Elemental anomalies in hair as indicators of endocrinologic pathologies and deficiencies in calcium and bone metabolism

J Trace Elem Med Biol. 2001;15(1):46-55. doi: 10.1016/s0946-672x(01)80026-2.


Analytical results obtained by ICP-MS of hair samples from a group of women from Rio de Janeiro city show that abnormal Ca and P concentrations in this compartment can be an indication of pathologies affecting the metabolism of these elements. The study was conducted initially on 900 women (outpatients, >40 years). From this group, approx. 24% showed anomalously high or low Ca concentrations in hair, in some cases correlated to anomalies of other elements. In 144 cases (16%), very high concentrations of Ca (up to 8,285 mg/kg) were measured, frequently correlated with a high concentration of P (up to 4,720 mg/kg), exceeding by far the reference intervals for this age/sex group. Follow-up studies of a few individuals from this group gave first indications that their abnormal hair compositions were related to endocrinologic pathologies affecting calcium/bone metabolism. Very low hair Ca-concentrations were observed in older women (72 cases, age >60 years) and related to senile osteoporosis. Complementary investigations of patients with recognized endocrinologic pathologies (hyperthyroidism, hyper- and hypoparathyroidism) and osteomalacia gave statistical support for the hypothesis that hair concentrations of Ca, P and various other trace elements are influenced characteristically by these diseases. In patients with hyperparathyroidism and hyperthyroidism, both elements showed significant increase in hair, whereas patients with rickets/osteomalacia had only elevated Ca concentrations, together with suspiciously high toxic levels of Cd and various other elements (Fe, Mn, Mg, Sr, Ba). Patients with hypoparathyroidism had significantly decreased Ca and P concentrations in hair. Statistical evaluation of these data by multivariant analysis (MANOVA) using a contrast matrix and by discriminant analysis showed that elemental hair anomalies can be used to diagnose correctly the above-mentioned pathologies, demonstrating the usefulness of hair analysis as a complementary tool for the detection of disturbances in calcium/bone metabolism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers
  • Bone and Bones / metabolism*
  • Calcium / deficiency*
  • Endocrine System Diseases / diagnosis
  • Endocrine System Diseases / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Hair / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Middle Aged
  • Trace Elements / analysis*


  • Biomarkers
  • Trace Elements
  • Calcium