Vitamin D Project: Grassroots Health

Here's an interesting project a Track Your Plaque Member brought to my attention: Grassroots Health.

Carole Baggerly, Director of GrassrootsHealth, is a breast cancer survivor who has engineered an impressive project to collect and tabulate vitamin D blood levels in thousands, perhaps millions of people, over the next 5 years. Anyone can participate at a cost of $30 twice a year to get a vitamin D home test kit. (A fingerprick is required. I've tried the test kit--it's easy and painless to use.) They simply ask you to provide some basic health information that will be accumulated and analyzed.

Here's a graph they feature on their website showing the vitamin D blood levels distributed among the first 300 participants:

(Click to enlarge.)

Ms. Baggerly is apparently working with vitamin D pioneer, Dr. Reinhold Vieth, of the University of Toronto.

This sounds like a really great idea. Should you enroll, please come back here and let us know about your experience.

Comments (24) -

  • Anne

    3/3/2009 2:32:00 PM |

    The price is reasonable. I enrolled. The kit came in a few days. The instructions were easy to follow. The lancet easy to use and they give you 4 tries to fill the spots with a drop of blood. My results came bact in less than 2 weeks. It was 54ng/ml - the best ever result. I am taking 4000 IU of D3 each day. Before, my level was dropping on 2000 IU.

    I am more than happy to be a part of this project.

  • homertobias

    3/3/2009 3:37:00 PM |

    What is so wonderful about grassroots health is that potentially the health data generated by the participants will further Vitamin D research. All the sponsoring MD's are the "heavy hitters" in Vitamin D academia, from the Garland brothers in San Diego, to Dr. Donald Trump in Roswell Park to Dr. Hollis in Boston.  This is a fantastic way to further preventive medicine research instead of just making a lab or supplement maker richer.

  • Anna

    3/3/2009 5:05:00 PM |

    Even though we can get our level tested through our doctor/HMO network at no cost (perhaps a visit co-pay), I decided to enroll our whole family in the Grassroots Health D*Action program.  The fingerprick blood drop collection at home also easier on our son, instead of a needle/syringe blood draw at the lab.  I really feel it is important to collect enough data about Vitamin D for more research, even if there is some out of pocket expense for us.   We seem to have developed quite a bit of resistance to all the illnesses that are spreading fast around our communities, now that our D levels are up above 60 ng/mL.  

    One of the issues I do have with the current state of Vit D research is that is is primarily epidemiological.  We really need to support more well-designed intervention studies so we can tease out more conclusive evidence about Vit D.

    Of course, we had a laugh completing the D*Action questionnaire for my son, aged 10.  The answer option about number of falls in the past 6 months would only allow for up to 99!  Between skateboarding, soccer, and mad-man bike riding with his friends, we estimated he might have fallen as much as 250 times in 6 months!  No broken bones, though, unlike my 81 yo MIL in the UK, who got out of bed, slipped on a magazine on the floor, and suffered a hairline fracture of the tibia, requiring a full leg cast last winter, with a long recovery.  Of course, she assures me the packet of calcium powder she takes nightly in some water (supplied to the elderly by NHS) also has Vitamin D in it, so she's covered....sigh.

    Nearly everyone I know from teens to seniors, discovers their level is low if they get the test - usually at the bottom of the reference range or even severely deficient.   This is true of my friends and neighbors in the San Diego area as well as my extended family in the Northeast (incl 2 teenage sisters both with levels >20 ng/mL! - one has scoliosis, a vertebra stress fracture, and spondylolithesis!).  

    Other than my husband and son, who now have good D3 levels (65-80 ng/mL) due to taking 3,000 and 8,000 iU daily this winter, only my 74 yo dad also tested with good levels this winter (52 ng/mL), despite his Northeastern location, because he's now taking the amount of Vit D3 I suggested (I sent him a 6 mos supply for his birthday in September).  My dad listens to me  Smile.  The others might, now that their results are in  Wink.

  • Anonymous

    3/3/2009 5:21:00 PM |

    Thank you for posting this.  I just enrolled and will report back when I receive my results.  I'm currently taking 6000 IU of D3 daily, and am very curious as to what my levels will be.

