TheLongRoad-2

All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 
LONG OVERDUE UPDATE: The experiment has been (and will continue to be) on hold while I am in school and/or until the weight-loss journey I am on is complete, until which point there will most likely be lipolysis confounding the test results. Until then…

Tl;dr? (Wanna skip to the nitty gritty? Click here.)

 

Background

September 2013

This experiment is the result of a nearly five-year journey.

For much of my adult life — basically up through my late-30’s — I was stuck in the Matrix when it came to diet and my health. I ate a “standard American diet”. I ate for fun. I was into food — meaning I liked to cook and explore new restaurants and cuisines — but beyond that, I gave very little serious thought to what was going in my body. If I did think about it, I either felt mild guilt, as on some level I knew I was eating too much of the wrong things, or I blew it off: I was young, life was a party, and everything would be ok. But it wasn’t. Living with little concern for what I consumed left me in the same boat as so many others today: metabolically deranged, out-of-shape, and longing for a way out.

In February 2009, my out finally came. I dropped many of the rocks that were holding me back, woke up, and I began on a new course. I finally took the red pill, so to speak.

When you make a major life change in one specific area, there’s a tendency to think everything is going to magically change by association. I woke up every morning for a while assuming one day I would find myself back to my college weight. It didn’t happen. You can’t just “quit” eating. I had to become aware in this arena as well, and do the work.

Over the next three years, I began reading. Exploring. Learning. I worked my way through hundreds of nutritional blogs and websites. I tried on different “dietary frameworks”. When I lived in San Diego I had a friend who was a raw vegan, and she always seemed to be in great health and have more energy than any of us knew what to do with, so I began to focus there. I watched videos by Dan “The Life Regenerator” McDonald. He was fired up. I got fired up. I bought in. I got a juicer. I ate a lot of salads and did a juice fast. I was friends with Kale before he became famous. I lost a few pounds and kinda felt like I was on crack a lot. I started reading more vegan blogs. I watched a really maniacal couple get fired up about eating 40 bananas a day, and nothing more. They preached the One True Way. I saw people not doing well and being told they were “doing it wrong”. I grew up Catholic. I recognized dogma. Something didn’t seem right.

While I was reading through some forum posts on one of the more popular vegan sites at that time, I read a comment by someone named Denise Minger. She mentioned she had started a new blog that would focus on some of the flaws in the vegan diet. I was curious. She was a good writer. At some point, she made reference to “paleo.” I had no idea what she was talking about.

Denise would go on to write a rather infamous rebuttal to the China Study. I would go on to explore Paleo. And I liked what I found. Instead of anecdotal references to detoxing, living enzymes and “Kirlian light auras”, I found hard references to Pubmed studies. Instead of blogs written by people who had layman experience coupled with a strong ethical bent, I found articles written by MDs with degrees from Stanford working in major hospitals. The lay people who were writing were focused mostly on breaking down the science — their opinions were a side note. With all due respect to those in the vegan community, the science appealed to me more than promises of karmic righteousness. (That being said, I also soon found the paleo dogma and the paleo crazy. Crazy knows no bounds.)

4-Circle Venn Diagram Template (plain) - Plain

In the end, I tried to assimilate it all. I started in the middle. Where the circles convened. What I found there was wheat. It was bad. The Vegans and the Paleos agreed. I stopped eating it. Everyone was in agreement about a variety of vegetables, so I ate more. I had to pick a side about meat, and in this case I chose to side with paleo, and hence “became” Paleo. I stopped the rabid research, stopped being the person who couldn’t talk to his friends about anything besides food, and I just quietly eased into my decision.

Over the next year, I was only about 80% compliant. But like Pareto predicts, it was enough to do the trick: During that time I lost about 50 pounds. I got into tracking metrics, and kept daily logs of things I could measure — weight, BP, temperature, hours of sleep. I learned there was a whole “quantified self” movement, and read stuff by Seth Roberts and Tim Ferriss. I had my partial genome tested through 23andme.com. I had a doctor appointment where the nurse casually said “It would be good if we knew what your pressure was this morning”, and I casually told her what my pressure was that morning. She looked at me like I was nuts. Maybe so. Crazy knows no bounds.

