David Laid Natty Or Not?

David Laid has made some massive strength gains lately so is he natty or not?

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Trying To Steal Parking At Comic-Con

Jasmin and I went to the Toronto Comic-Con where we had a little issue with parking.

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The Uneven Gains of Energy Efficiency

This story originally appeared on CityLab and is part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

On a rainy day in New Orleans, people file into a beige one-story building on Jefferson Davis Parkway to sign up for the Low-Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), a federal grant that helps people keep up with their utility bills. New Orleans has one of the highest energy burdens in the country, meaning that people must dedicate a large portion of their income to their monthly energy bills. This is due in part to it being one of the least energy-efficient cities in the country.

For many city residents, these bills eat up 20 percent of the money they take in, and the weight of the burden can be measured in the length of the line.

“We’ve got folks wrapped around the block,” said Andreanecia Morris, the executive director of a housing advocacy non-profit called HousingNOLA. “There are people here paying 300, 400, 500 dollars a month. Some are paying utility bills that are as much as their mortgage.”

Andreanecia Morris of HousingNOLA says that energy costs play a central role in housing affordability in New Orleans.
Michael Isaac Stein

These bills, as indispensable as rent or healthcare, have exacerbated the affordability crisis as cities become increasingly inhospitable to all but the affluent. Energy costs increased at three times the rate of rent between 2000 and 2010. This rise, paralleling a dramatic stratification of wealth in some American cities, has widened the disparity in energy burdens between low-income and well-off households.

A 2016 study by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and Energy Efficiency for All (EEFA) set out to quantify what many already assumed: that low-income, black, and Hispanic communities spend a much higher share of their income on energy. The results were unsurprising, but stark. The researchers found that median energy burdens for low-income households are more than three times higher than among the rest of the population.

Utility bills are the primary reason why people resort to payday loans, and play an outsized role in the perpetuation of poverty. But the impacts of soaring energy bills go beyond finances. Living in under-heated homes puts occupants at a higher risk of respiratory problems, heart disease, arthritis, and rheumatism, according to ACEEE and EEFA. Then there are the tragedies, like that of Rodney Todd, a University of Maryland kitchen worker who died of monoxide poisoning, along with his seven children, while using a gas generator to power his home after his electricity was shut off by Delmarva Power.

One reason for the energy-burden gap is that the energy bills of the rich and poor aren’t in fact very different. “Energy is not discretionary,” said Anne Evens, CEO of Elevate Energy, an urban sustainability non-profit. No matter our income level, “We need energy to refrigerate our food, to heat our homes.”

Another cause, the 2016 study found, is that low-end housing is significantly less energy-efficient than other housing stock. People with less money aren’t just paying a greater proportion of their income for energy—they’re paying more per square foot. “Far from being an intractable problem related to persistent income disparity, the excess energy burdens [that low-income communities] face are directly related to the inefficiency of their homes,” the study authors concluded.

“What you’ll see is people finding cheaper rents in buildings because they’re older,” Morris said. “But their savings are offset, because their homes are so energy inefficient.”

There is a great amount of potential for energy savings in these older buildings. ACEEE and EEFA found that 97 percent of the excess energy burdens for renting households could be eliminated by bringing their homes up to median efficiency standards. And a 2015 study by the U.S. Department of Energy found that the value of energy upgrades is 2.2 times their cost. This figure is even higher for the most inefficient homes.

The question is how to find the capital to realize those gains, and whether the benefits can reach those who need relief.

Energy efficiency for some

Energy efficiency programs can go a long way to closing the energy burden gap, but they often do just the opposite.

A revolution in efficiency programs and home weatherization has opened the door to the world’s cheapest energy source: avoided energy waste. But for the most part, it is only accessible to people who can afford an upfront investment. Think of someone who’s renovating their kitchen and decides to replace the appliances with more energy-efficient ones, or a person who puts solar panels on the roof of his house, motivated less by cost savings and more by a bumptious desire to be the chief environmentalist on the block.

