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Haven’t we had enough news stories about Vitamin D?

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photo.jpgOunce for ounce, vitamin D may be the most covered (over-covered?) health news topic in American news media.

Look at what we’ve seen just within the past week.

A New York Times column, “The Miracle of Vitamin D: Sound Science or Hype?” Excerpts:

“Imagine a treatment that could build bones, strengthen the immune system and lower the risks of illnesses like diabetes, heart and kidney disease, high blood pressure and cancer.

Some research suggests that such a wonder treatment already exists. It’s vitamin D, a nutrient that the body makes from sunlight and that is also found in fish and fortified milk.

But don’t start gobbling down vitamin D supplements just yet. The excitement about their health potential is still far ahead of the science.”

The Dallas Morning News had a headline, “Heart health: Is vitamin D the new superhero?”

And the Los Angeles Times blog proposed in its headline, “Let’s put Vitamin D in the water.”

These stories have become – and believe me, we’ve seen enough to back this up – formulaic and predictable. Headlines that scream MIRACLE…SUPERHERO. Followed by some caveats.

Most of what we’ve commented on before were network TV news stories including some that committed fear-mongering and disease-mongering.

But this week’s examples all came from newspapers. Is it in the water?

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Comments (6)

Please note, comments are no longer published through this website. All previously made comments are still archived and available for viewing through select posts.

Marilyn Mann

February 3, 2010 at 8:14 am

I actually thought the NYT column was pretty good. They quoted experts talking about the dangers of drawing conclusions from observational research. This is a particular problem with vitamin D research, because people with higher vitamin D levels may be people who exercise more or spend more time outside or have other healthy habits. They also discussed the big NIH-funded trial that will be testing vitamin D supplementation for its effect on chronic disease.

Gary Schwitzer

February 3, 2010 at 9:12 am

Marilyn,
I agree: the NYT piece had some strengths – especially on the “Sound Science or Hype” side of the equation.
My comments were meant to be two-fold:
1. At the 50,000 foot level, vitamin D has been covered ad nauseam – dozens of stories we’ve reviewed on HealthNewsReview.org. Why does it have this particular appeal when so many vital topics go uncovered?
2. At the micro level, the headline hype should be scaled back. Miracle? Superhero? Put it in the water? Please. Even if the ensuing story provides context, the headlines mislead.

phyllis herman

February 8, 2010 at 3:59 pm

One aspect of the vitamin D story that is rarely addressed is the question whether the other overdone advice to not venture outside w/o sunscreen is at the root of much vitamin D deficiency. It is practically impossible to find a facial daytime moisturizer these days which does not contain sunscreen. Does sunscreen block vitamin D absorption? I’d love to have a well-researched answer to that simple question.