When I first heard about cases where people refused vaccination for their kids, kids who can't even decide for themselves yet, I honestly didn't think much of it. Then I found out it was because there might be a link between vaccination and autism which is why parents are making the decision to not vaccinate. At that time I was still a medical student so my thinking was sort of 'each to their own' and then few years down the line I started realising this silly decision is no longer 'each to their own' but really affecting a whole lot of other people (eg. the immunocompromised ones who need heard immunity) other than just putting their own kids at risk.
As my classmates turned interns, they started seeing really really sad cases where young infants die of whooping cough or meningitis (cased by haemophilus influenza). Each of the stories were pretty similar, the parents of these poor kids are either uneducated or have a false belief. The worst bit - is when the doctor tells these parents they could have PREVENTED the kid's death. Just imagine the guilt.
To me the logic is pretty simple, without vaccination, you won't even be born because small pox would have taken over the world (Note: small pox vaccine is the first successful vaccine developed back in 1796 and has successfully eradicated the disease). Just ask yourself, did your parents vaccinate themselves and you too? So why would you choose not to vaccinate your kids?
Apart from the fact that the original research about vaccination and autism was totally made-up plus a lot more money spent on properly researching this link and found no link at all, if you still think you are more educated than the world and that pharmaceutical companies are out to get your money, at least consider the fact that you are part of the human race and you should do the right thing and let your kids contribute to herd immunity to help those who can't vaccinate for medical reasons (seriously don't be so selfish). I once saw a comment in a forum where a lady said she would rather have an autistic kid than a dead kid so she chose to immunise her kids. Anti-vaxxers, you should really think hard on that and please enjoy the video below.
Several studies have demonstrated that vegetarians and vegans have much lower plasma concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) when compared to those who eat fish. A recent study published in Clinical Nutrition showed low blood omega-3 levels in vegans and the fatty acid analysis data was presented on more than 160 vegans who were not supplementing with DHA and EPA (1). The result of the study showed the average omega-3 index of the vegans in the study was 3.7% with a total of 64% of the vegans having levels lower than 4%; 27 percent had levels lower than 3%; and a small number (about 1%) had very low levels (lower than 2%). It is also important to note that omega-3 index of lower than 4% has been known as a risk factor for heart disease.
As you may already know, omega-3 fatty acids are crucial components of cell membranes in the human brain (2) and I have highlighted in my previous posts that it could even potentially reverse ageing by affecting the telomere lengths.
It is understood that many vegans probably consume a huge amount of flax seeds, walnuts, chia seeds etc to try and boost their omega-3 fatty acid levels. However, what they are actually consuming is actually ALA (Alpha-lipoic-acid) which is the plant based omega-3 fatty acids which then converts to EPA and DHA. This conversion actually varies with different individuals and factors involved includes genetic factors (3). So eating plenty of ALA-rich foods is simply not enough for many people to achieve sufficient DHA and EPA levels—supplementation is often necessary.
In conclusion, if you are vegan (which means you are more prone to omega-3 fatty acid deficiency), please check your levels with a blood test to assure that you are sufficient, or take the supplement as a preventative measure.
1: Sarter B, Kelsey KS, Schwartz TA, Harris WS. Blood docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid in vegans: Associations with age and gender and effects of an algal-derived omega-3 fatty acid supplement. Clin Nutr. 2015 Apr;34(2):212-8.
2. Higdon J: Essential Fatty Acids. In An Evidence-Based Approach to Dietary Phytochemicals. New York, NY: Thieme; 2006: 78-99
3. Davis BC, Kris-Etherton PM. Achieving optimal essential fatty acid status in vegetarians: current knowledge and practical implications. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Sep;78(3 Suppl):640S-646S. Review.
Parabens are widely used as preservatives in cosmetic and pharmaceutical products which can be absorbed through the skin. They have also been known as xenoestrogens (synthetic estrogens) which can mimic the female hormone oestrogen and there are concerns that they may be linked to breast cancer. Parabens are.common ingredients in cosmetics, shampoos, body lotions and sunscreens where they are used to prevent microbial growth and prolong shelf life.
The breast on the other hand has been known as the 'dustbin' for environmental chemicals because it's a very fatty part of the body so any fat soluble chemicals that are absorbed from the environment can linger in the tissues. On top of environmental chemicals, estrogen has been linked with promoting breast cancer.
The latest, a study in cells, not humans, from the University of California Berkeley and funded by the California Breast Cancer Research Program found that even at low levels parabens could stimulate the growth of breast cancer cells when they interact with a growth factor that's naturally produced in a woman's body (1).
