The skin pigment melanin blocks the wavelength of UV light that causes vitamin D production in the skin. Darker skinned ethnic groups who have more melanin enjoy more natural sun protection, but the trade off is a lower rate of vitamin D production.
Vitamin D is a vital nutrient essential in every stage of human life. When living nearer the equator where the sun is strong, darker skinned individuals can make enough vitamin D. What happens, though, when these individuals live in areas of the world with less intense sunlight, such as North America?
The answer to this question may be an extremely high rate of vitamin D deficiency. A paper published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition this year revealed shockingly low levels of vitamin D among African Americans: 90% were deficient and 65% were very deficient.
The following illnesses are linked to vitamin D deficiency. They are also illnesses that impact African Americans disproportionately:
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Metabolic Syndrome
The results of this research beg the question: How much could we accomplish in terms of public health and human suffering just by ensuring adequate intake of this simple nutrient? In this study, 4000iu vitamin D was required to raise the blood levels of African Americans up to the blood level of the average white male. 600-800iu is the current recommended daily allowance (RDA).
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