Hair Mineral Analysis
What is Hair Mineral Analysis?
"Hair tissue mineral analysis (HTMA), is an analytical test which measures the mineral content of the hair. The sampled hair, obtained by cutting the first inch and one-half of growth closest to the scalp at the nape of the neck, is prepared in a licensed clinical laboratory through a series of chemical and high temperature digestive procedures. Testing is then performed using highly sophisticated detection equipment and methods to achieve the most accurate and precise results.”
Discussion of advantages & disadvantages of hair mineral analysis
- Non-invasive, simple & cheap ($50 US via Doctors Data).
- The usefulness of hair mineral analysis is highly dependent on the quality of interpretation. There is considerable controversy over the best way to interpret hair analysis. Hair analysis readings should not be interpreted like a blood test. Hair results should be viewed cautiously and results not viewed as certainties. The traditional view has been that raised hair levels of a particular mineral indicate elevated tissue levels, although there is now some evidence that (in many cases) raised hair levels may indicate increased excretion and depleted tissue levels. The discussion printouts that come with an analysis from laboratories are typically based on the traditional interpretation.
- Gives a good indication of some toxic metal levels while blood levels may be in the normal range. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses hair mineral analysis for this purpose. Provoked urine heavy metal tests are recommended by The American Board of Clinical Metal Toxicology as the present ideal method for testing heavy metals.
- Provides direction for further diagnostic tests which may not have been performed otherwise.
- Gives some indication of nutrient mineral status. The following nutrient minerals provide the most meaningful assays: Ca, Mg, Zn, Cu, Na, K, S, Mn, Fe, Se & P
- May suggest patterns of malabsorption.
- Mineral levels can be affected by contaminants. (eg. shampoos/conditioners, hair dyes, air/water pollution, sweat) Using johnson's baby shampoo for several weeks before submitting a hair sample helps to minimize exogenous contamination from shampoos.
- Abnormal hair concentrations of nutrient minerals may need to be confirmed by other testing methods.
- The elements which have the least, if any, value are: Al, Be, Bi, Pt, Th, Tl, U, Ag, Sn, Ti, V, B, I, Ge, Rb, & Zr
- Hair can reflect mineral excretion. (e.g. 1: individuals with impaired metal excretion, such as those with autism, may display low hair mercury levels despite having high tissue levels. This is because hair levels reflect mercury excretion rather than total mercury status. e.g. 2: after treating a copper excess with copper antagonists such as zinc and vitamin C, hair copper may rise)
- Hair mineral analysis does not take into account variations in hair growth rates. (eg. in severe zinc deficiency hair may stop growing, with testing revealing adequate hair levels)
- Mineral analysis values may vary with different laboratories. In my opinion Doctors Data Inc. are probably the most reliable hair analysis lab for a few different reasons. They have the longest track record, having been performing hair analysis commercially since 1969. They are one of the few labs which uses different reference ranges based on age and gender. They are also cheaper than most labs, charging $50 US (~$70 AUS) for a standard report which comes with a full written description of the results.
- Analytical techniques of hair composition have been considerably improved since hair analysis was first introduced in 1969. Most of the research quoted by critics of hair analysis are from the 70’s and does not take into account to complex nature of hair analysis interpretation described on this page.
Over the past 20 years, as Director of Research for Trace Element Laboratories Inc., a federally licensed U.S. clinical laboratory, Dr Watts' research has focused on the study of tissue mineral patterns found in human hair. Having reviewed over 200,000 tissue mineral profiles Dr. Watts has identified interrelationships between minerals, vitamins and the neuro-endocrine system. He has further classified vitamins, minerals, herbs, foods, water and drugs into specific categories according to their metabolic effects. His extensive research has resulted in a better understanding of individual biochemistry, different metabolic types, and how health and disease are affected by nutrition.
Nineteen chapters discuss the theory, testing procedure, interpretation and clinical use of hair mineral analysis. Chapters cover physical illnesses, mental and emotional conditions, glandular assessment, disease trends, energy assessment, toxic metals and carbohydrate tolerance. Fully indexed and referenced, the book also includes 16 case histories, detoxification procedures and a mineral reference guide.