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Vitamin D Deficiency Speculation in the Increase in Cesarean Childbirth

I got up this morning to a new report showing a significant association between vitamin D deficiency and Cesarean deliveries of children.

Vitamin D deficiency is common in pregnant women, and it may lead to an increased risk for cesarean delivery, early research suggests.

Vitamin D researcher Michael Holick, MD, PhD, and colleagues from the Boston Medical Center report that women in their study who were severely vitamin D deficient during childbirth were about four times more likely to deliver by cesarean section as women with higher vitamin D levels.

What’s interesting to me is to connect dots, so here we go. The first thing this report reminded me of is how Weston Price, in Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, frequently observed that many things go together, i.e., tooth decay, along with crowded teeth, along with susceptibility to tuberculosis and other diseases not encountered in primitives consuming their traditional diets, and on to heavily labored childbirth, among other afflictions.

As an aside, and I haven’t done any particular digging on this point (perhaps someone has who can lay down a comment and reference), but do wild animals existing in an environment adequate to their needs often experience undue problems birthing their offspring in the absence of veterinarians and animal hospitals? I would guess not. Biologically, humans are 100% animals. But, we’re domesticated. So where does that lead your thinking? As a final tidbit, Price also documents birthing problems as well as severe deformities in domestic animals.

Here’s an excerpt from Price specifically in regard to childbirth in primitives, contrasted with those who had taken on some measure of our Western diet.

One of the outstanding changes which I have found takes place in the primitive races at their point of contact with our modern civilization is a decrease in the ease and efficiency of the birth process. When I visited the Six Nation Reservation at Brantford, Ontario, I was told by the physician in charge that a change of this kind had occurred during the period of his administration, which had covered twenty-eight years and that the hospital was now used largely to care for young Indian women during abnormal childbirth (Chapter 6).

A similar impressive comment was made to me by Dr. Romig, the superintendent of the government hospital for Eskimos and Indians at Anchorage, Alaska. He stated that in his thirty-six years among the Eskimos, he had never been able to arrive in time to see a normal birth by a primitive Eskimo woman. But conditions have changed materially with the new generation of Eskimo girls, born after their parents began to use foods of modern civilization. Many of them are carried to his hospital after they had been in labour for several days. One Eskimo woman who had married twice, her last husband being a white man, reported to Dr. Romig and myself that she had given birth to twentysix children and that several of them had been born during the night and that she had not bothered to waken her husband, but had introduced him to the new baby in the morning.

Sherman, (10) who has made many important contributions to our knowledge of vitamin A, has shown in a recent communication that an amount of vitamin A sufficient to support normal growth and maintain every appearance of good health in animals, may still be insufficient to meet the added nutritive demands of successful reproduction and lactation. With the failure to reproduce successfully, there usually appears in early adult life an increased susceptibility to infection, and particularly a tendency to lung disease at an age corresponding to that at which pulmonary tuberculosis so often develops in young men and women. He states, further, that vitamin A must be supplied in liberal proportions not only during the growth period but during the adult period as well, if a good condition of nutrition and a high degree of health and vigor are to be maintained.

Price goes on at length about vitamin A, along with E — both fat soluble vitamins in combination with D and K2. But let’s connect more dots, OK? First, here’s a very interesting look by Stephan at Whole Health Source about how all these vitamins work in combination, specifically in the context of vitamin A toxicity.

The question of optimal intake is where opinions begin to diverge. Hunter-gatherers and healthy non-industrial cultures, who almost invariably had excellent dental and skeletal development and health, often had a very high intake of vitamin A (according to Dr. Weston Price and others). This is not surprising, considering their fondness for organ meats. A meager 2 ounces of beef liver contains about 9,500 IU, or almost 200% of your U.S. and Canadian recommended daily allowance (RDA). Kidney and eye are rich in vitamin A, as are many of the marine oils consumed by the Inuit and other arctic groups.

If we can extrapolate from historical hunter-gatherers, our ancestors didn’t waste organs. In fact, in times of plenty, some groups discarded the muscle tissue and ate the organs and fat. Carnivorous animals often eat the organs first, because they know exactly where the nutrients are. Zookeepers know that if you feed a lion nothing but muscle, it does not thrive.

This is the background against which we must consider the question of vitamin A toxicity. Claims of toxicity must be reconciled with the fact that healthy cultures often consumed large amounts of vitamin A without any ill effects. […]

The only problem is, this position ignores the interactions between fat-soluble vitamins. Vitamin D strongly protects agains vitamin A toxicity and vice versa. As a matter of fact, “vitamin A toxicity” is almost certainly a relative deficiency of vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is also tightly correlated with low bone mineral density, osteoporosis and fracture risk. A high vitamin A intake requires vitamin D to balance it. The epidemiological studies showing an association between high-normal vitamin A intake and reduced bone health all sported populations that were moderately to severely vitamin D deficient on average. At optimal vitamin D levels, 40-70 ng/mL 25(OH)D, it would take a whopping dose of vitamin A to induce toxicity. You might get there if you eat nothing but beef liver for a week or two.

