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The Internal Antioxidant System (The Most Underrated Factor In Health) with Dr. Chris Masterjohn Ph.D.

The internal antioxidant systemIn this episode, I am speaking with Dr. Chris Masterjohn—who has a Ph.D. in Nutritional Science and is widely regarded as one of the top nutritional biochemistry experts in the world—about the science on the body’s internal antioxidant system.

In this podcast, Dr. Masterjohn will cover:

  • Why our body’s antioxidant defense system is maybe the most underrated factor in health and energy levels
  • Why the theory of free radicals is outdated (and it’s a HUGE mistake to think you need to constantly neutralize free radicals)
  • What is oxidative stress? And why it’s critical to understand how it differs from “oxidative damage.”
  • The secret key to building your body’s resistance to oxidative stress
  • How vitamin C can preserve your health (How much vitamin C should you actually consume? And how should you get it — food or supplements?)
  • How oxidative stress and free radicals affect your health and energy levels
  • Should you get your iron and selenium levels tested?
  • The vitamins and minerals that build and strengthen your internal antioxidant system
  • How to increase your iron levels (And the shocking truth about iron absorption)
  • The two keys to building up your internal antioxidant defense system to prevent cellular damage (the damage that drives many diseases and aging itself)
  • The must-have tool for eliminating any potential nutrient deficiency

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The Internal Antioxidant System (The Most Underrated Factor In Health) with Dr. Chris Masterjohn Ph.D. – Transcript

Ari Whitten:  Everyone, welcome back to the Energy Blueprint Podcast. I am your host Ari Whitten and today I have with me again for the third time Dr. Chris Masterjohn. I’ll give you the brief intro for Chris. He has a Ph.D. in nutritional sciences and, well, I’ll just tell you from my perspective I consider him one of the world’s top experts on nutritional biochemistry and especially as it pertains to anything related to vitamins and minerals. So, he is really a brilliant guy when it comes to this stuff and I’m excited to have him on again and that is why he is here for the third time.

Also, I want to mention very quickly he’s got a wonderful, amazing new e-book called “Testing Nutritional Status: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet .” And you can get that at And then you can get a 20% discount if you go to that “/Ari”. And basically, this is a resource for people to learn about, to basically figure out, it’s sort of like a roadmap or a blueprint to figure out what potential nutritional deficiencies might be causing certain symptoms. And then, you know, kind of zero in on those specific things and then test it in various ways. And he gives you a guide to the best lab test to get and how to correct those deficiencies. So, this is for anybody who is health conscious which is pretty much everybody who is listening to this Podcast. This is a must-have tool, highly, highly recommended. So, with that said, welcome again Chris.

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  Thanks, Ari, it’s good to be here.


What is the body’s antioxidant system? And why it is important

Ari Whitten:  Yeah. So, I have a long list of disconnected topics for us to talk about, but fascinating stuff that you are an expert in. On the last Podcast we talked about cholesterol and heart disease, and you know, kind of all aspects of that which was a great topic. On this Podcast, I want to talk to you about the body’s antioxidant system and some kind of corollaries of that.

In particular, I think this is one of the most underrated topics and least talked about topics, but it is one of the most important topics in health. And so, there’s also some myths to be debunked here, but kind of give people an overview of what the body’s antioxidant system is all about and why it matters.

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  Yeah, I think from a big picture level the best way to think about oxidative stress is as the wear and tear that happens on your system and the wear and tear that happens naturally as you age, but then it accelerates under certain conditions. So, if you are aging, and of course age really is just the accumulation of insults over time. I mean underneath what we call aging there has got to be a natural process of evolution. But layered on to that is just the accumulation of so many insults from our environment, from diseases that are happening within us and so on.

And so normal metabolism generates oxidants that cause oxidative stress which is that wear and tear on our tissues. And that is why, no matter how healthy you are, as you get older you will have accumulated more and more exposure to those natural oxidants just generated as a natural byproduct of metabolism. But if you have a metabolic disorder, like if you have diabetes for example, then because there are inefficiencies in your metabolism and things going wrong in your metabolism you are generating far more of these oxidants. So metabolic problems is one thing. Exposure to toxins, whether that is environmental toxins from gasoline or plastic or, you know, whatever industrial activity, or it is exposure to ethanol from all the drinks you are having or it is exposure to cigarette smoke from what you are smoking or what someone else is smoking in the enclosed room with you. Exposure to any of those things can accelerate oxidative stress.

Now, if you want to get a little bit more technical, one thing that we have appreciated mostly over the last 10ish years, I mean really it goes back a little further than that but we are really, more and more it is really accelerating the degree to which we are starting to appreciate this in the scientific community is that these oxidants are not just causing damage. They are actually normal products of metabolism which have regulatory roles. And so, if you go back to, “Why does normal metabolism generate these oxidants?” Well one of the things that happens is because a certain percentage of the fuel you have burned in your mitochondria are generating these oxidants, they will have feedback loops where if you start generating too many oxidants then they will regulate pathways that stop energy from coming into the mitochondria because, as a feedback loop to prevent damage because they’re exposing an inefficiency in your ability to burn that energy and they are shutting down the energy burning to prevent further damage.

So, there are things like that. But that means that if you have something wrong with your metabolism that is generating too many oxidants, then maybe it is just that adaptation that causes problems, right? Because you may not be causing a lot of damage to your body. You may not see the wrinkles developing in your skin from damaged collagen, but you might feel like crap because your mitochondria are always in self-protection mode by using these oxidants to turn themselves off essentially. And so, people who are more sophisticated in talking about oxidative stress and damage will separate the discussion into oxidative stress, which is either dysregulation of the pathways or regulation of pathways that it is proper but bad. So, like let’s take that example that I just gave. The mitochondria shut down their burning of energy when it is not safe for them to burn energy.

Well, on the one hand maybe the oxidants are generated by the mitochondria and they are part of that feedback loop. On the other hand, maybe you have next to that some inflammation going on and you have this immune cell that is trying to kill pathogens by making lots of oxidants and the purpose of those oxidants is to kill the pathogens. But because they are right next door then the oxidants start leaking over. And if there’s a lot of them, maybe they leak into the cell and maybe they shut down the mitochondria because of the signaling pathway that the mitochondria are supposed to use. So, it’s sort of like, it is not even a hijacking because there is no deliberate process here. It’s just an accidental thing where the right normal regulatory role is misfiring.

Ari Whitten:  Yeah. Do you mind if I interject a couple things here?

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  Oh yeah, go ahead.


The old paradigm on free radicals – and why it is outdated

Ari Whitten:  Okay. So first of all, I just want to point out to everybody listening mitochondria obviously are our body’s cellular energy generators. So, the links here to energy levels should be very clear. That if you have this kind of oxidative stress going on that is leading to mitochondrial shutdown, you know, one of the key symptoms on a subjective level as far as what a person would feel of this happening is of course fatigue. Now I want to sort of present a frame to you that I think will be helpful for a lot of people to understand some of these things because probably some of what you just said is over a lot of people’s heads.

So, the typical way of thinking about free radicals and antioxidants is free radicals are bad, free radicals damage our cells and we need more antioxidants to neutralize the free radicals. And most people think about this, like, you know, free radicals are just sort of bad period. So, the more antioxidants we can dump into our system to neutralize them and keep them as low as possible the better off we’ll be. So why is that thinking wrong?

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  So that thinking is outdated. Around 1985 there was a landmark paper where scientists came out and said simple definition of oxidative stress is an imbalance between too many oxidants and not enough antioxidants. In that framework, you say, “Oh, I want less oxidants, fewer oxidants and I want more antioxidants.” That has become very outdated because we have realized that these oxidants are playing a normal role in cell metabolism to regulate the pathways. So back then you would think of oxidative stress… You wouldn’t separate oxidative stress and oxidative damage because it’s all just one thing. Having too many oxidants doing things they are not supposed to and causing damage. What we are realizing now is that your mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell is supposed to generate a little tiny bit of these oxidants during metabolism because it helps gauge how much energy should be coming in.

But like we were just talking about, that normal regulatory role can cause problems, right? In the ideal situation, you have those oxidants and they are just, you know if you have a trillion cells in your body and one cell is overburdened and generates more oxidants and says, “I’m not taking up any glucose from the bloodstream,” for example, no problem. Your blood glucose isn’t even going to go up even though the glucose didn’t go into that cell. Why? Because there are a trillion other cells that are perfectly happy to take up that glucose and you just share the burden. And so it’s just the, you know, in a healthy person, this regulation is happening and it’s doing something positive by helping mitochondria only take on the burdens that they can handle, to be efficient burners of energy, to produce the cellular energy that makes you feel good.

And this, you know, the cells that can take on a better, more of a burden, do. The cells that can’t, don’t. So that’s a good thing, a positive thing. Another positive role would be to help you adapt to changes. So one of the things that helps that happens when you exercise is you generate more of these oxidants and then your body adapts by saying, “Okay, that means I need to make more mitochondria to burn more energy and I need to make more of my own antioxidant protection to burn that energy cleanly.” And then you go home from the exercise, you rest, you re-feed, all those processes happen. The result is you get more fit. So, one of the things that people are interested in is this question of can you actually do too much? Can you actually prevent getting fit in response to exercise by trying to suppress the generation of oxidants when we know that generating oxidants is part of what produces the fitness response to exercise?

Ari Whitten:  Right. And just to be clear, like it used to be thought maybe 10 plus years ago or maybe even for a lot of people more recently than that, it was recommended for a long time or it was thought for a long time that like exercise is good. We know that exercise is associated with disease prevention benefits of various kinds. We know it is very clearly healthy for us. But the problem with exercise is that it creates this burst of free radicals. And so, what if we can do the exercise and get the benefits but take antioxidant supplements before, after, or before and after the exercise, get the benefits without the harms of exercise. Now, why, you know, obviously there are several studies that tested this, why did that turn out to be misguided?

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  It turned out to be misguided because those oxidants are what cause the fitness response. I mean that is the simple answer. And it is not, I mean, there’s a whole other topic that is very analogous which is inflammation. You know, we are very down on inflammation and people think the same thing. Like, “Oh, I will exercise and then I’ll load up on NSAIDs,” the common anti-inflammatory drugs that you can buy at the drug store to prevent the soreness and the other issues that happen. And that also prevents the adaptations to exercise. So, these oxidants are a part of a normal signaling process that help your body communicate what is going on and what to do. And so, if exercise generates more of them it is because exercise wants, I mean, you know, wants you to be more fit and those oxidants are the signal that communicates that that helps you go from exercise to fitness.

Ari Whitten:  Can you go a little bit more in-depth on that to what specifically are the reactive oxygen species or the free radicals, what are they triggering? What adaptations are they triggering like let’s say in response to exercise? Or maybe you can either potentially also include some other hormetic stressors, things like sauna exposure or other types of hormesis as well.

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  Sure. So, there is a few, there is quite a jumble of overlap in terminology here. So, I like the word oxidants because it’s sort of very generic. But within that framework, you have reactive oxygen species which is anything that falls into this category of oxidants that contains oxygen which is basically all of them. Then you have reactive nitrogen species. That is ROS and RNS. And reactive nitrogen species usually contain oxygen, but they also contain nitrogen.

And then free radicals. A free radical technically is something that has an unpaired electron and that goes back to chemistry. All electrons want to exist in pairs. If one of them is missing, then that atom has a voracious appetite to pair up that electron. And so, it’ll take anything in its path to get that electron so free radicals are extremely reactive. But most of the oxidants… I don’t use free radicals in the general terminology usually because most of your oxidant exposure is not to free radicals. So, for example, in the electron transport chain, which is where you generate your ATP which is the main energy currency of the cell, you have oxygen and normally you are adding electrons and hydrogens to it to make water. But if you add fewer electrons to it and just add one electron to it you’re going to get superoxide which is a free radical. It is a reactive oxygen species.

It’s an oxidant. It’s not a reactive nitrogen species because it doesn’t contain nitrogen. Because it’s a free radical, incredibly reactive. It’s so reactive that it will almost instantaneously be converted into hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide is quite toxic. You probably have a bottle of it in your cabinet because you pour it on, you get a wound and you pour hydrogen peroxide on it. You have really good defenses to it to convert it to water. But the pathogens that are going to infect your wound don’t. And so, it just kills them, right? So, this is highly reactive stuff. Hydrogen peroxide is not a free radical. And so, if you look at the cell’s exposure to these things, the exposure to hydrogen peroxide is probably, you know, especially in a healthy person but even in a lot of disease states, hydrogen peroxide can be the main signaling molecule. And superoxide is just going to be like a very minor portion of that. So, most of what… In fact, there was a guy named Dean Jones who is a specialist here.

He wrote a paper called, “The Radical-Free Biology of Oxidative Stress.” And he made it, “Radical-Free” instead of “Free Radical” because he is saying that most of this doesn’t have anything to do with free radicals. So, in that, imagine, I mean I’m simplifying this but imagine that hydrogen peroxide is the main thing that is being generated here. So, in normal cell metabolism, you are always generating a little bit of hydrogen peroxide instead of water in the electron transport chain. That hydrogen peroxide is going to do a handful of things. One of those is that it is going to shut down the incoming energy. So, it’s going to shut off glucose transport at the cell membrane. That glucose is not going to make it into the cell. It’s going to be left in the blood. Not cause high blood glucose because the cell next door just takes that glucose up. But if the preponderance of the cells in your body is not taking up glucose your blood glucose will rise. And so, on the one hand, this plays a positive role in the proper allocation of resources. Because if you’re a healthy person in energy balance with no metabolic disorder, you just have some cells that can’t handle the glucose load. They give it to the next cell over and nothing bad happens. But, if you have someone who the whole preponderance of the cells in their body are not taking up glucose, they are going to wind up with diabetes. So, this is playing a role in the development of diabetes even though it’s playing a role in normal healthy metabolism. Another thing that it is going to do, is prevent you from burning fatty acids. And that is going to primarily happen not at the level of taking fatty acids up into the cell.

It’s going to happen at the level of the outer mitochondrial membrane. So those fatty acids are there, but they can’t get into the mitochondria where they would be burned for energy. And so even though you are testing someone’s blood glucose when you are concerned about diabetes, and you are probably in most cases not testing their fatty acid levels. In a research study, you would test their fatty acid levels and you would see diabetics have very high levels of free fatty acids in their blood. And there is a couple of reasons for that, but one of them is that oxidants such as hydrogen peroxide are preventing the fatty acids from getting into the mitochondria and they are all being left over. And so even though they can get into the cell, if they are not being burned for energy, they build up and the building up of them, like the cell, is just too overstuffed with the fatty acids and it’s not going to take as many up from the blood.

Another thing that they do is they help you… So that’s on the one hand. Like if you are in an energetic crisis and you’re like, “Geez, I can’t handle this energy load. I’m generating all these oxidants.” You are going to have two responses. One is, “Right now I’m not ready to take up any more energy.” And that’s the stuff we just talked about. No glucose, no fatty acids. The other is, “Geez, I got to build up a better capacity to burn energy.” So, you want to do two things. You want to make more mitochondria and that is called mitochondrial biogenesis. And the other thing you want to do is you want to burn that energy cleanly, so you are going to make greater antioxidant protection. And so, there are genes, some of your genetic information is in the nucleus. Some of the information is in the mitochondria. You have hydrogen peroxide as a key signaling molecule acting on all those genes to regulate this very broad umbrella set of genes related to burning energy and burning it cleanly.

So, the genes that regulate mitochondrial biogenesis are regulated there. And then also antioxidant protection is the whole antioxidant network. And that’s sort of like a whole, I mean we can open that box if you want to, but, that is a bunch of enzymes, a bunch of, you know, a couple of small molecules that are important that are all going to act in concert to help you minimize, to help you burn energy without generating all that hydrogen peroxide. So, in effect, your hydrogen peroxide might go up temporarily, but it sets into motion all these things that help it go back down to normal.


The roles of vitamins in oxidant balance

Ari Whitten:  Got you. I think I do want to delve into that topic a bit now. I want to sort of present my perspective on some of this. I want to see whether you agree with me or to what extent you kind of, where you want to take this. But, from what I’ve seen with when it comes to antioxidants supplementation, so taking vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A or beta carotene supplements, the research is overwhelmingly clear that these things do not extend lifespan, do not extend longevity. So, going back to kind of the old free radical theory of aging theory that basically the more free radicals that you have in your body or the more oxidants you have in your body the more that they are going to cause damage to different cell parts. And the more that you can take antioxidants, you know, kind of naturally it leads people to think, “Well, if oxidants are causing aging of myself, I want to extend lifespan and prevent these diseases of this oxidant-induced damage by just taking tons of antioxidants pills every day.” And from what I have seen the research is extremely clear that it does not work to either prevent the diseases that were theorized to be prevented by this or to extend longevity and slow the aging process down more broadly.

