April 1, 2015

More Controversy Regarding the Vitamin D RDA  


Toronto Globe and Mail


Recently there have been very negative articles in the Toronto Globe and Mail about vitamin D. They are, in part, a reaction to the ad campaign by Pure North S'Energy Foundation, a Canadian non-profit organization trying to convince Health Canada and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to reconsider the RDA. There is also a petition, which we have featured and you may have signed, to ask Health Canada and the IOM to re-evaluate the data and reconsider their recommendation. It currently has over 6,300 signatures.


Ad that ran in Globe and Mail - click to view full size


Apparently we struck a nerve.


And the response from the general media was not positive.


The first article, an opinion piece by Andre Picard, published March 17th, makes claims we have heard before. High vitamin D levels aren't necessary; taking too much vitamin D can cause kidney stones; disappointing clinical trials; and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says testing is not necessary. In fact, in his caution that correlation does not equal causation, Picard seems to disregard any positive value of correlation. In his own words: "What this observational research shows is that people with adequate vitamin D levels have lower rates of a wide range of chronic illnesses. Stated simply, healthy people tend to be healthy."


Another ad that ran - click to view full ad


The second article was published this past Sunday, March 29, 2015, in the Health section of the Globe and Mail. In the article, "The vitamin D dilemma: How much should we be taking?" Leslie Beck summarized the conclusions of Paul Veuglers' paper published last October in the journal Nutrients as well as the letter from Robert Heaney, et al., published in the same journal last month - which both concluded that the IOM's RDA was off by an order of magnitude. The article also explains why we need vitamin D, continuing research in the field, and current concerns of harm resulting from too much vitamin D. She reports that both Health Canada and the IOM have indeed re-analyzed their data on the tails of Veugelers' paper and that "After formal reviews, both Health Canada and the IOM concluded that no statistical error was made." Furthermore, Health Canada noted that "there was no evidence that increases in vitamin D intake for obese persons beyond the requirements for non-obese individuals affect bone health or other health conditions."

According to Health Canada, "the analysis by Veugelers and Ekwaru greatly overestimates the amount of vitamin D needed for most people and intake at these levels would increase the risk for adverse health effects for some people."


IOM's Response    


The IOM updated its web site on March 20, 2015 to explain how it reached its recommendation of 600 IU/day - and has no apologies or acknowledgement of any criticisms or mistakes. They maintain that anything over 4,000 IU/day can be dangerous. Read this response for yourself. Typically a formal response would clearly state that it is a response and reference what it is responding to, it would be sumitted for publication, peer-reviewed and include the authors' names. This web posting did none of those things.


Responses from Scientists on GrassrootsHealth Panel


A response to the second newspaper article was posted on the Globe and Mail web site by Reinhold Vieth, PhD, Professor, Departments of Nutritional Sciences, Department of Laboratory Medicine & Pathobiology, University of Toronto:


"I have been a scientist focusing on vitamin D for the past 40 years, and have published more on its efficacy and its toxicity than anyone else in Canada. I am quite shocked at the very one-sided representations put forth by the Globe and Mail by Andre Picard and Leslie Beck. Shortly after the latest vitamin D guidelines were published at the end of 2010, it was Walter Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health, who pointed out in emails to other researchers the error that Veuglers et al. so nicely published recently. Anyone who cares about this subject must read the article about this by Robert Heaney, a highly esteemed nutritional investigator in the field of nutrition.


"Back in 2004, my own group in Canada published the first clinical trial using the 600 IU/day of vitamin D that is now the RDA. That work showed clearly that this dose does not suffice as the RDA to assure the 50 nmol/L blood level for adults. All that Veuglers and the Pure North group's advertisements have been doing was to point out that the RDA for vitamin D is like the emperor with no clothes. All that Leslie Beck and Andre Picard are doing is pretending that the emperor looks pretty well dressed to them."


Robert Heaney, MD, Professor of Medicine, Creighton University and Research Director, GrassrootsHealth, commented on the IOM's statement:


"What the IOM seems to be saying is that their calculated RDA will not actually meet the needs of 97.5% of the population. In effect, they admit their error, but assert  that it wasn't actually an error. They say instead that an RDA shouldn't get 97.5% of the population above the lower boundary of adequacy.  This is news to those of us who have been involved in the process.  In its other authoritative publications, the IOM defines an RDA (see the DRI book published by the IOM in 2006) as the intake that is 2 standard deviations above the estimated average requirement. That, in standard statistics, means an intake adequate for 97.5% of a population. I'm afraid their response is just double talk."


GrassrootsHealth Offers Free Online CME 


Doctors, nurses, or anyone who needs continuing medical education (CME) credits may login and register for CME.


These courses were developed from two of the ten lectures presented in December 2014 at the "Vitamin D for Public Health" seminar co-sponsored by University of California San Diego School of Medicine and GrassrootsHealth. Each course includes a pre-test, video presentation, post-test, and evaluation.All lectures from the December seminar are available through UC TV. Anyone who has already watched these videos can complete the CME questionnaires for credit.


One AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™ will be awarded upon the completion of each course. "These lectures contain valuable information for anyone in health care. Each will take about one hour to complete and is easy to access from your computer," said Jen Aliano, project manager for GrassrootsHealth. "We are happy to make this information available to people around the world, and to offer the free credits with them."


