Low Fat – 2 Week Review

A couple weeks ago I decided I was going to change one thing at a time and stop confounding all of my variables, so I have a shot at actually knowing what is and what is not helping me.  I decided to start with eating low-fat, which Ray Peat says should help with weight reduction. But more importantly, I wanted to test to see if fat intake would have an effect on my blood sugar.  Most people (and doctors) believe diabetes is caused by eating too much sugar.  Peat says otherwise – that the cells’ uptake of glucose is impaired by fat intake.

The antagonism between fat and sugar that Randle described can involve the suppression of sugar oxidation when the concentration of fats in the bloodstream is increased by eating fatty food, or by releasing fats from the tissues by lipolysis, but it can also involve the suppression of fat oxidation by inhibiting the release of fatty acids from the tissues, when a sufficient amount of sugar is eaten.

I have previously interpreted this as being primarily polyunsaturated fat being the problem, and reduced my PUFA intake…but my blood sugar stayed disappointingly high.  A re-read indicates he doesn’t actually doesn’t say PUFAs alone are the culprit – he says that dietary fat (doesn’t specify which kind) competes with sugar to get into the cells and provide energy.  High fat = poor glucose metabolism.  Well, I’ve had a high fat diet for the last 2-3 years, and also have had increasingly poor glucose metabolism.  So I thought I’d try to reduce fat in my food and track my fasting blood sugar to evaluate for effect.

So I started eating low-fat on 3/18/14 – not quite 2 weeks ago.  I stopped for 5 days in the middle of my experiment because I was tired of eating sugar all day long.  I don’t even like sugar.  When you don’t eat starches (I don’t…makes me depressed) and you’re limiting meat and fat, you end up eating a lot of sugar (fruit/juice/honey) for fuel.  I think Peat would say that’s ideal, but I was getting tired of eating so much sweet stuff.  So I gave up in the middle. When I did that, though, I noticed an interesting blood-sugar trend.  So I again went low-fat for a few more days to see what would happen.  Here are the results:

Blood Sugar vs Fat Intake

My blood sugar is high.  I’m pretty much diabetic.  This is a given.  But look at what happens when I reduce the fat in my diet, increase it again, and then reduce it again.  By starting and stopping I managed to create a reversal experiment.  The graph shows a decent correlation between fat intake and fasting blood sugar.  When I eat more fat my blood sugar goes up – less fat, and it goes down.

Now take a look at what happens when I add my carbohydrates intake to the graph – remember this is all simple sugars.  I’ve eaten no starches over the past 2 weeks.

add carb

Because I have to eat something, generally less fat = more carbohydrate intake.  Overall though, carb intake was pretty stable – and it appears to be completely unrelated to my up-and-down fasting blood sugar.

What do I conclude from this?  Well, it’s hard to draw firm conclusions given the short duration of the experiment, but it sure looks like high blood sugar (and possibly type-II diabetes) are related to fat intake much more so than to sugar intake.

RAY PEAT – RIGHT AGAIN!

So what am I going to do about this?  Actually, it’s almost nice enough outside to get out on my bike again, and I intend to do that.  Biking for 30 minutes a day on flat terrain at moderate intensity has reliably lowered my blood sugar in the past, and I really like it.  So that’s what I’ll be doing about my blood sugar.  Low-fat just isn’t working for me.  I quit it twice in 2 weeks because it was making me feel all eating-disordy.  Like, feeling resentful and deprived and fantasizing about bread.  I think it could be done if someone (unlike me) could tolerate starches well, but this just wasn’t working for me.

So diet-wise I’m back to eating a regular Peat-y diet – I’ll try to find a balance with fat where I’m eating less than I have in the past but not so little that I’m afraid of a teaspoon of coconut oil.  Probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 70-80g per day.  I’m also done tracking what I eat for a little while.  It’s easy to get obsessed with this stuff.  In a bad way.  I don’t want what I eat to be so damn important.

So what experiment am I going to try next?  I really want to add 10mg of B6 to my supplement regimen, to better help with estrogen management, reduce serotonin, and help with libido.  Will start that today and will report back in 2 weeks.

