While the summer sun still shines, we need your help NOW to expand access to vitamin D supplements so they reach those Americans who need it most when the days get shorter! Action Alert!
The All 4 Vitamin D campaign is calling for Congress to amend the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to include vitamin D3 dietary supplements as part of SNAP recipients’ benefits. Not only would this improve the health of millions of Americans, it would provide official and very rare recognition from Congress of the essential role that supplements like vitamin D have to play in improving public health. Let’s join others in our community in supporting this important work.
SNAP permits recipients to purchase a diverse range of foods, but lacks any explicit guidance concerning the quality and nutritional value of those foods. This is so important because optimal levels of circulating pre-vitamin D in the bloodstream (40-60 ng/ml) cannot be achieved through diet alone, and the majority don’t get enough sunshine exposure to maintain these levels for most of the year. In fact, surveys show that 94 percent of Americans are vitamin D deficient; 86 percent of kids between the ages of 2 and 18 don’t get enough vitamin D. People of color face an even greater risk than light skinned people owing to the higher levels of melanin in their skin blocking vitamin D absorption, making them more susceptible to chronic diseases, COVID-19 complications, and other immune system challenges. Not only that, the more overweight our society becomes, the more vitamin D people need; various hypotheses have been put forward, one suggesting that the high fat solubility means more pre-vitamin D gets trapped in fat cells.
There’s no doubt that increasing Americans’ vitamin D intake will improve health — and it’s also clear that the US Government prescribed Daily Value (DV) of 20 mcg (800 IU) per day is nowhere near enough for most people to achieve optimum circulating levels. The scale of the hidden epidemic of vitamin D deficiency was highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, a meta-analysis of 25 randomized controlled trials showed that vitamin D supplementation significantly reduces the risk of acute respiratory infections in the overall population by 12% and in those with profound vitamin D deficiency by 70%. Other studies found that those with higher vitamin D levels had higher survival rates during the pandemic compared to those who were deficient—which is about 42 percent of Americans.
Aside from COVID-19, vitamin D provides a stunning array of health benefits. Here is just a sample:
- Protecting the Brain. Adequate vitamin D levels are required for normal brain development. It supports the formation of new brain cells and is neuroprotective, helping protect brain cells from premature aging. Higher vitamin D levels are linked with better cognitive function and lower rates of cognitive decline and dementia.
- Cardiovascular Health. Insufficient vitamin D is linked with increased rates of atherosclerosis, heart attack, and overall death due to cardiac causes. Increasing vitamin D intake can help reverse the progression of cardiovascular disease.
- Metabolic Disorders. Diabetes is more prevalent in individuals with low serum vitamin D levels. Vitamin D administration reduces blood sugar, increases sensitivity to insulin, and may decrease the risk of developing full-blown diabetes.
- Immune Enhancement: Noting that influenza epidemics are more common in the winter months, scientists have proposed that low levels of vitamin D may predispose individuals to succumbing to these potentially dangerous respiratory infections. Accordingly, there is also substantial evidence that vitamin D helps with COVID.
- Bone Health. Even government health bureaucrats recognize the importance of vitamin D for bone health. Vitamin D helps maintain adequate calcium levels in the body, which is required for strong bones.
Wider access to vitamin D is a critical step, and we argue – based on a large body of scientific evidence – that this must not be accompanied by any dose restrictions. Government bodies are woefully behind the science when it comes to vitamin D. Government “experts” recommended back in 2011 that individuals aged 1-70 get 600 IU (15 mcg) vitamin D per day – as a token gesture to the abundance of more recent vitamin D science, the FDA has nudged the adult daily recommendation (Daily Value or DV) to 800 IU (20 mcg).
Integrative health experts will tell you that these levels are simply ridiculous, so any amendment to add vitamin D to SNAP benefits should not be tied to 800 IU per day. Many of those who follow these recommendations will not even come close to being able to take advantage of the most beneficial effects of vitamin D supplementation, which requires achieving blood levels of previtamin D (25-hydroxyvitamin D) in the range 40-60 ng/ml. Some experts recommend achieving circulating blood levels as high as 80 ng/ml vitamin D. Achieving these levels varies person to person and may require supplementing with anywhere between 5,000 and 20,000 IU vitamin D per day, sometimes even more, depending on the individual. (Achieving the right vitamin D levels from supplements or sunlight is highly dependent on an individual’s biology and should be done either by testing previtamin D with a home test kit or in consultation with a healthcare professional who can also monitor your blood levels.)
This simple amendment to the SNAP program would lead to huge gains in public health, perhaps even providing a springboard in Washington to a wider recognition of the role dietary supplements can play in supporting our health. This is particularly important given the attitude of the federal government and the likes of Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) who try to make sure we can’t learn about the benefits of supplements like vitamin D or remove access to vitamins altogether.
Action Alert! Write to Congress in support of an amendment to the Farm Bill’s SNAP program to include coverage of vitamin D3 supplements. Please send your message immediately.