We’re all familiar with getting a blood test when we feel unwell. Now thanks to new biotechnology, we can measure our own biomarkers and track them as we make healthy habit changes. Could this be a new frontier in the quantified self movement, and how accessible is it for us everyday people just wanting to improve our health and longevity?
What are Biomarkers?
Blood biomarkers are measurable biological molecules present in the blood that can indicate changes or abnormalities in the body. These molecules could be proteins, hormones, enzymes, or cellular components. Biomarkers can be used to diagnose diseases, monitor disease progression, assess the impact of lifestyle changes and evaluate treatment effectiveness. Blood tests are the most common way to measure biomarkers, until recently. But now, thanks to new biotechnology, we are seeing consumer facing biomarker testing becoming an option for preventative health.
Blood biomarkers have a wide range of applications in different fields such as medicine, sports science, environmental, and preventative health.
In preventative health, biomarkers can be used to assess how lifestyle changes are impacting us at a cellular level. For example, if your inflammation biomarkers are high, you then embark on a low inflammatory diet, retesting can determine the impacts of that protocol.
In sports science, blood biomarkers can help athletes determine the optimal training regimen, monitor their recovery, and avoid overtraining. For example, measuring lactate levels can indicate the level of exertion during exercise, and creatine kinase levels can indicate muscle damage.
In environmental health, blood biomarkers can be used to monitor exposure to toxins, chemicals, and pollutants that may pose health risks. For example, lead levels in the blood can indicate exposure to lead-based paint or contaminated water.
Overall, blood biomarkers play a crucial role in medical research, diagnosis, and treatment, as well as in understanding the impact of lifestyle factors and environmental factors on health.
Why are Biomarkers in the Spotlight?
Until recently biomarker testing was restricted mainly to disease detection/management or research (via your doctor). But thanks to new biotechnology and TGA approvals, some companies are offering biomarker testing DTC (direct to consumer) to be used as a preventative health measure.
This novel approach is not intended to replace disease detection or management but rather offer us a way to track key biomarkers that we can use as a tool for disease prevention.
I’m such a fan of this for many reasons:
- Puts the focus on prevention rather than cure: Our biomarkers give us many clues well before disease sets in. If we can see our stress, inflammation or energy biomarkers out of range, we can make small lifestyle adjustments before those levels become chronic.
- Helps us take ownership of our health: If the quantified self movement has taught us anything it’s that we love learning about ourselves. From sleep trackers to heart rate monitors, smart watches. Knowledge is power and now we can literally go under the hood to measure our health.
- We can move beyond vanity metrics: For many of us, how we look in the mirror or the number on the scales is our primary measurement tool. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with wanting to look good, as we age, many of us start to prioritise how we feel over looks. We crave more energy, better sleep, good gut health. Tracking these metrics becomes far more useful.
- Takes pressure off already stretched GPs: GPs are busy helping sick people, our medicare system is set up to treat disease, not prevention. So why not take prevention into our own hands and free up the GPs to do what they do best.
How Can I Measure Mine?
Globally we are seeing some pretty big VC funding going into this space. For example recently launched Life Force in the US (backed by self help guru Tony Robbins) just received another $6m in funding and is growing fast. As is Inside Tracker (blood testing not available in Australia), now valued at close to US$100M.
In Australia there is one biotechnology company based out of the UNSW enabling DTC biomarker testing, Drop Bio Health. I have been working with them for close to a year and have been really impressed with their tech and application.
They use finger prick technology to measure 33 blood biomarkers, negating the need to visit a pathology, yet with results consistently as accurate (processes independently audited and certified with ISO 17025 accreditation for testing and calibration accuracy).
Besides the actual testing and analysis, what I like about this company is the effort they have gone to presenting results back to us in a useful, easy to understand and impactful way. You not only get the individual readings of each biomarker, they also provide a report, grouping the biomarker results into key core health pillars of;
- body composition,
- fitness and
- bio age.
You can see if your measurements are within range or out of range and then track these over time. This is far more useful than individual scores from a standard blood test especially for preventative health. They layer a lifestyle assessment report over this, so as we change our lifestyle we can see the impacts on our dashboard. Repeating the tests multiple times per year means you can start to clearly see trends, which is motivating but also can help with early detection (if a few biomarkers suddenly go out of range, it can trigger us to go to the doctor for further investigation).
Want to Learn More?
I recently interviewed Biochemistry and Molecular Biology scientist Dr Elizabeth Fletcher on the biomarkers that are impacted by weight loss. Listen to the podcast here:
I am also running an 8 week InsideOut Challenge, whereby we test your biomarkers at the start and end of the 8 weeks, and you follow my 8 week exercise, nutrition and mindset online program to help you make the right habit changes for your health. Find out more about my InsideOut Challenge.