Tag Archives: bob troia

Diabetes, Metabolism, and the Quantified Self


This is a visualization of one month of my blood sugar readings from October 2012. I see that my control was generally good, with high blood sugars happening most often around midnight (at the top of the circle). -Doug Kanter

Richard Bernstein, an engineer with diabetes, pioneered home blood glucose monitoring. What he learned about himself contradicted the medical doctrine of his day, but Bernstein went on to become an MD himself, and established a thriving practice completely devoted to helping others with diabetes. We think of Dr. Bernstein as a hero because he used self-measurement to support his own learning, and shared what he learned for general benefit.

Tracking personal metabolism is a necessity for diabetics, and it is also something that will become increasingly common for many people who want to understand and improve their metabolism. Diabetics are also leading the fight for personal access to personal data, and we’re looking forward to meeting inspiring activists and toolmakers today at the DiabetesMine D-Data Exchange meeting in San Francisco. In honor of this meeting, we’ve put together an anthology of sort of QS Show&Tell talks about diabetes and metabolism data.

Jana Beck
Jana is a Type 1 diabetic and data visualization practitioner who has been working on creating new techniques for understanding that data from her Dexcom continuous blood glucose monitor. In this talk, she described some of her newest techniques and her ongoing work with Tidepool.org. You can also view her original QS show&tell talk here.

Doug Kanter
Doug has been featured here on the QS website many times. We first learned about Doug through his amazing visualizations of his own data (like the image above). At the 2013 QS Global Conference, Doug shared what he learned from tracking his diabetes, diet, activity, and other personal data and his ongoing work with the Databetes project.

We spoke with Doug about his experience with tracking, visualizing and understanding his diabetes data. You can listen to that below.

James Stout
James is a graduate student, professional cyclist, and a Type 1 diabetic. In this talk at the QS San Diego meetup group he talked a bit about how he manages his diabetes along with his near super human exercise schedule and how he uses his experience to inspire others. (Check out this great article he wrote for Ride Magazine.)

Brooks Kincaid
Brooks, a Type 1 diabetic, was tracking his blood glucose manually for years before switching to a continuous blood glucose meter. In this talk he describes what he’s learned from his data and why he prefers a modal day view.

Bob Troia
Bob tracked his fasting blood glucose, diet, and activity to find out what could help him lower his risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Vivienne Ming
Vivienne’s son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes two years ago and she’s applied her scientific and data analysis background to understand her son’s life.

Seth Roberts
Seth has a long history of tracking and experimenting with his metabolic data. In one of his last QS talks, he spoke about how alternate day fasting was impacting his blood sugar.

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Bob Troia: Understanding My Blood Glucose

Bob Troia was interested in his blood glucose. While he’s not a diabetic and he’s not out of range, he wanted to see if he could lower his fasting glucose levels. He started a long-term tracking experiment where he tested his blood glucose and began to explore the effects of supplementation and lifestyle factors. In this talk, presented at our 2014 Quantified Self Europe Conference, Bob talks about his experiment and what he learned from analyzing his data. Make sure to read his take on what he did, how he did it, and what he learned below.

You can also view the slides here [pdf].

We also asked Bob to answer the three prime questions:
What did you do?
After learning via my 23andMe results that I had an elevated risk for Type 2 diabetes (and having an interest in the longevity benefits of maintaining low blood glucose levels), I began tracking my daily fasting glucose and the effects that diet, exercise, supplements, and stress have on glucose levels so I could take whatever steps I needed to proactively understand, control, and optimize it.

How did you do it?
Over the course of 7 months, each morning I would take a fasting glucose reading using a handheld glucose meter. After establishing a 30-day baseline of daily fasting glucose readings, I began to take supplement called oxaloacetate. It’s been shown to lower and more tightly regulate fasting glucose by mimicking the effects of caloric restriction. It’s a naturally occurring compound found in lots of foods, such as spinach, potatoes, or apples, and it’s as safe as Vitamin C. After several weeks, there was a noticeable improvement in my average values! I then started looking at day-of-week trends in addition to how exercise (in my case, playing soccer) and other things such as travel affected my glucose.

What did you learn?
I learned that I could indeed improve and better stabilize my fasting glucose levels using oxaloacetate – but only in conjunction with intense, interval-type exercise like soccer. My average fasting glucose levels are highest on Mondays (stress of a new work week) and lowest on the weekends. Long airplane travel can adversely effect my glucose levels for several days. Surprisingly, alcohol consumption did not have an effect.

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Conference Preview: Bob Troia on Tracking Blood Glucose

We’ve learned a lot from the diabetics in our community, such as Jana Beck’s lessons from 100,000+ blood glucose readings, and Doug Kanter’s narrative visualizations of a year of his diabetes data. At the upcoming QS Europe Conference on May 10th and 11th in Amsterdam, we’re going to hear the interesting story of a non-diabetic who began tracking his fasting glucose to improve his health.

With the US Centers for Disease Control estimating that over a third of the US population shows signs of diabetes or pre-diabetes, it’s not surprising that the techniques of learning from blood glucose measurements are spreading more widely. After learning from his 23andMe profile that he had an elevated risk for developing Type 2 Diabetes, Bob Troia began tracking his fasting glucose daily while also tracking exercise, diet, and  experimenting with supplements. He’s been reporting the results on his blog, Quantified Bob. If you’re curious about how to apply these techniques in our own life, join as at the upcoming meeting, or keep an eye out for the video of Bob’s talk at the New York Quantified Self show&tell.

The 2014 Quantified Self Europe Conference is just a few weeks away. Please join us!

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