April 8, 2015

Letter from the Director


I am in Charleston, South Carolina this week initiating the enrollment process for Protect our Children NOW!

The project has been announced in the local papers and community centers, and this week marks the start of enrollment for expectant mothers. I am at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), and have seen firsthand the excitement of mothers learning about the benefits of vitamin D for their pregnancy and themselves. It is a pleasure to be able to launch this free service to a community that has one of the highest preterm labor rates in the country. I firmly believe it will have a tremendously positive impact for the individual participants and for the community as a whole.


While GrassrootsHealth is the design and implementation lead, this project is truly a team effort. SelectHealth, MUSC, and Eau Claire Health Center are all integral in providing the insurance and medical support necessary for the participants of the project, and BioTech Pharmacal, is supplying the vitamin D3 supplements. Without the support and participation of our partners we would not have been able to get this groundbreaking project started.

After this week hundreds more women and doctors will have been exposed to the benefits - and necessity - of vitamin D in pregnancy. Our great hope is that following the success of this project in this community we can replicate it and adapt it to the needs of other communities.

It is a busy week for GrassrootsHealth and the staff here in South Carolina, but we are making big strides in "Moving Research into Practice - NOW!"




Carole Baggerly 

Director, GrassrootsHealth

A Public Health Promotion & Research Organization

Moving Research into Practice NOW!

Our Questions - Your Data 


This week we want to give you some insight on how GrassrootsHealth collects data through D*action, why we collect the data we do, and how it is used to help move research into practice.


Why the long questionnaire?


GrassrootsHealth could provide a vitamin D test without asking you to fill out a questionnaire. It would be a public service, especially back in 2009 when we started and it was hard to get a doctor to prescribe a vitamin D test. But we founded GrassrootsHealth for more than testing. We founded GrassrootsHealth based on science, by first gathering together researchers to form a panel, then having those researchers come to a consensus that optimal vitamin D blood levels should be in the range of 40-60 ng/ml.  


By asking questions along with each test, we collect information that can be used to inform public health officials and conduct vitamin D research. By asking about health, supplementation, and exposure to sun or UV light - we can connect each participant's blood level with their lifestyle and health status.  


By asking about demographic and lifestyle information, health history and current conditions we track how vitamin D blood levels are associated with disease. We want to determine if an association between vitamin D blood level and a particular health condition exists, and if it does, how strong the association is or how it may change based on vitamin D status.  


What happens to the data that is recorded through the questionnaire?


All data is held in a secure database. We do not share this data with any other company or entity.  


Our customer service staff uses the contact information to send notifications about test results and when it is time for the next test.  


One staff member on our research team reviews questionnaire responses and test results to try and spot things out of the ordinary that may need clarification or correction. If there is a newly reported disease, they may contact that participant to request medical records.


All other research team members see only the questionnaire and test result data - they do not have access to the personal identification information.  They conduct data analysis using the de-identified data and put together summary data reports and graphs. We have published newsletter topics around this data such as how vitamin D relates to sex, age, or latitude (Your Data, Your Answers). GrassrootsHealth has also published many peer-reviewed papers - see sidebar.


Top 3 Areas of Interest


We could ask many more questions than we do on our questionnaire. It is great to have lots of data to compare with vitamin D levels, but we understand that there is a limit to how much time people are generally willing to spend filling out a questionnaire.


Most of the known research on vitamin D has been done in populations with low blood concentrations of 25(OH)D, with very low supplementation (< 2,000 IU/day), or with bulk supplementation, large doses given once a month. Our data set is unique in that many of our participants take over 4,000 IU/day and our average serum level is 44 ng/ml.


Area of Interest #1 - Dose Response


Is it really true that one person can supplement with 1000 IU/day and have a vitamin D level of 50 ng/ml, while another takes 10,000 IU/day and only has 40 ng/ml? What can we surmise by reported supplementation and sun exposure vs. the measured vitamin D level?





Above is one of the first graphs we published. It is a dose-response curve using data from 3667 participants that showed an average dose response, as well as the wide variation at each level of intake. The curve also showed that the response is not linear - it is steeper at lower levels and then flattens out at higher levels.


Recently, we used our dose-response data - your data - to respond to the IOM regarding the current RDA. We helped publish a paper that used a statistical analysis to show how much supplementation it would take to get 97.5% of the population above 20 ng/ml.


Area of Interest # 2 - Disease analysis


We have researchers on our panel of scientists who specialize in specific diseases or conditions, e.g. diabetes, cancer, or pregnancy. Our data can help them research relationships with vitamin D using diagnosis date, vitamin D level before diagnosis, and vitamin D level after diagnosis. Our data also includes other factors that might be important, such as gender, age, smoking status, exercise, latitude, weight, BMI, and occupation.


Overall we can explore which health conditions are associated with vitamin D status. We can also drill down by disease and find what serum level range is ideal for the prevention of that disease. From there we can compute how much disease would be prevented with serum levels in the range of 40-60 ng/ml.


Area of Interest #3 - Fluctuations of D-levels


sunglasses-beach-child.jpg Our database has also shown that many of our participants D-levels change throughout the year. By looking at the other data included in the questionnaire, we can try and correlate the vitamin D level change to other factors - sun exposure, UV light, exercise, etc.


When information from the questionnaire cannot explain observed differences, we may contact the participant to try to gather more information. For example, we know that a recent illness or injury can result in lower than usual levels, sometimes we see that it is higher, sometimes much higher. With our additional questioning, we have learned that some people will take an extra large dose for a few days if they feel a cold coming on, others have reported taking extra after an injury such as a sprained ankle. These extra large doses can result in a temporary spike in D levels.

