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J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2015 Sep;100(9):3356-63. doi: 10.1210/JC.2015-2066. Epub 2015 Jul 10.

Free 25(OH)D and the Vitamin D Paradox in African Americans.

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Winthrop University Hospital, Mineola, New York 11501.

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African Americans have a lower total serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] but superior bone health. This has been referred to as a paradox. A recent publication found that free serum 25(OH)D is the same in black and white individuals. However, the study was criticized because an indirect method was used to measure free 25(OH)D. A direct method has recently been developed.


We hypothesized that although total serum 25(OH)D is lower in African Americans, free serum 25(OH)D measured directly would not differ between races.


White and black healthy postmenopausal women were matched for age and body mass index. Serum total 25(OH)D, PTH, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, vitamin D binding protein (VDBP), and bone density were measured. Measurement of free 25(OH)D was carried out using an ELISA.


The study was conducted at an ambulatory research unit in a teaching hospital.


A cross-racial comparison of serum free 25(OH)D was performed.


A propensity match resulted in the selection of a total of 164 women. Total 25(OH)D was lower in black women (19.5 ± 4.7 vs 26.9 ± 6.4 ng/mL), but a direct measurement of free 25(OH)D revealed almost identical values (5.25 ± 1.2 vs 5.25 ± 1.3 ng/mL) between races. VDBP was significantly lower in blacks when using a monoclonal-based ELISA but higher with a polyclonal-based ELISA. Serum PTH, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, and bone density were higher in African Americans.


Free serum 25(OH)D is the same across races despite the lower total serum 25(OH)D in black women. Results comparing VDBP between races using a monoclonal vs a polyclonal assay were discordant.

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