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Severe COVID Patients Have Very Low Levels of This Immune Cell

This novel discovery may partially explain the severity of symptoms in some people. 

In an early study out of Wuhan, China on patients that were hospitalized with COVID, severe cases tended to have very low levels of T-lymphocytes, which are specialized white blood cells that protect against infections.  This decrease of T-lymphocytes (also called T-cells) correlated with in-hospital death and severity of illness.

Low T-cell count was also seen in patients with previously identified and similar virus SARS-CoV1 (which occurred in 2003) but is not common among other virus infections, according to the authors of the study. 

T-cells are further divided into several types, which are highly specialized depending on the proteins and receptors they contain.  In an intricately linked feedback system, the T-cells “talk” to each other.  Sometimes they send inflammatory chemicals to kill cells infected with a virus, while other times these T-cells will send anti-inflammatory signals that essentially “cool” the inflammatory response.

Two well-known types of T-cells are CD4+ (sometimes called T-helper cells) and CD8+ (sometimes called cytotoxic or killer cells).   The type of T-cell determines the type of signals it sends, so a T-cell can both increase inflammation as well as decrease inflammation.  

In other words, having a lot of T-cells does not necessarily equate to a highly inflammatory response (sometimes called a cytokine storm) because some T-cells’ job is to quell the inflammatory response and bring the whole immune system back in check.  

T-cells make many types of cytokines, which are chemicals used to relay information in biological tissues. (cyto = cell, kine = movement, as in moving information from cell to cell).  Two well-researched cytokines are IL-10 and IL-6.   In general, IL-10 is an anti-inflammatory molecule while IL-6 is a pro-inflammatory molecule.  T-cells create both these molecules, IL-10 and IL-6. 

This study out of Wuhan, China demonstrated that in the most severe cases of COVID, the T-cell count was significantly decreased, usually to half of normal values,  suggesting that the body lost its ability to effectively communicate, on a molecular level, the necessary signals needed to (1) fight the virus, (2) manage the resultant inflammation or both.

In critically ill patients, T-cells were decreased to a third of those found in mildly ill patients.  Subsequent research has reinforced this finding indicating that “coronavirus consume many immune cells” according to the authors.

Besides cell-to-cell communication, a main role of the T-cell is to multiply when needed, essentially cloning itself as it creates an army against invading pathogens.  The ability to measure T-cell function (via proliferation assay) is available at SpectraCell Laboratories in its Immunidex test, which is a component of the more comprehensive Micronutrient Test.

(Journal of Infection, July 2020)

SpectraCell measures T-cell function in a test called the Immunidex, which is part of its more comprehensive Micronutrient Test. Beginning in 2021, the Immunidex can be ordered as a standalone test called the Immunidex Screen.

Suppressed T cell-mediated immunity in patients with COVID-19: A clinical retrospective study in Wuhan, China.   LINK to FREE FULL TEXT

at Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Should COVID Vaccines Engage T-Cells?


Leading immunology researchers suggest the answer is YES. In the case of existing COVID vaccines, immunity comes from B-cells, which are immune cells that produce antibodies.  But there is another arm to our immune system – the underrated T-cell – that that is too often overlooked in vaccine development, according to recent research.  Evidence suggests T-cell immunity may confer longer lasting protection and may explain why some people fare better when infected with the COVID virus than others.

An American team of researchers on T-cell immunity states unequivocally that “antibodies alone may not protect sufficiently” against COVID-19 and point to the role of other immune mechanisms for recovery, namely T-cell immunity. 

The human immune system has two arms that work together:  humoral immunity (via B-cells) and cell-mediated immunity (via T-cells).   Humoral immunity is so named because it involves cells that move in the “humors” of the body, which is to say the fluid part of our bodies.  (In Latin, ‘’humor’ means wet or fluid).  Thus, humoral immunity refers to cells that create proteins (antibodies) that travel throughout our blood searching for things to bind to with the intent of neutralizing them.  In this way, humoral immunity refers to protection that arises from antibodies.  

However, there is another arm of our immune system that may be more important to long lasting immunity against pathogens.  This is the cell-mediated immune system and as the name suggests, it occurs when special cells (T-cells) interact directly with viruses to destroy or inactivate them.  Further, T-cells interact directly with infected host cells, halting the ability of that host cell to be used as a viral reproduction factory. 

Although a subtle difference, B cells create antibodies, and these antibodies are what interact directly with the virus, while T-cells themselves will interact with virus or infected cells.  Although there is some crossover between the function of T-cells and B-cells, in general the T-cell has a much bigger role in cell to cell communications (i.e. cell mediated immunity) during an infection.

In order for T-cells to protect us, they must be able to multiply efficiently (basically cloning themselves), AND they must be able to remember what a virus looks like so they can fight it in the future.  In this way, T-cells hold a memory of viruses, which we call immunity.

Interestingly, the vaccines for COVID generally focus on the B-cell response to a virus.  However, in most patients, antibody responses were relatively short lived lasting about 1-2 years, based on data from the SARS-CoV1 virus, which is the closest in structure to SARS-Cov2.  In contract, the researchers state that T-cell memory in survivors was long lived lasting about 6-17 years. 

This suggests T-cell immunity may confer much longer protection than B-cells.  

One possible reason may be that T-cells tend to recognize more sections of the virus than a B-cell.  Compared to an antibody, the T-cell holds a more complete memory of the virus structure.  As a result, T-cell immunity may provide broader protection even if the virus mutates, because the T-cells remembers more about the whole virus, as opposed to only remembering one very specific antibody binding site.  If the virus mutates and one section of its structure changes, the T-cell can still recognize the virus.  However, if the section of the virus that mutated was the target of the vaccine antibody, immunity is compromised.  

T-cell immunity against the COVID virus can, and often does, exist even in the absence of antibodies and may persist longer than humoral (antibody) immunity.  A healthy T-cell is one that functions well, meaning it can clone itself as needed as well as respond to cellular signals in the biological environment, whether or not these signals up or down regulate an inflammatory response.  T-cells that function optimally is imperative to building T-cell immunity.  An adaptable T-cell is a healthy T-cell.

SpectraCell measures T-cell function in a test called the Immunidex, which is part of its more comprehensive Micronutrient Test. Beginning in 2021, the Immunidex can be ordered as a standalone test called the Immunidex Screen.


(Frontiers in Immunology, September 2020)

LINK to FREE FULL TEXT An Effective COVID-19 Vaccine Needs to Engage in T Cells


at Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Do T-Cells Hold the Key to Long Lasting Immunity from COVID?


In patients who have confirmed COVID infections, many don’t have detectable levels of antibodies in their blood, yet these same patients do have T-cells with receptor memory specific to the COVID virus.   

T-cells may hold the key to long lasting immunity against this virus.

As antibodies wane over time, research suggests T-cells confer longer lasting protection from COVID and its variants. Although antibody immunity has received the bulk of attention in COVID coverage, evidence points to a major, albeit under-reported, role of T cells in the resolution of COVID.  Similar coronaviruses – specifically SARS-CoV-1 and MERS – tend to only elicit a short-lived humoral (antibody) response and initial reports suggest SARS-CoV-2 behaves similarly. 

Said succinctly, the antibodies fade over time but T-cell memory lasts much longer. 

The data is compelling:  A group of people who had been exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus were tested for both an antibody response and T-cell response to the virus. Most asymptomatic COVID cases showed a strong T-cell response but only about 60% of them had detectible antibodies in their blood.  In fact, over 90% of the group labeled “exposed asymptomatic” had detectible T-cell responses.  

This suggests that “asymptomatic infections may be more common than current data suggest” according to the authors of this study.

Interestingly, a small fraction of samples collected in mid-2019 prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, and thus considered people with no exposure to the SARS-CoV2 virus, revealed some T-cell memory to the virus.  Since there are four known coronaviruses that circulate seasonally in the general population and are known causes of a common cold (HCoV-OC43, HCoV-229E, HCoV-NL63, and HCoV-HKU1), this suggests that T-cell immunity to one coronavirus may extend to other coronaviruses.  This is good news as some people may have some immunity from past infections with other coronavirus strains, and may partially explain the disparity in symptoms for different people. 

The marvelous intelligence of a well-functioning immune system is illustrated in this medical paper.  The exquisite “redundancy and diversity in the immune system” confers protection from viruses even if one branch of the immune system is not as strong as the other branch.  In other words, T-cell immunity and B-cell immunity aren’t in competition – they work together.  The paper is appropriately titled “COVID-19 makes B cells forget, T cells remember.”

SpectraCell measures T-cell function in a test called the Immunidex, which is part of its more comprehensive Micronutrient Test. Beginning in 2021, the Immunidex can be ordered as a standalone test called the Immunidex Screen

Order Now

(Cell, October 2020)

LINK to FREE FULL TEXT COVID-19 Makes B Cell Forget, but T Cells Remember


at Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Can Healthy T Cell Function Improve Vaccine Efficacy?


Although it may be too early to say, some scientists suggest the answer is yes.  In a recent editorial in a vaccine focused medical journal, some argue that the time is ripe for a “T-cell focused approach” to vaccine development.  Historically, vaccine development focuses on antibody production (B-cells) against viruses, but overwhelming research on the human immune response to SARS-CoV2 points to T-cell function as the main driver of lasting immunity. 

According to the editorial, “T cell responses are known to protect against severe infection and re-infection in animal coronavirus models.” 

Further, T cell memory, which can be generated by vaccination, is known to protect against severe viral diseases. 

In other words, a healthy T cell may be the key to immunity, regardless of whether the immunity originates from vaccination or infection.

As vaccination efforts increase, promoting healthy T cells is key.  To quantify T cell function can be the first step to improving T cell function.  Spectracell measures T-cell function in a test called Immunidex.

(Expert Review of Vaccines, September 2020)

LINK to EDITORIAL Exploit T cell Immunity for Rapid, Safe and Effective COVID-19 Vaccines.

at Thursday, January 21, 2021

Immunity Against SARS-CoV-2 May Come from T-cells More Than Antibodies

In many people, antibodies may not be the superstars of lasting immunity against the virus that causes COVID, according to recently published research (January 2021) from a German university, which suggests T cells may be the key to lasting immunity.  

In this study, 78% of volunteers for convalescent plasma donations, who had been confirmed positive via PCR testing for the SARS-CoV2 virus, did not have detectable antibodies in their blood.  However, all of them did show T-cell immunity against this virus, suggesting that people are often immune to the virus even in the absence of antibodies. 

In fact, they demonstrate this is quite common, suggesting T cell immunity may be more important than B cell immunity. 

The absence of IgG antibodies against SARS-CoV2 may indicate that the virus was cleared effectively by a healthy, well-functioning cell-mediated immune system, namely T cells.

A short primer on T cell and B cell immunity is appropriate here for the non-medical folks. Both T and B cells are types of lymphocytes (white blood cells) that protect a person from viruses, although they work in very different ways.  T cells work by signaling other cells how to handle a virus.  For example, they tell some immune cells to release chemicals that kill infected cells or damage the virus directly.  In a healthy person, T cells are highly adaptable and can adjust to their environment.  They can both induce and quell inflammation, depending on what is needed to protect the host.   Ideally, T cells should be able to multiply easily, thus increasing a person’s immunological army, so to speak.   B cells, on the other hand, work by creating antibodies, which ultimately bind with a virus in order to inactivate it.  

The key to lasting immunity is “cellular memory.”  Both types of lymphocytes – T and B cells – have the ability to remember viruses.  If a virus is re-introduced in the future, the cells already know what to do and can stop the virus in its tracks before it wreaks havoc on the body. 

People tend to think of antibodies as the main protection against re-infection, but according to this study and other published data, antibodies often wane after a few months, and another mechanism of “cell memory” is at play.  This “memory” comes from T cells, according to this study.  The implication is that T cell health is a key factor in protection from COVID-19, perhaps more so than antibodies.  In fact, the authors unequivocally state “immunity may be mediated through T cells” and that “SARS-CoV2 specific T cells were detectable in the majority of recovered patients.”

Spectracell measures T-cell function in a test called the Immunidex.

(Emerging Infectious Diseases, January 2021)

Download Abstract


at Thursday, January 21, 2021

The T-cell is Fast Becoming the Superstar of Fighting COVID


T-lymphocytes, the type of white blood cell that plays a key role in fighting infections, are at the center of a recent study on why some patients fare worse than others when infected with the COVID virus.  According to research published in a well-known immunology journal, patients with mild or asymptomatic COVID had both higher numbers and better functioning T-cells (aka T-lymphocytes). In fact, patients who fared worse consistently displayed T-cells that were literally exhausted and ceased to function properly. Their T-cells could no longer proliferate (multiply), nor could they properly communicate with other cells, which is one of their main functions – to signal other cells how to respond to pathogens.

A study on 499 patients with confirmed SARS-CoV2 infections showed that COVID patients consistently demonstrated biomarkers associated with dysfunctional T-cells. 

In other words, their T-cells were incapable of launching an effective immune response – they neither multiplied in sufficient enough numbers, and the T-cells that did exist didn’t work very well.  This led to a two-fold deleterious outcome: low T-cell count and poor T-cell function.  In the T-cells that were present, they could not proliferate (due to functional exhaustion), thus confounding the problem of low T-cell count. Clinically, patients with worse prognosis and severe symptoms consistently demonstrated this dysfunctional T-cell state.

An effective immune response depends on activating T cells to do their job, which is to respond against infections. The authors state that “boosting the numbers and function of T cells in COVID-19 patients is critical for successful recovery.”  Spectracell measures T-cell function in a test called the Immunidex.

(Frontiers in Immunology, May 2020)

Download Abstract



at Thursday, January 21, 2021

Serum vs Intracellular Nutritional Testing: The Difference Matters


What is serum testing?

A serum test is simply a laboratory test that detects something in the liquid (which would essentially be the plasma) part of blood, as opposed to a laboratory test that detects something in the solid part (which would be the red and white blood cells) of the blood.

Since blood is made of both cells and plasma, the term “blood test” is not very specific, as it could refer to either. However, the term “serum test” is specific – it means something measured outside the cells (extracellular) in the plasma portion of blood.

For the purposes of micronutrient testing, serum testing is practically synonymous with plasma testing. (Serum + clotting proteins = Plasma). In both cases, measuring a micronutrient in serum means you are measuring the micronutrient level in the liquid portion of the blood, i.e. the portion of the blood that does not contain cells. Blood serum does contain nutrients, hormones and proteins – but measuring these items in serum means they are extracellular – their levels are being measured outside the actual cells.

What is intracellular testing?

An intracellular blood test is a laboratory test that measures something inside a red or white blood cells, as opposed to measuring something in the liquid surrounding the blood cells in which they are essentially floating. In the case of SpectraCell’s Micronutrient test, it measures nutrient status in white blood cells (peripheral T-lymphocytes).

Why is it important to measure nutrients inside the cells instead of just in the blood serum?

The reason is that all metabolism happens inside the cell. Metabolism does NOT happen in the liquid plasma outside the cell. This means every biochemical reaction needed to sustain life – like energy production, cellular repair, detoxification, growth, protein synthesis, genetic expression – all these functions occur inside the cell. Measuring nutrient levels outside the cell tells you nothing about what is going on intracellularly — where it matters.

Imagine you have a car that has a full gas tank. The gas gauge says FULL. But for whatever reason – perhaps the fuel line is broken – that fuel is not reaching the engine. Your car will not function. Your cells are like that engine. It doesn’t matter if there is gas in the tank (or nutrients in the serum) if that gas cannot get to the engine (inside the cell), it won’t drive. If nutrients don’t get inside the cell, metabolic function doesn’t happen.

Can I have high serum but low intracellular micronutrient status?

Yes, in fact, this is common. There are many reasons that a nutrient may be low inside the cell:

  • Poor transport of nutrients across the cell membrane
  • Cofactors needed to utilize the nutrient are missing or low
  • Malabsorption of nutrients into cells
  • Circadian rhythms alter serum levels but not intracellular levels
  • Serum levels fluctuate with recent supplement or food intake 

Functional deficiencies often exist when serum levels are “normal.”


Is intracellular testing the same as functional testing?

Not necessarily. Intracellular testing of micronutrients simply means that micronutrient status is being measured inside the cell wall (versus outside the cell in the blood serum).  However, measuring the mass (quantity) of a nutrient in a cell is different than measuring the function (quality) of a nutrient within a cell. It doesn’t matter how much of a vitamin exists in or out of the cell, if that cell is incapable of utilizing that nutrient. Ideally, micronutrient status should be assessed both intracellularly and functionally

Measuring levels instead of function would be akin to measuring the amount of fuel in the engine (cell) and discovering the car still won’t drive (function) because it didn’t need gas, it needed oil. Gasoline levels would be fine in the engine, but the engine still won’t function if gas is not what it needs. SpectraCell’s Micronutrient Test is both intracellular and functional

If serum testing is less useful, why is it so commonly used?

The simple reason is that serum testing has been around for decades, is widely available, easy to perform, and very inexpensive. A serum test can be run in any hospital or national laboratory because it is a commodity, non-specialty type of blood test. As far back as the 1970s, medical literature demonstrated that serum tests will miss functional deficiencies and that intracellular nutrient function is more clinically reliable than serum, but the relative cost and availability of serum testing obscured the clinical superiority of functional testing.

Serum testing may still appear cheaper, even though functional nutrient testing is more clinically informative. But for those who really delve into the research, the notion of serum testing of nutrients being less useful (at best) and misleading (at worst), is highly substantiated.

In summary, not all laboratory testing is created equal, and understanding the difference, can have a profound impact on your health. 

Discover why SpectraCell's Micronutrient has been chosen by over a million patients worldwide. 

