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Remembering Kevin Moore

Jimmy Moore’s n=1 Experiments: The Purpose And The Process

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 livinlowcarbman@charter.net. 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!

  • Harold Aardsma

    The “your milage may very” thing is so true and I like how Dr Vernon compares carb sensitivity to sun sensitivity. Some people can go out in the sun for hours and never get burned, while others spend 10 minutes in the sun and are fried. No one make a moral judgement about why someone gets burned so easily and neither should we make moral judgement about overweight people. But just a the sun sensitive person must learn to wear a hat and put on sunscreen, so a carb sensitive person needs to learn what foods to avoid.

  • Great idea, Jimmy, looking forward to seeing your results.

  • Jimmy,

    When Dreamfields first came out, I noticed that it instantly squashed my weight loss, and took me out of ketosis (which was a state I wanted to be in long-term because of my individual physical makeup.) I wrote a few articles about it and published some other people’s work as well. It seems there are MANY of us with the “Dreamfields Dilemma.” So many of the foods we think will be a success for us are just an empty “dream.”

    I have come to the conclusion that there truly is a “if it’s too good to be true, then it is” rule out there. Pasta is pasta is pasta. Bread is bread is bread. I know we want to be able to find some way to have them and enjoy those textures without the payback. I know for me, it’s about texture.

    There seem to be no other foods that have the same mouth-feel to them and that’s what I miss when I’m not eating them. If I sat down with a plate of plain pasta, I’d hate it. But once it has that other item like butter or marinara and melty cheese, it’s pure heaven. But honestly – pasta doesn’t actually have any taste! It’s totally all mouth-feel.

    I am embarking on a low-carb journey once again. Over the 14 years since I started CarbHealth, I have put back my 50 lb. loss and another 50 lbs. over that. At 215 and only 5’2″, it’s time for me to get serious again. I have also recently been diagnosed with Type II Diabetes, only 1 year after being found to be pre-diabetic. If I don’t get back to the basics, I might as well start counting off the days of my life. I’ll keep you updated. Might even launch the ol’ site again.

    -Tiff

    • Tiff, I know you’ll do it! And definitely start up the old CH site. πŸ˜‰

  • Karen Norris

    Great idea! Thanks and looking forward to your n=1 of Julian bakery!

  • Hi Jimmy!

    I would like to see Quest Bars tested. I am also wondering which Atkins bars you’ll choose. My husband likes the occasional cranberry almond bar and I like an occasional Coconut Endulge bar. But I am very skeptical of them and consider them indulgences. Will you conduct a poll to see which flavors are most consumed?

    I’ve had a lot of fun listening to your Conversations podcasts. Looking forward to more. :)

    Hi Christine! Best of luck. My fingers are crossed for you. I had an IVF cycle that ended with an emergency 2 day transfer of 3 poor looking, nosediving embryos and despite a 14dpr snowy white negative pregnancy test I somehow still ended up with a baby. I so wish I could help other than just wish you good luck.

    JenH

    • Got lotsa products to test. I’ll get to ’em all eventually.

    • Congrats on your baby…we’re hoping for the best. πŸ˜‰

  • Dr. John

    Why create heavily processed foods resembling foods previously eliminated from poor diets? Processing our foods got us into the trouble we are in today. We still “feed” our addictions of poor choices by creating these Franken-Foods.

    Making “fake” pasta, diet sodas, low carb bread, cookies (Caveman Cookies…YGTBSM), no-carb brownies, etc. only serve to inure our addiction to foods not part of principled human nutrition. Also incorporating “cheat days” into our weekly food plan reaffirms the neurohormonal regulation of poor food choices.

    • Well said John.

    • shelley

      my own n=1 proves your point exactly. I’ve low-carbed off and on for 10 years, but was always looking for those low-carb treats to try to fit into the low-carb way of life, but nearly every low-carb “franken-food” which all are essentially “processed” foods, would cause me to fall off the bandwagon time and time again. I dropped them all in January, basically going “real” food only (paleo)( meat, veggies, fruits nuts, oils and some dairy ) and the difference is amazing. I have no cravings anymore, but it took 4 to 5 months for them to go away. The funny thing is, I can eat a lot more carb now in the form of fruits and startchy tubers whereas I couldn’t do it before without weight gain.

