We Are Sunshine

Something Strange in New ‘D’ Study

Friday, April 13th, 2012

Promotion of a University of Bristol study suggesting that vitamin D status does not help children do better in school seems to have a hidden agenda: encouraging British children to keep over-using sunscreen.

“(The study’s) results suggest that protection of children from UVB exposure, which has been associated with low levels of vitamin D, but which protects against skin damage and skin cancer, is unlikely to have any detrimental effect on academic achievement,” the study’s authors concluded.

It’s an odd statement to show up in the paper and in promotion of the paper, given the limitations of the study as a survey — epidemiology which had nothing to do with sun exposure or in identifying that kind of cause-and-effect relationship. It’s not unlike how Mayo Clinic Dermatology last week made promotion of their one-county melanoma data registry figures about indoor tanning, when neither UV exposure nor tanning were not even measured in their data.

“There is a strange thing going on with some vitamin D research right now,” Smart Tan Executive Director Joseph Levy said, “It’s as if some papers are being designed and/or promoted as if to let ‘Sun Scare’ purveyors off the hook for the undeniable drop in vitamin D levels in the past generation. It doesn’t make any sense for papers to be promoted like this. The conclusion is based entirely on survey data and not on conflicting clinical and laboratory evidence in the mechanism of how we now know vitamin D works. It’s as if no one cares that the conclusions and press written about them go well beyond what that kind of data is even capable of saying.”

According to HealthDay, “British researchers at the University of Bristol measured vitamin D levels in slightly more than 3,000 children — all born in the early 1990s — when they were 9 years old. The children’s grades in English, math and science were evaluated when they were ages 13-14 and again when they were 15-16. The investigators found no evidence that higher vitamin D levels improved the students’ academic performance. The findings support previous research about vitamin D and children, and suggest that vitamin D’s brain power boost doesn’t appear until later in life.”

That protocol has nothing to do with sun habits. Nor does it involve rigorous discussion of vitamin D’s mechanism in proper cell growth.

“It isn’t as if it’s entirely justified to say the opposite — that kids with higher vitamin D levels are smarter — but it isn’t justified to dismiss that based on the kind of data collected in this paper,” Levy said. “That makes it strange that this kind of study is being promoted the way it is.”

To read the HealthDay story click here.