At-risk age groups least likely to have vitamin D levels checked by GP

At-risk age groups least likely to have vitamin D levels checked by GP

Greater awareness of the benefits of vitamin D has led to a 'a surge' in testing requests, but an Irish study says young people who are most at risk are not being monitored. Picture: iStock

Greater awareness of the benefits of vitamin D has led to a “a surge” in testing requests, but an Irish study says young people who are most at risk are not being monitored.

The study found people aged 18 to 39, who are deficient or at risk of deficiency are the least likely to have their vitamin D levels monitored by GPs. Researchers also found women were more likely to have repeat tests but were less likely to be deficient.

Vitamin D helps maintain strong bones, with deficiency leading to osteoporosis in adults or rickets in children. Boosting vitamin D levels has also been linked to bolstering the immune system to help fight off Covid-19.

Daily supplement

An Oireachtas Health Committee report in April urged the Government to recommend adults take a daily supplement.

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine, is the first analysis of data on retesting of Vitamin D levels in Ireland, the authors note.

They found a 37% increase in requests for vitamin D testing over a five-year period in Ireland, which is putting pressure on the healthcare system.

Lead author and Mercers Glanbia bone research fellow at Trinity College Dublin Helena Scully said: “Young adults and males were most likely to have low vitamin D but were retested the least.

This shows those who are at most risk of vitamin D deficiency are not being assessed, leading to misdirection of resources from those who need it most.” 

They found one in four patients studied in Dublin have vitamin D levels retested by their GP but more than half the tests were done on people with adequate levels of the vitamin.

Vitamin D in diet

Ms Scully said: “Instead of going to their GP and requesting multiple vitamin D tests, the public should focus on getting enough vitamin D via getting good sources of vitamin D in their diets: oily fish, egg yolk, fortified milk/dairy products.” 

She also recommended people aged five to 65 years old take a vitamin D supplement of 10μg daily.

“Clear guidelines on who should have their vitamin D retested and when are needed to better identify deficiency in the population,” Ms Scully said.

Co-author and clinical senior lecturer at TCD Dr Kevin McCarroll said: “The study shows that vitamin D retesting is prevalent yet a large proportion of tests are not being done on the right people or at the right time.” 

Dr McCarroll, a consultant at St James’s Hospital, said better understanding was needed of how to get vitamin D from food or supplements rather than getting tested.

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