Those with a Darker Skin have a higher risk of being Vitamin D Deficient
Here in the UK, the Secretary of Health has launched a call for evidence to improve vitamin D levels in the UK population while at the same time talking openly about vitamin D - and health disparities due to vitamin D deficiency.
Sajid Javid says: “Vitamin D is important for healthy bones, but older people and people from Asian and Black communities are more likely to have low levels. I’ve launched a new review looking at what more can be done to improve uptake and tackle health disparities.”
Who is more at risk from low Vitamin D levels?
Those with darker skin color are at a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency due to their need for more UVB exposure, compared to people of lighter skin, to make the same amount of vitamin D.
At the same time, as we grow older we are also more at risk of being vitamin D deficient.
Everyone will not get enough vitamin D during the winter months unless they take a vitamin D supplement. And it is not a certainty that the summer months will ensure you get all the vitamin D you need from sunlight. While historically, yes they did because they were out on the land and not slathering on sunscreen at the slightest chance of getting any sunlight.
Very different to recent years when the public have very successfully been programmed to fear the sun and to avoid it at all costs. And of course many will spend more time indoors in front of a computer screen!
How does the Health Department in the UK plan on addressing deficiencies?
- By highlighting health disparities related to accessing and consuming vitamin D.
- Improving population awareness of vitamin D.
- Improving awareness among health and care professionals of vitamin D.
- Improving vitamin D status through diet, including fortified foods and biofortification.
- Improving vitamin D status through dietary supplements, and increasing access to and availability of dietary supplements.
Health departments (whether in the UK or the USA) invariably promote a lower than ideal vitamin D target. The average vitamin D level of Americans is approximately 24 ng/ml. At least 48 scientists agree that the optimal vitamin D levels are between 40 to 60 ng/ml (or 100 to 150 nmol/L). Therefore, many people have a very long way to go.
If you are serious about raising your own vitamin D levels, It is ideal and necessary to check your vitamin D levels and dose accordingly.
When taking higher doses of vitamin D, it is also important to ensure you are getting enough vitamin K2 as well as magnesium, either from the diet or from supplements.
It can be difficult to know what dosage to take if you have not been tested but most suggested doses of vitamin D are too low and it is hard to overdose. It is highly recommend that you get your hydroxyvitamin D test as soon as you can so that you have a baseline from which to measure your level at the 6-month point and beyond. Such a test can be done at home inexpensively. 40 ng/mL is a good level to aim for initially, rising to 60 or 70 if you can for optimum health. In the meantime, a suggested dose is 5000 IUs per day.
Below, is a diagram of the different levels of vitamin D.
How to ensure you can raise your vitamin D levels if you have a darker skin
The number one way to increase your vitamin D levels is to spend some time in the sun - between the hours of 10h 00 and 14h 00 - with as much skin exposed as possible, minus any sunscreen and until the skin starts to turn pink (if you are fair skinned). The suggested exposure is about 20 minutes each, front and back but the darker your skin, the longer you need for sufficient absorption.
You can find out a lot more here.
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Gruber-Bzura, B. M. (2018). Vitamin D and influenza—prevention or therapy?
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6121423/. (Accessed, 2 October 2021).
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https://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(10)01173-5/fulltext. (Accessed, 2 October 2021).
Matyjaszek-Matuszek, B., et al. (2015). Clinical implications of vitamin D deficiency.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4498026/. (Accessed, 2 October 2021).