Monday, December 15, 2008

African Americans and Vitamin D, Part 4: Sickle Cell Disease

Sickle cell disease is a disease of black people. It causes a usually fatal anemia and is marked by sickle-shaped red blood cells. It is also characterized by joint pain, fever, leg ulcers, and jaundice. It has recently been reported that vitamin D deficiency is five times more common among blacks who have sickle cell disease.[1] [2] Whether the disease, thought to be totally genetic, could be prevented by maintaining vitamin D at optimal levels is unknown.

We do know that vitamin D treatment of sickle cell patients increases bone density,[3] and it is likely that raising vitamin D to optimal levels would reduce the high risk of degenerative diseases that are found in all African Americans with low levels (see my previous posts on the subject). In my opinion, it is imperative to act immediately to assure that African Americans and all Americans optimize their blood levels of vitamin D. The research is in; the conclusion that vitamin D deficiency is causing a health crisis is incontrovertible. The time to act is now!

[1] Rovner, A. et al. High risk of vitamin D deficiency in children with sickle cell disease. J Am Diet Assoc. 2008;108:1512-6.
[2] Buison, A. et al. Low vitamin D status in children with sickle cell disease. J Pediatr. 2004;145:622-7.
[3] Adewoye, A. Sickle cell bone disease: response to vitamin D and calcium. Am J Hematol. 2008;83:271-4.

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