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Should You Be Getting More Vitamin D?

Rating

2 Star

Should You Be Getting More Vitamin D?

Our Review Summary

This story presented the case that vitamin D had some important health benefits along with some discussion about individual intake of this nutrient not being adequate.  The story did mention that vitamin D can be made by the body when exposed to sunlight and can be obtained from food and supplements.  However, the story failed to adequately quantify the potential benefits and harms of vitamin D supplementation and sun exposure.

Although the story mentioned many diseases that a person might be fearful about (i.e. bone loss, colon cancer, multiple sclerosis, asthma), it failed to explain the nature of the information on the link between vitamin D and these diseases. 

It would have been helpful to discuss how an individual could calculate their vitamin D intake and determine their circulating levels of this vitamin.  It would then have been helpful to provide some suggestions, in addition to supplement consumption, for boosting vitamin D levels. Lastly, as the story provided enthusiasm for vitamin D supplement consumption, it should have at least included mention that excessive levels of vitamin D result in real health risks. 

Overall, a failure to quantify potential benefits and harms of vitamin D supplementation was a flaw, and they had plenty of time to do this.  

Finally, the anchor's throwaway line at the end – "Maybe just walk out in the sun for a minute, pop a pill, call it a day." – was not helpful to viewer understanding.  

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Applicable

There was no cost estimate provided for means of increasing vitamin D, but most of the methods discussed are known to be inexpensive.

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

Not Satisfactory

The benefits of vitamin D were not quanitified.

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

Not Satisfactory

Especially as the take-home message of the story appeared to be that the use of dietary supplements was necessary, the story failed to mention the risks associated with excess intake of vitamin D, especially since this is a possibility with the use of supplements.  The story also failed to include details on the harms of sun exposure.

 

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

Not Satisfactory

This story was very weak in terms of describing its sources of information.  There was no description of the type of studies leading to the conclusions presented.  It included some misinformation as well (i.e. the story mentioned that individuals with darker skin would need to consume higher levels of vitamin D to get health benefits.  What it should have said is that individuals with darker skin are less efficient at converting sunlight exposure to vitamin D for use by the body.)

There's really not enough evidence to support the information presented, and there are no clear conclusions that can be drawn from the story. Overall, the evidence that is presented is very confusing — should everyone get more Vit D? How much? From what sources? The evidence for each of these questions was poorly managed.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

This story described the role of vitamin D in the body and listed diseases for which lower levels of vitamin D have been found in epidemiologic studies to be associated with increased risk.

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

Not Satisfactory

Almost all of the content came from one interviewee. 

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

The story provided a cursory explanation about possible means for obtaining vitamin D: exposure to sunshine, dairy foods supplemented with vitamin D, and dietary supplements.  The story did not provide adequate information about the factors that had an impact on how much sunshine could be obtained from sunlight (i.e. variation with latitude, time of year, amount of exposed skin, skin pigmentation, and sunscreen).  The story did not provide adequate information about dietary sources of vitamin D (mention of fish sources such as salmon, mackerel and tuna in addition to cod liver oil would have been useful to viewers).  And lastly, although there was a graphic about vitamin D3 vs. vitamin D2, the differences amoung dietary supplements was not explained.

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

Satisfactory

The story mentioned exposure to sunlight, vitamin D fortified milk, cod liver oil, and dietary supplements as ways to increase vitamin D. 

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

The internist interviewed for the story was described as being 'up on the latest reseach' but the content of this story was not new.

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

Satisfactory

Does not appear to have relied solely or largely on a news release.

Total Score: 3 of 9 Satisfactory

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