From Ronald Hoffman, MD
Last time, I gave you the first half of my list of the worst health news stories of the year. This week, I’m back with part two! So without further ado, here are seven more health news headscratchers from the past year:
8. Melatonin “scourge”: Expressions of concern abounded this year over Americans’ unprecedented use of the sleep supplement melatonin. Small wonder, given the stress and circadian rhythm disruption associated with Covid lockdowns. It was claimed that accidental melatonin ingestion by children resulted in thousands of calls to Poison Control; my analysis found that most were false alarms after parents discovered that junior got into the melatonin gummy stash. Nevertheless, I sat down with Dr. Deanna Minich to explore the safety and utility of melatonin, with the conclusion that its benefits may go well beyond sleep and jet lag, rivaling those of vitamin D.
9. Stop taking vitamin D already! (Forbes) After a flawed New England Journal of Medicine study revealed that vitamin D fell short of statistical significance in preventing osteoporosis, a tsunami of anti-vitamin D articles were published. Avenomous editorial in the NEJM that accompanies the original paper opined: “People should stop taking vitamin D supplements to prevent major diseases or extend life.” I countered with an interview with vitamin D researcher Dr. William Grant who explained why some studies have failed to demonstrate the benefits of vitamin D, and why this essential nutrient should be considered far more than just a “bone supplement”, with impacts on immunity, inflammation, cancer, blood sugar regulation, muscle performance, and heart disease.
10. Alarmist Covid stories: “Infectious Covid virus can stay on some groceries for days” highlights one, hearkening us back to the days when we would swab down our DoorDash deliveries with toxic disinfectant. We now know that, while Covid can remain on surfaces, it’s nearly exclusively transmitted via the aerosol route. Another lurid story making the rounds has it that corpses can transmit Covid; simple hand-washing should alleviate the possibility of transmission, which has never even been demonstrated. Then there’s one about how unvaccinated persons have more traffic fatalities. Is the implication that you better get vaccinated, or else die in a traffic accident? The authors acknowledge that unvaccinated people may simply be bigger risk-takers—but then go on to suggest that insurers might consider applying discriminatory rate hikes to vaccine refuseniks!