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The Vitamin D Cure

Book Review of: The Vitamin D Cure

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Review of The Vitamin D Cure, by James E. Dowd, M.D. and Diane Stafford (Softcover, 2012)

(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you want a hardcopy)


I really like this book. The authors try very hard to make the information accessible, understandable, and actionable. I think they succeed in this effort. Almost anyone who buys this book will find it life-changing, and in the positive direction. It's one of the best health-related books to come out in recent years. Or perhaps ever.

Most everyone agrees on how good this book is. There is one negative review, and I address that after my review. I read this book with some expertise on the subject. I've been studying nutrition since the late 1960s and, despite an immune deficiency, have not been sick since 1971. In my fifties now, I maintain my body fat around 6% (measured it just before writing this review, it was at 5.7%). I train hard six days a week, and take nutrition very seriously.

Full disclosure: Among the offerings my company provides are Vitamin D test kits and Vitamin D supplements. The company that analyzes the samples has been doing this for a long time. Thus far, only one person has "passed" the test on the first try. She was on the Australian Olympic Team. I tested higher than the officially recommended RDA without supplementation, but fell short of the 60 ng/ml that is the actual floor.

Accuracy note: This book isn't necessary for my company to sell Vitamin D related products, so there's no motivation for me to pander to these authors. Their assertions are supported by the literature and by empirical data. You will also find the highly esteemed Dr. Mercola (who sells Vitamin D in competition with my company) has quite a bit to say about Vitamin D. If you know someone who works in medicine, that person has probably been to a seminar on Vitamin D. The medical community is very much abuzz about it. And with good reason.

My point in telling you this is it's arguing against gravity to argue against any of the Vitamin D claims the authors make. Those are all heavily substantiated by primary and secondary sources. As I have a direct line to one primary source, I'm in a position to challenge any false claims. There weren't any.

The authors point out that Vitamin D, while a key to health, isn't a magic bullet. Many call it the master hormone, but nobody knowledgeable calls it a complete solution. When I discovered that the author was an MD and there was extensive coverage of nutrition, my BS detector went on full alert. Amazingly, it detected nothing. Doctors typically give extremely wrong nutritional advice. Dr. Dowd and Ms. Stafford, however, echoed my "Eat green" mantra. Even more amazingly, they got right a commonly wrong issue. That is folic acid. If you read about it on page 92, you will see the safe sources of this. The kind that's added to breakfast cereal, which you should not eat anyway, greatly increases the risk of prostate cancer. Who knows what other problems it causes?

There are some rough edges on some of their advice, and I will address those things in a bit. The typical reader would be moving a quantum leap forward by going from the typical disease-inducing American "toxicity diet" to the recommendations the authors provide. The rough edges, if smoothed out, would give you a marginal improvement over that.

As I noted, the authors try very hard to make the information accessible, understandable, and actionable. So the diet and exercise recommendations fall short of ideal but at the same time are such that anyone can adopt them without much difficulty. You can buy a Vitamin D home sample test kit for only $69. I'm not sure why the authors didn't advocate that more vigorously, but probably it's that actionability thing again. You can take a quiz easily enough. A test kit requires a few extra steps.

When I go grocery shopping, I am appalled at what people pull out of their shopping carts. However, I am not surprised. Their physical appearance accurately predicts the extent of poor choices. For example, a person who has lots of junk but also a head of bok choy is not going to look nearly as bad as someone who just has lots of junk.

Since the junk decisions are largely a reaction to peer pressure and commercial brainwashing, we can all make a positive change. For example, I have talked up bok choy for years while standing in the checkout line. Other customers are now buying it. Much to my delight, my grocer was actually out of it last week. That's positive change. BTW, bok choy is a member of the brassica family and is one of the "miracle foods." It's an excellent source of calcium and of the phosphorus and manganese you need to utilize calcium.

Anyhow.... Follow the dietary advice in this book, and you will soon have an appearance that reflects good food choices. And you'll have the health and vitality that goes with it.

In the USA, there's been a lot of "debate" about the high cost of medical care (wrongly referred to as "health care"). Now with the Unaffordable Care Act passed into law, there is a much larger economic incentive to practice health care as a way to forego the need for medical care. If you have a typical American lifestyle, you'll make your money back on this book a few thousand times over.

