My low carb life

Avocado salad for lunch (Photo credit: Dave Paul)

In the famous words of Ziggy Stardust, “I’m not a prophet or a stone aged man just a mortal with potential of a superman. I’m living on.”

I have no idea what he was talking about, but over the last week, I have committed myself to eat a Keto diet; the one which is low carb and high fat. The very idea of cutting carbs from my diet made my stomach rumble, but I have forged ahead nonetheless.

I should explain a little of what ‘keto’ actually means. Keto is short for Ketogenic diet, where you reduce your carbohydrate intake to 10-15% of your calories and get the majority of your calories from fat. This puts your body into a state of Ketosis, where it starts to burn your body fat for fuel instead of converting carbs which are stored as fat. So you have to lower your carb intake but increase your protein and fat intake. That essentially means I have to stop eating chips, but I can eat loads of butter, cheese, eggs and meat.

Omelette - Dave Paul

Omelette, olives and cucumber meal. (Photo credit: Dave Paul)

From what I’ve been reading, the diet has many health benefits. There have been a lot of studies carried out that show that keto can actually help diabetes, cancer, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as giving you lot’s of energy. How can that be bad? It also apparently burns fat faster, and if I want that Christmas body I’ll have to move quickly. Here is how I got on:

Saturday – Day One

The first day was a shopping day. I made a trip to Waitrose because I like to think I’m middle class, and got myself a selection of low carb, high fat, protein-rich foods to eat; Italian meats, butter, cheese and more eggs than Michael Phelps. It seemed like a herculean task at first, but I found I actually had to buy LESS stuff as I was cutting out potatoes, pasta and rice which are basic food items. I then realised that all of my meals will be glorified ploughman’s for the next few months, and decided that there is definitely nothing wrong with that. Bring on the meat.

Sunday – Day Two

Off to a strong start. I made a low carb bread sandwich of mixed meats, pickles, piccalilli, cheese and salad leaves. I took a hit mid-afternoon when I realised that milk has carbohydrate in it. Damn you lactose, you natural milk sugar you. In fact, I found out that pretty much everything has carbohydrate in. Sugar is classed as carbohydrate. Everything has sugar in it. This is going to be harder than I thought.

My ‘builder’s tea’ isn’t the same without milk. And, no biscuit, no point.

Monday – Day Three

I can eat certain vegetables and still stay on keto, as long as I’m careful to choose low carb ones. Celery and spinach yes, carrots and parsnips no. I made a nice salad with meat, avocado, cheese and lettuce. I have decided that I cannot deprive myself of milk in tea and coffee. No milky Lattes though, a basic Americano with milk for me

Tuesday – Day Four

I have eggs for breakfast, again. As an ex-chef, I can’t help but turn out my omelette perfectly cooked and folded neatly onto my plate. I try not to think about the fact that I can’t have cereal, bread, bagels, rolls, toast, porridge, or French toast but I’m not focusing on what I can’t eat. It’s what I can eat that should be my focus. Mmmh, bacon. My breakfast usually keeps me full until dinner, but not today. No crisps. No chocolate. Unless it’s dark chocolate that has over 70% cocoa solids. Then I can have two squares, and still be low carb. I miss Dairy Milk already. Jerky to the rescue! I can eat lots of this, it’s 0% carbs, and I like to chew it like a cowboy as I play video games.
Sausages for dinner but with no mashed potato so I cook up pak choi and spinach and have it with a garlic and double cream sauce. Delicious.

This low carb thing is fine, why aren’t more people on this diet?

Wednesday – Day Five

I thought that lunch at university would be tough to keep low carb. Sandwiches, paninis, wraps; almost all convenience foods you buy have quite a high carbohydrate content in them, so I didn’t think I would be able to manage. To my pleasant surprise, the salad bar at the university is well stocked with low carb options. By avoiding the chickpeas and the jacket potatoes, but having extra cheese and olive oil, I had a lovely lunch and another omelette for dinner. I don’t know how Michael Phelps does it. I have a craving for salt and chilli chips though. Stay strong Dave.

