8 Reasons Your New Year’s Resolutions Didn’t Stick (and What To Do Differently Next Time)

December 19th, 2012

         Image by Vinni123 via Flickr

I know the title of this article assumes the worst in you and maybe that’s not fair. But let’s be honest here. Statistics show that, right now, about half of you have already given up on your New Year’s resolution. And, in another few weeks, half of the people left will have forgotten all about it as well.

It’s not that I don’t have faith in you. It’s the research. How can I argue with math?

So, should you happen to realize that your New Year’s resolution has fallen by the wayside (now or in the future), don’t beat yourself up. You’re not alone! There are several common reasons this happens.

Instead of getting down and thinking of this as a “failure“, focus on figuring out what happened. Do some analysis and find ways to ensure that, in the future, things will be different.

Below, I’ve compiled a list of the top eight reasons people don’t follow through on their resolutions and I’ve also provided some tips to make next time more successful. And by the way, “next time” doesn’t necessarily mean January 1, 2013. You can make a resolution any time you’d like. Just sayin.

1. You didn’t make a plan for it.

A lot of people forget that a resolution is really just a GOAL. It has to be treated as such. It doesn’t have additional superpowers just because it starts on January 1. A goal requires structure. Otherwise, it’s a wish.

Next time: Be proactive. Make your plan. Look for possible obstacles and prepare for how you’ll deal with them. Don’t just cross your fingers and hope for the best.

2. You forgot the reasons why you were doing it.

Motivation matters. If you don’t know why the goal is important, it’s easy to drop.

Next time: Clarify exactly why you’re doing this, why you NEED to do this. Write it down. Post it in visible locations. Create small reminders to help keep you focused when times get hard.

3. You didn’t plan for setbacks.

Let’s face it: No one is perfect. We all fall off the wagon at some point. You need a clearly defined plan for what to do when this happens and how you’ll get back on that horse.

Next time: Recognize that things will get hard and unexpected obstacles will get the better of you. That’s no reason to give up completely. Give yourself some leeway. Find ways to forgive yourself and reignite the passion.

4. You didn’t have a strong support network.

Friends and family are important. They can help raise you up or push you down, depending on the nature of the relationship. With any goal, it’s important to surround yourself with people who believe in what you’re doing and want to see you succeed.

Next time: Gather your groupies! Let them know what you’re doing and why and ask if you can count on them to help you reach your goal. If they’re not supportive, keep them at a distance. Who needs toxic relationships anyway?

5. You took on too much too fast.

Many of us get a little over-zealous around the New Year. We want to make huge leaps of progress overnight, but real growth is a slow and steady journey.

Next time: Take it one step at a time. Go in with reasonable expectations and be patient. It’s not about how much you achieve and how quickly. Focus on one, really important goal. Put one foot in front of the other each and every day. Momentum will naturally build as you make incremental improvement.

6. You weren’t accountable to anyone.

Sure, you wanted to succeed. But, in the dark of night when you’re all alone, it’s easy to get persuaded by that nagging negative voice inside your head. You know the one. The voice that says you’re not cut out for this. An accountability partner helps keep you focused and on track, even when you think you’re ready to throw in the towel.

Next time: Find one person who promises to hold you accountable. When you say you’re going to do something, this person follows up to make sure you’ve stayed true to your word. An accountability partner will help silence the saboteur in your head. (And of course, if you need assistance, I’d love to help out.)

7. It wasn’t that important in the first place.

Perhaps you set a goal that others wanted you to set. Or one you felt you “should” set. That’s not very motivating. It’s easy to give up on something that never really mattered that much to you in the first place.

Next time: Choose a goal that matters. Don’t do it for anyone else but YOU. If it’s not something you truly believe in, you’ll never succeed.

8. You’re afraid of success.

This sounds counter-intuitive, I know. Truth be told, a lot of goals sound great in theory but once you actually start thinking of what life will be like once it’s accomplished, fear can easily set in. Sometimes, we’re so attached to who we are and life as we know it—flaws and all—that we unconsciously sabotage ourselves.