But what does seem to be relevant and granted there’s some kind of holes in the literature, but what does, in my opinion, seem to be extremely relevant to extending longevity and preventing disease is hormesis and doing the things that strengthen and build the internal antioxidant system. So, from my perspective on this is basically like you can’t override the way that our bodies regulate the balance of oxidants to antioxidants internally through taking antioxidant supplements. But what you can do is through transient metabolic stressors, hormetic stressors, you can build, you can grow more mitochondria, but you can also build that internal antioxidant system. And we know that those hormetic stressors do seem to be linked with disease prevention and extensions of longevity. So, I’m curious kind of what your take is on that whole thing that I just presented there.

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  When you’re talking about longevity research, are you talking about supplementing animals with these things and then watching how long they live or…?

Ari Whitten:  Are you talking about antioxidant supplements?

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  Yeah. Well, what you were just saying about not seeing vitamin C or E play out in longevity.

Ari Whitten:  No, I’m talking about human trials.

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  On disease prevention.

Ari Whitten:  Yeah. So, there are various studies looking at…

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:There are no human trials on longevity directly, right?

Ari Whitten:  Well, looking at all-cause mortality.

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  Okay.

Ari Whitten:  So, diabetes and vascular disease, various types of cancers have been studied…

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  Oh, okay. Yeah. All right. I think I see what you are saying. I kind of agree with that in the context of trying, I mean in the context of the free radical theory of aging and the idea of just trying to increase that bucket of antioxidants in a very generic way, I think that is true. However, even the RDA for vitamin C, which is old of course, but the RDA for vitamin C is based partly on the fact that there are consistent observational studies showing that there are, there is a certain plasma level of vitamin C that is associated with the lowest risk of cardiovascular disease and a handful of certain diseases that seem to correlate with vitamin C levels. And there is a level above which you don’t go after that. So, a male is 90 milligrams, a female adult is 75 milligrams. And they, the main markers that they were looking at to derive that were human trials showing the effect on immune function. These were in vitro assays where which means like in a test tube. So, they would feed people the vitamin C and then they would take out their white blood cells and look at markers of how well they were functioning in terms of their ability to defend against pathogens or their ability to support their own antioxidant system. But the numbers that supported immune function and antioxidant protection in these in vitro assays, and I should clarify this, this really isn’t in vitro. It’s really in vivo because they are feeding the people the vitamin C, it’s just that they’re not looking at a disease endpoint. It’s not a clinical trial. It is a human experimental trial looking at in vitro markers of functions, right? Those correlates very well. The numbers with the plasma levels that are associated with minimal disease risk in the bucket of vitamin C responsive diseases. And, I think they were being too conservative in where they set the RDA based on their own data. And I think if you took a somewhat more liberal perspective you would have concluded that 100 to 150 milligrams of vitamin C a day is really where you want to be for maximal protection.

And those include a lot of diseases that are part of the human, the realistic human longevity story. And, the reason I asked you about that is that I’m not that interested in longevity research itself because, like longevity research in animals looks at like how long does the animal live in this highly confined, controlled thing. Whereas like in humans, the reason that we don’t live that long is that we don’t reach the point where we are just dying like that. We are getting heart disease first or we are getting a hip fracture and dying a year later, etc., etc. So, I think at the level of specific diseases, I don’t think anyone is getting 100 to 150 milligrams of vitamin C from foods. The people that are getting that are supplementing it.

Now most people that are supplementing with vitamin C who are like, “Oh, I’m going to live forever,” are probably taking grams of vitamin C. And so, there is probably no benefit to that. Because the level of, I mean they basically like, the level of vitamin C that is likely to maximize your protection against vitamin C responsive diseases is way above what someone, what the average person is getting from whole foods, but well within what you would get from whole foods if you are eating a very vitamin C rich diet, and way below what anyone who is taking vitamin C supplements is getting.

Ari Whitten:  Right. So just to be clear, the studies I was referring to are vitamin C supplementation using, like you said, grams of vitamin C.

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  Right. And so, and that, like the whole idea of that goes back to Linus Pauling’s idea, you know, decades ago. His theory was that humans, somewhere in the evolutionary pathway we lost the ability to make our own vitamin C. And so, we should get the amount of vitamin C that all the species that make their own vitamin C get, which would equate to us getting several grams a day of vitamin C. But yeah, I don’t, there is not very much evidence at all for grams of vitamin C doing anything to prevent diseases that are relevant to human longevity. With that said, I’m not going to take that to conclude that you only need the hormetic stressor and you don’t need the response, right? Because I think you do need 100 to 150 milligrams of vitamin C., I think you’re probably not getting that. Maybe some of the people listening to this are. But, you know, if I were designing, actually I designed a custom multivitamin for my girlfriend.

I’m pretty sure I put in 150 milligrams of vitamin C. And I, you know, I put a little note in the product insert that said, “The RDA is only this, but the studies that they looked at said 150 milligrams is maximally protective.” Anyway, yeah. So, I would put 100 to 150 milligrams into a multivitamin if I were making a multivitamin. And if I weren’t taking any supplements, I would try to get 100 to 150 milligrams of vitamin C per day from whole foods, which is very doable, but you kind of got to think about it.

Ari Whitten:  Yeah. And by the way, the research that I’ve seen has shown that whole food consumption rich in vitamin C is linked… And, by the way, and other dietary, what they call dietary antioxidants from whole food sources, there are clear links with disease prevention and extension of life.

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  Yeah. So, it is hard with studies like that., it is very hard to tease apart what you’re saying from what I’m saying because all the foods that are rich in vitamin C are also rich in polyphenols that act as hormetic stressors. So…

Ari Whitten:  Yeah, and to be clear I should also clarify my position is not anti-vitamin C, we should avoid vitamin C. As I said, the research is solid that vitamin C containing whole foods is supportive of good health. But from what I’ve seen, it’s extremely unimpressive when we start talking about grams of supplementation with, you know, concentrated vitamin C or vitamin E.

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  Yeah. Well, okay. But I mean this is sort of like maybe not practical to really tease apart. But I believe that if you were to make a chemically defined diet that like astronauts are going to live on or something like that, and you take out an extract of plant polyphenols to put in it and you leave out the vitamin C, I think you’re going to do some damage.

Ari Whitten:  Yeah, I’m with you. I agree.

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  So, that is not whole foods, right? It’s totally divorced from the whole food context. But the amount of vitamin C that is in those whole foods is an operative factor as well as the other thing. Like, so if you just took the 150 milligrams of vitamin C and you left out the hormetic stressors, you are going to have a problem as well. So, but the, you know, the end result is like if we zoom back up to the big picture, right? We have oxidative stress which is either proper regulation of the pathway in a bad context that makes you feel like crap, right? So like way too much energy demands that are placed on your body, natural signaling shutting it down, you feel terrible because you shut down your energy metabolism. Or, dysregulation pathways from inflammation or other sources like that.

And then there is the oxidative damage, which is just damage to the tissues and that, you know, if it’s on the surface you see that. And then to protect ourselves against that we have an antioxidant system and there are two ways of supporting that system. One is to provide the raw materials to that system so it can function properly. And the other is that components of the system, not all the components but actually the vast majority of the components are synthesized by our bodies. Some of the components are essential nutrients. Some of the components are synthesized by our bodies. The ones that are synthesized, we make more of those components making more of the full system in response to hormetic stress. So, if you want to nourish that system you need the hormetic stressors like you were emphasizing.

And you also need the raw materials which are the essential nutrients. So, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, and protein are, oh, and iron. I left out iron. People think of iron as a pro-oxidant, but iron is also an essential part of the antioxidant thing. So, the raw materials and the hormetic stressors are the two key parts of the picture.


The link between hormesis and the antioxidant system

Ari Whitten:  Okay. So, this is perfect. So, first of all, let’s, I want to dig into the raw materials part more. But let’s talk, just kind of connecting the dots back to what you were talking about before as far as oxidative stress and oxidative damage. How does the internal antioxidant system relate to that? So, like in other words if we build up this internal antioxidant system well enough through these two avenues of the building blocks plus the hormetic stress, what are the benefits of doing that as far as how it relates to oxidative damage?

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  The goals of the antioxidant system are twofold. One is to prevent oxidative damage entirely. And so, like that whole category is just, there’s no known benefit to it, it’s just damage. And then in the other category, we have the regulatory roles of the oxidants. And when those regulatory roles go wrong, that’s oxidative stress. When those regulatory roles go right, that is normal metabolism. So, antioxidant system is trying to shut oxidative damage down to zero and is trying to shift the oxidants away from bad roles, which I call pathological roles, and into good roles, which I call physiological roles.


The connection between healthy mitochondria and the internal antioxidant system

Ari Whitten: Yeah. With that in mind, going back to kind of how the mitochondria fit into this, would you expect the mitochondria to be more likely to stay online and to be less easily shut down and less susceptible to being overwhelmed by oxidative stress and kind of go into that shutdown state if you have more mitochondria and the internal antioxidant system is built up? You follow what I’m saying?

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  I think so. Let me try to repeat the question back to you. You’re asking are you more likely to have a proper mitochondrial function and feel good if you have more mitochondria and a robust antioxidant system?

Ari Whitten:  Correct.

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  Yeah. I think that more mitochondria are, well actually, yeah, both of them. Right? So, if you have more mitochondria then you… So, one of the things that happens is if the number of oxidants that you generate is not just sort of a linear function of your total metabolism. It’s also like when you cross a certain threshold of being overloaded then all of a sudden, it’s really going to spike up. And so, if you have more mitochondria you can distribute the demands of energy metabolism more evenly so that none of the mitochondria are really crossing any key threshold where that is really spiking. And then the other thing, of course, is just that when you do generate the oxidants if you can neutralize them right then and there before they slip away and start slipping into the nucleus where they are going to change gene expression or slipping way out into the edges of the cell where they are going to shut glucose metabolism down, then, you know, then you’re not going to have those adaptive responses of shutting down the incoming energy and turning off energy metabolism.


The building blocks of a healthy antioxidant system

Ari Whitten:  Exactly, exactly what I was getting at. So, okay, so let’s dig more into the building blocks now. So, like what are the key moving pieces of the internal antioxidant defense system and what are some of the key building block materials? I know that you mentioned, you kind of listed them off, but what, and you don’t have to go crazy deep into the nuances of all these different enzymes and systems. I know that you have the ability to do that, but kind of like big picture overview of how the system kind of works and how these building blocks fit into that. What is sort of the key components people need to get from their diet?

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  Yeah. So, I think the, I think a good way of kind of breaking it down is to think of the antioxidant defense system in terms of preventing dysregulation and the pathway shutting down is primarily happening at the environment immediately around the mitochondria. And, then there is a sort of extension of that system that is protecting, like fully defending against oxidative damage that is not limited to cell membranes but much more focused on protecting the membrane. So if you imagine that an oxygen atom in, or an oxygen molecule rather, in the mitochondria got turned into superoxide, the first thing that you are going to want to do is convert that to hydrogen peroxide as quickly as you can because superoxide is the super reactive free radical. Hydrogen peroxide is very reactive but like many times less.

And then ideally what you want to do is convert that fully to water. And, so it’s sort of a shunt because the normal metabolism oxygen just goes to water. Here you have got to slip out and you’re like, “Shoot that oxygen didn’t go to water.” So, you take a couple extra steps to bring it back to water. Right? Water is a safe thing. And so, in the mitochondria, you have an enzyme called superoxide dismutase that uses manganese as a cofactor. And manganese, you know, this is probably one of the reasons that plant-rich diets are associated with good health because pretty much most of the manganese you get is from plants. And if, there is more that could be said, but like basically the more plants you eat the more manganese you get. Vegetarians have much higher manganese intakes than omnivores.

Vegans have the highest manganese intakes. Then the next thing that you are going to do is you are going to convert the hydrogen peroxide to water. And there are two enzymes that could be involved in doing that. One is called catalase which uses heme iron as a cofactor. And so even though iron can cause oxidative stress when you have too much of it, iron is an essential mineral involved in minimizing oxidative stress. And then there is another enzyme, glutathione peroxidase, which uses selenium as a mineral cofactor. And then also uses glutathione as a cofactor. Glutathione appears all over the place in this system. And it’s not limited to just this system, it does many other things. But inside this system, it does lots of things. And so right there what you are seeing is manganese, selenium, and iron as your nutritional things. And glutathione is a small molecule that you make yourself, but you make it from protein.

And so, you need to eat enough protein, and no one thinks of protein as an antioxidant. But protein is like one of the key things you need to think about when you are thinking about defending yourself against oxidative stress. And that, I guess that is the more practical reason why that 1985 idea of the balance of antioxidants and oxidants is so misleading is because when it comes down to the nutritional implications, you know, no one is talking about iron as an antioxidant. No one is talking about protein as an antioxidant. And yet these are the most important things. Now, if that superoxide has been generated outside the mitochondria, which is very possible because you do have enzymes that produce superoxide outside the mitochondria for various purposes. And your immune system can generate a ton of superoxide. And in fact, in the thyroid gland, you actually deliberately produce superoxide so that you can make hydrogen peroxide because you use the hydrogen peroxide to make thyroid hormone.

Or you can’t make that thyroid hormone without hydrogen peroxide. So, anyway, there is a version of superoxide dismutase in the cytosol that is also the same as the version that gets sent out into your blood. And that uses zinc and copper, both. Can’t have one or the other. It’s zinc and copper. It doesn’t work if you’re missing one of them to do that. So, we add to the list. We had selenium, manganese, and iron. Now we’re adding zinc and copper as essential minerals. Then everything else that I was saying before follows as well. Glutathione is going to be important there. Then that is the main system defending against oxidative stress. If you think about the system as defending against oxidative damage to the lipids in the membranes, vitamin E is going to be inside the cell membrane. It is going to be the first thing that is going to stop oxidative damage. But that vitamin E gets oxidized and needs to be recycled.

Vitamin C comes in and recycles it. Vitamin E is inside the membrane. Vitamin C is at the edge of the membrane, recycles vitamin E. That vitamin C gets recycled by glutathione we now see for the third time. And then glutathione then takes that burden of neutralizing the oxidants. That burden went from the membrane itself to vitamin E to vitamin C to glutathione. Glutathione is going to take it and put it on the system of energy metabolism through an enzyme called glutathione reductase that uses niacin, vitamin B3 and riboflavin, vitamin B2, as cofactors. And then that is now, it is sort of out of the antioxidant system and in the system of energy metabolism. Ultimately you trace that support to protect the cell membrane from damage, you trace it all the way down to glucose. And so, you can draw out on a map where the electron that saved the membrane from damage went from glucose to niacin to riboflavin to glutathione to vitamin C to vitamin E into the fatty acids in the membrane.


The best way to use the “Nutritional cheat sheet” to optimize the internal antioxidant system

Ari Whitten:  Excellent job. It’s not often that I am amazed at someone’s ability to explain very complex concepts. But I am amazed at what you just said. So well done. I want to connect this back to your Testing Nutritional Status Cheat Sheet and kind of what we talked about at the beginning of the Podcast or what I talked about briefly as far as this being sort of a road map for people to help them identify certain deficiencies of compounds and as it relates to their symptoms. What, I’m going to ask this in kind of a big picture, but you can take it specifically with some of these compounds. What kinds of symptoms might someone notice if they have deficiencies in this internal antioxidant system or, and you can address it like that or you can sort of address it as like what kinds of symptoms might someone notice with zinc, copper, manganese, selenium deficiencies or anyone of them?

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  Right. The way that I organize this in the Cheat Sheet is to put all these in a section on the antioxidant, vitamins and minerals and then to break them down individually. Because, you know, one of the obvious implications here is that if oxidative stresses the wear and tear on your system, you’re going to get worn and torn town if you have a deficiency in any of these things. And that might be fatigue because your mitochondria are shutting down your energy. It could be diabetes because mitochondria shut down their energy burning, and all the energy is being left in the blood, so blood glucose rises. It could be, you know, your skin wrinkles more easily. Like why do I look like a 57-year-old when I’m a 37-year-old? That can be, I mean, that’s an exaggeration, but that, you know, that kind of thing as well.

If you don’t have antioxidant protection, your thyroid gland is going to get all messed up because, so like if you imagine what is happening in the thyroid, in order to make thyroid hormone you need to make a ridiculous amount of hydrogen peroxide. And that is why in the thyroid gland, the thyroid gland contains the highest amount of selenium of any tissue in the body because it needs to protect against that. Well, on the one hand, if you know, in this situation what you do is in the thyroid gland, you sort of like, there’s all these cells, right? And then in the middle, they carve out this territory where they say all the thyroid hormone is going get made in here. And so, they try to shoot the oxidants all into that middle space so that the cells themselves aren’t swimming in hydrogen peroxide.

But you send all this hydrogen peroxide there, you are still going to get some leakage back into the cells because its ability to cross membranes is zero. And so, if the cells don’t have their selenium and selenium is most studied. So, there are a number of trials supplementing selenium for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and they are promising, they are not perfect. My suspicion is that they would get a lot better results if they bifurcated the people into the people who have good selenium status and bad selenium status. And, you know, that’s the limitation, a lot of trials. But the other thing is, you know, if selenium is important to preventing Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, obviously glutathione is important because what is selenium doing there? It’s acting as the cofactor for glutathione peroxidase. And if you don’t have glutathione there you can put all the selenium there you want and you’re not going to do jack.

Right? So, it’s really the whole antioxidant system that is very important in the thyroid gland. It’s not just selenium. And so, a deficiency in…

Ari Whitten:  A real quick tangent on glutathione. Some people obviously supplement directly with glutathione. Is there any negative feedback loop that is present there where if the body is getting it exogenously, would it not produce as much internally?

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  There is a negative feedback loop that is definitely there, but no one yet has shown it to be relevant to glutathione supplementation even at levels that are way above what you synthesize every day. And I don’t know why that is. It could be that they are looking at… So, there was a trial, it was six months of supplementing, I forget the dose off the top of my head, but it was big, and I think it was like 2000 milligrams.

But six months of supplementing some glutathione dose way above the total body synthesis did not lower glutathione synthesis in blood cells. I think it might, I can’t remember, probably white blood cells, but I can’t remember for sure. Anyway, the point is no one has been able to show the glutathione synthesis is lower. But I don’t know if that is because the way that it, you know, maybe taking out those blood cells and looking there wasn’t the main place that you should look. Maybe what you would want to look at is a liver biopsy because the liver is the main place where you are making glutathione in terms of a whole-body level. And so, I don’t know. What I do know is that I don’t think it matters. I think if you take out the glutathione it is just going to go right back up.

And so negative feedback loops are usually acute regulations, not long-term regulations. I think it is very different if you are dealing with an endocrine organ because one of the things that, and an endocrinologist would be a better person to talk about this than I would, but, or an endocrine researcher rather. But, one of the things, you know, one of the things with endocrine organs is that the tissue mass is regulated by the need to produce the hormones. And that is why you get goiter when you are hypothyroid or you can get goiter when you are hyperthyroid is because all this pressure is exerted on the thyroid gland to grow, to try to produce more thyroid hormone. And because there is a problem of not being able to, it just keeps growing and growing. Conversely, if you take thyroid hormone your thyroid gland is going to shrink.

And so, you know, you can take testosterone and wind up with testicular atrophy if you don’t do it properly and you do it long-term and you don’t have the dosing right and stuff like that. So, there’s no such thing with glutathione. Like your liver does so many things besides make glutathione that your liver is not going to shrink if you’re taking glutathione. You are just going to inactivate the enzymes involved in glutathione synthesis because that, basically glutathione attaches to the enzyme and decreases its activity. That’s the main thing. So, if all the sudden the glutathione goes away, all of a sudden that enzyme becomes active. So, I don’t think it going to matter that much. And maybe that is what, I would have to go back and look at those studies to be sure I’m not, I don’t remember the exact model, but it might be that they were giving enough time for it to recover.

And so, like you came in fasting that day and they took it out and like the last time you took glutathione was yesterday and it went back up. But it is almost certainly the case that if you’re taking more than… You make like 180 milligrams of glutathione a day. Every supplement is more than that. So, it has to be the case that when you are taking glutathione your production of it goes down. But I just don’t think it matters long-term.

Ari Whitten:  Got you. [crosstalk]

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  What was the original one?

Ari Whitten: The original thing was like talking about some of the cofactors of the internal antioxidant system. So, you were talking about selenium, glutathione…

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  Oh, right, right, right. Oh yeah, you were asking me about signs and symptoms. Right. Okay. Sorry, that was a long tangent. Okay.

Ari Whitten:  That was my fault. I distracted you.

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  It is my fault. I rambled off. Okay, anyway, we don’t have to play the blame game. All right. So, okay. So, in the thyroid gland if you are deficient in any of those things there is a couple things that could happen. One interesting theoretical possibility is if you are not neutralizing hydrogen peroxide enough you might actually make more thyroid hormone than you should because regulating the amount of hydrogen peroxide is actually one of the ways you regulate the thyroid hormone production. People don’t appreciate this, but there is… Glutathione peroxidase is actually in that central depo of thyroid hormone production and it is actually there regulating how much hydrogen peroxide there is to regulate the amount of thyroid hormone that you produce. So, you could wind up producing too much thyroid hormone at least acutely if you don’t have things here. But I think more likely what you’re likely to, what you’re going to see is oxidative damage.

Because if you don’t have the ability to stop hydrogen peroxide from leaking back and damaging the cell, you are going to have damaged tissue there. That is going to elicit inflammation there. So, I really think Hashimoto’s, especially when you view it in light of the promising studies with selenium supplementation, I think Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is basically oxidative damage combined with inflammation in the thyroid gland. So, I think that is going to be one of the central things that you might see.

And then, of course, most chronic diseases, pretty much every chronic disease has a component of oxidative stress. So just generalize the vulnerability to chronic diseases might be what you see. And then there are other things inside you, genetic and otherwise that is going to determine which disease course that takes. And so that might not be the overwhelming thing determining why one person gets cancer and another doesn’t, why one person gets diabetes, and another doesn’t, why one person gets heart disease and why another doesn’t. But if you’re predisposed to heart disease, your heart disease is going to be worse if your antioxidant protection is lagging behind.

If you’re predisposed to get diabetes for other reasons, your diabetes is going to be worse if your antioxidant production is lagging behind and so on. But then the thing is like, you can then take most of these nutrients down to talk about other things that they do. The one that you can’t is vitamin E. Its only well-established role is to protect cell membranes from oxidative damage. And there are lots of studies on other things that vitamin E does. It pretty much all falls into one of two buckets. Either it’s a thing that is a byproduct of its protection against oxidative damage or it’s, you know, some other thing that some form of vitamin E that you don’t normally have high circulating levels of is giving you mega doses.

So like tocotrienols are a sub-fraction of vitamin E that in really high doses that in capsules that are designed to help you absorb more than you would from food to lower your cholesterol. But that’s not really, that’s not like a role of vitamin E. So, I wouldn’t list high cholesterol as a symptom of vitamin E deficiency. Vitamin E deficiency has been associated with neurologic, very bad neurological damage in cases where there is malabsorption or there is a genetic defect in its circulation. But that’s kind of, but that even still, that is a byproduct of cell membrane damage and it is associated with hemolysis, which is the breaking apart of your red blood cells. That’s because of its need to protect cell membranes. So, there are things… The thing with vitamin E is those. And most people are not deficient enough to have those things happen unless they have a malabsorption disorder or rare genetic disorder in circulation.

But, to the extent those things are unique to vitamin E it is because they are focused on the cell membranes falling apart versus, you know, minimizing hydrogen peroxide and its consequences on thyroid hormone, energy metabolism, all those other things that we were talking about. Vitamin C, then the next down component is very well characterized in its deficiency of scurvy. Scurvy has almost nothing to do with oxidative stress and antioxidant production. Basically, it has everything to do with vitamin C as an enzymatic cofactor that is involved in stabilizing collagen. And, it’s not needed to make collagen. It is needed to make that collagen strong and stable. And so, what happens is you produce a lot of dysfunctional collagen in scurvy that leads to bleeding in the inside of your mouth. That could be, probably the most, you know, probably the most sensitive thing that is going to happen is you floss your teeth and your gums bleed.

Not going to say that means you have scurvy because there could be a lot of other causes of that. Pretty much anything that causes your gums to be inflamed is going to do that. But, you know, with someone with very well-developed scurvy, you look inside their mouth and all around the oral cavity just has spontaneous bleeding. They’re not gushing blood out of their mouth. But when you shine a light, a flashlight into their mouth and you’re like, “Oh, there’s all these little spots of blood developing under the skin and in some cases breaking through.” Their hair has become like corkscrew shaped. And I would like really hate to be the person who’s diagnosing someone with kinky hair as having the corkscrew-shaped hairs. Like it is very obvious in someone with straight hair. The curlier your hair you get is sort of like… You know, you look at these case reports and they have a little arrow pointing at the corkscrew hair in the picture and you’re like, “Yeah, you know, I can see that.”

But like if that arrow wasn’t there it would have been kind of hard to pick out. And then you have all kinds of things going wrong inside your own internal organs because collagen isn’t just supporting your skin. At the mucous membrane it’s, I’m sorry, it’s not just supporting your mucous membranes, it is also supporting all of your skin. It’s 95% of the protein in your bones and the membranes that support all your internal organs have a collagen component that is needed to like keep everything in place. So, there’s a lot of other things that would go wrong in vitamin C besides just antioxidant protection. When we were talking before about cardiovascular disease and cancer, that’s more related to its antioxidant role. There are some theoretical things that you could say might happen in vitamin C deficiency and these are not well demonstrated in scurvy cases.

But if you did a look at what vitamin C does, there are some interesting things you point out. So, vitamin C, and actually copper is another antioxidant mineral that we talked about. Copper and vitamins C cooperate together. And actually, zinc is here too. So, zinc, copper and vitamin C, all part of the antioxidant network, all cooperate to do something that has nothing to do with the antioxidant network and that is to activate half of all neuropeptides. And neuropeptides are, you could think of them as neurotransmitters. In some cases, you think of them as hormones, depending on which ones they are. But they really are neurotransmitters that are big ones, right? So, most neurotransmitters are very small molecules or a single amino acid or maybe two or three amino acids linked together with a dipeptide or tripeptide. These neuropeptides can often be long chains of amino acids.

But these do things like oxytocin is one of them that is called the love hormone by some people. It is basically facilitating the pair bonding response to physical intimacy. So, it helps you bond with your dog when you pet your dog. It helps a nursing mother bond with the child when she is nursing the baby. And it, you know, it really spikes in orgasmic sex with someone that you are in love with. And so, you know, when you want to cuddle after, that is oxytocin. And…

Ari Whitten:  Now I know why you formulated your girlfriend’s multivitamin with extra vitamin C.

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  Yeah, she doesn’t need it. But anyway, if you notice that if you ever noticed that your girlfriend or wife is more important to her to cuddle after sex than it is to you as a dude because they have higher oxytocin levels. You still get the oxytocin spike; it is just calibrated to the male level of oxytocin and the male brain’s response to oxytocin.

So, it is a little bit different than it plays out in a woman, but it is the same principle. Another one is vasopressin which stops you from peeing. And you always have to make some of that to regulate how much water you use relative to minerals. But it’s regulated by your circadian rhythm and so your circadian rhythm makes it spike at night so that you can sleep enough to not wake up and pee. And so, a lot of these people who are waking up in the middle of the night to pee I think have depressed levels of vasopressin and it could be that their circadian rhythm is just messed up, right? Because if you’re not sleeping regularly and you don’t have a regular light hygiene program, then you might not have any circadian rhythm and you might not have a spike in vasopressin. And so there might not be any reason as far as your body is concerned to go longer than you usually would without peeing.

Ari Whitten:  Yeah. And there is research, I don’t know, you’ve probably seen it based on what you are, that you are talking about it. But there is research linking circadian rhythm disruption or circadian rhythm, you know, function with nocturia, with nighttime urination.

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  Right. And so, this kind of is very analogous to what we were talking about, the hormetic stressor versus the raw material. You need both. And so, you need, in this case, it is the circadian rhythm that is the regulator rather than the hormetic stress. You still need the raw materials, right? So circadian disruption is probably almost universal in modern society. And so that probably more often than not is a limiting factor.

But, you know, vitamin C levels, copper levels and zinc levels in the brain are also going to determine your ability to obey your circadian rhythm by making vasopressin. And, there are a number of other neuropeptides that require this that are involved in appetite regulation, pain regulation, libido, and interestingly, all of the releasing hormones made by the hypothalamus that control the pituitaries’ control of endocrine organs, right? So, a lot of people are probably familiar with the term HPA-axis, hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenal axis. And then there is the hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid axis and the hypothalamus, pituitary, gonadal axis that are responsible respectively for thyroid hormone and sex hormone production.

All of those hypothalamic hormones are neuropeptides that are biologically activated in this manner using vitamin C, copper and zinc. And so, you know, you can imagine if one of these things is really depleted in the brain that you could have a person walking around with pretty serious fatigue and brain fog. Because if you are not making thyroid hormones, you are not making sex hormones and you are not making adrenal hormones then you are just flattened out all over the place like that would be sort of the, I think the gold standard of diagnosing this hypothetical loss of these nutrients in the brain. And you are going to feel like crap, right? Because if you are hyperthyroid and you just pump, you know, adrenal hormones to compensate for it, you can feel okay. But if you can’t do that, that is when brain fog really sets in. And if you are not making sex hormones either, yeah, you’re going to be out.


The best sources of selenium, zinc, and copper

Ari Whitten:  Yeah. I’m sure that you could go deeper in a lot of these other layers and probably spend five hours on this. But this has been just awesome stuff. I love this conversation on this whole topic. It’s excellent. So, the last thing I want to do is maybe wrap, like kind of connect the dots of what you were just talking about with the building blocks of some of these compounds back to like big picture nutrient intake, food intake. Like what, and this kind of goes back to your book, too, of like… So let’s say you are identifying some of these deficiencies and the symptoms sort of line up with what you are experiencing and maybe you even go the next, the extra mile and get it tested and your show that you have a deficiency in some of these things. So, what is the best way to get these compounds from foods and understanding that this is also a very complex deep topic you could spend a lot of time on? But could you list off like maybe some, what are the best sources of selenium, zinc, copper, things like that?

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  I think first I would start at a high level and say that if you just wanted a couple of dietary principles like to kind of try to get all of them without thinking too much about it, then I think you want to get enough protein and that is like a half a gram to a gram of protein per pound of body weight. That is also going to help you make enough glutathione so that was very specific. But also, if you get enough protein and you diversify it across meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, and dairy, then that is going to go a long way to provide a lot of these nutrients. Shellfish, in particular, are great sources of at least half of those nutrients. And then if you eat a few cups of vegetables a day and you diversify those across red, orange, yellow and green vegetables, you can put white in there though you don’t really need to. You just diversify the color spectrum but especially red, orange, yellow and green, especially again, at least like a cup of dark green vegetables a day.

That is going to be another key part of it. And then, you know, some people are on low carb diets. But if you are tolerating carbohydrates, if you diversify your carbohydrate load across fruit and then the different types of starches. So whole grains if you tolerate grains. If you don’t you can cut them out. Legumes, starchy tubers and fruits like across that spectrum. Then just those principles are going to help you get enough of everything. If you take individual ones, I think the two that are most important to test are selenium and iron and there are different reasons for each one. So, selenium is largely a function of soil selenium and unfortunately, there are no nice and neat rules to what soils are high and low in selenium. So, if you are looking at iodine, there is a certain pattern of climate that’s dictating where iodine is low and where it is high.

If you are looking at a lot of other minerals, it’s like where have they been tilling the soil the longest and where has the most loss occurred? Selenium results from really ancient geological processes that have absolutely nothing to do with the last hundreds of thousands of years and is totally random. And even worse than that, all of these other minerals play a central role in plants and plants have homeostasis controlling how much they take up from the soil. Plants have no use for selenium and they actually take up selenium as a completely random linear function of soil selenium. And so, you can have plants grown in… If plants are grown in toxic selenium soils, they are going to have toxic levels of selenium in them. Whereas plants could be grown in like toxic levels of copper and they will have more copper, but they are not going to have, you are not going to get copper toxicity from it.

