Having your hair analyzed as a way to determine your nutritional health status may be a waste of time, results of a new study suggest. Researchers at the California Department of Health Services in Oakland report that when hair from the same person was sent out to different commercial laboratories for analysis, values of the same minerals varied by as much as 10 times.
Hair analysis has been used to confirm human poisonings by such elements as arsenic or mercury. "But for most other substances (including iron or zinc) there is little or no experimental evidence supporting hair as a true biological (indicator)," according to the authors.
On average, the commercial laboratories analyzed for 19 different elements including arsenic, lead, zinc, iron and selenium and the cost for analysis ranged from $30 to $69. Hair mineral analysis from these laboratories was unreliable, and the researchers recommend that healthcare practitioners refrain from using such analysis to assess individual nutritional status or suspected environmental exposures.
The study reveals that the most inconsistent results were the laboratory interpretation of the hair element values and that there was little agreement among laboratories as to which element concentrations and ratios were markers of disease.
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