Something New Under the Sun:
Adapting to Change in the 21st Century


AnthroHealth News

March 2002

Volume 1, Issue 3


Greetings!! March is the month of new beginnings. With the onset of Spring we see buds bursting into flower and birds building nests to welcome new life. This is a good month for personal new beginnings, to make those changes that are necessary for good health. Time to spring into action!

News Updates: The issues covered this month are diverse. They include heart health, rheumatoid arthritis, exercise, and schizophrenia.


Heart Health: Several articles focused on different aspects of heart health. Breast cancer, a disease of major concern to most women, gets a great deal of media attention and research dollars, as it should. However, heart disease kills ten times as many women each year as does breast cancer, and most women don’t even realize they are at risk for it. Part of the problem is that most individuals, including physicians, still presume that heart disease primarily affects men even though women have heart health problems almost as frequently as do men. The major risk factors for both sexes for heart disease are: smoking, diabetes, low HDL (good) cholesterol, high LDL (bad) cholesterol, high blood pressure, vascular problems, and older age. In addition, post-menopausal status is a risk factor for women. Pearson TA. New tools for coronary risk assessment: what are their advantages and limitations? Circulation 2002 Feb 19;105(7):886-92

Researchers found that altering diet to reduce cholesterol levels in men worked almost as well as using drugs to lower the levels. In addition, unlike the drugs which have the negative side-effect of lowering anti-oxidant levels, the diet was rich in anti-oxidants. The diet was also low in saturated and trans fats (no more than 10%), high in fatty fish (such as salmon and sardines) and other omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods, and high in fruits and vegetables. Antti Jula, MD, PhD; Jukka Marniemi, PhD; Risto Huupponen, MD, PhD; Arja Virtanen, MSc; Merja Rastas, MSc; Tapani Rönnemaa, MD, PhD. Effects of Diet and Simvastatin on Serum Lipids, Insulin, and Antioxidants in Hypercholesterolemic Men: A Randomized Controlled Trial. JAMA. 2002;287:598-605.

As mentioned above, high blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease. But individuals with so-called high-normal blood pressure (130-139/ 85-89) are also at increased risk for heart disease compared to those with the optimal blood pressure of 120/80. The risk for women with high normal BP is 2.5 times that of women with optimal BP, while that for men is 1.6 times. Vasan RS, Larson MG, Leip EP, Evans JC, O'Donnell CJ, Kannel WB, Levy D. Impact of high-normal blood pressure on the risk of cardiovascular disease. N Engl J Med 2001 Nov 1;345(18):1291-7

Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are at increased risk of heart disease, according to a new study. PCOS makes it difficult for women to become pregnant, and is associated with other health problems. More research is needed to determine the exact relationship between PCOS and heart disease. R.A. Wild. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2002;186:35-43.

Comment: Prior research has shown that individuals with low levels of serum vitamin D have high blood pressure which is reduced when serum vitamin D is elevated. PCOS is also related to vitamin D deprivation. Salmon and sardines, whose omega-3 fatty acids help lower bad cholesterol levels, are also high in vitamin D. It would seem, then, that elevating serum vitamin D levels would be good for heart health. Fuller K, Casparian JM. Vitamin D: balancing cutaneous and systemic considerations. Southern Medical Journal. 2001;94:58-66. Thy-Jacob S, Donovan D, Papadopoulos A, Sarrel P, Bilezikian JP. Vitamin D and calcium dysregulation in the polycystic ovarian syndrome. Steroids. 1999;64:430-435.

Heart Health the AnthroHealth way: Eat fatty fish several times/week, especially salmon, sardines, or mackerel. These fish are great sources of: omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin D, calcium, and protein. Eat fresh spinach every day: spinach is a terrific source of folate, which reduces homocysteine levels, a cause of heart disease. Get plenty of vitamin D, either through appropriate UVB radiation exposure for your skin type and latitude of residence, or by supplementation. Walk 2 – 3 miles each day.


Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Danish study of monozygotic (identical) and dizygotic (fraternal) twins determined that there was no higher probability of an identical twin having rheumatoid arthritis if the other twin had it than was the case for fraternal twins. That is, if genetics played a major role in the onset of rheumatoid arthritis then identical twins should have a higher rate of both twins having rheumatoid arthritis than was the case for fraternal twins, but this result was not supported by the research. Therefore, environmental factors play the major role in the onset of rheumatoid arthritis.

