Very high prevalence of 25-hydroxyvitamin D deficiency in 6433 UK South Asian adults: Analysis of the UK Biobank Cohort

Andrea L. Darling*, David J. Blackbourn, Kourosh R. Ahmadi, Susan A. Lanham-New

*Corresponding author for this work

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Little research has assessed serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) concentration and its predictors in Western-dwelling South Asians in a relatively large sample size. This observational, cross-sectional analysis assessed baseline prevalence of 25(OH)D deficiency in UK-dwelling South Asians (aged 40-69 years, 2006-2010) from the UK Biobank Cohort. Serum 25(OH)D measurements were undertaken using the DiaSorin Liaison XL assay. Of 6433 South Asians with a 25(OH)D measurement, using commonly used cut-off thresholds, 55 % (n 3538) had 25(OH)D < 25 nmol/l (severe deficiency) and 92 % (n 5918) had 25(OH)D < 50 nmol/l (insufficiency). Of the participants with a measurement, 20 % (n 1287) had 25(OH)D concentration <15 nmol/l (very severe deficiency). When 824 participants with undetectable (<10 nmol/l) 25(OH)D measurements were included (total n 7257), 29 % (n 2105) had 25(OH)D < 15 nmol/l, 60 % (n 4354) had 25(OH)D < 25 nmol/l and 93 % (n 6749) had 25(OH)D < 50 nmol/l. Logistic regression predictors of 25(OH)D < 25 nmol/l included the following characteristics: being male; Pakistani; higher BMI; 40-59 years old; never consuming oily fish; summer sun exposure <5 h/d, not using a vitamin D-containing supplement, measurement in winter or spring and vegetarianism. In terms of region, median 25(OH)D concentration was 19-20 nmol/l in Scotland, Northern England, the Midlands and Wales. Across Southern England and London, it was slightly higher at 24-25 nmol/l. Our analyses suggest the need for increased awareness of vitamin D deficiency in South Asians as well as urgent public health interventions to prevent and treat vitamin D deficiency in this group.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)448-459
Number of pages12
JournalBritish Journal of Nutrition
Issue number4
Early online date22 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

This research has been conducted using the UK Biobank Resource under application number 15168.
This work was supported by in-house funds from the University of Surrey for payment of the UK Biobank access fee. The UK Biobank was established by the Wellcome Trust medical charity, Medical Research Council, Department of Health, Scottish Government and the Northwest Regional Development Agency. It has also had funding from the Welsh Assembly Government and the British Heart Foundation. UK Biobank is hosted by the University of Manchester and supported by the National Health Service (NHS). All the above funders had no role in the design, analysis or writing of the present study.
Author contributions were as follows: Formulating the research question(s) (A. L. D., D. J. B., K. R. A., S. L. N.), designing the study (A. L. D., D. J. B., K. R. A., S. A. L.-N.), data collection (not applicable), analysing the data (A. L. D., D. J. B., K. R. A., S. A. L.-N.) and writing the article (A. L. D., D. J. B., K. R. A., S. L. N.).
S. A. L.-N. discloses that she is Research Director of D3-TEX limited which holds the UK and Gulf Corporation Council (GCC) patents for the use of UVB transparent clothing to prevent vitamin D deficiency. S. A. L.-N.’s husband William Lanham-New is Managing Director of D3-TEX limited. S. A. L.-N. has received grants from (1) The UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) (project: Ergocalciferol (D2) v. Cholecalciferol (D3) Food Fortification: Comparative Efficiency in Raising 25OHD Status & Mechanisms of Action (D2–D3 Study), BB/I006192/1, £516 823); (2) The UK Food Standards Agency (Project: Vitamin D, Food Intake, Nutrition and Exposure to Sunlight in Southern England (D-FINES) Study, N05064, £600 000); (3) The European Union (Project: Food Based Solutions for optimal vitamin D nutrition and health through the life cycle, Lead Work Package; (4) nutritional requirements for vitamin D during pregnancy, childhood and adolescence using RCTs, FP7-613977-ODIN, Euro 6·2 million) and (5) The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD, £2·4 million). S. L. N. is a current member of the Scientific Advisory Committee for Nutrition (SACN) and a member of the panel who was responsible for the most recent revision of vitamin D recommended nutritional intake guidelines in the UK. She is a board member for the UK Royal Osteoporosis Society and the British Nutrition Foundation. She is Secretary of the Nutrition Society as well as Editor in Chief of the Nutrition Society textbook series. All other authors have no conflict of interest.

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  • 25-Hydroxyvitamin D
  • Cohort studies
  • Epidemiology
  • Ethnicity


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