Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Pressure of False Urgency

Within the article copied below from the blog, Conversion Diary, is the title of this post. It seems to sum up what today's technology seems to burden us with if we let it. This article is about a lot more than the 'pressure of false urgency', but I really liked that title.

The 7 Habits of People Who Place Radical Trust in God

I read a lot of biographies and memoirs about inspiring people who place radical trust in God. (By “radical” I don’t mean reckless or imprudent, but am referring to the difficult, very counter-cultural act of recognizing God’s sovereignty over every area of our lives. More on that here.) From He Leadeth Me to God’s Smuggler, Mother Angelica to The Heavenly Man to The Shadow of His Wings, these true stories are about people from all walks of the Christian life: Catholic and Protestant, consecrated religious and lay people, men and women. And yet they all have distinct similarities in their approaches to life and the Lord.

I found it fascinating to see what common threads could be found in the lives of these incredible people who place so much trust in the Lord, and thought I’d share in case others find it inspiring as well.

1. They accept suffering

One of the most powerful things I’ve read in recent memory is Brother Yun’s story of being a persecuted pastor in China, as recounted in the book The Heavenly Man. After facing weeks of torture, including electrocution, starvation, beatings, and having needles shoved under his fingernails, he was thrown in a box that was four feet long, three feet wide, and four feet high, where he would stay indefinitely. The day after he was put in this mini cell, he felt prompted to pray for a Bible — a ridiculous idea, considering that many people were in prison at that very moment for being in possession of such contraband. Yet he prayed anyway. And, inexplicably, the guards threw a Bible into his cell the next morning. He writes:
I knelt down and wept, thanking the Lord for this great gift. I could scarcely believe my dream had come true! No prisoner was ever allowed to have a Bible or any Christian literature, yet, strangely, God provided a Bible for me! Through this incident the Lord showed me that regardless of men’s evil plans for me, he had not forgotten me and was in control of my life.
Now, the less saintly among us (cough-cough) might have reacted to that a little differently. Had I been tortured and thrown in a coffin-like cell, my reaction to receiving a Bible would have likely been more along the lines of, “Thanks for the Bible, Lord, but could we SEE ABOUT GETTING ME OUT OF THIS METAL BOX FIRST?!?!” I wouldn’t have even “counted” the Bible as an answered prayer since my main prayer — reducing my physical suffering — had gone unanswered.
Yet what I see over and over again in people like Brother Yun is that they have crystal clarity on the fact that suffering is not the worst evil — sin is. Yes, they would prefer not to suffer, and do sometimes pray for the relief of suffering. But they prioritize it lower than the rest of us do — they focus far more on not sinning than on not suffering. They have a laser focus on getting themselves and others to heaven. In Brother Yun’s case, he saw through that answered prayer that God was allowing him to grow spiritually and minister to his captors, so his circumstances of suffering in an uncomfortable cell became almost irrelevant to him.

2. They accept the inevitability of death

Similar to the above, people who place great trust in God can only do so with a heaven-centered worldview. They think in terms of eternity, not in terms of calendar years. Their goal is not to maximize their time on earth, but rather to get themselves and as many other people as possible to heaven. And if God can best do that by shortening their lifespans, they accept that.
The Shadow of His Wings is filled with jaw-dropping stories of Fr. Goldmann’s miraculous escapes from death during World War II, which begs the question, “What about all the people who didn’t escape death?” Fr. Goldmann would probably respond by saying that God saving him from death was not the blessing in and of itself — after all, every single one of us will die eventually. The blessing was saving him from death so that he could continue his ministry bringing the Gospel to the Nazis. He eventually died while building a ministry in Japan, and presumably accepted that God would bring good from his passing, even though there was undoubtedly more work he wanted to do.

3. They have daily appointments with God

I have never heard of a person who had a deep, calm trust in the Lord who did not set aside time for focused prayer every day. Both in the books I’ve read an in real life, I’ve noticed that people like this always spend at least a few moments — and up to an hour or two if circumstances permit — focused on nothing but prayer, every day. Also, they tend to do it first thing in the morning, centering themselves in Christ before tackling anything else the day may bring.

4. In prayer, they listen more than they talk

I’ve written before about my amazement that really holy people seem to get their prayers answered more often than the rest of us. I’d heard enough stories of people praying for something very specific, then receiving it, that I started to wonder if they were psychic or God just liked them more than the rest of us or something. What I eventually realized is that their ideas about what to pray for came from the Holy Spirit in the first place, because they spent so much time seeking God’s will for them, day in and day out.
So, to use the example of a famous story from Mother Angelica’s biography, she had a satellite dish delivery man at the door who needed $600,000 or he was going to return the dish, thus killing all the plans for the new station. She ran to the chapel and prayed, and a guy she’d never met randomly called and wanted to donate $600,000. Her prayer wasn’t answered because she had a personal interest in television and just really, really wanted it, but because she had correctly discerned God’s plan that she was to start a television station on this particular day.

