Hair Mineral Test - Research

Osteoporosis and Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis

Osteoporosis is estimated to affect approximately six million people in the U.S. alone. This condition is present in twenty five percent of women over age 65. Many are in the advanced stages, and suffer from vertebral collapse and fractures of the ribs and hips as a result of even slight trauma.

Osteoporosis has probably become the most widely recognised condition associated with calcium deficiency. Calcium supplementation is generally accepted as a course of therapy. However, studies have shown that calcium supplementation alone over extended periods has resulted in decreased calcium retention, or has had only minor beneficial effects. The causes of osteoporosis are numerous. Many nutritional factors can contribute to the osteoporotic process other than calcium deficiency. Calcium supplementation has even been shown to contribute osteoporosis when other minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus, and copper are deficient. As an example, magnesium is deposited on the surface of the bone, and if a person magnesium status is marginal, then calcium supplementation can further contribute to a magnesium deficiency. Magnesium deficiency will produce cortical thinning of the bone with resulting fragility. When the neuro-endocrine factors are included, there are over 30 mechanism can be involved in contributing to osteoporosis. This may explain why the etiology of osteoporosis is controversial.

In order to define the mechanisms involved in osteoporosis, it can be categorised into two types. Each type has distinctive metabolic characteristics and nutritional requirements, and will be classified as type I or type II.

Type I. Osteoporosis found in people with high metabolic rates. This type is associated with thinning of the cortex, or outer portion of the bone. The body partially loses its ability to absorb and retain calcium and magnesium, causing a deficiency of these nutrients. The thyroid and adrenal glands, which are overactive in this metabolic type, produce a marked loss of calcium from the body, with an increase in phosphate retention. Activity of the parathyroid gland then slows down, rendering cells that normally produce hard bone, called osteoblasts, to become inactive.

Type II. Individuals with slow metabolism suffer from type II osteoporosis. In this case, the parathyroid works overtime, increasing calcium absorption and retention, while decreasing phosphorus absorption and retention. However, this over-activity removes calcium from the medullary, or central portion of the bone. The overactive parathyroid causes a rapid increase in the number of cells that break down bones, called osteoclasts. This allows calcium to be drawn from the bone, thereby weakening it.

Wynchank and Saltman clearly suggested that dietary supplement with calcium, vitamin D and trace elements such as copper, manganese and zinc are required to develop and to maintain bone mineral density. Their work suggested that ingestion of these trace elements together with sufficient calcium, whether in food or food supplements, is a simple way to reverse the rate of bone loss.

S Afr Med J 87:4, 1997

HTMA as a Model for Determining Osteoporotic Tendencies

A plausible model for determining osteoporotic tendencies and typing can be presented through macro and micro mineral patterns found in biopsied human tissue. Hair is the tissue of choice, for obvious reasons. It is easier to obtain than other tissues, such as skin, organ, or bone. Laboratory testing is economically feasible and it is easily sampled and transported. Tissue mineral studies are more advantageous than blood mineral determinations for several reasons. Blood serum levels fluctuate from moment to moment due to normal diurnal rhythms, sampling techniques. Exercise, acute or chronic conditions, such as inflammation, infections and malignancies. Serum minerals are maintained at the expense of tissue levels and only reflect extracellular activity.

Considerable evidence has been presented which supports the fact that tissue mineral concentrations found in hair reflects intake, and that testing hair mineral concentrations is applicable for evaluating body stores of minerals.

As with any diagnostic test, there are limitation and laboratory results have to be carefully interpreted. Low levels of a mineral found in the hair does indicate a deficiency, but a normal level does not necessarily rule out a deficiency. This is similar to blood serum and plasma mineral tests results, in which a low, high, or normal value does not necessarily indicate a deficiency, normal or excess respectively. These studies indicates that the only reliable way to confirm an absolute mineral deficiency, is through response to therapy.

The value of HTMA is not to established a diagnosis of absolute deficiencies, but to reveal relative deficiencies and imbalances. Mineral ratio determinations are of greater importance than individual levels alone. Since minerals are both synergistic and antagonistic, relative excesses and deficiencies can readily be determined from HTMA, in conjunction with the patient history and other clinical data, as well as therapy. HTMA can be one of the most valuable tools in recognizing mineral nutritional requirements.

Due to the fact that the endocrine glands govern mineral metabolism and the minerals affect endocrine functions, tissue mineral patterns found in the hair can serve as an acceptable model in determining body mineral ratio stores and endocrine effects.

"Since minerals are both synergistic and antagonistic, relative excesses and deficiencies can readily be determined from HTMA, in conjunction with the patient history and other clinical data, as well as therapy."

HTMA of Type I and Type II Conditions

In order to distinguish mineral patterns associated with either type I or type II conditions, ideal tissue mineral levels should be recognized. The ideal level is arrived at by determining the mean of the reference range. Since reference ranges are established by each individual laboratory, the ideal or mean may vary slightly from one laboratory to another. The ideal or mean level will be used in order to more clearly recognise mineral ratio determinations.

Ideal ratios 
Calcium/Phosphorus (Ca/P) 2.6 to 1
Calcium/Potassium (Ca/K) 4.2 to 1
Sodium/Magnesium (Na/Mg) 4.0 to 1 
Calcium/Magnesium (Ca/Mg) 7.1 to 1
Zinc/Copper (Zn/Cu) 8.0 to 1
Sodium/Potassium (Na/K) 2.4 to 1
Calcium/Lead (Ca/Pb) 84 to 1
Zinc/Cadmium (Zn/Cd) 500 to 1
*Ideal levels obtained from research by Trace Elements, Inc.

