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Rita Umile – Pushing Vitamin D Awareness




Why did you decide to become advocate? 

I was definitely born with the heart of an activist. My mom tells me that from the time I could speak and reason, I would consistently stand up for the underdog. No child would be bullied in any playground I could be found in. I wouldn’t stand for it. Everyone was equal, or I wouldn’t play. No name calling allowed. I would pound dust if I had to.

At the junior high school level, I made a school switch.  It was 6th grade, and this is a difficult age group to begin with.  I had a hard time being accepted;  and truthfully I wasn’t very accepting, either!  I was coming from a public school background and entering a Roman Catholic school background. It was a difficult structure change for sure. And I got to experience firsthand just how painful being bullied really is for a child. Luckily my self-esteem was already securely in place, and I was able to hold firm ground. It took 2 full school years, but I did ultimately become accepted as a leader within the class, and I won the group’s respect and award as being most compassionate of its members.

I think it was upon receiving this award and respect from a group of 35 kids who originally detested me so intensely that I made up my mind to become a champion for those who need me, and a champion for even those who don’t realize that they need me…a guardian angel, so to speak.

I never (ever) give in, up or out… I just don’t.


Was this something you’ve wanted to do since you were a child, or did an experience open you up to the idea?

I will share a personal story with our readers:

My mom’s brother married a lovely woman who developed schizophrenia at 27 years of age. They lived in California while we lived in Connecticut. My mom and I spent much of my toddlerhood living with my uncle and his wife, as she was under the care of a psychiatrist in California. When the symptoms were not controlled correctly, my uncle’s wife came back to Connecticut with us to be treated at Yale, by a pioneer in the treatment of this disease. He treated her really quite successfully with meds, and with structured activities, which helped her feel productive and useful. My uncle and his wife had a child, and lived as content a life as possible…Of course, let us remember that there are absolutely NO perfect lives…and so (so) many of us live with conditions like diabetes, M.S. Lupus, Bi-polar conditions, or Schizophrenia…

Certainly, Schizophrenia is a disease of disorganized mental thought and perception and therefore a very difficult disease for family members, loved ones and friends, in addition to the individual with this condition. But, my aunt was always grateful for her life, and my uncle…yes he was extraordinarily compassionate…loved his wife tremendously and they had a special marriage based on a deep understanding on my uncle’s part of what it means to extend a heart to someone in need.

My aunt while being treated at Yale lived with my family, so I got to participate in her recovery process. Later on in my teen years I volunteered at a local hospital in the psychiatric ward…I considered being a psychologist, but life led me in a different direction. Throughout my life I have been friends with individuals who have this condition, and I enjoy these friendships tremendously…these are extremely creative souls…and I honor each of them… I’m glad for our friendships, and I encourage everyone to always extend friendship openly to those suffering from this treatable health matter.

In my opinion, there are no perfect people, but there are perfect friendships…those friends with whom when we are present, the cares and troubles we all face in daily life seem somehow to melt away, at least for a while…those friends whom we may show our human frailties and know that we are accepted and understood, effortlessly…

There were other family experiences, which helped make activism a life choice for me.  For example, I never believed in Santa Claus. My parents thought this was not the true meaning of the season. So, instead of receiving gifts from my parents for Christmas, I would go to the toy store with my dad, and we would pick out tons of toys, put them in a box, and then make home deliveries to needy parents from my dad’s place of employment. My dad would have me sit with the parents to choose appropriate toys for their children.

I have to admit that for several of my younger years I wasn’t too crazy about this tradition. And, I will also say that I did get gifts from my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

I wasn’t totally toy deprived!

But, this overall was a great experience for me. And, it was a life altering experience, in terms of how I came to view my place in the world, and what it means to be of service to others.


Things in our society don’t fix themselves without people like you becoming involved and pushing the solutions.  In your daily life, do you often see things that need to adjust to better suit people?  And if so, does that part of you ever turn off?

I helped organize a group of municipal workers so that they would receive better pay, health insurance, and job advancement.  They were some of the lowest paid municipal workers in my state. They needed to unionize, and I assisted them to unionize. I did what was right; I have no regrets.  And, no – that part of me never (ever) turns off. I always do what is right…well, at least what I think is right!!


How do you get more people involved in your agendas to correct things?  What is your process like?

My world moves on trust, loyalty, and friendship. Once a friend, forever my friend.  Until death, I will take care of you…  I ask people to please respond to me based on my integrity.  I walk my talk. I am who I am; I mean what I say; I do what I mean. And, I do it with love. Or, I don’t do it at all.


What can we do to get more people to become of aware of the things in our society that need to change?

Well, one person can’t change it all. We have to listen to our hearts, and choose a cause which resonates deep within us. And, seek out like-minded individuals…congruent individuals…with whom to associate.

