The Year in Personal Science: 2013

Here are some especially notable results (most notable first).

Other People’s

1. Bedtime honey greatly improved sleep. Stuart King found this after many other things had failed to help him. He got the idea from Dave Asprey, who got it from The Honey Revolution (2009) by Ron Kessenden and Mike McInnes, but Stuart made by far the best case that the effect was important and determined some boundary conditions (e.g., don’t eat a lot of sugar during the day). The improvement is so big and easy (honey tastes good) that it’s quite possible this is why evolution shaped us to enjoy sweets after dinner — to improve sleep. In the future, I believe, it will be understood that sugars (at the right times in the right amounts) are a necessary nutrient — exactly the opposite of what all nutrition experts, including paleo ones and Weston Price, say. When this stunning reversal will happen I don’t know — but no one will have foretold it more than Stuart.

2. Avoidance of glutamate cured autism. “Cure” is not too strong. Katherine Reid, who has a Ph.D. in protein chemistry, realized that many many foods, including ultrapasteurized milk, contain glutamate. When all glutamate was removed from her daughter’s diet, her daughter, who had been autistic, became completely normal. The generality of this solution is unclear but to cure even one case of autism is more than anyone else has done.

3. Xylitol eliminated lichen planus. Evelyn M. found that if she swished xylitol around in her mouth several times/day, her lichen planus and overall gum health greatly improved. This effect is well-known in Scandinavia but barely known elsewhere. American dentists don’t know it, for example. I didn’t know it.

4. Caffeine reduced reaction time. Alex Chernavsky wrote his own version of my brain tracking reaction-time test and found, in a well-designed experiment, that caffeine made him faster, at least for a few hours. What’s important here is the method, not the result: Alex’s success with a test that costs nothing and takes only a few minutes/day. His success brings closer the day that many people can do these tests. When non-experts realize they can study their own health in good experiments, the world will change.


1. Bedtime honey greatly increased my strength. (More here .) This convinced me that bedtime honey was something special, more than another way to improve sleep. (I also improved my sleep by darkening my bedroom — much less important.) Bedtime honey also seemed to improve mood and motivation. I have been trying to improve my sleep my whole adult life — this, I now see, is the secret. My discovery in the1990s that lots of standing improves my sleep led to the daily one-legged standing that made the strength increase so clear.

2. A banana a few hours before bedtime (in addition to bedtime honey) improved my sleep even more. The Honey Prescription says it’s been known for thousands of years that bedtime honey improves sleep, but no one seems to have noticed this, in spite of the importance of sleep. As Robb Wolf has said, “If someone sleeps well, you can’t kill them. If they sleep badly, you can’t keep them alive.”

3. Tofu made me stupid. One 20 g piece of fermented tofu slowed me down for two days on a reaction-time test. Other evidence has suggested that tofu is bad for the brain, but I find this the most persuasive. It addition to what it says about tofu, it suggests the power of brain tracking to reveal important things few people know. (An earlier example involved butter.) Billions of people eat tofu often.

4. Percentile feedback helped me work. The version of percentile feedback I use now (an R program that tracks my work and compares how well I am doing today to the last 100 days) is an improvement, I like to think, over an earlier version. The biggest difference is the addition of weighting: doing a hard task for one hour counts more than doing an easy task for an hour (e.g., a factor of 1.5, so that 60 minutes counts as 90 minutes). I kept track of how much I worked for a whole year, the first time I’ve managed to do that. Here’s what happened.

 photo 2013-12-30percentilefeedbackandworkdonein2013_zps4e0852df.jpeg

I think the lesson is that with the right push, I can slowly improve.

20 Replies to “The Year in Personal Science: 2013”

  1. Another upvote for xylitol from me.

    It tastes good in green tea (I use 8 – 12g per cup), and, along with your recommendation of having a couple of tablespoons of flaxseed oil daily (although not at the same time as the tea) , makes a huge improvement in how healthy and pain-free my teeth and gums feel.

  2. Consuming even small amounts of xylitol gives me diarrhea. But I add xylitol to my mouthwash.

    On another subject: Seth, what happened to your productivity around August or September? Seems like there was a sharp drop, and your recovery took four months or so.

  3. Hello. I am interested in the honey experiment. I Live in south america and here we ate more late at night I think, like at 21 or 22 hs I understand that in the US you eat earlier. At what time is your lat meal? I ask becaiuse I think this can affect what taking honey can produce.

    Is the script from both available? Do you think can be a good tool to use as a test?


    Seth: I eat dinner around 6 pm. Eat banana around 7-8 pm, have honey close to bedtime (around 10 pm). If you are interested in my brain test software, please email me. I think the cambridge brain sciences stuff takes too long and, based on my experience, the tests are poorly chosen. But I haven’t tried it.

  4. I’ve been self experimenting with a coconut oil mouth wash in the morning. It’s typically 10 to 15 minutes and it has resulted in healthier gums, less sensitivity to cold and a small improvement in whiteness.

