Life Extension Magazine®

Important blood tests for your holiday

Important Blood Tests For Your Holiday

Dr. Scott Fogle explains helpful lab tests that assess health issues related to the stress and overeating of the holidays—from insulin resistance and blood-sugar tests to those for cortisol, thyroid function, and more.

By Dr. Scott Fogle , ND, Physician.

Scott Fogle, ND
Scott Fogle, ND

LE: As we go into the holidays and the New Year, are there any laboratory tests people should be doing?

SF: First of all, the Male and Female Panels are our most popular tests because of the tremendous value they offer and the wide range of tests they include. These panels are often the best place to start to get a big picture of what’s going on with your health. Our panels include tests such as DHEA, which is overlooked by most doctors. I find this shocking because DHEA is the youth hormone found in the highest quantities in the blood, far more than even testosterone, progesterone and estradiol combined. If your body places such an importance on DHEA, we should be paying close attention to it. To put the importance of DHEA into perspective, I created the following chart putting all the hormones into comparable units (note: methodologies vary for hormone testing so such a chart can never be fully precise, but the conversions are good for demonstration purposes)

What you need to know

During the holidays, families tend to indulge on unhealthy food and overeat. The most common culprit to overindulge on is, of course, sugar. Those with elevated glucose and insulin should be most concerned. Here, Dr. Fogle details important blood tests for your holiday health that doctors commonly exclude from their panels.



FEMALE (Luteal Phase)

Hormone (LabCorp) Units Approximate Median Value
DHEA-S pg/dL 347,400,000 271,600,000
Total Testosterone pg/dL 590,000 28,000
DHEA pg/dL 366,000 366,000
Pregnenolone pg/dL 100,000 100,000
Progesterone pg/dL 25,000 1,285,000
Total Estrogens pg/dL 7,750 25,300
Estrone (E1) pg/dL 4,200 8,200
Estradiol (E2) pg/dL 2,510 12,740
Free Testosterone pg/dL 1,790 210

As you can see, the level of DHEA-S (the form of DHEA tested in male and female panels) exceeds all the other steroid hormones combined! It is over 580 times higher than total testosterone for a man and over 10,700 times higher than total estrogens for a woman. Thus, DHEA is a key health hormone.

Research shows low levels of DHEA are connected to increased mortality, numerous diseases and aging issues. For example, in our November 2017 magazine issue we discussed the science of DHEA’s ability to increase the number of brain cells and its ability to combat specific features of metabolic syndrome. Without a doubt, DHEA is an essential hormone to check at regular intervals.

LE: What about blood-sugar levels, especially around the holiday season when there are so many tempting unhealthy foods and people tend to overeat? Is testing for fasting or after-meal glucose levels enough?

blood-sugar levels  

SF: The holidays are indeed a difficult time, especially when you factor in the stress they generate combined with all that available sugar. Testing your fasting glucose or after-meal (two to four hours) glucose is a great start. Many doctors still rely on only a fasting glucose to assess your health, but I will tell you from experience it is not always enough. Recently, Life Extension® began suggesting that a person test glucose two to four hours after eating to see how far it goes up. You don’t want your glucose to go more than 40 points above your fasting baseline, and if you can keep it even lower than a 40-points increase, all the better. If you don’t know your baseline glucose then 120-140 mg/dL for an after meal glucose is good, but 110-125 mg/dL is even better.

LE: Are insulin and hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) also important to check?

SF: Yes, both of them are great tests. Mainstream medicine generally waits until your fasting blood sugar is elevated to test for HbA1c. In my opinion, this is too late. You should know your HbA1c levels earlier on so that you can take steps to mitigate the problem whether through lifestyle changes, drugs (like metformin and acarbose) and/or specific supplements. We suggest testing HbA1c levels much earlier than mainstream medicine. This test provides an important longer term assessment of your glucose levels and can tell us if excess glucose is causing havoc in your body via glycation, a process where the excess sugar is inappropriately binding to proteins in your body. The higher your number the worse that havoc is in your body. Do not wait until you are nearly diabetic to start checking HbA1c, start checking it early and keep it low to avoid the devastation of glycation. If you want to age faster, then keep your HbA1c high because the high glycation will make your body age faster and look older.

Fasting insulin is another valuable diagnostic test. I would suggest that whenever you do a fasting glucose, such as in a CBC and chemistry, add in a fasting insulin and try to keep it under five. If your fasting insulin is high, it is a warning flag of more problems to come. If both fasting insulin and HbA1c are high, you need to take corrective action as soon as possible.

A convenient way to check on glucose, insulin and glycation through HbA1c is with our new enhanced Diabetes Management Panel. It includes glucose, HbA1c (checking for glycation), insulin and lots more.

LE: Are there any tests that can tell you even earlier that you have a problem with glucose and insulin?

glucose blood test  

SF: Yes, the earliest phase of developing diabetes begins with insulin resistance. If you want to catch it before serious problems develop there are some tests that can detect it even before your fasting insulin and HbA1c go up. Interestingly, insulin resistance can occur in the muscles and the liver and people with diabetes typically have it happening in both places. Those who are obese have predominantly one form of insulin resistance with some degree of the other too before it becomes full-blown diabetes. Either way, your body is not responding appropriately to the insulin. The insulin should be effectively shuttling the glucose into the cells. With insulin resistance, you need ever increasing amounts of insulin to force the glucose into the cells. The problem is these higher spikes of insulin are just as bad as glucose spikes and ultimately lead to a host of accelerated aging and disease effects. So if you can test for excessive spikes of insulin you can address the process of moving toward diabetes at its earliest phase. Thus, the identification and treating of insulin resistance is the ultimate in preventive medicine since it is the first step in diabetes. Why wait until later when it is much harder to correct?

LE: What about the hormone connection to weight loss?

SF: It is such an important topic that we created a comprehensive weight loss panel. We took the popular Male and Female Panels and added hormones like cortisol, insulin and T3, the active thyroid hormone. These panels are described on the next page and can identify blood factors that preclude successful weight loss.

Dr. Scott Fogle is the Executive Director of Clinical Information and Laboratory Services at Life Extension®, where he oversees scientific and medical information as well as its laboratory division.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.