Next time: Be prepared for this. Recognize that fear is just another part of the process. Think long and hard about what you want from life and what you’re capable of. While it’s scary to push past your pre-conceived limits, it’s also a necessary part of self-growth. Use fear to fire yourself up.

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10 Incredible Internet World Records

July 25th, 2012

1. Highest Number of Twitter Followers: Lady Gaga

Sorry, Biebs – Gaga gotcha. Say what you will but the Queen of Pop Charts is also Numero Uno in Twitterverse with 26,823,122 followers (as of July 2012) to Justin Bieber’s paltry 24,687,443. Rounding out the top 5 are Katy Perry (22,869,592), Rhianna (22,232,112), and Britney Spears (22,232,112). Number 6? President Barack Obama (17,381,203) who is the only other male in the Top Ten.


2. Most watched video on YouTube: Justin Bieber

Bigger than The Beatles

Call it Revenge of the Bieber. While Justin may only be Number Two in the Twitterverse, Biebs is top of the pops here on YouTube with 755,479,979 views of hit his Baby as of 7/6/2012.
Speaking of babies, what is the most popular NON-MUSIC video of all time? Charlie Bit My Finger – Again! with 464,588,601 views – proving there’s nothing like the power of a good sequel. WATCH BELOW!

3. Oldest site on Internet: Symbolics.com

On March 15, 1985, Symbolics Computer Corporation made history by registering the first domain name. That year, there were just five websites in existence. Fast forward to today, where there are over 192 million domains registered and more than 2.1 billion users worldwide, mostly based in Asia. Symbolics.com was bought in 2009 and now hosts a bunch of useless-but-interesting Internet facts (including some of the ones I just mentioned). (Via)

4. Longest Domain Name: Llanfairpwllgw- yngyllgogerychwyrndrobwll-Llantysiliogogogoch.com

Speaking of domain names, one of the silliest Internet Records is for the longest one. Technically, a domain name can have up to 63 characters (not including sub-domains or suffixes). Sure, there are loads of stupid ones – technically the “longest” domain name on record is http://www.thelongestdomainnameintheworldandthensomeandthensomemoreandmore.com/ – followed closely by http://www.abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyzabcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyzabcdefghijk.com/ – a free email service for annoying people. But in our book (and in Guinness’) the winner is Llanfairpwllgw-yngyllgogerychwyrndrobwll-Llantysiliogogogoch.com which is the website of an actual single-word town in Wales. Try saying (or typing) that ten times fast! (Link 1 | Link 2 | Photo)

5. Highest Webcam on Earth: Mount Everest

In this world of ubiquitous surveillance, it is now even harder to avoid the camera’s probing eye. Even Sherpas are now being watched, as the Italian Scientific Committee has placed a webcam at an altitude of 5643 meters atop a peak overlooking Mt. Everest, the highest spot on Earth. Rumor has it that if you tune in during off hours, you may see some hot Yeti-on-Yeti action. (Link | Via | Photo)

6. Biggest Hog of Internet Data: The Royal Wedding

When Prince William married Kate Middleton on April 29, 2011, it seemed like the whole world was watching. And they were, as an estimated 2.5 billion people watched the nuptials in some way, shape or form. Approximately 1.6 million people streamed it live via Internet, surpassing the 2010 World Cup record. Yahoo alone received 40,000 requests per SECOND for video data. But not only did they watch, they clicked on news stories at a rate of 5 million page views per minute at its peak, surpassing Michael Jackson’s funeral. On Twitter, the top 10 trends all related to Will and Kate, and on Facebook 6.8 million people posted a wedding-related status update within 24 hours, resulting in 9.4 million comments. If they had streamed the honeymoon, they would have broken the Internet. (Link 1 | Link 2 | Photo)

7. Country With Fastest Internet: South Korea

This country really is wired. By 2006, 96% of South Korean cellphone users had Internet access and today’s users connect at a blazing fast 17.5 Mbps. In a distant second place is Japan with 9.1, tied with Hong Kong; the Netherlands and Latvia are each a notch below that. Where is the United States? A distant 13th place with 5.8 Mbps. The fastest US City is Boston with 8.4 Mbps. How is the Internet doing as a whole? A mere 2.3 Mbps on average worldwide, a drop of 14 percent from 2011 – DAMN YOU WILL AND KATE!!! (Link 1 | Link 2)

