5 Months of full time DIY Soylent - blood test results


#1

Hello everyone,

I’ve been on DIY Soylent for 5 months now, and just got most of my blood results. I’ll share them here, along with some commentary. The good news is, they’re interesting, so we’ll have something to talk about :slight_smile:

For most of those 5 months, I’ve used the following recipe: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Aginfn56EnJmdEhZbF9fd1ZtaC12QXgzVm8wbTlYenc&usp=sharing

Here are the blood test results: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bwinfn56EnJmLTlTdEdoVWFmQ1U/edit?usp=sharing

The results are in Dutch, with European measurements. The units may differ from US blood tests.

So a few things are listed as out of their proper range:
Magnesium and Vitamin B6 are too high.
Total Cholesterol, Iron and Vitamin D are too low.

Iron, Calcium and Hemoglobin

So, let’s look at iron first. I have always had low iron, usually at the very low end of the normal range. This time however, it dipped slightly lower still. In addition, my calcium has risen as compared to 4 months ago, ending up at the high end of normal. This tells me that I am consuming too much calcium, and that this is inhibiting the uptake of iron. This also matches the Zinc and Copper concentration, both of which are at the low end of normal even though my intake of them has been >300% RDA. (I don’t take my supplements separately from my meal.)

The solution is obvious: Reduce my Calcium intake.

Why was my Calcium intake so high in the first place? Well, I got it from a pill that also had Magnesium and Zinc, and to get the optimal micronutrient ratios I needed to take a lot. In my new version, I have sourced separate powders for Zinc (acetate), Magnesium (citrate) and Calcium (citrate malate). This allows me to bring the Calcium supplementation down from ~1300 to ~500 mg/day and the Magnesium supplementation down from ~600 to ~300 mg/day. I could go even lower on the Magnesium while still retaining optimal ratios and also fulfilling RDA. This neatly solves the Iron problem, the Magnesium problem, and should bring Calcium, Zinc and Copper back into normal ranges.

Interestingly, my Hemoglobin is in the normal range. Were I iron-deficient, you would expect a reduced amount of Hemoglobin. In theory it is possible that I’m iron-deficient, and that I was a bit dehydrated during the test. This would result in a reduced amount of blood plasma, which increases the relative amount of Hemoglobin. To find out if this is the case, I’ve asked the lab to do a red blood cell count. With that, I can find out what the mean red blood cell size and the mean hemoglobin concentration per cell are. If those are lower than normal, then I was indeed dehydrated. If not, then my body has magically found out how to create enough Hemoglobin even though it’s low on iron. I’ll edit in results if the lab tests come back.

If it does turn out that my Hemoglobin is fine, then that puts me in an interesting position. You see, iron is a very strong oxidator, and is actually quite damaging to the body, despite being necessary. High iron concentration is strongly associated with mortality risk. So if my Hemoglobin is fine, then having low iron would actually be pretty good for my longevity! Currently I plan on bringing the iron back up, but only until the very lower edge of the normal range. Where it’s been all my life.

Vitamin D

What else do we have? Vitamin D, yes, while I did adhere to the RDA, I don’t get much sunlight. Seeing as there’s no real risk, but a lot of potential benefit, I will be getting Vitamin D supplements and bring the supplementation up to, say, somewhere between 50 and 100 µg/day or so. Let me check examine.com real quick…

Ah yes. High Vitamin D supplementing may be associated with some health benefits, but there is some discussion about this. Funnily, examine.com states my blood result is in the normal range. Nevertheless, there seems to be no harm in increasing the supplementation, and possible benefit in doing so. So by Pascal’s Vitamin D Wager, I’ll go to 2000 IU/day, or 50 µg/day of Vitamin D3.

Vitamin B6

Then there’s Vitamin B6. This one surprises me a little; very high B6 concentrations are associated with neuronal problems, although that’s only from a lot higher than what I’m at. My intake has been around RDA and has been very far from the upper limit. It’s hard to reduce this without finding a different multivitamin, too.

Cholesterol

The total cholesterol is low, but the LDL, HDL and triglycerides are all fine. Despite what you may have heard, the best indication for cardiovascular risk is actually the triglycerids to HDL ratio (ctrl+F cholesterol, links to 5 papers). This holds even if LDL varies. (The problem is that there’s two forms of LDL, a good and a bad one, and the blood tests usually don’t distinguish between them.)

