Nowadays, when the internet supplies us with so many fantastic sources of information on everything from our health to the best holiday deals, it’s important to know what’s real and what might just be clever advertising. Though our media sources are faster and cover more stories than ever before, this doesn’t mean their reporting should be taken as gospel. Just like frenzied shoppers, journalists also do their best to find easy-to-wrap-up news stories that are consistent with the popular trends in our public’s eye. Thus, reporting often reflects what citizens want to read rather than the truth.
The recent controversy over vitamin D is a prime example of this fact flip-flopping. (So is the controversy over Wiki-leaks, but we won’t get into that.)
Vitamin D is especially interesting when it comes to nutritional supplementation, as it’s the only vitamin that is also a hormone. In its dual role, vitamin D is essential to the body’s absorption of calcium. Without enough vitamin D, a body is more likely to have lower bone density and other complications associated with low blood levels of calcium.
D is also the only vitamin that does not need to be consumed in food – we can produce it when our skin is exposed to direct sunlight. Thus, unlike with most other nutrients, a person cannot ensure that he or she is getting enough vitamin D simply by eating a balanced diet, (though of course, this helps tremendously!) but should also make efforts to include outdoor activity and gentle exposure to the elements in his or her daily activities. People who have skin with a darker pigment and those who live in regions where sunshine isn’t strong or prevalent (think: upper midwest) are more likely to show a deficiency in vitamin D.
Perhaps it is these curious characteristics of the vitamin that contributed to scientific communities’ and mass media’s recent obsession with its benefits. Perhaps it was simply part of the eternal attempt to locate that panacea of a drug.