Daniel Gartenberg is a Ph.D. student at George Mason. Daniel Gartenberg discuss his recent experience using InsideTracker, a personalized blood biomarker analysis tool from the perspective of the company, the doctor, and the QSer.
So Inside Tracker, I just took this from the website and what the website looks like and the description on Google which said, accurately measure blood biomarkers and analysis plus personalized interventions rom nutrition, exercise, lifestyle and supplements to optimize health and fitness. So it’s basically a company where you can go into a lab and they take your blood and they give you information about different biomarkers that indicate your health.
So as I said I’ve met representatives from this company at the Quantified Self conference, which is held biannually typically in San Francisco or Amsterdam. It’s a beautiful venue and literally looked right out across the San Francisco Bridge, very nice. These are some of the great speakers. But the person who familiarized me with Inside Tracker is Amelia Rocchi who is a Boston-based company, and she’s their sales and strategist. She had convinced me through some people that obviously use the system that I can gain some valuable insights into my health using their system.
So, this was my experience using their system. The process was really easy. Basically I called a Radcorp, which is they’re stationed to all around the United States. I went in and they took a blood sample, I think they got eight vials of my blood. I’ve never had that much blood taken from me before you actually. Felt fine and didn’t pass out or anything like that.
Two days later I had my blood test back and one of the I think most valuable things about this service is that when I went to my doctor out of my Quantified Self curiosity, to get some of these bio markers he would not came in with the health insurance companies would not pay for those things. I would have to pay for it out of my own pocket because the current health care system is about sickness and it’s not about wellness. So in order to get these tests done you have to basically have a probable cause in order for the insurance companies to cover.
So these are some of the things that they track. Only did actually the performance one and this cost me $300, and I asked my doctor how much it would cost for them to do it and he said about the same price which I thought was good.
So what did I learn? So basically when I got my results back I was kind of freaked out a little bit because I was a lot less healthy than I thought I was. So you know, I exercise a lot, I eat a reasonable diet, I guess I drink a little bit too much but what have you.
So the most surprising thing was I actually came back from the Bahamas about three days before I got this test and it said that my vitamin D level was really low, so 22. The other thing was saying that my cholesterol was in the red zone, so that got me a little worried. This was my first test ever for cholesterol, and I’m 27 years old and never had anything like this before.
I also found that my LDL was high, so that’s the bad stuff so it should be be low, my triglycerides were high. My testosterone was in the not so great range, which totally.
So this is basically an indicator information that I was out running a lot when I was on vacation because I had nothing to do, and I kind of over did that on the beach because it’s a little tougher to run on the beach and I think that’s why.
First of all, they gave you all the bad things first. So that makes you feel really bad about yourself. They tried to motivate you, and they have really good facts about what these things are, like I’ve learned a lot about these things. I didn’t know anything about this stuff prior to going on this diet.
So again my glucose, my white blood cells were kind of not so great indicating that, so I don’t really know what this is 89 mg/dl, so that’s good right, so that’s a good point. And so again HDL they said it was in the yellow zone.
So basically these are all the bad things that I learned about myself. There’s good things too, but I am interpreting if I’m not in the green zone this is bad, so this made me feel very motivated to improve myself as someone who wants to be healthy I you know what all these things to be in the green zone obviously.
What I did is I wanted to make sure that what they were telling me was right, I mean these companies have the incentive to make you feel not yourself anymore. So, I asked my dad, who is an infectious disease doctor. He’s had 30 years of clinical experience and he’s read the Journal of Medicine every issue basically for the past 35 years. So he knows what he’s talking about and he’s probably a better doctor than your doctor.
So the first thing is he said is this even a certified lab. And so basically every lab has to be certified and if it’s not a doctor will hear nothing about it, so he was questioning the validity of the test right off the bat; very skeptical, by the way there are a certified lab. He also said you’re missing some of the most important things that I would look for in a test like this. There’s different types of vitamin D, and maybe they just looked at one type and they didn’t look at the other, so he has no idea and he had a lot of uncertainty in the information they were giving me. There’s also nothing about liver enzymes in their which he thought that there should have been. There is no total protein etc. And he said it was a kind of a rip-off because he has good insurance and he’s like I can get this test done for $30 or whatever. But the thing is maybe like because he’s a doctor they would do that for him, but when I go to the doctor and I try to get this stuff done it’s like what’s wrong with you – nothing. So I thought that was a kind of insurance thing.
But the other thing was, the main thing that he said was what they are telling you, you are in the right range for every single one of these things. So he pointed me towards the New England Journal of Medicine for healthy ranges right. And basically what he said to me was you are in a healthy range for every single one of these things. Your vitamin D level is a little bit low. You should take a vitamin D supplement may be and that’s that.
And so you know that’s like the standard doctor thing. That’s what doctor would say if they saw these results.
So, I go back to Inside Tracker because I have this contact their, and I talked to her about it and their algorithm works based on this model of what is healthy for your age group. So, if you look at the New England Journal of Medicine, when they are looking at testosterone there looking at testosterone across from 22 this is the healthy amount. And the doctors, when they are determining the healthy amount it’s all based on disease or illness. So it’s not whether you’re healthy for your age group, it’s whether you have a potential problem.
So that’s when I started realizing that there’s really a different way of these companies are really addressing this is a different way of thinking. So this is what I come to realise that there’s a real tension in this field is that the medical profession that is really focused on addressing diseases. And all of their language is based on diseases versus the wellness people like us who are just trying to optimize who are the best people that we could be.
And so kind of just taking this away, I also talk to them and they said they include many of these measures that my dad thought that they ought to include in the next version. So that was good. So I think more work needs to be done to kind of get these two groups of people talking to each other; the people that are really incentivized to be you know have better health and wellness, and the doctors who are incentivized to address some of these may be long-term medical issues. And if there’s maybe a way for the doctors to get some of the Inside Tracker data in a way that they are more comfortable with, I think that could maybe benefit everybody in wellness. It’s almost like these two people are speaking to different languages.
But I would also like to end with that as quantified selfers we have a say in how these products develop, so we have connections with people at Inside Tracker. They offered us a group discount where if a group of us are interested in doing this they will give us 30% off any of these tests. So I would be happy for anyone who just wants to do it to just shoot me an email and we can set that up and you can give them feedback to improve their data.