So how much should the ratio be? I did some googling, and an untrustworthy source says below 2 is ideal. That’s in American units though, so converting my results, I get 71 mg/dL triglycerides and 47 mg/dL HDL, for a ratio of 1.51. Also known as Hot Damn that’s Healthy!

So no, I am not worried about a slightly low total cholesterol.

Kidney function

Although still in normal range, my creatinine is quite high and my Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR) is quite low. Normally this would imply a kidney problem, but in this case I know the cause. Two days before the blood test I started taking creatine supplements, starting off with 18 g/day for a week. Creatinine is what you get when you break down creatine. But what about the GFR? Well, in this case it’s actually GFR-MDRD, which basically means it’s not measured but simply calculated from my creatinine concentration, age, gender and race. If we wanted a “second opinion” on kidney function, we’d have to measure BUN. It’s not in my results, and I’m not worried enough to ask for it.

Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone

There’s one more thing that I found interesting in the results. My Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone (TSH) is up from what it was before; 2 years ago it was 2.1, now it’s 4.4, all the way at the top edge of the normal range. Strongly elevated TSH can point to hypothyroidism (which literally just means “not enough thyroid”) which could result in a lot of organ issues. My values wouldn’t count as “strongly elevated” though, but I asked the lab to run a test on T4 anyway. T4 is what the thyroid gland produces. That should shed some light on what’s going on.

Other

Other things seem fine. γ-GT and ALAT are fine, which means my liver is fine. HsCRP is low which means I have low inflammation all around. White blood cells, platelets, both fine. Cortisol (stress hormone) is normal. Vitamins (the ones checked) are fine.

Conclusion

So, to conclude, what changes will I make to my Soylent?

As I mentioned, I’m reducing calcium and magnesium a lot. I’ll also add a Vitamin D supplement, and try to find a multivitamin with less Vitamin B6.

There’s also some changes not inspired by my bloodwork: I’ll try to find a multivitamin without chromium and manganese, since they were shown to be poisonous (chromium, manganese), and have no clear function. In addition, I’m adding a number of substances aimed at longevity and cognitive health, as well as creatine. Note that my choice of zinc acetate instead of other options should help reduce common colds. I may add probiotics.

I am dropping cinnamon since the amounts I was consuming carry cancer risk. I may consider adding artificial flavoring at some point.

My new version of Soylent will be visible here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Aginfn56EnJmdGtwOUt5NGZzQmxfb2NKLUpGNEcydEE&usp=sharing

It’s still in flux a bit, but mostly settled down. Let me know if you have any comments on it. The image at the top is actually of the new version. The green color, besides being awesome, has a bunch of health benefits. It is caused by a few grams of spirulina.

Bonus

I would like to shout out to WellnessFX for creating an awesome place to store my past and present blood tests, and for providing awesome videos that helped me figure everything out.

Fun fact: My Soylent contains, as a mandatory part, 100-250 grams of Classic potato chips. With its mere 3 ingredients of potato, sunflower oil and salt, it’s actually one of the healthier snacks available. The chips serves 3 purposes:

  • I get to keep salt out of my Soylent entirely. Salt in the Soylent tastes horrible!
  • I chew. Chewing is really important for long term mortality risk reduction. [Halfway down, under “Floss”, they link to the relevant paper] See below for discussion.
  • I can switch between something sweet (Soylent) and something savory (chips)

Thanks for reading, you’ve been a great audience if you’ve made it this far! Leave a message below!

Cheers,
Marius


#2

Very nice writeup, thanks for sharing. Interested to see what further labs come back with. Beware with the creatine, it can stress your kidneys with prolonged high dosages.

And as always, I Am Not A Doctor.


#3

I read the link. It’s a scare site, and while the writing and hypothesis is interesting, there isn’t a single real study about the inclusion or disclusion of manganese or chromium. Still, feel free to experiment by leaving them out. I’m looking forward to your next blood test! :smiley:

Just a thought - we’re pioneers in the study of human nutrition, taking gambles and, sometimes, risks to optimize health. We live in exciting times.


#4

The links aren’t really obvious, but they’re there. Click the picture to get the Chromium paper (or this link). The manganese paper is here: [link] (Edit: Edited into main post, too.)

That post may not have been the best introduction to rockstarresearch, but look around; it’s not a scare site. The guy behind it actually is pretty sharp. But yes, don’t take his word for it. Check out the papers! :smile:

Yup, I only did 18 g/day for a week, then went down to 5, as per examine.com instructions.


#5

Glad you’re dropping down to 5g/day. I thought you might be sticking with 18g/day long-term and was concerned.


