Monday, July 13, 2009

Observations on Protein Intake in Low-Carbers


Last week I asked if people doing low-carb or zero-carb might be willing to test their blood glucose before and after meals and report their results. Many finger sticks later, we have a few tentative observations. Please note, this was NOT a scientific study in any way. Don't change your life or your eating habits based on what you read here. The purpose of this post is to consider ideas and to raise possibilities, particularly if you have been having trouble succeeding on low-carb or zero-carb. That said, here are the patterns that seemed to emerge from the data.

1. Some people, particularly people over 50, do have an increase in blood glucose following meals that are either entirely or mostly meat and fat. Dr. Bernstein says the optimum level of blood glucose is 83 mg/dl. For zero-carbers over 50, the fasting blood glucose was often somewhere between 95 and 110 mg/dl and could even go as high as the high teens. For long-time low-carbers over 50, fasting blood glucose was usually somewhere in the 80's. In both low-carbers and zero-carbers over 50, it was not unusual to have a 30-40 mg/dl rise in blood glucose after consuming a large amount of protein, such as a 12-ounce ribeye. Because protein is slowly digested, blood glucose levels sometimes stayed elevated for three to five hours or longer. It is important to remember that at blood sugars above about 100 mg/dl, insulin is secreted and its presence keeps fat in the fat cells. This may explain why low-carbers over 50 have such a hard time losing weight if they eat as much protein as they want. Insulin levels stay elevated for long periods, forcing most of what they eat into storage, and keeping it there until insulin levels finally come down again.

2. Most people under age 50 do not have a rise in blood glucose following a meal, even a large meal, that is mostly meat and fat. I had three participants in the under-50 group whose blood sugars stayed approximately in the 80's following meals ranging from a 1/3 pound hamburger to a ribeye steak. Two of them told me that they occasionally see rises to near 100 mg/dl, but often there is no rise at all.

3. Decreasing protein intake in two participants over 50 to the amount recommended at Blood Sugar 101 caused a decline in average pre-meal blood glucose to the low 90's and post-meal glucose values between about 90 and 110 mg/dl. In fact, both of them started losing weight again after several months of eating as much protein as they wanted and gradually gaining weight.

4. And then there were the outliers, which I shall address below.
Two participants occasionally experienced a fall in blood glucose following a low-carb meal. Neither has been diagnosed with diabetes. Nevertheless (unless they were eating more carbs than usual), their blood glucose sometimes declined after they had eaten a low-carb meal of meat and vegetables. One was a man and one was a woman. One was under 40 and one was over 60. The woman, SC, suggested to me that it might have something to do with the fact that she is a super-taster. When I checked with the other one, who happens to be Jimmy Moore, it turned out that he is also a super-taster. Just to be sure, I checked with super-taster Cleochatra. She did not have blood glucose data to give me, but she said, "I can tell when I've eaten a carrot, even when it's been hidden in a dish, because my stomach is growling within minutes and I want to dive face first into various vats of puddings. I can say in all honesty, artificial sweeteners made me starve...and when I'm VLc I feel fantastic. No woobly or feelings of hunger at all." Later she specified that Splenda and the sugar alcohols are the artificial sweeteners that affect her.

[In the comments, Mariasol asked what made a person a super-taster. Although there are tests for this ability, I simply used an informal question as a criterion: If I poured out five unlabeled dixie cups of Diet Rite, Diet Pepsi, Diet Coke, Coke Zero and Splenda Coke, could you correctly label each cup with the brand, based on taste alone? If your answer to that question is yes, you probably are a super-taster. Subsequently, I have been told that when a super-tasters are cooking something and then add in the salt, they can smell the salt. Just like everything else in this post, the super-taster information has been collected in a non-rigorous manner, so please do not take it as settled science.]

From a limited sample size of three, I can speculate that super-tasters are the ones whose insulin is on a hair-trigger. As soon as they eat, or maybe even before they eat, they secrete enough insulin to nail any food that might appear in the stomach. And if that food happens to be diet soda, it's possible that the insulin secretion occurs anyway. This can either trigger hunger pangs, or if the diet soda is consumed continuously, can keep insulin levels relatively high and thus prevent fat mobilization and weight loss.

All of this is anecdotal. It didn't come down on tablets at Mt. Sinai, so various parts of it could be wrong. But I present it as something worth thinking about in the context of a low-carb lifestyle.

Very many thanks to Cleochatra, ES, D, Jimmy Moore, K, KM, LR, SC, SG, SO, V, VS, P and U for providing data that was used in this blogpost.

74 comments:

anne h said...

Again and agian I am impressed by the things you blog about. I'm glad I found your blog.

Stargazey said...

Thanks, Anne! I appreciate having you as a reader and commenter.

anne h said...

I wonder what the connection is between blood sugar and insulin levels. A person could have a huge dumping of insulin to bring the glucometer reading down, after a little sugar...
Or they could have very little insulin released and the numbers go up, or stay the same...
Just curious...

Chris said...

Great research - as ever. Thanks for pulling this together.

Stargazey said...

