What Happened To The Vitamin D Council?

Written by Angie Arriesgado
featured image for article on vitamin d council

The Vitamin D Council was a US-based nonprofit based in California, USA. It worked to educate the public on vitamin D, sun exposure, and health. Their official website was VitaminDCouncil.org.

If the Vitamin D Council served as “a center for evidence-based vitamin D research and [was] a reliable source for the general public,” it also had an interesting character at its helm: Dr. John Cannell. He was known for banning smokers from his clinic in the 1980s. This was because, at the age of 6, he watched his smoking father die from lung cancer.

Today, any attempts to find VitaminDCouncil.org will show that the website is no longer publishing. If you’re wondering what could have happened to a website that once claimed to have an aggregate of 106,038,085 page views 15 years after it was established, stay put and read this article to the end. We follow the organization’s history, its founder, and some controversies it’s linked to.

The History of the Vitamin D Council

Dr. Cannell established the Vitamin D Council in 2003. He believed there were bad consequences in getting minimal sun exposure (cough, vitamin D deficiency). The council aimed to educate the public on the importance of sun exposure, vitamin D, and the diseases linked to a deficiency.

The Vitamin D Council had a newsletter that it claimed to distribute to more than 24,000 readers. They were also keen on sponsoring educational conferences aimed at the media, the public, and healthcare professionals. They wanted to educate these groups about the consequences of vitamin D deficiency and the steps to avoid getting deficient.

However, it also looked like the Vitamin D Council always struggled to make ends meet. Visitors to the website were informed that donations were appreciated. The organization indicated that most of its work was made possible by membership fees, contributing about 80% of revenues. The rest of the money came from sponsors.  

Questioning the Government Recommendations 

VitaminDCouncil.org reports that Cannell established the organization when conclusions from his studies showed that the recommendations from the “government-sanctioned Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) [were] placing many Americans at risk.”

How were these recommendations placing Americans in harm’s way? Canell said that those who “avoid the sun and follow the FNB’s recommendation will eventually develop vitamin D deficiency.”

This is because “the physiological human requirements (from all sources) for vitamin D are approximately ten times higher than the current AI listed by the FNB.” 

Vitamin D test

The Man Behind the Vitamin D Council

Attempting to follow the history of the Vitamin D Council shows that the organization and its founder are often difficult to separate. Thus, the story of the council would only be partial if we ignored its fascinating founder.

If the formation of the Vitamin D Council was a highlight in Cannell’s life, it certainly wasn’t the only one. A mini biography published by VitaminDCouncil.org describes Cannell, born in 1948, as an antiwar activist who also had a penchant for social activism.

VitaminDCouncil.org says Cannell helped organize the “March on Washington” in 1963. He also took part in a demonstration against the Vietnam War at the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention.

Canell’s refusal to provide services to smokers was reported on by the New York Times. He didn’t want to “see people in the terminal stages of self-induced illnesses that he couldn’t do anything about.”

However, Cannell would later change his antismoking stance when he listened to the reasons why some coal miners smoked. For instance, coal miners who smoked were more likely to qualify for the federal Black Lung disability program. Those who didn’t smoke didn’t have severe pulmonary function deterioration, and thus, no Black Lung. Those who qualified for the program enjoyed financial benefits, which is why many got into the smoking habit.

A Host of Challenges

In a sign that things didn’t always go as expected at the Vitamin D Council, Cannell penned an article in 2019 where he says, “Three ex-employees and two now ex-Board Members apparently decided I was too autistic, demented and/or drunk to be CEO of the VDC [Vitamin D Council] anymore.” Adding, “So, in August 2018, they tried to oust me with a hostile board takeover attempt.” He would later wrestle control from these employees and board members.   

Cannell then spends the rest of the article asking for donations. He writes, “To keep the VDC solvent, I cashed out my IRA to keep the VDC operational.” He adds, “I don’t have any more money; I own no property and have no other assets except two dogs (a Bull Mastiff puppy and a Schnoodle), a Tesla, and a nice watch.”

In a 2019 LinkedIn post, Cannell wrote that he was homeless in LV, Nevada. And that he was planning to research and write about the homeless. He asked well-wishers, “Leave me a message at 702 229-6117, The Courtyard.”

This prompted someone to reply, “Sorry to hear about your plight. Try and make the best of it. I hear the buffet is decent there. You might try and get to the pool and get some summer sun.”  

What Then Happened to the Vitamin D Council?

If Cannell was pleading for help, it didn’t look like many people were listening. Just before VitaminDCouncil.org went offline in November 2019, it carried a message: “We need to raise $35,000 in 30 days in order to continue fulfilling our mission.”

Unfortunately, it looked like they didn’t raise the amount. And it seemed like Cannell finally gave up on saving the council and its assets, including its website.

April 2022 Update: Mr. Canell contacted us to say he’s alive and well in Las Vegas. He now owns the art gallery, Gallery54. According to him, the VDC had fraud from within.

While the Vitamin D Council may no longer be active, you can still get your daily dose of Vitamin D. Check out SHIELD Immunity Booster. Each serving of Shield contains 40mcg of Vitamin D3. Moreover, it also contains 125mg of Vitamin C, 11mg of Zinc, and 520mg of our proprietary herbal immune blend!

Related articles: