Harvard Health Letter

Vitamin's value to be D-termined

Beta carotene, the B vitamins, vitamins C and E, selenium — they've all been talked up as agents of health and well-being, only to lose altitude after middling, even negative, results from randomized trials. Now it's time for vitamin D to be put to the clinical trial test: the largest randomized clinical trial ever of large doses of vitamin D is starting in 2010.

Dr. JoAnn Manson, a member of the Health Letter's editorial board, and her colleagues at Harvard Medical School are conducting the VITAL study (they arrived at the name by selectively plucking letters from VITamin D and OmegA-3 TriaL). The plan is to enroll 20,000 men and women nationwide and randomly assign them to take, on a daily basis, either vitamin D pills, omega-3 fats in the form of fish oil capsules, the vitamin D pills and fish oil capsules together, or placebo pills.

As is often the case in this type of research, the researchers and the study volunteers will be "blinded" as to which pills are being taken so biases and prejudices don't creep in.

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