Knowing one’s vitamin status can be incredibly empowering when it comes to health. 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.
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!
For additional information and medical publications supporting intracellular testing over serum tests, click HERE.
In a group of 33 young adults with treatment-resistant depression, plasma, urine and cerebral spinal fluid were measured for several metabolites. These were compared to levels of 16 healthy control subjects. Folate deficiency in cerebral spinal fluid was the most common deficiency seen in patients with pharmacological treatment- resistant depression. It is worth noting that serum levels of folate were normal in these same patients. All patients with cerebral spinal folate deficiency showed improvement in depressive symptoms when treated with folinic acid, suggesting that serum measurement of folic acid may be misleading as it does not reflect a functional deficiency. In fact, when folic acid deficiency was confirmed (in this case via cerebral spinal fluid), an unexpectedly large proportion of patients with potentially treatable depression were identified.
The thyroid gland, located in the neck, produces a variety of thyroid hormones. These regulate virtually every aspect of metabolism: body temperature, mood, sex hormones, energy levels, and even impact one’s appearance, from hair and nails to skin and waistline. Less understood about thyroid hormones is that there are two basic types – T3 and T4 (so named for the number of iodine molecules each has) – and they serve different biological functions. T4, which is made in the thyroid gland, serves as the precursor hormone to T3. It is entirely possible, even common, for the thyroid gland to produce plenty of thyroid hormone in the form of T4, but not be converted into T3. Because T3 is the more biologically potent thyroid hormone and acts directly on bodily tissues, one may exhibit signs of hypothyroidism (fatigue, weight gain, feeling cold, thinning hair, mood swings, etc) even when T4 is in the normal range.
It is worth noting that the conversion of precursor thyroid hormone T4 into active thyroid hormone T3 occurs outside the thyroid gland, mostly in the liver and kidneys. This conversion into active thyroid hormone occurs through the action of enzymes that are dependent on the mineral selenium (these enzymes are called deiodinases because they remove aniodine in T4 to convert it to T3). Therefore, a selenium deficiency can cause a person to be low in active thyroid hormone, even if their thyroid gland is producing plenty of precursor thyroid hormone. To complicate things, TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) is often found to be “normal” despite poor thyroid conversion. In essence, a reliance on simple thyroid tests may suggest a person is not hypothyroid when in fact they are hypothyroid due to a selenium deficiency. Both low zinc and antioxidant status can also impair the conversion of T4 (precursor) to T3 (active) hormone. The most concentrated dietary source of selenium is the Brazil nut, because the soil where Brazil nuts are grown is particularly rich in selenium.
Find out whether you have a selenium deficiency today!
Chromium is a trace metal that plays a role in metabolizing carbohydrates. It is the central molecule of glucose tolerance factor (GTF), a compound that helps insulin attach to a cell’s receptors. This allows glucose to be taken up by a cell and used for fuel, rather than continue circulating in the bloodstream and eventually wreaking havoc on blood vessels and organs.
When chromium is deficient in the body, glucose cannot be metabolized properly. This sets the stage for insulin resistance. The good news is that when a chromium deficiency is corrected, blood sugar regulation improves. Unfortunately, supplemental chromium, such as chromium picolinate, may not be absorbed efficiently. Chromium competes for the binding site of a protein that transports iron, which may also inhibit absorption. The solution? Increase your dietary intake of chromium-containing foods. Among the best sources of this mineral are broccoli, barley, oats, and green beans. You’ll want to limit your intake of foods high in simple sugars, on the other hand, as these actually increase the rate of excretion, thus promoting chromium deficiency.
Also known as pantothenate or pantothenic acid, vitamin B5 is sometimes referred to as the “anti-stress” vitamin because it can reverse some biological damage caused by stress. Physical, emotional, and psychological stresses trigger the adrenal glands to secrete cortisol (a long-term stress hormone) and adrenaline (a short-term stress hormone). Chronic stress drives the production of too much of any of these hormones, which causes damage in the body long after the stress signal has ended. When vitamin B5 is present in adequate amounts, it is able to down-regulate the secretion of cortisol, and the body is able to recover. However, in a deficiency state, the adrenal glands are unable to cope. Under these circumstances, they cannot launch a healthy response against the multiple daily stressors that assail us, and the chronic (often unavoidable) stress eventually takes a physiological toll.
Find out what whether you're vitamin B5 deficient today with our Micronutrient test!
Magnesium is predominantly found intracellularly, where it is vital for proper cell functions. Magnesium is the second most prevalent intracellular cation (after potassium). Magnesium functions are numerous and essential, including enzyme activation (over 300 types), neuromuscular activity, membrane transport and interactions, energy metabolism (carbohydrates, fats, proteins), and roles in calcium and phosphorus metabolism.
