Vitamin D assays: past and present debates, difficulties, and developments

Calcif Tissue Int. 2013 Feb;92(2):118-27. doi: 10.1007/s00223-012-9693-3. Epub 2013 Jan 13.


Clinical interest in Vitamin D and its purported roles not only in calcium and bone metabolism but in several other medical conditions (diabetes, cardiovascular disease, multiple sclerosis, cancer, psychiatric disorders, neuro-muscular disease) has led to a surge in laboratory requests for 25 hydroxy vitamin D and 1,25 dihydroxy vitamin D measurement. Circulating 25 hydroxy vitamin D concentration is routinely used as the best indicator of vitamin D status, but measurement of other metabolites, especially the physiologically active 1,25 dihyroxy vitamin D, are of clinical value. Over the last 40 years the development of assays for vitamin D and its metabolites from early competitive binding assays through to immunoassay and liquid chromatography aligned to mass spectrometry have demonstrated various analytical challenges, the advantages and disadvantages of each method are constantly changing with new technological developments. Immunoassay remains the predominant mode of measurement for 25-hydroxy vitamin D although problems with equimolar recovery of the D2 and D3 metabolites remain an issue. Standardisation of all assays has been improved but not resolved with the currently available reference materials as evidenced by the international vitamin D external quality assurance scheme, DEQAS. The choice of method for each laboratory remains a balance mainly between turn around time, convenience, cost and the specificity and accuracy of the information obtained. With increasing discussion and clinical interest surrounding other vitamin D metabolites the vitamin D assay debate is set to continue.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Chemical Analysis / methods*
  • Blood Chemical Analysis / trends*
  • Humans
  • Vitamin D / blood*


  • Vitamin D