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Discovering New Health Benefits Of Vitamin D

A sunny evening by the beach in Itacare, Brazil
A sunny evening by the beach in Itacare, Brazil
Walter Feldman and Cicero Galli Coimbra*

SAO PAULO — Vitamin D was named as such when it was first discovered in 1910, but it wasn't until two decades later that its real structure was identified. In fact, it is a steroid hormone. Even today, the use of the term "vitamin" is a source of debate among health professionals.

Vitamin D deficiency is no longer considered a nutrition problem but rather an endocrine system disorder. In practical terms, the production of sufficient quantities of this hormone depends on sun exposure, not on diet.

Still, the deficiency has become pandemic all over the globe due to a drastic change in lifestyles, with the progressive urbanization of populations even in tropical areas, where living in confined and air-conditioned spaces and using sunscreen have become commonplace.

Today, nine in 10 people on the planet have unsatisfactory levels of vitamin D.

Traditionally, vitamin D is known to be essential for the metabolism of calcium and for good bone and teeth health. But scientific advances have unveiled more health benefits, some of which are very surprising. For example, vitamin D is a powerful anti-cancer agent and strengthens the immune system.

Following these discoveries, there have been debates about the ideal dosage for prevention or treatments. The diversity of its positive functions on our bodies drew the ironic and misguided reaction that a "vitamin" can be a panacea, capable of curing or preventing every ill. That said, prolific studies demonstrate that its benefits are myriad and very real.

[rebelmouse-image 27088041 alt=""Sunbathing" original_size="4368x2912" expand=1]

Sunbathing on a beach in Croatia — Photo: Alex Proimos

Thousands of scientific articles cite vitamin D deficiency as either a cause or a risk factor for about 100 disorders, including 17 types of cancer, hypertension, diabetes and autoimmune diseases, as well as cardiovascular and infectious diseases. Now with the Internet, never has misinformation had such short legs.

Our attachment to the basic principles of medical practice (first, do no harm, and second, always act in the patient's best interest) led us to use an innovative therapy, consisting of high doses of vitamin D under close supervision. As a result, a large majority of our patients carrying such diseases as multiple sclerosis can return to normal or almost normal lives, depending on the consequences of the disease prior to the treatment.

There is nothing as rewarding for somebody who has been defending these hypotheses. No pseudo-scientific arguments can argue with the facts.

*Walter Feldman is a doctor and former Brazilian Parliament member. Cicero Galli Coimbra is a neurologist and professor at the University of São Paulo.

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The Last Boss: Messina Denaro's Death Marks The End Of An Era For The Sicilian Mafia

Eight months after being arrested, following 30 years on the run, Matteo Messina Denaro died Monday. The son of a mobster and successor of Sicily's notorious boss of bosses, he had tried to transform Cosa Nostra into a modern criminal enterprise — with only partial success.

photo of Matteo Messina Denaro

Matteo Messina Denaro after his arrest

Carabinieri handout via ZUMA
La Stampa Staff

Updated Sep. 25, 2023 at 4:45 p.m.


PALERMO — Matteo Messina Denaro, who for more than a decade was the Sicilian Mafia's "boss of bosses," died on Monday in an Italian hospital prison ward. His death came eight months after being captured following decades on the run as a fugitive from justice. His arrest in January 15, 1993, came almost 30 years to the day after Totò Riina, then the undisputed head of the Corleone clan, was captured in Palermo.

Tracing back in time, Messina Denaro began his criminal ascent in 1989, around the first time on record that he was reported for mob association for his participation in the feud between the Accardo and Ingoglia clans.

At the time, Messina Denaro's father, 'don Ciccio', was the Mafia boss in the western Sicilian city of Trapani — and at only 20 years of age, the ambitious young criminal became Totò Riina's protégé. He would go on to help transform Cosa Nostra, tearing it away from the feudal tradition and catapulting it into the world of would-be legitimate business affairs.

For 30 years he managed to evade capture. He had chosen the path of ‘essential communication’: a few short pizzini - small slips of paper used by the Sicilian Mafia for high-level communications - without compromising information by telephone or digital means.

“Never write the name of the person you are addressing," Messina Denaro told his underlings. "Don’t talk in cars because there could be bugs, always discuss in the open and away from telephones. Also, take off your watches.”

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