Who Cares about Vitamin D? You do!
Background of vitamin D research and findings
A quick search of "vitamin D" and "prevention" in published medical journals will uncover vitamin D research dating back to 1935. Almost all of the research is related to bone health, or as was explained in our newsletter last week, how the endocrine system absorbs, stores, and uses vitamin D. The goal of most of this research was to find a cure for rickets and to help children grow properly.
Still today, much of the research on vitamin D is on bone health, but there is a growing number of research scientists studying how it can prevent disease - scientists such as Dr. Cedric Garland, Dr. William Grant, Dr. Robert Heaney, Dr. Michael Holick, Dr. Bruce Hollis, Dr. Carol Wagner, and Dr. Reinhold Vieth to name a few.
In 2007 GrassrootsHealth was born
After diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer, then finding out that vitamin D sufficiency might have prevented the whole thing, Carole Baggerly wanted to act. She had retired from the company she had founded, was a breast cancer survivor and wanted to make a difference. But how? She founded GrassrootsHealth.
GrassrootsHealth is unique because it is based on science. Today 42 leading scientists in the vitamin D community are part of the GrassrootsHealth panel and regularly provide input, answer questions, or record video presentations on the latest in vitamin D research. These scientists authored and signed the "Scientists call to D*action" - the manifesto of GrassrootsHealth, which was originally published in 2008 and updated in January 2011. Have you read it?
In October 2008, in association with Dr. Cedric Garland, GrassrootsHealth published The "Disease Incidence Prevention by Serum 25(OH)D Level" chart and Carole traveled the world to find people who would listen and take action. Would the government stand up? Not yet. Would national health institutes stand up? Not yet. Would doctors stand up? Some did, but the majority were not yet ready. The primary movers were - and still are - individuals.
Thousands of people were learning about the importance of vitamin D and wanted to have their vitamin D levels tested, but they couldn't get it done through their medical plans. How could they get tested? They joined D*action.
Crowdfunding and the power of data
D*action was started in 2009 and is the world's largest vitamin D project with participants in the range of 40-60 ng/ml, totaling almost 10,000 participants. Rather than depend on a government research grant, D*action relied on the essence of crowdfunding whereby each participant has paid for their own vitamin D serum level test and in-turn receives relevant data about their health and how to combat and prevent disease. Their data is then pooled with that from other participants for analysis and publication about the status and health measures of this population. An objective of GrassrootsHealth is to collect data for each participant over the course of five years (or longer) and track health outcomes associated with vitamin D sufficiency.
Vitamin D deficiency and its negative health consequences do not need to exist. This project depends on a true 'GrassrootsHealth' movement. We can do it together!
What have we found so far?
One of the first posters we created and promoted was "Serum levels vs. intake." From your data we were able to de-bunk the standard medical practice at the time - which was a blanket recommendation from NIH to take 400 IU/day (yes, that is right, there is no missing '0') for humans 1-70, including pregnant women; and 600 IU/day for those over 70. No testing. That was considered enough.
Much like you cannot know a person's cholesterol level by just examining their diet, your data has proven that vitamin D serum levels cannot be known just by examining intake. Testing is necessary.
Your data showed that for people taking 2000 IU/day one person could have a blood serum level of 20 ng/ml of 25(OH)D, while another has 110 ng/ml. Why the disparity? We know there are many factors such as age, BMI, ethnicity, stress, and sun exposure - but testing is necessary. There is no magic daily dosage for everyone.
Another standard of practice at the time was that vitamin D was unsafe in higher intake levels, that anything above 2000 IU/day would lead to vitamin D toxicity. D*action data showed (and you can see by the blue line on the chart) that greater than 4000 IU/day the curve starts to taper off and we see it is very hard to get to potentially toxic levels (200 ng/ml). We also used D*action data to publish a paper demonstrating that higher levels of 25(OH)D did not lead to kidney stones, as many doctors learned in medical school.
Breast Cancer Prevention
Based on the Lappe et al. publication in 2007, which showed an overall cancer reduction of 77% with a serum level of approximately 40 ng/ml; GrassrootsHealth embarked on a specific study with women over 60 who were cancer-free at the time of enrollment. The goal was to demonstrate the protective effect of improved vitamin D status on the risk of breast cancer.
As of our most recent analysis, 839 are still cancer-free and have an median of 50 ng/ml 25(OH)D. Five women have been diagnosed with breast cancer; four of these women had 25(OH)D values below the median.Overall there was an 80% reduction in breast cancer among those ≥50 ng/ml compared to those <50 ng/ml. Click here to view the full poster.
According to the American Cancer Society's Breast Cancer Statistics, 232,670 new cases of breast cancer are expected in 2014 with 40,000 deaths. With a potential 80% reduction in breast cancer risk, 186,136 of these women would never face a breast cancer diagnosis.
What women in your life would you like to tell this to?
Do you know someone that would qualify for this study?
Call to D*action
You already know the benefits of vitamin D for disease prevention. Next week we will highlight more findings from your data. Today, you can continue to be part of the study by continuing to test your vitamin D serum level.
We are expecting to demonstrate the significance of vitamin D on the health and prevention of many diseases for individuals and at a population level. We very much appreciate your participation. Help us spread the word.