Blood Spot Testing: How Knowing Your Vitamin D Levels Could Save Your Life

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Blood Spot Testing: How Knowing Your Vitamin D Levels Could Save Your Life
By Hailee Vance, M.A. Copywriter Kirkman Group, Inc.
Just a Drop of Blood A prick of the finger releases a drop of blood; a small and insignificant amount, the blood is wiped away and forgotten. A drop of blood, after all, matters very little to most people. But to researchers and scientists, inside that drop of blood are a million microscopic living organisms that have the ability to expose the bod y’s most well-kept secrets. That drop of blood can be used to diagnose illness, determine a person’s genetic make-up and test hormone levels, which could be the keys to preventing and mitigating disease. Kirkman To Distribute Innovative Blood Spot Testing Kit In February, Kirkman® will begin distributing an innovative, new kit to test a person’s vitamin D status from Purity Laboratories, Inc., (Purity), an Oregon based clinical laboratory. Purity’s Vitamin D Blood Spot Testing Kit – will make it easier and be a more efficient to ascertain a person’s vitamin D status. The test can be done from home and contains all of the tools necessary to perform the test. The kit includes instructions on how to take the test, two lancets, a spot saver card, an alcohol prep pad, a surgical sponge and a latex-free bandage. A requisition form and prepaid return envelope are also included in the kit. When the test is complete, it is placed into the prepaid envelope along with the test requisition form and mailed back to Purity. Results are then sent directly to the person who ordered the test within 5 to 10 business days. This is a convenient option for patients who are unable to receive testing in the doctor’s office, including children, the elderly and those who are homebound. More information, including pricing and how to purchase a kit, will be available soon. Microbiologist Robert Guthrie introduced dry blood spot testing in 1963.1 It was developed as a simpler method for testing babies for phenylketonuria; the baby was given a heel prick, and whole blood was collected onto filter paper, where it was then dried and sent to a lab for testing. Not only did the test eliminate the need for an invasive blood draw, but it also minimized the processing time for results. 1 Dry blood spot testing is still done on babies around the world today to screen them for a multitude of treatable ailments. This way of testing now has expanded analyses for vitamin D, hormone levels, hypothyroidism, HIV and many other health conditions.
Why Test for Vitamin D? In recent years, there has been increased interest in the healing powers of vitamin D, which physicians have traditionally used to treat bone-related disease such as rickets.2 This increased interest has led researchers to discover that vitamin D is a hormone that increases immunity. Researchers in almost every health discipline are studying the application of vitamin D to treat or mitigate many chronic illnesses. As a result, vitamin D testing is one of the most popular dry blood spot tests on the market today, and knowing a person’s levels could save that person’s life. Autism and Low Vitamin D According to John Cannell, M.D., executive director of the Vitamin D council, several findings suggest that low vitamin D levels (in mothers during pregnancy and in infants) may affect the risk of autism:
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Dark skin is a risk factor for development of autism. Those with dark skin produce less vitamin D from sunlight. Low maternal vitamin D level is a risk factor for premature delivery. The risk of autism increases with each week a baby is born early. Maternal seafood consumption during pregnancy may lower the baby’s risk of autism. Cold-water ocean fish are a good source of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. Both are important for brain health.
These and other findings do not prove that vitamin D reduces the risk of autism. However, the theory is strong enough that Dr. Cannell states, “[The possibility] deserves immediate attempts to disprove it.” (Taken from the Vitamin D Councils Website @ Other Health Issues Related to Low Vitamin D Status The U.S. Endocrine Society has established recommended circulating vitamin D levels for deficiency, insufficiency and sufficiency. They consider a deficiency to be a vitamin D level 20 ng/mL and below, an insufficiency to be 21 to 29 ng/mL and sufficiency to be 30 ng/mL or greater. Currently, as many as half the people on the planet suffer from a vitamin D insufficiency or deficiency. With all that is known about this vitamin, it is important to understand the risks of deficiency and the groups who are most susceptible. Everyone is at risk for deficiency due to the fact that vitamin D can be difficult to find in nature, especially in the winter months. The best source for vitamin D continues to be the sun. However, as the days become shorter and people are forced inside due to inclement weather, many do not get adequate levels of circulating vitamin D from the sun. There are also a number of groups at a heightened risk of deficiency due to other factors, such as the elderly, the obese, those with darker skin tones and people who live in cloudy or otherwise dark climates.
Anyone who suspects they may be suffering from vitamin D insufficiency or deficiency take a vitamin D test and have their levels monitored. Grassroots Health, a non-profit organization that researches the effects of vitamin D, has found that increasing a person’s levels can have positive health outcomes for many illnesses. A woman who increases her vitamin D status to 50 ng/ml can reduce her risk for breast cancer by as much as 83 percent; and men can reduce their heart attack risk by 30 percent by simply having a vitamin D status of 36 ng/ml or greater, according to Grassroots Health. The organization has charted a person’s vitamin D status in relation to how it affects risks of common disease conditions. For reference, Grassroots Health’s Disease Incidence Prevention Chart is below.
References 1. Parker, S. P., & Cubitt, W. D. (1999). The Use of the Dried Blood Spot Sample in Epidemiological Studies. Journal of Clinical Pathology, 52(9), 633. 2. Silva, Martins. (2007). Brief History of Rickets and the Discovery of Vitamin D. Acta Reumatologica Portuguesa, 32(2), 205-29