Who: Robin Hill, 75
Where: Palos Verdes Estates, California
Time with Levels: One year
Most Useful Takeaway: Robin doesn’t generally take medication, but she discovered that some of the prescription and non-prescription drugs she had taken made it more challenging to manage her blood sugar.
1. What was your health like before using Levels?
Years ago, I took a DNA test that said I had a significantly increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease by the time I was 85 years old. At the time, though, I wasn’t really worried about it.
During the COVID lockdown, I had a lot of extra time and started researching Alzheimer’s. I read Dr. Dale Bredesen’s book The End of Alzheimer’s and learned that there were many contributors to cognitive decline. I found the case for a link to diabetes to be compelling. The book suggested that changing my health habits could help reduce my risk. That motivated me. At the time, I had prediabetes, and both my mother and grandmother had Type 2 diabetes.
2. What motivated you to start using a CGM?
In my research, I stumbled upon Levels and thought that the program could help guide me in making decisions that would be better for my blood sugar. I was intrigued by the idea of precision medicine and N-of-1 trials: the idea that you can figure out what to do to optimize your individual health using wearable devices. My initial goal of preventing Alzheimer’s has morphed into obtaining optimal health, which I define as being free of disease, having lots of energy, and not taking any pharmaceuticals. I thought wearing a CGM would help me understand what foods and other factors impacted my blood glucose levels.
3. What surprised you about your eating habits while wearing the CGM?
My particular sensitivity to carbohydrates. For me, it doesn’t take much. I assumed fruit would be fine, but my blood sugar spikes if I eat an orange or banana. Berries provide a steadier blood sugar response.
As a result of what I learned from the CGM, I’ve also limited grains in my diet. Sometimes I’ll have a piece of flax bread, but I can’t do whole wheat or whole grain. I even tried resistant starches, but they didn’t lead to stable blood sugar. Now, I’ve replaced rice with cauliflower rice, which I truly enjoy.
4. Are there a few foods that consistently keep your blood sugar levels stable?
I’m big on smoothies, but I’m very specific about what I put into one. I use a lot of leafy greens—spinach, kale—some berries, flax, almond milk, and turmeric. Incorporating smoothies as a regular part of my diet is probably one of the more significant changes I’ve made.
I also eat vegetables whenever I get the chance. Now, I probably have three or four vegetables a day; before, I thought I could go a whole day without them. For example, I love artichokes—and it turns out they’re very high in fiber. I also eat a lot of lettuce and leafy greens like kale and arugula. I have a big salad drizzled with extra virgin olive oil every day.
5. Have you uncovered non-diet-related factors that influence your blood sugar?
Yes. I had a glutathione IV drip, and it spiked my blood glucose to 300 mg/dL. That was a shock. I thought I was doing something good for myself and would have never known what it was doing to my blood sugar had I not been wearing the CGM. In conversations with the technician, I learned that my glutathione drip contained a form of sugar. Who knew?!
Right now, I don’t take any medications, but a few months ago, I was on a drug for two months. During that time, I could not get my blood glucose below 120 mg/dL. That medication could affect my blood sugar levels would never have occurred to me. Now I’m aware because I was wearing a CGM. (I later realized the fine print on the medication mentioned that it might increase blood sugar.) While taking the drug, I doubled down on being careful about how I ate.
I’m still learning even after a year. I thought I’d wear the CGM for three or four months and know everything—but I’m not even close. One surprising result was the weight loss. I was at an okay weight before, but I’ve lost 20 pounds this year by changing my eating habits. Also, I no longer have prediabetes. My A1c is 5.2 to 5.4%. I’m sleeping better and have a ton of energy—my friends will tell you that there’s been a real change in me.