Auto-Experimentation With Supplement X – Don’t Try This At Home

guineapig

There’s a reason this blog is called ‘Low Carb Confidential’:

  1. The ‘low carb’ part being because I follow a diet based off of the Atkins approach
  2. The ‘Confidential’ part because sometimes…I feel a little weird writing some of the things I write

I feel a little weird about this post because I’ve started experimenting with a new supplement – for now, let’s call it X.

While not a completely original idea, it is somewhat (ahem)…unusual. A bit more on that later, but here’s a little back story.

For some mysterious reason, my weight has reset itself at a higher level – about 10 lbs., more or less, and refuses to budge. I have some odd speculations on that I’ll cover in another post – maybe – but the point is: I can go full-bore low carb…and hardly lose anything. Then I just throw my hands up, get frustrated, and eat the worst possible junk in large amounts…and hardly gain anything.

The low carb mojo ain’t working for some reason. Regardless of the reason, however, it will be 6 years come September that I’ve lived low carb, and it’s been a spectacular success. Right now, I’m still 50 lbs. less than I was at my highest weight almost 6 years ago – and that weight was steadily creeping up.

I can’t see myself in a parallel universe where I kept eating like I was eating and know for sure, but I believe if I had kept up what I was doing, I’d surely be over 300 lbs. and would have full-blown diabetes. Since both my siblings and my parents had it – and my siblings both got it in their early 40s, I think I’ve been able to hold this at bay for a number of years now.

But…I’m still way fatter than I want to be – and about 40 lbs. heavier than my lowest weight on low carb. Ugh. And some of the old tricks are not working.

So it’s time to try some new stuff.

I’ve been given some recordings of hypnosis sessions by a fellow who contacted me from a company called The Hypnosis Network. He gave me ‘Enjoying Weight Loss‘ for a possible review. Hypnosis is not quack science, though there’s a lot of quacks using hypnosis as part of their scam, but this source seems to be legit.

Funny thing – not really following the instructions, I listened to the recordings, and a suggestion of ‘eating more veggies’ seemed to have stuck, because I’ve found myself changing my habits, making a daily salad, and enjoying it. Big change for me…never really did this before.

Coincidence? I dunno – jury’s still out on this one…let’s see how well I do on the veggie-eating, as well as listening to the recordings regularly.

I also gave up completely on alcohol being part of my diet plan. A review of my own history shows that when weight loss was easy, alcohol made it hard – now that weight loss is hard, I’ve got to cut out the vino if I am to have any success at weight loss.

This is no magic bullet, however – almost a month and a half later, there’s been no change in weight.

I am also speculating that Splenda, low carb bread, and nitrated meats are also holding me back, so I am trying to use them as little as possible. I’m speculating because I have no clear evidence to prove this in my personal writings. In fact, one correspondent sent me this fascinating link that questions whether nitrates are bad for you at all.

I’m taking an empirical approach: I try something for a little while and see what results I get. I don’t have to know why something does or doesn’t work – I just need the creativity to try something different, the patience to give it a reasonable time to work, and the sense not to do something dumb.

This bring us back to supplement X.

Supplement X is well-known, been around for hundreds of years, and has some of the following properties:

  • Studies have shown it to be an appetite suppressant
  • Studies have also shown it to increase metabolic rate
  • It has a clear stimulant effect on heart rate and blood pressure
  • Supplement X passes through the blood-brain barrier and has a number of psychoactive effects, such as: feelings of relaxation, sharpness, calmness, increased concentration, pain reduction, and alertness.
  • It is physically addictive, and the American Heart association states: ‘The pharmacological and behavioral characteristics that determine X addiction are similar to those that determine addiction to drugs such as heroin and cocaine
  • It is perfectly legal, and available at any pharmacy – and while some forms carry a social stigma, others pretty much don’t
  • It has never been sold as a weight loss supplement

Now, this sounds like pretty serious stuff – and it is. I don’t know if I would go as far as the AHA in the addiction comparison, but there are people addicted to this stuff that are unable to stop – and it kills them.

So, taking into account my tendency to rethink things, while trying to avoid being just plain dumb, I stopped at the pharmacy on the way to work, and asked for supplement X. He asked a few questions to try and determine the strength I was looking for, and I explained that I wasn’t planning on using it for what it’s sold for – I was going to use it as part of a weight-loss program.

He gave me that look – it’s a mixture of curious wariness, so of the look one might give when trying to determine if a given stranger is dangerous to themselves and others. Then he relaxed – I guess his inner turmoil resolved.

