Robert N. Taylor: African Americans Are Woefully Vitamin D Deficient

evidence is now overwhelming; African Americans are the most vitamin D deficient people in the nation. This is extraordinarily unhealthy.

There is a growing body of evidence that adequate amounts of vitamin D not only build strong bones (as we were told in grade school) but also helps prevent a host of ailments including diabetes, prostate cancer, breast cancer and even heart disease.

Despite its benefits, a study by Dr. Jonathan Mansbach of the Harvard Medical School found that virtually all Americans are failing to get adequate amounts of sunshine – the chief source of vitamin D.

However, African Americans get the least. Mansbach’s study found, for example, that while 70 percent of whites are vitamin D deficient, nearly 95 percent of Blacks are vitamin D deficient. This means we are setting ourselves up for increased susceptibility to a host of ailments because of an unhealthy fear of sunshine.

When I was a child, a common mantra among Black adults in the South was “I am Black enough; I don’t need to spend too much time in the sun.” Now it appears that this bit of Black self-hatred maybe killing us.

Nearly without exception, experts agree that exposure to the sun is the best and most efficient way to increase vitamin D levels in the blood. The body converts the sun’s UV rays into vitamin D. And while anyone can get skin cancer, people of African ancestry can withstand greater sun exposure without risking skin cancer because of the higher concentrations of melanin in their darker skins. Indeed, the people at greatest risk for skin cancer are not whites but the fairest complexion of whites.

Most warnings about over-exposure to the sun are based on the needs of these whites, not Blacks. Another longtime researcher in the field Dr. Michael Holick has become one of the nation’s leading advocates of “sensible sun exposure.” That may range from just 15 minutes a day for whites to half-an-hour a day for Blacks and Hispanics. Meanwhile, the best vitamin D foods are salmon, canned tuna, egg yolks, beef, cheese and vitamin D fortified foods such as milk, yogurt and cereals.

Meanwhile, Dr. Mansbach writes, “There are a lot of studies
demonstrating associations between low levels of vitamin D and a laundry list of poor health outcomes. We need to save our children from our mistakes and self-hatred.

According to a study published earlier this year in the medical journal Pediatrics, better than 90 percent of African American children are deficient in vitamin D. However, African American children are not alone. The study found that Hispanic kids are 80 percent vitamin D deficient; white youngsters are 65 percent vitamin D deficient while vitamin SD deficiency in Black children stands around 92 percent.

Sunshine (sensible exposure) can enable us to live longer, disease free lives. Get exposed!

[Robert Taylor welcomes responses to his commentaries. Email your "Letter to the Editor" to You can also go online and visit Taylor's website at]