Choice of Laboratory Tests

The choice of laboratory tests depends on the type of study to be carried out. In field nutritional epidemiology studies, particularly in developing countries, the number of tests will be limited by the sample size, the suspected prevalence of deficiencies, the local laboratory conditions, and the availability of skilled personnel and economic resources. In general, the following common tests can be suggested: hemoglobin, hematocrit, serum iron, TIBC, serum ferritin, blood protoporphyrin, serum albumin, plasma transport proteins, and serum zinc. In specific cases, serum retinol, other vitamins in blood or urine, and some hormones (thyroxine and TSH) and minerals (urinary iodine) can be added.

In population studies to be carried out in developed countries with high-level laboratory facilities, the selection of laboratory tests depends on the purpose of the study, sample size, and financial resources. The assessment of protein status is in general limited to plasma transport proteins, unless there are other specific reasons for using other variables. Essential fatty acid status is assessed in lipid pattern studies; the choice of test is determined by

Table 1 Summary of Flair Concerted Action No. 10 recommended methods


Recommended method

'Best available method

Additional methods of use in some circumstances

Vitamin A

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