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Hair Analysis (HTMA) vs Blood: Which Test is Better for Understanding Mineral Status?

This article is written/contributed by Rick fischer.


Blood offers many essential medical markers, and so of course it most certainly has its purpose for testing.  However, relying on a blood test to determine one’s mineral or heavy metal status is, stated quite bluntly, a half-blind approach. A key concept, so simple and yet so vastly overlooked, is that the nature of blood is homeostatic, always working to return itself to a normal range. It does this at the expense of cell and tissue levels.  This is why all too commonly, even when patients are struggling with symptoms, their blood labs come back “within range”.  The doctor tells the patient they’re fine, and the patient is left without answers.  Yet, almost inevitably, the patient could have severe depletions of metals at the cellular level, or have toxic metals piled up in their tissues.

The fact that people have become so conditioned to relying on blood testing is a major reason why the concept of widespread mineral deficiencies and toxicities remain so misunderstood – together with many of the symptoms which result. (I go through and explain hundreds of these connections in the www.MineralMastery.com course).  The epidemic of copper toxicity for example, which I also explain in great detail in the course as well as on www.coppertoxic.com, more often than not is not seen in blood, yet is much more likely to be picked up through Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis.  Consider, for example, 

“The total serum or plasma copper concentration is generally insensitive to detection of copper overload” [Source]

A similar problem exists with testing serum magnesium – the standard test most commonly done to assess a person’s magnesium status. To be very clear, a ‘normal’ serum magnesium level does not in any way rule out the possibility of magnesium deficiency which can typically be picked up through HTMA.  For one, the serum regulates itself at the expense of cellular status. Second, some labs alter their reference ranges based on declining magnesium levels across the population, making what would be considered a low level in the past seem acceptable today.  Third, only 0.3% of the body’s total magnesium is even found in the blood serum, and yet this is the standard of testing that most doctors rely on??!  Consider further:

“The tight control of magnesium serum levels… serves as a poor proxy for the 99.2% of magnesium in other tissues that constitutes the body’s true magnesium status. Furthermore, this narrow serum range feeds the common perception of clinicians that magnesium levels rarely fluctuate…This contributes significantly to magnesium deficiency not being recognized as a modifiable nutritional intervention, and magnesium in general, being the neglected mineral that it is.” [Source]

Consider also that blood fluctuates hourly, and can be thrown off by something as simple as what you ate for breakfast that day.  The irony cannot be overlooked that those who are quick to dismiss the accuracy of HTMA (a test which shows these imbalances when blood often will not), are often the one’s who promote blood as being a superior and reliable measure of accuracy. 

Again, as the concept is so vital for people to understand:

“The transport system of the blood absolutely does NOT provide a reliable correlation of tissue mineral levels at the cellular level.” ~Rachel Neumann

This is why it’s so important if we want to understand mineral status, to consider the cellular and tissue levels.  Often though, people who dismiss HTMA do so based on references to one of the two studies done in 1985 and 2001, (both published in the Journal of the American Medical Association), unaware of the history of those studies.  The studies violated most all acceptable protocols for collecting and testing the hair samples, while also painting the findings in a way as to suggest HTMA as being unreliable.  Yet, for those who took the time to analyze the actual data buried in the results in a way most untrained eyes wouldn’t pick up on, the hard data from the two leading labs (TEI and ARL) showed clear patterns and an accuracy of .999%.  The author of the first study was later found by the California Appeals Court to be “biased and unworthy of credibility”, yet this individual continues to run various websites that discredit HTMA (and numerous other natural health practices) by calling it ‘quackery’.  Unfortunately, when people do a Google search and they come across those sites or phrases such as ‘quackery’, they fall for it.   As a result, trust in HTMA has been damaged, while also impeding the advancement of mineral-based nutrition and health awareness that otherwise could be benefitting so many more people. 

Dr. David Watts, founder of Trace Elements Inc, addresses many of the specific false accusations made by the aforementioned study author in his article here.  At the end of his article, he makes a point well worth considering:

“HTMA is the most accurate method available as a nutritional screening tool. Perhaps it if was being used as the basis to prescribe drugs, it would be more readily embraced by traditional allopathic medicine.”  ~Dr. David Watts, Ph.D.

