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Study Hall: New vitamin D tests are inaccurate

For Study Hall each week, we sort through the deluge of new medical studies and wordy white papers to bring you one that deserves your attention—in plain, healthy English.

vitamin DVitamin D—that wonderful benefit of summer sunshine—has been shown to stave off osteoporosis, depression, and even cancer. But according to findings presented recently at the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting in Houston, people who are trying to make sure they’re getting enough by having their levels checked may be getting inaccurate information.

The study: Researchers at Loyola University in Chicago wanted to test the accuracy of two new blood tests for vitamin D deficiency. They secured 163 blood samples and performed both new tests on each sample. They then performed a third test on each sample using an established, hands-on, labor-intensive method of measurement (LC/MS), and compared the results.

The results: The new tests overestimated the frequency of vitamin D deficiency in 40 percent of the samples. They showed that 71 and 45 samples were vitamin D deficient, while the established test indicated that just 33 of the samples were. (Given the controversial results, I think we’ll be seeing  peer-review medical study on the topic soon!)

What it means: While blood tests are a great way to figure out a benchmark, they may not tell the whole story when it comes to your vitamin D levels. No matter what the test shows, allow yourself to soak up a limited amount of (unprotected) sun, and eat foods that are rich in or fortified with vitamin D. —Allison Becker