  • TedHutchinson

    3/3/2009 5:39:00 PM |
    In this video Carol Baggerly talks about Vitamin D basics.

    This link
    takes you to the series of 45minutes vitamin d presentations by leading Vitamin d scientists that Grassrootshealth have sponsored.

    They are all excellent but of particular relevance here is
    Vitamin D and Cardiovascular Disease Prevention

    but I think most people will be really shocked when then watch this one
    Skin Cancer/Sunscreen - the Dilemma

  • jumpow

    3/3/2009 5:43:00 PM |

    Hi doc

    I blogged about the kit the other day -

    All in all, I have been impressed with the experience.

  • Jenny

    3/3/2009 10:19:00 PM |

    I just sent my first sample off today.  I was a little reluctant to use the lancet on myself, but I collected my courage, and did a much better job than the technician at my physician's office usually does (also, I am not nearly as grumpy).  I feel fortunate to have the chance to participate, and I hope at least some of the friends and family I've told about the project will join in too.  The information to be gained by this study should be very valuable, and moreover the opportunity for individuals to take advantage of this to monitor and supplement Vitamin D on their own  is a chance to take charge of a key parameter of health.  I would like to see much more of this type of grassroots health initiative.  How I wish I could find more ways to remove the government, the insurance companies, and big pharma
    from between me and my pursuit of good health.

  • Suzanne

    3/18/2009 8:25:00 PM |

    How very interesting!  I've been taking 8000 IUs since I was diagnosed with early breast cancer last year, but my level is still only 35.1, so I'm going with 10,000for a while.  Will also join this project, as I don't believe we can afford to leave our health completely in the hands of our health"care" system.

  • JD

    3/19/2009 8:58:00 AM |

    I sent for my kit. It took about 2 1/2 weeks between the time I ordered the kit and when I got my results. My level was 44. I had been taking 2,000 to 4,000 IU per day when I did the test. The one thing I believe they could improve on is how to get the blood drops. I had ordered a home cholesterol test and their method seemed a bit superior. Same lancets but they instructed you to warm your hands by rubbing and also to force the blood by pressing on your hand by applying pressure starting with your palm using the opposite hand and working your way down. Also to do this while standing up.

  • Anna

    3/19/2009 2:55:00 PM |

    I've use lancets a lot for BG tests.  Before my hypothyroidism was treated, getting good blood drops for my BG monitoring was a challenge because of my chronically low temperature.  The Vit D test needs a much bigger blood drop than a BG test does, so it's crucial to prepare the hand for the test to ensure a big enough blood drop.

    People with cold hands definitely need to pre-warm a hand by any means necessary before using the lancet - hot water, rubbing, heating pad, etc.   Swinging the arm in a wide 180° arc a few times forces blood into the hand by centrifugal force, then "milking" the hand, then the finger usually helps, too.

  • Valda Redfern

    3/20/2009 12:43:00 AM |

    I enrolled and have just got my results - 67 ng/ml after about three months of taking 5000 iu per day, plus eating quite a lot of seafood, butter, liver and eggs (seafood once a week, about 8 oz of liver and 6 oz of butter per week in the convenient form of liver pate, and about eight eggs per week).  I had been following a moderately  low carb diet for about a year; but at the same time I started taking the D supplements I also eliminated gluten from my diet and went _really_ low carb.  I guess my vitamin D levels weren't too dusty even before I started supplementing, since I haven't had a cold since January 2008,  but I have certainly noticed an improvement in my feeling of well being since then.  Sunlight probably hasn't contributed much to my vitamin D levels: I'm 51, live in England, work inside all day, and haven't seen any real sunshine since I visited New York for a few days last August.

    I think the GrassRoots Vitamin D project is fantastic - and for anyone in the UK, it's by far the cheapest and easiest way of getting  one's vitamin D levels tested.  I plan to stick with the program.

  • baldsue

    3/25/2009 9:33:00 AM |

    It took a day of psyching myself into lancing my own finger.  But I did it.  That wasn't the worst part of the test.  The worst part was squeezing my finger hard enough to get large drops of blood out.  

