Glucose Ketone Index (GKI) – What Ratio Do I need for Nutritional Ketosis Benefits?

Generally these blog posts are a result of scratching my own itch (answering my own question), and this post is no different.

At the time of writing this, I’m doing a 5-day fast, and wanted to understand the readings I’m getting for my blood glucose and blood ketone levels.

Initially I thought that blood ketones were all that mattered, and certainly a lot of people only talk about that reading. But looking at Dr Thomas Seyfried’s paper on treating brain cancer (glioblastomas).  It suggests that its important to take into account blood glucose also. In their study, they acheieved optimal results when their patients maintained what they called ‘nutritional ketosis’. And as part of the paper, they included a formula for what this means.

The chart below describes visually what they mean by nutritional ketosis, and how it affected the tumour growth. The red is an increase in ketones as a fictional patient goes deeper into ketosis. The black line represents blood glucose, that decreases to a plateau, as carbohydrate sources are removed from the diet, and glycogen stores decrease.

So that sweet spot they reach at the end is an optimum level of nutritional ketosis. Now… obviously in our case we are (hopefully) not trying to slow the growth of a glioblastoma. But by getting into ketosis we’re hoping to achieve a number of benefits including:

  • Reduced IGF-1
  • Immune system rejuvenation (perhaps mainly lymphocytes)
  • Increased cellular autophagy
  • Reduced inflammation (often measured by improved C-reactive protein levels)

The extent of these benefits will depend if you’re eating a keto diet, or doing a water fast/fast mimicking diet. But all 3 should improve the biomarkers such that you have a reduced risk of major diseases such as diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease.

And studies like this one indicate that the optimal benefits from ketosis lie in maintaining  a 1:1 or lower ratio of glucose to ketones.

So on to the crux of this post, how to calculate GKI. What you’re trying to do is compare apples with apples, you really really want both readings in mmol/L. In my case, having a meter sourced from the UK, that’s how they came, so I simply do:

Glucose Reading (mmol/L) ÷ Ketone Reading (mmol/L)

However, if you’re in the USA, your blood glucose reading will be in mg/dL. You’ll know, because the meter should say mg/dL. But to be sure, if you blood glucose is in the 100s as a score, rather than single digits, that’s likely mg/dL.

So you’ll want to convert that glucose reading into mmol/L by doing:

Your Glucose Reading (mg/dL) ÷ 18.02

This converts your reading from mg/dL into mmol/L, and then you can do the above calculation (glucose reading divided by ketone reading) to get your glucose ketone index score.

So that’s it really, pretty simple.

Links that may be of use:

1 – Thomas Seyfried et al’s paper on using the glucose ketone index to treat brain cancer:
The glucose ketone index calculator: a simple tool to monitor therapeutic efficacy for metabolic management of brain cancer

2 – An excel calculator for the GKI, developed by Dr Seyfried’s colleague Joshua Meidenbauer:
Glucose Ketone Index Calculator

What sticks out for me with all this stuff, is how amazingly valuable it can be in our treatment (and prevention of cancer), and yet in 2017 an incredibly small number of people (& physicians!) know and understand this work. For those with cancer, if its combined with other treatments (described by Dom D’Agostino here), its even better. Its 5 years since Thomas Seyfried published his book ‘Cancer as a Metabolic Disease’. Time will tell how fast we are able to communicate this “meme” to a wider audience.

Rhonda Patrick’s Diet in Detail – Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

Rhonda Patrick talked recently on the Tim Ferriss podcast about her diet. She described a number of her main meals:

Breakfast #1:

  • Scrambled egg topped with tomatillo salsa (for flavour)
  • Satueed Kale + Garlic topped with olive oil, salt and mustard powder
  • Grapefruit
  • Avocado oil, for cooking the eggs and kale in

Breakfast #2:

  • Nut & Berry Cereal – including walnut, pecan and macademia nuts + blueberries
  • Hydrolyzed collagen powder – from
  • Coconut milk
  • Flaxseed
  • Occasionally she adds almond butter, yogurt or VSL #3

Lunch #1 – Smoothie:

Version 1:

  • 8 large kale leaves
  • 4-6 rainbow chard leaves with stems
  • 3 cups (~710 ml) of baby spinach
  • 2 medium to large carrots
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 large avocado
  • 1 banana
  • 1 apple
  • 1 cup (~710ml) of blueberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 tall shot glass of flaxseed (optional)
  • 3 cups (~710 ml) of unsweetened flax milk

N.B. Rhonda drinks about 1/2 of the above in a single serving.

Version 2:

  • Kale (8 leaves)
  • Chard (two rainbow chard leaves and stems)
  • Spinach (2 cups)
  • Celery (2)
  • Parsley (8 pieces)
  • Carrot (1 large)
  • Tomato (1)
  • Apple (1)
  • Lemon (1)
  • Frozen organic blueberries (1-2 cups)
  • Avocado (1)
  • Hydrolyzed collagen powder (1/4 cup)
  • Water (2 cups of water)

Lunch #2:

Dinner #1:

  • Cooked vegetables, including sautéed spinach
  • For protein, often baked wild alaskan salad or occasionally grass-fed fillet steak

Dinner #2

  • Large salad full of greens
  • Again, for protein, often baked wild alaskan salad or occasionally grass-fed fillet steak

Dinner #3

  • Chicken bone soup, with vegetables and spices

Rhonda’s Motivations for Diet Choices

Breakfast #1 – Scrambled Eggs with Kale & Garlic + 1/2 Grapefruit

Eggs

She eats these for the choline they provide. Choline can be converted by the body into acetylcholine, which is an essential neurotransmitter.