Anne, you bring up a good point. Last summer Dr. Eric Westman chose not to do a normal Oral Glucose Tolerance Test on Jimmy Moore, but instead measured his insulin levels after Jimmy ate a high-protein meal. Other than that instance, I've never heard of a physician measuring insulin responses in patients after consumption of a normal meal. (It's done for scientific studies, but those are specialized cases.)

Here's a possible explanation of what we're seeing. When a person eats a high-protein meal, a certain amount of insulin is released. In the course of digesting the meal, secretion of glucagon causes glucose to be released from the liver to keep blood sugar from falling too low. Normally the insulin and glucagon should balance each other out, but in low-carbers over 50 they don't always do that, and blood glucose rises. In younger people the pancreas will secrete more insulin and force the blood glucose back down, but for some reason, in older people the feedback mechanism is no longer as efficient as it used to be. That's just my theory though--please don't quote it as truth. :-)

Jade said...

Thanks for this info, Stargazey. I am over 50 and have been having trouble losing anything on even induction levels of carbs. I used the link to the calculator at Blood Sugar 101 and can tell that my overall calories have been too high for weight loss. Thanks for this interesting perspective. jade

anne h said...

Stargazey - I have been saying this for years. That is why it's called a disease...because some part doesn't do right...

People get all bend out of shape over this. At the end of the day, you either gain or lose weight, or stay the same.

Everytime I mention it, it starts a cascade of events that takes over and consumes the comment section...

May I link to your blog? I am working on a post about insulin and glucose...

Stargazey said...

Feel free to link to my blog, Anne. Your blog is Carb Tripper, correct? I love the pictures you have there!

Chris said...

Good stuff.

You've touched a raw nerve over on the ZC forum! Interesting reaction to your views..

OhYeahBabe said...

Wow, thanks for the info and the blood, sweat & tears.

Stargazey said...

You're welcome. And this time the blood, sweat and tears were not just mine!

OnPoint said...

Right on, Stargazey! Stand your ground (on the ZC forum).

Stargazey said...

Thanks, OnPoint! It saddens me to see that they don't accept anything but CW's belief system as "truth," no matter what scientific evidence may say. And if anybody comes over here and wants to continue the argument, their comment will be cheerfully deleted. :-)

OhYeahBabe said...

OnPoint, how's that blog coming? :)

anne h said...

Thank you for your comment over at the JM site. I was certain that I was understanding it right. And you clarified it - yet again.

Sue said...

Stargazey - do you think you were on ZC long enough? How much of a spare tire did you get during the 2 months ZC and how much weight gain? Did you check your blood glucose levels prior to the ZC experiment for comparison?
I haven't tried ZC.

Stargazey said...

Sue, as I think about it, I don't know how long I was actually doing Zero Carb. Starting six years ago, I did Very Low Carb, and since last summer I trended more and more toward Zero Carb. I didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition, so I didn't keep records of exactly what I was eating during that time.

While doing something close to Zero Carb, I gained about five pounds, total. I could still fit into my clothes, but I had muffin top over the waistbands of my pants. I also noticed that the closer I got to Zero Carb, the more tired I became. Sort of like the feeling you get in the afternoon when you've had a carby lunch. It wasn't until somebody came to me about getting blood-sugar-related symptoms on ZC that I thought to check my own blood sugars. They have always been perfect--usually somewhere in the mid-80's.

I was astonished to find that my fasting blood sugars started above 100mg/dl, rose, and stayed well above 100 throughout the day. No wonder I was sleepy all the time! So when you ask if I did Zero Carb long enough, the answer is YES. I was secreting insulin all day long, and even then it was unable to bring my blood glucose below 100. The constant presence of insulin meant that my cells were becoming more and more insulin resistant. My blood sugar numbers showed that I was getting perilously close to diabetic territory. When you realize that you are becoming insulin resistant, you don't keep doing more of what you were doing before. But I had always thought that taking carbs right down to zero would cure diabetes, not lead to it.

That's when I started checking into the relationship between protein intake and blood glucose, and asking people to give me blood sugar numbers. What I learned is presented in this blogpost and the one prior to it, and I hope it is helpful to people who are having trouble with VLC or ZC and can't quite figure out why.

Sue said...

Thanks for that explanation.

Lauren said...

Stargazey,

Some questions:

Have you lowered protein? Did you replace it with anything- fat? carbs? Did you lose the spare tire?

I too gained weight on ZC (a few pounds) and I am convinced that too much protein is not right for me (I'm 50). I keep looking for the right combination of P/F/C's that will allow for hunger control, weight control and ample energy. I've never had much to lose but struggle with food and weight nonetheless.

For me it seems the choice is to
1. eat low carb, moderate protein, high fat
or
2. like Jan Kwasniewski's Optimal Diet ratios:
high fat, only enough protein for muscle, etc. repair and low carb but high enough to stay out of ketosis.

I guess I'm wondering about carb levels for those of us who don't do well on ZC. Should they be 20? 30? 60? more?

I wish something worked for me as unequivocally as ZC seems to for some people. I seem to still struggle.