#6

Ah, forgot to link to my new recipe.

You’ll find supplements aimed at mental performance (spirulina, blueberry extract, phosphatidyl serine, noopept, lion’s mane, creatine, citcholine), aimed at longevity (spirulina, blueberry extract, resveratrol, L-carnitine), and aimed at physical performance (creatine, beta-alanine) (really these are both recommended if you’re vegan anyway).

So yes, my new recipe will be stuffed with non-essential things, which I think are beneficial anyway. But that’s why I kept the old one around; people looking for inspiration can still look at it, and along with the blood test find a starting point for themselves.


#7

is your recipe in diy.soylent.me ? I can’t find it.


#8

Nope, it is not. I have always used my own Google docs, since it gives me much more flexibility; I can add the ratios, notes, shuffle things around, etc. I’ve never found diy.soylent.me to give a good overview, but I think that’s actually because I’m not used to it. Feel free to create one based on the spreadsheet though.


#9

Very interesting, I’ll be curious to know the further results of your testing, and to check back after a few more months.

I would definitely add probiotics, as numerous papers have suggested that the immune system is rooted in the gut. Personally, I take a couple of different sets of probiotics.

BTW, aside from the potato chips, what are your non-essentials?


#10

Cinnamon was a non-essential, but I’m tossing that out. There’s the CoQ10 supplement.

Note that potato chips in my recipe is actually essential. It’s the only source of salt, for instance.

In the new recipe, I have a bunch more non-essentials. See my previous post about that.


#11

I believe, based on other posted that adding sulfur was a mis-interpretation of rob’s original post. It is not needed in a recipe

see: http://discourse.soylent.me/t/sulfur-in-cysteine-and-methionine/10626/9

And above all, how is the taste and texture?


#12

Not that I have anything against chewing per se, but I think the conclusion you’re drawing here doesn’t necessarily follow from the study you’ve linked to. Mostly the study pertains to the importance of oral health behaviors in retaining healthy teeth, and it also makes some statements about the correlation between oral health and general health / survival rates.

There are some statements like, “Tooth loss reduces masticatory capacity, which can influence food selection, nutritional status, and general health,” and, “Poorer masticatory ability and nutrient intake may also affect general health and survival.” This is true, as far as it goes.

To spell it out, the relationships suggested by the study are the following:
Poor oral hygiene >> Tooth loss >> Reduced ability to chew >> Poorer food selection >> Poorer general health

Nowhere is it saying that chewing (or lack of chewing) itself is leading to divergent health outcomes, except insofar as it may influence food selection.

As for soylent, the more interesting question would seem to be whether a soylent-based diet could be an effective intervention for folks with tooth loss, helping them to avoid some of the correlated health impacts from poor nutrition.


#13

Yeah, I was looking over it myself, and you’re right that it doesn’t follow per se. I would add though, that their suggested relationship doesn’t follow per se either. Their study setup doesn’t actually show that loss of teeth leads to poor food selection, even though that would of course be my main hypothesis in a followup study. They only correlate loss of teeth with higher death risk. I seem to recall there was more evidence for chewing being important though, let me google for a bit…

Nope, can’t find anything. I’ll remove the claim from my original post.

Oh cool, that’s news to me! I already have a bunch of MSM lying around though, and it has some benefits as an antioxidant, so I’ll just reduce intake to whatever examine.com is recommending and then drop it once I run out.

Texture is not very great. The taste is pretty neutral, which would provide a good base for anyone wanting to add flavoring. Currently I’m just sticking with neutral; I see it more as fuel anyway, and I think I’ll get tired of it less when the taste is neutral.


#15

Back when I started, I researched Soy protein isolate, and found that the health concerns didn’t actually show up in any review studies. The page you’re linking is one whose claims I cannot take seriously, due to lack of scientific rigor.

Have a look at this page though. It shows soy can be beneficial in postmenopausal women, has no effect on male testosterone levels, and they note no other risks or benefits. The only thing they mention is that soy may have trypsin inhibitors, which reduce the uptake of protein. It depends on the processing steps though. I’ve emailed myprotein.com to ask about that.

As for creatine: I’m looking at the study linked by that wikipedia page, and it seems the wikipedia page is wrong: heavy metals weren’t a problem.

Possible contamination with heavy metals seems to be not of particular concerns.

The main contaminant was creatinine. Creatinine is made in the body when creatine is used up, and is thus not very worrying.

