Nutritional Testing FAQ | SpectraCell Laboratories

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Nutritional Testing FAQ

Chronic disease should not be accepted as “normal.”

Symptoms such as low mood, chronic fatigue, anxiety, irritability, brain fog, depression, and insomnia have become so common that many accept these issues as normal. Radiant health and vitality seem to be out of reach. Even the most avid seekers of health are unable to sift through the litany of medical lingo and terminology. Issues such as graying and thinning hair, fatigue, arthritic joints, and brittle nails are accepted as inevitable signs of aging. But in reality, these symptoms are effectively outward manifestations of multiple, internal nutritional deficiencies – specifically, deficiencies at the “cellular level.”  

What is Targeted Supplementation?

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. Balance is key.

Why is intracellular testing better than serum?

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 actually gets into the cells. Intracellular levels, where the nutrient is actually 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.

Why is measuring cellular function important?

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. 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. 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 actually utilize each micronutrient.

Won’t the test be affected by what I ate the night before?

No, that is the beauty of a functional cellular test done on lymphocytes. Spectracell uses cell (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.

How exactly does the test work?

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. The functional status of 31 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.

What is a ‘subclinical’ deficiency?

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.

Is SpectraCell testing covered by insurance?

Unfortunately, no. We are not contracted with any insurance providers at this time, including Medicare and Medicare replacement plans. However, you may request an itemized receipt to submit to your insurance provider for reimbursement. Coverage is subject to your individual benefits plan. The best way to determine whether a test is covered is by contacting your insurance provider directly. 

Please visit our billing resource page here