New Under the Sun:
Volume 3, Issue 2
Greetings!! As faithful readers of this newsletter know, vitamin D deprivation is a health issue that is a constant refrain. That refrain will sing again this month because February represents the yearly nadir of blood levels of vitamin D (25 OHD) for virtually everyone living in the temperate zones. As a reminder for why we should care about this, here is a link to a new article published in England in The Independent on the value and necessity of maintaining optimal levels of vitamin D. [Article no longer available.]
Illness or Old Age: As baby boomers move from middle age to their senior years, concerns with health and aging will multiply as will research focused on aging. Creating a new way of viewing illness and aging is the point of a recent paper. In brief, the authors conclude that if we view certain changes as merely to be expected with aging the result could be poorer health outcomes and earlier deaths than if these changes were viewed as symptoms of illness.
An important example the authors use to emphasize their point is the changing perspective on osteoporosis. In the not-too-distant past, osteoporosis was viewed as a normal part of aging. Stature shrank, bones became more brittle, but this was all "normal". When researchers realized that bone destruction was not an inevitable part of aging, treatment and prevention became major goals. Osteoporosis is now viewed as a disease and "normal" bone mass is based on the averages of healthy young adults.
The authors' message to researchers, physicians, gerontologists, and all those concerned with aging is that any deviations from the normal parameters of healthy young adults should be viewed as signs of illness and disease when they occur in the elderly. Prevention of deviations from norms and treatment when those deviations occur should replace the view that increasing frailty with aging is normal and that, therefore, little need be or can be done. Gerbrand J Izaks & Rudi GJ Westendorp. Ill or just old? Towards a conceptual framework of the relation between ageing and disease. BMC Geriatrics Dec. 2003, 3:7+.
Comment: Many of the problems of old age are also associated with vitamin D deprivation. These include osteoporosis, muscle weakness, high blood pressure, impaired immune system, and depression among others. As one ages, the skin becomes less able to synthesize vitamin D when exposed to UVB radiation. This requires either longer exposure times, which could be harmful, or increased levels of vitamin D3 supplementation. All elderly persons should take at least 2000 IU of vitamin D/day. Higher doses may be required to reverse some of these disease processes. If your physician is unaware of the importance of maintaining optimal vitamin D levels, and too many of them are unaware, it may be up to you to educate him or her so that you or your loved ones can receive appropriate care.
Shyness and the Immune Response: Intriguing preliminary research on the effects of behavior on the response to antiretroviral therapy indicate that those who have a more nervous personality type have an impaired immune response. This small study of 13 men was designed to test the effectiveness of antiretroviral therapy on those with more active/extreme autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity compared to those with lower ANS activity. The men were between 25 and 54 in age and were tested on a variety of measures for ANS activity.
Despite the small sample size, statistical analysis was able to show that those men who showed high ANS activity prior to receiving antiretroviral treatment had a significantly elevated viral load compared to those men with low ANS activity. After treatment, those with low ANS activity had a marked reduction in viral load from a median of 16, 561 copies/ml of plasma to <400 copies/ml. For those with high ANS activity, the decline in viral load was modest: from a median of 74,675 to 44,776 copies/ml. As can be seen, those with high ANS activity began with a higher viral load prior to treatment indicating an impaired immune response that was only modestly improved by treatment.
Whether or not a man had high or low ANS activity had no relationship to a variety of behavioral or demographic factors. That is, such factors as education, drug or alcohol use, depression, income, ethnicity, or age were not more likely to be associated with one type of ANS activity than another. There were also no differences in method of treatment and in adherence to the treatment regimen. The researchers concluded that, regardless of other factors, those individuals who were shy, introverted, and who did not handle stressful situations well, that is, who had high ANS activity, were more prone to infection, to having more severe infections, and to showing less improvement from treatments. An individual's temperament/personality needs to be taken into consideration when attempting to understand the immune response and the effectiveness of treatment options. Cole SW, Kemeny ME, Fahey JL, Zack JA, Naliboff BD. Psychological risk factors for HIV pathogenesis: mediation by the autonomic nervous system. Biol Psychiatry. 2003 Dec 15; 54(12): 1444-56.
