The month that just ended was National Safety Month. The theme was safety: But how can we make our communities safer when we don’t understand the dangers or where they arise from?
How can we prevent the onset of a disease we don’t yet fully understand?
In an age where equality is idealized, many have lost sight of the significance that differences play in health.
Lisa Carey, a breast cancer specialist at the University of North Carolina reports, different races possess different biological ecosystems that require different amounts and different types of maintenance in order to stay healthy.
While many African Americans are aware of the health problems that plague their community, few understand the reason for such ailments and fewer still are equipped with information to prevent the onset of such conditions.
In 2012, the American Diabetes Association (ADA), reported that 9.3 percent of the American population was diagnosed with diabetes. 13.2 percent of non-Hispanic Blacks were diagnosed with having diabetes, a 42 percent increase above the prevalence of diabetes in the general population.
The illness is characterized by the body’s inability to either produce or utilize insulin to the extent that it achieves healthy blood sugar levels. According to the ADA, in 2012, it was the seventh most listed underlying cause of death on birth certificates. This does not include undiagnosed diabetics.
Many lifestyle variables, such as high obesity rates, can account for part but not all of the higher prevalence of diabetes in the African American community. Studies have identified several genetic markers that could reasonably point to a higher predisposition to the disease.
According to Dr. Cam Patterson, chief of cardiology and director of the McAllister Heart Institute at UNC, such markers, “suggest that carbohydrate metabolism should be different in the African-Americans in our population compared to Caucasians.”
Patterson proceeds to explain that African Americans disproportionately possess inhibited genes that signal glucose metabolism. In other words, African Americans are disproportionately predisposed to the disease when compared to other ethnicities.
African Americans’ predisposition to the disease does not stop there. Studies show that dark pigmentation reacts with environmental factors leading to malnutrition in key nutrients responsible for glucose metabolism.
Melanin, the naturally produced chemical most responsible for pigmentation in human skin, hair and eyes is responsible for providing protection against the absorption of harmful UVA and UVB rays.
The academic journal “J Pharmacol Pharmacother,” article “Vitamin D: The ‘Sunshine’ Vitamin,” by Rathish Nair and Arun Maseeh, professes that melanin in addition to blocking the rays damaging effects also prevents the absorption of sunlight, from which the skin produces Vitamin D which is largely responsible for the production of insulin.
Dr. Gyongyver Soos of the Department of Clinical Pharmacy, University of Szeged, Szeged, Hungary, has detailed that the phenomenon accounts for diabetes diagnosis being more popular in the winter than in the summer.
One can conclude that African Americans require a higher amount than lighter skinned ethnicities of Vitamin D supplementation to counteract the Vitamin D production inhibiting effects of high melanin content. This would in part allow for the better functioning of insulin producing glands, and thereby decrease the likelihood of developing diabetes.
Jeremy Bamidele is a former faculty member at Rancho Santiago Community College in California and currently lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he is completing Graduate School at the University of Pennsylvania. He has been published in the New Pittsburgh Courier, Exodus News, and ThyBlackMan.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.