Vitamin D Deficiency Symptoms in Adults and Food Vitamin D Sources

Human beings make their own vitamin D in response to sunlight, which is why vitamin D is often called the "sunshine" vitamin." It is also called that because vitamin D has been linked to mood and seasonal depression.

When humans are not exposed to enough natural sunlight, they become deficient in vitamin D. This is especially true in northern climates that get less sunlight for long periods during the year. In addition, society's fear of skin cancer risk has caused people to avoid exposing themselves to sunlight by using sunscreen and protective clothing. Although these behaviors do protect skin from harmful UV rays, those same rays are required for people to make vitamin D, which has been shown to help prevent other kinds of cancer and chronic diseases.

There are other factors that can cause vitamin D deficiency, including darkly pigmented skin and problems with intestinal absorption of vitamin D. Obese individuals often have lower than normal vitamin D levels, so maintaining a healthy body mass index is critical for avoiding vitamin D deficiency.

Effects of Vitamin D Deficiency

It has been shown that many people, especially in northern latitudes, have insufficient levels of vitamin D. This is especially true in the elderly and people with darkly pigmented skin. These groups of people should supplement with vitamin D or eat more foods containing vitamin D.

Vitamin D is necessary for the proper metabolism of calcium. This is why vitamin D deficiency in children causes Rickets, improper bone formation and calcification. In older adults, vitamin D deficiency accelerates osteoporosis.

A common symptom of vitamin D deficiency is bone pain and muscle weakness. However, it is possible to have vitamin D insufficiency, which is less serious than deficiency, but still has some clinical effects, including mood issues, asthma in children, and an increased risk for both heart disease and cancer.

Vitamin D may also play a role in the prevention and treatment of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, hypertension, glucose intolerance, and multiple sclerosis.

Recent research has suggested that the "Recommended Daily Allowance" of vitamin D (RDA) of 400 IU maybe too low, especially in northern latitudes. Nutrition researchers are now recommending the vitamin D RDA be raised to 2000 IU to prevent vitamin D insufficiency, and that vitamin D intakes as high as 5000 IU are safe without danger of vitamin D toxicity or overdose.

Always discuss your health concerns and nutritional needs with a trained health care practitioner.

Vitamin D Food Sources

Cod liver oil is a rich source of vitamin D. Most marine fish and some shellfish contain significant amounts of vitamin D in their raw form, but cooking can destroy vitamin D in these foods. Therefore, some types of sushi may provide ample vitamin D.

Other than mushrooms, there are few naturally occurring vitamin D foods. Egg yolks contain vitamin D, but again cooking destroys it. However, many foods are fortified with isolated, synthetic vitamin D3, like orange juice, milk (both dairy and soy), and cereal products.


1. Role of vitamin D in cardiovascular disease. (FREE FULL TEXT)
2. Vitamin D, sunlight exposure, and bone density in elderly African American females of low socioeconomic status. (FREE FULL TEXT)
3. Does vitamin d deficiency cause hypertension? Current evidence from clinical studies and potential mechanisms. (FREE FULL TEXT)
4. Possible Health Implications and Low Vitamin D Status during Childhood and Adolescence: An Updated Mini Review. (FREE FULL TEXT)
5. Role of vitamin d in insulin secretion and insulin sensitivity for glucose homeostasis. (FREE FULL TEXT)



Cinnamon Benefits: Can a Cinnamon Supplement Cure Diabetes?

Nutritional supplement companies aren't allowed to tell you that an herbal supplement treats any disease, without the express permission of the FDA.

That's probably smart, because regulation of the nutritional supplement industry is minimal, with poor quality control, and those companies are out to make a buck. Of course, the latter is true of drug companies too.

I'm a health journalist with a biological research background. I was at Iowa State University when the first study on the ability of cinnamon extract to influence sugar metabolism came out. I actually interviewed the research scientist and his graduate student on the subject, making me one of the first (albeit college student) journalists to get the scoop on what has now become a nutritional health buzz.

In summary, some nutrition researchers were examining the known effects of the micronutrient chromium for insulin augmentation and blood sugar control. They were looking at chromium levels in various foods and found that cinnamon had effects on insulin metabolism, irrespective of chromium content, albeit in laboratory cell cultures. Subsequent animal and human studies have shown that cinnamon may have an effect on blood sugar regulation via its effect on insulin metabolism.

Diabetes is a complex disease with many causes and symptoms. It would be far too simplistic to make the blanket statement that a crude herbal extract could treat or cure a disease like diabetes. None the less, there is good evidence that something in cinnamon bark affects the mechanism by which insulin regulates blood sugar, so examining it as a nutritional adjunct in blood sugar regulation and control has value.

For ethical reasons, not enough human studies have been done on cinnamon effects on diabetes or other high blood sugar symptoms. However, the trend in the research data does seem to suggest that cinnamon may benefit type 2 diabetics more than type 1 diabetics. This makes sense when you understand that type 2 diabetes is typically a late onset form of diabetes related to sugar metabolism imbalances rather than a lack of insulin production by the pancreas.

Type 1 diabetics cannot make insulin, whereas type 2 diabetics usually produce insulin at normal or high levels, but have developed cellular "insensitivity" to insulin's effects. Thus, in type 2 diabetes, blood sugar is high because cells are not taking up sugar fast enough from the blood.

Since whatever is in cinnamon appears to augment the ability of insulin to trigger sugar uptake by cells in the body, it makes sense that cinnamon would have its effects on glucose metabolism in type 2, but not type 1, diabetics, because the latter completely lack the insulin on which the cinnamon has its effects. Cinnamon does not mimic insulin, it only facilitates its function in sugar metabolism.

I've compiled some clinical research references on the effects of cinnamon on sugar metabolism at the end of this post. Health care practitioners and technically educated readers will find these of most value. Others should bring them to the attention of their health care provider if they are concerned about their own sugar handling and blood sugar issues, and would like to try cinnamon medicinally as a natural diabetes treatment or preventive.

Cinnamon may have some medicinal effect on maintaining normal blood sugar levels. The available evidence is hard to synthesize into a constructive whole, mainly because of incongruent study designs (different forms of cinnamon extract, different animal or in vitro models, contradicting hypotheses on mechanisms of actions, different endpoints in human studies, etc.).

For people seeking herbs for diabetes prevention or blood sugar control, cinnamon might be a good choice, under the supervision of a licensed health care practitioner knowledgeable about diabetes herbs and cinnamon supplements - most likely a naturopathic practitioner as opposed to a conventional allopathic doctor (and patients should bring research publications on the subject with them. I have compiled some below). While cinnamon may not be a "cure" for diabetes or hyperglycemia, it could be a good addition to diets for diabetics. The research supports its use as a natural diabetes treatment, but only under the care of a trained medical professional.

Like my mom always says, "It can't hurt you and it might help you." Not exactly solid medical advice, but cinnamon is a natural herbal supplement, common in the Western diet.

Is it a coincidence that cinnamon is used to spice apple pie and other sweet foods and drinks? Or is this a product of human adaptation over millions of years?

My sister has Cinsulin, a cinnamon supplement marketed for proper glucose metabolism, in her nutritional arsenal, which was the impetus for me to write this short research post. She doesn't have diabetes, but is like most of my family in having carbohydrate sensitivity, with poor blood sugar and weight control, especially under stress. So the herbal cinnamon supplement probably does help her with sugar handling (assuming the quality of the product is good, and there is no guarantee because the industry is so poorly regulated - but that's a topic for another day!).

1. Effectiveness of Cinnamon for Lowering Hemoglobin A1C in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomized, Controlled Trial. (FREE FULL TEXT)
2. Effects of a Water-Soluble Cinnamon Extract on Body Composition and Features of the Metabolic Syndrome in Pre-Diabetic Men and Women. (FREE FULL TEXT)
3. Effect of Cinnamon on Glucose and Lipid Levels in Non–Insulin-Dependent Type 2 Diabetes. (FREE FULL TEXT)
4. Effect of cinnamon on postprandial blood glucose, gastric emptying, and satiety in healthy subjects. (FREE FULL TEXT)
5. The Effect of Cinnamon on A1C Among Adolescents With Type 1 Diabetes. (FREE FULL TEXT)
6. Cinnamon Improves Glucose and Lipids of People With Type 2 Diabetes. (FREE FULL TEXT)
7. Regulation of PTP-1 and insulin receptor kinase by fractions from cinnamon: implications for cinnamon regulation of insulin signalling. (ABSTRACT ONLY)


Beginner's Mind - The Buddhist Diet

Hi Everyone!