Sugar: Not Just For Breakfast Anymore

I’m really struggling to eat Peat-ish and remain low fat.

I’ve given up starches because they were making me feel depressed.

I’ve given up eating lots of meat because it’s high in phosphorous.

I’ve given up alcohol because it made me depressed.

And now I’m reducing fat.

I’m trying to determine whether it’s all fat (not just PUFA) that blocks cells from using available glucose, keeping blood sugar high.  My blood sugar has come down over the past week of lower-fat eating, but I’ve also completely given up starches at the same time.  I’m trying to avoid changing more than one thing at a time, but the starches had to go.  They were really messing with my mood.  In the past when I gave up starches but kept fat intake (and sugar intake) high my fasting blood sugar would reduce from really high (140-150) down to the 120s, and that’s what it’s done again this week.  I’d like to continue my low-fat eating for a while and see if it improves further.

Now about that…You know what’s left when you give up starches, most meat, and fat?

Sugar. Currently 200-250g of it.  And maybe some vegetables, and some lean meat. Just a whole lotta sugary sweet stuff – fruit and fruit juice, milk, honey-sweetened coffee, marshmallows.  Anything to keep me from being hungry and also not add to the dietary fat total. If I have a couple ounces of cheese and 2 eggs per day I’ve about maxed out my allowed fat intake.

I don’t even really like sweet stuff.  I’ve never had much of a sweet tooth, and now my diet is centered around it.  Day to day I’m feeling pretty good, but I fear this is unsustainable because I just don’t really like it.  I’m coming to dread my next sugary coffee/milk/orange juice.  I know low-fat cheese is an option, but even that has 4g of fat per ounce.   I’ve identified one brand that doesn’t have much in the way of unwanted fillers.

Anyway, my weight is down a pound this week…I guess that’s good, and I hope it continues.

I’ve been tracking what I eat on Cronometer.  I don’t know what my baseline (maintenance) number of calories of fat grams is – I haven’t tracked that – but considering how I feel when I restrict calories/fat, I suspect I was maintaining my current weight on 2500-3000 calories per day and over 95-100g fat. A few weeks ago I was trying very hard to lower overall calories without making an effort to reduce fat, and I was averaging 1807 calories and 83g of fat per day.  Hunger was (and still is) preventing me from going lower.  This past week I averaged 1966 calories per day and 58g fat per day, and it was a struggle for the above mentioned reasons. The totals for the last 2 days of the week skewed the average because I was starting to tire of all the sweet food. I think I’ll try to stay under 50g of fat per day – that would be challenging but maybe not unrealistic.

Otherwise, I’m meeting all of my micronutrient goals, and my phosphorous/calcium ratio is about 1:1.  It’s really just a matter of being bored with the taste of sweet.

Onward.

Labs and Many Variables

I haven’t written much because it’s been a rough week.  I definitely have ups and downs, more so now that I’m following Peat because I didn’t used to have many “ups”. Unfortunately I don’t always know the cause of the mood/fatigue roller coaster, because I haven’t done a good job of controlling variables.  That’s going to change.

To summarize, my depression returned and stuck around for a week.  I’d recently started resistance training, so I took a week off (mostly because I didn’t have the energy – not because I was scientifically eliminating variables…but the result is the same.).  That didn’t help…so I conclude that exercise probably wasn’t the cause.  I had some mild food poisoning from a seafood stew I made last weekend – maybe the intestinal irritation released a bunch of serotonin into my system?  Well, maybe…but the depression lasted till Friday.  Seems things would have returned to normal before that.  I forgot to take my pregnenolone supplement 2 weeks ago, so I took it last Tuesday.  Nope…still had 2-3 more days of depression, and I’m sure it would have kicked in before that.  I also “forgot” to eat liver for 2 full weeks (forgot = avoided).  So I ate liver on Friday, and seriously within 2 hours my depression was gone and has stayed gone since then.  Maybe I was low on Vitamin L. (<–“liver”).  Seriously though, maybe I was low in B vitamins – liver is my main source of these.  So no more skipping Liver Night.  In fact, I’ve taken a pound of grass-fed beef liver and cut it into 16 1-oz pieces and then froze them individually in an ice cube tray.  I’m going to thaw and eat an ounce of raw liver most days (5-7oz/week) in an effort to stabilize my intake and make it more routine.