OhYeahBabe said...

Here's what occurs to me. Even if more time might have made a difference, why would it make sense to continue to endure your symptoms on the chance that it might resolve (or not!), if you've had such good results doing other things? I know you struggle with maintenance, and you're looking to adjust things to make that easier. This doesn't seem to be it and you've acknowledged that.

I can see going zc if nothing else is working, or if it makes you feel awesome, but if good health and a healthy weight are possible without committing to a lifetime of meat, fat and water if you don't have to, right?

Cell damage - diabetes risk. Abdominal fat - cardiac risk. Bad skin and poor energy. You didn't have that before zc, and it went away when you incorporated more vegetables. That doesn't seem to happen to everyone who does zc, but it was happening to you. Saying zc isn't right for you isn't the same as saying it isn't right for anyone, so I'm not sure why there's so much outrage over your observations & curiousity.

Stargazey said...

Sue--you're welcme. As I say in About Me on the front page, this blog is about you, not about me. I don't give many examples of what I do personally because that's just an anecdote. People can say, "Well she did _____ [fill in the blank] so her experience doesn't apply to me." And they'd probably be right. Information obtained in a well-designed scientific study holds much more validity.

The reason this particular blogpost was a series of anecdotes was that I couldn't find a scientific study of how protein intake affects low-carbers. For that reason it should be taken skeptically, but my hope was that by systematizing the information, it would be easier for VLC-ers and ZC-ers to understand what might be going wrong if their current eating program is not working for them.

Stargazey said...

Lauren, you've posed exactly the two choices I have been trying to figure out. Right now I'm doing #1, but eventually I will also try #2. The challenge for me is that carbs set off cravings, so I may not be able to get to 40 carbs a day. But removing the need for the body to do gluconeogenesis to maintain blood glucose makes a lot of sense for people over 50. Unfortunately that's only logical. It remains to be seen whether it's true in the real world.

Personally I have dropped my protein intake by about 50 grams a day from about 150 to about 100. The fat stayed the same, and I went from zero to 10 grams a day of low-carb vegetables.

My blood glucose values are down somewhat. However, I have lost four pounds (and the spare tire) since July 1. I increased carbs, so it's probably not water weight. Since I only dropped a net 160 calories per day, it can't be the result of calorie restriction either. My current hypothesis (and I'm stickin' with it) is that by dropping my protein intake by 50 grams per day, I've decreased my insulin resistance and I am once again able to mobilize my fat stores.

But that's just my personal experience. Take it for what it's worth.

Stargazey said...

OhYeahBabe said, Cell damage - diabetes risk. Abdominal fat - cardiac risk. Bad skin and poor energy. You didn't have that before zc, and it went away when you incorporated more vegetables.

I only mentioned the bad skin issue at ZIOH, but let me say that giant zits on ZC were quite a surprise. I have no idea why they happened.

To be truthful, I think the good effects came from the decrease in protein to what Blood Sugar 101 recommends, not from eating vegetables. I only added the vegetables to try to reduce the need for gluconeogenesis from protein, if that makes any sense.

mariasol said...

Very interesting observations and discussion. I have more to say on the subject, but in transit right now (traveling). I did some BG measurements last weekend and will contribute my numbers when I'm back home again. I fit into the "over 50 VLC" group.

A question: I looked up "supertasters." Did these people determine that they were in fact supertasters based on looking at their tongue?

Stargazey said...

Welcome, Mariasol!

My criteria for calling someone a super-taster were completely subjective. Cleochatra is a self-identified super-taster. When I asked Jimmy Moore about it, I posed this question: If I poured out unlabeled dixie cups of Diet Rite, Diet Pepsi, Diet Coke, Coke Zero and Splenda Coke, could you tell which was which based on taste alone? He said yes. The third super-taster also said yes.

In other words, I was not being scientifically rigorous in any way. For that reason, it's only an interesting hypothesis that super-tasters might have an early, rather strong insulin release in response to diet soda.

It is also interesting to note that Jimmy Moore took his blood glucose readings yesterday before and after drinking a 12 oz. can of Diet Rite. In the morning, his blood sugar fell from 96 to 75 within 15 minutes and stayed below baseline for 45 minutes. He did not have the same reaction to the same drink in the afternoon, however, possibly because he was still in the process of digesting his lunch.

I'll be interested in seeing your blood glucose values. If I remember correctly, although you are over 50, you have never been extremely overweight or diagnosed pre-diabetic. By my informal criteria, are you a super-taster?

whatsonthemenu said...

"When I asked Jimmy Moore about it, I posed this question: If I poured out unlabeled dixie cups of Diet Rite, Diet Pepsi, Diet Coke, Coke Zero and Splenda Coke, could you tell which was which based on taste alone? "

How does this test show that someone might be a supertaster? drinking is very habitual and any change in ingredients is probably detectable. I could never go back to regular soda after switching to Tab in middle school and had to get used to the taste of Diet Coke when it first came out. Thought Diet Pepsi and other diet sodas were wretched. After moving to Asia, my taste buds had to adjust to the local version of Diet Coke and then I'd have to readjust whenever I'd come home for a visit. I don't think I am unusual. I think many people are so habituated to their favorite soda that they could probably pick out their favorite among similar drinks.

