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Saliva Test, App for Stress Levels Unveiled

Paradigm.com app

Paradigm.com app showing results (Paradigm.com)

18 Jan. 2022. A start-up company is developing a home testing system that combines a saliva test and smartphone app to detect unhealthy stress levels. Paradigm.com — the company name and web address are identical — in Redwood City, California today released details about the system, seeking beta testers in the wellness and athletic communities.

The Paradigm.com system is designed to detect cortisol levels in the body, an indicator of stress response. Cortisol is a hormone released by the adrenal glands, along with adrenaline, in response to heightened nerve signals in times of fight-or-flight reactions to stress. Cortisol increases blood glucose levels, enhances the brain’s ability to process glucose, and helps with tissue repair. However, increased cortisol can also affect immune, digestive, reproductive, and growth processes, as well as moods and fear. As a result, chronic stress can produce too much cortisol over longer periods of time, upsetting many natural processes in the body and increasing the risk for chronic health problems.

For many of these reasons, tracking cortisol levels is also important to elite athletes, who try to have their physiological processes performing at peak levels during events, and to avoid injuries. A 2017 study published in the journal Scientific Reports shows a relationship between cortisol and testosterone among Austrian track and field athletes, men and women, competing in an event in Azerbaijan. Yet, increased testosterone levels the day before the meet were negatively correlated with the athletes’ performance, suggesting the stress of the event helped degrade their performance. Other studies show a more complex relationship between cortisol and athletic performance, with cortisol levels less likely to affect women and true elite athletes.

In the study of Austrian athletes, cortisol levels were measured with a saliva test. The Paradigm.com system also uses a saliva test, with test strips dipped in saliva samples that change color in response to cortisol levels. The company tells Science & Enterprise the test strip uses a lateral flow technology with nanoscale particles in the strip to enhance the visual output. The user then calls up a Paradigm.com smartphone app, with the phone’s camera taking a photo of the test strip. Computer vision and deep learning algorithms in the app analyze the image and report results in several minutes.

Better methods needed to measure stress

The company notes that users need to take the tests daily for at least a week to gain meaningful results. Single test results are not considered optimal, since they can be affected by factors such as time of day, food intake, and transient stress episodes.

Paradigm.com is seeking beta testers for its cortisol testing system from the wellness and athletic communities. The company says its tests are already in use at the U.S. Olympic training facility in Colorado Springs.

Paradigm.com is a two year-old enterprise founded by Wibe Wagemans, a serial technology entrepreneur and angel investor. Wagemans says the idea for the system came from family experiences with a psychiatrist who admitted the field has few reliable and quantifiable methods for measuring stress.

Wibe says in an email statement that he asked the psychiatrist, “‘How do you quantify stress?’ He replied: ‘We ask people how they feel.’ That didn’t sit well with me. Measuring cortisol is the answer…. Now we’ve solved that problem and we anticipate that cortisol testing will be as prevalent as Covid testing today.”

Science & Enterprise reported on two other efforts to measure cortisol as an indicator for athletic performance or emotional status, with wearable devices. In July 2020, researchers at Tufts University published findings on a wearable patch with sensors that analyze cortisol in human sweat. And in May 2018 a team at University of Houston reported on sensors in fabrics worn on the wrist, capturing data on skin chemistry, including cortisol levels.

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