Thursday, July 5, 2012

Something To Laugh About and More On Vitamin D

It's often been said that laughter is the best medicine, and I couldn't agree more. Therefore, I dedicate today's blog to a funny video that a friend shared with me and my wife. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.


For those hungry for some science, here's a funny, not in terms of humor, but in terms of being a somewhat ridiculous study that was reported on a few days ago. I have no doubt that the results of the study are already being used to feed the recent hysteria about Vitamin D deficiencies.

Why? I'll get to that in a moment but let me first share what happened with an email I received from a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health that reported on this new study.

Last week, I took exception to material in another article from the same source that implied that calcium could only be obtained from dairy products, which is far from the truth. Here's a link to another government resource listing many other food sources, albeit not all healthy ones. And while dairy products dominate the list, there are other excellent sources as well. Cut and paste: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/

When I wrote to the source of the email, the response was that they simply reported what they received from the newswires. I told them that such a response was a cop-out and that they had a responsibility as a government service to make sure that the information they were disseminating was accurate. We went back and forth in a few emails and the net result was that I received an email from the head librarian in which he essentially disavowed any responsibility for the information being forwarded. I found that quite disappointing.

Nevertheless, I knew that henceforth I have to be careful with anything I received from this source. With that in mind, let’s address the headline of the article in a recent email I received from the same source, which was titled, “Low Vitamin D Levels Linked To Weight Gain in Older Women.” Now any reasonable person would conclude based on this headline that women with Vitamin D deficiencies are generally gaining weight as a result of their deficiency. Well, that’s not what the studied showed.

Quoting from the email, “The researchers followed more than 4,600 women aged 65 and older over the course of nearly five years. The study found the women with low levels of vitamin D gained about two more pounds during that time than those with normal levels of the vitamin.” How about that? A whole two pounds more. Is that consistent with what you expected from the headline? Two whole pounds gained over 5 years? I’m sure we all expected that from the headline, right? That’s not all. Which women do you think gained the weight? It turns out to quote the article again, it was the “women [who] generally weighed several pounds more to begin with, the researchers noted.” So the heavier women gained more weight. Not a big surprise that an overweight person would gain more weight as is often the case.

But that’s not the funny part I referenced earlier.

Here’s the funny, or not so funny, part. The article goes on to say, “Although most of the women in the study were not trying to lose weight, over the course of the study 27 percent of the women lost more than 5 percent of their body weight and 12 percent gained more than 5 percent of their body weight, the researchers noted.”So despite the vitamin D deficiency or perhaps because of it, which apparently according to this study was present in 78% of the tested women, more women actually LOST weight than gained it.

Accordingly, why wasn’t the headline “Low Vitamin D Levels Linked To Weight Loss in Older Women” or even “Low Vitamin D Levels Linked To Weight Gain, Weight Loss, and No Weight Change in Older Women.” Now that would have been an accurate headline.

So was the article a total loss? No. Here’s the only semi-reasonable comment coming from the article and I quote, “"Our study only shows an association between insufficient levels of vitamin D and weight gain," study author Dr. Erin LeBlanc, an endocrinologist and researcher at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Oregon said. "We would need to do more studies before recommending the supplements to keep people from gaining weight. Since there are so many conflicting recommendations about taking vitamin D for any reason, it's best if patients get advice from their own health care provider."

Finally, a little bit of sense although given the 27% of women actually lost weight it would be more logical to suggest that Vitamin D supplementation should NEVER be used as a weight loss tool.

So as I often recommend, please don’t trust headlines, even from government sources. You need to, at a minimum, read the entire article and ideally, look at the actual study if you want to even get close to the truth. Of course, even looking at the study is not a safe bet because so many studies are done by unreliable sources with an agenda, who manipulate the science, if it even is actual science, in their favor.

So what’s a person to do? Send the article or study it to me. I love to look at interesting studies and dissect them looking for the truth. Consider me your personal truth seeker.

3 comments:

  1. I never believed that conclusion too for the reason that other women don’t experience this. Now other people are telling me that taking energizers like vega sport is bad because I need to lose energy and gain energy naturally. There are some supplements that can be bad for us but it varies.

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