Low Vitamin D Levels in Blacks Could Contribute to Higher Rates of Cancer, Other Diseases, Researcher Says
Low vitamin D levels in blacks could contribute to health gaps between white and black U.S. residents, Michael Holick, a professor at Boston University and a vitamin D researcher, said recently, the GNS/Chicago Sun-Times reports. According to Holick, blacks have lower levels of vitamin D than whites in part because the higher amount of pigment in their skin makes it harder for their body to absorb the nutrient, which is produced in response to sun exposure.
Although scientists are debating optimum vitamin D levels, some scientists have said that vitamin D can reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other illnesses. Holick added that some scientists believe blacks are more likely to have prostate cancer, breast cancer and colon cancer and have more aggressive forms of the cancer because they have lower levels of vitamin D. John Flack, principal investigator at the Center for Urban and African American Health at Wayne State University, said lower vitamin D levels among blacks is "potentially a very important explanation for some of the differences, from hypertension to cancer to heart failure," adding, "The actual proof is not there, but it's plausible." Flack added that many factors -- including decreased access to health care and differences in income and education -- contribute to the overall poorer health among blacks.
The Institute of Medicine next year is expected to release new guidelines on recommended daily intake for vitamin D. "All Americans, but particularly people with darker skin, should pay attention" to the new guidelines, according to Adit Ginde, a researcher at the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine who led a recent study that found vitamin D levels are decreasing in all racial groups and are particularly low in blacks (Painter, GNS/Chicago Sun-Times, 5/28).