Lab Testing FAQs > All About Nutritional Testing

All About Nutritional Testing

Nutrition is one of the cornerstones of good health. The foods that you eat not only provide nourishment and energy for your body, they also supply macronutrients and micronutrients your organs and body systems need to function properly. 

Whether you are suffering from food allergies, chronic illness or simply want to understand the current state of your health, nutritional testing services can provide valuable insights about how the foods you eat are affecting your body.

What is Nutrition Testing?

Nutrients can be separated into two distinct categories:

  • Macronutrients
    • Proteins (amino acids)
    • Fats (saturated fats, trans fats, unsaturated fats)
    • Carbohydrates (sugar, starch, fiber)
    • Water
  • Micronutrients
    • Minerals (calcium, iron, potassium, sodium, magnesium, etc.)
    • Vitamins (Vitamins B, C, A, D, E, K)
    • Antioxidants

Nutrition testing can be used to evaluate the levels of these macronutrients and micronutrients in the blood. Test results can be compared to a reference range of normal values, and help doctors diagnose nutritional deficiencies. 

Nutritional testing has many uses in functional medicine, such as in assessing blood chemistry, hormone function, gut health, metabolic function, blood sugar regulation, food sensitivities and allergies, organ function and more.

Why Get Nutritional Testing?

Nutrients play a vital role in almost every physiological process in the body, from metabolism and immunity to digestion and hormone regulation. Over time, nutritional imbalances can lead to symptoms such as weight gain or loss, muscle mass and/or bone density loss, muscle and joint pain, fatigue, poor memory and focus, insomnia and even life-threatening diseases.

All too often, patients suffering from these ailments have their concerns brushed aside by physicians. In reality, they may be on track to developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension or heart disease. A simple blood test is a powerful tool that can help identify nutritional problems early and prevent the development of disease.

Even patients who do not suffer from uncomfortable symptoms may be deficient in certain essential nutrients. Iron, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, calcium, and magnesium are among the most common nutrient deficiencies in the United States and can be easily identified with a blood test for nutritional deficiencies. Modifying your diet or adding in supplements is an easy way to correct deficiencies and achieve optimal health.

Types of Nutritional Tests

There are hundreds of nutritional tests that can be used to diagnose various conditions, diseases, and nutrient deficiencies. Some of the most common nutritional tests include:

  • Vitamins
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Iron 
  • Sodium
  • Zinc
  • Phosphorus
  • Omega-3 / Omega-6
  • Folic Acid
  • Beta Carotene
  • Electrolytes

In the following sections, we have identified a few common blood panels that encompass a combination of these and other nutritional tests. 

Vitamin Panel Test

There are thirteen essential vitamins that are required for the body to function properly:

  1. Vitamin A
  2. Vitamin C
  3. Vitamin D
  4. Vitamin E
  5. Vitamin K
  6. Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
  7. Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
  8. Vitamin B3 (niacin)
  9. Pantothenic acid 
  10. Biotin 
  11. Vitamin B6
  12. Vitamin B12 
  13. Folate 

Each of these vitamins plays a vital role in various body functions, such as growing healthy teeth and nails, regulating metabolism, and maintaining brain function. A vitamin panel blood test checks the levels of these thirteen essential vitamins to identify any deficiencies and determine if supplements are needed.

Mineral Panel Test

A mineral panel involves testing the blood for key minerals and identifying deficiencies—or in some cases, toxicities. Minerals that are typically included in this type of testing are calcium, copper, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese and zinc.

Electrolytes are a category of minerals that help regulate nerve and muscle function, balance blood acidity, hydrate the body and rebuild damaged tissue. An electrolyte panel usually tests the levels of sodium, chloride, potassium and bicarbonate.

Anemia Testing

Anemia is a condition in which the blood doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to the body’s tissues and organs. An iron deficiency can cause abnormally low levels of red blood cells, and is the primary cause of anemia in women of childbearing age.

Blood tests can be used to screen for and diagnose anemia. These tests usually include a Complete Blood Count (CBC) with Differential and a Total Iron Binding Capacity (TIBC). Iron and Vitamin B supplements may be used to manage anemia if deficiencies are present.

Nutritional testing is one of the best ways to gain insights about the way your diet is impacting your overall wellness and body function. If you feel that you may be suffering from a health condition caused by nutrient deficiencies or a nutritional disorder, consider scheduling a blood test that will evaluate your macronutrient and micronutrient levels.