Black women are nearly three times as likely as white women to have a vitamin D deficiency, which is linked with an increased risk of the vaginal infection bacterial vaginosis, according to a study published in the June issue of the Journal of Nutrition, the New York Times reports. Black women likely have lower levels of vitamin D because the higher amount of pigment in their skin prevents the body from absorbing the vitamin.
For the study, researchers led by Lisa Bodnar, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh, examined 209 white pregnant women and 260 black pregnant women at a Pittsburgh clinic. More than half of the women had low levels of vitamin D, the study found. Women whose vitamin D levels were 50 nanomoles or less had a 26% increased risk of BV, while women whose vitamin levels were less than 20 nanomoles had a 65% increased risk of the infection. About 52% of black women had the infection, compared with 27% of white women, the study found (Bakalar, New York Times, 5/26). The study found that 93% of women with BV had low vitamin D levels and that BV prevalence decreased as vitamin levels increased.
In addition, although black women were more likely to have BV, white women who had low levels of vitamin D were as likely to have the infection as black women. Poor diets and obesity also contributed to a vitamin deficiency. Bodnar noted that black women are less likely than white women to meet dietary recommendations for vitamin D. Bodnar recommended that women discuss their level of vitamin D with their physicians and that pregnant women take a prenatal vitamin, which typically includes vitamin D.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Bodnar’s research team has received NIH funding to conduct a study of whether vitamin D deficiency in women increases the risk of poor birth outcomes and whether high infant mortality among blacks can be attributed to factors such as obesity (Templeton, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 5/23).
An abstract of the study is available online.
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2009 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.
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