The carrot anecdote is more interesting as a carrot has a mild flavor that is not distinctly sweet.

A friend of mine who is a supertaster told me that people like her avoid leafy greens because of the heightened bitterness. I love greens and have a high tolerance for bitter and sour (eat aronia berries raw and drink unsweetened cranberry juice), so I don't think I am a supertaster.

whatsonthemenu said...

BTW, where is this zero carb forum? I'm curious to read the discussion.

Stargazey said...

Whatsonthemenu, probably I was unclear. If I put out the five unlabeled dixie cups, a super-taster could mark on each and every one what brand it was.


BTW, where is this zero carb forum?

It's here. You will have to register to get to the forum. If you decide to do that, you will read many things that sound unusual. The Low-Carb for You blog regards well-designed scientific studies as intrinsically more authoritative than individual personal experience, i.e., than anecdotes. That forum believes that personal experience triumphs over science every time.

catin said...

Hopefully this comment doesn't get deleted.

I just want to point out that actually, many people (at ZIOH or not) went ZC *because* of the science, as Taubes laid it out in Good Calories, Bad Calories.

Whatever Charles's emphasis on experience, the science IS there that carbohydrates ARE fattening and accelerate AGE-aging and insulin damage.

Linda said...

Stargazey - I am one of those "over 50" VLC/ZCers who is stalled. The information you've provided makes sense to me and I will be making some changes to see if lower protein helps. I love your blog posts and the insightful information you provide. Thank you!!!

Lauren said...

caitin,

I know that ZIOH was started based scientific principles. Charles was fantastic when he had his Good Calories, Bad Calories thread on Jimmy Moore's blog.

The problem came when ZC did not work for everyone. There are so many people for whom it was not a panacea and there are still plenty of people on the board who are not losing weight. An open discussion of why this happens is just not tolerated much less encouraged. ZC has become a religion for many of the members and has detracted from the credibility of the site IMHO.

Stargazey said...

Catin said, I just want to point out that actually, many people (at ZIOH or not) went ZC *because* of the science, as Taubes laid it out in Good Calories, Bad Calories.

What Gary Taubes laid out in his book was the carbohydrate hypothesis, proposing that carbohydrates (and especially refined carbohydrates) are the cause of obesity, diabetes and the chronic diseases of civilization. A hypothesis is a tentative explanation for an observable phenomenon. It is not truth.

As Taubes states in his Epilogue, page 460, "The scientific obligation...is to establish the cause of obesity, diabetes, and the chronic diseases of civilization beyond reasonable doubt. ... What's needed now are randomized trials [my bolding] that test the carbohydrate hypothesis as well as the conventional wisdom. ...it's hard to imagine that the cost of such trials, even a dozen or a hundred of them, won't ultimately be trivial compared with the societal cost."

Taubes laid out supporting evidence for the carbohydrate hypothesis, but even he says that many scientific trials will be necessary to actually prove it. By extension, and this is me speaking, because zero carb has been practiced by so few civilizations in the history of the world, it will be even more important to do scientific studies to establish whether zero carb is healthier than low carb and in particular which type of zero carb might be healthier than low carb.

laserrocketarm said...

I check out the ZIOH Jimmy Moore thread from time to time and your recent run-ins combined with the "cool kids" snide comments remind me of why I no longer post there. I too followed the beef and water thing for a couple of months, with the result that I felt like crap, looked worse and gained weight. When I brought back dark meat chicken and lowered the quantities I was eating, I immediately felt better. And I'm sorry, I don't think that a salad or some broccoli is going to make me fatter than I already am. CW is no guru, just a guy who hit on something that worked for him, but his unwavering belief that this will work for EVERYBODY is not wise. I look forward to reading more from you.

Stargazey said...

I'm glad to have you here, Linda! I hope the protein modifications will work for you, but if they don't, keep trying different things. Everybody in the low-carb community seems to be a little bit unique, but with persistence eventually you'll find the "key."

Stargazey said...

LaserRocketArm, I do remember you from ZIOH. I just went over to your blog and enjoyed the posts on One Size and Killer Cankles plus Pooti's comment. Once again, all of this is ancedote, but perhaps people can get some ideas from what you've written. Great to see you here!

Stargazey said...

Catin, you have submitted two long and thoughtful comments. I am reluctant to approve them because people who are unaware of biochemistry and physiology might be lured onto the Zeroing In On Health site and be harmed by it. Some forms of Zero Carbing may be perfectly healthy, but at that site there is routine dismissal of relevant scientific information and constant invocation of proof texts from Owsley Stanley, Vilhjalmur Stefansson and Gary Taubes. In the case of Taubes, the proof texts are often used incorrectly to prove something they do not say.

