An article in Journal of the American Medical Association shows that hair analysis is not a reliable test to measure trace elements and nutritional balance.

Sharon Seidel, Ph.D., of Impact Assessment Inc., and Debra Gilliss, M.D., from the California Department of Health Services, Environmental Health Investigations Branch, Oakland, and colleagues took hair samples from the scalp of a single healthy volunteer and them for analysis to six commercial U.S. laboratories that analyze 90 percent of samples submitted for hair mineral analysis in the United States. The laboratories reported more than a 10-fold difference in their analysis for 12 minerals for hair from the same head of the same person.

An average of 225,000 hair mineral tests costing $9.6 million are performed yearly by nine U.S. laboratories. Numerous Internet sites promote these tests directly to the public. The laboratories provided conflicting dietary and nutritional supplement recommendations based on their results. The authors believe several factors contribute to the unreliability of hair analysis. Hair analysis may measure more the mineral content of the shampoo used or the air in which a person lives.

The authors recommend: (1) Primary care clinicians refrain from using hair analysis to assess environmental exposures or nutritional balance. (2) Public health and consumer protection agencies provide warnings to the public about the general unreliability of these tests. (3) Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) refrains from certifying laboratories for hair analysis until standards for proficiency testing are developed. (4) The government (HCFA) prohibits the display of (CLIA) certification information on hair analysis advertising and submittal forms for laboratories conducting hair analyses when such certification applies to other sample media. (5) The U.S. Food and Drug Administration or Bureau of Consumer Protection evaluates laboratory claims based on hair analysis, particularly those suggesting medical abnormalities requiring additional laboratory diagnostics, nutritional supplements, or major changes in dietary habits.

JAMA, January 1, 2001; 285:67-72

Checked 1/7/04

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