Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Vitamin Deficiency

I'm going to do some speculating today. More than usual. What are some of the deficiency symptoms of A, D and K2? Another way of putting the question is, what problems can you prevent or cure by giving people the right fat-soluble vitamins? If you read my last post, you know that cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis (and resulting fractures) and tooth decay are all strongly linked to fat-soluble vitamin status, probably in a causal way. There's also a strong suggestion that they could be involved in diabetes, kidney stones, resistance to infection and cancer. Well, we've just about covered all the major modern health problems, haven't we?

What if the 'disease of civilization' is simply a deficiency of fat-soluble vitamins? What if the only reason we haven't realized it yet is because we haven't understood the critical importance of K2 MK-4, and its synergy with A and D? I'm not totally convinced it's true, but it does make sense. I'm interested to hear other peoples' opinions on this.

There are two mechanisms that could cause deficiency. The first is the obvious: reduced intake. In general, we have a lower intake of A, D (from sunlight) and especially K2 than non-industrial populations past and present that did not suffer from the disease of civilization. Most Westerners fall short of optimal serum vitamin D, and K2 deficiency is nearly ubiquitous.

Reading Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, as well as other accounts of non-industrial groups transitioning from their traditional diets to a more Westernized one, it struck me how badly these people were being affected. Even when they were still eating some nutrient-dense traditional foods, their development and health suffered tremendously. I asked myself this question: could the Western food they were eating have actively interfered with their vitamin status, and could it be doing the same to us?

The most common foods that replaced traditional diets in Weston Price's studies were white wheat flour and sugar. Wheat contains a lot of gluten, which in some people causes celiac disease. Celiac is an immune response to gluten that causes the degeneration of the intestinal lining, which is responsible for absorbing nutrients, among other things. Celiac patients are often deficient in many nutrients, including fat-soluble vitamins. So there's clearly a link between gluten damage and fat-soluble vitamin status.

The interesting thing about celiac is it may actually be a spectrum, with nearly everyone showing some degree of gluten damage, but only severe cases being diagnosed. The diagnosis involves looking for antibodies against gluten, but there is evidence that some people may mount an immune response without producing antibodies (through the innate immune system). Peter pointed this out a while back.

So the hypothesis goes: the disease of civilization is caused by a deficiency of fat-soluble vitamins, due to both a lower intake and inefficient absorption through a damaged intestinal lining. Comments?

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