Another study of 160 tissue samples from 40 mastectomies for Primary Breast Cancer in England between 2005-2008 has detected the presence of paraben esters in 99 percent of breast cancer tissues sampled (2).
Although further research will be required to clearly linked paraben to breast cancer and it will take even more years to spread the word and for policies to be implemented, it is safe to say that I myself will be choosing products that are paraben-free (better safe than sorry). Avoiding parabens and other harmful chemicals requires becoming an avid label reader. Beware that products boasting "all-natural" labels which can still contain harmful chemicals, including parabens, so make sure to check the list of ingredients.
1: Pan S, Yuan C, Tagmount A, Rudel RA, Ackerman JM, Yaswen P, Vulpe CD, Leitman DC. Parabens and Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Ligands Cross-Talk in Breast Cancer Cells. Environ Health Perspect. 2015 Oct 27.
2. Barr L, Metaxas G, Harbach CA, Savoy LA, Darbre PD. Measurement of paraben concentrations in human breast tissue at serial locations across the breast from axilla to sternum. J Appl Toxicol. 2012 Mar;32(3):219-32. doi: 10.1002/jat.1786. Epub 2012 Jan 12.
Maintaining adequate levels of essential vitamins and minerals is extremely crucial for good health. This has also been highlighted by Havard School of Public Health in their Food Pyramid. It is common in the general population, especially the elderly to have suboptimal intake of some vitamins which is a risk factor for chronic diseases. On top of it, micronutrient adequacy has the potential to extend lifespan – recent research has found that multivitamin use is associated with longer telomere length in women (an indicator of a slower rate of aging) and this has also been highlighted in my previous article.
Of course, in addition to vitamins and minerals, a diet full of colorful natural plant foods is still needed because multivitamins cannot and will not replace your daily intake of healthy natural food. But the truth is that there are some nutrients that are lacking even in an ideal diet and deficiencies in certain nutrients can undermine your health causing various chronic diseases. On top of that, we cannot be sure that we are getting the precise optimal amounts of vitamins and minerals from our diet everyday – especially since absorption efficiency and utilisation of nutrients varies from person to person. For example, someone who has gastrointestinal issues like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) will have decrease absorption of nutrients, so just having a healthy diet will not be sufficient. A high quality multivitamin can fill these gaps, ensuring that we get adequate amounts of essential micronutrients.
Some vitamins and minerals are often lacking even in a healthy diet:
Vitamin D is definitely at the top of the list. It was once thought to be important only for bone health, now scientists have found that Vitamin D has important actions in almost every cell in the human body, regulating the expression of over 200 different genes, including the ones related to apoptosis and immune modulation (1). Insufficient vitamin D levels are associated with several cancers, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression, and autoimmune diseases. Today, a lot of people suffer from insufficient Vitamin D levels with nearly 1/3 of Australian adults suffering Vitamin D deficiency according to a recent study by Deakin University. Since many of us live in cool climates and work indoors, and because of the potential risks of skin damage and skin cancer with sun exposure, supplementing is the best choice for achieving adequate vitamin D levels. In my experience, 2000 IU has been an appropriate dose to bring most people into the favorable blood 25(OH)D range of 50-75nmol/L. For extra assurance, I’ve also utilized Vitamin D3 because of its high biological value, the most effective form for raising 25(OH)D levels (2).
Vitamin B12 is required for important biological functions like red blood cell production, nervous system function, and DNA synthesis. Insufficient B12 levels are also associated with increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease (3). Deficiency in B12 can cause a variety of health problems including elevated homocysteine (a cardiovascular risk factor), anemia, depression, confusion, fatigue, digestive issues, and nerve damage (4).
Vitamin B12 is unique in that it is made only by microorganisms. Today, we live in a sterile polluted environment where our food is scrubbed (generally with chemicals) ‘clean’ of any soil and B12 possibility and due to the fact that our produce is washed and often transported far before we eat it (soil contains B12-producing microorganisms), most of us are unable to get sufficient B12 from plant foods alone. B12 deficiency is common, especially in vegans who don’t supplement and in the elderly (ability to absorb B12 decreases with age) and about 20% of adults over the age of 60 are either insufficient or deficient in vitamin B12 (5). Supplementation with vitamin B12 is important for most people, and absolutely required for most vegans to achieve sufficient B12 levels.
