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Information on the latest vitamin D news and research.

Find out more information on deficiency, supplementation, sun exposure, and how vitamin D relates to your health.

Vitamin D in the environment

Sometimes I read older papers and learn new things. One such paper was written by Professor Emeritus Lars Olof Bjorn of Lund University in Sweden 13 years ago.

Björn LO, Wang T. Vitamin D in an ecological context. Int J Circumpolar Health. 2000 Jan;59(1):26-32.

The topic was on vitamin D in an ecological context, as the title suggests, meaning how vitamin D presents itself in the environment/ecology.

I learned that some plankton need to ingest fungi in order to contain vitamin D and those fungi usually contain vitamin D2, which is common in plants. However, most phytoplankton and zooplankton have been producing vitamin D for more than 500 million years. It is my understanding that zooplankton produce D3 by themselves.

Tiny shrimp eat the zooplankton, small fish eat the shrimp and cod fish eat the small fish, explaining why cod liver oil used to contain so much vitamin D. I say used to contain as virtually all manufacturers of cod liver oil now add vitamin D to their product, although that was not always the case.

For unclear reasons, the vitamin D content of cod liver oil has fallen dramatically in recent decades. This may be because deodorization of cod liver oil removes vitamin D that is then replaced later in the process. Even still, the vitamin D content of naturally occurring cod liver oil seems to have fallen with time. For example, one manufacturer sells natural cod liver oil (no vitamin D or vitamin A added or withdrawn). A tablespoon of it contains only 3 to 60 IU of vitamin D.

http://www.nordicnaturals.com/en/Products/Product_Details/514/?ProdID=1418

As sunlight exposed zooplankton is the ultimate source of vitamin D for fatty fish, this reduction in the vitamin D content of cod liver oil over time may be due to the current commercial cod fisheries being in the artic, while they were in more temperate latitudes last century. In the artic, the sun is not up high enough on the horizon for the plankton to make much vitamin D.

I also learned from Professor Bjorn that the leaves of tomato plants contain vitamin D3. Not the tomatoes, only the leaves. Why tomato plants have D3 and not D2 is anyone’s guess.

I also learned that some grasses have vitamin D, but that may be due to fungi living inside the grasses.

Finally, I learned from Professor Bjorn that reindeer lichen, the moss on the tundra in northern climes, contains mostly D3. How it is manufactured in lichen when the sun never gets very high in the sky is a mystery to me. However, it explains why reindeer meat is a one of the few meat sources of substantial amounts of vitamin D3. It is also why the 25(OH)D levels of reindeer have little seasonal variation.

Vierimaa H, Timisjärvi J, Eloranta E, Saarela S, Ruokonen A, Leppäluoto J. Effects of seasonal photoperiod on serum 25-hydroxycholecalciferol and calcium in reindeer, Rangifer tarandus tarandus. Int J Circumpolar Health. 2000 Jan;59(1):33-7.

In the artic, reindeer get their vitamin D from eating lichen, not from the sun. While vitamin D is found in a variety of plants, it’s in such insignificant amounts that getting enough from diet is something man simply cannot do to fulfill their vitamin D requirements.

  About: John Cannell, MD

Dr. John Cannell is founder of the Vitamin D Council. He has written many peer-reviewed papers on vitamin D and speaks frequently across the United States on the subject. Dr. Cannell holds an M.D. and has served the medical field as a general practitioner, emergency physician, and psychiatrist.

14 Responses to Vitamin D in the environment

  1. D-fiant says:

    Hi All,
    I am left wondering how the sun’s “B” rays enter the oceans and supply all of this mass of nutrients to make the required Vitamin D.

    For example; I have read that the B rays are very fragile and can be easily halted from penetrating many substances, such as:
    Cloud
    Smoke
    smog
    glass = most glass is not much more than 1/4 inch thick
    sunscreen = this would be a fraction of an inch thick
    Our atmosphere = If the sun’s angle is not at the right relationship to the earth’s surface. then the B rays can degrade to a useless level before it reaches our skin.