Deficiency symptoms are both acute (Trouseau and Chvostek signs, muscle spasms, tetany, cardia arrythmias, ataxia, vertigo, convulsions, organic brain syndrome) and chronic (thrombophlebitis, hemolytic anemia, bone loss, depressed immune function, poor wound healing, hyper irritability, burxism, hyperlipidemia, fatigue, hypertension). Those at risk for Magnesium deficiency include: malabsorption, malnourished, alcoholics, diabetics, diuretic therapy, children, elderly, pregnant and lactating women, post menopausal women with osteoperosis, athletes, digitalis therapy, long-term therapy with antibiotics, chemotherapeutic and immunosuppressive medications. In addition, the following diseases are associated with Magnesium deficiency: cardiovascular disease, cirrhosis, renal disease, parathyroid diseases, thyroid conditions.
Dietary sources richest in Magnesium (per serving) are:
Seeds (especially pumpkin)
Watch or download Dr. Grabowski's presentation on "Connecting the Nutrients" here
Glutathione is implicated in many cellular function including antioxidant protection and detoxification. It is also essential for the maintenance of cell membrane integrity in red blood cells. Intracellular glutathione concentrations are principally derived by intracellular synthesis, as few cells directly uptake glutathione from the surrounding extracellular fluid. The high concentration of glutathione in virtually all cells clearly indicates its importance in metabolic and oxidative detoxification processes. Glutathione may be considered the preeminent antioxidant.
A wide range of human conditions such as aging, cancer, atherosclerosis, arthritis, viral infections, AIDS, cardiovascular, neurodegenerative diseases and pulmonary diseases may be produced or made worse by "free radicals." Their treatment or prevention often includes antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids and selenium. Glutathione is an essential component of the antioxidant defense system: producing a "sparing effect" for both tocopherol and ascorbate by reducing the oxidized forms, and by eliminating hydrogen peroxide by reacting with glutathione peroxidase. Cellular glutathione functions to decrease the formation of oxidized LDL, implicated in the development of atherosclerosis. T-lymphocytes become deficient in glutathione in the progression of AIDS which impairs immune function. Glutathione is also required for the synthesis of some prostaglandins from n-3 and n-6 polyunstaturated fatty acids which are important in the inflammatory response. Patients with adult respiratory distress syndrome are favorably affected by treatments that increase cellular glutathione.
Download our Nutrient Function and Deficiency symptoms handout here.
Chromium is an essential trace mineral that plays an important role in optimizing insulin function and the regulation of blood glucose levels. Chromium may also be anti-atherogenic and assist in lowering cholesterol.
Following food intake, blood glucose levels rise causing insulin to be secreted by the pancreas. Insulin lowers blood glucose levels by increasing the rate at which glucose enters a person's cells. Chromium is believed to facilitate the attachment of insulin to the cell's insulin receptors. Studies also indicate that chromium participates in cholesterol metabolism, suggesting a role for this mineral in maintaining normal blood cholesterol levels and preventing atherosclerosis. Chromium also plays a role in nucleic acid synthesis.
Due to the processing methods that remove most of the naturally occurring chromium from commonly consumed foods, dietary deficiency of chromium is believed to be widespread in the United States. Chromium deficiency may increase the likelihood of insulin resistance, a condition in which the cells of the body do not respond to the presence of insulin. Insulin resistance can lead to elevated blood levels of insulin (hyperinsulinemia) and elevated blood levels of glucose, which can ultimately cause heart disease and/or diabetes. Deficiency of chromium is associated with metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome represents a constellation of symptoms, including hyperinsulinemia, high blood pressure, high triglyceride levels, high blood sugar levels and low HDL cholesterol levels. These symptoms increase one's risk for heart disease. Low levels of chromium are also associated with an increased risk of coronary artery disease incidence and mortality.
Chromium deficiency correlates with depressed nucleic acid synthesis. Chromium is essential for maintaining the structural stability of proteins and nucleic acids. Animal studies have also found that this element is also vital for healthy fetal growth and development. Studies on humans have established that premature infants born full-term. Others have found that multiparous women (women who've given birth two or more times) have far lower body chromium levels compared to nulliparae (women who've never given birth). These findings suggest that chromium is an essential trace element during fetal growth and development.
Download our Nutrient Chart and the Nutrient Correlation Chart on Diabetes, both handouts provide information as to how important is Chromium.
Check your chromium levels and all other essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and how your immune system is performing.