One of the common themes you’ve often heard me share over the years is find what works for you, follow that plan exactly as prescribed and keep doing it for the rest of your life. I’m a big believer in the concept of n=1 and that we are all different. That simply means we each have varying nutritional and fitness needs that require a customized plan to meet us where we are metabolically, physically, and even psychologically. It’s that final point–psychologically–that usually leads so many of us low-carbers to seek out special treats that we hope fit within our commitment to a carbohydrate-restricted diet. And yet, ironically, it’s these same foods that oftentimes derail our efforts to see the kind of fat loss and health improvements that led us to start livin’ la vida low-carb in the first place. We’re just one messed up bunch, aren’t we?
But the fact of the matter is we each have a tolerance to these kind of foods that can be measured on a scale from very sensitive to no impact at all. Many times on low-carb forums like mine you’ll see someone comment about a particular “low-carb” food that one person says makes their blood sugar spike and/or they gain weight while someone else responds that there was no impact on their blood sugar and they lost weight. Somebody will inevitably chime in with the all-too-familiar initials YMMV which stands for “your mileage may vary.” And it’s certainly true as has been articulated by people like Gary Taubes regarding a person’s tolerance to foods. Is it fair that some people are able to eat foods that we cannot because their bodies handle it better? No. But it is what it is. The sooner you can accept that as a reality, the sooner you’ll be able to become pro-active in doing what is right for your weight and health.
All of this got me to thinking about the foods I consume as part of my healthy low-carb lifestyle and whether I’m maximizing my ability to improve my weight (which is higher than I’d like it to be, but still well over triple-digits lower than the 410 pounds I was in 2004) and my health (which I cannot complain about with stellar blood lipids, steady blood sugar control, and an overall healthy and active 39-year old body even if I do say so myself). I suppose I owe a great debt of gratitude to my Swedish physician friend and fellow low-carb blogger Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt who stirred up quite a debate at the end of his lecture on the recent Low-Carb Cruise (and he’s returning again as a special guest speaker in 2012) about the “low-carb” products that are marketed to people on a controlled-carbohydrate diet. Dr. Eenfeldt was especially critical of Dreamfields pasta, marketed to low-carbers and diabetics as a great-tasting “low-carb” pasta alternative, describing it as a “fraud” after seeing his own blood sugar spike after conducting his own n=1 experiment as well as the seeing the results of this Diabetes Care study published in February 2011 that found the blood sugar test results comparing Dreamfields to traditional white pasta were virtually identical.
Since there was some discrepancy about how Dr. Eenfeldt conducted his n=1 experiment (he consumed two servings of the Dreamfields pasta and all of the foods he tested comparing Dreamfields included copious amounts of fat and protein which could have diluted the blood sugar impact), I decided to test the Dreamfields pasta on myself earlier this month in the same manner that the Minnesota researchers had done for the Diabetes Care study. I spoke with the lead researcher Dr. Mary Gannon about how the Dreamfields was cooked and she stated they prepared one serving of it as instructed on the box and seasoned with just salt and pepper. I never would have eaten pasta this way (give me marinara sauce and cheese on top, baby!), but I understood the value in controlling external variables that could skew the results. And like Dr. Gannon found in her study as well as Dr. Eenfeldt’s n=1 experiment, my results showed very little difference in the way my blood sugar responded to the Dreamfields and regular pasta:
So all this testing got me to thinking–what other “low-carb” products are promoted as such and could likely have what I’ll henceforth refer to as “the Dreamfields effect” going on as well? There are plenty of candidates for testing and I want to try to get to as many of them as possible over the course of the next year or so. I think this is too important for the low-carb community to simply gloss over and turn a blind eye to. We have to know how certain foods we are consuming are impacting our blood sugars and the only way to know with certainty is to test, test, and test some more. And while my body may respond in a certain way to these various foods I’ll be testing, that doesn’t mean they’ll do the same in your body. That’s why I highly encourage you to purchase your own glucometer and testing strips to see what happens to your blood sugar to determine whether or not these foods are impacting you the same way they are impacting me.
While there’s nothing necessarily “proven” by what I’ll be sharing in my n=1 experiments, I certainly want them to be as scientific as they can possibly be. No, I’m not a researcher nor am I a scientist. I’m simply an informed and interested individual who wants to find answers to the most pressing questions regarding nutrition and health. My motivation is nothing more than to benefit those who have entrusted me with providing quality information that they can use in their own pursuit of optimal health. It seems to me that with so many products out there being promoted as “low-carb,” it’s my duty to put them through a vigorous personal testing process to see if they are what they claim to be–and then give them either a thumbs up or a thumbs down based on the results. That’s what I intend to do.
One thing that I hope will happen as a result of my n=1 experiments will be more research like what Dr. Gannon did on Dreamfields pasta published in the medical literature. If we ever hope to progress the low-carb lifestyle culturally, then separating the good, bad and the ugly amongst the “low-carb” products that are out there will be an essential step. People who are new to this way of eating cannot attempt to go on a high-fat, moderate protein, low-carb nutritional approach without first having an honest assessment of the foods claiming to fit within that mold. This is why low-carb is first and foremost a “real food” diet plan consisting of delicious and nutritious foods that provide nourishment, satiety and energy from the fat and protein you consume while minimizing the impact of the hormone insulin when restricting carbohydrates. It’s the basis of what makes livin’ la vida low-carb work and something that needs to be harped on more heavily as we educate the public about low-carb.
Trust me, there are PLENTY of products I have every intention of getting to in the coming months and likely years–so be patient with me as I do these experiments. I’m gonna tell you up front that I will not do more than one test per month so I can give my body time to recover from any blood sugar spikes that take place during testing periods. It does me no good to conduct these tests over a short period of time if I’m gaining weight and destroying my health in the process. I know you’ll understand. But the payoff for your patience will be worth it when you see the results of these tests that I have for you. And boy do I have some good ones to share with you.
My next n=1 experiment will be on the Julian Bakery SmartCarb breads which I actually conducted last week. They claim to only have 1g net carb for the SmartCarb #1 bread and just 2g net carbs for the SmartCarb #2 cinnamon raisin bread. But is it true? What impact did these breads have on my blood sugar as compared to white bread, whole grain bread, and eggs (used as a control in the experiment since their impact on blood sugars is expected to be minimal)? Full results and analysis are coming up soon with graphs of my blood sugar (charted by my lovely bride Christine) showing the response my body had to consuming these breads. I think the results are gonna surprise a lot of people. And like I did following my Dreamfields testing, I’ve asked a representative from Julian Bakery for an interview to discuss these results. We’re working on that and will hopefully be able to share that with you by the time I publish my blog post about the results. Is it gonna be good for a thumbs up or bad for a thumbs down? Stay tuned!
If you have a specific “low-carb” product that you would like for me to include in my list of foods to test, then e-mail those to email@example.com. Already on my list are Atkins bars, ChocoPerfection bars, Low-Carb Monster Energy drinks, and more. I’ll keep a running list of products that YOU would like to see me test on myself and we will get to them one by one. Let the n=1 experiments begin!