We wished for more on benefits, harms, and on context about the dose used in the study. See our comments on those criteria below.
Most women experience some sort of menstrual cramps and only rarely are the instances of these cramps debilitating. This study, done in a sample of women with already low levels of Vitamin D and with a dosage beyond that recommended or available to most women, provides at best preliminary evidence that Vitamin D at 300,000 IU was the main reason for the decrease in pain.
The story did explain that “The cost of vitamin D supplements would be roughly comparable with (NSAIDS or birth control pills).” It didn’t give a ballpark cost, but we’ll give it the benefit of the doubt for nodding in the direction of addressing cost.
The article states that pain was reduced in the experimental group by 41% (where the control group experienced no pain reductions), but 41% of what? And in reality, was this reduction significant enough that women were able to resume their normal level of activity?
The article did not talk about any harms related to high doses of Vitamin D.
They did point out that the women in the study already had low levels of Vitamin D so it is unclear if receiving Vitamin D in lower doses would have been just as beneficial. The study ended follow up at two months and did not have information regarding possible long-term follow-up. They also pointed out that larger clinical trials were needed.
The lead in to the story hinges on disease-mongering with its “bane of many women” description, but we’ll give the story the benefit of the doubt.
The story included interviews with other doctors not associated with the study and reported their viewpoints regarding the study findings.
The article did talk about NSAIDs and birth control pills as other alternatives to help alleviate menstrual cramps.
The story could have done a better job on this point. Although Vitamin D is available over the counter, it is available in the high dose used in the study only by prescription. Just to put this dose issue in context, when people are Vitamin D deficient, a typical replacement dose is 50,000 units weekly for 8 weeks (a total of 400,000 units). So the 300,000 one-time doses are not as outlandish as they seem when compared with a typical maintenance dose of 600-800 IU/day.
The story actually didn’t make any claims about the novelty of this area of research. Vitamin D at this dosage and for this condition are novel approaches.
The article does not appear to be based solely on a press release.