While HTMA is not a panacea when properly tested and interpreted it provides a wealth of information that would be nearly impossible to gather through blood testing alone. Not to mention, the mineral imbalances that hold the key to addressing some of today’s most common health conditions can often be easily seen through HTMA whereas through blood they would not be picked up. Of course, proper interpretation is essential., and this brings up 3 important caveats that people need to look out for:

  1. The lack of regulation amongst those who offer HTMA means many who provide the service of HTMA or what they market as ‘hair analysis’ have very little training in how to interpret the charts.
  2. Numerous ‘discount’ HTMA services simply provide the chart results, or sometimes an automated lab report alongside.  In vast numbers of cases, I see people feeling lost and reaching out in need of further interpretation, feeling even more confused than ever.  Charts at face value are so easily misinterpreted, and automated lab reports fall far short in terms of personalized guidance. 
  3. Added to this, one of the most prominent ‘schools’ of HTMA / nutritional balancing, under which many other practitioners have studied HTMA, infuses conspiratorial views of politics, spirituality and religion into their programs… aspects which completely detract from the true science behind mineral balancing. 

These factors of course do not help the overall reputation of HTMA.  The science behind authentic HTMA is based on factual biochemistry, and learning proper interpretation of HTMA charts is complex and takes years of dedicated study.  This underscores the importance of working with an experienced practitioner well-trained in HTMA. 

A further benefit of HTMA is that it shows the relationships between minerals. Even if a mineral level looks ‘ideal’, it also needs to be considered in relation to other minerals (magnesium in relation to calcium for example, or copper in relation to zinc). Understanding these relationships provides additional insight into both physical and psychological health reactions that are typically missed in looking at blood labs or minerals in isolation.  As well, the HTMA provides a roadmap for safer detoxification, providing guidance on the specific nutrients that need to be emphasized in order to safely mobilize metals and support the rebalancing of the body.

“HTMA is the best lab tool to detect copper toxicity and its effect on the broader nutrient mineral pattern that is related to both physical and mental health.” ~Dr Malter, PhD

“Hair mineral analysis is an established technique and laboratory procedure, and most importantly research to support findings are highly reliable…As a screening test, it is able to provide indications of imbalances, deficiencies and excesses of many essential and toxic minerals and can provide a comprehensive picture upon which to base the most effective nutritional therapy.”  (Source)

In conclusion, a properly interpreted HTMA tends to reflect much better the extent of magnesium deficiency across the population. It tends to far better reflect the extent of widespread cellular deficiencies of potassium as well – this is almost never seen in blood testing as potassium deficiencies in blood don’t show up until the 11th hour of illness.  As for copper toxicity, consider that this silent epidemic remains vastly unknown in part because excess copper gets stored in tissue, not blood.  Most studies, of course, are based on blood. Countless lives affected by this one mineral imbalance alone could surely be saved if hair analysis was more readily available and accepted.

Bottom line, if you’re wanting to know which nutrients your body needs more of, the HTMA can offer far more guidance than any blood test can. Time after time across the thousands of clients I’ve personally worked with, I have people come to me with various symptoms who’s blood tests showed ‘normal’ but yet through HTMA very often their symptoms can be easily explained.  

A long list of references supporting the use of HTMA in the research and healthcare fields is available here:  https://www.traceelements.com/EducationalResources/HTMA.aspx

About the Author:  Rick Fischer is an advanced HTMA practitioner in clinical practice, as well as an international HTMA consultant through www.HTMAtest.com and www.MineralsandHealth.com. He is also the HTMA mentor/instructor behind many of today’s HTMA practitioners, dedicated to preserving the integrity of authentic HTMA.  As founder of www.coppertoxic.com, Rick is also at the global forefront of advancing support and understanding for the epidemic of copper toxicity. Rick’s passion for advancing mineral-based health and nutritional awareness is furthered through www.MineralMastery.com, an eye-opening journey for both public and practitioners alike, and anyone wanting to optimize their health with mineral secrets rarely taught anywhere else.