Vitamin D has a critical role in skeletal health and maintaining serum calcium levels. Calcium is needed for a variety of cellular and metabolic processes in the body. Large amounts of vitamin D can be produced in the skin when exposed to UV-B radiation. It is therefore a paradox that in Europe, Caucasians living in higher latitude countries, such as Scandinavia and Iceland, have higher serum vitamin D compared with those living in lower latitude. In a recent study of adult-type lactase persistence (LP), it was shown that Caucasian of European descent, who carried the C-13910T LP allele, had higher levels of total serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D compared with those who were lactase non-persistent. This was attributed to higher consumption of dairy. We postulated that the distribution of the LP C-13910T allele in Caucasian populations may explain the vitamin D concentration pattern seen in Europe.
Baseline mean total serum 25 hydroxyvitamin D concentration from a clinical trial of post-menopausal women with osteoporosis was correlated to published LP frequencies in European populations.
In multiple regression analysis, mean total serum 25 hydroxyvitamin D concentrations in both winter and summer were in turn correlated to LP phenotype frequency (winter: r2 = 0.51, p < 0.05; summer: r2 = 0.4, p < 0.05).
High frequency of LP in northern Europe may explain high mean total serum 25 hydroxyvitamin D concentrations despite low UV-B radiation exposure.
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We thank Nils Reinton for critically reading the manuscript.
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Sorthe, J., Moghaddam, A. Lactase persistence may explain the paradoxical findings of high vitamin D concentrations in Europeans living in areas of low UV-B irradiation. Eur J Clin Nutr 73, 585–593 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41430-018-0179-x