As I left, he called to me: “Let me know how it works out.” I promised him I would.

The pharmacy I went to was part of a grocery store I frequently stop at on the way to and from work. I initially stopped because, that morning, I was hungry as hell, and stopped for some low carb bread and roast beef for a sandwich, which had a 50-50 chance of getting made and eaten in the car because I was so damn hungry.

I left the grocery store with my food and supplement X, then figured I’d try one of the supplements and see what it did to my appetite before I proceeded to make a sandwich and eat it in my car.

Within a minute my appetite was DEAD. I continued to work and wasn’t hungry until late morning – 3 hours later. I took this as a natural and real hunger, didn’t fight it, and ate. Later that afternoon, I had my salad, a bit after that, I left work, had my seltzer, which I drink on the commute home, then when I got home, took a 12oz glass of water with fiber therapy – my attempt to reduce my night hunger, which is my biggest problem.

As of late, this strategy hasn’t really been working – despite drinking more than 2 liters of seltzer and 12 oz. of water, the night hunger was still there.

I took another supplement X and again, the hunger went DEAD. I didn’t eat the rest of the night – I was only mildly hungry.

OK – the initial results were interesting. It needs to be noted that as part of my ‘be creative, be patient, be smart’ credo, I did need to take into account a few things known about supplement X:

  • It is a vasoconstrictor and can raise blood pressure
  • It has mild mind-altering effects – not always bad ones, but it needs to be taken into account
  • It has the potential to be addicting as hell.

When you take supplement X, you feel it – there’s no doubt that you are altering your body chemistry. Did I feel sharper, more concentrated, relaxed, etc.? I don’t know – I didn’t over-analyze it, but I did feel something – and it wasn’t necessarily bad. On the first day, I probably did take more than I probably should have – this is a pure experiment – I have no idea what the ideal dosing schedule would be for something like this – I’m inventing this as I go along.

I decided that, as part of not being stupid – the flip side of being smart – I would take it after a normal-sized meal, which usually is a time I have a tendency to go into ‘perpetual grazing mode’.

I also decided to purchase a blood pressure monitor to measure the actual effect of the vasoconstriction – there is NO controversy in the fact that high blood pressure beats the hell out of your body and shortens lifespan, and as I already have hypertension – and have had it (and have been treated for it) since my twenties – I need to not be stupid here.

As to the addictive potential, I also want to limit the use as much as possible. Normal dosing says no more than 20 per day – I’m trying to keep it to less than a quarter of that.

The blood pressure monitor proved to be a worthwhile investment. I bought an Omron HEM-712C – I paid list, but you can get it on Amazon for $25 less – I’m going to return mine and order from Amazon.

The blood pressure monitor showed that – surprise! – a known vasoconstrictor that raises blood pressure raises my blood pressure – the diastolic number jumping 10 points.

It’s also showing that, contrary to what I thought – that the coffee I drink doesn’t impact my blood pressure because my body is acclimated to it is apparently dead wrong – there’s a nice spike as the caffiene buzz kicks in.

It’s good to have a little biofeedback to show the bullshit in your assumptions – I read somewhere that your body adjusts to the daily caffiene, but maybe that was BS.

So…the resultant out of this is that I am going to reduce the amount of supplement X to the bare minimum – only taking enough of the stuff to kill the appetite, then saving the rest for later.

Maybe now is the time to stop pissing all of you off with this ‘supplement X’ crap and just tell you what it is.

Drumroll, please…supplement X is nicotine.

No, I’m not buying Marlboros – I’m using Commit, the nicotine-loaded lozenges that are used as part of smoking cessation. They are essentially candies chock full of nicotine, the ingredient in cigarettes that makes them physically addictive.

There’s a number of reasons why cigarettes are psychologically addictive – all the ritual aspects of lighting the cigarette, puffing – even tamping down the tobacco on the box.

I know this full well because I smoked for about a decade or so in my misspent youth, with the occasional lapse here and there afterward.

I haven’t smoked in about a decade – when my daughter was born.

I bought the 4mg strength – the ‘hard stuff’ – perhaps I should have gone for the lighter stuff. Just because I used to smoke doesn’t mean my body was prepared for that initial reunion with nicotine – woah! there definitely was some noticeable physical and psychological effects going on here.

It’s funny to think that this substance is legal at all – it’s really an accident of history that this isn’t considered in the same league as marijuana, cocaine, or heroin. In fact, it makes less sense to have marijuana illegal and tobacco legal than the other way around – there’s far more evidence of tobacco causing disease and death than marijuana.

