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Vitamin D, Miracle Drug: Is It Science, or Just Talk?

http://www.nytimes.com

Imagine a treatment that could build bones, strengthen the immune system and lower the risks of illnesses like diabetes, heart and kidney disease, high blood pressure and cancer.Some research suggests that such a wonder treatment already exists. It’s vitamin D, a nutrient that the body makes from sunlight and that is also found in fish and fortified milk.

Yet despite the health potential of vitamin D, as many as half of all adults and children are said to have less than optimum levels and as many as 10 percent of children are highly deficient, according to a 2008 report in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

As a result, doctors are increasingly testing their patients’ vitamin D levels and prescribing daily supplements to raise them. According to the lab company Quest Diagnostics, orders for vitamin D tests surged more than 50 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009, up from the same quarter a year earlier. And in 2008, consumers bought $235 million worth of vitamin D supplements, up from $40 million in 2001, according to Nutrition Business Journal.

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