You may have seen advertisements about how hair analysis can help determine your nutritional deficits or excesses. It is enticing to think that one's hair could hold secrets that might improve one’s health. After all, our hair grows from the living cells in our scalp fed by the nutritional components in our blood. But, can we really rely on information about mineral levels found in our hair to improve our health practices?
Hair analysis first began in London, about 100 years ago, as a test for arsenic poisoning. Today, hair analysis is still used to check for medical problems related to heavy metal poisoning such as lead and arsenic. DNA testing can be performed on hair samples found at crime scenes or as a method of paternity testing. Certain types of drug testing can also be determined by hair analysis.
According to WebMD, the American Medical Association calls hair analysis for medical therapy an “unproven practice with potential for health care fraud.” There are no set standards as to the methods used to test hair or “norms” for result reporting. Additionally, hair analysis is affected by numerous factors such as mineral content of the water we drink, medications such as birth control pills, the use of hair products especially those with bleach or other strong chemicals, and the rate of hair growth. Several studies have shown that when hair samples from the same person have been sent for testing to a number of different labs, results have varied greatly reinforcing the AMA’s stand that it is an unreliable method for testing.
Dr. Janet Starr Hull is a nutritionist with a PhD who endorses hair analysis testing and detoxification treatment based on hair analysis results. At her website, she states she has personally benefited from hair testing to cure her Grave’s disease that she found was really related to excessive levels of aspartame.
Dr. Hull feels that because the American Medical Association and doctors in general pay little attention to nutritional practices in treating their patients, they do not accept hair testing as a legitimate method to diagnose and suggest dietary treatment.