Live Blood Cell Analysis

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

Live blood cell analysis is carried out by placing a drop of blood from the patient’s fingertip on a microscope slide under a glass cover slip to keep it from drying out. The slide is then viewed at high magnification with a dark-field microscope that forwards the image to a television monitor. Both practitioner and patient can then see the blood cells, which appear as dark bodies outlined in white. The practitioner may take polaroid photographs of the television picture or may videotape the procedure for himself and/or the patient. The results are then used as a basis for prescribing supplements. The procedure is also called live cell analysis, dark-field video analysis, nutritional blood analysis, libe blood analysis, and several other names. Most of its users are chiropractors, naturopaths, or bogus “nutrition consultants.”

According to a flyer from a Los Angeles chiropractor:

Live Blood Analysis is a simple procedure for obtaining a quick and accurate assessment of your blood. With only a sample, taken virtually without pain from your finger, [the test] is able to provide a composite of over 25 aspects from your live blood. Darkfield microscopy now allows us to observe multiple vitamin and mineral deficiencies, toxicity, tendencies toward allergic reaction, excess fat circulation, liver weakness and arteriosclerosis.

The web site of the Integrated Medical Center, Annandale, Virginia, states:

Blood is magnified by 30,000 times, giving us the ability to document your condition, monitor your progression while on treatment. The blood is the pathway to the flesh and tells all. Using this technology allows us to monitor your condition and adjust as needed. Your blood is the best place to find quick result and determine if you therapy is effective. Quick response spells maximum results.

The Pacelli Chiropractic & Health Potential Complex Web site states:

How often do you get to see if small changes in nutrition, really can make a difference? Well in this case, that’s how we work. After making our recommendations, we repeat the test in 2 weeks, and look to see if we see changes. This way you get to see the changes in your blood as we help correct the problems, it also allows us to check dosages to make sure that you are getting the proper amount of the vitamin, mineral, protein, or enzyme you need to restore you to optimal health.

These claims are sheer bunkum. Dark-field microscopy is a valid scientific tool in which special lighting is used to examine specimens of cells and tissues. The objects being viewed stand out against a dark background-the opposite of what occurs during regular microscopy. This allows the observer to see things that might not be visible with standard lighting. Connecting a television monitor to a microscope for diagnostic purposes is also a legitimate practice. However, live cell analysis is not. Although a few characteristics of blood (such as the relative size of the red cells) are observable, live cell analysts invariably misinterpret other things, such as the extent of red blood cell clumping, changes in the shape of the cells, and other artifacts that occur as the blood sample dries. Moreover, most practitioners who perform the test are not qualified to manage the problems they purport to diagnose.

During the mid-1980s, one company marketing live-cell equipment projected that a practitioner who persuades one patient per day to embrace a supplement program based on the test would net over $60,000 per year for testing and supplement sales. Another company estimated that with five new patients a day (22 days a month) paying $30 for the test and $50 for supplements, practitioners would gross over $100,000 per year just on initial visits.

Today’s most active individual promoter of live-cell analysis is probably James R. Privitera, M.D., of Covina, California, who claims that “clot malfunction” is an underlying cause of many diseases, can be diagnosed with live cell analysis, and can be treated with large doses of dietary supplements. His book, Silent Clots, describes his “general daily guidelines [for supplements] that have worked well for many patients as an anti-clotting program.” The book also describes regimens for arthritis, asthma, baldness, bladder infections, cancer, colds, colitis, cramps, diabetes, diarrhea, diverticulosis, eczema, and edema, and includes case histories of patients he treated for many other conditions [1]. I do not believe there is any scientific evidence for these claims or that these regimens are effective as Privitera claims. His’s web site offers more than 150 supplement products for sale.

In 1975, Privitera was convicted of conspiring to prescribe and distribute laetrile and was sentenced to six months in prison. (Laetrile is a quack cancer remedy.) In 1980, after the appeals process ended, he served 55 days in jail but was released after being pardoned by California Governor Jerry Brown. (The pardon occurred in response to a letter-writing campaign generated by the National Health Federation, a group that espouses what it calls “health freedom.”) Then, because Privitera had been prescribing unapproved substances (including laetrile, calcium pangamate, and DMSO) for the treatment of cancer, the California Board of Medical Quality Assurance suspended his medical license for four months and placed him on ten years’ probation under board supervision. During the probationary period, Privitera was “prohibited from making any representation that he is able to cure cancer through nutrition.” He was also forbidden to tell patients they had cancer unless the diagnosis was confirmed in writing by an appropriate board-certified specialist. During the probationary period, Privitera commercialized live-cell analysis and founded two companies that marketed devices for doing it. Silent Clots mentions that in 1993, a federal judge signed an order authorizing Internal Revenue Service agents to enter his clinic premises to effect a levy and that a seizure was made. However, the book provides no further details about his tax-related difficulty.

Critical Reports

During the mid-1980s, National Council Against Health Fraud vice president James Lowell, Ph.D., watched three practitioners demonstrate live cell analysis at health expositions. Lowell noted:

  • None took precautions during the preparation of the slides to prevent the blood from drying out or clotting.
  • They failed to clean their microscope slides carefully between patients, which meant that dirt seen under the microscope would be misinterpreted as blood components.
  • Some of the patterns one practitioner saw resulted from his microscope being out of focus and disappeared when Lowell adjusted it properly. [2}

Live cell analysis is also promoted by Infinity2, of Scottsdale, Arizona, a multilevel company whose distributors often demonstrate their wares at chiropractic conventions. Infinity2 calls the test <a href="