Kannan before and after a 41 day raw food diet -27 pounds lighter.
A festive dinner blend of raw food and traditional Indian Cuisine.
A Friend and Colleague Gets Troublesome News
I met Kannan when we were both high Tech CEOs in Silicon Valley. We were members of a small group called “CEO Leadership Forum”. The group met monthly to discuss our businesses but we often talked of our personal interests and passions. Since I was also going to school and working on my PhD in Holistic Nutrition, specializing in Raw Food Nutrition, I would often speak to the group about raw food diets. Kannan and others were always politely inquisitive (of course you never know when people are really interested or if they think you are crazy when you talk about raw food diets). When I left Silicon Valley two years ago to devote my time to studying and writing about nutrition, I remained friends with Kannan and his wife and we stayed in touch. I made sure to send them an email each time I posted a new article or recipe on my blog.
At his last doctor’s appointment, Kannan was given the bad news that he was a “border line” Type 2 diabetic and was told to watch out for Metabolic Syndrome (several risk factors that occur together increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes). Some of his risk factors were worrisome:
At 5 feet, 5 inches and 166 pounds, Kannan had an unhealthy Body Mass Index (BMI) of 27.6. BMI is an indicator of total body fat that is related to disease and death. For a healthy BMI between 18.5 to 24.9, he should never weigh more than 149. Calculate your own BMI.
Even with a mostly vegetarian Indian diet, Kannan’s cholesterol profile was disappointing. Total cholesterol and LDL were high and HDL, his good cholesterol, was too low making his cholesterol/HDL ratio an undesirable 5.0. To have a “low risk” of cardiovascular disease, you want a ratio of 4.0. A ratio of less than 3.4 would be an indication of a “very low risk”. I encouraged him to also get tested for CRP and homocysteine that I believe are better markers for cardiovascular risk. None-the-less, the doctors would like to see an improvement in his cholesterol.
Kannan had very high triglycerides. Many people who suffer with diabetes or heart disease have high levels of triglycerides so this is a very important indicator. Over the past 4 years, Kannan’s levels have been as high as 268 and never below 162. Normal is less than 150 mg/dL. High triglycerides combined with high LDL or low HDL (Kannan had both) are associated with a faster build up of atherosclerosis. Artherosclerosis, which is the buildup of fatty deposits in arterial walls, can increase the risk of getting a stroke or heart attack.
Glucose Levels and Pre-diabetes
High blood glucose levels is an indicator that your blood sugar is not getting taken into the cells adequately and could be a sign of “insulin resistance”. Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas that helps the body assimilate glucose for energy. Insulin resistance is where the body is not using insulin properly causing the pancreas to have to significantly increase its production of this hormone. When the pancreas finally gives up trying to keep up with the body’s needs, the level of sugar in the blood rises. This eventually leads to diabetes. Normal fasting blood sugar levels fall between 70 and 99 mg/dL. Kannan’s levels were a dangerous 146 mg/dL and had been as high as 193 mg/dL in a test taken several years ago.
Besides insulin resistance and high blood sugar, there are other indicators that lead to diabetes and increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Metabolic syndrome is defined as having any three of the following conditions:
- A waist measurement of 40 inches or more for men (35 inches for women)
- Triglycerides of 150 mg/dL or above
- HDL below 40 mg/dL for men (below 50 mg/dL for women)
- Blood pressure of 130/85 mm Hg or above
- Fasting glucose levels of 100 mg/dL or above
Kannan had met the criteria for both triglycerides and fasting glucose and was on the borderline of 40 mg/dL for HDL. This is why his doctor warned him of metabolic syndrome! Clearly Kannan had to do something quickly or he would be at risk for diabetes and heart disease.
Kannan's Annual 41 Day Ritual
Every year Kannan makes some kind of sacrifice for 41 days. What started out as a religious and spiritual routine based on the Indian lunar calendar, ended up as an annual self-improvement ritual between November 1st and December 11th. One year he gave up rice, a key staple of the India diet, and all other grains except oats. Another year he ran twice a day, every day for 41 days. This past year he called me and told me he was interested in going on a 41 day raw food diet. Luckily I had quite a few raw food recipes on the Foods For Long Life blog so he had plenty to choose from. He and his wife modified some of the recipes with more familiar Indian spices and ingredients.
