Saturday, December 28, 2002

Provided by Richard Grossman, L.Ac., O.M.D., Ph.D.


Weekly Edition  - Issue 3

In the News

Hair Analysis May Not Accurately Show Health Status

Preliminary Evaluation of JAMA Article On Hair Analysis

Group Drumming Boosts Cancer-Killer Cells in Study

Soy Foods May Protect Bones After Menopause

Use of Some Painkillers May Cut Colon Cancer Risk

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Dear Friends,


In this week’s news, I’ve chosen to address the Journal of the American Medical Association’s study on hair analysis. As is the case in many such studies, the way that the study is set up and conducted can affect the outcome.  In this case, please read the preliminary refutation from Great Smokies Diagnostic Laboratory for the other side of the story.

On the amazingly good news side, a new study shows that group drumming has a dramatic effect on bolstering the immune system.  This is great news because it adds one more tool of growth to those things that are both fun and good for us.  In light of this study, I am considering forming a regular drumming group for healing. If you are interested in participating in Drum Circles, please email me.

Another interesting study that all should note shows that taking anti-inflammatory medication on a regular basis cuts the risk of Colon Cancer.  I do not endorse this method due to the many negative side effects and dangers inherent in the long (and short) term use of any pharmaceutical drugs.  However, if we follow a proper lifestyle, including the use of natural anti-inflammatory herbs, foods, supplements, etc. the same benefits should be achieved without the use of dangerous substances. 

Blessings to all, and a continued wish for a happy and healthy and productive and rewarding New Year.

In the News

Hair Analysis May Not Accurately Show Health Status

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Having your hair analyzed as a way to determine your nutritional health status may be a waste of time, results of a new study suggest.

Researchers at the California Department of Health Services in Oakland report that when hair from the same person was sent out to different commercial laboratories for analysis, values of the same minerals varied by as much as 10 times.

Hair analysis has been used to confirm human poisonings by such elements as arsenic or mercury. ``But for most other substances (including iron or zinc) there is little or no experimental evidence supporting hair as a true biological (indicator),'' according to the authors.

Dr. Sharon Seidel and colleagues explain that their study ''was designed to address laboratory criticisms'' of a previous study conducted in 1985 that found mineral levels from identical samples to be very different. In the current study, hair samples were taken from the scalp of a 40-year-old woman with untreated brown hair and were approximately 3.2 centimeters in length.

On average, the commercial laboratories analyzed for 19 different elements including arsenic, lead, zinc, iron and selenium and the cost for analysis ranged from $30 to $69.

``Hair mineral analysis from these laboratories was unreliable, and we recommend that healthcare practitioners refrain from using such analysis to assess individual nutritional status or suspected environmental exposures,'' the researchers write in the January 3rd issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (news - web sites).

In fact, the authors report that ``the most inconsistent results were the laboratory interpretation of the hair element values'' and that ``there was little agreement among laboratories as to which element concentrations and ratios were markers of disease.''

What's more, ``four laboratories recommended vitamin/mineral supplementation of which three...recommended a proprietary product line costing up to $100 per month for an indeterminate duration,'' the report indicates.

``An average of 225,000 hair mineral tests costing $9.6 million are performed yearly by nine laboratories in the United States,'' according to Seidel's team. Six of the laboratories perform about 90% of all hair analyses in the country, the researchers add.

SOURCE: The Journal of the American Medical Association 2001;285:67-72.

Preliminary Evaluation of JAMA Article On Hair Analysis

The January 3, 2001 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association contains a publication entitled “Assessment of Commercial Laboratories Performing Hair Mineral Analysis”, by Seidel, et al. The authors sent a single split sample of hair to 6 different laboratories and reviewed the results they received from each. The large variation among the laboratories in measured values of hair elements lead the authors to conclude that hair element analysis “was unreliable, and we recommend that healthcare practitioners refrain from using such analyses to assess individual nutritional status or suspected environmental exposures.”

A number of important issues are raised by this paper. We currently have a scientific team carefully reviewing the data and content of this article.

