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Vitamin Cottage Natural Grocers educates shoppers on Vitamin D Winter

Vitamin Cottage Natural Grocers is on a campaign to combat "Vitamin D Winter," the time when no vitamin D production is possible due to the atmosphere blocking UVB rays.

I love buying organic produce and more at my local Boulder, Colo., branch of Vitamin Cottage Natural Grocers. But I was a little surprised recently to see cheery yellow signs taped to the freezer doors, asking if I’d had my vitamin D today.

Curious about the store’s pro-D campaign, I called nutrition program coordinator Lani Jacobs-Banner.

“We’re very passionate about the health benefits of vitamin D,” she explained. “With so many people being deficient, or insufficient, we believe it’s really important to bring it to the public and give it a spotlight—especially at this time of year.”

Yes, most of us Americans are smack in “Vitamin D Winter,” when “no vitamin D production is possible due to the atmosphere blocking all UVB,” according to The Vitamin D Council. Here in Boulder (40 degrees latitude north) blame the low-angled winter sun—although we get bonus points for altitude (closer to the sun). Our Vitamin D Winter lasts from around November through early March, according to the council.

“We’re lucky to have very savvy shoppers: Many already know about D’s benefits,” Jacobs-Banner says. “But some may shop us mostly for food; we are hoping to attract them over to our supplement section.” Customer response has been very positive, she says.

One concern staffers hear: Some shoppers think 600 IU (the current RDI for adults) is enough, and that taking more could actually be dangerous. “That’s not true for most individuals,” Jacobs-Banner says. (For more on safety research, read "Vitamin D: Can you take took much?") In fact, “600 IU will support bone health, but it may not be enough to support long-term health, especially with the action D seems to have on gene expression, including immunity,” she adds. Before opting for a significantly higher dose or supplementing long-term, it’s a good idea to get your blood levels tested by a doctor—a recommendation that’s important for supplement staffers to share with shoppers.  

Did I mention that I love shopping at Vitamin Cottage? I appreciate their passionate dedication to consumer education, especially on the often-confusing area of dietary supplements.

Have you launched similar initiatives at your store? What were the results? Share in the comments.

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