Research: Vitamin D and Skin Colour

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Epub: Amezcua L et al. Vitamin D levels in Hispanics with multiple sclerosis. J Neurol. 2012 May

Background: Vitamin D has been associated with MS and several markers of disease state in whites. There are limited reports of vitamin D’s influence in MS in ethnic groups, such as in Hispanics. 


Objectives: This study compared vitamin D levels in Hispanics and whites with MS and tried to determine whether season or increasing disability influence hypovitaminosis D (low vD) in Hispanics with MS. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] levels and clinical characteristics were compared in a cross-sectional sample of Hispanics (n = 80) and whites (n = 80) with MS recruited from the University of Southern California. 

Results: Serum 25(OH)D levels were significantly lower in Hispanics than whites with MS (mean and standard deviation 25.1 ± 9.4 and 37.3 ± 19.8 ng/ml, respectively; p < 0.001). Hispanics were significantly more likely than whites to be vitamin D insufficient (≤30 ng/ml; 70 vs. 41 %, respectively; p < 0.001) and deficient (≤20 ng/ml; 40 vs. 14 %, respectively, p < 0.001). In Hispanics, serum 25(OH)D levels were not influenced by season (p = 0.8) or higher physical disability (EDSS ≥6, p = 0.7). 

Conclusion: The investigators found the relationship between vitamin D and MS differs by Hispanic ethnicity. Hypovitaminosis D was significantly more common among Hispanics than among whites with MS, and the majority of Hispanics were vitamin D insufficient. Interestingly, there was no association between vitamin D levels and season or increasing disability in the Hispanics. Their findings imply that factors influencing vitamin D levels and possibly vitamin D requirements may vary by ethnicity in patients with MS. These results should be confirmed in larger, prospective multi-ethnic cohort studies.

“This study confirms what we know; MSers tend to have low vD levels that is greater in MSers with darker skins. All MSers need to make sure that they are vD replete; this usually means taking supplements. In the modern era we son’t get enough vD from sunlight exposure or diet. I recommend the vD Councils recommendation re supplementation; 5,000U vD3 per day people older than 10 years of age, 2,000U vD3 from the age of 2 to 10 and 600U per day up to the age of 2.”

About the author

Prof G

Professor of Neurology, Barts & The London. MS & Preventive Neurology thinker, blogger, runner, vegetable gardener, husband, father, cook and wine & food lover.

2 comments

  • The study stated there was no association between vitamin D and increasing disability. Is this because the variation among vit d levels was to small to detect or a difference in metabolism or genetics?

  • Re: "The study stated there was no association between vitamin D and increasing disability. Is this because the variation among vit d levels was to small to detect or a difference in metabolism or genetics?"

    I am not sure that there should be a link between vD and disability. People with more advanced MS are probably more likely to be on supplements. In addition, the study is probably under powered to answer this question.

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