Vitamin D, the ‘sunshine vitamin,’ forms the core of one of the longest fortification stories in the nutritional sphere. Originally added to milk to combat rickets, the bone disease that results from deficiency, new research now supports claims of ever-wider benefits for the vitamin.
But those claims have also raised controversy. Marion Nestle, a professor at New York University and an influential observer of food policy, has objected to the recent move to allow vitamin D levels to be disclosed on nutrition facts panels on foods. “Vitamin D fortification must be understood as a form of hormone replacement therapy. As such, it raises questions about efficacy, dose, and side effects that should be asked about all such therapies,” she wrote.
Nestle said she fears that food manufacturers might hide the delterious effects of sugary or high fat foods aimed at children or other vulnerable groups behind a healthy positioning via a vitamin D nutrient content claim. And she said that the Institute of Medicine does not consider vitamin D insufficiency to be a problem.
Others have raised questions, too, with a recent paper in the British Medical Journal questioning whether any of the benefits claimed for vitmain D stand up. And as is common in nutrition research, there are equivocal studies to point to. A recent trial found that vitamin D supplementation was not helpful for asthmatics, for example.
But many researchers and policy makers strongly disagree with these naysayers. Some researchers advocate vitmain D supplementation should start in infancy. And the Council for Responsible Nutrition says recent research points to wide benefits for Vitmain D.
In today’s special edition, we gather some of our recent stories on vitamin D to try to present a picture of the current state of vitamin D science and policy.