Sunshine in a pill

After campaigning hard to get us out of the sun, science is now developing sunshine in a pill.

Vitamin D is often called the sunshine vitamin because it is produced by our bodies upon exposure to sun. Vitamin D is also known to reduce the incidence and rate of progress of various cancers.

The company Novacea is currently doing trials on a new drug called Asentar (DN-101) providing 50-100 higher level of vitamin D than normal.

As the promo literature says:

Drug makers came up with the idea because vitamin D from sunlight improves the prognosis of certain cancers.

However, the following sentence is rather odd:

But taking natural levels of the vitamin has no effect.

Vitamin D is an interesting vitamin because there is no clear RDA (recommended daily allowance) for the vitamin, since our bodies can produce it from sunlight (apparently a Caucasian will synthesize about 10,000 IU from about a half hour of sunlight exposure). However, the RDA is generally listed at between 200 and 400 IU for adults. Interestingly, if you eliminate all sun exposure and consume 800 IU daily, you will become vitamin D deficient.

So that oddly worded sentence really means that taking RDA levels of vitamin D have no effect against cancer or cancer prevention.

I am not sure what the exact composition of Novacea is. It is supposed to be able to deliver 50-100 times the nominal does of vitamin D (10,000 to 40,000 IU) without side effects. Vitamin D is metabolized by the kidneys into a more usable for, so perhaps the pill is the metabolized product rather than the raw vitamin. In any case, people who get lots of sun exposure routinely expose themselves to mega doses of vitamin D without any adverse effects. Vitamin D has a fairly low toxicity compared to many other compounds we routinely ingest.

Anyway … this type of research and progress reminds me of the arrogance o the 40s and 50s when science was going to gloriously regulate our lives while dispensing with "nature".

Image nabbed from here.


Barbara said…
This is consistent with findings that some sunlight actually improves the changes of patients with melanoma. I hope to learn more about this research.
Ancilla said…
that's great that human can do something for good things...
hope for the best :)
TorAa said…
Interesting. A Vitamin D-pill. Here in Norway we have for many, many generations used Cod-Liver Oil. Sounds awful and tastes awful, but modern tech has given us variants that tastes good.
ghee said…
another supplement :)

but yeah,maybe we`ll be needing more coz we cant get enough of it naturally?
Ironically, sun exposure without sunscreen, also can give some people cancer.

They do add Vit D to milk and some other products so I guess they figured we weren't getting enough from the sun, especially in winter.
Richard said…
barbara: some sunlight is definitely beneficial (for probably most people). However, in this case it is not so much preventative as potentially curative. It is intended to be given once per week along with the regular chemo for cancer patients.

ancilla: working for human good is ... erm ... good. I just find it ironic that after decades of educating people to stay out of the sun, they are now realizing the sun had benefits.

toraa: supplementation was definitely important in Northern climates.

ghee: it is not exactly a supplement (unless you have cancer). It is designed to be given once per week to cancer patients along with the normal chemo regimen.
Richard said…
MOI: excessive exposure to sunlight can cause skin damage leading to skin cancer. However, I also believe that sunscreens used to protect against the sun are no better.

Besides, no sane person would actually bake themselves in the sun would they? I would imagine any sensible person would take reasonable precautions against burning, but would not avoid the sun either.

Popular Posts