What is a Metabolic Test?

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  • Written By: Eric Stolze
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 19 October 2019
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A metabolic test is a medical test that evaluates how well some important metabolic processes are functioning in a patient’s body. Metabolic functions of the body include the breakdown of food and the transformation of digested food into energy that the body can use. Commonly prescribed metabolic tests are included in two blood test panels: a basic metabolic panel and a comprehensive metabolic panel. These groups of metabolic tests often identify signs of serious health conditions.

The basic metabolic panel, or BMP, is a group of blood tests that many physicians order as part of a routine physical examination or to assist with the diagnosis of medical conditions. This panel of tests usually includes a glucose metabolic test that measures the amount of glucose in the blood. Glucose is a sugar which the body uses to produce energy. High blood-glucose levels may indicate diabetes and low levels of blood sugar can occur in people who have hypoglycemia.

A metabolic test for calcium is typically part of a basic metabolic panel, and doctors use it to evaluate blood levels of this important mineral. People use calcium to build and strengthen bones, transmit signals through the nervous system and help with proper muscle contraction. The human body also uses calcium when it releases important hormones. A metabolic test that reveals high levels of calcium can be the result of hormone imbalances, kidney disorders or medical problems with the pancreas.


In many case, physicians use metabolic test results to measure levels of several important electrolytes in a patient’s blood. The basic metabolic panel generally includes tests for blood levels of potassium, sodium and chloride, as well as carbon dioxide. Electrolytes help maintain proper levels of body fluids and contribute to healthy muscles and proper functioning of the brain. Normal heart rhythms are typically maintained with the aid of the body’s electrolytes. People with abnormal levels of electrolytes can have serious medical conditions such as kidney disease or heart disease, and they may suffer from dehydration in some cases.

Kidney functioning is generally measured with basic metabolic panel tests for two waste products—blood urea nitrogen and creatinine. High blood levels of these waste products can result from problems with kidney functioning. Healthy kidneys typically filter creatinine and blood urea nitrogen from the blood so these substances can be removed from the body during urination. People with previously diagnosed kidney disorders may undergo periodic metabolic tests to monitor the effectiveness of their medical treatments.

The comprehensive metabolic panel, or CMP, is a group of blood tests that include the tests from the BMP as well as additional tests that measure liver functioning in most cases. A CMP usually measures albumin and total blood protein to track the amount of albumin produced by the liver compared to other proteins in a patient’s blood. Blood levels of bilirubin, as well as alanine amino transferase, alkaline phosphatase and aspartate amino trasferase, are measured with most CMP test panels. These tests can help physicians monitor the health of a patient’s liver and assist the individual with the diagnosis of liver problems.



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