The experiment hasn’t been done under controlled conditions in humans, but if you believe the animal studies, the optimal intake for bone mineral density is a high intake of both vitamins A and D. And guess what? A high intake of vitamins A and D also increases the need for vitamin K2. That’s because they work together. For example, vitamin D3 increases the secretion of matrix Gla protein and vitamin K2 activates it. Is it any surprise that the optimal proportions of A, D and K occur effortlessly in a lifestyle that includes outdoor activity and whole, natural animal foods? This is the blind spot of the researchers who have warned of vitamin A toxicity: uncontrolled reductionism. Vitamins do not act in a vacuum; they interact with one another. If your theory doesn’t agree with empirical observations from healthy cultures, it’s back to the drawing board.

Now, here’s Chris Masterjohn on some of the other roles of K2.

Our understanding of the K vitamins is rapidly expanding and we are likely to discover many new roles for them as the twenty-first century progresses.

The highest concentration of vitamin K2 exists in the salivary glands and the pancreas. These organs exhibit an overwhelming preference for K2 over K1 and retain high amounts of the vitamin even when animals consume a vitamin K-deficient diet.(15) The high presence of the vitamin in both of these organs suggests a role in activating digestive enzymes, although its apparent role in the regulation of blood sugar could explain its presence in the pancreas.(76) The testes of male rats also exhibit a high preference for and retention of vitamin K2,(16) and human sperm possess a vitamin K-dependent protein with an unknown function.(77) The kidneys likewise accumulate large amounts of vitamin K2(69) and secrete vitamin K-dependent proteins that inhibit the formation of calcium salts. Patients with kidney stones secrete this protein in its inactive form, which is between four and twenty times less effective than its active form at inhibiting the growth of calcium oxalate crystals, suggesting that vitamin K2 deficiency is a major cause of kidney stones.(77)

The use of Warfarin during pregnancy produces developmental malformations of the face; as the nasal cartilage calcifies, growth of the nose comes to an early end, resulting in a stubby appearance.(78) Vitamin K2 therefore most certainly played a role in the development of beautiful faces with broad features that Price observed among primitive peoples.

So, my speculation is that this is what happens when you don’t heed Francis Bacon’s keen observation: “Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed.” While I am all for technology, advancement, science, and medical “miracles,” I believe that the downright obstinate arrogance today’s modern researchers and “health authorities” get away with is a direct consequence of the general populace buying into Hobbes’ fallacy, when he described man’s primitive life as “solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.” Given that, what do you think of Carl P. Weiner, MD, and the other “experts?” To wit:

Not So Fast, Expert Says

But maternal-fetal medicine specialist Carl P. Weiner, MD, says more research is needed before such a recommendation would be justified. Weiner is chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

“This is an interesting study, but very preliminary, and it should not be seen as the basis for a change in clinical practice,” Weiner tells WebMD. “We really can’t say if there is a downside or an upside to additional vitamin D.”

Do you see right through Dr. Weiner and his brand of “expertise” like I do? I’ll speculate and psychoanalyze: I think Dr. Weiner is very enamored of being considered an “expert” and being called upon to render “expert” opinion. Of course, that requires rendering opinion fully in accordance with the doctrines espoused by the “authorities.”

Me, and others? We just care about health. The very well established record with respect to healthy hunter-gatherers proves beyond any shadow of any doubt that we have gone far astray of a healthful diet. People like Dr. Weiner have been contributing to that state of affairs for decades. Where once that may have been motivated more by a bright eyed but ultimately ignorant confidence in “modern science,” we have come to the point where “authorities” and “experts” are simply standing in the way of proven wisdom for the sake of their fraudulent reputations.

Later: Stephan reminded me of and posted a link to an August post of his dealing with a lot of this very same issue (childbirth), with lots of archeological background. Having just re-reviewed it myself I’m putting up a link here for those who may not see the comments.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

16 Comments

  1. Brock on December 24, 2008 at 10:37

    Not only does it make birth easier, it makes getting pregnant easier.

    As my wife and I found out last night. After three years of trying and just two months of reading Free The Animal and Whole Health Source.

    So thanks for that! 🙂 And Merry Christmas.

  2. Monica on December 24, 2008 at 10:59

    I just have to put my two cents in here.