5. They limit distractions

Of all the amazing stories in God’s Smuggler, one of the lines that jumped out to me the most in the book was in the epilogue, when the authors talk about how Brother Andrew’s work has continued in 21st century:
“I won’t even consider installing one of those call waiting monstrosities,” he exclaimed, “that interrupt one phone conversation to announce another.” Technology, Andrew says, makes us far too accessible to the demands and pressures of the moment. “Our first priority should be listening in patience and silence for the voice of God.”
Far too accessible to the demands and pressures of the moment. That line has haunted me ever since I read it. I love technology, but it does come with a huge temptation to feel a general increase in urgency in our lives: I have to reply to that email! Respond to that comment on my wall on Facebook! Ret-tweet that tweet! Read that direct message! Listen to that voicemail! Here in the connected age, we are constantly bombarded with demands on our attention. Periods of silence, where we can cultivate inner stillness and wait for the promptings of the Holy Spirit, are increasingly rare.
One thing that all the people in these books have in common is that they had very little of this pressure of false urgency. It’s hard to imagine Fr. Ciszek coming up with the breathtaking insights about God’s will that he shared in He Leadeth Me with his iPhone buzzing alerts every few minutes, or Brother Yun seeing the subtle beauty of God’s plan in the midst of persecution while keeping his Twitter status updated on a minute-by-minute basis.

6. They submit their discernment to others

People who have a long history of watching the way the Lord works in their lives notice that he often speaks through holy friends, family members and clergy. If they discern that God is calling them to something, especially if it’s something big, they ask trusted Christian confidantes to pray about the matter and see if they discern the same thing. And when others warn them not to follow a certain path — especially if it’s a spouse, confessor or spiritual director — they take those indicators very seriously.

7. They offer the Lord their complete, unhesitating obedience

One of my favorite parts of God’s Smuggler is when Brother Andrew got a visit from a man named Karl de Graaf who was part of a prayer group in which people often spent hours of time in prayer, most of it listening in silence:
I went out to the front stoop, and there was Karl de Graaf. “Hello!” I said, surprised.
“Hello, Andy. Do you know how to drive?”
“An automobile.”
“No,” I said, bewildered. “No, I don’t.”
“Because last night in our prayers we had a word from the Lord about you. It’s important for you to be able to drive.”
“Whatever on earth for?” I said. “I’ll never own a car, that’s for sure.”
“Andrew,” Mr. de Graaf spoke patiently, as to a slow-witted student, “I’m not arguing for the logic of the case. I’m just passing on the message.” And with that, he was striding across the bridge.
Despite his initial hesitation, Brother Andrew discerned that this was something that God was calling him to do, so he learned to drive. It seemed like a complete waste of time, an utterly illogical use of his resources, but he was obedient to the Lord’s call. I won’t spoil what happened next for those of you who plan to read the book, but let’s just say that shortly after he received his license, it turned out to be critical to the future of his ministry (which eventually brought the Gospel to thousands of people behind the Iron Curtain) that he know how to drive.
I often think of how Mr. de Graaf responded when Brother Andrew was scratching his head about this odd message: “That’s the excitement in obedience,” he said. “Finding out later what God had in mind.”
Obviously we can’t grow closer to God by aping the actions of others, but I find lists like this helpful as a starting point for reflection on my own spiritual progress. I hope you found it helpful as well!


Vitamin D, A, K...

This is from To see charts go to the link.