When someone at Low Carb Friends complained of symptoms of scurvy, she was dismissed on the board as not really having scurvy. When a new ZC-er develops poor health on Zero Carb, they are told that they are not following it strictly enough or for long enough. Speaking personally, when I tried to discuss well-accepted biochemical metabolic pathways that disagreed with the teachings of Stanley or Stefansson, my arguments were dismissed because my information came from a textbook and not from personal experience. This sort of approach to contradictory information is how cultists behave.

Lauren is right. ZC has become a religion for many of the people at that site. People in need of weight loss or improved health come there seeking help. What they will find is not a caring community, but a group of people who will try to batter and intimidate them into accepting a way of eating that has not been proven by anything but a series of anecdotes and a few carefully chosen scientific references. There may be some good in Zero Carbing, but as it is practiced on that site, you are risking your health and your inner serenity if you try it.

OhYeahBabe said...

I just had a flashback to Kimkins, where people were ordered not to talk about it when they started having hair loss, heart irregulatirites and other symptoms. If they kept talking about it they were banned. It was a very low cal plan, so if people weren't losing weight they were told to eat even less, or that they were cheating, etc.

Charles posts recent photos of himself, and isn't using fraudulent marketing to rake in millions, though, so there are limitations to the comparisions.

mariasol said...

I have no idea if I'm a supertaster and there is no way I would pass the soda test. I haven't had a diet soda in more than 10 years and I very sparingly use any AS. Diet coke or diet pepsi would taste the same to me - sickeningly sweet.

You are right that I never was much overweight (high of 138 lbs - maintain around 126) and have never been diagnosed as diabetic. I was surprised at my "high" BG numbers but they fall in line with the other "50+ VLCers." Very little variation; fasting 98-99 up to 105-109 during the day. Highest number was interestingly after strenuous exercise, still fasting.

Stargazey said...

Thanks for the numbers, Mariasol. I wonder what happens to VLCers at age 50? Most of us have abused our bodies in our younger days, so it's no great surprise that we might start to get insulin resistance and higher blood sugars. But you didn't do that and your fasting numbers are still higher.

What's also interesting is that both men and women seem to see the same effect sometime near age 50.

Didirina said...

Not to discount the importance of diet, but I'm wondering about the influence of other factors that occur with age, such as decreases in DHEA and increases of cortisol.

Stargazey said...

Exactly right, Didirina. It may well be a hormonal issue of some sort. Good to see you here, by the way!

Bear said...

I read with interest that last interaction you had with CW and his fellow cultists. It struck me that I've seen this before. It's like questioning Scientology.
Although I'm VLC and have had great success the lack of evidence that long term consumption of nothing but conventionally raised beef and water is safe prompts me to warn people to avoid ZIOH. None of those folks have been doing this for more than 2 years. That's nothing in the scheme of things. I could smoke cigarettes for 2 years and declare I've lost weight and feel great so everyone should take up smoking. We might all be sorry 20 years down the line.

Thanks so much for your thoughtful blog and dedication to truth and science. I will continue to read and hopefully comment from time to time. It's rare that I find a site like yours.

Bear

OnPoint said...

Stargazey:

Have you followed the past few days over at the ZIOH board? In particular, the exchange between Lise and CW? Is he kidding? (See his post at 7:43 p.m. yesterday evening.) Yes, they are that petty about titles.

He blasted you for eating the occasional pickle and a few asparagus spears, but he fully endorsed Lise in consuming coffee several times a week w/ Splenda and occasional consumption of nuts and cheese.

The problem, which has already been identified here - that you noted some problems with that WOE while Lise raved about it.

Bear said...

@OnPoint
I saw the same thing. He said she was ZC because she ate that way most of the time. I was blown away after how CW ripped Stargazey apart.
As long as you toe the party line...

Stargazey said...

Thanks for the kind words, Bear! And your very good example of short-term success coupled with long-term risk is exactly the one I was looking for!

OnPoint, when I said I wasn't going to play the ZIOH game of Attack-the-Dissenter, I meant it. I've only been over there to answer PMs and to get the address of the website. Bear is right. They are like Scientologists. There is no point in having a discussion with the rabid ones.

By the way, OnPoint, did you see Jimmy Moore's blood sugars following a 12 oz. diet soda in right after he took his fasting blood glucose in the morning? There was a plunge in his blood glucose from 96 to 75 within 15 minutes of drinking a Diet Rite. Perhaps my hypothesis about insulin release in super-tasters has a little merit. It could explain why JM is able to lose weight when he drops the taste of sweet (i.e. he avoids the repeated diet-soda-induced bursts of insulin), while the rest of us see no effect.

anne h said...

Another successful cascade of comments. I still stand in awe of your writing, your insight, your ability to respond to critics, AND your scientific approach to Carbs with such artful applications to real life.

Stargazey said...

Um, thanks!! :-)

Vickie said...

Hello Stargazey,
I just came from the ZIOH forum and they have deleted all of the posts about this subject, including Lise's complete confession that she doesn't eat zero-carb 100%. Plus they have now locked that thread and branched off into 2 new ones.

