We have heard this statement time after time. But the reality is that the US has the worst health care system out of the developed countries. So be skeptical of anyone that tries to tell you otherwise. Consequently, the US is also the home of some of the most unhealthiest people in the world. Advances in politics and technology have not been able to overcome the society’s lack of practical nutritional knowledge. One may even be able to argue that technology and politics are a contributing factor to an obesity epidemic that is the worst in the world, and getting worse. Through technological advancement we have created new ways to mass produce food, preserve it, make everything taste better and advertise it to everybody. However, during this processing and refining, we seemed to have traded nutrients and health for convenience and profit.
Americans have redefined food. Food, as defined by the Encyclopædia Britannica, is any substance used in the body of an organism to sustain growth, repair, and vital processes and to furnish energy. Much of what people in the US consume today are processed, refined, contains no nutrients, detrimental to the body’s functions, creating disease, and resulting in death. Nutrient deficiencies created by misinformed advice is responsible for this current trend of obesity.
Excessive weight is often associated with what has been termed “syndrome X.” This syndrome is manifested principally by excess fat deposited around the abdomen. Also known as metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, leptin resistance, glucose intolerance, and a precursor to diabetes. A disease caused by your body’s inability to make the most of the food you eat, increasing the risk for obesity, hypertension, nervous system disorders, eye disease, diabetes, high levels of triglycerides in the blood, elevated values for LDL (the “bad” cholesterol), reduced values for HDL (the “good” cholesterol), cardiovascular disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
With modern technology, much has been gained, but some things have been lost. However, the solution to our weight management problems is surprisingly simple and requires no advanced technology. All that is required is to make a conscious effort to consume foods rich in magnesium, calcium and essential fatty acids (EFA), and most importantly, get plenty of sunlight. Deficiencies in vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), calcium, magnesium and EFAs are common in the US and may be the root cause of syndrome X and obesity. These common essential nutrient deficiencies and their resulting disorders are iatrogenic (induced inadvertently by a physician, surgeon, medical treatment, advice, or diagnostic procedure) and may be the biggest public health disaster in American history.
Vitamin D deficiency is a result of the medical advice to stay away from sunlight in order to prevent melanoma (skin cancer) and the recommendation of the use of sun screening products by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), American Academy of Pediatrics, etc. This advice is given in spite of the fact that the sun is the best source of vitamin D, allowing the skin to manufacture it directly from cholesterol. Moreover, vitamin D is protective against most cancers, a characteristic which probably more than compensates for any extra skin cancer risk incurred by sunbathing. It must be mentioned also that evidence exists to suggest that sunlight may not be a major causative factor in the development of melanoma. And in the three decades since sun screening products were introduced to the public, the rate of skin cancers has actually increased despite people’s best efforts to stay out of the sun. Finally, foods containing vitamin D are avoided, due to their universally high fat content and the health advice to avoid fatty foods.
Calcium deficiency is worsened by fluoride found in public water systems and toothpaste at the recommendation of scientists and government officials. The immune system and its white blood cells are disrupted and rendered much less effective from the effects of fluoride. Fluoride causes calcium deficiency by its affinity for calcium. The white blood cells are calcium dependent, and thus can not function properly. One consequence is hypersensitivity, allergy or inflammation which bring increased, more severe or longer-lasting colds, flus or other ills. Dean Burk, Chief Chemist Emeritus at the U.S. Cancer Institute, states: “In point of fact, Fluoride causes more cancer death, and causes it faster, than any other chemical.” (Fluoride and Cancer, Congressional Record H7176-6, July 21, 1975, by Dean Burk and J.A.) Furthermore, the main dietary source of calcium for Americans is milk, much of which has been pasteurized over safety concerns by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which destroys its natural enzymes and alters its delicate proteins, rendering the calcium and other mineral elements in milk partially unusable for the human body.
Magnesium deficiency is caused by over-medicating with synthetic pharmaceutical drugs approved by the FDA and prescribed by doctors. They prevent the body from absorbing magnesium. Also, magnesium deficiency can be caused by incorrect dosage ratio recommendations for calcium and magnesium. The lowered mineral content of public water may also have an effect on magnesium deficiency.
Essential fatty acids are under-consumed due to the advice by medical professionals to maintain a low fat diet to prevent diseases. Fats aid in the proper absorption of minerals and vitamins in the intestine. The hydrogenated fats and trans fats approved by the FDA, increase the shelf life of products that contain them but are detrimental to people’s health because they increase LDL (bad cholesterol) and risk of heart disease.