As always, if the font is too small, you can use “control +” to increase its size.
In the last several weeks, two momentous occasions have occurred in the world of vitamin D.
First, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released its new report.  It tripled the recommended intakes, doubled the upper limit, and commissioned researchers to go forth and test the effects of intakes higher than the upper limit, as this would be safe under proper supervision and provide valuable information.
This sucker is 999 pages long.  When I finish reading it, you can look forward to one heck of a blog post on the matter.  Stay tuned, folks.
The second momentous occasion occurred two days ago (Tuesday, December 14, 2010) when bestselling business author and tango champion Tim Ferriss released The 4-Hour Body.  Tim’s last book, The 4-Hour Workweek, was number one on the New York Times,Business Week, and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists and has been translated thus far into 35 languages.
In his new book, he discusses my research on the interactions between vitamins A, D, and K, and gives the following warning:
Supplemental vitamin D increases your need for vitamin A, so don’t forget the aforementioned cod liver, which includes both.
Hooray!  It’s wonderful to see someone with this type of reach get this information out there.
I first raised the issue of vitamin A-and-D interactions in the spring of 2006 in my article on vitamin A and osteoporosis.  I developed these thoughts further and introduced their interactions with vitamin K in the fall of 2006 in my article, From Seafood to Sunshine: A New Understanding of Vitamin D Safety, and in the spring of 2007 in my article, On the Trail of the Elusive X Factor: A 62-Year Mystery Finally Solved, Vitamin K2 Revealed.
I formally published my hypothesis that vitamin D toxicity results not so much from hypercalcemia but moreso from causing the excessive production of vitamin K-dependent proteins, leading to defective forms of these proteins in the absence of adequate vitamin K, in my December, 2007 Medical Hypotheses paper, Vitamin D Toxicity Redefined: Vitamin K and the Molecular Mechanism.  Tufts University researchers confirmed the first prediction of this hypothesis the following year, showing that when vitamin A protects against vitamin D toxicity, it curbs the excessive production of vitamin K-dependent proteins.
When I wrote these articles, all the most compelling research I had was from animal studies.  I wish that when I wrote them I had known that proof of principle for vitamin A-and-D interactions had already been experimentally demonstrated in humans.  This revelation, however, had to wait for my 2009 Wise Traditions lecture, Cod Liver Oil: Our Number One Superfood.  (You can get the DVDhere).
In 1941, Irwin G. Spiesman published a human trial in the Archives of Otolaryngology, a journal published by the American Medical Association, Massive Doses of Vitamins A and D in the Prevention of the Common Cold.
Spiesman treated 54 individuals who suffered from frequent colds (five to seven colds per winter) with massive doses of either vitamin A alone, vitamin D alone, or vitamins A and D together.  He treated them during the winter, for as many as three years, with a dosing schedule reaching a maximum of 40,000 IU for vitamin A and 300,000 IU for vitamin D.
Spiesman found that vitamins A and D only reduced colds when fed together:
Likewise, he found that vitamins A and D were only safe when provided together:
This study is not perfect.  As you can see from the numbers on top of the bars in the second graph, there were far fewer people in the groups receiving either vitamin alone than in the group receiving both vitamins together.  Spiesman reported that this was because it was difficult to get people receiving no benefit to continue the study for very long.  It makes the study more difficult to interpret.  On the other hand, given the toxicity figures in the second graph, we can be happy for safety’s sake that so few people were given massive doses of one or the other vitamin alone.
It would also have been better to have had a vitamin-free control group.  And it would have been better to see the effects of more realistic doses of vitamins.
Nevertheless, the study quite clearly provides proof of principle in humans that vitamins A and D are most beneficial and safest when provided together, just like in the animal experiments.
Several commenters on this blog and on my Facebook Fan Page have provided testimonials about their negative experiences with vitamin D supplementation that support the protective effects of vitamins A and K:
Cynthia Frederick, March 2010 I, and many others I’ve met on forums, have adverse reactions to Vit D3, even the lower amounts of 2,000 IU/day and even though we were tested and were deficient. And we do not have the conditions that would make Vit D contraindicated. . . . I’m waiting for the long-term effects to take place in people taking these higher amounts who are not simultaneously increasing their Vit A and K levels. In 10 years I wager we will be hearing about the negative effects that the higher doses of this ‘miracle nutrient’ have had on those taking it. . . [in a later comment] As I mentioned before, there seems to be a subset of us for whom even low doses (1,000 IU/day) of Vit D cause kidney stones, chest pain, fatigue, and aches and pains, even though our 25 OH D levels were ‘low’ (23). We get these symptoms as soon as a week after using the D. . . . I saved myself a trip to the ER with the above symptoms by remembering previous articles of yours about balancing the fat-soluble vitamins, and took about 100,000 IU of Vit A from fish oil and 5 mg of K2. Within 1/2 hour ALL the symptoms disappeared. This happened more than once so I know it is not coincidence. You are definitely on to something here.
Lynn Razaitis, June 2010 I certainly know what happens when you get these ratios off. I naively had a vitamin D shot of 200,000 units after a serious viral infection that used up my vit A. I wrecked my kidneys, thyroid and who knows what else. It took 6 months and Chris’s articles to figure out what the heck was going on with me. Within weeks of getting my vit A up with cod liver oil and a ton of liver (and I was thyroid blood testing monthly so I had test results to compare) my thyroid hormones all normalized. It was fairly stunning.
Andrea Schüler, June 2010 I stopped taking D3 because I developed tendonitis, bursitis, tendon calcification and aches and pains. I brought my level from 20 to 50 in the 25 OH test but maybe the 2000 – 4000 IU daily was not good for me or I have not enough A and K. I will test again to see where my levels are after several months without D3 pills. Maybe I should check Vit. A and K levels too.
I have received a number of other testimonials by email from people who have developed problems such as kidney stones and bladder stones after supplementing with “safe” amounts of vitamin D — within the IOM’s new upper limit — and these symptoms quite readily develop in animals fed vitamin D with no vitamin A under experimental conditions.  I have not shared these because they were sent to me in private.  If you have such a testimonial and are willing to share it publicly, please post it in the comments section.
If you are a blogger or a practitioner and have commenters or patients willing to share these stories, please help me compile them into a single source by posting them here or contacting me privately.
