The Effects of Berberine on a Low Carb Dieter’s Fasting Blood Glucose

Standard

For the better part of the last two years, I have been experimenting with the Ketogenic diet (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ketogenic_diet). Some people know this as the Atkins diet, but there are many flavors of the Ketogenic diet. Particularly, I have been experimenting with the Bulletproof Diet for the past year. This means:

1) Bulletproof Coffee in the morning

2) Fat, protein, and veggies for lunch

3) Fat, protein, and veggies for dinner with an occasional portion of carbs

It is generally understood that insulin levels are low on a Ketogenic diet, as blood glucose levels are low (due to lack of carbs). Well, I’m not a trustworthy guy – I wanted to check for myself, so I bought one of these:

accucheck-nasno

Let the finger-pricking fun begin! I started to check my fasting glucose levels (either in the morning or 3-4 hours after a meal) and I started to notice something weird. Most of my readings were between 85-110 mg/dL which seem high because the healthy average fasting blood glucose is generally understood to be between 70-99 mg/dL. So technically I am in the healthy average most of the time, but my blood glucose levels should be lower while on a Ketogenic diet. This caused a lot of confusion for me, but I wasn’t super worried about it because my Hb A1c test, which is a proxy for a 3-month average blood glucose, was normal.

Still, I didn’t like the elevated state of my blood glucose. Higher average blood glucose measurements point to: faster aging, less insulin sensitivity, weight gain, and other health risks and complications.

So, I did what any biohacker would do – started taking pills!

Just kidding. Well, not really. I had recently read about a supplement called Berberine, which is a plant extract with interesting properties. In particular, Berberine has been shown in studies (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2410097) to work as well as Metformin, the wonder-drug taken by diabetics for blood sugar control. Metformin works by decreasing the liver’s production of glucose (called Gluconeogenesis) and increasing the usage of blood glucose by bodily tissues. Wow. And Berberine works as well as that?

Here’s the kicker: Metformin needs a prescription. Berberine can be purchased on Amazon🙂.

I decided to give it a shot – you know. For Science.

Experimental setup:

Testing methodology: I wanted to check to see if my fasting blood sugar levels were improving, so I chose to check my blood sugar daily at the same time every day when I know I would be fasting – immediately in the morning. I ran the experiment for 30 days and checked my blood sugar first thing in the morning.

Brand: I used Good State Glycox Capsule with Berberine HCL – http://www.amazon.com/Good-State-Glycox-Capsule-Berberine/dp/B00DL1N2FA. It had hundreds of reviews with a 4 star rating at the time of purchase.

Dosing: I used 500mg (1 pill), 3 times a day, for a total of 1500mg/day. I took 500mg before every meal. I used this dosage because this was the dosage from its efficacy study against Metformin. Also, several of the reviews at Amazon used the same dose and achieved some level of results.

Equipment: I used the Accuchek Nano blood glucose monitor. The lancet device can barely be felt when on setting 3.

What happened after 30 days? Drum roll please!

berberine blood sugar.png

This is a graph showing my morning blood glucose measurement for the 30 days while on 1500mg of Berberine daily (missed 1 day unfortunately). Certainly doesn’t look like it’s improving! The numbers look similar to all of the fasting blood glucose measurements I had while on a ketogenic diet before taking Berberine. Also, the measurements seem to be going up towards the end, but I don’t think I have enough measurements to tell for sure.

This was pretty confusing. What could be going on? Did Berberine just not work for me? And why were my fasting blood glucose values so much higher than the “healthy average”?

Interpreting the results

While completing this test, I came across some interesting findings: 

-A Type 1 diabetic friend of mine introduced me to the dawn effect, (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/expert-answers/dawn-effect/faq-20057937) which is a phenomenon where an increase in blood glucose occurs in the morning hours, typically between 2am and 8am. This might explain my high readings in the mornings. I wasn’t totally convinced of this, because the other random times I would test my fasting blood glucose, I would see a result in the same 85-110 mg/dL range. Also, this phenomenon seems to be largely attributed to diabetics only. Still, this was an interesting finding and might be part of the explanation.

-I found out that ketogenic dieters often have slightly higher fasting blood glucose levels, but that it is not considered a problem as it is due to muscles needing less glucose, therefore reducing their uptake of it (still, not sure if this is a good thing).

http://chriskresser.com/when-your-%E2%80%9Cnormal%E2%80%9D-blood-sugar-isn%E2%80%99t-normal-part-2/

Critiques on experimental setup

Here are some potential criticisms on how I ran this experiment:

  • “1 reading per day is not enough to see a real trend.” This is a fair statement. C’mon – glucose test strips are expensive🙂. A better test would be to get a Hb A1c test after 90 days of usage.
  • “The morning tests are tainted by the dawn effect.” Maybe.
  • “30 days is not enough to see an appreciable change.” This is likely true as well, but I am not sure. I have seen drastic differences in blood work within weeks with some other experiments I have done.

Conclusion

This experiment did not have the greatest method, but within a month I did not see any changes in my morning blood glucose readings with Berberine. Maybe I will revisit Berberine for a longer period (~3 months) but at this time I have no desire to do so.