 

The Cholesterol Issue

From that spring of 2009 until February of 2013, I didn’t really have any lab work done, and I wasn’t seeing doctors on a regular basis (the incident mentioned above happened during one of maybe three visits.) But I had lost the weight and outside of a bout of Cedar allergy-induced pneumonia in early 2012, I was feeling great. My only knowledge of my cholesterol levels came after a few various blood donations, where I would check my total number online. It would usually hover around 200. I had no idea about my LDL or HDL levels. This didn’t give my any pause. As a paleo I rejected the Cholesterol Hypothesis. I was sure that by keeping sugar low, eating healthy fats and decent meat, my body would self-regulate cholesterol levels to where it needed them to be. And by keeping inflammation low, cholesterol was a non-issue anyway. In keeping any serious critical examination or even consideration of my cholesterol numbers at arm’s length, I was ignoring a few things:

  1. Since 2009 I had made quite a few lifestyle changes besides diet, but quitting smoking was not one of them. If anything, I was smoking more than ever. Maybe not a lot compared to full-time smoker norms like one or two packs a day, but certainly enough to hurt — between one or two packs a week. Any inflammation I was keeping at bay through diet I was more than making up for with smoke and nicotine.
  2. My Dad, who it’s apparent at first glance I got most of my physical genetics from, had elevated cholesterol throughout much of his adult life, and had a triple bypass at age 67. The rub is that he spent the vast majority of his life eating a de-facto paleo diet. He grew up on a farm. Yes, he ate grain, but the bread was handmade and there was little to no processed food. It was Idaho, so the starch was potato. The fats came from dairy cows, not a plastic bottle. The meat was local. Breakfast was eggs. I don’t know what he ate for lunch at work when I was growing up, but dinner was broiled chicken and vegetables. We weren’t a pasta or cake family.
  3. Between statins and a significantly-altered diet (much lower in saturated fat), my Dad’s cholesterol numbers are radically lower, and his three bypasses have remained clear of obstruction for over ten years. By some (Paleo) standards, his cholesterol numbers could be considered too low, yet his health is currently great — his cardiologist sometimes thinks he has the wrong chart because he’s sure he must be younger.

By this point, I had read many posts on Paleo message boards and blog comments that resembled the following:

I’ve been eating strict Paleo for [x] years. You say my cholesterol should be self-regulating, but my total number is 567 and my LDL is 323 and my HDL is -79. My doctor is tripping balls. He wants me to go on a statin, but of course I refused because if there’s one thing that everyone who’s locked into an alternative dietary framework agrees on besides the horror of gluten, it’s that mainstream medications are always bad bad bad. So what should I do? P.S. Please don’t say statins or a diet modification or anything that would potentially point to any flaws in our universally perfect for everyone dietary framework pls tks

 

The answers, of course, usually stuck to the party line: Keep trudging ahead. Don’t sweat the numbers. They’ll level out. Or: Cholesterol doesn’t matter. Or worse: You’re doing it wrong. You’re only 80/20 paleo? You need to be 95/5. You’re already 95/5? Then it’s that cookie you had six months ago. None of this seemed helpful.

In my mind, there were to major questions to be sorted out:

  1. Is high cholesterol truly problematic, regardless of diet?
  2. Is there such a thing as doing it wrong? Or is every person unique enough that any given dietary framework can be a total success for one person yet a total disaster (and totally contraindicated from the get-go) for another?

I wanted to know more.

The Cholesterol Issue Refined: Is high cholesterol universally problematic? The importance of LDL Particle Counts

In early 2013, I stumbled onto the work of Dr. Peter Attia and his ten-part series on cholesterol (actually nine-part, the final chapter remains mythically unwritten). It’s long, dense, and probably the most thorough explanation of cholesterol and how it functions and malfunctions within the human body that you could ever possibly read. There are many, many takeaways, but one is most relevant here:

If you were only ‘allowed’ to know one metric to understand your risk of heart disease it would be the number of apoB [containing] particles (90-95% of which are LDLs) in your plasma. If you want to stop atherosclerosis, you must lower the LDL particle number [emphasis mine]

 

If you want to understand why (or if you disagree, at least what Dr. Attia’s line of reasoning is), I would highly suggest reading the series. In any event, I wanted to know what my particle number was. At the time (February 2013) I still didn’t have a primary doctor, and probably wouldn’t have been able to convince them to order this test for me anyways, so I used Directlabs.com to obtain the following:

 

April 2013 NMR Results

My particle count was 2264. My LDL was 169 and I had an HDL that was barely above 40. I was concerned. But was there anything I could do? Was this a result of Paleo? Was it because of the cheats? Because if I was really honest, my diet had started to like 60/40 at best. But even so:

 

Eating cholesterol has very little impact on the cholesterol levels in your body. This is a fact, not my opinion. Anyone who tells you different is, at best, ignorant of this topic. At worst, they are a deliberate charlatan.

 

If this is is case, then what is going on? Though I didn’t have any sort of pre-paleo numbers to look back on for comparison, why was I, along with a certain percentage of people on high-fat paleo diets seeing universal increases? If your body is self-regulating, why was my cholesterol so high, while my sister, who ostensibly has similar genetics and eats a diet much further to the low-fat vegetarian end of the spectrum, has low-to-normal levels? How were my Dad’s levels driven so high?

