Why hobbits always win (and why we should care)

Today I read an intriguing article: The hobbit–an unexpected deficiency. I’m a big Tolkien fan, so the title of the article was enough to grab me.

The premise of the article is that Vitamin D is the key component to good triumphing over evil, particularly within the Tolkien universe. Why Vitamin D, you ask? Because Vitamin D is an important steroid hormone that ensures proper calcium metabolism. The authors found that there was a significant difference in the reported diets and sun-seeking behaviors of the protagonists (hobbits, men, elves, dwarves) than those of the evil characters (Smeagol, dragons, and giant spiders). This premise is indeed very silly, but at least one of the authors of the paper, Nicholas Hopkinson, actually studies Vitamin D deficiency and the diseases associated with it, such as COPD. Although at first glance this seemed fun but silly, it’s actually a rather clever way to shine light on important biomedical research being conducted.

As scientists, it’s easy to get wrapped up in our research and forget that not everyone in the world knows about the disease/gene/species/<insert_research_topic_here> that we study. This paper is published in a scientific journal, The Medical Journal of Australia, and was publicized in Science News. This means that it’s getting a lot of publicity both within the scientific community and outside of it, bringing attention to the importance of vitamin D deficiency and other ailments. I think this is a really cool, clever idea!

And I bet the authors had a lot of fun writing it.


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