What is a hair tissue mineral analysis (HTMA) test?
Hair tissue mineral analysis also known as HTMA tests can be an excellent predictor of current and future health complications. Heavy metals and minerals affect many aspects of physiological and mental health (Izydorczyk et al., 2021) and can have a significant effect on health status. Testing nutritional and toxic elements in hair is reliable, affordable, non-evasive and provide a comprehensive picture of what is happening in the body.
Hair tissue mineral analysis is one of the most valuable tests for providing insight into your health according to many experts in integrative health and are used widely by doctors, naturopaths, and nutritional therapists. A number of scientific papers proving their effectiveness have been outlined below.
The Interclinical HTMA test measures 35 minerals and heavy metals and their interactions. The hair sample, along with a request form gets posted to Interclinical Laboratories in NSW Australia. Results are usually available from 2 weeks of receiving the sample. Once the test results are available, we will go through them in detail and devise a plan.
Minerals and health
Minerals are essential for human health from creating hormones, energy production, DNA synthesis, healing, development, growth, cognition, organ and muscle function and mental and physical health (Tardy et al., 2020). They are the spark plugs of life because thousands of reactions in the body require minerals!
Minerals such as sodium, potassium, chloride. magnesium, calcium, phosphate, and bicarbonates are electrolytes that are necessary for maintaining cell function, hydration and action potentials of nerves and muscle function (Shrimanker, et al., 2022).
What can hair tissue mineral analysis (HTMA) tests tell you?
Mineral deficiencies and heavy metal poisoning
Unfortunately, mineral deficiencies are common, even with a balanced diet due to a number of factors including stress, chemicals and pollutants, pesticide and herbicide use, synthetic fertiliser, depleted soils, pharmaceuticals etc.
HTMA tests show if there are any harmful levels of lead, aluminium, mercury, uranium, cadmium, beryllium, arsenic and the status of beneficial minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, chloride, magnesium, iron, zinc, iodine, sulfur, molybdenum, boron, chromium, cobalt, copper, manganese, and selenium.
When you are deficient in essential minerals this can have a major impact on your health, conversely if they are too high or out of balance this can also have negative consequences.
HTMA tests and health issues
In addition to showing what individual mineral deficiencies are present and the health implications of that, it also effectively shows biomarkers for many different health conditions such as:
- Heavy metal toxicity
- Mineral deficiencies and Imbalances
- Metabolic rate (fast or slow)
- Adrenal fatigue
- Thyroid health
- Nervous system function
- Energy levels
- Blood sugar imbalances
- Mood issues
More detailed information on individual minerals and their function in the body can be found HERE.
Mineral ratios and health implications
A number of minerals work synergistically, when there are ratio imbalances this can result in a number of pathologies, some of the major examples include:
- An imbalance between sodium and magnesium can indicate an issue with adrenals
- An imbalance between potassium and sodium can indicate an issue with the thyroid (Krishna et al., 2018) and hypertension (Carranza-Leon et al., 2018)
- An imbalance between potassium and calcium can indicate an issue with the function of the nervous system (Faber & Sah, 2003), oxidation and metabolic function
- An imbalance between calcium and phosphorus can indicate and issue with skeletal and cardiovascular in nature (Sun et al., 2020)
- An imbalance between magnesium and calcium can indicate an issue with blood sugar regulation (Barbagallo, 2015), metabolic, inflammatory, and cardiovascular disorders (Afonso et al., 2022).
- A zinc and copper imbalance can cause issues with anxiety (Russo, 2011)
Blood and urine tests to measure mineral levels
Minerals are stored in the tissues of the body such as the bones, hair, teeth. Blood tests are an inaccurate way to measure nutrient levels. For example only 1% of magnesium (Workinger et al., 2018) and calcium can be found in the blood and even less in than that in the urine.
Research indicates that measuring the levels of calcium and magnesium in the hair is better at indicating bone health and mineral density than a blood test (Jeruszka-Bielak & Brzozowska, 2011).
Research regarding hair mineral analysis
A review of over 51 studies has concluded that when certain minerals are high, particularly lead and cadmium, and low levels of other minerals such as sodium and potassium may result in undesirable behaviours (Rimland & Larson, 1983). Another study found that children with Downs Syndrome were more likely to have significant alterations of mineral levels in comparison to neurotypical children (Grabeklis et al., 2018).
Hair mineral content may also be a predictor of learning disabilities, studies have shown that lead and cadmium affects IQ as well as gross and fine motor skill impairment. When paired with high magnesium this mineral sequesters the toxic lead from the bones into the soft tissues such as the brain and the bloodstream (Marlowe et al., 1983).
A Korean study conducted on 232 adults found that measuring the mineral status in hair correlated to the bone mineral density and development of sarcopenia (Lee et al., 2022).
This is not to say toxicity or deficiency is the primary cause of such issues, however they contribute to a host of issues and correction can improve many conditions.