  • That’s a fantastic idea! If I had your energy I would do it myself. Since I don’t I look forward to reading about it here.

    I bet you’ll find quite a few “Dreamfields effects” out there in fantasy net carb land.

  • vicky

    I can’t eat Dreamfields pasta because I’m gluten intolerant so that’s one experiment I don’t need to try out. However, I managed to find gluten free pasta made from quinoa that tastes exactly like wheat pasta and the first time I was on Atkins that took me right off the diet wagon! It’s true, pasta is pasta is pasta. Same for gluten free bread I used to bake. I’ve since learned that I can actually do without these foods, even if they are gluten free.

  • Torstein

    Hi Jimmy.

    Maybe you could do some tests of sugar-replacements?

    Does the most popular Stevia-versions really give no spike, what about Erythritol? Is it true that just the thought of eating a cake, spikes insulin? etc.

    Cheers,
    Torstein

    • I can see my test of thinking about cake now: I stare at a photo of a chocolate cake for three hours testing my blood sugar every 15 minutes. Now that would be a hoot.

  • Rebecca LaChance

    Such a good idea! I have often wondered about effects (and ingredients) of low carb products. Thanks for leading the way and I can’t wait to read your results.

  • All I up Jimmy is you don’t lose all your advertisers over less than satisfactory results. This is something that needs to be done, and while your results should not be construed as conclusive evidence for everyone else, they do definitely point to how someone *may* be affected by these products.

    I hope everything is as it appears, but I know you’ll honestly report whatever the findings are. That is one thing I can depend on.

    • As you know, Kent, I’ve long been a fan of Dreamfields pasta…so my results showing a negative impact did not please me personally. Even still, I had to share my results openly and honestly for the benefit of my readers. One thing I’ve long built my reputation on is to be forthright in everything I do…even if it means I’m wrong (need I bring up Kimkins again). That will never change because the truth deserves a voice. Good, bad, or ugly, what you see from my tests is what you’ll get. THANKS for your support!

  • Brenda

    Yay! Getting excited about your innovative tests comming Jimmy! Thumbs up for you.

    Personally, I’ve found from all high glycemic foods, corn is the one that makes the biggest impact on my blood.
    But I don’t know yet any “low carb corn” out there. That would be interesting.

    • Don’t know if I want to purposely eat corn, rice, or white potatoes just for kicks. Looooooonnnnnnggg time down the road maybe. πŸ˜‰

  • David

    Just a question about the definition of “spike” as it relates to blood glucose levels–do you or any of your fabulous “go-to” people have a time/level that would qualify as a “spike,” such as x points in y time? I’ve never thought a rise to a level of 130-140 to be much of an issue following a meal if it comes down again fairly quickly and stays down until the next meal.

    Thanks in advance!

    • Great question. Ideally, blood sugar should not rise that much after a meal even if it does come back down. Insulin levels would make for interesting data, but it’s not as easy or cost-effective to measure.

      • David

        Thanks Jimmy!

        I just found this link,

        http://www.phlaunt.com/diabetes/14045621.php

        that states that “Research conducted with human patients, mice, and pancreas beta cell cultures all point to a single threshold at which elevated blood sugars cause permanent damage to your body. What is that level? 140 mg/dl (7.8 mmol/L) after meals.” Very interesting, I think, and should make a lot of so-called experts pause before they recommend that people consume those so-called healthy wholegrains!