So how much do we need of each of these vitamins and in what ratio?  I do not know.  We do not even know what the ideal vitamin D level is, and all of the vitamin D studies are confounded by their failure to account for the status of vitamins A and K.
Dr. Robert Heaney apparently knows what the ideal vitamin D level is:
Finally, I believe that the presumption of adequacy should rest with vitamin D intakes needed to achieve the serum 25(OH)D values (i.e., 40–60 ng/mL) that prevailed during the evolution of human physiology. Correspondingly, the burden of proof should fall on those maintaining that there is no preventable disease or dysfunction at lower levels. The IOM has not met that standard.
If I had access to Dr. Heaney’s time machine, I would love to replicate this study. All my requests for NIH funding for a time machine have been denied without any reviewer comments on how to improve my proposal. If we cannot measure paleolithic man’s 25(OH)D, perhaps we can study the fossils that his clothing has left behind, or study the residue that the melanin in his skin has left on his bones, or inspect these bones for the fossilized remains of light-absorbing coconut polyphenols from the coconut oil he may have rubbed into his skin.
But alas, I know of no studies that have quantified the decay rate of melanin or coconut polyphenols over a timescale of thousands of years, or determined the effects that sun spots, lunar cycles, planetary arrangements, and innumerable possible climate changes might have on these decay rates.
Dr. Michael Holick has a more conservative opinion.  He believes that 25(OH)D should be at least 30 ng/mL.  I believe there is more scientific backing for this level, which I’ve expressed in my post, “Are Some People Pushing Their Vitamin D Levels Too High?”
 But that doesn’t mean we have scientific evidence that higher levels aren’t better, or that they wouldn’t be if people were getting enough vitamins A and K.  I don’t see any reason to believe that this is the case, since vitamin A seems to increase the turnover and utilization of vitamin D, which should produce a “low” level despite “high” status, but this is currently in the stage of hypothesis and guesswork.
Stephan Guyenet recently commented that it would be nice to know what the vitamin D levels of Kitavans and members of other traditional, healthy groups are:
I don’t know what their 25(OH)D3 status is, but I wish I did. I’d love to know what their 1,25(OH)D3 levels look like too. I agree that it’s important to have a baseline for comparison so that we can decide what’s biologically normal. I’ve been looking for data to answer that question but I haven’t found it yet.
Knowing this would help, but there is still the question of the optimal A-to-D ratio, and how this might further be affected by vitamin K status.
paper that Dr. Holick recently co-authored suggested that ratios between four and eight may be ideal.  The lead author, Dr. Linda Linday, had used cod liver oil with a ratio within this range to successfully protect against upper respiratory tract infections.  These authors also cited research showing this range of ratios to be ideal in chickens.  They also cited Sally Fallon’s summary of my A-and-D interaction work as evidence that there was growing concern among the public about the proper ratio of A and D.
Their findings about cod liver oil are somewhat convincing, but they can’t account for the vitamin D the subjects were getting from the sun, and they didn’t test different ratios.  The chicken research is more rigorous, but it’s, well, it’s in chickens.
From an evolutionary perspective, the usefulness of data from chickens depends on whether you believe the evolutionary trees (or bushes, if you prefer) derived from morphology, which place birds as closer to crocodiles than to mammals by 65 million years, or the evolutionary tree/bushes derived from molecular biology, which place birds with mammals and not with crocodiles.  (See this review.)  Or perhaps we should consider binding proteins and enzymatic pathways directly related to vitamin D metabolism.  With respect to D2 versus D3, for example, primates are much more similar to birds than to rats.  (See this review).
Ah, the mired network of divergent and convergent evolution.  Perhaps we should follow Setphan’s ingenius idea of studying humans.  Living ones.
Paul Jaminet of Perfect Health Diet (here, down a few comments) suggests the ideal amounts are 10,000 IU A and 4,000 IU D.  This also sounds quite plausible to me, but again, we can’t say it’s more than a semi-educated guess.
This brings us back to Tim Ferris.  Ferriss tripled his testosterone by bringing his 25(OH)D up to 50 ng/mL and by following a number of other parts of his testosterone-boosting protocol including getting vitamin A from cod liver oil and eating plenty of vitamin K-rich foods.  Ferriss didn’t conduct a dose-finding study on himself, and there’s just about zero reason to believe that the ideal level in Ferriss is going to be the ideal level in anyone else, except that we know that Ferriss is human and will therefore fall within the distribution of human requirements instead of outside of it.
But “follow me and do what I do” is not the point of his book.  The point of his book is to advocate self-experimentation and to provide a starting point for each individual from among his massive audience based on his own self-experimentation.
We should still do the science, but it’s going to take a long time, folks.  The best thing to do now is to eat a well rounded whole foods diet and experiment with the levels of cod liver oil and/or vitamin D supplementation that make you feel the best, resolve your symptoms, increse your performance, and normalize your clinical tests if they’re out of whack or don’t throw them out of whack if they’re normal.
And share your results with the rest of us! 
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26 Responses to Is Vitamin D Safe? Still Depends on Vitamins A and K! Testimonials and a Human Study
1.     BillS says:
Chris, what do you think of Dr. Cannell’s argument that Vitamin D3 is more comparable to beta carotene than to pre-formed Vitamin A since Vitamin D and beta carotene are precursors that the body transforms into the active forms (calcitriol and Vitamin A) as needed. He seems to believe that for healthy people at least it’s quite safe to consume large quantities of the precursors but playing Russian Roulette to take large quantities of the active forms and thereby bypass the body’s normal mechanisms for tightly regulating the levels of the powerful active forms. Accordingly, he advocates eating large amounts of colored vegetables containing beta carotene and either sunlight or D3 supplements as needed to provide sufficient Vitamin D stores. But as you know he strongly discourages supplementing with pre-formed Vitamin A, from either supplements or cod liver oil, or, of course, with calcitriol unless you need it due to kidney disease. Do you think his arguments make any sense?
2.     Michael says:
Every time a “miracle” nutrient comes along people take it and run with it upping its consumption to levels uncharted and unknown. It is a very disconcerting practice and, for some people, downright dangerous.
[i]Ah, the mired network of divergent and convergent evolution. Perhaps we should follow Stephan’s ingenius idea of studying humans. Living ones.[/i]
Why? What possibly could we learn this way? ;-)
3.     Kerri Knox says:
