What can a finger prick test tell us about your biology?

August 13, 2020

What can a finger prick test reveal about your health, metabolism and nutritional responses to food?

Our ZOE at-home test kit contains everything you need to better understand your biology from the comfort of your own home. 

Open the box and you’ll find a set of standardized muffin-based test meals, a gut health test kit for analyzing the microbes in your gut, and a blood sugar sensor to measure your glucose levels continuously throughout the test period.

There is also a finger prick test kit designed to collect drops of blood to help us to measure a whole host of different characteristics (known as biomarkers) that tell us more about how your metabolism works. 

Although we’ll only collect a few drops of blood, there’s a wealth of information about your metabolism hidden in this small sample. Here’s how it works.

Why are finger prick tests included in our test kit?

When you use ZOE’s test kit, the first finger prick test will be done before breakfast so that we can measure fasting levels of these biomarkers. You will then eat standardized test muffins, which are specially designed to have precise amounts of fat, sugar and protein, and do either additional finger prick tests so we can see how your body reacts to these meals at specific time intervals.

By comparing your results to thousands of others who have eaten the same muffins and performed blood tests at the same intervals, we can get a measure of your blood and fat sugar control and provide you with personalized insights and recommendations.

How to do a finger prick test 

For each blood test, you simply prick your finger and allow a few drops of blood to fall onto the collection card. Make sure to note the time that the test was performed by logging it in the ZOE test app so we know exactly when the sample was taken.

There are a couple of important things to know about doing the test. Firstly, make sure your hands are clean. Wash your hands using warm water and hand soap, but don’t use hand sanitizer, as it can interfere with the results.

It also helps to keep your hands nice and warm, to get the blood flowing freely. The best way to do this by using warm water to wash your hands or by soaking your hand in a bowl of warm water.

Here’s our nutritionist Haya with some top tips to make it quick and as painless as possible.

Once you’ve collected your blood drops, just put the testing cards in the packaging provided and mail it back to our lab for analysis. 

We run a number of biochemical tests on these small spots of blood, looking at the levels of ten different markers that are important readouts of health and metabolism. By comparing the two samples taken before and after eating, we can see how your body is responding to the fat and sugar in the standardized muffin meals.

What are we looking for?

Blood fat measurements

  • Triglycerides: When you eat fat, it is broken down into molecules called triglycerides, which pass into your bloodstream to be used as energy or stored in fat cells. This is a useful measure of how well your body metabolizes fat in food.
  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL): This is the ‘bad’ cholesterol that can build up in your blood vessels. High LDL levels are linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL): This is the ‘good’ cholesterol that removes harmful fats from the blood. HDL cholesterol is protective against heart disease.
  • Total cholesterol:HDL ratio: The ratio of HDL to other types of cholesterol in your blood. Having a higher total cholesterol:HDL ratio is associated with higher heart disease risk.
  • Total cholesterol: The total amount of HDL, LDL and other types of cholesterol in your blood added together.

Blood sugar measurements

  • Glucose: This is a simple measure of the level of glucose in your blood at the time the sample was taken.
  • HbA1c (glycated hemoglobin): The amount of HbA1c in your bloodstream reflects your average blood sugar levels over the past 2-3 months.

Inflammation and liver health

  • High sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP): CRP is a protein that is released into the bloodstream by the liver in response to inflammation. This molecule is a good predictor of heart disease.
  • Aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT): These molecules are normally found in the liver, but they can be released into the blood if the liver is damaged or not working properly.

Our data scientists take all the information from these tests and combine it together with details about your microbiome, the information you’ve logged in the ZOE test app about your meals, drinks and snacks, and data from the blood sugar sensor to build a picture of your health, metabolism and responses to food. 

From there, we can provide you with a holistic insights report including your blood sugar and fat control, scores for meals you test while on the program, analysis of your gut and recommendations for the best foods for your biology.