8. Most Expensive Domain Name: Insure.com

If you think Sex sells, think again. It’s INSURANCE that’s the big cash-grabber. In 2006, it earned the top spot by commanding $16 million dollars, topping Sex.com’s $14 million sale in Oct. 2010.
Fund.com and Porn.com are next in line, no-brainers of course. But the luckiest in the bunch? The Farm Bureau, who sold FB.com to Facebook for $8.5 million. (Link 1 | Link 2 | Link 3 | Photo)

9. Most Facebook “Likes” in 24 Hours: Oreo or Lil’ Wayne?

It started out as a silly promotional gimmick for a cookie. In February 2011, Oreo announced a campaign to win the Guinness Record for the most number of Likes in a 24-hour period.
And on Feb. 16, the black-and-white snack did indeed receive the award when it clocked 114,619 Likes on a single post within that time frame. But who should come along and attempt to rain on Oreo’s parade? Rapper Lil’ Wayne heard about the record and immediately summoned his posse to break it. One day later, Oreo’s record was destroyed with 588,243 on Lil’ Wayne’s status. This made news around the globe, but has apparently fallen on deaf ears at Guinness. To this date, they claim the Oreo takes the prize but state, “All categories are open to the public and anyone who wishes to attempt their own record can do so simply by registering at www.guinnessworldrecords.com/apply.”
On your mark, get set… GO!!! (Link 1 | Link 2 | Via | Photo 1 | Photo 2)

10. The Godfathers of Spam: Gary Thuerk, Joel Furr and Ken Daignean

Everything has a first on the Internet, and Spam – those annoying, unwanted emails filling more than 90% of your inbox – is no exception. On May 3, 1978 a marketer at Digital Equipment Corporation named Gary Thuerk thought of a brilliant way to get the word out about their new computer systems. He sent a mass email to 400 accounts on ARPANET and voila, Spam was born. But Spam wasn’t called Spam yet – THAT honor goes to Joel Furr, who first coined the phrase in a Usenet posting around 1993. The use of the word Spam brilliantly refers to both the ham-based-processed-meat-in-a-can (named by Ken Daignean who won a $100 contest in 1937), and to a skit by the British Comedy Troupe Monty Python, where Vikings appear from nowhere and chant “Spam Spam Wonderful Spam!” drowning out everyone else in the scene. (Link 1 | Link 2 | Link 3 | Photo 1 | Photo 2 | Photo 3)

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11 Funny Valentine’s Day Jokes

February 7th, 2012

The only good time for love to hurt is when it’s funny enough to split your sides. Make your sweetheart giggle this Valentine’s…

The only good time for love to hurt is when it’s funny enough to split your sides. Make your sweetheart giggle this Valentine’s Day with this love-inspired joke collection.

Perfectly Paired Puns As Valentine’s Day approached, I tried to think of an unusual gift for my husband. When I discovered that his favorite red-plaid pants had a broken zipper, I thought I had the “perfect Valentine.” I had the pants repaired, and gift-wrapped them. On the package I put a huge red heart on which I printed: “My Heart Pants for You.” I was the surprised one, however, when I saw the same heart taped to our formerly empty, but now overflowing, wood box. On it he had written: “Wood You Be My Valentine?” – Contributed by Mary Lou Pittman

A Little Nuts About Love Driving through Southern California, I stopped at a roadside stand that sold fruit, vegetables and crafts. As I went to pay, I noticed the young woman behind the counter was painting a sign. “Why the new sign?” I asked. “My boyfriend didn’t approve of the old one,” she said. When I glanced at what hung above the counter, I understood. It declared: “Local Honey Dates Nuts” – Contributed by Theodore Bologna

Check Out a Romance I met my husband while I was working in a science library. He came in every week to read the latest journals and eventually decided to take out the librarian instead of the books. After a year and a half of dating, he showed up at the library and started rummaging through my desk. I asked what he was looking for, but he didn’t answer. Finally he unearthed one of the rubber stamps I used to identify reference books. “Since I couldn’t find the right engagement ring,” he said, “this will have to do,” and he firmly stamped my hand. Across my knuckles, in capital letters, it read “NOT FOR CIRCULATION.” – Contributed by Ruth E. Chodrow