 

The Cholesterol Issue Refined Further: Is your diet contraindicated? Enter genetic testing and APOE4

After getting my 23andMe results in 2012, I learned that I was genetically at-risk for two major issues: Heart disease and Alzheimer’s. My grandma was taken by Alzheimer’s, so along with my Dad’s history, neither of these was a big surprise. According to the information 23andMe presented, the Alzheimer’s risk is due to a particular variants in one’s two Apolipoprotein B, or “APOE” genes. In my case, one of the genes was APOE variant E4, making me what is called Heterogeneous APOE4 (i.e., I have one copy):

Studies have shown that the odds of developing Alzheimer’s increases with each copy of the ε4 variant of APOE. Carrying a single copy of the ε4 variant is associated with about 1.5 to two times increased odds of developing Alzheimer’s and having two copies is associated with about 9 times increased odds in populations of European ancestry, compared to average.

 

What my 23andMe report doesn’t mention (the risk as reported comes from another set of genes) is that the same APOE4 variant, whose effect on cholesterol transport and blood plasma clearance is what causes the brain issues, can alsodespite Dr. Attia’s statementalter how cholesterol and fat is absorbed through the intestine, alter cholesterol lipid levels, and therefore, can be risk factor for heart disease:

 

The Apo E gene polymorphism has been well documented to interact with diet affecting individual lipid responsiveness.

 

This APOE4 variant, in its combined heterogeneous (E3/E4) and homogeneous (E4/E4) occurs in approximately 25% of the human population.

The Berkeley Heart Lab paper goes into significant detail about the effect APOE4 variants have on the cause, prevention, and differing treatments of cardiovascular disease, but much of it is summarized in the following chart:

Berkeley Heart Lab Chart of Recommendations for APOE4

If this information was correct, it meant that the Paleo diet — or any diet that utilized fat for fuel — seemed to be seriously contraindicated for not just me, but the 25% of the population who was APOE4. But at the end of the day, risk factors are one thing; actual evidence of harm is another. Had my lifetime of questionable consumption, with an extra focus on fat consumption over the prior three years — actually done hard damage?

In July 2013 I had a CT scan of my chest after an isolated incident of stomach pain. The results showed my GI tract to be fine. But the radiologist made a note that was missed (or ignored) by the GI docs, and that I found when reviewing the results myself: Patient has visible calcification of the coronary arteries. Not only did this make a case that one has to do their own due-diligence after every medical interaction, but when I brought it to my (now established) primary doc, she made a case for me seeing a cardiologist. I was hooked up with Dr. Eugene Lozner, who helped keep my Dad alive for the past decade, and after a more specific heart CT scan and a nuclear stress-test, we found the following:

  1. My exercised cardiac blood flow and EKG response was nominal. However:
  2. My cardiac arteries were approximately 10% calcified, with a calcium score of 94. Nothing to be super-concerned about overall, but enough to put me near the wrong end of the bell curve for my (still young and awesome) age.

Combining these results with my family history, it doesn’t take much of a leap to figure what came next:

  1. A prescription for a low-sodium, low-fat, limited-animal product diet (a.k.a., low-fat vegan), and
  2. A prescription for a statin (which given the circumstances, I agree with)

The theoretical had become real, and I had some choices to make. But before I did, I wanted just a little more information first. Information that couldn’t come from anywhere except an experiment on myself. N=1, baby.

 

The Experiment, Explained (Finally)

I learned that self-experimentation can be used by non-experts to a) see if the experts are right and b) learn something they don’t know.

Dr. Seth Roberts, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, UC Berkeley

 

Before making a radical (and most-likely permanent) departure from the way I’ve been eating for the past three years, and back to one that I have tried only briefly before, and didn’t have the greatest of luck with (and which my mind, with years of Paleo ingrained, still wants to reject), I wanted to know exactly what the specific impact a given diet — paleo, vegan, or otherwise — would be on my blood lipids. To do this, I would have to deliberately, consistently, and accurately eat according to the given diet’s generally accepted framework of macronutrient ratios and generally-accepted as healthy foods, do it without exception, do blood tests afterward, and I would have to do it before starting on the statin.

Overview

I decided that for five separate three-week periods, I would rotate through the following five diets, starting with where I mostly already was:

  1. A Low-Carb Paleo Diet: Not 80/20, but a 100%, good old-fashioned Paleo diet, circa 2010.  
  2. A Potato Monodiet: This diet was essentially born in the wake of a self-experiment by Chris Voigt in 2010, and was further popularized by long-time blogger Richard Nikoley at FreetheAnimal.com, broken-down scientifically by Petro Dobromylskyj of Hyperlipid, Dr. Stephan Guyenet and others, and discussed ad-infinitum in the forums at Mark’s Daily Apple.
  3. The Mediterranean Diet: Considered by the mainstream to be the epitome of heart-healthy diets.
  4. A Protein-Sparing Modified Fast (PSMF): Born in bariatric wards of the 70’s and 80’s, it was essentially re-engineered by Lyle McDonald as a way for bodybuilders to safely “cut” as rapidly as possible, while still maintaining lean-body mass.
  5. The Low-Fat Vegan Diet: The doctor’s prescription, Berkeley Heart Lab’s recommended diet for anyone APOE4, and based upon all other pre-experiment evidence, where I will most likely end up.

