January 18, 2017


Director's Letter 
Carole Baggerly 
Director, GrassrootsHealth 

What difference does it make what color your skin is?
It makes a very big difference in terms of the amount of vitamin D you get from the sun (even when sun is limited).  This difference is important to be aware of because, for most people, the majority of vitamin D intake still comes from sun exposure. A dark-skinned African American needs 2 ½ times more time in the sun to make as much vitamin D from their skin as a light skinned Caucasian - this might be the difference of 50 vs. 20 minutes of daily sun.
Below we will discuss statistics that show that many diseases are much more prevalent in African Americans.

Could vitamin D levels contribute to these discrepancies?
We will also discuss the outcomes of randomized controlled trials at the Medical University of South Carolina. Did raising everyone's vitamin D levels eliminate racial disparity and thus reduce negative health outcomes?

We think so, but we need more data. We need to reach more people with darker skin color for our project--do you know someone who is African American, Hispanic, or Asian who would like to participate?  January is a spectacular time to enroll-- vitamin D levels are low, due to winter/low sun exposure, so they would see where they have to start.  Please forward this email to all who would be interested AND share our Facebook and Twitter posts on this subject. 


Carole Baggerly
Director, GrassrootsHealth
A Public Health Promotion & Research Organization
Moving Research into Practice NOW!

Could Vitamin D be the key to unlocking racial disparity?

Vitamin D Levels

Fewer than 3% of the US African American population is within our recommended range for vitamin D level, 40-60 ng/ml. 63% are below 20 ng/ml, putting them at risk for rickets and osteomalacia , as well as a host of other diseases.  

The chart below shows the breakdown of vitamin D levels in children by race. Black children and teens are most deficient in vitamin D, with 41% below 20 ng/ml. Nearly 100% of black and Hispanic children and teens are below 40 ng/ml. A 2014 study by the Centers for Disease Control found that black and Hispanic kids have a 50% chance of developing diabetes, 10% more than the overall population.


Preterm birth rates among African American women are 48% higher than the rate of all women ( source: March of Dimes). Rates of preeclampsia among African American women are approximately 50% higher than the rates among Caucasians over the past 30 years ( source: Breathett et al.). The chart below shows that 73% of black women of childbearing years in the US are below 20 ng/ml. 

Since early 2000 , Drs Carol Wagner and Bruce Hollis have been researching the effects of vitamin D on pregnancy and lactation. 

In a time when this dosage was unheard of, they started giving study participants 4000 or 6000 vitamin D daily. 

Through their research they have made some key observations - that pregnant women should be above 40 ng/ml to reduce the risk of preterm birth, and that lactating moms need 6400 IU/day to transfer the equivalent of 400 IU/day to their baby through breast milk. 

In October 2015, researchers from GrassrootsHealth and Medical University of South Carolina published a paper,
Post-hoc analysis of vitamin D status and reduced risk of preterm birth in two vitamin D pregnancy cohorts compared with South Carolina March of Dimes 2009-2011 rates , which found that there was a steady increase of gestation time (how long the baby stayed in the womb) correlating to the rise of 25(OH)D - but then reaching a plateau around 40 ng/ml. 

This adds evidence to the effort to change the standard of practice for all OBs - with a goal of getting all pregnant women to a vitamin D level of at least 40 ng/ml.

A study done at Harvard Medical School, with lead investigator Hooman Mirzakhani, found that women who had vitamin D levels above 40 ng/ml by the end of pregnancy had no instances of preeclampsia, a condition that is prevalent in women with dark skin, but can be virtually eliminated by increasing vitamin D levels.

Diabetes and Heart Disease

What about diabetes? Heart disease? According to the American Diabetes Association, 13.2% of all African Americans aged 20 or older have been diagnosed with diabetes and African Americans are 1.7 times more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes compared to non-Hispanic whites. According to Close the Gap, an organization aiming to eliminate cardiovascular care disparities through outreach and education, African American men have a 70% higher risk and African American women have a 50% greater risk of developing  heart failure than white men and women between the ages of 45 and 64.
The chart below compares the D*action cohort to the US population, using NHANES data. The NHANES study population has an average vitamin D serum level of 22 ng/ml and an average incidence of diabetes is 9.3/1000 person-years. In comparison, the study population of D*action has an average vitamin D serum level of 41 ng/ml and a recorded diabetes incidence rate of 3.7/1000 person-years. Both groups have a similar BMI average. 

Vitamin D Levels to Prevent Disease

48 vitamin D scientists have signed a call to action  to bring attention to the appreciable associations between vitamin D insufficiency and many diseases - including rickets, osteomalacia, tuberculosis, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, type-1 diabetes, high blood pressure, increased heart failure, myopathy, breast and other cancers.

It is projected that the incidence of many of these diseases could be reduced by 20-50% or more, if the occurrence of vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency were eradicated by increasing vitamin D intakes through increased UVB exposure, fortified foods or supplements. The appropriate intake of vitamin D required to effect a significant disease reduction depends on the individual's age, race, lifestyle, and latitude of residence. These scientists have stated that it is important to have vitamin D levels between 40-60 ng/ml (100-150 nmol/L) to prevent these diseases.

Increasing blood levels to this amount are safe and inexpensive.

$15 off in January with coupon code JAN17OFFER

Enroll Today

Limited Offer

Use coupon code 

Sponsored by

These sponsors are committed to spreading the world about vitamin D - to individuals and to public health through research. 

Your donation today will allow GrassrootsHealth to run special incentive programs to increase D*action participation in February.

More participation
More research
More public action

Sponsors of $1000 or more will receive special mention.

The Pregnancy Meeting

Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine Conference
Las Vegas, NV
January 23-28, 2017
Meetings available with 
Carole Baggerly, 
Dir. GrassrootsHealth 
Roger Newman, MD 

Vice Chair, Women's Health Research

Professor and Maas Chair for Reproductive Sciences, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology

Medical University 
of South Carolina

The vitamin D status of the US population from 1988 to 2010 using standardized serum concentrations of 25-hydroxyvitamin D shows recent modest increases
Rosemary Schleicher et al.
National Center for Health Statistics, CDC
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
July 6, 2016
Read Paper

Early pregnancy vitamin D status and risk of preeclampsia
Hooman Mirzakhani et al.
Brigham and Women's Hospital
The Journal of Clinical Investigation
November 14, 2016
Read Paper

Post-hoc analysis of vitamin D status and reduced risk of preterm birth in two vitamin D pregnancy cohorts compared with South Carolina March of Dimes 2009-2011 rates  
Carol L. Wagner, MD et al. 
November 10, 2015 
The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Trends in lifetime risk and years of life lost due to diabetes in the USA, 1985-2011: a modelling study
Edward Gregg et al.
Centers for Disease Control
The Lancet
August 2014

GrassrootsHealth won the 2016 Humanitarian Award

from the American College of Nutrition in recognition of our dedication to moving public health messages regarding vitamin D from science into practice.

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