I read with MUCH interest your blog post on the need for Vitamin A and K, and especially that you are having success with eliminating many of the side effects of vitamin d that I too have found to be present in a certain percentage of people.
I’ve been studying Vitamin D intensively for approximately 3 years, use it in clinical practice with real people on a daily basis and have answered well over a 1000 questions from people about their vitamin d experiences on my website.
Interestingly, I’ve been able to prevent and/or reverse the exact same symptoms that you are finding by always dosing with magnesium at the same time as giving the vitamin d.
If someone has these reactions, I’ll have them stop the vitamin d and do an intensive magnesium replenishment program for about a week before they start taking it again and, voila, no more issues with chest pain, anxiety, insomnia, jitteryness, kidney stones, etc.
I have found that these symptoms are rampant in the general population and are symptoms of magnesium deficiency in and of themselves. There is also quite a bit of evidence that Vitamin D depletes magnesium, and so I find these symptoms are an ‘induced’ magnesium deficiency in those who are already ‘borderline’ magnesium deficient.
When queried after the fact, I find that almost all of these people with these severe reactions had many of the symptoms of magnesium deficiency before they began taking vitamin d, but that these symptoms went unrecognized and undiagnosed- in part because magnesium blood testing is worthless.
I’d be interested in finding out about the relationship between Vitamin A, K and magnesium. I always try to tell people that vitamins are not drugs and don’t work alone in a vacuum. They work together as cofactors in relationships that science may not understand yet. This seems like a perfect example of those relationships.
Kerri Knox, RN
4.     Fred Hahn says:
Interestingly enough, after I starting taking an Rx dose of D2 of 50,000 IU’s daily for 3 months, I started to develop severe knee pain and a “hardness” in my knee tendons that became and still is excruciating.
My D levels were as high as 140 for a short time. I also started to develop right thumb pain and a doctor said I had developed spurs.
I do have severe arthritis in my knees so it could be coincidental. I eat a lot of fish and take a quality multi-vitmain that does not have vitamin A or K though I do add these into my diet usually.
I wonder if my A and K intake was too low for the time I spent taking the high dose D?
Also, is it cod liver oil or any fish oil that will up the A in the diet?
5.     Ned Kock says:
I think another possible example of this interaction effect is that of the traditional Greeland Inuit, whose diet was rich in A and D. Among other things, the rate of heart disease among them was remarkably low:
6.     Cynthia Fredrick says:
I have always taken magnesium daily for many years, mag glycinate specifically. 200-400mg/day. And I know others who have problems with Vit D take it regularly also. All I know is the symptoms always resolve after taking good doses of A, E, and K.
7.     Christopher Masterjohn says:
That argument makes sense in that it is safer to take vitamin D3 than to take calcitriol, the hormone form, but the analogy to beta-carotene does not make sense. Vitamin A and vitamin D are both converted to their active, hormone forms in a two-step enzymatic process that looks like this:
(A) retinol–>retinal–>retinoic acid
(D) cholecalciferol–>calcidiol–>calcitriol
So I think that vitamin D3 is clearly analogous to retinol. In any case, beta-carotene has been very clearly shown to be very toxic at excessive doses, so I don’t think the analogy, whether right or wrong, is particularly important.
Michael, true on both points. Let’s just look at fossilized chicken poop all day and say “wow, man, this like, looks cool and stuff.”
Hi Kerri, that’s very interesting. It’s of course difficult to interpret because magnesium is basically needed for EVERYTHING in the body, so it’s impossible to make these observations and formulate a very specific hypothesis. But it definitely deserves some intensive research!
Fred, it’s possible that you were low in A and K. On the other hand, I would recommend avoiding the doses you were taking like the plague, and I’m not sure why anyone would believe such doses to be safe. Perhaps if you were also megadosing A and K, but 50,000 IU/day? I’d consider that a highly experimental treat-at-your-own-risk disaster-prone type of treatment. Cod liver oil and liver are the best sources of vitamin A. Liver is even better if your D levels are still toxic.
8.     Christopher Masterjohn says:
Cynthia, while your experience is awful and deeply lamentable, I’m very glad you have so much information to share about it. That you were supplementing magnesium provides very important information in light of what Kerri has observed.
9.     ChrisJohn L says:
Hmm, was it D2 or D3 Spiesman used (I can’t look at the paper)? If D3, it was a disproportionally high dose, yet with a lower rate of toxicity (as you mentioned though, too few people).
I take 3000IU/day of D3. The other week I ate chicken liver every day for lunch and felt great, lots of sleep and energy. It made me think of this:
I tried a K2 supplement (K2 Complex from Life Extension) about a month ago and got a cold after about a week.
10.   Tim H says:
 [quote]We should still do the science, but it’s going to take a long time, folks. The best thing to do now is to eat a well rounded whole foods diet and experiment with the levels of cod liver oil and/or vitamin D supplementation that make you feel the best, resolve your symptoms, increse your performance, and normalize your clinical tests if they’re out of whack or don’t throw them out of whack if they’re normal.
Sounds like you are advocating that we rebuild our shared, cultural wisdom with trial and error and not wait around for science to resolve all of our issues. I like it!
My numbers:
22 ng/ml after extended daily consumption of recommended daily dose of green pastures fermented CLO
46 ng/ml after adding 5000 IU D3 to the CLO listed above
38 ng/ml after dropping the 5000 IU D3 during the summer but continuing the CLO
11.   RobF says:
Have you learned more through your studies on fat-soluble vitamins on how retinoic acid side effects might play into this? It seems on the face of it that D might be able to resolve issues with retinoic acid, but in my experience, large dosages of vitamin D are counterproductive and vitamin A, by itself or combined with D, seems to resolve some issues while exacerbating others.
12.   Paul Jaminet says:
Very nice summary of the situation! We really do need more data, and can only make educated guesses at this point.
One brief comment: people have asked me about the Linday-Hollick paper that suggests an A to D ratio of 4-8 to 1, while I recommend more like 2.5 to 1 as you note. The Linday-Hollick ratio was from diet/supplements alone, and didn’t include D obtained from sunlight. My lower ratio includes all sources of D. So these numbers are more consistent than they may appear.
13.   Jack Kronk says:
just a note that green pastures fermented cod liver oil / high vitamin butter oil blend is a 5 to 1 ratio. Recommended dose of half teaspoon provides 3000A and 600D.
14.   Mike Jones says:
Great article, Chris. Can you elaborate any on your comment about high amounts of beta carotene being toxic? I regularly eat around a pound of sweet potatoes daily, plus a lot of carrots and winter squash in the fall and winter. Could this lead to beta carotene toxicity, and what are its symptoms?