An A/C unit in a house in New Orleans. Gaps in windows and walls can cause air to leak out, and energy bills to rise.
Michael Isaac Stein/CityLab

“Energy inequity is about the energy system as a whole,” said Evens. “As we make this transition to cleaner energy, who is really benefiting? As we become more energy efficient, is that benefiting all people? Who’s being left behind?”

Even programs that subsidize efficiency upgrades may be inaccessible to, or underutilized by, low-income households because they still require upfront investment and won’t yield benefits for years. For many, the need for aid is immediate.

A growing network of programs, both private and public, is trying to correct the imbalance. Local housing authorities all over the country have upgraded their public housing units and designed affordable-housing tax credits that ensure a high degree of energy efficiency. Non-profits and utility companies are helping homeowners make upgrades to their homes by deferring upfront costs and using energy savings to pay down the debt.

But for all the good they do, many of these initiatives sideline a large and vulnerable group of low-income individuals: renters. The number of Americans who use HUD vouchers in the private market greatly outnumbers the public-housing population. And the number of urban renters is only increasing as home prices soar out of reach.

Renters are left out of the efficiency boom because they’re left to the whims of their landlords’ investment decisions. If a tenant pays their own utility bill, there isn’t much incentive for the landlord to make improvements. And renters are unlikely to make long-term efficiency improvements themselves, uncertain of whether they’ll be able to stay there long enough to reap the benefits.

Shrinking resources

Policymakers will continue to experiment with new forms of incentives and targeted funding. Whatever solutions they construct, advocates agree that success will require a bigger pot of money than currently exists. Unfortunately, funding for low-income energy efficiency is shrinking.

“There are so many different programs that have been cut, rolled back, or attacked,” said Michelle Romero, the deputy director of Green For All, a non-profit founded by Van Jones. “Without programs that invest in helping low-income communities afford energy efficiency, you’re going to see the disparity increase.”

LIHEAP is the government’s largest grant focused on low-income energy affordability. But it’s been cut by a third since 2009. Trump has threatened to eliminate LIHEAP entirely, along with similar programs like the Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program. For now, the programs are still funded, but advocates remain uneasy. “We don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Evens. “Predictability has kind of gone out the window. So we have to be really, really vigilant.”

As funding contracts, efficiency initiatives are the first to go. Only 14 percent of LIHEAP dollars go to energy-efficiency investment. The rest is used for direct bill assistance for those whose needs are too immediate to focus on long-term efficiency.

“You can’t tell someone, ‘We’re not going to help you pay your light bill this month, but in a year we can guarantee your apartment will be energy efficient.’ Well, they may not make it through the year,” Morris said. But prioritizing short-term fixes isn’t a real solution: “We can’t end up in these positions where we’re spending all this money on direct assistance so we can’t do anything else.”

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/the-uneven-gains-of-energy-efficiency/

Krill fishing poses serious threat to Antarctic ecosystem, report warns

Greenpeace finds industrial fishing taking place in the feeding grounds of whales and penguins, with vessels involved in oil spills and accidents

Industrial fishing for krill in the pristine waters around Antarctica is threatening the future of one of the worlds last great wildernesses, according to a new report.

The study by Greenpeace analysed the movements of krill fishing vessels in the region and found they were increasingly operating in the immediate vicinity of penguin colonies and whale feeding grounds.

It also highlights incidents of fishing boats being involved in groundings, oil spills and accidents, which it said posed a serious threat to the Antarctic ecosystem.

The report, published on Tuesday, comes amid growing concern about the impact of fishing and climate change on the Antarctic. A global campaign has been launched to create a network of ocean sanctuaries to protect the seas in the region and Greenpeace is calling for an immediate halt to fishing in areas being considered for sanctuary status.

Frida Bengtsson, from Greenpeaces Protect the Antarctic campaign, said: If the krill industry wants to show its a responsible player, then it should be voluntarily getting out of any area which is being proposed as an ocean sanctuary, and should instead be backing the protection of these huge swaths of the Antarctic.

