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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Hair As a Biopsy Material: Trace Element Data on One Man over Two Decades

Authors
item Klevay, Leslie
item Christopherson, Dale
item Shuler, Terrence

Submitted to: European Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: December 5, 2003
Publication Date: April 7, 2004
Repository URL: http://handle.nal.usda.gov/10113/45937
Citation: Klevay, L.M., Christopherson, D.M., Shuler, T.R. 2004. Hair as a biopsy material: trace element data on one man over two decades. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 58:1359-1364.

Interpretive Summary: Hair mineral analyses are being done frequently both with and without medical advice with hope of evaluating nutritional status or intoxication. There has been little evaluation of this procedure in assessing nutritional status or degree of intoxication. Many samples of hair were collected carefully from a healthy man over a comparatively long period of time and were processed and analyzed under standard conditions. Extensive published data from other research laboratories also were reviewed and compared. Variations in the essential trace elements copper, selenium and zinc and in potential intoxicants aluminum, cadmium and lead were considerable. Although the donor of the hair was neither deficient nor intoxicated, some values would have been considered abnormal in comparison to published norms. Hair analysis should be based on a diagnostic hypothesis such as cadmium intoxication or copper deficiency rather than on ease of analysis or attempts to explain vague symptoms because within-person variability is large and inter-laboratory agreement on normal values is poor.

Technical Abstract: Hair mineral analyses are being done frequently both with and without medical advice with hope of evaluating nutritional status or intoxication. In general, the utility of the method has not been validated. Many samples of hair were collected carefully from a healthy man over a comparatively long period of time and were processed and analyzed under standard conditions. Extensive published data from other research laboratories also were reviewed and compared. Biological variability was evaluated. Coefficients of variation for trace elements in hair of the donor ranged from 17 to 74% for the essential elements copper, selenium and zinc and from 53 to 121% for the potential intoxicants aluminum, cadmium and lead. The ratio of high mean to low mean for values published by others on hair samples from healthy people ranged from 2 for selenium and zinc to 18 for aluminum. Hair analysis should be based on a diagnostic hypothesis such as cadmium intoxication or copper deficiency rather than on ease of analysis or attempts to explain vague symptoms because within-person variability is large and inter-laboratory agreement on normal values is poor.

Last Modified: 12/26/2014
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