15.   The Primalist says:
For the fermented cod liver oil that WAPF recommends, what do you make of the majority of vitamin D being D2? ( 
My understanding is that it’s D3 that we should be supplementing with?
Also, I’ve read that D3 is found in animal sources whereas D2 comes from plants? So where does such a high level of vitamin D come from in the cod liver oil?
I try to eat natural / whole food sources of vitamins rather than supplements, which is why I like the idea of cod liver oil – I was just surprised about the D2 and am trying to get a better understanding.
16.   Christopher Masterjohn says:
John, it just says “calciferol” from Mead and Johnson Company. You could probably dig up what they were selling as “calciferol” back then, but the name could mean either D2 or D3. I oppose the LEF supplement because of its 1 mg of K1, and everyone who has asked me I have told them to stay away from it or use one capsule/day max.
Tim, cool, thanks for the info!
Rob, accutane induces vitamin A deficiency. See the DVD of my 2008 Wise Traditions lecture, “The Fat-Soluble Vitamins and Mental Health” ( or my article version of that lecture, “The Pursuit of Happiness.”
Paul, thanks! Good point. I made that point in this post, too, although I think the ratios actually come from the chicken studies, which probably took light into account much more effectively.
Jack, thanks for the info.
Mike, 30 mg/day beta-carotene supplements were shown to kill people in huge randomized controlled trials and the trials were therefore terminated early. Many people say this is because it was isolated beta-carotene or because the population was exposed to smoke or asbestos, but Wang’s group at Tufts showed, using a ferret model, which is very similar to humans with respect to responses to beta-carotene and cigarette smoke, that 30 mg/d beta-carotene alone is more harmful than 1 pack/d cigarette smoke. However, 6 mg beta-carotene seemed helpful, and it’s possible that coadministration of vitamins C and E would have made the 30 mg/d safe. Some of the toxicity in the Spiesman paper above was actually due to beta-carotene. In any case, you cannot get 30 mg/d from food, so I would not worry about consuming beta-carotene from food.
The Primalist, I don’t know the answer and I think there are many unresolved questions about the vitamin D’s in marine oils. Obviously it’s false that D2 comes from plants and D3 from animals, as fish are animals (though this may be accumulated from plankton or other non-animal sources). I think it’s important to realize that we don’t know the biochemistry as much as the hysteria-driven vitamin D movement maintains that we do, and therefore we should look at clinical effects of foods, and not try to extrapolate from specific chemical forms in foods or rely too heavily on 25(OH)D levels in and of themselves.
17.   John L says:
Thanks for mentioning and posting the link to your article, “The Pursuit of Happiness.” I’m surprised I haven’t seen it before; I had been bouncing back and forth on that very topic. My mention in the previous comment about feeling good when I ate liver every day seems to make sense.
18.   Stephan says:
Hot off the presses:
19.   Lillea says:
2 questions:
1. To test for vitamin A levels, is there anything special we need to ask for, or is the standard test sufficient?
2. What is an optimal vitamin A level to shoot for? Or is that in question too?
3 years ago my test results for vitamin A were: 1.8 umol/L
(the lab’s reference range: 1.2 – 2.8 umol/L)
20.   Sheila says:
If vitamin D increases your need for vitamin A, the reversed scenario must also e true, or what?
Vitamin A increases your need for vitamin D?
This would somehow explain my reaction to vitamin A. Whenever I have tried to supplement with vitamin A, I get extremely dry eyes and dry skin that gets thin and breaks easily. When I stop it goes away. On my lab test it shows I am relatively low in vitamin D.
Would this mean I would benefit from ONLY supplementing on D3 and possibly K?
21.   Monique Verdin says:
I was reading an excerpt from Nourishing Traditions the other day by Weston Price where he said that children should not be given cod liver oil for an extended period of time, as it can cause toxicity. My four-year-old has been taking it since he was about a year old. He also takes the butter oil. Is this true? I thought it was good to give him cod liver oil.
22.   Skyler Tanner says:
I had recently tracked my dietary intake for 3 days and my average A intake was 19167 IU (RAE of 2336.57, if it matters. I take a 5000 IU vitamin D at least 6 days out of 7…can you see any need for me to take additional A?
23.   devil says:
 [b]if vitamin d is produced in the presence of uv light is it safe to go to tanning salons?i would preffer to that beacause i’d get the tanning bennefits[/b]
24.   Jay says:
I was about to take 10,000 IU of vitamin A and 4,000 IU of vitamin D until I read this newsletter:
It is referenced with studies of people taking high amounts of both vitamin A(retinol) and vitamin D. Anyways, after reading the newsletter and checking the studies I decided that I will only take around 3,300 IU of Vitamin A from animal products. Am I being too fearful? Where these studies cherry picked?
25.   Tori says:
We shared Chris’ article with our readers (with permission from WAPF) and received this feedback from someone. Does anyone have any knowledge/expertise on this? . . .
Since you are advocating the use of cod liver oil, I thought you may want to know in case you didn’t already know that Dr. Jonathan Wright of Health e-Tips Newsletters has repeatedly written that Vitamin E as mixed tocopherols should be taken with any intake of fatty essential oils. This excerpt below is taken from Q & A with Dr. Wright section of the Health e-Tips Newsletter dated Thu, March 25, 2010 6:14:53 AM:
“Fish oil is the best way to increase your intake of omega-3 essential fatty acids. I recommend 1 tablespoon of cod liver oil and 1,500 milligrams of DHA daily. And remember, whenever you take any type of fatty acid, you need to take vitamin E as well (400 IU of vitamin E as mixed tocopherols). Vitamin E helps keep the fatty acids from breaking down too rapidly in the body.”
26.   Alobar says:
it is stated:
 A few weeks ago, the British Medical Journal published a remarkable paper, remarkable that it studied more than 500,000 subjects, remarkable that it had 56 (fifty-six) authors, remarkable that it confirmed low vitamin D levels obtained in the past are a risk factor for developing colon cancer in the future. However, the most remarkable part of the paper is that the 46 scientists minimized the true significance of their own research. They found that vitamin A, even in relatively low amounts, appears to thwart vitamin D’s association with reduced rates of colon cancer.
it is stated:
Spiesman treated 54 individuals who suffered from frequent colds (five to seven colds per winter) with massive doses of either vitamin A alone, vitamin D alone, or vitamins A and D together. He treated them during the winter, for as many as three years, with a dosing schedule reaching a maximum of 40,000 IU for vitamin A and 300,000 IU for vitamin D.
Spiesman found that vitamins A and D only reduced colds when fed together:
So, it seems to me that *some* vitamin A is needed along with D3, but not too much. Any rule of thumb about how much vitamin A to take with D3 supplementation?

