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Why Are Black Americans Considered Vitamin D Deficient? Some Answers On Genetics And The Testing Process

Why Are Black Americans Considered Vitamin D Deficient? Some Answers On Genetics And The Testing Process

Vitamin D deficient

Why Are Black Americans Considered Vitamin D Deficient? Some Answers On Genetics And The Testing Process. Image credit: Lacheev / iStock https://www.istockphoto.com/portfolio/Lacheev?mediatype=photography

Vitamin D deficiency is more widespread among Black Americans than others in the U.S., although the reasons behind this are complex and require more study, according to David O. Meltzer. MD, PhD, the chief of hospital medicine at the University of Chicago Medicine.

Vitamin D is important to the health of every system in the body. It promotes healthy bones and teeth and may also protect against a range of diseases and conditions, such as type 1 diabetes. It regulates insulin levels, supports lung and cardiovascular health, and influences the expression of genes involved in cancer development.

Yet many people, especially people with darker skin, are vitamin D deficient.

Having more melanin — the pigment that provides skin color — reduces the body’s ability to synthesize vitamin D from the sun, resulting in lower 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels, according to the National Library of Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

This could be intensified by age, clothing that we wear, sunscreen and seasonal variations in sunlight exposure.

Another element affecting the amount of vitamin D in the body and how it is used is the presence of vitamin D-binding proteins, which carry the nutrient through the bloodstream to various organs, according to the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB).


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“There are reasons to believe that African Americans not only need more sun to produce vitamin D, but they could well have different vitamin D binding proteins that might make them more vulnerable to variations in sunlight, “ Dr. Meltzer said.

Research by Dr. Ravi Thadhani, a professor of medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, found that there is a paradox between bone health and vitamin D deficiency.

The study found out that the population with the best bone health happens to be the African American population, but almost 80 percent of these individuals are defined as having Vitamin D deficiency.

Because of the lower levels of the binding protein, Black people still have enough of the bioavailable vitamin, which explains why their bones look strong even though the usual blood tests say they should not.

The reason people of African descent have far less protein-bound vitamin D is probably related to the geographic origins of humans. The earliest ancestors lived near the equator in Africa, where sunlight was plentiful and intense year-round.

The current blood test for vitamin D shows that most Black Americans are deficient, and this can lead to weak bones. Many doctors prescribe supplement pills to bring their levels up.

Vitamin D is synthesized in the skin when sunlight strikes the skin. When sunlight is deficient, the vitamin must come from dietary sources such as eggs and fish oil.

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