It helps if you can be looking at this map as you read this article, so feel free to open up another tab on your browser and point it to the following web address:
What you’ll be looking at is a map of the world that has superimposed on it vitamin D levels in different countries. We can’t decide if we really like this map or not. There are some very interesting things about it, but there are also some problems from our perspective.
At first you don’t realize that when you arrive to the link for the first time, you’re looking at the child/adolescent picture only, not to mention that you’re missing a big chunk of the eastern world that doesn’t fit nicely onto the screen. So the first interesting thing to do is to click the little button that changes the map from picturing data for children and adolescents to the adults. What happens is that vitamin D levels go up quite a bit and there are fewer hotspots of deficiency. In a way, what they’re doing might be really smart. Everyone is more concerned when the topic is about our children, and when it comes to vitamin D levels, the kids do seem to have it worse off than the rest of us. This can help get public health campaigns going because who is going to resist something on behalf of children, right?
But there are problems with the map. One sad thing to notice is how many countries are gray because they simply didn’t have enough viable data on which to paint a picture of vitamin D in that country. Another thing that we find somewhat disturbing is that it possibly makes the whole situation look better than it really is. When you first come to the map, the United States shows up in the 50-74 range. It would be easy to look at that and say the US doesn’t have a problem with vitamin D deficiency, when we know very clearly the exact opposite is true. The levels presented here must be averages, which means there could still be millions and millions of people suffering from low levels even though it looks like, on average, the people are doing well.
Also, it is now 2014 but the map was created in 2012, begging the question of whether or not it will be updated as better data becomes available.
Sources for Further Reading: