ContextThe optimal measure of vitamin D status is unknown.
ObjectiveTo directly measure circulating free 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] concentrations and relationships to total 25(OH)D in a clinically diverse sample of humans.
SettingSeven academic sites.
PatientsA total of 1661 adults: healthy (n = 279), prediabetic (n = 479), outpatients (n = 714), cirrhotic (n = 90), pregnant (n = 20), nursing home resident (n = 79).
InterventionsMerge research data on circulating free 25(OH)D (directly-measured immunoassay), total 25(OH)D (liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry), D-binding protein [DBP; by radial (polyclonal) immunodiffusion assay], albumin, creatinine, intact parathyroid hormone, and DBP haplotype.
Main outcome measuresDistribution of free 25(OH)D (ANOVA with Bonferroni correction for post hoc comparisons) and relationships between free and total 25(OH)D (mixed-effects modeling incorporating clinical condition, DBP haplotype with sex, race, estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR), body mass index (BMI), and other covariates).
ResultsFree 25(OH)D was 4.7 ± 1.8 pg/mL (mean ± SD) in healthy persons and 4.3 ± 1.9 pg/mL in outpatients, with levels of 0.5 to 8.1 pg/mL and 0.9 to 8.1 pg/mL encompassing 95% of healthy persons and outpatients, respectively. Free 25(OH)D was higher in patients with cirrhosis (7.1 ± 3.0 pg/mL; P < 0.0033) and nursing home residents (7.9 ± 2.1 pg/mL; P < 0.0033) than in other groups and differed between whites and blacks (P < 0.0033) and between DBP haplotypes (P < 0.0001). Mixed-effects modeling of relationships between free and total 25(OH)D identified clinical conditions (patients with cirrhosis > nursing home residents > patients with prediabetes > outpatients > pregnant women) and BMI (lesser effect) as covariates affecting relationships but not eGFR, sex, race, or DBP haplotype.
ConclusionsTotal 25(OH)D, health condition, race, and DBP haplotype affected free 25(OH)D, but only health conditions and BMI affected relationships between total and free 25(OH)D. Clinical importance of free 25(OH)D needs to be established in studies assessing outcomes.