Thursday – Day Six

Weirdly, this diet actually isn’t very difficult. Apart from the aforementioned not being able to get anything without carbs in it pretty much anywhere, you actually end up having to buy less food and saving yourself some money.

The other strange thing is that I am almost never hungry.

Something about not eating carbs that I thought was inevitable was constant hunger, but there was none! I have discovered how many things go with eggs, and being able to eat an entire packet of Italian cured meats and not feel bad about is incredibly liberating.

I think my face has lost some weight, I’m certainly looking thinner. Finally, a diet I can really stick to. I actually think I can finally lose some weight before Christmas and be happy at the same time. YES!

Friday – Day Seven

I got drunk and ate a Burrito at 2 am.

Saturday – Day Eight

The keto diet was fun while it lasted.

Young Blood : Is reversing the aging process snake oil or a reality?

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Some of us want to live forever. Others just want a few more years so they can finally see their dreams become reality. Most people deal with what they are dealt, accepting to go when they go. But what if you could become younger and with renewed energy? There are actually a few prospects you should keep your eye on, if you think you would ever want to turn the clock back.

In California, movie executives and talent agents crave the blood of young people, for its star power and money making qualities. For those not adept at seeking out plasma for yourself, a startup will pump your veins full of the blood of young people for just $8000. The CA startup is called ‘Ambrosia’ and it has launched clinical trials of its vampiric sounding service, claiming that within a month of a one-time infusion of 2 litres of plasma, participants see “improvements.”

The science behind ‘Ambrosia’ is shaky at best, with many scientists questioning the legitimacy of the operation. Jesse Karmazin, the Princeton grad behind the startup took inspiration from studies on mice, conjoining the veins of young and old mice in a procedure called parabiosis. One of the biggest studies published in Cell showed that young blood increased muscle strength, though this could not be replicated in other tests. Other ‘young blood’ research has claimed improvement in cognitive faculties. Another Californian company is testing transfusion waters in the  treatment of Alzhemier’s Disease, albeit not charging patients for the privilege.

Tony Wyss-Coray, a neuroscientist that demonstrated that the memory of old mice improves after transfusions says that the participants of ‘Ambrosia’ are reading too much into inconclusive research. “People want to believe that young blood restores youth, even though we don’t have evidence that it works in humans and we don’t understand the mechanism of how mice look younger. I think people are just attracted to it became of vampire stories.”

Getting fresh blood pumped into you does seem a little bit like voodoo. Perhaps an approach with more of a scientific basis will guarantee youthful results. At the Salk Institute in California, researchers have been able to induce human cells into behaving like younger cells, increasing their lifespan. This is a step forward in the way we understand aging at a cellular level, and has potential to start human trials in the next 10 years.

The telomeres of our DNA, visually similar to shoelace tips

The telomeres of our DNA, visually similar to shoelace tips

If you can’t wait for sci-fi style treatment, there is something you can do now that might help you age gracefully. Nobel Prize winner, Elizabeth Blackburn wrote a book with psychologist Elissa Epel called “The Telomere Effect” which explores the impact that telomeres have on your body. Telomeres are the end parts of your DNA which by listening to your behaviours, will either lengthen or shorten. When they shorten, cells are less likely to continue dividing, eventually dying. With a stressful lifestyle, the effect is greater cell death and accelerated aging. For those who are likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease, shortened telomeres could make you susceptible at a younger age. The book details that a healthy, stress free life is the key to halting the aging process.

Critics of the ‘Telomere Effect’ say that we can’t measure the entire aging process down to the tips of our DNA, but the message is still a positive one. Maybe the only real way to really slow down the wheel of time is to treat yourself right and you’ll be rewarded with a few extra years.

Do you haven any tips for slowing the aging process? Let us know at @en4news2016 on Twitter.

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