BACKGROUND: Low levels of total 25-hydroxyvitamin D are common among black Americans. Vitamin D-binding protein has not been considered in the assessment of vitamin D deficiency. METHODS: In the Healthy Aging in Neighborhoods of Diversity across the Life Span cohort of blacks and whites (2085 participants), we measured levels of total 25-hydroxyvitamin D, vitamin D-binding protein, and parathyroid hormone as well as bone mineral density (BMD). We genotyped study participants for two common polymorphisms in the vitamin D-binding protein gene (rs7041 and rs4588). We estimated levels of bioavailable 25-hydroxyvitamin D in homozygous participants. RESULTS: Mean (±SE) levels of both total 25-hydroxyvitamin D and vitamin D-binding protein were lower in blacks than in whites (total 25-hydroxyvitamin D, 15.6±0.2 ng per milliliter vs. 25.8±0.4 ng per milliliter, P<0.001; vitamin D-binding protein, 168±3 μg per milliliter vs. 337±5 μg per milliliter, P<0.001). Genetic polymorphisms independently appeared to explain 79.4% and 9.9% of the variation in levels of vitamin D-binding protein and total 25-hydroxyvitamin D, respectively. BMD was higher in blacks than in whites (1.05±0.01 g per square centimeter vs. 0.94±0.01 g per square centimeter, P<0.001). Levels of parathyroid hormone increased with decreasing levels of total or bioavailable 25-hydroxyvitamin D (P<0.001 for both relationships), yet within each quintile of parathyroid hormone concentration, blacks had significantly lower levels of total 25-hydroxyvitamin D than whites. Among homozygous participants, blacks and whites had similar levels of bioavailable 25-hydroxyvitamin D overall (2.9±0.1 ng per milliliter and 3.1±0.1 ng per milliliter, respectively; P = 0.71) and within quintiles of parathyroid hormone concentration. CONCLUSIONS: Community-dwelling black Americans, as compared with whites, had low levels of total 25-hydroxyvitamin D and vitamin D-binding protein, resulting in similar concentrations of estimated bioavailable 25-hydroxyvitamin D. Racial differences in the prevalence of common genetic polymorphisms provide a likely explanation for this observation.
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