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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Vitamin D - Hiding the Obvious Health Correlation

  This is an interesting example, going the media rounds.

  Both of how the state, while eager to push false scare stories to promote more useless government spending, are unwilling to talk about real scares which a very little government action could easily solve.

  Also of how statistics are played with to produce and/or hide relevances which the statistics simply aren't strong enough to support.

THE highest rate of multiple sclerosis in the world has been found in a small group of Scottish islands, and the number of residents developing symptoms has massively increased.

The degenerative neurological condition is now so common in the Orkney Isles that one in every 170 women is a sufferer – and some villages are hotspots where the levels are even higher than this. well yes, by definition uf a figure is an average some will be above it and equally some (men, other villages) below

Authors of the research, which is the first study of its kind for 40 years, say they cannot determine why Orcadians and those who move to the islands, which have a population of about 20,000, run such a high risk of having the disease.

However, genetics expert Dr Jim Wilson, who led the investigation, believes it may be at least partly explained by an inherited genetic weakness yet to be discovered by scientists.

He said: "With this clustering, some people would try to say it is due to the soil or something in the water. But, at least in the past, people married in their own community very often. At some level with their genetic background people in a parish are part of the same extended family. Even if we have not been able to find a genetic factor [to explain the dense levels of MS] it does not mean that it is not out there."

The findings have been released little more than a week after figures showed a seven-fold increase in the number of Scots under the age of 30 developing MS in some health board areas.

It has long been known that Scotland, and the Orkney islands in particular, have among the world's highest rates of MS along with parts of Canada and Scandinavia.

However, Mr Wilson said the last comprehensive study was in 1974. It found the number of people in Orkney diagnosed with probable or definite MS was 309 per 100,000. The new research, published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, found this has now increased to 402 per 100,000, which would equate to roughly 80 people on the islands.

This compares to 295 per 100,000 in Shetland and 229 per 100,000 in Aberdeen. The most recently reported rates for Alberta and Nova Scotia in Canada were about 350 per 100,000....

MS has long been linked to the so-called sunshine-drug Vitamin D, but Mr Wilson said that as the Shetland Islands, further north, appeared to have less of a problem than Orkney this was unlikely to fully explain the Orkney situation.

     The link between MS (also rickets and to a whole range of health conditions - vitamin D, unlike the other vitamins which are trace elements, is a hormone regulating a whole range of bodiy functions) is clear & has been for years. I have discussed it previously.  

    The best way to improve Scotland's abysmal health record would be to mandate that some staple food, I suggest salt since everybody eats a roughly similar amount of it, have vitamin D added to it when sold in Scotland. In the same way iodine was added for similar reasons many years ago - when governments wereless parasitic and able to make decision. This would cost very little & be exactly the sort of thing that a separate Scottish administration, able to deal with porely Scottish problems, was set up for.

      Salt would be a vitamin if it hadn't been discovered thousands of years before the term was invented. It has been taxed by governments throughout history for this reason since, being a necessity it is highly price insensitive so taxes don't reduce sales. Because everybody needs it it was good way to tax the common people as highly as the aristos, something aritocratic governments liked  

   The degree to which vitamin D improves health can be seen by looking in the mirror. White skin creates more vitamin D. Up till about 50,000 years age we were all black but as humanity colonised the northern latitudes white skin became a considerable evolutionary advantage.

    Yet this "research" is clearly going to great lengths to downplay the D link by concluding that it can't be because Shetland is marginally to the north of Orkney. Orkney and Shetland's populations are, according to DNA, a very similar mixture of Scandanavian and old Scots. The difference between Orkney and Shetland, so played up is not going to be because of the massive genetic differences.

     So what is causing it - lets look at the numbers. All this so many "cases per 100,000" ignores the fact that Orkney's population is 19,500, Shetland's is 22,000. So this important difference between 295 & 402 per 100,000 is actually 21 cases.Not statistically enough to draw any real conclusions from. Random chance easily accounts for such a small numerical difference.

     But enough to turn an easily achieved serious improvement of the entire Scottish health scene, into something requiring far more, expensively funded, "research" and megayears of civil service manhours to do nothing about. And of course lots of lives made painful or ended unnecessarily.

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It's possible that the arrival of many workers from urban areas into Orkney to work in the oil industry has introduced some infection that has eventually increased the rate of MS in a population that is anyway more prone to it than the average.

Something similar happened in Faroe after the introduction of a British force to garrison it in WW2.
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