Tuesday, October 11, 2022

How some populations adapt to vitamin D scarcity


Vitamin D metabolism varies from one human population to another, as do most heritable traits. This is the subject of a review article I’ve recently published in the journal Nutrients. Here is the abstract:



Vitamin D metabolism differs among human populations because our species has adapted to different natural and cultural environments. Two environments are particularly difficult for the production of vitamin D by the skin: the Arctic, where the skin receives little solar UVB over the year; and the Tropics, where the skin is highly melanized and blocks UVB. In both cases, natural selection has favored the survival of those individuals who use vitamin D more efficiently or have some kind of workaround that ensures sufficient uptake of calcium and other essential minerals from food passing through the intestines. Vitamin D scarcity has either cultural or genetic solutions. Cultural solutions include consumption of meat in a raw or boiled state and extended breastfeeding of children. Genetic solutions include higher uptake of calcium from the intestines, higher rate of conversion of vitamin D to its most active form, stronger binding of vitamin D to carrier proteins in the bloodstream, and greater use of alternative metabolic pathways for calcium uptake. Because their bodies use vitamin D more sparingly, indigenous Arctic and Tropical peoples can be misdiagnosed with vitamin D deficiency and wrongly prescribed dietary supplements that may push their vitamin D level over the threshold of toxicity.





Frost P. (2022) The Problem of Vitamin D Scarcity: Cultural and Genetic Solutions by Indigenous Arctic and Tropical Peoples. Nutrients 14(19):4071. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14194071


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