My Detox Experience – Part 3 – Objective changes

They are here, they are plain, they are numbers… And they are finally coming…!!! The physiological markers, the health parameters… All the geeky part of the experiment that will hopefully shed some “scientific” light on the adaptations of the body to a sudden and rather significant diet change. In this section, I will discuss the most relevant findings, in addition to publishing some of the raw (yep, even numbers can be used raw…!) data on myself (not on the other people in order to respect their privacy).

ANTHROPOMETRIC DATA AND BODY COMPOSITION

As you can see from my PRE-detox numbers, if there was a reason I wanted to try the detox diet, it was to see whether I would feel “refreshed” or “energised”, or what it would feel to be “detoxified” (I evetually ended up doing it as part of a group activity and an experiment on myself, but that is another issue…). I was not aiming at losing weight nor body fat, and in fact, I was more concerned about not losing fat free mass than anything else. Starting at 70.77 Kg (by 1.75 m tall, giving a BMI of 23.1 Kg/m2 for those who believe in it…), I ended at 67.46 Kg (BMI 22.03 Kg/m2), with a total loss of 3.31 Kg (or 4.68% of my starting weight). Considering that total body weight is a very poor marker of health or fitness (as is the BMI, on which so many guidelines are based…) my next question was: where did this weight come from? If the numbers don’t lie, 1.14 Kg were fat-free mass, while 2.14 were body fat.

Anthropometric data PRE vs POST
Anthropometric data PRE vs POST

Before celebratory parties get started, I would like to make a couple of considerations:

  • I said if, for the simple reason that at such low level, minimal changes in the machine reading (the so-called reliability of the measuring device), would show as major changes in percentage points. Did my body fat really went from 9% to 6.8%? If I am sure I lost weight (I felt it, I could see it and the scale is much more “reliable” than the BodPod), I can think that most of it was fat, but certainty would need much more data (if it was ever to achieve…). And even then, was it a good thing? With minimum body fat recommended to stay above 5% in elite male athletes, I would leave the answer to you…
  • As mentioned previously, I was not aiming at losing weight or body fat, but rather at maintaining fat free mass while feeling the benefits (if any…) of a plant-based, raw, juiced dietary regime. My fat-free mass went from 64.42 Kg (91%) to 63.25 (93.8%). Maintaining the same consideration as above, this was an unwelcome adaptation, that will lead me to the next part of my data analysis about energy deficit.

For those out there who love playing with numbers, we can indeed see that to lose over 3 Kg in such a short time, a few things need to happen. First and foremost, you must be kept in quite a significant energy deficit (more of that in a moment). This was somehow a pleasant surprise for my brain… I was not just a wimp (if you read Part 2 of my detox experience you will understand), my body was actually paying a rather heavy bill, on a daily basis… Secondly, considering that the mathematical idea of 2.14 Kg of fat equaling 19,260 Cal would give a daily energy deficit of 3,852 Cal (even ignoring the other 1.13 Kg of fat-free mass, a rather unlikely occurrence), my glycogen stores were likely to have been depleted carrying water away with them (pure speculation on this point, if you can suggest any other explanation, I would love to read it in the comment box…). Another pleasant surprise for my brain: my legs and arms were feeling so heavy for a reason!

On another note, I did indeed question the validity of the nutritional information I was given, and would surely recommend the Detox Delight nutritionists to double check their data. So, I lost weight… But how did the rest of my body adapt?

LIPOPROTEIN PARTICLE PROFILE

This was a big one indeed…! If there is one test I would recommend to anyone interested in looking at their cardiovascular disease risk (CVD, essentially the risk you have of suffering from a heart attack or similar, the number one causes of death in the Western World), it would be the LPP. Without going too much into details (I might in future posts, but if you cannot wait I would strongly recommend Dr Peter Attia’s blog) the LPP measures not only the classic total cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol (HDL-C), TG and LDL-cholesterol (LDL-C), but it also measures LDL particle number (LDL-P), LDL subclasses, HDL2b, insulin, high sensitive CRP (the most accurate marker of inflammation) and it gives you a Metabolic Syndrome risk score (what you should essentially be concerned about).

