Race-based medicine misses the point: skin pigmentation impacts health and chronic disease

Monday, November 15, 2004
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger
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When it comes to race-based medicine, almost everybody out there has it wrong. I haven't read a single editorial or news article from any newspaper, magazine or web site that gets this right. What am I talking about? The development of heart drugs for black Americans. A recent study of black Americans suffering from cardiovascular disease showed remarkable improvements in their survival rate when given a drug known as BiDil. Naturally, all sorts of ethical questions have been raised by the discussion of race-based medicines, but none of these discussions reveal the obvious solution to enhancing the health of African-Americans -- a solution based precisely on the biological effect of skin pigmentation.

One recent editorial in USA Today ridiculously suggests that there are no differences between black Americans and white Americans. While that is hopefully true in terms of job opportunities, mutual respect, and human nature, it is definitely not true in terms of basic physiology. A kindergarten student can tell you one obvious difference: skin color. Now, before you go calling me a racist, allow me to explain why skin pigmentation is, indeed, critical in understanding the different health challenges in black Americans versus white Americans.

In my view, conventional medicine is doing a terrible job of educating people with darker skin pigmentation about the special care they need to take to get adequate amounts of natural sunlight. You see, darker skin pigmentation acts as a natural sunscreen. A person with dark skin pigmentation may need 20 to 30 times as much exposure to ultraviolet radiation as a white-skinned person in order to generate the same quantities of vitamin D in their bodies. It is the skin organ, after all, that produces this critical nutrient for your body, and yet virtually all Americans are chronically deficient in vitamin D.

Nowhere is this more true than in the black population. And the reason for chronic vitamin D deficiencies in the black population is simply that their skin pigmentation is blocking the absorption of healthy ultraviolet light that would produce vitamin D under normal circumstances. Remember: darker skin pigmentation evolved in human ancestors who lived closer to the equator, where the sun was rather harsh and darker skin pigmentation was needed in order to protect the body from DNA mutations caused by excessive exposure to ultraviolet light. But today, you have black Americans living in the United States, which is a northern climate, and even living in northern cities within the United States, such as Chicago, Boston, or Detroit. These Americans are especially prone to chronic vitamin D deficiencies because even when they manage to get sunlight on their skin, it is so reduced in intensity that it hardly provides the beneficial effect of natural sunlight found at the equator.

As a result of all of this, black Americans suffer from skyrocketing rates of the diseases related to chronic vitamin D deficiency. Most notably this causes prostate cancer in black males. This is the number one reason why black males in America are "mysteriously" experiencing skyrocketing rates of prostate cancer. And the medical establishment seems bewildered by it all, having nothing useful to say to black Americans. But it's no mystery! The message to black men needs to be: get several minutes of natural sunlight on your bare skin every single day. And if you can't do that, then take cod liver oil supplements or get other sources of vitamin D into your diet immediately. Conventional medicine has universally failed to deliver this urgent message to black Americans.

Other studies show that black women suffer from more aggressive forms of breast cancer. Once again, it's no surprise: chronic vitamin D deficiency directly promotes breast cancer in women. And it is black women, once again, who are lacking vitamin D the most.

This is where the cardiovascular disease study comes into the picture. Chronic vitamin D deficiency also reduces the body's ability to protect itself from cardiovascular disease. And so the drug mentioned earlier is only having success in the fact that it is making up for lost ground primarily due to a lack of sunlight on the part of Americans with darker skin pigmentation. So, on one hand, the medical industry is correct to notice these differences between black Americans and white Americans, but on the other hand it has a very poor approach to solving the problem. The only thing black Americans need is good advice about disease prevention that encourages them to get plenty of natural sunlight on their skin on a regular basis.

Black Americans who live in northern cities will even experience tremendous health benefits from visiting tanning salons. I realize this statement has dermatologists and most physicians aghast in disbelief, since we have all been brainwashed into believing that ultraviolet light is somehow deadly. "Lookout! It's the sun! Run for your life!" But the reality is that human beings evolved under natural sunlight, not the fluorescent lights of doctors offices, and thus it only makes sense that the body knows how to deal with natural sunlight and in fact depends on it. It takes a genuine fool to think that the human body would not somehow have adapted to the very same sun that has been present for literally millions of years of biological evolution. If the sun killed people, our ancestors would have died out long ago, and we wouldn't be having this conversation.

When it comes to racism and medicine, the real racists out there are doctors and physicians who refuse to inform their black patients about the simple root cause of their chronic diseases. The common cause is lack of sunlight and chronic vitamin D deficiency. And personally I haven't met a single black person who has been told by their doctor about these differences in skin pigmentation and vitamin D generation. That is a great disservice to the black community in America and around the world, and it is yet another example of how conventional medicine ignores the unique needs of patients of African descent.

Personally, I wish I had much darker skin. Dark skin is a gift, because it allows you to spend more time outside under the natural son, without any risk of being overexposed to ultraviolet light. White skin is difficult to deal with. It can burn more easily, and it is obviously an adaptation to people who lived in northern climates with relatively low sunlight. In fact, white skin is white precisely because it needs to allow more sunlight to enter the skin organ so that sufficient quantities of vitamin D can be generated. Technically speaking, white skin is the mutation here, because early humans all had darker skin. White skin was the adaptation that allowed humans to survive in more Northern climates where sunlight was less intense.

Think about it for a minute: if you map the skin color of human ancestors around the world, you will find an undeniable correlation between skin pigmentation and geographic relationship with the equator. The only exception to this is the Eleusian or Eskimo populations who, of course, got plenty of vitamin D through the regular consumption of fish oils, and thus did not need a skin pigmentation adaptation in order to survive. I find it absolutely amazing that this correlation between skin pigmentation and geography isn't widely recognized by physicians and conventional medicine. For all their intelligence and technical skills, they seem to have missed one of the most obvious points of all: that skin pigmentation was a deliberate adaptation by the human body, and that it has tremendous implications in terms of health. Modern medical researchers can create nano robots, it seems, but they can't see the clues to health right in front of their noses.

But not everybody in conventional medicine has missed the boat: check out The UV Advantage by Dr. Michael Holick. It's a fantastic book that explains, in great detail, why we all need ultraviolet light to be healthy.

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About the author: Mike Adams is an award-winning journalist and holistic nutritionist with a mission to teach personal and planetary health to the public He has authored more than 1,800 articles and dozens of reports, guides and interviews on natural health topics, and he has published numerous courses on preparedness and survival, including financial preparedness, emergency food supplies, urban survival and tactical self-defense. Adams is an honest, independent journalist and accepts no money or commissions on the third-party products he writes about or the companies he promotes. In mid 2010, Adams produced, a natural health video sharing website offering user-generated videos on nutrition, green living, fitness and more. He also launched an online retailer of environmentally-friendly products ( and uses a portion of its profits to help fund non-profit endeavors. He's also a noted technology pioneer and founded a software company in 1993 that developed the HTML email newsletter software currently powering the NaturalNews subscriptions. Adams is currently the executive director of the Consumer Wellness Center, a 501(c)3 non-profit, and pursues hobbies such as martial arts, Capoeira, nature macrophotography and organic gardening. Known on the 'net as 'the Health Ranger,' Adams shares his ethics, mission statements and personal health statistics at

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