Creatinine is a by-product both of creatine metabolism in humans and of creatine industrial production (cyclisation of creatine). Probably the ingestion of creatinine is a safe endeavour but it does not have any ergogenic effects and therefore the maximum admissible amounts need to be defined (Benzi, 2000).

.

Creatinine was the most widespread organic contaminant with amounts often exceeding the limit recommended by EFSA (100 mg/kg).

The studies say that >50% of the samples exceed recommendations of at least one contaminant. However, 44% of that is creatinine, which I’m not worried about. The only other major contaminants are dihydro-1,3,5-triazine and dicyandiamide, which exceed recommendations in ~15% of the samples. It varied per type of supplement though:

Among the different product type, [creatine citrate] and [Kre-Alkalyn®] had on average the largest contamination levels.

I’m using creatine monohydrate, which had detectable levels of dihydro-1,3,5-triazine in 2 out of 23 cases (9%), and none of them had high dicyandiamide.

So to conclude, I’m not worried. I have corrected the wikipedia article to accurately reflect the study’s findings.


#16

In regards to your thyroid, I would be very mindful of that, and watch it closely. Low carbohydrate diets are now known to possibly affect thyroid negatively. And that is an indicator of other, more serious issues that could lead to autoimmune problems in the long term. Just to note, I am not against low-carb diets. I generally think they’re healthy. But we are just learning now, as more people are on low-carb diets over a long period, that we are seeing these thyroid issues in a number of folks. And we are then seeing autoimmune issues in those people who are susceptible.

This is one of the reasons, even though I have been a backer of this project, that having a few people try this diet for a few months, doesn’t really tell you that’s it’s optimal (or even a good idea) over the long term, i.e., years. There are a number of diets that will make you feel better than the standard American diet for a while, maybe even as long as a year or more. And that’s particularly true if you are young and relatively healthy, as many of the users will be.

But it’s possible that things could be going on below the radar, so-to-speak, that wouldn’t turn up for quite a while, but could be damaging. For that reason, I recommend that everyone doing Soylent as their sole source of nutrition monitor their blood work, and get blood work done on a regular basis. That’s a good idea anyway, in terms of personal education.


#17

Those concerned with chewing can start chewing gum - seems like a not terrible idea.


#18

I notice in your spreadsheet that you’re at 100% RDA of iodine, but don’t monitor selenium. Might be worth checking into in relation with the TSH change. (Also where I live in Canada, 3.50 is the upper limit. But I digress…) It would also be interesting to estimate the amount of both minerals that you were eating prior to the diet change; if you ate a lot of eggs and sea food, it may have been a few times more than this DIY Soylent provides. Just a thought. :smile:

One last point: if you were eating cassia cinnamon, you might want to consider “true” ceylan cinnamon instead of dropping it entirely. The taste is milder, but there’s a couple orders of magnitude less coumarin, to the point of being completely insignificant even at g/day doses.


#19

I do track Selenium, actually, it’s row 54. Sorry for not sorting by alphabet :stuck_out_tongue:

They did check the red blood cell count, and the MCV is low (83 fL), but still within normal range. The blood was too old to check for T4.

I had planned to check blood levels for Selenium as well, but apparently the lab messed that up, so now I don’t know :expressionless:

After this test I went to the US for 2 weeks and ate normally, so I’ll wait a month or two and then test again, to check Selenium, T4, and to see what has changed.

Estimating the amount of minerals I ate before the diet change is difficult, since I was eating very inconsistently. It was vegan though, so not a lot of eggs/sea food :smile:

Yeah, I could have changed to a better form of cinnamon, true. But I don’t care too much about cinnamon.


#20

Do you have previous TSH levels?

It’s a shame you don’t have before and after, I have always wondered the effect of Soylent on TSH and your numbers suggest you’re pretty highly Hypothyroid. Whereas doctors would say normally range up to 3.5-4.5 depending on what country you are in, many thyroid specialists would say over 2 means you’re hypothyroid. If I were you, I would investigate through a full Thyroid panel. Lack of sugars, salt, saturated fat and and overall lack of calories, together with allergenic reactions to synthetic vitamins, can create Thyroid issues.

How’s your digestion, bowel movements, sleep, recovery from exercise, mood, skin, hair quality?


#21

Did you see the Prof Eric Scherder’s bit on “Universiteit van Nederland” on chewing ? (Dutch)

You could make soylent cookies, but you could also supplement some chewing-gum (xylitol sweetened for dental care ?) or even “zoethout” :smile: