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Dr. Sears' Blog

Breaking down the latest research on Anti-Inflammatory Nutrition
Written By: Dr. Barry Sears, Ph. D | Creator of the Zone Diet

Written by Dr. Barry Sears
on February 16, 2023

We’re excited to offer the Hemoglobin A1C Blood Test as another valuable blood marker of your current wellness. To familiarize you with the power of this test, we sat with Dr. Sears this week to answer some questions. Here’s what he had to say.

What is the Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) Blood Test?

Glucose is a critical energy source for every organ in the body, especially the brain. However, if the glucose circulating in your bloodstream remains elevated over time, this excess glucose can cause damage to blood vessels and organ tissues. Your average long-term blood glucose levels are measured by a simple finger-stick blood test known as hemoglobin A1c. This is the primary test used to determine if you are developing diabetes or the extent of your existing diabetes, as it reflects your average blood glucose over the past three months.

Does the HbA1c Blood Test Measure Only Blood Sugar?

HbA1c is used primarily as a marker of blood sugar control, but it can also be used as a surrogate marker of the activation of AMPK. AMPK is the master switch of metabolism that controls your ability to repair damaged tissue. A pro-inflammatory diet inhibits AMPK activity. If AMPK activity is decreased, the cell cannot remove glucose from the blood, and HbA1c increases. Furthermore, maintaining elevated blood glucose inhibits AMPK activity, creating a positive feedback loop that further decreases your metabolism's efficacy. This reduces your immune function, causes the accumulation of stored body fat, makes it more difficult for injuries to heal, and accelerates aging. Understanding this linkage between HbA1c and wellness makes the knowledge of your current HbA1c one of the most critical numbers you need to know.

If You Make Dietary Changes, How Soon Can You Expect to See Changes in your A1c?

AMPK activity is under robust dietary control. Restricting calories by using the Zone Diet is one way to increase AMPK activity, as is increasing your intake of EPA and DHA from fish and fish oils. However, the most potent dietary intervention may be increasing your intake of polyphenols. Of the 8,000 known polyphenols, the most powerful to activate AMPK is a class known as delphinidins. Delphinidins are found in low concentrations in blueberries, red grapes, and red wine. However, delphinidins can be concentrated by special techniques to much higher levels. For example, one capsule of MaquiRx contains the same levels of delphinidin as found in consuming 48 glasses of red wine. Clinical studies have shown that using delphinidins can help lower HbA1c levels in 90 days.

What is the ideal range for HbA1c?

The ideal range of HbA1c should be between 4.9-5.1%. Although an HbA1c level of less than 5.7% is considered “normal,” it is high enough to inhibit AMPK activity, causing insulin resistance. Furthermore, an HbA1c level of 5.7% to 6.4% indicates the presence of prediabetes caused by significant insulin resistance. An HbA1c level greater than 6.5% indicates the existence of type 2 diabetes caused by severe insulin resistance. Once you have type 2 diabetes, you are four times more likely to develop heart disease and twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s. Therefore, many neurologists consider Alzheimer’s to be type 3 diabetes. 

What do you do if your HbA1c is below 4.9? Is that still good?

For optimal health, you need to keep HbA1c in a zone. For example, if your HbA1c level is less than 4.9%, you may not have enough glucose in the blood to maintain optimal glucose levels for the brain, and mental fatigue will be likely.

Is there a difference between doing a finger-stick blood test versus a venous puncture to measure HbA1c?

A venous puncture to obtain the blood needed for the test will usually have a 0.1 percent lower HbA1c readout than the blood taken from a finger stick.

How Does the Blood Test Process Work?

The process for this test is very similar to our Cellular Inflammation Blood Test if you are familiar with that. The kit arrives at your door; you register your sample, do the finger stick test, and put it in the mail. Within 1-2 weeks, your results will be in your e-mail inbox. The difference between the two tests is that the HbA1c requires three total drops of blood to be analyzed, whereas the AA/EPA test only requires one. This test does not require an individual to be fasting.


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