Sweet Nothings (.com) My boyfriend and I met online and we’d been dating for over a year. I introduced Hans to my uncle, who was fascinated by the fact that we met over the Internet. He asked Hans what kind of line he had used to pick me up. Ever the geek, Hans naively replied, “I just used a regular 56K modem.” – Contributed by Anne McConnell

Pastoral Passion The lingerie store where my aunt works was crowded with shoppers selecting Valentine’s Day gifts for their wives. A young businessman came to the register with a lacy black negligee. My aunt noticed that the next customer, an elderly farmer, was holding a long flannel nightgown and kept glancing at the younger man’s sexier choice. When it was his turn, the farmer placed the nightgown on the counter. “Would you have anything in black flannel?” He asked. – Contributed by Christine A. Pandolfo

9 to 5 Love My husband, a certified public accountant, works 15-hour days for the first few months of the year. In spite of his hectic schedule, he took time out to order me flowers for Valentine’s Day. While pondering what sweet endearment to write on the card, he obviously began thinking of the many hours of work still ahead of him. His note read: “Roses are red, violets are blue. If I weren’t thinking of you, I’d probably be through.” – Contributed by Cindy Wolf

Mower Than a Greeting Card My friend Mark and I work in a lawn-mower-parts warehouse. Somehow Mark got the idea that his wife did not want a card on Valentine’s Day, but when he spoke to her on the phone he discovered she was expecting one. Not having time to buy a card on his way home, Mark was in a quandary. Then he looked at the lawn-mower trade magazines scattered around the office — and got an idea. Using scissors and glue, he created a card with pictures of mowers, next to which he wrote: “I lawn for you mower and mower each day.” Mark’s wife loved it. The card immediately graced their refrigerator door. – Contributed by Gene Hyde

Irresistable Irony About a year had passed since my amicable divorce, and I decided it was time to start dating again. Unsure how to begin, I thought I’d scan the personals column of my local newspaper. I came across three men who seemed like they’d be promising candidates. A couple of days later, I was checking my answering machine and discovered a message from my ex-husband. “I was over visiting the kids yesterday,” he said. “While I was there I happened to notice you had circled some ads in the paper. Don’t bother calling the guy in the second column. I can tell you right now it won’t work out. That guy is me.” – Contributed by Pat Patel

Making the Grade My high-school English teacher was well known for being a fair, but hard, grader. One day I received a B minus on a theme paper. In hopes of bettering my grade and in the spirit of the valentine season, I sent her an extravagant heart-shaped box of chocolates with the pre-printed inscription: “BE MINE.” The following day, I received in return a valentine from the teacher. It read: “Thank you, but it’s still BE MINE-US.” – Contributed by Brad Wilcox

Read All About It Every Valentine’s Day our campus newspaper has a section for student messages. Last year my roommate surprised his girlfriend with roses and dinner at a fancy restaurant. When they returned from their date, she leafed through the paper to see if he had written a note to her. Near the bottom of one page she found: “Bonnie — What are you looking here for? Aren’t dinner and flowers enough? Love, Scott.” – Contributed by Richard B. Blackwell

Devoted and Determined During World War II my parents had planned a romantic Valentine’s Day wedding. Suddenly my father, then stationed at Camp Edwards in Massachusetts, received orders to prepare to ship out, and all leaves were canceled. Being a young man in love, he went AWOL. He and my mother were married four days earlier than originally planned and he returned to base to an angry sergeant. After hearing the explanation, the sergeant understandingly replied, “Okay, okay!” Then, as an afterthought: “But don’t let it happen again!” – Contributed by Sandra L. Caron

Offbeat Valentine’s Day Gifts

February 7th, 2012
Candy, flowers, and jewelry will never go out of style, but if you’re looking for something fresh to give this year, here are 8 perfectly awesome Valentine’s Day presents for unconventional couples. I mean, I wouldn’t recommend proposing to anyone with any of these (although the Lego heart box might be a great place to put a ring), but for the rest of us, these clever gifts may be just the thing.


