Although the risk factors of developing a vitamin D deficiency are similar for everyone, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that vitamin D deficiency is closely related to race/ethnicity. In America, for example, vitamin D insufficiency and cases of vitamin D deficiency are significantly more prevalent among African Americans compared to other Americans. In this post, we will look at the reasoning for these differences and explore what can be done to combat vitamin D deficiency in at-risk populations.
THE IMPACT OF RACE
The primary source of vitamin D is sunlight, which contains UV rays that generate a specific substance in the skin known as cholecalciferol. Alternative sources of vitamin D do exist, such as fatty fish and fungal sources; however, a substantially large quantity of these foods is required to achieve optimal vitamin D levels. This results in many people turning to vitamin D supplements during the winter months.
In a 2006 study conducted by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, it was observed that 41.6% out of a population of 4495 people presented with vitamin D insufficiency. What’s more, race and ethnicity were identified as a significant risk factor, with African-American adults having the highest prevalence rate at 82.1%, followed by Hispanic adults at 62.9%. But why is this, and what causes this higher rate of vitamin D deficiency?
Blacks and Hispanics consistently present with lower levels of vitamin D compared to others due to variations in skin pigmentation. In Blacks and Hispanics, there is an increase in skin pigmentation, which hinders the generation of cholecalciferol. This substance is vital for the absorption of vitamin D, and without it, vitamin D insufficiency is inevitable.
OPTIMAL LEVELS FOR VITAMIN D
Despite the racial differences in vitamin D deficiencies, the available evidence suggests that we have all adapted to different optimal levels of vitamin D. For example, it is not clear whether the optimal levels for vitamin D are the same for Caucasians, Blacks, or Asians alike. Therefore, vitamin D tests are vital to determine not only your levels of this nutrient but also whether your body has adapted to a different optimal level of vitamin D.