We Are Sunshine

HEADLINE STORY: USA Today Columnist’s Vitamin D story was improperly perceived as racist by some readers.

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

A story in USA Today this week pointing out that African Americans are at a disadvantage when it comes to making vitamin D from the sun — and thus are at greater risk for vitamin D deficiency — has been targeted by a few vocal readers as being racist.

2009-04-22-vitamin-d-racism-copy.jpg“It is clear to anyone who follows vitamin D research that the story was doing exactly the opposite: pointing out that those who say black people don’t need more sunlight exposure to make the same amount of vitamin D as a fair-skinned person are in fact the ones being racist,” Smart Tan Vice President Joseph Levy said. “Dark skin needs 6-10 times more UV to make the same amount of vitamin D as fair skinned people, and yet most public health advisories do not take this into account at all and are one-size-fits all.”

USA Today’s story began, “Can dark skin be a health hazard? It might be — if you are a dark-skinned person who lives far from the equator, gets little sun exposure and consumes little vitamin D.” The story stoked angry comments from readers.

The story explained that a nationwide study found the following for vitamin D deficiency by ethic groups:

  • African Americans: 97%
  • Mexican Americans: 90%
  • Non-Hispanic whites: 71%

The study also targeted groups defined as being “extremely low” in vitamin D:

  • African Americans: 29%
  • Mexican Americans: 7.5%
  • Non-Hispanic whites: 2.5%

To read the article click here.