Inverse Daily: The truth about Vitamin D

Vitamin D supplements are a billion-dollar industry and it might be a scam for most people.

Good Monday morning. If you’re in the US, I hope you’re enjoying the short holiday week. In this Monday edition, we’ve got good news about parks, a new feature about vitamin D — just in time for winter — and what obesity’s effect on the brain is like.

You can’t take it with you: On this day in 1835 Andrew Carnegie was born. By the end of his life, in 1919, he had given away an estimated 90 percent of the fortune he made in his life in business, which is about $65 billion in 2019 dollars. He mostly spent his money on local libraries, education, and scientific research in the United States and strongly believed the rich owe a debt to society. “The man who dies thus rich dies disgraced,” he commented in an 1889 essay.

I’m Nick Lucchesi, executive editor at Inverse, and this is Inverse Daily. Let’s dive in.

This article is an adapted version of the Inverse Daily newsletter. Subscribe for free and earn rewards for reading every day.

INVERSE QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Our star is a stable star, but most other stars aren’t.”

— Emily Lakdawalla, a planetary geologist at The Planetary Society.

Green light

With half the world’s population living in cities, plenty of people aren’t getting a whole lot of nature in their lives. But living close to greenery is super important — and not just for the benefits to mental health and the climate.

Living near public parks and other natural areas can add years to your life, new research shows. By analyzing huge datasets — including 8 million people from countries around the world — scientists were able to confirm the trend. When people live close to green spaces, premature death rates drop. The more plants, the better.

Some cities in the US are already stepping up their game (good looks, Atlanta), but others aren’t doing so hot (New York, how you doin’?). With clear public health benefits at stake, scientists hope the findings encourage the tree-free cities to green it up.

Why living near green spaces like public parks may help you live longer →

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INPUT

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Steal my sunshine

Known as the “sunshine pill,” Vitamin D is an incredibly popular supplement. It’s a billion-dollar industry that hinges on a product sold to make you feel better — both presently and in the future.

The problem is that the claims that Vitamin D supplementation can do things like reduce the risk of a heart attack, cancer, and type 2 diabetes, or simply make you happier, are shaky. That’s because the majority of beneficial claims link back to small studies, and when researchers try to recreate those results with large clinical trials, they just can’t.

Adding further murkiness to the mix is that it’s unclear what really counts as Vitamin D deficiency and how much a person needs to not be deficient. What is clear is that some people are taking too much Vitamin D. Toxicology reports have steadily risen since 2010, increasing alongside the vitamin’s popularity.

The truth about vitamin D is in our new feature →

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It’s time to delete Facebook

Facebook and Google are analyzing every post you like, the places you go, and the content you read in order to best sell your data to the highest bidder. At its least insidious, this can result in annoying ads for hair vitamin gummies clogging your feed, but at its worst, it can result in the jeopardizing of safety and democracy. And this, says a new Amnesty International report, is a violation of our human rights.

The report finds that even though these companies require users to initially consent to the terms and conditions that include data usage, that consent is coerced and doesn’t address the breadth with which the data will be used. This, as well as the way these companies use data to influence individuals’ decisions, result in a violation of users’ rights to privacy, argues the report.

While the state of data privacy looks bleak today, the report contends that this surveillance-based business model doesn’t have to be how the internet runs forever, and that enforcing regulation at the state and federal level, as well as increasing transparency and user autonomy from these tech giants, could be a path toward a brighter internet.

You are not a product →

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Mic Check

Like you, we spend a lot of time on the internet. We also spend a lot of time managing the stress that comes with staying informed.

Mic Check is a place where we can work through what’s happening in the world together, and have a little fun in the process.

For a daily morning brief on politics and culture, sign up here

Brain drain

The science of obesity, tends to focus on how it alters heart function, the metabolism, or other bodily processes. Little attention is paid to what, if anything, obesity might be doing to our brains

But as Inverse’s Emma Betuel reports, new research suggest that obesity’s toll isn’t just exacted on the body — it can cause brain damage, too. That could make the condition even harder to beat.

Here’s how obesity could affect your brain, too →

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What makes an exoplanet “habitable”?

In 1992, astronomers Aleksander Wolszczan and Dale Frail were observing a pulsar star located some 2,300 light-years away when they noticed something strange.

The usually regular rhythm of its pulsating light seemed to be skipping a beat. The reason behind its off-beat pulse led to a discovery that would change the course of astronomical exploration: The star had two planets orbiting around it.

These were the first planets ever observed outside of our solar system. And so, the study of exoplanets — and the search for those that may support life like that found on Earth — was born.

So what essential ingredients do you need for life? Inverse spoke to the experts to find out what they think are the key factors for habitability elsewhere in the universe.

Here are the keys to life →

Among the living:

Today’s good thing

Today’s good thing is all about cures. As reported in Stat, “the first two patients to receive a CRISPR-based treatment for the inherited blood disorders sickle cell disease and beta thalassemia have benefited from the experimental therapy and experienced only temporary and treatable side effects.”

“For decades, we knew about the sickle cell disease mutation but we didn’t know about other genes [involved in the disease], and we didn’t have the necessary tools for genetic correction” of blood-making stem cells, commented Dr. Mitchell Weiss of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. (He was not involved in the research.) Now we have a confluence of scientific understanding and technology that can come together to make things happen.”

Read more about today’s good thing in Stat.

Meanwhile …

  • The new 16-inch MacBook Pro finally fixes Apple’s really bad keyboards.
  • Hooded Justice flashbacks reveal a bigger conspiracy on HBO’s Watchmen.
  • Mandalorian Episode 3 may have teased the return of a famous Jedi.

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That’s all for today!

Thank you for reading and if you have a suggestion for how to make this newsletter better, drop me a line at nick@inverse.com. And follow me on Twitter where I retweet the best of Inverse every day.