Home vs. Laboratory Vitamin & Mineral Deficiency Test: What’s the Better Choice?

At least 31% of the American population remains at the risk of developing at least one vitamin deficiency, and about 1.7% runs the risk of developing multiple nutrient deficiencies. While vitamin and mineral deficiency tests are commonplace procedures, many people are still unaware of the necessity for regular testing, and the various options available to them. Patients often wonder about how to test for vitamin deficiency - whether it’s better to get tested in a laboratory or the comfort of their homes. Vitamin and mineral deficiency tests are important examinations that must be performed at least once a year to allow patients to adjust their diets in case they’re falling short on any essential micronutrients. 

Both vitamins and minerals are quintessential for several body functions. They play an irreplaceable role in day-to-day metabolic processes and aid healing, promote immunity, and also have a great impact on mental health. Vitamin deficiency tests can help you catch potential deficiencies in time to help you avoid various health implications arising from these nutritional inadequacies. 

how to test for vitamin deficiency

What are Vitamins & Minerals, and Why Are They Important?

  • Vitamins and minerals are important micronutrients that are required by the body. 
  • Everyone needs to consume the recommended amount of micronutrients to remain in good health and avoid vitamin & mineral deficiencies. 
  • Vitamins are of many types and are divided into various complexes. The various types of vitamins and their recommended daily intakes are: 
    • Vitamin A: 700-800 micrograms per day
    • Vitamin B1: 0.8 to 1 mg per day 
    • Vitamin B2: 1 to 1.3 mg per day 
    • Vitamin B3: 14 to 16.5 mg per day 
    • Vitamin B5: Upto 5 mg per day 
    • Vitamin B6: 1.2 to 1.4 mg per day 
    • Vitamin B7: 30 to 35 micrograms per day 
    • Folate/ Vitamin B9: Upto 200 micrograms per day 
    • Vitamin B12: Upto 1.5 micrograms per day 
    • Vitamin C: Upto 40 mg per day 
    • Vitamin D: 
      • Up to 400 IU (10 micrograms) per day for children 
      • Up to 600 IU (15 micrograms) per day for adults 
    • Vitamin E:  3 to 4 mg per day
    • Vitamin K: 1 microgram per kilogram of body weight per day
  • Vitamins perform the function of catalysis of various biochemical reactions within the body. They affect cellular health, growth & development, and have an impact on important functions such as nervous control, immunity, clotting of blood, healing, and blood circulation. 
  • Similarly, minerals too, play an important role in several functions of the body, ensuring all the metabolic functions are carried out efficiently to maintain healthy functioning. Some of the most important minerals and their recommended daily intakes are: 
    • Calcium: 700 mg per day 
    • Iron: 
      • 9 mg per day for men
      • 15 mg per day for women 
    • Iodine: 140 micrograms per day
    • Copper: 1.2 mg per day
    • Magnesium: 270 to 300 mg per day 
    • Manganese: Upto 4 mg per day 
    • Chromium: Upto 25 micrograms per day
    • Phosphorus: 550 mg per day 
    • Potassium: 3.5 grams per day
    • Selenium: 60 to 70 micrograms per day 
    • Sodium: Up to 2 grams per day
    • Chloride: Upto 800 mg per day
    • Zinc: 7 to 9.5 mg per day
    • Molybdenum: Upto 45 micrograms per day
  • Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet along with sufficient activity and outdoor time can help you maintain a healthy balance of vitamins and minerals. 
  • Understanding how to test for vitamin deficiency and taking a vitamin deficiency test at regular intervals can help you maintain a tab on all micronutrients, and supplement the ones that you’re falling short on. 

What are the Signs of a Vitamin Deficiency?

Before you know how to test for vitamin deficiency and what mode of testing is right for you, it’s important to know the signs of vitamin deficiency and their significance. Here are some of the most common signs of vitamin deficiency: 

