Introduction to Micronutrient Testing

August 20, 2020 7 min read

Berries and pineapple on a plate

It is estimated that a person eats 90,000 times in a lifetime(1). The kind of food and the amount of food we consume is important for maintaining health and aging well. However, that’s only half of the story. In the previous article, we learned that mineral and nutrient depletion in the soil is a contribution to micronutrient deficiencies. Because the food is less nutritious today than fifty or one hundred years ago, how much nutrition weabsorb from the food we eat is even more important. If any of the stages of digestion become dysfunctional, then absorbing nutrition and completing the process of metabolism will fail.

New methods for measuring nutrient absorption


Previously, traditional blood tests sampled the watery fluid that suspends blood cells called plasma. These blood plasma tests determined how effective the digestive system extracted nutrients and transported them through the intestinal walls into the blood. However, such tests were insufficient for determining the amount of nutrients that were being absorbed from the blood and into cells.


Now, there are tests that extract white blood cells which are divided into a control group and a test sample. The control group is monitored to determine the frequency and number of generations of divisions and how long the cells survive. This then becomes the viability baseline. The test group of cells is then placed in a cell culture media without one specific nutrient such as calcium. The white blood cells, unable to absorb calcium, will not be as viable as the control group. In this way, it is possible to determine what is actually deficient in the cells themselves(2).

The SpectraCell Micronutrient test

  • Measures the functional level and capability of micronutrients present within white blood cells, unlike static serum tests, which only assess the concentration of nutrients present outside the cell.
  • Takes a person’s biochemical individuality into account.
  • Measures the functional impact (performance) of micronutrients over 4 to 6 months(3).

A case study

In 2011, I became a U.S. Masters Swimming National Champion, and by 2014 I started training to become a world champion. However, I was exhausted and suffering from insomnia. I learned that even though I was eating organic produce and grass-fed, free-range meat, my body was not absorbing enough nutrition. I was concerned about my nutrition and I wanted to learn how to optimize it.

In order to understand my issues, I needed to know if I had any micronutrient deficiencies, so I got tested. After getting my blood drawn at a local laboratory, I sent my micronutrient baseline test kit to SpectreCell laboratories, the only company doing such tests at the time. To my surprise, I had five deficiencies out of 33 micronutrients, and my antioxidant functioning was below average for my age.

Micronutrient testing results part 01

Using my results, I researched which foods contain biotin, oleic acid, zinc and selenium and started adding them to my diet. I also started taking a high-quality shake supplement. Thirty days, later I tested again.

Micronutrient testing results part 02

After just thirty days, I was able to improve 59 percent of my micronutrients. All seven of my antioxidant levels improved, and my Immunidex score — a measure of my immune system function — improved 12 percent. A year later, I was able to reduce my deficiencies to just one: Selenium.

Micronutrient testing results part 03

So, mineral depletion in the soil is a contributing factor in the growing nutritional deficiencies in Americans. Micronutrient testing showed that I was one of those Americans and that I was deficient in five nutrients. However, now that individual nutrient deficiencies can be identified, it is possible to improve or eliminate them. Now let's take a look at how I was able to do this for myself and many of my clients, and reveal a step-by-step program for optimizing your nutrition.

Optimizing Your Nutrition

How good is your nutrition? How can you measure, objectively, the effectiveness of your nutrition? Fortunately, there is enough information and digital health tools to answer that question. Here is the process I followed and that you can use to optimize your nutrition.

1. Take a micronutrient test

I chose to take a SpectraCell micronutrient test because it tested for 33 different nutrients. On October 11, 2014 my test results showed that I was deficient in biotin, oleic acid, zinc, selenium and I had a low “fructose sensitivity.” It also showed a borderline deficiency of vitamin D-3, calcium, copper, chromium and vitamin E. If you want to know if you have any nutritional deficiencies, then take a micronutrient test.

