Wednesday 18 September 2013

What your doctor might know about vitamin D

For many years, in fact for all of my working life since my medical graduation in 1966, I have been aware of the inequalities of health.

Southern Europe
Why is it that life is shorter and health worse in people living in the north-west of the UK compared to the south-east? There is also worse health in northern Europe compared to southern European countries. These are facts and have been the case for many years. They remain true today, and officially this is not understood. It is mistakenly blamed on the people themselves - victim blaming, people in the north eat the wrong foods and do not live healthy lifestyles. This is very convenient as it transfers responsibility away from government, which is a guardian the health of the public, on to the people themselves. It is part of the present obsession with "lifestyleism". We know that although there is a considerable difference between the health of people in the north-west of the UK compared to those in the south-east, there is no difference in what they eat.

Northern England industrial town
There is also the inequality of social class - poor people have shorter lives and more illness than wealthy people. This is also blamed on the people themselves, very conveniently. It might be more the result of their housing and overall environment.

And the there is inequality of ethnic minorities in the UK, who have shorter lives and more illness. Dietary indiscretions are difficult to sustain as they are so varied. Once again their health is worse if they live in the north of the UK rather than the south.

My research led me to believe that the inequalities are the result of variations of sun exposure - less sun more illness. This is the result of residence more distant from the equator, socio-economic disadvantage, and living in northern locations with ethnic origin closer to the equator.

This has not yet entered conventional wisdom, but there is increasing awareness. This can be appreciated from the increase in blood tests for vitamin D.

However there is still a medical view that vitamin D is necessary for healthy bones and the avoidance of rickets, and that is all. There is a lack of awareness that vitamin D had any other effects, such as the development of immunity and the control of genes. There are important health advantages to people with high vitamin D levels (ideal range) but theses are generally unknown. One of the problems is that vitamin D has no commercial backing. The financial and organisational power of the pharmaceutical industry must not be underestimated. I am not against the pharmaceutical industry, which has provided so much, but I feel that it has too great an influence on medical education. This is perhaps a criticism of doctors themselves , many of whom seem to obtain most of their medical education from the pharmaceutical reps and their highly prejudiced sales brochures. No-one is marketing vitamin D, and knowledge of it depends on doctors reading medical scientific journals.

And so a visit to a doctor to discuss vitamin D can be very frustrating.

This YouTube might be a bit extreme, but it might happen to you ....

Doctor, should I take vitamin D?


  1. Every time I read one of your posts I seethe with indignation at the stasis of the medical establishment and their lack of promotion for vit d. and sunshine
    You must get extremely frustrated David that so often you are banging your head against a brick wall!

  2. The time was 40 years from James Lind discovering and demonstrating the benefits of lime juice (vitamin C) in the prevention of scurvy on ship voyages to it being accepted by the Royal Navy. The only times when some new treatment is accepted rapidly is when it is backed by marketing from the pharmaceutical companies. Few doctors seem to read or absorb the information in the medical scientific journals. Yes Roger, I am concerned about self-induced head injuries.

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