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I’ve now reached the seven-year point on my ultra-low vitamin A diet experiment. My overall health has remained good this year. As like with last year’s update, I’d say I’ve only seen some small incremental improvements this year. I feel that my skin texture in some areas has slightly improved, and that I have noticeably less gray hair on my chest. But I do still have two age spots on my face that seemed to have only faded a bit more in colour this past year. I think these two age spots are ever-so-slowly improving but I have no idea if they will ever fully recover. It could be that the skin has been permanently damaged in these areas.

Thus, as expected, this year I don’t have any big health improvements to report on. However, what’s surprising, even after  years of following my extremely low vA diet, there is still some progress being made. It’s quite clear to me now that making a full and complete recovery from vA toxicity is a very long and slow process.

Diet

I’ve not changed my diet much over the last year. I’m still sticking to what I consider to be my primary “safe” foods. That’s rice, black beans, and beef / bison.

However, as I did last year, for a few months this year I swapped out the rice and replaced it with a simple white bread. The primary reason I made that change was out of the concern of getting too much arsenic from the rice. However, I did not have any lab work, or noticeable health reasons, to support that concern.  I did email the rice producer of the brand that I use regularly asking them about the arsenic content of their product. They once again claimed that their products have no arsenic. Of course, I don’t really believe that, and they did not back up their claims with lab reports.  Anyhow, after three months of eating the white bread, I decided to change back to mostly using white and brown rice again as a source of carbs. There’s no big reason that I changed back, other than I find the rice slightly easier to digest.

I’m still getting quite a lot of emails from people asking about my personal diet. I don’t think people should try to pattern their own diets based on what I do. I really think people need to find what works best for themselves. Moreover, I want to be clear that I’m not continuing to follow my extreme (and admittedly somewhat crazy) diet for health reasons. I’m sticking to it because I’m trying to prove a scientific point. Therefore, I don’t think other people need, or should try, to mimic my ultra-low vA consumption. Rather, I think that just being on a low vA diet is probably wiser, safer, and more sustainable.

Anyways, for those who are interested, my current diet is composed of:

  • White / Brown rice – usually white rice for 2-3 days, and then followed by a day with brown rice
  • Black Beans – organic canned
  • Beef / Bison – usually ground – about 75% of the time I go with Bison
  • Salt & occasionally some onion powder
  • Black Coffee

My daily amounts are usually:

  • Rice ~ ¾ cup (measured dry)
  • Black Beans ~ 250- 350 ml ~ ¾ of a can
  • Beef / Bisson ~ 300 – 400 grams

I generally eat two meals per day and don’t snack much. But if I do snack it’s usually toasted white bread with honey.

I very rarely take supplements. However, I did try a thiamine supplement for several months this year. I had no detectable positive or negative response from taking it and have therefore stopped it.

Daily Calorie Consumption

I’ve been tracking my daily food consumption a bit more closely this year using a mobile app (MyNetDiary).

My daily food intake is usually about 1,500 calories. Some days it’s a bit more, some days it’s a bit less. Anyways, that’s probably about ½ of the daily calories that I was consuming before starting my low vA diet. Although 1,500 calories per day appears to be too low for an adult man, I find it perfectly adequate. Actually, I think that 1,500 calories per day is still a bit too much for me now.

As I have for the last 4-5 years, I’ve maintained a steady weight again this year. I’m holding at about 160-163 lbs (73 kgs).  However, I do feel that I am still about 5 lbs (2kgs) overweight. For some reason, that last 5 lbs is just very stubborn and wants to hang around. But I’m not concerned enough about it to try harder to lose it either.

Some people might assume that the reduced need for calories is due to my older age. However, I don’t think so. That’s because I know a young man who’s also been on a low vitamin A diet for the last two years and he’s reported a very similar finding. His daily calorie intake is about 1/3 to ½ of what it was before he started with the diet.

I think the explanation for needing fewer calories can be at least partially explained by:

  1. Overall metabolism is just running more efficiently.
  2. A reduced rate of cellular turnover.
  3. A significant reduction in background inflammation. I’ve read that about 25% of our daily calories is used just to fuel our immune system. Now with a low vA status, and my body no longer constantly auto-immuning in a futile struggle to fight off a phantom pathogen I need 20% or so fewer daily calories.

