Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Vitamin D Craze Bites the Dust

Nutrition label.

A word of caution.  Whenever a new test, treatment or diagnosis seems to be making the cover stories on the magazines at the grocery store, be wary.   With titles like, "the diagnosis your doctor probably doesn't know about", we are led to believe that we need to jump on the bandwagon.  Frequently these recommendations have something to do with nutrition.

Yesterday the Institute of Medicine announced that the validity of the recent fad to test and treat for vitamin D deficiency is questionable.  It never made sense to me that over 80% of people were allegedly deficient in this vitamin that is nearly ubiquitous in dairy products and can be made in our bodies naturally if we are exposed to sunlight.   (Interestingly there is an article in the same New York Times 11/30/10 issue that discusses the deficiency of active outdoor time in our population.)

Several months ago my own physician sent my blood for a Vitamin D level inspite of the fact that I told him I would not take supplements since I spend at least an hour outside five to six times per week.   Of course I fell in the 80% of Americans who test low for this particular value.  And the test cost over $200.  My theory is that we really do not know yet what exactly we are measuring and what its relevance is to actual Vitamin metabolism in our bodies.

This is just one more lesson to all of us, including physicians who order blood work, to be circumspect about recommendations and to wonder whose idea they are, who is benefiting and above all to ask the question: "Where is the data?"

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