So, I think it’s like totally random, 50/50 regardless of your diet, whether your selenium is high or low. And I think everyone should get their plasma selenium tested at least a couple times, you know, in a given situation where you lived here, you ate the local food. Like, test your selenium while you are eating it because you don’t really know what is in your food. There are other things you could say about it, but I think that is the most important thing to say about it. I mean other people are going to say like, “Eat Brazil nuts.” But, you know, Brazil nuts range 20-fold in selenium because of what I was just saying. And so sure, eat some Brazil nuts but go test your plasma selenium, especially if you are eating like 20 Brazil nuts a day because you don’t have a damn clue how much selenium is in those Brazil nuts.

I’m sorry. But, so iron. It’s because, on the one hand, women who menstruate lose iron in the blood that leaves as menstrual fluid and the need of a woman for iron can range across almost four-fold, a three-and-a-half-fold range based on variation in menstrual flow. And so, I mean, you can guess based on your menstrual flow how much iron you might need. But that is a very good reason to get it tested. And then on the flip side, you can have genes that cause you to not… Most people will stop absorbing iron from their food when they get too much. You can have genes that don’t allow that to function properly and you absorb too much. Men are at very high risk if they have those genes of getting too much iron.

Women who have those genes and a heavy menstrual flow don’t have a damn clue what their iron levels are. Right? And most people don’t know what their genetics are on that, which goes back to the fact that if you are a woman and you can guess based on your menstrual flow you still don’t have a damn clue. Right? So, I think iron and selenium are the two big ones where it is like, even if you don’t have a lot of money and no insurance, you should probably get those tested every once and awhile. But iron in foods is not random. So red meat, shellfish, and organ meats are the best sources of iron.

I’ll tell you, I get most of my iron from plants and I have the genes for hemochromatosis, which means I absorb too much iron from my food and I can eat ridiculous amounts of iron from plants and my iron levels, if I donate blood like once every two years, don’t get out of hand. And meanwhile, there are tons of people out there who are anemic eating tons of iron from plant foods. Plant foods that are rich in iron are also rich in things that inhibit the absorption of iron. And so, if your iron levels aren’t going up even though you are eating ridiculous amounts of iron from plant foods, you need to eat red meats, shellfish, and organ meats, period.

Okay. And then zinc, very aligned with iron. So, oh, and by the way, animal protein causes you to absorb more iron. Plant protein causes you to not absorb iron. Is that ridiculous or what? Right? So, it’s just like no matter what your iron is, right? Anyway, so zinc. A diet that is rich in animal foods and low in whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes is going to lead to the highest zinc status. And oysters, beef and cheese are the best sources.

Copper is a little more complicated. Liver is an excellent source of copper. You eat liver once a week, your copper is set. Certain, like basically organ meats in general, shellfish in general, mushrooms, in general, are very good sources of copper and that is the simplest thing to say about it. I already said plant foods are the best source of manganese. And does that cover everything, or did I leave anything out?

Ari Whitten:  Yeah, that is pretty much everything. So…

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  Oh, fresh fruits and vegetables for vitamin C. If you are a carnivore, eat adrenal glands and pituitary.

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  Okay, perfect. Okay, so just list off those strategies again, like the big picture. So the protein, veggies…

Oh yeah. Big picture. So, eat a half a gram to a gram of protein per pound of body weight per day. Diversify it across meat, fish, shellfish, dairy, and eggs. Veggies, eat at least a few cups a day, at least a cup of those as dark greens. But try to diversify across the color spectrum. And then the carbohydrates to the extent that you eat them, to the extent you tolerate grains include whole grains. You can cut those out if you want to but diversify your carbohydrates around legumes, starchy tubers, and fruits. And those principles right there will give you, will mostly make sure that you are getting all those nutrients without having to micromanage too much.

Ari Whitten:  Beautiful. This has been for everybody listening, this has been a masterclass on the internal antioxidant system, which is again, in my opinion, one of the most important and underrated topics that almost nobody is talking about or knows much about. I’m pretty convinced that this hour Podcast is now going to be pretty much the best thing on the Internet on this topic maybe other than the other, you know, series of lectures that you’ve done on this topic. So, thank you so much, Chris. This has been awesome. For everybody listening, make sure you go to and grab a copy of Chris’ “Testing Nutritional Status: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet.” Again, must have for everybody who wants to eat optimally and figure out some of the nutritional factors that may be responsible for their symptoms. And hopefully, now that you have just listened to the last hour of this Podcast you now understand why I am so highly recommending that you go get this from Chris.

He is obviously brilliant at what he does. I think there’s nobody better at this particular domain of knowledge. So, get the Cheat Sheet. Do yourself a favor. I think it’s what, 30 bucks or something like that, Chris?

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  Yeah, I reduced it to $29.99 just for looks. And the 20% discount, too, brings it down to like $23.99.

Ari Whitten:  Okay, cool. So, 24 bucks, guys. This is, I mean, ridiculously cheap for the brilliance, for the amount of wisdom that you are getting packed into this must have. Just go do yourself a favor and get it.

The Internal Antioxidant System (The Most Underrated Factor In Health) with Dr. Chris Masterjohn Ph.D. – Show Notes

What is the body’s antioxidant system? And why it is important (01:40)
The roles of vitamins in oxidant balance (20:16)
The link between hormesis and the antioxidant system (32:27)
The connection between healthy mitochondria and the internal antioxidant system (33:55)
The building blocks of a healthy antioxidant system (35:49)
The best way to use the “Nutritional cheat sheet” to optimize the internal antioxidant system (42:36)
The best sources of selenium, zinc, and copper (1:02:26)



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What Science Says About Your Cholesterol Levels, Dietary Cholesterol, Statins, And Their Role In Cardiovascular Disease, with Dr. Chris Masterjohn, Ph.D.

What science says about your cholesterol levels, dietary cholesterol, statins, and their role in cardiovascular disease.In this episode, I am speaking with Dr. Chris Masterjohn – who has a Ph.D. in nutritional sciences and who is widely regarded as one of the top nutritional biochemistry experts in the world – about the science on cholesterol levels, dietary cholesterol, statins, and their role in cardiovascular disease.

In this podcast, Dr. Masterjohn will cover:

  • The conventional medical community vs. cholesterol skeptics – who is right about cholesterol and heart disease?
  • The role of dietary cholesterol (And how it relates to cardiovascular risk)
  • Do statins work to prevent heart disease? And what are the potential drawbacks and side effects?
  • Can you really assess the risk of heart disease based on your cholesterol levels?
  • Can niacin reduce heart disease? (The risky side effect of using niacin for reducing heart disease)
  • Why nutritional scientists need to ask better questions when they perform a study
  • Some little-known effects of statins (These might shock you!)
  • Hot new supplements to increase NAD+. Do they work? And what do you need to know if you take them?
  • The MUST-HAVE tool for eliminating any potential nutrient deficiency

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What Science Says About Your Cholesterol Levels, Dietary Cholesterol, Statins, And Their Role In Cardiovascular Disease, with Dr. Chris Masterjohn, Ph.D. – Transcript

Ari Whitten:  Hello everyone. Welcome back to the Energy Blueprint Podcast. I’m your host, Ari Whitten. And today I have with me for the second time, my friend Dr. Chris Masterjohn who has a Ph.D. in nutritional sciences and who is widely regarded as one of the top nutritional biochemistry experts in the world. When it comes to the understanding of the biochemistry of nutrition and metabolism of various foods and nutrients, I personally consider him to be really a genius, literally one of the most brilliant people and most knowledgeable people in this field. Especially, when it comes to things like vitamins and minerals and their physiological roles in the body. I literally cannot think of anybody who knows that science better than Chris does.

So, I’m excited to bring him to you guys for the second time. Welcome, Chris.

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  Thanks, Ari. It’s great to be here. Thank you for that very generous introduction.

Ari Whitten:  Yeah, I mean it. And I want to say that I’ve also been following your work literally for way, way longer than we’ve actually met. We met for the first time, I think a year ago or something like that. But I’ve been following your work, I want to say for at least 10 years maybe. I mean, you were, I think, writing stuff or Weston Price foundation…

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  Yeah, I started doing this in 2004.

Ari Whitten:  Yeah. So maybe even closer to 15 years ago. Yeah. Now with that in mind, one of the things I want to talk about first is cholesterol. And this is something that I think, if I remember correctly, you actually did your Ph.D. dissertation on a topic related to this, right?

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  No, I did my dissertation on methylglyoxal and dietary antioxidants and regulating this particular compound that’s a byproduct of diabetes metabolism. But I did make a website about cholesterol in 2005.

Ari Whitten:  Yes.

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  Way, way, way before I went to Grad school. So that’s been hanging around for longer than my dissertation.

Ari Whitten:  You’ve been studying the science around cholesterol and relevance of that to cardiovascular disease for 15 years?

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  For the longest. Yeah, yeah, yeah.


The connection between cholesterol and heart disease

Ari Whitten:  So, this is a controversial subject. And you know, I know some of the Facebook circles that we run in, sometimes I see debates between you and some other people. And on the one hand, we have people like a lot of the people in the low carb and keto movements who are trying to say, cholesterol doesn’t matter, cholesterol is good. There’s no link with that in cardiovascular disease. And then we have also like the hardcore conventional doctors who are kind of in the standard thinking statins are good, we want to keep LDL as low as possible. And so, there’s this kind of debate out there.

As someone who’s been studying this topic for over 15 years, can you give kind of a big picture overview of what these sort of two schools of thought are and where you lie on the spectrum and what you think the science really tells us about the role of blood lipids and dietary cholesterol in relationship to cardiovascular disease?

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  Yeah. Well, I’m in the middle. I’ll say that. But less of an in between two extremes and more of a… I guess my basic position is I feel like there are essential components of truth on either side. I don’t think that you would be able to write whatever there are now, six, seven, at least really popular books and probably a lot more than that that are not so popular books on why the whole cholesterol theory is false if there wasn’t something objectionable about some aspects of it. But on the other hand, to say that there was no evidence behind it is really bizarre in the sense that there are few topics that have… There’re a few topics in medicine that have more science behind them than the role of cholesterol and heart disease. The whole theory of cholesterol as the cause of heart disease was a vehicle for major advances in science in a number of ways.

For example, the first Meta-analysis, which is a study about studies, basically. Pulling the results of many studies to have a statistical way to say what does the overall literature say on a subject. The first meta-analysis was done about cholesterol. A lot of the advances that were made in molecular biology, the first example of a receptor that brings something into a cell was the LDL receptor. And now that’s a whole field of molecular biology is those types of receptors. First one was the LDL receptor because everyone was trying to answer the question, how does cholesterol cause heart disease?

So there literally is, there is like nothing in biology that has medical and health relevance that has more science behind it. So, for someone to stand there and say that there was never… and people often do on the cholesterol skeptic side say “there was never any evidence supporting this,” is absurd because if there was nothing as the foundation, how could you have so many advances covering so many areas of science over an entire century of work? You can’t have that if there’s nothing there. So, the basic progress of the theory on cholesterol was as follows. In the turn of the 20th century, there were researchers in several parts of the world, especially in Russia – this was some of the main research – and they were experimenting with rabbits because rabbits are known to develop atherosclerosis pretty easily. And they were trying to answer the question, what is the cause of atherosclerosis? And the dominant viewpoint at that time that the people who thought diet was relevant, that they were arguing against. The dominant viewpoint was atherosclerosis is just an inevitable consequence of aging. And there’s nothing you can do about it. And there’s nothing that causes it except getting old, right? And these researchers were saying, “no, there must be more to it.”

And they had done all kinds of things to the rabbits. Like they would raise their blood pressure by restricting certain blood vessels. They hung them upside down. They injected them with adrenaline and all kinds of toxins. They did this huge laundry list of things to these rabbits and nothing ever caused heart disease until they started feeding the rabbits cholesterol. Or actually, foods that contain cholesterol, meat, brain, eggs, things like that. And now that doesn’t mean that that, so you don’t want to generalize from a rabbit to a human with diet, because rabbits have different ancestral diets than humans do. Our physiology, dietary effects across the animals can vary very widely. But the basic pathological mechanism of atherosclerosis doesn’t vary that much. And the reason that we know that is that first, they showed that cholesterol caused heart disease in rabbits.

Then they showed that in almost every other species the dozens of species were used to show this. And there were a couple of exceptions, dogs and rats and mice and those exceptions where because those animals happen to clear cholesterol from their blood really fast. And what they did was show that as long as they could raise their blood cholesterol, which they couldn’t do by feeding dietary cholesterol, but they could do by other means, then boom, all of a sudden, they behave just like the rabbit.

And so, at that point, it became clear that it’s not about dietary cholesterol because you can’t generalize from a rabbit to a mouse. On that point, it is about blood cholesterol because you can generalize from the rabbit to the mouse, to the dog, to the chimpanzee. And then there were questions about like how does that happen?

And when researchers started looking at how does that happen, the major advances were done, were made in the late 1970s, early 1980s, where they showed that lipoproteins which carry cholesterol in the blood have to get damaged. And they can get damaged in a number of ways. Some of the ways that they get damages just through things that happen in normal metabolism. But things that are accelerated by inflammatory processes, by exposure to toxins, by metabolic problems. And so, if you’re unhealthy in any of those ways, you will get more damage to the lipoproteins that carry your cholesterol and you’ll be at greater risk for atherosclerosis. But also, if you just don’t clear those lipoproteins from your bloodstream and they hang out there for longer than whatever amount of damaging stuff you have going on there, simply being exposed to those, to that risk for longer causes you to develop atherosclerosis.

And if you look at what they did with this theory in humans is they said, okay, let’s develop drugs to reduce people’s cholesterol levels. Those that… you can argue about some things like is there enough data in women on this. you can argue about are the rates of side effects for statins as low as they say they are? Or are they cooking the books by narrowly restricting the types of people use in these studies to people who are less vulnerable to the side effects compared to what happens in the doctor’s office?

And there are those questions, but the evidence is overwhelming that cholesterol-lowering statin drugs do reduce the risk of heart disease in people who are at high risk of heart disease. And the mainstream conventional viewpoint interprets that as saying, it’s all about the amount of cholesterol in the blood.

Cholesterol skeptics will look at this stuff and they will dismiss most of this evidence when they’re looking at statin… The results of statin trials, they’re usually, in my opinion being too rigorous with the data.

So, for example, they… and people do this all the time with ideas they question. You can find little limitations to any particular set of data. And when people want to dismiss an idea, they will narrow in and hyper-focus on those limitations to say that that data has no value so that they can ignore it. And I think that’s what cholesterol skeptics are mainly doing with that human evidence. But I think that where I come down on this is… I look at this and say, “look, it’s the mechanistic evidence.” So it’s not about the amount of cholesterol in the blood.

When you use these cholesterol-lowering drugs, what you’re doing is you’re clearing lipoproteins in the blood at a faster rate. You’re preventing damage to them through that. And by protecting them from damage, your protecting the arteries. And I think the cholesterol skeptics have a point in the sense that if your cholesterol is out of the range, especially if it’s a mildly out of the range, like for a man, if your total cholesterol is 2.20, it’s out of the range.

And there are probably plenty of men who have cholesterol like that and are perfectly fine, especially if they don’t have chronic inflammation going on. They don’t have diabetes or other metabolic risk factors. They don’t have an underlying disease state. All of those things that predispose you to get more damaged to those lipoproteins.

Also, cholesterol in the blood is an in-out equation. So, if you are making more cholesterol that gets sent out into the blood, but you’re also clearing it at a very fast rate, you’re not going to be at the same risk as making a smaller amount that just stays there, right?

Because it’s that stagnancy that’s staying in the blood that’s actually generating that risk. And you can’t tell if someone has cholesterol of 2.20, whether the extra 30 milligrams per deciliter, that that put them from the Green Zone to the yellow or red zone on that lab results. You can’t tell whether that’s a result of making a little bit more or clearing it a little bit less effectively. And that might make the difference between whether they truly are or are not at greater risk of heart disease.

But I think when you’re dealing with people in the general population who aren’t eating that well, probably most of the time when the cholesterol is high, it does reflect the negative process of not clearing it very effectively.

But then you can have someone who’s super health conscious has chronic inflammation down to a minimum and their cholesterol is a little higher because they’re eating coconut oil. And in that person, it’s probably a little bit higher because they’re making more, they probably are clearing and effectively and it probably isn’t oxidizing.

