PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — The results of new studies may explain why people of color are twice as likely to die from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
A local doctor — not your average doctor — is spreading the word that something you may have at home or can easily find at your local drug store could make a difference in fighting the disease that kills 1,000 Americans every day.
“I got to thinking, who is the most seriously affected and who has the worst outcomes in this COVID crisis? It is our Black and our brown folks that have a greater risk of infection — greater levels of infection and when they do get infected, they tend to get worse outcomes,” said Dr. Leah Bush.
Bush, AKA the “Doctor of the Dead,” is the former chief medical examiner in the state of Virginia. For decades, her knowledge has been used to solve some of the most horrific criminal cases.
Now, she is using her knowledge and experience to try to solve coronavirus mysteries.
Bush has spent weeks reviewing a recent study involving 14,000 adults. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, 64 percent of non-Hispanic Black people were vitamin D deficient, 29 percent of Hispanic people were vitamin D deficient and 14 percent of white people were vitamin D deficient. The deficiency designation requires medical intervention. Bush is also watching the numbers on persons with less severe, insufficient diagnoses.
“When you look at insufficient vitamin D, then we are up to 84 percent non-Hispanic Black, 56 percent Hispanics, and 35 percent for whites.
Vitamin D3, needed for a healthy immune system, is added to milk and it’s formed by exposure to the sun. Bush says vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency is not unusual in persons of color.
“It has been shown that both Black and brown and Hispanic populations synthesize vitamin D at a much lower rate than white folks, and I’m just guessing that it has something to do with melanin in the skin,” Bush said.
Bush added the body’s ability to synthesize vitamin D, regardless of ethnicity, also decreases with age.
There’s another matter that also may explain why many African Americans have low vitamin D levels. Studies show many African Americans are lactose intolerant and many don’t drink vitamin D-fortified milk.
“Many Black folks are lactose intolerant so they don’t go and drink a quart of milk a day, which is vitamin D fortified.
“If everyone were to go out and buy vitamin D and start taking it, you may save your life, you might save your bones and it certainly can’t hurt you,” she said.
Contact your doctor for details, but Bush is recommending people of color take 2,000 International Units per day of vitamin D3 for two weeks to establish a baseline.
After two weeks, reduce the dose to 1,000 International Units per day. Bush also recommends asking your doctor to test for vitamin D levels since you may need more than up to 2,000 IU’s each day.
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