Monday, December 27, 2010


Micronutrient deficiencies (vitamins, amino acids, minerals, antioxidants, metabolites) contribute to a broad range of both minor and serious health conditions. Identifying and correcting them is an important component of management and/or treatment of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, chronic fatigue and other so called chronic degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis. The Journal of the American Medical Association, (Volume 287, 3116-3129, 2002), Vitamins For Chronic Disease Prevention in Adults, states, “although clinical syndromes of vitamin deficiencies are unusual in Western societies, suboptimal status is not. There are many serum nutritional tests but they only measure static quantities of vitamins and minerals present in serum, such as magnesium or B 12 reflecting dietary intake and what can not get into our cells rather than the true cellular content and function. But there is a test that can assess long-term intracellular requirements using each patient’s own lymphocytes. Under a variety of nutrient depletion conditions, scientists can now measure the growth response of these cells to something called mitogenic stimulation. This determines intracellular deficiencies, which might not be detected by standard serum tests giving us a true window on Intracellular Function.

In 1949 Dr. Roger Williams, who previously discovered five vitamins, coined the word Genetotrophic disease which means having both genetic (geneto) and nutritional (trophic) roots. Later (1956) he published the book Biochemical Individuality: The Basis for the Genetotrophic Concept. William Shive, Ph.D., who was chairman of the department of biochemistry and a researcher in the field of nutrition at the University of Texas, began work on a diagnostic test for clinicians in 1978. His work was strongly influenced by Williams. Dr. Shive first identified appropriate cells for the functional assays. He selected lymphocyte cells because they are simple to collect (via venipuncture), easily isolated from other whole blood components, and maintainable in culture for days to weeks.

These harvested lymphocytes are in a resting state in terms of cell division. Since they have a 4 to 6 month lifespan, the nutrient levels accumulated in these lymphocytes represent a history of an individual's nutrient status. This is analogous to using HbA1c measurements to approximate a diabetic person's glucose levels over the preceding 3 months. Thus, lymphocytes provide a history rather than a snapshot of nutrient intake. Resting lymphocytes can be stimulated by a lymphocyte-specific mitogen to undergo cell division and grow in culture. The degree of growth that the lymphocytes can maintain is directly related to the nutrients they have available. The cells are stimulated to grow in the control media containing optimal amounts of specific micronutrients. As each micronutrient is removed from the media, the cells must use their own internal mechanisms (reserves or metabolic processes) to grow. If cells grow optimally, they are functioning adequately and thus are not deficient. If cells do not grow optimally, then a deficiency is indicated. For example, when Zinc is removed from the media and cell growth is not sufficient, this indicates that the lymphocyte cells have a functional intracellular deficiency of Zinc.

A functional deficiency encompasses any of the factors that reduce the efficacy of a nutrient. Thus, a given nutrient may be present, but it may not be properly activated, appropriately localized or have sufficient cofactors to function at a normal level of activity. Whatever the cause, the result will be a defect in the biochemical pathways that depend upon that nutrient for optimal function. A deficient or defective pathway may operate at a sub-optimal level for many months, or even years, before a clinical symptom becomes apparent. Micronutrient deficiencies aren’t just a reflection of diet. Since we are all biochemically unique, nutrient deficiencies will vary from person to person, and do not necessarily correlate directly with nutrient intake, even among those with similar health conditions. Many factors beyond diet determine whether nutrient function is adequate. These include biochemical individuality, genetic predisposition, absorption and metabolism, age, disease conditions and medications. Some folks spend hundreds of dollars a year and don’t need to. Others need a few inexpensive supplements to stay healthy and this test will detail the best for each of us. This is Personal Medicine at its highest level, rather than what most of us doctors practice “One Size Fits All”.

You can be deficient in micronutrients and not even know it until it is too late and, for example, develop Cancer. Studies have shown that 50% of patients taking a multivitamin are functionally deficient in one or more essential nutrients that are vital to long-term health. Deficiencies suppress the function of the immune system and contribute to degenerative processes. Propetology is another word coined by Dr Williams which is the potential science of the “leaning” (Greek) of individuals toward certain diseases. This is a genetic or other predisposing factor that gives one person the tendency to have a given medical problem, but another with the same exposure not have any difficulty.

SPECTROX is a total antioxidant function test that assesses the ability of cells to resist damage caused by free radicals and other forms of oxidative stress that is included in the study using the same technology as the micronutrient testing.

The micronutrient test was prohibitory expensive until recently when it not only became commercially available from Spectracell Laboratories that is the descendant of Drs Williams and Shive and is paid for by most insuranc plans including Medicare and Medicaid except for a $160 co-pay.

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