Vitamin D deficiency highly prevalent in the Irish Asian community

Posted on: 01 December 2020

Researchers from Trinity, the Mercer’s Institute for Successful Ageing (MISA), Department of Biochemistry St James’s Hospital and the University of Surrey have shown that rates of vitamin D deficiency are widespread within the Irish Asian community. The study is published in the journal Nutrients.

The team examined blood levels of vitamin D from 186 patients tested in the St James’s Hospital Laboratory (2013 – 2016) and found that 66% were deficient which is 3-4 times the deficiency rate of Irish Caucasians. Another 27 % were insufficient leaving less than 7% who were vitamin D replete. These high rates of deficiency and insufficiency were observed regardless of season, gender, or age. However, as shown in other populations by this research team, males and younger adults had higher deficiency rates in comparison to females and older adults (>50 years). This is the first study in Ireland to investigate vitamin D in an ethnic minority community.

Vitamin D is important as it contributes to the maintenance of bone and muscle health and extended periods of vitamin D deficiency have been associated with muscle and bone weakness resulting in bone fragility and susceptibility to fractures. Research also suggests that vitamin D has a role in supporting the immune system. The team’s findings are similar to reports from the UK and Europe where immigrant population groups have also been shown to have high levels of vitamin D deficiency.

Dr Eamon Laird, Senior Research Fellow at the School of Medicine, Trinity College and first author said:

This study highlights that vitamin D deficiency is common within ethnic minority groups within the Irish population. Of concern, there are no specific vitamin D food intake or supplement guidelines for immigrant populations in Ireland. Currently, adults in Ireland are recommended to take 10 µg (400 IU) daily through foods (oily fish, fortified foods) or a supplement. Older adults (>65 years) are now recommended to take a supplement of 15 µg (600 IU) daily.

Professor James Bernard Walsh from the Mercer’s institute and Clinical Professor in Trinity College Dublin and co-author said:

This study reflects our experience in our Bone Health Unit in the Mercer’s Institute where members of the Black, Indian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) community are presenting with very low vitamin D levels. Many need substantial amounts of vitamin D supplements to bring them up to normal levels. We also know from other recent research that we have undertaken that Irish born Caucasian people have a high level of vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency so it is crucial that the Department of Health and HSE strongly advocate that Irish Caucasian people and BAME members of the community take regular intakes of vitamin D fortified dairy and other fortified foods in addition to supplements especially in winter time. The association of low vitamin D levels and severe Covid-19 outcomes in some studies also gives cause for concern.

The paper is freely available at:

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