A slight digression here: not many people know that Heroin was marketed as a non-addictive morphine substitute and cough suppressant. Bayer marketed heroin as a cure for morphine addiction until about 1910.

Yep – the makers of Bayer Aspirin were selling Heroin as a cough suppressant.

180px-bayer_heroin_bottle

So – digression aside – Because of an accident of history, I am able to walk into any pharmacy in America and buy nicotine lozenges – and use them for any purpose.

And instead of being a social pariah, users taking this are commended for taking steps to end an addiction to a legal product that is first and foremost considered an annoyance to others. Really, while non-smokers complain about the health effects of smoking, they are mostly concerned about themselves, and the fact they don’t like the smell. Most times, they don’t care if smokers drop dead – as long as they don’t do it nearby – and don’t smell of tobacco while doing it.

Jeez – I can even leave the container on my desk in full view if I was a smoker – it would be considered a positive by HR and management!

What a screwed up world.

My use of the stuff, however, is a bit odd. There is ample history up to today where stimulants have been used to aid weight loss. I remember in the 1970s, there were what were known as ‘diet doctors’ – and these people had an easy time of making money – they just wrote prescriptions for amphetamines for fat housewives who would stop eating, start talking at 100 miles per hour, and stay up all night vacuuming the house and cleaning every drawer and closet in sight.

In those days, guys tended to stay fat and have a lot of fatal heart attacks in their 40s – it was a strange time…

Too bad the housewives built a tolerance to the stuff – and kept having to go higher and higher in dosage.

This created a nation of skinny speed-freaks, and was stopped – and all these folks instantly got fat again.

Today, there is a mountain of similar stuff available at your local pharmacy. I’ve never tried them, personally. I think the leader here is Stacker 2, whose parent company, NVE Pharmaceuticals, will gladly assist you in creating your own personal ‘private label’ brand.

So if you ever see ‘Low Carb Confidential Fat-Burning Supplements’, you can be sure I sold out – and used NVE to make my products.

Anyway, the usual digressions aside, is this a worthwhile experiment for YOU, dear reader, to try?

I doubt it.

First, the evidence of this working is anecdotal at best. There has been some discussion about nicotine reducing or eliminating the weight gain when stopping smoking. First, that’s a big difference from helping weight-loss in a non-smoker.

And Consumer Reports came to an uncharacteristically squishy conclusion to the former assertion:

If you want to quit smoking but worry about piling on the pounds, using nicotine replacement products such as lozenges, patches, and gums may help delay–though not prevent–weight gain while you wean yourself off cigarettes. But you should save real attempts at weight loss for after you’ve quit.

Second, if you already smoke, I doubt you need any more nicotine coursing through your veins.

If you do smoke, you should stop – but you already know that, so I’m not going to be Captain Obvious here.

Captain Obvious is alive and well, however – here’s his answer to someone else who got the same bright idea I did:

Nicotine gum, however, is for smoking cessation and not for weight control.

Sounds like he’s quoting gospel – yep – it’s all been figured out in this guy’s book – no shades of grey here.

And Doc-Got-All-The-Answers goes on to tell the questioner…drumroll…diet and exercise are critical for weight loss.

It’s this sort of exchange that makes dieters frustrated with physicians, and physicians frustrated with dieters. To talk in such generalities – as if a former bodybuilder in his 30s who put on 15 lbs. will lose weight the same way a morbidly obese person in their 50s would is just too simplistic.

We know it’s more complicated than that.

When I started low carb, almost by accident nearly 6 years ago, it made me question all my assumptions about what I thought I knew. The following quote sums it up best:

Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it. – Andre Gide

I had one person who filled out one of my surveys say something to the effect of: it doesn’t appear you know why low carb works.

You got that right, Jack – I don’t – but what of it? You want answers? Go someplace else. I got a lot of questions, though – and like to ask myself new and interesting questions and see where it leads me.

It was this sort of seeking that had me use Atkins as a guidebook – not a Bible – toward weight loss. I tested each of his assertions and found some applied to me and some didn’t. Nutrasweet DID stall me – coffee didn’t.

So I’ve evolved into my own personal Guinea Pig – and learned later about the notion of Auto-Experimentation in the field of science.

Is there some risk involved? Certainly – which is why I advise you NOT to try this experiement yourself. There’s also risk in extra weight, Western medicine in general, Eastern medicine – and getting out of bed in the morning, for that matter.

