Alice Roberts published an article in the Guardian newspaper, titled shining a fresh light on vitamin D

She makes the point that the prevailing theory is that skin lightened in regions away from the equator so that skin was sensitive enough to make vitamin D. But she also cited a paper which appeared to show that vitamin D production isn't dependent upon skin pigmentation.

Is Vitamin D production related to skin pigmentation?

  • 1
    Speculations: Camouflage. People in the north are white. Snow is white. Many animal get white fur during winter.
    – Wertilq
    Commented May 24, 2013 at 15:22
  • 4
    People in the North are orange and do not camouflage well against snow.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented May 24, 2013 at 16:12
  • 1
    Welcome to Skeptics! According to the FAQ, Skeptics Stack Exchange.SE is for researching the evidence behind the claims you hear or read. The idea that there is an evolutionary advantage for light skin is not notable in these references. Changing the question to match the claims.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented May 24, 2013 at 16:14
  • Little direct evidence exists to test this reasonable hypothesis The evolutionary significance of vitamin D, skin pigment, and ultraviolet light.
    – bummi
    Commented May 24, 2013 at 16:31

1 Answer 1



Prevalence of Vitamin D Deficiency and Its Associations with Skin Color in Pregnant Women in the First Trimester in a Sample from Switzerland concludes "In the most parsimonious model, women with dark skin color were statistically significantly more often vitamin D deficient compared to women with light skin color..."

Similarly, Colour Counts: Sunlight and Skin Type as Drivers of Vitamin D Deficiency at UK Latitudes puts forward that:

The melanin pigment absorbs ultraviolet radiation (UVR) and protects underlying skin from damage caused by UVR. It also reduces the UVR available for vitamin D synthesis in the skin. It has been shown that the white-skinned population of the UK are able to meet their vitamin D needs with short, daily lunchtime exposures to sunlight.

and concludes

Results show that to meet vitamin D requirements, [Fitzpatrick] skin type V [(brown)] individuals in the UK need ~25 min daily sunlight at lunchtime, from March to September. This makes several assumptions, including that forearms and lower legs are exposed June–August; only exposing hands and face at this time is inadequate. For practical and cultural reasons, enhanced oral intake of vitamin D should be considered for this population.

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