Man holding a supplement red pill

These Lab Tests Will Tell You if Your Supplements Are Working

You’re likely taking vitamins and supplements because you’re aware that it’s hard to get all of the nutrients you need from diet alone…especially when it comes to immune health superstar vitamin D, which requires exposure to direct sunlight in addition to foods such as fish, eggs and fortified cereal. Omega-3s are another essential nutrient that you might not be getting enough of, especially if you don’t love fatty fish, which is one of the richest sources of this nutrient.

Then there’s vitamin K2, which is critical for strong bones and a healthy heart, and even harder to find adequate amounts of in food; you’d need to consume dozens of pounds of hard cheese every day to get this nutrient to support your arterial health…which, of course, would be counteracted by all of the cholesterol this vitamin K-rich food contains!

So, suffice it to say, those softgels and capsules sure come in handy when your goal is optimal nutrition. But, how do you know that the formulas you’re taking are actually working?

According to Life Extension Laboratory Manager Dylan Blaiwes, lab tests are the truth serum we’re all seeking. The right ones can offer an accurate portrait of how well-nourished you are. And, if you repeat these tests after adding a supplement, you’ll be able to tell if that formula has actually supported your nutritional status.

Here’s what each test reveals about your nutrition.

Nutrient Panel: A deeper look at vitamin and mineral intake

While testing amino acids can give you a look at one aspect of your nutritional status, you do have options if you want to dig deeper into specific vitamins and minerals. Here is where the Nutrient Panel can come in handy, Blaiwes noted.

“For more details on vitamins and minerals, the Nutrient Panel provides levels of essential vitamins A, C, D, B12 and folate (B9), as well as zinc, selenium, magnesium and heart-healthy CoQ10,” he explained. You’ll get a good idea of whether multivitamins and heart health formulas are doing what they are supposed to do if you take this test.

Of course, the vitamin everyone’s most concerned about these days is vitamin D—and fortunately, there is a test for that, too! “Optimal vitamin D status is important for a wide range of health concerns, so it’s important to keep your vitamin D blood level within an optimal range by ensuring your supplemental intake is neither too low nor too high,” Blaiwes said. “The 25-hydroxyvitamin D test included in many of our panels (like our Male and Female Panels), is a well-recognized way to determine your status.” You can find this as a stand-alone test as well—but the male and female panels will offer you other data about your health that you’re likely seeking, such as your hormone balance and cholesterol levels.

Omega-3 Index: Find out if you have enough healthy fats

Several foods naturally rich in omega-3
Foods rich in Omega 3

Omega-3 fatty acids are key to immune, heart, endocrine health, and fortunately, you can find them in many healthy, delicious foods. Fatty fish like salmon, nuts, seeds and plant-based oils are all good sources. You might think you’re eating plenty of these foods—especially if you also take a supplement—but because omega-3s are so integral to good health, it’s probably a wise idea to check, Blaiwes said.

Blaiwes recommended Life Extension’s Omega-3 Index Complete “to check if your current omega-3 supplementation and overall dietary fat intake is optimal,” he explained. If the test (which is an easy, at-home finger stick) does show you’re a little light on these healthy fats, you can adjust your diet and supplement strategy accordingly.

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Testing—and retesting—is key to keeping tabs on your nutrition

While these tests will provide an accurate snapshot of your current health status, without follow-up tests, you’re really viewing this information in a vacuum, Blaiwes pointed out. That’s why it’s best to do a first round of tests to get a baseline, use the data the tests provided to make tweaks to your routine, and then test again within a few months to see if anything has changed. (Testing…1, 2…and 3 and 4, if necessary!)

According to Blaiwes, repeating tests is the best way to optimize your health. “As you make changes to your supplementation plan, repeat these same tests after a few months to assess whether your levels are changing,” he explained. If they’re not, consider whether you’re taking the right supplements or if you’re cheating yourself out of valuable nutrients in your diet.

If you have any questions about lab tests, supplements, nutrition—or any health-related topic—Life Extension offers Wellness Specialists who provide free one-on-one advice, seven days a week. Call 1-800-226-2370 to be connected with a dietitian, nutritionist, nurse or other expert who can give you the answers you need.

Want an Overall Snapshot of Your Nutrition?

Try an Amino Acid Profile

Want a high-level read out on your nutritional status? According to Blaiwes, testing your amino acids will give you a good sense of where you stand. “Our Personalized Amino Acid Health Assessment provides an overview of key areas of your health that you should focus on, such as your protein intake and micronutrient status,” he explained.

Blaiwes added that this test comes with a user-friendly report that you can use to improve your diet and increase your protein intake, if needed. The amino acid assessment is a blood test, and some minor fasting (don’t eat for 2-6 hours prior to testing) is required.

Dylan Blaiwes has a degree in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Wisconsin. He has been with Life Extension since 2012. An avid vegan cook, he enjoys exploring the outdoors in his spare time.

About the Author: Jorie Mark earned an English degree from University of Pennsylvania before getting a master's degree in creative writing from American University. She is a content and social media expert with 20 years of experience in social media, editorial content, digital marketing, events, public relations and food and lifestyle writing. She is also a published author.