Homeopathic medicine is the only safe medicine – simply because it is nothing but sterilized water and harmless fillers – total useless crap. If you use homeopathic remedies, sorry to pop your balloon, but on the Crackpot Continuum, it’s right up there with biophotons.

So…another digression behind us, back to nicotine lozenges. What do I think will happen?

Nothing, probably.

I highly doubt that it will have any impact on my weight, though I am curious to see just what effect it does have.

I’ll fill you in as the results come in.

01/25/12 UPDATE: Nearly 3 years of experimentation and

here’s my summary: My Last Post on Nicotine.

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7 thoughts on “Auto-Experimentation With Supplement X – Don’t Try This At Home

  1. If this experiment with supplement X doesn’t pan out, I suggest the next thing you try is the technique developed by Seth Roberts. (Read a hundred or so of the 435 comments) http://www.diet-blog.com/archives/2006/04/10/the_shangri_la_diet.php

    In terms of appetite suppression, consuming a little fat and sugar between meals may be a whole lot safer than your vitamin X approach.

    Another aspect of weight control you might want to research is leptin. Due to biochemical variations, the amount of leptin secreted by fat cells varies from one individual to the next. Your particular body chemistry may predispose you to be hunger when your fat stores drop below a certain level.

    A final consideration is the “biological potency” of your overall food intake. More salads are probably helpful. Low-carb bread, being manufactured, may not be. Fermented high-fat dairy products made from raw milk, grass-fed beef, and eggs produced by pastured chickens are all examples of biologically potent natural foods.

    http://hamptonroads.com/2008/09/fighting-keep-food-local-virginias-polyface-farm-0
    http://westonaprice.org/farming/pasturedpoultry.html

    • Hi David,

      Your post had me spending most of my afternoon surfing on the Shangri-La diet, researching this fellow Set Roberts, and leading to a wealth of information on auto-experimentation – thanks.

      It also got me to experiment with using coconut oil as a daily supplement – partly to try some of Seth’s ideas about the ‘bland calories’ – and partly because of something you said a long time ago about coconut oil aiding in weight loss. Too early to report anything on this, however.

      The leptin research is on my list – any particular sources you recommend?

      The biological potency links seem like they were pulled from ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma’ – or the other way ’round. The term ‘biological potency’ seems analogous to Atkins and his term ‘nutrient density’ – am I correct?

      Any specific sources regarding this other than the descriptions of the farms above?

      Regards,

      LCC

  2. It’ll be interesting to see what happens – I’ll be watching for your updates. Personally, I did low carb for many years (not consecutively though) and after awhile, it became less and less effective for me. The last couple of times I did it, after several weeks, I lost nothing at all but came down with severe arthritic pain. That was a surprise! So while I have absolutely no dog in this race, I’ll be rooting for you while I count my calories. You sound intelligent so I won’t insult you with a “this could be dangerous” speech.

  3. I’ll be interested to hear how this goes for you. Better than the methamphetamine program that some high school girls have tried for weight loss.

  4. Interesting,

    In my ongoing research into the old issue of losing weight, I came across you blog and must say, I find it very enlightening, both physically and mentally. lol

    I market the new electronic cigarettes, and although I don’t smoke, your experiment with X got my attention. As I demonstrate these e-cigarettes, and the cartridges have nicotine in them, I discovered the same as you, it would kill my appetite with a couple drags on my e-cigarette while demonstrating to potential customers, usually at meal times, so you are correct, nicotine is an effective appetite suppresant.

    Although I did not put two and two together not being a smoker, it makes sense why so many put on weight when they stop smoking tobacco, it is the nicotine of a cigarette which keeps hunger somewhate at bay. Like everything, you live and learn, so thanks for your excellent blog on your progress in losing weight, very well done.

    Success to all, Mike

  5. You get all of the feeling of smoking, even the “smoke,” without any of the harmful side-effects and chemicals that are in regular tobacco smoke. But not only that, you can use the e-cigarette anywhere!!

  6. Thank you for experimenting on yourself! I am very keen to continue reading your outcome and just wanted to say thanks. JUST now – before finding your blog – saw a study in which a very specific receptor DOES suppress appetite after nicotine gets to it. http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2011/06/why-smokers-are-skinny

    Not sure if you address this and I’ve not researched to learn it myself but the nicotine _gum_ causes all sorts of hell effects on a person during long term usage; tooth loss, gingivitis, oral cancer, etc. So I’m unsure if it’s the delivery here that causes the baddies or what.

    Thanks for such interesting reading.

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