    So based on these things above it looks like the B rays have very little penetrating power, the thought in my mind is, shouldn’t the B rays get destroyed or reflected away, on contact with the ocean’s surface – thus rendering almost no Vitamin D getting to any sea creatures at all?

    But this does not appear to be the case

    What am I missing?

    All the best

  2. Rita and Misty says:

    D-fiant,

    That is an intriguing question, and it has piqued my interest to research. Unfortunately, my time at the moment is consumed with preparations for an upcoming City of New Haven health fair (June 29th in the Newhallville neighborhood–for those members who may live in the vicinity).

    Please consider pasting your above comment in its entirety to the VDC Facebook page, under Dr. Cannell’s article. I would love to see if your question generates conversation. I would love to engage FB readers…to get them interested and to bring ’em on over to the membership side…(strength in numbers, my friends).

    If by chance you don’t have a FB account, please let me know via a comment here whether I have your permission to past your above question to the VDC FB page.

    I’ll be around until 10:30 a.m. ET.

    Be well!!!

  3. Magic says:

    Hi everybody,

    As you know I am SOLD. D3 for all….etc…etc etc..

    Rita and I have been trying to figure out how to get the word out to all. It is sad going through the motions to help someone for an hour or so only to find out it fell on deaf ears.

    This morning I went to “Saturday Morning” coffee with a group of 8. I ordered my coffee and the owners asked me “what’s new.” I said that I had just talked to a lady at Yale who has taken 28,000 units of D3 a day……..and is trying to get the word out. Four people within hearing distance jumped in and said they were taking it but in much smaller amounts.

    All of my friends laughed at me years ago when I first brought D3 up. An 85 year old who still has hair on his head is now taking 12,000 a day and his white hair looks like a teenagers hair.
    Those who are not aboard are now getting interested.

    Sadly, a large percentage of people ignore their health until something important happens like seeing their friend’s looks improve.

    I say if it makes a person’s hair get healthier………what might be going on in the rest of the body.? GO TO VITAMINDCOUNCIL.org
    I might add that my wife;s 77 year old hair is going back to it’s original color.

    Good Luck!!!

    Magic

  4. D-fiant says:

    Hi Rita,

    I am not “Facebook” savvy.
    Please post as suggested.

    All the best

  5. Rita and Misty says:

    @Magic,

    It was a pleasure talking with you on Friday. I enjoyed our vitamin d conversation immensely.

    There are few kindred spirits on the Island of Disbelief…so to engage in an intelligent vitamin d conversation was quite enjoyable for me.

    Regarding vitamin d and hair…that is probably the least of vitamin d’s “magical” properties for me…I’m not so sure we need to be putting any stock on hair and/or its color in general, but especially with respect to vitamin d. (I certainly don’t).

    Vitamin d is amazing in terms of what it does for skin texture…my skin is healthier and I look much younger now than I did 8 years ago.

    Vitamin d is also amazing in terms of vitality, stamina, energy and sense of well being. I feel and act younger now than I did 8 years ago.

    These to me are much more important attributes of vitamin d supplementation.

    But, imo, vitamin d terms of hair is neither here nor there…and doesn’t matter anyway.

    Be well,
    Rita

  6. Magic says:

    Rita,

    Thanks for the kind words

    This 85 year old (former athlete) just told me a few weeks ago that he was increasing his “dose” at the suggestion of his daughter who is a natural health care specialist. I am telling you his hair looks more than great…..and seriously, he isn’t the only one.

    We talked about how we could get the world to pay attention. We know Dr Cannell is doing wonders getting to more people. BUT, the world isn’t there yet…

    How do we win the battle with “Big Pharma”? They carry a big stick and they don’t want to lose.

