other functions) as well as inhibit the proliferation of pro-inflammatory cells—both of which play important roles in the development of inflammatory diseases.12
Vitamin D protects against inflammatory processes that are involved in atherosclerosis,13 and it has shown promise in the treatment of the inflammatory bowel diseases ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.14 Furthermore, vitamin D deficiency has been linked to the progression of multiple sclerosis, a chronic inflammatory disease affecting the central nervous system.15
An interesting question
The question is no longer whether vitamin D mitigates inflammatory processes in the human body or whether vitamin D deficiency is directly responsible for a wide number of disease conditions, inflammatory and otherwise. The interesting question now is whether vitamin D can be used as a prophylactic to help people avoid inflammation in the first place. Dr Scott is clear that his small study is only the starting point for an ongoing clinical investigation into the potential use of vitamin D as a post-sunburn treatment.
While vitamin D appears to have a clear benefit against sunburn, he says, certain ramifications need to be cleared up before vitamin D therapy can be declared a safe and effective treatment for it.
"We know that our immune systems are very important in suppressing the early stages of skin cancer formation," says Scott. "We know that our immune system basically puts the brakes on the events that lead to skin cancer. So, one interesting speculation that you could extrapolate from our data would be that if you are suppressing inflammation in the skin after a sunburn, you are possibly increasing someone's risk of skin cancer because you're shutting down those same processes that would normally help protect you. You may be reducing the sunburn initially. But overall you might be allowing those skin cancer processes to go unchecked."
A pressing issue
It is impossible to underestimate the value of ongoing investigation into the multiple potentials of vitamin D therapy, whether for inflammatory conditions or other health problems.
Studies show that vitamin D insufficiency affects almost 50 percent of the global population. In addition, an estimated one billion people worldwide present with a vitamin D deficiency.16 The reasons for this are many and varied. The first is our increasingly sedentary, indoor lifestyle. Furthermore, in many areas around the globe, air pollution reduces the amount of UVB radiation that can be absorbed through the skin. The widespread use of sunscreens has also radically diminished the amount of vitamin D humans absorb. According to the American Osteopathic Association, using sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher can reduce the body's vitamin D3 production by 99 percent. And many traditional food sources of healthy vitamin D are waning. For example, farmed salmon has been found to have vastly lower amounts of vitamin D than wild salmon.17 And factory-farmed eggs from hens kept in indoor cages have up to 400 percent less vitamin D than eggs produced by chickens exposed to sunshine.18
The increasing number of diseases now being correlated with low vitamin D levels are a clear indicator that there is value in keeping the body's vitamin D at acceptable levels. And, in the final analysis, there are many intriguing health links indicating the possibility that vitamin D might indeed one day prove to be a possible protector against sunburn.
Experiments with mice show that the topical application of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 has photoprotective effects.19And there are indirect indicators as well. For example, aging has been proven to decrease the ability of our skin to produce vitamin D.20 Not surprisingly, the older we get, the easier it is to get sunburned.
Stress has also been shown to negatively affect the integrity and protective function of the stratum corneum, the tough outer layer of our skin. However, the underlying mechanism is still unclear. Is it possible that insufficient vitamin D is one of the culprits?
Stress hormones have been found to mimic the disturbances in stress systems observed in depression,21 and many studies have shown a relationship between low vitamin D levels and depression. Indeed, one study revealed that vitamin D therapy was more effective at treating depression than phototherapy.22 In addition to depression, low vitamin D levels have also been linked to schizophrenia and alcoholism23 as well as to diminished cognitive function in older adults.24
The story of vitamin D, its many and varied functions in the body and its relationship to human health is a vastly complicated one. But the relationship between vitamin D deficiency, poor skin integrity and an increased vulnerability to sunburn is undeniable, as is its importance in many other inflammatory conditions.
While we unravel its role, whether for helping us avoid the painful consequences of sunburn after a day at the beach or for avoiding more serious conditions, it makes sense to ensure that you're getting enough of this vital hormone from every source.
How much vitamin D is enough?
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin D set by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in Washington, DC, is 600 international units (IU) daily up to age 70, and 800 IU for people who are older. According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), 4,000 IU is the safe upper limit for vitamin D supplementation.
