Our Vitamin D Needs Unite Us.
By Dr. Robin Rose
Dr. Vatsal Thakkar’s illuminating piece on Vitamin D in Friday’s Wall Street Journal highlights the powerful role Vitamin D plays in supporting a healthy immune response and why having adequate levels is imperative for optimal health. Thakkar pays particular attention to skin tone and while early data has demonstrated racial disparities in the severity of disease and death rates during the current pandemic, Vitamin D deficiency is pervasive throughout our entire U.S. population. Dr. Thakkar points out that some of the highest mortality rates from COVID-19 have been in Italy and Spain- countries with darker skin tones, but is this correlation or causation? These countries have additional risk factors that include multi-generational households and increased tobacco use.
Thakkar references a study where “Vitamin D supplementation in African-Americans reduced cancer risk 23%.” However, Vitamin D deficiency is also associated with lowering your chances of developing various forms of cancer, including breast and colon in women regardless of skin-tone. Another study from Japan found a link between Vitamin D deficiency and developing liver cancer in men. This problem is ubiquitous not only throughout our country but in the world. While Dr. Thakkar is right that people with darker skin should take Vitamin D, many people should consider a supplement. An estimated one billion people worldwide have Vitamin D deficiency, and one-third of them have no identifiable risk factors. In the United States, approximately 40% of our population needs more Vitamin D.
At Terrain Health, we have been publishing on the importance of Vitamin D to support the immune function. Vitamin D deficiency can negatively impact our health in several ways. We think this is an essential supplement. Having Vitamin D deficiency affects all races, genders, and ages across lifespans, and is a contributing factor for many chronic diseases.
Unfortunately, America is a nation where chronic disease is of epidemic proportions. Almost 50% of the population suffers from at least one chronic illness. The racial disparities in the mortality rates are fertile areas to study, but this pandemic presents the country with a major opportunity to reexamine the very real illnesses that plague Americans regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, and class. With a pandemic superimposed on a chronic disease epidemic, America should seize the opportunity to reset our health, change our behaviors, and heal as a nation.