Tracking (and Hacking) My Glucose
Over the course of about seven months Bob Troia took daily fasting glucose readings each morning. He started off just getting a normal baseline of readings and then after 30 days started taking Oxaloacetate. In this talk, he shares his experiment and what he learned.
Blood glucose monitor | Google Sheets
I want to actually take a step back with a fourth question; the why did I do it. So are people familiar with blood glucose. Does anyone track it, when they go to the doctor, does anyone have a relative who’s a diabetic, anything like that? Yeah.
So there’s some general guidelines. You’ll see like the American Diabetes Association, they’ll say you should be somewhere between 70 and 130 mg/dL. When you start getting into these organizations that are looking into longevity and aging research, they say it should be between 70 and 85.
The last time I had blood work done before this experiment I was already 85, so it was considered okay, but it wasn’t optimal or ideal; I wanted to be ideal. Also, I was one of the early 23andmee people, so I got access to some of the research and you can’t really get that anymore because of the FDA. But I was at elevated risk for Type 2 diabetes slightly. I mean the average person is 25% and I was about 36, but it does run in one side of my family. I have relatives that have had it in the past.
So I want to basically take whatever steps I can take just to make sure I control it and don’t want to get even beyond that. I want to keep it down as low as possible.
I also came across this compound called oxaloacetate. I won’t get into too many details about it, but I was at a bio-hacking conference and there was a presentation about it, and essentially what they did was they would give oxaloacetate to different animals, whether its mice and it would stretch out their lives to 40%.
Now the way it works is it’s a naturally occurring compound, you find it in lots of foods like potatoes, spinach, bananas apples. This form of it is more of a condensed version and you can just take and it’s as safe as Vitamin C. so I said, "If it works for mice, it should work for me. I’ll try it out."
So what did I do?
Over the course of about seven months I took daily fasting glucose readings each morning. I started off just getting a normal baseline of readings and then after 30 days started taking oxaloacetate.
How did I do it? Perhaps many of you have seen blood glucose monitors. You can buy them on Amazon for like $12, and you basically prick your finger, a drop of blood on a little test strip that goes in and you get a reading. It takes 15 seconds.
So each morning I just take a reading and put it into a spreadsheet. And when I first started I was going to capture a lot of different variables. I wanted to like take my waking pulse and put that with blood pressure each day, and then take glucose reading right after each meal or two hours after each meal because there are different readings like that, and I realized there’s no way I’m going to be able to maintain this. It was just too much work.
So I said I was going to simplify it and just take a fasting glucose reading each morning because that’s the most standardized way of measuring sort of where you’re at because the fasting glucose just means you haven’t eaten or drank anything in the last eight hours. You go to bed at night, you wake up in the morning you’re pretty good.
This is a baseline of my first 30 days. So you’ll see it goes anywhere from about 78-79 to about 104 over the first 30 days. So I established a good baseline; there’s a little bit of fluctuation there.
Then I started taking the oxaloacetate right at that dotted line you see there. And you’ll see it sort of drops off. You’ll see the trend lines, there’s a seven day moving average between orange there, and you’ll see it sort of drop off and kind of hover and stabilize. Green means that I took it on that day, basically twice a day; 100mg one in the morning one in the evening. The red just meant that I happened to run out of it at one point. I opened the bottle and it was gone, so I had to order it and wait for it to come back. So there was a couple of days there that weren’t accounted for.
So a success right, I looked at it and said it’s working. But I wanted to figure out more about my glucose and understanding how it relates to me. So I looked at it by day, what’s my average glucose reading for any day of the week. Ad you’ll see it’s kind of higher on Monday, goes down on Tuesday, goes up a little bit on Wednesday. Weekends tend to come back down. So I figure it must have something to do with my you know steps and walking, so this is just to show that there is a statistical significance. I went to Stat Wing, uploaded the data and it said yes.
I then took data from Moves and maybe there is a correlation between the steps I take each day and my reading. Nope. It’s said for both no significant relationships between the two. I was like how can that be because I saw on certain days certain drop offs and all that. but then I realized several days a week I play soccer. Now when I play soccer I can’t wear my band and won’t let me wear this thing when I’m out on the field. I don’t have my iPhone in my pocket to be tracking my steps. So here’s a lot of non-measured things happening there while I’m on the field.