Kannan's Typical Diet
Before his 41 day raw food diet, Kannan would typically start the day with oatmeal or a Dosa (an Indian crepe made from rice and lentil flour). For lunch he’d enjoy rice and vegetables. Afternoon snacks were typically deep fried Indian treats and dinner was comprised of Indian bread or rice with a vegetarian entrée. When he ate out, which CEOs often do, he admitted he indulged himself in rich and unhealthy foods.
During his 41 day raw food diet he would start each day with a fruit and vegetable smoothie or raw fruits in chia pudding or yoghurt. Lunch would be a nice big raw organic salad with tomatoes, dried fruit and nuts. He would snack on fruits, nuts and either soy or hemp milk or raw goat milk. For dinner he would eat raw vegetable soups based on the blog recipes but he would add some Karela (bitter gourd or melon known in Ayurvedic practices to help lower blood sugar) or Methi (Fenugreek seeds, also common in Indian cooking and known to help treat diabetes and reduce cholesterol). He also added turmeric (long known for its anti-inflammatory properties) to most recipes and some days his wife would sprout some beans for his dinner (I hear she is a master at sprouting!). I really like the way he added familiar foods and flavors to my recipes. Technically he wasn't 100% raw but adding a few non raw items like soymilk and yoghurt helped him succeed.
Weight and Waistline
After 41 days, Kannan lost 27 pounds, over 16% of his body weight. This gave him a healthy BMI of 23.1. His lost 3.5 inches from his waist and went from a 37.5 inch waist to a svelte 34 inch waist.
After only 24 days into the diet, Kannan had some blood work done. Even with 17 days to go, the results were quite impressive!
Total cholesterol went down 24%, from 201 to 153 mg/dL putting him in the low risk category from “borderline high”.
LDL was reduced 20% from 122 to 97 mg/dL moving him to “optimal”.
HDL increased 10%, from 40 to 44 mg/dL. This improved his Total Cholesterol/HDL ratio from 5.0 to 3.5 which moved him very close to the “very low risk of heart disease” category.
Perhaps the most stunning result was a 69% reduction in his triglycerides. His last reading before the diet was 193 mg/dL and after on 24 days it was down to 60 mg/dL. This is well below the 150 mg/dL threshold.
Fasting blood sugar dropped 20% from 146 to 117 mg/dL, still a bit high but much improved.
Kannan's Reaction to the Raw Food Experience
In the beginning, he felt hungry and got headaches towards the evening. This improved after a few days. (Headaches are common as the body starts a gentle detox from the purity of the diet.) The time for food preparation was something he had to get adjusted to and plan for. Sufficient snacking and drinking enough water was key. It was also a challenge when he went on a business trip and had limited options in restaurants.
Needless to say, both Kannan and his wife were thrilled with the results. He commented that none of the other 41 day fasts and exercise programs had ever produced results as impressive as this. Kannan no longer requires any medication.
In order to maintain his health and weight, he continues to eat one or two raw meals a day and has reintroduced rice and other grains back into his diet. Kannan said, “The good thing about this diet is that I could see my weight reduction almost on a daily basis. The better thing is that other people notice your improvements, including my doctor. The best thing is to get compliments from my dear wife! Thanks Joanne for being a catalyst to help me improve my own health by way of eating a healthier diet.”
Before you start a raw food diet or adjust any of your medication, talk to your doctor. You may not experience the same results as everyone’s body and metabolism is different. Now that I’ve reminded you of that, I will tell you that this is certainly not an isolated incident. Go to any raw food potluck and hear other examples of improved health.
Do You Want to Try a Raw Food DIet?
If you (and your doctor) decide you want to try a raw food diet for a week or a month, check out my many raw food recipes and articles. Remember, adding raw plant food to your diet, whether it's just a few fruits and vegetables a day or it's a 2 to 3 raw meals a day, adds healthy enzymes, fiber, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals to your diet while providing an optimal pH balance for your body.