Is GSDL one of the laboratories utilized in this study?
Yes. It appears from our review of the data provided in the article that GSDL, although not individually named, was one of the laboratories included in the study. While we wish that this study was better constructed and more scientifically unbiased in its conclusions, we believe that this study does offer an opportunity for us to demonstrate to our clients and to the scientific community why they should be using GSDL for their hair element analysis.

What is GSDL’s response to the conclusions reached in this study? Is hair element testing really reliable?
Unfortunately, this paper did not really address the question of whether hair element testing is reliable. What they did measure is variability among laboratories, each of which has different standards and procedures. By sending the same sample to various labs (and collecting various results) they could conclude that there are great differences among the results of various laboratories.

Because they never compared any of the labs to a standard, they are unable to state which lab was actually reporting a correct value. This is the primary flaw of this paper. They did not state which laboratory was correct, only that there was variation among the reported values. The authors erroneously concluded that hair element testing is unreliable, when in fact all they truly could conclude was that there is variation in quality among labs - something about which we have been educating our clients for some time. Additionally, there are serious flaws and limitations in this study’s methodology and conclusions.

What are the flaws and limitations of this study?

1. Without utilizing a standard or reference laboratory, it is impossible to determine that hair testing is unreliable. The authors demonstrated large variability in reported results, but were unable to determine which labs were reporting these results accurately.

2. It appears the investigators used an improperly long length of hair (60% too long), which violates the submission criteria and can increase variation.

3. It is not clear whether the hair was properly homogenized (mixed). This is contrary to established laboratory preparation procedures for this type of testing and can lead to erroneous results.

4. While all of the laboratories (except one) were CLIA certified, no notation was made to identify which (if any except us) were CAP compliant. Adherence to CAP standards and inspections, the most rigorous in the industry, assure reliability and reproducibility lab results.

5. There was wide variation in lab methodologies. Only 2 labs (one was GSDL), utilized ICP-MS. We were apparently the only lab utilizing a clean room environment. Erroneously, reference ranges and results for different methodologies were compared, contrary to standard laboratory scientific standards.

6. There is evidence of data collection/entry errors on the part of the authors, which would skew the results

Do you have any data or studies refuting the results of this study? Yes. GSDL performs above and beyond the limitations of current laboratory standards for Quality Assurance in hair testing. As part of the quality assurance program monitored by the College of American Pathologists, GSDL routinely performs split samples to assure test reliability. GSDL participates in an international proficiency-testing program. A well-established program for evaluating the reliability of hair element testing is performed at the Quebec Center for Toxicology. The Quebec Proficiency Test evaluates the performance of 31 of the world’s top labs (including GSDL). Our quality rating through this program has consistently been high. Also, GSDL’s stringent in-house QC protocols ensure additional quality measures. All of our QA/QC data, including the results of our Quebec PT, are available for our clients to review.

What is GSDL going to do to refute this study?
GSDL’s Medical and Laboratory Science Staff is currently drafting a rigorous and referenced review and refutation of the conclusions drawn in this publication. Once completed, it will be widely published and disseminated to our clients and appropriate medical/scientific entities.

Full text of article and editorial:


Group Drumming Boosts Cancer-Killer Cells in Study

CARLSBAD, Calif., Dec.  18 (Meadville Medical Center) -

A groundbreaking study due to be published in the January 2001 issue of Alternative Therapies links a specific type of group drum playing, known as Composite drumming, with an increase in Natural Killer (NK) cell activity, one of the mechanisms through which the body combats cancer and viral illnesses.

Led by Barry Bittman, MD, CEO of Meadville Medical Center's Mind-Body Wellness Center in Meadville, PA, the research team tested a variety of different group drumming protocols and non-drumming control groups made up of healthy adults.  In their findings, titled Composite Effects of Group Drumming Music Therapy on Modulation of Neuroendocrine-Immune Parameters in Normal Subjects, they found that one particular group drumming method correlated with increases in NK cell activity, Lymphokine-Activated Killer (LAK) cell activity and chemical changes that together signal a strengthening of the body's natural immune system.

This represents a reversal of the so-called Classic Stress Response, in which stressful activities depress immune function, and suggests that drumming might be a beneficial "stress-buster," analogous to laughter.