Comments to the person who wrote the one-star review

I suggest actually reading this book. Obviously, you did not do that because if you had read it you would have noticed the authors DID express units of Vitamin D. The authors just saved us the tedium of repeating those units all the time. This is a common practice in literature for lay audiences. Besides, most people who aren't in a clinical or medical career won't understand the units anyhow. If you had read this book, you would know the units are ng/ml when referring to blood levels and UI when referring to supplements. Do you really understand those units? Without a measuring device, can you pour a dl into one glass and a ml into another with reasonable accuracy?

You also remarked that the quiz was skewed so almost everyone comes out at high risk. No, the quiz reflects reality and we have the data to prove that--see my comments at the beginning of this review.

Some problems with the book

The book does have some minor inaccuracies, and I chalk these up to making the subject accessible for a lay audience. Also, the demographic is obviously excluding elite athletes. But this is not a book for elite athletes, so that's fine. But there are a few outdated recommendations that are dangerous, too.

The protein recommendations are for the typical person. Hard-training bodybuilders may need as much as 2g per lb of body weight, which is far more than the authors recommend on page 65. Going to a gym does not make you a hard-training bodybuilder. You might be a hard-training bodybuilder if you do squats or deadlifts and are still sore a week later.

On page 67, the authors mention discarding egg yolks. The myth that this is somehow beneficial has no factual basis. In addition to being wasteful, it's not healthy. Eat the whole egg. That yolk is high in Vitamin D, Omega 3 (especially DHA) fats, and other nutrients.

On page 67, the authors list only three meals. What about the other three? They do mention snacks, so I take that as the actionability thing again. But the human body functions best on six meals a day. That's why I eat six meals a day and if anyone eating only three meals thinks that's making me fat, let's compare my body fat measurement to yours. I maintain about 6% without using any fat loss supplements or crazy diets, and I eat six meals a day. To train for a photo shoot, I'll use fat loss supplements and do a photo prep diet. But normally, nix on either one.

On page 67, the authors list shrimp as a food. It no longer is. The available shrimp supply is contaminated with heavy metals. Unless you want to be ingesting mercury, antimony, lead, and arsenic, do not eat shrimp. The authors also talk of tuna as if it's fit for humans. This is no longer the case. All tuna contains excessive levels of mercury. There has been extensive research on this in Japan, and the conclusion is that if it's an ocean predator you don't eat it.

The authors might be endorsing bananas and pineapples a bit too much. Both of these are highly glycemic. If eaten in reasonable amounts and with a protein, that effect will be minimal or non-existent.

On page 83, the authors suggest olive or canola oil. These two oils are not even remotely similar. Olive oil has an excellent lipids composition and has many health properties. Canola oil is a waste of calories.

The authors talk about BMI in several places. I suppose this tool is effective for some bell curve of the population. I can tell you it's grossly inaccurate for me. I think it applies only to people who have advanced body fat accumulation (in men, that would be anything more than a single digit percentage). But you can buy a body fat scale for about fifty bucks. Odds are good you know somebody who has one. It's your body fat percentage, not some combination of semi-relevant data (as in the BMI) that will tell you how fat you are.

An easy way to tell if you are too fat is to look in the mirror. If your abs don't show, you are too fat. It's really that simple. To fix this look at where your hidden calories are. Eat slightly smaller portions, and make sure what you do eat is mostly fresh produce--the fat will come off without doing much else.

About breakfast

On page 221, the authors say it's OK to delay (skip) breakfast. It's not OK. I'm very surprised they would even suggest this. If you have problems eating after sleeping all night, there is something wrong. Either you have trained your body to go without food in the morning and will need to retrain it, or you have a medical problem. If you did the training thing, then you almost certainly have a medical problem also. Start retraining by eating something small. Maybe a meal replacement powder mixed with a spoon (Optimum Nutrition makes what I consider the best MRP on the market).

If you just aren't hungry, here's a suggestion to fix that. Slice up an apple, dash it with cinnamon, and microwave it for 15 seconds.

Whatever you do, don't eat packaged cereals. Those are toxic. The authors make this point, and they are quite correct.

If you want a grain, try raw oats mixed with an MRP, some raisins, and some nutmeg or cinnamon. I do mine in a 20 oz glass. A coffee cup works fine for a small serving.

If you have time and like spicy foods, make a wake-up omelet. When I pour the eggs into the pan, I dash them with cayenne pepper and turmeric (these two spices, when combined, are extremely potent for killing cancer cells). After I flip the omelet, I put jalapeno slices on one half, douse it in habanero sauce, and fold it over. If that does not wake you up, nothing will. Perhaps the same can be said of the information in this book.


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