Order Now


at Monday, January 11, 2021

Your Amazing Immune System: Understanding Your Body's Best Defense

Our immune systems - exquisitely designed, flexible, uber-intelligent – and totally underrated.  The immune system is so complicated and only seems to get attention when it is compromised.  So, in an effort to give credit where credit is due, here’s a nod to the system of cells, molecules, and organs that fight off the bad stuff like viruses and bacteria to which we are subjected every day – the AMAZING IMMUNE SYSTEM.

Other systems have gotten our attention– the gastrointestinal system (you’ve no doubt heard it’s all about the gut biome), the circulatory system (and its dysfunctional manifestation - heart disease), endocrine system (hormones, hormones, hormones) – but with the new coronavirus, it’s timely that some focus gets shifted to the underdog of our biology, the immune system.

 All the diseases of aging – osteoporosis, dementia, arthritis – and their respective “systems” – skeletal, nervous, muscular – are intuitively understood by most people.   But the immune system – we may take that for granted.   This is partly due to the fact that the organs classically associated with the immune system like the spleen or bone marrow or thymus gland are organs with which we are generally not that familiar. Ask a first grader to point to where their brain or stomach or heart is. They can. Ask them where their spleen is, not so much.

Not since the industrial revolution has infectious disease been in the top causes of death in America. Antibiotics and vaccines changed the world.  And with the shift from mortality from infection to mortality from chronic disease, our immune systems may have lost the glory they are due.  With the emergence of the novel coronavirus, appreciation for a well-functioning immune system is gaining attention.  In very general terms, this is how it works:

There are two main aspects of our immune system — (1) cell-mediated and (2) humoral — that work together to keep bad stuff out.   (By bad stuff, this means any cell that is potentially dangerous to the host, which includes our own cells that go rogue and don’t work anymore but also pathogens like viruses).  

In crude terms, cell-mediated immunity is when immune cells (typically white blood cells) interact directly with a pathogen that is physically near the cell.  An immune cell can literally eat a virus, for example, which would be an example of cell-mediated immunity. The immune cell can also send chemical messages (called cytokines) that cause the enemy (i.e. virus or bacteria) to die.  Cell-mediated immunity is what causes inflammation around a cut so that it eventually heals. As humans, we are born with the ability to fight basic threats via these systems of cellular communication and inflammatory chemicals. That is why cell-mediated immunity is sometimes called innate – we are born with the ability to perform basic protective measures at the cellular level. Then we grow up, and so does our immune system.

Humoral immunity comes from antibodies, which are like little soldiers that travel through our blood making sure everything is cool.  The way we develop antibodies is actually a pretty amazing process that involves recognizing certain patterns on the shapes of viruses (or bacteria, or other stuff) and then developing a protein that accommodates that pattern in an effort to disable it.  Humans are not born with the memory of all these bad pathogens in our world – we either have to be exposed to the pathogen during the course of our life or, in the case of viruses, have been successfully vaccinated against it. Once our immune cells encounter a virus, it stores that information for later, partly via antibodies. The reason it is called humoral immunity is because antibodies travel throughout the body and this extracellular fluid is sometimes referred to as the humor.  (Fun fact: humor is not just blood, but also includes mucus, bile, lymph, etc.)

If an immune cell were a soldier, cell-mediated immunity would be the equivalent of the soldier disabling an enemy cell with physical force in direct man-to-man combat. Conversely, humoral immunity would be akin to that soldier sending in a targeted missile (antibody) that would disable the enemy in a distant location.

One final note – the cell-mediated and humoral facets of immunity interact with each other constantly.  Both have “memory” and both have feedback systems.  Some of the cell-mediated immune response chemicals can turn the humoral response on or off.  They can ramp up or down depending on the environment and the chemical signals they are capable of sending.  So, in conclusion, cell-mediated and humoral immunity overlap and interact and adapt.  You can see why the immune system is so unappreciated!

There is a way to measure the cell-mediated immune response.  It is called the Immunidex and has been a lab test performed by SpectraCell Laboratories for almost 30 years. It is not a new concept, just an underrated one.  Find out your Immunidex score by ordering a SpectraCell Micronutrient Test today.

Order Now

at Wednesday, November 18, 2020

A Powerful but Overlooked Strategy to Prevent Breast Cancer


Breast cancer is often caused by a compromised ability to detoxify estrogen. Although this hormone is essential– it contributes to skin, bone, psychological, and reproductive health – excess estrogen and the conversion of estrogen into dangerous metabolites can drive cancers in hormone-sensitive tissues (breasts, cervix, uterus, and ovaries).

Estrogens are a group of structurally similar hormones that are metabolized continuously in the body. Sometimes these forms are protective, and sometimes they are metabolized into harmful forms that can stimulate tumor formation or initiate breast cancer.

Whether estrogen becomes protective or damaging depends on micronutrient availability in bodily tissues that drive these metabolic pathways. 

One example is vitamin B6. This nutrient helps detoxify excess estrogen so that it does not cause tumors. Similarly, magnesium drives the enzyme that removes toxic forms of estrogen from the body. Cysteine – a powerful antioxidant - prevents estrogen from being oxidized into a dangerous form that promotes breast cancer. In short – when the appropriate micronutrients are biologically available, toxic forms of estrogen can be minimized, thus diminishing the potential for breast tumor development. 

Download our Estrogen - Nutrient Correlations Wheel

Micronutrient Testing

Just one nutrient deficiency can compromise your body's ability to fight cancer at the cellular level and several nutrients are critical for maintaining healthy breast tissue. SpectraCell's Micronutrient Test measures the functional capability of 31 vitamins, minerals, metabolites, and antioxidants within your white blood cells. 

Be proactive, not reactive. Ask about Micronutrient Testing today!

Order Now

at Thursday, October 8, 2020

Not All Telomere Tests Are Created Equal: Here’s What You Need to Know

Telomeres are the quintessential lab test for quantifying biological age.  But not all telomere tests are created equal as some disparity exists between labs.  Measuring small amounts of DNA in a telomere takes some skill so it is imperative to use a lab that is experienced in telomere testing. 

SpectraCell was the first lab to commercialize telomere testing in the United States, back in 2010.  With over a decade of samples, our reference population is well over 15,000 patients.

But there is another big difference in telomere testing in American Laboratories – that is, the sample type used for the test. In a nutshell, commercially available telomere tests might use one of the following:

  • BLOOD collected via venipuncture - This is whole circulating venous blood, which is the foremost method used in thousands of studies on leukocyte telomere length and diseases.The cell on which telomeres are measured are leukocytes, a type of white blood cell. This is what SpectraCell uses.
  • BLOOD collected via finger prick (dried blood spot) - This is capillary blood that is dried onto a special paper and sent to the lab as dried blood spot.It is also measuring telomeres on leukocytes.
  • BUCCAL SWAB - This sample is taken using a buccal (cheek) swab that removes epithelial cells from the inside of the mouth through physical abrasion, like with a toothbrush type tool. Telomeres are measured on buccal cells, which are epithelial cells from the inside of the mouth.
  • SALIVA - This is basically spit. This type of sample will contain a mixture of both buccal cells (epithelial cells in the cheek) and leukocytes.

This begs the question – how do these sample types compare to each other?  In a nutshell, they don’t.  Here is what we absolutely know:

Telomere measurement from blood collected via venipuncture correlate superbly with the thousands of studies on telomere length and various diseases, particularly diseases of aging. Practically all the research was done on this type of sample – leukocytes from blood collected in the vein. 

We know this type of sample has the best clinical correlation.  Numerous epidemiological and population studies have used whole blood for telomere length measurement, connecting telomere length to diseases of aging. And if the telomere measurement doesn’t clinically correlate, what’s the point in measuring it?

Okay, so what about saliva or buccal swab?  In short, these types of tissues don’t correlate well to whole blood collected via venipuncture. We know cheek cells aren’t representative of systemic aging. They have different turnover rates and simply are not representative of the biological aging seen in whole blood telomere measurements.  Remember, buccal swab is mainly epithelial (skin) cells. Saliva is a mixture of epithelial and white blood cells. For decades, studies have been done on white blood cells.  It’s not a big surprise that they don’t correlate well.1

Moving on to blood – venipuncture vs finger stick.  Intuitively, these seem like they would correlate more than cheek cells since, at the very least, both types of sample collection measure telomere length on leukocytes in the blood.  Here’s where it gets interesting.  Capillary blood is different than venous blood.  When the sample is collected via fingerstick, it is mostly capillary blood.  If you compare telomeres measured on blood from fingertip prick to blood from veins, the telomeres in the fingerstick blood are significantly higher.2  

To complicate things further for fingertip collected dried blood spot (DBS), research suggests that the inter-assay variation is higher in dried blood spots compared to venous blood.3 One theory is that DBS may have a lower concentration of leukocytes, and this has been shown to influence the accuracy of qPCR (the technology used for the majority of commercial telomere testing).4

The take home message here:  Telomere testing should be done on whole blood collected via venipuncture. The research supports this. Telomere length is not consistent across all biological sample types or methods of sample collection. The sample type will significantly influence telomere measurement.5

So, if the samples types 2,3 & 4 above are inferior, why use them?  SpectraCell makes the argument that you shouldn’t.  But the advantage of easy sample collection is tempting.  It is easier to get a finger prick blood spot or swab the inside of your cheek than it is to have a phlebotomist draw blood from the vein.  But as a lab, SpectraCell positions its testing on scientific validity. SpectraCell maintains that the inconvenience of a blood draw is worth the clinical relevance of an accurate result.

Learn More

1Stein J. A comparison of telomere lengths derived from buccal and whole blood samples via qPCR. Anti-Aging Medical News; 2016:66-69.
2Zanet et al. Blood and dried blood spot telomere length measurements by qPCR: assay considerations. PLoS One 2013;8:e57787.
3Lin et al. Telomere length measurement by qPCR – Summary of critical factors and recommendations for assay design. Psychoneuroendocrinology 2019;99:271-278.
at Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Are Telomeres a New Biomarker for COVID-19?

A recently published medical paper suggests the answer may be YES.  A team of scientists from Rutgers University reviewed the disease progression of COVID-19 and created an interesting hypothesis – that telomeres, particularly short telomere length, may be a potential biomarker that identifies patients most likely to have a bad prognosis from COVID-19.   The theory was published this summer in the FASEB Journal (stands for Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology).   The authors suggest that short telomeres “might serve to identify patients more likely to die from the SARS-CoV-2 infection, regardless of age.” 

Telomeres are bits of DNA that protect the ends of our chromosomes. The most commonly used analogy is that telomeres act like the plastic tip on shoelaces that protect the end from unraveling.  As a cell divides, the telomere gets a wee bit shorter.  After so many divisions, the telomere has worn down to the point it no longer protects the cell and the cell will die.  Telomeres act like a cellular clock.  The shorter they get, the “older” the cell.  Eventually, the cell dies.  When enough cells die, tissue dysfunction occurs and eventually the entire organism (that means us) will die, or at least get very very old. 

Skin is a good example.  When we are young, the skin cells regenerate easily.  But as we age, the telomeres in those skin cells become critically short, until the skin cell can no longer replicate.  When we can’t regenerate tissue (in this case, skin), it becomes aged, which is clearly manifested in skin as we get older.  So we want our cells to be able to replicate so they can repair damaged tissues.  And although telomere length is somewhat hereditary, environmental factors play a HUGE role in our telomere attrition rate.  (think nutrients, exercise, stress reduction, etc).  

Here’s where it matters when it comes to COVID-19.  When someone is infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, our immune cells – particularly white blood cells called lymphocytes – should be able to replicate robustly in order to launch an effective and not-too-destructive attack on the virus.  Each time they are replicating, a bit of their telomeres get shorter.  In fact, a common thread in patients who die from SARS-CoV-2 is lymphopenia – which is a low number of white blood cells. 

Researchers believe that the “propensity of T-cells [lymphocytes] to undergo senescence [biological aging] might play a critical role in severe lymphopenia associated with COVID-19 and its often fatal outcome.” 


What does this mean?  It means that shorter telomeres might impair a person’s ability to make T-cells and thus compromise their ability to fight COVID-19.   We know younger people have an enormous restorative potential for their cells because they naturally have longer telomeres than an elderly population.  We also know that younger people are less likely to have poor prognosis and telomeres may have something to do with it.

The research is certainly not suggesting that measuring telomeres on infected patients is the goal.  It is simply suggesting a potential biomarker that may serve to indicate how well a person may fare if they get COVID-19, notwithstanding the fact that several other factors may be at play (i.e. underlying conditions, virus levels, etc).  Interestingly, most, if not all, underlying conditions that make someone more at risk for COVID-19 such as hypertension, heart disease, obesity, are also linked to shorter telomeres.

You can measure telomeres.  SpectraCell was the first lab in the United States to offer telomere testing to the public in 2010*.  Join SpectraCell for an entire webinar on Telomeres that covers testing, technology and its relation to COVID-19.

*Important Note – SpectraCell uses whole blood collected via venipuncture for its telomere test.  This is important because not all collection methods (such as saliva or dried blood spot) give comparable results.  The thousands of studies done on telomeres in medical research are done on telomeres from whole blood via venipuncture, which is the collection method that SpectraCell uses.

Find out what your telomere length is and what your DNA reveals about how well you are aging!

Order Now

Aviv A. Telomeres and COVID-19. FASEB J 2020;00:1-6
at Wednesday, September 16, 2020

How SpectraCell's Micronutrient Test is Changing the Game

The one-size-fits-all approach to health is outdated. So too is having to estimate nutrient adequacy, thanks to SpectraCell’s lab test. Our proprietary technology takes the guesswork out by offering a comprehensive intracellular micronutrient evaluation you won't find anywhere else.

SpectraCell ALONE offers the technology that provides information about your personal micronutrient profile. It is NOT based on:

  • Algorithms
  • Assumptions
  • Estimates
  • Food diaries or food recalls

So what really makes SpectraCell's Micronutrient Test Unique?


SpectraCell's Micronutrient Test is:


  • Intracellular: In truth, “vitamin status” is somewhat of a loaded phrase because vitamins, like other micronutrients, exist both outside the cell (extracellular) and inside the cell (intracellular). Vitamin status outside a cell may be considered “within range” or “adequate” by conventional terms (e.g. when measured by standard lab testing), while vitamin status inside the cell – where metabolism actually occurs - may be depleted. Since vitamins function inside cells, extracellular measurements (such as serum testing) can be potentially misleading. Intracellular micronutrient levels, as opposed to what is present outside of cells (where it is not physiologically useful), is more clinically significant.

    It is clear that serum micronutrient testing can yield important information. One obvious example is serum vitamin B12; when a person’s level is low, this can manifest as fatigue or anemia. Often, however, serum B12 may appear to be “normal,” but clinical symptoms of fatigue or B12 deficiency still exist. Why? Because serum B12 is a reflection of extracellular B12, whereas the intracellular reserve of B12 is what’s important; it matters little how much of a nutrient is present in one’s blood – if it is not getting into the cell, it won’t improve cellular or overall health.

    Consider this analogy: imagine being totally dehydrated, overwhelmed with thirst. If you jumped into a pool but could not drink the water, you remain thirsty because the water doesn’t make it into your body. Cells will be similarly starved if B12 doesn’t get assimilated.
  • Functional: Mass spectrometry, like other static quantitative measurement methods, assess the concentration of a nutrient present, but do not address its functional impact.  Measuring and reporting micronutrient concentration levels in the absence of a functional assessment offers an incomplete picture and can lead to inaccuracies in identifying and reporting true micronutrient deficiencies.
  • Lymphocyte-based: In our laboratory, we subject living white blood cells (obtained from a simple blood draw) to dozens of nutritional evaluation environments. Lymphocytes contain your complete genetic makeup, working coordinately – not just the gene subsets detected by other testing platforms – and are a reflection of long-term nutrient status and therefore, of cellular health throughout the body.
  • Long-term: The lifespan of these cells (4-6 months) means that taking a full range of supplements days or even weeks before your blood draw will not affect your results (serum micronutrient levels can fluctuate wildly on a daily basis). Your lymphocytes reflect your nutrient intake over a period of months, not days or hours.
  • Comprehensive: Nutrients work synergistically, so a comprehensive lab test is superior to the measurement of individual micronutrients. SpectraCell’s micronutrient profile measures the functional level of 31 vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, antioxidants, and metabolites so that patterns of deficiency are clear.
  • Proprietary: Only SpectraCell offers the patented Spectrox® (reflects antioxidant capacity) and Immunidex (a measure of immune system function) as part of the micronutrient profile.

So why has intracellular testing not replaced the serum variety?

One simple reason is that serum testing has been used for so long that reference ranges are well established and understood, albeit potentially misleading. Another reason is that intracellular testing is more technologically advanced and fewer labs offer it. Finally, serum testing has been useful for detecting serious nutrient deficiencies that have progressed into obvious symptoms. But it is worth noting that intracellular testing helps detect deficiencies long before overt (and sometimes debilitating) symptoms occur –serum levels often fall in the “normal” range when a true intracellular deficiency exists. 

SpectraCell’s micronutrient test is a true intracellular test – NOT a serum measurement. 

Find out your intracellular micronutrient status today!

Order Now


at Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Cell-Mediated Immune Function 101


Cell-mediated immune function is the process by which T-lymphocytes protect the body from damage by signaling nearby cells how to respond to specific biological threats within the body. If antibodies are the ninja-like special forces of a biological invasion, the cell-mediated immune response is the front line of soldiers engaging in hand-to-hand combat.


Biology textbooks divide the immune system into two general categories – that which we are born with, and that which we develop over a lifetime. Although overlap exists, immune cells generally fall into one of these categories, whose functions are quite different.