    First, WebMD. UGH. WORST. SOURCE of health information. EVER. Yet another collusion between Big Government and Big Industry. So why am I not surprised that they are peddling nonsense on this issue as well? Here's what I've had to say about WebMD before. http://sparkasynapse.blogspot.com/2008/12/why-diabetes-is-skyrocketing.html

    Second, Price. I've no doubt that fat soluble vitamin deficiencies have created narrower hips in women than should ordinarily be. This is anecdotal, but look at movie stars and pinups of the 40s and 50s. Compare that to the figures of movie star "women" — that look more like prepubescent girls — of today. one of my friends had to recently have a C section after laboring for 24 hours at home. She was devastated. I'm not surprised, though — she has the narrowest hips in a woman that I've ever seen.

    Third — while I have to agree with you that diet is probably a factor here, the primary reason caesarians are so high (nearing 40%) actually has nothing to do with that. According to one OBGYN nurse I know, 90-95% of women should be able to give birth at home, no problem. I was very surprised to hear her say this (and this is a primary reason she got out of the business). She says that is utterly absurd that people even go to the hospital for birth, and that any competent midwife would know in time to get a woman in labor to the hospital should there be a problem. Instead, only 60-65% of women are giving birth naturally, whether in the hospital or not. The primary reason caesarean rates are so high is because of medical liability and our society that rewards crazy lawsuits. When fetal heart rate is monitored during labor, there are natural fluctuations (both up and down) in the fetal heart rate. However, that heart rate is measured in a short window rather than a long one and it becomes part of the medical record… which means that doctors can then be sued for not performing a C section… in other words, not doing "everything they can" to protect the mother and the fetus ANY time an "abnormal" heart rate has been briefly measured. Since that's actually a good portion of the time, even though a minority of the time, a caesarian is done in EVERY case where there is only a slight possibility of something going wrong. And of course, they make more money doing it to boot. I don't actually think the primary motivation is money, I think it's avoiding a dumb lawsuit. Lawuits in OBGYN are stratospherically high. Docs get sued for all sorts of crazy stuff including stuff they have no control over, including fetal deformities. Doesn't matter that they're not to blame — they usually have to settle at very high costs.

    According to this nurse, home birth is completely safe in 95% of cases, and there is plenty of time to get to a hospital assuming one has a competent midwife. She says the last place one wants to be giving birth is in a hospital, because for legal reasons it is very difficult for the laboring mother or her partner to maintain control of the situation.

  3. Stephan on December 24, 2008 at 14:01

    Richard,

    I agree. Another tidbit is that hunter-gatherers had a wider pelvic inlet than modern humans. That's the hole through which the baby passes! I wrote about that here:

    http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2008/08/life-expectancy-and-growth-of.html

  4. Monica Hughes on December 24, 2008 at 16:36

    By the way, I don't mean to insinuate that vitamin D deficiency isn't a problem. Even with the ridiculous and unnecessary numbers of caesarians today, a 5-10% necessity for medical attention in childbirth is still huge. What wild animal dies 5-10% of the time in the birthing process? That's still very high.

  5. Brock on December 24, 2008 at 18:34

    Well, it wasn't -just- reading the blog. 🙂 Weston Price's book had a lot to do with it too. 🙂

    But you introduced me to Price and convinced me to buy the book, so there you have it. 🙂

  6. George on December 25, 2008 at 03:06

    Hi, I just wonder what your commend is on Dr. Mercola standpoint of view in:
    He even doesn't sell cod liver anymore because of the danger of too much Vitamin A. Please the whole article AND the replies, because he discusses in length why he doesn't agree with The Weston Price Foundation…

    I just don't know where I would get my Vitamin D from as I live in Holland, when Cod Liver Oil is dangerous……..

  7. Stephan on December 24, 2008 at 21:26

    Brock,

    Congratulations! How gratifying. You're going to raise a little hunter gatherer.

  8. Richard Nikoley on December 24, 2008 at 14:04

    Well congrats on that score, Brock.

    Amazing that just reading a blog could get a couple pregnant. 🙂

    At any rate, this can all get a little heady, and it's paramount that we not lose our minds. For instance, I'll just mention this without making a big deal of it. Twice in about the last couple of months I have come down with that distinct "back of the throat" pain that signals one has been exposed to a cold virus. In both cases, it has gone away overnight (I suffered with it all day yesterday then overnight). Last night, I took 12,000 units of D (in addition to the 6,000 units I take daily (both yesterday and this morning)). I did have discomfort that woke me up two or three times and I had some difficulty getting back to sleep (throat pain, congestion, etc.). I even woke up with it, having got about 8 hours of pretty good sleep overall. But after a cup of Joe and about 30 minutes, all symptoms have disappeared.

    Highly anecdotal, I realize, and the last thing I'd want to do is claim D can cure a cold. However, it is ultimately our immune systems that handles it. I just wonder if the high levels of all fat-soluble vitamins I've built up to over the last few months aid my immune system in dealing with the onslaught of a cold virus more swiftly, like in a day rather than the normal 5-6 days for me.

