Context: Total 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25OHD) is a marker of vitamin D status and is lower in African Americans than in whites. Whether this difference holds for free 25OHOD (f25OHD) is unclear, considering reported genetic-racial differences in vitamin D binding protein (DBP) used to calculate f25OHD.
Objectives: Our objective was to assess racial-geographic differences in f25OHD and to understand inconsistencies in racial associations with DBP and calculated f25OHD.
Design: This study used a cross-sectional design.
Setting: The general community in the United States, United Kingdom, and The Gambia were included in this study.
Participants: Men in Osteoporotic Fractures in Men and Medical Research Council studies (N = 1057) were included.
Exposures: Total 25OHD concentration, race, and DBP (GC) genotype exposures were included.
Outcome Measures: Directly measured f25OHD, DBP assessed by proteomics, monoclonal and polyclonal immunoassays, and calculated f25OHD were the outcome measures.
Results: Total 25OHD correlated strongly with directly measured f25OHD (Spearman r = 0.84). Measured by monoclonal assay, mean DBP in African-ancestry subjects was approximately 50% lower than in whites, whereas DBP measured by polyclonal DBP antibodies or proteomic methods was not lower in African-ancestry. Calculated f25OHD (using polyclonal DBP assays) correlated strongly with directly measured f25OHD (r = 0.80–0.83). Free 25OHD, measured or calculated from polyclonal DBP assays, reflected total 25OHD concentration irrespective of race and was lower in African Americans than in US whites.
Conclusions: Previously reported racial differences in DBP concentration are likely from monoclonal assay bias, as there was no racial difference in DBP concentration by other methods. This confirms the poor vitamin D status of many African-Americans and the utility of total 25OHD in assessing vitamin D in the general population.