With the Paleo diet, based on the majority hypotheses of optimal diet for ApoE4, we’re looking to see just how bad this diet is. With the LF Vegan diet, based on the majority hypotheses of optimal diet for ApoE4, we’re looking for the opposite — to see just how good this diet is. The Mediterranean diet is included since it basically falls in the middle of the fat/animal-protein spectrum between Paleo and Vegan, so we’re looking to see if it’s good or bad without a specific hypothesis. The Potato Diet is included as an extreme, non-sustainable version of LF Vegan, and the PSMF is included as a counterpart to the Potato diet. Both the Potato diet and PSMF have the additional expected benefit of accelerated weight loss. Neither is a contender for long-term, post-experiment implementation.

 

Goals

My primary goal is to determine a diet that will be in the best interest of my personal cardiovascular and overall health as someone with an APOE4 allele. My secondary goals are:

  1. To promote the idea that there is no “one correct diet”, or best set of macronutrient ratios, for all people. It’s not the “best diet” because it worked for your friend, or worse, just because they said so.
  2. To show that a group of sexy hot Vegans, or a group of sexy hot Paleos, is nothing more than a group of sexy hot people who most likely lucked into falling into the middle of a given bell curve. Just to camera left in those sexy group photos (the big cement gym seems to be the new photo studio) is a group of lethargic and ill Paleos or Vegans who are gonna keep trying their best, but won’t make next month’s FB photo post either.
  3. To add to a growing body of self-experimentation, and maybe provide a framework someone else could base their own experiment around, and therefore
  4. Promote self-experimentation in general, and
  5. Have fun during the process, get smarter, and get healthier.

I also wouldn’t mind ending up with a like-minded community while I’m at it — made up of self-experimenters, genetic testers, APOE4s — but mostly those of us who’ve been around the map with eating and dietary frameworks, and like the idea of really being able to figure one out for themselves.

 

The Process/Guidelines/Rules

For each diet, I will do my best to control for all variables outside of the varying macronutrient ratios, namely:

  • Keeping calorie intake consistent within each diet, in the range of 1400-1700 each day
  • Keeping calorie intake consistent across diets — i.e., if the number of calories consumed on the third day of Diet #1 were 1700, then I will consume 1700 calories on the third day of the remaining four diets. In this sense, the calorie record of the first diet maps out the intake for diets two through five.
  • In order to avoid metabolism stasis, on Sundays, calorie consumption will be bumped up to 1700-2500 calories.
  • The mono and fast diets (#2 and #4) will most likely come in lower, around 700-1100 calories per day
  • The vegan diet (#5) will most likely come in higher, around 2500 calories per day
  • Exercise will be kept consistent across diets, and will be generally limited — 30 minutes of dog walking, and 15-20 minutes of bodyweight exercises.
  • Intake will be limited to diet-specific/generally accepted as healthy foods, i.e., no alcohol, cheat foods, etc.
  • There will be no wheat or gluten consumed during any of the five diets.
  • Getting consistent sleep
  • Keeping all medication and supplementation consistent across diets

 

The Timeline

  1. Diet #1: Low-Carb Paleo09/28/2013 – 10/18/2013
  2. Diet #2: Potato Monodiet01/06/2014 – 01/26/2014
  3. Diet #3: Mediterranean Diet02/06/2015 – 02/26/2015
  4. Diet #4: Protein-Sparing Modified Fast (PSMF)02/27/2015 – 03/19/2015
  5. Diet #5: Low-Fat Raw Vegan Diet03/20/2015 – 04/09/2015

 

Reporting

At the end of each three-week period, I will utilize the NMR® Lipoprofile test to reassess my LDL particle count, along with the standard total, LDL, and HDC-C counts. I will also obtain a standard metabolic profile. Results will be posted in the specific pages for each diet.

 

Feedback

If anyone has made it this far, and has any thoughts, helpful input or comments, or if you’re APOE4 and you think this experiment will be helpful, I’d love to hear from you.

33 Comments

  1. My previous comment was erased…Hope this one works. Greetings, my friend. I’m a homozygous e4 on the same quest. Just wondered if you were still at it. Per your schedule, you should be mighty tired of taters by now 🙂 a Give a shout out. I’ve got a few questions.

    Thanks,

    Julie

    Reply
    • Hey Julie, thanks for stopping by. I am still at it! As I mentioned I think in my last blog post, a few issues came up that required me to put things on hold for a bit. But I’ll be getting back on the experiment (and knee-deep in potatoes) starting Monday, finishing up in time for a small break/reset for Christmas.