  9. Richard Nikoley on December 24, 2008 at 14:26

    Stephan:

    I knew I had seem some reference to that, either in NAPD or WHS, or both, but the family was needing the kitchen table for breakfast and I had to wrap it up…

    Thanks for having my back.

  10. Monica on December 25, 2008 at 07:44

    George, I read this article a few days ago… I haven't yet read the comments. Richard, I hope you don't mind me posting a reply here to George and offering up my not so humble opinion 🙂

    Here's my take. Mercola is full of it. He says he's never seen a ratio of A to D less than 10 to 1. Well, that's just demonstrably not true. I have my high vitamin CLO in front of me (Green Pasture's) and it has roughly 6 times as much A to D. 3500 units of A to 600 units of D. I take slightly over a teaspoon per day to get roughly 4000 units of D. That's about 23,000 units of A daily. I'm just not concerned about that amount of A given that a big meal of beef liver would give me around 40,000 IUs of vitamin A. Americans used to eat liver at least once a week. What's the big deal? (And I eat a lot of liver pate on the side of this cod liver oil, too.)

    Stephan wrote a good one on cod liver oil and vitamin A toxicity, here: http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2008/11/is-vitamin-toxicity-concern.html

    I suppose if you're really concerned you could take vitamin D3 tablets. CLO has other such great stuff in it though. EPA, DHA, and other vitamins.

  11. Stan (Heretic) on December 25, 2008 at 09:41

    I think this is just a correlation not the cause, and vitamin D (D3) deficiency is just a marker of insufficient consumption of animal produce and/or excessive reliance on wheat or plant food in general, in the diet.

    It is not only malformation of pelvic bones but also malformation of other bones (e.g. skull, teeth, palm, feet) caused by fat and meat deficient plant+wheat based diets. It was described by many researchers beginning probably with W.A.Price and many vegetarians who often report that as their biggest personal disasters.

    Regards

    Stan (Heretic)

  12. Richard Nikoley on December 25, 2008 at 08:15

    George:

    I read the article and will peruse the comments (I've read some of them). Did you read the post from Stephan on vitamin A toxicity I linked to in the post? That pretty much covers it to my satisfaction.

    I take 2g of Carlson's CLO per day, which you'll note is the one Mercola thinks is more acceptable. However, I also take 6,000 IU per day of Carlson's vitamin D (3 of the 2,000 IU teardrop size gelcaps). In addition I take K2 via Green Pasture's butter oil (2 caps per day).

    Can you not get any of these products or similar in Holland? How about an international mail order?

  13. Richard Nikoley on December 25, 2008 at 08:33

    Monica:

    You are always welcome — indeed encouraged — to comment in whatever way you judge appropriate. I trust your judgment.

  14. Richard Nikoley on December 25, 2008 at 09:59

    Stan:

    I agree, if that didn't come out clearly in the post. In the end, this is the result of a total abandonment of an evolutionary, Paleolithic H-G life (that included lots of time outdoors). This is but one of a host of ramifications, the most obvious being the actual archeologically documented shortening of human stature beginning in the Neolithic.

    While V-D supplementation is probably a good idea for most anyone — ESPECIALLY for those unwilling to model a Paleo-like diet — it's not going to be a cure all.

  15. Crochets-Snowflakes on February 5, 2009 at 06:12

    I understand your efforts to waken people to more “natural” ways of life and diet. I’m with ya on that.
    But I must take issue with your assessment of Dr. Weiner’s opinion. First of all he’s talking to clinicians, and those that read the academic studies. He’s essentially warning them to avoid jumping on the Vitamin-blah-is-the-greatest bandwagon in regards to advising patients. He IS advising more education and research about the –stuff—before taking a stance. In this way, I think he is advocating use of our God-given brain and consciousness to analyze the methods and effects of these vitamins before teaching others.
    Second, I have met Dr. Weiner, and I know that he is not an arrogant man bent on swaying other people’s opinion as to his high level of expertise. He, like the majority of folks in the healthcare field including yourself, is motivated by “care about health”. I do not believe that you can effectively promote your ideas by bashing those ill-perceived ideas of others who have studied/researched just as or more in-depth than yourself.

  16. Richard Nikoley on February 5, 2009 at 09:26

    Oh, c'mon.

    Vitamin D associations are exploding all over the place. The associations are even far stronger than with smoking.

    Supplementation is going to be critical, as the ability of the skin to produce D declines with age.

    Take a look at some of these other posts and the references behind them.

    http://www.google.com/cse?cx=partner-pub-7567464628287373%3Awin3yvc67zs&ie=ISO-8859-1&q=vitamin+D&sa=Search

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