Humans are born with the ability to launch a cell-mediated immune response, as this is a more biologically primitive way of dealing with pathogens. As the first line of defense against pathogens, it is often associated with the clinical symptoms that accompany infections – fever, myalgia, fatigue and pain. This type of immune response (cell-mediated) typically precedes an antibody response. Evidence suggests that in some cases, an effective cell-mediated immune response can effectively eliminate a pathogen even before detectable antibodies are manufactured. 

In short, a cell-mediated immune response is any immune response that does not involve antibodies.


T-lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) are the key player of the cell-mediated immune response. They protect us by telling other cells what to do. Since T-cells must physically contact an infected cell in order to destroy it, they are said

to provide cell-mediated (versus antibody-mediated) immunity. SpectraCell has been measuring cell-mediated immune function on T-lymphocytes since the early 1990s in the Immunidex test, which is a part of the more comprehensive MNT (Micronutrient Test).


Cell function refers to all the metabolic work a cell does, including respiration, detoxification, growth, repair – all are cellular functions, and they occur in different types of cells throughout the body. However, cell-mediated immune function is a very specific role unique to immune cells.


Lymphocytes are made by stem cells in our bone marrow. Some stay in the bone marrow and are thus called B-cells (B for Bone marrow) where they reside until needed for antibody production as the result of an infection. But most lymphocytes leave the bone marrow and are sent to the thymus, which is an organ located in our chest. When lymphocytes in the thymus mature, they become T-cells (T for Thymus). T-cells do not secrete antibodies (unlike

B-cells). T-cells are known for their cell-mediated immune response, which sets the course for an effective response to infection. (Note: The terms T-cell and B-cells are often used interchangeably with T-lymphocyte and B-lymphocyte.)

A well-functioning T-cell is imperative to our health.

When T-cells mature, they take on different roles in the immune response, becoming very specialized and adaptable to their environment. Some T-cells cause inflammation while other T-cells quell inflammation. Their functions are highly orchestrated with precise feedback mechanisms in place – one of the marvels of the immune system is its potential adaptability. T-cells balance inflammatory cytokines (chemicals secreted by a cell) with anti-inflammatory cytokines in order to maintain the delicate balance between launching a strong attack without too much damage to healthy cells. 


Because it keeps us healthy from both exogenous threats (infection) and endogenous threats (tumors) and it can be measured. SpectraCell’s Immunidex quantifies the ability of a T-cell to respond to its environment. Your Immunidex Score is a direct measure of cell-mediated immune function.

Recently published research suggests that a decrease in lymphocytes caused by a pathogenic virus is closely correlated to disease progression (study done on SARS-CoV-2 patients). In other words, T-lymphocytes that cannot grow and reproduce profoundly compromise a person’s ability to fight infections and may worsen prognosis.

The ability of a T-lymphocyte to respond to its environment is quantified in SpectraCell’s Immunidex - a critical component of the Micronutrient Test

Order Now



Allegra et al. Immunopathology of SARS-CoV-2 infection: immune cells and mediators, prognostic factors, and immune-therapeutic implications.Int J Mol Sci 2020;21(13):4782.
Burleson et al. Evaluation of cell-mediated immune function using the cytotoxic T-lymphocyte assay. Methods Mol Biol 2018;1803:199-208.
Kumar et al. Human T cell development, localization, and function throughout life. Immunity 2018;48:202-213.
Hu et al. Regulation of T cell immunity by cellular metabolism. Front Med 2018;12:463-472.
Kidd P. Th1/Th2 Balance: The Hypothesis, its Limitations, and Implications for Health and Disease. Altern Med Rev 2003;8:223-246.
Xu et al. Suppressed T cell-mediated immunity in patients with COVID-19: a clinical retrospective study in Wuhan, China. J Infect 2020;81:e51-e60.


at Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Immunity 101: A General Overview of How Your Body Fights the Virus That Causes COVID-19

Immunity, Antibodies, Inflammation—what’s the difference and why should you care?

Here’s why—a little knowledge about how the immune system works (or is supposed to work) when confronted with a pathogen (like the COVID-19 virus) may go a long way in helping alleviate fear about contracting it. Bonus, you may be inspired to learn that our immune systems are pretty awesome indeed, and we might just want to give it the credit it’s due.

So, let’s get started. First—we all know that the immune system is what fights viruses and bacteria, right. But did you know that your immune system also fights cancer? Yep, when a cell goes rogue and starts forming a tumor, a healthy fine-tuned immune system is designed detect it and destroy it, before the tumor gets out of control.  

Here’s another underrated way our immune system protects us: When we get a cut, it’s our immune system that releases chemicals to tell us, ouch, that is painful and we (immune cells) better send some cells to the area to make sure it doesn’t get infected. These chemicals that the immune system releases that cause pain, redness and swelling are called cytokines, which is simply a term for chemicals that cells use to communicate with each other. (cyto = cell, kine = movement, as in moving information from cell to cell). 

Cytokines are neither good nor bad, they simply tell the cells what to do.  Some cause inflammation, some quell inflammation. There are many different types of cytokines. It’s when this communication system goes haywire that problems can arise.  

So, back to the immune system. A perfectly orchestrated immune system will detect a threat (like the COVID virus), launch an attack and then settle back down when the threat is gone. In other words, a well-tuned immune system is ADAPTABLE. Imagine all the viruses, bacteria, parasites, rogue cells—all those strange things the immune system has to protect against—it has to be exquisitely flexible in order to fight off bad stuff while protecting healthy tissue. Unfortunately, in many people, it doesn’t work that way.

For COVID-19, as an example, many people have experienced what is called a “cytokine storm” which means the immune system cannot activate the kill switch, even if the virus is gone. 

It’s the equivalent of the immune system getting revved up and then the gas pedal gets stuck and it can’t slow down. The unfortunate result is that the immune system ends up causing so much inflammation that the healthy tissue is damaged, often beyond repair, and sometimes to the point of death. 

You can see now how inflammation caused by the immune system is neither inherently good nor bad—it is simply a function of the immune system that needs to remain flexible. Early inflammation (caused by cytokines) can help to fight the virus. But lingering or unchecked inflammation can be deadly. It is just as important for the immune system to ramp up as it is for it to ramp back down. That is an ADAPTABLE immune system. (Not to be confused with the adaptive immune response, which is a different concept—it refers to antibody memory, a topic for another post).

There is a way to measure the adaptability of your immune cells, (also called the cell-mediated immune response). It is called the Immunidex. SpectraCell Laboratories measures Immunidex in every MicroNutrient Test it performs. It is actually the first step in a very comprehensive measure of immune cell function. A higher Immunidex score means your immune cells (T-lymphocytes, to be exact) can effectively respond to an outside stimulus when prompted.  

SpectraCell has been measuring immune function for almost 30 years. It is not a new concept, just an underrated one. Discover what your Immunidex score is by getting the SpectraCell Micronutrient Test TODAY!

Order Now

at Friday, July 17, 2020

The Impact of Zinc and Copper on Cognitive Function

The prevalence of Alzheimer's Disease (AD) in our aging population is frightening, affecting 10% of those over age 60, 20% of those over age 70, and 30% of those over age 80.1 There are roughly 5 to 6 million AD patients in the US and an equal number of people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), memory loss, but not enough loss of function to be called AD. In general, MCI is a precursor to AD, with 80% eventually developing AD, at the rate of 15% per year.2

Supplementation with Zinc

Because this was an animal study, researchers could precisely manipulate and consequently correlate blood and brain levels of zinc and copper and with age and cognitive function. Specifically, they measured the effect of zinc supplementation on short-term memory, long-term memory, and spatial memory. In addition, they measured zinc and copper levels in both the blood and the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain linked to memory.

The authors discovered that as the rats got older, their blood levels of copper increased while blood levels of zinc decreased with simultaneous decreases in memory. However, supplementation with zinc reversed the elevated copper levels and improved memory in all areas. It is well established that zinc and copper work together and that balance of the minerals is important. In fact, excess zinc supplementation may possibly induce a copper deficiency, so although this study concludes “zinc as a plausible therapeutic intervention” for age-related cognitive decline, this study reminds us that micronutrients do not work alone but in balance so a comprehensive look at nutritional status is key.

Download our Cognitive Function Nutrient Wheel.


1.      Alzheimer's Association. Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures. 2010:1–74. 
2.      Oscar L. Lopez, M.D. Mild Cognitive Impairment. NCBI 2013 Apr; 19(2 Dementia): 411–424


at Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Knowledge is Power – Boost Mental Health and Immunity by Doing This

Even the word pandemic sounds ominous. Fear is eerily present now in a way never seen in recent history. People wearing masks trying to keep germs at bay, staying home to reduce exposure to pathogens—it takes a mental toll. Here’s a suggestion—realize that fear is augmented by the unknown. If you want to really take a look at how to stay healthy, learn about your immune system. Not the immune system—YOUR immune system.

How do you do that?  Here’s one way—get the Micronutrient Test from SpectraCell Laboratories, which includes an immune assessment called Immunidex within its panel. 

This is a blood test that actually quantifies how well your immune cells (specifically, lymphocytes) respond to something in their environment. 

It isn’t something just created in response to coronavirus.  This type of test—which is often called lymphocyte proliferation or lymphocyte function in the medical literature—is a very well established marker for immune function, and overall health. SpectraCell has been measuring this for over 25 years now. Most people didn’t know that the ability of your white blood cells to work at their best (meaning they can fight infections efficiently) is a quantifiable lab test. It is absolutely the most underrated aspect of SpectraCell’s micronutrient test.

In a nutshell, SpectraCell’s Micronutrient Test is a blood test that measures how deficient your cells are in over 30 different nutrients—all the familiar ones like vitamin D, zinc, magnesium, folate, etc plus many less familiar but equally important nutrients like coenzyme Q10, pantothenate, and serine. But here’s the best part—the very first step in this lab test is a measure of immune function. Since SpectraCell’s micronutrient test is performed on your lymphocytes (white blood cells responsible for fighting infections among other things), the first step requires that the lab isolate and test how well the lymphocytes are functioning, before they are evaluated for nutritional status. The result is a score called the Immunidex. Higher is better—the higher your Immunidex, the more adaptable your immune system is (translation = the better it works).

So, what does this have to do with mental health? The answer is twofold:

If you really want to quell the fear of the unknown by taking a bold step in securing your own personal cellular health, the SpectraCell micronutrient test can help you do it, and

Micronutrient deficiencies affect more than immunity, they impact mental health directly!

So, two birds, one stone scenario—by correcting micronutrient deficiencies via SpectraCell testing, you improve immune function and mental health at the same time!  (not to mention a giant laundry list of other health conditions). We should all remember that micronutrient deficiencies compromise health.  Period.  Micronutrients are the tools our cells use to do what they are supposed to do. Without the tools (i.e. micronutrients), cells don’t work the way they are designed to and disease occurs.   Micronutrients are needed for health—immune health, mental health, heart health, hormone health—they require the same tools—nutrients! In fact, the functions of nutrients totally overlap, which is why a deficiency can affect so many bodily systems. A few examples:

  • Zinc and selenium: key roles in mood (mental health) + immunity to infections.
  • B vitamins: needed for neurotransmitters (mental health) + reduces susceptibility to viruses.
  • Vitamin D: helps stave off depression + boosts immunity. 

Check out these helpful resources below!

The Role of Micronutrients in Depression
The Role of Micronutrients in Anxiety
The Role of Micronutrients in Fighting Viral Infections
Immunity 101

Take your cellular health up a notch and get SpectraCell's Micronutrient Test today.

Order Now


at Friday, June 5, 2020

In Europe, Countries With the Most COVID-19 Cases Have the Lowest Vitamin D Levels

Now that COVID-19 has been around for several months, researchers all over the world are starting to collect large amounts of data on case demographics and clinical characteristics. One recently published study from the United Kingdom summarized the number of cases and fatalities of COVID-19 from twenty European countries and correlated it with the average vitamin D levels of each of those countries.

Interestingly, the countries with the highest levels of vitamin D were those in the way north of Europe (Sweden, Finland, Slovakia, Norway, Denmark) which seems counterintuitive at first, since the have a less sunny climate. The countries with the lowest vitamin D were southern coastal countries (Portugal, Spain) with plenty of sunshine. A few reasons for this apparent paradox were suggested by the authors: (1) residents of more southern countries tend to avoid sun exposure via shade or sunblock, (2) countries in the northern latitudes consume more vitamin D rich foods like cod liver oil and (3) darker skin in the southern countries is less efficient at vitamin D production since skin pigmentation decreases vitamin D synthesis, i.e. those with fairer skin make more vitamin D via sunlight. For whatever reason, the northern countries tended to have higher vitamin D levels. 

In any case, for the twenty European countries where average vitamin D levels were known, a general trend emerged—the lower the average vitamin D in the population, the higher the number and mortality of COVID-19 cases there were. The inverse relationship between vitamin D and COVID-19 was significant, from a statistical standpoint, although the authors concede it is still only a ‘crude relationship’ since the data was collected over a general population.

There are a lot of theories about the mechanisms of how vitamin D may confer protection, which have a lot of credibility from studies on past viral respiratory diseases, particularly SARS-CoV1. Some mentioned in this study:

  • Vitamin D increases ACE2 expression which protects against acute lung injury
  • Vitamin D regulates cytokines from getting out of control and wreaking havoc
  • Vitamin D is needed to help macrophages mature (white blood cells that fight pathogens)
  • Vitamin D activates proteins (called cathelicins and defensins) that fight microbes

Whatever the mechanism, a link between COVID-19 and low vitamin D is emerging. A new study on actual vitamin D levels in COVID-19 patients was just published this month and will be the subject of our next blog.

  • For a summary of the role micronutrients in viral infections, click here.
  • For a summary of the role vitamin D plays in various systems of the body, click here.

It's important to note, however, that supplementing blindly can be harmful. Balance is key, and targeted repletion is the answer. Not a shotgun approach. 

Now is absolutely a perfect time to assess a person's vitamin D status. SpectraCell’s Micronutrient Test assesses vitamin D plus 30 additional nutrients plus immune function—quantifying nutritional status is a giant step toward staying healthy in 2020. Get a micronutrient test today. 


Order Now


Source: Ilie P, Stefanescu S, Smith L. The role of vitamin D in the prevention of coronavirus disease 2019 infection and mortality. Aging Clinical and Experimental Research; 2020 May 6;1-4.  Epub ahead of print
Posted by Nichole Herms at Friday, May 29, 2020

Could Vitamin K Deficiency Increase COVID-19 Complications?


Consider this—over 8000 medical papers on COVID-19 have been published in 2020 alone—the majority of which have been published just in March and April. As the amount of clinical data grows, we will learn more nuanced aspects of this novel pandemic—one of which will be how micronutrient status may impact COVID-19. 

In a recently e-published paper, a team from the Netherlands studied the level of vitamin K in over a hundred people admitted to the hospital with confirmed COVID-19. Vitamin K was measured in 307 people—123 with confirmed COVID-19 hospitalization plus 184 controls that did not have COVID-19. Of the 123 people with COVID-19, they were further subdivided into three groups depending on the severity of their disease:

  • Group 1: recovered and left the hospital
  • Group 2: put on a ventilator in the ICU
  • Group 3: they died in the hospital

Higher vitamin K status was seen in the control group—so people who did not get COVID-19 tended to have better vitamin K levels. But more importantly, of the sick patients, those who fared worse had lower vitamin K status. 

Researchers concluded that a deficiency in vitamin K may be linked to worse COVID-19 outcomes. 

So, the next question—why?

One reason may have to do with previous work linking low vitamin K status with respiratory disease—in particular, something called IFP, which stands for idiopathic (unknown cause) pulmonary (lungs) fibrosis (scar tissue buildup).  

The hypothesis is that low vitamin K may have something to do with scar tissue building up in the lungs. Here’s the proposed mechanism: there is a protein called MGP (matrix gla protein) that is vitamin-K dependent to work properly. The role of MGP is to make sure minerals, in particular calcium, stay in bones and not in blood vessels. If calcium builds up in blood vessels, they become stiff and “calcified” and sets the stage for atherosclerosis. If MGP does not do its job, the bones can potentially lose calcium while the arteries can potentially get hardened. (This is why vitamin K is so important for bone and heart health.) 

MGP has another, related, function—which is to protect the elasticity of connective tissue against mineralization, which would make it stiff. In fact, there is a protein called elastin that is present in lung tissue that keeps is flexible. Elastin is similar to the structural protein collagen but is more elastic and in smaller spaced tissues—like the interstitial spaces in our lungs. If elastin becomes stiff, which could happen in vitamin K deficiency, then fibrous scarring could build up which then impairs pulmonary function. If lung tissue is stiff, it is harder to breathe and harder to exchange oxygen. Since MGP needs vitamin K to do its job, it is plausible that low vitamin K may contribute to lung fibrosis, or scarring, during a respiratory infection. 

The researchers are NOT suggesting that vitamin K supplementation during COVID-19 would help prognosis. It is quite a different conclusion to state that vitamin K deficiency may worsen prognosis, which is what they conclude. 

Although more research is needed, the implications are clear—that micronutrient deficiencies, in this case, vitamin K—can potentially worsen outcomes in patients with COVID-19.  

If you are infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, what can you do to improve your chances of a full recovery? One giant step is to correct micronutrient deficiencies now—before you are sick. Get a micronutrient test today.  

Order Now

Source: Dofferhoff A et al. Reduced Vitamin K Status as a Potentially Modifiable Prognostic Risk Factor in COVID-19; doi:10.20944/preprints202004.0457.v1. Epub ahead of print.
Posted by Nichole Herms at Monday, May 4, 2020

Immunity 101: Micronutrient Deficiency and Viral Infections

Why do some people fight infections so easily while others get really sick?

