Welcome to The Deep science and technology column where we cover topics from the deep sea to deep space and beyond.
Well, I thought I’d dip into the medical file and the first thing I pulled out was all about drugs. Drugs. They range from the absolutely necessary to the absolutely deadly and I thought we’d have a look, even though the first one isn’t technically a drug; it’s a vitamin.
Vitamin D surfaces as a news topic every few months. How much vitamin D does a person need? Is it possible to have too much of it? Is exposure to the sun, which is the body’s natural way of producing vitamin D, the best option? Or should you take supplements?
Anthony Norman, a distinguished professor emeritus of biochemistry and biomedical sciences and an international expert on vitamin D, says that half the people in North America and Western Europe don’t get enough vitamin D and the number is even lower in the rest of the world.
Currently, the recommended daily intake of vitamin D is 200 international units (IU) for people up to 50 years old; 400 IU for 51 to 70 year olds; and 600 IU for people over 70. Dr. Norman says that most scientists think that the daily intake of vitamin D should be increased to 2,000 to 4,000 IU for most adults and it’s fairly easy to get 2000 IU using a combination of sunshine, food, and vitamin supplements.
There have been several studies that show that reductions in breast cancer, colon cancer and type 1 diabetes are associated with adequate intake of vitamin D, with the positive effects usually occurring within five years of an increase in vitamin D intake.
So you might want to go outside if the sun is shining and make a little vitamin D while you finish this article because we’re now moving on to a very common drug that causes some real problems.
There’s research out of New Zealand that links the use of acetaminophen (you know it as Tylenol) to the development of asthma in teenagers and the study suggests that even monthly use of the drug in adolescents may more than double the risk of asthma compared to those who used none at all. A different study on a small population in Ethiopia examined the risk of asthma and allergies associated with acetaminophen and came up with the same results.
In an earlier study from the United States, 13 and 14-year-old children with asthma took either acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin) after they were sick. If the illness involved the lungs, the ones who took acetaminophen showed an increased risk of a subsequent outpatient visit for asthma.
There are a number of factors that could explain how acetaminophen increases the risk of asthma and allergy. Acetaminophen may have an inflammatory effect on the whole body that increases immune response. It could also suppress the body’s immune response to viruses like the ones that cause the common cold. This prolongs the symptoms and those symptoms are a common trigger of childhood asthma.
The researchers concluded that avoidance of acetaminophen by teens could dramatically reduce the incidence of asthma in teenagers.
Drugs. You can’t live with ‘em and you can’t live without ‘em. Learn to choose your drugs wisely!