Vitamin D Deficiency in people with dark skin.
Canadians with dark skins whose ancestors originated from sunnier parts of the world are at risk of health problems caused by a lack of Vitamin D unless they take supplements, doctors and nutritionists have warned.
Kevin Pottie, MD. who teaches family medicine at the University of Ottawa said when he tests patients with dark skins, almost all of them show inadequate levels of Vitamin D, especially in winter months.
Reinhold Vieth, MD. a University of Toronto researcher who studies Vitamin D stated, "A white person like me, if I lie on my lawn chair for 10 minutes on my front, 10 minutes on the back, I'm going to be putting into my body 100 glasses of milk worth of vitamin D."
People whose ancestors originate from sunny places such as Pakistan or Somalia often have darker skin to protect them from sunburn and other sun damage.
"But as you move north, that skin color makes it harder and harder for you to make Vitamin D," Vieth said. "Basically, what we're doing is transplanting people from an area for which their skin is optimized in terms of its color to an area where their skin is often too dark to be healthy."
Skin color isn't the only factor that increases the risk of deficiency; diet and culture also play a role. Vieth co-authored a study of healthy University of Toronto students published in 2008 in the journal BioMed Central Public Health that found those of South Asian descent were almost six times more likely to have a Vitamin D deficiency than those of European descent.
A Norwegian study published in 2009 found that 57 per cent of 119 immigrant mothers from Pakistan, Somalia, and Turkey had a Vitamin D deficiency, as did nearly half their babies.
One reason is that people from those countries eat very little food that contains Vitamin D, said Ahmed Madar, MD. a University of Oslo researcher who co-authored the study published in the British Journal of Nutrition. In addition, most of the women in his study wore traditional clothing. About half of them covered their entire body, including their legs, hands and face while outside their homes.
Vieth said when deciding whether to take supplements, people should think about the risks and benefits. In the case of Vitamin D, he said, "I see no risk, no downside, there's only a potential benefit."