Immunity is a very personal thing. It is based on our biochemical individuality—all the decisions we make, genes we express, nutrients we absorb, medications we take, food we eat, stresses we encounter—can all affect immunity. Your ability to respond to infections—viral, bacterial, parasitic—depends on how STRONG and ADAPTABLE your immune system is. Here is where the lymphocyte comes in…

What is a lymphocyte?

A lymphocyte is a type of white blood cell that fights infections. These are the workhorses of the immune response.

Here's a little primer on immune response:

  • Something comes along and signals the lymphocyte to get into action mode, ready to fight pathogens
  • The lymphocyte detects the pathogen and promptly starts to multiply so it can build a cellular army to fight off the infection
  • Once the army of lymphocytes is formed, they travel throughout the body to areas where they are needed, detect abnormal things floating around (virus/bacteria) and destroy them

How do Micronutrients impact immunity?

Micronutrients are the small, microscopic chemicals that power all the biochemical reactions in the body… millions and millions of reactions that occur every minute in our cells depend on the availability of micronutrients to keep our systems functioning optimally. Subtle vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant deficiencies contribute to cellular dysfunction; demobilizing innate and adaptive immunity.

What can I do to improve immune function?

The first step to improve immune function is to quantify it.  One widely researched and well-established method to quantify immune function is an assay called lymphocyte proliferation – which is a test in which white blood cells are prompted to grow in order to measure how strong they can respond.

After you quantify immune function, it can be improved by targeted nutrient repletion.  Immune function is largely dependent on the micronutrients available for immune cells to do their job.  Here is a classic example:  vitamin D deficiency lowers immune function.  That is because our cells (lymphocytes) use vitamin D to regulate the highly orchestrated and uber-precise immune response to pathogens.  So, if a person is deficient in vitamin D, their immune response may be weaker.

Dozens of nutrients affect immune function. Making sure there is adequate nutrients available to our cells and targeted repletion of micronutrient deficiencies is a giant step toward improving immune function, which ultimately helps us fight infections like COVID-19.

  • Coenzyme Q10 - Low blood levels occur in the influenza patients compared to healthy controls. 
  • Vitamin E - Boosts immune cells' (lymphocytes) ability to effectively respond to viral infections.
  • Vitamin B9 (Folate) - Evidence suggests that folate deficiency may enable some viral DNA to more easily integrate into host cell DNA, thus increasing susceptibility to infection. 
  • Zinc - Increasing intracellular zinc can impair the ability of some viruses to replicate; Deficiency compromises immune function; However, zinc may either facilitate or inhibit virus infection depending on 1) how advanced the infection is and 2) strength of a person's immune response. 
  • Copper - Plays a key role in macrophage function (the cells that eat viruses); Deficiency may lower immunity to viruses; High viral load may increase serum copper relative to other minerals; Balances zinc levels. 

The above list of nutrients is non-exhaustive. For more details on the interaction of micronutrients and viral infection, download our viral wheel

How SpectraCell's Micronutrient Test empowers YOU. 

Our Micronutrient Test makes it possible to base treatment to your personal biochemistry. The one-size-fits-all approach to health does NOT work, especially when it comes to supplementation.

Whether it's a targeted supplement protocol, customized IV therapy solutions, or healthy lifestyle modifications, one thing's for sure – targeted micronutrient repletion is the answer and Micronutrient testing is the catalyst. 

Order your Micronutrient Test today!

Order Now

Posted by Nichole Herms at Monday, April 20, 2020

Functional Exhaustion of Antiviral Lymphocytes in COVID-19 Patients

This COVID-19 pandemic is a harsh reminder that a person's immune function is a key factor in their ability to recover from an illness like this.  SpectraCell® measures the immune function on every single MNT (micronutrient test) it performs - it is actually the very first step in our nutrient test.  Although an often-underrated aspect of the MNT, SpectraCell has been measuring immune function (specifically, via lymphocyte proliferation, which we call Immunidex) for over 25 years.

How is SpectraCell's Micronutrient Test relevant now more than ever?

New research suggests cytotoxic T-lymphocytes (CTLs) and natural killer (NK) cells are necessary to respond to viral infections and that lymphocyte dysfunction is correlated with disease progression.1

In a recently published study where clinical data was collected in confirmed COVID-19 hospitalized patients, it was found that severe cases tend to have lower lymphocytes counts. Researchers concluded the novel coronavirus might act mainly on lymphocytes, especially T-lymphocytes. Surveillance of NLR and lymphocyte subsets is helpful in the early screening of critical illness, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19.2

Millions and millions of reactions that occur every minute in our cells depend on the availability of micronutrients to keep our systems functioning optimally. Subtle vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant deficiencies contribute to cellular dysfunction; demobilizing innate and adaptive immunity. 

The Micronutrient Test uses lymphocytes to assess nutritional status.

The first step in this remarkable test is to QUANTIFY IMMUNE FUNCTION. That's right - SpectraCell's patented technology assesses the strength and adaptability of a person's immune system before nutritional deficiencies are even measured - ON EVERY SAMPLE

Now, more than ever, a person's immune function is worthy of knowing.  As a reminder, SpectraCell is still running Micronutrient Tests (which contain Immunidex + a functional assessment of over 30 nutrients) with a normal turnaround time of 10-14 business days.

Order Now



Zheng M et al. Functional exhaustion of antiviral lymphocytes in COVID-19 patients, Cell Mol Immunol 2020 Mar 19:1-3   
Qin C et al. Dysregulation of immune response in patients with COVID-19 in Wuhan, China. Clin Infect Dis 2020 Mar 12.


at Monday, March 30, 2020

A New Push for Telehealth: How Healthcare Providers are Optimizing Virtual Care

Telehealth has become increasingly important in ensuring the safety of patients and physicians worldwide, while maintaining access to healthcare under challenging circumstances where in-patient visits may be limited. If you’re considering adopting telehealth into your practice, we’re here to help!

SpectraCell cares about our customers and their ability to continue serving the needs of their patients and communities, so we’ve put together a quick guide to help you get started offering the same level of care – virtually.


Getting Started with Telehealth


The Benefits of Telehealth


  • Increased Access: Telehealth can overcome barriers to health services like the distance between patient and provider, access to reliable transportation, and fragmentation of care due to a lapse in time between appointments. Telehealth is also particularly beneficial for patients in areas where specialized provider shortages exist.
  • Cost Efficiencies – Reducing or containing the cost of healthcare is one of the most important reasons for funding and adopting telehealth technologies. Telemedicine has been shown to reduce the cost of healthcare and increase efficiency through better management of chronic diseases, shared health professional staffing, reduced travel times, and fewer or shorter hospital stays.
  • Convenience: With telehealth, you are no longer constrained by a physical location and can easily connect with patients as long as you have a secure internet connection and a camera for your device.
  • Improved Quality: Studies conducted over the last decade indicate that the quality of healthcare services delivered via telemedicine are as good those given in traditional in-person consultations. While telehealth should support, not necessarily replace, traditional care delivery, providers can still provide the flexibility and convenience of seeing patients remotely for follow ups or in circumstances where in-person visits are limited.


Understanding Telehealth Regulations:

While states are largely responsible for drafting their own laws for regulating the use and access of telehealth, the legislative picture is gradually becoming more favorable for the remote healthcare model. At present, there is no blanket information we can provide that would be accurate across the board. However, we’ve compiled a list of resources you can use to understand what the regulatory landscape looks like for telehealth services in your state.


eVisit State Telemedicine Legislation – A virtual map that provides an in-depth look at state legislation.

American Telemed’s State Policy Resource Center and State Toolkits – A detailed reporting of all proposed and ratified telehealth regulations and policies on a state by state basis. Policies are tracked in real-time so you will always have the most up to date information.

CCHPCA State Laws and Reimbursement Policies and their State Telehealth Laws and Reimbursement Policies PDF (April 2017) – This resource also you to stay up to date on all Telehealth laws, policies, regulations, and Medicare/Medicaid programs state by state.

Medicare Telemedicine Health Care Provider Fact Sheet



It’s important to remember that as a provider, you must look at state policy for both the state where you are practicing and the state your patient will be in at the time of service, if different.


Understanding Telehealth Billing:

We’ve rounded up additional resources to help you learn more about specific reimbursement policies.

CCHPCA State Laws and Reimbursement Policies and their State Telehealth Laws and Reimbursement Policies PDF (April 2017)


American Telemed’s State Policy Resource Center and State Toolkits

Medicare Telehealth Payment Eligibility Analyzer

Telemedicine Billing Made Easy

We advise you to check with specific payors before submitting claims. Insurance companies have their own specific requirements when it comes to accepting telehealth claims.


Technology Requirements:


  • Computer, phone, or tablet with integrated speaker, microphone, and camera
  • External microphone if your device does not have a high quality one already installed
  • External camera if your device does not have a high quality one integrated
  • Headphones if your device does not have high quality speakers integrated or if you prefer more privacy
  • A secure, high-speed internet connection


Although Wi-Fi is compatible with most telehealth platforms, if possible, we suggest using a wired ethernet cord for a more stable connection. If your device does not have an ethernet port, you can purchase an ethernet adapter to switch to a wired connection.

Pre-Session Prep:

Check out this helpful infographic to help you prepare for your telehealth session. 

Here’s our list of top HIPAA-compliant Telehealth platforms:

Doxy.MeFree for limited services

Simple Practice - $39/mo

TheraNest - $38/mo

Mendadvertises $69/mo but must call for a quote

ERM/EHR with built-in telehealth platform:

Advanced MD



Marketing Your Telehealth Service:

Once you're ready to offer your telehealth services, it's time to start advertising to find remote clients. Below are some easy ways you can promote your services - at no cost

  • Have a Facebook page? - Announce your services on your timeline. You can even boost your post for a nominal fee to reach a greater audience beyond your followers. 
  • Send an email campaign - If you already use an email marketing platform like Constant Contact or Mailchimp, this should be easy!
  • Website - Post an announcement on the homepage of your website


As a reminder, SpectraCell is here for you and ready to serve your needs.


In addition to our testing, we can provide the following services:

  • Electronic requisitions – We can help with creating an electronic requisition so that you can send to your patients digitally. Patients will have to print requisitions to include in their test kit. 
  • Drop-ship test kits – You have the ability to drop-ship test kits directly to patients through our Provider Gateway. You may also contact your rep to assist in utilizing this option.
  • Phlebotomy – We understand it may not be possible to serve all patients during this challenging time. We offer additional support through mobile phlebotomy. Patients can find a mobile phlebotomist or draw site convenient to them by utilizing our online search tool. We recommend calling the collection site ahead of time to schedule an appointment.
  • Marketing materials – We have a plethora of patient-friendly materials available through our Provider Gateway that can be shared digitally with your customers.
  • Clinical Consultations – Our team of clinical experts are available exclusively to active clients of SpectraCell and are happy to assist with report interpretation and any clinical questions you might have. Ordering clients can schedule a consult here


SpectraCell’s Micronutrient Test


A Powerful Tool for Assessing Immune Function Amid COVID-19








Our clinical experts can assist in helping you understand:

  • Functional intracellular testing is an assessment of cell-mediated immune function
  • How to interpret the Lymphocyte Proliferation Index (LPI)
  • Nutrition and immune function relationships
  • Interpreting test results
  • Clinical application of test results

Order Now



Telehealth support for every stage of the testing process

A warm thank you to all the healthcare providers working to help people through this. We’re grateful for your dedication. As you navigate the challenges ahead, you can count on our full support.

Telehealth Benefits. (n.d.). Retrieved from



at Thursday, March 26, 2020

The Impact of Zinc and Copper on the Aging Brain

dimsThe prevalence of Alzheimer's Disease in our aging population is frightening, affecting 10% of those over age 60, 20% of those over age 70, and 30% of those over age 80.1 There are roughly 5 to 6 million AD patients in the US and an equal number of people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), memory loss, but not enough loss of function to be called AD. In general, MCI is a precursor to AD, with 80% eventually developing AD, at the rate of 15% per year.2

Supplementation with Zinc

Because this was an animal study, researchers could precisely manipulate and consequently correlate blood and brain levels of zinc and copper and with age and cognitive function.  Specifically, they measured the effect of zinc supplementation on short-term memory, long-term memory and spatial memory. In addition, they measured zinc and copper levels in both the blood and the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain linked to memory.

The authors discovered that as the rats got older, their blood levels of copper increased while blood levels of zinc decreased with simultaneous decreases in memory.  However, supplementation with zinc reversed the elevated copper levels and improved memory in all areas.   It is well established that zinc and copper work together and that balance of the minerals is important.  In fact, excess zinc supplementation may possibly induce a copper deficiency, so although this study concludes “zinc as a plausible therapeutic intervention” for age-related cognitive decline, this study reminds us that micronutrients do not work alone but in balance so a comprehensive look at nutritional status is key.

Download our Cognitive Function Nutrient Wheel.


1.      Alzheimer's Association. Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures. 2010:1–74. 
2.      Oscar L. Lopez, M.D. Mild Cognitive Impairment. NCBI 2013 Apr; 19(2 Dementia): 411–424

LINK to ABSTRACT Supplementation with zinc in rats enhances memory and reverses an age-dependent increase in plasma copper.

Posted by Elissa Rodriguez at Tuesday, June 11, 2019

PCOS: Addressing the Root Cause

AdobeStock_98525490What exactly is PCOS?

One of the most common endocrine disorders in young women and leading cause of infertility in American women of childbearing age is the condition known as PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). Like other syndromes, PCOS is actually a cluster of symptoms, most notable of which is an unusually high level of androgen hormones (male sex hormones) in women. The name originates from the presence of ovarian “cysts”, which are actually immature egg follicles that never descend into the uterus, remaining in the ovary and thus appearing as cysts. Ovulation does not occur in women with PCOS, so these follicles that normally turn into a corpus luteum (egg ready for fertilization) remain undeveloped and consequently, infertility results.

What role do androgens play in this unique syndrome?

The key diagnostic criteria for PCOS is high androgen levels, although the role of androgens in women is commonly misunderstood. The most potent androgen hormone is testosterone, and thus androgen hormones are typically thought of as male hormones, although androgens (including but not limited to, testosterone) exist and serve an important role in women as well. But in PCOS patients, the androgen levels have become too high relative to other hormones. DHEA and androstenedione (important precursor hormones to estrogen) are also androgens, existing in both male and females.

How does PCOS present clinically?

Clinical manifestations of PCOS include acne, oily skin, unusual facial hair in women from the high testosterone (also known as hirsutism), infertility, insulin resistance and obesity. From a hormone perspective, women with PCOS will have high testosterone levels. In addition, they tend to be obese. Since fat cells contain the hormone aromatase which converts testosterone to estrogen (this occurs in adipose tissue of both men and women and is called aromatization), PCOS women can have high testosterone and high estrogen. Another hallmark of PCOS is insulin resistance (precursor to diabetes) which contributes markedly to weight gain and obesity. Since insulin resistance is indicative to poor glycemic control, reversing the blood sugar regulation dysfunction that occurs in PCOS is paramount to treatment.

Other hormone indications in PCOS patients is high luteinizing hormone (LH) and low follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). Hyperandrogenic women (high testosterone) with PCOS tend to have low serum SHBG concentrations as well.

What role do micronutrients play in treating PCOS?

PCOS is first and foremost a hormone-linked syndrome. Micronutrients profoundly affect hormones, including insulin – the hormone responsible for shuttling blood glucose into cells. When insulin is chronically high, it becomes the key contributor to weight gain and metabolic dysregulation that is associated with PCOS.

Inositol is a B-complex associated nutrient that plays a very important role in cell to cell communications, which work hand-in-hand with hormone signaling. Studies indicate that exogenously administered inositol improves insulin activity (dosages of 1200 mg D-chiro-inositol were assessed).1 Evidence even goes to far as to suggest that insulin resistance in PCOS is due to inositol deficiency and that repletion of this key nutrient can significantly improve circulating hormone levels and ovulation rate.

Lipoic acid is another key nutrient in the treatment of PCOS. It enhances glucose uptake into muscles, improves insulin sensitivity and lowers triglycerides. Similarly, vitamin D deficiency is common in PCOS. This vitamin, which is actually considered a pro-hormone helps normalize the menstrual cycle. Chromium has been shown to benefit clinical manifestations of PCOS as well by facilitating the binding of insulin to receptors in the body, thus improving insulin sensitivity.

In reality, any nutrient that affects hormone production, weight management, fertility or glycemic control will potentially impact PCOS as well.

How to address the problem

Having a complete hormone panel run, along with a micronutrient analysis would be a good starting point in understanding what imbalances need to be addressed and how to correct them. Order your tests today! 


Interested in learning more about PCOS? Register for our upcoming webinar on The PCOS Environmental Roadmap: How to Reverse PCOS and Begin Recovery.


1. Nestler JE, Jakubowicz DJ, Reamer P, et al. Ovulatory and metabolic effects of D-chiroinositol in the polycystic ovary syndrome. N Engl J       Med 1999;340:1314-1320.

2. Masharani U, Gjerde C, Evans J et al. Effects of controlled-release alpha lipoic acid in lean, nondiabetic patients with polycystic ovary syndrome. J       Diabetes Sci Technol 2010;4:359-364.

3. Fang F, Ni K, Cai Y et al. Effect of vitamin D supplementation on polycystic ovary syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized      controlled trials. Complement Ther Clin Pract 2017;26:53-60. 

4.  Lydic M, McNurlan M, Bembo S et al. Chromium pioclinate improves insulin sensitivity in obese subjects with polycystic ovary syndrome. Fertil     Steril 2006;86:243-246.