Sauteed Kale & Garlic

One reason Rhonda chooses Kale is due to its high concentration of lutein and zeaxanthin. These cartenoids help protect the eyes from damaging blue light. They also beneficial to the brain, improving neural processing and neural efficiency.

Tomatillo Salsa

Rhonda primarily eats her eggs with tomatillo salsa to make them less boring (lol). It’s also high in tomatidine, which has been shown to boost muscle mass in mice by reducing the activity of a gene called ATF4, known for inhibiting muscle protein synthesis.

Grapefruit

The grapefruit provides ferulic acid, a molecule that inhibits the proinflammatory cytokine TNF-alpha and E2 series prostaglandins (which can also be inflammatory). Ferulic acid has also been shown to be anti-carcinogenic. The grapefruit is also a source of naringenin has a variety of potential benefits.

Avocado Oil

Rhonda stays away from cooking oils that are high in polyunsaturated fat, because it is easily oxydized, and consuming oxydized fat is very harmful. Avocado oil is high in monounsaturated, and low in polyunsaturated fat. It has a very high smoke point, meaning that it withstand some heat.

Mustard Powder

She adds mustard powder the kale and other cruciferous vegetables she cooks. This helps convert the glucosinolate in the plants, into isothiocynates. This compound (isothiocynates) has benefits in humans, but interestingly, is toxic to bugs and insects. The plants use it to help prevent being eaten.

Breakfast #2 – Nut & Berry Cereal

Another breakfast Rhonda has is a nut and berry cereal. For the base she combines chopped nuts and a mix of berries with some coconut milk. In addition to the base, she may add hydrolysed collagen powder, flaxseed, raw cacao nibs, almond butter and occasionally VSL#3 (her probiotic supplement of choice).

Chopped Nuts

The cereal contains a wide array of chopped nuts including walnuts, pecan and macadamia nuts.

This provides magnesium, calcium, zinc and omega-3 fatty ALA (although not a substitute for marine omega-3s​).

Berries

Amongst the berries Rhonda adds are blueberries. These are rich in Pterostilbene which is similar to Resveratrol but is 4x more bioavailable. In mice it has been shown to improve brain function, prevent heart disease, and to ward off some types of cancer. They are also rich in anthocyanins, a molecule that has been shown to lower DNA damage. DNA damage has been shown to cause cancer and lead to depletion of stem cell pools + it also plays a role in the aging process.

Rhonda also adds some pomegranate into the cereal. One of the compounds in pomegranate is transformed by gut microbes into a molecule called urolithin A, which causes mitophagy a process important for the renewal of mitochondria. Urolithin A has shown some impressive things in research on other organisms, including improving muscle function and endurance by up to 42% in mice and increasing lifespan by more than 45% in worms.

Hydrolyzed collagen powder

Rhonda eats hydrolyzed collagen for the proline which accelerates wound healing and for glycine which is an important inhibitory neurotransmitter. Great Lakes collagen powder is her brand of choice.

Coconut milk

Coconut milk is rich in medium chain triglycerides. She doesn’t consume dairy milk because it contains salivary protein which binds to Anthocyanin and polyphenols, limiting their bioavailability.

Flaxseed

These provide extra alpha lipoic acid and fibre.

Raw Cacao Nibs

These have a number of polyphenols including EGCG which activate many antioxidant genes and has been shown to kill cancer cells.

Almond Butter

To add some flavour and protein

VSL#3

Rhonda adds VSL#3 to replenish her gut microbiome. She opts for the sachet option (as opposed to pills), which contain 450 billion active probiotic cells per serving.

Lunch #1 – Smoothies

Rhonda rotates between a variety of smoothie recipes (example ingredients listed above). The base to most of her smoothies are kale, chard, spinach and avocado. For smoothie #1 listed above, you can check this youtube video and for smoothie #2 above, this youtube video.

Lunch #2 – Avocado with salmon roe and sauerkraut

Avocados are high in potassium and provide all of the various forms of vitamin E (both tocopherols and tocotrienols). Which is good, because if you supplement vitamin E you only get one form of it. They are also a great source of monounsaturated fat.

Salmon roe caviar is a staple of Rhonda’s diet. She particularly likes it because the omega-3 fats are in phospholipid form which has greater bioavailability to be transported into the brain via the mfsd2a transporter. This is the form that is best taken up by the brain (including the developing fetal brain). It also has a good amount of astaxanthin which protects the omega-3’s from oxidation and does the same for neurons. Studies looking at DHA and EPA levels in red blood cells have shown a correlation between higher omega-3 status and having a to 2 cm larger brain volume. So getting omega-3 into and keeping it in the brain is definitely a brain aging priority for Rhonda.

If you’re curious how Rhonda affords to make something like salmon roe a staple of the diet – in part its due to her buying in bulk. Rhonda buys from a supplier called Vital Choice who supply in bulk (source: Rhonda talking salmon roe on Instagram).