2. Use digital health technology to further measure your nutrition

Technology is always changing and updating and can be used to help to determine your nutritional condition. While Spectracell’s micronutrient test is a blood test, Vitastiq is a digital health device that uses electrical resistance of the skin at acupressure points to indicate the body’s health imbalances. It measures 26 nutrients in the body with 70 percent accuracy(1). This device gives you the power to check your nutritional status on a daily basis. I discovered that I had a mild insufficiency of zinc, vitamin D-3, calcium, vitamin C and vitamin B-6. Thus, after you take the blood test, which is analyzed in a laboratory and is more reliable and solid science, then you can use Vitastiq at home for additional and regular monitoring.

3. Log your nutritional intake

After measuring your actual nutritional condition, the next thing to do is to measure and monitor your nutritional intake. For this, there are many different food logging apps available. However, for the purpose of optimizing your nutrition, you need an app that tracks not just the carbohydrate, fat and protein macronutrients, but also most of the essential nutrients. I used the Cronometer app to do this. From June 1 to June 7, 2015, for example, I only consumed 80 percent of all the nutrition I needed based on the recommended daily intake (RDI).

While logging food may not be the most exciting and enjoyable thing to do, it is immensely helpful. Try logging everything you eat and drink for seven days in order to establish a basic nutrition profile. That way, you can see what your average daily nutrition looks like.

4. Determine your nutritional priorities

Armed with all of this information, I was able to determine my priorities to optimize my nutrition. I made the following chart comparing the results of each of the three separate procedures: The Spectracell micronutrient test, the results from Vitastiq, and the results of logging my food using the Cronometer app. In order to determine how much nutrition, or lack thereof, that I was getting from food, I divided the Cronometer results into “Food Only” and “With Supplements.” I wanted to see where there was an overlap. If all three methods showed a deficiency, that was solid evidence to make it a priority. When there was an overlap from two methods, that became the secondary priority. Finally, the SpectaCell results alone, with no overlap, also became a priority.

Analysis report of key micronutrient intakes

Analysis based on my results:

1. There is only one nutrient that all four measurements agree there is a deficiency: Calcium. As a result, this is my number one nutrient priority.

2. Both SpectraCell and Vitastiq showed deficiencies in: Zinc and vitamin D. These are my number two nutrient priorities.

3. SpectraCell shows a remaining deficiency in biotin, selenium and oleic acid. These are my number three nutrient priorities.

4. Cronometer shows that of the three – calcium, zinc and vitamin D – I am not getting enough calcium and vitamin D from food. However, I am getting enough zinc from food.

5. Cronometer also shows that I am not getting enough vitamin E,magnesium, potassium, omega 3, omega 6, vitamin K, B-1, B-2, B-5, choline and folate from food alone.

6. Even with supplementation, I am not getting enough magnesium, potassium,omega 3, omega 6 and choline. These are my number four nutrient priorities.

Cronometer report for micronutrient intake


Priorities I decided to take based on the results:

1. Calcium

2. Zinc, Vitamin D

3. Biotin, Selenium, Oleic Acid

4. Magnesium, Potassium, Omega 3, Omega 6, Choline

5. Adjust your nutrition

Now that I knew what to focus on, I researched food sources that contained the four priorities and continued to log my food to make sure that I was consuming more amount of each. In some cases, I also supplemented with vitamins. I used Vitastiq to monitor whether or not there were changes and then I did a follow-up micronutrient test to see my results. After a year, I had eliminated all my deficiencies except selenium.

Having thus achieved some success, I followed the same process with some of my clients. Below are the before and after results of one of my clients.

Micronutrient test results part 04

After eleven months my client was able to improve 19 nutrient levels (54 percent – yellow highlights) while eliminating all deficiencies and borderline deficiencies with the exception of just calcium. Meanwhile, her SPECTROX score – a measurement of overall antioxidant function – improved 38 percent while her Immunidex score – an indication of immune system functioning – improved 32 percent!

In summary

The risk of nutritional deficiency is very high due to factors such as soil erosion and decreased nutrition yield of the food supply. Failure to get all 60 essential nutrients in the proper amount will lead to suboptimal cellular functioning and a higher risk of overweight/obesity and other dangerous and debilitating diseases such as cancer. Now more than ever, it is important, to measure and monitor both your nutritional consumption and absorption to make sure that you are getting all the nutrition you need every day. Fortunately, modern technology has made it within reach for each individual to optimize their nutrition.

Siphiwe Baleka - Contributing Writer, Physician's Choice