Vitamin D, EFAs, magnesium, and calcium have mutual dependencies that make it important to consume them together. Many Americans are deficient in these important nutrients and as a result, they have impaired glucose uptake and homeostasis is disrupted. The obese person becomes trapped in an endless metabolic cycle of trying to supply the energy needed for a steadily increasing demand. The fat cells are burdened with the assignment of converting the excess consumed sugars and carbohydrates into fat. The fat cells must do this because the muscle cells are impaired with a malfunctioning ability to metabolize sugars. Even if the metabolic problem were not fixed, if the obese person simply ate more fat, and therefore consumed fewer carbs, the fat cells’ burden would be greatly alleviated. In addition, getting plenty of vitamin D and calcium, either through diet or sun exposure, would alleviate the core problem of impaired glucose transport across the cell wall. If the heart and muscles can utilize sugars directly, the excessive burden on the fat cells to expand and proliferate is relieved, and the body fat will inevitably disappear.
The obese body is in a permanent state of depression and seasonal affective disorder, or hibernation mode. It is an innate winter response to the lack of nutrients in the body. Many animals hibernate in the winter. Prior to hibernation, most animals gain weight (human weight varies as well, generally being higher in the winter and lower in the summer). If excess insulin causes the accumulation of fat, and vitamin D has a role in controlling insulin production, then you can hypothesize that vitamin D levels directly influence weight storage by their effects on insulin levels. That is, because obese people generally have hyperinsulinemia (high levels of insulin in the blood) and insulin causes fat to be stored in fat cells, obese people generally display a level of internal starvation (their muscle cells are literally starved for food because their fat cells are hoarding nutrients) and generally can’t satisfy their body’s demands for energy by eating. In this scenario, lethargy, hunger and stress is not a cause of obesity, it’s an effect of it (due to the internal starvation).
With regards to vitamin D, since most people have an increased exposure to sunshine in the summer months, the internal levels of vitamin D would go up. In that case, insulin levels would drop, and weight would naturally decrease. In the winter, when exposure to sunshine is reduced, vitamin D levels would drop, insulin would rise, and fat would be stored. So that bear who is stocking up on food for the winter — he’s not gaining weight because he’s eating more, he’s eating more because he’s gaining weight.
The stimulus for the winter response is proposed to be a fall in vitamin D. The synthesis of vitamin D is dependent upon the absorption of radiation in the ultraviolet-B range of sunlight. At ground level at mid-latitudes, UV-B radiation falls in the autumn and becomes negligible in winter. It has previously been proposed that vitamin D evolved in primitive organisms as a UV-B sensitive photoreceptor with the function of signaling changes in sunlight intensity. It is here proposed that a fall in vitamin D in the form of circulating calcidiol is the stimulus for the winter response, which consists of an accumulation of fat mass (obesity) and the induction of a winter metabolism (syndrome X). Vitamin D deficiency can account for the secular trends in the prevalence of obesity and for individual differences in its onset and severity. It may be possible to reverse the increasing prevalence of obesity by improving vitamin D status, and its key co-factors, calcium, magnesium and EFAs..
Vitamin D deficiency is associated with an increased risk of syndrome X, cholesterol uptake, fat accumulation, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, leptin secretion and subesquent leptin resistance, diabetes, and depression. Vitamin D has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity and signaling, induce calcium mediated apoptosis (cell death) in adipose fat cells, and interactions with the insulin like growth factor system may further influence glucose homeostasis. In order to obtain vitamin D from food, it is necessary to eat animal fats; animals manufacture vitamin D, a fat-soluble vitamin, and store it in their fat cells. Most of the foods that contain vitamin D naturally have been taken off the menu of the American diet due to the belief that fats are harmful to your health. Since vitamin D is manufactured by animals, a strict vegetarian won’t get any vitamin D from their food intake. Foods that are high in vitamin D are also very high in fat and cholesterol as well, and have therefore been for the most part avoided. These include pork lard, bacon, egg yolk, liver, caviar, butter, and raw milk. Vitamin D is also crucial to the absorption of calcium from the digestive tract into the blood stream, and both vitamin D and calcium are important catalysts in crucial biological processes including glucose regulation. Fats also promote the uptake of vitamin D and calcium in the intestines, whereas dietary fiber impedes it. Several foods in the American diet have been fortified artificially with vitamin D, but many of these, such as cereals, orange juice, and non-fat milk, contain little or no fat, so it is mysterious how the fat-soluble vitamin D can possibly be properly distributed in the product or properly absorbed. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with elevated parathyroid hormone levels. If vitamin D deficiency caused obesity, than obese patients should have elevated blood parathyroid hormone levels. In fact, the association between obesity and elevated parathyroid hormone levels is well known. Obesity and vitamin D deficiency are co-morbid with numerous diseases such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, depression and even periodontal disease. This is consistent with the theory that vitamin D deficiency plays a role in obesity.