    I've been taking between 2000 and 4000 IU's per day and my test came back with my level being 44 ng/mL.  Between now and my next test I'll be taking 4000 IU every day.  It'll be easier 'cause I got capsules filled with 4000 IU so I only have to take it once a day, one capsule.  I'm hoping my level will  go up a bit.  But I'm happy that my level is up from 16 ng/mL which it was 18 months ago.  And I feel better.

  • Anna

    3/25/2009 2:55:00 PM |


    Thanks for the report that your level was 44 ng/mL after a taking a dose of 2000-4000 for some time, and especially your earlier test of 16 ng/mL.    

    My first D3 test was also 44, after about 8 mos of a 2000-3000iU dose of D3, which had me wondering how low my Vit D status was prior to supplementing.  I'm guessing it could have been similar to yours, in the teens or low 20s.  Despite moving to So Cal 13 years ago, I avoided the sun for a long time after a basal cell carcinoma was removed from my nose 10 years ago.  Some aspects of my health got worse then, too.  

    Lots of little things have improved much since my Vit D level has risen to 70-80 ng/mL, though I can't say for certain that D3 is the only reason.  But I do think it's a significant factor.  I take 5000iU daily now.

  • David

    3/26/2009 12:07:00 AM |

    I've been taking 2000 IU for the last 6 months. My test came today and my level was 29... still too low. I am currently a heart disease patient with 6 stents. My HDL before stents was a lousey 33. It is now 42. I will begin today taking 5000 IU for the next six months to see if I can get my levels closer to 60, both HDL and Vit D3.

  • jellybeanbonanza

    9/23/2009 3:26:14 AM |

    Late to the party, but I've watched a couple of these by Dr Heaney and Dr Holik.  Really great, current information on Vitamin D.  I'm glad to see all of the D-related information posted on this blog, I'm finding it very helpful.  Thanks!

  • baldsue

    10/2/2009 8:52:49 AM |

    Second test results:  75!!!

    I've been taking 5000IU of D3.  I think I'll keep at that level of supplementation or alternate days of 4000/5000.  Or maybe I'll go 6 months at 4000 and see what my results are next March.  Not sure of the strategy to take.  Might just keep status quo.

    In the last 2 years I've gone from 16 (no supplements) to 44 (3000IU supplement) to 75 (5000IU supplement)!  

    And I can't remember the last time I had a cold.  It was definitely more than a year ago.  I think it was Jan '07.

  • Anonymous

    3/7/2010 3:00:53 AM |

    Order your own D test from They will email you the test requisition and then you go to any Labcorp for the blood draw. The results can be viewed on your online directlabs account. $69 for the test.

  • Flower

    3/12/2010 3:16:47 AM |

  • buy jeans

    11/3/2010 7:34:30 PM |

    People with cold hands definitely need to pre-warm a hand by any means necessary before using the lancet - hot water, rubbing, heating pad, etc. Swinging the arm in a wide 180° arc a few times forces blood into the hand by centrifugal force, then "milking" the hand, then the finger usually helps, too.

  • Anonymous

    1/10/2011 4:31:27 PM |

    This is helpful to hear from others. After reading this blog I asked my doctor to add a Vitamin D test to my quarterly lab for hypothyroid. It was 29 and my 88-year-old Dad was 32 (we live in the Northeast).

    I started bumping up by graduating up to 10,000 IU. After 4 mos, my serum level D is 54. For the first time ever my HDL is over 50 too. All other numbers (except H1AC) were perfect.

    My Dad taking only 4,000 IU per day has yet to be retested.

    My husband recently tested at only 20. He has same diet and his multiple has 2,000 IU in it. I asked him to add 5,000 IU per day until our next test in 3 mos.

  • Zoi

    4/18/2011 9:38:14 PM |

    This is a very exciting project! My mum, aged 62, just enrolled and is very happy to be part of this. Hopefully this way more information can be gathered about this epidemic and awareness can be raised even a little bit!

  • Ally

    7/10/2011 3:45:21 AM |

    To think, I was cnofused a minute ago.

  • Carlye

    7/10/2011 5:32:12 PM |

    Haha. I woke up down today. YouÂ’ve cheeerd me up!

  • Darence

    7/11/2011 3:32:14 PM |

    Hahahaha. IÂ’m not too brhigt today. Great post!