When Science Leads the Message, Critical Minds Respond

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AUGUST 30, 2022 | Join the conversation on LinkedIn and Twitter   

CRN and staff posts are intended for the education of the public, our industry, and our members. CRN welcomes differences of opinion and debate. We reserve the right to moderate comments containing misinformation or disrespect.

By Haiuyen Nguyen, Vice President of Regulatory and Nutrition Policy, CRN

I recently attended the Shopping for Health event, an annual two-day gathering of grocery store registered dietitians (RDs) who learn from each other as well as from industry partners such as the CRN Foundation, the California Fig Board, CannedBeans.org, and the Global Organization for EPA and DHA (GOED).

The CRN Foundation used this opportunity to share with nutrition professionals the case for vitamin D supplementation when it comes to COVID-19—part of the award-winning Vitamin D & Me! education initiative. The information was presented by Sue Hewlings, PhD, RD, and Director of Scientific Affairs for Nutrasource, CRN Foundation’s content partner for the project. 

Dr. Hewlings discussed the importance of adequate nutritional status, including vitamin D adequacy, in supporting immune health and the latest science showing correlations between low vitamin D status and higher COVID-19 incidence, severity, and mortality. With 41 percent of U.S. adults and 50 percent of people worldwide having vitamin D insufficiency, low vitamin D intake is clearly a public health concern. She instilled that Vitamin D & Me! was driven by the emerging body of scientific literature and the need to provide unbiased information to healthcare professional and consumers, and her message resonated with the RDs. Multiple attendees shared with me their appreciation for CRN’s science-based resource. It’s timely and useful scientific information that can be taken to consumers.  

As credentialed experts in food and nutrition, RDs translate science into practical solutions for healthy living. You can find them in a variety of settings from healthcare facilities to industry to grocery stores. Retail RDs are uniquely positioned to answer myriad shopper questions about what foods to eat and what dietary supplements among the many on stores shelves can better health.

During the course of the pandemic, RDs expanded online platforms to reach their customers through recipe demonstration videos and virtual wellness workshops. These consumer connections are still going strong and present opportunities for collaborations with industry. For example, the GIANT company will be featuring Vitamin D & Me! during their September 28 Table Talk, part of their virtual learning series. CRN Foundation’s participation in Shopping for Health put us in a unique position to share information on vitamin D and let the RDs know CRN is available as a resource to them in addressing customer questions or concerns. 

Perhaps many RDs follow the “food first” mantra, but that does not mean RDs are not open to the idea of supplementation when it’s a good idea. Government data shows that Americans do not get enough of certain nutrients from food alone. Not everyone wants or is able to eat nutrient-dense foods all (or most) of the time, not even those who are keenly aware of their benefits. At one dinner during the conference with the RDs, I noticed vibrant, perfectly pickled beets being left behind on salad plates as mason jars filled with lemon custard desserts were scraped clean. Even the most knowledgeable and health-aware individuals will allow for an occasional delectable and, likely, less-healthy treat. Ultimately, as I’ve come realize in my own health journey, balance is key for anything that must be sustained. Supplements can play a role in helping anyone strike that balance.

Besides being some of the nicest people I’ve met professionally, grocery store RDs are open to science-based information and receptive to collaborations focused on how good health through food and nutrition leads to better lives. Our industry would benefit from connecting with this niche but vital group of nutrition and health-oriented professionals. Just remember to bring the science.


Haiuyen Nguyen provides analysis and strategies for accomplishing CRN’s scientific and regulatory objectives, including CRN’s Science in Session event and targeted activities of the Regulatory Affairs Committee and Senior Scientific Advisory Council. She is involved in developing CRN’s regulatory and scientific comments on dietary supplement‒related topics submitted to federal agencies including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Department of Health and Human Services. Learn more about Haiuyen.