What’s wrong with hair zinc analysis?

Hair used for nutritional status of a mineral can be flawed because of exogenous contamination–from water, dust, cosmetics, shampoos, etc–and because of endogenous, nonnutritional factors such as hair growth rate, color, sex, pregnancy and age.

However, I do find it quite interesting that hair analysis could indicate a history of nutrition. Historical measurements would be otherwise difficult to get, but hair grows lsowly and so hair can reflect levels of zinc and other elements over time. Plus, it’s an easy test since hair is easy to get.

Better non-invasive indicators of zinc deficiency are Bryce-Smith taste and sweat analysis. Loss of taste is one of the first symptoms of a deficiency because zinc is needed for an enzyme, gustin, present in saliva that modulates sense of taste. And sweat analysis may be even more sensitive as an index than blood biomarkers.

Published by David Despain, MS, CFS

David is a science and health writer living on Long Island, New York. He's written for a variety of publications including Scientific American, Outside Online, the American Society for Nutrition's (ASN) Nutrition Notes Daily, and Institute of Food Technologists' (IFT) Food Technology magazine and Live! blog. He's also covered new findings reported at scientific meetings including Experimental Biology, AAAS, AOCS, CASW, Sigma Xi, IFT, and others on his personal blog "Evolving Health." David is also an active member of organizations including the National Association of Science Writers (NASW), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Society for Nutrition, the Institute of Food Technologists, and the National Audubon Society. David has a master's degree in human nutrition from the University of Bridgeport, and a bachelor's degree in English from University of Illinois at Springfield. He also earned his Certified Food Scientist credential from the Institute of Food Technologists.

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