Bittman cautions against oversimplification or exaggeration of the study results.  "If someone asked me right now, 'Is this treatment valuable for cancer patients?' I would say we have only the first step to say there's promise, and we need more research," he says.

To view details of the research go to

SOURCE Meadville Medical Center

Soy Foods May Protect Bones After Menopause

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A diet rich in soy may help women retain strong bones after menopause, thereby reducing their risk of fractures and osteoporosis, research findings suggest.

In a study published in the January issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology, researchers report that postmenopausal women who consumed the most soy-based foods had the strongest bones after adjusting for the number of years since menopause began, and their weight. Very thin postmenopausal women tend to have frail bones.

Some studies have suggested that plant estrogens in soy, known as phytoestrogens, can alleviate some of the symptoms of menopause. In particular, compounds known as isoflavones, which have a chemical structure similar to the female estrogen hormone estradiol, are thought to mimic the effects of natural estrogen.

This may be helpful during menopause when estrogen production drops. Lower estrogen levels can increase the risk of fractures and the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis, and lead to other menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, irritability, aching joints and depression, the authors note.

To investigate, the team of Japanese researchers led by Dr. Yoshiaki Somekawa estimated the intake of isoflavones in the diets of 478 postmenopausal Japanese women. Overall, heavier women and those who recently went through menopause had the thickest bones.

In both the early and late postmenopausal periods, women who consumed the highest level of isoflavones in foods such as tofu, boiled soybeans and soy milk, had significantly thicker bones than women who consumed the lowest level of isoflavones.

Women who consumed the greatest amount of isoflavones in the early postmenopausal period also had significantly fewer backaches and aching joints. But intake of isoflavones did not appear to influence menopausal symptoms in late postmenopause, the report indicates.

``High consumption of soy products is associated with increased bone mass in postmenopausal women and might be useful for preventing (low estrogen) effects,'' the authors conclude.

SOURCE: Obstetrics and Gynecology 2001;97:109.

Use of Some Painkillers May Cut Colon Cancer Risk

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Long-term use of some anti-inflammatory painkillers may reduce the risk of colon cancer by half, according to a recent scientific report.

Many studies have shown that a class of painkillers called NSAIDs--which includes aspirin, ibuprofen and other drugs--reduce a person's risk of developing cancers of the colon and rectum.

To assess whether different doses and duration of treatment are more protective, Spanish researchers traced 943,903 cancer-free people aged 40 to 79, between 1994 and 1997. As part of the study, the investigators asked the doctors of each participant whether the patient was taking NSAIDs.

A total of 2,002 cases of colorectal cancer occurred in the people studied, Drs. Luis A. Garcia Rodriguez and Consuelo Huerta-Alvarez, from the Centro Espanol de Investigacion Farmacoepidemiologica in Madrid, report in the January issue of the journal Epidemiology.

The risk of developing colorectal cancer was reduced in people who used non-aspirin NSAIDs, an effect which became apparent after 6 months of continuous treatment, the authors note.

``High daily doses were associated with a slightly greater reduction than low to medium doses,'' the researchers write. But one year after stopping NSAID treatment, the reduction in risk disappeared completely.

Long-term users of aspirin at doses of 300 milligrams per day also had a 40% reduction in their risk of developing colorectal cancer. But there was no reduction in risk among those who were taking ``low-dose'' aspirin at daily doses of 75 milligrams and 150 milligrams. Many people regularly take low-dose aspirin as a way to reduce their risk of heart attack or stroke.

``Our data support the existence of an important protective effect of non-aspirin NSAID continuous intake against colorectal cancer and point to a similar reduction in risk for aspirin at doses of at least 300 milligrams daily,'' the Spanish researchers write.

``One-year treatment with NSAIDs would prevent one case of colorectal cancer in a population of 1,000 persons 70 to 79 years of age,'' Rodriguez and Huerta-Alvarez conclude.

The American Heart Association (news - web sites) advises that, due to the potential risk for gastrointestinal complications, patients always consult with their physician before beginning daily use of any NSAID medication.

SOURCE: Epidemiology 2001;12:88-93.

Health benefits of docosahexaenoic acid


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