1. For the health-conscious: Chocolate molecule t-shirt
Chocolate is always an appropriate gift, especially when it’s in calorie-free t-shirt form. This is a great gift for the sweetie in your family who’s just had gastric bypass surgery and/or the proud science geek.
Buy this shirt
chocolate molecule t-shirt
2. For the non-sappy Valentine: Snarky mug
For the person in your life who thinks nothing is sexier than laughter, here’s a mug that proclaims your unending love. No commitment issues here!
Buy this mug
Snarky mug
3. For the long-term relationship: Funny coaster
You know what your hilarious coffee mug will look good on? A hilarious coaster. Sure, you may not be newlyweds anymore, but that doesn’t mean you’re not totally still into each other.
Buy this coaster
funny coaster
4. For the eco-trendy: I love you bean plant
Roses last what, a week? This kit lets you grow a whole plant that says “I love you.” Literally. The bean plant grows with the words “I love you” on it. I have no idea how that works, but there it is. Magic beans? Could be.
Buy this bean plant
I love you bean plant
5. For the texter: Fingerless gloves
These hand-knit lambswool/acrylic fingerless gloves are embroidered with the Interwebz symbol for a heart. They’re clever, hip, and leave your fingers free for texting, Angry Birds, and checking Facebook. In theory, you could also use your fingers for dialing your phone, but who does that anymore?
Buy these gloves
fingerless gloves
6. For the math geek: Plotting for your love t-shirt
Is there anything sexier than smarts? Math for the Valentine win! There’s an equation on front and implicit heart curve plot on the back of the shirt. Note: Don’t call it a parabola, or your math-loving Valentine will mock you mercilessly.
Buy this shirt
Plotting for your love t-shirt
7. For everyone: Plush, beating heart
This looks like the result of a teddy bear autopsy, but in my mind nothing says, “Happy Valentine’s Day!” for all ages like a snuggly, yet anatomically correct, heart.
Buy this plush beating heart
plush, beating heart
8. For the young (and young at heart): Lego heart necklace
There is some really wack stuff on Etsy, but I can’t think of a more perfect Valentine present than this sweet and playful necklace.
Buy this necklace
Lego heart necklace

How to Roast Chestnuts Over an Open Fire

December 20th, 2011

Wait. Before you begin reading this post, click play on the video below.

Ah, that’s better. Now we’re ready to proceed.

You’ve probably heard the “Christmas Song” hundreds of times in your life, and you’re well familiar with that opening line about “chestnuts roasting on an open fire.”

But how many of us have actually partaken in this holiday tradition? If you’ve never had a warm roasted chestnut, you’re missing out. Chestnuts grow from mid-fall to early-spring, and they peak during the holidays—which is why they’re associated with this time of year. They have a texture kind of like a baked potato, and they’re the only nut that contains vitamin C, so eating some is a good way to ward off winter scurvy if you’ll be spending Christmas sailing as a pirate. The sweet, nutty flavor of chestnuts will warm your manly holiday spirit to the core, and most importantly, roasting them gives you an excuse to do something with fire.

What You Need

The Roaster

Yes, you can roast chestnuts in the oven. But what would be the fun in that? A man never misses a chance to build a fire and cook over it.

To roast your chestnuts, you’ll need a pan that you can put into the fire. Long-handled popcorn or chestnut roasters make the ideal vessels for open fire chestnut roasting, as they allow you to roast the nuts without burning your face off. And their lids let you shake the chestnuts around for even roasting, instead of having to turn them over yourself or losing a few when flipping them in a lid-less pan.

If you don’t have a long-handled roaster, you can get by with a 12-inch cast-iron skillet or some other pan. Just be careful not to burn yourself. If you have an old beat-up skillet, you can turn it into a bona fide chestnut roaster by drilling 30 or so holes in the bottom.

If you don’t have a chestnut roaster or a skillet, you can also use a fireplace shovel. And I suppose you could even try sticking them individually on skewers like the boys in the opening image, if you’re the patient type.