Whatever the mechanism is, I think this reduced need for daily calories is quite intriguing.

I get a weekly summary report from my food diary tracking app. Here are some noteworthy warnings I get each week.

  • Your average daily 115 mg of calcium does not reach 1000 mg recommended for you. Rich sources include dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese), calcium-fortified soy milk and orange juice, sardines and salmon with bones. The calcium in dark green leafy vegetables is less bioavailable since it binds with plant acids.
  • Your average daily 4 IU of vitamin A does not reach 3000 IU recommended for you. Animal sources: liver, milk, cheese, and eggs. Plant sources (in the form of beta-carotene): orange colored fruits and vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, cantaloupe, and pumpkin) and dark green leafy vegetables (e.g. spinach and kale).
  • Your average daily 0 mg of vitamin C does not reach 90 mg recommended for you. Rich sources: most fruits and vegetables, but especially citrus, strawberries, cantaloupe, spinach, broccoli, and peppers.

Calcium warning:

Your average daily 115 mg of calcium does not reach 1000 mg recommended for you.

It looks like my daily calcium intake is about 1/10th of the RDA.  I knew that I was low on calcium intake, but not that low. I just assumed that the beans and water I consume would somehow provide enough calcium.

But seeing this warning show up in the weekly report I was getting a bit concerned about what the long-term impact of following my diet for the last 7 years has had on my bones.  Thus, I recently had a bone density scan (DEXA) performed.  The scan results were surprisingly very good. My bone density is perfectly normal for my age, and I was told that I have absolutely nothing to worry about. I think this is another big win for a low vA diet. Apparently, that recommended 1000 mg / day is not needed if vA is not silently picking away at our bones. And, we probably don’t want a bunch of needless extra calcium in our diet that might otherwise contribute to clogging our arteries etc.

Although seeing that my current bone density was normal for my age was reassuring, I’m not exactly thrilled with that result either. I don’t feel that having just normal bone density for my age is ideal. I’d rather it be better than normal. Unfortunately, I have no reference data as to where I started from regarding bone density. I don’t know if it’s gotten better or if it’s gotten worse in the last 7 years.  So, to be on the safe side I’ll probably start adding some mineral water to my diet this coming year. I’ll re-test my bone density again in 5 years.

Vitamin A warning:

Your average daily 4 IU of vitamin A does not reach 3000 IU

I’m not sure if that 4 IU the app is reporting is calculated as being sourced from the beans or from the beef / bison. Naturally, I wish it was closer to 0 IU /day, but I’m still okay with it. Oh, I know there will be a few naysayers who’ll claim that it’s those 4 IU that’s keeping me from going blind and not having all of my epithelial / endothelial tissues and their corresponding organs disintegrate.  But that’s one of the reasons I make regular blood donations. I think the blood donations easily offset the trivial 4 IU I still might get from food.

Vitamin C warning:

Your average daily 0 mg of vitamin C does not reach 90 mg recommended for you. 

I knew that my vitamin C intake was very low, but kind of like with calcium, I was assuming it would somehow be OK. Based on the early toxicity studies that I had read I was also pretty sure that scurvy was misdiagnosed vA toxicity. But there’s no question that 0 mg of vitamin C/day is awfully low.

Still, I’m not concerned enough about it, and I don’t plan to supplement with vitamin C.

Anyways, after ~5 years with a very low vitamin C intake I have no sign of scurvy. It’s the opposite. My teeth and gums are feeling really strong and solid; like never better. I think this is another win for a low vA diet.  However, I do still think vitamin C is probably important in the early stages of taking on a low vA diet.

Here’s an interesting little ditty to consider:

A series of studies using guinea pigs with chronic latent vitamin C deficiency has provided clear evidence that bile acid synthesis is reduced in this condition.

Turley SD, West CE, Horton BJ. The role of ascorbic acid in the regulation of cholesterol metabolism and in the pathogenesis of artherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis. 1976 Jul-Aug;24(1-2):1-18. doi: 10.1016/0021-9150(76)90060-5. PMID: 942515.

Could it be that without adequate vitamin C we have a much harder time in clearing vitamin A via bile?  I don’t know, but maybe that’s the real mechanism of action of how vitamin C appears to be able to prevent scurvy?

