My Story

A Vitamin D Adventure
Mark A. PegramMP Picr

Faith in God allowed my discovery of how sun avoidance had created disease in my body.  It was through being lead to an understanding of vitamin D that I am now fully recovered from a multiple of diseases.

I am a mechanical engineer with an earnest appetite for solving extremely complex problems. My favorite pursuit is in the area of energy and thus the reason for a MS degree that specialized in heat transfer and fluid flow. But you know, in the pursuit of the quality of life and not career rewards, I have reinvented myself several times and now I am an agent for packaging equipment companies.

For years I have followed the advice of the medical industry in staying out of the sun.  This advice was enforced as law from my mother because I grew up on a farm in North Carolina and had two heat strokes, one at 4 and another at 15. She was absolutely adamant about the fact that I should wear long sleeve shirts and a pith helmet to keep the heat down and the sun away as I worked in the fields. I married in 1975 and my wife, a medical technologist, insisted that I wear sunscreen anytime that I went into the sun, as I am an avid golfer.

The low back problems started in the spring (a particularly important season for low serum vitamin D) of 1979 when I was 28. My primary care physician told me that he thought I just had a muscle strain and had me take ibuprofen to relieve the pain. I went through a number of cycles (always in the spring) of back pain that was treated with ibuprofen until 1986 when he could no longer stand the grimace on my face and sent me in for x ray. I knew that I was in trouble when the x ray technician asked after the first take, “are you sure that you have not had back surgery?” The physician was kind and sent me a letter of apology for all the years that he thought that I was just complaining.

The first real failure of my spine came in 1992 when I had a bulge of a disc in my cervical vertebrae that caused severe pain and numbness in my back and arm. My neurosurgeon was very conservative in his approach and had me wear a soft collar for months and do traction at night. This worked well enough to avoid surgery. It is interesting to note that the neurosurgeon remarked that, “ your spine looks like that of a sixty year old man.” I was forty-one at the time.

The second failure came in 1998 when driving back from Richmond; I knew that I could not mentally avoid the pain and still function. After a quick trip to an orthopedic surgeon, referred by my PCP, I was sent for an MRI two days latter and received a call that afternoon. The radiologist that had read the MRI said that it was the worst rupture of the L4-L5 Lumbar disc that he had seen and the patient could still walk. The surgeon suggested that I could sever my spinal cord by just getting into a car. I had surgery two days latter. I had a second surgery in 2003 as the same disc ruptured again. The pain continues and I was looking at lumbar fusions and cervical surgery.

I then began my quest for spine health after the first surgery. I consumed large amounts of minerals and anything else that would help my spine as ‘the nutrient of the day’ was marketed. However, my real finding came very serendipitously.

A friend of mine asked me to help him determine the percent of American households that had central air conditioning. I quickly delivered for him the percent of households with air conditioning from 1980 until 2001. With my normal inquisitive mind, I noticed that the rate of increase in air conditioning looked very familiar to me. It was about two months later that I read an article on the increase of obesity in America and there was that same rate of increase. Thinking that perhaps it was just coincidence, I went for several months until a day that I was looking for entertainment and did a correlation analysis between the two sets of data(there was too much pain to consider other entertainment).

To my surprise there was better than a 99% correlation. Thinking that I had made a mistake, I manipulated the data in lots of different ways and the worst case was a 96% correlation. Upon telling my college aged daughters, 3rd year pharmacy and 1st year premed, I was immediately informed that just because there was a correlation did not mean there was a cause and effect.  A graph of the findings can be viewed at this post;  Back Pain and the Beginning of Hope.

I would like to stop here and tell all of you ‘fatties’ to turn up your thermostats.  However, this most likely will not do you any good unless it drives you into the sunshine.  I offered this information on air conditioning versus obesity to UNC-Greensboro and they replied that they would like to include it in a larger study on obesity that they were doing.  To date, I do not know if they have found the funding to verify my findings.

I am not a doctor and do not suggest that you do any of the following without consulting your primary care physician and have a serum vitamin D, 25(OH)D, test.  Most of the vitamin D researchers agree that a level below 40 ng/ml is deficient.  You may have to educate your doctor because there is no profit in selling sunshine.

