I wish assessing nutritional status was as easy as having a doctor look down the throat with a flashlight. “Oh, I see you’ve been eating too many doughnuts and no where near enough broccoli,” might be the response. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. In fact, few nutrients can be adequately assessed from a routine lab report. If someone tells you a saliva test, toe nail measurement, or a hair analysis will give you a reading, they are mistaken.
However, there are a few exceptions. For example, and especially for premenopausal women, testing for iron is simple. Along with the normal hemoglobin and hematocrit tests, which test mostly for advanced iron deficiency, you can request more senstive measurements, including the serum ferritin and TIBC (Total Iron Binding Capacity) tests, which identify iron deficiency before it has progressed to anemia. A blood test for homocysteine is a marker for inflammation and heart disease, as well as an indirect potential red flag that you need more folate and vitamins B6 and B12. Vitamin B12 also can be measured with a “serum B12” test and should be run every so often as a person ages. Vitamin D also is easily measured. Since up to 80% of Americans are low in this vitamin, it’s a good idea to have it checked on a regular basis. Photo credit: Lori Greig via Compfight