Each year during the anniversary week of Mercola.com, we recognize a Game Changer, someone whose work stands as a great service to humanity by making a significant contribution to improving people's health.
Previous recipients include Dr. Fred A. Kummerow for his life's work on trans fats, Thomas Seyfried, Ph.D., for his advancement of cancer as a metabolic disease, and Dr. Lee Cowden for his advancement of integrative medicine through the creation of the Academy of Comprehensive Integrative Medicine.
This year, we present the Game Changer Award to Carole Baggerly, director and founder of GrassrootsHealth, a nonprofit public health research organization dedicated to moving public health messages regarding vitamin D from research into practice.
"Our tag line, 'Moving Research into Practice,' [came about] because the more I got into it, the more I realized that the clinical research is there for many health conditions, yet the implementation process wasn't happening.
You cannot expect a new success story to be implemented for somewhere between 15 and 25 years. So, we work not only on the science but on the methodology. That's really important," Baggerly says.
"The biggest problem with the implementation of vitamin D right now is the methodology used to analyze the data. Almost every time you see a report that comes out that says there was no effect, they analyzed the data by dosage.
Analyzing by dosage is really targeted to give you no result. If you analyze it properly, by serum level, not by intake, you get interesting results. Our first paper, published in 2011, showed the dose response relationship. You can easily see that two people taking the same dose (e.g., 4,000 IU/day) could have very different results. That's why testing and reporting by achieved level is so important."
Baggerly's work and personal dedication to developing and substantiating research supporting the use of vitamin D as a disease prevention strategy, and its importance during pregnancy and early development, is an incredibly important contribution to the field of preventive medicine.
The aim of this campaign is to educate the public about "nutrient deficiencies that can be reversed through dietary supplements" — specifically vitamin D and omega-3 — and provides inexpensive and easy to use at-home testing kits to measure your levels twice a year.
Test results are entered into GrassrootsHealth's nutrient field trial, which tracks the health effects of supplementation on a wide variety of health problems over time.
Vitamin D and Your Health
Vitamin D, a steroid hormone, is vital for the prevention of many chronic diseases, including but not limited to Type 2 diabetes and age-related macular degeneration (the leading cause of blindness).
Other diseases are Alzheimer's disease, heart disease and well over a dozen different types of cancer, including skin cancer — the very cause of concern that has led so many to avoid the sun exposure necessary for vitamin D production.
In the case of heart disease, vitamin D plays a vital role in protecting and repairing damage to your endothelium.3 It also helps trigger production of nitric oxide — which improves blood flow and prevents blood clot formation — and significantly reduces oxidative stress in your vascular system, all of which are important to help prevent the development and/or progression of cardiovascular disease.
Most recently, a Norwegian study4 published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found "a normal intake of vitamin D" significantly reduces your risk of death if you have cardiovascular disease.5
According to vitamin D researcher Dr. Michael Holick, vitamin D deficiency — defined as a level below 20 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) or 50 nanomoles per liter (nm/L) — can also raise your risk of heart attack by 50 percent, and if you have a heart attack while vitamin D deficient, your risk of dying is nearly guaranteed.
Vitamin D also has powerful infection-fighting abilities, making it a useful aid in the treatment of tuberculosis, pneumonia, colds and flu, while maintaining a healthy vitamin D level will typically prevent such infections from taking root in the first place. Studies have also linked higher vitamin D levels with lowered mortality from all causes.6,7,8
80 percent of Breast Cancer Incidences Could Possibly Be Avoided by Raising Vitamin D Level to 60 ng/mL From 20 ng/mL
Importantly, the ongoing research by GrassrootsHealth has firmly established that 20 ng/mL, which is typically considered the cutoff for sufficiency, is nowhere near sufficient for optimal health and disease prevention. In reality, 40 ng/mL (100 nm/L) appears to be at the low end of optimal, with an ideal range being between 60 and 80 ng/mL (150 to 200 nm/L), according to some scientists.
For example, having a serum vitamin D level of 40 ng/mL has been shown to reduce your risk for cancer by 67 percent compared to having a level of 20 ng/ml or less. (Most cancers were found to occur in people with a vitamin D blood level between 10 and 40 ng/mL9,10). In another study, women with vitamin D levels above 60 ng/mL had an 83 percent lower risk of breast cancer than those with levels below 20 ng/mL.11
As noted by Baggerly in this interview, they have now published data showing that 80 percent of breast cancer incidences could be prevented simply by optimizing vitamin D and nothing else. And, she says, there is other research that indicates the recurrence of breast cancer could be prevented by at least 50 percent.
This is brand-new information that could save so, so many lives, and we now have this data because so many of you are participating in the GrassrootsHealth D*Action study. Here's a revealing chart from the publication. The results were statistically significant at the p = 0.006 level as well.