Diabetes. The flu. Stroke. These diseases and ailments are in our common lexicon—there’s a certain degree of public awareness on causes and treatment. But how many really understand why it is so important to test for vitamin D deficiencies?
Global Health Concern
According to Medical Laboratory Observer, an estimated one billion people worldwide are vitamin D deficient or insufficient. In the United States, almost 42 percent of adults are affected, with African American and Hispanic people being most affected.
What exactly is vitamin D, and how is it important to our bodies? Everyday Health explains: “Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin often known as the "sunshine vitamin," because your body can make vitamin D on its own after exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and phosphorous, which are both needed for bone formation. It also assists in muscle, heart, lung, and brain function and plays an important role in every cell of the human body. It works together with encoding proteins that grow cells and tell them what to do depending on where they are in the body. Genome-wide analysis has shown that vitamin D affects the expression of more than 2,000 human genes.[i]
One side effect when you don’t get enough vitamin D is that your body doesn’t absorb enough calcium. We are all aware that low levels of vitamin D can affect bone health or lead to rickets in children, or osteomalacia in adults, but there is also research suggesting a link to other serious health conditions.
Vitamin D deficiency is a global pandemic that has serious health consequences for children and adults. Improvement in the world’s vitamin D status could significantly reduce risk of many chronic illnesses including cardiovascular diseases, type II diabetes, Alzheimer’s and many deadly cancers as well as infectious diseases including upper respiratory tract infections, influenza, and tuberculosis.
Why Does it Happen?
There are several common causes and risk factors associated with vitamin D deficiency. A lack of exposure to sunshine and inadequate vitamin D in your diet can lead to a deficiency of vitamin D. Listen to your doctor or dietician and eat well! Also make sure you get outside—take your dog for a walk, go on a bike ride with your kids, or have a picnic. Additionally, risk factors include advanced age, obesity, and having darker skin.
Because the symptoms are subtle, many don’t even realize they are vitamin D deficient. Symptoms can include the following:
- Struggling immune system—you get sick a lot
- Feeling tired all of the time
- Bone pain and lower back pain
- Slow-healing wounds
- Bone loss
- Hair loss and alopecia areata
- Sore muscles
The Good News
Vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency can be identified by a blood test and is treatable by a medical professional—it simply requires a diagnosis via lab test. There are two main methods used for measuring vitamin D. The first is LCMS, which is regarded as the gold standard, but requires expensive specialist equipment and expertise to interpret. The second is immunoassay which is more commonly used as it is readily available in laboratories and provides rapid results, although challenges with standardization can cause issues.
Despite the challenges, data has shown a greater than 80-fold rise in test reimbursement volumes from 2000 through 2013 as awareness of the importance of vitamin D has increased.[ii]
So just what is a sufficient level of vitamin D? The answer differs slightly depending on who you ask, but the National Institutes of Health issued these recommendations:
Similarly, the Vitamin D Council suggests that a level of 50 ng/ml is the ideal level for adults.
The good news is you can usually offset deficiencies by taking a supplement. Vitamin D supplementation has been shown to have benefits in a broad range of conditions including type II diabetes, ulcerative colitis, sleep disorders, cold and flu, cancer, autism, and even sunburn.
November 2nd is Vitamin D Day!
Vitamin D Day is a day to recognize vitamin D deficiency as a world problem. The day is led by the Vitamin D Society, Vitamin D Council and GrassrootsHealth, non-profit organizations dedicated to spread awareness on the vitamin D deficiency pandemic. Click here to learn more
How We Can Help
To help clinicians, Sekisui Diagnostics offers the FastPack® IP Vitamin D Immunoassay. It allows testing facilities to produce point-of-care results in 12 minutes with less than one minute of hands-on time. Other benefits include a quantitative measurement of 25-hydroxyvitamin D, a lower limit of 12.9 ng/mL, and an upper limit of 150 ng/mL. Designed for use with the FastPack® IP System, this product will aid in the assessment of vitamin D sufficiency in adults.
[i] Ramagopalan SV, Heger A, Berlanga AK, et al. A ChIP-seq defined genome-wide map of vitamin D receptor binding: Associations with disease and evolution. Genome Res 2010;20:1352-1360.
[ii] Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2014 February ; 138(2): 189–203. doi:10.5858/arpa.2013-0149-OA. Trends in Laboratory Test Volumes for Medicare Part B Reimbursements, 2000–2010