ODS Vitamin D Initiative (2004-2018)

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From 2004-2018 the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) led and sponsored several efforts to advance scientific understanding of the importance of vitamin D to health. These efforts included:

  • measurement of vitamin D levels in foods;
  • assessment of vitamin D status of the U.S. population;
  • development of a reference measurement procedure and standard reference materials to precisely measure this nutrient and its metabolites;
  • systematic review of scientific literature used in updating the vitamin D recommended dietary allowances and safe levels of intake; and
  • an international effort to standardize measurement of serum vitamin D levels in populations around the world (see Vitamin D Standardization Program)

ODS also sponsored several conferences and workshops on vitamin D. On December 2-3, 2014, ODS sponsored a conference titled, “Vitamin D: Moving Toward Evidence-based Decision Making in Primary Care,” in collaboration with federal cosponsors. This conference provided a forum to identify and discuss issues focused on evidence-based decision making for vitamin D in primary care settings. Also, research gaps and data needs relevant to improving approaches and reducing uncertainties surrounding vitamin D were highlighted. A summary of the conference presentations and discussions has been prepared and the conference can also be viewed in its entirety from links found on the 2014 Vitamin D conference webpage.

Identifying a Research Gap: The Vitamin D Paradox. At the 2014 ODS conference questions were raised about the efficacy of vitamin D supplementation among Black American populations and the potential risks associated with assuming a “normal” range of serum 25(OH)D levels without adequately assessing health outcomes in various subpopulations. These questions were based on findings showing that although there is a correlation of serum 25(OH)D levels with bone mineral density and fracture risk in White and Mexican-American populations, serum 25(OH)D levels do not correlate with the same health outcomes in some other populations, particularly Black Americans. In that group, bone density measures are high despite markedly low or deficient serum levels of 25(OH)D.

To address these and other questions pertaining to this vitamin D paradox, ODS, with the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, the National Institute on Aging, and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, co-sponsored an expert panel meeting on December 1, 2017, titled, “A Systems-Based Approach to Investigating the Vitamin D Paradox in Black American.” The expert panel meeting was a forum to: (1) explore the paradox through various multidisciplinary lenses (genetics, epigenetics, molecular mechanisms, and behavior) to determine the factors affecting vitamin D requirements in Black Americans; (2) identify potential unintended consequences of current clinical practices and public health polices (e.g., vitamin D supplementation, food fortification) on minority health and health disparities; and, (3) aid in determining whether additional input from the scientific community via a subsequent workshop is needed to advance the understanding of the vitamin D paradox and bone health in the Black American population. In her blogexternal link disclaimer, Dr. LaVerne Brown gives an overview of this meeting and introduces the expert panel meeting reportexternal link disclaimer both of which are published in BMC Proceedings.

Vitamin D Standardization Program (VDSP)

As part of its Vitamin D Initiative, the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) established the Vitamin D Standardization Program (VDSP) in 2010 and coordinated its efforts until 2018. VDSP is an international collaborative effort to standardize the laboratory measurement of vitamin D status. The VDSP goal is to improve the detection, evaluation, and treatment of vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency by promoting the standardized laboratory measurement of serum total 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] by making it accurate and comparable over time, location, and laboratory procedure.

The VDSP involved the coordinated efforts of ODS; the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST); the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); the Vitamin D External Quality Assessment Scheme (DEQAS); the College of American Pathologists (CAP); the American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC); the International Federation of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (IFCC); the Laboratory for Analytical Chemistry; Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences; Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium; plus national surveys and collaborators around the world. Since the inception of VDSP, ODS enlisted the participation of national health surveys from Australia, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

A public meeting to showcase the VDSP's progress since 2010 was held on the NIST campus on November 14, 2013. See information about the meeting, including the presentations.

ODS's coordination of the VDSP concluded in 2018, following a meeting held November 28-30, 2017 which assessed program achievements and outlined future partner-driven efforts, including an evaluation of VDSP performance criteria for 25(OH)D, the promotion of the standardization of 24,25(OH)2D3 and Vitamin D Binding Protein measurements, and the development of a rickets registry.

ODS Vitamin D Fact Sheets

ODS has vitamin D fact sheets in two versions—Health Professional and Consumer. The Consumer version is available in both English and Spanish.

Vitamin D Resources for Researchers

We've collected useful vitamin D resources from our office and other federal government offices to provide to researchers, including our Vitamin D Health Professional Fact Sheet, NIH conference proceedings, Standard Reference Material®, evidence-based reviews, and other publications.

Conference Proceedings

Standard Reference Material®

Evidence-based Reviews

  • Vitamin D and Calcium: Systematic Review of Health Outcomesexternal link disclaimer
    August 2009
    Chung M, Balk E, Brendel M, Ip S, Lau J, Lee J, Lichtenstein A, Patel K, Raman G, Tatsioni A, Terasawa T, Trikalinos T. Evidence Report/Technology Assessment No. 183. (Prepared by: Tufts Evidence-based Practice Center, Boston, MA under Contract No. 290-2007-10055-I) AHRQ Publication No. 07-E015, Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
  • Effectiveness and Safety of Vitamin D in Relation to Bone Healthexternal link disclaimer
    August 2007
    Cranney A, Horsely T, O'Donnell S, Weiler H, Puil L, Ooi D, Atkinson S, Ward L, Moher D, Hanley D, Fang M, Yazdi F, Garrity C, Sampson M, Barrowman N, Tsertsvadze A, Mamaladze V. Evidence Report/Technology Assessment No. 158. (Prepared by Ottawa Evidence-based Practice Center, Ottawa, Canada under Contract No. 290-02-0021). AHRQ Publication No. 07-E013, Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Other Publications

Other Federal Government Resources on Vitamin D