I've written many times on this site about the common sense logic of diet and nutrition and how what we choose to eat transcends all the years of expensive "scientific research" to determine the healthiest way to eat (even if people did listen to scientists...).

There is a Zen Buddhist saying: "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's there are few."

There are a lot of nutrition "experts" out there.

Experts have already got it all figured out, so they don't really need to pay attention to what's really happening anymore, and that's a shame. Because truth and reality wait for no one.

In corporate America, I saw the experts' minds at work all the time - PhD scientists running about "proving" how this or that "active ingredient" was the "magic bullet" that made a food "healthy." Not very much useful ever came out of all that "expert" activity. Humans are increasingly overfed and malnourished, because we (collectively) are putting garbage into our (collective) bodies. We don't eat "magic bullets." We eat food.

Transcending all the "expert" opinions about diet, which never seem to reach a consensus anyway, is the fact that human beings evolved on this planet eating a whole food natural diet scavenged from nature with little processing. Set aside the organic, unprocessed nature of the diet, and common sense tells you that human beings are still around because our ancestors "adapted" to the natural environment around them, including the nutritional environment of available foods.

That's a reality not even a scientist would dispute.

A beginner's mind is open to the idea that if we evolved on an omnivorous all natural whole food diet, containing fruit, vegetables, nuts, and lean meat (and very little grain and refined sugar/fat), perhaps such a diet is best suited to our current genetic makeup and biochemistry.

Evolution is a slow process and our ancestors were hunter-gatherers for most of the time that Homo sapiens roamed the planet trying to survive and prosper. We are opportunists by nature and this helped us survive in different habitats and climates. Even though the species of food animals and plants may have differed from place to place, some basic features of the diet remained consistent. Game animals were low in fat and rich in nutrients, because they too were feeding off the available food in the natural environment. Before agriculture, humans collected food from the environment, and besides cooking there was little other processing. Grains were virtually non-existent in the diet because they were difficult to collect in the wild, and the human digestive system cannot handle grains without significant processing (grinding to flour to make the available nutrients accessible in the digestive tract). Our ancestors had no use for grains when plenty of other foods were available. In fact, it is ONLY through agriculture that human populations have been able to grow so quickly.

Many "experts" will argue that from a purely Darwinian perspective, the human race is doing great. The human population of the Earth is exploding and humans now inhabit almost every niche on the planet. "Survival of the fittest" is a misnomer. It is basically only concerned with how well species reproduce themselves. The health ("fitness" in the sense most people think of it when they go to the gym...) of individual members of a species is irrelevant. As long as the species is procreating and multiplying, it is considered "fit" in the view of Darwinists.

Those experts...

But a population that over-populates also eventually exceeds the ecosystem's ability to support it. Just look at the current mass die-off of honey bees. Honey bees are a great example of the dichotomy between population "fitness" and individual "fitness." Most honey bees are sterile worker bees (they lack Darwinian "fitness" notwithstanding their physical "fitness" for flying around and making honey all day long...). It is the queen and a handful of select males that are responsible for reproducing the entire species. The queen doesn't do a lick of useful "work." She just sits around getting fat and laying eggs. Most individual bees are completely UNFIT from a Darwinian perspective. And the honey bee crisis we are now seeing illustrates that eventually even a population's "fitness" goes down the tubes.

Human beings have been surviving on the surface of what I call a "diet bubble" that is a non-renewable resource. It will eventually burst, as most bubbles do. Because of the relatively recent prevalence of fossil fuels, humans have been able to MANUFACTURE a synthetic diet based largely on vast monocultures of corn and soybeans, foods that are not suitably matched to the Paleolithic origins of modern day human biology. Such foods would not exist on such a scale in nature. It requires the huge energy inputs possible with fossil fuels to maintain this "diet bubble" based on corn and soybeans.