  • Bleeding gums
    • Frequently bleeding gums are some of the first signs of vitamin C deficiency.
    • While it’s also probable that improper tooth brushing & flossing techniques can cause bleeding gums, a lack of vitamin C affects the gums first. 
    • Vitamin C aids in body healing and immunity. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables can mitigate vitamin C deficiencies. 
    • Persistent vitamin C deficiency can lead to scurvy, which causes dry patches on the skin, gums that bleed easily, and muscle weakness. 
    • A lack of vitamin C can also cause delayed wound healing and an increased vulnerability to infections. 
  • Hair Loss
    • Though hair loss is an extremely common symptom and can be due to several factors, nutrition plays an important role. 
    • The lack of Vitamin B3 and B7 is linked to hair loss and can cause alopecia - a condition that causes hair loss in small patches. 
    • Mineral deficiencies too, are linked to hair loss and a diet deficient in iron and zinc is an important cause of hair loss and poor hair quality. 
    • A vitamin and mineral deficiency test can shed light on the underlying factors that affect hair loss, alongside other testing methods to reveal other causes. 
    • A lack of Vitamin B7 can also be noted in brittle nails, dry & scaly skin, hair that breaks, and frequent dandruff issues. 
  • White spots in the eyes and reduced vision at night
    • The lack of vitamin A can lead to conditions such as night blindness and Bitot’s spots. 
    • Vitamin A helps the body in creating a pigment called rhodopsin that enables special cells in the retina to adjust vision based on light intensity. The lack of vitamin A makes it hard for the retina to adjust visual efficiency to light intensity. 
    • Severe vitamin A deficiency can lead to xerophthalmia, and cause complete blindness. The first stage of this is noted by the presence of white spots that appear on the white parts of the eyes. 
    • Supplementing with vitamin A and consuming vitamin A-rich foods can help combat these symptoms. 
  • Oral Ulcers
    • The frequent appearance of oral ulcers hints at deficiencies in B complex vitamins. 
    • If you suffer from frequent oral ulcers, it might be time to get that routine nutrient blood test you’ve been rescheduling. 
    • Alongside oral ulcers, cracked corners of the mouth with reddish patches also indicate a deficiency in B complex vitamins. 
    • The good news is that B complex vitamins can be easily supplemented with both nutraceuticals and a good diet based on the recommendations of your doctor and nutritionist following a detailed vitamin deficiency test. 
  • Fatigue
    • Deficiencies of minerals such as iron and Vitamin B12 can lead to frequent fatigue and exhaustion. 
    • Vitamin B12 helps immature red blood cells become full-fledged RBCs that carry oxygen to different parts of the body. 
    • Similarly, Iron is the main element that binds with Oxygen in the heme group of the hemoglobin molecule. 
    • A lack of these two micronutrients can reduce the net oxygen consumption of the body, leading to fatigue and weakness. 
  • Dermatitis
    • A persistent, red, and scaly rash on the skin is a symptom of a vitamin deficiency. 
    • A vitamin and mineral deficiency test might reveal a vitamin B6 deficiency in individuals with unresolved dermatitis. 
    • Vitamin B6 can also cause a tingling sensation in the feet and hands due to malfunctioning nerve endings. 
  • Mental Health Troubles
    • While vitamin D can affect the health of bones and joints, the sunshine vitamin also plays an important role in mental health
    • The lack of vitamin D can lead to symptoms such as depression. 
    • If you’re wondering about what vitamin deficiency can cause anxiety, it’s vitamin B1. Alongside anxiety, vitamin B1 deficiency can also cause insomnia, irritability, and depression. 
    • The lack of vitamin B12 too, can lead to mental health disturbances such as depression and anxiety. 
  • Special focus: What are the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency?
    • Fatigue 
    • Inflammation of the mouth and tongue 
    • Depression 
    • Frequent headaches  
    • Indigestion and gastritis 
    • Behavioral changes
    • Anemia 
    • Smooth tongue 
    • Muscle weakness 

what vitamin deficiency can cause anxiety

What are the Tests to Check for Vitamin Deficiency?

  • A complete vitamin profile tests for the quantities of all vitamins in the blood. 
  • These tests are also called blood nutrient tests colloquially. Doctors can suggest either a single vitamin estimation or a test like a vitamin profile that tests for the levels of all essential vitamins. 
  • Like the vitamin profile, a detailed mineral profile can help your doctor diagnose any mineral insufficiencies by ordering a mineral profile
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiency tests are carried out after collecting a blood sample from the patient. 
  • Your doctor might recommend fasting for at least 12 hours before the test to avoid any recent meals from interfering with your test results. 
  • Vitamin deficiency tests can be carried out from both laboratories and home setups. 

Can a Blood Test Detect Vitamin Deficiency?

  • Vitamin deficiency tests are blood tests that estimate the levels of various vitamins in the serum. 
  • The blood is examined in a laboratory to estimate the levels of either multiple or single vitamins based on your doctor’s request. 
  • The levels of various vitamins are examined using the serum portion of the blood, which is a part of blood that lacks the blood cells and clotting components. 
  • Most vitamin tests take anywhere between 48 to 96 hours to yield results. 
  • Blood nutrient tests are some of the most essential tests and are simple to carry out when examining for vitamin deficiencies.

Vitamin Tests: The Pros & Cons of Home vs. Laboratory Tests

Vitamin tests can be carried out in both laboratories and in homes, both of these methods come with their advantages and disadvantages. 

  • Home testing

    • Pros
      • Offer more privacy 
      • Easy to access 
      • Offer convenience 
      • Save you time and money spent on the commute to the laboratory 
      • Motivates you to manage your health and take responsibility for it 
      • Online report delivery makes home-testing an all-round convenient affair
    • Cons
      • You will still have to consult or visit your doctor in person for interpretation 
      • Patients run the risk of choosing the wrong tests 
      • Patients might overlook test reports they do not understand 
  • Lab testing

    • Pros 
      • Allows you to get tested in a professional environment 
      • Testing occurs in a completely sterile setup under the supervision of several well-trained healthcare professionals
      • Reports are sent directly to your physician
      • Increased quality assurance 
      • Provides quicker test results 
    • Cons
      • You might have to spend time commuting to the laboratory 
      • Appointment-based testing might be inconvenient for some patients 
      • An alien environment can make some patients nervous 

vitamin and mineral deficiency test,

Now that you understand how to test for vitamin deficiency and the options available to you, it’s time you get your yearly vitamin assessment after consulting with your doctor!