Osteoporosis International

, Volume 22, Issue 6, pp 1745–1753 | Cite as

Racial differences in the relationship between vitamin D, bone mineral density, and parathyroid hormone in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey

  • O. M. GutiérrezEmail author
  • W. R. Farwell
  • D. Kermah
  • E. N. Taylor
Original Article



It is unclear whether optimal levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) in whites are the same as in minorities. In adult participants of NHANES, the relationships between 25(OH)D, bone mineral density (BMD), and parathyroid hormone (PTH) differed in blacks as compared to whites and Mexican-Americans, suggesting that optimal 25(OH)D levels for bone and mineral metabolism may differ by race.


Blacks and Hispanics have lower 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations than whites. However, it is unclear whether 25(OH)D levels considered “optimal” for bone and mineral metabolism in whites are the same as those in minority populations.


We examined the relationships between 25(OH)D and parathyroid hormone in 8,415 adult participants (25% black and 24% Mexican-American) in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys 2003–2004 and 2005–2006; and between 25(OH)D and bone mineral density in 4,206 adult participants (24% black and 24% Mexican-American) in the 2003–2004 sample.


Blacks and Mexican-Americans had significantly lower 25(OH)D and higher PTH concentrations than whites (P < 0.01 for both). BMD significantly decreased (P < 0.01) as serum 25(OH)D and calcium intake declined among whites and Mexican-Americans, but not among blacks (P = 0.2). The impact of vitamin D deficiency (25(OH)D ≤ 20 ng/ml) on PTH levels was modified by race/ethnicity (P for interaction, 0.001). Whereas inverse relationships between 25(OH)D and PTH were observed above and below a 25(OH)D level of 20 ng/ml in whites and Mexican-Americans, an inverse association between 25(OH)D and PTH was only observed below this threshold in blacks, with the slope of the relationship being essentially flat (P = 0.7) above this cut-point, suggesting that PTH may be maximally suppressed at lower 25(OH)D levels in blacks than in whites or Mexican-Americans.


The relationships between 25(OH)D, BMD, and PTH may differ by race among US adults. Whether race-specific ranges of optimal vitamin D are needed to appropriately evaluate the adequacy of vitamin D stores in minorities requires further study.


Bone mineral density Ethnic differences Parathyroid hormone Vitamin D 



The authors thank UCLA Statistical Consulting for their assistance in these analyses.

Sources of funding

Research support was obtained from grants K23DK081673 (to OMG) and K08DK073381 (to ENT) from the National Institutes of Health. In addition, this study was supported with resources and facilities at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Boston, MA.

Conflicts of interest

Dr. Gutiérrez reports accepting honoraria from Abbott Laboratories.


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Copyright information

© International Osteoporosis Foundation and National Osteoporosis Foundation 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • O. M. Gutiérrez
    • 1
    Email author
  • W. R. Farwell
    • 2
    • 3
  • D. Kermah
    • 4
  • E. N. Taylor
    • 5
    • 6
  1. 1.Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, Department of MedicineUniversity of Miami Miller School of MedicineMiamiUSA
  2. 2.Department of MedicineVeterans Affairs Medical CenterBostonUSA
  3. 3.Division of Aging, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s HospitalHarvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  4. 4.Department of MedicineCharles Drew University of Medicine and ScienceLos AngelesUSA
  5. 5.Division of Nephrology and TransplantationPortlandUSA
  6. 6.Channing Laboratory, Brigham and Women’s HospitalHarvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA

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