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Best tests for mineral status, especially zinc and copper

by (610)
Updated October 23, 2014 at 3:29 AM
Created January 25, 2012 at 4:59 PM

I took a zinc tally taste test recently, and it tasted like water, apparently indicating a zinc deficiency. I've been dealing with dysbiosis/leaky gut for 7 or 8 years now, so my zinc could be depleted or not absorbing properly. We also have acidic well water and copper pipes (though we do run the water 3 minutes before drinking it), so copper could be outcompeting zinc for absorbtion.

After some research and discussion I'm convinced that I need to proceed with supplementation carefully. I'd like to get some tests done to see where I stand now, especially with zinc and copper.

Travis Culp suggested that serum levels of minerals are misleading and very poorly reflect the body's mineral pools.

What is a reliable way to gauge the body's mineral pools? I've heard strikes against serum testing and hair mineral analysis, but I imagine nothing's perfect. I'd also like to avoid breaking the bank. Suggestions?

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892 · February 08, 2012 at 12:05 AM

I just got the spectracell test done (in fact I was searching PH for others' opinions on it which is how I got to this answer) I really like the idea of testing based on what your cells need for optimal growth rather than just measuring absolute serum levels. But the numbers gal in me wishes I still had the actual serum levels on hand, especially for something like D3, where it seems like everyone likes to throw their numbers out and compare. Anyway, the results seem to jive pretty well with what I was expecting, but I'd still love to hear others' opinions on this method of testing.

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8933 · January 25, 2012 at 7:21 PM

You shouldn't be worrying about that : eat beef liver regularly and/or take a supplement with zinc and copper in it, like http://www.iherb.com/Now-Foods-L-OptiZinc-30-mg-100-Capsules/738?at=0

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610 · January 25, 2012 at 7:02 PM

Hmmm... I have been noticing a metalic taste in my mouth sometimes...

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610 · January 25, 2012 at 7:01 PM

I'm fairly sure I'm zinc deficient, but what I want to be careful of is throwing my copper out of whack by supplementing with zinc (which will compete with the copper) - hence my desire for a test to confirm zinc status and see where copper is. Oysters have been suggested by Travis Culp as well, I'll have to see if I can find a good source.

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610 · January 25, 2012 at 6:34 PM

yeah, that podcast was what put zinc onto my radar. Chris says he uses serum analysis, but he doesn't mention a specific test.

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4359 · January 25, 2012 at 6:06 PM

Possible choices include: serum test, toe nail test, hair test, tissue test, taste test. The problem is that as far as I can tell, nobody knows which, if any, of these tests provides a meaningful indication of zinc status. In particular, results on one test do not correlate that well with results other tests. Of all them, I would put the most stock in the taste test simply because it relies on bio-feedback and not some random surrogate marker that has uncertain meaning.

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6 Answers

best answer

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53 · January 25, 2012 at 5:25 PM

I"ve heard good things about the Spectracell test.

http://www.spectracell.com/products/micronutrient-testing-product-specifications/

Anyone else have an opinion?

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892 · February 08, 2012 at 12:05 AM

I just got the spectracell test done (in fact I was searching PH for others' opinions on it which is how I got to this answer) I really like the idea of testing based on what your cells need for optimal growth rather than just measuring absolute serum levels. But the numbers gal in me wishes I still had the actual serum levels on hand, especially for something like D3, where it seems like everyone likes to throw their numbers out and compare. Anyway, the results seem to jive pretty well with what I was expecting, but I'd still love to hear others' opinions on this method of testing.

best answer

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39841 · January 26, 2012 at 12:55 AM

I think the best way for a male is via proxy, i.e. if your testosterone is low, then odds are it's the result of a zinc deficiency. If you weren't able or willing to actually test for the serum level, you could then gauge that by proxy as well (libido, inconvenient tumescence etc.).

Copper's a little bit trickier, though a deficiency will result in cardiac arrhythmias. Overshooting with zinc can create a copper deficiency, so you could conceivably trade one for the other.

Regarding supplementation, I favor including oysters in the diet for zinc, though simply eating red meat primarily, which we probably should be doing anyway, will correct the deficiency over time. For copper, liver's the best route, and again we should be eating that anyway.

Something to keep in mind is that a wild human is routinely over-consuming most minerals and excreting the excess, so if you simply eat an evolutionarily-appropriate diet, any existing deficiencies will be addressed automagically. On the other hand, it may be advantageous to accelerate the process, so oysters a few times a week and 50g of liver a few times a week on non-oyster days for a few weeks would likely make a noticeable difference. I went a bit overboard with zinc picolinate and would have favored a food approach were I to replay things. Oysters contain some copper and liver contains some zinc, so an imbalance is at least less likely.

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20908 · January 25, 2012 at 5:41 PM

This was just on the latest Chris Kresser podcast. He's not convinced that the taste test is very accurate and he relies on a certain blood test which I forget the name of. But check out that podcast, it should have the details you care about regarding copper and zinc.

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610 · January 25, 2012 at 6:34 PM

yeah, that podcast was what put zinc onto my radar. Chris says he uses serum analysis, but he doesn't mention a specific test.

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8933 · January 25, 2012 at 5:44 PM

Jack Kruse has posted an interesting article about this.

This is what he says about zinc :

Zinc deficiency can result in hair loss in case of cells on the scalp and lesions on the skin. This is one of the prominent signs of zinc deficiency. This also is important testosterone synthesis. Zinc is actually an aromatase inhibitor too. This means it decreases the conversion of testosterone to DHT and to Estradiol (E2). So if one is taking too much it can actually cause your hormone panels to be altered. Another more common finding with a zinc deficiency is an alteration of tasting and smelling things. They often report a lack of smell or a metallic taste in their mouths. I have seen this often in patients who are pre diabetic and do not realize they are becoming diabetic. It is now most common in young men with early onset andropause.

He also says magnesium deficient people tend to sweat a lot, iron deficient people often have spoon shaped nail beds on the hands and feet with ridges in them, and lots of other things.

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610 · January 25, 2012 at 7:02 PM

Hmmm... I have been noticing a metalic taste in my mouth sometimes...

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968 · January 25, 2012 at 5:37 PM

I'm fairly sure excess copper in your system depletes zinc. The taste test you did is quite a good one. We used to do it all the time for customers were I work. It tastes absolutely aweful when your zinc levels are correct. Maybe taking a zinc supplement, or dosing up on oysters and pepitas would be good. And you may want to consider getting a water distiller.

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8933 · January 25, 2012 at 7:21 PM

You shouldn't be worrying about that : eat beef liver regularly and/or take a supplement with zinc and copper in it, like http://www.iherb.com/Now-Foods-L-OptiZinc-30-mg-100-Capsules/738?at=0

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610 · January 25, 2012 at 7:01 PM

I'm fairly sure I'm zinc deficient, but what I want to be careful of is throwing my copper out of whack by supplementing with zinc (which will compete with the copper) - hence my desire for a test to confirm zinc status and see where copper is. Oysters have been suggested by Travis Culp as well, I'll have to see if I can find a good source.

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20353 · January 25, 2012 at 5:25 PM

http://www.exatest.com/ is the gold standard for minerals. However does not cover copper or zinc...

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