by Dr. Lawrence Wilson

© January 2012, L.D. Wilson Consultants, Inc.


All information in this article is for educational purposes only.  It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.


            This is a critical subject having to do with the interpretation of hair mineral analyses.  It is also a philosophical subject having to do with whether one should aim for average health, or optimum health. 

            Almost all mineral testing laboratories use reference ranges.  These are usually calculated mathematically to be one, two or three standard deviations from a mean or average value of a large population of those tested at the laboratory.

            In contrast, Dr. Paul Eck, and the laboratory he founded, Analytical Research Laboratories, ignores reference ranges and instead focuses upon ideal mineral levels and ratios in their graphs, their information and their interpretations of hair mineral analyses.           This difference causes confusion and controversy among doctors, patients and laboratories. 




            The concepts behind reference ranges for hair and blood tests are:

            1. Human biochemistry and physiology are not exact sciences.  There is some variation among all people, so the idea of a perfect or ideal mineral or blood value is wrong.

            2. True health of a human being is difficult, if not impossible to measure, because it must somehow take into account one’s genetics, diet, lifestyle, illnesses, toxic metals, etc.  therefore, we must assume that health is a sort of spectrum, and that hair or blood levels of various constituents that we measure will fall into a range, sometimes a wide range, and not be the same for everyone.

            3. Laboratories measure people from different races, cultures, ethnic and religious groups, etc.  It is likely that there is some variation among all these people, and rather than assign a value for each one, we use a range that covers everyone.

            4. Blood tests, in particular, but to some extent all types of tests vary from moment to moment, day to day based upon one’s diet, activity, hydration, menstrual cycle, emotional state and other factors.  Therefore, the blood and other test values will vary somewhat.

            5. Reference ranges are easy to derive using standard statistical methods.  In contrast, deriving ideal test values is more complex.




            The rationales are:


            1. We are aiming for optimum health and wellness, not an average level of functioning. 

            2. Many people tested at mineral and other laboratories are ill, at least to some degree.  Therefore, using their average or mean values as a basis to judge health is faulty reasoning.

            3. In fact, human physiology is a precise and exact science.  That is, the healthy human being should have certain normal or ideal test values.  The closer we can come to these, the more healthy a person will tend to be.

            4. Ranges are deceptive and false.  They give the impression that a person is healthy when it is not so.  They also do not tell us enough about how to proceed to move a person toward ideal health.

            5. Hair and body tissues, unlike blood, change very slowly.  They are not subject to minute to minute, or even day to day fluctuations very much, unlike blood and urine.  Therefore, hair, in particular, lends itself very well to the use of ideal values.

            6. Deriving ideal values is indeed challenging, to some degree.  However,  we have enough experience with hair mineral testing to have an excellent idea of about these ideal values.  This can be refined over time.


            As you can see, there are good rationales for the use of both reference ranges and ideal values.  I have worked with both methods, and find that I much prefer the ideal values.

            Interestingly, many of the most interesting and revealing hair mineral patterns that have been discovered, such as the four lows pattern and the calcium shell pattern, depend wholly upon the use of ideal mineral levels and ratios, as do many others.  Without this concept, the patterns cannot be seen or appreciated nearly as well.




The use of reference ranges to evaluate human hair mineral or even blood or urine tests causes many people who are not healthy to be classified as “within normal limits” and therefore not ill.  As a result, much illness is missed by medical doctors and others such as naturopaths and nutritionists who use these tests.

One reason averages are used is that most doctors and nutritionists don’t know how to balance the body properly to bring the laboratory values to the ideal levels, so they must settle for broad reference ranges.

So reference ranges are a kind of sloppy and evasive way to get around having to inform people that they are not as healthy as they can be, and that changes are needed.

In contrast, the use of ideal values forces the doctor or nutritionist to question and study and learn why the patient is not at or near the ideal levels.  This is much more demanding of the doctors, and of the patients as well – something that most doctors do not want to deal with.  It might involve the diet, the lifestyle, a need for targeted supplements or a need for other procedures such as detoxification, meditation or others.




Oddly, a group that is recently pushing for the use of tighter normal values or ideals are the drug manufacturers.  Through their contacts and by basically bribing doctors to do studies, they have quite a profound influence.

Recently, for example, the “normal” cholesterol value has been lowered.  This is a good thing in that it is likely the truth.  However, it is exploited by the drug companies to serve as a way to prescribe cholesterol-lowering drugs to millions more people around the world.  The cholesterol-lowering statin drugs are among the worst drugs in existence, and actually cause heart disease as a side effect, along with muscle wasting and other severe “adverse effects”.  I never recommend them, ever.

Thus, the drug company motives are not simply to help people, but their principle of seeking for ideal or tighter normal values, I believe is correct.  Instead of drugs, however, cholesterol and other imbalances can be corrected quite easily with natural methods that improve health, not worsen it.



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