But on the other hand, if you have someone who’s got a total cholesterol 3.50 and whether they’re in one camp or the other, they probably have a problem there. Because even if you look at the ancestral populations who are not a subject to modern society, they are not eating industrial foods. The highest cholesterol levels in the world are found in on the island of Tokelau where they have the highest saturated fat intake on the planet because they have coconut as a major staple in their diet. And their cholesterol levels will get around 2.20 for men. And for post-menopausal aged women, they’ll get up to like 2.50 to 2.60 and they have zero risk of heart disease there. And so, they kind of, they illustrate that camp, right? Just because of the coconut. Their cholesterol levels are boosted up, but it’s not actually a problem for them. But they also illustrate the point that you don’t see cholesterol levels of 3.50 there, right?

So, no one has a cholesterol level of 3.50 just cause they’re eating coconut.


The science on statins

Ari Whitten:  Gotcha. So, a couple of specific questions here. One is on statins specifically. I know you said the data is clear that they do reduce risk of heart disease, of Atherosclerosis, in people who are at risk. Now, I’ve heard a lot of sort of nuanced arguments around this. For example, looking at who are not necessarily at high risk, what is the effect of statin drugs there and that was not particularly effective. And then I’ve also heard some statistics or arguments around how statistics kind of get manipulated in certain ways to… specifically around this idea of the number needed to treat. Like if you look at the statistics one way that they seem very impressive. And then if you look at it another way, it’s like, well, you had to treat a hundred people in order to prevent, to reduce the incidents of heart attacks in two people.

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  Those are valid arguments about the relative probability that an individual will benefit and their arguments that are relevant to the magnitude of the effect, but they’re not arguments that are relevant to the cause and effect relationship. So, one of the things that come up is absolute versus relative risk. If you say statins reduce the risk of heart disease in this population by 30%, then that sounds really big. But if you say that they’ve reduced the risk from 1% to 0.7% and they reduced it by an absolute factor of 0.3%, then it sounds really unimpressive. But the latter, the absolute risk that’s telling you more about quantitative factors like how many people will use save for heart disease. If you take action x, that’s not what you want to look at. If you want to answer the question, do statins reduce the risk of heart disease?

The relative risk is much more relevant when you’re just asking that question. Do they have the effect? Right? Because if you cut the risk of something in half, you cut the risk of that thing in half. That’s an effect. The question that the other… so they’re both useful. They’re not… It isn’t one is useful and one’s not. Relative risk is a better way of visualizing what the cause and effect relationship between one thing and another thing is. Absolute risk is a much better way to visualize what will be the net total effect on the number of people who have heart attacks if we carry this out on a population-wide policy.

Ari Whitten:  Gotcha.

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  What none of those things tell you, is anything about what it will do in an individual. Right? So, the number needed to treat is saying “you have to treat a hundred individuals to save three from heart disease”, for example.

But that’s in an individual, you’re either going to save them from heart disease or you’re not. And you don’t know the answer to that question. So, it’s a probability because it’s a fact that you don’t know, and you generalize from these studies to guess your probability and your confidence about that person. But those studies aren’t actually telling you about that person. Those studies are just telling you about the “what happens in a population.” And so, it’s really like nothing tells you what will happen in that individual. Those studies are all just telling you at a population level is if you implement a policy, what’s the net effect of it.

Ari Whitten:  Right. Now, those numbers that you threw out as far as, let’s say, I think you’re just throwing these out as an example, but you’re talking about like, let’s say if it cuts your risk in half, it cuts your risk and half. Are these numbers just an example? Or are you specifically talking about the actual…?

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  I was just, I was just throwing that out as an example to make the math easy.

Ari Whitten:  Okay. So, can you speak to what you think, like kind of speak to something to estimate the magnitude of the effect size that you’re talking about with regard to statins preventing cardiovascular risks and what specific populations you think?

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  Yeah. I can’t right now because I don’t have the data in front of me, but I can speak to a couple of principals and I do want to address a couple of things that you brought up. So, one of the problems with the numbers needed to treat data, and this is part of why I don’t bother memorizing any of these numbers, is that they’re all based on the amount of time that the people have been treated with.

And so, if you bring those arguments to cholesterol skeptics make about the high numbers needed to treat to a conventional lipid person. They’re gonna, they’re gonna point out. Yeah. But that trial was done over five years. If you start treating someone’s high cholesterol at 40 until they’re 80 than you have 40 years, the number needed to treat is going to drop down to like zero. They can’t drop down to zero, to one or something like that. Like that would be their argument. But there are no studies carrying these out over 30 or 40 years, which is the length of time that they’re being given. And I think that’s a completely legitimate argument.

And so, it is definitely true. And off the top of my head, I don’t remember the specific numbers, but it’s definitely true that the number needed to treat is very high.

I think something like 300 or 600 a to one when you’re dealing with populations who do not have existing heart disease, right? So, if someone has heart disease, you know they’re at high risk of heart disease because they already have it. And those are the populations where over a five-year study you can show a very big effect.

Ari Whitten:  And just to be clear, when you say they already have it, that’s as verified by what diagnostic tests by a scan where they actually visualize the plaques?

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  It might. It probably varies from study to study. But generally, like this is someone who’s had a heart attack already.

Ari Whitten:  Okay.

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  Yeah. So, these are people who have the existing condition where you see the high efficacy. When you look at primary prevention, which means just take a sample of people from the sample of the population that you’d expect to be given these things as in a preventative way in the doctor’s office. And then you follow them over five years. You’re not going to see many people have heart disease or having a cardiovascular event. Therefore, because the number of people who have cardiovascular events is so low, you are not going to see many people saved from heart disease.

And so, the number you need to treat in that population has to be really high. Because if you follow the people for, if you take a hundred people and you follow them for five years and three of them had heart attacks, well, how can you ever get a low number needed to treat when 3% of the people in that five year period even had the problem that you’re trying to treat. You couldn’t have a number needed to treat of one because nowhere near 100% of the people had the problem. And so, if you take those people and you follow them over 50 years, you’re going to get a very different picture. And the number needed to treat is probably gonna be a lot lower. The perceived efficacy is probably going to be a lot higher. I think it’s kind of neither here nor there, in my point of view, because I don’t actually… I think statins are over-prescribed, and I think they’re largely overprescribed because they’re so profitable.

And also, because there’s a bias in medicine of believing that people are not going to comply with lifestyle modifications. And so, they just say, “screw it, we’ll give them a go.” And I think for those two reasons are massively over-prescribed. But like I rarely find myself suggesting anyone go on statins. I think they have a place. But I think their proper place is for people with familial hypercholesterolemia or other problems that, you know, they went the full mile and diet and lifestyle, and they just didn’t get somewhere. I’m not that concerned with the number needed to treat because to me it’s a backup on the backburner anyway, I just raised the point because it’s a key piece of evidence of on the question you posed initially, which is what’s the truth about whether cholesterol causes heart disease?

Ari Whitten:  With that in mind, there’s almost, I know we’re missing some pieces here as far as, there are a lot more nuances we could talk about, but there’s something interesting that standing out here like me, which is, on the one hand, you’re saying there is this very clear mechanistic link between elevated cholesterol levels and elevated risk of cardiovascular disease. On the other hand, you also just said you think statins are over-prescribed. So, let ask you, just to kind of play devil’s advocate. If there is this causal link and statins are effective in lowering cholesterol levels, why wouldn’t you just say let’s put everybody on statin drugs?

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  Well you could say that. And you can just add them to the water supply…

Ari Whitten:  I know that has already been discussed.

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  Yeah, it has. So first of all, as I said before, I am very sympathetic to the idea that the risk of side effects are underappreciated. And I do think it’s true that the po… I mean, when they do the studies, they basically screen out anyone that they think is at risk of side effects. And in the doctor’s office, they don’t screen people out that rigorously. And so, I think that you have a very “clean population” being used to assess quantitatively the risk of side effects.

And then you have a very messy population in whom the side effects are actually occurring. And so, I think some people claim based on clinical experience which is anecdotal, but some people claim that as many as 10 or 15% of people are getting side effects from statins. And we can’t verify those numbers, but I think they probably have some merit. And you look at like [Duane Graveline’s] story, who was a NASA astronaut, he went on Lipitor twice and he got transient global amnesia both times where he basically forgot who he was or he reverted back to his high school memory and his wife had to lure him into the house with cookies and milk when he was wandering around in the yard and stuff like that. And he made a syndicated column about his experience and you started getting hundreds of letters from people who are saying “the same exact thing happened to me.”

So, I think the side effects are probably a lot more common than what they say for the numbers in the literature. And then the other thing is I’m looking at it biochemically like, so everything that I do is, is all about looking at the mechanisms of stuff and trying to understand like how the body should work. And I base my ideas on what’s a good bad thing. Largely, especially when there are gray areas where we don’t have studies answering clear questions. Which is most of the time. I base my ideas on how things work and how I think the system should not be operating and how it shouldn’t be. And statins are a very blunt tool to lower cholesterol because they don’t actually lower the way that they have their clinical effect is they increase the amount of LDL receptors in the liver, which increases the rate at which lipoproteins are taken out of the blood.

And from my perspective, that’s making them less likely to be damaged, less likely to make it into the artery and that’s why they prevent heart disease. The conventional lipid person is going to say, almost the same thing I just said, that they’re going to say more LDL receptors lowers the cholesterol level in the blood. And because there’s less cholesterol in the blood, they get less heart disease. But statins aren’t a drug that increases LDL receptors. What they do is they decrease the synthesis of cholesterol in the liver. So, the liver wants more cholesterol because it doesn’t have enough, and it starts taking in from the blood. But they don’t directly do that either. They inhibit the synthesis of a compound that is way, way upstream in this pathway of cholesterol synthesis that requires dozens of steps and there are many other things that you make from that thing. Right?

So, statins decrease the synthesis of coenzyme Q10 just as well as they decreased the synthesis of cholesterol and you’re a mitochondria guy. Right. So that you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing?

Ari Whitten:  Yeah. So, I was just going to say to point out specifically some of the side effects of the statins in this… you said 10 to 15%, let’s say it’s 10% of people, roughly. Some of the common side effects, I believe are CoQ10 depletion and potentially mitochondrial damage, muscle weakness, I believe also neuropathy if I remember correctly or nerve weakness or nerve damage. Excuse me. But I know muscle weakness and certainly the CoQ10 depletion. But are there any others…?

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  The most severe one is Rhabdomyolysis. Which is a condition where muscle sort of gets…. you also see Rhabdo in like really, really over intense exertion and its sort of like a failure of energy metabolism in the muscle that makes it wind up spilling out all its contents into the blood. And then your urine starts turning like dark brown or red because the Myoglobin, which is the key red protein in the muscle… The muscle cells are just falling apart. That’s considered pretty rare at that point. But you know, if rarely people get that, you can imagine that muscle weakness is maybe 10% of that. Right. If a tiny handful of people get that, then a lot of people must get whatever the five to 10% pathway towards that is. And muscle weaknesses is probably a major one.

And the neurological issues probably. Rhabdo is definitely the one that is the paid the most attention to in the literature. If you look anecdotally, then yeah, muscle weakness. I mean certainly, that transient Global Amnesia is an example of pretty significant neurological problems. So, Coenzyme Q 10, I mean, I don’t know if you consider that a… It’s not a clinical side effect and indeed some people would say there was no clinical significance to it. And I think it was Merck patented a combination of CoQ10 with their statin and they never put it on the market. And someone favorable of statins is going to say to them and put it on the market because no one could ever show that there was a clinical effect of the CoQ10 depletion. But the cynic is going to say they never put it on the market because they didn’t want to draw attention to the fact that statins deplete CoQ10. There’s probably some truth to both of that in the sense that no one has gone out and shown; “Oh, and everyone who gets CoQ10 depleted, this clinical thing happens.”

Ari Whitten:  At the same time, it’s not like we know the importance of CoQ10 from a lot of research. It doesn’t take a huge leap of logic to speculate if something depletes CoQ10 that it’s gonna cause some problems and the thing, the roles, the CoQ10 plays in the body.

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  Absolutely. And part of the problem though is that the… what you would expect to be the symptoms of that are so vague and difficult to identify. Right. So, I think one of the big reasons that fatigue is such a big problem is that you can be fatigued because you didn’t sleep that well last night. You can be fatigued because your motivation is low. You can be fatigued because your mitochondria are screwed up. You can be fatigued because you’ve got a genetic problem and energy metabolism. You can be fatigued because you’re missing one of any, you know, dozen and a half nutrients.

And so, someone goes to the doctor and they’re like, I’m tired all the time. What’s the doctor going to do with that information is if there’s no really good blood tests or something to say…. Like, if you could go into the doctor and saying, “I’m tired all the time” and they’d stick a little, prick in your finger and say, “oh, it’s because your CoQ10 is low.”

That would, you would go somewhere. But with statins and memory loss too. Like, well I’m forgetting my keys where I left my keys more often…The doc… So, when I first got glasses, I asked the doctor I was 17. I asked the doctor,  “why do I need glasses now, and I didn’t need them when I was 15?” He said, “you’re getting older.” And if that’s what he says to me, that I’m 17, then surely someone who’s 47 or 57 who goes in and says, “yeah, I’m forgetting where my keys are more often.” They’re going to say, “hey, you’re getting older. What do you expect?”

Ari Whitten:  There’s something I want to add to your point about going to the doctor when you have this kind of vague symptom like lack of energy, fatigue. There’s actual research on this where they’ve assessed how often is specifically in the context of fatigue. And I’m happy to share this post to link to it. It’s called “Fatigue, an overview” and it was basically a review of the literature and evidence-based practice guidelines published in the American Journal of the Family Physician. Basically, they state very directly that standard blood tests or what’s recommended when you are treating a patient with fatigue. But 95% of the time they will find nothing of value on that test that leads to any practical recommendation. So probably roughly 5% of the time, maybe they find anemia or hypothyroidism or something to that effect that they can see and might be related to the fatigue and they treat it. But 95% of the time they’re not finding anything. So, to your point, yeah, like CoQ10 depletion can absolutely result in a symptom like fatigue. And there are no tests to specifically identify that the CoQ10 depletion cause that symptom.

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  Yeah. And I think like it’s, it should be really obvious, right? Statins do not deplete cholesterol any more or less than they deplete CoQ10. It’s not a side effect of statins. It is a drug effect of statins. So, statins block you from making this thing that makes cholesterol and makes CoQ10. So that’s not a side effect. That’s an effect of the drug.

Ari Whitten:  Right.

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  And so, if you are using a dose of the drug that is meant to deplete cholesterol to clinically significant levels, then why would you think that the degree of CoQ10 would not be to a clinically significant level? Yeah. Right. Like you are using the drug in that dose for that reason and it does that thing. Yeah. And it’s not just CoQ10. MK4, which is a specific type of vitamin K2 is also downstream in that pathway. And there’s a bunch of other things, but that’s another nutritionally significant thing there. And MK4 is involved in cancer prevention. It’s involved in regulating your calcium to get into your bones and teeth and not into your blood vessels where it causes heart disease, not into your kidneys where it causes kidney stones.

Ari Whitten:  … It’s factor x, right?

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  Yeah. But it’s also very important for Myelin synthesis in the brain. And one area where there’s gotta be some really important stuff here. But exactly what it is, no one knows. They’re a huge portion of the vitamin K in a cell is found in the Mitochondria. And it’s possible that it does something very similar or the same as CoQ10 but is not well researched enough to be included in the textbook discussion of the electron transport chain. It’s possible that it should be the little thing there, right next to CoQ10 passing the electrons on.


The role of dietary cholesterol and how it relates to cardiovascular risk

Ari Whitten:  Yeah. Now we’re, we’ve spent a lot of time on this subject, but it’s so fascinating and I’m really enjoying this conversation and there’s actually two more sorts of nuances that I want to dig into here.

One specifically the role of dietary cholesterol in relationship to all of this topic. And there’s a lot of controversy there too, right? So, there’s controversy around the whole relationship of blood cholesterol numbers to cardiovascular risk. We covered that. You covered that. I won’t take credit for your work there. And, then there’s this controversy around dietary cholesterol and you know, that keeps reemerging, that reemerged recently with another epidemiological study that was looking at, you know, egg consumption and said eggs. Basically, there were all these headlines in the media yet again saying, hey, we thought dietary cholesterol wasn’t a big deal, but now there’s a new study and it’s a big deal again. Right. So, can you kind of give your quick summary about the role of dietary cholesterol and how that relates to cardiovascular risk?

