THE ACCURACYOF HAIR MINERAL ANALYSIS

By Lawrence Wilson, MD

© revised, October 2008, The Center For Development

 

         Joan, age 52, wrote us that she sent in a hair sample three months ago.  She received her report and her program, but states that she did not follow the program.

She just sent in a new hair sample and was dismayed that her new hair test was quite different from the earlier one, even though she did not follow any healing program. 

Now she believes that hair analysis may not be accurate.  Let us examine her thought.  First, please note the differences on the two tests:

 

 

 

First Test

Second Test

Calcium

33

21

Magnesium

2

3

Sodium

155

3

Potassium

41

20

Copper

37

7.8

Zinc

27

19

Readings are in milligrams per 100 grams or parts per one hundred thousand.

 

Joan asked why the tests varied, and questioned the accuracy of the test.  Let us explore several possibilities:  1) laboratory error, 2) incorrect sampling or hair washing procedure on one or even both samples and 3) changes in body chemistry over the three months. 

 

LABORATORY ACCURACY

 

         Russell Madarash, laboratory director and chief chemist at Accutrace Laboratories, supplied the findings of an independent testing organization that checks results of the testing at his laboratory.  They check both accuracy - the ability to hit the correct number, and precision or reliability - the repeatability of the test.

         In both cases, Analytical Research Labs scored well, in the top 1/3 of about 200 testing laboratories in the nation.  The accuracy and reliability of ARL's hair analysis within two standard deviations (or 95% of the time) is between plus or minus 3 to 6%.

Some variation occurs and depends on the mineral tested and on the level of the mineral in the hair.  This accuracy is well within acceptable laboratory standards, and equal or better than most blood or urine tests.  Laboratory error is thus an unlikely possibility. 

 

VARIATION IN HAIR WASHING OR SAMPLING PROCEDURES      

 

         Errors in sampling include 1) using long hair, 2) sending in the long ends of the hair, 3) not sampling close to the scalp, 4) sending dirty, oily or sweaty hair, or 5) sending hair from different parts of the body without notifying the laboratory.

Poor sampling procedure is a common cause of inaccurate results.  Usually, however, they would not vary this much, though anything is possible if this person used dirty hair, for example.  This we cannot control, except to make sure as best we can that samples look clean and the right length, as this one was.

Some people do not send in the same hair sample each time, preferring to take hair from different parts of the head.  The type of shampoo or hair treatments may vary as well.  These, by themselves, will not make much if any difference.  As a review, here is the sampling procedure we use.

 

THE SAMPLING PROCEDURE

 

         For accurate hair test results:

  1) Hair must be cut at or as close as possible to the scalp, not at the ends of the hair.  Any hair over 1 to 1.5 inches from the scalp must be cut off and thrown away.

  2) Hair must be clean - washed within 12-24 hours before sampling, preferably in soft water with a non-irritating and basic shampoo.

  3) Samples must be from the head, not pubic hair.  With each test use same area of the body for an accurate comparison reading.  If possible, use the same area of the head, such as the back or one side.

 

VARIATIONS IN BODY CHEMISTRY OVER A THREE-MONTH PERIOD OF TIME 

 

This is the most likely possibility in this case.  I will explain why.  First, I assume that the patient followed instructions for preparing the hair and cutting the sample.  It is possible, though not likely, that she did not.

I also assume that the testing laboratory did not make an error.  They seldom do, and it would not likely be such a variation as we see on these two tests.

 

REASONS FOR THE SIGNIFICANT TEST DIFFERENCES

 

1. Fast Oxidation.   Note first that on both tests, Joan would be classified as a fast oxidizer.  I say this because her calcium/potassium ratio is less than 4:1 and her sodium/ magnesium ratio is greater than 4.17:1.  This is how we define fast oxidation.  See the articles on fast and slow oxidation on this website for more details about the rationale for these determinations.

         One of the key characteristics of fast oxidizers is their volatility.  This is the reason we always recommend retests for fast oxidizers within three or four months.  Fast oxidation is difficult to maintain.  It is inherently an unstable pattern that can change quickly.

It is a sympathetic state of body chemistry.  This means that the sympathetic or fight-or-flight nervous system is dominant at the time of the testing.  This response of the body is called an alarm reaction in the stress theory of disease as elaborated by Dr. Hans Selye, MD.

Dr. Selye also called this the General Adaptation Syndrome or GAS.  He wrote about this in several of his books, such as The Stress Of Life, Calciphylaxis and Stress Without Distress.  The books by Dr. Selye are necessary to at least review to gain a complete understanding and appreciation for the brilliance of the work of Dr. Paul Eck.

They also help to understand properly how to interpret a hair mineral analysis.  For the reasons above, we see large variations in the oxidation rate far more often in fast oxidizers than in slow oxidizers. 

Slow oxidizers are not in a sympathetic state of body chemistry. Instead, they are more tired and their bodies have moved into a more parasympathetic state by default.  This means that the sympathetic nervous system can no longer maintain its level of intensity and the result is an exhaustion of the system.  As a result, the body moves into an unhealthy parasympathetic state of life.

 

2. The Christmas season.  The first test was cut just before Christmas.  For some people, the Christmas season is highly stressful with family gatherings, parties to attend and more.  This could also influence her tissue mineral patterns, especially as a fast oxidizer.

These individuals are often high-strung and oversensitive to others.  Calcium and magnesium, in particular, are psychological buffering elements.  Joan is deficient in both of these in here hair sample and most likely in her body’s tissues.

 

3. Copper personality type.  Note the elevated copper level on her first test. An ideal copper level in the hair is about 2.5 mg% or 25 parts per million.  Joan's copper level of 37 mg% on the first test is extremely elevated.  

This often indicates what we call a “copper personality”.  These individuals are very sensitive to stress and often react with emotion to almost any situation. 

Copper enhances the biogenic amines, epinephrine, norepinephrine and dopamine.  These are stimulatory neurotransmitters.  Copper toxicity is associated with accentuated emotions, mood swings, anxiety and panic attacks.  Individuals with high copper often go through swings of emotions that affect the oxidation rate as well as general body chemistry.

        

4. A Rare Combination.  The combination of fast oxidation and elevated copper is quite rare.  This raises another possibility to explain the variation in the two tests.  Most fast oxidizers a have low hair copper.

         Joan has a combination of the volatility of a high copper level without the buffering action of adequate tissue calcium and magnesium levels.  This makes her body chemistry especially prone to large fluctuations or variations.

         Perhaps it should be no surprise that Joan listed among her symptoms anxiety, compulsive behavior, emotional sensitivity, irritability, nervousness, stress and volatility.     

 

5. Other.  This could include other possible events too numerous to list, and could include any type of stress.  It could include a job change, an illness in herself or a close friend or family member, a death in the family or any of a hundred others.  Once again, fast oxidizers are even more prone to quick shifts in body chemistry due to stress of any kind, even a positive change in her life.

Even a change of seasons can rarely affect the test.  The first sample was cut as winter began, while the second was at the end of the winter season. Joan’s oxidation rate slowed dramatically on the second test.  If, for example, winter was a stressful time for Joan, this could account for the variation.

 

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