According to a study published by Henry Ford Hospital researchers, Arab-American women living in southeast Detroit, Michigan have dangerously low vitamin D levels and should be taking supplements for it. The study showed that their levels averaged 8.5 ng/mL (nanograms per milliliter). A healthy vitamin D level is 30 ng/mL or higher. Vitamin D is extremely important to a persons’ body. Without enough vitamin D, people will have an increased risk of cancer, diabetes, and Crohn’s disease. Vitamin D also maintains the normal levels of calcium and phosphorus, and helps form and maintain strong bones.
For this study, researchers found eighty-seven women in an ethnic grocery store in Dearborn, Michigan. They wore the hijab, a conservative dress with a headscarf. They used them to look for correlations between dress, diet, and their use of vitamin D supplements and vitamin D fortified foods, if any. The results of the study were shocking. Forty-seven of the women reported drinking milk on a weekly basis, but the amount was nowhere near significant enough to boost their vitamin D levels.
Raymond Hobbs, M.D., a Henry Ford Internal Medicine physician and director of the study, said, “when people live where the weather is colder and they are more covered with clothing, they depend on their diet for their vitamin D. Unfortunately, most food with the exception of oily fish and vitamin D fortified milk have very little vitamin D. The women in our study drank very little milk, fortified orange juice, and had decreased sun exposure because of their dress.”
More than 490,000 Arab-Americans live in southeast Michigan, making it the largest population of Arab-Americans in the world outside of the Middle East. These women do not get enough sunlight exposure which is the most important factor for producing vitamin D in the body. Because of this, Dr. Hobbs said, “the Henry Ford Hospital is launching an awareness campaign to educate the Arab-American community in Dearborn about the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency and offer options for addressing the problem.”
What could these women do to boost their vitamin D levels? What else can low vitamin D cause?