High cholesterol and weight gain with background of low inflammation and stable blood sugar

I have my test results back. In order to save some dough while still testing markers I was interested in, I ended up getting results from three different companies: Wellness FX, Life Extension, and Requestatest. This meant I had to visit two locations for a blood draw, but it wasn’t inconvenient since they’re very close to each other.

(By the way, LEF is having their annual blood test sale until June 6th.)
These are my test results as compiled in Wellness FX. I recommend table view [pdf] over sparkline [pdf], unless you’re looking for a trend.

If I walked into a doctor’s office today with these lab results, there are three or four things I’m certain the doctor would want to discuss. The first is my lipid panel. According to conventional medical interpretation, I’m doing everything wrong. My total cholesterol, trigs, and LDL are going up, and my HDL is going down. I don’t follow the conventional interpretation very closely, though. There are many health researchers and gurus like Stephanie Seneff that don’t think cholesterol is inherently bad, and I agree with them wholeheartedly. As well, there is some evidence saying that high HDL might not be so beneficial after all. I’m not ready to declare a war on cholesterol yet, but movements this large are concerning to me, if for no other reason than that I have no solid explanation for why they exist. And I don’t like it when things are red.

The second area of concern I would expect a doctor to bring up is my iron levels. I got an anemia panel out of curiosity, and because I’ve been seeing a lot of interesting stuff about iron. My last blood donation was on March 9th. The blood tests are from April 13th. My ferritin and iron saturation are out of range (on the low side) and my iron serum is in range on the low side. I don’t really understand a lot of these anemia numbers since most of them seem to be calculations and not actual measurements. For instance, TIBC is an estimation of transferrin available to bind iron. The actual transferrin test is much more expensive. To me, a calculation is at least a little suspect since it is itself an interpretation and therefore reflects bias. (Notably, most lipid values seem to be calculated as well). As far the iron side of anemia is concerned, it seems that I’m anemic. However, both B9 and B12 numbers are high (though LEF says my B12 is too high).

My red blood cell count is high. I’ve seen this since I started doing labs, but there wasn’t anything directly actionable to implement and it doesn’t sound super hazardous to have high RBC. However, when I got to see my dad’s most recent labs a few months ago, I noticed his RBC was high, too, so my interest was peaked and I did some digging. I found a condition called Polycythemia, but it looks like that wouldn’t apply to me since my hematocrit is below 55. Other causes of high RBC include, but are not limited to: poor oxygenation and dehydration. I live in Colorado, so altitude could be a factor. I’m thinking dehydration is a factor as well. On my August 2015 labs, my BUN/Creatinine ratio was at its lowest point (indicating better hydration) and that was the only time my RBC test was in range. With my April 2016 labs, my BUN/Creatinine ratio rose (indicating less hydration), and my RBC rose.

Carbon dioxide
On a related note (oxygenation), my CO2 levels have lowered since I started testing in March 2014. I would be concerned about this, except haidut uncovered something interesting about CO2 blood tests. The blood tests actually measure bicarbonate, which alkalizes the blood. CO2 acidifies the blood, so a lower bicarbonate level (what the blood test actually measures) would suggest more alkaline blood and therefore less CO2. Hopefully, this is a correct understanding of events. I have been drinking a lot more carbonated water than before I started testing.

Vitamin D
Any functional medicine practitioner would be worried about a vitamin D level of 31 ng/mL. To be honest, it worries me a little since it’s on the verge of insufficiency. Many vitamin D advocates suggest levels between 50 to 80, and possibly 100. The reason my level is low is because there is a seasonal variation in vitamin D availability (the sun) and the mercurial and neurotic Woo pointed out that there is some evidence that this is beneficial (study citation in link). So I didn’t supplement with vitamin D during the winter, and I don’t think I supplemented with vitamin D very much at all last year. I did supplement a little bit staring in February to kickstart my levels this summer.
I got sick twice this winter, and both times were around seasonal transitions: in November (first big snow) and February (when winter was loosening its icy grip). Over the past few years, I have observed myself and even other people experiencing what I’ll call “symptom flux” when seasons change. I think my sickness in February was brought on by me getting too much sun on my body, or starting D3 supplementation.

My RBC magnesium was in the middle of the range, but I’d like to move it higher, above 6.0.

Another thing that would worry doctors is my increase in weight.  I weigh 170 lbs right now, the most I’ve ever weighed. It seems to be all packed around my gut, as I’m starting to develop a paunch. The cause is definitely not inflammation; I got several inflammation markers tested and they’re all low. It’s also not blood sugar, since both blood glucose and Hba1c are where they’ve been since I started testing. My guess is that there is an energy excess. I’ve been eating a lot more carbs, particularly rice, oatmeal, maple syrup, and honey. I know, I’m terrible. I was influenced by Matt Stone and decided to experiment a little bit. I also started drinking a gallon of raw milk each week starting in January. I’ve been relatively sedentary, aside from going for walks 3-4 times a week.

