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Blood tests used to be less common, many consumers found the cost of accessing them through their primary care provider prohibitive, and not always covered by insurance. And, from a performance standpoint, looking at the levels of all kinds of tiny molecules in your blood to figure out where you might be able to unlock previously untapped potential was reserved for the most elite of athletes.
Now? Anyone can do it as often as they’d like. InsideTracker put blood testing in the hands of the masses (not literally; you still need a pro to actually draw the blood), and paired results with actionable daily tips that empowered users to take charge of their health. And right on trend, the company is rolling out personalized health insights for women.
“We [as a society] have completely screwed women in terms of how many dollars we have allocated to understanding health and performing research on women,” says InsideTracker’s VP of Science and Artificial Intelligence Dr. Renee Deehan. “Our product is not necessarily a gendered product, but we are essentially a personalized wellness company—and you can’t take sex out of the equation there.”
With that in mind, InsideTracker is expanding how it supports its female users. Here’s what you need to know.
What are the new female health panels tracking?
InsideTracker may not be a gendered product, but since day one the company’s scientists have accounted for sex differences when looking at the 44 biomarkers they measure. The Ultimate plan now goes a step further, though, adding a couple of biomarkers specifically related to female hormones.
Those are estradiol and progesterone, critical hormones to measure during a woman’s reproductive and menopausal years, says Deehan. (TSH, the most sensitive marker to address thyroid function for women and men, was also added to the Ultimate plan.)
Progesterone fluctuates throughout your menstrual cycle, rising to prepare the body for a potential pregnancy and declining in the absence of a pregnancy. High progesterone levels aren’t typically an issue, while low progesterone levels in people who aren’t pregnant are associated with irregular periods, mood issues, and trouble sleeping.
Estradiol is one of the three main forms of estrogen, and besides estrogen’s obvious impact on reproductive health (as a sex hormone, it plays a major role in sexuality and fertility), estradiol also affects the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems. Levels naturally fluctuate during premenopause, and eventually decline in perimenopause; how much they decline is linked to the severity of menopause symptoms like night sweats and hot flashes, while optimal levels post-menopause are associated with a reduced likelihood of age-related conditions like bone mineral density decline and poor cardiovascular health.
“We decided to focus on estradiol and progesterone because, of course, they’re clearly important throughout a person’s life,” says Deehan, “but also because a lot of research has been done on them.” InsideTracker is not a diagnostic tool—meaning it provides DNA and lab information that you can take to your doctor, but is not meant to diagnose illness. To that end, “it’s important for us to focus on biomarkers that have been reasonably well-studied throughout the years because there’s a lot of information that we can draw on,” says Deehan. It also allows the company to provide female users with a more holistic view of their health—and how these changes might impact them.
So, what do you do with that info?
What makes InsideTracker appealing isn’t just the testing, it’s all the content within the app that explains what the biomarkers are, what your levels are, and what that means for you. That’s especially relevant with female hormone panels because “literally no one talks about perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause,” says Deehan. “It’s wild: All of a sudden, you have all these women in their forties and fifties who are gaining weight, having hot flashes, experiencing brain fog, losing muscle mass, and watching their blood sugar levels rise, and it’s on them as an individual to go research that.”
Deehan calls the educational content aspect of InsideTracker—the “then what?” part of the app—a great learning opportunity for women, although she also notes this is stuff we all should have been educated about in middle school sex ed.
“Estradiol and progesterone are very atypical to be measured by a physician unless there’s a really specific medical reason,” says Deehan. Like all of InsideTracker’s biomarkers, “you’re really looking to see if you’re falling into the appropriate zones. And if you’re not,” she adds, “then that could be an indication of problems with hormone regulation, and it’s a great opportunity to go and talk to your doctor.”
The insights tied to the estradiol and progesterone biomarkers will apply to everyone who selects the biological sex of female at onboarding (and are further personalized via the selection of pre, peri-, or postmenopausal status). With your results, you’ll get tailored explanations of menopause-related changes (for example, “because vitamin D status impacts intestinal absorption of calcium, and calcium is a mediator in triglyceride production … as a postmenopausal woman, your below-optimized vitamin D levels may be contributing to your borderline high triglyceride levels.”, new recommendations to improve or mitigate any symptoms (“add dried plums to the mix to improve bone formation and decrease bone loss”), and customized daily suggestions based on your biomarker levels and latest activity tracker data.
What this content is doing, says Deehan, is demystifying menopause. “You might not even know anything’s going on until you measure it, and that can prompt lifestyle changes or doctor visits that help you take better charge of your health,” she explains.
This is just the start, says Deehan. While this first update is geared towards peri- and postmenopausal women, the company is actively looking into additional biomarkers that may help women in their reproductive years as well as women using hormonal treatments, she added.
“Part of our platform is that we gather all of the scientific research that has been published on a given topic, and then we evaluate all that information and, from there, come up with recommendations or insights for our users,” says Deehan.
Yes, that takes time. But there’s never been a better time for a company like InsideTracker to double down on supporting women. “We’re finding women in higher-ranking positions, which directly translates to controlling where the research funding goes,” says Deehan. As Deehan said, women’s health issues have been woefully underfunded and underresearched. InsideTracker’s main goal is to help close that gap—and this is a strong start.