Black Men and Vitamin D

Study finds that African-American men just don't get enough.

A recent study conducted at the Northwestern University suggests that African-American men who live in regions with little sunlight are three times more likely to suffer from vitamin D deficiency than their white counterparts.


This deficiency happens mostly because the increased melanin in darker skin blocks the sun's rays, which is problematic, given that the body needs to absorb the rays in order to produce vitamin D. It’s because of this that Black men have to be out in the sun six times as long to produce enough vitamin D.


African-American men require up to six times more sun exposure than Caucasian men to make adequate Vitamin D levels.


“It takes a dark-skinned male like myself 90 minutes three times a week to absorb enough sunlight to produce the recommended amount of Vitamin D compared to just 15 minutes three times a week for a Caucasian male,” said said Dr. Adam Murphy, a clinical instructor in urology at Northwestern’s Feinberg School.


African-American men living in Chicago would need to take nearly 2,500 IU’s of vitamin D to reach normal, healthy levels, Murphy said.


Murphy presented the research at the American Association of Cancer Researchers' Health Disparities Conference in Washington D.C.


All men living in the northern third of the country “from Northern California all the way to Virginia” need to increase their Vitamin D supplementation, Murphy said.


Vitamin D deficiency is not a game, and 97 percent of us — men and women — are impacted by this deficiency.


Low levels of vitamin D are linked to many health issues, especially heart disease. And given how we disproportionately suffer from heart disease, stroke and diabetes, this is something that we should be paying attention to. Low vitamin D levels have also been linked to brittle bones, asthma, flu, bacterial vaginosis, osteoporosis, rickets (insufficient bone development in children), glucose intolerance and multiple sclerosis. It's also believed that low vitamin D levels play a role in why we develop more prostate cancer, breast cancer and colon cancer and get more aggressive forms of those cancers. 


Here are some ways to increase your vitamin D intake: 


Supplements: Vitamin D supplements come in two forms, vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. Go for D3, the more active form. Experts suggest that African-Americans get about 1,500 to 2,000 IUs (International Units) a day. FYI: Before you start taking supplements, speak with your doctor because, in some cases, vitamin D may interact with medications that you might be taking for another ailment. 


 Foods:  The following foods (and their quantities) can help:       


— Fortified milk (1 cup): 98 IUs


— Egg (1): 100 IUs


— Cod liver oil (1 tbsp): 1,360 IUs


— Salmon (3 1/2 oz): 360 IUs


— Orange juice fortified with vitamin D, 1 cup: 100 IUs


— Yogurt, fortified with 20% of the DV for vitamin D (6 ounces): 80


— Mackerel (3 1/2oz): 345 IUs


— Tuna fish, canned in water (3 oz): 200 IUs


— Sardines, canned in water (1 1/2 oz): 250 IUs  

(Photo: NNS /Landov)

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