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Vitamin D & Me!

Luke Huber and Susan Hewlings Luke Huber and Susan Hewlings

Your source of in-depth information on vitamin D & COVID-19.

In January 2021, former U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona, MD, MPH, FACS, sounded a clarion call in an op-ed published in Medpage Today. Carmona argued that as the U.S. was breaking records in the number of daily deaths due to COVID-19, we did not have the luxury to await perfect evidence or more studies to act. The action he called for is to eliminate vitamin D deficiency, which he said, even then, was a potential morbidity and mortality risk factor in COVID-19. Carmona’s compelling op-ed got many of us in the industry thinking about not only his call to action but also the lack of a comprehensive resource to present the data, both for clinicians and the public at large.

The ultimate result of that data vacuum is the creation of Vitamin D & Me!, the COVID-19 and Vitamin D Education Center, connecting visitors with expert information and resources. The website provides an educational, evidence-based, informative and dynamic source of unbiased scientific information related to vitamin D and COVID-19. The target audience for the initiative is individuals aged 55 and up, a group at higher risk for vitamin D deficiency and worse outcomes with COVID-19; however, the content provided is applicable to people of all ages. With conflicting information and evolving research in the area of vitamin D and COVID-19, Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) members believed there was a need to provide an information source that compiles and shares unbiased information on the topic with the public. As the pandemic stays with us and concerns about the delta and other variants multiply, the website is more timely than ever.

The website contains four main types of content in distinct sections accessible from the home page: “Review the Research,” “Meet the Experts,” “Get Educated,” and “D in the News.”

The “Review the Research” page contains research summaries and a list of clinical trials of vitamin D and COVID-19 that are currently in progress. For the research summaries, CRN partnered with Nutrasource to conduct a systematic review of the peer reviewed literature using an approach established by the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA) established for published systematic reviews. Study summaries include a feature “take-home message” for each review. This literature search is conducted regularly to provide up-to-date summaries of the latest published research for the site. For example, a summary was recently added for a meta-analysis entitled, “A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Effect of Vitamin D Levels of the Incidence of COVID-19,” which included 13 studies with data from 14,485 participants across eight countries. The researchers concluded, “Low serum vitamin D level is statistically and significantly associated with the risk of COVID-19 infection. Supplementation of vitamin D especially in deficiency risk groups is indicated.”

In addition to the research summaries, the website includes an education section (“Get Educated”) which describes foundational information about vitamin D, including easy to understand information about the immune system and the potential mechanism of action by which a relationship between vitamin D and COVID-19 may exist. The educational section is referenced and, while robust and scientific, is written for a broad audience.

The “In the News” section provides links to news items covering vitamin D and COVID-19, including news from political leaders, major health organizations and research updates. This section is also updated regularly as new articles emerge.

“Meet the Experts” is one of the more impressive sections of the site, providing video interviews with leading vitamin D experts, many of whom are actively researching vitamin D and COVID-19 in clinical settings. In this section, Nutrasource CEO William Rowe interviews top scientific experts about research, public health considerations, clinical applications and other cutting-edge topics. The videos and podcasts are conversational, informative, engaging and offer meaningful perspectives on the importance of vitamin D in health promotion and disease prevention.

Vitamin D & Me! is also fully searchable with a search bar at the top of each page. With the large amount of content on the site, a robust search feature was developed to help visitors easily find the information they are seeking. All sections of this data-rich site are continually updated as new information emerges in this rapidly changing area.

The campaign to promoting this educational initiative has reached more than 5.6 million Americans so far. The site will continue to be a resource as the health crisis marches on and data regarding the application of vitamin D to COVID-19 cases continues to be developed and published. All members of the industry who are reading this should share this important resource. Whether it is adding a line to print or online advertising, running a mini public service campaign on your social channels, or making sure your sales staff and call centers are aware of and can refer relevant constituencies to the website, we all have a role to play in getting this vital information out. The easiest way to get personally up to speed—and stay there—is to register for updates on the website and follow Vitamin D & Me! on Facebook and on YouTube.

Luke Huber is vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition.

Susan Hewlings is director of scientific affairs at Nutrasource and Faculty at Central Michigan University.