GrassrootsHealth partnered with the UC San Diego School of Medicine and CME California to certify and present these courses online. CME California is shared by all University of California Schools of Medicine, providing a reliable and intuitive platform for online CME.


"Providing online CME is the next step to moving the science of vitamin D into practice," said Carole Baggerly, founder and director of GrassrootsHealth. "Many people walk away from our seminars raving about the high quality of information and education. GrassrootsHealth can now provide this information and certify practitioners in medical practices and clinics around the world. "


Video of the Week 


Cost/Benefit of Optimal Health with Sunshine, Vitamin D
By William B. Grant, PhD

Sunlight, Nutrition, and Health Research Center

Watch Now


Dr. William Grant is an epidemiologist and founder of the nonprofit organization Sunlight, Nutrition and Health Research Center (SUNARC). Dr. Grant holds a PhD in physics from UC Berkeley.  He worked as a senior research scientist in the fields of optical and laser remote sensing of the atmosphere and atmospheric sciences at SRI International, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and NASA Langley Research Center. His career included pioneering laser remote sensing instrument development, while the latter half included participating on many NASA-led airborne atmospheric chemistry field missions to the far corners of the world, as well as writing a number of papers on the observations. He has written over 140 peer-reviewed articles and editorials on vitamin D and health, edited 2 books of reprints, and contributed half a dozen chapters to other books.  Dr. Grant was also elected Fellow of the Optical Society of America in 1992.


Grant is a master of culling data from around the world, analyzing this data, and succinctly reporting the results. In this talk, Grant delivers just as the title states - the cost/benefit of vitamin D sufficiency. What would our world be like if everyone was sufficient? He states there would be a reduction of 250,000 new diabetes cases per year. He explains how vitamin D can help prevent cancer, but it has more impact in preventing death from cancer and explains how vitamin D affects existing cancer. He also presents data and conclusions for cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's, falls and fractures, and all-cause mortality.


This is a great presentation to watch if you want to learn the far reaching effects of vitamin D.


Watch Now

Editor's Letter 


Things are heating up in Canada. It is good to know that a grassroots effort is being addressed. I am not sure it is being addressed fully, or to our liking, but it is getting some news coverage and that is a good start. If you live in Canada, I urge you to keep pressing with Health Canada.


Here in the United States, we can write our representatives and senators and ask them to take action. In the near future, after some success in South Carolina with our Protect our Children NOW! (POC) community outreach program, we can ask for a POC program in every state. We have an ally in the Alaskan House of Representatives with Representative Paul Seaton. He recently became chairman of the health and social services sub-committee for Alaska. He is well-versed in the powers of vitamin D (as he should be with his state very far north and a dark-skinned population) and is helping to pass bills to encourage vitamin D intake in Alaska. Maybe other states can copy these programs in the future. Thank you Rep. Seaton!

Let's keep fighting!



Susan Siljander       

Marketing Director, GrassrootsHealth

A Public Health Promotion & 

Research Organization  

Moving Research into Practice NOW!

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Articles about Vitamin D from the Globe and Mail
Vitamin D supplements aren't all sunshine and lollipops
View Here

The Vitamin D dilemma: How much should we be taking?
View Here

IOM Explanation Page
View Here 
Robert Heaney's Blog
Great explanation of whole controversy
View Here

Paul Veugelers' Paper
Statistical Error in the Estimation of RDA
November 2014
View Here

Robert Heaney et al
Paper showing error using GrassrootsHealth dataset
March 2014
View Here

High vitamin D doesn't cause kidney stones
(a common misconception)
Stacie Nguyen et al
View Here

Health Canada petition
Sign here

Protect our Children NOW! information & downloads
Web site 


South Carolina's paper, The Post and Courier, publishes a positive article about Protect our Children NOW! 

View Here 


For health care providers or other insurers interested in learning more about POC, GrassrootsHealth will host introductory webinars starting in April. Signup for Notification 


Those interested in program updates may sign up by contacting: Jen Aliano  
(760) 710-9305 or
(800) 324-8139  jen@grassrootshealth.org Visit web page

Support the cause through donations
Donate Now! 
Do You Need a Vitamin D Supplement to Maintain Ideal Levels?

Interview with Dr. Joseph Mercola and Dr. Robert Heaney

Register for CME Web page that describes the two videos. Click to watch and receive CME
View web site

Vitamin D, Sunshine, and Optimal Health - Putting it all Together
Robert Heaney, MD
Creighton University
50 minute talk
1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM
Complete CME Now

Public Health Initiative: Meeting the Vitamin D Requirements of the Pregnant Women and Improving Health Outcomes; NICHD Vitamin D Lactation Summary
Carol Wagner, MD
University of South Carolina
50 minute talk
1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM
Complete CME Now

Did you miss the seminar?

No Problem - watch the videos now!


Vitamin D for Public Health Seminar

December 9-10, 2014

La Jolla, CA


Cost/Benefit of Optimal Health with Sunshine, Vitamin D
William B. Grant, PhD
Sunlight, Nutrition, and Health Research Center
Watch Now

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