Serum testing measures how much of a nutrient is floating around outside the cell. SpectraCell tells you how that nutrient is working inside the cell – where it matters.
A very common misconception about taking vitamin supplements is that if some is good, more is better. Since micronutrients (which includes vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, amino acids and other compounds) work synergistically, there exists an important and delicate balance of nutrients. Taking too much of one nutrient may induce a deficiency in another nutrient by disturbing the biochemical balance they have with each other. The key is targeted supplementation, which means supplementing to correct nutritional deficiencies specific to you.
For example, a deficiency in zinc is very common. And since zinc is important in maintaining healthy immunity, many people take over the counter zinc supplements with the intention of lowering their risk of colds and infections. However, if zinc supplements are taken that are not balanced with copper, it is quite possible to induce a copper deficiency, which can cause neurological problems. In correcting one deficiency, you do not want to cause another. The solution is measuring your individual micronutrient status. SpectraCell Laboratories offers micronutrient testing (MNT), which is a blood test that measures a person’s nutritional profile based on their own blood cells.
Without the use of micronutrient testing, doctors had to rely solely on clinical observation and measurements of static levels of nutrients in serum. Static serum levels are not representative indicators for assessing cell metabolism and utilization. First, serum levels are transient. They offer only a snapshot rather than a history of nutritional status. Serum levels of nutrients fluctuate depending on recent intake, the status of nutrient transport into tissues (where it performs its actual functions) and several other factors.
Second, serum levels do not reflect how much of the nutrient gets into the cells. Intracellular levels, where the nutrient is needed, depend on how well the nutrient is absorbed and transferred across the cell membrane into the tissues of the body. Cofactors are often necessary to transport nutrients. If a person has high serum levels of magnesium, for example, this does not necessarily mean they have the proper cofactors needed to carry magnesium into tissues. Although two people may have similar serum levels, they may differ radically on their capacity to take up nutrients into cells. Research shows that serum levels do not adequately correlate to clinical presentation of nutritional deficiency.
Third, the optimal amount of a vitamin for one person may be suboptimal for another. Since everyone is genetically unique, our biochemical need for micronutrients varies wildly. Several genes affect nutrient status. People with certain genes (MTHFR gene, for example) may need higher amounts of a nutrient than someone without the gene. Combine our genetic differences with the differences in environment, and it becomes obvious why our nutritional profiles are so different from one another. Similarly, lifestyle and environmental factors – age, gender, prescription and over-the-counter drugs, the type and amount of exercise one gets, diet, past illnesses, or injuries, even where a person lives – all play a huge role in determining the optimal amount of each micronutrient for a person. Serum measures of nutrients do not take this into account.
In addition to being an intracellular (versus serum) measure of nutritional status, SpectraCell’s micronutrient test is also a functional measure of nutritional status. This means that SpectraCell’s micronutrient test measures how well a person’s cells utilize each micronutrient. The test is done on white blood cells (T lymphocytes) that are obtained from a simple blood draw. Since lymphocytes are produced in the bone marrow and stored in peripheral locations for long periods of time (the average life span of a lymphocyte is approximately four to six months), SpectraCell’s measurements provide a powerful portrait of each patient’s long term (4-6 month) nutrient status.
SpectraCell isolates white blood cells from whole blood and grows these white blood cells (the patient’s own cells) in a very controlled environment to determine the person’s lymphocyte response to mitogen stimulation. In simpler terms, the patient’s cellular growth rate in a “perfect” and controlled environment is first determined. Then, micronutrients involved in cell metabolism are evaluated by manipulation of the individual micronutrients in the growth medium. Functional status of thirty-five nutrients are measured. Deficiencies are detected when the cells’ growth rate is significantly slower in a culture medium that does not have a specific nutrient. So, for example, if the cells’ growth rate is decreased when subjected to an environment without vitamin A, for example, this means that the cells did not have enough vitamin A in its cellular reserve to support optimal growth. Thus, a functional deficiency of vitamin A would exist and be reported.
MNT also assesses the ability of cells to resist damage caused by free radicals and other forms of oxidative stress. Due to the considerable number of cellular antioxidants with extensive interactions, redundancies, repair and recharging capabilities, measuring total function is the most accurate and clinically useful way to assess the capacity to resist oxidative damage. This is determined by SpectraCell’s Spectrox test.
No matter what the underlying cause, a functional deficiency will result in defective metabolic activity. The biochemical pathways that depend on a specific nutrient will be compromised when a functional deficiency of that nutrient exists. A deficiency may exist several months or years before clinical symptoms of overt deficiency are seen. For example, the clinical presentation of a gross vitamin C deficiency is scurvy. But before this extreme deficiency is seen, subclinical deficiency exists, and the clinical presentation is much more elusive. For a “subclinical” vitamin C deficiency, for example, there may be symptoms of fatigue or reduced immunity. Treating subclinical deficiencies before they become overtly clinical in classic deficiency disease is ideal.
Several clinically elusive symptoms like general fatigue, low-energy, poor mood, or pain are very successfully treated by correction of nutritional deficiencies. Since nutrients have multiple roles throughout the body and are involved in multiple metabolic pathways, correction of nutritional deficiencies often yields systemic benefits.
For more information on the difference between serum and intracellular testing, CLICK HERE.
For more information on cell function, CLICK HERE.