Last month a study found a combination of climate change and industrial-scale fishing is hitting the krill population, with a potentially disastrous impact on larger predators.

Krill
Krill fishing in the vicinity of Trinity Island. Photograph: Daniel Beltr/Greenpeace

The study warned that the penguin population could drop by almost one-third by the end of the century due to changes in krill biomass.

Krill are a key part of the delicate Antarctic food chain. They feed on marine algae and are a key source of food for whales, penguins and seals. They are also important in removing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by eating carbon-rich food near the surface and excreting it when they sink to lower, colder water.

There is a growing global demand for krill-based health products which are claimed to help with a range of ailments from heart disease to high blood pressure, strokes and depression.

A recent analysis of the global krill industry predicted it was on course to grow 12% a year over the next three years.

Krill populations have declined by 80% since the 1970s. Global warming has been blamed partly because the ice that is home to the algae and plankton on which krill feed is retreating.

However, campaigners say recent developments in fishing technology are exacerbating the problem.

Tuesdays report analysed the krill fleets mandatory automatic identification systems [AIS] which shows the trawlers routes and when they were at fishing speed. In doing so researchers say they were able to get a record of industrial fishing in the feeding grounds of whales and penguins.

A global campaign has been launched to turn a huge tract of Antarctic seas into ocean sanctuaries, protecting wildlife and banning all fishing.

One was created in the Ross Sea in 2016, another 1.8m sq km reserve is being proposed in a vast area of the Weddell Sea, and a third sanctuary is under consideration in the area west of the Antarctic peninsula a key krill fishing area.

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), whose members include 24 national governments and the EU, manage the seas around Antarctica. It will decide on the Weddell Sea sanctuary proposal at a conference in Australia in October, although a decision on the peninsula sanctuary is not expected until later.

Humpback
Humpback Whales Feeding in Paradise Bay, Antarctic Peninsula. Photograph: Christian slund/Christian slund / Greenpeace

Keith Reid, a science manager at CCAMLR said the organisation sought a balance between protection, conservation and sustainable fishing in the Southern Ocean.

He said although more fishing was taking place nearer penguin colonies it was often happening later in the season when these colonies were empty.

He added: The creation of the a system of marine protected areas is a key part of ongoing scientific and policy discussions in CCAMLR.

Cilia Holmes, sustainability director at Aker BioMarines, one of the leading krill fishing companies based in Norway, said they were looking forward to working with Greenpeace and other environmental groups to ensure the region was protected.

Our long-term operation in the region depends on a healthy and thriving Antarctic marine ecosystem, which is why we have always had an open dialogue with the environmental NGOs, and especially WWF.

We strongly intend to continue this dialogue, including [with] Greenpeace, to discuss improvements based on the latest scientific data. We are not the ones to decide on establishment of marine protected areas, but we hope to contribute positively with our knowledge and experience.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/13/krill-fishing-poses-serious-threat-to-antarctic-ecosystem-report-warns

Vegan Nappa Gains

What I ate today + I've added a new DBZ figure to my desk.

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I Bought Leather Gloves #Not Vegan Anymore

I accidentally bought a pair of leather gloves and I thought I'd discuss the difficulties of being a vegan motorcyclist trying to avoid leather products.

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Activists disrupt Crufts grand final

Image copyright PA
Image caption Activists claim Crufts rewards “extreme breeding” of dogs

Intruders disrupted the live broadcast of the Crufts dog show as the top prize was awarded.

Two intruders, said by Crufts to be part of animal rights group Peta, ran into the show arena at Birmingham’s NEC as the winner claimed her prize.

Yvette Short, from Edinburgh, grabbed two-year-old whippet Tease as the protesters were wrestled to the ground amid boos from the audience.

Crufts and the NEC said security would be reviewed as “a matter of urgency”.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Two-year-old whippet Tease had just been named Best in Show when the protest began

A Crufts spokesperson said the intruders “scared the dogs and put the safety of both dogs and people at risk in a hugely irresponsible way”.

