Inside Tracker sells blood panels — for example, 20 things measured in your blood (e.g., hemoglobin, magnesium, Vitamin D). It was founded in 2009 in Boston, Mass., by Gil Blander, a biology Ph.D., and two other people. They started offering the service in late 2011. Their main customers are athletes (20% professional, 30% amateur) and many Quantified Selfer’s (20%). I recently interviewed Dr. Blander:
What have you learned from the data you’ve collected?
Around 60% of the population has low Vitamin D.[What’s low Vitamin D?] As of today, if you look at the ranges of the diagnostic companies, they are saying that everything below 30 ng/ml is low Vitamin D. We are giving you your optimal zone based on age, gender, athletic activity and ethnicity. We also compare you to your peers.
More than 50% have high cholesterol (total and LDL). With folic acid, about 40% of the population have high folic acid. This is because of supplementation.
High creatine kinase (CK) is another common problem. When you exercise, some of the muscle cells break down and this protein leaks into the blood. An example is a marathon runner. Before the marathon it’s below 200 U/L. After the run it can be as high as 10,000 U/L. If you over exercise the level might be above 1000, and you have a much higher chance of getting injured. A bit more than 30% of our customers have high CK. It has a half life of 5 days. Your steady state CK should be less than 1000. Some supplementation can lower it, such CoQ10 and others.
Another marker we measure is hemoglobin. It measures the amount of iron in your blood cells. If you have low hemoglobin you compromise your athletic ability and decision making. About 30% of our customers have low hemoglobin. Another marker related to Iron is ferritin (protein that binds to free Iron), If you have low ferritin, take iron supplementation or eat iron rich food, that will increase both ferritin and hemoglobin. If you have normal ferritin and low hemoglobin, there are limited interventions to help you increase your hemoglobin, you may need to go to a high altitude place. Women below 50 tend to have low ferritin. The percentage is 10% among non-athletes, jumping to 30% among athletes. We also find it in athletic males. When you exercise, you have microbleeding from your gut. Among male athletes, 10-12% have low ferritin. The major concern is that they don’t know this.
What have you learned about how to increase Vitamin D?
When we started, we looked at the literature, it said you should take 400-800 IU/day. We found that even if you just take 1000 IU/day you will just maintain the level you already have. To increase it you need to consume at least 2000 IU/day. I started by testing myself. I found I had pretty low Vitamin D. At first I tried just food — fatty fish and mushrooms. I ate fish twice/day and a lot of mushrooms for a couple of months. Then I measured it again. It hadn’t changed. Then I took 1000 IU/day. I tested my blood again and it still hadn’t gone up. Then I went to 4000 IU/day and this brought me to the optimal level. And we saw the same with some of our customers.
Testosterone is a very interesting hormone. It’s hard to measure. When you overexercise, it’s low, because of the stress. It’s strongly influenced by amount of sleep, if you don’t sleep well, it will go down. We found if you look at the average consumer, around 10% have low testosterone, and none of them knew it. It’s an expensive test. Insurance companies won’t pay for it unless there is a reason.[What’s low testosterone?] The adult male: below 348 ng/dl. Women have about 20 times less testosterone. Only a tiny percentage of women, about 1%, have low testosterone.
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