It was several months later, fall of 2004 that I read an article about rickets for inner city children and the ‘sunlight’ came through. Spend more time in ac, the less exposure to sunshine. I begin to research vitamin D and sunshine. The internet was full of all kinds of articles on Vitamin D. I did not know what to believe. Willing to try anything because of the constant pain, I begin to take 2000 IU per day on November 4, 2004. This was an amount that the FDA said was a safe upper limit. However, I had read on one of the multiple sclerosis websites that they thought that 4000 IU per day was okay because people on the equator consistently got about 10,000 IU per day from sun exposure.

There was an immediate response in my system as the next day I did not get chilled from exposure to cold air. This was unusual for me. I continued to increase the amount that I took each day until at above 4000 IU per day, I did not see any more improvement in joint or muscle pain. At that level the entire joint and muscle pain that had plagued me for years was gone except for lumbar region pain. I had regained my original height of 6 feet from a height of 5 feet 11 inches; a general indication of improved spine health. I continued this level until the spring of 2005 when during my annual physical I convinced my doctor that I had been deficient in vitamin D. We found my serum 25(OH)D was at 54 ng/ml or normal after six months of supplementation. I have reduced my supplementation of vitamin D through the summer to 2000 IU per day and plan to increase back to 4000 IU per day during the winter.

As my spine got healthier it actually lead to more pain as all of the nerve roots tried to find new homes. This took about six months as my pain level reduced to the point in September 2005 to where I am off of all pain meds. It looks like I have successfully avoided more back surgeries. I now vary in height between 6’ and 6’-1”.

In February 2005 I discovered a website sponsored by the vitamin D Council with Dr. John Cannell as its Director. This website allowed me to look at the chronic diseases that were correlated to vitamin D deficiency and then link directly to the medical research abstracts. I was absolutely amazed. I will repeat my daughters’ statement, “a correlation does not mean causation.” I took enough of the abstracts to my doctor to convince him that there was a problem in the general population with vitamin D deficiency.

So where are we now? There is a lot of excitement in all of the areas of chronic disease and cancer and their correlation to vitamin D. Please take the time to help guide your doctor in the new research on vitamin D. As there is not much of a profit advantage in treating disease with sunshine, it will take a long time for this to become general knowledge. Please become proactive in helping the medical community to become educated and promote more research through contact with your local US Representative.

How long have we been ignoring the facts? Dr. Niels Finsen was awarded the Nobel Prize for treating patients with arc light and sunshine (UVB) in 1903.

Author’s Note: I originally wrote this article in the fall of 2005. Since that time my health has continued to improve with no more medical procedures and no meds. My height has stabilized at about 6’-2”. I have also gotten off of a CPAP for sleep apnea. My PCP tells me I now have the health of a 25 year old and that is not bad for a 55 year old man. There has been much new research in the area of vitamin D3 and you should spend time at the Vitamin D Council website to see what is new. If you decide to supplement, please do so with your doctor’s care and direct him to the CME (continued medical education) at the Vitamin D Council website under publications.  Health is wonderful! -January 29, 2007


Science News Online, Week of April 23, 2005; Vol. 167, No. 17, Season Affects Cancer-Surgery Survival, Janet Raloff

Science News Online, Week of April 30, 2005; Vol. 167, No. 18, Understanding Vitamin D Deficiency, Janet Raloff

Science News Online,Week of May 7, 2005; Vol. 167, No. 19, Bread and Chocolate, No Longer D-Minimus, Janet Raloff

Vitamin D supplementation, 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations, and safety., Vieth R., Department of Laboratory Medicine and

Pathobiology, University of Toronto, Mount Sinai Hospital, Ontario, Canada. , Am J Clin Nutr. 1999


Vitamin D Council, Dr. John Cannell,

Human serum 25-hydroxycholecalciferol response to extended oral dosing with cholecalciferol, Heaney RP, Davies KM, Chen

TC, Holick MF, Barger-Lux MJ, Creighton University, Omaha, NE 68131, USA. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003


Vitamin D: A millenium perspective, HolickMF.Vitamin D Laboratory, Section of Endocrinology, Department of Medicine,

Boston University Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts 02118, USA., J Cell Biochem. 2003 Feb 1;88(2):296-