They did keep Pebbles' side comment about eating eggs, and CW's reply to her that you don't have to eat zc 100% of the time to be considered a zero-carber. Totally hypocritical advice considering the things they were saying to you.

At first, the conversation made me a bit angry. Because for most of us, we aren't just talking about carrying around an extra roll around our mid section. For most of us, the way in which our body reacted to this type of diet turned into a serious health issue.

And in my own personal case, can be as dangerous for me as Kimkins was for a lot of other folks. Neuropathy and Pre-Diabetes isn't something to play around with.

Stargazey knows this, but for those who don't, when I went to zero carbs, it not only caused me to gain a roll of fat around my waist, caused my fasting glucose and post-meal glucose levels to go sky high, but all of that excess glucose caused the Neuropathy I'd healed with low carb to resurrect itself.

My glucose readings on low carb before going zero carb were perfect. Baseline and fasting sugars of 84, and no readings higher, ever, than about 110 max (if I ate fruit). Most of the time, my post meal sugars were in the 90s.

Since most folks don't take a glucose reading to see what is actually happening to them when they eat a particular way, and being told that with zc that isn't necessary, I find the challenge to "keep on doing what you're doing for at least 6 months (irregardless of the symptoms and body distress you are experiencing) before you decide if zero-carb is right for you" to be downright SCARY advice.

I'm with you. I'm DONE playing their game by their rules. To me, it's not worth the possibility of losing my feet. Nor having a heart attack -- since my Neuropathy also affects my heart function.

Time to move on.

Linda said...

Vicky - All of the posts were moved to a separate thread in the Discussion forum titled Stargazey, over 50s, collected BG "observations". At least they weren't deleted. I appreciate all of Stargazey's observations and good work. It's so helpful to have a place to have the science broken down into "english" for the rest of us. :)

Stargazey said...

For an example of what you can get amongst the true ZC believers, Google Charles and "phallic insulin response" in quotes (no kidding). Charles is intelligent and writes very well, but sometimes he just misses the science completely. In the Over-50 thread he confused the triglyceride/fatty acid cycle with the Krebs Cycle. When you don't know the science, his writing sounds plausible enough. But when you do know the science, the pockets of ignorance can sometimes be breathtaking.

Vickie said...

Thanx Linda

OnPoint said...

Stargazey:

I did notice the 21-pt BS drop after Jimmy drank a diet soda in the morning on an empty stomach. I think this added a lot of legitimacy to your hypothesis about insulin response in super-tasters.

I also noticed how Jimmy's BS seemed to climb after eating his ice cream desserts. A few times, he showed readings slightly over 100. This helped explain the discrepancy between the numbers Jimmy had been mostly getting since beginning this experiment and his most recent A1C.

I'm also beginning to think it's valid to subtract fiber from the carb total (based on JM being unaffected BS-wise by his bread consumption) while sugar alcohols may be very problematic (ice cream).

I am finding this BS testing experiment very informative, and I'm glad you were generous enough to provide the tools.

This was a brilliant idea!

OhYeahBabe said...

He has been eating fewer desserts than he was in May/June. It would be interesting to see how he does when he eats his more normal menu with the pizza toppings and the higher frequency of desserts. I hate to encourage that even for experimenting, though, because I think this way is better and may at least stop the gaining.

OnPoint said...

OhYeahBabe, I thought the same thing, but I didn't want to irk Jimmy by bringing it up. This test is going very well, and I didn't want to dampen his enthusiasm. Friday's menu would have been excellent to test, b/c it was more like his typical menus than what he's been eating since the beginning of July. I would have been particularly interested to see his numbers after eating the Dreamfields noodles.

Stargazey said...

These comments are taking on a life of their own in some ways.

If anybody makes it to the bottom of this list, I'd like to state here that the reason I initiated this project was that Vickie came to me in confidence at the end of June. She told me that after she started zero-carbing (fatty meat and water only), she began to have a return of symptoms of neuropathy and heart palpitations. Before she started low-carbing, she was diagnosed as pre-diabetic. She had had symptoms of neuropathy, but learned that she could hold these symptoms in abeyance if she kept her blood sugars rose under 120. Because they seldom rose above 110 when she did low-carb, she was mystified that they began to return when she did Zero Carb. She began taking her blood glucose values and was astonished to find that they went as high as 155 one hour after she ate a ribeye steak.

Her question to me was, Is it possible to eat too much protein and raise blood glucose as a result?

At that time I had been doing something between ZC and VLC myself, so I checked my own blood glucose. Normally it runs in the mid-80's. But I discovered that my fasting value was over 100 and my blood glucose after meals went as high as 140. Clearly, Vickie wasn't just imagining things.

Both she and I were reluctant to try to discuss this on the ZIOH board, so we did it in another venue. We came up with the idea of an informal survey to see whether eating lots of meat can affect the blood glucose of people over 50 and/or under 50. From the numbers we have collected so far, it appears that for some people, it can.