Sauerkraut is a good source of fermentable fiber aka prebiotics that is fuel for the commensal gut bacteria so that they can produce compounds (such as short chain fatty acids) that feed more commensal bacteria and feed gut epithelial cells which are required to make the gut barrier. These compounds produced by the gut bacteria serve as signaling molecules to make specific types of immune cells, an important indirect role that fiber also has in the diet that helps it influence immune activities. The sauerkraut itself contains various probiotics (mostly the lactobacillus strains) which are beneficial lactic acid producing bacteria which have recently been suggested to possibly play a role in cancer prevention.

Dinner #1 – Cooked Vegetables & Baked Wild Alaskan Salmon

Rhonda likes a range of cooked vegetables, with a particular focus on the cruciferous family, such as:

  • Spinach
  • Collard greens
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Parsnips

Cruciferous vegetables contain isothiocyanates, and so because of this, she typically eats them with mustard powder sprinkled on top to increase the amount of myrocinase available. Associative studies have shown that the top 20% of consumers of cruciferous vegetable have a 22% reduction in all-cause mortality. For more info on why adding myrocinase to isothiocynates is useful, see this post on sulforaphane – which is a super useful compound which activates the NRF-2 pathway, responsible for regulating around 200 different genes.

Folate in Green Vegetables

Cooked vegetables like sauteed spinach are very high in folate. Folate provides a precursor that makes a DNA nucleotide called thymine. Every time you repair a damaged cell or make a new cell in your liver, muscle, brain etc., you need to make new DNA which means you need folate. Folate was also very recently shown to increase the growth of stem cells, which is important because stem cell pools deplete with age and are a major cause of organ aging and dysfunction. Folate has recently been shown to play a role in protecting telomeres, the tiny caps on the ends of chromosomes that are a biomarker for age because they get shorter every year.

A recent study showed that mothers with highest folate levels had newborns with telomeres 10% longer and every 10 ng/ml increase in serum folate levels, newborns had a 5.8% increase in telomere length which actually suggests that maternal nutrition may actually play a role in determining the length of telomeres that we have to start with.

Wild Alaskan Salmon

Rhonda eats salmon 2-3 times per week, which is what the American Heart Association recommends. They recommend that adults consume 500 mg/d of EPA and DHA (~2-3 servings of fatty fish per wk or ~8 oz of fish/wk). However, the mean intake in Western society is ~135 mg/d and about ~2 servings of fish per month.

EPA is a powerful anti-inflammatory fatty acid that has been shown to lower brain inflammation. DHA is a critical component of all cell membranes that makes up 30% of the fatty acids in the brain, or about 8% of the total weight. Omega-3 fatty acids have recently been shown to positively change gene expression in several brain regions and also generally shown to stave off brain aging. But also important is just not dying. People with the highest omega-3 fatty acid intake have been associated with having a 9% reduced risk of all-cause mortality. For each 1% increment of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood there was associated a 20% decrease in risk of all-cause mortality.

Dinner #2 – Large Salad & Grass Fed Filet Steak

When Rhonda isn’t eating cooked vegetables with her dinner, she’s having a large salad full of greens. These provide her with a range of micronutrients including folate, magnesium, calcium, vitamin K1, lutein, zeaxanthin and sulfoquinovose, a prebiotic that feeds beneficial bacteria in the gut.

Rhonda eats a grass-fed filet steak a few times per month which is a good source of vitamin b12, iron, and zinc. ~16% of all menstruating women are actually iron deficient. For vegetarians it has been recommended to take in about twice the RDA for iron, since iron which is bound to phytate in plant sources is ~2-times less bioavailable

Dinner #3 – Chicken Bone Soup with Vegetables & Spices

Another protein Rhonda rotates for dinner is chicken legs from pasture-raised chicken. In addition to the protein they also provide some cartilage which is high in collagen, proline and glycine.

Occasionally Rhonda takes the chicken bones, and throws them in some water with some spices and vegetables to make a chicken bone soup. This provides all the same benefits as the hydrolyzed collagen powder. Chicken is also very high in selenium which is a cofactor needed for all glutathione-related enzymes to work and also has a modest amount of zinc, copper, and iron.

Tim Ferriss Nootropics Brand Recommendations

Firstly, I’ll give a quick overview of Tim Ferriss nootropics choices. Then later in this post, I’ll go into details on each one.

Tim’s nootropic list:

Tim has tried the majority of smart drugs on the market, including things like the racitam family (piracetam, aniracetam etc), modafinil, ritalin etc. At one stage, before he was a bestselling author, he ran a supplement company called BrainQuicken, focused on selling cognitive enhancement supplements. So he knows his stuff.

As of Sept 2016, Tim has decided the short term gain from many of the popular smart drugs are not worth the long term side effects.

Therefore, Tim Ferriss nootropic choices are a little different from most. That being said, he still uses a number of products that give him a sustainable cognitive boost.

Creatine & Ubiquinol

Tim considers this combination for those with alzheimer’s or other mitochondrial based neurodegenerative diseases in their family history. He takes them on a daily basis.

Lion’s Maine Extract

Tim consumes Lion’s Mane as a drink combined with chaga (another mushroom) and coffee. Known as Four Sigmatic Mushroom Coffee.

Tim alternates between the coffee version (above) and this non-coffee version. One way to consume the mix without coffee is to do as Dr Rhonda Patrick does, and blend it into a smoothie.

Yerba Mate

Tim’s go to brand of Yerba Mate is Cruz de Malta. He also uses the brands Jesper Traditional Yerba Mate and Anna Park.

