Vitamin Deficiency: How Useful are Blood Tests?

Laboratory tests of vitamin levels in the blood are often expensive and not very informative. Individual tests for vitamin D, B12, or folic acid, on the other hand, can be quite useful.

Laboratory tests of the vitamin level in the blood are in vogue: more and more extensive vitamin tests are requested, which can easily cost 600 to 700 euros. In fact, many people are convinced that they do not automatically get all the necessary vitamins from food. There is a wide range of dietary supplements available in drugstores and supermarkets. Vitamin preparations for eyes, skin, and hair, against tiredness and listlessness. They may arouse concerns among consumers about developing a deficiency in certain vitamins.

A balanced diet covers vitamin requirements

But experts give the all-clear: There is no cause for concern in Germany. With a reasonably varied diet, also occasionally with chips and ready-made pizza, our food contains sufficient vitamins and trace elements. This is especially true when using fresh food.

Daily requirement: information on food is only a guideline

“Intake recommendations” or “daily requirements” on food packaging often give the impression that consumers must at least reach this amount of nutrients every day in order not to risk undersupply. In fact, these are long-term average values ​​for orientation. It is, therefore, no problem at all not to reach these values ​​for days.

Expensive blood tests are often not covered by health insurance

Some doctors and non-medical practitioners advertise extensive vitamin tests on their websites as preventive measures. Experts criticize this practice as fear and panic-mongering in order to make sales with the expensive blood tests. These are almost always so-called individual health services (Igel), which are not paid for by health insurance companies.

No uniform reference and standard values

“Reference values” or “standard values” should always be viewed with caution. In order to determine which values ​​are within the norm, various large laboratories in Germany analyzed hundreds of blood samples from healthy people. Because vitamin levels vary widely in healthy people, each laboratory developed a range of nutritional values. 95 percent of these healthy values ​​were evaluated as the reference or normal range. The highest and lowest values ​​- which also came from healthy people – fell outside the norm.

Since every large laboratory has analyzed the blood of different groups, the reference range also varies. In addition, the reference values ​​do not reflect the entire population because special groups, so-called collectives, were examined as the basis for the reference values. In order to save costs, existing collectives were examined – for example, members of the military. This means that the reference values ​​determined in this way apply to 18-year-old men, but not to an 80-year-old woman.

Serious illnesses could be overlooked

Experts fear that if the focus is placed on supposedly abnormal vitamin levels, potentially dangerous diseases could go undetected. That’s why doctors recommend meaningful examinations that are paid for by health insurance and can provide important information about existing diseases. These include, for example, the small and large blood count, thyroid hormones, and kidney and liver function. Incidentally, if there is reasonable suspicion, determinations of individual vitamin levels are covered by health insurance.

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