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  Yeah. So, in about two-thirds of people, dietary cholesterol has very minimal, if any, effect on blood cholesterol. And that’s because when you have more cholesterol, you make less. And so, if you make less than you take in more, it just all kind of balances itself out. And about a third of people with cholesterol does rise appreciably, but in those people, it tends to increase LDL and HDL cholesterol equivalently. And so, a lot of conventional people would say that that doesn’t change the heart disease risk. Some people who dispute that. It’s really only about 1% of people where their LDL skyrockets and response to consuming three to four eggs worth a day. One of the points that people make who are very, very anti dietary cholesterol is that all those studies are done with people who are consuming usually at least an eggs worth of cholesterol a day.

Even if they’re not consuming an egg a day, they are consuming that amount of cholesterol from other animal products. And, I don’t think this is well studied. But I think it probably is true that if you put someone on a zero-cholesterol diet, you’re probably going to take them out of that range where everything kind of stays the same and you’re going to lower their cholesterol by bringing it down to zero. I know my total cholesterol was 1.06 when I was a vegan, which is very low. For most people who are not zero cholesterol vegans, it’s not a major thing impacting blood cholesterol levels. In a study like that… I’ll be blunt I honestly think it’s a stupid question to ask, “do eggs increase the risk of cholesterol?” because I think by now it’s really clear that nutritional needs and vulnerabilities vary from person to person. And we have a lot of core information, try to determine how to individualize questions like, and I think in 2019 a valid research or a useful research question is not for the 30,000th time do eggs cause heart disease or not.

There’s a bunch of conflicting, massive evidence from the last decades. It’s probably because we didn’t ask good enough questions. How can we make the question better? And one of the ways we could make the question better would be “can we identify a subset of people who shouldn’t eat very much dietary cholesterol?” I know we can. An example of these people would be people with familial hypercholesterolemia. These people cannot eat very much cholesterol without their blood cholesterol skyrocketing because their means of clearing it from the blood is defective. On the other hand, are there are people who should definitely be eating dietary cholesterol? My guess is yes. So, there’s at least one to 3% of the population has a partially defective cholesterol synthesis and those people are … their health is not well studied, but they’re at increased risk for violent suicide. And that generally reflects the fact that low cholesterol levels are associated with poor neurological health and that makes sense because the brain is 2% of the body’s weight and 25% of it’s cholesterol. Cholesterol is the limiting factor for synapse formation. Virtually everything in the brain is signaling that’s happening between proteins that are anchored in cell membranes by cholesterol. So, a better question is how can we identify the large mass of people for whom this question is totally useless and then a small percentage on either end who should or should not be eating three or four eggs a day?

Ari Whitten:  Right. Just one quick point on this, the people with familial hypercholesterolemia, this is what, less than 1% of the population, I’m guessing.

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  Yeah. It is less than 1% of the population. I don’t remember the exact stats and it varies from population to population. It’s fairly uncommon. I mean, there are other familial hyperlipidemia and if you add them all up, you’re probably getting somewhere around half a percent or 1 percent of the population, something like that.

Ari Whitten:  I just like to clarify in case there are people listening.

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  It’s not like a third…

Ari Whitten:  Like 50% of the people that maybe [crosstalk] have familial hypercholesterolemia.

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  Yeah. Well, you probably don’t, but if your total cholesterol was over 300, you should get checked.

Ari Whitten:  Okay. So, my last question on this is something that drives me a little bit nuts, to be honest with you. When I see some of these debates back and forth. Like I know you published with Alex Leaf who’s a mutual friend this video recently on niacin and the potential role of niacin in lowering LDL and things like that. And then, other mutual friends of ours, Spencer And Casey Nadolski came in and they’re conventional doctors who are kind of always there to argue in favor of statins and the sort of conventional thinking around that.

I’ll be honest, one of the things that drive me a bit crazy is it seems like everybody’s losing sight of the fact that lifestyle factors and nutrition factors are the main key to cardiovascular disease. And it’s like that whole thing is being ignored in favor of statins. And whether statins are good or bad. And I’m like, “why are we even talking about this?” Like how much, how much of the people, how much of what portion of the population is actually doing nutrition and lifestyle really well and still has some kind of cholesterol problem? In my opinion, it’s less than probably 3% of people. If that. Maybe less than 1%. So, from my perspective, the whole thing, the whole focus should just be shifted to nutrition and lifestyle.

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  Spencer and Casey got a little riled up on the post that I had about safety precautions to take when using niacin to lower cholesterol. The episode before that directly before that, which was linked to in the description of that, although this debate largely occurred on a Facebook share of the Instagram posts that didn’t have the links to the old episode because you can’t put links in Instagram captions. But anyway. The previous episode was, should you use niacin to lower your cholesterol? And what I said was, look, the data’s controversial number one. Number two, the generous view of the data, like the pro-niacin side says that for, and this goes back to the numbers needed to treat what you brought up at the beginning for every 18 people, that take niacin, one will get saved from heart disease.

What was it? 18 I got to go back and look at those answers. The math works out a look at those numbers, I think I’m messing it up. The math works out that for every, and I know I have this number right. The math works out that for every seven people that you save from heart disease with niacin using the generous view of those numbers, three of them are going to get diabetes. And I think this is where numbers needed to treat are, you know, this is pretty useful because you can kind of use it for cost-benefit analysis. It’s another question to ask does “niacin reduce the risk of heart disease”, right? Like two separate things. But what I said was, well in the next video I’ll give you some tips on how to not get diabetes when you use niacin. But for now, shouldn’t we be trying to do things that the risk of heart disease and the risk of diabetes instead of things that reduce the risk of heart disease by increasing the risk of diabetes?

Ari Whitten:  And could also be true almost for statins, right? Like shouldn’t we be discussing things which reduced the risk of heart disease and also translate into improved energy levels, improved mitochondrial function, and improved muscle strength? And a host of other positive side effects instead of reduced cardiovascular risk and also have a bunch of negative side effects.

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  Yeah, I agree with that. And niacin reduces heart disease risk. If it does, it does it by lowering free fatty acid levels in the blood. And so, what else lowers free fatty acid levels well optimizing your body composition, exercising, achieving insulin sensitivity, increase including healthy carbs in your diet once you’re insulin sensitive. And like all of these things are anti-diabetes and are going to make you feel better. And they’re also really basic things. Right? Like you were saying like who’s got the basics, right? Not that many people. Right. But also, like who consume health information like this? The highly motivated people that can, that can, right. And so, I think sometimes not just Spencer and Casey, but doctors in general when they’re, the ones who do pay attention to social media are they’re thinking of their patient population and the concerns that they need to… like, they don’t want the Joe Schmo to like go home and sit on the couch eating burgers and fries and taking a high dose niacin while he sits on the couch.

Ari Whitten:  Understandably.

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  But that’s not whom any of this information is marketed to. Right? Like, if you have a podcast about health and nutrition, by definition, your audience is in the top one or 2% of highly motivated individuals that either want to or have taken control of their health in ways that most people won’t. And that changes everything because those are the people that you can reach with diet and lifestyle messages.

Ari Whitten:  Yeah. I know we’ve spent most of this podcast on cardiovascular disease, which is cool. I’m actually, I love this content and I’m really excited about how this played out and this is going to be a great podcast on this whole topic that I’m excited to share with people.

Because I feel like the, on the podcasts I’ve done thus far, I’ve either had the sort of very conventional thinking around cholesterol sort of. And, and oftentimes that’s associated with like the vegan people who are also infusing sort of animal food avoidance into that message and avoidance of dietary cholesterol and avoidance specifically of animal foods. Or I’ve had the sort of the cholesterol skeptics who want to deny any relationship here at all. So, I think this is really important information and I thank you for it.


The importance of niacin

One more topic. We have time for one more topic and I want to do something that’s maybe a little bit connected to what we were just talking about niacin. And specifically, I know you’ve done some videos recently. I’m not just nice and, but also nicotinamide riboside, nicotinamide mononucleotide. And there’s a lot of talk of nicotinamide riboside and NAD+, and that’s becoming quite popular. A lot of people are looking at supplementing with that for increased energy levels, longevity and so on.

So, talk about what the relationship is there. Talk about why these compounds are important, why NAD+ is important and sort of the lowdown on how to increase it with these compounds. And then some of them, I know there’s some potential downsides to using these compounds and how to mitigate that.

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  Yeah. niacin is vitamin B3 and it is used to make, to primarily make two compounds NAD+ and NADpH. NAD+ is used in oxidative catabolism, which is the breakdown of food for energy. And it is one of the… one of maybe probably niacin and vitamin B5 are the two most universal players in energy metabolism. And you can say certain things like riboflavin is more important for fat burning. Thiamin was important for carb burning. NAD+ is across the board for everything. And then NADpH is primarily used for building things up, anabolic synthesis. So, you use it for nutrient recycling and use it to recycle glutathione, which is an antioxidant and a detoxifier. Use it for detoxification in general,. You use it for making cholesterol and fatty acids. You use it for making neurotransmitters. You use it, in fact, to make everything else that is a player in energy metabolism, like even make NAD+ from niacin for example.

When your niacin status declines, generally you conserve NADpH more than you conserve NAD+ because the antioxidant function is so essential from preventing the whole structure of your cells from falling apart. And so, usually, people are thinking mostly about trying to boost levels of NAD+. And NAD+ is not just used in energy metabolism to make you feel energetic. That’s one of the central things it does. It’s also used to lengthen telomeres, which are the little end caps on your chromosomes. Every time your chromosomes divide, you lose a little bit of the ends and the telomeres, have places where they rebuild them to try to keep them long. And it’s thought that a part of aging is just losing the telomere length. Cause as you just basically, you’ll eventually, you’ll start to lose genes that are functional in those cells if you don’t rebuild that at the end caps. And it’s also used for DNA repair. So, every time you breathe in air, you’ve got oxygen that’s damaging some stuff. You’d go out in the sun, great for your circadian rhythm, great for Vitamin D, but it’s causing DNA damage with every drop of sunlight that you get and you’re constantly repairing it. And in severe niacin deficiency you can’t go out in the sun because of your skin will get wrecked just by normal sunlight exposure. So, people want to use niacin to increase NAD+ levels. And when you eat it, like let’s say supplement with something called niacin or niacinamide, which niacin is another name for nicotinic acid. Niacinamide is another name for nicotinamide. Any of those have to go through a multistep process to be made into NAD+ and nicotine mononucleotide, which is NMN and nicotinamide riboside just NR both kind of higher up, the higher up the ladder in that synthesis and they’re more easily made into it.

So, there’s a system in place that when you consume… Oh, one other thing that you use niacin for that I didn’t mention is to release all your neurotransmitters. You break down NAD+ and that’s completely independent of its role in energy metabolism.

So, in energy metabolism, you use NAD+ basically by cycling electrons from the food you eat. And so, you, you like electrons go on it, they go off it, they go on it, they go off. If they go on it, they go off it. Doing that process you never break down the NAD+ you still have whatever you had. But for telomere lengthening, for DNA repair and for neurotransmitter release, all of those processes break down the NAD+.  they break it down to nicotinamide, which ultimately ideally you would want to recapture salvage and produce NAD+ from it again.

However, as a negative feedback loop, when you make nicotinamide, if it accumulates, it’ll shut down all those enzymes. And that’s basically because if you don’t have anything to do with it, you don’t want to keep making it. And so, your cells are set up to say, “okay, we have Nicotinamide, we’re going to try to make NAD+, but if we can’t, we’re going to get rid of it. How do we get rid of it? We detoxify it with methylation.

So, there are basically two principals here. One is, if you have nicotinamide mononucleotide NMN or nicotinamide riboside NR, you are past nicotinamide. You’re halfway up the ladder to get to NAD+. You’ll make NAD+ before you ever have nicotinamide.

And so, you’re never at risk of peeing it out, methylating it and peeing it out in the urine before you are making NAD+, it’s basically a guarantee that you’re going to get more bang for the buck of NAD+. Another implication of this is that because all niacin, no matter whether it’s niacin, niacinamide, NR, NMN, any of them are ultimately somewhere in that cycle are going to be made into nicotinamide. That’s going to pose an accumulation risk, the body is going to have to get rid of it or risk getting rid of it. And if it does so it will do so by methylating it. And so, all forms of niacin will deplete methyl groups. Right? And that’s a risk because you need methyl groups to synthesize creatine, which is important for muscular performance, for energy, for feeling energetic, for mental health.

You use methyl groups to regulate your dopamine in a way that keeps you motivated in a way that keeps you from getting mentally stuck on things that you don’t want to be thinking about or focusing on. You use methylation for supporting your liver health, not getting fatty liver. So, you don’t want to be losing methyl groups unnecessarily, but you will, if you take way more niacin than you need, no matter what form it is. So, the take-home points are if you want to increase NAD+ levels, use NMN or NR instead of using niacin or niacinamide.

And second take home is don’t take more than you need, right? So, if you get a positive effect from 150 milligrams and you don’t get an increased effect from 300, don’t take 300. Certainly, don’t take two milligrams, I’m sorry, two grams. It’s in milligram.

So yeah, 150 milligrams, you’re getting a positive effect. Don’t take more, but some people might need to take 300 milligrams. But do that if you get a positive effect from it, not just because other people are doing it.

And then my recommendation to… there are no studies of this, but my recommendation is to step in and say, “hey, pair that with some trimethyl glycine which is a [methyl donor] and that gets rid of the risk that you’re gonna lose methyl groups. And so, TMG capsules, usually 500 milligrams, the dosing, sort of like if you’re at if you’re under 500 milligrams of niacin the dosing doesn’t really matter. One capsule will cover the whole thing.

If you’re starting to use high doses, I would use, I would match 500 milligrams of TMG to every 500 milligrams of niacin or niacinamide and to every 1000 milligrams of NR or a nicotinamide mononucleotide. And so, since I just said use NMN and NR instead of the other two, we can just say that for the NAD+ boosting benefits, start with the low dose, maybe work your way up possibly to 2000 milligrams if you need it. But take half the dose, whatever the dose NMN or NR you’re taking. take half the dose of TMG.

Ari Whitten:  Excellent. Last point on this. I know when your video on the subject you mentioned… not going to directly quote you, but it’s something to the effect of, the caveat here as far as the potential for losing methyl groups is a reason why you recommend getting most of your food from whole foods. And I’m just curious, are there any dietary sources of nicotinamide riboside or nicotinamide mononucleotide or can we only get niacin and niacinamide?

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  There’s a lot of NAD and NADpH there’s a lot of nicotinamide, there’s a lot of nicotinic acid. It varies food by food, but generally, in plant foods, you’re getting more nicotinic acid and animal foods you’re getting more nicotinamide when you eat the food. But answer your question directly, there’s a little bit of NMN in a small selection of foods and I don’t remember what they are off the top of my head, but they’re not significant in terms of like the contribution to total niacin. They’re pretty meaningless. And nicotinamide riboside is only found in trace quantities and milk. So it’s essentially not found in the food supply.

I don’t think getting it from whole foods because of the forms that are found in whole foods is really protecting you from methyl group loss. It’s just that when you’re getting it from whole foods, you’re not going to be taking in 300 milligrams, let alone 2000 milligrams. So, the capacity to meaningfully tax the methyl groups is just not there. And you are getting methyl groups from methyl donors in those foods, right? So, it’s really hard to disturb that balance when you’re getting it from food. And that’s not an argument against using supplements. If you have a condition that’s lowering your NAD+ levels, which could be as simple as you’re getting older, it could be or at least that’s a leading hypothesis, is that NAD+ levels declined to a meaningful extent during aging, and that’s part of the aging process.

You’re never going to get 300 milligrams of any form of niacin from foods. It’s not gonna happen. Right? And so, if you benefit building up your NAD+ levels from 300 milligrams of nicotinamide riboside, the only way to do that is to take nicotinamide riboside. It’s just now you have sort of exited the realm of dosages that you could get from food and you’ve now entered into this place that requires tinkering and micromanaging. So, you shouldn’t be treating that as having equal cost and benefit analysis of eating food that has niacin. You should be thinking about it as, “I’m deliberately tinkering with the system. I should understand the system well enough to know how to do that safely and effectively.”

