Thursday, February 23, 2006

Interesting article on hair analysis for heavy metal exposure.

I got this from FLY Lady- . Dr. Neal's columns are very good, generally. I plan on subscribing, myself.

Dear Friends, Thanks to those folks who've written asking me about hair analysis and its relevance in assessing mercury toxicity (chelation & detoxification) and heavy metals in general. There is some controversy regarding its use and some doctors don't use it at all for that reason. However, it is commonly used in the diagnosis of heavy metal toxicity. It is well established that hair analysis can be used as a screen for heavy metals, most not ably lead, but mercury as well.

The hair will concentrate heavy metals 100 fold compared to other tissues due to the high amount of chemical groups in the hair known assulfhydryls. These bind heavy metals well and often flag an unhealthy metal before you would see it in the blood or urine. Another advantage of hair analysis as it relates to heavy metals is its ability to give you a snapshot of when the heavy metal exposure might have started. Most labs request about a tablespoon of hair be cut from the scalp region and that the hairs be uniformly about 1inch in length and that it be the hair that is closest to the scalp.

This will tell you the potential heavy metal exposure from the last 1-2 months. Assessing blood levels of a heavy metal for example will tell you what has been going on in the last two to eight weeks in the case of mercury, after which it tends to get sequestered into the tissues: brain, lungs, GI tract, etc. Measuring hair starting from the scalp and moving out 1cm at a time could theoretically allow you to get a snapshot of metal exposure roughly month by month with the hair the farthest away from the scalp representing exposures that could go back months. Another nice thing about hair is that it is very stable and you can literally test hair that is centuries old for heavy metals. Case in point;

the great composer Ludwig van Beethoven suffered from what was thought to be bone pain from his twenties until his death at age 56. Even though he died in 1827, it was possible to assess his hair for heavy metals and researchers recently found that he was likely suffering from lead poisoning. He was known to enjoy red wine which in those days was frequently contaminated with lead and additionally drank from a goblet that was mixed with lead. (chelation & detoxification) (1)

So, in the case of heavy metal exposure, I believe hair has merit. It is also used however for the assessment of essential minerals andamino acids, etc. Many labs create ratios of magnesium to calcium from the hair, assess copper, zinc, chromium and other metals.

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