      Reply
    • Hey Chris,

      I’m a bit crazy with the holidays, but it’s great to hear from you. I’m so glad you’re still at it 🙂 I have so many questions, I barely know where to start. Here’s a few, off the top of my head:

      -Did you do a baseline NMR/standard lipid panel?
      -What type of diet were you eating prior to your Paleo trial?
      -Do you have your post-Palo results?

      I’m very appreciative of your efforts. I hope to learn with you.

      Julie

      Reply
      • I did do a baseline NMR — I posted about it in the blog but I should/will go ahead and add it as a separate page in the menu. For the month or two prior to the paleo phase, I had kind of regressed into a random, or SAD, or whatever you want to call it diet. It wasn’t poptarts, McDonalds and ice cream, it was just kind of a reasonable number of calories of whatever I felt like, within reason.

        As for the paleo results, I’m trying to get some time to get them up… was shooting for yesterday, but hopefully today.

        Reply
        • Gotcha. So the NMR (4/13) following your three years of half-hearted Paleo IS your baseline?

          What kind of diet have you been eating SINCE that NMR before your recent strict Paleo trial?

          I’m sort of new to this, so help me understand what a circa 2010 Paleo Diet looks like in terms of macronutrient breakdown. For instance, I’m eating a Paleo-ish Diet; 65% fat, 20% protein, 15% carbs.

          I’m excited to see results 🙂

          Reply
          • Actually, the April NMR would basically be right before I fell off the 80% Paleo wagon. The baseline would be the NMR I got in September, the day before I started the first three weeks of the experiment. Between April and September, I wasn’t adhering to any dietary framework. It probably looked closer to 50% paleo than straight pizza and soda, though I had my share of both.

            As for the paleo macro ratio, both for me in 2010 and during the experiment, it was 10% carbs, 65% fat, and 25% protein — very similar to how you’re eating now, it would seem 😉

  2. We over at apoe4.info have been talking about your experiment. GREAT idea! Looking forward to seeing your results. By the way, did you see the references for the Berkeley Heart Lab data? Most aren’t extremely current. Another problem is that we have to look at the effects of diff. TYPES of fat.

    GB

    Reply
    • Hey Golden, shame on me for not knowing about apoe4.info before coming across your comment the other day. I had to step away form the experiment for a while and had missed the comments. I found the thread yesterday and posted a reply. I’ll definitely be stopping over there when I can!

      You’re correct in the age of the Berkeley references, and I agree with the idea that different types of fat, along with the quality (oxidation) have differing effects. That’s something I tried to incorporate into the experiment — with most of the fat during the paleo phase being saturated, then using mostly monounsaturated in the Mediterranean and vegan phases.

      Reply
      • Hey Chris! No need to apologize!

        I — and many others — look forward to seeing the results of your experiment.

        At some point I’m going to try to get the straight dope on what the most current research says about APOE status and dietary fat intake and put it up on our wiki at apoe4.info. But I suspect there simply isn’t enough research to draw any solid conclusions (thus the merits of simply experimenting on oneself, as you’re doing!)

        Best,
        GB

        Reply
  3. Hi Chris,
    Nice experiment.
    What’s the rationale for restricting calories, as opposed to calories to maintain weight?
    I’m wondering if changing weight or different starting weight entering each diet phase could be a confounder.
    Thanks,
    Mark

    Reply
  4. Hi Chris, forgot to mention in my comment on the Paleo Diet that I was born and raised in Syracuse. I’m in California now. How are you enjoying the weather?

    Reply
  5. Not sure what happened to my comment in the Paleo Diet section. It is not there anymore. I’ll try again. I am also an E3/E4 and I had an NRM test after 4 months on a Paleo diet. My TC was 353 and my LDLP was 2642. Good small LDL-P, though, with 130). After getting these results I reverted to the SAD and my TC is now hovering around 250-270, with LDLC of 200. Last week I got a CT scan with calcium score, and mine was 46.3. I am a 53 year old female, not overweight, and I am very active.
    I am starting aggressive statin therapy (E4s don’t have as big a response to statins as E3 or E2 persons) and going on a very low fat/low cholesterol diet. Also no grains. Yikes, what is left to eat? I will be repeating my NRM or most likely, the Spectracell LPP Plus test after 3 months of my new diet, as well as another heart scan yearly.
    I would be happy to share my results if you are interested,

    Reply
  6. Another APOE 4/4 here, writing an article on what lifestyle changes will make a difference. Love your research. Which piece of the brain protective puzzle do you think is most important — the type of fat, wheat or alcohol?

    Reply
    • Hey Deborah — I don’t have any input into the brain side of the ApoE4 dilemma. I decided to concentrate on the heart side because of my family history and the fact that my doctor was putting statins on the table, and I wanted to experiment on the diet aspect before taking a statin would make that impossible. I’d love to know how to best protect both my heart *and* brain, but I think the answers for the latter are going to prove a bit harder to come by, if not just for the fact that we can easily and relatively cheaply test for the risk factors (lipid levels, etc) and actual damage (arterial plaque, etc) for cardiovascular disease, but testing and screening for the brain side is a bit more complicated.

