Thursday, September 27, 2007

Low carb research in the works

It seems like I'm on the once a month blogging schedule. But, it's with good reason.

Since the beginning of the month, I've been working hard to collect participants, design the blood draw scheme, design diets and order supplies for my upcoming dissertation (PhD thesis) project at UConn.

For the past 3 years, I've been fortunate to work and research along side the great and all-knowing low-carb expert, Jeff Volek, PhD RD. With Jeff I've looked at the effects of low-carb (very low-carb to be precise) diets on individuals with the dyslipidemia of Metabolic Syndrome, and on weight-loss combined with resistance training.

My previous research experience at the University of Alberta in Canada revolved around how different types of fat sources affect blood cholesterol levels and cholesterol synthesis rates. In my MS, I did a human feeding study (translation = I cooked all meals every day for my participants) for a total of 4 months. It was tiresome, but a good experience.

I'm now combining my past experience with my current research to design one of the most interesting low-carb experiments that has ever been done.

What I'm doing is cooking all meals again (yes, I'm crazy) for 12 men aged 30-60, for a total of 3 months. This means that I'll be a slave to a kitchen again, cooking and preparing a total of 252 meals and 252 snacks each week. It's going to be a lot of work, but I'm really looking forward to it.

The design is such that I have created a 7-day rotational menu for 2 different low-carb diets that will last a period of 6-weeks each. One diet will be the typical low-carb diet that is rich in saturated fat, mostly from dairy sources (butter, cheese and cream). The other diet is the supposed "ideal" low-carb diet that is rich in monounsaturated fat and omega-3 polyunsaturated fat from olive oil, canola oil, fish and omega-3 eggs. Each man will consume one of the diets in a cross-over design with the first one of the diets being given between the middle of October and the beginning of December, and the other mid-February to the end of March (2008). Three weeks prior to all this food being given, each man will follow a self-selected low-carb diet for 4 weeks so that their bodies are all adapted to the carb-restriction.

The diets are also not "diets" in the traditional sense. The calorie level provided is actually going to be sufficient enough so these men do not lose weight because in previous published papers from our lab group, we are criticised because people lose more weight on low-carb and any beneficial effects seen from the diet are suspected to be just because body weight decreases so much. So, in my study, I'm keeping weight stable.

The overall purpose of this research is to finally define what type of fat a person should eat if they decide to make low-carb their lifestyle. Currently there are no recommendations, so this study may provide more insight into what one should eat.

In the study we're measuring body comp via DEXA before beginning any low-carb eating, pre-6 week low-carb feeding and post-6 week feeding. Also looking at fatty acid composition of the blood, blood inflammation, urine isoprostanes (a measure of oxidative stress), blood lipids, antioxidant status and standard chem panels (liver function, kidney function, etc).

So, with all these measures, my days are very busy. I usually get up at 5:30 so that I can be at the lab by 7am to manage subjects, take blood, collect urine etc, etc.

Soon, my days are going to be even more busy as I become a full-time chef. Like I said, it's going to be a tough job because the diets are so particular and precise, but I'm really looking forward to getting away from the computer and getting down and dirty in the kitchen.

As the days roll on I'll update my progress. Wish me luck because this ain't going to be easy (yes, I know "ain't" ain't a word...just threw it in there for fun ) :)