Fair and Balanced: the Case for Vitamins

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. It also is important in the maintenance of normal levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood. It is found in dairy products, fish, and fortified foods. It is also manufactured by the body in response to sunshine.

Vitamin D deficiency causes rickets, muscular weakness, and weak bones. Recent research suggests that vitamin D’s role in maintaining general health deserves more study. There are indications that it may also help protect against osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, cancer, certain infections, and some autoimmune diseases.

As people increasingly work and exercise indoors and public health campaigns to reduce skin cancer have encouraged people to limit their sun exposure, increasing attention has been paid to population-wide vitamin D deficiency.

In 1997, the Institute of Medicine defined vitamin D deficiency as serum concentrations of less than 12 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) for adults. An estimated 10 percent of the population has serum concentrations below that level. Some experts argue that this level should be raised to 20 to 32 ng/mL.

Since skin color affects the vitamin D resulting from sun exposure, it should come as no surprise that Non-Hispanic whites have serum concentrations of vitamin D that are almost twice as high as non-Hispanic Blacks, or that older people in all population groups are more likely to suffer from vitamin D deficiency than younger people.

About 10 percent of Non-Hispanic whites age 40–59 have serum concentrations below 13.0 ng/mL, roughly 50 percent have serum concentrations below 25.0 ng/mL, and 90 percent have serum concentrations below 36.0 ng/mL. Levels for Non-Hispanic Blacks are much lower. About 10 percent of Non-Hispanic Blacks age 40–59 have serum concentrations less than 5 ng/mL, roughly 50 percent have serum concentrations below 12 ng/mL, and 90 percent have serum concentrations below 23 ng/mL.

If adequate levels of vitamin D do turn out to be more important for general health than previously suspected, one step towards mitigating U.S. racial health disparities might be encouraging everyone to take his vitamins.

Comments (6)

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  1. Vicki says:

    Thanks, Linda. Some of the loyal readers of this blog actually take vitamins.

  2. Nancy says:

    I agree with Vicki.

  3. Neil H. says:

    Thanks, Linda. We have had too much vitamin bashing at this site this year.

  4. Joe S. says:

    The problem with vitamins is that almost every study has shown that in otherwise normal people they do no good. And they can even cause harm.

  5. Zoleeta [Health IT Writer] says:

    Great post. At one point or another I did take vitamins. (No wonder I started to feel horrible). Reading this actually gives me more of the incentive (plus of what my ‘life coach’ (i guess you could call him) tells me.


  6. Ron says:

    As is the case with most vitamins and supplements, don’t over do it, don’t under do it. Always attempt to get your nutrients naturally, if possible. When that’s not possible, a low dose multi may be the ticket.

    Ron – http://www.healthbeautyfitness.org