We only promote tests that we know are important for your health. They are based on current scientific evidence. The finding we report are supported by nearly 500 peer-reviewed, published research articles described and linked to our Science Libraries. Three components of our premier health panel, FeGGT LifePro™, are independently associated with increased risks of multiple chronic diseases and conditions that can strike early in mid-life. These tests are not components of the standard tests ordered by your physician during a periodic physical exam. If you keep records of your lab tests, please review them to see if these tests are included in your medical record.
Our FeGGT LifePro™ basic panel includes serum iron (SI), total iron binding capacity (TIBC) with a calculation of transferrin saturation percentage (TS%), serum ferritin (SF), hemoglobin (Hgb) and serum gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT). SF and GGT are particularly important since each one is independently predictive of multiple chronic diseases and premature mortality, even when test results are well-within normal laboratory ranges. That's very important for individuals having one or more of the common risk factors described in Who Should be Tested?
The disease processes promoted by moderately to highly elevated SF or GGT result from oxidative stress leading to oxidative damage. Even moderately elevated SF or GGT can signify that a disease process is underway in your body. If it were visible, you would notice it, just like rust on an old car. Oxidative damage inside your body is caused by "biochemical rust," [see right-hand column video on rust»] and by essentially the same process. Iron catalyzes oxidation, leading to oxidative damage of cells, organs and DNA mutagenisis. This can happen when iron levels are high, or even when they're relatively low, but only then, if your body's natural antioxidant defenses are concurrently impaired.
If your GGT measures within the lower quarter or third of normal laboratory ranges, current research shows that your body is equipped to defend against excess oxidative stress. Since a "normal" population range covers about 95% of the people in any age or gender category, this means that nearly 75% of the population has less than optimal defenses. Under conditions of excessive oxidative stress, that is very dangerous. This is the primary reason more and more people are affected by diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and fatty liver disease. Our typical "Western diet" contains high levels of iron and lacks sufficient natural antioxidants. Since catalytic iron is the single-most important promoter of oxidative stress, maintaining "low normal" GGT levels becomes essential. You'll find many scientific papers describing both iron and GGT, and their role in the oxidative damage process in our Science Libraries.
A key thing to remember is that high levels of GGT correlate proportionately with low levels of glutathione (GSH). Most researchers describe glutathione as your body's most important natural antioxidant. And together with iron, even moderately elevated levels of each will form a toxic mix that can promote most serious diseases of aging.
Our tests are most useful for anyone with, or with a family history of, the diseases described on this website. However, we encourage all adults to consider our tests, since high levels of undiagnosed iron overload can often lead to an abrupt fatal event or irreversible chronic condition, such as a heart attack, diabetes or cirrhosis of the liver. For example, this can happen in the case of undiagnosed Hereditary Hemochromatosis (HHC). We hear of these cases all of the time. HHC is the most common and potentially fatal genetic disorder in the U.S. More than 100 million Americans have one of the two most significant genetic variants that can cause severe iron overload. Approximately eight million American adults have two copies of the variant genes that pose the greatest risk of developing the serious diseases associated with HHC. Unfortunately, only a small minority of those high risk individuals have had the proper tests to detect this risk. When detected early, before too much iron builds up in body organs, all of the HHC related conditions can be avoided.
We are hopeful that our website will encourage greater physician awareness and use of these tests. Currently, physicians in the U.S. have had difficulty ordering iron tests due to insurance reimbursement restrictions imposed about fifteen years ago. These restriction had nothing to do with the utility or importance of these tests; they resulted from a testing laboratory over-billing scheme that was resolved in major litigation. Until these restrictive policies are changed, people affected by iron disorders, particularly iron overload, will unfortunately continue to suffer the terrible consequences of this condition.
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If your physician hasn't ordered these tests for you in the past, it's not his or her's "fault!" The typical story we hear goes something like this:
Patient: While I'm having all these tests done, can I have my iron checked?
Doctor: No, you don't need that one.
Patient: Why? What if I have iron overload?
Doctor: No, that's so rare; you're not Irish, you're not an white old man, and you don't drink too much (this is a typical HHC stereotype)
This is a typical story we here almost every day at Iron Disorders Institute. Most physicians won't (or can't) order an iron panel, for several reasons.
They only heard about hemochromatosis one day in medical school and aren't familiar with other conditions of iron overload (before the genetic tests for HHC became available,-- and the description they remember is the above stereotypical one -- or something very similar)
They've tried ordering an iron panel before and couldn't get insurance reimbursement (this is the one we hear most frequently)
They've seen thousands of patients in their career and haven never had one with hemochromatosis (since at least one in every three of their patients had at least a single gene mutation for genetic iron overload, it's most likely they simply haven't tested for it in the past)
Their busy schedule hasn't permitted them to keep up with emerging science in this area (or, perhaps more likely, pharmaceutical company reps haven't brought it to their attention)
None of these "excuses" are really your physicians fault. But together, they do form a common wall of resistance. Nearly all iron imbalances are treatable using (natural) dietary means and therapies, primarily blood donation or phlebotomy. Since these treatment are so effective, there is very little pharmaceutical company interest in this area (Although somewhat toxic and very expensive drugs are available for patients with transfusional iron overload, e.g., in thalassimia, sickle cell anemia and myelodysplastic syndrome).