We Are Sunshine

National Press Questions Holick’s Research Funding, Misses the Point

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

The Wall Street Journal last week questioned the validity of vitamin D research conducted by vitamin D pioneer Dr. Michael Holick, whose acceptance of $160,000 in funding from the UV Foundation has ties to the indoor tanning industry.

2008-04-23-missing-bigger-story-copy.jpgThe UV Foundation is affiliated with the Indoor Tanning Association. The Foundation’s gift to Holick was unrestricted — meaning there were no conditions set on how Holick spent the money, and the money supported the continuation work he had started more than 30 years ago.

“Holick’s support of indoor tanning, when practiced professionally in a non-burning fashion, was documented long before there was a UV Foundation that could contribute to his work. His motivations are above reproach, and anyone who has suggested otherwise owes him an apology,” Smart Tan Vice President Joseph Levy said.

Read the Journal’s story by clicking here. Levy’s response to the Journal is below:


Sunscreen companies fund tens of millions of dollars annually in research and promotional efforts designed to convince consumers to over-use sunscreen products — to wear sunscreen and cosmetics with sunscreen every day in every climate, even on days when sunburn isn’t a possibility.

So why is it news to the Journal that the UV Foundation, funded by the indoor tanning industry, contributes $160,000 as an unrestricted grant to vitamin D pioneer Dr. Michael Holick — funding he used to continue work he launched in the 1970s, long before the tanning industry even existed? (“Researcher Received Industry Funds”, April 18).

Indoor tanning was created in Europe in the late 1970s to harness the physiological and psychological benefits of regular UV light exposure in light-deprived countries. Vitamin D production has long been established as one of the benefits related to tanning in a non-burning fashion. Sunburn avoidance is the key.

With 1 billion people worldwide deficient in vitamin D, and with vitamin D now identified by hundreds of studies as the key that helps the body prevent abnormal cell growth and, thus, many forms of cancer, the Journal has the story backwards. You should be looking at millions of dollars in research funded by companies who market billions of dollars annually in sunscreen-laced cosmetics for daily usage. That’s the work that has been influenced by the almighty dollar — not Holick’s lifelong work.

To reprimand Holick as you have is to hand out a jaywalking ticket when armed robbery is taking place across the street. You’re focused on the wrong guy.

Holick is a pioneer in the vitamin D research community — a prolific award-winning author of hundreds of papers. The UV Foundation’s gift to Holick amounted to 2 percent of his research budget and was unrestricted — it did not alter his work or his message. You, and all those who have pushed this story, owe Holick an apology.

Joseph Levy, vice president
International Smart Tan Network