  • Go for it Jimmy. This product never worked for me, my wife likes it but she uses insulin in the evening after dinner. Like you, I prefer to be in a state of ketosis for long period of times. But after two solid years of being 80/20 with Atkins Low Carb to lose weight and improve blood sugars (the Atkins Diabetes Revolution is one of the best) then Paleo for strength and muscle building (muscles are a great place to dump glucose instead of the blood) and now JERF-= Just Eat Real Food- low carb real food of course that I discovered (no blog plug intended but I honestly feel this is the key) that eating 20-30 carbs from real honest food that has been cook and not presented by a chain restaurant of pre- packaged in a box is far less harmful to my numbers than if I eat the same number of carbs that was pre-processed for my “convenience.” Americans are so far removed from food that they would starve in a vegetable patch looking for a bag of mixed greens. Of course the two years of diet that proceeded this is huge. Learning to cook is vital in controling weight and blood sugars. (jumping off my soapbox)

  • I’ve been low-carbing about 3 months, losing about 27 pounds so far, with at least that much more to go, and the only low-carb specialty product that I have tried are the La Tortilla Factory tortillas. The label claims each tortilla has a net of three carbs: 10 total carbs minus 7 grams fiber. As far as I know, the company makes no special claims of the sort that Dreamfields makes about how the food is digested; it’s just that the net carbs are low for a tortilla. It would be a good product to test. My own experience has been OK, but I don’t eat more than a couple tortillas in a week.

  • Jorge

    Which glucose meter brands do people recommend? Thanks,

    • You’re gonna get a variety of opinions on this one, Jorge. But it’s not so much about the meter as it is the movement in the blood sugar readings that you are measuring. If a food is having an impact, then most any meter will show this happening.

  • Lori

    I sure hope the Julian Bread is ok. That stuff is WAY fantastic. I’ll be so saddened if it doesn’t work.

  • Lawrence Louis

    Jimmy,

    Your efforts to fact check the claims made by companies that sell low carb alternatives to people is admirable, especially considering that such tests can work as an impediment to your weight loss goals. In my opinion if low carb adherents want to avoid the risk of being duped by products labeled “low carb”, I think it is just best to avoid these products entirely. You are bound to run into problems when you buy a product that has been chemically altered from a natural state of being high carb so as to transform it into a low carb product. It’s kind of like dealing with counterfeit money. Yes, it may look real, and some people may get fooled into accepting it as the real deal, but eventually it will catch up to you. I think the same goes for this “counterfeit” low carb food.

    Real low carb foods are meats, cheeses, butters, certain creams, oils, and green vegetables. If people would stick with those items, they wouldn’t have to worry about being scammed by companies like Dreamfield. To paraphrase Michael Pollan “just eat real food, and not franken-foods”. Stop looking for low carb alternatives to pasta, rice, breads, candies, cakes, etc., and come to the realization that you just need to put those foods behind you, instead of finding dubious substitutes. You don’t get a crack addict off of crack by giving him a crack substitute with a little less potency.

    If your are craving for your old high carb favorites, have a cheat day once and a while with the real thing. It is better to schedule a day, once a week or once a month (depending on what your body can handle), where you knowingly deviate from your diet, than be regularly exposed to a product which causes you to deviate from your diet all the time without you knowing it.

    -Lawrence

  • Awesome work Jimmy. Too bad — I had just bought like 4 boxes of Dreamfields. (Not to worry, my wife will eat them anyway)

    Funny… I noticed in my n=1 that I get a blood sugar rise (I think – feels like it) even after I eat this mush that I make with almond flour, butter, splenda and eggs. Maybe the pulverized almond has a spikier blood sugar effect than whole almonds? Maybe it’s the splenda? Maybe it’s something else altogther (insulinogenic effect of the butter??) Hard to tell!

    Would be interesting, too, at some point to see what effects different medications have on LCers weight gain/loss. Not suggesting you do this of course!

    For instance, say a doc prescribes you steroids or antihistamines or whatever… does taking this med throw your weight off track? Would be interesting to do a survey and take the pulse of the low carb world on that. The moral is: once you break from free calories-in-calories-out, the game gets a LOT more complicated.

    anyway, rock out, and try not to have too much fun experimenting.

