I’m constantly experimenting with ways to improve my health. Experiments should always begin with a hypothesis. They should also be designed in a way to control as many variables as possible. If you don’t have a way to measure outcomes, you’re just guessing about the overall effectiveness of what you’re testing, no matter how well designed your experiment is. It is in this context that I’m providing my InsideTracker Review.
When it comes to these types of experiments, keeping track of biomarkers are crucial for testing hypotheses. Being able to compare this collected information over time is also important. This can be used to inform future experiments and potentially identify variables that weren’t properly controlled.
Wearables have become great ways to do much of this validation. Despite this, there are still many things that require good old blood (and other) tests in order to get accurate measurements. If you’ve ever tried to convince a doctor to order a test for a specific biomarker that is deemed ‘non-essential’, you probably know that this isn’t always easy. I have terrible insurance (like many self-employed), so even basic tests aren’t covered. Because of this, I’ve been using various biomarker analysis platforms to conduct (and analyze) many of my tests.
InsideTracker Review: the Platform
One of the more recent platforms that I’ve used for obtaining and tracking biomarkers is InsideTracker. InsideTracker allows you to input and analyze your bloodwork, DNA and compute your InnerAge. There are several plans that you can choose from. My InsideTracker review follows.
The basic plans are differentiated by which features of the platform you would like to use and what your starting point is. If you already have data, you can purchase a plan that allows you to upload your results for analysis. In most US states, you can also arrange your tests directly through InsideTracker either by going to a Quest lab or scheduling a mobile blood draw.
Because the testing is done through Quest, you get access to the raw data. I find this useful so that I can enter it into other systems. This makes it so that I always have a running history of biomarkers that I can compare.
I tested InsideTracker’s Ultimate Plan. The Ultimate Plan currently tests and analyzes 44 biomarkers (ApoB was added since I’ve done my last test which now makes InsideTracker even more interesting). In order to best test the platform, I added the InnerAge calculation to both tests as well as the ability to analyze my uploaded DNA results from another provider.
InsideTracker is not inexpensive, but you can purchase several tests at once and get a discount. The tests are also HSA/FSA eligible.
The Blood Draw
I opted to go to my local Quest lab for the blood draw (mobile draw is available in most states for an added $100). Everything regarding scheduling can be coordinated on the InsideTracker website. InsideTracker also provides instructions for things to do/avoid before testing. Basically, water fasting the night before and abstaining from any vigours exercise for a few days before. InsideTracker also provides a form that you print at home and bring to the lab. My experience at Quest was typical of most blood labwork. Maybe there were a few more vials that I had to fill, but I was in and out within 15 minutes.
While waiting for your lab results to make their way to InsideTracker, it’s a good time to fill out your health profile on the site. This information ultimately factors into the information that InsideTracker provides. My results took a few days to process but they appeared in InsideTracker the same day that I had my raw results from Quest. At this point, logging into the website shows a dashboard consisting of color coded biomarkers (red, yellow, green) and your InnerAge score if you added that.
From here, you can drill down into more details about each biomarker and biomarker group. This detailed information often includes ways that you can ‘improve’ your next measurement and links to various research and blog posts backing up that suggestion. I found the provided information to be more accurately actionable than other services that I’ve used. I feel that InsideTracker is definitely looking at all of the data it has available to make suggestions that may actually apply to me rather than generic suggestions that might apply to the general population.
If you added InnerAge, you can drill down into the score and see how various biomarkers impact or detract from that score. I was happy to see that my InnerAge was almost a decade younger than my ‘actual’ age. The science is still out on many of these biological age clocks. While seeing which biomarkers impacted my InnerAge was very interesting, I did not get as positive results with other services that I’ve used that measured biological age in other ways.
If you uploaded your DNA information, you will also have a section that shows your DNA analysis. I found this section to be the most basic information that InsideTracker provides and the analysis here is no where near the level provided by other services that I use. I’m not sure how much of this factors into the excellent information provided on the biomarker pages, but if I knew for sure that it did not, I would not recommend adding this as an upgrade as you can get far better results from other sources (I personally like SelfDecode for this purpose).
Finally, InsideTracker allows you to create an Action Plan where you can add their suggestions that are of interest to you and then track your progress against them. I feel that this is probably useful for people that aren’t already tracking this in some other way. There is some gamification tied to this. Checking in your progress against your Action Plan updates your wellness score and you earn ‘badges’ as you do more and more things in the InsideTracker platform.
Many platforms like this, immediately drive you toward supplements (often custom made for you) and pharmaceuticals in order to improve your biomarkers. InsideTracker doesn’t have supplements to sell, so I like the fact that they don’t focus on this solely. Instead, they provide a ‘Nutrition’ section that focuses on foods and recipes that would be good for you to try. I found that taking this information and cross checking it with my Viome results really worked well for me.
The Mobile App
In addition to the website, InsideTracker also provides a mobile app. Most of the features mentioned are available via this app, maybe with less detail. The mobile app is useful for checking into your Action Plan. It also allows you to integrate an activity/fitness tracker. Unfortunately, on Android, only Fitbit and Garmin Connect are supported. Because of this, I was unable to test how this impacts results. This is likely my biggest complaint about InsideTracker. Why isn’t Google Fit/Health Connect supported on Android?
I’ve found the mobile app useful for another reason. If you turn on notifications, you’ll get ‘Pro tips’ every so often. I’ve found some of these to be very actionable.
I had non-optimized biomarkers from my first test and actually followed some of the suggestions to actually improve them before my recommended next test. Even though this was the case, the real value of getting bloodwork frequently comes in comparing results from test to test. How else will you know if you’re actually making progress or not? I felt that InsideTracker’s interface is one of the better ones for being able to do this comparison.
Overall, InsideTracker was well worth it for me. I found the biomarker optimization and protips to be very useful. The ability to compare biomarkers across tests was also a major benefit. Because of this, I will continue to use it as my platform of choice for blood based biomarker analysis. Especially considering that they seem to be actively adding new ones that are of most interest for healthy living that typical blood tests do not cover. My only real complaints are regarding the value of the DNA add-on and the lack of integration with some of the more commonly used fitness trackers on Android. The DNA analysis seemed lacking when comparing the direct results to other services. Despite these drawbacks, I still consider InsideTracker a useful tool. Just please add Health Connect support! Have you used InsideTracker? Let me know your thoughts.