Background: The cutaneous synthesis of vitamin D is dependent on UVB from sunlight, but melanin reduces the penetration of UVB and thus contributes to vitamin D insufficiency in individuals with darker skin. The national guidance provided on amounts of sunlight exposure in the United Kingdom is for the light-skinned population, and in the absence of dedicated information, darker-skinned people may attempt to follow this guidance.
Objectives: We determined the relative effect of a simulation of UK recommendations of summer sunlight exposure on the vitamin D status of individuals of South Asian ethnicity compared with that of whites.
Design: In a prospective cohort study, simulated summer sunlight exposures were provided under rigorous dosimetric conditions to 15 adults (aged 20-60 y) of South Asian ethnicity, and serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] was measured weekly. Dietary vitamin D intake was estimated. Outcomes were compared with those of 109 whites (aged 20-60 y) treated with the identical UV-radiation exposure protocol.
Results: At baseline (winter trough), all South Asians were vitamin D-insufficient [25(OH)D concentrations <20 ng/mL], and 27% of South Asians were vitamin D-deficient [25(OH)D concentrations <5 ng/mL]; although 25(OH)D concentrations increased postcourse (P < 0.0001), all South Asians remained vitamin D-insufficient. The mean increase in 25(OH)D was 4.3 compared with 10.5 ng/mL in the South Asian and white groups, respectively (P < 0.0001), and 90% of the white group reached vitamin D sufficiency postcourse. The median dietary vitamin D intake was very low in both groups.
Conclusions: Sunlight-exposure recommendations are inappropriate for individuals of South Asian ethnicity who live at the UK latitude. More guidance is required to meet the vitamin D requirements of this sector of the population. This study was registered at www.isrctn.org as ISRCTN 07565297.