What Do People Know and Believe about Vitamin D?

Nutrients. 2016 8(11):e718

Deschasaux M, Souberbielle JC, Partula V, Lécuyer L, Gonzalez R, Srour B, Guinot C, Malvy D, Latino-Martel P, Druesne-Pecollo N, Galan P, Hercberg S, Kesse-Guyot E, Fassier P, Ezzedine K, Touvier M

People have been exposed to a lot of information regarding vitamin D, with evidence suggesting that vitamin D may be involved in numerous health conditions, subsequently creating concerns about vitamin D insufficiency. As a result, what do people really know or believe about this topic? In this cross-sectional study, we assessed vitamin D-related knowledge and beliefs in 59,273 French adults (NutriNet-Santé cohort) using a specific questionnaire. Answers to this questionnaire were weighted according to the French sociodemographic distribution and compared across individual characteristics, using χ²-tests. Physicians and media were identified as key information providers. Participants did not always accurately cite vitamin D sources (e.g., 72% only for sun exposure, fatty fish: 61%) or established health effects (e.g., bone health: 62%-78%). Conversely, they mentioned incorrect sources and health effects for which there is no consensus yet (e.g., skin cancer). These findings were modulated by age/generational and socioeconomic factors. A strong inconsistency was also observed between participants' true vitamin D status (plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration) and their opinion about it. This study, the first in Europe with such a large sample, stresses the need for simple and up-to-date supports of communication for the public and healthcare professionals regarding sources and health effects of vitamin D.