A recent study published in PLOS ONE has found that low vitamin D levels are common among prison inmates.
Awareness of vitamin D levels among prisoners is important because most prison inmates are only allowed few hours of sun exposure each day. Yet, not many studies have examined the vitamin D status among prison inmates.
Researchers, led by senior author Dr. Benjamin Udoka Nwosu of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, recently looked at the vitamin D levels of 526 prison inmates in Massachusetts. They wanted to know what their average vitamin D levels were and what factors might be related to vitamin D levels.
The researchers found that 67% of the prison inmates were insufficient or deficient in vitamin D, meaning levels less than 30 ng/ml.
When looking at factors related to vitamin D levels, they found that prison inmates with darker skin types had significantly lower vitamin D levels when compared to those with lighter skin types.
Additionally, prison inmates who were under maximum security had significantly lower vitamin D levels compared to those in medium or minimum security facilities.
“In conclusion, this study shows that in a prison system with uniform nutritional guidelines, three principal factors determine inmates’ vitamin D status: skin pigmentation, seasons, and the security level of incarceration,” the researchers stated.
The researchers call for a prison health policy that includes maintaining healthy vitamin D levels, which could cut back on the costs of healthcare among inmates.