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Calcif Tissue Int. 2004 Mar;74(3):255-63. Epub 2003 Dec 23.

Vitamin D insufficiency in Greenlanders on a westernized fare: ethnic differences in calcitropic hormones between Greenlanders and Danes.

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Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism C, Aarhus Amtssygehus, Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark.


We studied the influence of age, gender, latitude, season, diet and ethnicity on plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D 25 OHD, PTH, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, vitamin D-binding protein, bone-specific alkaline phosphatase, and osteocalcin levels in 46 Greenlanders living in Nuuk (64 degrees N) on a traditional fare (group A), 45 Greenlanders living in Nuuk on a westernized fare (group B), 54 Greenlanders (group C), and 43 Danes (Group D) living in Denmark (55 degrees N) on a westernized fare. Blood specimens were drawn both summer and winter. Vitamin D insufficiency (plasma 25 OHD <40 nmol/l) was common in all four study groups during summer (23-74%) and winter (42-81%). Compared to groups A and D, vitamin D insufficiency was significantly more frequent in groups B and C. In all groups, summer levels of 25 OHD were above winter levels. Multiple regression analysis revealed a significant effect of ethnicity. Compared to Danes, Greenlanders had higher 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D levels, but lower 25 OHD and PTH levels despite relatively low plasma calcium concentrations. In addition to ethnicity, 25(OH)D levels were influenced by age, season (summer > winter), and diet (a traditional Inuit diet>westernized diet). Ethnic differences exist between Greenlanders and Danes. Our results suggest that Greenlanders may have an inherent lower "set-point" for calcium-regulated PTH release or an enhanced renal 1,25(OH)(2)D production. In addition to ethnicity, age, season, and diet were important determinants of vitamin D status. Changes from a traditional to a westernized fare are associated with a reduced vitamin D status in Greenlanders. Vitamin D supplementation should be considered.

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