HbA1c – What is it? Why is it Important? What should it be?

I don’t want to bore non-diabetics with details. Simply put, HbA1c is a blood test that measures one’s blood glucose over three months. The average is determined by looking at the amount of sugar that binds to the the haemoglobin in red blood cells. For the science nerds out there, you can go to Wikipedia.

Now my HbA1c has been between 6% and 7% for years. I thought that was pretty damn good until I came across one of Dr Ken Berry’s videos a while back. He insisted that the highest acceptable level for anyone is 5.7%. Anything over that and you are doing major damage to yourself.

Dr. Ken Berry, MD - Diet Doctor
Dr Ken Berry

Well that tends to focus the mind a bit, and it’s one of the reasons I started this site. I believed sharing my story would help focus me enough and discipline me enough to get to 5.7%…or better. Dr Berry, unfortunately, doesn’t explain why numbers above 5.7 are bad given that most endocrinologists will say numbers in the sixes are good. We can use a little logic here and conclude he’s right. High blood sugar leads to all kinds of problems. Why wouldn’t slightly elevated blood sugar lead to problems too especially in the long term. It makes sense. Yet the way Dr Berry talks about it, you would think a reading of 6.0% would lead to an amputated limb tomorrow. So I did more digging.

I came across a short clip of Dr Richard Bernstein, the diabetes expert, who gave his views of what will happen to someone who maintains a 6.5% reading over an extended period:

  • blindness
  • amputations
  • neuropathy
  • erectile disfunction
  • dying young

So the question is why? Why do trained doctors tell diabetics that HbA1c above 5.7% is fine. Dr Bernstein provides the answer. Doctors have told him over the years, time and again, the above results are the natural consequences of diabetes, but if one patient out of my 3000 dies of hypoglycaemia, I get sued.”

So that’s why I’m driving for 5.7 or better.

Here’s the clip.

Further Reflections on Intermittent Fasting

So I’m over a week into my experiment. My morning blood glucose readings continue to be in a much better range: 6.4 mmol/L, 6.2, 6.6, 7.1. Moreover, I’ve been testing my blood in the afternoon and readings have been below 6.0 mmol/L.

My diet is virtually no carb save for the small amount from cream in my coffee and a little bit of cheese here and there.

My roast chicken looks better!

My wellbeing, if anything, has been better across the last four days. Those who have ever fasted may know that a mild sense of euphoria can manifest itself. Well, I’ve been experiencing euphoric moments, off and on, for days. I’m guessing that’s a combined effect from the intermittent fasting and lower blood glucose.

My energy levels continue to be excellent.

I slept very well last night and the night before…eventually. I woke up though with an upset stomach that did not go away for an hour or so. Could it have been a bit too much grass fed roast beef? Maybe. It may have been too many supplements or even the fact that my stomach has probably shrunk a bit due to the small eating window. I cut back on the supplements last night. I’ll reintroduce the two I cut out (cinnamon and gymnema sylvestre) and see what happens.

Conclusions

As I said to my better half yesterday, I think this is my new way of living. It is sustainable. I don’t mind eating my first meal at 1:00pm or 2:00pm. I believe with a couple of one-day fasts over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be able to get my HbA1c into the non-diabetic range. Watch this space.

Sitrep – One Week after Fasting

Readers will know that I went on a four-day, water/black coffee only, fast last week. My blood glucose levels came way down. On the morning of Day 4, my blood glucose was 4.1 mmol/L.

I’ve done similar fasts in the past, but I could not maintain ideal blood control due to bad habits: mainly red wine, too much protein, too much dark chocolate and too many nuts.

So where am I today one week later? Blood glucose is far better than in the past. My numbers, up until yesterday morning, were between 5.7 and 7.6. Unfortunately, after too many nuts and meat protein on Thursday night, I woke up with a reading of 8.6 mmol/L. Now historically, this is not that bad a reading for me. However, there is no way I’ll reach my 5.7 HbA1c this autumn if I tell myself “It’s not so bad, you’re sugar will go down during the day.” It will go down, but not enough.

So what to do?

Simple. I had a small breakfast on Friday and then went on a 24 hour fast. Result. I woke up this morning with a 6.2 mmol/L. This is my way forward I think. If my morning reading is above 7.6 then I have to go on at least a one-day fast to get close to optimal blood glucose.

We’ll see how this goes. It’s essentially intermittent fasting, but dictated by my blood-glucose readings.

Lean Meat v Fatty Meat

Most of us in the West, who are of a certain age, grew up during the jihad on fat. Of course, except for those of us in the paleo/keto community, most people still live in this cloud of misinformation. Look at this rag for instance. Any meat with fat is “sinful”. What a joke!

Lawsuit Update: Pork Producers Fight for “Pork, The Other ...
It’s Lean!

My mum went “all-in” on this lean meat craze for a time except for Sunday roasts and the odd steak. That meant lean meat for most meals: chicken breasts, pork loin chops and lean beef stir-fry. This went on for what seemed like an eternity.

Kind of Boring

I now embrace fatty cuts wholeheartedly: lamb, T-bone steaks, sirloin, chicken skin (praise Jesus!), pork crackling, etc. Yet, I don’t avoid the lean protein either. I still love my chicken breast and pork loin…but.

But? Remember, I am a diabetic. Lean protein, in my experience, can quickly become a bad thing for me. Why? One word: Gluconeogenesis. In layman’s terms, it’s when protein, beyond what the body needs, is converted into glucose. Result? Blood sugar spikes! This is another area where I must exert a bit more self-discipline to achieve my 5.7 HbA1c. Goodbye second chicken breast. Farewell second pork chop.

My experience with too much lean protein has been intuitive rather than scientific, and oftentimes, I might have had chicken breasts or pork chops with wine (with all its carbs). That would also contribute to elevated blood glucose readings.

Both love and hate.

So I’m going to do some experimenting with lean v fatty meat in the coming weeks and see how they effect my glucose readings. I haven’t hashed out the details yet, but I’ll have to eat the same meals across consecutive days. The only thing that will change is the meat for dinner.

Stay tuned dear reader.