National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey

Information for Participants

NHANES Biospecimen Program

The NHANES Biospecimen Program consists of stored specimens of serum, plasma, urine, and DNA collected from blood and urine of participants during their NHANES exam. Stored specimens are available to researchers to answer important public health questions. Researchers must go through a rigorous approval process and review for scientific merit, assurance of confidentiality, and review by the NCHS Ethics Review Board (ERB) to determine if the study is ethical. Data resulting from this research are available to other researchers through the NHANES website or the NCHS Research Data Center.

The Biospecimen Program is important because it uses laboratory specimens to answer public health questions for the entire population. The specimens can be used to answer questions about new or changing medical areas that may not have been known at the time they were collected during your participation in NHANES. So far, researchers using data and specimens from the Biospecimen Program have published over 350 articles answering questions ranging from “Are certain vitamins associated with a specific chronic health condition?” to “How much environmental contaminants do we have in our bodies?”

What does participation involve?

Eligible NHANES participants are asked if they are willing to have a portion of their specimens stored to be used later in health studies. Willing participants sign a consent for their specimens to be used for future health studies, and their specimens become part of the NHANES Biospecimen Program. Participants will not be contacted with results of future health studies and a participant may request destruction of their specimens at any time.

What are the benefits to me and my family?

You will not directly benefit but these studies may eventually help the health of people in the future. When you give your blood and urine specimens at the NHANES mobile examination center (MEC), you are helping to improve all our health. Health studies done using these specimens may help to answer questions that can benefit everyone. The Biospecimen Program is another way that study participants can use their specimens to add to our understanding of the nation’s health and answer public health questions.

We will not contact you with any results from future health studies done using specimens from the Biospecimen Program. These studies are limited to answering broad, public health questions. The results are not clinical results and not meant to be used to make decisions about your health.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long will my stored biospecimens be saved?

There is no end date for biospecimen storage. Currently, biospecimen are stored until they are completely used for health studies.

Can I access my stored biospecimens?

No. Individual biospecimens stored in the Biospecimen Program are not able to be accessed. However, you can remove your biospecimens from the repository by calling 1-800-452-6115.

Will anyone be able to identify me through using my biospecimens?

We take your privacy very seriously. Health information collected in NHANES, including genetic information, is kept in strict confidence. Researchers requesting access to the stored biospecimens or genetic data must apply and be approved to receive access to these biospecimens or data. Genetic data is either maintained under restricted use in the NCHS Research Data Center (RDC) or completely unlinked from any identifiers and then made accessible.

Informed Consent

Health information collected in NHANES is kept in strict confidence. During the informed consent process, survey participants are assured that data collected will be used only for stated purposes and will not be disclosed or released to others without the consent of the individual or the establishment in accordance with section 308(d) of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 242m).

Only specimens from participants who have consented to future health studies are stored in an NHANES Biospecimen Repository and made available to researchers.

Publications using biospecimens and data from the Biospecimen Program

Researchers from Federal agencies, universities, and other scientific centers have been using biospecimens and data from the Biospecimen Program for their public health studies for many years. These studies have produced over 350 publications covering a wide range of topics, such as Vitamin D, asthma, and genetic associations with obesity and other health conditions.

Publications using DNA Specimens 

Publications using Serum, Plasma, and Urine Specimens 

Who can I contact if I have questions?

To discuss the NHANES survey or to speak to our Senior Medical Officer, call us at 1-800-452-6115. If you have questions about your rights as a survey participant, call the Research Ethics Review Board at the National Center for Health Statistics at 1-800-223-8118. Leave a brief message containing your name, phone number, and your NHANES concerns. Your call will be returned as soon as possible.

Thank you.