Ari Whitten:  Yeah. And it seems that even the supplement formulators in many cases don’t because they’re not adding methyl donors to most of these supplements. I mean, most of the supplements on the market that are either NR or NMN are not including methyl donors there. So, it seems a lot of even the people formulating those are not privy to this knowledge. But at least now everybody listening to this podcast is.

Dr. Chris Masterjohn: I had an interesting Twitter exchange with Charles Brenner, who is the head of the company [crumbled x that makes true nitrogen]. And, he basically is arguing that they showed that homocysteine and that’s identity on the finding levels in the blood are not affected by 2000 milligrams of their supplement. They’re going to publish the data later. So, they have proven that my concern, while valid doesn’t play out. And so I responded to him and said that what you would expect, and I could don’t have, we don’t have time to go into why here, but what you would expect is the most sensible thing would be declining a synthesis of creatine, not elevated homocysteine or decreased SAM. And he just sort of ignored all those points. And so, I think it’s simpler for him to just say that they dismissed that thing they don’t need to include, but that’s sorta like statins and CoQ10 right? Like you may know that that like Merck may have patented that thing in case they’re pushed into putting it on the market, but you don’t really want to market it. It’s, it just, it comes out of marketing risk because now you’re sort of admitting that there might be this negative consequence to your supplement and that’s why you’re putting it in there. And it makes for better marketing to just say this is an unambiguously positive effect on your health.

Ari Whitten:  Right. Yeah, absolutely. Well, Chris, let me put it this way. I have like eight topics, nine topics listed out of things to discuss today, and we covered two of them. Okay. So, I’m going to have to have you on for a second and probably a third podcast, which I’m actually excited about. I love having you on the show and you’re a wealth of knowledge. Also, I want to say to everybody listening especially if you didn’t catch the previous episode that we did together where I had Chris on the show. Chris has a new cheat sheet that’s for testing, nutritional status. And basically this is a guide to help you figure out exactly if there are any nutritional deficiencies that are related to your symptoms, to your fatigue struggles and exactly how to figure out based on your symptoms, if those deficiencies might be present and exactly what the specific best tests are to validate if those deficiencies are actually present and how to fix them and what foods are rich in that specific nutrient and so on.

As far as I’m concerned, this is a must-have tool. Also, if I mean it’s, it’s literally like the Bible for understanding nutritional deficiencies. What vitamins and minerals do in the body and how they relate to various symptoms and potentially your energy struggles. As an added bonus, this thing is only $30, which is kind of amazing. It’s in my opinion, easily a $100 or $200 worth of value, uh, and Chris is offering it at a discount, 20% off. You can get it at And Chris, do you have any words that you want to say about the cheat sheet in case I maybe left something out?

Dr. Chris Masterjohn:  No, I think you did a great job. It’s called The Testing Nutritional Status The Ultimate Cheat Sheet. It’s called a cheat sheet because it’s designed so that you have to do a minimum amount of work. You can read five of the pages and get your hand held as you walk through, how to decide which data you should be collecting, how you collect the data and how you interpret it. And then there’s, it’s called The Ultimate Cheat Sheet because then there are 78 pages total and the rest of it is stuff where you might be pointed to it on that need to know basis. And look, if you deal with clients, you might want to read the whole thing, but if you don’t, you might only need to read six pages of it to be able to get your start to an action protocol.

Ari Whitten:  For everybody listening, in my opinion, this is an absolute must-have tool. It’s only 30 bucks. It’s actually 24 bucks. So, there’s no reason not to buy it. It’s like as much as a book from Amazon or a couple of books from Amazon and it’s potentially life-changing information.

Chris, thank you so much again for coming on the show and we’ll schedule the podcasts that we’re going to do next week or so.


What Science Says About Your Cholesterol Levels, Dietary Cholesterol, Statins, And Their Role In Cardiovascular Disease, with Dr. Chris Masterjohn, Ph.D. – Show Notes

The connection between cholesterol and heart disease (02:22)
The science on statins (14:26)
The role of dietary cholesterol and how it relates to cardiovascular risk (35:32)
The importance of niacin (47:38)


Get your personal The Testing Nutritional Status The Ultimate Cheat Sheet here

You can read the study “Fatigue, an overview” mentioned in the podcast 

How nutrient deficiencies cause fatigue(and the most important minerals and vitamins for fatigue) with Dr. Chris Masterjohn │ How To Lose Body Fat │Best Diet For Fat Loss,
Listen in, as Chris Masterjohn shares his insight into nutrients and nutrient deficiencies.

Sun, Sex, Hormesis, Blood donations, Longevity, and More with Carl Lanore

Sun Sex Hormesis Blood Dontations and Longevity with Carl LanoreIs sunlight a cancer inducing toxin, or a potent medicine? Does sex play much of a role in our overall health? Is low carb the way to go for fat loss and health? And can donating blood improve your health and energy levels?

In this episode, I’m talking about all these topics and more with Carl Lanore, host of the podcast Superhuman Radio, who has been interviewing experts on health topics for thirteen years now. Carl himself was over 300 pounds when he began his journey to a healthier lifestyle and wants to share his successes and conclusions with others. In his research and the trial and error of his own lifestyle modifications, Mr. Lanore has made some surprising discoveries concerning how the simplest things like sleep, sex, and simple exercise can play the biggest roles in your long-term health.

In this podcast, Carl will cover

  • How have history and evolution affected our genes in terms of what’s healthy? (And do we really need to look to the Paleolithic Age for health answers?)
  • How sex can affect our long-term health
  • How are modern inventions like radio frequency, processed foods, and other technology affecting our health?
  • The astonishing health benefits of blood donations
  • The effects of strict diets on pregnancy
  • Are we actually living longer now than our ancestors, or is there more to the story?
  • Why the sun is so intrinsic to longer life and better health (and why it isn’t as nasty as dermatologists propose)
  • Why being militant about your personal health isn’t all bad
  • Is consistent lighter exercise potentially more advantageous than less frequent, more intense exertion?

Download or listen on iTunes

Download the right way to breathe for increase performance and energy on iTunes

Listen outside iTunes


Sun, Sex, Hormesis, Blood donations, Longevity and More with Carl Lanore – Transcript

Ari Whitten:  Everyone. Welcome back to the Energy Blueprint Podcast. I’m your host Ari Whitten. And today I have with me a very special guest, Carl Lanore. And did I pronounce your last name right?

Carl Lanore:  Yeah, that was good.

Ari Whitten:  Perfect. So, Carl was once a 300-pound man and at that time he discovered that proper nutrition and exercise are the keys to good health. His transformation became the catalyst that drove him to help others. He’s now on a mission to help people regain their health and vitality. Through his podcast Superhuman Radio he exposes the harsh realities of the food and medical systems we live with and gives people information that has the power to change their lives. And I also want to add a personal note because this little sort of bio that I just read, you know, kind of almost gives a picture of just like one guy, he lost some weight and kind of now he’s telling his personal story. But I also want to add that I personally follow Carl’s work and he’s been interviewing experts for what, like 13 years now?

Carl Lanore:  Thirteen years the third week of November.

Ari Whitten:  Yeah, and he is just a wealth of knowledge on a wide variety of topics and so I’m super excited to do this interview. And I want to talk about things related to fatigue and energy. I also want to talk about things related to longevity, so I know that we’re going to get into good stuff here. So welcome to the show, Carl.

Carl Lanore:  Thanks for having me, really.

Ari Whitten:  Yeah. So, like I said, you’ve been doing this podcast for 13 years,

Carl Lanore:  Five days a week, thirteen years.

Ari Whitten:  Yeah, five days a week. So, that’s a lot of shows…

Carl Lanore:  I’m really good or really stupid and don’t know enough to stop doing it. One or the other.


Carl’s approach to optimal health and longevity

Ari Whitten:  Yeah. So, and you’re just a wealth of knowledge. I know that longevity and anti-aging are particular interests of yours and you’ve done a number of shows on all sorts of facets around that. As a sort of general lead in to this whole topic, what is your sort of general overview of like a paradigm level understanding of how to approach optimal health and longevity?

Carl Lanore:  So, we have to look at evolution for that. And we don’t really have to go all the way back to, in fact it is inappropriate to go back to Paleo times because our genetics have changed so dramatically from that period of time forward. You probably just have to go back four or five generations to understand that. And when we look at evolution, we discover that all of the inappropriate things we do today that are leading to the diseases of modernity, excuse me, are very obvious. Very, very obvious when you put them juxtaposed against the backdrop of evolution. And so, you know, what are the things that you need to do to live a healthy and long life. Number one, you must respect your sleep. Number two, you have to eat a diet that is predominantly of real foods. And what I mean by real foods, these are not things that someone is preparing for you. It’s not in a box, it doesn’t have a label on it.

You must be active. I don’t care if that’s standing at your desk or if that’s CrossFit or if that’s jogging or biking or swimming or, but you must be active. And I love these new, you know, I have an Oura ring on its way. It was gifted to me by Ron and Shannan Penna over at Quest Nutrition and I’m waiting for it. I think that these devices, we need to take advantage of them because look at me, I’ve been sitting at this desk now, I did my show at this desk. I’ve been working at this desk and now I’m doing this show. You know, I sit so much more than I want to. Activity is critical. And when you start reciting these things, if you go back four or five generations, your great, great, great, great, great, great grandparents probably farmed. They got up early in the morning and they worked. They literally worked getting the food that they were going to eat that day. You know, they were driven by day night cycles. So, chances are, you know, a fire in the hearth didn’t throw that much light and you probably got tired and you were in bed most likely around 9:00 PM at night.

They ate real foods. They slept good. And then also their environment wasn’t this cornucopia of poisons we live in today. You know, we live in a soup and I use the word soup specifically because there are things around…

But anyway, we live in a soup of RF and airborne materials that we’re inhaling, and these are not good for us.

Ari Whitten:  And what is RF for people who are unfamiliar with that?

Carl Lanore:  I’m sorry, radio frequencies. Right? So, we all know, like for instance, I just had Dr. Dale Bredesen on the show today for the second time in four years. I had him on four years ago before anybody even knew who he was. Now he’s reversing Alzheimer’s disease. And so, I asked him today, I said, “You know, let’s build on the interview four years ago. How about cell phones? There’s good research out now that shows that having a cell phone conversation with it up against your head for 10 to 15 minutes actually makes the area of the brain be exposed to the radio frequencies insulin resistant for like an hour and a half. And long-term insulin resistance is associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia.” And he said, “Yeah, that’s on our radar.” They have a new category of pollutants now and these are electromagnetic pollutants. What are they doing to our bodies?

Just because we can’t see them doesn’t mean that they’re not doing something. And so, if you go back four or five generations, you look at your people, you look at the foods that were indigenously available to them in the regions of the world that they came from, you can build the base foundation of your diet and what you should be eating. And if you look at these things that are gifted to us through modernity where we sit all day and we watch television, we can get a full meal at midnight before going to bed. These are the problems.


Lifespan in the past versus now

Ari Whitten:  Now, just to play devil’s advocate, and I’ll first say that I completely agree with what you’re saying, but you encounter sometimes this narrative and I’m sure you’ve heard it many times before. But some people are kind of looking at the past, sort of our ancestors as like, “Oh, these are people who died at age 30.”

Carl Lanore:  That’s not true.

Ari Whitten:  “And why should we look to them as a picture of health? This makes no sense.”

Carl Lanore:  So, the first thing is everybody thinks that but that’s… Is profanity allowed on your show?

Ari Whitten:  Yeah, by all means.

Carl Lanore:  That’s bullshit. So, I was just on an island, a country that has a 6,000-year-old history. And I stood in the courtyards of churches that were built in the seventh and eighth and ninth century. And there were tombstones that took us a long time to be able to read because they were so weathered and so worn, of people who lived to be 80 and 100 years old. So, theoretically if the medical orthodoxy was telling us the truth, like, “Oh, the reason we have so much disease states because we’re living longer. People only lived to be 30 and 40 back then.”

Well that’s not true. And when you examine it and you use critical thinking you say, “Wait a minute. So, in the eighth and ninth century, people are living into their eighth and ninth decade of life. If we are living longer then we should be living to be 140 and 150 by now.” And we are not. And in fact, if you look at the World Health Organization’s most recent postings about countries and lifespan, we’re now down at the bottom with all the drugs that everybody takes and all the, “This is what you should do.” And we are dying younger and younger. And it’s actually going to get worse. So, in the next 20 years, our lifespan numbers in the United States are going to go down. You know why?

Ari Whitten:  Why?

Carl Lanore:  Because children are getting colon cancer at nine years old now. You’re going to have… You know, we had plagues back in the old days that wiped out 8 or 9 million people in a season. Right? We have a slow plague going on right now.

There’re children that are being born right now that won’t have children because they will die or get a disease. And the treatment for the disease will make it impossible for them to have children. So, we’re going to have that same Renaissance, that same thinning of the gene pool that happened in the 1600s and 1500s. It’s just going to be a slower process, but it’s happening right now. So, this, whenever people say to me, “Well, they only used to live to 30 and 40,” I immediately say to them, “Have you ever been in a cemetery that’s a couple hundred years old?” And they always say, “Well, no, no, no.” Then how do you know that’s true? Because you are just repeating a lie at that point in time.

Ari Whitten:  Yeah. Well, you know, there’s also one other layer to this, which is the statistics get confusing and misrepresented when you figure in child mortality rates.

Carl Lanore:  Absolutely.

Ari Whitten:  You know, when you have infant mortality, you know, in the process of birthing, that will skew the average age…

Carl Lanore:  Think about this, you have the mother and the child dying at the same time. You know what that does?

Anyway, you know, you had the mother and the child dying at the same time, that’s going to pull the statistics down dramatically. But yeah, if people would just go walking in an old cemetery, they would go, “This guy lived to be 60. That woman lived to be 80. Wait a minute, I thought these people were all dying at 30 and 40. What the hell gives?”

Ari Whitten:  Right. Yeah. And to be clear, there have been genuine breakthroughs like in safe birthing, for example, and minimizing child mortality and…

Carl Lanore:  And antibiotics. We all like to jump on antibiotics because they are over prescribed. But antibiotics were game changers. They were things that people died, sepsis, they died from that. A wound. You know, a farm implement gouges the leg. They would sew it up and put booze on it and that person would die of an infection. That doesn’t happen anymore.

Ari Whitten:  Right. But the key point being that this narrative of we are living longer now than we used to because we are living healthier lives is completely false. The statistics are being skewed by child mortality, maternal mortality, by sepsis, by small infections from a little wound…

Carl Lanore:  And really by purpose-full false representation.

Ari Whitten:  Yeah.

Carl Lanore:  Medical orthodoxy, if the medical orthodoxy was really held up and said, “You know, we have more people taking pharmaceutical drugs today than ever before. And yet the US numbers are dropping, plummeting.” In fact, travel abroad. If you go to the UK, they laugh at us here in the United States. They can’t believe the commercials for pharmaceutical drugs that we watch and the drugs that everybody goes in and walks in and takes willingly from their doctors. They can’t believe it. But in the United States what you will hear is, “Oh, we are so much further ahead than anybody else.” But we’re not living longer than them anymore. We are not.


The importance of sex for optimal health and longevity

Ari Whitten:  Yeah, absolutely. So, I heard, I took a little quote from another one of your interviews that I’ve heard. You said something like, “When you do the things that evolution has put you here to do, which is to be in the sun, to have sex, to eat good food and to sleep well, that’s 90 percent of the job right there.” So, first of all I want to comment, I love that you put in, “Be in the sun.” I’m a huge advocate of light exposure, of sun exposure. This is something I just wrote a book on red and near infrared light therapy and I’m very, very big on light and the effects of that on health. But I want to dig into this quote more deeply. So, first of all, maybe to keep things racy let’s talk with sex. Why is sex so important in this equation?

Carl Lanore:  It’s the only reason you and I are here. You know, before Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and self-actualization and motivation, we are organisms just like the amoeba. That’s all we are. We may be more complex than them, but we have a job. And that job is proliferation of the species. That’s it. That is number one. There is nothing else. In fact, your body will be held together… You could… Look, I grew up in the sixties. I did a lot of drugs. I did a lot of acid. I did a lot of really stupid stuff, but my body stayed healthy all of those years. I didn’t fall apart. If I did that today I would be dead tomorrow, right? That’s because it was during my reproductive years, the body is amazing. It’s resilient. It fixes everything because you need to get a couple of kids out of you before you die. That’s the goal. That’s it. That is genetic, that’s evolutionary job number one. That’s it. You are not put here to be the next Mariah Carey. You are not put here to be the next Kobe Bryant. You are put here to have sex and have children. That’s number one. Now everything else you do after that, that’s you own business. So, when you look at the research on people and sexuality, you see the healthiest people have sex the most often. And then you start asking yourself, “Why is that?” Because from an evolutionary perspective, you are fulfilling the most important job that you are here for and you are rewarded for it.

