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Researchers from Trinity College Dublin, the Mercer’s Institute for Successful Ageing (MISA), Department of Biochemistry at 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 was published recently 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 per cent were deficient, which is three-to-four times the deficiency rate of Irish Caucasians. Another 27 per cent were insufficient, leaving less than 7 per cent 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. 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 10µg (400IU) daily through foods (oily fish, fortified foods) or a supplement.

Older adults (>65 years) are now recommended to take a supplement of 15µg (600IU) daily.” Prof James Bernard Walsh, from the Mercer’s Institute and Clinical Professor in Trinity College and co-author, said:

“This study reflects our experience in our Bone Health Unit in the Mercer’s Institute, where members of the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities 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 we have undertaken that Irish-born Caucasian people have a high level of vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency.

Therefore, 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 foods, including dairy as appropriate, in addition to vitamin D supplements, especially in winter time. The association of low vitamin D levels and adverse Covid-19 outcomes in some studies also gives cause for concern.”

The paper is freely available at: