As a reputable site for information on natural, alternative and complimentary health topics, we take our responsibility to provide you with good accurate information seriously. At the same time, we also feel we have a duty to warn you of fraudulent health practices masquerading as natural health care. Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis is a case in point.
Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis is based on the idea that your over-all health can be determined by the presence, or lack of, certain minerals in your hair. It is a part of another spurious health scam called Metabolic Typing. Using a lot of meaningless techno-babble such as ‘Fundamental Homeostatic Control Systems‘, and ‘Dominant Systems In The Body, Autonomic or Oxidative (all these terms are meaningless), proponents claim to be able to custom tailor a health program for your individual body. Hair Tissue Analysis is an attempt to make it sound like they are doing something medical. To be sure, they actually do test a sample of your hair. But there are several reasons why this is meaningless.
The entities in question who tout the benefits of hair analysis claim that it can help a doctor diagnose a propensity for disease, deficiencies in minerals, nutrition, and detect the presence of heavy metals in the body. The claims have one thing in common…they are all false.
In 1974, the American Medical Association Committee on Cutaneous Health and Cosmetics recorded the following: “ The state of health of the body may be entirely unrelated to the physical and chemical condition of the hair . . . Although severe deficiency states of an essential element are often associated with low concentrations of the element in hair, there are no data that indicate that low concentrations of an element signify low tissue levels nor that high concentrations reflect high tissue stores. Therefore . . . hair metal levels would rarely help a physician select effective treatment.”1
Hair Analysis Laboratories do not use valid analysis techniques that can be checked against standard references. Hair mineral content is effected by many factors, both physical, and environmental. Shampoos, soaps, hair dressings and tonics, air pollution and other external factors can affect the test, and there is no way to determine the source of the contaminants. Also, mineral content in hair can be affected by the type of hair (red, blonde or brunette…), what season it is, geographic location, gender and age of the individual, and many other factors. To make matters worse, no normal ranges for minerals in the hair have ever been determined.
Up until 1984, there were around 18 laboratories in the US that performed Hair Tissue Analysis, and many belonged to the American Society of Elemental Testing Laboratories (ASETL). In 1984, the ASTEL began testing results of these labs against other well-known and respected labs with identical samples. They lost their memberships because it was determined that the results had absolutely no clinical value whatsoever2. Now, there are only 3 or 4 labs that still do the testing, and none are members of ASTEL. In 1985, the American Institute of Nutrition/American Society for Clinical Nutrition published a paper that basically said Hair Tissue Analysis was worthless2. .
The American Medical Association’s current position on Hair Tissue Analysis is, “ The AMA opposes chemical analysis of the hair as a determinant of the need for medical therapy and supports informing the American public and appropriate governmental agencies of this unproven practice and its potential for health care fraud.”4
While many Complimentary and Alternative (CAM) health practices can be beneficial, Hair Tissue Analysis is not one of them. It is, at best, pseudo-science attempting to disguise itself as a valid natural health technique. This is a good example of, ‘If something seems to be too good to be true, it probably is…’.
As always, if you feel you have a medical issue, seek the advice of a licensed health care provider as soon as possible.
Hair analysis: What does it tell us? Lazar P.; JAMA 229:1908-1909, 1974
Assessment of commercial laboratories performing hair mineral analysis. Seidel S., et al; JAMA 285:67-72, 2001.
Hair analysis to assess nutritional status. Fosmire JG, et al; AIN Nutrition Notes. 21(4):10-11, 1985.
Hair analysis: A potential for medical abuse. Policy number H-175.995,(Sub. Res. 67, I-84; Reaffirmed by CLRPD Rep. 3 – I-94)