John Campbell is a popular commentator on all things medical who is now starting to wake up to the various forms of medical fraud and incompetence.
He still believes in the existence of viruses and is still convinced of the need for and the benefits of, vitamin D supplementation, encouraging higher and higher doses for his followers.
There is no hard evidence that D3 supplementation is beneficial for health and no evidence that the population as a whole is vitamin D ‘deficient’ – so how does Campbell contrive to give the opposite impression?
Here we take a critical look at a single video and find it lacking in credible argument or relevant evidence. There are various vitamin D ‘pushers’ on Twitter and YouTube all using the same techniques and making the same mistakes:
- Correlation is not causation
- Low levels of D are the result of disease not the cause
- Arguments from evolution are not evidence
- Levels do not depend on latitude
- Skin pigmentation does not affect D3 production
- D3 supplementation is not the same as sunlight exposure
- There is no scientific rationale for current definitions of ‘deficiency’
The video is ostensibly a look at a paper (McCullough et al) which describes a 7 year study that concludes only that long term Vitamin D supplementation is ‘safe’, but the closing comments of the video reveal it to be a call for increased consumption of oral supplements by policy change and individual choice.
From the video at around 13:00: “There is no question at all in my mind that health authorities around the world should increase the recommended amount of vitamin D” and “I can’t tell you what to take .. I am currently taking 8000IU per day“.
These comments amount to an encouragement to take vitamin D supplements and to doubt advice given by the health authorities.
The Hunter Gatherer Argument.
“Vitamin D3 is a secosteroid hormone produced in the skin in amounts estimated up to 25,000 international units (IUs) a day by the action of UVB radiation” – McCullough et al
“Given we are supposed to be producing 25,000 IU per day..” – John Campbell
Campbell’s remark is highly deceptive for several reasons:
John has moved from what is to what he thinks ought to be, but you can’t move from an ‘is’ to an ‘ought’. – David Hume
Campbell’s statement makes implicit assumptions about the supposed perfection of human adaptation to our environment thousands of years ago but at the same time concludes that we have lost that connection somehow and need to compensate for it by artificial means, i.e. oral supplementation. We are seeing here an appeal to a naturopathic argument to encourage correction by allopathic medicine. Ugh!
The paper states that 25,000 IUs is the maximum amount of D3 produced in the skin and since we know that production rates are seasonal we can conclude that for most of the year, we will be producing far less than this.
- Africans living near the equator are deficient in vitamin D – Kagotho et al
- Rural workers in India have ‘low levels’ of vitamin D – Mangin et al
- Rising 25(OH)D levels automatically inhibit further production of D3 – Bogh et al
So if we look again at what is, we find that a mechanism exists to actually prevent maximal production of 25(OH)D , which is the quantity that is usually measured. From a naturopathic viewpoint then, the supplementation as described in the study, is an attempt to actually disturb the body away from its natural processes and rhythms; the body will actively resist supplementation.
The above view is actually supported by the study which found that it takes 12 months of supplementation to raise the concentrations of 25(OH)D to the desired value. John Campbell, in the video has a different interpretation: “It took a year to get to the levels that the body wants it to be“. Again an assumed statement with no justification supplied and seemingly at odds with actual reality; how can it be said that the body wants levels to be high if it tries as hard as possible to keep them within seasonal limits?
Vitamin D levels normally rise and fall on a seasonal basis in accordance with sunlight exposure.
Take a look at the chart and try to understand what it means to force the levels up for a whole year to reach and maintain, at a ‘plateau’, levels that are actually higher than those naturally achieved in the northern hemisphere and way above those of an equatorial African! When did they start to push the levels up? In summer? In winter?
“Correlation is not the same as causation – but sometimes it is!” is a favourite saying of Dr John and he uses this idea to its fullest in this video by citing many cases of correlation between disease and low concentrations of 25(OH)D. I am guessing he has not read Mangin et al which lays out a strong argument that much, if not all of the time, it is the disease that is causing the low levels and not the low levels causing disease.
At 4:50 in the video, we have “Deficiency is strongly linked to increased risk for a multitude of diseases several of which have been shown to improve dramatically with either adequate UVB exposure to the skin, or to oral supplementation“. This is horribly ambiguous and introduces a (deliberate?) conflation between sunlight exposure and D3 supplementation, trying to imply that they have the same effect. They are not the same thing at all with sunlight exposure conferring additional benefits such as vitamin A production, which will just not happen with oral supplementation of D3.
Even if sunlight exposure is causal in improving health this cannot automatically be attributed to increased vitamin D concentrations and therefore cannot be used to justify supplementation.
- “Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is a seco-steroid hormone” – McCullough et al
- “They say vitamin D is a hormone produced in the skin which is true.” – Campbell
- “Only 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D calcitriol can function as a hormone” – Goddek et al
Summary. We have not looked in detail at the referenced paper but the video really is a horrible mash up of cherry picked irrelevancies, linguistic tricks and logical fallacies with the design of creating a specific narrative which seems on first viewing to be valid but falls apart upon closer examination.
The scientific arguments are weak and the evidence is ambiguous. We are asked to believe that rural Indians, equatorial Africans, white Europeans and native Inuit have all lived for thousands of years with inadequate nutrition owing to insufficient sunlight exposure!
John seems like a nice guy with a genuine desire to help but he has used the term ‘vitamin D deniers’ in another video which is a very lazy way of disparaging those who disagree with him.
Must try harder.
Vitamin D Doses – YouTube video presentation by John Campbell
Daily oral dosing of vitamin D3 using 5000 TO 50,000 international units a day in long-term hospitalized patients: Insights from a seven year experience
Authors: Patrick J McCullough, Douglas S Lehrer, Jeffrey Amend
Inflammation and vitamin D: the infection connection – Meg Mangin, Rebecca Sinha, Kelly Fincher.
Vitamin D status in healthy black African adults at a tertiary hospital in Nairobi, Kenya: a cross sectional study – Kagotho, Omuse et al
Vitamin D production after UVB exposure depends on baseline vitamin D and total cholesterol but not on skin pigmentation – Bogh MK, Schmedes AV, Philipsen PA, Theiden E, Wulf HC.
Racial pigmentation and the cutaneous synthesis of vitamin D. – Matsuoka LY, Worstman J, Haddad JG, Kolm P, Hollis BW.
Vitamin D deficiency among northern Native Peoples: a real or apparent
problem? – Peter Frost
Renal potassium-wasting induced by vitamin D – Ferris, Levitin, Epstein
Measurement of Vitamin D for Epidemiologic and Clinical Research: Shining Light on a Complex Decision – Jukic, Hoofnagle, Lutsey
Vitamin D: Everything You Need to Know – Simon Goddek, Robin Whittle
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