Exogenous Ketones

Tim recommends two different forms of exogenous ketones; KetoCaNa and KetoForce.

The KetoCaNa is the weaker of the two, but is the most palatable. KetoForce would have a greater impact on your blood ketone level (beta-hydroxybutyrate). KetoForce is an alkaline liquid, that you can add to water to drink. To balance out the alkalinity you can add some lemon juice.

      

For more info on these nootropics, check out the 9 minute YouTube video Tim made on the subject.

Tim Ferriss Sardines Brand Choice

If you’ve been paying attention to Tim recently, you’ll know he’s heavily on the band wagon of low carbohydrate, high fat eating. Whether he’s in ketosis, or just maintaining LCHF.

His tinned sardines of choice are Wild Planet Canned Sardines in Olive Oil. These were a recommendations from his good friend, and biochemistry beast Dom D’Agostino. Who himself maintains a largely ketogenic diet.

Wild Planet tout their sardines as sustainably harvested in well-managed fisheries with negligible by-catch or habitat damage. Given the Tim Ferriss affect, and the amount of sardines they must have sold when he recommended them, sustainably harvested is important.

Front of Packaging.

Back of Packaging.

You can see from the back of the packet (above), that the micronutrient content is good. And if we look at the nutritional information (below), we can see the macros are good too. Each tin has 22g fat, 25g protein and 0g of carbohydrate. Ideal for those adhering to LCHF or Keto diets.

Personally I like them in the 12 pack (cheaper in bulk at $28), but they are also available in a 6 pack (at $19).

Generally speaking, I’ll eat these straight out the tin, or if I’m feeling extravagant, spread them on toast and lightly grill with some vinegar, salt and pepper. But here’s another good suggestions for consuming sardines (via the RooshV forum):

Sardine Spread:

  • Take one can (~100g) of sardines in olive oil, remove tail and bones, put them all in a bowl
  • Add 100g of cottage cheese
  • Add some chopped onion and garlic
  • Spice it up: salt, pepper, oregano, basil, parsley
  • Add lemon juice made from squeezing one lemon

Take a spoon and squish everything together. Keep squishing and mixing everything in the bowl until you get a spread which you can put on bread or crackers. I personally prefer to eat this spread with rye crackers and tomatoes, but you can experiment and find some other combination that tastes good.

And just remember to brush your teeth after consuming. They’re super smelly as food goes.

Rhonda Patrick on the Nootropic effects of sulforaphane

This excerpt is taken from Rhonda’s recent podcast with Tim Ferriss.

Summary of the main benefits she mentions, in the context of nootropics:

  • Positive effect on mood and alleviated depressive symptoms and reduced anxiety (so far confirmed in mouse models, with a current trial underway to test in humans)
  • Improved short term and spatial memory (so far proven in mice, in the context of conditions that affect memory such as alzheimers)
  • Increase in neurite outgrowth – which is how damaged neurons and synapses repair themeselves from injury

And here’s the full excerpt:

“Getting past all of the usual suspects on our list of nootropics here, the other nootropic that I actually take frequently is SULFORAPHANE! It’s not even usually considered a nootropic by most people but I think it has potential to be considered at least a mild nootropic for a variety of reasons. One of the the best reasons to make this argument is the fact that sulforaphane crosses the blood-brain barrier, at least in mice. This is the first criteria that a substance must meet in order for there to be a compelling argument that it somehow exerts effects on the brain — but, in addition to that, it also affects the activities of the immune system which is now known to affect the brain through a series of lymphatic vessels. this new understanding of the immune system’s ability to interact with the brain also helps to explain why manipulating levels of systemic inflammation has, in clinical trials, been shown to affect feelings of depression either inducing depression in the presence of an artificial increase in activity in the immune system by injecting things like interferons into human trial participants or reducing depression caused by this artificial increase in inflammation through the co-administration of a natural anti-inflammatory, such as eicosapentaenoic acid, better known as the omega-3 fatty acid EPA.

In addition to sulforaphane crossing the blood-brain barrier in mice, the compound has been shown in a couple of randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled studies in humans to have one sort of effect or another on brain and behavior. For example, treatment with sulforaphane extracted from broccoli sprouts at doses ranging from about 9 mg to about 25 mg, which is an amount that might be found in around 65 grams of fresh broccoli sprouts on the high end, was able to improve autistic behavior checklist scores by 34% and significantly improved social interaction, abnormal behavior, and verbal communication in young men with autism spectrum disorder. Similarly, some measurable effects have been shown in a small trial of people with schizophrenia.

The fact that sulforaphane is exhibiting clear effects on the brain and behavior of people, such as those with autism spectrum disorder, hints that it might continue to show promise in other areas of cognition too. This is because animal studies have really shown a diversity of very interesting effects that are really just waiting to be replicated in humans.

For example: Sulforaphane has been shown to improve spatial working memory and short term memory in mice in the context of conditions that can affect memory in a deleterious way, such as Alzheimer’s Disease. It has been shown to increase neurite outgrowth, which is how damaged neurons and synapses repair themselves after damage from traumatic brain injury. The effect of sulforaphane on a rodent model of Alzheimer’s Disease in some respects is particularly interesting, because, if we go back to our conversation a little bit earlier about the potential choline may have for mitigating some of the negative effects of this disorder, sulforaphane has also been shown to significantly reduce memory impairment that has been experimentally induced by a drug that works specifically by interfering with the effects of acetylcholine in the nervous system, a drug known as scopolamine.