Considering the attention I pay to my diet and the amount of physical activity I undertake, I did not expect any major surprise here. And indeed my Metabolic Syndrome risk score started from 0…! And not just that, my HDL-C (the so called “good cholesterol”) was very high with an LDL-C (the “bad boy”) defined as “above optimal”. First sign that my usual lifestyle already works…

Unfortunately though, you might notice a flashy red number next to my LDL-IV particle number… If initially that was a surprise and a concern (recent studies have shown a much higher atherogenic risk of LDL-IV and LDL-III over the bigger LDL-I and LDL-II), it also sparked an almost insatiable hunger for more knowledge and understanding of this part of lipidology. Hours and hours of reading and discussing with other practitioners later, this ultimately let me understand the even higher importance of LDL-P (the actual number of LDL particles, rather than their size) over LDL-subclasses, and even more so, the importance of “concordance” between LDL-C (in my case low) and LDL-P (also low). In this situation, essentially, the mere size of my LDL was irrelevant, as there were so few of them, carrying so little cholesterol, that everything else did not matter…

I would strongly suggest you to refer to other websites and blogs here or from my links page (The Eating Academy or DocsOpinion to just mention a couple of the most useful in my opinion and in my personal journey to understanding these not so widely addressed topics) if you want to know more. It would be not just out of the scope of this page, but surely it would be way far from my competence and knowledge at this stage.

ORGANIX COMPREHENSIVE PROFILE

If I defined the LPP test as the one not to miss to measure your CVD risk, the Organix was supposed to be one not to miss to see the effects of the detox diet… If indeed changes in blood lipids and aminoacids might take some time to happen and be recorded, the Organix Profile measures a number of metabolic markers that can be affected by shorter dietary interventions. Not only this, it also measures markers for a number of situations relevant to the so called “functional medicine”, that discipline that deals with sub-clinical insufficiencies or higher concentrations of molecules and minerals that could potentially represent non-optimal health (as much as we know about it at least) or lead to clinical conditions if left untreated. I would like here to stress this point: I am now discussing about biomarkers used in functional medicine, a very different area from the more common concepts of medicine where abnormal indicators are almost invariably associated with a clinical condition or at least prompt some intervention. These biomarkers per se mean hardly anything. More than in other scientific fields, a clinical connection between these markers and clinical symptoms have to be made before considering an intervention. After this short intro, these were my findings, before and after my detox diet:

image

Wow, I thought after seeing this…! I don’t think there is much to explain when a rapid look at the summary shows such a marked change from various abnormal findings to an almost perfect sheet of “no abnormality found”… If as I explained in the previous paragraph, I and the consulting functional medicine practitioner were not concerned by the PRE findings anyway (I did not present any symptom that would require additional investigations or treatment anyway, as for example if I had sleeping issues associated with my high neurotransmitter metabolism markers), the “normalization” of almost all markers was still a pleasant surprise.

In particular, if the detox diet was meant to help my body somewhere, I should have expected to see some changes in the oxidative stress and detoxification processes… And guess what? My liver seemed to fully reap the benefits of the diet indeed…! My corrected levels of p-hydroxyphenillactate possibly meant a reduced cellular oxidative damage, while the improved detoxification indicators showed that my liver was now working under less pressure.

If until now the effects of the detox diet was just marginally showing some positives, the Organix profile test, surely tilted the balance towards its likely effectiveness, at least into doing what the name suggests: help the body detoxification system…

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My Detox Experience – Part 1 – Introduction

Here it is, the drop that made me start my personal blog. My 5-day “detox” juice-only diet. I will start by clarifying that I have no personal interest in any of the companies or tools mentioned in this post. The only reason I will put links, names and comments is to give you a better understanding of the process and if you are interested, to get more information about the topics.