Type I
HTMA of Type I Condition
Nutrient Levels Ratios
Ca ¯ Ca/P ¯ 
Mg ¯ Ca/Pb ¯ 
Na ­ Zn/Cd ¯ 
K ­ 
P ­ 
- ­ Elevated above ideal levels - ¯ Depressed below ideal levels

The tissue mineral pattern associated with type I conditions involved a lowered Ca/P ratio, with a low Ca/Pb and low Zn/Cd. Calcium and magnesium levels are usually found below the ideal, while sodium and potassium levels are usually above ideal levels. Phosphorus may or may not be elevated above the mean. This pattern would suggest the following endocrine influence. Increased adrenal and thyroid activity, with decreased parathyroid activity, and lowered insulin levels.

Increased adrenal activity is suggested by a number of indicators in this pattern. First the elevated sodium and potassium relative to the low calcium and magnesium (low Ca/K and high Na/Mg), suggest increased cellular retention of sodium and potassium, as a result of increased adrenal function. Increased epinephrine levels will produce potassium retention within the cells, which is mediated by Na-K ATPase. Sodium retention occurs as a result of an increase in the adrenal cortical production of aldosterone, due to potassium retention. Excess glucocorticoids and aldosterone both increase calcium and magnesium excretion. It is known that excessive aldosterone secretion induces magnesium low. It is also possible that a magnesium deficiency can promote excess aldosterone secretion.

Corticosteroids also interfere with vitamin D metabolism, which could further account for the low tissue calcium levels.

Increased thyroid activity promotes magnesium loss, probably due to the reciprocal relationship between the thyroid and adrenal glands. The effect of hyperthyroidism on calcium has been described previously, as well as the opposing thyroid/parathyroid relationship.

This mineral pattern also suggests hypoparathyroidism. Adrenal steroids, in particular, glucocorticoids, antagonise the effects of parathyroid hormone. Copper deficiency increased adrenal stimulation.

"Treating the whole person rather than treating the disease or a single nutrient imbalance may also prove more rewarding and beneficial to many of those afflicted with osteoporosis."

Type II
HTMA of Type II Condition
Nutrient Levels Ratios
Ca ­ Ca/P ­ 
Mg ­ Ca/Mg ­ 
Na ¯ Ca/K ­ 
K ¯ Na/Mg ¯ 
P ¯ 
- ­ Elevated above ideal levels - ¯ Depressed below ideal levels

The tissue pattern model for type II osteoporosis reveals an elevated Ca/P, Ca/Mg and Ca/K ratios, with a low Na/Mg ratio, Calcium and magnesium are usually elevated above the mean, while sodium, potassium and phosphorus are below the mean range.

This pattern suggests increased parathyroid activity, hypothyroidism, adrenal insufficiency and increased insulin secretion.

Parathyroid hormone activity influenced this pattern due to its effects of increasing calcium and magnesium re-absorption with decreased renal re-absorption of sodium, potassium and phosphorous. The parathyroid exerts a greater influence on calcium than magnesium. Therefore a relative magnesium deficiency usually exists in this pattern. As a result of magnesium deficiency, parathyroid hormone activity is increased.

Decreased adrenal activity is indicated by the elevated tissue magnesium, with corresponding low levels of both sodium and potassium. Excess magnesium is know to decrease adrenal function. In the hypothyroid state, intestinal calcium absorption is increased, while renal phosphorus re-absorption is decreased.

Insulin secretion is affected by relative calcium to magnesium levels. A high Ca/Mg ratio indicates increased insulin secretion, while a low Ca/Mg ratio indicates reduced insulin secretion.

Mild endocrine disturbances are often impossible to detect, especially if the patient is asymptomatic. HTMA can serve as an economical screening tool in assessing endocrine influence on mineral metabolism. When the results are properly interpreted and applied to the circumstances of the individual patient, tissue mineral analysis can indicate a more precise, and conservative nutritional approach in the treatment of osteoporosis.

With continuing research and incorporation of HTMA as a routine part of the patient exam, further substantiation and usefulness of HTMA will be realised, thereby improving its reliability and understanding as a primary screening tool for metabolic and endocrine assessment.

Local Headline: Soya Proteins "helps women avoid major health problems"

Hong Kong women with a high soya protein intake have a greater chance of avoiding major health problems, new research has shown. Using data from the dietary survey of 500 women in 1996, professor of community and family medicine Suzanne Ho Chan Sut-Ying said soya foods could help prevent major common health problems such as osteoporosis.

"Women aged 20 to 40 with a higher amount of soya intake, equivalent to that derived from one to two glasses of soya milk per day, tend to have higher bone mass." She said.

"This has a potential important implication for the prevention of osteoporosis for women in later life."

South China Morning Post 10/7/99


As with other minerals, calcium is best evaluated in relationship to its other co-factors, whether it is tested through urinary excretion studies, blood, or tissues. When the synergistic and antagonistic nutrients relative to calcium are taken into consideration, fewer conflicting and more useful results may be forthcoming with the nutritional treatment of calcium disorders, particularly osteoporosis. Treating the whole person rather than treating the disease or a single nutrient imbalance may also prove more rewarding and beneficial to many of those afflicted with osteoporosis.


  1. Harrison M, Fraser R, Mullan B: Calcium Metabolism in Osteoporosis: Acute and Long Term Responses to Increased Calcium Intake. Lacncet ii, 1961.
  2. Schwartz E, Panariello A, Saeli J: Radioactive Calcium Kinetics During High Calcium Intake in Osteoporosis. J. Clin. Invest. 44, 1965.
  3. Watts DL: The Nutritional Relationships of Calcium. Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine 5:2, 1990.
  4. Wynchank S, Saltman PD: Trace Elements and Osteoporosis. S Afr Med J 87:4, 1997.
  5. South China Morning Post 10/7/99