Sulforaphane was, in this animal trial to which I am referring, able to improve the cholinergic system by increasing acetylcholine levels, decreasing acetylcholine esterase activity, and increasing choline acetyltransferase, which is the enzyme responsible for synthesizing acetylcholine in the hippocampus and frontal cortex. This ties in nicely with some of our discussion earlier about the potential importance of the choline system in cognition. Finally, sulforaphane has been shown to have a positive effect on mood and alleviated depressive symptoms and anxiety as effectively as the antidepressant Prozac in a mouse model of depression and I understand that there is at least one trial currently in the beginning stages looking to confirm this effect in humans as well.

If you consider the variety of brain and behavioral effects demonstrated already in humans, I’m optimistically hoping that some of the groups out there working on these questions will have something good to show for it in the future.”

See the full Tim Ferriss podcast for more info.

And see this post on sulforaphane supplements + info on how to grow broccoli sprouts yourself, which contain the glucoraphanin and myrocinase your body needs to convert into sulforaphane.

Dr Rhonda Patrick Probiotic Supplement Choice – VSL #3

Dr Rhonda Patrick is a big advocate of a healthy gut biome. She aims to achieve this primarily through a nutritionally diverse diet that’s rich in fibre. On top of this, she tops up her gut bacteria with supplemental probiotics.

At one stage she used to try a variety of probiotics, but now she uses just one probiotic; VSL #3. To quote her:

I’ve changed my probiotic to VSL#3. It has 10X the bugs than any other brand and 25 published studies showing efficacy in IBS, IBD, colitis, and c.diff.

[source]

She has also talked about VSL #3 on Twitter:

And its not just Rhonda taking it; Tim Ferriss is also a fan:

VSL #3 is actually supplied in a cold box, and should be transferred to the fridge upon delivery. This is to preserve the live cultures contained in the pills.

Pricing – Pills vs Sachets

VSL #3 is the Rolls Royce of probiotics, and it doesn’t come cheap.

If bought in sachets, its $3.40 per serving ($103 for 30 sachets), and if bought in pill form its $2 per serving (each $60 tub contains 60 pills, and the recommended serving size is 2 pills). Beyond the cost, there is an additional difference between the pills vs sachets. Each capsule has 112.5 billion live bacteria, whereas each sachet has 450 billion.

Currently Rhonda takes a maintenance dose of probiotics between once per week and once every 2 weeks. Specifically she takes the sachets containing 450 billion live bacteria:

Alternatives?

Rhonda knows so much about this subject, compared to the layman, that I tend to take her advice. She talks about two main problems with other probiotics:

  • They often die when left unrefrigerated
  • They don’t contain a meaningful amount of live bacteria

If you’re set on taking a probiotic other than VSL #3, it would be worth checking if there are any peer reviewed studies backing up the products efficacy. For studies on VSL #3, search it on Google Scholar.

Further Research

Whilst supplementing probiotics like VSL #3 is useful, it shouldn’t replace a nutritionally diverse diet, rich in plant fibre. To learn more about this subject, take a look at the following Rhonda Patrick interview with Dr. Erica & Dr. Justin Sonnenburg

 

Dr Rhonda Patrick’s Supplement Brand List

Firstly, I’ll give a quick overview of Rhonda’s supplements. Then later in this post, I’ll go into details on each one, including usage and dosage.

Rhonda’s base supplement list:

Rhonda’s preferred Nootropic “Smart Drug” Choices:

Further supplements Rhonda uses:

Further foods Rhonda has recommended:

View the full list on Amazon here.

This list is compiled through a combination of Rhonda’s tweets, and her podcast episodes. The intention is to keep it as up to date as possible. If you see something that needs changing, comment below.

Rhonda’s Base Supplement List (Details)

Multivitamins

According to her blog she takes Pure Encapsulations multivitamins blend. She chooses it because of the ratios of the vitamins and minerals in it. It contains methyl folate, which can be used by people with MTHFR gene polymorphisms (half the population). It also has other goodies she likes (lutein, CoQ, Boron etc).

B-Complex

Rhonda previously took an ‘activated’ B-Complex produced by Swanson Ultra (see this tweet), in addition to the B vitamins contained in her multivitamin ONE. Swanson’s B vitamin supplement is specifically formulated for high bio availability. It includes 400mcg of folate (for those of the population who can’t process folic acid efficiently). More info can be found on the Swanson product page.

Rhonda has since stopped adding a B complex, because she gets enough B vitamins from her diet + daily ONE multivitamin.

However, for those like Rhonda’s Mum who have are T-homozygous on their MTHFR gene (SNP = rs1801133), which leads to poor uptake of folate, they may benefit from up to 800 micrograms supplementation of 5 methylfolate. ONE multivitamin has 400 micrograms, so this means you would need an additional source such as Swansons B-Complex. Other supplements that may be of benefit for this issue are B6 and B12.

Why is poor folate uptake a potential problem? Folate influences homocysteine levels. Low folate can mean high homocysteine, which can lead to hyperhomocysteinaemia, which can result in a number of problems, including cardiovascular disease.

For clarity on what T-homozygous means in the above context (because it confused me at first), the homo part of the word means “same/identical”. And the zygous part refers to the allele (a gene in a certain position). The “T” part refers to thymine, one of the four compounds that connect to the helixes that make up our DNA.