I would say awareness is at least a several-step process.

First we must quietly reflect upon what matters to us.

Then we must look to unite with others who are similar in thought.

Of course, supporting each other, while forming a direction to push forward towards societal change.

Remember, we exist because we choose to belong, and to contribute. WE create our society—for better or for worse.


Tell us why you have so much passion for and write so much about vitamin D.  The vitamindpillslack of it is a source of many illnesses, isn’t it?

In my opinion, vitamin D is the #1 public health issue facing our world in this century. Nature intended for us to get our vitamin D via sunshine, through skin mechanisms. But, because of our indoor lifestyles and our use of sunscreen, this is virtually impossible.  Additionally, if you are elderly, carry a few extra pounds, or are of darker skin pigmentation, the process is even more difficult. And, if you live above latitude 35 degrees north, the sun’s rays simply aren’t strong enough to generate vitamin d during the winter months.

There is a lack of food sources for obtaining adequate vitamin D on a daily basis, if the dosage range used is 5,000 iu D3 daily, as recommended by the Vitamin D Council. There are absolutely no food sources which will provide you with 5,000 iu D3 daily.

Chances are high that if you aren’t supplementing with 5,000 iu D3 daily, you are deficient. And, there is good evidence that vitamin d deficiency leaves you at peril for cancers such breast, colon and prostate cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes II, cardiovascular disease, and autoimmune diseases such as MS, Lupus and R.A.

Vitamin D is so much more important than simply bone health, though of course it is necessary for this as well.


What is the Vitamin D Council?

The Vitamin D Council is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, working to educate the public on vitamin D, sun exposure and health.

It was founded by Dr. John Jacob Cannell, because the evidence clearly indicates that humans do not get enough sun exposure to achieve and maintain optimal vitamin d blood serum levels. Many…if not most…humans are deficient in vitamin D.vitamindcouncil

As I stated previously, researchers are beginning to discover that vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor for many diseases, including heart disease and cancer. Furthermore, researchers are discovering that vitamin D deficiency may make some diseases more severe. Even more, researchers are discovering that vitamin D can be an important piece in the treatment of some illnesses and diseases.

The Vitamin D Council is here to help and educate. It works to educate patients, families, doctors and health professionals. And, this is an extremely good thing, in my opinion!


Why did you decide to become involved with that organization?

I decided to become involved with the Vitamin D Council because I admire and respect Dr. John Jacob Cannell, and the staff he has working with him. They strive to present accurate and up-to-date data on vitamin D, in an unbiased format.  This approach is what makes the Vitamin D Council’s information reliable and trustworthy. It is for me an impeccable nonprofit organization.


What is your ultimate goal?  What is the one thing that you want most to leave behind and how will you do that?

Honestly, my life is currently artwork in flux. And, my ultimate goal is to lead a healthy, happy, and productive life.

For my son and my friends, I would like to leave them with the security of knowing they were well loved just as they were—they are perfect!!!

Regarding vitamin D, I would like to see 3 things happen in my life time.

1.      I would like to see the IOM raise the 25(OH)D sufficiency level to 50 ng./ml

2.      I would like to see the 25(OH)D test made part of the standard blood panel

3.      I would like to see a food fortification program established for vitamin D

How will I go about doing all this?  Well, I cannot do all this myself.  I hope that perhaps I may be gifted with the ability to spend more time with the Vitamin D Council, performing any type of work that will benefit this outstanding organization.

I believe in a united approach to ending this very serious public health issue.  I would like to see the vitamin d physicians and researchers work hand-in-hand with policy makers to create life-enhancing changes—like food fortification, for example—so that those in most need of vitamin D like pregnant moms, infants, the elderly and those without financial means are able to have sufficient sources of vitamin D via food staples.

By the way, this would not only benefit the health of so many, but it would certainly benefit the health of the global economy by trimming health care costs substantially. Less illness = less health care costs; and this is a very good thing.

My universe always seems to work in very mysterious ways. I have been so very fortunate to always receive what I request. And, what I always request is the ability to make a positive difference…to save a life…

I have the heart of an activist, and this is just who I am.


I’d like to take a moment to thank the following individuals who have so graciously helped me on my vitamin D journey:

John Cannell, MD, Founder and Executive Director of the Vitamin D Council, for his intractability (probably the only human being more intractable than me).  J

William Grant, PhD, Vitamin D Council Board member, and Founder and Director of the Sunlight, Nutrition and Health Research Center (SUNARC), for his humor, knowledge and kindness.

Brant Cebulla, Development Director of the Vitamin D Council, for his forgiveness regarding my 1,000+ pushy emails.

And, a special thank you to Michael Greenwood, Communications Director, Yale School of Public Health. This video is due to his patience and good advice. I am forever in your debt, Michael.    

– Rita

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