Diet and exercise, diet and exercise, diet and exercise – This piece is not a repeat of what's likely been heard a thousand times. Yes, eating healthy and staying active helps, but sometimes the answer goes beyond skin deep – into the blood. Here are a few blood test panels and their significance to identifying the source of weight issues.
Testosterone & Estradiol
Estradiol is simply a component of estrogen, and is tested for in the blood. For males, too much estradiol and too little testosterone can cause difficulty in losing weight. Especially so if a male patient is already obese, being overweight will continually drive down testosterone levels. For females, too much testosterone and too little estradiol can cause difficulty in losing weight. Low levels of estradiol can yield heightened food cravings, overindulging, and reduction in the body's ability to burn fat.
TSH, T3, and T4
These tests are included in full thyroid panels. Low levels of TSH, T3, and T4 point to the presence of hypothyroidism, where the thyroid gland underperforms and makes it harder to lose weight and easier to gain it. On the other hand, hyperthyroidism is the thyroid gland overperforming and making it hard to gain weight and easier to lose it. In the case of either, the doctor may prescribe thyroid-regulating medication. It is key to include that with a healthy lifestyle to truly produce results.
This is the go-to panel for any physician treating overweight patients. The term "good cholesterol" refers to HDL, which carries cholesterol to the liver to be removed from the body. LDL is "bad cholesterol" which blocks the arteries and may lead to cardiovascular disease or heart attack. The lipid panel also tests for triglycerides, which when in excess are stored as fat.
Patients have the most control over their lipid profile by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Any prescribed medication should never replace this completely.
Comprehensive Metabolic Panel
A CMP will evaluate how well the body is metabolizing, especially with its measurement of glucose to indicate diabetes. A CMP also provides valuable information on the function of the liver and kidneys. Both work conjunctively to filter out and eliminate waste from the body, so abnormal results may indicate dehydration and malnutrition, or in more serious cases, liver and kidney disease.
Vitamins & Nutrients
Vitamin and nutrient panels vary all over the industry, many dressed with bells and whistles. What is necessary is Vitamin D & Vitamin B-12 testing as they correlate with processing carbs, fat burning, and increasing energy reserves. Iron levels should also be evaluated if a patient is experiencing trouble losing weight. Iron deficiency anemia and its effect of diminishing appetite was once deemed as a silver lining for losing weight, however, less red blood cells are produced, causing fatigue and reduced stamina for exercise, which results in less calories burned.
Diabetes and Depression
Aside from what blood tests are beneficial to pinpointing weight issues, one thing to highlight is the association between diabetes and depression. Adults with depression have 37% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and patients with diabetes show depressive symptoms in coordination with diabetic nerve pain, and mood swings dependent on blood sugar levels. This is a vicious cycle where one could trigger the other, with both worsening over time. This topic is covered more in depth in the Weight Loss episode of the Lab Lowdown Podcast.
Blood testing is essential for hormone imbalances such as:
- Glucose levels, to evaluate diet and/or medication effectiveness.
- Higher estrogen and lowered testosterone, causing more fat to be deposited.
- Higher cortisol level, caused by high stress and triggering of inflammation.
The Bottom Line
Whether it's type 2 diabetes, heart disease, liver or kidney function, a healthy diet and regular exercise are the DIY methods to keeping all those in check. However, if hormonal imbalance is at play, the answer lies within blood testing. Fortunately, all the above tests are included in our Weight Loss and Blood Essentials Test Panel.