WHAT A DETOX DIET IS AND WHAT DETOX DELIGHT DOES

A detox diet is often defined as a nutrition plan lasting a limited amount of time (it varies between a few days and a few weeks), during which most providers will claim that you “flush your system from toxins” or “detoxify your body” from the toxins normally ingested with your diet, or by smoking, etc… In other instances, you will be promised to “alkalize” your system, starting from the principle that too much “acidity” in your system is deleterious and today’s environment will most likely cause your body to be acid. To my knowledge, none of these claims is scientifically proven. However, talk to anyone in a detox plan and you are likely to hear one of these effects… Depending on the company (there is indeed no standard on the program, or on the final objective, apart being “detoxified”) you will be told to avoid certain foods (most commonly animal products and alcohol) and you will only be allowed to eat certain others (usually plant-based only, sometimes only in juiced form, some other times salads are included), often only in their raw form. [Future blog posts will discuss the reasons behind all these restrictions and the potential benefits of raw food (from a scientific point of view)]. The chapter of nuts would also deserve a full dissertation on its own [and it will soon be discussed], as in some programs they are totally banned, while in others they are the major source of proteins and fats, although they will probably be soaked or somehow treated before eating [you will learn why in one of my future posts, just stay tuned].

Detox Delight Middle East is the Dubai franchise of a company headquartered in Germany. In brief, they offer several “detox programs” in which they deliver food to your door at regular intervals for a certain period, so that you do not have to do anything more than just read the information provided and eat what they serve. No shopping, no cooking and no cleaning is required. One of their (very valid) selling point, is indeed their convenience. The foods and drinks come in an ice-box and are freshly made in their own local kitchen, using organically grown and locally sourced products (in Dubai their main provider is Greenheart Organic Farms). Normally the products will have a shelf life of two to three days, so that you have enough food before the next delivery. They offer plant-based raw food only and depending on their programs, they might offer a juice-only package or include salads and snacks. Out of their deliveries you are recommended to only drink water and herbal teas (which they also provide), while you should abstain from any other food, alcohol, caffeine and smoking. Detox Delight Middle East is run by two incredibly passionate women, Claudia and Nicole. They will make sure everything works smoothly and you have all the support you need to make a change (often a big one) in you diet.

Active Detox
Active Detox

MY (OUR) DETOX DELIGHT PROGRAM

Following the positive results achieved by some of our friends with one of the detox program offered by Detox Delight ME (weight loss, improved general wellbeing), I and six other physically active friends decided to try the Active Detox program. It involves having a juice-based only diet of 8 x 500ml juices (mixed fruits, vegetables and nuts) for 5 days. On top of that we also received a daily 250ml bottle of nut milk to take after training.

Before fully throwing ourselves into the program, we agreed to make it in a more “scientific” way. Through Diagnostika Laboratories in Dubai we had the Spectracell Lipoprotein Particles Test and the Metametrix Organix Comprehensive ProfileAmino Acid Profile and Plasma Fatty Acids Profile tests done, in addition to measuring our body height, weight and body composition, using the Cosmed BodPod. All these tests and measurements were taken on the day we started our detox program and then repeated the morning after the end of it, in order to see whether the detox would show any changes in any of the parameters observed. The main parameters to look for were related to cardiovascular risk factors, including blood insulin and inflammatory markers (Lipoprotein Particles), macronutrients metabolism (Organix Profile), plasma pool of amino acids (Amino Acids Profile) and fatty acids (Fatty Acids Profile) and body composition (mainly weight and body fat %, via the BodPod, recognized as one of the most accurate measuring tool by the scientific literature). In a less scientific approach, I also decided to run my regular distance and perform a set workout the night before the start, and then repeat it on the last night of the program, to see whether my performance, personal feel or heart rate would be affected. We agreed not to change our training routine during the program (despite it is recommended to “take it easy” during the detox) as we love training and changing other parameters would have added confounding variables to our results.

Wanna know about the results of our experiment and my personal feedback and review of all parties involved?  I will divide them into personal feelings (what I felt, energy, cravings, good and bad feels, etc..), training and performance changes (HR, running times, fatigue, weight sessions results, etc…), objective health parameters modifications (bloods, urine and body composition) and final review and comments… So, for now… Stay tuned, there is plenty to come…!