Why You Should Be Careful To Understand What The Media Is Reporting
A very knowledgeable person wrote to me last week, saying “Did you know it’s now been shown that low levels of vitamin D cause short stature?” In other words, people who don’t have enough vitamin D don’t get as tall. She believed that the results of the study she read showed a good reason for why people need vitamin D. In fact though, she – like many other intelligent professionals out there – was basing her conclusion on the results of an epidemiological study.
Here’s an official definition of epidemiology, thanks to the Encyclopedia Britannica: “Epidemiology is the study of disease … in populations. It focuses on groups rather than individuals and often takes a historical perspective. Descriptive epidemiology surveys a population to see what segments (e.g., age, sex, ethnic group, occupation) are affected by a disorder, follows changes or variations in its incidence or mortality over time and in different locations, and helps identify syndromes or suggest associations with risk factors.” In other words, it points out something that happens in a good portion of a population, without taking into regard why it happened. It takes the shortcut of going right from an association with a disease or symptom to assuming it’s the cause of it.
Here’s a simplified definition: Epidemiology is the science of association, not cause and effect. It’s good science, but not a definitive one. This is very important! Epidemiological evidence suggests that one fact (i.e., low vitamin D levels in this case) is associated with a condition (i.e., short stature). That is very true. It is not, however, the definite cause of a condition. This is where so many make the mistake of jumping to a conclusion (such as assuming that short stature is due to vitamin D deficiency).
This is something that we often point out. In matters of nutrition you are seldom going to find the cause of a condition simply by looking at epidemiological data. There are often other reasons for the condition other than the one result studied. Epidemiology only shows that the result and the condition were associated with each other. Let’s use our example of short stature to explain this a bit more:
There are often reasons for vitamin D levels getting too low other than that the person didn’t have enough vitamin D. Studying children who haven’t grown as much as they should, shows that they have low levels of vitamin D, true. They also often have poor protein status, and their acid/alkaline balance may be off, resulting in their becoming more acid. If you’re alkaline, calcium flows easily into your bone, allowing it to grow and become stronger. If you’re acid, calcium flows out of your bone instead and it won’t grow as well. Combine acidity with low protein status, and short stature can be the result.
Vitamin D is made by the body, and one of the things it does is stimulate the making of a protein that allows us to enhance calcium absorption. If too much calcium is flowing out of bone, absorbing more calcium can be harmful to the body’s overall health, so vitamin D production shuts down at some point to save the body from this additional calcium. Why? To prevent the extra calcium from causing calcification of tissues instead of building better bones. Voila! Vitamin D levels go down in that body to protect it until it’s again turned alkaline.*
Can you see that vitamin D is now only an indicator of what’s going on in the body? A child may not be growing as well as he should, and his vitamin D levels may be low, but they are not the cause of his lack of growth. The cause occurred earlier on in the process, possibly even before he became acid.
The point of this is to first remind you to be careful of accepting every recommendation you hear in the news at face value. There’s always much more to consider. Many people who hear of this study will run out and purchase vitamin D to supplement their diets, thinking it will help them to grow. That’s the danger of jumping to conclusions.
Instead, what you should always remember is that your body is unique, and it’s got a plan of action for how it operates. The things that happen in your own health are related to what you individually are doing and living and experiencing. Your body will make adjustments (disguised at times as something “bad”) to compensate for the things that are happening.
What can you do? Remember that the best indicator of what’s going on in your body is your total blood chemistry. Not just one indicator. Make sure your doctor is aware of that and how important that is. We call it a health model approach. If your doctor isn’t aware of this approach, refer him or her to our Institute for Health Realities where training and information abounds in this way of thinking.
*This is one of the many ways that our body is designed to regulate itself, always with the attitude of keeping you alive long enough to overcome all of the challenges. We are, after all, Designed2Win, not to lose.