The one in particular to watch out for in your genetic report is 677TT, which has the worst enzyme activity, compared to the most common genotype 677CC. TT has 30% of the mean activity compared to CC individuals. Heterozygous individuals (CT) have a mean MTHFR activity of 65% compared to CC. (PubMed Source – unfortunately the abstract doesn’t include these figures, but I’ve checked, and the full text does).

If all this talk of MTFHR gene mutations has you curious, you can get your SNPs sequenced quickly and easily. Thus allowing you to access your genetic data. SNP sequencing costs as little as $79 from Ancestry. Or $99 from 23andMe. The main differences between the services will be the online interfaces which you use to collect your results + the version of the Illumina chip they’re using to sequence on.

23andMe also offer a $199 service, which provides health analysis on top of ancestry. But you don’t need this. With both their $99 and $199 packages you can export your SNPs, and run them through the promethease service for $5, which lets you drill easily into your relevant SNPs.

Rhonda Patrick also has a tool with which you can use to analyze your SNPs, located at foundmyfitness.com/genetics.

 

Vitamin D

Rhonda emphasises in her video on Vitamin D that its important to take it at the right dose. In an excellent infographic, posted on her blog, she suggests 4000IU of daily supplementation is enough to bring people that were previously deficient up to 30ng/ml, without toxicity. Her target range is 40 – 60 ng/ml. To achieve this tight range, vitamin D blood testing is a necessity.

Rhonda’s preferred multivitamin supplement (Pure Encapsulations ONE) contains 2,000IU of vitamin D3. So then she often supplements with an additional 2,000IU of D3, because she doesn’t get much sunlight (which our bodies can use to produce vitamin D). She has mentioned previously taking Swanson’s D3 supplement and NOW D3 supplement (both 2,000IU).

Rhonda highly recommends people test their Vitamin D levels.

  1. To ascertain you’re not deficient in Vitamin D
  2. To understand the impact that supplementation is having (or not having).

Manifestations of Vitamin D toxicity, from overdosing, include hypercalcemia and calcinosis, the associated calcification of soft tissues including organs such as the kidneys, heart, and lungs, along with blood vessels. Not nice stuff!

Vitamin D testing doesn’t have to be expensive, for example Walk In Lab, who have labs all over the USA, have the vitamin D test for under $60.

Vitamin K2

Swanson’s K2 supplement, which derives its MK7 from Natto, is Rhonda’s go to choice. There are two popular forms of vitamin K2 commercially available. These are MK4 and MK7. MK7 is produced by bacterial fermentation of soy, and appears to have a longer half life then MK4.

Benefits of K2 are mostly related to bone strength and arterial health (reducing calcification or even decalcifying, with a possible reduction in blood pressure).

Fish Oil

According to Twitter, Rhonda takes the Nordic Naturals – EPA Xtra fish oil supplement. Its purified, lemon flavoured fish oil that comes from anchovies and sardines. Each serving of 2 soft gels contain 1060mg EPA and 300mg DHA.

Krill Oil

Rhonda takes NOW Neptune Krill Oil 1000mg. The benefit of taking the Krill oil on top of the EPA is that it has DHA Phosphatidylserine. Which is a vital phospholipid component of brain and nerve cell membranes.

Magnesium

Previously Rhonda has spoken about taking calcium and magnesium in a 2 to 1 ratio. Specifically Swanson’s formulation with 600mg of Calcium and 300mg of Magnesium.

 

Most recently, on her podcast with Tim Ferriss, she also discussed taking magnesium citrate by Thorne. This is actually a different form of magnesium, compared to the Swanson formulation above, which uses magnesium oxide. 90 caps at 135mg per cap.

Rhonda’s preferred Nootropic “Smart Drug” Choices

Rhonda’s approach to smart drugs is quite different from most. She stays away from compounds that are inhibitors of enzymes in the brain (which rules out a large number of traditional nootropics). She also stays away from compounds that humans haven’t evolved alongside, on the basis that with novel substances, its hard to know the potential long term side effect profile.

Choline – Alpha GPC

Rhonda takes a form of choline called alpha-glycerophosphocholine (aka Alpha GPC) to sharpen her brain ahead of public speaking events. On these occasions she takes 600mg, with the aim to increase her attention and focus. Noting that 300mg didn’t appear to be enough to see benefits.

She doesn’t take this supplement very often. However, she does make a point to include natural sources of choline in her diet, such as eggs, almonds, spinach, broccoli and chicken.

Whilst there are different forms of choline, Alpha GPC is good because it is quick to cross the blood-brain barrier.

To achieve a dose similar to Rhonda’s 600mg, you’d need 2x caps of Jarrow’s Alpha GPC.

Lion’s Maine

This is a mushroom, also known as yamabushitake, which has been shown to have a number of benefits, including the stimulation of nerve growth factor.

Rhonda uses it for intense periods of writing / creative work. She takes 2x 1.5g packs of Four Sigmatic’s Mushroom Elixir in a session.

Sulforaphane – From Self Grown Broccoli Sprouts

Sulforaphane is heavily touted for its potential life extension properties (see this separate post on its benefits). However, Rhonda also suggests it has mild nootropic abilities, based on its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier (tested in mice models), coupled with its anti-inflammatory properties and positive effects on the immune system.

