Monthly Archives: February 2012

What Vitamin D Level “Should” I Have?

What Vitamin D Level “Should” I Have?

Reference:  Haddad in Jr Clin Endo Meta Dec 2012 and Vit D Council

Now that we are in the final throes of winter, and our eyes are turning to spring break and the return of sun, the question that arises is “What level of Vitamin D “should” I have?”.   The logic that we usually apply to this is “What happens naturally?” when we have life guards exposed to the sun, or folks go to tanning booths or farmers work outdoors in the tropics.  But that’s not what humans did in their “early years”.  When we were in Africa, wearing few if any clothes, and exposed to sun all day long, what was our D level?  (Doesn’t that sound like Spring Break in Florida to you?) That should be what we had in our evolutionary era for many million years.

Well, that’s just what Haddad and his team reported back in December.  They took 35 Massai and 25 Hadzabe adults who lived in Tanzania, just about on the equator, who wear few clothes and have exposure to tropical sun year around.  Their levels of Vitamin D should be as close as we can hypothesize to our “natural state” as they represent some of the last humans on this planet who live outdoors, with few clothes on the equator in the parts of Africa where humans come from.  They all had skin type 6, which is just about as ebony black as you can get.  That would mean that they need the most sunlight to get Vitamin D production.  The authors mentioned that none of their study subjects used any sunblock (tongue in cheek).   They do wear some coverings on their legs and torsos and do stay out of the hottest mid day sun in the shade of trees or their modest dwellings.

The levels of Vitamin D that they got was lower than you might think.  They ranged from 23 to 67 with the Masai with an average of 48 ng.   The Hadzabe are more traditional  hunter-gatherers, have no possessions, wear fewer clothes than the Masai, and also stay out of the sun when they can. Their levels of D were 44, with a range of 28-68.

This is the best study we have to date of Vitamin D levels in folks living in Africa in traditional lifestyles.  And considering how important Vit D is to arming your immune system (and all it’s other benefits), it suggests that we want to get our D levels to 45-50 year around.  In Wisconsin, our D levels will drop to 20 if we are Caucasian and 14 if we are African American.  And then we get Vitamin D deficiency diseases.  I believe one of those is influenza is one of them (End of winter disease).

As we ponder spring break, and look to the end of winter, we are at the last months of low sunlight.  How much D should you take?  To get to a level of 50 ng, most adults need about 4000 IU a day.  It takes 6 months to get to a new steady state when you change doses, so loading doses are needed to get started.

WWW.  What will work for me.  A loading dose of D? That would be a week on the beach, with little clothing, and lots of sunblock to prevent sunburn.  Or 4000 IU a day.   Folks who are heavy store more D in fat tissue. They need more!

Written by John E Whitcomb, MD  Brookfield Longevity and Healthy Living Clinic, 17585 W North Ave, Suite 160   Brookfield, WI 53045   262-784-5300

Autophagy: Eat Your Heart Out with Exercise

Autophagy:  Eat Your Heart Out with Exercise

Reference: Economist Jan 21, 2012, Nature Beth Levine, MD

Autophagy is a hot topic out there in the anti-ageing world.  It literally means, “eating oneself” which sounds a bit gruesome.  But that’s it in a nutshell. And exercise makes you do more of it.  It’s the details that are interesting.

Dr. Levine and her team from Texas Southwestern explored how autophagy works in mice by manipulating their autophagy genes, and making them with a green glowing fluorescence.  Then, they got the mice to exercise.  What they found was that the more the mice ran on a treadmill, up to 80 minutes a day, the more autophagosomes they developed.  An autophagosome is a structure that forms around parts of your cells and body that are used up and need to be recycled.  It envelopes those parts and digests them, sort of a recycling feature.  Having more autophagosomes is a good thing.  And the more your exercise, the more you have, up to the peak of 80 minutes a day in mice.

Now, the interesting part.  The researchers got a second strain of mice that couldn’t make autophagosomes in response to exercise.  Compared to the mice with the ability to increase the number of their autophagosome, the altered mice were less able to develop endurance to exercise and more likely to become glucose resistant.  That suggests that the process of autophagy is central to the process of preventing degenerative, ageing illnesses.  Fascinating!