The Chestnuts

You can buy chestnuts at some grocery stores, but you may want to call ahead to make sure they have them. While dozens of chestnut varieties exist, most people roast Castagne and Marroni chestnuts at the holidays. Castagne are more common, while the Marroni are a more expensive specialty. The nut of the Marroni is sweeter and plumper, and it peels away from the skin more easily.

When choosing your chestnuts, look for those that are plump, smooth, shiny, and blemish-free. Moldy chestnuts are a common problem, so squeeze and shake the chestnut to see if the nut has shriveled up and pulled away from the shell.

Keep in mind that the larger the chestnut, the longer it will take to roast. Pick chestnuts that are fairly uniform in size and will thus be done at the same time.


Rinse the chestnuts under cold water. Lay them on a towel and pat dry.

Before roasting chestnuts, you must score them to allow steam to escape and prevent them from exploding like chestnut bombs while cooking. Simply take a sharp knife and cut an “X” into the flat side of each chestnut.

Once your chestnuts are clean, dry, and scored, build a warm, cozy fire in the fireplace. Let it burn down so that you have a nice bed of hot embers.


Place the chestnuts in a single layer in the pan. No need to add oil or grease; as they cook, the chestnuts will release their own oil.

Cover the pan with a lid and hold it over, but not directly in, the fire. After five minutes or so, shake or stir the chestnuts around, making sure to roast all sides adequately. Repeat this process every few minutes.

I didn’t have time to wait for a proper ember bed, so I did stick the chesnuts directly in the fire somewhat, even though it isn’t reccomended. The outsides got charred, but the insides were mostly okay.

Most chestnuts will fully roast after 25 minutes. A chestnut is fully roasted when the shell starts to open where you made the score mark and you start hearing popping noises. You can also check for doneness by piercing a chestnut with a knife; it should be tender.

Remove the chestnuts and place them in a towel-lined bowl to cool for about 10 minutes. While they’re still warm, remove the shells. The fuzzy inside skin will peel off along with the outer shell.

You can eat the chestnuts plain or dip them in butter and cinnamon for extra holiday flavor and goodness.

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Christmas Jingles

December 20th, 2011

Just click the play button on any mix image to listen. Then, turn up the volume, grab an egg-nog, relax. Perfect mixes for baking and decorating Christmas cutout cookies, trimming the tree, enjoying time with friends and family, opening presents on the big morning.

Mix 1: Relaxing

Mix 2: Tree Time

Mix 3: Something Under the Tree

Mix 4: Party Time

Mix 5: Christmas Groovy

Mix 6: Jazzy Jingles

Mix 7: Indie-Folk Festivities

Deliciously Refreshing Bacon Soda

November 27th, 2011

I’m tempted to try Bacon Soda just to say that I did, and well, perhaps it will become the new Canadian sensation, replacing the contemporary favourites Molson Canadian, Dad’s Root Beer, Canada Dry Ginger Ale, or Lucky Lager. I already put bacon in my burgers, in my sandwiches, and on my salads, so why shouldn’t I be able to wash down my waffles with a glass of carbonated bacon-flavoured pop? I’d answer that question, but I’m off to the grocery to stock up on some new soft drinks.

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Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson

November 27th, 2011

Vitamin D Benefits: Hope or Hype?

November 27th, 2011

Vitamin D is good for what ails you. Or at least that’s what patients and doctors might conclude if they read only the headlines.

In the past few months, deficiency in the substance has been linked to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, tuberculosis, spinal inflammatory diseases, age-related macular degeneration … and the list goes on.

On the other hand, taking high doses of vitamin D didn’t help patients with multiple sclerosis, MedPage Today reported, and it was of no benefit in reducing left ventricular mass in patients with chronic kidney disease.But overall, vitamin D gets pretty good press. The trouble is that hard evidence to back up the vitamin’s benefits is lacking, according to Clifford Rosen, MD, of the Maine Medical Center Research Institute in Scarborough. “There’s no data,” Rosen told MedPage Today. “It’s all weak association studies.”

Benefit Beyond the Bones

At the American Heart Association meeting earlier this month, several studies suggested associations between low vitamin D and various aspects of heart disease.