    Also this past year I started playing around with raw apple cider vinegar before bed. I usually have major sinus issues in the winter, which leads to having a humidifier constantly running along with nasal rinses and vaporub. So far the ACV has been a huge success. 0 congestion, 0 nasal rinses, 0 vaporub applications but a couple of humidifier sleep sessions.

    In addition to using honey at bedtime I’ve also toyed with blocking out blue light by wearing orange glasses and being made fun of by my wife. I’m not sure if this has been a success. I need to separate it out from the honey and see what happens. I am confident that the belittling will continue.

  5. Months have rolled by, and still nobody has recited

    I eat my peas with honey
    I’ve done it all my life
    It makes the peas taste funny
    But it keeps them on my knife.

    Happy New Year.

  6. Oh dearieme that is funny…

    Seth, I think you’re a little harsh on the LC / Paleo people about sugar/honey, or at lease a little overly general. I believe the majority today would say the dose makes the poison.

    Seth: As Gina says, many paleo people use the term “safe starch”. Meaning that sugar is not a safe starch. The “safe starch” view opposes the idea that all starches are bad. Not one person has said that sugar is not the problem, which is exactly what I said in The Shangri-La Diet. All this stuff about how honey improves sleep (no doubt because of its sugar content) is more evidence that sugar is not the problem. Maybe they would say “the dose makes the poison” but that would be further misunderstanding. It’s the time of day that makes the poison. I haven’t heard anyone in the paleo community say that, with the notable exception of Tara Grant, who figured out that the time of day she took her Vitamin D made an enormous difference.

  7. Charlie Currie:

    The “Safe Starch” debate (moderated by Jimmy Moore!) comes to mind. Starches are controversial and sugar is the devil. But that was 2012. Maybe attitudes have changed since I quit paying attention. It’s weird that “Ancestral Health” changes so much.

  8. I’ve miraculously avoided cavities for all of my 34 years, but my dentist still complains; tells me to floss more… perhaps I’ll try swishing some xylitol for a single-blind study (I won’t tell my dentist about it).

    Seth: Floss more, why? Because of pockets? My pockets greatly improved exactly when I started drinking flaxseed oil. My plaque did not improve. Plaque: xylitol. Pockets: flaxseed oil or other omega-3 source.

  9. On the topic of sugars and sleep, I’ve recently started an experiment with taking D-Mannose to see if it has any impact on night time urination. I often get up once in the night for this, so I’m in the process of looking for ways to stop it.

    I wonder if anyone else has had any experiences with using d-mannose ?

  10. Seth –

    Just curious if you’ve tried honey instead of a banana yet for your other source of sugar 2 – 3 hours before bedtime? If so, have you noticed any difference in your sleep rating?

    OT, what source of faces are you currently using for morning faces?


    Seth: No, for the sugar 2-3 hrs before bedtime I’ve just eaten a banana. For faces nowadays I use about 6 bloggingheads shows with relatively large faces. I put them on a large monitor.

  11. “Pockets: flaxseed oil or other omega-3 source”

    it would not surprise me if there is something ‘special’ about flaxseed itself that improves gum health, & omega-3 may Or may not be a part of that.

    i cannot recall seeing/reading any studies or anecdotes that reported improvements in gum health from just taking omega-3 ie. fish oils or fish supplements…?

  12. Sadly the honey at bedtime approach did not work for me at all – I gave it up after three nights of very poor sleep, punctuated by vivid nightmares when I actually was asleep. However, I have had greatly improved sleep (& blood glucose control) from taking resistant starch as discussed at length on Richard Nikoley’s blog.

    There is at least one American dentist who knows about Xylitol – Ellie Phillips. She’s got a book, but the following page on he website gives a pretty good rundown of her thoughts on dental care:

    Seth: You might want to try a smaller dose of honey and/or banana. Too much will certainly produce bad sleep.

  13. Seth –

    If you’re still doing alternate day fasting, it seems like your calories on fasting days much be climbing with all the food that you need to eat for your health (e.g., butter, flax, banana, honey, etc.). I believe you’d said in the past you consume 700 – 800 calories on fasting days. Adding a banana and 1 TBS of honey adds around 160 – 180 calories. How is that impacting your fasting blood sugar readings and other health measures?

    Thanks for patiently answering all my questions. Your writing has dramatically improved my health in a number of ways.

    Seth: The banana and 1 T honey seem to have improved my fasting blood sugar readings but it is a complex question because obviously blood sugar will be elevated for hours after eating honey. So I am not sure. I am sure however that the better sleep has improved my health. It is obvious: feel better, stronger, more energy, more motivation.

  14. Ozquoll, try taking the honey on its own without adding another food (resistant starch) simultaneously as I’ve found that certain foods can hinder the effect of honey. Also try switching to a different honey and have a break from eating between your last meal/desert and taking the honey (maybe 2 hours or more).

  15. Here is another experimental study of some merit that can easily be replicated. Researchers have found that drinking mineral water rich in silica can remove aluminum from the body and in some cases, actually reverse symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. The waters richest in silica are the Volvic and Fiji brands:

    Seth: Fascinating.

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