We know that exercise increases your ability to resist diabetes.  It also decreases dramatically your risk for cognitive decline and improves many markers of inflammation.   Your chance of dying from all causes drops as much as 50% in age matched groups over 60 years old when you walk just 2 miles a day.  If you have sore knees and aching backs, exercising gets you better, not worse.  The phrase, “use it or lose it” comes to mind but this offers a whole new twist.   When you exercise, you turn on your autophagy mechanisms, you boost your number of autophagosomes and you reprocess all your old used up parts.  So you “lose” your old, dead, used up parts and rebuild new parts.  So, “losing it” makes you regrow it!

This research doesn’t prove that exercise helps you live longer.  What it gives is a plausible mechanism for why exercise is so unbelievably good for you.  We can’t genetically modify humans with glowing autophagosomes.  Something about ethics. But we sure can encourage you to get yourself out there and walk a mile or two.

WWW. What will work for me.  I’ve got this image of a Pac-Man gobbling up all my rotten used up parts when I jog.  Maybe that’s why I feel so good when I do it.  On vacation last week, I had the lovely experience of passing a jogger who must have been in her eighties. She smiled and flashed a V for victory to me.   Fellow exercisers unite!

Written by John E Whitcomb, MD  Brookfield Longevity and Healthy Living Clinic, 17585 W North Ave, Suite 160   Brookfield, WI 53045   262-784-5300


The Trouble with Wheat #8: AGE’s and Aging

The Trouble with Wheat #8:  AGE’s and Aging

Reference:  Wheat Belly by Bill Davis,  Eric Westman:  The New Atkins for a New You, The Ultimate Diet for Shedding Weight,  Dr Gundry’s Diet Evolution

Aren’t we all aging?  Well, some faster than others!  And wheat is central to that problem.  It all has to do with the acronym AGE which stands for Advanced Glycemic End-Products.  When you eat a lot of refined wheat products and have a high glycemic response, which we talked about a couple weeks back, you also have to understand the chemistry of what happens to that high blood glucose that wheat causes.

Glucose is quite a chemically reactive molecule.  That’s why it has so much energy packed inside it and makes it so valuable to use as the body’s “gasoline”.  But we have to take care of gasoline for our cars with exquisite care.  We are very cautious about dispensing it with nozzles that soak up the vapors.   We dispense it into our car engines with precise dosing.  That same analogy works for your body with glucose – to a point.   It is our fuel for many of our cells.  When we eat broccoli, spinach, cabbage and other low glycemic foods, our blood glucose doesn’t rise very fast or very far, but stays gently elevated in the range our body’s mechanisms can use smoothly.  When it rises a bit too fast and too far, the reactive quality of glucose kicks in, just because there is too much of it.  It starts to attach to things.

AGE’s are proteins that have had a glucose molecule become inadvertently attached to them just because of the high glucose level.  That glucose gets glomed onto a part of the protein that wasn’t meant to have anything attached to it.  Can you imagine having a softball suddenly welded to your elbow?  You could use your arm, but it would be hard to put on a jacket.  And bending your elbow would be unwieldy.  Can you imagine another softball attached to your ribs, and one to your forehead?  Eventually you would get pretty spastic and have a hard time functioning.  Well, that’s what happens with high glucose.  Whereever it happens you get dysfunctional proteins.  We can measure it with hemoglobin easily because we can simply draw a tube of blood.  HgbA1c is the name we give to the AGE product of hemoglobin.  That hemoglobin doesn’t work as well as a clean, non-glycosylated hemoglobin.  We want a level below 6.  Five would be nice.  10 is awful.  It provides us with a window into how high our glucose has been internally for the last couple of weeks.

Guess what happens with wheat?  High glycemic index means higher blood glucose.  Higher glucose around collagen means stiffer, less stretchy collagen.  Collagen is what makes your skin stretchy and supple, your arteries bend, your joints flexible.  Guess what happens when those things become glycosylated.  They AGE, in both senses.  That’s it in a nutshell.  You look older, function older, feel older.  From wheat.

WWW. What will work for me.  Want to look young? Want to not have osteoarthritis? Want to not have wrinkles in your skin?  Eat foods with lower glycemic indexes so your blood sugar is lower.  The chief culprit is wheat.   It doesn’t happen overnight and you can’t go backwards very fast, but some things do repair slowly.  If not, bad things happen faster going forward.  You are aging faster than you would otherwise.  You are “rusting”.

Written by John E Whitcomb, MD  Brookfield Longevity and Healthy Living Clinic, 17585 W North Ave, Suite 160   Brookfield, WI 53045   262-784-5300