    Magic

  7. Rita and Misty says:

    @Magic,

    I do hear what you are saying about the rejuvenating aspects of vitamin d. Certainly one way to get BIG PHARMA interested in vitamin d is to promote it has a fountain of eternal youth. For example, I’m certain that Renova is a big dollar product for OrthoMcNeil , Yet, for several reasons, I think it’s incorrect to place a focus on the cosmetic aspect of vitamin d, at least at this time:

    First, although there has been a study or two indicating that vitamin d may help with male pattern baldness, I’m not certain that the results are conclusive or across the board. BTW–My son Michael, now 28, has started to notice that his hair is thinning out. It is his most painful earthly concern at this time (thank goodness). I tell him constantly that this of little importance, as there are many extremely good looking bald men. (And, Mike, if you are reading me here, I think you know me well enough to realize this statement isn’t coming from motherly love).

    There are also studies indicating that vitamin d may help correct female hair loss. I wonder if this benefit is actually stemming from a correction of hypothyroidism in females? Hypothyroidism can certainly cause hair loss, and hypothyroidism is certainly a very common ailment in women.

    Regarding vitamin d and skin care. Although there are vitamin d analogue creams used to treat various skin conditions such as psoriasis, and there are studies indicating that higher vitamin d levels help alleviate eczema, I’m not certain if applying vitamin d3 topically is of much benefit. I just don’t think the skin can absorb it.

    Vitamin d is such an essential nutrient…a pro-hormone, really. It would be detrimental, in my mind’s eye, to see it denigrated via the cosmetic industry, to something similar to snake oil.

    Magic, I agree with you; Dr. Cannell does a remarkable job educating the public via the Vitamin D Council and his articles and blogs. I am certainly addicted to his readings. However, as I see it, the difficulty with this type of outreach is that the individual already has to have an interest in vitamin d to visit the website and its corresponding facebook page.

    Neighborhood, person-to-person, and community group outreach is fine, and has its necessary place. But, again, you are relying on an individual’s predisposed openness to the subject, and his or her willingness to be a free-thinker, unbridled to the reigns of his or her physician.

    BTW–Last year I used to say that the public would push mainstream medicine on this issue.
    Well, I don’t feel that way anymore.

    Now I am thinking that we need to capture the minds of physicians and researchers. And perhaps we need to work towards more global changes in public policy and perception. I have a hunch that I’m not the first to think of these ideas, though….
    Of course, MY mantra still is: “Circle around and hit ‘em again.”

    Big Pharma is motivated by profit. Plain and Simple. So if the vitamin d community wishes to influence big pharma, any successful idea must encompass $,$$$,$$$.$$.

    Perhaps another way to go would be to get national social organizations involved in the Vitamin D Council. For example, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society…or some other forward thinking association involved in philanthropy.

    There’s only such much that may be discussed in a comments section…

    I still think a VDC members meeting is called for…what fun that would be (imo).

    Please remember: We exist because we choose to belong.

    Be well,
    Rita

  8. Magic says:

    Rita,

    We agree………D3 is great.

    All I am trying to say is that like it or not……….Big Pharma funds studies. They schmooze the medical field. They make big bucks. Vitamin D3 is their enemy. As long as I can feel good taking vitamins, take no prescription meds, I don’t see any way that we can get them to promote D3. I took statins from 1987-2003. I am not going back.

    You and I think D3 is a miracle. Dr Cannell is proving it. As stupid as it is the average person pays more attention to their looks than their health. Many people go through a lifetime of pain or at least the last 40 or so years. Still they don’t go to the website.

    I have been promoting this website for at least 4-5 years on a website for Oregon Duck sports. People were posting they were approaching 50 and had “senior moments.” .
    Can you believe it? If they are still alive they still are having them.

    Check today’s business section of the NY Times headlined…..”Don’t take your Vitamins.”

    Enough said..lol..

    Magic

  9. Rita and Misty says:

    We gotta thing going on here, Magic :)

    Point noted and recorded: People do pay more attention to their looks than to their health–they are so ignorant to the fact that good health is what produces good looks!!

    Unsure what you’re suggesting though?…That vitamin d needs to be promoted as a way towards anti-aging?

    Well, I’m just not a big cosmetics girl so perhaps I am biased. And, I tend to resent false promises or claims by marketers regarding lotions and potions…so maybe this is my own filter towards the industry.