Researchers claim that low calcium diets promote excess storage of fats in fat cells. They have observed, for obese people, a significant weight loss associated with augmented calcium ingestion, whether through calcium pills or via dietary adjustments. However, calcium obtained from dairy products was particularly effective as compared with other sources of calcium. They have confirmed in studies with rats as well as through both epidemiological and clinical trial data that high calcium intakes afford protection from obesity. Intracellular calcium plays a key role in glucose metabolism with respect to insulin secretion and glucose uptake. Intracellular calcium levels play a key role in (1) the release of insulin from the pancreas, (2) the uptake of glucose in the fat cells, and (3) the GLUT4 migration in muscle cells to the cell membrane. (4) It has also been demonstrated in in-vitro experiments that glucose utilization in muscles through direct insulin stimulation requires calcium. Calcium and vitamin D act together to suppress appetite and spontaneous food intake. It also helps burn energy after you eat. Calcium and vitamin D supplemented together improves HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and total cholesterol levels along with aiding weight loss. It also plays a role in the insulin-leptin connection. Acute leptin secretion is calcium dependent. When incubated in the absence of calcium or in the presence of intracellular calcium chelators, glucose plus insulin failed to stimulate leptin secretion. In contrast, basal leptin secretion is secreted spontaneously and is calcium independent.
Magnesium is a co-factor of many enzymes involved in glucose metabolism. Magnesium has an important role in insulin action, and insulin stimulates magnesium uptake in insulin-sensitive tissues. Magnesium is required for both proper glucose utilization and insulin signaling. Metabolic alterations in cellular magnesium, which may play the role of a second messenger for insulin action, contribute to insulin resistance. Magnesium is needed to extract energy from food and for optimal insulin function. The more energy you extract from food the less you have to eat to feel great.
Vitamin D has co-factors that the body needs in order to utilize vitamin D properly. Magnesium is the most important co-factor for vitamin D. In fact, it is common for rising vitamin D levels to exacerbate an underlying magnesium deficiency. If one is having problems supplementing with vitamin D, a magnesium deficiency could be the reason why. Magnesium is a mineral that is essential to all cells of all known living organisms. Every major biological process, including protein and nucleic acid synthesis and cellular energy production, requires adequate amounts.
Inadequate blood magnesium levels are known to result in low blood calcium levels, resistance to parathyroid hormone, insulin resistance, increased risk of type 2 diabetes, and resistance to some of the effects of vitamin D. It is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body, for it is involved in more than 300 biochemical reactions. All the enzymes that metabolize Vitamin D require Mg. It is also required in each of the steps concerned with replication, transcription, and translation of genetic information, and thus it is also needed for the genetic mechanism of action of Vitamin D. In 1976, Dr. Ramon Medalle and colleagues at the Washington University School of Medicine described five patients with Mg deficiency and low blood calcium whose calcium blood levels would not return to normal after Vitamin D treatment, a condition known as Vitamin D resistance. However, serum calcium promptly returned to normal in all five patients after treatment with Mg, raising the possibility that such Vitamin D resistance may be caused from simple, but severe, Mg deficiency. There was a study done that concluded that low serum Magnesium concentration induced by obesity can be modified by vitamin D injection. What is not known is how mild to moderate Mg deficiencies (like most Americans apparently have) affect Vitamin D metabolism. The safe thing to do is to eat green leafy vegetables and a handful of sunflower seeds every day (Trader Joe’s sells a variety of seeds). If you can’t, won’t, or don’t end up doing that, then take a Vitamin D supplement with added Mg. Dr. Earl Ford of the CDC, the lead author, concluded, “Because magnesium has many potential health benefits, increasing the dietary intake of magnesium in the U.S. population should be an important public health goal.”
