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Vitamin D might be factor in longer life


4 Star

Vitamin D might be factor in longer life

Our Review Summary

This was an interesting update on the importance of vitamin D in human health, highlighting a recent meta-analysis on the topic.  The reporter did a particularly nice job of including expert comments in the piece.  It would have been stronger with a brief comment on potential harms of excess vitamin D intake, and with the presentation of absolute (not just relative) benefit data where possible.

 The story also let some researchers get away with some enthusiastic quotes that seemed to cry out for balance: 

  • "You should probably get rid of all the other vitamins in the medicine cabinet."
  •  "I’ve been trying to give bottles of vitamin D to my family for holidays for years."
  • And ending on this quote: "It’s such a simple thing. Imagine taking a vitamin to prevent cancer. It’s almost too good to be true."

Perhaps the better summary would be a line that appears far earlier in the story:  "Past experience means there is some need to be cautious about vitamins." 

Nonetheless, overall this was a good job of reporting.  


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

There was no estimate of the costs associated with obtaining the amounts of vitamin D mentioned in the story.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


The story did an adequate job quantifying the benefits found in the meta-analysis:  "Over an average of nearly six years, those who took vitamin D had a 7 percent lower risk of death from all causes than those who did not. Some scientists say more years of study would give better clues as to how large a role vitamin D plays in decreasing mortality. Others point out that while there was a statistically significant 7 percent drop in mortality in Autier’s analysis, because of the size of the study that only accounted for a difference of 117 people who died in the control groups as compared with those who took vitamin D supplements."

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

 The story made it appear as though any form of vitamin D were safe to consume in whatever dosage a reader might envisage and this is misleading. It mentioned "there is little evidence of vitamin D toxicity at levels under 10,000 IU a day", and while rare, there are cases of lethal doses of vitamin D that have been documented. The story could have explained that there are definite harms of excess vitamin D.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?


The story did an adequate job explaining the 18-study meta-analysis.  

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


The story did not engage in overt disease mongering.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?


The story included comments from several researchers involved with investigating the benefits of vitamin D who were not connected to the authors of the highlighted study.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?


The story covered the various means for obtaining sufficient levels of vitamin D (food, sunshine, functional foods, and supplements). 

It could have explained that the application of high SPF value creams and lotions blocks the body’s ability to convert sunlight into circulating vitamin D.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


The story mentioned that commercially available vitamin D supplements were available, listed some food sources rich in vitamin D, as well as other foods which are fortified with the vitamin. 

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


The story was clear that it was reporting on the results of a recently published meta-analysis of previously published data. 

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?


Does not appear to rely on a press release.

Total Score: 8 of 10 Satisfactory


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