Example of an Interclinical Laboratories HTMA test
This is a sample test to give you an idea about what the results are, along with nutritional and toxic elements and their ratios, it also includes dietary suggestions, metabolic type, trends typical with your results and contraindications to avoid.
Afonso, R., Marques, R. C., Borges, H., Cabrita, A., & Silva, A. P. (2022). The Usefulness of Calcium/Magnesium Ratio in the Risk Stratification of Early Onset of Renal Replacement Therapy. Diagnostics, 12(10), 2470. https://doi.org/10.3390/diagnostics12102470
Barbagallo, M. (2015). Magnesium and type 2 diabetes. World Journal of Diabetes, 6(10), 1152. https://doi.org/10.4239/wjd.v6.i10.1152
Carranza-Leon, D., Octaria, R., Ormseth, M. J., Oeser, A., Solus, J. F., Zhang, Y., Okafor, C. R., Titze, J., Michael Stein, C., & Chung, C. P. (2018). Association between urinary sodium and potassium excretion and blood pressure and inflammation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Clinical Rheumatology, 37(4), 895–900. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10067-017-3935-8
Faber, E. S. L., & Sah, P. (2003). Calcium-Activated Potassium Channels: Multiple Contributions to Neuronal Function. The Neuroscientist, 9(3), 181–194. https://doi.org/10.1177/1073858403009003011
Grabeklis, A.R., Skalny, A.V., Skalnaya, A.A., Zhegalova, I.V., Notova, S.V., Mazaletskaya, A.L., Skalnaya, M.G. and Tinkov, A.A. (2018). Hair Mineral and Trace Element Content in Children with Down’s Syndrome. Biological Trace Element Research, 188(1), pp.230–238. doi:10.1007/s12011-018-1506-8.
Izydorczyk, G., Mironiuk, M., Baśladyńska, S., Mikulewicz, M., & Chojnacka, K. (2021). Hair mineral analysis in the population of students living in the Lower Silesia region (Poland) in 2019: Comparison with biomonitoring study in 2009 and literature data. Environmental Research, 196, 110441. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2020.110441
Jeruszka-Bielak, M., & Brzozowska, A. (2011). Relationship Between Nutritional Habits and Hair Calcium Levels in Young Women. Biological Trace Element Research, 144(1-3), 63–76. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12011-011-9030-0
Krishna MCS, Kumara HDS, Vishwanath HL, et al. Study on “The Electrolytes And Hypothyroidism – A Case Control Study”. Biochem Ind J. 2018;12(2):130
Lee, Y.-A. ., Kim, H.-N. ., & Song, S.-W. (2022). Associations between Hair Mineral Concentrations and Skeletal Muscle Mass in Korean Adults. The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging, 26(5), 515–520. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12603-022-1789-5
Marlowe, M., Moon, C., & Errera, J. (1983). Hair Mineral Content as a Predictor of Mental Retardation [Review of Hair Mineral Content as a Predictor of Mental Retardation]. ORTHOMOLECULAR PSYCHIATRY, 12(1), 26–33. Research Gate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/237397958_Hair_Mineral_Content_as_a_Predictor_of_Mental_Retardation
National Institutes of Health. (2016). Office of Dietary Supplements – Magnesium. Nih.gov. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/
Rimland, B., & Larson, G. E. (1983). Hair Mineral Analysis and Behavior. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 16(5), 279–285. https://doi.org/10.1177/002221948301600507
Shrimanker I, Bhattarai S. Electrolytes. [Updated 2022 Jul 25]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK541123/
Sun, M., Wu, X., Yu, Y., Wang, L., Xie, D., Zhang, Z., Chen, L., Lu, A., Zhang, G., & Li, F. (2020). Disorders of Calcium and Phosphorus Metabolism and the Proteomics/Metabolomics-Based Research. Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology, 8. https://doi.org/10.3389/fcell.2020.576110
Russo, A. J. (2011). Decreased Zinc and Increased Copper in Individuals with Anxiety. Nutrition and Metabolic Insights, 4, NMI.S6349. https://doi.org/10.4137/nmi.s6349
Tardy, A.-L., Pouteau, E., Marquez, D., Yilmaz, C. and Scholey, A. (2020). Vitamins and Minerals for Energy, Fatigue and Cognition: A Narrative Review of the Biochemical and Clinical Evidence. Nutrients, [online] 12(1), p.228. doi:10.3390/nu12010228.
Workinger, J., Doyle, Robert., & Bortz, J. (2018). Challenges in the Diagnosis of Magnesium Status. Nutrients, 10(9), 1202. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10091202
By Holistic Nutritionist Chrissy
Chrissy is a university qualified nutritionist who graduated with honours at La Trobe University in Melbourne. One of her favourite hobbies is to read the scientific literature on how to optimise health. When she’s not reading, writing or working she’s with her 3 children outdoors, practicing yoga, jogging or cooking up a storm in the kitchen. Chrissy has overcome some debilitating chronic health issues (low mood, adrenal fatigue, insomnia, very bad acne to name a few) with the power of nutrients and correcting gut health, at 39 she now feels better than she did in her 20’s.