Life Extension Magazine®

Scientist analyzing samples

Ask the Doctor: Cutting-Edge Lab Tests

Dr. Scott Fogle discusses a range of lab tests designed to give specialized information, including hormones, food sensitivity, and biological age testing.

Scientifically reviewed by: Dr. Gary Gonzalez, MD, in June 2023. Written by: Scott Fogle, ND.

Lab tests provide invaluable information to improve your health and to share with your doctor.

Life Extension® has identified new tests ranging from biological age, hormones, amino acid and allergies, to toxic metals.

Most physicians do not offer these unique tests. Life Extension’s goal is to provide the most advanced testing possibilities so you can make informed decisions about your health based on the latest and most accurate data.

In this article, Dr. Scott Fogle, ND, discusses some of the latest lab tests that are currently available.

LE: Many people worry about exposure to pollutants. Is there testing for heavy metals or other toxins?

Dr. Fogle: The Blood Metals Panel is a blood-spot finger-prick test done at home. It covers the five most problematic metals: lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, and antimony. It also covers copper, selenium, and zinc, which are all vital for a healthy immune system and for detoxification. I like that this test covers the worst heavy metals and helpful metals too.

For an overall toxic assessment of some of the worst chemicals, we offer an Environmental Pollutants Profile urine test. It covers some of the most common environmental pollutants, such as xylene, toluene, benzene, trimethylbenzene, styrene, phthalates, parabens, and methyl-tert-butyl ether. Often, people are unknowingly exposed to these chemicals from makeup, lotions, or sunscreens.

In fact, there was recently a recall of several sunscreens that were found to have high levels of benzene! So, it is a good idea to check periodically to make sure these chemicals are not increasing in your body.

LE: Are there any new hormone-related tests?

Dr. Fogle: We have now partnered with a new lab for our Complete Hormone & Urinary Metabolites Assessment Profile (HuMap). The new lab significantly expands the number of hormones and metabolites tested and has faster turnaround times. This urine profile tests a staggering 42 hormones and metabolites and also provides 17 ratios/calculations, which provide additional insight into what is going on at an individual level.

LE: Does it include cortisol and other stress markers?

Dr. Fogle: It does. Stress can affect all hormones, often decreasing their levels over time. Cortisol increases with stress to help the body deal with it, but then it decreases if the stress becomes chronic. This test provides a four-point cortisol and cortisone graph to see if levels are falling into a normal range. Some people have suppressed levels of cortisol in the morning, making it tough to get out of bed. Then they can have elevated cortisol at night which makes it difficult to go to sleep. The test also provides a helpful marker of overall oxidative stress.

LE: For people watching their wallets, what do you consider the best value for an overall health assessment?

Dr. Fogle: Without question, the Male Panel and Female Panel are our best value tests that cover a wide range of issues including cardiovascular, inflammation, hormones, immune, thyroid, vitamin D, iron, insulin/glucose, and magnesium status. Purchasing the same tests, without insurance, from a commercial lab, would cost over $2,000.

Another great value is the Personalized Amino Acid Health Assessment urine test. It is priced the same as our male and female panels. It provides an overview of health based on a detailed analysis of the major amino acids. It looks at your need for vitamins B6 and B12, folate, and magnesium. It assesses your susceptibility to vascular disease, abnormal intestinal microflora issues, malabsorption, impaired detoxification, neurological disorders, nitrogen insufficiency, excessive protein, and oxidative stress. It also provides a customized amino acid chart for daily oral dosages. It can provide great insight into what to focus on for maximum health benefits.

LE: Lately it seems like more and more people are impacted by allergies.

Dr. Fogle: Allergies cause a wide range of uncomfortable symptoms like sneezing, brain fog, sinus pain or pressure, skin reactions, gastrointestinal disturbances, and even depression.

Basically, there are two main ways allergy symptoms occur, caused by the antibodies IgE or IgG. In true allergies, the immune system produces IgE antibodies, which trigger the release of histamine that rapidly results in allergy symptoms. But the immune system can also react to allergens by producing IgG antibodies, which can cause inflammatory responses. This type of reaction often originates from foods we consume frequently and results in delayed symptoms 12 to 48 hours later and is considered a sensitivity versus an allergy. There are also food intolerances, such as lactose intolerance, autoimmune reactions like celiac disease, and reactions to dysbiotic microorganisms like Candida or lipopolysaccharides (LPS), molecules that coat bacteria.

All these possibilities make it challenging to figure out what is causing the reactions, and often there can be multiple ways in which a person is reacting. Testing the different ways can significantly improve the efficiency of a wellness plan and reveal what to avoid so the body can restore itself.

LE: That sounds complicated. Does Life Extension offer testing for all these types of reactions?

Dr. Fogle: Yes, we provide in-depth testing that covers the wide range of ways in which a person’s immune system can overreact. One of the new tests we are introducing this year is Respiratory Allergy IgE testing, which is for true allergies. Due to technological advances, this Respiratory Allergy IgE test can now be done from dried blood spots collected at home via a simple finger prick.

LE: Does this test cover the common allergies that cause symptoms for most people?

Dr. Fogle: Yes, it focuses on the most common offenders of allergy misery! It covers grasses, ragweed and other weeds, trees, molds, pets (dogs and cats), two types of the dreaded dust mites that are in our beds, feathers from different birds, the ubiquitous cockroach, and common house dust.

LE: What about food allergies?

Dr. Fogle: We offer tests for both food allergies and food sensitivities. True food allergies are easier to figure out because symptoms often start within minutes to hours of eating. But food allergies are less common than food sensitivities, which are harder to identify since the reaction can be hours to days later. We suggest most people start with food sensitivity testing. We offer three tiers of testing, from 96 foods to 240 foods for elevated IgG antibodies. Those who are especially sensitive to foods should consider our Elite Food Sensitivity Panel, which includes both IgG and IgA antibody testing. IgG is the more common way people react to foods adversely, but some people are extra sensitive and can also react by producing IgA antibodies.

LE: Everyone talks about gut health lately. Is there a way to test for leaky gut?

Dr. Fogle: Yes, this year we partnered with a new lab for a Gut Barrier Panel to test for intestinal barrier permeability issues, or “leaky gut.”

Previously, testing for gut permeability markers like zonulin was difficult because of its short half-life in the blood. To resolve this problem, the test looks at the antibodies that develop when zonulin leaks into the blood due to breaks in the gut barrier. This solution has since been applied to the gut permeability marker occludin as well. The antibodies have a longer half-life, which means they don’t degrade as quickly and are more reliable for testing.

The test also includes antibodies to Candida albicans, which is often an early sign of leaky gut. And most recently added is testing for LPS (lipopolysaccharide) antibodies. LPS is an extremely inflammatory molecule that comes from gram-negative bacteria. It creates significant inflammation, and antibodies against it indicate chronic LPS exposure, so they are not something you want to see in the blood.

LE: Is this Gut Barrier Panel a blood draw test?

Dr. Fogle: No, it is a simple finger-stick dried blood spot test done in the convenience of one’s home. Again, recent technology has allowed for some great new tests to be done this way.

LE: The subject of biological age testing is becoming extremely popular. More and more people are interested in finding out their biological age versus their chronological age. Does Life Extension offer a test for biological age?

Dr. Fogle: Yes, we now offer the TruAge Complete Epigenetic Age Test. We partnered with one of the best labs in the industry for calculating biological age. This lab is dedicated to perfecting their testing and algorithms through constant database analysis. They also partner with top educational institutions such as Harvard and Yale to license additional aging algorithms to further refine and perfect their biological age calculators. The test provides three different biological age reports because the testing and algorithms can be modified by different factors.

LE: Can you explain these three age reports?

Dr. Fogle: The test provides an intrinsic biological age, which is essentially a “pure” epigenetic aging assessment. To make the assessment even more accurate, it also provides an extrinsic biological age. This uses additional information derived from epigenetic changes in your immune cells as you age and your level of epigenetically determined immunosenescence (age-associated weakening of the immune system). The extrinsic age is the one you want to focus on the most, as it is the most complete biological age assessment.

The TruAge Complete Epigenetic Age Test also includes telomere testing to provide an estimated telomere age and compares your estimated telomere length to others of your same chronological age.

LE: What about the pace of aging? That is also a hot topic in the antiaging movement.

Dr. Fogle: Yes, testing can determine the pace you are currently aging, which is a combination of your genetics, current lifestyle modifications, stress levels, toxic exposures, exercise level, and so on. It looks at how you are aging right now and separates it from what you accumulated from your past or what you inherited. You want your rate of aging to be below 1. The farther below 1, the better. If your pace of aging is above 1, it is a signal that changes should be made as quickly as possible to slow down further aging.

The pace of aging test uses a unique algorithm created by Duke and Columbia Universities based on a study that followed the same individuals over time. It is also included in the TruAge Complete Epigenetic Age Test.

Overall, this assortment of innovative tests can allow you and your health care provider to make better and more informed decisions about your health. •

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.