    Vitamin d is the BEST anti-aging thing going IMO–but I think this is as it is taken orally…yet, I might be incorrect. BTW…I think I look much more youthful now at age 48, with an optimal 25(OH)D, than I did at age 40, when my level was 32 ng/ml.

    I will confess that I just returned from a shopping spree with my BFF Carmen…we visited the cosmetics store Origins (okay, so once in a while I do cave in and buy cosmetics, usually as a result of Carmen’s not-so-gentle prodding), and the store was completely filled with all sorts of (highly priced) beauty cremes, infused with this herb or that vitamin..and YES, the thought did pass my mind “why aren’t we (the vitamin d community) represented here?”

    Magic–I agree with you, it appears Dr. Cannell is quite good at miracles. I’m always impressed.

    Regarding the NY Times article “Don’t take your vitamins, ” I think everyone here knows I am staunchly in the “let’s push to call D a pro-hormone” camp. Perhaps this might be a step in the right direction.

    Be well,
    Rita

  10. Magic says:

    Rita,

    I do not think it matters and personally I think pro-hormone would scare more people away than lure them…

    If this was easy I would tell you how to do it. Somehow, maybe we can gang up on the media. The headline in the times is not entirely accurate. I think lots of people would just see the headline and not read it. I met a lady with ms who is taking 5000 D3s on the good advice of her doc. Both the woman and her husband weren’t so sure it just didn’t make expensive urine………..even though with that small amount she was feeling much better.

    Magic

  11. Rita and Misty says:

    I love the media idea, Magic!

    It would be d-lightful to see Dr. Cannell on an interview on CCN or for him to be interviewed via one of the health talk shows…he makes such a very charismatic presence and can very successfully get the point across regarding vitamin d deficiency. He is extremely media positive…

    Magic, I know ending this pandemic isn’t easy…but brainstorming like we are doing is definitely the right approach (imo). The free thought process will open the door to creative genius, for sure.

    Magic–I enjoy our banter very much. Keep up the good work!

    Rita

  12. Magic says:

    Rita,

    My Oregon Ducks used to be a pushover in all sports. Now they are considered a powerhouse by many experts ……….and kids…..It has taken about 20 years. These kids are only about 20 so that’s all they know.

    As good as D3 is taken with all of the other good stuff I am afraid it will take time just as my DUCKS did.. . Send me a link to your stuff on facebook please. We need many Ritas and Magics. We need to hit the media. Talk shows, newspapers, etc

    THE ?? Why are hospital costs so high?? Why do doctors addict you to pills instead of introducing patients to D3?? Why is out social security system in ruins?? Why do they fill old people in homes with no chance to get sunshine..??? or D3 pills. Why do we let them die of pneumonia even in the summertime…….WHY WHY WHY??????????????

    Line up believers and hit them all at once.

    By the way, I have been talking to a very nice lady who works in a doctor’s office in my hometown. Her life plans were ruined because her son is autistic. He is in his 30s ..still basically inaudible. She has a full time project. She says D3 has helped him a lot. She works with Oregon Health Sciences. She is trying to raise money to get the word out on autism alone. unsuccessfully, so far.

    Later…….

    Magic

  13. Rita and Misty says:

    Greetings Magic,

    There are several ways to hook up to me via facebook:

    1. Find me on the VDC FB page…I have the same profile picture…and please send me a FB friend request.

    2. Using the “locate friends via address” FB tool, send a FB friend request invitation to Rita.Umile@Yale.edu.

    3. Or, here is my link to internet Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rita.umile?ref=tn_tnmn

    I am open to requests from all Vitamin D Council members and staff and volunteers; however, I do ask that you identify yourselves as such…I am trying to stay authentic, responsible and accountable…being ethical means a great deal to me. It is actually a promise I made to myself, and one I intend to keep.

    Be well,
    Rita

  14. Dan says:

    Remember that light rays refract when hitting water so maybe plant life in ocean can live further from the equator than land based.