Hair analyses: worthless for vitamins, limited for minerals

Am J Clin Nutr. 1982 Nov;36(5):943-9. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/36.5.943.


Despite many major and minor problems with interpretation of analytical data, chemical analyses of human hair have some potential value. Extensive research will be necessary to define this value, including correlation of hair concentrations of specific elements with those in other tissues and metabolic pools and definition of normal physiological concentration ranges. Many factors that may compromise the correct interpretation of analytical data require detailed evaluation for each specific element. Meanwhile, hair analyses are of some value in the comparison of different populations and, for example, in public health community surveys of environmental exposure to heavy metals. On an individual basis, their established usefulness is much more restricted and the limitations are especially notable for evaluation of mineral nutritional status. There is a wide gulf between the limited and mainly tentative scientific justification for their use on an individual basis and the current exploitation of multielement chemical analyses of human hair.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Cadmium Poisoning / diagnosis
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Female
  • Hair / analysis*
  • Hair / drug effects
  • Hair / physiology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lead Poisoning / diagnosis
  • Male
  • Mercury Poisoning / diagnosis
  • Minerals / analysis*
  • Minerals / metabolism
  • Specimen Handling
  • Trace Elements / analysis
  • United States
  • Vitamins / analysis*


  • Minerals
  • Trace Elements
  • Vitamins