This past fall, national pediatrician guidelines doubled the recommended amount of vitamin D for kids. There is also much more concern over vitamin D deficiency, as demand for testing has increased by 80% to 90% this year, according to the Financial Times. Vitamin D has long been thought of as important to health, but what are its real benefits? Well, this year a $20 million government-funded trial is going to study whether vitamin D and fish oil lower the risk of cancer, heart disease or stroke. The study will follow 20,000 healthy older adults for five years. At the heart of this question is whether or not vitamin D deficiency causes a higher rate of disease among African-Americans. Researchers have thought that it is harder for people with darker skin to make vitamin D from sunlight, and perhaps taking supplements will reduce the risk of some diseases. The Boston Globe points out that the goal is to have at least 25% of the participants be African-American. The results of this study should be fascinating. If the vitamin D has no effect on the participants, then I do not think vitamin D will be viewed as unimportant. Vitamin D helps maintain one’s calcium balance, regulate one’s blood pressure, and helps fight against osteoporosis. However, if the vitamin truly does help against cancer, stroke, and heart disease the effects could be remarkable. “If something as simple as taking a vitamin D pill could help lower these risks and eliminate these health disparities, that would be extraordinarily exciting,” said Dr. JoAnn Manson from Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. For millions of individuals, vitamin D could prove to be a life-saver.