Public Release: 

African American women are at greater risk of vitamin D deficiency than white women

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Vitamin D is essential to maximize skeletal heath from birth until death, and vitamin D deficiency among women of childbearing age has received renewed attention. Hypovitaminosis D in women of childbearing age may result in inadequate transfer of maternal vitamin D to the fetus during pregnancy, which, in turn, can lead to low infant stores. Nesby-O'Dell et al., publishing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found in a study of women of reproductive age that African American women had a much higher incidence of hypovitaminosis D than white women.

In 1988-1994, the researchers examined 1546 African American women and 1426 white women aged 15 to 49 years, none of whom were pregnant. Hypovitaminosis D was 10 times more prevalent in African American (42%) than in white women (4%). Every determinant of vitamin D status contributed in some part to the prevalence of hypovitaminosis D in the African American women, including urban residence, increased skin melanin with low rates of casual sunlight exposure, and low consumption of fortified milk and cereal. Even 10-30% African American women who consumed adequate intakes of vitamin D from supplements had hypovitaminosis D, indicating that the standard 200-400 IU/day found in most vitamin supplements may be inadequate for these women.

According to an accompanying editorial by Holick, adequate vitamin D may also decrease the risk of developing some cancers, type 1 diabetes, and possibly multiple sclerosis. He suggests that in the absence of adequate exposure to sunlight, the recommended daily dosage of vitamin D should be raised to ¡Ý800-1,000 IU/day for people of all ages.


Nesby-O'Dell, Shanna et al. Hypovitaminosis D prevalence and determinants among African American and white women of reproductive age: third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988-1994. Am J Clin Nutr 2002;76:187-92.

Holick, Michael F. Too little vitamin D in premenopausal women: why should we care? Am J Clin Nutr 2002;76:3-4.

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