Forbes health Article, by By Becca Stanek, and Jessica DiGiacinto Editor
Founded in 2009 by a team with backgrounds hailing from Harvard, MIT and Tufts University in aging, genetics and biometric data, InsideTracker is a health program based on blood test results. It analyzes your bloodwork, lifestyle, diet and—for certain plans—your DNA. Using this data, the algorithm-driven platform develops personalized recommendations to achieve your health-related goals.
Since the market launch of InsideTracker, the company secured its first U.S. military contract in 2016. In 2021, the platform integrated with Garmin, the Android app and the Apple Health kit.
PROS & CONS
- Quick delivery of results after testing
- User-friendly app makes it easy to track and follow recommendations
- Clear explanations and scientific backing provided for each suggestion
- Ability to customize an action plan based on personal priorities
- Cost of plan does not include re-testing to determine your progress
- Must do mobile blood draw in certain states, which increases the cost
- Pricing starts at $189 for plans that include a blood test, ranging up to $799 for blood and DNA testing
- Lower-level plans analyze a limited number of biomarkers
InsideTracker at a Glance
- Offers a variety of plans that analyze biomarkers and/or genetic markers, as well as your lifestyle and nutrition habits, to generate a health assessment and recommendations.
- Allows you to select a goal to focus on based on your bloodwork, such as overall health, energy levels, gut health, metabolism, inner age, endurance, heart health or fat loss.
- Provides an action plan as well as tools to check in, track your progress and set reminders to complete daily actions, plus the option to sync to wearable fitness trackers.
How It Works
InsideTracker claims to help users get a better handle on their biological age, which is actually different from chronological age. While chronological age measures how long you have physically existed, biological age measures the age of your cells. With some people, these two numbers are the same, but for others, they can be different.
Many factors can affect your biological age, such as genetics and stress. Additionally, biological age can be a risk factor for the development of many chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cancer and dementia. While biological vs chronological age is an accepted concept, using biomarkers to call out biological age still needs more robust research.
The first step when using InsideTracker is to choose your plan (we outline the options and costs in detail below) and go through the checkout process. You’ll then complete a brief questionnaire, where you’re asked about your exercise, dietary, sleep and other lifestyle habits. You’ll also be prompted to provide some body measurements.
From there, you’ll either schedule your blood test or simply print out your lab slip and bring it to a Quest Diagnostics location. You should receive brief instructions about how to prepare for this. For instance, you may need to stop taking supplements 24 hours ahead of your blood test. All InsideTracker tests also require a 12-hour fast before blood tests. The blood tests for InnerAge 2.0 screen for 17 biomarkers for men and 13 for women.
It should take about five to seven days to get your blood test results, according to the company, at which time you’ll receive an email when your results and recommendations are ready to view. Those who upload their own blood test results can expect to wait 10 to 14 days to receive results.
Once your results are ready, you can view them either using InsideTracker’s website or on its app. You’ll be able to see your biomarker levels and how they compare to optimal ranges, as well as the recommendations InsideTracker has for how to improve biomarkers that aren’t within range. Biomarkers that the InnerAge 2.0 test analyzes vary for men versus women, but includes glucose, LDL, triglycerides, HbA1c, GGT and albumin (a protein made in the liver) for both.
You’ll then set up an action plan, which could range from improving your overall health to focusing on a certain objective, such as your gut health, energy levels, metabolism, inner age, endurance, heart health, fat loss, sleep, strength and power, injury prevention and recovery, stress, cognition or endurance. Selecting a specific action plan allows you to prioritize the recommendations offered, so you can focus on meeting your particular goal. Recommendations range from trying a new type of nut that week to continuing to get more sunshine to progressing resistance training.
From there, you can check in regularly through InsideTracker’s app and access various informational articles and podcast episodes. You’ll also have a Wellness Score, which will update as you log your daily progress. Each day, you’re also prompted to rate your stress level the day before. If you have a wearable device, such as an Apple Watch or Fitbit, you can also sync it with the app so it feeds any data into InsideTracker.