Fitness and Work Performance: Research conducted on 683 workers found, not too surprisingly, that workers who were the most physically fit had the best work performance and that obese workers had the lowest levels of productivity. Obese workers also had more interpersonal problems with coworkers than did physically fit workers. Physically fit workers averaged the least days lost from work, performed the highest quality and quantity of work, needed to exert the least effort to do the job, had the best interpersonal relationships, and the best overall job performance.
Obesity had a significantly negative impact on work performance. Of the 683 workers in this study, 22% were obese and 4.5% morbidly obese. If approximately one-quarter of the American workforce is obese, and given the skyrocketing rates of obesity in this country, that estimation may be low, then obesity has a major negative impact on the bottom line (pun intended) of American businesses. Businesses who are interested in improving their productivity should probably consider offering obese employees help with weight reduction and exercise programs. Incentives for improving employee fitness may prove more profitable in the long run than more traditional incentive programs. Pronk NP, Martinson B, Kessler RC, Beck AL, Simon GE, Wang P. The association between work performance and physical activity, cardiorespiratory fitness, and obesity. J Occup Environ Med. 2004 Jan; 46(1): 19-25.
Book Review: In the August, 2003 issue of AnthroHealth News we reviewed The Mister Rogers Parenting Book: Helping to Understand Your Young Child. This month we review a book that is a good companion to the advice provided by Mister Rogers: How to Behave so your Children Will, Too! by Sal Severe, PhD. For parents who have children who seem to misbehave too much or even seem to be the ones in control, Severe provides guidance on the steps necessary to change the situation.
The biggest change that must be made is, as suggested by the book's title, changing parental behavior. Parents who have children who misbehave are generally doing and/or saying things that inadvertently encourage that misbehavior. Severe makes several important points.
Discipline is not the same thing as punishment. The goal should be to help your children become self-disciplined. If your children only "behave" when you are watching them, then they are not really behaving.
Consistency is key. "If you want self-disciplined children, you need to be consistent. You need to mean what you say. You need to follow through. Consistency is the most important element in your relationship with your children." P. 96
Punishment should be appropriate to the misdeed and should be limited. "A true punishment is one that is seldom used because it is seldom needed." P. 125 Punishment should not be done impulsively and never, never in anger.
Reward positive behavior. The best way to increase good behaviors and eliminate misbehavior is to catch your children behaving. "If you take the positive for granted, improvements in your child's behavior will not occur." P. 155 "Negative attention teaches children how to manipulate and get their way. We teach this by not paying attention to our children when they are behaving appropriately. We teach this by paying attention to them when they are misbehaving." P. 197 "Do not take good behavior for granted. The more you notice, the more you will find." P. 198
On page 81 Severe includes a quiz to "Test Your Knowledge about Your Child's Interests". You may be surprised and disturbed to discover how little you really know. The quiz provides a perfect jumping off place for an enjoyable discussion with your child as you compare notes on favorite colors, TV shows, and what you want(ed) to be when you grow/grew up, among other topics.
The one major concern I have with Severe's methodology is his reliance on time out as the preferred method of punishment. He does give cogent reasons for preferring time out over all other methods. However, finding an appropriate time out location may not be as easily achieved as he seems to think. The location needs to be one that is both boring and lacking in anything that can cause harm or be harmed. His preferred location is a room with a door that can be shut. As choices, he mentions: bedrooms other than the child's own, bathrooms, or laundry rooms. With very little effort, I can think of dozens of ways in which a child could cause mischief in such a setting. The best place would be an essentially unused, empty room. But how many homes have such a space? An alternate form of punishment Severe mentions is the restriction of a favorite activity or possession for some limited time period: maybe as little as a few minutes or a long as a day, depending on age of child and "offense." This method seems much more practical.
With the one caveat on implementing time out aside, overall, I strongly recommend this book and encourage all parents to read it. If we want well-behaved children, we are going to have to seriously think about our own behavior towards them.
AnthroHealth Tip of the Month: Optimize your blood levels of vitamin D. During the winter months, the only sure way to achieve this is by taking a vitamin D supplement. The type of supplement you need is vitamin D3, also called cholecalciferol. It should not be bound to anything else such as calcium or vitamin A. The minimum dosage should be 1000 IU/day. However, if you live outside the most southern tier of states and/or have moderate-to- dark skin color, then you should take 2000 IU - 4000 IU/day. The best sources for vitamin D3 are www.freedavitamins.com or www.freedavitamins.com
© 2001-2009 Kathleen E. Fuller, PhD. All rights reserved.