Iodine is required by the body to make thyroid hormones. A recent study of vegans estimated that only about 40% of the daily requirement for iodine was commonly met on a vegetarian or vegan diet (6). Another study concluded that 80% of vegans, 25% of vegetarians, and 9% of conventional eaters are iodine-deficient (7). Most plant foods are low in iodine due to soil depletion. The chief source of iodine in the typical diet is iodised salt. Since salt should be avoided for general good health, it is important to supplement with iodine to maintain adequacy.
Zinc is essential for immune function, growth, and reproduction, and supports hundreds of chemical reactions. Zinc is abundant in whole plant foods but is not readily absorbed. Beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds contain zinc, but also contain substances that inhibit zinc absorption (8). A recent study of vegetarians found a high prevalence of zinc deficiency, and zinc requirements for those on a completely plant-based diet are estimated to be about 50% higher than the US RDI (9).
1: Hyppönen E. Vitamin D and increasing incidence of type 1 diabetes-evidence for an association? Diabetes Obes Metab. 2010 Sep;12(9):737-43. doi: 10.1111/j.1463-1326.2010.01211.x.
2: Tripkovic L, Lambert H, Hart K, Smith CP, Bucca G, Penson S, Chope G, Hyppönen E, Berry J, Vieth R, Lanham-New S. Comparison of vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 supplementation in raising serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D status: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Jun;95(6):1357-64. doi:10.3945/ajcn.111.031070. Epub 2012 May 2.
3. Hooshmand B, Solomon A, Kåreholt I, Leiviskä J, Rusanen M, Ahtiluoto S, Winblad B, Laatikainen T, Soininen H, Kivipelto M. Homocysteine and holotranscobalamin and the risk of Alzheimer disease: a longitudinal study. Neurology. 2010 Oct 19;75(16):1408-14. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e3181f88162.
4. Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin B12
5. Allen LH. How common is vitamin B-12 deficiency? Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Feb;89(2):693S-6S. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2008.26947A. Epub 2008 Dec 30.
6.:Waldmann A, Koschizke JW, Leitzmann C, Hahn A. Dietary intakes and lifestyle factors of a vegan population in Germany: results from the German Vegan Study. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2003 Aug;57(8):947-55.
7. Krajcovicová-Kudlácková M, Bucková K, Klimes I, Seboková E. Iodine deficiency in vegetarians and vegans. Ann Nutr Metab. 2003;47(5):183-5.
8. Hunt JR. Bioavailability of iron, zinc, and other trace minerals from vegetarian diets. Am J Clin Nutr 2003;78(suppl):633S–9S.
9. de Bortoli MC, Cozzolino SM. Zinc and selenium nutritional status in vegetarians. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2009 Mar;127(3):228-33. doi:
10.1007/s12011-008-8245-1. Epub 2008 Oct 25.
I am back, after a long break. I have been extremely busy with sorting out other things in my life AND being part of a 12-week fitness challenge. Life has definitely not been easy. And...I am back to my obsession about Vitamin D. Found this particular study to be quite interesting. A longitudinal study published in Lancet in 2006 found that maternal Vitamin D status was associated with reduced whole-body and lumbar-spine bone-mineral content (BMC) in children that persists to age 9 years (1).
The study followed 198 children born in 1991-1992 in UK up to 9 years of age and results show that maternal vitamin D status during pregnancy and placental calcium transfer, as indicated by concentrations of umbilical-venous calcium, are significantly correlated with bone-mineral accrual at 9 years of age. The researchers also postulated that maternal vitamin D insufficiency during pregnancy leads to an impairment of placental calcium transport. It is known that the fetus accumulates about 30 g of calcium from the mother in utero, and 80% of this transfer occurs in the last trimester of pregnancy.
Furthermore, your baby's weight at 1 year predicts bone mass at later age (2). So do you all mothers-to-be out there understand the importance of Vitamin D in pregnancy?
1: Javaid MK, Crozier SR, Harvey NC, Gale CR, Dennison EM, Boucher BJ, Arden NK, Godfrey KM, Cooper C; Princess Anne Hospital Study Group. Maternal vitamin D status during pregnancy and childhood bone mass at age 9 years: a longitudinal study. Lancet. 2006 Jan 7;367(9504):36-43. Erratum in: Lancet. 2006 May 6;367(9521):1486.
2. Cooper C, Cawley M, Bhalla A, et al. Childhood growth, physical activity, and peak bone mass in women. J Bone Miner Res 1995; 10: 940–47
Dr Nicole Ng (MBBS) is a medical doctor with a passion in women's health and medical research