Studies show that optimal vitamin D status is achieved with a serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] concentration of greater than 75 nmol/L .1
Because everyone's baseline vitamin D serum level is different, it's exceedingly difficult to determine the proper dosage for each individual. The third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey suggests a dose of 3,800 IU for those above a 25(OH)D threshold of 55 nmol/L and 5,000 IU for those below.1
Opinions vary widely. Dr Michael F. Holick, a professor of medicine, physiology and biophysics at Boston University School of Medicine and a leading spokesperson on vitamin D deficiency, believes just about everybody is lacking in vitamin D. In a 2007 article in The New England Journal of Medicine, he points out that what's now considered to be normal vitamin D levels (between 21 to 29 nanograms per milliliter of blood) have been linked to a large number of health problems, from depression to diabetes to asthma. He suggests a healthier average would be at least 30 nanograms per milliliter.2
The reason for the discrepancy between institutions, says Dr Jeffrey Scott, the dermatologic oncologist involved in the study linking vitamin D to sunburn, is that "no one really understands yet what the ideal dose is."
Scott also points out that an ideal dose might be different for different people, depending on what they're trying to prevent.
The supplemental dose a person might take if they're trying to prevent fractures might be different from the dose they should take to improve their immune health. "But probably anything up to 2,000 IU per day is safe," he says.
What makes you more likely to burn?
Here are some of the things you need to be aware of that can contribute to a decrease in the integrity of the outer protective layer of your skin, thereby increasing the likelihood of sunburn.
Skin care products: Check the labels of your skincare lotions for alpha-hydroxy acids, beta-hydroxy acids and tretinoins such as Retin-A. All of these compounds lower the protective capacity of the skin. Potential irritants and allergens in lotions (including sunscreens) and cosmetics that can affect the protective qualities of the skin include fragrances, parabens, vitamin E, essential oils, benzyl alcohol, propylene glycol, formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, iodopropynyl butylcarbamate, and lanolin.1 Acne products containing the chemical benzoyl peroxide can also cause photosensitivity.
Drugs: Antibiotics including sulfonamides, tetracyclines (doxycycline, tetracycline) and fluoroquinolones (ciprofloxacin, ofloxacin, levofloxacin); antifungals; antihistamines; benzocaine; neuroleptic drugs; nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen; oral contraceptives; oral diabetes drugs (sulfonylureas); tricyclic antidepressants and traditional herbal remedies including St. John's wort and dong quai can all contribute to phototoxic reactions that reduce your skin's integrity. Older adults should also be careful if they are taking antihypertensives (blood pressure drugs), cholesterol-lowering drugs and diuretics.
Foods: Figs, lime, parsley, wild carrots, celery, dill and fennel can increase sun sensitivity.
How quick are you to burn?
The following scale, developed by Harvard Medical School Professor Thomas Fitzpatrick in 1975 as a way to classify skin pigmentation, rates people's ability to suntan or burn. Vitamin D synthesis occurs more quickly in fairer skin types, although they are also more likely to burn.
Sources of vitamin D
The most efficient way to get your vitamin D is still the old-fashioned way: from the sun. But the amount of sunlight required for photoconversion of 7-dehydrocholesterol to the vitamin D precursor that can be used by the human body varies tremendously based on a person's skin type (see box 63), age, geographic location and the time of year.
Just looking at geography and skin type, for example, in Boston, Massachusetts, from April to October at noon, an individual with type III skin on the Fitzpatrick scale with approximately a quarter of their body surface exposed would need to spend three to eight minutes in the sun to synthesize 400 IU of vitamin D.
Cod liver oil. It tastes better than the stuff your mother used to give you, and it's the go-to supplement for vitamin D in the wintertime. Just one teaspoon delivers a whopping 440 IU of vitamin D. Cod liver oil is also one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids on the planet, as well as vitamin A, which works in harmony with vitamin D to keep bones strong. Be sure to buy cod liver oil in dark bottles and store in a cool, dark, dry place to avoid rancidity.
Salmon. Make sure you purchase wild-caught and not farmed salmon, as farmed salmon contains pollutants and has been found to have vastly less vitamin D than fish from the sea. Three ounces gives you 400 IU of vitamin D. It also supplies high levels of all the B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and potassium, and it's loaded with selenium and the powerful antioxidant astaxanthin.
Mackerel. Just three ounces delivers 400 IU of vitamin D as well as omega-3 fatty acids; vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E and K; calcium; iron; magnesium; phosphorous; potassium; sodium; and selenium. Mackerel also contains the antioxidant coenzyme Q10.
Tuna. Three ounces contain 228 IU of vitamin D as well as healthy doses of vitamin A; vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6 and B12; phosphorous; potassium; and iodine.
Sardines. They may not be glamorous, but sardines are very healthy, and just three ounces deliver 164 IU of vitamin D. Sardines are also a fantastic source of vitamin B12, selenium, omega-3 fatty
acids, protein, phosphorus
and calcium.
Raw milk, caviar and egg yolks from free-range chickens offer considerably less vitamin D, but are still good sources.

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