Eat Mexican Food, Lose Weight

Standard

Ever since I was a teenager, losing weight has always been something that’s been heavy on my mind.

I was a skinny kid up until around 10 or 11, when I started to put on 5-10 pounds a year, until I tipped the scales at 250 lbs. @ 5’8’’ and the ripe young age of 24.

Did I mention horrible cholesterol test results?

I tried a lot of different things to reverse the plague – from the Subway Diet (*cough* bullshit *cough*) to P90X. I tried cutting out fat completely, with a typical dinner being chicken breast and enough white rice to feed a small family. I even tried Alli, which was a terrible experience (if you don’t know what Alli is, look it up). Nothing really seemed to give me lasting results, if it gave me any in the first place.

Enter: The Slow Carb Diet

After reading “The 4-Hour Workweek” by Tim Ferriss in 2010, I became a fan. Shortly after, I learned that he had a new book coming out called “The 4-Hour Body”, which made some crazy claims such as how to accelerate fat loss with 3 bags of ice, and how to give a woman a 15 minute orgasm. What drug is this guy on?

I was intrigued, but skeptical. I thought, hey, at the very least it will be an interesting read like his last book. Most likely the tips won’t work, but for $15, why not?

Boy, was I wrong.

I read the title of the chapter again – “How to lose 20 lbs. of fat in 30 days – without exercise”. Is that possible? Is that even safe?

This particular chapter outlined the Slow Carb Diet (SCD), a simple way of eating that is both effective and sustainable. Many diets fail simply because adherence to the protocol is a problem, and SCD does a great job at tackling that hurdle.

In short, the diet simply consists of 5 rules:

  1. Avoid white carbohydrates such as rice, bread, and potatoes.
  2. Eat the same few meals over and over again, each consisting of protein, vegetables, and legumes. Also, eat your first meal within 30 min of waking up.
  3. No dairy products.
  4. No fruit.
  5. Lastly, the best rule – take a day off from the diet every week and eat whatever you want, a so-called “Cheat day”.

That’s it. There are more details, but that’s the gist of it. Mexican food fits pretty closely to this model when you ditch the tortilla and the rice (makes it easy when traveling!).

Slow-Carb-Diet-meal

I decided to give it a shot because the diet seemed easy and, I figured, I had nothing to lose.

What was the result?

In the first month, I lost close to 15 lbs. and ate more donuts than I probably did in the previous year. The diet wasn’t too bad to stick to and I was losing a lot of weight.

It was actually working!

I had been on some variant of this diet for several years and lost over 55 lbs. Over those few years, I probably would have lost more if I stuck to it 100%, but no one’s perfect and my results made me happy.

What about my horrible cholesterol?

This diet completely changed my lipid panel. Here are my results from just before starting the diet (unhealthy) compared to a lipid panel I did while being on the SCD for a couple of years.

Before (6/4/2009):

  • Total Cholesterol: 189 mg/dL
  • LDL: 104 mg/dL
  • Triglycerides: 233 mg/dL (horrific)
  • HDL: 38 mg/dL (terrible)

After (10/26/2012):

  • Total Cholesterol: 223 mg/dL
  • LDL: 149 mg/dL
  • Triglycerides: 92 mg/dL (Fantastic)
  • HDL: 56 mg/dL (just dandy)

I lost weight and my doctor said I was healthy. What more could I ask for?

I’ll be talking about SCD and other tips/diets/techniques on this blog. Feel free to ask me any questions.

For more info on SCD and dozens of other minimalist recipes for everything in the physical realm, check out “The 4-Hour Body”:

 

https://www.amazon.com/Hour-Body-Uncommon-Incredible-Superhuman/dp/030746363X

“You bio-what?” – Who I am and what you can expect from this blog

Standard

hello-name-is-awesome

This is going to be the shortest intro blog post in the history of the entire universe.

Probably not but I’ll keep it brief.

My name is Jonny. I am a computer scientist and entrepreneur. In my early 20’s, I was a happy guy. I was going to a great school that I enjoyed attending, I had tons of friends, and I had a bright future ahead. My days were full of laughs and new experiences. For the most part, I had no complaints and life was good.

But something was missing. I wasn’t complete in the way that I would’ve liked. And it was because of one simple reason. I was physically unfit. I was overweight. Simply put – I was unhealthy.

I was aware of the problem but had no idea how to fix it. I tried many diets. No dice. I tried exercise. Ineffective. I tried to ignore it. I tried to forget about it. I even tried to blame genetics for my weight problems.

The situation worsened when I finally went to the doctor and we took a look under the hood. There were some real problems in my biology and I never realized it.

I needed to change this in order to feel whole as a person. This started an obsessive quest to optimize my health and fitness so that I could live a longer, even happier life.

5 years, dozens of books, tons of blood tests, and thousands of pills later – here I am. This blog is about my adventures in biohacking – the art and science of managing one’s biology using diet, drugs, exercise, and technology. I will post all of my experiments and their results, regardless if they worked or not🙂. It has been quite the journey with tons of ups and downs, and I want to share it all with you.

I will also post personal blog entries and other fun stuff like videos of me performing magic tricks, but this site will principally be used for biohacking. Feel free to ask me any questions and if I don’t know the answer, I will say so.