Comment: This study supports other research which has found that symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are improved by modifying environmental factors such as increasing exposure to UVB radiation and/or using vitamin D supplementation. Deluca HF, Cantorna MT. Vitamin D: its role and uses in immunology. FASEB J 2001 Dec;15(14):2579-85. Akkus S, Tamer MN, Yorgancigil H. A case of osteomalacia mimicking ankylosing spondylitis. Rheumatol Int 2001 Aug;20(6):239-42

Combating the symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis the AnthroHealth way: Eat foods such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel that are high in vitamin D and calcium. Get appropriate UVB radiation exposure for your skin type and latitude of residence. Take a vitamin D supplement.


Exercise: In last month’s issue of this newsletter the Tip of the Month was to walk, not run. This month we find orthopaedic surgeon Arlen D. Hanssen, MD of the Mayo Clinic suggesting the same thing for active baby boomers with knee problems resulting from vigorous involvement in such sports as running, basketball, or tennis. Baby boomers are too old to benefit from ligament surgery and too young to be appropriate candidates for knee replacement surgery, which can really limit physical activity. The solution is to change to low impact sports such as walking or swimming.

Exercise the AnthroHealth way: Walk, walk, and walk some more! Swimming is beneficial, but in order to maintain bone and muscle mass, the weight bearing exercise of walking is critical.


Schizophrenia: And now for an unusual vitamin D connection: John McGrath of the Queensland Centre for Schizophrenia Research in Australia had previously proposed that maternal vitamin D deprivation during pregnancy was a factor in the later onset of schizophrenia in her offspring. [McGrath J. Hypothesis: is low prenatal vitamin D a risk-modifying factor for schizophrenia? Schizophr Res 1999 Dec 21;40(3):173-7] McGrath recently completed research on rats and discovered that rats that had been deprived of vitamin D during prenatal development displayed brain and behavioral changes similar to those seen in schizophrenic humans. McGrath cautions expectant mothers not to take large doses of vitamin D because of possible adverse effects on the fetus. Rachel Nowak, Melbourne, Australia. Schizophrenia linked to mother's lack of sunlight. 19:00 06 February 02.


AnthroHealth Tip of the Month: Since vitamin D played a major role in much of this month’s news, the Tip this month concerns the best methods for obtaining vitamin D. Vitamin D is produced in our bodies when UVB radiation strikes unprotected skin. It is impossible to overdose on “sunlight”- induced vitamin D. Once serum vitamin D has reached an optimal level, excess vitamin D production will be curtailed. However, it is possible to overdose on vitamin D via supplementation. This is of special concern if the vitamin D is bound to calcium since health problems from excess calcium could occur. This is why McGrath cautioned expectant mothers about vitamin D supplementation. However, expectant mothers, and everyone else, can optimize their serum vitamin D by obtaining the vitamin D from skin exposure. The amount of UVB radiation exposure required to produce adequate levels of vitamin D depends on degree of skin pigmentation, latitude of residence, and season of the year. In northern latitudes, such as between San Francisco and Washington, DC and higher, March is the beginning of the return of detectable levels of UVB radiation. These levels will gradually increase to a peak during the summer months, and then decrease through October when the levels become undetectable during the winter months. If you are very lightly-pigmented, you will need a total daily UVB exposure of 20 – 30 minutes. However, given your tendency to burn, you should probably limit your unprotected exposure to 2 – 3 10-minute sets each day. Wear hats and sunscreen the rest of the time. On the other hand, if you are very heavily-pigmented and living in, say, New York, you will have an extremely difficult time getting enough UVB exposure to ensure optimal levels of vitamin D even if you are outside exposing unprotected skin for several hours each day. In your case, in order to optimize serum vitamin D, you will also need to obtain vitamin D from fatty fish (sardines, salmon, mackerel) and/or from supplementation. On a scale from very light to very dark, the darker you are, the longer you will need to be outside exposing unprotected skin. Limit exposure sessions to the length of time in which you do not redden or burn. More than one session per day may be required. These sessions are also good opportunities to get in your daily walks. During the winter months, or if UVB exposure is not possible, eat fatty fish (sardines, salmon, mackerel) and take a vitamin D supplement, preferably one that is not bound to any other vitamin or mineral.

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Copyright © 2001-2009 Kathleen E. Fuller, PhD. All rights reserved.