The Value of Nutrient Testing, or Why Didn’t Somebody Tell Me?

By Charles Hinshaw, M.D.

Remember the old comment, “If I’d only known how bad it is for me, I’d have stopped drinking a long time ago.” Well, today we’ll learn about how bad it is for you to eat improperly—so no excuses about not having been told about the hazards of a bad diet.

We will take a rather circuitous course, touching on the effects of dietary deficiencies as well as excess; this also includes supplementation. We’ll even touch on the sensitive issue of the cost of nutrient testing, the cost of chronic illness, the societal costs of chronic illness, the societal costs of disability care and the cost of nursing home care.

Unfortunately, most of today’s doctors have received very little specific training in nutrition.  I gave a talk about 30 years ago on this subject and, in preparation, found that the average medical school scheduled two hours of formal lecture on nutrition. That, of course, was not, and is not, the entirety of nutritional training, because medical students are immersed in courses such as biochemistry, pharmacology, pathology etc., where the diagnosis of illnesses related to nutrition is taught. Nevertheless, formal training in nutrition in our medical schools is very limited. With a backward look at the Riordan Clinic and BioCenter Laboratory we are reminded that nutritional testing was at the roots of our beginning. As moderator of a recent roundtable discussion on The Value of Nutrient Testing (Alternative and Complementary Therapies, June 2011), Dr. Ron Hunninghake quoted Dr. Riordan:

“It will not be until doctors actually measure nutrient levels that nutritional medicine will finally find its proper place of esteem in the field of medicine.” 

Now, rather than reciting a laundry list of illnesses and conditions caused by nutrient deficiencies or excesses (such as a list is readily available in promotional materials for our  upcoming Check Your Health event), I thought it might be interesting to emphasize the role of nutrients in some psychological disorders and the role of antioxidants in inflammatory disorders.

In 1975, Dr. Riordan received a grant from Mrs. Olive W. Garvey specifically for the purpose of establishing a laboratory capable of nutritional testing. It turns out that Mrs. Garvey and Dr. Riordan were both deeply interested in nutrition. From that beginning, the BioCenter Laboratory grew to become nationally in the field of orthomolecular psychiatry. Many cases of depression, anxiety, hallucinations, paranoia, irritability, hyperactivity, autism and psychosis have been found to have nutritional deficiencies and have been treated successfully with diet and supplements. Vitamins B1, B6, B12, C and folic acid have been especially helpful, along with amino acids, especially methionine, minerals, especially zinc and magnesium, pyyroles, and identification of food and chemical sensitivities.  Testing for all of the is performed at BioCenter Laboratory.

As you all know, the capabilities and interests of the doctors at the Riordan Clinic reach far beyond just diagnosing and treating illness. One of our missions has been described as, “stimulating an epidemic of health.” One of the tests most frequently ordered by our doctors is CRP-hs (C Reactive Protein-high sensitivity). This is an  oxygen molecules entering the body each day damages proteins and one-half of one percent damages DNA. Under normal conditions, oxidant levels are controlled by natural levels of antioxidants, which destroy the oxidants. Our cells are normally loaded with these antioxidants, which include Vitamin E, beta carotene, glutathione, Vitamin C, manganese, glutathione peroxidase, catalase, superoxide dismutase, copper, zinc and others. Oxidative stress and excess free radicals can cause cancer, stroke, heart disease, dementia and other degenerative diseases. See where I’m going? We can test for antioxidant levels and use test results to guide supplementation.

Well, we have learned (I hope) about reasons for nutrient testing, but what about costs? Is nutrient testing expensive? Yes and no. In terms of dollars, the costs can range from a single test for $19.00 (cholesterol) to amino acids fractionated ($292.00), to our Mega Health Panel ($3,167.00 for more than 70 test measurements). We all know that medical care is expensive. It always has been. We also know that a major portion of medical care costs comes in the form of laboratory tests, x-ray exams, endoscopic procedures and hospital charges. In that light, laboratory tests don’t look so bad. Now, let’s add in the fact that at the Riordan Clinic, 99% of your tests will be for evaluation of your nutritional status.  This is of immense importance because these tests can frequently assist our doctors in diagnosing chronic illnesses heretofore unresponsive to conventional treatment. And don’t forget, these same tests can provide vital information for maintaining optimal health at any age. Think of it this way. One less chronic illness, or one less month in a nursing home, will easily cover the annual costs of nutrient testing and wellness care here at the Riordan Clinic.

Finally, I would be remiss not to mention one of modern medicine’s favorite concepts, with which I heartily agree. That concept focuses on what is called biochemical individuality. This simply means that there is no one else in this world that is exactly like you. Of course there is an exception to every rule, which in this case is the identical twin.

The importance of biochemical individuality in this discussion is to remind everyone that a “normal” laboratory test result for you may not be a normal result for me. 

This accounts for the “normal range” seen in laboratory test results.  Actually five percent of laboratory test results falling outside of the normal range may actually be normal for that individual.  However, 95% if test results falling outside of the normal range are indeed abnormal. This concept holds true for nutrient test results just as much as for all other test results.

We have broadly covered two classes of illnesses which can be effectively treated or prevented through the use of nutrient testing.  Costs of nutrient testing have been discusses in actual dollars as well as costs relative to benefits.  For anyone interest in their nutritional status, I invite you to avail yourself of the upcoming opportunity.  During September 19-24, you can save 45% on the cost of our “Check Your Health” nutrient panels, plus an extra 25% savings on all vitamins and minerals sold in our Riordan Clinic Supplement Store.  Call 316-684-7784 or 1-800-494-7785 to schedule your appointment.

Don’t let me hear anyone say, “No one ever told me.”