Peta (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) later tweeted the footage, where it described Crufts as “canine eugenics”, and said the activists were protesting against “extreme breeding”.

In a statement the animal rights group said Crufts is a “cruel beauty pageant” that rewards breeders “for producing dogs with ‘ideal’ physical traits with little or no regard for their welfare”.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The protesters were apprehended by security staff

“Breeding pedigree dogs in abnormal shapes and sizes leaves them with genetic predispositions to epilepsy, heart disease, deafness, hip dysplasia, and numerous other health problems,” it said, citing particular problems among bulldogs and pugs.

No dogs were harmed during the incident.

Last year, a photographer settled a two-year legal battle with Peta over a “monkey selfie”.

The group had claimed a macaque monkey called Naruto – which took the picture on David Slater’s camera – was the author and owner of the image and should therefore own the copyright.

The case went in favour of Mr Slater but, pressured by the group, he agreed to donate 25% of any future revenue from the photograph to charities dedicated to protecting macaques’ habitat or welfare.

Image copyright Wildlife Personalities/David J Slater
Image caption Peta claimed the monkey, named Naruto, should own the copyright of the image

Related Topics

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-43369131

14 Of The Biggest Myths About Sleep, Debunked

Until recently, scientists had trouble answering the question: why do we sleep?

Now we know that sleep restores the immune system, body, and cleanses the brain.

But there’s still a lot we get wrong and don’t understand about sleep. The longstanding lack of knowledge has created a lot of sleep myths.

For something so fundamental to our lives, there’s a lot that we don’t get right about sleep.

Until recently, we didn’t even have good answers to the question of “why” we sleep, as UC Berkeley neuroscience and psychology professor Matthew Walker explains in his recent book, “Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams.”

We’re better at answering that question now. We know that sleep restores the immune system, balances hormone levels, lowers blood pressure, cleanses toxins from the brain, and more.

“[W]e no longer have to ask what sleep is good for,” wrote Walker. “Instead, we are now forced to wonder whether there are any biological functions that do not benefit by a good night’s sleep. So far, the results of thousands of studies insist that no, there aren’t.”

But while we know far more about sleep now than we used to, there are a huge number of myths about sleep that persist. Many of these stem from not understanding the full importance of sleep; other myths have been created by people trying to sell products to improve nightly rest.

These are some of the most prominent myths — and the facts.

Myth: You can become a morning person.

Spend enough time online and you’ll certainly encounter some version of the “you can accomplish so much if you start waking up a 4:30 a.m. every day” blog post.

But the truth is more complex.

There are a number of factors that influence your chronotype — that is, whether you’re a morning person, a night owl, or whether you fall somewhere in between. Your body clock changes throughout life and is influenced by factors like sunlight and genetics.

Researchers say that while most people can regulate their body clock to some degree (if you want to feel awake earlier, try getting morning sunlight), there’s a limit to how much it can be changed. And for some people, becoming a morning person (or switching to become a night owl) is basically impossible. 

Myth: You can get by on less than seven hours a night.

Shutterstock/mimagephotography

If you need a cup of coffee in the morning to feel awake, you didn’t get enough sleep.

Scientists like Walker say that if you want to figure out how much sleep you actually need, you should spend about a week letting yourself fall asleep when you are tired and then waking up naturally, without an alarm. 

As it turns out, the vast majority of people need between seven and nine hours of sleep a night. There are a few people out there who for biological reasons either need more sleep or can get by with less, but statistically, you’re probably not one of them.

People tend to think they can get by with less sleep because after a few days or weeks of 5 or 6 hours, that just starts to feel like “normal.” But even though people assume they’ve adjusted, tests show that they are performing in an impaired state.

Myth: The only long-term consequence of not getting enough sleep is that you’ll be tired.

So you’re tired. No big deal, right?

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. As Walker wrote, sleep has a huge variety of benefits for your health.

