The summer sun is our most important source of vitamin D but people dark-skinned people living at northern latitudes have difficulty when it comes to producing enough of the nutrient. This makes them much more likely to become vitamin D-deficient and that can have serious health consequences, which may be life-threatening in worst case according to several studies.
Vitamin D is primarily known for its role in calcium uptake and bone health, but the vitamin also helps regulate our genes and a host of metabolic processes that are relevant for our immune defense and for regulating inflammation and insulin sensitivity, which is involved in most lifestyle diseases that include atherosclerosis, diabetes, and cancer. It is therefore vital to get enough vitamin D throughout life. Dark-skinned people living at northern latitudes must pay special attention, especially if they spend too much time indoors.
Why are dark-skinned people more likely to lack vitamin D?
Our skin produces vitamin D when it is exposed to UV rays from the sun. Studies show that people with dark skin and higher amounts of melanin have slower vitamin D synthesis than those with lighter skin. In the sunny tropics, where these ethnic population groups originally come from, it is easy for those with dark skin to produce adequate amounts of vitamin D. At the same time, their dark skin protects them against sunburns. However, when groups of dark-skinned people starting moving north thousands of years ago, evolutionary change gradually lightened their skin to help it adapt to the scarce amount of UV radiation so they would be able to produce enough vitamin D. But black-skinned people living at northern latitudes have difficulty with producing enough vitamin D, and the problem is only made worse by the fact that people in western cultures spend far too much time indoors.
Dark-skinned people get coronavirus a lot easier than those with light skin
People with black or dark skin and African or Asian ethnicity are far more likely to get COVID-19, according to a study from Surrey and Southampton Universities. Here, scientists have compared blood samples from 1,300 adults in Great Britain, 580 of which had tested positive for COVID-19. The study showed that people with white skin had 53 percent higher levels of vitamin D in their blood compared with ethnic minorities with black or dark skin.
According to Robert Brown from the McCarrison think-tank, science has already uncovered vitamin D’s vital role in immune health and shown how it protects against respiratory infections. A total of six studies and research conducted by McCarrison shows that the risk of dying of COVID-19 is lower among people with less vitamin D-deficiency. Vitamin D helps control the immune response, thereby preventing the cytokine storm and hyperinflammation that causes the immune system to attack healthy tissue. It is this overreaction that can make infections like COVID-19 life-threatening.
|According to calculations from Office for National Statistics in England, black people are twice as likely to die of virus infections, even if they have healthy living habits.|
Dark-skinned babies died of vitamin D deficiency
This website has already written about a case with three, dark-skinned babies from Great Britain, who developed osteoporosis and lethal heart failure as a result of vitamin D deficiency. In all three cases, the clinical symptoms were insidious, and the babies’ need for vitamin D was not discovered or dealt with until it was too late. It turned out that the lack of vitamin D was so critical because it disrupted their calcium uptake, and calcium is vital for the nerve impulses that help the heart beat regularly.
The researchers from University of Birmingham say that these tragedies could have been avoided with better control to make sure that the dark-skinned pregnant mothers and their babies got enough vitamin D.
Dark-skinned people with vitamin D deficiency risk many other diseases
According to an article published in Journal of Nutrition, a large percentage of African-Americans have lower levels of vitamin D in their blood than white population groups. Because of that, many otherwise healthy African-American people risk having low levels of vitamin D all year round, simply because they are unable to produce sufficient amounts from sun exposure. Lack of vitamin D increases the risk of weight problems, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and other serious ailments.
Science: We need more focus on vitamin D for people with dark skin
Several scientists from Great Britain and USA demand that health authorities change their recommendations concerning vitamin D supplementation in a way that takes into account the individual needs of colored people, pregnant women, babies, and other population groups that are likely to be deficient of the nutrient.
An inexpensive source of prevention and a good way to solve serious health problems is to measure levels of vitamin D in exposed groups and make sure that they take the necessary supplements to optimize their vitamin D status.
Coronavirus: Obesity and ethnicity linked to greater risk of contracting disease, suggest research. Independent. 18 May. 2020
Northwestern University. Vitamin D levels appear to play role in COVID-19 mortality rates. Science Daily. May 2020
Suma Uday et al. Cardiac, bone and growth plate manifestations in hypocalcemic infants: Revealing the hidden body of the vitamin D deficiency iceberg. BMS Pediatrics 2018
University of Birmingham. Tragic death of baby highlights the need for vitamin D public health policy change. ScienceDaily June 26, 2018
Ali Daneshkhah et al. The Possible Role of Vitamin D in Suppressing Cytokine Storm and Associated Mortality in COVID-19 Patients. medRxiv April 30, 2020
Susan S. Harris. Vitamin D and African Americans. The Journal of Nutrition. 2006
Steen Ahrenkiel. D-vitaminbehov og mangel I Danmark. Biokemisk Forening 2009
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