Many consumers are acutely aware that vitamin D is an essential nutrient, and that an estimated 40 to 75 percent of the world is vitamin D deficient. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has adopted dosage guidelines (albeit misdirected), and vitamin D tests are prescribed regularly by medical practitioners. Like omega-3s, vitamin D enjoys the benefit of being a “mainstream" supplement. And, like omega-3s, vitamin D is facing continued bad press, being labeled as unnecessary, ineffective and even potentially dangerous. Nothing could be further from the truth, as GrassrootsHealth’s (GRH) translational research demonstrates. GRH is a nonprofit public health research organization dedicated to changing health care outcomes by using the results of research conducted by a panel of more than 50 senior vitamin D researchers from around the world, with the support of more than 10,000 people who participate in its programs.
The role of randomized clinical trials (RCTs) is essential to the advancement of science, yet, their limitation when evaluating nutrients is obvious. After all, it would be unethical to enforce zero consumption of any vitamin or mineral in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Translational research applies the findings derived from basic science into practice, enabling the implementation of new treatment protocols or standards of care. This population-based research approach for nutrients is a solution to the many problems and limitations of gold standard RCTs, generating results faster and with far less expense while garnering the support of consumers along the way.
Debunking Dosage Recommendations
IOM’s dosage recommendation for vitamin D is 600 IUs per day, an amount GRH researchers at U.S. San Diego and Creighton University assert underestimates the need by a factor of 10. GRH has clear documentation that achieving a blood serum level of 40 to 60 ng/ml is the essential vitamin D measure for health outcomes, and the data indicates there is no correlation between vitamin D dosage and serum levels. Diet, exposure to the sun and how your body absorbs the nutrient make dosage highly variable across populations. Take 2,000 IUs a day or 10,000 IUs a day, regular testing is the only way to know if you are taking enough D to make a difference.
GRH has generated a substantial body of evidence supporting the premise that disease incidence is significantly lowered when individuals achieve blood serum levels between 40 to 60 ng/ml.
In February, GRH published data from its public health study program, D*Action, showing participants have a 60 percent lower rate of incidence of type-2 diabetes in the D*action group (J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2016 Jan;155(Pt B):239-44). GRH estimated anywhere from 20 to 50 percent of cardiovascular disease (CVD) can be prevented by ensuring adequate vitamin D levels. That translates to a minimum of 300,000 fewer heart attacks and strokes every year.
There is a growing body of analysis related to vitamin D levels and cancer. Approximately 75 percent of breast cancer is related to vitamin D deficiency (Cancer Causes Control. 2013 Mar;24(3):495-504).
The power of this translational research to document health care outcomes is only surpassed by the impact upon delivery of care.
Nutrients Changing the Standards of Care
In November, GRH co-authored a research paper with the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), documenting that women with vitamin D levels of 40 to 60 ng/ml have a 46 percent lower preterm birth rate than the general population (J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2015 Apr;148:256-60). Improving vitamin D levels nationally would prevent 225,000 preterm births per year and save upward of US$6 billion annually. The power of these demonstrated results has already changed the practice care guideline for pregnant women in MUSC’s care and that of MUSC’s workforce who will now have their vitamin D levels monitored. Efforts are currently underway to expand this program to new locations across the country.
In the Public’s Interest
The Organic & Natural Health Association’s commitment to aid research for nutrients that support accurate structure/function claims and demonstrate an impact on health status led the nonprofit to partner with GRH.
Organic & Natural Health’s goal is to utilize the Power of D Campaign, the GRH translational research platform to:
• Expand the body of research related to nutrient deficiency and empower individuals to manage their health,
• Dispel mainstream media assertions that all nutrients can be derived from our diet, and
• Integrate new standards of care relating to natural health supplementation into the health care delivery system.
In addition to building the burgeoning number of vitamin D study participants by working with retailers and finished product suppliers, Organic & Natural Health is exploring testing methodologies and designing studies for a wide variety of nutrients, including vitamin K, omega-3s and magnesium. This process will engage consumers directly in monitoring their health conditions, the supplements they take, the dosages of those supplements and the corresponding serum levels.
We have engaged in a national public relations and education campaign, supported by our scientific advisory council—a team of dedicated practitioners who understand what it means to provide health care vs. disease care. Our goal is to educate the general public and mainstream media about the power of supplementation, starting with the Power of D Campaign.
Consumers want quality products that produce results, so much so they are willing to participate in studies that allow them to evaluate their own health against the products they consume.
Karen Howard, CEO and executive director of Organic & Natural Health Association, is a visionary and results-focused leader who has spent more than 30 years working with Congress, state legislatures and health care organizations to develop innovative health care policy and programs. She has held a variety of executive positions, including serving as professional staff for a congressional committee, and has policy expertise in the diverse areas of integrative and complementary medicine, managed care, health care technology and mental health. An advocate at heart, she has worked to strategically advance the mission and vision of organizations through effective advocacy and strong collaboration.