Daily Lipids Testing
Aaron Rowe is a biochemist and researcher. When he realized that his lifestyle was leading him towards an unhealthy future, he designed and tested an intervention to lower his cholesterol through nutritional supplements. In this talk, Aaron describes his testing methods and his results from testing for 12 consecutive days, 12 hours before eating. He also explains what he learned about himself and the various supplements.
I like to joke that there are too many Fitbit Jawbone type products that monitor physical activity for Lou Lou Lemon wearing Audi driving types, and there are not enough products for really sick people, and that’s probably because I’m headed towards being really sick myself.
I sit in front of the computer all day. I’m a vegetarian but I have a really high carbohydrate diet. Last time I went to the doctor about four years ago my triglycerides were 350mg/dl. I just changed jobs and my awesome new boss got me this book, written by a very good science journalist. The main takeaway from the book is the food pyramid that was introduced decades ago is a horrible political tool, and we shouldn’t eat very many carbohydrates because it drives our cholesterol up.
In the course of my work, I’ve got to test just about every personal cholesterol meter under the sun including, and I’ve had a look at this dandy thing that measures blood pressure and cholesterol in one gizmo. I’ve looked at the literature and figured out which cholesterol meters are the best when measured by third party people.
I decided to pick one and measure my own v every morning, so I fasted, and my triglycerides were a mess, 350 really high triglycerides, really low HLD, really low good cholesterol. So I’m a disaster, I’m headed towards a heart attack, and I decided to design a program for myself where every day for 12 days I would test my cholesterol every morning before eating and I would not eat for 12 hours before the test. And I decided I would design an intervention for myself, and I knew that there are dietary supplements that had the same chemical composition as some on the market pharmaceuticals.
So I went to the local dietary supplement store and I looked for a pure EPA dietary supplement which mirrors which you would find in GlaxoSmithKline Lovaza, or from a newer company called Amerin that make this Vascepa.
So this is fish oil that’s been highly purified and I told myself I’ll measure my cholesterol for eight days without taking this then I’ll start taking it. so I tried every Lancet under the sun to find my favorite Lancet and then I would prick my finger. Then after you prick your finger you need to wipe away the first drop of blood. The first drop of blood there’ll be a lot of gunk from the area where the puncture site was, the clotting cascade starts immediately. You have a lot of hemolysis. So that first drop of blood will throw off your measurements so you have to get rid of it.
And then for those of you who like farming you have to milk your finger like the teat of a cow because for cholesterol meters you need a very large drop of blood. Today’s glucose meters you can have about 0.7 Microliters of blood and it’s enough. But with the optical cholesterol meters you need a ladybug size drop of blood.
So these are my results and when you plot them like this it doesn’t look like much happened, but on the eighth day here I started taking these pure EPA dietary supplements which I was buying from Rainbow Grocery.
And if you zoom in just on my good cholesterol you can see that just one day I started taking this supplements y HDL shot up and stabilized about 25% higher than it was before. I checked again last Tuesday and my HDL is at the same level that it was when it first shot up. So it’s been holding just kind of the lower end of the good range.
The triglycerides move all over the place, and this is a really really big problem because cholesterol meter tend to calculate your bad cholesterol using your triglycerides and they have an inverse relationship. And so this relationship of what you can see here is that when my triglycerides are really high it creates the illusion that my bad cholesterol is low. So the last time I did get my blood analyzed by my doctor this effect came into play. And what this effect is that for people that have really really high triglycerides their bad cholesterol appears to be low.
And so leading academic doctors have decided that this equation should be phased out but so far it’s still in play. I talked to some doctors about the experiment that I was doing. Most of them see that there was no reason to frequently measure your cholesterol. Oddly enough a lot of them didn’t know that there was non-prescription Omega 3 drugs on the market .
Very interesting, I had some of my colleagues do the same experiment that I did. They would spend five days not taking Omega 3 then they would start taking them. they didn’t see any change in their good cholesterol, so it didn’t move the needle for them. Possibly because I’m a vegetarian and I don’t eat fish, they do eat fish. They have a lot of dietary sources of Omega 3. I don’t have hardly any. I pretty much live on a pasta and tomato sauce diet.
So there’s an opportunity here. Know that we know we have these cholesterol meters that we can purchase, we can second guess pharmaceutical companies, we can try any hypothesis we have about what’s on the shelf at the dietary supplement store. There’s a world of possibilities for toying with our own cholesterol levels and measuring the response that our body has to supplement or curious about or a drug our doctor told us to take.
And I’m very lucky to be part of a team at Integrated Plasmonics that’s working on the next generation of these tools. We’re trying to make the world’s best blood analyzer that will someday measure hundreds of things in a single drop of blood using a modified camera sensor.
So this is where I am today. My triglycerides are down 68%. This has created an illusion because of the Friedwald equation that my bad cholesterol has gone up. This is a plot showing just how much my triglycerides have decreased. It’s a little bit frustrating to me that I didn’t measure in this period. I would love to know how much noise there was in this period. Probably I’m going to switch to a different supplement just for kicks after a washout period and I’ll take a look. At that point I’ll probably just measure every day.
So with this final bit of data what did I learn? I think the main takeaway right now consumers have the power to figure out what works for them. if I exercise a lot more will my HDL go up. If I start taking red yeast rice, which is a natural statin compound what will happen.
I want to point out that I’m not a plagiarist but I’m not the first to do this. In 1939 a paper was published in which a scholar measured his cholesterol every day, so I’m actually ver very far behind the curve as is Gary, sorry Gary.
I’m really friendly I don’t bite, so if anybody has any questions just email email@example.com or I’m on Twitter as soychemist because I’m a vegetarian and I’m a chemist.