Tag Archives: Bitter Melon

Gwern’s Excellent Review And QSEU15

This week I was in Amsterdam at the European Quantified Self conference and it was an inspiring event. I have huge appreciation for Gary, Ernesto, Steven, Marcia and Kate for putting on a fantastic program. I always come away from theses events inspired to up my QS game.

My Show & Tell on HRV While Transition To Ketosis
My Show & Tell on HRV While Transitioning To Ketosis

Even before the conference kicked off, my post last week on the poor results from Bitter Melon really got everyone’s collective juices flowing. Some great comments and suggestions, with Gwern Branwen going above and beyond by reviewing my data and taking it through advanced mathematics using R. His work is awesome and I plan to conduct a full followup.

At the conference I had a chance to collaborate with Marco Altini in presenting both a breakout and a how-to session. I have been a fan of Marco’s apps for a long time and got a chance to meet him in person last year. This chance to collaborate was a real pleasure and I think the sessions went well.

I also met Dr. James Heathers (here he is on the Ben Greenfield podcast), an Australian skull ring wearing rock and roll scientist. He gave a great talk on the science of Heart Rate Variability (HRV) that included tips like voiding your bladder before taking a reading and how drinking water can significantly increase your HRV. I also had the pleasure of joining him for dinner and enjoyed a broad-ranging discussion that included his stories of research, observations on Quantified Self and a thorough evisceration of Sam Harris.  Good time.

At the conference itself there were thirty-seven talks and a much-improved conference format allowed me to catch them all. Wearables and the obsession with what technology can do for us seemed much muted in comparison with last year’s conference.

In the “all is connected” category, two presentations stood out for me. Justin Timmer gave a fascinating view of his tracking of 40 different variables over the course of one year. The big takeaway was that all his variables were connected and that each seemed to influence every other. Ahnjili Zhuparris gave a view on six months of her shopping, Facebook language use, & music listening behaviors during different phases of her menstrual cycle. A fascinating look at how much our underlying systems connect and effect the whole of us.

In the “surprising outcomes” category Robby MacDonnel presented data on how distracted he was while driving. Despite having judgments about the distracted driving of others, he found himself on his phone while driving over 20% of the time. It was a great talk. Rocio Chongtay was able to show how different music changed outcomes for her in as diverse a set of activities as programming and accuracy while firing a bow and arrow.

A useful session for me was on reading speed and neuro-technology. Kyrill Potapov’s talk titled “Finding My Optimum Reading Speed” outlined the use of Spritz reading technology and how with the help of his students he was able to test increases in reading speed without a reduction in comprehension. Definitely a technology I am going to play with.

A breakout session on neuro-technology had a lot of skepticism in it regarding any of the existing technologies, and TDCS was particularly viewed with some hesitation. I’ve started a TDCS experiment though I am rethinking it now. There were some strong opinions on binaural beats and I’ll withhold what I heard until I publish my A/B test on the effectiveness of Brain.fm’s meditation beat on my Muse calm scores.

So it was with Gwern’s Excellent Review and QSEU15. An action packed quantified self week.

 

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Disappointing Outcome With Bitter Melon Protocol

This is an N of 1 study on a specific supplement that reportedly has the outcome of lowered blood glucose levels. In June of 2015 I went on a ketogenic diet. I was enjoying the benefits of weight loss and increased alertness, but I noticed my blood glucose was creeping up in the daily readings. I wanted to see if I could turn that around and bring the readings lower.

I heard on the Ben Greenfield Fitness podcast that Bitter Melon lowers blood glucose levels. I purchased the supplement and decided to test it. The results were surprising, but not in a fun way.

suprised scientist

My Question

Is Bitter Melon effective for in lowering my blood glucose and should I continue to take it?

What I Did

I took Bitter Melon on a randomized schedule for 20 days, then took it every day for another 14 days. As I did so, I recorded my glucose levels after waking, at 10am, and 3pm each day.

How I Did It

I used a Google Spreadsheet to generate a random “one” or “zero” for each day in the 20 day randomized period. This gave me instructions on whether or not to take the Bitter Melon. After 20 days, I took it every day for 13 days.

The daily dose was two tablets, which is 900mg of the supplement. I excluded readings on days where food intake was outside of a normal range, or something extraordinary was happening like a flight or no sleep.

At the end of the period, I looked at the difference on the randomized days using a TTest. I also looked at the effect on my glucose for the period where I was taking the supplement every day.

What I Learned

I had a disappointing outcome with Bitter Melon protocol. There was no change in the continued climb in my blood glucose levels. This graph shows the period from the beginning of the diet to the end of the Bitter Melon test:

Morning Reads

The period of taking Bitter Melon was from 8/9/2015 onward, so for me it appeared to be ineffective in arresting the upward movement of the glucose levels.

The first measure I looked at was the morning readings based on having taken the supplement the day prior. There was no effect: p=.84. Recall that to have demonstrated a significant difference in the two data sets we are looking  for p<.05.

The second measure was a 10am reading after having taken the pills at around 7am. Doing the TTest comparing the days where I had taken the supplement vs. not there was no effect: p=.25.

The final measure I compared was a measure at 3PM, comparing the days where I had ingested Bitter Melon vs. not. The test showed a significant difference (P=.057), but the result was reversed from what I would expect. The average glucose reading on the days I took Bitter Melon was higher than days I did not take the pills. That is an odd outcome.

Finally, looking at the effect of taking the supplement daily there was no significant change in the morning glucose level taking an intermittent dose versus a daily dose (p=.17).

image (7)

As a result of this analysis I will no longer take Bitter Melon and save myself the money. And the data opens up another line of research. Something is driving my glucose levels upward. I am tracking my food intake and my carbohydrates are very low. I am not eating any processed foods. The next step is to eliminate all supplements and see if the source is there as well as up my fiber levels. One thing is for sure. A “one size fits all” ketogenic diet ripped straight from the podcasts is not the cure all for my physiology. Nor is it probably for yours either.