Essential Fatty Acids and Cholesterol
What’s important about omega-3 fats is not only their fluidity, but their name. Omega-3 refers to a special characteristic of their chemical structure. Our bodies are not able to produce omega-3’s or to turn other kinds of fat into omega-3’s. We have to get them from food. There are no substitutes. Of all the foods that actively fight inflammation, omega-3 fatty acids have been the most studied. The lack of adequate dietary fat contributes to the metabolic syndrome in at least four ways: (1) vitamin D is only available in fatty food sources because it is a fat-soluble vitamin, (2) calcium and vitamin D uptake is more efficient when the they are consumed with dietary fats, (3) calcium uptake depends critically on the presence of vitamin D, which is deficient due to (1) above, and (4) the burden of fat cells to manufacture fatty acids from sugar is alleviated by the dietary availability of fats from ingested food sources. Not all people who have deficiencies in dietary fats become obese. Whether the person accumulates excess body fat to compensate probably depends in part on genetic make-up.
The brain is an extremely fatty organ. All of its nerve fibers are coated with a fatty myelin sheath that insulates them to keep their signals intact. The brain does not use fat for fuel. However, with inadequate fat supply, it is unable to build healthy nerve fibers, and this has dire consequences to mental health. A study on pre- and peri-menopausal women examined the relationship between the women’s ability to absorb calcium in the diet and their dietary habits. They found that the most significant factor that led to better absorption of calcium was dietary fat. A factor that negatively impacted calcium absorption was dietary fiber. So a high-fiber, low-fat diet, probably considered a healthy diet by many people, is particularly bad for calcium absorption. People who were overweight were also less efficient in absorbing calcium than people with a low body mass index. This is likely related to their low vitamin D status, since vitamin D plays an absolutely crucial role in promoting calcium transport.
Did you ever wonder why some people can eat all they want and not get fat, while others are constantly battling extra pounds? The answer may have to do with vitamin D and calcium status. Sunlight, vitamin D and calcium, normalize food intake and normalize blood sugar. Weight normalization is associated with higher levels of vitamin D and adequate calcium. Obesity is associated with vitamin-D deficiency. In fact, obese persons have impaired production of UV-B-stimulated D and impaired absorption of food source and supplemental D. When the diet lacks calcium, whether from D or calcium deficiency, there is an increase in fatty acid synthase, an enzyme that converts calories into fat. Higher levels of calcium with adequate vitamin D inhibit fatty acid synthase while diets low in calcium increase fatty acid synthase by as much as five-fold. In one study, genetically obese rats lost 60 percent of their body fat in six weeks on a diet that had moderate calorie reduction but was high in calcium. All rats supplemented with calcium showed increased body temperature indicating a shift from calorie storage to calorie burning (thermogenesis).
The assimilation and utilization of vitamin D is influenced by the kinds of fats we consume. Increasing levels of both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids in the diet decrease the binding of vitamin D to D-binding proteins. Saturated fats, the kind found in butter, tallow and coconut oil, do not have this effect. Nor do the omega-3 fats. D-binding proteins are key to local and peripheral actions of vitamin D. This is an important consideration as Americans have dramatically increased their intake of polyunsaturated oils (from commercial vegetable oils) and monounsaturated oils (from olive oil and canola oil) and decreased their intake of saturated fats over the past 100 years. In traditional diets, saturated fats supplied varying amounts of vitamin D. Thus, both reduction of saturated fats and increase of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats contribute to the current widespread D deficiency. Trans fatty acids, found in margarine and shortenings used in most commercial baked goods, should always be avoided. There is evidence that these fats can interfere with the enzyme systems the body uses to convert vitamin D in the liver.
Will taking vitamin D, calcium, magnesium and EFAs cause you to lose weight? No one knows for sure, but it’s very likely given the evidence so far. Is it a coincidence that the twin epidemics of obesity and vitamin D deficiency are occurring together? Alternative explanations exist for all the above findings. A study designed to answer that specific question is needed.
In the meantime, what should you do?
Stop listening to the people who tell you that the sun is bad for you. All living things need sunlight in moderation for survival, including humans. Healthy fats can be an alternative energy source for your body, when consumed in moderation. Nutritional supplements are less toxic and have less side effects than most synthetic prescription chemicals. We need to abandon the bad advice we have been taught and stick to the time-tested principles of nutrition and exercise to maintain our health. Do not disregard professional advice. Just understand that everyone is capable of making mistakes and take responsibility for your own health. Do your own research and ask questions. Knowledge is power.
A simple solution:
If you are overweight, make certain you are not deficient in vitamin D, calcium, magnesium and EFAs. And if you are slim, make certain you are not deficient in vitamin D, calcium, magnesium and EFAs.
It is really quite simple…