At InsideTracker, our work revolves around the concept that no two people are the same. Accordingly, neither is their health. And yet until now, we've all been treated with the same remedies, taught the same health-boosting tips, and followed nearly identical dietary patterns. But do such practices get us closer to optimal health as individuals, or farther away? We think the latter. So we've gone rogue; we track biomarkers, use them as a signpost for where our health is going, and change course – even if it's the path less traveled.
What are biomarkers, and why do we track them?
A biomarker is a single, measurable indicator of what’s going on inside the body. Vitamins, minerals, lipids, and hormones are all groupings of individual biomarkers. A few examples include: vitamin D, HLD or LDL cholesterol, and testosterone.
Like the world around us, our bodies are always changing. Therefore, just like a photograph, biomarkers provide a snapshot of our health at a given moment.
Often, people are more familiar with DNA and its ability to unlock clues about our health, both current and future. While DNA sequencing is an incredibly useful tool, it does not accurately measure things like inflammation or hormone levels, as they are constantly changing with external factors like dietary, lifestyle, and exercise habits. Such measurements should therefore be taken many times throughout one's lifespan.
So what’s the use of tracking biomarkers over time? Optimization, of course! When we hone in on how our habits alter our biomarkers, we can harness the information to take actionable steps towards optimization.
What is an optimized zone?
Until InsideTracker, biomarker levels were only measured according to "normal" or "average" zones – ranges that are clinically defined as "healthy" for everyone. But that logic is flawed. Consider the Nutrition Facts Label; all nutrient percentages are displayed according to a 2,000-calorie diet. But only a fraction of the population actually needs that amount.
So, what's everyone else to do? They are largely left to follow imperfect recommendations, which can have a real, detrimental impact on health. So, we took a tip from dietitians (who have been calculating personal caloric needs for years) and decided to personalize biomarker ranges with what we call optimized zones.
Let’s use ferritin (the storage form of iron) to bring the concept of optimized zones into focus. Ferritin is called on when serum iron is low: during times when it's lacking from the diet, or during blood loss. For example, when a woman menstruates, ferritin stores compensate for the iron that is lost. But a postmenopausal woman does not lose this blood (and subsequent iron) every month. Therefore, her ferritin stores do not have to be as saturated. Just as the caloric needs of these two types of women are different, so too are their optimized zones for this biomarker.
How does InsideTracker determine optimized zones?
Differences in individuals’ optimized zones don’t end with age. They also vary with sex, race, habits, and perhaps most notably, athletic activity.
To properly understand how all these factors impact biomarkers, we are constantly extracting information from peer-reviewed research on these relationships, and using it to form our "optimized zones." Therefore, as new, more cutting-edge research is published, we adjust accordingly.
We also use two large databases: One that contains information on age, sex, athletic activity, biomarker levels, etc. taken from the American population, and another that compares biomarker levels with age within our own users. With this, we are able to compare your biomarker levels with your peers' (demographically-speaking) to determine what is considered "normal" in that group. We then take this information one step further to differentiate between what’s "normal" and what’s "optimal."
Ultimately, InsideTracker’s purpose is to provide personalized and practical information that empowers each individual to reach their goals, feel their best, and live longer and happier lives. By keeping up-to-date with relevant research, we are able to provide you with the best recommendations science has to offer.
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