But as one observer said at the time, there are no clinical trials yet that show improving vitamin D status does anything to reduce cardiovascular risk.

One study, the Vitamin D and Omega-3 (VITAL) trial, may shed some light on the issue. It is a randomized trial that is enrolling some 20,000 patients to see if daily vitamin D supplements prevent cancer and cardiovascular disease.

It will be one of the few randomized trials — if not the only one — to look at the issue directly, according to JoAnn Manson, MD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, who is the principal investigator.

Although other randomized trials have produced evidence for a vitamin D benefit in several important clinical categories, Manson told MedPage Today it was mostly as an afterthought.

“Many of the randomized trials people have heard about were trials designed to look at the effect of vitamin D on fractures and falls,” she said, with other effects as secondary outcomes.

It’s in the nature of statistics, she pointed out, that if researchers look at enough outcomes, some will be significant just on the basis of chance.

The vast mass of the evidence for any kind of nonskeletal benefit is observational, and therefore suspect until confirmed by a properly designed, randomized trial, Manson said.

Among other things, a host of confounding factors — obesity, poor nutrition, lack of exercise — might play a role. No matter how carefully an observational study is done, she said, confounding is always possible. “Correlation does not prove causation,” Manson reminded.

She noted that randomized trials have demolished observational evidence many times in the past, notably in the cases of such former fads as beta-carotene and selenium.

According to Rosen, there is reasonable evidence that improved vitamin D status leads to better bone health and some evidence that supplements reduce all-cause mortality in elderly women.

For almost everything else, he said, hard evidence is missing.

Biologically Active D

Measuring exposure to vitamin D is relatively easy — it’s a simple matter of serum levels of a compound called 25-hydroxyvitamin D, or 25(OH)D, Rosen said.

But the relationship between circulating 25(OH)D and the active form of the vitamin, 1,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol, is not clear. It’s entirely possible, he said, to have low levels of 25(OH)D and yet have a perfectly adequate amount of the hormonally active form.

Indeed, Manson said, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recently estimated that the average requirement of 25(OH)D is really only 16 nanograms per milliliter — a level that would in most cases ensure adequate amounts of the active vitamin.

“It’s extremely variable,” she noted, “and there is much that isn’t known about vitamin D and metabolism.”

“So the tissues and cells may be seeing adequate amounts of biological active vitamin D and adequate stimulation of the vitamin D receptor even in those who have lower blood levels,” she said.

So the question of how much vitamin D is enough is a vexing one. But doctors and their patients still want an answer.

The IOM last year released new guidelines for vitamin D, which say that healthy people should aim to have at least 20 nanograms of 25(OH)D per milliliter of serum.

That can be achieved, the IOM said, by taking 600 IU a day of a vitamin D supplement if people are between ages 1 and 70, and 800 a day if they are 70 or older.

Manson, who along with Rosen was part of the IOM panel, said that “relatively modest amount” of vitamin D will keep 97.5% of the general population in good bone health.

And, she noted, the IOM really was only concerned about bone health, because there’s such a dearth of evidence for benefits in other areas.

But even if there’s no evidence for a benefit, is there any harm in taking a bit extra? Well, possibly.

One of the functions of vitamin D is to regulate calcium and phosphorus; too much can lead to hypercalcemia. The IOM set the tolerable upper limit at between 2,500 and 4,000 IU per day, depending on age.

The institute also cautioned, Manson said, that there is some evidence of a U-shaped curve for vitamin D — too little is bad and so is too much.

In particular, the IOM reported that, although the evidence is weak, more than 4,000 IU a day of the vitamin might increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, some cancers, and all-cause mortality.

“There’s no evidence that more is better, so why use more?” Rosen asked.

On a day to day basis, most people can ensure they have enough vitamin D by eating certain foods – fatty fish like salmon, for example – and taking a multivitamin, Manson said.

But there’s no need to screen the healthy population for vitamin D levels at least until there’s more evidence that it matters, the IOM concluded.

On the other hand, the Endocrine Society has called for regular screening for groups at risk for vitamin D deficiency such as the obese, African Americans, and pregnant women.

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The Speed of Dog

August 25th, 2011