(HealthDay News) — New research indicates that the darker skin of blacks may increase their risk of heart disease and stroke because it reduces production of vitamin D, which is made during exposure to sunlight.
Several studies have associated low levels of vitamin D with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and “the biggest source of vitamin D levels is sunlight,” said Dr. Kevin Fiscella, a professor of family medicine and community and preventive medicine at the University of Rochester, and co-author of a paper in the January/February issue of the Annals of Family Medicine. “People with dark skin who live at higher latitudes, where the intensity of sunlight is less, may be at greater risk.”
But the issue abounds with unanswered questions, starting with whether there is a real cause-and-effect relationship of vitamin D levels and cardiovascular risk, and ending with whether supplements that increase blood levels of the vitamin lower that risk, Fiscella said.
“We don’t truly know the answer,” Fiscella said. “That is the really pivotal question, what happens to cardiovascular risk if you correct blood levels of vitamin D. We do know that small supplements for middle-aged people don’t seem to have any effect.”
In the study, Fiscella and Dr. Peter Franks of the University of California, Davis, looked at data on more than 15,000 U.S. adults in a national nutritional study. They found that overall, the 25 percent of adults with the lowest levels of vitamin D had a 40 percent higher risk of cardiovascular death. When they singled out blacks, the report found a 38 percent higher incidence of such deaths than among whites. Most of that difference was related to lower levels of vitamin D...read more here