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Anthony Kane, MD
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Added: May 13, 04
Hair Mineral Analysis
I am publishing my answer to his letter because I believe it reveals a number of important points about alternative diagnostic techniques and about how conventional medicine evaluates them.
There was a study published in JAMA in 2001, comparing the results of six of the major hair analysis laboratories in the US. Researchers took hair samples from one healthy individual and sent a sample to each lab, requesting a full analysis. They compared test results for each mineral, laboratory reference ranges, laboratory characteristics, and interpretation of health implications.
They found that in 14 of the thirty-one minerals measured, there was significant disagreement between laboratories. In 12 minerals there was a greater than 10-fold difference between the highest and lowest measured values. Laboratory designations of normal reference ranges varied greatly, resulting in conflicting classifications (high, normal, or low) of nearly all analyzed minerals. The laboratories also provided conflicting dietary and nutritional supplement recommendations based on their results.
The researchers concluded that hair mineral analysis from these laboratories was unreliable. They recommended against the use of hair mineral analysis to assess individual nutritional status or suspected environmental exposures. Problems with the regulation and certification of these laboratories also should be addressed.
This study is a great example of why you need to read scientific studies yourself and not rely upon the researchers’ conclusions. This is a pretty strong criticism, but I will explain why I say this. This study had a number of problems, which invalidates the conclusions of the researchers.
Problem 1:Only two of the laboratories studied use ICP- Mass Spectrometry, which is the state of the art technology. Those two laboratories had very good agreement in their results. The variation occurred in the laboratories using ICP- Atomic Emission Spectroscopy, which is a less accurate outdated technology.
Problem 2:One laboratory in the study misrepresented its CLIA license status. The results from this laboratory were responsible for 10 of the 12 spurious results.
Problem 3:The researchers concluded that the results from all these laboratories were unreliable. However, they themselves did not actually measure the mineral content of the samples. Therefore, they had no way of knowing if some of the laboratories were in fact accurate in their measurements.
Problem 4:The researchers did not test if the laboratories were consistent in their measurements. They could have done this easily by sending the same sample three or four times to each lab to determine if the results were consistent.
Problem 5:The conclusion made by the researchers is incorrect. They concluded that hair mineral analysis is unreliable and therefore has no clinical use. This is not what the study demonstrates. What the results do show is that not every lab engaging in mineral analysis is reliable. There is no information from this study as to which laboratories are not accurate. Certainly no blanket statement can be made that all of the laboratories are inaccurate and that hair mineral analysis is not a clinically useful technique. There is no evidence for such assertions.
What Should Have Been Done:If the researchers really wanted to test hair analysis laboratories fairly, they should have themselves, established reference values for each mineral. They could do this by measured the mineral content of the hair, or through blood tests. This way they could determine which if any of the laboratories were accurate.
They should have sent repeat samples to each of the labs to test for consistent results. If all of these laboratories were inconsistent in their measurements or if none of the lab results reflected the actual mineral content of the samples, then they could conclude that hair analysis is not a useful technique.
The truth is we don’t know whether or not hair analysis is a useful diagnostic technique. To the best of my knowledge it hasn’t been properly studied. What is clear and what is proven by the study is that not all hair analysis laboratories are reliable.
This means the fact that the lab reported your son’s copper reading is too high does not mean that it is. The bottom line is that if you are going to use hair analysis should not be considered a stand-alone diagnostic test for mineral status. It should be used in conjunction with patient symptoms and other laboratory tests.
This means that unless your son has some symptoms of excess copper load, he probably doesn’t.
Let’s say that someone does have symptoms and the hair analysis results support the diagnosis of excess copper. Then you can treat this using vitamin C and zinc among other supplements.
The suggested dosage is as follows:
Vitamin C 1000 mg 4 times a day.
Zinc 50-80 mg a day
Vitamin C 1000 mg 3 times a day.
Zinc 40- 60 mg a day
Vitamin C 500 mg 4 times a day
Zinc 25- 40 mg a day
Children less than 6
Vitamin C 250 mg 4 times a day
Zinc 12-20 mg a day
Use the ascorbic acid form of vitamin C and the chelated form of zinc.
Also, you can help get rid of copper by eating more eggs, garlic, and onions. These foods are high in sulfur. You might also consider testing your drinking water for sulfur.
I hope this helps.
Anthony Kane, MD
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