Researcher Says Hair Analysis Reports Are 'Frightening'
Aug. 23, 1985
CHICAGO (AP) _ Hair analysis ''has no value whatsoever'' in helping diagnose illness or a body's nutritional condition, and may frighten people into believing they might be sick, a researcher says.
Dr. Stephen Barrett, a psychiatrist from Allentown, Pa., said he sent hair samples from two healthy teen-age women to 13 hair analysis laboratories around the country. He said he got back conflicting reports, some of which contained ''bizarre and potentially frightening'' interpretations and recommendations.
The labs said the two women could have serious conditions ranging from nervous disorders to kidney disease, Barrett said in today's Journal of the American Medical Association.
Commercial labs provide hair analysis to health-food stores, beauty shops, chiropractors, nutrition consultants and other practitioners who use the reports to recommend vitamin and nutritional supplements to clients.
But, Barrett said, hair analysis has ''no value whatsoever'' in helping diagnose illness or the nutritional condition of the body.
Barrett has asked the Federal Trade Commission to prevent hair analysis labs from giving their information to anyone but licensed practitioners such as doctors and dentists.
Mario Baldessari, an FTC spokesman, declined to say whether the agency would act on Barrett's request.
Last year, the FTC sought and won an injunction from a federal court in Virginia barring one hair analysis lab from making false claims to the public, Baldessari said. In that case, he said, the FTC contended that hair analysis is inaccurate, worthless to consumers and possibly harmful because it might prevent patients from seeking proper medical attention.
Barrett's report was disputed by Ted Lueken, president of Doctor's Data in Chicago, one of the nation's first hair analysis labs.
Lueken said hair analysis can be valuable when used along with other tests and a doctor's knowledge of his patient.
All lab procedures, including blood tests, suffer from problems in maintaining accuracy and quality control, he said.
''That's why they need to be interpreted by physicians,'' said Lueken.
In Barrett's study, most labs ''made claims that were quite immodest,'' and some suggested hair analysis was a guide to balancing body chemistry, reversing the aging process or correcting mineral imbalances ''that supposedly cause degenerative disease and death,'' Barrett said.
''Bizarre mixtures of vitamins, minerals, nonessential food substances, enzymes and extracts of animal organs'' were recommended as supplements for the women by six labs, Barrett said.
One lab listed 27 abnormal conditions for one woman, but in a second report listed only 15, including three not on the first list, Barrett said. The labs charged fees ranging from $17 to $40, he said.
The women had none of the problems suggested by the labs, including goiter, neuromuscular disorders, emotional problems, depression of the central nervous system, impaired metabolism, hypoglycemia, headaches, irritability, cravings for sugar and alcohol, hardening of the arteries and kidney disease.