According to the World Health Organization (WHO), roughly 250 million preschool-aged children are deficient in vitamin A.
This causes somewhere between 250,000 and 500,000 of these young, innocent kids to succumb to blindness annually. Perhaps worse yet, WHO further reports that fifty percent of these children will likely lose their lives within one year of no longer having the ability to see, leaving the world without realizing their full potential, and leaving their families to suffer with such a tragic loss.
Other vitamins have high deficiency levels—and severe consequences—as well. For instance, one article published by Zahid Naeem, MBBS, MCPS, DPH, FCPS in the International Journal of Health Sciences shares that more than one billion people in the world don’t regularly get enough vitamin D.
This results in higher incidences of “obesity, diabetes, hypertension, depression, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, osteoporosis and neuro-degenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease.”
Another piece published by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) indicates that a high number of adult Americans also tend to be deficient in vitamin E (94 percent), magnesium (61 percent), calcium (49 percent), and vitamin C (43 percent), to name a few. Other deficiencies exist on smaller levels, but can have negative consequences just the same.
In an effort to combat the effects of these delinquencies, some people opt for home testing to either a) determine whether a deficiency exists, or b) ascertain the level of a known nutrient deficiency.
Certainly, this can reduce the high costs often associated with testing conducted by medical doctors, but how well do these tests work?
Additionally, should you as a DC ever recommend that your patients take this particular route? The answers to these questions seem to depend on who you ask.
Determining the value of at-home deficiency tests
For example, go to the Vitamin D Council’s website and they’re all for deficiency testing, stating that, whether you get tested by your doctor or conduct the test yourself conveniently in your own home, doing a test is “the only way to know if you’re getting enough vitamin D or not.”
Based on the test results, you’ll know whether to take a supplement or spend more time in the sun to bring your levels up to par. The Council even goes on to say that both forms of testing “should give you accurate results,” suggesting that home deficiency testing is just as good as the tests you’d undergo in your doctor’s office.
On the flip side, the executive editor of Harvard Health Letter, Julie Corliss, shares on Harvard Health Publications’ website how the review of 25 studies involving vitamin D deficiency resulted in a panel concluding that “it isn’t helpful for most people to know their vitamin D level.”
This was regardless of how the deficiency testing was completed. Reportedly, this finding was partly due to a lack of consensus about what being low in vitamin D really means and also a question about whether testing for such deficiencies was “standardized or reliable,” highlighting just two of the issues associated with any form of deficiency testing.
How to select the best home deficiency tests
While it seems that experts aren’t in agreement over the reliability and value of deficiency testing, regardless of whether it’s conducted at home or otherwise, there are some things you can do to help your patients select the best test possible should they decide to test their own nutrient levels.
- Researching that particular deficiency to see if a home test is capable of providing reliable results or if it takes specialized equipment or testing processes to identify a deficiency.
- Having the patient check with his or her medical doctor for suggestions regarding which brand or type of home test is recommended for that particular deficiency.
- Choosing an at-home test that has a high review rating by previous test subjects. Note: These reviews should be posted on a site not associated with the product manufacturer as any review listed on that site could potentially be biased.
- Selecting an at-home deficiency test that is recommended by a reputable health professional or organization.