Study of One

by Dr. Bert Herring –

A study of one is a look at yourself (or one other person) to see whether a change in lifestyle offers any readily measured improvement in health. The change being tested may be a change in diet, a change in eating schedule, a new exercise program or any other lifestyle change. If you’d like the video version, here’s my TEDx talk on the subject.

For a study of one, a person collects data to mark their starting point, then after an appropriate time, collects additional data to compare to that. The changes, if any, can serve as a guide to whether the change in one’s lifestyle is healthier, less healthy, or the same as the previous lifestyle.

Some of the information that can be easily collected for a study of one includes:

  • waist and other measurements
  • weight
  • blood pressure
  • blood glucose (blood sugar level)

Some additional, optional information may require a doctor’s order:

  • fasting glucose
  • hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c)
  • cholesterol (lipid panel)

A study of one can be important in navigating the various options available in diets and lifestyles. While a scientific study may apply rigorous controls and statistics to be sure the outcome is significant, it cannot accurately represent all the variables that an individual has to deal with. Most scientific studies are too short to reveal long-term impacts of a given practice. Evaluating individual data from a study of one in the context of formal scientific studies combines the best of both worlds.

Many lifestyle changes, such as reducing stress, may have changes too small to see on a short-term study, but may yet have long-term benefits.