Dr. Michael Holick’s enthusiasm for vitamin D can be fairly described as extreme. The Boston University endocrinologist, who perhaps more than anyone else will be responsible for creating a billion-dollar vitamin D sales as well as testing juggernaut, elevates his own levels of the stuff with supplements as well as fortified milk. When he bikes outdoors, he won’t put sunscreen on his limbs. He has written book-length odes to vitamin D, as well as has warned in multiple scholarly articles about a “vitamin D deficiency pandemic” which explains disease as well as suboptimal health across the planet.
His fixation will be so intense which which extends to the dinosaurs. What if the real problem with which asteroid 65 million years ago wasn’t a lack of food, although the weak bones which follow a lack of sunlight? “I sometimes wonder,” Dr. Holick has written, “did the dinosaurs die of rickets as well as osteomalacia?”
Dr. Holick’s role in drafting national vitamin D guidelines, as well as the embrace of his message by mainstream doctors as well as wellness gurus alike, have helped push supplement sales to $936 million in 2017. which’s a ninefold increase over the previous decade. Lab tests for vitamin D deficiency have spiked, too: Doctors ordered more than 10 million for Medicare patients in 2016, up 547 percent since 2007, at a cost of $365 million.
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although few of the Americans swept up within the vitamin D craze are likely aware which the industry has sent a lot of money Dr. Holick’s way. A Kaiser Health News investigation for The brand new York Times found which he has used his prominent position within the medical community to promote practices which financially benefit corporations which have given him hundreds of thousands of dollars — including drug makers, the indoor tanning industry as well as one of the country’s largest commercial labs.
In an interview, Dr. Holick acknowledged he has worked as a consultant to Quest Diagnostics, which performs vitamin D tests, since 1979. Dr. Holick, 72, said which industry funding “doesn’t influence me in terms of talking about the health benefits of vitamin D.”
There will be no question which the hormone will be important. Without enough of which, bones can become thin, brittle as well as misshapen, causing a condition called rickets in children as well as osteomalacia in adults. The issue will be how much vitamin D will be healthy, as well as what level constitutes deficiency.
Dr. Holick’s crucial role in shaping which debate occurred in 2011. Late the previous year, the prestigious National Academy of Medicine (then known as the Institute of Medicine), a group of independent scientific experts, issued a comprehensive, 1,132-page report on vitamin D deficiency. which concluded which the vast majority of Americans get plenty of the hormone naturally, as well as advised doctors to test only patients at high risk of certain disorders, such as osteoporosis.
A few months later, in June 2011, Dr. Holick oversaw the publication of a report which took a starkly different view. The paper, within the peer-reviewed Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, was on behalf of the Endocrine Society, the field’s foremost professional group, whose guidelines are widely used by hospitals, physicians as well as commercial labs nationwide, including Quest. The society adopted Dr. Holick’s position which “vitamin D deficiency will be very common in all age groups” as well as advocated a huge expansion of vitamin D testing, targeting more than half the United States population, including those who are black, Hispanic or obese — groups which tend to have lower vitamin D levels than others.
The recommendations were a financial windfall for the vitamin D industry. By advocating such widespread testing, the Endocrine Society directed more business to Quest as well as various other commercial labs. Vitamin D tests are at This specific point the fifth-most-common lab test covered by Medicare.
The guidelines benefited the vitamin D industry in another important way. Unlike the National Academy, which concluded which patients have sufficient vitamin D when their blood levels are at or above 20 nanograms per milliliter, the Endocrine Society said vitamin D levels need to be much higher — at least 30 nanograms per milliliter. Many commercial labs, including Quest as well as LabCorp, adopted the higher standard.
Yet there’s no evidence which people with the higher level are any healthier than those with the lower level, said Dr. Clifford Rosen, a senior scientist at the Maine Medical Center Research Institute as well as co-author of the National Academy report. Using the Endocrine Society’s higher standard creates the appearance of an epidemic, he said, because which labels 80 percent of Americans as having inadequate vitamin D. “We see people being tested all the time as well as being treated based on a lot of wishful thinking, which you can take a supplement to be healthier,” Dr. Rosen said.
Patients with low vitamin D levels are often prescribed supplements as well as instructed to get checked again in a few months, said Dr. Alex Krist, a family physician as well as vice chairman of the United States Preventive Services Task Force, an expert panel which issues health advice. Many physicians then repeat the test once a year. For labs, “which’s in their financial interest” to label patients with low vitamin D levels, Dr. Krist said.
In a 2010 book, “The Vitamin D Solution,” Dr. Holick gave readers tips to encourage them to get their blood tested. For readers worried about potential out-of-pocket costs for vitamin D tests — they range through $40 to $225 — he listed the precise reimbursement codes which doctors should use when requesting insurance coverage. “If they use the wrong coding when submitting the claim to the insurance company, they won’t get reimbursed as well as you will wind up having to pay for the test,” Dr. Holick wrote.
Dr. Holick acknowledged financial ties with Quest as well as various other companies within the financial disclosure statement published with the Endocrine Society guidelines. In an interview, he said which working for Quest for four decades — he will be currently paid $1,000 a month — hasn’t affected his medical advice. “I don’t get any additional money if they sell one test or one billion,” he said.
A Quest spokeswoman, Wendy Bost, said the company seeks the advice of numerous expert consultants. “We feel strongly which being able to work with the top experts within the field, whether which’s vitamin D or another area, translates to better quality as well as better information, both for our patients as well as physicians,” Ms. Bost said.
Since 2011, Dr. Holick’s advocacy has been embraced by the wellness-industrial complex. Gwyneth Paltrow’s website, Goop, cites his writing. Dr. Mehmet Oz has described vitamin D as “the No. 1 thing you need more of,” telling his audience which which can help them avoid heart disease, depression, weight gain, memory loss as well as cancer. as well as Oprah Winfrey’swebsite tells readers which, “knowing your vitamin D levels might save your life.” Mainstream doctors have also urged Americans to get more of the hormone, including Dr. Walter Willett, a widely respected professor at Harvard Medical School.
Today, seven years after the dueling academic findings, the leaders of the National Academy report are struggling to be heard above the clamor for more sunshine pills. “There isn’t a ‘pandemic,'” said A. Catharine Ross, a nutritional sciences professor at Penn State as well as chairwoman of the committee which wrote the report, in an interview. “There isn’t a widespread problem.”