My TSH continues to trend lower after the jump that was most likely caused by iodine megadosing. In light of my weight gain, I’m really temped to get a full thyroid panel very soon.

Like I said earlier, inflammatory markers are all good. LDH is in range. hsCRP is in range. ESR (erythrocyte sedimentation rate; sedimentation rate-westergren) is 2 mm/hr with a range of 0-15. TNF-alpha is 0.8 pg/mL with a range of 0-8.1.

Vitamin A
Another indulgence/curiosity. Retinol is 58 ug/mL with a range of 24-85. Beta carotene is 63 ug/mL with a range of 3-91.

Going from here
I do not really like the taste of coconut oil, but I want to eat two or more tablespoons every day. Also, will do 500mg of niacinamide twice a day. I stopped niacinamide for a while because either B3 or ascorbate (average half tsp a day) was starting to give me scurvy. I’m intrigued by the prospect of raw carrot fiber, and aim to hit 150 grams of carrot fiber per day. I’ve been slacking on transdermal magnesium, and will do that more often. I want to remove milk from my diet for 2-4 weeks and see if I notice anything suggesting a sensitivity. Finally, I’ll reintroduce Bulletproof IF to my toolbox. I’m thinking about doing a three day fast. A ceruloplasmin test might be interesting.

Seeking comment on
Iron/blood markers

Is there a test for LPS?

Carbon dioxide

Weight gain in context of low inflammation and stable blood sugar

Rising cholesterol in context of low inflammation and stable blood sugar

High cholesterol and weight gain with background of low inflammation and stable blood sugar

Iron Excess

I’ve become a lot more mindful of iron over the past year. It shows up in a couple places in the ascorbate-ceruloplasmin story, and there are numerous people covering the harm of excessive iron. What’s fascinating about all these people is that there is very little cross-pollination between them. This, to me, suggests an increase in the credibility of what each of them is saying. There’s a lot more strength in an idea when multiple people come to the same conclusion independently.

The idea of iron excess is agnostic as well. It doesn’t come with any other baggage, it’s not part of the framework of any conceptual systems (CICO, paleo, LCHF, vegan, etc). This lack of attachment means it’s a lot more portable between conceptual systems and its more likely to be accepted by any random person. When an idea is embedded within a conceptual system — that is, the idea is understood to be true by a large segment of people buying into a certain conceptual system — people from other conceptual systems tend to be quite biased against it. There is some adversity between many conceptual systems (probably because people with particular views and dispositions gravitate towards one or the other).

Iron excess doesn’t have this problem. It’s not involved in any ideological turf wars. Outside of the anti-aging community, nobody considers it. It will largely slip right under the quack radar of self-appointed vanguards of Western science, since the solution to iron excess has the air of an unequivocally medical procedure: needles, gloves, bandages, all conducted inside a building filled with plastic containers, white walls, biohazard buckets, and fluorescent lighting. It is what Western medicine excels at. Amusingly, though, blood letting has decidedly “unscientific” roots. It was contemporary and peer to such things as elixirs, electric shock treatment, trepanning, homeopathy, and, when connected to the word “leeches”, it is seen just as backward and barbaric. (Note: like blood letting, I expect to see modern revivals of some of those treatments, too.)

In summary, I think the idea of iron excess has a promising future. To get you up to speed, I will list a handful of sources for you to check out.

  1. https://www.lewrockwell.com/2002/02/bill-sardi/blood-and-iron/#ref
  2. http://aarongrossmanmd.com/agmd-4-the-deadly-truth-about-iron-with-dr-leo-zacharski/
  3. http://roguehealthandfitness.com/iron-accelerates-aging/
  4. http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/iron-dangers.shtml

In link #2, Dr Leo Zacharski mentions Iron Disorders Institute.

Iron Excess

Surveillance Capitalism, Abstractive Forces

Reading Nicholas Carr’s blog, I was made aware of an interesting piece of commentary available on a German journalism site: The Secrets of Surveillance Capitalism. It covers a topic on many minds today: the growing ability of faceless organizations to monitor and access data about the lives of private citizens, in both digital and physical realms.

I have been interested in good criticism of the Web for years now. As someone with a contrarian disposition, one thing that makes me uncomfortable is an echo chamber. Silicon Valley is a pre-eminent example of just such a phenomenon. There’s an abundance of breathless descriptions of the shining future that technology and the Web, in particular, will bring us, and I find that suspicious. Not every day is the sky blue; sometimes it rains. So I always enjoy a nuanced critique of the bright, boundless future we are all promised by the technorati.

I suggest reading the article itself, but in I’ve cut out important quotes and and interspersed them with my own commentary in order to highlight a narrative that isn’t fully appreciated by many. Then I attempted to give some historical context for the underlying force in Part 2.

Part 1

“I’ve come to a different conclusion: The assault we face is driven in large measure by the exceptional appetites of a wholly new genus of capitalism, a systemic coherent new logic of accumulation that I call surveillance capitalism. Capitalism has been hijacked by a lucrative surveillance project that subverts the “normal” evolutionary mechanisms associated with its historical success and corrupts the unity of supply and demand that has for centuries, however imperfectly, tethered capitalism to the genuine needs of its populations and societies, thus enabling the fruitful expansion of market democracy.