Rhonda explains the nootropic benefits of sulforaphane in her latest podcast with Tim Ferriss. See this excerpt for the details.

Whilst there are sulforaphane supplements available (such as Avmacol), Rhonda chooses to grow her own broccoli sprouts and then blend them into smoothies.

It’s really simple to grow broccoli sprouts, you just need a seed sprouter (Rhonda uses Ball jars + sprouter lids, but any jar + mesh will do), and some organic broccoli sprout seeds. This video gives a good overview on how to produce your own.

The dosage used in clinical trials often ranges from 30-60mg of sulforaphane. Estimates land fresh broccoli sprouts at a concentration of about 1 gram fresh weight to around 0.45mg of sulforaphane. So to achieve 30-60mg, you’d need to consume between 67-134g of sprouts.

Rhonda says (on her latest Tim Ferriss podcast) she consumes up to 4 ounces (113g) of broccoli sprouts a few times per week. Broccoli seeds yield approximately 5:1. So this means if you start off with 1 ounce of broccoli seeds, you’d end up with approximately 5 ounces of sprouts.

To achieve Rhonda’s 8 ounces consumption per week, you need to grow approximately 1 and a 1/2 ounces (43g) of seeds each week. To put a price to that, Todd’s seeds (for example) are $24 per pound (1lb = 16 ounces). So you’re looking at a cost of $2.25 of seeds per week. That’s not very expensive, given the potential long term health benefits.

Granted, if you’re consuming 4 ounces of broccoli sprouts in one sitting, its a lot. You’ll probably want to emulate Rhonda, and blend them in with a smoothie. Her blender of choice (like Joe Rogan) is the Blendtec Classic. But any decent blender will do.

Its worth also taking a look at Rhonda’s video on tripling the bioavailability of sulforaphane your sprouts. Essentially you heat your broccoli sprouts to 70C, hot enough that it disables the epithiospecifier protein, but not too hot that it disables the myrocinase enzyme (responsible for converting the glucoraphanin into sulforaphane). We do this because glucoraphanin can be converted into two forms of sulforaphane (regular sulforaphane, the stuff we want, and sulforaphane nitrile, which does not contain the anti-carcinogenic properties we want). By knocking out the epithiospecifier protein, which is needed for converting glucoraphanin to sulforaphane nitrile, we increase potential conversion to regular sulforaphane (yay!).

She uses a Famili temperature monitor to ensure she gets the water at 70C.

Rhonda’s broccoli sprouting setup. Complete with Ball jars, sprouting lids, regular teapot, famili temperature monitor and blendtec blender.

Further supplements Rhonda likes

Probiotics

Rhonda takes a maintenance dose of probiotics between once per week and once every 2 weeks. And then relies on her diet for enough fibre and nutritional diversity to maintain a healthy gut. The probiotic she takes is one called VSL #3, which actually gets shipped with a cold pack, to preserve the active probiotic ingredients.

Collagen

Both Rhonda and Tim Ferriss take a collagen supplement by Great Lakes. Its beneficial for the connective tissues like tendons, ligaments, cartilage, joints and bone.

 

Nicotinamide Riboside

Rhonda is cautiously optimistic on this supplement.

From Alive by Nature’s article:

“Nicotinamide Riboside (NR) is a recently discovered form of vitamin B3 that can increase levels of Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide (NAD+) levels in humans.

NAD+ is a key co-enzyme that the mitochondria in every cell of our bodies depend on to fuel all basic functions.

NAD+ levels drop as we age and when our bodies are stressed by disease or chronic inflammation.

Research in mice used NMN (Nicotinamide Mono-Nucleotide) to increase NAD+ levels can “turn back the clock” and make muscles, organs and tissues in older mice resemble that of much younger animals.

Research in humans has shown that both NMN and NR raise NAD+ levels, which helps to ameliorate some age related conditions, although it is too soon to know yet how effective it will be.”

She takes a version of the supplement from Thorne called NiaCel.

Meriva (Curcumin Phytosome)

Rhonda cites a number of examples where NSAIDs (non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs) such as Ibuprofen are potentially quite bad for our health. And suggests an alternative, a highly bio available form of curcumin, known as Meriva. Specifically Rhonda takes Thorne Reasearch’s Meriva.

Further foods Rhonda has recommended:

Beet Powder

This recommendation comes via Rhonda’s Instagram post on beets. She talks about the many studies that have shown positive effects of beets on blood pressure, endothelial function, heart health, improved blood flow to the brain, and endurance performance. Apparently beets are one of the highest sources of nitrate (which then gets converted into nitric oxide) and is thought to increase blood flow to the brain. Beets are also high in vitamin C, which prevents the conversion of nitrates into nitrosamines (those carcinogens that are formed from the nitrites which are used as preservatives).

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the post is her anecdotal story of using beets (powder) to help rid her mother and mother-in-law of high blood pressure (without meds!). Rhonda says:

“My mother was diagnosed with high blood pressure (after multiple visits) and her physician wanted to get her on blood pressure meds. She opted to wait and see what I said (thank you, mom). I got her some organic beet extract powder to use once or twice a day. She used 9 grams a day for two weeks and went back to get her blood pressure measured again. Her blood pressure was completely normal and now she does not need the blood pressure meds! After this, I ordered some for my mother-in-law who was also diagnosed with high blood pressure. The same thing happened to her…her blood pressure is normal! While this is not a clinical trial, I’m pretty happy that the beetroot extract seemed to help lower blood pressure in two people that I care about deeply. The product I got for them was by Activz”

High blood pressure is a huge issue for people as they get into later life, as it increases the risk of a haemorrhagic stroke in the brain. So if this anecdote is applicable to even a small % of people with high blood pressure, that’s huge. The Activz Organic Beet Powder Rhonda used for her family has the equivalent of 1 cup of beet juice per 9 gram scoop.