This whole thing has made me very aware that I keep changing multiple things at once without taking time to evaluate the results before introducing another change.  Not very scientific.  So I’m going to go about this more methodically from now on.  One change at a time, with at least a 2 week period of time between interventions.  So here’s what I’m doing now that seems to be working well for me so far, and contributing to my health:

Supplements:

  • Progest E – 6 drops per day
  • Niacinamide – 250mg 1x/day
  • Vitamin D – 5000mg/day
  • Magnesium Glycinate – 100mg/day
  • Cynoplus – ¼ tab/day
  • Pregnenolone – 500mg/week
  • Aspirin – 325mg 1-2x/day
  • Vitamin K – 1mg/day

Food:

  • Liver – 5-7oz/week
  • Wild-caught shellfish – 1x a week
  • Dairy
  • Salting food to taste (which for me is a lot)
  • Orange juice/honey
  • Raw carrots daily
  • Coconut oil
  • Eggs
  • Very low starches – some days none, but some days one serving
  • Avoidance of PUFAs – 4g or less most days.  I’m very strict about this.
  • Grass fed beef, occasional low-fat chicken breast or ham
  • Bone broths
  • Coffee – about 24 oz per day of a weak brew

Habits:

  • Lights – 2-3x/week for 30 minutes
  • Resistance training – 2-3x/week for 1 hour

The things I continue to struggle with:

  • Unstable mood (but that seems to be resolved when I follow the above supplements/foods or habits and don’t “forget”).
  • Weight loss (as in, there is none and I’d like there to be some)
  • High blood sugar (fasting blood sugar currently averaging around 130 – lower when I avoid starches consistently and stick to simple sugars instead).
  • High blood pressure – still averaging around 148/94.

Interventions I want to try (singularly, and with an appropriate evaluation period following):

  • More Cynoplus (T3/T4 hormone) – for better thyroid function, increased metabolism = weight loss
  • Epsom salt/baking soda baths – for blood pressure reduction and overall health – increased CO2 in blood
  • Bag breathing – for blood pressure reduction and overall health – increased CO2 in blood
  • More gelatin/less meat – ok, “some” gelatin – I haven’t been loving the gelatin – for overall health (less phosphate from meat = less inflammation).
  • Sugar at night and again when I wake up in the middle of the night – for blood sugar management, and cortisol/adrenaline reduction, ultimately resulting in weight loss
  • Lowering dietary fat – for blood glucose control and weight loss
  • Cascara Segrada – for intestinal health, lowered serotonin
  • B vitamin supplements – specifically B1 for cognitive benefits and B6 for estrogen management and libido.
  • Complete avoidance of starches (low isn’t low enough).

Hm…where to start.  I really should start with low-fat.  That seems to directly affect weight loss and blood-sugar.  All right.  2 week trial of low-fat Peat eating starts tomorrow.  I’ve tried sporadically to do this but haven’t committed to it.  I’ll committ to it.

Ok, next on the agenda – Peat-inspired labs that I had done recently.  Here are the results:

Parathyroid Hormone: 22 (range 15-65)
Prolactin 5.4 (range 4.8-23.3)
Serotonin 155 (range 11-204)
hs-CRP: 8.08 (range 0-3.0) HIGH

My preliminary interpretation:

  • Inflammation (hs-CRP) is still high but is down from my last result of 13.58 6 months ago.
  • Serotonin is solidly in the top half of the range.  On the day my blood was drawn I felt really good – I was in a happy zone.  I can only imagine what that level looks like on a bad day.  I was tempted to go back and test again this past week, but can’t really afford to do that.
  • Prolactin is on the low end, which may suggest estrogen is being well-managed with my current dose of progesterone (estrogen and prolactin tend to increase one another, if I remember correctly).
  • Parathyroid hormone is also toward the low end – not sure what this means really.  More research is in order. I think parathyroid hormone is released to liberate calcium from the bones when calcium intake is low or when the calcium/phosphate ratio (ideally around 1:1) is low.  So maybe I’m getting enough calcium now.