Organic coffee and such

Comments from Coffee article:
from Mercola:

Coffee Growers now use Imidachloprid insecticide. Temik will be removed from use in 2014. Both TEMIK (aldicarb) and IMIDACHLOPRID are pesticides of choice for Coffee Growers and cause many, many diseases and neurological conditions.
These pesticides do not not wash off, or peel off. They are used on COFFEE, stone fruits like peaches & the following: Bananas, Grapes, Lettuce, Eggplant, tomatoes, beets, cabbage, & Brassicas, cucumbers, melons, potatoes, Rice, Hops, grains and other food crops as well as cotton and ornamental plants and trees. These treated fruits and vegetables are TOXIC to insects and YOU!  It affects the Thyroid gland and more and in birds causes soft weak shells like the effects from DDT which Rachel Carson wrote about in 'Silent Spring'.
Bayer Crop Science Division of Bayer, a multi national corporation markets ' IMIDACLOPRID' Insecticide' worldwide. This material should not be on the market. It is a systemic pesticide that works similar to the BAYER/ Dupont material Temik. It is absorbed by the plant rendering it toxic to insects. It can spread in groundwater, water runoff from crop applications, drift etc. It renders all parts of the plant toxic including the plants pollen and kills countless numbers of bees annually. It is sold to homeowners in lawn care products to kill grubs as Grubex (Scott products & others) and as a systemic houseplant insecticide. It's one of the most toxic insecticides to honeybees with a contact acute LD50 = 0.078 ug a.i./bee and an acute oral LD50 = 0.0039 ug a.i./bee.
It is sold commercially as Confidor, Kohinor, Admire, Advantage (Advocate) pet flea & tick, Gaucho, Mallet, Merit, Nuprid, Prothor, Turfthor, Conguard, Hachikusan, Premise, Prothor, Provado and Winner and the Thiacloprid product as Calypso.
There is a good body of literature on the potential therapeutic properties of this herb (coffee). (42 studies indexed on Greenmedinfo thus far).  Properties include, antioxidant, chemopreventive, antiviral, antibacterial, neuritogenic, hepatoprotective, neuroprotective, etc...
I would note too that this is one of the few examples of a "bitters" the Western world still consumes, en masse and on a daily basis, henceforth balancing out the "sweet" foods consumed, both sugars as well as "hidden sweetness" in the form of high glycemic grain-based products.
I've been  through this entire page and have not seen one reference to eggshells. If your coffee seems harsh or acid, drop an eggshell or two into the pot and let sit for a bit before removing. You'll be surprised at how much smoother your coffee tastes!
--I have had a case of fibrocystic breast and started taking Nascent Iodine (or Lugol's). It all went away in just one month (taking 3 drops 3 or 4 times daily). + I gained tons of energy, chronic pains in my left hip completely dissipated, heavy menstruation with abnormal clots went back to be normal and light. My lethargy was gone in just a few days, my moods changed I felt like a new person again!  It was miraculous to say the least. Oh and not to mention it took care of my candida issue over 4 - 6 month along with making myself fresh Kefir everyday with goat milk from local farms (unpasteurized or low pasteurization). I talk about it in more detail on my website in the health and nutrition section:
-- one brazil nut = your daily requirement of selenium. All things in moderation!
I almost cheered when Ori mentioned that decaf coffee was nutritionally devoid of anything useful, and that coffee that didn't smell good was not healthy. Those are true. But the reasons he provided, oxidized oils and pesticides, are a small part of the problem.
The real reason that cheap coffee and old coffee are bad for you is that they harbor some particularly toxic molds. Those molds that form when green coffee is stored are tied to cancer, heart disease, high LDL/VLDL cholesterol, and hormone irregularities. Here is a great talk on the problem of mold in food (including coffee) that I gave at a recent anti-aging event:
Here's the Bulletproof Executive way.
  • Never use decaf. Ever. Caffeine protects the beans from more mold. You need it in your coffee or you shouldn't drink it.
  • Never choose robusta (cheap, instant) beans. These are moldier, which is why they are higher in caffeine too (as a defense against mold on the bush). Drink arabica.
  • Insist on wet process beans. Many higher end African coffees use natural process, which means they dry the beans in the sun, giving them time to mold. Wet process coffee uses far less time and rinses the beans, making for lower-toxin coffee.
  • Aim for Central American varieties grown at higher elevations where mold is scarce. (Bonus points if they're blessed by shamans, one-armed monks, or picked by orphans...)
  • Single estate is better than major brands. If it is sold by a national coffee house, its mixed with countless other sources, and you can guarantee that some toxic mold made it into the coffee.
  • If you can't find good beans, order an Americano because steam helps to break down the toxins.
The easier way is to say, "Give me the most expensive Central American, wet-process (or washed) beans you have please."
An Americano will have less mycotoxins in it than average drip coffee. It still won’t be that great from a toxin perspective, because often roasters use cheaper (moldier) beans for espresso, figuring that the dark (burnt) roast will hide the acid flavor the mold imparts.