Posted by Elissa Rodriguez at Monday, May 13, 2019

The Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Children


In the early 1980s, researchers first linked ADHD to essential fatty acid deficiency. Recent years have seen an unprecedented rise in autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Since our nerves and brain are composed mainly of fats, poor omega 3 fatty acid status can alter neurotransmitter function and inhibit brain performance on many levels. This deficiency has a greater impact on males because their requirements for essential fatty acids are , in general, much higher – one reason why autism occurs more frequently in boys.1164,1168

Brain and nerve growth throughout childhood is extraordinarily rapid. The need for omega 3 fatty acids remains critical all the way through adolescence and into adulthood. Our brains can actually create nerve pathways in response to new experiences and learning environments. Called “neuronal plasticity,” this phenomena is crucial for long-term memory and learning and proper levels of the omega 3 fatty acid, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are needed for this to occur.1151The ratio of omega 6 fatty acids, which differ in structure and function, to omega 3 fatty acids also affects neuronal plasticity. Scientists now agree that the ratio of omega 6 fats to omega 3 fats is as important as the actual levels, especially in autism and ADHD. A lower ratio is better and when this ratio is improved, symptoms of autism and ADHD often improve.1155,1159

One Oxford University study demonstrated that fatty acid supplements given to children for 3 months who struggled with ADHD resulted in improvements in reading, spelling and behavior, which were not seen in a placebo group. When the placebo group in this study were given the same supplementation of essential fatty acids as a second part of this trial, the same improvements were eventually seen.1117

Stimulant drugs such as Ritalin are commonly prescribed for ADHD but studies show that supplements can be equally effective in treating symptoms of ADHD.1118

Differences in the fatty acid levels between people with ADHD and those without it are not wholly explained by differences in intake of either supplements or fatty acid-rich foods. This suggests that people with autism or ADHD are perhaps genetically predisposed to fatty acid deficiencies, and therefore metabolize fatty acids differently from normal controls. Children with low scores on behavioral assessment tests consistently have lower omega 3 fatty acids levels, and when supplemented with fish oils, the symptoms of ADHD in these children such as hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and inability to pay attention – dramatically improve.1115,1125

The longer a child goes with Autism, the harder they are to reach. Evaluate your child's micronutrient status today! 


For a copy of SpectraCell's Nutrition Correlation chart on autism, click here. 



1164Gow AV et al. Total red blood cell concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids are associated with emotion-elicited neural activity in adolescent boys with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 2009;80:151-156.

1168Colter AL, Cutler C, Meckling KA. Fatty acid status and behavioural symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in adolescents: a case-control study. Nutr J 2008;7:8.

1151Ramakrishnan U, Imhoff-Kunsch B, DiGirolamo AM. Role of docosahexaenoic acid in maternal and child mental health. Am J Clin Nutr 2009;89:958S-962S.

1155Bell JG et al. The fatty acid compositions of erythrocyte and plasma polar lipids in children with autism, developmental delay or typically developing controls and the effect of fish oil intake. Br J Nutr 2010;103:1160-1167.

1159Schuchardt JP, Huss M, Stauss-Grabo M, Hahn A. Significance of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) for the development and behaviour of children. Eur J Pediatr 2010;169:149-164.

1118Harding KL, Judah RD, Gant C. Outcome-based comparison of Ritalin versus food-supplement treated children with AD/HD. Altern Med Rev 2003;8:318-330.

1117Richardson AJ, Montgomery P. The Oxford-Durham study: a randomized, controlled trial of dietary supplementation with fatty acids in children with developmental coordination disorder. Pediatrics 2005;115:1360-1366.

1115Burgess JR, Stevens L, Zhang W, Peck L. Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Am J Clin Nutr 2000;71:327S-330S.

1125Stevens L, et al. EFA supplementation in children with inattention, hyperactivity, and other disruptive behaviors. Lipids 2003;38:1007-1021. Scores on behavioral assessment tests consistently have lower omega 3 fatty acids levels, and when supplemented with fish oils, the symptoms of ADHD in these children such as hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and inability to pay attention – dramatically improve.1115,1125


Posted by Elissa Rodriguez at Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Micronutrients: The Gateway to Cellular Health

Cellular Function 101

Why is cellular function important?

Picture1Cell function is a direct indicator of cellular health. When cells are healthy and functioning optimally, a person is healthy. When cells are dysfunctional – for whatever reason – disease will result. This disease can manifest subtly with symptoms like weight gain or general fatigue, or it can manifest more acutely with symptoms like tumors or infections.

Virtually all the biochemical reactions that happen every second throughout the entire body occur inside cells. This is where enzymes, proteins, neurotransmitters and hormones are made. Inside the cell (intracellular) is where nutrients are utilized and energy is produced. If a cell does not function, the metabolic processes necessary to sustain life are compromised.

The cumulative effects of cell dysfunction = disease, fatigue, pain.

The cumulative effect of optimal cell function = health, vigor and energy.

Is there a way to measure cell function?

Yes. It is possible to measure cell function by measuring its metabolic response to an outside stimulus. In other words, a cell’s ability to adapt, grow and metabolize is a direct indicator of how well is it functioning. By subjecting a cell to a stressor (via altering its environment) and measuring its metabolic response, cell function can be quantified. The specific term for this is cellular response to mitogenic stimulation, which is a direct measure of cell function.

What type of cell is typically used to measure cell function?

SpectraCell® uses t-lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) to measure cell function, which is best measured with a nucleated cell that is closely tied to immune function. Lymphocytes satisfy both of these requirements. In fact, lymphocyte proliferation is widely accepted in the medical community as an accurate marker of cell function.

How do micronutrients affect cell function?

Profoundly. Micronutrients are the tools that a cell needs to do the biochemical work of living beings. All the metabolic reactions that happen inside the cell are dependent on micronutrients. Vitamins acts as coenzymes to biochemical reactions – if there is not enough of a vitamin present in the cell, the cell cannot do its job. This is also true for minerals, amino acids, fatty acids and certain metabolites. Similarly, if antioxidants are deficient, the oxidative stress that is a necessary byproduct of cell respiration will damage the cell. Antioxidants are tools needed to repair the cell.

By definition, a micronutrient deficiency = cellular dysfunction. Because even if there is a low amount of said nutrient but the cell still functions optimally, then the cell is not functionally deficient in that nutrient. Conversely, if there is an “ample” amount of the nutrient in the cell, but the cell still does not function as well as if it had more of said nutrient, then a functional deficiency of that particular nutrient exists – no matter how much is in the cell.

Micronutrient levels are irrelevant when measured in isolation. What matters is how micronutrient affects cell function (as measured by lymphocyte proliferation). This is what is meant by a functional micronutrient deficiency.

To learn more, register for this month's webinar Cellular Health and Longevity: Why SpectraCell?! 


Posted by Elissa Rodriguez at Friday, March 15, 2019

Protecting Our Telomeres with Targeted Nutrition and Lifestyle Changes

healthy girlMost people may not realize that there are two fundamental ways to protect telomeres:  (1) reduce the rate at which they shorten, also known as decreasing the telomere attrition rate and (2) to actually lengthen telomeres. Although it is commonly, albeit somewhat incorrectly, believed that once telomeres shorten they cannot get longer, recent evidence suggests otherwise. Common sense lifestyle choices can actually lengthen telomeres. This is comparable to reversing aging, versus simply slowing it down. For example, in a study started a decade ago, a group of men diagnosed with low-risk prostate cancer agreed to undergo comprehensive lifestyle changes for five years and be monitored during the course of the study. The lifestyle changes involved increased exercise, better nutrition, and better management of psychological stress - all choices within the reach of every person. After five years, telomere length improved. 

For those who want to take protection of their telomeres to the next level, targeted nutrition is key.  The effect micronutrients have on telomeres is profound.  For example:

CalciumRequired cofactor to prevent DNA replication errors.

FolateInfluences telomere length via DNA methylation.

Vitamin B3Extends lifespan of human cells in vitro; Slows telomere attrition rate by reducing reactive oxygen species in mitochondria.

B2, B6 and B12Crucial for proper DNA methylation.

CysteineStem cell treatment with N-acetyl cysteine corrects DNA damage in telomeres.

ZincImportant cofactor for DNA repair enzymes; key role in regulating inflammation.

CopperKey cofactor in the potent antioxidant superoxide dismutase that is known to protect telomeres.

MagnesiumInduced deficiency shortened telomeres in rat livers; Regulates chromosome separation in cell replication.

SeleniumIn vitro supplementation extended telomere length in liver cells; selenoproteins protect DNA.

GlutathioneInterference of glutathione dependent antioxidant defenses accelerates telomere erosion.

Vitamin CProtects DNA from oxidation. In vitro studies show it slows down age-related telomere shortening in human skin cells.

 Vitamin EEnhances DNA repair as well as removal of damaged DNA; Shown in vitro to restore telomere length on human cells.

Vitamin DPositively associated with telomere length due to its anti-inflammatory role.

ManganeseRequired cofactor in Mn superoxide dismutase, a deficiency in which decreases telomerase activity.


Discover how you can improve your telomere length with Micronutrient testing. 



Ornish et al. Increased telomerase activity and comprehensive lifestyle changes: a pilot study. Lancet Oncol. 2008;9:1048-57. 

Ornish et al. Effect of comprehensive lifestyle changes on telomerase activity and telomere length in men with biopsy-proven low-risk prostate cancer: 5-year follow-up of a descriptive pilot study. Lancet Oncol. 2013;14:1112-1120.


Posted by Elissa Rodriguez at Friday, August 10, 2018

Telomere Homeostasis: Live Better, Longer!

TelomereTelomeres are sections of genetic material that form a protective cap at the end of each chromosome in every cell of the body. When a cell divides, the telomere gets a tiny bit shorter, until there is no more telomere left to protect DNA from “unraveling,” and the cell dies. Cellular death causes the body to age, whether the cell is from cardiac muscle, skin, or brain tissue, thus making telomeres a novel biomarker for biological age. The longer one’s telomeres, the younger one’s biological age. Several things affect telomere attrition rate – both positive (good nutrient status, healthy blood sugar and lipid metabolism, normal weight, exercise, etc.) and negative (micronutrient deficiencies, inflammation, cellular stress, a sedentary lifestyle, etc.).

Telomeres over time

Shammas M. Telomeres, lifestyle, cancer, and aging.  Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2011 Jan; 14(1): 28–34. Illustration: Ivel DrFreitas MD, ABIM, ABAARM.

How is micronutrient status linked to the aging process?

Micronutrient status has direct implications for telomere length. This makes it especially important to correct specific deficiencies and maintain micronutrient balance. Measuring total antioxidant capacity via SPECTROX® is equally important as the body’s ability to handle oxidative stress contributes significantly to telomere health/length.

Why measure fatty acids?

OmegaCheck® measures the amount of three very important fatty acids (EPA, DHA, and DPA) in one’s blood. Fatty acids can either contribute to or alleviate inflammation, and the OmegaCheck determines the amount of these pro- and anti-inflammatory fatty acids. Although the protective omega-3 fatty acids influence enzyme and hormone systems throughout the body, they have gained attention primarily for their superb cardiovascular benefits. Since fatty acid status is a surrogate marker for inflammation and oxidative stress, it is not surprising that omega-3 fatty acids can slow cellular aging by preserving telomeres. When it comes to OmegaCheck, higher is better.

Omega-3 fatty acids can slow the aging process. There are many reasons for this: they reduce inflammation, help maintain the cardiovascular system healthy, and protect the brain. However, the existing research points to an entirely different mechanism of action against aging: protection of telomeres.

A recent study on people with active heart disease demonstrated that individuals with high blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids also had the lowest rate of telomere attrition, suggesting that omega-3 fatty acids protect against cellular aging.1 In another study, the adoption of comprehensive lifestyle changes (including daily supplementation with 3 grams of fish oil, which is high in omega-3 fatty acids) was associated with an increase in telomere length in human leukocytes.2 In animal studies, dietary enrichment of omega-3 fatty acids prolongs life span by approximately one-third.3

Yet another way that omega-3 fatty acids have a protective effect on telomeres is through their action on cortisol. Following six weeks of fish oil supplementation, a group of men and women in a study demonstrated significantly reduced4 cortisol, a stress hormone known to reduce the activity of telomerase,5 an enzyme that protects and even lengthens telomeres. Even stress-related cellular aging may be thwarted by omega-3 fatty acids!

SpectraCell's Telomere Analysis

SpectraCell’s telomere test measures a person’s telomere length. A control gene is also measured and compared to the telomere length, and then results are stated as a ratio. A higher ratio means a longer telomere, and younger biological age. The Telomere Score is also compared to other individuals in the same chronological age group.

The price of the Telomere Test is affordable and is also covered by insurance. Testing once each year or every other year is suggested to monitor the rate of telomere loss.

The great news is that with the telomere analysis and appropriate lifestyle, habits, you can protect your telomeres and reduce the rate at which they shorten! Discover your estimated cellular age today with a comprehensive, and individualized approach to managing the aging process. 


1Ramin Farzaneh-Far et al.Association of Marine Omega-3 Fatty Acid Levels With Telomeric Aging in Patients With Coronary Heart Disease. JAMA 2010;303:250-257.

2Ornish D, Lin J, Daubenmier J et al. Increased telomerase activity and comprehensive lifestyle changes: a pilot study. Lancet Oncol 2008;9:1048-1057.

3Jolly CA, Muthukumar A, Avula CP, Troyer D, Fernandes G. Life span is prolonged in food-restricted autoimmune-prone (NZB x NZW)F(1) mice fed a diet enriched with (n-3) fatty acids. J Nutr 2001;131:2753-2760.

4Noreen EE, Sass MJ, Crowe ML, Pabon VA, Brandauer J, Averill LK. Effects of supplemental fish oil on resting metabolic rate, body composition, and salivary cortisol in healthy adults. J Int Soc Sport Nutr 2010;7:31.

5Choi J, Fauce SR, Effros RB. Reduced telomerase activity in human T lymphocytes exposed to cortisol. Brain Behav Immun 2008;22:600-605.

Posted by Elissa Rodriguez at Friday, August 3, 2018

What Makes SpectraCell's Micronutrient Test Unique?

cells2-2The one-size-fits-all approach to health is outdated. So too is having to estimate nutrient adequacy, thanks to SpectraCell’s patented lab test. Our proprietary technology takes the guesswork out by offering a comprehensive intracellular micronutrient evaluation.

SpectraCell ALONE offers the technology that provides information about your personal micronutrient profile. It is NOT based on:

• Algorithms

• Assumptions

• Estimates

• Food diaries or food recalls

Here are the reasons that SpectraCell’s micronutrient test is truly unique – NO other test on the market offers this information:

1. Intracellular: In truth, “vitamin status” is somewhat of a loaded phrase because vitamins, like other micronutrients, exist both outside the cell (extracellular) and inside the cell (intracellular). Vitamin status outside a cell may be considered “within range” or “adequate” by conventional terms (e.g. when measured by standard lab testing), while vitamin status inside the cell – where metabolism actually occurs - may be depleted. Since vitamins function inside cells, extracellular measurements (such as serum testing) can be potentially misleading. Intracellular micronutrient levels, as opposed to what is present outside of cells (where it is not physiologically useful), is more clinically significant.

It is clear that serum micronutrient testing can yield important information. One obvious example is serum vitamin B12; when a person’s level is low, this can manifest as fatigue or anemia. Often, however, serum B12 may appear to be “normal,” but clinical symptoms of fatigue or B12 deficiency still exist. Why? Because serum B12 is a reflection of extracellular B12, whereas the intracellular reserve of B12 is what’s important; it matters little how much of a nutrient is present in one’s blood – if it is not getting into the cell, it won’t improve cellular or overall health. Consider this analogy: imagine being totally dehydrated, overwhelmed with thirst. If you jumped into a pool but could not drink the water, you remain thirsty because the water doesn’t make it into your body. Cells will be similarly starved if B12 doesn’t get assimilated.

2. Functional: Mass spectrometry, like other static quantitative measurement methods, assess the concentration of a nutrient present, but do not address its functional impact.  Measuring and reporting micronutrient concentration levels in the absence of a functional assessment offers an incomplete picture and can lead to inaccuracies in identifying and reporting true micronutrient deficiencies.

3. Lymphocyte-based: In our laboratory, we subject living white blood cells (obtained from a simple blood draw) to dozens of nutritional evaluation environments. Lymphocytes contain your complete genetic makeup, working coordinately – not just the gene subsets detected by other testing platforms – and are a reflection of long-term nutrient status and therefore, of cellular health throughout the body.

4. Long-term: The lifespan of these cells (4-6 months) means that taking a full range of supplements days or even weeks before your blood draw will not affect your results (serum micronutrient levels can fluctuate wildly on a daily basis). Your lymphocytes reflect your nutrient intake over a period of months, not days or hours.

5. Comprehensive: Nutrients work synergistically, so a comprehensive lab test is superior to measurement of individual micronutrients. SpectraCell’s micronutrient profile measures the functional level of 31 vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, antioxidants, and metabolites so that patterns of deficiency are clear.

6. Proprietary: Only SpectraCell offers the patented Spectrox® (reflects antioxidant capacity) and Immunidex (a measure of immune system function) as part of the micronutrient profile.

So why has intracellular testing not replaced the serum variety? One simple reason is that serum testing has been used for so long that reference ranges are well established and understood, albeit potentially misleading. Another reason is that intracellular testing is more technologically advanced and fewer labs offer it. Finally, serum testing has been useful for detecting serious nutrient deficiencies that have progressed into obvious symptoms. But it is worth noting that intracellular testing helps detect deficiencies long before overt (and sometimes debilitating) symptoms occur –serum levels often fall in the “normal” range when a true intracellular deficiency exists. 

