This was a morning news program segment about optimal levels of intake for vitamin D, a nutrient about which there has been much discussion within the scientific community. Rather than presenting concrete information which could be used by viewers to make an informed decision about their own intake of vitamin D, the physician-reporter used a non-evidence-based comment – "most experts I know today are recommending more than (the National Academy of Science recommendations)."
While mentioning the existence of suggestive studies that pointed to an association between vitamin D intake and several cancers, the story failed to provide any details about the amount of risk reduction that might be obtained by increasing vitamin D intake. The story did mention that too much vitamin D could be harmful, but it didn't give a ballpark estimate for what would constitute a "mega-dose," nor did it explain how likely it was that one would get into 'big trouble'. There was no specific information about the types of harms. Are they reversible (i.e. if you stop taking vitamin D do they resolve)? How common are these harms? Are there populations who are at greater risks of developing such problems?
It might have been useful to point out to viewers which groups stand to benefit most of increasing their vitamin D intake. It would have been good to provide viewers with some resources that they could explore to learn more about vitamin D and health. The segment could have easily provided more details on specific doses recommended by those "experts" who recommend more, and why. Quantifying the benefits and being more clear about the risks would have been extremely helpful.
There was no discussion about the costs of supplements, whether the costs of the "D3" and "D2" differ, or how the costs of supplemented versions of foods compared with the unsupplemented version.
The reporter told viewers that there was consensus that vitamin D makes a difference in the immune system. He also mentioned that there are studies that suggest that higher vitamin D intake is associated with lower risk for some cancers. There was, however, no attempt made in this piece to quantify these benefits.
The reporter stated that by "taking huge mega-doses, you can get into big trouble". He could have easily provided more explicit information about tolerable upper limits of vitamin D, and doses associated with toxicity. He did mention that too much vitamin D could result in problems with your bones and your kidneys. However – there was no specific information about the types of harms. Are they reversible (i.e. if you stop taking vitamin D do they resolve)? How common are these harms? Are there populations who are at greater risks of developing such problems? If a person is taking vitamin D supplements, are there ways to monitor for "big trouble"?
Although exposure to skin to sunlight without application of sunscreen was discussed as a means of obtaining vitamin D, there was no discussion of the risks associated with exposure.
The physican-reporter told viewers that most experts he knows recommend higher vitamin D intakes than are currently recommended by the National Academy of Science. But that is a non-evidence-based commentary.
In addition, the evidence regarding cancer risk is not fully understood, and no attempt to quantify this risk was made other than to say it comes from suggestive studies which are not the 'gold standard'. This might have been used as an opportunity to explain to viewers that not all evidence has the same value.
This story did not overtly or consistently disease monger.
However – starting off by mentioning studies that suggest a link between vitamin D and reduced risk for breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer did seem a little heavy handed – especially since there was no further mention about how or why cancer risk may be changed with increased vitamin D consumption.
The only acknowledged source of information for this story was the National Academy of Sciences. However the conversation was about the view that these recommendations are inadequate and that people should be consuming more vitamin D.
There was no information about the source of the data demonstrating that more vitamin D is desirable. Although the reporter said that most of the experts he knows recommend more, this is inadequate to educate the viewer about why more is needed.
This was one of the major drawbacks of the report. More details could have at least been provided on the network's website.
The treatment options presented to obtain more vitamin D were fortified foods, vitamin supplements, and exposing skin without the application of sunscreen to the sun's ultraviolet rays. (There was no discussion of the risks associated with exposure of skin to the sun.)
The segment mentioned several readily available foods which are fortified with vitamin; they also mentioned skin exposure to the suns ultraviolet rays as another source of vitamin D.
This conversation about vitamin D did not make novel claims about this approach.
Does not appear to rely on a press release.