Not getting enough sleep is associated with a laundry list of negative health effects, including memory problems, increased cancer risk, depression and anxiety, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s linked buildups in the brain.

Myth: Snoring is annoying but no big deal otherwise.

If you’re consistently snoring at night (not just when you have a cold), you should get checked out by a medical professional.

Snoring can be indication that you are dealing with sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that can cause other medical problems over time, according to the Cleveland Clinic. It’s caused by decreased airflow that can strain the heart and cause cardiovascular problems and is also linked to weight gain.

Fortunately, sleep apnea is treatable, and people who’ve been treated say they start feeling better-rested in the mornings.

Myth: You can make up for sleep on the weekend.

Shutterstock

If you’ve had a week of late nights and early mornings, you may think you can just make up for it by sleeping until noon on Saturdays and Sundays.

Unfortunately, as chronobiologist Till Roenneberg explains in his book, “Internal Time: Chronotypes, Social Jet Lag, and Why You’re So Tired,” it’s best for your body to keep a consistent schedule.

You can throw your body off even more by trying to catch up on sleep over the weekends, which can make it harder to sleep during the week (it’s like changing time zones).

Still, if you’re really sleep-deprived and can catch a few extra hours of shut-eye, go for it. It’s not a long-term solution and can’t make up for all the effects of sleep deprivation, but some research indicates it’s better than stumbling on, bleary-eyed.

Myth: Sleeping pills like Ambien help you sleep.

It’s easy to see the appeal of sleeping pill for someone struggling with insomnia.

But sleep experts caution that whatever is happening after you take a sleeping pill, it’s not natural sleep — and if you look at the brainwaves of people who have taken pills like Ambien, they aren’t getting real sleep.

As Walker puts it in his book, people who have taken sleeping pills aren’t awake, but they aren’t actually sleeping either. They’re sedated.

And there are some indications that medication-induced “sleep” could be harmful. Some research indicates that zolpidem (Ambien) may weaken the brain cell connections associated with learning — it may be causing memory damage over time.

Plus, people who stop taking sleeping pills often experience a “rebound” insomnia afterwards that pushes them back to those same pills.

Myth: It’s better to get up early to work out than to sleep in.

Getting a workout in is essential for your health. It’ll help you sleep better too.

But experts say you shouldn’t skip your sleep to do it.

For one thing, you need sufficient sleep to recover and heal your body if you’ve been exercising. You’re only getting stronger when you rest; exercise itself is the process of injuring your body so it can recover stronger.

And even your muscle cells have their own body clock. If you don’t feel awake, your muscles probably aren’t either — and they aren’t going to get the same benefits from exercise.

Myth: You swallow a few spiders every year while asleep.

Garmasheva Natalia/Shutterstock

Eight spiders crawl into your open mouth every year and there’s nothing you can do about it, according to the legend.

Fortunately for the arachnaphobics around us, it’s extremely unlikely. We make noise and vibrate in our sleep, and thats likely to scare off spiders.

The debunkers over at Snopes traced the claim to a list of “facts” designed to show how gullible people might be.

Myth: Insomnia just means you can’t fall asleep.

Difficulty falling asleep is one type of insomnia, according to the National Sleep Foundation, but it’s not the only one. Other forms include the inability to fall back asleep after waking early, waking up throughout the night, and even waking up feeling unrefreshed.

Being able to identify sleep problems is the first step towards getting help — and fortunately, there are useful recommendations doctors have for dealing with insomnia.

Myth: If you wake up in the middle of the night, you should just stay in bed.

If you can stay relaxed in bed, experts say that can help you fall back asleep. But if you’re starting to feel agitated or simply can’t drift back off, sleep experts say you should stop trying so hard. 

If it’s been longer than 20 minutes, go do something else. Avoid things that’ll trigger strong emotional responses and stay away from stimulating screens like your computer, phone, or television. Try and read a book or drink some tea.

Myth: There’s no harm in a nightcap.

A nightcap can be appealing and it should help you drift off, right? After all, it’s in the name!

