About the test
Trying to lose weight can be a frustrating process. Sometimes it feels like you aren’t losing weight as quickly as you would expect given all your efforts, and sometimes is feels like you are actually gaining weight despite working hard not to.
Most often, weight gain, or difficulty losing weight, is due to a mismatch between the amount of energy you take in through food, and the amount of energy you expend through exercise. There are, however, a few medical conditions that can cause weight gain, and a few medical problems that can cause symptoms such as abdominal swelling that can mimic weight gain.
This panel has been developed by our Clinical Governance Director, Dr. Adam Staten and covers the following:
The thyroid is a gland in the neck that controls your metabolism. Weight gain, or difficulty losing weight, is a very common symptom of an underactive thyroid, often alongside symptoms such as tiredness, low mood, and feeling cold all the time.
We test several different hormones to test the health of the thyroid, and these can be interpreted together to tell us where the problem lies.
We test for liver disease in the weight gain screen because liver disease can cause abdominal swelling due to fluid build-up in the abdominal cavity. This is quite a late sign of liver disease but, if you are gaining weight, it is worth checking liver function in any case to make sure you are not developing fatty liver disease.
To test liver function, we test for a number of the enzymes that the liver produces as well as the waste product bilirubin and the protein albumin. These enzymes tend to rise for different reasons and interpreting the pattern in which they have risen helps us to work out what might be wrong with the liver.
Kidney (renal) function
Kidney disease is actually very common, in fact a degree of reduced kidney function might be considered a normal part of aging for many people. But the kidneys can also be damaged by toxins, medicines, infections, autoimmune conditions, and other conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes. Like liver disease, kidney disease does not cause weight gain, but it can cause swelling that mimics weight gain. Kidney disease may cause swelling around the ankles, eyes, and abdomen in particular.
Sometimes this is because damaged kidneys leak the protein albumin (which is tested as part of liver function). If blood albumin levels are low, this causes fluid to leak out of the blood vessels and into the tissues which causes the abnormal swelling.
We calculate kidney function using an equation based on the levels of the waste product creatinine (which is produced from normal muscle breakdown), your age, and your sex. An adjustment is also often made for your race. This gives the estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) which is essentially a score of how well your kidneys are functioning. We use the eGFR to diagnose chronic kidney disease (CKD) and the level of your eGFR tells us the stage or severity of the CKD.
Cortisol is part of the weight gain screen because high levels of cortisol cause weight gain. This is known as Cushing’s syndrome and occurs when the body produces too much cortisol, usually due to hormone secreting tumours in either the pituitary gland or the adrenal glands. The tumours are non-cancerous and the condition is rare.
It causes weight gain in a typical pattern resulting in abdominal weight gain, the development of a ‘buffalo hump’ (fat accumulation behind the neck at the top of the back), and a ‘moon face’.
We measure Testosterone as it has been shown to influence metabolism by affecting the rate at which the body burns calories and processes nutrients. It can potentially lead to increased energy expenditure and a higher basal metabolic rate, which can contribute to weight management.
Testosterone plays a crucial role in the development and maintenance of muscle mass. Higher levels of testosterone can support the growth of lean muscle tissue, and muscle tissue burns more calories at rest compared to fat tissue. This means that individuals with higher muscle mass tend to have a higher metabolic rate, making it easier to manage weight.
We measure HbA1c as there is generally a linear relationship between weigh loss and blood sugar levels. As you lose weight your HbA1c should generally decrease as well.
In addition, excess body weight, especially abdominal fat, can lead to insulin resistance, which is a key factor in the development of type 2 diabetes. When you lose weight, especially if you reduce fat in and around your organs (visceral fat), your body's sensitivity to insulin tends to improve. This means your cells are better able to use glucose from your bloodstream for energy, resulting in lower blood sugar levels over time.
- Unbound thyroxine (Free T4)
- Unbound triiodothyronine (Free T3)
- Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH)
- Total protein
- Globulin calculation
- Total protein
- Alanine AminoTransferase (ALT)
- Gamma-GlutamylTransferase (GGT)
- Alkaline Phosphatase (ALP)
- Aspartate AminoTransferase (AST)
- Total Vitamin B12
- Total Vitamin B9 (Folic acid)
Not enough biomarkers? Check out the Essential All Systems Blood Test, for a comprehensive body check up.