In Memorium

Dr. Robert Heaney left us on August 6, 2016.

Please take the time to read his own Final Words as reported in the Creighton Magazine.  I think they give you a beautiful picture of the Dr. Heaney that I got to know over several years.  Dr. Heaney has been a constant 'giver' of his life and information to GrassrootsHealth, and, to me personally ever since I met him at the time we were forming GrassrootsHealth in 2007.  His last words to me personally were 'you can call me anytime, Carole'.  Here was a man who was giving to others up to the time of his death. I will 'call upon him', his strength, his purpose in life, his beauty for the rest of my life.  I feel truly blessed to have known him.

We have provided some information about his accomplishments for you to look at below.  We'd truly love to have any memories you have with him shared with us/facebook to share with the world! 

Dr. Heaney provided nearly 50 years of advancements in our understanding of bone biology, osteoporosis, and human calcium and vitamin D physiology.  He is the author of three books and has published over 400 original papers, chapters, monographs, and reviews in scientific and educational fields. At the same time, he has engaged nutritional policy issues and has helped redefine the context for estimating nutrient requirements. He was an inspiration to researchers everywhere - his intellect, dedication, integrity, and caring was unsurpassed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family. 

Key Vitamin D Research

Dr. Heaney was a full time professor at Creighton University, but also donated his time and energy as Research Director at GrassrootsHealth since 2012. In this capacity Dr. Heaney consulted on studies, methodologies, and how to best change public health direction. 

He was involved in many papers and analysis of our D*action data, the world's largest self-funded cohort of vitamin D replete individuals. It is with this data that we were able publish  how conditions react to a replete body, as the cohort has a mean serum level of 44 ng/ml. 

Vitamin D Dosing

One of the key pieces of research he was involved in was the study of our cohort, how much supplementation or sun they received, and what serum levels they had. This study was instrumental in publishing data to show that while average serum level rises with increased supplement intake, there is a wide range of individual serum levels at any given intake amount.

In 2011, the IOM "re-assessed" the vitamin D RDA. At that time we were all hopeful it would be raised, as much more research was available on the benefits of serum levels > 40 ng/ml, including our call to action which 48 scientists signed. Instead, they kept the RDA woefully inadequate. But, it lead to our analysis of this same question? How much vitamin D would get 97.5% of the population over 40 ng/ml? With the help of Heaney we found this number to be ~12000 IU/day.


Heaney worked closely at Creighton University with Joan Lappe, running one of the first randomized controlled trials on cancer using post-menopausal women. They tested the effectiveness of vitamin D (1000 IU/day), calcium (1500 mg/day) or placebo. Heaney later used this data and data from our cohort to report  that increasing 25(OH)D concentrations to a minimum of 40 ng/ml could substantially reduce cancer incidence and associated mortality in the  population.


As research director, Heaney was involved in our comparison of diabetes incidence between the GrassrootsHealth cohort and NHANES. The GrassrootsHealth cohort, with an median serum level of 41 ng/ml, had 60% fewer diabetes cases than NHANES with a median serum level of 22 ng/ml.

Food Sources

With his background in nutrition and a thirst for knowledge, Heaney questioned the "norm" of how much vitamin D was typically produced through food and non-food sources. Below is the chart for food sources. Food sources do not provide significant vitamin D, and it was concluded that sun or supplement is required to get to the desired level of 40 ng/ml. 

Standardizing Nutrient Research

One of the most important things Heaney did in his later years is publish Guidelines for Optimizing Design and Analysis of Clinical Studies of Nutrient Effects in Nutrition Reviews, 2014. Much research was being reviewed or done that simply did not show promise - but Heaney knew why. The research just wasn't correct for nutrients. He published a model that can be used by all to objectively analyze whether a research paper's conclusions are valid. For more information, go to our careful eye web page.

Outside Recognition

 Thank you Dr. Heaney for your life dedicated to 
truth, achievement and service!

Dr. Heaney, 1967