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African Americans need vitamin D intervention as well as education – Dec 2014

Evaluation of the prevalence of hypovitaminosis D and vitamin D awareness in African Americans living in a metropolitan southern community

Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev November 2014 23; B61 doi: 10.1158/1538-7755.DISP13-B61
Abstracts: Sixth AACR Conference: The Science of Cancer Health Disparities; December 6–9, 2013; Atlanta, GA
Alexander Parker1, Monica Albertie1, Nancy Diehl1, and Matthew Drake2
1Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, FL,
2Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

VitaminDWiki Summary

For African Americans living in a sunny part of the United States

Vitamin D levePercent
>25 ng43%
15-24 ng35%
<15 ng22%


Test results after community vitamin D education

Main source of vitamin D = sunlight 82%
AAs are at risk of lower D because of the amount of melanin in the skin 76%
maintaining proper vitamin D levels could potentially
decrease risk for various chronic health conditions
83%

75% Never had a vitamin D test discussed with them by their doctor
Comment by VitaminDWiki - It is far more important to supplement than to get a test

See also VitaminDWiki


Background: The health benefits associated with maintaining adequate circulating levels of vitamin D are well known. More recently, data have emerged supporting an inverse association between vitamin D levels and risk of several human cancers. Related to this, African Americans (AAs) are at increased risk of hypovitaminosis D due to elevated levels of melanin in the skin that reduce the conversion of cholesterol to vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Herein, we simultaneously assess levels of awareness regarding the health benefits of vitamin D and the prevalence of hypovitaminosis D in a metropolitan African American community.

Methods: From January 2012 through August 2013, we partnered with African American churches and community organizations in the metropolitan Jacksonville, FL area to provide nine education programs focused on vitamin D and the evidence linking poor vitamin D levels with increased risk of chronic disease, including cancer. Participants were offered free vitamin D testing to estimate the prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency (<25 ng/mL) and deficiency (< 15 ng/mL) in this population. Moreover, participants also completed surveys prior to the events to assess their awareness of issues related to vitamin D, including the emerging link with cancer risk.

Results: Out of 305 attendees, 285 agreed to provide blood samples for vitamin D screening. Of these, 262 (92%) self-identified as African American (75% female, 25% male). The median age of the AA participants was 59 years. Laboratory testing for 25(OH) vit D revealed 43% of the AA participants had normal levels of vitamin D (>25 ng/mL), 35% had insufficient levels (15-24 ng/mL) and 22% had deficient levels (< 15 ng/mL). Of interest, despite the high level of hypovitaminosis D (insufficient + deficient) in this population, participants reported high levels of awareness regarding vitamin D prior to the education program. For example, 82% of AA respondents correctly answered that the main source of vitamin D came from sunlight and 76% correctly answered that AAs are at risk of lower levels of vitamin D because of the amount of melanin in the skin. Moreover, 83% of AA respondents answered that maintaining proper vitamin D levels could potentially decrease risk for various chronic health conditions, including certain cancers. Finally, 75% of the AA participants reported never having had a vitamin D test discussed with them by their doctor.

Conclusions: We report a high prevalence of hypovitaminosis D in a large AA community in Jacksonville, FL. Moreover, we report that despite this high prevalence, awareness of the health benefits of vitamin D are high, yet regular vitamin D testing levels appear to be very low. These data provide the foundation for developing targeted interventions to raise vitamin D levels in this community.

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