Black People And The Vitamin D Crisis

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[Health Matters]

Vitamin D deficiency is at epidemic proportions in the United States and it is worse among Black people. 

A national sample of almost 20,000 people, taken over a 16-year period, between 1988 and 2004, shows that the proportion of Americans with healthy vitamin D levels, fell from 45 percent to 23 percent.

The number of Blacks with adequate vitamin D in their blood plummeted from 12 percent to an alarming level of 3 percent.  In fact, many studies report that 99 percent of African Americans may be suffering from vitamin D deficiency.  This is a dilemma because vitamin D, which has been described by some scientists as a “miracle nutrient,” affects every major aspect of human health.

Vitaimn D improves the antibacterial, antiviral and anti-parasitic functioning of the immune system.  People with low vitamin D levels in their blood are more likely to die from cancer, heart disease, stroke and many other diseases.  The United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that that African Americans are dying the most from these diseases.   

Melanin Factor and Vitamin D Deficiency
Melanin is the primary coloring agent in human skin and Blacks have more of this coloring. It reduces the amount of ultraviolet radiation entering the skin and also helps to protect against DNA damage induced by radiation from the sun. 

Because of its sun blocking capacity, melanin is also referred to as a natural sun block or sunscreen.

Unfortunately, this natural sun block also inhibits the production of vitamin D in human skin. God created the universe and fashioned human and other life forms so that life may advantageously exist in its environment.

Highly melanized skin or dark-skin pigmentation served our human ancestors well while they lived in equatorial regions of Africa because melanin served a means of protection from the intense rays of the sun. Lightly pigmented skin evolved as a response to migration to regions with low ultraviolet exposure.

Highly melanized skin serves dark pigmented people well when they live in places with intense sun exposure because it blocks excess ultraviolet B radiation while leaving enough sunshine to initiate adequate vitamin D production in the skin.

High levels of melanin serve as protection from ultraviolet radiation when the intensity of the sun is high and prevent premature skin aging and skin cancer.  However, in the process of providing protection melanin also serves as a sun block preventing ultra violet rays from entering the skin where sun rays are needed to initiate vitamin D production, the vitamin that is needed to ward off diseases.

Nature is well ordered but presents ironies. A dilemma arises when highly melanized skin, which was created to carry out extremely useful biological functions, becomes an impediment to optimum health because of insufficient sun exposure.

People with dark skin pigmentation who live in tropical regions and get sufficient sun exposure in these places are more likely to have good health than people with equally dark skin who live in higher latitudes with limited sunlight.

The sunlight needs for dark pigmented people living in northern climates with low UV radiation such as the United States are great and are not being met. A light pigmented person standing in the sun in an area with relatively low UV radiation will be able to produce enough vitamin D that the body typically requires for one day in about 10-15 minutes. In stark contrast, a very dark-pigmented person, standing in the same spot will need approximately 10 times more sun exposure to produce the same amount of vitamin D.

Unfortunately, many African Americans do not know about the health enhancing properties of vitamin D so their health continues to deteriorate. Despite the alarming health situation for Blacks, conventional medical practitioners do not seem to be informing Black people that they may need to take at least 5,000 IU of vitamin D in supplements form, every day.

Black children should also be given adequate amounts of vitamin D on a daily basis, because foods and drinks do not supply adequate amounts of vitamin D.   Instead, Blacks continue to be overloaded with prescription medications that treat the symptoms of illnesses while the causative factors are left unaddressed.

Vitamin D: The Miracle Nutrient
Vitamin D plays a crucial role in disease control and prevention.  Blacks suffer the most from chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, fibromyalgia, lupus, and obesity which can be effectively controlled or prevented with vitamin D supplementation.

For example, scientists have confirmed that vitamin D is an effective treatment for cancer without the dangerous side effects of cancer drugs.   In fact, the effectiveness of vitamin D in preventing and treating cancer is so great that many scientists now believe that adequate vitamin D supplementation may help to prevent 2 million cancer deaths each year.

Emily Allison-Francis is a nutritionist and educator who has been researching the unique vitamin D needs of blacks.  Her forthcoming book is The Vitamin D Deficiency Dilemma: Do You Know Why More Blacks are Getting Sick and Dying?

For more information on the unique vitamin D needs of blacks, please visit the website               

[email protected]

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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