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What is Responsible for Health Differences Between Black and Whites in the United States?

In the U.S., there are significant health disparities between African Americans and white Americans. In fact, the all-cause mortality rate for African Americans in 2006 was 26 percent higher than for white Americans.

Attempts at an explanation have usually looked at socioeconomic status, lifestyle behaviors, social environment, and access to preventive health care. However, several studies indicate that these factors do not account for the observed disparities. The cause might be due to differences in vitamin D levels.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association:

“Many studies report that vitamin D has important health benefits ... [African Americans] have a population mean serum 25(OH)D level of 16 ng/mL, whereas [white Americans] have a level of 26 ng/mL. From preliminary meta-analyses of serum 25(OH)D level–disease outcome from observational studies, differences in serum 25(OH)D level ... can explain many of the health disparities.”

In fact, addressing this single issue may be the single most important public health measure that can be undertaken.

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