Humans can survive on such a diet long enough to reproduce, but they often die of chronic diseases in later life. Chronic diseases are a direct result of the malfunction of human biology in response to an incompatible diet. In the few populations of hunter-gatherers still around, you never find heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or other chronic diseases until these populations adopt a "Western" diet. Then they get these diseases in epidemic proportions.

Some insect larvae metamorphose into adults that lack a functional digestive tract. Their goal is simply to mate and lay eggs before they die of starvation in a matter of hours or days, then the cycle starts again. This system works great for the insects as a species. Their Darwinian "fitness" is through the roof. Just ask the spawning salmon who eat them as they race upstream to mate before they too die a sudden, post-coital death.

In a sick way, modern humans often die the same way, just over a much longer period of time. We have plenty of food and a great lack of actual nutrition in the diet. People consume more calories than ever, but the food is so devitalized and low in nutrition, that they are essentially starving themselves. But not before they are able to mate and start the next generation of malnourished humans.

It is only since the industrial revolutions in both agriculture and energy that human populations have sky-rocketed. The current human population could not be supported if the synthetic, fossil-fuel based food system were to disappear, and it eventually will.

I hope you were not looking for a happy ending. There isn't one. Try to shrink your ecological footprint as much as you can and enjoy life to the fullest while you still can. You can eat a whole food diet and enjoy a long healthy life as a "fit" individual.

Unfortunately, humanity as we know it is doomed.


1. Cardiovascular Disease Resulting From a Diet and Lifestyle at Odds With Our Paleolithic Genome: How to Become a 21st-Century Hunter-Gatherer. (FREE FULL TEXT)
2. Beneficial effects of a Paleolithic diet on cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes: a randomized cross-over pilot study. (FREE FULL TEXT)
3. The paradoxical nature of hunter-gatherer diets: meat-based, yet non-atherogenic. (FREE FULL TEXT)


Adaptogen Rhodiola Rosea Extract Effects + Brain Toniq (with the best energy drink ingredients)

Hi Everyone!

During my eight years working in R&D at a nutritional supplement company, I came across an herb called "Rhodiola" (Latin name Rhodiola rosea) that is quite amazing.

Rhodiola rosea extract has the effect of rendering a person extremely alert and focused, but without any stimulants.

The Rhodiola herb contains "adaptogens" - natural agents that bolster the human body's ability to "adapt" to environmental stressors. The mechanism by which adaptogens work isn't fully understood, but it is clear they are NOT stimulants, the way caffeine is. In fact, stimulants actually increase the effects of stress on the body, even though they allow you to plow through the stressful tasks at hand better, on the short term. Rhodiola effects are barely noticeable, except that you will find yourself incredibly focused, alert, and productive.

The best way to describe the effects of adaptogens is that they make you "more normal than normal." This makes it extremely hard for scientists to measure adaptogenic effects and "prove" they work.

(NOTE: Conventional measurement of "health" relies on normal ranges - anything within the range of normal is considered "normal" by medical science...thus, it is virtually impossible to measure "before" and "after" effects of adaptogens, if all they do is help you maintain a normal state!)

That's why modern science is skeptical at best about Rhodiola and other putative adaptogens like red panax ginseng and ashwagandha - although the benefits of ginseng are increasingly recognized and appreciated by alternative health care practitioners today, more so than the benefits of Rhodiola rosea.

(Note: combination Rhodiola, ginseng, ashwagandha formulas are a great combined source of multiple powerful adaptogens for mental focus and stress coping without stimulants).

Rhodiola rosea comes from Siberia and is one of the best herbs for stress reduction and coping. During stressful times at my R&D job, I would take a Rhodiola herbal supplement in the morning and it would keep me fresh and focused for most of the day, without any of the side effects of stimulants.

When needed, I was able to take the supplement in the evenings as well and it did not affect my ability to sleep. However, on occasions when I was dealing with lack of sleep, Rhodiola supplementation was able to completely alleviate fatigue and sleepiness at work. I estimate it probably increased my productivity about 25%. Not huge, but significant.

