Representations of the health value of vitamin D supplementation in newspapers: media content analysis

TitleRepresentations of the health value of vitamin D supplementation in newspapers: media content analysis
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsCaulfield T, Clark MI, McCormack JP, Rachul C, Field CJ
JournalBMJ Open
Date Published2014

OBJECTIVE: To examine the nature of media coverage of vitamin D in relation to its role in health and the need for supplements.

DESIGN: Media content analysis.

SETTING: Print articles from elite newspapers in the UK, the USA and Canada.

PARTICIPANTS: 294 print newspaper articles appearing over 5 years (2009-2014).

RESULTS: Newspaper coverage of vitamin D generally supported supplementation. The most common framing of vitamin D in print articles was "adequate vitamin D is necessary for good health." Articles also framed vitamin D as difficult to obtain from food supply and framed vitamin D deficiency as a widespread concern. In discussions of supplementation, 80% articles suggested supplementation is or may be necessary for the general population, yet almost none of the articles discussed the potential harms of vitamin D supplementation in any detail. Print articles named 40 different health conditions in relationship to vitamin D. The most commonly cited conditions included bone health, cancer and cardiovascular health. Although print articles referred to a wide range of scholarly research on vitamin D with varying degrees of endorsement for supplementation, a general tone of support for vitamin D supplementation in media coverage persisted.

CONCLUSIONS: Newspaper articles conveyed overall support for vitamin D supplementation. News articles linked vitamin D to a wide range of health conditions for which there is no conclusive scientific evidence. Media coverage downplayed the limitations of existing science and overlooked any potential risks associated with supplementation.

Alternate JournalBMJ Open
PubMed ID25552612
PubMed Central IDPMC4281532