The Indian sub-continent is situated between 8.4 degree N and 37.6 degree N latitude and has adequate sunshine throughout the year. So say researchers at the Apollo Hospital in New Delhi India. In fact, in their introduction to a recent study on vitamin D, the team postulated further, stating that “it has been presumed that Indians have ‘sufficient’ levels of vitamin D.”

And who wouldn’t presume such a thing? Considering that the average temperature in India is quite high, it’s doubtful that natives would be deficient in a substance that is easily obtained from the sun. Nevertheless, with growing concerns of what mainstream medicine calls vitamin D “deficiency” at hand, the team set out to confirm that the staff from a hospital in north India did indeed possess levels of vitamin D (25-D) that the medical community has deemed healthy – specifically 25-D level between 35-50 ng/ml. Using a machine called dual energy X-ray absorptiometer, the Apollo Hospital team were able to measure the staff’s serum 25-D and 1, 25-D levels.

In the end, the team was unnerved by their results. To their dismay, only 33.7 percent of subjects had 25-D concentrations above 15 ng/ml. And they were probably even more confused that 20.6% of subjects had 25-D levels < 5 ng/ml, 27.2% of subjects had 25-D levels between 5-9.9 ng/ml and 18.5% demonstrated 25-D levels in the range of 10-14.9 ng/ml. Rather than consider any possible alternate hypotheses for the fact that essentially all of their subjects displayed 25-D levels below the “normal range” – after all, the researchers themselves had once described the subjects as healthy – the team leapt to a sobering conclusion. Despite the reality that the subjects were getting adequate amounts of sunlight, they argued that vitamin D “deficiency” was rampant among the staff.

The ease with which the Apollo team jumped to the conclusion that their subjects are vitamin D “deficient” goes a long way towards explaining why incorrect assumptions about vitamin D remain the norm among mainstream researchers. Few seem to truly consider the implications of the fact that 25-D is a secosteroid rather than a vitamin, or the consequences of altering levels of a substance that is controlled by myriad delicate feedback pathways. One would think that with such counterintuitive results at hand, the Apollo team would strive to consider alternate explanations. There are at least two rational alternate hypotheses for the low levels of 25-D observed among the hospital staff.

First off, who’s to say that the current range used to determine what is considered to be a “healthy” level of 25-D is correct? Since the vast majority of the public whose data are used to create such a range consume large amounts of vitamin D fortified products, few people have a truly natural level of vitamin D in their bodies. Consequently, it’s only logical that over the past few decades, the “healthy” range for 25-D obtained from bloodwork has been adjusted upward to accommodate the rise in 25-D levels that results from the consumption of fortified products. The result is that the 25-D levels of people eating a diet without fortified foods – as is probably the case among the hospital staff – are inevitably considered to be too low, out of range, and ultimately a menace to their health.

The possibility that the current “healthy” range for 25-D incorrectly tags people not consuming fortified products as vitamin D “defiecient” is strengthened by other studies including a study by researcher at who tested the level of 25-D in 90 “healthy, ambulatory Chilean women”. Testing revealed that 27% of the premenopausal and 60% of the postmenopausal women had 25-D levels under 20 ng/ml. Similarly, a study on healthy Bangladeshi women found that approximately 80% of the women had a level of 25-D under 16 ng/ml.

The stark reality is that considering all the extra vitamin D we have added to the food chain, we no longer know what amount of 25-D the body would maintain under natural circumstances. Could it be that the people we call “Vitamin D deficient” actually have a normal level of 25-D and actually are, as the Apollo researchers first postulated of their subjects, vitamin D “sufficient?”

Furthermore, among those familiar with the complexities of vitamin D metabolism, the concept of vitamin D “deficiency” is rapidly becoming obsolete. Armed with the knowledge that 25-D actually blocks, rather than activates, the VDR, it has become clear that people – particularly those suffering from chronic disease – are better off with low levels of the secosteroid. In a recent BioEssay, biomedical researcher Trevor Marshall details feedback pathways which show that among patients with chronic disease, 25-D levels are naturally downregulated by the disease process itself – a process driven by the ability of chronic, intracellular metagenomic pathogens to created VDR-blocking ligands.

Although slow growing, these chronic pathogens can easily spread from person to person, particularly among people in close contact. So when one considers that the hospital staff examined by the Apollo research team are in constant contact with patients suffering from a plethora of illness caused by these bacteria, there is little doubt that each staff member has acquired at least some chronic pathogens from their patients.

Perhaps then, the low 25-D observed in many of the staff members reflects the fact that they too are infected with the chronic bacteria that dysregulate vitamin D metabolism and cause 25-D levels to drop.

Unfortunately, although discussed repeatedly on Bacteriality, such alternate hypotheses remain largely foreign to the mainstream medical community. So the concept of vitamin D “deficiency” continues to be spoon fed to the public, who, of course, proceed to supplement with vitamin D in order to keep their 25-D levels in an artificially high range. It’s clear that this trend can only be remedied by a rise in independent thinking. Surely when the results of a study fail to make sense in the light of a current model, it’s time to re-examine the model rather than rationalize the data. So go for it, vitamin D researchers– dare to consider alternate hypotheses for your observations. After all, the health of essentially the entire population is at stake.