So I went back in the spreadsheet, I noted the nights I played soccer and then I took the previous night where I played soccer and I took the following reading in the morning, and bang there’s a difference so it was statistically relevant. So that opened up my eyes a little bit, so yes intense sort of interval type exercise does have an impact on my fasting glucose the following morning, that’s what you see illustrated there you see the Thursdays and Saturdays.
I tried to then redo the experiment. I waited another four weeks with not taking oxaloacetate and tried taking it again and I failed. The trends did not mirror kind of what happened the first time and I was kind of trying to figure out why, what would happen.
Well I play soccer all year round, except this winter we’re still in it right. That’s what our field look like from November until last week basically, so I wasn’t able to play soccer. On top of that, I had been working in an office in Manhattan and commuting from Brooklyn for over a decade. I stopped going into the office in January and started working from home. So now I’m not going to the subway, I’m not walking around the office all day, I’m basically sitting down during most of my day.
So when I looked at my data off my Basis and Moves app you see this downward trend in general activity. But we just saw that it’s not statistically relevant to my glucose, but I think there’s got to be other things at play here.
What’s interesting Moves and Basis never had the same values, but because I think the phone might be down at certain times of the day, this is on all the time or there may be some outliers like charging it or the battery dies or something like that. But I think you can see that the trend lines are very similar and if you’re just saying I want to see something go down 10% or 5% it’s definitely relevant.
This is how it looks coming up to about last week now, so I hadn’t been taking the oxaloacetate now for some time and I’m planning on reintroducing it again soon. You’ll se there’s a pretty steep peak up there towards the right. Well I went back again and looked at well basically my calendar and I realized well I was travelling. I went to Jackson Hole for four days snowboarding. I was in Austin.
And when I was taking oxaloacetate I was at the fall Quantified Self conference, so it’s interesting to see the effect of you know travel or elevation or East bound fight versus West bound flight it definitely has an impact. Whereas I was taking oxaloacetate it seemed like maybe that helped stabilize it better and that’s something I want to look into.
I also looked at any relationships between drinking and my glucose and I keep track of as much as I can remember how many drinks I would have each night. So I went through and in fact some of the days where I had the lowest readings like after soccer were the nights you go out for drinks after the soccer game so it didn’t make sense.
So what did I learn? Oxaloacetate works but I think the benefits only happen when you’re doing other intense exercise so it actually helps with that. Mondays suck as we saw on the chart. Weekends are awesome. Playing soccer, those types of exercises again have an effect, alcohol does not seem to have an effect, travel seems to wreck me for some reason. And all these tracking devices we’re using a step is not always a step, and even the glucose monitors have a marginal error where it can be anywhere from 5% to like 20%. So as long as they are consistently off you can still measure trends.
And the last and this is pretty important you know, failure does not equal a fail. I think you can get a lot of valuable info and insight from that and it can help you almost change directions sometimes into what you’re looking for and looking at.
So I added a fourth question as well; what’s next? So I’m looking into ways to do more continuous monitoring so I don’t have to manually enter things in. and they make these continuous blood glucose monitors, like it has a little pin that pricks under your skin and it’s like a little band aid and you can keep it on all day. So you can keep that running and you can track on other things and see if that’s got an impact on your glucose readings.
I do think the issue with the steps and not being relevant to the glucose levels have to do with sitting versus standing; how long I’m sitting or standing. I’m sitting a lot these days and instead of walking around and getting up around the office and into meetings and all of that. So I have a other device that’s used normally to measure posture but it also measures sitting and standing time, so I’m thinking of incorporating that to see if that has an impact.
I think there’s other variable that I can be tracking as well. I eat a very low carb diet like paleo type diet, and I think messing around with different carb levels can have an impact as well.
I even think that there’s other supplement out there that I can incorporate, other natural ones like berberine, taurine etc. and even looking at things like air quality whether you’re indoors or your outside can have an impact.
Thanks and any question, feedback comments it’s much appreciated.