I posted my lab results on my Ray Peat Facebook group and got lots of great Peat quotes, references and advice from folks who I’ve come to respect a lot.  Here are some of the quotes/references offered in the comments:

“The hypo-osmolar blood of hypothyroidism, increasing the excitability of vascular endothelium and smooth muscle, is probably a mechanism contributing to the high blood pressure of hypothyroidism. The swelling produced in vascular endothelium by hypo-osmotic plasma causes these cells to take up fats, contributing to the development of atherosclerosis. The generalized leakiness affects all cells (see “Leakiness” newsletter), and can contribute to reduced blood volume, and problems such as orthostatic hypotension. The swollen endothelium is stickier, and this is suspected to support the metastasis of cancer cells. Inflammation-related proteins, including CRP, are increased by the hypothyroid hyperhydration. The heart muscle itself can swell, leading to congestive heart failure.” – RP, from Water: swelling, tension, pain, fatigue, aging.

“Honey has been used therapeutically for thousands of years, and recently there has been some research documenting a variety of uses, including treatment of ulcers and colitis, and other inflammatory conditions. Obesity increases mediators of inflammation, including the C-reactive protein (CRP) and homocysteine. Honey, which contains free fructose and free glucose, lowers CRP and homocysteine, as well as triglycerides, glucose, and cholesterol, while it increased insulin more than sucrose did (AI-Waili, 2004).” -RP, from Sugar Issues.

J Med Food. 2004 Spring;7(1):100-7.
Natural honey lowers plasma glucose, C-reactive protein, homocysteine, and blood lipids in healthy, diabetic, and hyperlipidemic subjects: comparison with dextrose and sucrose.
Al-Waili NS.

“Bacteria thrive on starches that aren’t quickly digested, and the bacteria convert the energy into bulk, and stimulate the intestine. (But at the same time, they are making the toxins that affect the hormones.)” –RP

“One of the major “acute phase proteins,” C-reactive protein, is defensive against bacteria and parasites, but it is suspected to contribute to tissue degeneration. When its presence is the result of exercise, estrogen, or malnutrition, then its association with asthma is likely to be causal, rather than coincidental.” -RP

“Systemic metabolic problems make local problems worse, and if a local injury is serious, it can cause the liver to produce stress-related proteins called “acute phase proteins,” including fibrinogen and serum amyloids A and P, C-reactive protein, and other inflammation-related proteins. These proteins are a primitive sort of immune system, that can directly bind to some harmful substances. Endotoxin absorbed from bowel bacteria is probably the commonest reason for increased production of these proteins.” -RP

“The liver is the major source of the acute phase proteins, and it is constantly burdened by toxins absorbed from the bowel; disinfection of the bowel is known to accelerate recovery from stress.” -RP

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2001 Apr;33(4):549-55. Anaerobic exercise induces moderate acute phase response. Meyer T, Gabriel HH, Rätz M, Müller HJ, Kindermann W.

Other recommendations were Cyproheptadine for reduction of Serotonin, cascara for intestinal happiness, spending less awake time in the (stressful) dark, and engaging in more things that lead to general happiness and fun.

Love that group!

Anyway, please help me hack my labs – any and all info is greatly appreciated!

Updates

Some updates on all things me:

1.  Started weight training.  I really like it – it’s the first time I’ve lifted weights with an actual program designed by an actual professional trainer – usually I just go to the gym and meander around the circuit training area.  I’m lifting 3 days a week for about an hour each time, and I’m already getting stronger – after only a full week.  I’ve had to bump up the weights on several of the machines I’m using.  I didn’t think I’d care about getting stronger – I mean, if I can pick up my kid how much stronger do I need to be?  Turns out it makes a big difference.  Like, already I notice it’s easier for me to physically get out of bed – I need to do a sit-up motion to get up, which used to be hard.  Now it’s getting easier.  I know, pretty weak, right?  It’s been about 24 years since I’ve lifted weights.

