Vitamin D levels are at an all-time low this time of year and for African Americans, whose vitamin D deficiency levels have consistently hovered around 31 percent, winter is an especially critical time to make sure you're getting your fill.
But while previous research has suggested that African Americans need more vitamin D than their white counterparts, a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism says that black and white women absorb and metabolize the vitamin in the same way.
"African-American women don't have to worry about taking larger doses of vitamin D to compensate," said the study's lead author Dr. J. Chris Gallagher, of Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha, in a journal news release.
Gallagher's research acknowledges the traditional line of thinking that after exposure to sunlight, black women's skin pigmentation inhibits cells' ability to produce the nutrient at the same rate. But the difference ends there.
"[Black women] should follow the current medical guidelines for vitamin D supplementation suggested recently by the Institute of Medicine," Gallagher went on to say.
That means for women age 30 and up, 400 IU/day is recommended.
In a study published in the journal Breast Cancer Research last year, scientists compared levels of vitamin D in the blood of women without breast cancer and found African-American women with the highest levels of vitamin D also had a specific variation in the enzymes responsible for breaking down vitamin D in the body that cut their breast cancer risk in half, compared to women without it.
In June, a similar study revealed that low levels of vitamin D in the blood seem to contribute to a weak immune system and a host of diseases, such as cancer and multiple sclerosis.
"This lack of vitamin D could completely fill in the health disparity gap for cancer survival between white and black Americans," the study researchers said.
But how you get your recommended dose of vitamin D is important, Gallagher's study notes. The body's primary source of vitamin D is sunlight -- not food -- his report said.
Nevertheless, here are 12 ways to increase your intake of vitamin D.