      In a nutshell, doing a self-experiment to see demonstrable results of food on my lipid levels was within the realm of possibility; doing a similar experiment on the impact of food on, say, amyloid plaques in my brain was not.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
      • Hey Deborah & Chris,

        I’m a sister 4/4 and have to agree with Chris; testing the brain side of things IS trickier. You could always do a PIB scan to check for amyloid plaque, but further muddying (the already murky waters) is the lack of solid correlation between AB plaque and Alzheimer’s. Some with a high amyloid burden show no signs of dementia.

        There ARE tests your physician can order (and regularly monitor) to minimize your
        chances of developing Alzheimer’s outlined here: http://apoe4.info/forums/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=144

        I’m also very grateful for the opportunity to be able to learn from Chris. You are amazing if you can stick with the taters, my friend. Thank YOU for your contributions. May I also link your blog to http://www.apoe4.info ?

        Julie

        Reply
  7. If the Berkely Heart Lab recommended diet is low fat, low sodium, *limited* animal products then why go vegan? Why not occasionally include lean, healthy sources of animal protein with healthy fats like salmon, scallops etc.

    Reply
    • Right now, I don’t have any plans to go vegan per se. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the way I eat after the experiment is over will be rather balanced, and won’t throw anything out completely (with the possible exception of concentrated sources of saturated fats.) I wanted to experiment with five different diets/macronutrient ratios, and these were the ones I chose, with the objective being a broad set of lipid test result data to compare.

      Reply
  8. Hi Chris, my name is Arianna, I’m from Italy. I just read about your experiment and found it really inspiring. I’m actually having a rough time because after 5 month (from august 2013 to december 2013) of strict Paleo (which was great) I got my analysis results and my total cholesterol was 349, my LDL was 219 and my HDL was 78. I don’t know if I have the APOE4 variant, I hope I’ll be able to test that as soon as possible, in the mean time I cut down all the red meat, eggs and any kind of saturated fat from my diet and I’m praying that my cholesterol level will be back to the pre-paleo value (Tot chol: 208, LDL: 131, HDL: 58).

    Seeing your secondary baseline results make me hope that I have some chance to get my cholesterol level back to the pre-paleo value without statin. So I want to thank you for this project, I think is really helpful and I hope that you will find the best diet for your body and your mind at the end of the experiment.

    P.S. Sorry for my poor English.

    Thank you again for sharing this. Arianna

    Reply
    • Hey Arianna! It’s amazing to me that someone on the other side of the globe has been following along. Hopefully we can all find the diet that works best for each of us.

      I just posted an update in the blog. I got some basic lipid numbers back from my doc from a test on Monday: My LDL-C is down to 110 after the potato diet, which is down 35 points in three weeks (and down from 220 just three months ago), so I think you should be able to get your numbers back down to wherever you want them to be.

      Reply
      • Hi Chris, thank you for the reply and for the positive encouragement. I’m looking forward to read the results after the three weeks of Mediterranean diet, expecially since I read that you’re going to include gluten. Before I went Paleo, I followed the Mediterranean diet for three years trying to loose weight (rice or pasta for lunch, lean meat or fish for dinner, olive oil… Each meal came with some vegetables and fruits). I didn’t get good results (yoyo effect was the problem), also my cholesterol was still quite high if you consider that the amount of red meat, eggs and saturated fat was almost zero, so I assumed that all the refined cereals (pasta) were part of the problem… I’m curious to see what’s gonna happen, and I hope you’ll enjoy this three weeks of Mediterranean diet.

        Best wishes,

        Arianna.

        Reply
  9. Chris R: which of the 27 ApoE SNP’s do you look at to determine your genotype? For the main ApoE SNP rs429358, my alleles are CT. But there are 26 other
    ApoE SNP’s. Don’t know which of these 27 SNP’s provide the dietary
    information. Thanks Ron

    Reply
  10. Really sad you didn’t complete this. Also you might post at the top that you did not not complete it so other people don’t have to troll through the whole site looking for info that’s not going to be there.

    Reply
  11. I just lost my father to CAD. I carry one APOE4 and one APOE3. (23andme.com). I have Hashimoto’s disease. My mother is from N. Africa and my father is from N. America- but only 2 generations removed from Scandinavia and England/Ireland- this is significant to my genetic lottery. I lucked on your site because I have been Paleo and while my numbers aren’t bad, LDL 123, HDL 75, Total 225, Tris 60- I’m wondering if a vegan/plant or modified with fish would be best. I’ve tried all diets. I actually gained 20 pounds doing crossfit and paleo- I believe saturated fat makes me fat- so I’m now experimenting with Engine2 plant based. I cannot get my calories up- but I have a feeling I fall into the category of more plants, no animals, maybe fish 2-3 times a week- I’d love to connect with you. I love your thesis here and would love to know if you are still at this. I have so many questions!