Vickie acknowledges that the specific effects she has suffered are not typical. There may be people who can benefit from a Zero Carb plan. However, people need to be aware that there are also inherent dangers in undertaking such a plan because the science that might prove or disprove it is very incomplete at this time.

rafonly said...

hello stargazey & all:

~ perhaps supertasters (jm & others) tend to be leptin resistant (thereby 'sugar burners')?
~ perhaps people over 50 (lex & others) tend to be leptin resistant (thereby 'sugar burners')?

{please ignore my ignorance}

Sue said...

"Friday's menu would have been excellent to test, b/c it was more like his typical menus than what he's been eating since the beginning of July."

I agree. Its a shame he started testing a menu that wasn't his regular fare.

Stargazey said...

Hi, Rafonly. I looked up the term "sugar burner" and oddly enough, most of the sites that mentioned it were selling something. Most of the cells in our body contain the enzymes for the TCA cycle and oxidative phosphorylation. Both pathways are nicely designed to run on fatty acids or ketones or glucose or even all three, depending on the food we eat. If we eat carbs, they run on sugar (glucose). If we eat fat, they run on fatty acids and ketones. All the people who gave me blood sugar data were at least doing low-carb, meaning that they had very little glucose available to burn compared with the amount of fat they were eating.

As far as leptin resistance, that's a rather complicated topic that I can't address right now. I wrote about it here and here if you would like to get a somewhat-simplified version of how it works.

Amber said...

In new scientist this week the cover article is on the food labels - mainly that the calorie count isn't as accurate as it could be. Now they actually end up arguing over piffling amounts to be honest. But they say that fibre should change from 2kcal/g to 1.5kcal/g. So they think there is some energy to be derived in there, and presumably some carbs?

Stargazey said...

Amber, yes there are calories and carbs in some forms of fiber. If the fiber is composed of extremely long, branched chains of glucose, the digestive system can remove some of the glucose molecules at the free ends of the chains. It won't have a significant glycemic index, but depending on how efficient your digestive system is, some types of fiber can slowly be broken down into a certain amount of glucose.

Amber said...

Sorry this is a little off topic.

When we was our hands. We do it for two reasons surely? 1) to not catch anything our selves 2) to not spread disease (we can carry even if we don't get it surely?)

Sorry I read an edit just now and it make me very angry. I stopped myself posting as I will get flamed. But I wondered if #2 above was the case. After all its why doctors wash their hands surely? I would hate to not wash my hands and spread disease to a susceptible person and they get sick!

Stargazey said...

Historically #2 is the most correct, Amber. As many as 16% of women died from puerperal fever, a septic infection acquired when doctors examined many women and did autopsies in their free time while women were in labor. At the time "experience" showed that it was obviously unnecessary for doctors to wash their hands between patients and to avoid doing autopsies while working in the labor and delivery room.

In the mid-1800's Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. and Ignaz Semmelweis suggested that handwashing could alleviate the problem. They were ridiculed by their colleagues. In 1879 Louis Pasteur showed that streptococcus was present in the blood of women with puerperal fever. Women continued to die until the turn of the century when aseptic technique was finally accepted as standard practice.

Yes, medical professionals are very careful to avoid spreading contamination.

Amber said...

Sorry it was a stupidly off topic question. I am not sure why but a post on a forum about that person never getting sick so they didn't need to wash their hands really got my goat. It seemed so unfeeling. I would be horrified if I passed something onto someone, knowing that something like washing my hands could have stopped it. My partner had a foot infection (nearly lost his foot) and MRSA, and people who don't wash their hands cos they won't get sick really annoys me. Society is less about me me me , but also about looking out for the sick and weak.

Sorry I will get off my high horse now.

I am still looking about for LC/VLC health based web site if anyone knows of any???

Didirina said...

Docs should also get rid of their neckties.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn5029-doctors-ties-harbour-diseasecausing-germs.html

A relative of mine is a nurse and wears her uniforms home from the hospital. Her small children are now fighting MRSA, have had numerous boils and infections that they've needed surgery and hospitalization for, yet she insists, "MRSA is everywhere."

Stargazey said...

Amber, if you read my response very carefully, you'll realize that your question wasn't off-topic at all.

Didirina's comment shows that people can use all sorts of rationalizations to avoid accepting the science that is staring them right in the face.

PJ said...

I ate VLC and lost weight on it, and often was as close to ZC as you can get if you're still counting things like garlic and spices and butter etc. Initially VLC worked wonders for me and weight fell off me. Eventually I was not only not losing weight but I felt absolutely like crap, I mean terrible. And I got reactive hypoglycemia even on solid protein breakfasts which I had not before. (Curiously right around the time J Moore was blogging about the same effect.) Eventually when I tried adding more carbs into my diet, I could not believe how much better I felt, how much more energy I had and so on. Thing is, the near-zero-carb did not bother me at first though it did later. So I don't there is any objective measure of it being just good or bad. And maybe not even a measure of it being good or bad for a person since with me, it changed as my body changed.

Stargazey said...

PJ, thanks for that. Did you happen to measure your blood sugars (fasting and/or postprandial) at any time during your VLC experiment? Is it possible that the reason you felt like crap was that you were eating too much protein and raising your blood sugars as a result?

jacque said...

