Online biomarker testing

Hi all

Has anyone sent off blood samples for testing of bio markers? If so, why did you do it and how (if at all) did the results affect your lifestyle?

Initially I thought it was something best saved for professional athletes, but I’m starting to think that this kind of testing could be useful for addressing a number of health issues, even for non athletes. I often struggle with tiredness and changes in diet and exercise don’t seem to have addressed it. The possibility of having some solid numbers to work with is appealing.

For the UK members here, I’m looking at a company called Forth with Life.

I can’t speak for UK but elsewhere in EU it’s not uncommon for a GP to order basic labs for free (through your insurance), which cover most stuff. e.g. hemoglobin, lipids, electrolytes, iron, B12.

if you want more the question really becomes how actionable any results are. once you find any abnormality you probably want to visit your GP anyways so why not start there if you have a legit reason to consider it.

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Yeah I’m curious how actionable the results are which is why I wondered if anyone had experience with this sort of thing.

I don’t have any legit concerns, I’ve seen my GP and the few tests they did didn’t raise any alarms. But I’m still interested in the broader picture, how that might affect my training and what I might do to improve it.

I have had blood tests done annually for many (many, many) years which started when I was in my 20s and racing every week and became very familiar with the markers. I’m not a doctor but this was my layman’s understanding.

Looking at the Run Fit test on that site they are not really doing much you would action, especially as you mentioned nothing being flagged in blood tests you have already had, and they were probably the below anyway.

The blood test is a full blood count, the most interesting thing I used to do was check haematocrit levels. Living at 6000ft it would sit around 48%, back then there wasn’t a test for EPO so you weren’t allowed to compete if you HCT went over 50% - not that it mattered to me, just out of interest. I did work with some pro athletes who had to monitor it though to avoid false positives.
If there is nothing wrong here you won’t change anything.

Cardiovascular - the only thing they will pick up is high cholesterol, you can have that tested in a chemist. (I have hereditary high cholesterol so still have annual bloods for this)

Metabolic - cortisol levels are raise when you are stressed and unless you feel there is an issue, not much you would do about testosterone level. It would probably be more beneficial if they checked thyroid.

Vitamins and minerals - testing this every 4 months at most through a blood test is pointless. They even say this on the site “You can usually get all the vitamins and minerals you need by eating a varied and balanced diet.”

You can buy urine dip sticks that would give you much more readily available information for only a few £££ - glucose, proteins, ketones etc

There are numerous sites that offer dna testing to boost your performance and some pro teams are dabbling in it but it still seems to be lacking a bit in proof. Not saying it doesn’t work, just not convincing enough yet even at a pro level.

Interesting, and makes a lot of sense. Thanks!

There’s a company in Austin called Neurogistics that has an at home pee test you mail in and it measures all of your neurotransmitter levels. My specialist uses it to tweak my fitness level through supplementation

Unless you’re working with a professional you may not have actionable info if you’re not well versed with what the results mean. As an endurance athlete do you know the normal values of the basics and how it may differ from “normal”? Do you know how hemoglobin trends from an untrained state to a trained state? What about all the other variables?

Having access to more information is a great thing, however, most have not gone through enough training to interpret the results. That’s what health professionals do and only a fraction of them are prepared to tackle the niche field of athletics. Most of the training is to determine if one is sick. Without proper training you run the risk of not really coming to the right conclusions. There is a fine line between science and pseudoscience so play at your own risk.

Personally I like this stuff. I do lab tests for a living. I like to have my own data and I have access to do my own tests if I wanted to. I don’t often because there’s not a whole lot of actionable information as the data comes back as unremarkable…which is a good thing. Hot topic as of late is vitamin d testing as we’re finding out lots of people could use some more.

Tired all the time? First thing on the troubleshooting flow chart is to check your sleep. Are you getting enough? Are you getting a high enough quality of sleep? Do you suffer from sleep apnea?

I can understand the appeal of such take home tests because people want to feel good and it’s a simple thing to buy that can potentially solve your problems. Odds are you’re probably not sick and such a test won’t mean much. On the other hand, there’s surely a minority who are suffering from something so there’s that. If you have a clean bill of health from a physician don’t expect this to do much more.

Great answer and lots to consider there.

I should highlight that the purpose of this topic is more focused around my general curiosity of these tests and the bigger picture. I’m not specifically hoping it will cure my tiredness, i just used that as an example.

Its funny you should mention sleep. It could be a key component but whilst various apps and trackers promise to give you insight in to your sleep, coming away with actionable solutions from this data seems unlikely. My sleep app tells me how long i spend in certain types of sleep but gives no suggestion of how to improve it

From what I remember the sleep apps aren’t accurate enough to detect sleep states. I haven’t looked too deep into it yet but the best cheap alternative might be an oura ring or watch based HR tracker. The gold standard involves hooking you up to some electrodes. I’m actually working my way through a great book “Why We Sleep” by Matthew Walker and it may have the answers you’re looking for!

One thing I could recommend as far as blood tests go (not required but I think it’s cool) is that there are genetic variations to your ability to metabolize caffeine. Caffeine as on of the biggest affectors of sleep and with a half life of about 6 hours, it’s something that stays in your system a long time. If you have the money, time and/or resources/know how, then it’s an interesting venture. The cheapest method is to take something like the lowest tier 23andme test, download your raw data, plug it into an algorithm like promethease and look up your SNP mutation. Or just pay for it to be interpreted for you.