Quality control is a big issue when trying to find a good herbal supplement, and it is no different with Rhodiola rosea extract. The only 100% reputable vendor I am aware of is MediHerb, an Australian company. In Australia, herbal supplements are taken very seriously and the industry is regulated as tightly as pharmaceuticals are in the U.S. Quality must be validated, and clinical effectiveness "proven" before any label claims can be made for a product.

MediHerb Rhodiola rosea extract is the only brand of the herbal supplement I fully trust and use regularly. However, they only sell their products through licensed health care practitioners (and the occasional ex-R&D researcher), which is how they maintain their reputation for high quality products that work.

However, other potentially reputable vendors include: Gaia Herbs, Planetary Formulas, and Vitabase (They have vegetarian capsules!).

Brain Toniq also manufactures an energy drink based on Rhodiola that is sugar- and caffeine-free. Caffeine and sugar are the main (short acting) energy drink ingredients in most popular brands of energy drinks, and they both increase the effects of stress on the long term. They also mess with metabolism on the short term (highs and crashes, with fluctuating blood sugar levels).

If energy drinks are your thing, I highly recommend giving Brain Toniq a try. It's completely different from anything else on the energy drink market.

Always do your HOMEWORK when it comes to using herbal supplements for health. Consult a licensed health care practitioner whenever possible.

Below I have provided some additional peer-reviewed clinical research articles to help you decide if Rhodiola rosea is right for you.


1. Rhodiola rosea - MONOGRAPH. (FREE FULL TEXT)
2. Rhodiola rosea: a possible plant adaptogen. (FREE FULL TEXT)
3. Experimental analysis of therapeutic properties of Rhodiola rosea L. and its possible application in medicine. (ABSTRACT ONLY)
4. Proof of the mysterious efficacy of ginseng: basic and clinical trials: clinical effects of medical ginseng, korean red ginseng: specifically, its anti-stress action for prevention of disease. (FREE FULL TEXT)
5. Scientific basis for the therapeutic use of Withania somnifera (ashwagandha): a review. (FREE FULL TEXT)


Raised Bed Garden Design

The warm weather of late has me itching to start planting my vegetable garden. Because it's Wisconsin, some things will have to wait until mid-May when the risk of frost is minimal. But the cool weather stuff can go in this week.

I am a big vegetable garden planner. I like to carefully think about what I want to plant, and try to do it strategically. I kind of have to garden this way, because I don't have a very green thumb. You know, my nickname isn't CACTUS JOE for nothing...

What are your vegetable garden plans?

I am lucky to have a raised bed vegetable garden, the perfect vegetable garden design. It was here when I moved in. Literally plug and play! Raised beds make gardening a lot less work for an amateur like me, and I really have to appreciate it.

Raised bed gardens have a lot of advantages over conventional ground-level garden plots. The most obvious (to me) is drainage. The Law of Gravity prevents raised bed garden plots from getting over-saturated with moisture. The second big advantage is less competition with encroaching vegetation. The raised bed allows the plants roots to go deeper vertically and not compete horizontally as much with neighboring plants.

Raised beds also make weeding easier. The weeds can't spread far and it is less effort to spot them and remove them from a raised bed garden. In short, a raised bed garden design gives you greater productivity from a smaller area.

There are subtle advantages too. Animals are less inclined to climb up into a raised bed garden, especially if it is protected by wire mesh.

It's important to plot your vegetable garden layout. I can't wait to design my garden this week. I just wish I had the help and advice of a gardening expert like urban vegetable grower Ray Nones (author of a great book about raised bed vegetable gardening).

I think I am going to devote an entire one of my three raised beds to cool weather spinach and lettuce. Then when that goes to seed, I will do some fast growing summer stuff in there, like squash. Well, I had better get on with my vegetable garden planning.

If anyone who is a good vegetable garden planner reads this who lives not far from Cambridge, WI, and would like to help me, please E-MAIL ME as soon as you can, or leave a comment below. I know that's a long shot. Even if you don't live near me, but have some advice or tips, I would love to hear them. I will even share them here with my readers and link back to you.

Tune in next time (subscribe?) when I will talk about HERB GARDEN DESIGN and also ORGANIC CONTAINER GARDENING. (I bolded those phrases so that I can add hyperlinks when the blog posts are ready. You can bookmark this page and check back periodically, but subscribing is easier...)