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Some racial disparities in childbirth more environmental than genetic
Date:3/13/2014

A new study investigating racial disparities in birth outcomes shows that contrary to some theories Vitamin D is unlikely to play a role in differences in preterm birth and low birth weight between African-Americans and whites.

"For years there has been this hypothesis that African-Americans have worse birth outcomes because they have more melanin in their skin which reflects the sun and therefore lowers levels of Vitamin D," said study author Zaneta Thayer, PhD, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Colorado Denver . "But in examining the relationship between ultraviolet exposure and birth outcomes nationwide, there was no evidence to support this."

The study was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

The so-called ultraviolet light or UVD theory holds that racial differences in health outcomes between blacks and whites are associated with the ability to synthesize Vitamin D from ultraviolet light. African-Americans, who have high concentrations of melanin, are less able to absorb Vitamin D from the sun leading some to believe that this contributes to higher rates of negative birth outcomes.

A lack of Vitamin D has been linked to increased risk of pregnancy complications, bone disorders, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers.

At the same time, differences in socioeconomic status and racial discrimination have also been linked to low birth weights, risk of depression and other ailments.

Thayer collected data on UV exposure in 48 states or territories, using information compiled from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Weather Service website. She also used birth outcome data came from the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, focusing specifically on incidences of low birth weight and preterm births.

The study found that states with the highest income inequalities had higher disparities in birth outcomes acr
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Contact: Dan Meyers
dan.meyers@ucdenver.edu
University of Colorado Denver
Source:Eurekalert

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