The Dukan Diet & Vitamin A Deficiency

This is an old news story but I like to investigate what goes wrong on low carb diets.  So many people think extreme low carb diets are infallible and everyone should be able to do them.

A UK newspaper, the Telegraph, reported in 2012 the case of a man who almost died while on the Dukan diet, a low carb diet created by French MD Pierre Dukan. (

After two days on the “Attack” phase of the diet, which consists of only protein, Ashley Harrison was in the hospital in a coma with encephalopathy (brain dysfunction).  In the article, the encephalopathy is attributed to ammonia poisoning.  Ammonia is the by-product of protein metabolism in the body and can cause brain swelling.

It happened that Mr. Harrison had a genetic mutation resulting in a deficiency of ornithine transcarbamoylase (OTC)

Ammonia and OTC are part of the urea cycle.  While genetics may play a part, it is possible this man had a Vitamin A deficiency and that this either contributed to or was the real cause of his ornithine transcarbamoylase deficiency.

According to researchers, “Activities of hepatic carbamoylphosphate synthase-1 (CPS-1) and ornithine transcarbamoylase (OTC) were significantly lower in vitamin A – deficient animals than in control rats at the end of 13 weeks of feeding.  While the liver levels of ornithine and polyamines were significantly greater, that of glutamine was lower in vitamin A-deficient rats than in pair-fed controls.  The results suggest that vitamin A deficiency leads to a reduced efficiency of urea synthesis pathway, thus accounting for the increased ammonium nitrogen (Am-N) excretion seen in vitamin-A deficiency.” J. Nutr. 1989 Jan. 119 (1) 29-35.

Did his doctors know that vitamin A deficiency can cause OTC deficiency?  I bet my next paycheck they don’t have a clue.  Did they even check his serum vitamin A level?  No way Jose.  Did this man have a vitamin A deficiency that lead to his OTC deficiency?  This was a lost scientific opportunity and now the world will never know.

Part II: Did biotin deficiency lead to this man’s ornithine transcarbamoylase deficiency?  It certainly could…


McMedicine, Subclinical Iron Deficiency and Copper Deficiency

Iron and Copper deficiencies are widespread in the modern world.

Because we are told to cut down on foods that contain saturated fat (and therefore, iron and copper), much of the western world has subclinical iron and copper deficiency.  I will have to edit this post later; for now it is a collection of my thoughts.

Serum levels are turning out to be extremely unreliable indicators of nutrient status.  What seems to happen is that tissue levels of nutrients will be deficient, but serum levels will read normal.  And there are no doctors who biopsy tissue for lab tests of nutrients.  The only tests that doctors run are blood work.  And if everything in blood work appears “normal” well, then, it must all be in your head.  Below are some serum levels that are false positives of nutrient status (references to follow later).

-Serum Vitamin A – found to be normal while the tissue levels are deficient, especially in obsese individuals.  Vitamin A has a major role in adipose tissue which is being studied with conflicting results.

-Folate/folic acid – found to be normal while the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) is deficient in active methyltetrahydrofolate (MTHF).  Also falsely positive because of the large intake of folic acid, the inactive/unnatural form of folate that a lot of people cannot convert to active folate.  Active folate levels are not measured (not sure if they can be measured in blood…must research this)

-Copper – copper levels will be normal in blood while copper-dependent enzymes such as ceruloplasmin and superoxide dismutase will be deficient.

Iron and copper are important to brain health, but this is largely ignored by pretty much everyone.  Here I will have to compile my research, but I have read that iron is especially important for creating neurotransmitters.  I hadn’t heard that before.  A deficiency in iron is noted as a cause for behavioral disturbances such as symptoms associated with attention deficit disorder and autism spectrum (Hematol Oncol Clin North Am. 1987 Sep; 1 (3):449-64.).  It can even cause such disturbances when clinical anemia is not present.  You can have low or mid-normal serum iron and not have enough tissue iron – such as in your brain or muscles – and it can affect you without causing anemia.  I suspect that anemia would not appear due to the blood receiving stored iron from the liver.  The liver has large stores of iron.

Will edit later…


I revealed something I shouldn’t have.  Again.

I have a compulsion.  I want to tell.  This urgency to fill the silence, to connect in words.

It’s not to create illness or spread gossip.  I want to reveal and tell because that is the only intimacy I have; I am so void of connections.

And humans need intimacy.  Not just sex.  Sex is boring.  The soul’s intimacy is revelations embraced.  Sometimes, I do feel this even when I am quiet.  It is so rare!  I can only count on one hand the times I have felt such content in silence, such peace.  It was at least two years ago when I had felt this way.  It was a sunny day and I was walking in a parking lot and I suddenly felt so at peace and that I truly needed nothing more except to exist in this.  And the worry and persistent low level annoyance with living was gone.  And it occurred to me that I was happy.

I wish I could live in that moment every day.  Sometimes I try to figure it out – maybe I ate the right thing that day or did something different.  I was trying a different diet at the time but it later caused problems (waking at 3 a.m. feeling anxious – I always slept the whole night without any anxiety).  But most days are full of fear and various symptoms of malingering illness which there is no help for.

My deepest desire is intimacy.  But I feel like I am truly intimate with no one.

Another poem

I wrote this in bed late at night in my red notebook with the “Autumn Brings Forth the Reds of Nature” cover.


Love is a dangerous dagger
dipped in sweet poison

its pleasure pierces so quickly
we don’t feel the pain

until later, when the ecstasy fades
and reason remains

the real love is this–
the ache of the pain
caused by the one you love,
tucked away in your heart,
and yet you remain.


A favorite poem

In a green forest by Marcia Nehemiah

green fist of leaves
flesh hidden in a black shell

what holds itself like a fist
what holds itself like a green heart

acorns crack and sprout shoots
to catch the light earth water

what holds itself like a red heart
a dense close pulsing rock

fern opens to warmth and light
what holds itself like a black heart

my black heart closed after the cold
after the promise of opening

what holds the promise of opening
in a black forest in a red forest

I watch a jay jump to catch a mayfly
I watch an eagle swoop to scoop a fish and eat
I watch a hawk on a wire swallow a finch

what opens
what closes
what needs to be said

I have one foot in

I have one foot in and one foot out
a curtain between me
I cannot be all
in this world

I am blissful and despaired,
kind and mean
I’ll stay if you keep
distant and unavailable

I long for the mirage
of union with this world
a presence, a place, an intimacy

From behind glass panels
I look and I stay
where there are no
storms or conflict

a place that doesn’t exist
and the real sun doesn’t touch.