Monday, July 4, 2022

Lose a few pounds, play in the sun

I had a conversation with a doctor regarding risk factors for Covid and poor health outcomes.

He danced around quite a bit. Infectious diseases are not his specialty and the Teamsters have nothing on the Medical profession with regard to protecting their turf. For instance, a Podiatrist (a doctor specializing in feet) can remove a wart from the bottom of your foot but he cannot remove a wart from the palm of your hand. It is not his specialty.

In the end, I went to and surveyed peer reviewed literature. There were no surprises. Listed in approximate order of ease-of-observing:

  • Large amounts of belly fat is a predictor of poor outcomes in patients with Covid who were admitted to the hospital
  • High blood sugar levels (at hospital admission) is a predictor of poor outcomes with Covid
  • Low Vitamin D blood levels are a predictor of poor outcomes with Covid
  • High C-reactive Protein levels are a predictor of poor outcomes with Covid.

For those who are not familiar with C-reactive Protein, it is an inflammation marker and is released when tissue (like heart muscle or blood cells) dies. It is hyper-sensitive and may be too sensitive to be useful. There is also the possibility that it is a symptom of the Covid getting ahead of your immune system rather than a cause of poor immune system response.

The encouraging thing about the first three bullets is that most of us can take actions to improve them.

And then took a unexpected turn

Perhaps based on previous searches, kept throwing the effects of Vitamin D on infant and maternal mortality into the search results.

In the United States, significant, intractable disparities exist in rates of major pregnancy outcomes between non-Hispanic black and non-Hispanic white women. A previously unexplored candidate influence on the black-white disparity in adverse birth outcomes is maternal vitamin D status. This review summarizes the evidence relating maternal vitamin D to preeclampsia, spontaneous preterm birth, gestational diabetes, and fetal growth restriction, and addresses gaps in our understanding of the contribution of vitamin D to the intractable black-white disparity in these conditions.  Source

How large is the Vitamin D disparity between white women and black women?

Serum 25(OH)D concentrations <37.5, <50, and <75 nmol/L were found in 2.4%, 8.5%, and 49.1% of non-Hispanic white pregnant women (n=340), respectively, compared with 55.4%, 74.6%, and 92.2% of non-Hispanic black pregnant women (n=124), respectively. These black-white disparities are similar to our findings in a cohort residing in Pittsburgh (latitude 40° N) at 4–21 weeks gestation and at term
Said another way, 1-in-40 white women had Vitamin D levels less than 37.5 nmol/L in their blood while 1/2 of black women had Vitamin D levels below that level. That is, black women are twenty times more likely to have low levels of Vitamin D than white women.

(The) racial difference in diet may be attributable to the tendency for black Americans to consume less (fortified) milk and cereal than their white counterparts

It is also worth pointing out that many black women are culturally adverse to spending time in the sun out of fear that it will make them look darker. This is a legacy of the times of slavery when slaves who worked in the house were much higher-status than the ones who worked in the fields. A web-search on "black women tanning" invariably leads to articles on black women using artificial tanning products (dye in a bottle) to make their skin "glow" rather than look darker.

But what about the peer reviewed research that "proved" Vitamin D didn't prevent Covid?

Science involves asking very precise questions and and running a series of experiments. Before running the experiments, the scientists must define the "goal posts" or "hurdle" with regard to the confidence level that the results must clear.

For example, he might say "I will accept the hypothesis as "true" if the results suggest that there is less than a 5% chance that the hypothesis is "untrue".

The general consensus among scientists who are not trying to sell you something is that Covid outcomes are dependent upon a multitude of conditions. For example, you can be old, receiving chemo-therapy and get a whacking-big-dose of the viral loading at the get-go and have a very poor outcome even if your Vitamin D levels are very high. Or you can have low Vitamin D levels and be young and fit and work in a day-care and have a very, very high level of antibodies from constant exposure to colds and get a small initial viral loading...and be symptom free.

So the Vitamin D hypothesis was doomed to fail when a multivariate problem was approached in a univariate way with a traditional, high level of certainty. The pivotal issue is that the scientists were testing for "prevent" rather than "improve outcomes".

Testing multivariate problems in a univariate fashion is not a trivial problem. There have been approximately 120 Covid vaccine trials world-wide and approximately 1/3 of them actively excluded individuals with high body-mass-indexes...the very individuals who would most benefit from an effective vaccine. 1/3 of the trials did not record BMI status and only 1/3 actively tried to include a demographically representative slice of high BMI patients in the population tested.

And just as a random observation, isn't it time to start monitoring Vitamin D levels and A1C levels as vigorously as we monitor cholesterol, at least in women ages 15-through-45?

Pack your own parachute. Make your own, informed choices. Stay away from crowds. Putter around in your garden (in the sun)*. If you have highly pigmented skin, take Vitamin D supplements.

*Advice I received from Billybob in Arizona on how to get and stay healthy.


  1. How about an obvious explanation. Skin color. The farther north you live, the less vitamin D producing solar radiation you receivve. Thats why Canadians, white or black have greater D deficiences than Floridians. Blacks are evolutionarily adapted to prevent skin damage from the sun which allows them to still absorb enough sunlight to produce sufficient vit. D in sunny regions. Whereas whites are adapted to absorb more sunlight. Thus white produce vit. D easier and sunburn easier.

    1. From the paper cited "A deeply-pigmented African-American adult requires 10–50 times the UVB exposure of a medium-skinned Caucasian adult to synthesize the same amount of vitamin D3".

      Also in play is the fact that 3/4 of African-Americans have a deficiency in the enzyme that digests lactose and milk gives them gas and diarrhea so their avoidance of dairy (the primary food fortified with Vitamin D) is not accidental or due to being stubborn.

  2. ERJ, just in general the combination of lose weight, exercise, eat right, and moderation in all things will go a long way towards anyone's better health.

  3. Being outside in the sun also has the effect of strengthening your antibodies and immune system, especially in the case of natural allergies. My doctor friends would tell me during the height of the pandemic that COVID was wiping out these four demographic groups: The old & weak, those with compromised immune systems (mostly chemo patients), the obese, and the alcoholics.

  4. And yet, we didn't see the homeless stacked up like cordwood even at the height of the epidemic. I think Vitamin D is more important than the medicos are willing to admit.

  5. There's too much hype, and ideology, now invested in researching Cov to every really be able to separate the wheat from the chaff.

    A better way is to simply follow the (identical, but apparently now extinct) flu research.

    Incidentally, the exponential growth of 'allergies' correlates quite well with the decrease in children playing outdoors, and the increase in use of 'sealed' homes (double-glazing and A/C) further reducing exposure to 'fresh air' (and probably massively increasing having to rebreathe all the gunk we expel).

    It's almost as if we were designed to work/exercise outdoors, breathing fresh air and exposed to sunlight.