What Is a Metabolic Profile?

Metabolic profiling is a series of blood tests that help physicians diagnose medical problems.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 26 August 2014
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A metabolic profile is a term that may be used in a variety of ways in the medical field. Some use it to specifically refer to tests that evaluate the blood for certain aspects of health. These may be called metabolic panels too, and may either be a complete or basic panel, depending on the number of tests that are done on the blood. Alternately, the metabolic profile could be used as profiling is used, to determine a type of something. For instance what would blood work of varying kinds say about people who exercise regularly or who are born to mothers with certain types of diseases? Profiling of this nature can help predict either health concerns or health benefits of certain groups.

The first way in which metabolic profile is used may refer to metabolic panels. These are very often blood tests that could be ordered to watch body function of certain types for people with disease or to evaluate blood to determine health issues. The complete metabolic panel measures 14 different elements that might be revealing. Some of the tests look at protein levels in blood serum, and others measure electrolyte balance, which when askew may cause problems. Additionally, calcium and glucose levels are measured.


A complete metabolic profile or panel can keenly evaluate function of the kidneys and liver by looking at how the blood reflects generation and handling of waste by these organs. A simple difference between complete and basic panel is that basic panels leave off evaluation of liver function. The basic panel also omits blood protein tests for albumin and total protein. Depending on the reason for the blood panel, doctors may opt to order a basic or complete profile.

In contrast to metabolic profile referring to a blood test a person might have, the medical or scientific community may speak more generally about the metabolic profile of types of people who have certain behaviors in common or bear the same type of genetic background or prevalence for disease. For instance, in order to diagnose diseases, doctors look at the numbers that appear on blood testing to see if they fit a profile for certain illnesses. Someone with kidney disease, for instance, is going to have distinct results on one of these blood tests that fit the profile for most or all people who have kidney disorders or diseases.

When a profile or a series of symptoms is established, it can be very useful for diagnosing a single person or it can be helpful in studying large groups of people. Laboratory studies may be either somewhat whimsical or deadly serious. For instance some studies have shown that people who crave chocolate tend to have a similar metabolic profile to each other, while other studies have evaluated how trends in profiles increase risk for developing illnesses, indicating need to watch people that fit certain profiles more closely.


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