An analogy is the rapid spread of mass production and administration throughout the industrialized world in the early twentieth century, but with one major caveat. Mass production was interdependent with its populations who were its consumers and employees. In contrast, surveillance capitalism preys on dependent populations who are neither its consumers nor its employees and are largely ignorant of its procedures.”

This is the key insight of Zuboff’s analysis, in my opinion. Corporations and other abstractive forces (like government) are becoming increasingly disentangled with the humans they profess to serve. This is a trend one can identify in the previous centuries, but it has accelerated tremendously in the past century.

“The goal of everything we do is to change people’s actual behavior at scale.”

People are scared about this trend intuitively, and you can see this any time someone complains about corporations, government, the elite — an out of touch power subjugating humans — it’s all a cry against the same process. A process that they can sense, but don’t have a vocabulary for — because we are transitioning to a higher, not yet experienced rung on this ladder of progress. Historians and academics in the future will devise terms for this.

“This is a different kind of challenge now, one that threatens the existential and political canon of the modern liberal order defined by principles of self-determination that have been centuries, even millennia, in the making. I am thinking of matters that include, but are not limited to, the sanctity of the individual and the ideals of social equality; the development of identity, autonomy, and moral reasoning; the integrity of contract, the freedom that accrues to the making and fulfilling of promises; norms and rules of collective agreement; the functions of market democracy; the political integrity of societies; and the future of democratic sovereignty.”

Chilling. I would argue that many of those things are a result of the same underlying force that now threatens to disband them.

An example of how you can see surveillance capitalism manifested in real life:

“The very idea of a functional, effective, affordable product as a sufficient basis for economic exchange is dying. The sports apparel company Under Armour is reinventing its products as wearable technologies.”

Very few people are in the business of selling just products today. Instead, they sell brands and now services in an effort to capture customer loyalty or ‘engagement’. This loyalty sustains the corporation and is what separates it from it previous eras of commerce. In a product-driven environment, the needs of the consumer are ultimate: products don’t sell if they’re poor at meeting the needs of consumers. That cause-and-effect relationship is being degraded by a focus on customer loyalty.

Part 2
Of course, none of this is actually special to modern history. As my friend pointed out to me, “those watchers have been around for a long time developing sophisticated skills… There’s a reason Pharaoh was god. He was able to oversee.”

Indeed, this process is described lucidly in Part 1 of Seeing Like A State. The powers that be have sought to standardize and simplify many natural phenomena in order to manipulate and understand that which is under their rule. Examples of this include the invention of surnames, standard weights and measures, street grids, scientific forestry, and freehold property. In its ambition, the state creates a model, an abstract representation of chaotic (to the outside eye) objects. Eventually, through the power of the state, the chaotic reality starts to resemble the model.

For instance, commoners adopted surnames as a way to avoid being taxed twice and to ensure ease of land inheritance. The states power in these matters made the chaotic reality of John, the son of Thomas, the son of Robert become the abstract model of John Carpenter*. In other words, the territory became the map.  This is perfectly displayed in the quote above:

“The goal of everything we do is to change people’s actual behavior at scale.”

Their models will change your reality.

It goes beyond that, though. As I wrote earlier, the key insight of Zuboff’s analysis was that

“Corporations and other abstractive forces (like government) are becoming increasingly disentangled with the humans they profess to serve.”

When an abstractive force engages in abstraction (also meaning standardization, simplification) it inevitable discards elements of that which it seeks to model. There is no way around this. For a model to work, something must be determined cruft and that cruft must be thrown out to simplify the picture. For instance, a city map (a two dimensional model of a city) does not denote cracks in the sidewalk or even lamp posts. To include those would require a map the size of the city itself, therefore negating the maps purpose of simplification.

As you can see, the process of modeling removes the abstraction force from the full reality of that which it seeks to model. Hopefully Zuboff will be able to elaborate on the disconnect between abstractive forces and humans.

For now, I think it is most visible in the sometimes onerous ways in which progress compels us to comply. In order to get information about my heart rate, I need an Apple Watch, then I need an iPhone for it to communicate with, then I also need a PC or Mac to tether the iPhone, I also need Internet connectivity so all the software can work, and I need electricity for the hardware to function. All of that infrastructure has to be in place, paid for, and functioning in order for you to see a graph of your heart rate. Is progress our aide? Or are we serving the algorithm?

This is not a new process and has been going on for centuries. Despite my wary perception of abstraction, it is the engine behind all scientific discovery and invention. It also is behind humanity’s ability to achieve things like nation-states (via the science of administration and bureaucracy). Paradoxically, by simplifying, we are able to achieve more complex systems. What becomes simplified becomes a component of a larger, more complex entity.

*Notice also how the external identify of John Carpenter is less connected than the external identity of John, the son of Thomas, son of Robert; he stands alone.


Surveillance Capitalism, Abstractive Forces