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Global Evolutions

Alaskan Bill Would Mandate Vitamin D Tests

Those in the natural products industry know the importance of vitamin D, and consumers have been on the bandwagon for a few years now. Doctors are starting to recommend it, and now, even regulators in England are promoting vitamin D supplementation.

Here at home in the United States, Alaskan state legislator Paul Seaton (R-Homer)  is sponsoring House Bill 90, the vitamin D newborn testing proposal, which would mandate newborns be tested for vitamin D deficiencies for one year. Parents could opt out if they desired.

Seaton said he expects about 10,000 of the 11,000 babies born in the state each year would be tested. The test would be preformed at birth while the child is tested for other genetic problems. This way, parents wouldn't have to bring their children in solely for the vitamin D test.

The need comes from the high latitude of Alaska, where people are less likely to be exposed to the sun, reducing the body's ability to produce vitamin D on its own. The children would be followed over time, according to an article in the Anchorage Daily News, and the results would be reported on by region.

Seaton has also worked out a deal with a public health organization so the state could get the tests at a cheaper rate than if the government did the tests itself.

The bill had its first hearing in late February 2013, and the Anchorage Daily News article said the state Health and Social Services Committee was receptive. However, Chairman Pete Higgins (R-Fairbanks) questioned if the study was necessary, and Dr. Ward Hurlburt, the state's chief medical officer, said vitamin D has only been proven to prevent osteoporosis and rickets.

Still, recent studies have shown vitamin D's benefits to brain health, breast health and mood

Seaton has previously shown his support for vitamin D by sponsoring a resolution in 2011 that mandated the Alaskan Department of Health and Social Services to promote vitamin D and investigate its health benefits. The resolution passed, and the state produced a public service announcement and issued free vitamin D tests to state employees. Seaton also keeps bottles of vitamin D in his office and passes them out to fellow legislators, according to the article.

The Anchorage Daily News article noted that testing alone doesn't require people to take vitamin D, and the state couldn't legally require those who are deficient to supplement. But Seaton said education may persuade people to take vitamin D and increase their health.

While Seaton may not be the replacement of Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) industry is looking for, it's always good to see legislators who are fighting the good fight for supplements. Especially in places like Alaska where vitamin D levels are suspected to be lower than the rest of the country. If I were on the Alaskan Health and Social Services Committee, I'd vote yes on House Bill 90.

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