Sleep quality and Dreaming

One of the health changes that I had reported on in my first eBook was the return of dreaming at night. I was just trying to be complete and reported on it thinking it was probably just a weird personal little quirk. I now think this is an important finding as a number of other people are reporting the same effect. And thus, it’s not just a personal quirk.

I’ve attributed the return of nighttime dreaming to a likely drop in cortisol levels (but I have no personal lab tests to back up that theory).  Regardless, for the last 5-6 years of my low vA diet I was getting a pretty good sleep. However, what’s surprised me is that it has kind of kicked into high gear this last year.  The intensity and vividness of my dreams is often rather amazing.

Also, now when I go to bed I almost always fall asleep within just a few minutes of putting my head down on the pillow. I can also nap almost on demand, being tired or not, and almost at any time of the day.  I’m kind of like a cat or dog in this regard where it appears these animals can nap anytime they want during the day.

The bigger change that I’ve noticed is that I now begin to dream in what seems to be only minutes after going to sleep. It also appears that I dream almost all night long. The same thing happens if I take even a one-hour long nap. I nearly immediately start dreaming. It’s quite remarkable. But like with so many other things on this diet, the intensity of the dreaming changes from month-to-month.  Nevertheless, compared to where I started from seven years ago, my sleep quality has vastly improved. How can that not be a good thing? Clearly, vitamin A toxicity can profoundly and negatively affect our cognitive wellbeing.

Cardiovascular Health

I feel that my cardiovascular health is about the same as it was last year. The numbers are:

mmol/Lmg/dL
CHOLESTEROL3.08119.1
HDL CHOLESTEROL1.5861.1
LDL CHOLESTEROL1.3150.7
TRIGLYCERIDES0.4237.2
CHOLESTEROL RATIO1.95

Historical the numbers looks like this:

My resting blood pressure is usually around 110/60 and my resting heart rate is about 50-55 BPM.  My HbA1C has remained at 5.1% this year.

Other Labs

I was planning on getting more lab work done this year for this 7-year update report. I would have liked to have had a liver enzyme panel and a cortisol level test done.  However, these are not discretionary labs that my GP would authorize. Last year I used an on-line lab service called LetsGetChecked.com.  I was quite impressed with their service last year and was planning on using them again this year for these additional labs. Unfortunately, they have stopped providing their services in Canada.

Vision and Eye Health

I had another comprehensive eye exam performed a few weeks ago. The results were that my eye health and vision remain excellent. There’s no sign of any eye disease. There’s no glaucoma, no retinopathy, no cataract, no macular degeneration, etc. The pressure in the eye is again a low normal (no inflammation).  My vision is also very good. It’s not quite perfect-perfect, but I still don’t need reading nor driving glasses. At the end of the exam, the eye doc said: “Whatever it is that you’re doing with your lifestyle and diet, keep doing it because your eyes are in great shape”.  Naturally, I did not mention my low vA diet.  

However, like what happened a few years ago, I did go through another period of poor night vision for several months this year. 

Blood Donations

I continue to make regular blood donations. I was having some quirky issues with the plasma donations (my blood was sometimes clogging up the machine), so I’ve gone back to just making regular whole blood donations.

Exercise and Fitness

I’ve been far less physically active this year than compared to last. The primary reason is my new work-from-home lifestyle does not require me to make the daily bike commute. The other reason is that all our gyms and other fitness facilities have been shut down for most of the year.

Conclusions

As with last year’s update, the takeaway from this year’s is that it’s clearly more evidence that so-called “vitamin A” is not a vitamin at all.  I mean seriously, after seven years of having virtually no vA in my diet, and having no adverse effects, and my health has only gotten vastly better, how can anyone still legitimately claim it to be a “vitamin” needed by humans?  I firmly believe that vitamin A is nothing more than a toxin and we are therefore hugely better off without it.  I’ll continue with my ultra-low vA diet for at least the next three years.

Other thoughts – the current viral issue

I’ve spent a lot of time this year learning about so-called viruses. I say so-called, because I quickly concluded that they are not even really “viruses” at all. At least not in the sense of the accepted definition of that term.  I see the science of virology as being as dodgy and on par with that of so-called vitamin A science. Vitamin A is not a “vitamin” and “viruses” are not really viruses. I’ll try to write more about this topic in the new year.