That’s a tough one. Most major brands mix coffee from hundreds of places into giant processing areas where moldy and clean beans get mixed, resulting in constant low levels of mold toxins. Almost any brand will be a big improvement if the bag says, “single origin” or “single estate.”
Hi Al,  I can understand your frustration, but one of the things I like about Dr. Mercola's website is that he posts articles that explore all of the facets of a topic, even when the evidence appears to conflict.  There's evidence that coffee (or the caffeine contained in it) causes damage to the body, and evidence that it can be beneficial.  People need to look at all of the evidence, but realize it isn't decisive, then look at their own body's response, how they feel (long range) after drinking coffee and make an individual decision.  
Too many "health and nutrition" sites omit, or don't report, information if it conflicts with their "party line." (or report it in a cursory way then attack it). (The defenders of soy being an example... no matter how many thousands of studies show that it's harmful, they cling to their position that it's a miracle food.) I like having the opportunity to read about different studies which sometimes have very different conclusions. But again, I try not to let it supercede my awareness of my own body's response to a food or supplement.
Whoa! Time out. What happened to the discussion about the "unhealthy" aspects of not only caffeine, but the coffee bean itself? Sure, there are antioxidants in the coffee bean, but the article doesn't mention the two diterpene alcohols, kawheol and cafestrol, the latter of which is listed as typically elevating cholesterol levels by 8-10%. The diterpenes are NOT removed during the decaffeination process, they can actually become further concentrated by it.
It doesn't mention anything about the hyperactivity of Cytochrome P450 enzymes in Phase 1 Liver Detoxification elevating the output of oxidative radicals.
Also, is missing the entire discussion around caffeine's elevation of stress hormones. While our stress hormones "generally" have a half-life of about 1 to 1-1/2 hours, the half-life of caffeine is typically over 5 hours .... and it means that anyone with a sluggish Phase 1 may easily be looking at revisiting their morning rush well into bedtime. Those with a sluggish Phase 1 or a mismatched Phase-1/Phase-2 could be looking for trouble in the cancer department, as well, and most people haven't a clue about their liver's state of health. Since several of the nutrients involved with liver detoxification are also depleted under stress, caffeine is NOT something to be ingested while under repeated stress; that is unless someone wants to start gambling with their liver function.
Pisces, coffee is a double edged sword, sure, but some of your comments are not well-informed. Cafestrol does raise cholesterol, which is a good thing in this case because it explains why cafestrol is also anticarcogenic. Cholesterol binds to cancer-related lipophoric toxins to help them be excreted. There is no cafestrol in filtered coffee anyway, it only happens in french press and espresso.
I take this liposomal glutathione to make sure my liver is working fine because the world is as full of toxins as coffee is. (plus I test my liver and choose low toxin coffee!)
Also article says if you have adrenal problems be careful with consumption, so this was addressed.
Did you happen to know that the reference volume for your "one" cup of coffee was the same as for a cup of tea and that the data extracted years ago from those original tests was based on only FIVE (5) OUNCES. So when the average person thinks their Starbucks 16oz Grande or their 20oz Venti coffees are their "one cup of coffee", these people are in a total state of denial and will make perfect candidates to show up at my door later ....... so, let them keep drinking the stuff.
.... actually I don't have to convince you of anything. All I will say is that if you STILL have Crohn's ..... and no one, particularly an MD, has mentioned to you the necessity of getting off the caffeine, you need to do a whole bunch of reading, my friend, and possible see a new specialist. It's one of the primary offenders along with alcohol, wheat, dairy, and sugar. Testing for microbes and parasites is the first step, because if you can't rule those out, you'll be spinning your wheels for a long long time (or at the very least doing LDN). Next steps are the elimination diet,  the gradual reintroduction of off list foods, and very importantly, the continual addition of beneficial gut bacteria.
Long story short, if you admit to having Crohn's ...... and you're having to take meds to keep it under control, coffee is the LAST thing you should be thinking about; that is, until you get to the root cause of the inflammation issue ..... and you haven't done that. 
I have heard that caffein makes the calcium in the cream then finds a place in the body to hang out unabsorbed as in the joints. 3:0) My daughter a major sugar addict has been drinking her coffee unsweetened for the past couple of years and she no longer eats the article said would happen!
When I was in Starbucks the other day, they had a sign displayed that the roasted coffee beans form a dangerous cancer causing chemical called Acrylamide and that its in the baked products as well. So...apparently its caused in the roasting process but they also mentioned that it was in small doses.

Acrylamides are formed as a food browns. Sadly, it would follow that the yummy dark-roast coffees are higher in them than the lighter roasts.