We have also learned from several anecdotes that foods and supplements that may not contain any vitamin D can have an impact on how we absorb the D we get from other foods/supplements.


Why doesn't my doctor ask for this data when I get a test through my doctor (a lab)?


Your doctor already has a lot of the information - they have your current health history; they do generally ask if you have been smoking or drinking alcohol; they do take your height, weight, and blood pressure measurements.


The questions that differ are specifically related to vitamin D research - to gauge skin exposure we ask how much time is spent outdoors, clothing worn when outdoors, sunscreen usage, and use of indoor UV equipment; for vitamin D intake we also ask about brand and type of vitamin D supplement used in addition to the total amount.  


What good has my data done for vitamin D research?


Most vitamin D research has been done with low supplement levels and low serum levels. The GrassrootsHealth cohort is providing information on what happens at higher levels.


Please see the sidebar for some of the papers and newsletters that have been published from the D*action data. One of the first key findings was our dose-response curve mentioned earlier. Another paper challenged the belief that high intake of vitamin D, and higher serum levels, were associated with increased rates of kidney stones.


We have a paper under review right now that shows a lower incidence of diabetes with higher vitamin D levels. We are in the process of gathering data so that we can look at the relationship of vitamin D levels with post-menopausal breast cancer.


Video of the Week 


Vitamin D Usage in Alaska

Rep. Paul Seaton, MS

Alaska State Representative


Watch Now


Paul Seaton is a Republican member of the Alaska House of Representatives 

who has represented the 35th District since 2002. He is Chair of the Education Committee, Vice-Chair of the State Affairs Committee, and is a member of the Health & Social Services Committee and the Resources Committee. He also serves on the Commerce, Community & Economic Development, Education & Early Development, Environmental Conservation, and Law Finance Subcommittees, for the 26th Legislature.  


Representative Seaton's talk is targeted for those who want to help spread a grassroots effort. You could apply his teachings to your place of business, your medical practice, your family, your friends, or any group of people. In Rep. Seaton's case it is the state of Alaska. He has spearheaded some great programs, such as measuring the 25(OH)D blood level of everyone that works for the state and offering reduced insurance premiums for those with blood levels over 40 ng/ml. Would that approach be good for your group of people?


Rep. Seaton also does a great job explaining how to capture people's interest. He states that you have 10-15 seconds to win them over, so maybe it is not best to read a scientific paper to them over the phone (or send it via Facebook). He talks about some of the tools he uses to gain interest and spark action.


This would be a great talk to watch if you are interested in convincing others about the power of vitamin D.


Watch Now

Editor's Letter 


Thank you! After writing about how much good the D*action data is doing to move science into practice that is all I can say - thank you!


I know the questionnaire can be long, but look at all the good it is doing. It might be easier to just go to the lab at your doctor's office - but look at all the good you will do if you re-test with D*action.


It is exciting that we have such a large group of people who are willing to provide information and test. I know it behooves you, because you can easily find out your vitamin D level and keep it within an optimal range for good health, but I hope by reading this newsletter you now know how it helps others as well. Your data will help those that don't even know they need help yet. In the future, after more and more of this data becomes public knowledge, more people will be testing their vitamin D levels to make sure they are in the optimal range, and fewer people will contract disease.


This is a great example of what can be done - one person at a time - with a grassroots effort.



Susan Siljander       

Marketing Director, GrassrootsHealth

A Public Health Promotion & 

Research Organization  

Moving Research into Practice NOW!

Order Your Home Vitamin D Test TODAY!
Your participation in this project funds all the GrassrootsHealth research and promotion.
Premature Birthrate is Rising


The US premature birth rate has risen 36% over the last 25 years. Over half a million preterm births happen in the US each year.


More infants die from preterm-related problems than from any other single cause. Preterm birth is the second leading cause of death in children under 5.


Premature babies can spend weeks or months hospitalized in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and those who survive may face lifelong problems.

Protect our Children NOW! project in South Carolina
Enrollment this week
Updated Web site

Vitamin D Project Aims to Improve Birth Outcomes in Charleston and Columbia
March 25, 2015
View Press Release

For doctors
Free CME vitamin D education
Click here

For pregnant women
Learn if you qualify to enroll
South Carolina only
Click here

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

View Here  

View here

Study Finds That Vitamin D Serum Levels Are Not Associated with the Occurrence of Kidney Stones
October 2013
Press Release

Serum level - Intake Charts
Average change in serum levels based on intake
View Here

Average serum level by vitamin D supplement amount
View Chart

Scientists confirm Institute of Medicine recommendation for Vitamin D intake was miscalculated and is far too low
March 2015
Press Release

Quantifying the food sources of basal vitamin D input
October 2013
View Paper

Quantifying the non-food sources of basal vitamin D input
October 2013
View Paper

Watch Interview
Do You Need a Vitamin D Supplement to Maintain Ideal Levels

Interview with Dr. Joseph Mercola and Dr. Robert Heaney


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Did you miss the seminar?

No Problem - watch the videos now!

Vitamin D for Public Health Seminar

December 9-10, 2014

La Jolla, CA


Vitamin D Usage in Alaska

Rep. Paul Seaton, MS

Alaska State Representative

Watch Now 

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You can prevent disease if just one more person finds out about the preventative properties of vitamin D and starts moving their blood serum levels to 40-60 ng/ml. 

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