    Reply
    • Sorry to hear about your father. Mine has had his issues as well. It’s interesting, I’ve instinctively figured I would end up plant-based in the end all along — even though I didn’t see anything drastically change in terms of lipid numbers when I ate nothing but potatoes for three weeks, which could be explained by many things, not the least of which is the amount of lipid being released into the bloodstream via lipolysis due to the significant weight loss at the time (this is also why I’ve put the experiment on hold until I reach my goal weight and stabilize). I’ve also been taking all of the science pre-reqs for physician assistant school for a year-and-a-half, so this site/experiment has gone to the back burner for several reasons. But it will be completed eventually. Thanks for visiting/commenting!

      Reply
      • Congrats on PA school! I’m 38- former nurse- also considering going back. I think the potato diet could probably be nixed from this thesis, lol- it seems there is something about high starch that doesn’t help us. I’m really curious about a lipid profile comparison from Paleo and then from plant based, no oil, no meat as it relates to APOE3/4 4/4 genomes. I already have my paleo lipid profile- I just started on the plant based (but I did have fish yesterday). I’ll do it for six weeks and test and I’ll let you know. I really think there is something to the concept of epigenetics. I ran mine through nutrahacker and it recommended low fat/low carb. I just laughed. I’m going to do plant and fish for the next 6 weeks and I’m going to send you both my reports if you’re interested. I think it would be cool for a bunch of APOE diet minded folks to try this… good luck on the pre-reqs. It’s a great field and you obviously have the mind for it.

        Reply
        • Thanks! And h aha well I’m not sure I’d pick the same five “diets” today, but it (the potato diet) has been extensively researched (albeit by a small group of people: https://potatohack.wordpress.com), and I lost a ton of weight and felt pretty darn good — both physically and mentally — during those three weeks. And in the years since the Paleo framework/community has certainly come to embrace them as a reasonable addition to the diet. But the palatability issues are such that it becomes a fast, which was the goal at the time, but thinking about it makes me wonder: Without starches, I’d be hard pressed to figure out a way to be totally plant-based with no added fat that wouldn’t end up being a perpetual fast. But plant/fish sounds totally doable. Yea let me know how it goes!

          Reply
          • So… my Paleo lab cholesterol was: total cholesterol 225, HDL 75, LDL 129, Triglycerides 60. BP 130/85 avg. Great ratio on the lipids, right? But I began having migraine with aura two years after crossfit/paleo. Scary and a precursor to CAD if not in fact microvascular disease. 10 weeks whole foods plant based results- no meat, dairy, oils or gluten: Total cholesterol, 110, HDL 46, LDL 49.6, Triglycerides 73. HIIT 2x a week, 30 minute cardio other days. WHAT!!! Still gluten free but increased slightly potato and rice consumption and almond butter and avocados to maintain HDL- but not much. Glass of wine (or 2 nightly) which I worried might push my LDL up- but it didn’t. I did the 23andme and ran my genome thru nutrahacker which recommended low carb/low fat due to the APOE3/4 gene. I feel AMAZING. No migraine with aura so far… and honestly I don’t think I will have one ever again. Every body is different. I love the concept of epigenetic diet. I think this is the key! I’m sold on whole food plant based. Would love to hear any other experiments results. Cheers!

          • Oh and my BP is now 100/50. I am battling getting dizzy going from laying down to standing up but I surmise it will resolve itself once my body sorts out this diet bomb I’ve dropped on it!

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The Low-Fat Raw Vegan Diet in a Nutshell

Raw veganism is a diet that combines the concepts of veganism and raw foodism. It excludes all food and products of animal origin, as well as food cooked at a temperature above 48 °C (118 °F). A raw vegan diet includes raw vegetables and fruits, nuts and nut pastes, grain and legume sprouts, seeds, plant oils, sea vegetables, herbs, and fresh juices. Raw vegans who follow a low fat approach to raw veganism seek a very specific nutritional balance of carbohydrates/protein/fat ratio from their diet, trying to ensure they have a sufficient intake of calories, and placing greater importance in those ratios than in their foods being raw. Most low fat raw vegans (LFRVs) follow an 80/10/10 ratio, and some a more lax 70/10/20 or more strict 90/5/5, trying to achieve between 2000 and 3000 calories per day, averaged per week, and according to exercise levels.

Wikipedia, Raw Veganism

 

Low-Fat Raw Vegan Diet Specifics for the APOE Experiment

The macronutrient ratios I’ll be following for the Low-Fat Raw Vegan Diet are:

Carbohydrates
80%
Fat
10%
Protein
10%

 

TEST RESULTS

 

Low-Fat Raw Vegan Diet NMR Test Results

Test results of the Mediterranean diet should be available the week of December 29, 2014.