    • Fun is not really the word for it. πŸ˜‰

  • Mike Ellwood

    Jimmy,

    Your comment above about imagining cake got me to thinking what would happen if you imagined fatty steak (or whichever meat is your favourite).

    I then got to thinking what would happen if you measured it after actually eating fatty steak (and no carbs)?

    We know that in theory there should be some rise in insulin, but probably no rise in glucose, but is there? There is also the complication of a glucagon reaction.

    Have you ever measured the glucose reaction to your fatty meat of choice?

    • I get next to no rise in blood sugar from consuming fatty meats or eggs.

  • mary titus

    You know what Jimmy. We should all become mini scientists when it comes to our health and well-being. The reason the tide is turning on low carb diets is because of mini-scientists whose health has improved because of the willingness experiment. I trust the “experiments” from a lay person such as yourself before I trust agenda based/biased experiments. The reason tests have been performed on rats and humans because of results that have already happened.

    On that note, when I have cravings, I believe it is by far safer to consume the substitute. I have never trusted Dreamfields pasta, althugh I have eaten it from time to time. I prefer using shiritaki noodles or spaghetti squash for my pasta fix. I make a low carb pizza ( I believe I got the recipe from Laura Dolson ) that the whole family eats. I make waffles from coconut flour so it is really easy to find a substitute for favorites that have a much lower impact on glucose.

  • Tula

    Jimmy,

    I’m not diabetic so I have no glucose testing supplies. Any recommendations as to how I can do this testing without a glucose meter (or is it impossible)? I’m curious if I’ll show similar results to someone who’s diabetic. My inner geek is getting more and more curious :-)

    • I’m not diabetic either, Tula, but you can buy a glucometer right off the shelf at Walmart or your local drugstore. Try it!

  • Tula

    Thanks, Jimmy. I thought you had to have a prescription to get those kind of supplies. My mom is diabetic and is always talking about prescriptions for her test strips and such.

    I may have to check it out, since I’ve been using a few of these supposedly low-carb products and my weight loss has been slower than I expected. I’m thinking it may be a case of too good to be true. Thanks for taking the initiative to do this. It wouldn’t have occurred to me to test these products, but it’s a great idea!!

    • Nope, you can buy the testing stuff right over the counter. Lemme know how you do.

  • Robin

    I have been eating a low carb diet for almost 30 years, and now low carb paleo mix.. The processed low carb foods are what started the demise of the whole concept of low carb… Trying to make something like what made us fat to begin with… Wellness is a mindset… it is about honoring the body that has been given to us.. (yea it’s a gift) I spent the first 30 years with eating dis-orders including a trip to fat camp at the age of 10. I have dedicated my life as a Wellness Empowerment Coach, to helping people come back to the knowledge that is inside us all.. We come with instructions… We are real… Eat real food. Blessings to you Jimmmy and thank you for all that you do!

    • Robin, I’m so proud of how far you’ve come. Keep it up!

  • Re Harold Aardsma
    I like how Dr Vernon compares carb sensitivity to sun sensitivity. Some people can go out in the sun for hours and never get burned, while others spend 10 minutes in the sun and are fried.
    But you can improve your natural sunscreen potential.
    Healthy Fellow suggests some Natural Sunscreen Options here
    As the cancer causing damage from UVB is caused by iron released from blood from inflamed skin, reducing iron overload by becoming a blood donor, using vitamin D to upregulate glutathione, or increasing the natural iron chelator melatonin secretion (sleep hygiene, bright light daytime darkness at night) also help.
    Humans evolved living mainly outdoor lives with little if any clothing. Those with the palest skin survived better further from the equator because of the enhanced ability to generate vitamin D (pale skins) and increased melaton (winter nights).
    We don’t have to ignore those natural evolutionary advantages.
    We can recreate them quite easily.

    By the way early humans had high omega 3 status as all their meat was free range, grass fed, organic. Improving our current omega 3 status with more omega 3 and less omega 6 soy oil also improves our skin’s natural photoprotection.