Unfortunately, this old tradition goes back to the days before we understood much about sleep. Research shows that having an alcoholic drink right before bed truly can make it slightly easier to fall asleep. But you don’t sleep as deeply for the rest of the night.

Most experts say that if you want to sleep well, you should cut yourself off at least a few hours before bed.

Myth: Melatonin supplements will help you sleep better.

Shutterstock/Roman Samborskyi

If sleeping pills are no good, a “natural” supplement seems fine, right? After all, your body produces melatonin as a cue to tell you that it’s time for sleep.

But the research on melatonin supplements isn’t encouraging. First of all, they don’t really seem to help people fall asleep. Some research has shown that people fall asleep a few minutes faster on supplemental melatonin, but the biggest improvement is probably a placebo, according to Walker.

Supplements in the US are also largely unregulated, and studies have shown that the amount of “melatonin” in supplements could be none at all or could be almost five times what’s on the label.

Myth: It’s fine to use your phone at night if you eliminate blue light.

Most of us have heard by now that the blue light emitted by screens can keep us awake (by blocking the production of melatonin, which our brain produces as a cue that it’s time to sleep).

That’s led to an explosion in blue-blocking products, including screen covers, glasses, and apps that reduce the amount of blue light emitted by devices.

There are reasons to think that might help, but that’s not free license to use your phone. Just checking our phones (and the world they connect us to) before bed is enough to mess with our sleep, experts say

Myth: Some people don’t dream.

You might not remember your dreams, but you definitely have them.

There’s a lot we don’t know about dreams, but we do know that we all dream throughout the night. Dreams aren’t even necessarily limited to REM sleep, though that’s when our most vivid dreams occur, according to Walker.

When we dream, we process emotions and experiences that we’ve had during the day. That seems to be important for both emotional and mental health, according to Walker.  Dreams are also connected to problem-solving and creativity.

We may not know exactly what’s happening when we dream. But it seems to be something essential to what makes us human — just like sleep.

Read the original article on Business Insider. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Copyright 2017.

Read next on Business Insider: 7 things not to do when you first wake up

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/14-of-the-biggest-myths-about-sleep-debunked/

Is vitamin D really a cure-all and how should we get our fix?

Evidence is growing that the sunshine vitamin helps protect against a wide range of conditions including cancers

Vitamin D is having quite a moment. In the past few months, evidence has been growing that the sunshine vitamin not only has an important role in bone and muscle health, but might also help prevent a range of cancers, reduce the chance of developing rheumatoid arthritis, protect against multiple sclerosis and cut the risk of colds and flu.

But is vitamin D truly a cure-all? And if the benefits are real, should we all be taking vitamin D supplements or even fortifying our foods?

Vitamin D is not one chemical, but a label that covers a group of substances, including vitamin D2 and D3. The latter is the form made when sunlight hits your skin and is also found in other animals. Non-animal sources such as fungi and yeasts primarily produce the D2 form. Once in the body, these substances are converted into biologically active steroids that circulate in the blood.

One area where the impact on health appears to be clear is vitamin Ds role in keeping bones and teeth healthy and improving muscle strength.

The musculoskeletal stuff is really good and really strong, said Helen Bond, a spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, pointing out that vitamin D is important in calcium and phosphate absorption.

Too little vitamin D can be serious: the skeletal disorders osteomalacia and rickets are known to be caused by a vitamin D deficiency, and the latter is on the rise in the UK, a finding some put down to the impact of poverty on poor nutrition.

But do the wider health claims stand up?

Intuition suggests that it cant all be right, said Julia Newton-Bishop, professor of dermatology and vitamin D expert from the University of Leeds. But while a recent review of evidence by the scientific advisory committee on nutrition only found strong evidence in the case of bone and muscle health, Newton-Bishop says a growing body of research is exploring other conditions.

