Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Fatal Stroke in Whites, But Not Blacks

By Susan Jeffrey, from Medscape Medical News

November 15, 2010 (Chicago)–Vitamin D deficiency is associated with an increased risk of fatal stroke in whites but not in blacks, a new study shows.


In whites, vitamin D deficiency was associated with a two-fold increase in fatal stroke after adjustment for other risk factors.



A randomized placebo-controlled trial, the Vitamin D and Omega-3 Trial (VITAL), funded by the National Institutes of Health and run by Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, is currently investigating whether 2000 IU daily vitamin D or fish oil containing about 1 gram of omega-3 fatty acids, reduces incident cancer, heart disease or stroke. Investigators plan to enrol 25% black subjects in that trial.

“Previously, the Johns Hopkins group and others have shown vitamin D deficiency to be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, myocardial infarction and all-cause and cardiovascular mortality, independent of traditional cardiovascular risk factors”, Dr. Michos said. “Vitamin D deficiency can be easily screened for through 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] testing, and treated by vitamin D supplementation and modest sunlight exposure“, she said.

Previous work has also noted racial differences in 25(OH)D vitamin D levels, that were thought perhaps to explain part some of the excess cardiovascular risk seen in blacks compared to whites, Dr. Michos noted.”Vitamin D deficiency is highly prevalent in the US, but particularly so for black populations, since melanin in the skin blocks the UVB synthesis of vitamin D”, acting as a natural sunscreen, she said.

vitamin D


It’s estimated 80% of blacks in the US have insufficient vitamin D levels.

“We confirmed prior work that among whites, whites that were vitamin D deficient had a two-fold increased risk of dying of a fatal stroke compared to whites who had optimal vitamin D levels,” she said. “However, to our surprise, we actually saw no association of vitamin D levels with fatal stroke among blacks.”

“We have a lot of epidemiologic data, observational data that suggests that higher levels are associated with lower risk, but we have been up that tree before, and we have to be very careful because we’ve failed up that tree before.”

Dr. Pinna says:

It appears strange that whites need Vitamin D to prevent stroke death, and Blacks do not. But after hundreds of thousands of years, Africans have developed a protective mechanism for Vitamin D deficiency secondary to the melanin stoppage of U.V. light.

Whites do not have that protective mechanism. Thousands of years ago, Whites ran around in nature sans clothes. Their Vitamin D levels were high. Today, because we are clothed and indoors, we need supplements.

Grab a handful of Vitamin D and swallow it. That’s what I do.

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