Objective: Because vitamin D synthesis is lower in a heavily pigmented skin than in a lighter skin, the relative contribution of determinants to the vitamin D concentration might differ between ethnic groups. The aim of this study was to assess the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency and the relative contribution of vitamin D consumption and exposure to sunlight to the vitamin D concentration in a multiethnic population. Design: Cross-sectional study. Patients: A total of 613 adults aged 18-65 years from a random sample from general practices in the Netherlands (52°N, 2003-05), stratified according to gender and ethnic group. Measurements: Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D], PTH, ethnic group, sunlight exposure, consumption of foods and supplements rich in vitamin D. Results: The prevalence (95% confidence interval) of vitamin D deficiency [serum 25(OH)D < 25 nmol/l] was higher in Turkish (41.3%; 32.5-50.1), Moroccan (36.5%; 26.9-46.1), Surinam South Asian (51.4%; 41.9-60.9), Surinam Creole (45.3%; 34.0-56.6), sub-Saharan African (19.3%; 9.1-29.5) and other adults (29.1%; 17.1-41.1) compared to the indigenous Dutch (5.9%; 1.3-10.5). Modifiable, significant determinants (standardized regression coefficients) for serum 25(OH)D concentration were: consumption of fatty fish (0.160), use of vitamin D supplements (0.142), area of uncovered skin (highest category 0.136; middle category 0.028), use of tanning bed (0.103), consumption of margarine (0.093) and preference for sun (0.089). We found no significant modification of ethnic group on the effect of sunlight determinants. Conclusion: Of the modifiable determinants, fatty fish and supplements are the greatest contributors to the serum 25(OH)D concentration in a multiethnic population. © 2007 The Authors.