Newton-Bishop says the fact that receptors for vitamin D are present on a huge array of body cells suggests the substance might indeed play a central role in our health, adding that human history offers further evidence: as humans moved to higher latitudes, skin tone became paler. [One] explanation is that vitamin D was so important that that was a selective pressure, she said. The fact that Inuits arent pale-skinned and for millennia they have had an exclusively fish diet is an argument for the fact that vitamin D was a driver, because why would they be different to everyone else?

Martin Hewison, professor of molecular endocrinology at the University of Birmingham, who carried out the recent study into vitamin D and rheumatoid arthritis, said evidence from cell studies backs up the idea that the vitamin is important.

In most of the models, vitamin D appears to have quite a positive effect, he said. If you are using cancer cell lines or cancer cells, vitamin D has anti-cancer effects, and likewise in cells that have been used for models for infection and immune disorders, vitamin D has quite clear antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects.

But when it comes to studies in humans, the picture is far from clear-cut. While some studies find links to diseases, others do not.

That, say experts, could be partly down to the way they are conducted for example, not all studies take into account the starting levels of vitamin D in participants, or they may have been carried out in populations with different genetic factors that might affect the impact of vitamin D.

Other experts have doubts about vitamin Ds influence. Prof Tim Spector, author of The Diet Myth, wrote in the Independent: The evidence so far suggests (with the possible exception of multiple sclerosis and some cancers) that low vitamin D levels are either irrelevant or merely a marker of the disease.

Hewison says that while vitamin D might help prevent certain conditions such as tuberculosis, respiratory infections and autoimmune diseases,it should not be seen as a cure for them. It is good at protecting against things, he said, but once a disease is settled in, it is unlikely you are going to be able to give somebody who has got prostate cancer vitamin D and it is going to get dramatically better.

What about the case for supplements? With some having previously been found to cause more harm than good, Newton-Bishop says caution towards this apparent panacea is unsurprising. Everyone within the cancer world is nervous about supplements, she said. I would say to patients dont take supplements, with the exception of avoiding a low vitamin D level.

But how low is low? With the amount of sunlight needed varying with genetics, skin colour, time of day, how much one covers up and a host of other factors, the scientific advisory committee on nutrition said it was too difficult to say how much sun we need to make sure our vitamin D levels are up to scratch. In any case, from October until March the sun in the UK isnt strong enough to do the job.

The upshot is that national guidelines now recommend that during the autumn and winter at least, individuals should consider taking supplements or boosting their intake of vitamin-D-rich foods to get an intake of 10 micrograms a day, with higher-risk individuals such as some ethnic minority groups advised to follow the guidelines all year round.

However, Bond says it is hard to get enough from diet alone.

There are very few naturally rich sources of vitamin D, and most really good sources are of animal origin, which doesnt bode well for vegans and vegetarians, she said. A serving of oily fish like mackerel will give you easily your 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day, but if you drop down to a tin of canned tuna, you are only getting 1.5 micrograms.

And as Adrian Martineau, clinical professor of respiratory infection and immunity at Queen Mary University of London, points out, even in the summer, sunshine isnt going to be the answer, especially because there is an associated risk of skin cancer.

If you are considering taking supplements, it might be worth checking which form of vitamin D they contain. Some people dont want an animal form of vitamin D, said Hewison. However, What studies have shown is that if you want to raise your blood vitamin D levels, vitamin D3 is much more efficient at doing that.

Dr Benjamin Jacobs, a consultant paediatrician and spokesperson for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, says supplements are not enough as it is hard to make sure people actually take them. Instead, he suggests the UK consider food fortification.

Some countries, including Canada and Finland, have embraced fortification of milk. But although infant formula and some breakfast cereals, plant-based milks and fruit juices are already fortified in the UK, most foods are not.

Hewison believes the government should consider a national fortification plan and that the risks of it resulting in dangerously high vitamin D intake are negligible: I think most people in the field agree that if you want to have a large-scale improvement in peoples vitamin D levels then it can only really be done through fortified foods.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/mar/09/is-vitamin-d-really-a-cure-all-and-how-should-we-get-our-fix