SpectraCell’s micronutrient test is a true intracellular test – NOT a serum measurement. 

For additional information and medical publications supporting intracellular testing over serum tests, click

Find out your intracellular micronutrient status today!


Posted by Elissa Rodriguez at Friday, July 27, 2018

Vitamin B3 May Lower a Dangerous Type of Lipoprotein

wbz-what-is-atherosclerosisIn a large clinical study called AIM-HIGH (for Atherothrombosis Intervention in Metabolic Syndrome with Low HDL/High Triglycerides and Impact on Global Health Outcomes), researchers evaluated the impact of extended release niacin (vitamin B3) on blood lipids.  In a previous review of patients in this AIM-HIGH trial, niacin showed no benefit to statin-treated patients when analyzed as a whole group.  However, in a subsequent analysis, niacin appeared to benefit patients who had high triglycerides (over 200 mg/dL) and very low HDL (less than 32 mg/dL).  In this analysis, the authors sought to find out the specific changes in lipoproteins that conferred the benefit seen in the subset of patients with high triglycerides and low HDL.         

Lipoprotein particles were analyzed on 2457 participants in the AIM-HIGH trial to establish baseline values and again after one year of treatment with extended release niacin.  Those taking niacin had higher HDL after one year (a good outcome since HDL is protective).  In addition, the analysis of lipoprotein subfractions showed that this benefit – specific to people with high triglycerides and low HDL – was likely due to the reduction in remnant lipoproteins, also known as RLP.

This unique lipoprotein is particularly harmful because unlike LDL particles, which have to undergo oxidation before they can be taken into the arterial intima, RLP lipoproteins can be readily transformed into foam cells which is what comprises arterial plaque.  In fact, RLP is one of the four major risk factors cited by the National Cholesterol Education Program that contribute to heart disease.   This paper suggests that the benefit seen in patients taking niacin was due to a reduction in this particularly harmful lipoprotein called RLP.

Micronutrients are involved in the body’s countless metabolic reactions; therefore, a single deficiency can affect cardiac and metabolic health. Regardless of your medical history and current health, micronutrient testing in combination with our CardioMetabolic evaluation can help your health care provider identify your risk and design a personalized treatment plan for you.


(Journal of Clinical Lipidology, May 2018)

LINK to ABSTRACT Relationship between lipoprotein subfraction cholesterol and residual risk for cardiovascular outcomes: A post hoc analysis of the AIM-HIGH trial.



Posted by Elissa Rodriguez at Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Case Study: High Dose of Vitamin B1 Clears Up 26 Years of Painful Headaches

headacheIn this case report, a 41-year-old man who had been suffering from cluster headache since the age of 15 years old was treated with high dose vitamin B1 (thiamine).  He had been diagnosed with cluster headache at a neurological center in Italy. His first headache occurred at age 15 shortly after a motorcycle accident and they increased in frequency over the years, with acute pain and intensity that significantly compromised his quality of life.  Although the patient would experience some headache free months over the years, in January 2016 the headache clusters began occurring daily with no pain-free period for an entire year.  The patient had been treated with sumatriptan, a commonly prescribed drug for cluster headache, which did not work.  He had also been prescribed prednisone, although this not alleviate the pain either.  In December 2016, he was given oral high dose vitamin B1.  Initially, the dose was 250mg, then it was increased to 750 mg after a few days.  Within 10 days, the headache pain disappeared.  He continued the vitamin B1 daily indefinitely.

Interestingly, the neurological center requested that he stop the vitamin B1 in order to test whether the headaches would come back.  He refused this request citing his reluctance to re-experience his headache pain.  However, in May 2017 (five months after B1 treatment started), the patient forgot his vitamin B1 while on a vacation.  Within 48 hours of the last dose, a painful headache occurred.   He resumed vitamin B1 therapy after his vacation and was able to reduce the dose to 500mg with no recurrence of headaches to date.

Cluster headache is a painful condition in which very severe headaches occur with little warning and in “clusters” meaning several headaches will occur in a short time period.  Patients of cluster headache have very little or no warning when they occur unlike migraine which may gradually build in intensity.  Classified as a neurological condition, cluster headache is characterized by very severe and intense pain around the eye, often on only one side of the head.  Some researchers suggest that the role vitamin B1 plays in energy metabolism, brain function and pain modulation make it a potential therapy for this rare neurological disorder.  

(Case Reports in Neurological Medicine, April 2018)

LINK to ABSTRACT Oral High-Dose Thiamine Improves the Symptoms of Chronic Cluster Headache.


Posted by Elissa Rodriguez at Thursday, July 12, 2018

Study Sheds Light on the Link Between Biotin Deficiency and Inflammation

cauliflower copyPrevious research has shown that biotin deficiency increases inflammation but since there are so many causes of inflammation – physiologically speaking – the actual metabolic pathways between biotin deficiency and inflammation are unclear.  In this study, researchers subjected human immune cells to biotin deficiency and compared the result to human immune cells living in a biotin-rich environment.  Biotin, also known as vitamin B7, is a key vitamin necessary for proper cellular metabolism. It is a cofactor to cellular energy production and therefore important to cellular health at a fundamental level. 

When the human immune cells were biotin deficient, expression of inflammatory proteins increased.  Specifically, CD4+T cells were used, which are also known as T-helper cells because they are a type of white blood cell that directs the function of other immune cells.  In other words, T-helper cells supervise immune cells, sending signals to attack viruses and bacteria, for example. In biotin deficiency, the number of these regulatory immune cells (CD4+T) decreased.  At the same time, biotin deficiency caused an increase in the metabolic pathway (called mTOR) that regulates cell growth.  mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin) is a protein that senses the nutrient and energy status of cells and regulates their metabolism accordingly.  A decrease in mTOR is generally good and can lead to a longer lifespan.  An increase in mTOR is generally bad and can lead to tumors or cancerous growths. 

The results of this study – both in vivo and in vitro – showed that biotin deficiency increased the mTOR pathway, which then resulted in an increase in several inflammatory compounds.  This, combined with the fact that biotin deficiency decreased the number of T-helper cells, meaning fewer immune cells were around to regulate everything, ultimately induced the increase in inflammation seen in biotin deficiency.

(Journal of Immunology, April 2018

LINK to ABSTRACT Biotin Deficiency Induces Th1- and Th17-Mediated Proinflammatory Responses in Human CD4+ T Lymphocytes via Activation of the mTOR Signaling Pathway.


Posted by Elissa Rodriguez at Friday, June 29, 2018

Micronutrients and Men's Health

battle-rope-workoutsPersonalized medicine has changed the healthcare paradigm.  It is now possible to determine your personal micronutrient needs based on your own cells’ metabolic requirements.  

SpectraCell’s Micronutrient Test measures over 30 vitamins and minerals at the cellular level.  But the SpectraCell test goes even further – it measures functional, long-term status within the cell – which evaluates how well your body actually utilizes each nutrient.  Several factors affect nutrient status – age, lifestyle, genetics, medications, absorption rates, gut health, hormones and more.  SpectraCell’s Micronutrient Test embraces this biochemical individuality. 

Mineral deficiencies profoundly affect prostate health. Selenium deficiency has been linked to higher levels of prostate specific antigen (PSA), a common biomarker for prostate problems.  Interestingly, the epithelial cells in the prostate gland accumulate the highest levels of zinc in any soft tissue of the body and low zinc is linked to prostate inflammation.  In the case of prostate cancer, strong evidence suggests higher intake of zinc may improve prognosis.  Vitamin K show anti-carcinogenic properties in various cancer cell lines, including prostate cancer cells.  Vitamin D also exhibits anti-cancer activity in prostate cells via its role in regulating male hormones. Vitamin C downregulates an enzyme that causes abnormal tissue growth in the prostate gland, thus protecting against a condition known as BPH – benign prostate hyperplasia – which manifests with urination problems in men.  Animal studies have shown that Vitamin E may suppress prostate tumor formation.  But results on vitamin E supplementation trials and prostate health has been equivocal, suggests that blind supplementation when not deficient, may be harmful.  Targeted repletion of actual – not assumed – deficiencies is key. 

Chemotherapeutic drugs used in the treatment of testicular cancer can wreak havoc on healthy testicular tissue.  Evidence suggests antioxidants can protect against this damage.  For example, the antioxidant N-acetyl cysteine has been shown to reverse the damage done by bleomycin, a common drug to treat testicular cancer.  Evidence suggests combinations of specific antioxidants (vitamin E, C, zinc, selenium) may lower the risk of testicular cancer from spreading (mestastasizing).  Since oxidative stress plays a big role in testicular toxicity, nutrients that acts free radical scavengers are particularly beneficial in the testes.  Vitamin C protects the surface of testicular cells. Glutathione protects sensitive testicular tissue from oxidative stress. Mineral cofactors (Zinc, Copper, Manganese) are need to activate powerful protective enzymes active in testes.  A single micronutrient deficiency can profoundly compromise man’s ability for healthy cellular detoxification.  

Contrary to popular thought, erectile dysfunction is less commonly a problem in hormone levels, and more commonly a problem with vascular health.  Several nutrients affect how well a man’s blood vessels respond to chemical cues.  Vitamin D’s role in calcium transport affects a man’s vasculature and thus erectile function.  Folate and inositol may improve erectile dysfunction by activating nitric oxide, a chemical in the blood that tells vessel to properly dilate.  Vitamin E and lipoic acid are necessary cofactors in nitric oxide production, and thus vascular and erectile health. Depending on the presence of certain genes, repletion of folate and vitamin B6 has been shown to benefit men who were non-responsive to sildenafil, a common medication used for treatment of ED. Another study shows carnitine and vitamin B3 improved sexual performance in men with ED.   Glutathione depletion will compromise a man’s ability to achieve vasodilation.  Any nutrient that benefits vascular health will also benefit erectile health. 

The male equivalent of female menopause is andropause, which is a gradual decline in testosterone levels as men age.  However, micronutrients profoundly affect testosterone levels.  For example, vitamin B6 stimulates the brain to increase testosterone production. Conversely, deficiency in folate reduces circulating testosterone.  The rate-limiting enzyme for testosterone synthesis is vitamin K dependent, so a deficiency will lower its production.  Magnesium is needed to make testosterone biologically active, freeing it up in the bloodstream so it can act on muscles throughout the body. Vitamin D, which is actually a hormone, is the precursor molecule to testosterone and can significantly increase total and free levels of testosterone throughout the body. Carnitine is directly related to testosterone levels and may prevent testosterone decline after intense physical stress. Depending on baseline levels, zinc and selenium can increase testosterone as well.

In today’s highly competitive world, men encounter inordinate amounts of stress, particularly in the workplace.  Although the physiological effects of chronic stress are often dismissed, the effect of stress on cellular health is indisputable.  Micronutrient deficiencies can exacerbate the physiological effects of stress.  Conversely, micronutrient repletion can repair stress-induced cellular damage.  Serine has been used in the treatment of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) as it buffers the negative effects of stress in the body.  Folate, choline and inositol directly affect brain chemicals that calm the mind and body.  B vitamins serve as cofactors in the production of anti-anxiety neurotransmitters.  Micronutrients help stave off the fatigue associated with long term stress.  Nutrients such as coenzyme Q10 and magnesium may improve energy in chronically stressed out men. Correcting micronutrient deficiencies can enable men to face daily challenges while minimizing the physiological repercussions.

Evaluate your micronutrient status today! 

Download our Testosterone Nutrient Wheel.

Posted by Elissa Rodriguez at Friday, June 22, 2018

Cellular Levels of Vitamin B1 May Influence the Progression of Huntington's Disease

Vitamin_B1Huntington’s disease is a relatively rare disease that occurs when a person has altered expression of a specific gene called the huntingtin gene. The presence of this mutated gene initiates the synthesis of an altered protein  (similarly called the mutated huntingtin protein, or mHTT) that damages nerve cells in the brain over time. The disease progresses over the course of several years and clinically manifests as gradually worsening mental, emotional and physical dysfunction, to the point of total incapacity.

In this experiment, scientists studied the effect of supplemental vitamin B1 (thiamine) on B lymphocytes (white blood cells) that carried the mutated Huntington gene and compared them to normal B lymphocytes that did not carry the mutated gene, which served as the control. The scientists supplemented vitamin B1 on the two sets of cells and compared the following: (1) cell growth rates, (2) vitamin B1 intake into the cell, (3) genetic profile of 27 different thiamine related genes and (4) the enzyme activity of several B1-dependent proteins.

They found that supplemental vitamin B1 stimulated more of an increase in growth in the mutated Huntington gene cells than the control cells, suggesting the Huntington cells had a higher requirement for vitamin B1. In addition, vitamin B1 intake, and therefore intracellular levels, was increased in the Huntington cells compared to control. Enzyme activity did not differ between cell types, but the expression of genes related to B1-dependent energy metabolism did differ between the control and mutated cell groups.

Vitamin B1 is known for its role in energy metabolism and deficiency has been linked to a several neurological syndromes such as Alzheimer’s disease and Wernicke encephalopathy, which suggests it may play a role in Huntington’s disease. Although this study was done in vitro (in test tubes), the increased expression of B1-related genes upon supplementation of B1 suggests intracellular vitamin B1 levels may play an important role in the manifestation of this enigmatic disease.

(Advances in Clinical and Experimental Medicine, August 2017) 
 Role of thiamine in Huntington's disease pathogenesis: In vitro studies.



Posted by Elissa Rodriguez at Thursday, May 17, 2018

Moms, Roll Up Your Sleeves. Five Nutrients that Combat Cancer and Hormone Imbalance.

bruce-mars-556415-unsplashCellular health – whether referring to brain cells, bone cells, or fat cells – impacts the health of the entire body. Health issues may arise and manifest differently for each person depending on one’s unique biochemistry. Some common examples of these manifestations include excess weight, headaches, and dry skin, driven by poor cellular metabolism. Quite literally, health and wellness begin at the cellular level. 

A paradigm shift in women’s healthcare is happening right now.  You may have noticed that much of the focus in medicine today has shifted from disease to prevention; however, what we commonly think of as “preventive” medicine (mammograms, PAP smears) is actually pre-symptomatic screening for earlier disease detection and diagnosis.  Prevention can be facilitated by the optimal nourishment of cells with micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants), as these fuel the cell and are involved in hundreds of metabolic reactions and physiological process. Some of these include detoxification, energy production, neurotransmitter balance, sleep quality, cognition, and immunity. Therefore, micronutrients profoundly affect mood, skin, hormone balance – every organ, endocrine, and body system is impacted. In fact, the nutrient-hormone connection is huge.  Did you know that many female cancers – breast, uterine, ovarian – may occur when estrogen is metabolized into toxic by-products that are not eliminated? To keep estrogen metabolism in the body safe, women are encouraged to focus on these micronutrients:

  • Magnesium activates the enzyme that removes toxic forms of estrogen.
  • Vitamin B6 protects genes from estrogen-induced damage.
  • Vitamin B3 increases adiponectin, a weight loss hormone.
  • Vitamin A regulates leptin, a hormone that suppresses appetite.
  • Cysteine prevents toxins in breast tissue from becoming cancerous.

These nutrients and dozens others behave like hormonal housekeepers, and lacking even one of these can set the stage for compromised health: vitamin deficiency can manifest as fairly benign conditions (lack of energy or poor sleep), or more serious illness (allowing the uncontrolled growth of cancerous cells to grow and invade healthy tissue).

Because we are all biochemically unique, micronutrient deficiencies may lead to different symptoms in different women. Find out yours, and take steps to correct them, by taking your micronutrient test today.


For more information on nutrients impacting estrogen levels, download our nutrient wheel! 

Estrogen Nutrient Wheel

Posted by Elissa Rodriguez at Thursday, May 10, 2018

Your Medication’s Side Effects Might Be a Drug-Induced Nutrient Deficiency

rx drugs

Pharmaceutical medications help millions of Americans cope with clinical symptoms every day, but most are not without side effects.  In fact, the side effects of a medication are often worse than the original condition according to many patients.  One reason for this is that prescription drugs very often cause nutrient depletions, which manifest clinically in very significant ways.  A classic example is coenzyme Q10 deficiency caused by statin medications.  Statins block an enzyme that affects cholesterol production, but the same enzyme is needed to manufacture the important antioxidant coenzyme Q10, which is a key nutrient needed for cellular energy metabolism proper heart function.   So if you block this enzyme (called HMG-CoA reductase for hydroxyl-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A, which is why statins are known generically as HMG-CoA reductase inhbitors), you may lower cholesterol, but as a consequence you may cause a coenzyme Q10 deficiency, which can manifest as low energy and muscle pain. 

Why is this so common?  The reason is simple – the pharmaceutical approach is fundamentally different from the nutrient repletion approach in that medications alter or interrupt metabolic pathways to achieve a clinical result while nutrient repletion supports or helps maintain the optimal function of a metabolic pathway to achieve balance.  In general, medications are palliative in that they focus often on the relief of symptoms.  Conversely, nutrient repletion is curative and the goal is optimal cellular function of which a side effect is relief of symptoms. 

