Researchers revealed they were able to successfully measure vitamin D levels in human hair. This could improve the diagnosis of vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor for serious health conditions like depression, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and inflammation. Over a billion people around the world are reportedly affected by it.
So far, blood analysis can only detect the levels of vitamin D at a single point in time. However, because hair grows almost one centimetre per month, it could reveal the status of vitamin D in a patient for several months.
"The study presents the idea that vitamin D is being deposited continuously in the hair as it grows, more might be deposited at times when vitamin D concentration in the blood is high, and less when it's low," lead author Lina Zgaga, Associate Professor at Trinity College Dublin, told a news portal. Adding, "Therefore, a test based on the hair sample might be able to give doctors a measure of vitamin D status over time -- if hair is long enough, this even might be over a few years."
While this is a huge breakthrough, further research is needed to understand and compare the relationship between vitamin D concentration in hair and blood. The team also needs to investigate how other factors like hair colour can affect vitamin D levels in hair.
The team believes the find could also help assess vitamin D levels in historical populations like the Vikings and ancient Romans, as hair is one of the longest lasting biological surviving materials.
The study's findings were originally published in the journal Nutrients.