Your blog is so helpful! I discovered it today, and am so thankful.

I'm in the 60+ crowd and have been eating 35-40 carbs a day for at least two years--for BG, not weight. I'm on the thin side.

Over the past several months, my numbers have been higher than previous, both post-meal and fasting. I haven't been able to figure out why and it really concerns me.

Maybe it's the protein? (I hope, I hope) I've recorded my meals for years, so it's easy to check. Thanks.

cleora said...

I am a diab2. I have a PhD in holistic health. I have lost 100 pounds and kept it off over 10 years. When my blood sugars could no longer be controlled by my diet, VLC, I went no carb in hopes to lower my baseline. It was running in excess of 140 on no carbs. I could not understand it. I was on the couch 24-7 feeling terrible. I have been looking for an explanation for years. Today I googled and was led to this site. So now what do I do to correct this high baseline. add carbs? How much? High fiber things like bran raise my blood sugar. What is too much protein?

Stargazey said...

Welcome to the blog, Cleora!

Because you have a Ph.D., you're used to reading. :-) I'd recommend that you read this post, the one before it and the two after, plus all of the comments. Lots of good things were said, and you may find that some of them apply to your situation.

As you probably realize, gluconeogenesis is the problem. If we eat an excess of protein, the body prefers to store the excess rather than letting it go to waste. Our bodies are able to store many of the amino acid building blocks of the protein in the form of fat. As an intermediate step, the body turns the glycogenic amino acids of the protein into glucose, which are eventually converted into fat. But fat synthesis takes time, so in the meantime, our blood sugar can go high from excess amino acids being turned into sugar.

In younger people, the insulin response system is intact, so the excess glucose that results from gluconeogenesis is driven out of the blood and into the cells rather efficiently. As we get older or start into type 2 diabetes, the pancreas is not able to control the level of the newly-synthesized glucose as well and blood sugars will rise, even though we may only have been eating protein and fat.

Type 1 diabetics know that they have to cover the protein they eat with insulin. Type 2 diabetics often are not aware of this. If they are eating more protein and making more glucose than their pancreas can deal with, type 2's may be able to cut protein back to the amount they need for good health. A calculator can be found here. Its estimates do tend to run a bit high, but it will give you a good starting point.

As far as carbs, they should be divided among about three meals a day and should consist of low-carb vegetables rather than products like low-carb bread or bars. Sugar alcohols and glycerin eventually release all of their listed carbs, so net carbs are not the freebie we were once led to believe. Even fiber will release about half of its calories as carbs by the time it reaches the end of the digestive system. How many carbs to eat? Twenty total carbs a day is probably a good place to start.

The remaining calories for the day need to consist of fat. One excellent source is coconut oil. It stores at room temperature and it is easy to measure. It is safe for cooking and can even be melted right on top of cuts of meat if the meat tends to be lean.

As I said, read the posts and the comments in this section of the blog and you should get a better idea of what is going on. For one last reference, try this one. The three-legged stool approach seems to work for those who are moving into diabetes.

Kate Minogue said...

Hi Stargazey,

You are so right about the cult behavior over at ZC. They often say that people who have problems are not doing ZC the right way. Well I've been on beef and water with no seasonings and no cheats and eating only once or twice a day to hunger for over 13 months straight and unrestricted protein has only caused my fasting and post prandial blood sugar to sky rocket. Plus I've just gotten my fasting insulin tested and it was still high at 8.7 uIU/mL, something is obviously not working according to their theories!
I have kept track of my blood glucose during that time. I'm only in my 20s but my numbers look like those in your over 50s group. After more than a year, my fasting blood glucose has risen from a beautiful 81 mg/dL average to 102-124 mg/dL and my 120 minute post prandial blood glucose levels hover 140-160 mg/dL. I officially declare the ZC experiment over and am returning to VLC with restricted protein intake.

Stargazey said...

Good for you, Kate! I've just sent a question to Dr. Bernstein to get his opinion about zero carb diets, and perhaps he will answer it on his next web broadcast here. It will happen at 6:50 PM on Wednesday, February 24.

In any event, thanks for the testimonial. Perhaps it will warn someone about the dangers of assuming that if low-carb is good for preventing diabetes, zero carb will be even better. I hope you get back to excellent blood sugars very soon.

Fluxtopia Mars said...

In response to your idea, "I always thought that a zero carb diet would prevent diabetes, not lead to it,", wouldn't it all actually make perfect sense? Diabetes prevents the body from utilizing sugar (carbs), thus having no carbs in the diet would mimic the metabolism of diabetics in some ways? I'm no nutritional doctor, that's for sure, but maybe being diabetic has more to it than insulin, rather it sets up an unhealthy form of metabolism?

Stargazey said...

Fluxtopia Mars--I'm kind of at a loss to answer your questions. I'm sensing that you don't quite understand the physiology of diabetes, but I don't know what kind of background you have.

Perhaps you could do a little more reading on insulin signaling, insulin resistance and gluconeogenesis and that would help clear things up a bit.