Wild Salmon Roe Caviar

Rhonda particularly likes VitalChoice’s wild salmon roe caviar as a source of omega-3 because the fats are in phospholipid form, which has greater bioavailability to be transported into the brain via the mfsd2a transporter. This is the form that is best taken up by the brain (including the developing fetal brain). It also has a good amount of astaxanthin which protects the omega-3’s from oxidation and does the same for neurons.

Studies looking at DHA and EPA levels in red blood cells have shown a correlation between higher omega-3 status and having a to 2 cm larger brain volume. Therefore getting omega-3 into and keeping it in the brain is definitely a brain aging priority for Rhonda. Salmon roe provides ~438 mg of EPA and ~514 mg of DHA per ounce.

One way in which she likes to eat them, is to put them on half an avocado with some fresh lemon juice.

Rhonda opts to buy her salmon roe caivar in bulk from VitalChoice. It comes frozen and sectioned into quadrants, so she thaws one quadrant at a time. Perhaps due to Rhonda’s fan base, VitalChoice are currently out of stock of their bulk 2.2lbs option. They do however still have stock of their 6oz jars. See this post on Instagram for Rhonda talking more about VitalChoice’s salmon roe caviar.

Parting Words

So that’s quite a lengthy list of supplements! And the somewhat frustrating thing is, nootropics aside, if you purchase them and take them, you may not notice any difference in how you feel.

As discussed in Rhonda’s interview with Bruce Ames, the body prioritizes micronutrients for survival and reproductive activities over using them for activities related to longevity. This means that micronutrient shortages over time can reduce our long term health. This is analogous to car maintenance. Short term, keeping a car well maintained may seem expensive, and over the top, but long term, the car will be running smoothly whilst other cars its age will be running into issues.

I think its important to remember that, the next time you pop your supplements, and don’t feel anything remarkable as a result. Its a long term strategy.

If you appreciate this post, remember of course that none of it would be possible without Rhonda Patrick’s hard work in understanding biological mechanisms, and explaining them to the wider world (us!). We can support her by donating to her Patreon campaign. This also frees her up to continue communicating all this great science to us, over at her website, FoundMyFitness.

Thriva Review – How Does It Work? What Does It Tell You? Is It Worth The Money?

Ever since I heard about a San Francisco based startup called WellnessFX, I’ve been interested in getting blood tests.

The way Tim Ferriss described periodic blood testing with WellnessFX, it sounded so obviously important, that I couldn’t understand why we don’t do it.

He described it like this. Imagine trying to tell what’s happening in a football game, if all you’ve got is one freeze frame on the tv. Now imagine you’ve got freeze frames every few minutes, you can start to build up a picture of what’s happening.

That’s not too dissimilar to blood testing, if we can build up a picture of our hormone and vitamin levels over time we can pre-empt illness, and take evasive procedures to avoid it.

And then… I came back to Earth, and remembered I’m in the UK, without private healthcare. And the only way I’ll get blood tests on the NHS is if I have symptoms. I need to be ill otherwise they don’t want to know.

So I kinda forgot about the blood tests for a while, until a friend mentioned Thriva.

They offer a basic panel of blood tests (Cholesterol, Triglycerides, Vitamin D, Iron & Liver Function) for £49.

And the great part about their test, is you don’t need to go anywhere to do it. They send you a small pack in the mail that gives you everything you need to take your own blood (less than 1ml!) and send it back to them.

How Does It Work?

Here’s what the kit looks like, and how to use it (roughly speaking):

It’s a game changer really. All of a sudden it allows people to take health into their own hands.

What Does It Tell You?

So you’re probably wondering… okay, so I send my blood off… what next? Here’s a quick video showing the Thriva dashboard where you can get your results:

Is It Worth The Money?

If you’ve got a health care plan that covers tests like these, then sure, there’s no need. But for the rest of us, £50 is a reasonable price to pay for keeping on top of our health. 

How could they improve things?

 

Currently the number of tests available through Thriva is limited. However, they are working on expanding things.

My ideal scenario, would be for them offer a large range of blood tests, all at affordable prices, and available through the mail. I believe there are some tests that should be taken in a clinic setting (e.g. homocysteine), but if they can get the majority to work via mail that would be ideal.

Currently they offer recurring tests, so that you can measure progress over time. Again, more customisation on those tests would be good.

Additional tests I’d be interested in seeing include:

  • Glycated Hemoglobin (A1C) – which measures 3 month average plasma glucose concentration. High levels = bad
  • C Reactive Protein (CRP) – this is a substance produced by the liver when inflammation is present. High levels = bad
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) – is a precursor to testosterone and estrogen, produced in the adrenal glands. Low levels = bad

But credit where credit is due. Thriva is a relatively new company, which may or may not be profitable yet. They need scale. What they’ve done so far is incredible, and I hope they’re able to continue to do so.