Your plan will last for approximately three months, at which point InsideTracker recommends that you should get an updated blood test (though this is not included in the initial cost). This will allow you to see if any improvements have occurred. InsideTracker also explains that re-testing is necessary because any changes—whether to your diet, lifestyle, activity level or environment—will affect test results, and it’s important to calibrate an action plan to relevant results.
What Experts Say
The type of testing that InsideTracker provides is something that just about anyone can benefit from, says Elliot Dinetz, M.D., a double board certified physician (in family medicine and functional medicine) and Forbes Health Advisory Board Member. However, Dr. Dinetz was not convinced that InsideTracker’s InnerAge 2.0 plan, for instance, tested all of the necessary biomarkers to provide a complete picture.
“A lot of these direct-to-consumers will cherry pick labs based on price instead of based on what’s necessarily right, based on my view of looking at this,” explains Dr. Dinetz. “With a physician, it’s based on a personalized approach, and they can determine what you actually need. And it’s worth the investment.”
Working with a doctor can offer a more personalized approach that takes your personal and family history into account, says Dr. Dinetz. He also cautions against trusting one single test, as many biomarkers “can change overnight” and should always be repeated.
Though pricey, InsideTracker’s InnerAge 2.0 program offers interesting biomarker insight with quick results and actionable recommendations.
- Analyzes biomarkers to determine your biological age in comparison to your actual chronological age
- Provides results that indicate where you’re within “normal” ranges and where you could use improvement
- Offers recommendations for diet, exercise and supplements to improve biomarkers that aren’t within optimal zones
The Fine Print
If you live in New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island or Hawaii, you’ll need to look out for the added cost that you’ll face for plans that include a blood test. That’s because these states mandate that a phlebotomist comes directly to you for a mobile blood draw. As someone based in New York, that tacked on an additional $100 to my already $249 InnerAge 2.0 plan, for a grand total of $349.
It’s also important to know that, despite the steep pricing for access to InsideTracker’s technology, your purchase only includes a single round of testing. In other words, if you follow the recommendations that InsideTracker offers you to improve your non-optimal biomarkers, you’d need to shell out more money to determine whether those suggestions actually led to measurable changes in your biomarkers. Less expensive plans also aren’t nearly as comprehensive in what they test.
Also note that if you live outside of the U.S. or Canada, your options for plans are severely limited. The only plans available worldwide are the Home Kit and the option to upload your own blood test results for analysis.
The Product Experience
The information I gleaned from going through the InsideTracker experience was interesting, and the process definitely got me thinking more critically about my lifestyle and dietary choices.
I found the process of getting the bloodwork done to be simple and straightforward, though it was disappointing to pay an additional charge as the state where I live only allowed for mobile blood draws. My results arrived surprisingly quickly—I got my bloodwork done on a Friday morning and received results by Sunday afternoon—but that doesn’t seem to be everyone’s experience in using the platform.
A quick glance of the platform on Trustpilot, where it received an average score of 3.9 out of 5 stars from 154 customer reviews, revealed that other users had experienced issues getting their results and getting in touch with customer service to troubleshoot issues. One user described customer support as “essentially nonexistent,” with delayed response times and a lack of organization—an experience many other reviewers echoed.
One finding I was surprised by was that my level of DHEAS, a hormone produced in the adrenal glands, was below the optimal range.
With a little digging though, I uncovered an article on InsideTracker’s website that stated that taking oral contraceptives tends to lead to low DHEAS levels, and may affect other biomarkers as well. It wasn’t clear whether InsideTracker had factored this into its assessment. The program’s recommendations to improve my DHEAS levels, however, seemed pretty in line with general health recommendations I’d heard before, like consuming more nuts and doing a variety of yoga flows.
At the end of the day, I wasn’t convinced InsideTracker was the most cost-effective way to get biomarker information, particularly considering you need to get one of the highest level plans to get the full range of biomarkers analyzed. While I enjoyed using the app, with its clean interface and easy-to-use check-ins, I’m not sure I’ll stick with it over the long-term, especially since I would have to pay more to follow up on whether implementing InsideTracker’s recommendations has made any measurable difference.
I do, however, plan to take what I learned in regards to nutrition and lifestyle habits and use it toward my personal health goals.
Read the article here: https://www.forbes.com/health/body/insidetracker-review/