This is not to say that medications have no place in health, but they do have a role in nutrient depletion which can cause the unpleasant and dangerous side effects.  Especially in the age of polypharmacy – when people take more than one medication simultaneously (including over the counter meds) – nutrient depletions caused by drugs deserve a closer look.  Here are some examples of how medications can deplete micronutrients:

  • Meds can interrupt endogenous production of a nutrient (statins and CoQ10)
  • Meds impairs absorption in the gastrointestinal tract (antacids and B12)
  • Meds can create reactive oxygen species and thus “use up” antioxidants (NSAID and cysteine)
  • Meds can increase urinary excretion of nutrients (diuretics and minerals)
  • Meds can alter the gut microbiome (antibiotics and vitamin K)
  • Meds can impairs mitochondrial function and cellular respiration

Adding to the problem is that fact research on drug-induced nutrient depletions is comparatively sparse compared to the giant funding allotted to pharmaceutical development and testing. In addition, there is a lag time between the market introduction of a blockbuster drug and potential nutrient depletion-induced side effect data.  An example of this is research in the past decade that implicates antacids (proton-pump inhibitors) as a causative factor in cardiac events due to their tendency to deplete magnesium.  The strong link between PPI use and arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat) may be caused by magnesium depletion, which may also explain an increased risk in bone fractures for people on long-term PPI use according to the FDA.  Although research on PPI-induced magnesium deficiency emerged in the last few years,  PPIs have been widely used in the market since 1990.  In some cases, the research on drug-induced nutrient depletions may not emerge for many years after a drug is widely accepted into the market.

If you are taking a medication, have your micronutrient levels tested today.


For more information on drug-induced nutrient depletions associated with statins and antacids, download our nutrient wheels! 

Statins Nutrient Wheel
Antacids Nutrient Wheel

Posted by Elissa Rodriguez at Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Bioindividual Nutrition: Breaking Barriers for Autism

Autism-and-Water-child-in-the-waterWhen people think of autism and nutrition, the first thing that often comes to mind is food sensitivities, especially given the widespread attention to the impact of certain additives and common triggers (such as wheat or dairy) on that condition. 

Even more paramount, is the evidence suggesting that Autism is largely a whole-body disorder in which an individual's biochemistry affects the brain, learning and behavior. Restoring balance within the body through food and nutrients, therefore, becomes essential. The good news is, nutritional deficiencies that are impacting your child’s neurological development can be corrected. The list below includes specific micronutrients suggested to have a role in the development and treatment of autism:

Vitamin D: High-dose vitamin D therapy reversed autistic behaviors in severely deficient children; maternal vitamin D deficiency may predispose children to autism. A landmark trial further indicates that vitamin D supplementation helps children with ASD. 

Vitamin A: One cause of autism may be a defect in a retinoid receptor protein (G-alpha protein) that is critical for language processing, attention, and sensory perception. Evidence suggests that natural vitamin A fixes this protein defect in autistics.

Folate: Oral folate therapy can resolve symptoms of autism in some cases, particularly in autistics with genes that impair folate-dependent enzymes.

Glutamine: Blood levels of this amino acid - which acts as a neurotransmitter - are particularly low in autistics. Glutamine also helps prevent leaky gut syndrome, which can exacerbate autistic symptoms.

Vitamin C: Improves symptom severity and sensory motor scores in autistic patients possibly due to interaction with dopamine synthesis; it also has a strong sparing effect on glutathione.

Glutathione & Cysteine: Both are commonly deficient in autistic patients. Low antioxidant status impairs detoxification and methylation processes, and has been linked to neurological symptoms in autism, which is often considered an oxidative stress disorder.

Vitamin B1: Deficiency linked to delayed language development; supplementation may benefit autistic patients.

Vitamin B12: Low B12 impairs methylation (detoxification), which can cause the neurological damage responsible for many autistic symptoms. B12 deficiency can cause optic neuropathy and vision loss in autistics; B12 raises cysteine and glutathione levels.

Vitamin B6: Cofactor for the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine; conversion of B6 to its active form is compromised in many autistics. Supplementation trials with B6 resulted in better eye contact, improved speech, and fewer self-stimulatory behavior in autistics. Some consider B6 in combination with magnesium to be a breakthrough treatment for autism.

Magnesium: Cofactor for the neurotransmitters that affect social reactions and emotion; autistics have low levels. Magnesium improves the effectiveness of B6 therapy.

Zinc: Eliminates mercury from brain tissue. The zinc/ copper ratio is particularly low in autistic kids, and low zinc impairs metallothionein, a protein that removes heavy metals from the body.

Carnitine: Transports fatty acids into cells. Low carnitine status, a common feature of autism, impairs the ability to use fatty acids for learning and social development.

The longer a child goes with Autism, the harder they are to reach. Evaluate your child's micronutrient status today!


For a copy of SpectraCell's Nutrition Correlation chart on autism, click here. 


Posted by Elissa Rodriguez at Thursday, April 5, 2018

Micronutrients: The Key to Effective Weight Loss

healthfit.jpgWe’ve all heard the proverbial advice for achieving a healthy body and maintaining our weight: exercise and “eat right.”  But for those who really want to delve further into the science behind an enviable metabolism, we offer a list of vitamins with an explanation of their role in the body’s ability to burn fat and build muscle.

  1. Vitamin A: This vitamin is particularly good at regulating how genes are expressed. Although genes do determine to an extent how the body stores or burns fat, our genes are, simply stated, not our destiny. Two persons with the same gene may express it very differently, depending on their individual cellular environment. This is where vitamin A enters the picture. It can actually enhance the expression of certain genes that lower a person’s tendency to store food as fat. If one is vitamin A deficient, s/he may be pre-disposed to storing fat tissue. On the other hand, correcting a vitamin A deficiency may have a different, more positive effect, as studies have indicated that vitamin A may reduce the size of fat cells.
  1. Vitamin D: Similar to vitamin A, vitamin D (commonly referred to as the “sunshine vitamin”) affects genetic expression, including the way that fat cells develop. A vitamin D deficiency is strongly linked to poor carbohydrate metabolism: instead of efficiently burning carbohydrate for fuel (which consequently helps impart energy and mental focus), the body instead stores carbohydrate as fat. Correcting a vitamin D deficiency can boost metabolism by reversing this deleterious effect.  
  1. Vitamin E: This micronutrient affects metabolism by inhibiting immature fat cells from developing into mature fat cells, which are more “stubborn,” metabolically speaking. The cumulative effect of this is a reduction in fat storage.
  1. Vitamin B3Also called niacin, vitamin B3 can increase the hormone adiponectin, which is secreted by fat cells. Adiponectin’s main function is to signal cells to burn fuel. It also has a role in helping muscles use glucose for energy rather than storing it as fat.
  1. Vitamin B5: Some evidence suggests that vitamin B5 (AKA pantothenate or pantothenic acid) might be helpful for weight loss because it has been associated with less hunger when dieting. At the cellular level, vitamin B5 activates the enzyme lipoprotein lipase, which breaks down fat cells.

This list is by no means exhaustive: in fact, there are multiple micronutrient influences on weight loss. These micronutrients work both individually and synergistically, and repletion often promotes clinical benefits throughout the body. It should come as no surprise that micronutrient adequacy also supports heart health and energy levels. Therefore, discovering (then correcting) micronutrient deficiencies becomes a critical first step in improving overall health. 

Download our quick reference nutrient wheel for weight management. 

Tired of not getting the results you want? Interested in learning how you can improve the efficacy of your weight management routine? Get tested and find out how your micronutrient status stacks up!


Posted by Elissa Rodriguez at Friday, March 9, 2018

An Unhealthy Diet Programs Immune Cells to be Hyperactive"

diet.jpgEpigenetics – the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration in the genetic code itself– has gained much attention in recent years.  Environmental factors including diet, smoking and stress have been shown to impact gene expression through epigenetic mechanisms.

In a recent experiment involving the collaboration of several medical institutions, an experiment was performed on mice to determine how their immunity responded to a typical Western diet.  When mice were fed a Western diet, systemic inflammation occurred which was entirely expected. However, what was particularly interesting was that the Western (inflammatory) diet fundamentally changed their immune system.  After eating high calorie, low nutrient food, not only did the mice exhibit more systemic inflammation (not surprising), but their white blood cells became programmed to remain hyper-sensitive to inflammatory triggers.  The cellular “memory” had changed.

Here is how it worked: a gene called NLRP3 (for Nucleotide binding domain Like Receptor Protein) makes a protein that is used by our immune cells to recognize harmful bacteria and viruses.  This protein made by the NLRP3 gene recognizes “bad” cell remnants.  These can be parts of bacterial cell membranes, or pieces of genetic material found in viruses, or even parts of a cell that are supposed to be contained but may leak out due to cellular trauma.  It is a fundamental way our immune cells recognize something is wrong – bacteria are present or acute tissue damage occurred, for example – and thus launch an inflammatory response to deal with the biological crisis and take care of it.

In this study, the immune cells in mice fed a typical Western diet of high-calorie, low nutrient foods launched the same inflammatory response as if an invading bacterial infection were present. Furthermore, the immune cells became hypersensitive so that they continued their inflammatory attack, even when the mice’s diet was returned to normal. In other words, the immune cells responded to a Western diet in the same way it responds to infections.  But instead of the infection clearing up, the Western diet seemed to reprogram the immune cells to stay in a perpetual hyperactive state. These results may help explain why chronic inflammation is behind so many lifestyle-related diseases such as heart disease, obesity and diabetes.

LINK to ABSTRACT Western Diet Triggers NLRP3-Dependent Innate Immune Reprogramming.

Posted by Elissa Rodriguez at Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Lipoprotein(a): An Important Risk Factor for Heart Disease

heart apple 

Most people assume that standard cholesterol testing offers an adequate assessment of heart disease risk. If you, like many, have never heard of a lipoprotein profile test, you may be surprised to learn that this test assesses an important risk factor called Lipoprotein(a) or Lp(a) (“lipoprotein little a”). Influenced by genetics and strongly linked to heart disease and blood clotting problems, this risk factor unfortunately is NOT part of routine cholesterol tests or standard lipid panels. In fact, lipoprotein(a) is so strongly linked to heart disease, that it is one of the four lipid-related risk factors cited by the National Institutes of Health National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) as worthy of monitoring. Unfortunately, Lp(a) has been notoriously difficult to treat pharmacologically, as statins have shown little efficacy in lowering Lp(a) levels.

Why is Lp(a) so harmful?
Evidence suggests that Lp(a) may serve as the link between thrombosis and atherosclerosis. Recent clinical studies have implicated Lp(a) as a risk factor for blood clots whether or not atherosclerosis is present. Because Lp(a) is a small, very dense LDL, it can easily penetrate the arterial lining, become oxidized and build plaque, thus contributing to atherosclerosis independent of its thrombotic potential. 

How is high Lp(a) treated?

In a recent double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, patients with elevated cholesterol and elevated Lp(a) were divided into two groups, each with 29 people: Group 1 received a statin only and Group 2 received the same statin plus 2 grams/day of L-carnitine, a supplement that plays a key role in fatty acid transport within cells. After 12 weeks, the group receiving only a statin showed about a 7% reduction in Lp(a), but the group receiving the L-carnitine in conjunction with the statin demonstrated over 19% reduction in Lp(a) levels. Authors suggest that co-administration of L-carnitine (whose primary function is fatty acid metabolism), may enhance efforts to lower Lp(a) compared to using a statin alone.

Although heredity plays a large role in the levels of Lp(a), treatment with niacin has also been found to lower levels of Lp(a). 

For additional reading refer to the abstract L-Carnitine/Simvastatin Reduces Lipoprotein (a) Levels Compared with Simvastatin Monotherapy: A Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Study published in the January 2017 issue of Lipids

Posted by Elissa Rodriguez at Friday, February 16, 2018

Fasting-Mimicking Diet Helps You Eat Your (Own) Heart Out - Reducing Cardiovascular Disease

FMD-1.jpgAs we stroll into heart month (Feb), still the #1 killer of Americans - 20 years after the declaration to reduce heart-related deaths - here we are. Still. Trying like heck to reduce the risk of heart-related (and other co-morbidities) incidences.

According to statistics from the CDC in 2016, 610,000 heart-related deaths occur each year and it is the leading cause of death in both men and women. That is 1 in 4 Americans.

Why are we still here? After all, we know what we can do: exercise more, take our multivitamin, get regular checks-ups at our doctors' office and - oh yeah - eat more healthfully. Many of us are still sticking to our New Year's Resolutions!

Amid our plight to prepare more healthy home-cooked meals with an eye to consuming higher amounts of plant-based foods, with greater amounts of heart-protecting fiber, healthy, lean proteins, less sugar and processed foods, are we able to keep on with these habits - forever?

Some might say a resounding, "YES!", well, others...maybe...not so much. We have the statistics to prove it.

What do we do if we feel like we have "tried it all", and the results don't appear to be paying off?

What if we have test results, like an advanced lipoprotein or cardiometabolic profile that continue to stare us in the face and prove the errors of our ways? It's disheartening when the labors of our actions appear to be largely ignored by our body's metabolism.

Is it time to finally give up? Should New Year's Resolutions focus on some other aspect, other than finally getting healthy?

Perhaps it is time for a different approach…

The practice of fasting has had many surges over the millennia, extending from times of scarcity, to practices of mystics and religious groups and holidays to health-faddists. Some believed it brought spiritual enlightenment, or quick weight loss; while others believed it gave the digestive system a chance to rejuvenate itself, similar to the idea that adequate nightly sleep allows a reset of the nervous system.

It is largely this last assumption which has pioneered continued research into fasting and its multiple health benefits, including heart (but not limited to) health.1-4

I had the good fortune of learning first-hand about the incredible research into fasting this past December while attending the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine in Las Vegas. Valter Longo, PhD, who directs the USC Longevity Institute, expertly presented his research on fasting and its connection to a longer, healthier existence.5 Instead of fasting for long periods of time (4 days to a couple of weeks), the same benefits can be achieved through "Time-Restricted Fasting/Re-feeding" (TRF) or "Fasting-Mimicking Diet" (FMD). Below are two links to fascinating presentations featuring Dr. Longo and his work.

BBC Documentary with Longo and Maslow

FoundMyFitness Interview Longo and Rhonda Patrick

Essentially, with TRF and FMD, an individual can positively impact health for prolonged periods of time simply by choosing to consume all of their daily calories in an 8-hour window. If the first caloric consumption (this includes beverages so no cream or sugar in your coffee) of the day starts at 10:00 AM, an individual is done feeding by 6:00 that evening. If 11:00 is start time, 7:00 is finish time, and so forth.

What does FMD do, exactly?

The Fasting-Mimicking Diet creates the time needed to accomplish an "internal housekeeping" on the cellular level known to stimulate a pathway called: autophagy. Whether you choose to say it "Ah-tauf-ah-gee"or "auto-fay-gee" (I've learned both are right), somatic cells auto-phagocytize, literally eat themselves, to sweep out the debris of aberrant (faulty, damaged or maladapted) cells that build up in our cellular metabolism. Additionally, internal organs, like the heart, all shrink to their reset size, which allows for more effective functioning. When we eat too frequently and don't allow the digestive system to rest, clean and rebuild with re-feeding, autophagy processes are disrupted.

How will autophagy improve my heart health, specifically?

As noted earlier, autophagy has profound positive effects on many body systems and functions, as well as cancer prevention and other diseases, but one of the most researched areas in autophagy include cardiovascular disease. Since mitochondria are found in abundance within the cardiac muscle and TRF and FMD precipitate autophagy, another way fasting improves heart health might be through preserving mitochondrial integrity.

Dr. Longo's research has also shown that TRF and FMD influences cellular adaptive responses by reducing oxidative damage and inflammation; as well as optimizing energy metabolism and bolstering cellular protection.7

  1. Xie W, Zhou J. Aberrant regulation of autophagy in mammalian diseases. Biol Lett. 2018;14(1).
  2. O'Flanagan CH, Smith LA, McDonell SB, Hursting SD. When less may be more: calorie restriction and response to cancer therapy. BMC Med. 2017;15(1):106.
  3. Choi IY, Piccio L, Childress P, et al. A Diet Mimicking Fasting Promotes Regeneration and Reduces Autoimmunity and Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms. Cell Rep. 2016;15(10):2136-2146.
  4. Brandhorst S, Choi IY, Wei M, et al. A Periodic Diet that Mimics Fasting Promotes Multi-System Regeneration, Enhanced Cognitive Performance, and Healthspan. Cell Metab. 2015;22(1):86-99.
  5. Longo VD, Panda S. Fasting, Circadian Rhythms, and Time-Restricted Feeding in Healthy Lifespan. Cell Metab. 2016;23(6):1048-1059.
  6. Traba J, Sack MN. The role of caloric load and mitochondrial homeostasis in the regulation of the NLRP3 inflammasome. Cell Mol Life Sci. 2017;74(10):1777-1791.
  7. Longo VD, Mattson MP. Fasting: molecular mechanisms and clinical applications. Cell Metab. 2014;19(2):181-192.

