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Previous studies demonstrate associations of low 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) concentrations with low bone mineral density (BMD) and fractures, motivating widespread use of vitamin D supplements for bone health. However, previous studies have been limited to predominantly White populations despite differences in the distribution and metabolism of 25(OH)D by race/ethnicity. We determined associations of serum 25(OH)D, 24,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (24,25(OH2)D3), and parathyroid hormone (PTH) with BMD among 1773 adult participants in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) in a staggered cross-sectional study design. Vitamin D metabolites were measured using liquid chromatography-mass spectroscopy and PTH using a 2-site immunoassay from serum collected in 2000-2002. Volumetric trabecular lumbar BMD was measured from computed tomography scans performed in 2002-2005 expressed as g/cm(3). We used linear regression and graphical methods to compare associations of vitamin D metabolite and PTH concentrations with BMD as the outcomes measure among White (n=714), Black (n=353), Chinese (n=249), and Hispanic (n=457) participants. Serum 25(OH)D and 24,25(OH2)D3 concentrations were highest among Whites and lowest among Blacks. BMD was greatest among Black participants. Higher serum 25(OH)D was only associated with higher BMD among Whites and Chinese participants (P-for-interaction=0.054). Comparing the lowest category of 25(OH)D (<20 ng/ml) to the highest (≥30 ng/ml), the adjusted mean difference in BMD was -8.1g/cm3 (95% CI -14.8, -1.4) for Whites; -10.2g/cm3 (-20.4, 0.0) for Chinese vs. 8.8 g/cm3 (-2.8, 20.5) for Black and -1.1g/cm3 (-8.3, 6.2) for Hispanic. Similar results were observed for serum 24,25(OH2)D3. Serum PTH was not associated with BMD. In a multi-ethnic population, associations of 25(OH)D with BMD were strongest among White and Chinese participants and null among Black and Hispanic participants. Further studies are needed to determine optimal biomarkers for bone health for multiple ethnic groups.


  • van Ballegooijen AJ, Robinson-Cohen C, Katz R, Criqui M, Budoff M, Li D, Siscovick D, Hoofnagle A, Shea SJ, Burke G, de Boer IH, Kestenbaum B. Vitamin D metabolites and bone mineral density: The multi-ethnic study of atherosclerosis. Bone. 2015 Sep;78:186-93. PMID: 25976951; PMCID: PMC4466133.

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Research Details

  • Research Center: University of Washington

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