So my trainer asks me, “Are you sore?” to gauge how hard I’ve been working.  I want to tell her yes, but the truth is, my muscles are not sore.  They’re fatigued and I’m working my ass off at the gym, but for some reason my muscles aren’t that sore.  When I’ve done resistance training in the past my muscles were sore for days, so I’m not sure what’s different now.  I’m supplementing aspirin when I can remember, but not every day…maybe muscle soreness is the result of something I currently don’t have in my diet?

2.  I decided to tell the trainer that I’m not going to follow her stupid diet.  She gave me a diet that recommended starches for breakfast and lunch and no carbs after 4:30PM.  Wow.  I tried that for a couple of days.  My mood was terrible after eating oatmeal for breakfast, and I was too tired to do anything but lie down.  Also, no carb after 4:30 and my heart was pounding with adrenaline by 9:30 at night.  Not going to work.  Also, she wants me to have less than 1500 calories per day.  That just wasn’t enough food.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned lately, it’s that nothing is more important than feeling alive and happy every day.  I have that now.  It’s the direct result of eating simple sugars (fruit and honey), lean protein (I just don’t like gelatin, but I’ll try again at some point), saturated fats, eggs, salt, dairy, liver, seafood – a nutrient dense diet low in PUFAs.  Oh, and of course my progesterone.

3.  My weight is oddly stable. For the last 9 days, it doesn’t matter how much I eat, how much I drink, how much I work out, my morning weight is always exactly 208.8 lbs (94.7 kg).  Exactly.  To the tenth of a pound.  Isn’t that weird?  My whole life my weight has been up and down a pound or two a day….but now it’s so stable it’s freaking me out.  I’ve eaten 1600 calories one day and 3000 the next…doesn’t matter.   One day I made homemade gluten-free bread for my daughter and husband (well, homemade from a mix) that was so good I ate like 4 slices of it with butter.  Completely defied my no-starches rule.  I was really full.  The next day?  208.8.  Well, at least I’ve stopped gaining.

I am interested in losing weight, of course…and I think I’m going to try to accomplish this by drinking skim milk rather than eating cheese.  Also, I’m going to trade out heavy cream for skim milk in my coffee.  Those two things account for a lot of my daily fat.  I don’t want to count calories anymore.  I did that for a week for my trainer, and it made me feel like eating a pizza.  It’s more important to be emotionally healthy around food than to track every calorie.  I don’t want to be obsessed with this stuff.  It’s only a PART of my life.

Did I mention that I feel really good almost every day now?  Now if my mood is low or I feel tired I can usually directly attribute it to something I did differently than usual, like eating starches or experimenting with a new supplement.  Before Peat-ing I was tired, depressed, and anxious most days.  I never felt “happy”.  Then after adopting some of Peat’s recommendations I started feeling better in the mornings – not every morning, but a lot of them, and in the afternoon I’d go back to feeling low-energy.  Now almost every morning is delightful and a few times a week I feel great all day long.

I had some labs drawn last week….getting Peat-inspired labs is kind of a hassle.  I ordered labs for serotonin, parathyroid hormone, hs-CRP, and prolactin from Life Extension.  Went to the lab with my requisition, and the tech tells me that to test serotonin they need a “special tube” and that I’d have to go over to the “main lab” 12 miles away for that draw.  Ok…so I went to that lab instead. Then a few days later I got a call from Life Extension – they told me that the blood they drew to test my parathyroid hormone didn’t contain enough plasma…so I’d have to go back to have it retested.  Huh?  Not enough plasma?  Where’s all my plasma?  I haven’t had the retest done yet.  Anyway, they promise results in 10-14 days – I’ll update with results when I get them.

I’ve got my husband eating less PUFA, using red lights, taking aspirin and vitamins K, D, E, and A, and eating liver.  He keeps walking around saying he feels great and doesn’t know why.  haha.