Posted by Elissa Rodriguez at Friday, February 9, 2018

Clearing Up the Cholesterol Confusion

heart apple.jpgConsider this startling statistic: 50% of people who have heart attacks have "normal" cholesterol.  Stated differently, half of all heart attack victims could have a routine cholesterol test done on the very day they have a heart attack and their cholesterol (by routine testing standards) would be "normal" range. So, why do so many practitioners use a diagnostic test that is only 50% accurate?  The reason is simple:  it’s the test with which they are familiar and have been using for decades.  Knowing your HDL and LDL - the "good" and "bad" cholesterol is only the beginning.  SpectraCell’s LPP (Lipoprotein Particle Profile) test goes much, much further.
Here is the basic scenario of heart disease:  When our blood vessels are "scratched," or injured, plaque builds up in our arteries to repair the injury, sort of like a scab on the inside of  the blood vessel, causing reduced blood flow. Since plaque buildup is our bodies' response to injury of the blood vessels, reducing the injury to our arteries is key.  
That's where cholesterol comes in. Cholesterol is actually a response to vascular injury - not the cause of it. Cholesterol is really not the culprit. Lipoproteins are. Lipoproteins are what "scratch" or "burrow" into our arteries causing injury.  They are actually tiny balls in our blood that carry the cholesterol, our vascular scapegoat. Lipoproteins are what do the damage, not the cholesterol inside them. Cholesterol is really just along for the ride. Lipoproteins, at least the dangerous ones, are the real villain.
There are different sizes of lipoproteins. In general, bigger is better.  Here's why: Larger, fluffier LDL particles cannot lodge into your arteries (which is an injury to the artery) as easily as the smaller LDL particles can. Less injury to the artery means less plaque formation and clearer, more pliable blood vessels - a good thing. So it is imperative to understand what kind of LDL (low density lipoproteins) you have floating around in your blood. There are some that are extraordinarily dangerous and some that are completely benign.
For example, RLP (also called remnant lipoprotein) has been cited by the government as a very high risk factor for heart disease. But statins, which lower LDL, will do nothing to help your RLP, which are best lowered by high dose omega 3 fatty acids. So, if you don't know what kind of lipoproteins you have, you're shooting in the dark in terms of what treatments you should take. You can see why measuring just plain old cholesterol is certainly not enough. That is why 50% of the people who have fatal heart attacks have "normal" cholesterol - they are not getting the right cholesterol/ lipoprotein test done.
Here's the best part:  SpectraCell's LPP® test costs about the same as an outdated cholesterol test and it is also often covered by insurance. Why wouldn't you want an LPP® done?

Posted by Elissa Rodriguez at Thursday, February 1, 2018

Is the Lack of Carnitine a Root Cause of Autism?

autism.jpegAlthough autism likely has more than a singular cause, it is possible that one nutrient deficiency or imbalance can have a significant impact on its development. Recent evidence suggests that carnitine – a relatively under-recognized nutrient among the general public – plays a bigger role in autism than previously thought.

Carnitine’s main function is to transport fatty acids into the cellular powerhouse (mitochondria) for energy. Low carnitine status (common in autism) can impair the ability to use fatty acids for learning and social development.  This recent research hypothesizes that carnitine deficiency may cause symptoms of autism and goes on to suggest that up to 20% of autism cases may be preventable via appropriate supplementation. The author points out that a defect in carnitine biosynthesis is a risk factor for autism, citing the gene (SLC6A14) that limits carnitine utilization in the brain. Expressed only in males, this suggests the reason that autism is more prevalent in boys than in girls. 

For additional information about the micronutrient impact on this this condition, download the Nutrients and Autism flyer here.

For more details on the cited paper, click here for a link to the abstract, “Brain carnitine deficiency causes nonsyndromic autism with an extreme male bias: a hypothesis,” published in the July 2017 issue of Bioassays

Posted by Elissa Rodriguez at Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Vitamin B1 and Female Fertility

pregnant.jpegA vitamin B1 deficiency has been shown to compromise egg cell health in female mice. Even though this study was carried out on mice, the implications for human health and fertility are not lost. Scientists were interested in assessing the effect of mild and severe vitamin B1 (thiamin) deficiency on egg cells and what they found was revealing. 

Mice were fed one of two diets: normal or one lacking in vitamin B1. Not surprisingly, the vitamin B1 concentration in the ovaries of mice not given vitamin B1 was much lower than that of mice fed B1. Since the major source of cellular energy in oocytes (immature egg cells) comes from a compound (pyruvic acid) that is metabolized by a vitamin B1-dependent enzyme, researchers wanted to investigate the impact of B1 deficiency on egg cell development. 

If the vitamin B1 deficiency was “mild” (not severe enough to cause weight loss), the mice ovaries produced egg cells that were normal. However, if B1 deficiency reached severe levels, then their ovaries would produce abnormal egg cells more often: 44% of eggs from severely deficient animals were abnormal, compared to only 14% of eggs from mice with adequate B1. Furthermore, once the mice returned to a vitamin B1-containing diet, the level of abnormal egg cells dropped from 44% to 23%, suggesting that egg cell damage may occur as the cell matures but not in its immature stage. 

For more details on the cited paper, click here for a link to the abstract, “Effects of Mild and Severe Vitamin B1 Deficiencies on the Meiotic Maturation of Mice Oocytes,” published in the March 2017 issue of Nutrition and Metabolic Insights.  For a copy of the full paper, click here

Posted by Elissa Rodriguez at Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Vitamin K May Boost Performance in Athletes

cyclist-1.jpegVitamin K is often regarded as a nutrient for improving heart health, lowering cancer risk, and increasing bone density, but it also appears to improve fitness even in healthy athletes. Like most nutrients, it seems to have quite versatile roles.

In this small study, 26 trained male and female athletes were administered placebo or vitamin K2 supplements for eight weeks while they maintained their regular exercise routines. At the beginning of the study and after eight weeks, each person completed a fitness test on an exercise machine designed to quantify their physical work load, oxygen consumption, respiratory rate, cardiac output, and heart rate.  

Vitamin K2 supplementation was associated with a 12% increase in cardiac output (volume of blood that the heart is capable of pumping per beat). The authors suggest that vitamin K2, which has previously been shown to play a role in energy metabolism (especially in tissues with high energy requirements such as skeletal muscle and heart) might be considered in healthy athletes to improve performance. 

For more details on the cited paper, click here for a link to the abstract, “Oral Consumption of Vitamin K2 for 8 Weeks Associated With Increased Maximal Cardiac Output During Exercise,” published in the July 2017 issue of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. 

Posted by Elissa Rodriguez at Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Can We Change Our Genetic Expression with Nutrients?

DNA Human.jpgRecent evidence suggests that the answer is yes.  Most people understand that we all have inherent genetic predispositions – some as benign as the shape of our nose and others more dangerous such as the tendency toward certain cancers.  However, as research on epigenetics grows, the ability to modulate the expression of certain genes is becoming clearer.  Epigenetics is the study of how our genetic expression is affected by factors other than changes in DNA sequence.  These factors include our environment, including what we eat, supplements we take, toxins, illnesses, even the amount of sunlight to which we are exposed. 

In this study, variations (known by geneticists as polymorphisms) in a specific gene that makes a protein called the zinc transporter 8 (ZNT8), which carries zinc into the hormone insulin, were studied. This protein ZNT8 is responsible for ensuring that pancreatic beta cells (the cells that make insulin which allows us to metabolize blood sugar) have adequate zinc available.  If cells in the pancreas do not have enough zinc, they will not function optimally which may ultimately result in higher risk of insulin resistance and the metabolic dysfunction that follows.  

When participants with the (CC) genotype ingested more zinc and omega 3 fatty acids, they lowered their risk of metabolic syndrome consequences associated with their genotype. Stated differently, people with this specific genotype (CC) responded well (in terms of improved insulin sensitivity and metabolic health) to higher levels of zinc and omega 3 fatty acids, while other genotypes (CT or TT) did not show a meaningful improvement in metabolism.  Since over-supplementation has potentially negative consequences (too much zinc can cause copper deficiency, for example), knowing your genotype may lead to more informed supplementation decisions. 

For more details, click here for a link to the abstract entitled Some dietary factors can modulate the effect of the zinc transporters 8 polymorphism on the risk of metabolic syndrome published in the May 2017 issue of Scientific Reports  (Abstract 2640).  Or read the full paper here.  (Full paper 829)


Adapted from July 2017 Clinical Updates.  9/27/2017.  (NLH)

Posted by Elissa Rodriguez at Friday, November 17, 2017

One-Third of Americans Have at Least One Micronutrient Deficiency

Using data from the government-sponsored research program National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a group of researchers compiled data on seven vitamins from over 15,000 people in the US. They determined that 31% of the American population is at risk for at least one vitamin deficiency; 23% of Americans are at risk for deficiency in at least two vitamins, and 6% are at risk for three or more vitamin deficiencies.

The data came from a variety of sources: dietary recall, reported supplement use, and lab results – some information less quantifiable than others. Researchers concluded that the most common vitamin deficiency in the United States is vitamin B6, of which a staggering 20% of Americans are deficient. However, scientists concede that biomarkers of nutrient status are affected by inflammation, suggesting that deficiency rates may be even higher. In addition, nutrient status did not correlate with dietary intake (according to their data), which is not surprising given that determining specific deficiencies via dietary intake is notoriously difficult to quantify. Dietary recall is rarely accurate; even if intake is measured with precision (this is difficult to do and therefore unlikely), absorption of said nutrients is an entirely different problem (itself nearly impossible to assess). A review of the available literature supports the view that a one-size-fits-all approach to micronutrient requirements is both outdated and inaccurate.  

The investigators stated that “sub-clinical deficiency symptoms for many vitamins and minerals are non-specific, and may include fatigue, irritability, aches and pains, decreased immune function, and heart palpitations,” all of which further complicate the quantification of micronutrient deficiency. Functional measurement of intracellular micronutrient status may gain attention as studies like this are published.

For details, click HERE for a link to the abstract. Read the full paper HERE.

Posted by Elissa Rodriguez at Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Leptin Resistance: Everything You Need to Know

Overeating.jpgLeptin, often called the “satiety hormone,” is an adipokine (signaling molecule produced by fat cells) whose main function is to regulate energy and fat stores. In a metabolically healthy person, a temporary increase in caloric intake (such as after a big meal) corresponds to an increase in leptin production. This prompts the hypothalamus to send signals that promote satiety, which cues one to stop eating.

Leptin was the first adipokine to be discovered (in 1994) and changed how scientists view fat tissue. Fat stores were previously thought to be inert tissue that did not cause any direct harm. Upon the discovery of leptin and its related genes, scientists learned that excess adipose tissue is actually metabolically active, releasing several hormones (adipokines) and inflammatory enzymes. Consequently, it is now considered an endocrine organ.

Although leptin suppresses appetite, one can become leptin resistant, feeling hungry even when one consuming enough calories to maintain metabolic requirements. In a way that is analogous to insulin resistance, leptin resistance occurs in obesity: the higher the fat stores, the more leptin produced. In fact, leptin varies exponentially (as opposed to linearly) with adipose tissue. This means that changes in fat mass profoundly affect leptin levels. Over time, as leptin increasingly circulates in blood, the brain eventually becomes resistant to its effects. As a result, one becomes inclined to overeat, unable to experience satiety and therefore feeling hungry even when leptin levels are high! This is referred to as leptin resistance. 

An increase in leptin (in the short term) follows an increase in caloric intake. This promotes satiety and signals one to stop eating. However, in the long term, a chronic increase in leptin can be attributed to excess body fat, estrogen (endogenous and exogenous), insulin (leptin is released dose-dependently in response to insulin), stress, and some steroid medications such as dexamethasone.

Loss of fat tissue, reduction in caloric intake via dieting and fasting, testosterone (which is anabolic – this increases appetite), and ghrelin (the hunger hormone) are all factors that lower leptin. Sleep deprivation, which upregulates appetite, is a reason why sleep loss is linked to cravings, and also impacts levels.

Factors that impact leptin sensitivity include:

  • Excess body weight
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup (this blocks leptin receptors)
  • High Triglyceride levels block leptin’s ability to reach the hypothalamus
  • Estrogen deficiency: the leptin-estrogen link may cause menstrual cravings
  • Lectins in grains bind to leptin receptors, inducing leptin resistance 

Leptin receptors are found in several tissues besides the hypothalamus, including endothelial, muscle, placental, and liver cells. Although its appetite-regulating effects are well established, it is known to play a role in fertility and puberty; however, its other functions are not fully understood.

SpectraCell’s CardioMetabolic test offers a clinically relevant evaluation to help define risk for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD), progression toward Type 2 Diabetes, and inflammation.
Whether you are at high risk of heart disease or managing an existing metabolic condition, SpectraCell’s CardioMetabolic test is appropriate and recommended.


Posted by Elissa Rodriguez at Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Vitamin A: Functions and Benefits

vit A.jpgVitamin A was one of the earliest vitamins to be discovered – hence its top rank in the alphabetical vitamin nomenclature.Vitamin A is a family of fat soluble compounds that play an important role in vision, bone growth, reproduction, and immune system regulation. Most people associate vitamin A with carrots, and for good reason: the common orange veggie has high amounts of beta-carotene, which is actually a vitamin A precursor and also the reason carrots got their name. But vitamin A is actually a group of chemicals that are similar in structure, and include retinol (the most biologically active form of vitamin A), retinal, and retinoic acid.

β-carotene is slightly different in that it is cleaved in the intestinal mucosa by an enzyme to form retinol. Other carotenoids include lycopene and lutein but, although similar to vitamin A, they are not actually vitamin A in the truest sense. One distinction is that excessive amounts of vitamin A from over-supplementation, can cause toxicity (although deficiency is much more common). On the other hand, β-carotene does not cause vitamin A toxicity because there exists a regulatory mechanism that limits vitamin A production from beta carotene when high levels are ingested.

A large number of physiological systems may be affected by vitamin A deficiency which is most often associated with strict dietary restrictions and excess alcohol intake. Patients with Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease and pancreatic disorders are particularly susceptible due to malabsorption.  Vitamin A is also essential for the developing skeletal system and deficiency can result in growth retardation or abnormal bone formation. 

The functions of vitamin A are very diverse:

  • Eyesight: Vitamin A forms retinal, which combines with a protein (rhodopsin) to create the light-absorbing cells in the eye. This explains why a common clinical manifestation of deficiency is night blindness and poor vision.
  • Skin: In addition to promoting healthy skin function and integrity, vitamin A regulates the growth of epithelial surfaces in the eyes and respiratory, intestinal, and urinary tracts. Deficiency impairs epithelial regeneration, which can manifest as skin hyperkeratization, infertility, or increased susceptibility to respiratory infections.
  • Anemia: Vitamin A helps transfer iron to red blood cells for incorporation into hemoglobin; thus, a vitamin A deficiency will exacerbate an iron deficiency.
  • Weight management: Vitamin A reduces the size of fat cells, regulates the genetic expression of leptin (a hormone that suppresses appetite), and enhances the expression of genes that reduce a person’s tendency to store food as fat.
  • Cancer prevention: Vitamin A deficiency impairs the body’s ability to launch cell-mediated immune responses to cancer cells. Vitamin A inhibits squamous metaplasia (a type of skin cancer) and inhibits breast cancer cell growth.
  • Fertility: Vitamin A plays a key role in the synthesis of sperm.
  • Autism: Vitamin A is part of the retinoid receptor protein (G-alpha protein), which is critical for language processing, attention, and sensory perception. Some autistics have a defect in this protein that vitamin A supplementation can modulate.
  • Sleep: Vitamin A deficiency alters brains waves in non-REM sleep, causing sleep to be less restorative.

Vitamin A also interacts with other micronutrients. For example, zinc is required to transport vitamin A into tissues, so a zinc deficiency will limit retinal binding protein (RBP) synthesis and thus limits the body’s ability to use vitamin A stores in the liver. Oleic acid, a fatty acid found in olive oil, facilitates the absorption of vitamin A in the gut.

Find out if you have a vitamin A deficiency, and take steps to correct it, by ordering a micronutrient test today. 


Posted by Elissa Rodriguez at Monday, July 31, 2017

Vital to Victory: Micronutrient Requirements for Athletes

From a nutritional standpoint, the athlete’s focus should include both macronutrients – protein for muscle rebuilding, carbohydrates for energy renewal, fats for nerve function – as well as the critically important micronutrients – which are the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and amino acids your body needs to function optimally every day and over a lifetime.

Hear Dr. Grabowski’s take on the role of micronutrients in sports nutrition.

Above all, we are all biochemically unique, and several factors affect our personal micronutrient needs - age, lifestyle, intensity of physical training, prescription drug usage, past and present illness or injuries, absorption rate, genetics and more. The “normal” amount of each micronutrient varies from athlete to athlete, and even in the same athlete depending on circumstances in his or her life.

SpectraCell’s Micronutrient test measures 33 vitamins and minerals in your body, but goes even further – it measures functional, long-term levels within the cell, which means SpectraCell’s micronutrient test not only identifies deficiencies but is also a valuable tool in predicting health concerns before overt symptoms occur. How's that for a test?! 
That said, YOU ARE WHAT YOU ABSORB - not just what you eat. Find out whether your supplements are really working and how you can improve your absorption and performance today. To learn more about the role of micronutrients in sports nutrition, click here


Posted by Elissa Rodriguez at Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Vitamin D Linked to Longer Telomeres, Suggests Study

Telomere.pngTelomeres – the protective DNA caps on every chromosome which shorten over time as a cell ages – have been correlated with chronic diseases in hundreds of studies.  A shorter telomere equates to an aging cell, and the cumulative effect of this may manifest as the degenerative diseases commonly associated with aging, including heart disease, cancer and dementia.  Low vitamin D has also been linked to several chronic diseases.  In this study, researchers sought to link the two – low vitamin D and shorter telomeres.  Telomere length was measured via PCR (polymerase chain reaction) on 4260 American adults ranging in age from 20 years old to over 60.  In the age group of 40-59 years, blood levels of vitamin D were correlated to telomere length.  In other words, higher vitamin D = longer telomeres. 

In a different study on participants from the same government-sponsored  survey (NHANES, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey), 4347 American adults were evaluated for vitamin D levels and telomere length.  After adjusting for common demographic factors (age, race, education), higher vitamin D was linked to longer telomeres.  However, after adjusting for common physical factors (smoking, BMI, activity levels), no correlation was seen.  This suggests that vitamin D may very well be correlated with telomere length, but other factors play such a big role in healthy aging (such as not smoking or getting regular exercise) that these factors make the vitamin D-telomere connection less clear.

Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Has a Modest Positive Association with Leukocyte Telomere Length in Middle-Aged US Adults. Link to ABSTRACT.

The association of telomere length and serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels in US adults: the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Link to ABSTRACT. Link to FREE FULL TEXT. 


Posted by Elissa Rodriguez at Wednesday, May 31, 2017