Vitamin D is so important researchers worry about ethics of placebo in research trials

(Natural News) In case you needed any more proof of how essential vitamin D is to good health, researchers have warned that placebo-controlled trials that involve limiting some people’s intake of the all-star nutrient could be considered unethical.

This presents a serious quandary for researchers. Demonstrating the efficacy of vitamin D in studies is essential for boosting awareness and acceptance of its treatment effects, but the very design of many studies could cause some patients to miss out on the vitamins they need.

Writing in the journal Nutrients, George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences Integrative Medicine Program Director Dr. Leigh Frame outlined just what could happen if a person known to be deficient in vitamin D was denied it. The potential problems include poor short-term or long-term bone health and a higher risk of chronic disease, cancer, autoimmunity, infection and mental illness.

The researchers involved in the review cited two types of trial design as having potentially conflicting objectives. The first is studies with an active control arm with no placebo group. In this case, they point out that the benefit of such a study could be dampened if the absence of a placebo causes them to get non-significant results. Having an active control could limit the possibility of detecting meaningful effects from the supplement.

In the case of placebo trials, valuable information is often gleaned but the ethical questions could be a deal-breaker. Because vitamin D deficiency is a “known harm” and vitamin D has known benefits, they believe that withholding adequate supplementation from some people in the study could cause them an undue health risk. They believe the potential benefits that can be gained by determining an ideal dose of vitamin D would not necessarily outweigh the harm that could be caused to those who are deprived of supplementation….

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