Healthy Living

Healthy Living
Step Into the Light

Chris LaVigne | 10 Nov 2009 12:42
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That some in the gaming media treated Melamed's study like a punching bag may not be surprising, considering how often gamers feel forced to defend their hobby against doctors from the social sciences. The hyperbolic claims of many psychologists, criminologists and sociologists have undoubtedly made gamers wary of any scientists who may seem to be criticizing gaming. But however justified their skepticism may be, having writers with a bias against scientists reporting about medical science is not healthy.

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Gaming sites missed an opportunity to inform their readers about a potential health risk that is both easily avoided and treated, but can lead to bad consequences if ignored. It's especially disheartening since getting good health information can make a real difference in a person's life. One Destructoid commenter, Projectexodus, shared his positive experience with being diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency and successfully treating the condition. "Not too long ago, I found out that I suffered from vitamin D deficiency. ... So lately I've been taking supplements and going through a diet change, while occacionally [sic] sitting on my porch in the sunlight. The changes that have happened are fenomenal! [sic] I'm more motivated, vigorous, active, focused, positive, and my skin is cleaner!"

A doctor can measure vitamin D levels with a blood test and make recommendations based on that. To avoid deficiencies, Melamed suggests taking daily multivitamins ("which are available in delicious gummi flavors," she adds). Only four percent of the NHANES subjects did so. Other simple life changes can also help. "Drink milk instead of soda or a sugar drink," she says. "Or go out in the sun for 15 minutes."

Melamed says media reports about America's low vitamin D levels are contributing to the solution by raising awareness. She noticed a difference in her own life when her pediatrician recommended vitamin D for her 1-year-old girl, something never discussed while her 5-year-old was the same age. "I was actually a little bit worried about all the pediatricians being upset with all of the patients coming to them asking about vitamin D," Melamed says. "But I told my pediatrician about it and she was like, 'Oh, I think it's great. I think people need to be more aware of it.'"

Gaming media chose not to raise awareness of Melamed's study among gamers. Those that discussed it did so mostly with scorn, giving the impression that potential health risks associated with gaming should be ridiculed rather than investigated. As many people continue to turn to blogs and specialist websites for their news, those providers may want to re-evaluate their journalistic obligations. With so many devoted readers, a more considered kind of gaming journalism could play an important role in shaping a healthier generation of gamers.

Chris LaVigne contributes regularly to The Escapist. He's also written about flaws in the way social scientists study videogames and how newspapers misrepresent videogame research.

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