We’re All Morlocks Now

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

White folks living at northern latitudes used to get enough sun exposure in the sunny months to synthesize vitamin D, which they would store in their muscles and fat for winter:

But starting a century ago, everything changed. First, the United States and Europe went from a mostly outdoors agrarian society to a mostly indoors manufacturing one. Then people started driving around in vehicles surrounded by windows. Glass prevents any vitamin D production because it blocks the Sun’s UV. When air-conditioning became widely available starting in the late 1950s and then got cheaper in the 1970s, people stopped keeping their windows open. Fixed- pane units became increasingly popular. The only sunlight that reached us in our homes and workplaces came through UV-stopping glass.

The last straw was sunblock. It did not even exist until thirty years ago. The initial UV- reducing creams, which cut exposure only in half, were marketed in the 1950s to promote tanning, not totally screen out ultraviolet rays. Then, in the 1980s, a new product came on the market: sunblock. With SPF (sun protection factor) numbers such as 30 and 45, sunblock essentially stops the body’s vitamin D production cold. At the same time, people were advised to cover themselves with these lotions throughout the summer months. Even the medical establishment urged hiding from the Sun as a way to counter skin cancer.

Vitamin D might be the only important vitamin to supplement:

The March 2010 Reader’s Digest calls vitamins in general “a scam” and urges people to take no daily supplements whatsoever – with the single exception of 1,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D3, the form most recommended as a supplement.

This sudden interest has been sparked by a spate of studies strongly indicating that vitamin D is the most powerful anticancer agent ever known. Robert Heaney, MD, of Creighton University, a vitamin D researcher, points to thirty-two randomized trials, the majority of which were strongly positive. For example, in a big study of women whose average age was sixty-two, subjects who were given a large daily vitamin D supplement enjoyed a whopping 60 percent reduction in all kinds of cancers after just four years of treatment compared to a control group.

The skeptical might well wonder how, when cancer typically takes decades to develop, such a huge drop can be detected after just a few years. Heaney believes it’s because vitamin D prevents tiny predetectable tumors from growing or spreading. “That’s the kind of cancer I’d want to have — one that never grows,” he told me in June 2010.

The Canadian Cancer Society raised its vitamin D intake recommendations to 1,000 IU daily in 2009. But Cannell, Heaney, and others think that even this is still way too low.

“I went to a conference and asked all the researchers what they themselves take daily and give to their families,” Heaney said. “The average was 5,500 IU daily. There is certainly no danger in doing this, since toxicity cannot arise in under 30,000 IU a day.”
Spending just ten minutes in strong sunlight — the kind you get from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM between April and August — will allow your body to make as much vitamin D as you would get from drinking two hundred glasses of milk.


  1. Ben says:

    Ten minutes, at the right latitude and season, with most of your skin exposed, yes.

    Any/all should be getting the simple, fast test for D3 levels, and supplement up to a bare minimum of 32 ng/ml. Personally, I shoot for 80ng/ml.

    It takes a while to get there. Probably a good idea to get started.

  2. I don’t think it’s valid to lump the U.S. and Europe together. If I spend a few hours outside playing football during the Boston summer, the back of my neck will be painfully burnt. There is no way that is healthy. But if I’m traveling around Germany or Scotland or Ireland, I can spend all day outside and not have to worry at all about putting on sun block. Getting some sun at these latitudes is likely quite healthy for me. I’m of Irish/Scottish ancenstry, and those nations are very far north of the U.S. Boston is slightly further south than Florence, Italy. So it makes a lot of sense that I should use sun block as a human/technological adaptation to a climate and latitude that my body was not adapted for.

  3. Isegoria says:

    I don’t think the author would argue that no white person should ever use sun block anywhere in North America or Europe, just that most white people should not be using sun block on a daily basis.

  4. Ben says:

    Sunblock, scarf, hat, upturned collar, less exposure, yeah, pick your poison. They all work.

    I don’t have it tip o’ the tongue at the moment, (but I think Mark’s Daily Apple might), but there is research indicating that the more optimal one’s Vitamin D level and/or omega-3 balance is, the more resistant to burn one becomes.

    Don’t hold me to that, but if you’re interested, look into it.

  5. Isegoria says:

    Speaking of Europe and vitamin D, it may be that Europeans are white for a surprising reason, beyond the obvious lack of sun.

  6. Ben says:

    Yup…more support for what Robb Wolf (paleo-biochem-gym-owner) agrees is the “most important event in all of human history” — the invention and promulgation of agriculture.

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