Cheap Accurate Home HbA1c Test

Walmart sells a kit for home measurement of HbA1c (brand name ReliOn) that costs $9 and provides results by email. It’s sold only at Walmart. I have been paying $30 for the same measurement at a test center (about 30 minutes away). If you use insurance, copay might be $15. Without insurance, a doctor’s office test might cost $90. The reviews suggest the test has roughly the same variability and average as a lab test. A few people had trouble getting enough blood on the dots but at $9 there is plenty of room for repeat testing.

My blood sugar improved when I started to walk an hour per day and when I started intermittent fasting (eating about half as much as usual every other day). I noticed the effects with blood sugar tests but frequent HbA1c tests (say, once/week) would have been much better.

Diabetes has become an enormous problem in China, where 10% of adults have Type 2 diabetes, roughly the same as in America. Americans often think obesity causes diabetes but this doesn’t explain why smoking — which makes people thinner — is associated with diabetes. People get diabetes who don’t smoke and aren’t fat. Whether anyone who walks an hour/day gets diabetes is less clear.

Thanks to Shant Mesrobian.

Assorted Links

  • fruit and diabetes. Blueberries good, cantaloupe bad.
  • R most popular language for “analytics/data mining/data science work” among survey respondents. I wish I could describe the respondents, but I can only say they are people who might call what they do “data mining” or “data science”. In addition, the use of R is growing. Most psychology departments teach SPSS or Matlab.
  • Thomas Frank criticizes universities, undergraduate education in particular. “An educational publisher wrote to me [asking] to reprint an essay of mine [that is freely available]. . . . The low, low price that students were to pay for this textbook: $75.95.”

Organic Pollutants Associated With Diabetes

Everyone knows that diabetes is associated with obesity, probably because obesity causes diabetes. However, thin people also become diabetic. A clue to why is provided by the correlation between diabetes and what are called “persistent organic pollutants” (POPs). POPs are man-made organic compounds, usually pesticides, such as polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and polychlorinated dibenzofurans.

A 2006 study using NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999–2002) data found very strong associations between levels of these chemicals and diabetes. For example, a risk ratio of 30. These associations persisted even when the data was stratified in all sorts of ways. The scariest result came from people who had BMI < 25. Looking only at such people, those above the 90th percentile for amount of POPs had 16 times the risk of diabetes as those below the 25th percentile. Here is something associated with thin people getting diabetes.

Does the association exist because POPs cause diabetes? You might argue that POP exposure is correlated with poverty (poor people are more exposed), poor people exercise less than rich people, and lack of exercise causes diabetes. However, Agent Orange exposure among soldiers is associated with diabetes. That is unlikely to be due to confounding with poverty or lack of exercise.

Everyone has these chemicals in their body, but almost no one knows how much. I don’t know if I’m in the 10th percentile or the 90th percentile. If I’m in the 90th percentile, what can I do about it? A good place for self-measurement and tracking.

Assorted Links

  • Walking after a meal improves blood sugar
  • A look at QSers. “Some of the most societally redefining concepts now emerge from edge-thinkers, who are increasingly visible, organized, and effective, in part due to the Web. Even so, whenever I spoke to them or read their blogs, at some point I always wondered, why?”
  • Steve McIntyre vindicated. RealClimate says: “That is the most disquieting legacy of Steve McIntyre and ClimateAudit [McIntyre’s blog]. The real Yamal deception is their attempt to damage public confidence in science by making speculative and scandalous claims about the actions and motivations of scientists while cloaking them in a pretense of advancing scientific knowledge.” A comment on ClimateAudit: “It’s quite obvious that in 2009 and again in 2011, you shamelessly plagiarised Briffa 2013.”

Thanks to Jazi Zilber and Phil Alexander.

Does Alternate-Day Fasting Lower HbA1c?

2013-07-01 HbA1c versus date (after starting alternate day fasting)

This graph shows my HbA1c values in recent years. After a lot of variation, they settled down to 5.8, which was the measurement a month ago. 5.8 isn’t terrible — below 6.0 is sometimes called “okay”) — but there is room for improvement. In a large 2010 study, average HbA1c was 5.5. The study suggested that a HbA1c of about 5.0 was ideal.

Three weeks ago I started alternate-day fasting (= eating much less than usual every other day) for entirely different reasons.  Continue reading “Does Alternate-Day Fasting Lower HbA1c?”

Alternate-Day Fasting Improved My Fasting Blood Sugar

A few days ago, I gave a talk at a Quantified Self Meetup in San Francisco titled “Why is my blood sugar high?” (PowerPoint here and here). My main point was that alternate-day fasting (eating much less than usual every other day) quickly brought my fasting blood sugar level from the mid-90s to the low 80s, which is where I wanted it. I was unsure how to do this and had tried several things that hadn’t worked.

Not in the talk is an explanation of my results in terms of setpoint (blood sugar setpoint, not body fat setpoint). Your body tries to maintain a certain blood sugar level — that’s obvious. Not obvious at all is what controls the setpoint. This question is usually ignored — for example, in Wikipedia’s blood sugar regulation entry. Maybe Type 2 diabetes occurs because the blood sugar setpoint is too high. If we can find out what environmental events control the setpoint, we will be in a much better position to prevent and reverse Type 2 diabetes (as with obesity).

A few years ago, I discovered that walking an hour per day improved my fasting blood sugar. Does walking lower the setpoint? I didn’t ask this question, a curious omission from the author of The Shangri-La Diet. If walking lowered the setpoint, walking every other day might have the same effect as walking every day.

I was pushed toward this line of thought because alternate-day fasting seems to lower the blood-sugar setpoint. After I started alternate-day fasting, it took about three days for my fasting blood sugar to reach a new lower level. After that, it was low every day, not just after fast days. My experience suggests that the blood-sugar setpoint depends on what your blood sugar is. When your blood sugar is high, the setpoint becomes higher; when your blood sugar is low, the setpoint becomes lower. Tim Lundeen had told me something similar to this.

If you tried to lower your fasting blood sugar and succeeded, I hope you will say in the comments how you did this. I tried three things that didn’t work: darker bedroom, Vitamin B supplement, and cinnamon. Eating low carb raises fasting blood sugar, according to Paul Jaminet.

Assorted Links

Thanks to Dave Lull and Alex Chernavsky.