 

Low-Fat Raw Vegan Diet Progress Charts

More to come

 

Low-Fat Raw Vegan Diet Food Journal

More to come

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The The Protein-Sparing Modified Fast (PSMF) in a Nutshell

The PSMF I will implement for this experiment is the version devised by Lyle McDonald and discussed in his book The Rapid Fat Loss Handbook. He summarizes the fast/diet here:

1. Protein intake set depending on bodyfat percentage and activity
2. Basically unlimited amount of vegetables (a few are off limits)
3. Either fish oil capsules or 1 tbsp of flaxseed oil per day for EFAs.
4. A basic multivitamin/mineral supplement. One or two other key supplements.
5. Planned diet breaks depending on activity and bodyfat percentage.
6. Length of PSMF to be set depending on bodyfat percentage and activity level.

 

PSMF Diet Specifics for the APOE Experiment

The macronutrient ratios I’ll be following (roughly) for the PSMF are:

Carbohydrates
5%
Fat
5%
Protein
90%

 

TEST RESULTS

 

PSMF NMR Test Results

Test results of the PSMF should be available the week of December 8, 2014.

 

PSMF Progress Charts

More to come

 
 

PSMF Food Journal

More to come

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The Mediterranean Diet in a Nutshell

The Mediterranean diet is a modern nutritional recommendation inspired by the traditional dietary patterns of Greece, Spain and Southern Italy. The principal aspects of this diet include proportionally high consumption of olive oil, legumes, unrefined cereals, fruits, and vegetables, moderate to high consumption of fish, moderate consumption of dairy products (mostly as cheese and yogurt), moderate wine consumption, and low consumption of meat and meat products.

 

Mediterranean Diet Specifics for the APOE Experiment

The macronutrient ratios I’ll be following for the Mediterranean diet are:

Carbohydrates
45%
Fat
40%
Protein
15%

 

TEST RESULTS

 

Mediterranean Diet NMR Test Results

Test results of the Mediterranean diet should be available the week of November 17, 2014.

 

Mediterranean Diet Progress Charts

More to come

 
 

Mediterranean Diet Food Journal

More to come

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The Potato Monodiet Story

Nothing but potatoes, and simple condiments like salt & vinegar:

I have been dying to unleash this fat-busting trick on you guys, but I have been kind of holding back because it seems so impossible. It works. It works really well if you are a fat-adapted, fat-burning primal animal because you will go straight into burning your own fat! Here’s what you do to lose 1/2 to 1 pound a day for up to 14 days. Eat potatoes. The only thing else you can eat is salt (sparingly), vinegar (all you want), hot sauce, ketchup (very sparingly), soy sauce (very sparingly and only fermented), spices–especially cayenne pepper.

Edit 12/21/12: They have taken to calling it the “Potato Reset” and it’s been especially popular around the holidays. We look at it as a way to “reset” your eating, weight, and relationship with food. These are the rough guidelines we came up with for the best version of the Potato Reset:

1. Plan on eating mostly potatoes for 5-7 days (90%+ of calories)
2. Eat between 2 and 4lbs of potatoes daily, include cooked and cooled daily!
3. Unlimited coffee, tea, and water.
4. Spices, salt, pepper, and vinegar OK.
5. Lifting of Heavy Things discouraged, think ‘de-load week’ Lifting light things/walking OK.
6. All normal supplements OK to continue
7. IF’ing, especially by skipping breakfast encouraged.
8. If you need to lose more weight, alternate the “Potato Reset” diet with healthy Primal Blueprint in 5-7 day increments.
9. Not recommended for people who eat every 2-3 hours, have glucose issues, or have eating disorders.
10. Highly recommended for people who have their hunger under control, have been eating PB style for 6 months or more, and are having trouble losing weight with the normal approaches.

Some suggested reasons this works so well:
– Food Reward/Satiety
– Calories Restriction
– Resistant Starch/Butyrate/Gut Flora Connection
– Insulin Sensitivity Regained
– Ketosis from calorie restriction/butyrate forming short chain fatty acids

More info here.

 

Potato Diet Specifics for the APOE Experiment

The macronutrient ratios I’ll be following for the Potato Diet are:

Carbohydrates
89%
Fat
1%
Protein
10%

Because that’s what potatoes are made of, Virginia.

The basic difference between the Potato Diet (and the PSMF) is that they are on some level, fasts, therefore are going to tend to have a lower caloric intake then the more “regular” diets (Paleo, Med, and Vegan). And I think this is OK, as in many ways their results will have to be compared separately. So as much as I’d like to keep caloric intake consistent across all five diets, expect the intake here to be about 20-30% less.

I mean, how many potatoes can you eat?

 

Potato Diet APOE Experiment NMR Test Results

Test results of the Potato diet(s) one *and* two (see most recent blog update) should be available the week of April 7, 2014.

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