Men’s prostates become literally bulletproof the more orgasms they have. The more you ejaculate in a woman, she’s protected against fibroids and ovarian fibroids and uterine fibroids, and all sorts of terrible problems that women develop today. You see a guy who has prostate cancer, I will guaran-fucking-tee you that if you could have a real conversation with them and ask him about his sex life, he’ll tell you his wife shut him out six years ago and he hasn’t had sex and he’s not going to masturbate. So, and boom, he gets prostate cancer. So, when you look at sex and the actual application of it, the body is rewarded when you have more sex. That’s it. And there’s so much good literature out there. There’s so many people out there that are running with that alone, they are building healthy groups of people saying, “This is all I’m focusing on. I’m just focusing on sex. That’s it.” So, I know, people will tell me, “Oh, well, there’s a lot of people who live long and they don’t have sex.” Yeah, there’s outliers. George Burns drank martinis every day and smoked cigars and lived to be 95. You try it and see how long you live.


The power of hormesis (and how to use it for optimal results)

Ari Whitten:  Yeah, you always hear, you sometimes read these stories of somebody who’s, you know, 103 years old who swears that her secret to a long life is bacon and cigarettes or something like that.

Carl Lanore:  Let me tell you why that is. You see I have connected some of these dots. So, if you subscribe to the telomere theory of longevity, then you have to observe stress. And stress can have a hormetic effect. Absolutely. It can actually make you stronger in small doses over periods of time. Under enormous stress over time, your body ages very, very quickly. From an evolutionary perspective one of the greatest stresses we had was finding food every day. And so, the predictability of certain things in your life reduce this very important stress. And so those people, when you meet these people that are 100 years old, they are 95 years old, you say, “What do you do?” “Well, I go to sleep every night at 8:00. I get up in the morning, I have two eggs and half pound of bacon. The afternoon I go out for a walk.” And then you say, “Now how long have you been doing this?” And they go, “As long as I can remember.” The body loves routine. The body loves predictability. The body will even allow you to do things that are counterproductive to your health if it creates that level of predictability that the body lowers stress. It’s like, I expect to have that beer at 12:00. I have that beer every day at 12:00.

Ari Whitten:  So, what you’re saying is sort of these chronic but intermittent, unexpected stressors that overwhelm the system are what are creating damage, but these sort of predictable routine stressors tend not to create damage?

Carl Lanore:  And there’s studies out there that show that binge drinkers, like, “Oh, I don’t drink at all, but then one night a month I go out and I get frikking hammered.” Right? They see a lot more metabolic damage than the same person consuming the same volume of alcohol, but they do it in one glass of wine a night. And it’s like, oh my God, that’s actually improving that person’s health and longevity. And this guy doesn’t drink all month. But then one night he goes out and drinks a bottle of Tequila and he catches up and he’s the guy that ends up with a heart attack.

Ari Whitten:  This is an interesting thought. You know, exercises is sort of a classic hormetic stressor that is associated with a mountain of thousands of studies showing health benefits and protection from various diseases. But through the lens that you’re talking about in somebody who is not consistent with their exercise, maybe they go through bursts of a few weeks where they are, you know, really excited about exercising and dedicated to getting in shape. And then they kind of fall off the wagon and then a few months later they get back into it. Could you almost make an argument that those people might be doing damage?

Carl Lanore:  They are the ones that have heart attacks. Right? I have a friend whose father brags to me all the time that he has never exercised. He’s very, very over weight, he is very sick. But he has friends that exercised, and they died before him. And I think about it and I think to myself, “What are you calling exercise?” And what a lot of people do is they are the weekend, warriors. Saturday and Sunday, they go, and they train. And Monday through Friday they crap on themselves. And that’s the person who ends up having the stroke and the heart attack. And then people go, “Well, he always exercised.” No, he didn’t always exercise. And you see, exercise is different. I’ll tell you why. Because we’ve had to manufacture an artificial way to be active. We have to call it exercise. Because 200 years ago, 300 years ago, you and I, we would have been out in the field’s day and night. We would have been hunting, we would have been managing our cabins, we would have been patching holes.

We would have got up in the morning and got going and we wouldn’t have gotten done until it got dark out. We couldn’t work anymore. We would have come in and you only slept in your house. I actually saw Lincoln’s cabin. And four people were able to sleep in there, but they didn’t live in there. In the morning when you woke up, you got out. There was no reason to be there and so when you look at this exercise, it gets a little cloudier. Because what we are really trying to do with exercise is somehow compensate for the lack of activity that modernity has cursed us with. And so, you know, exercise, this exercise, it can hurt you. You know, you train too hard, you over train you stay in that zone too long, you’re going to end up getting sick. I mean we see a lot of Olympic athletes who are always on the verge of getting the flu or a cold because they push themselves so hard their immune system starts to shut down.

Ari Whitten:  Yeah. When, I went through several years where I was, you know, kind of chronically overtraining and, you know, doing two, three hours a day of intense exercise. And I was kind of… If my work, if I pushed my workouts too hard three days in a row, I would always seem to run down my immune system and start to come down with something. So yeah, it’s definitely not that hard to get there. If you’re…

Carl Lanore:  Now let’s take warriors for a second. Real warriors, right? You can go back in time or you can go to today. The guys who actually do, the shooters in the military, special forces and stuff like that. They’re not doing CrossFit. They’re not doing power lifting, right? What they learn to do is put an 80-pound rucksack on their back and walk for 15 miles and 20 miles. They are just walking. That’s all they are doing. And you’d say to yourself, “Well, what does that do?” Because that is the core of human evolutionary, what’s the word I’m looking for? I guess activity, okay? We walked. Look, we walked all around this globe, that this earth, finding better circumstances, better food sources. During the Ice Age, 40,000 years we went other places we couldn’t stay there. We were going to freeze to death and die. So, we walked, we walked for long distances. In fact, Dr. David… Oh God, I can’t believe, it’ll come to me. But the guy who wrote “The Story of the Human Body,” he’s been on my show.

Ari Whitten:  Not Lieberman?

Carl Lanore:  Yeah, Lieberman, I wasn’t sure. You know, like I’ve done so many shows sometimes the names kind of even get jumbled up for me. But he said one of the greatest evolutionary things that we did was standing on two legs, ambulating on two legs. It changed the design of our hips, our legs our feet. It changed everything. But once we were able to stand up and walk, that was a game changer for us because we could go long distance. We could walk further than any of the… In fact, early hunting was called persistence hunting. Because what they did was a group of guys followed an antelope until it got tired of running and it laid down under a tree because it was sweating, and it was tired. And then they would stick a spear in it and eat it and that would be it. So, the core of activity is walking, but no one walks anymore. And in fact, lower back problems, lumbar back problems could be cured by walking. And what is the number one problem people have in their back today? Lumbar back problems. Everybody. Why? Nobody walks anymore.

Ari Whitten:  Yeah. It’s because we’re stuck sitting at a desk for eight hours a day instead of walking around for eight hours a day. So, you know, just to kind of encapsulate in maybe different words what you were getting at there. What you’re saying is exercise is kind of an odd modern invention that we’re trying to sort of take our ancestral lifestyle where we might have spent 10 hours a day outdoors, moving our bodies doing maybe a moderate level of physical activity for most of that time or even a light level of physical activity. And we’re trying to then now in the modern world, sit around all day and then encapsulate our workouts into a half hour or an hour a day.

Carl Lanore:  Condense it into an hour workout. Yeah, condense it into an hour workout. Don’t get me wrong, it has value.

Ari Whitten:  Yeah.

Carl Lanore:  Training for an hour intensely is a good idea if you are going to relax a little bit and sit around at a desk. But it’s not going to do the same thing as being active all day long. It’s just not.

Ari Whitten:  Now, a quick follow-up on that question. What do you, what are your thoughts on super intense exercise? Is that something, you know, in the context of longevity and anti-aging, is that something that you feel is maybe overdone and overemphasized and maybe people should be pushing back to more moderate and light physical activity? Or, you know, kind of what’s your take on intense physical activity?

Carl Lanore:  I think we do have to oscillate that. I’m a huge proponent of very intense exercise. In fact, I’m always pushing further. I’m always pushing further. Progression is the key as far as I’m concerned. But you do have to balance that with time out of the gym or recovery type workouts. You absolutely have to because otherwise you’re not going to progress. You’re going to regress. You’re not going to make the progress you want. I do think that intensity is a very subjective thing, right? There’s a lot of people out there that just doing, I don’t know, Farmer’s Walks with 50-pound dumbbells in each hand and it’s like killing them. And so, it’s very individual. It’s very subjective. But I think that people should always be trying to get a little bit more done in whatever they’re doing. There should be progress if for no other reason, because as you age, you automatically lose muscle. You automatically lose strength. You automatically lose brain synapses.

You’re automatically lose these things. And I usually like to use the analogy of a house. So, you invest, you buy a house. And you live in it for 30 years and you never really upgrade it, but when something breaks you fix it. So, the door handles break, you just put new screws in them. And then 30 years later you look at the house and you go, “Holy crap, this house is literally falling apart.” Because it takes upgrades in order to maintain. Because the natural process is erosion. And so, if you’re not over building and super compensating, the net is always loss, losing, losing, losing. And you need to at least stay status quo. In order to stay status quo, you have to push past that because it’s always eroding. And so, I’m 60 years old now. I have a surgery set up in three weeks. I really messed up my left foot and it’s cost me a lot of lower body strength.

I will get it back, but I’m getting stronger in upper body movements that I didn’t think I could get any stronger in. And so, this idea that, you know, you can’t. If your mindset is to progress and you do it smart, you know, not every day you can’t go in and crush it every single day. You need to be a little more patient. This is a long-distance project. It’s not a sprint and you absolutely can increase your strength, increase your muscularity. And look, the linkage between strength and longevity have been established. There’s no arguing it. As a, look a strong organism…. Like you have a virus and you give it a little bit of an antibiotic, not enough to kill it, it gets stronger. Then you have to give it even more than the original amount to kill it. We are an organism. Strength is strength. We’re strong. We can resist illness if we’re strong. And so, the linkage between physical strength and vitality has been well established. So, I think it’s a smart thing to pursue strength. And that’s why I don’t talk about bodybuilding, I talk about physical culture. I don’t care what it is you do that you love, but you must be physical as part of the longevity prescription. Absolutely.


The importance of sun exposure

Ari Whitten:  Yeah. Well said. I want to talk about the next layer of this story which is sun exposure. You know, kind of going back to that quote of yours. So why is the sun important? And I know, also because I’ve heard you talk about this, something that is a huge misconception that I want you to talk about is that a lot of people think of, “Oh, the sun and Vitamin D are equivalent and I can just pop a vitamin D pill and then I get the benefits of sun exposure.” So why is that not true? And why is the sun so important?

Carl Lanore:  So, first of all the sun, the question should be parallel to, “Well, why is breathing so important?” Right? So, we are not anaerobic organisms. There are plenty of anaerobic organisms out there that don’t need oxygen in order to proliferate, but we happened to be an organism that needs oxygen. So breathing is important. We are also an organism that needs the photochemical reactions in our skin that have actually molded us and influenced the trajectory of our species over the past 2.8 million years. I’m just talking about Homo sapiens. That would be 4.6 if you want to go all the way back to our prehistoric ancestors. So, sun played a role in what we have become. And it’s as stupid to think that sun is bad for us as it would be to say that breathing is bad for us. It really is. But the problem is the misunderstanding of what causes skin cancer, which I’m going to talk about right after vitamin D. So, the skin produces a lot more than vitamin D.

One of the most important things that the skin produces is called melanocortin stimulating hormone. Melanocortin stimulating hormone is the reason you get tan. And it is, by the way, one of the most powerful resolvins and anti-inflammatory agents in your body. Every cell has receptors for melanocortin. There are five different forms of melanocortin, there are five different receptors and they all influence both inflammation and the resolution of inflammation, number one. Number two, the more you are in the sun, the leaner you get because melanocortin stimulating hormone stimulates energy utilization. And probably because we’re being rewarded, we are in the sun. You know, a lot of the vitamin D research never pans out. And why is that? Well, they look at areas of the world close to the equator and they go, “Wow, people who live near the equator that are in the sun a lot, they don’t get arteriosclerotic plaque. It must be vitamin D. Or they just don’t get the cancer that everybody else does. That’s an interesting one, right? Must be the vitamin D.” No, it’s the melanocortin system that is actually responsible for that. The melanocortin…

Ari Whitten:  And the other layer there is also you look at people with these conditions here in the West, with let’s say obesity or diabetes or, and you will see vitamin D deficiency. So then say, again, “Oh, it must be the vitamin D deficiency.”

Carl Lanore:  They are not outside. Right. Yes, but the vitamin D is corollary, not causative. Because if you are in the sun, you’re going to be producing more vitamin D. And if you are in the sun, you’re probably more active and here we come back to the whole activity thing again. It’s kind of intermeshed in all of this. But, so, without looking at the melanocortin system as part of the apparatus here for optimal health, we get rolled into this idea that if I just take 10,000 IUs of vitamin D a day, I’m doing the same thing. No, you’re not. You’re just not. And the other problem is that dermatologists keep telling people, “Stay out of the sun.” So stupid. Like, so I want to ask a dermatologist, any dermatologist that is listening to this show, “If sun equals skin cancer, a number one, why doesn’t everybody who stays in the sun get skin cancer?” Look how dark I am. I mean, I love the sun. I can’t lay in it now it’s cold, but this tan is left over from the summer. Why don’t I get skin cancer if when you say, “Oh, the sun causes skin cancer.”? Well I can tell you that matches can burn. Every single time I light a match and hold it to your arm, you will get burned. Not sometimes, all the time. Well, if the sun causes skin cancer, then why are there some people who can lay in the sun and don’t get skin cancer? And then they sloughed it off. “Well, it’s genetic.” Well, let’s look at this for a second if it is really genetic. Twin studies show that it’s not genetic because you can have twins that both go into the sun and they’ll don’t both get skin cancer. One does. So, wait a minute, they have the same genes, so that goes out the window. So, then you say, “Well, what else could it be?”

The one thing they never talk about, and it’s because it’s not in their wheelhouse, they can’t sell you a cream or a drug, is diet. So, let’s look at this for a second. Everybody knows that what you eat gets into your skin. If you take beta carotene, your skin will actually start to change colors if you take a lot of it. If you eat 100 carrots a day, you’ll start to turn orange. That means that the caratonoids in the orange are getting into the skin. And we also know that there are studies out there that show that astaxanthin taken before going into the sun can protect against skin cancer. So can retinal palmitate, real vitamin A, protect against skin cancer. So, if these things that we put in our mouth get out into the skin and can protect against skin cancer, then the flip side of that is putting things in your mouth that get into your skin that are photo reactive and become, they turn on oncogenes.

And so, no one talks about this. The reality is that all skin cancer comes from diet. The matches. I’m sorry the sun, it’s like saying matches cause house fires. No, they don’t. If you light the drapes on fire, you got a house fire, but matches don’t cause house fires. And the sun doesn’t cause skin cancer. You’ve got to be eating a lot of fake ass stuff slathered with petrochemicals, pesticides and herbicides, and that stuff’s getting into your skin and it is photo reactive and it causes skin cancer the same way that astaxanthin wards off skin cancer. But the dermatologists won’t tell you that. They just tell you, put on SPF 80, wear a lot of clothes, stay out of the sun and then you start to see plaque buildup.

Interesting. There’s a relationship between sun exposure and arterialscolotic plaque. The University of Arizona invented Melanotan 2 as a way to therapeutically prepare light skinned people’s skin for sun exposure. It’s melanocortin stimulating hormone at a thousand times stronger than the stuff your body produces. So, you take small doses, you know, 50 micrograms, 100 micrograms. You get tan in like five days. Then you go into the sun and you don’t get a sunburn. Wow, that’s interesting. But here’s something else interesting about it. They did a study on rodents, a genetically predisposed arteriosclerotic rat. They were rats. And what they did was they gave them Melanotan 2 and the arterial intimal inflammation went away, Because, remember I said Melanotan 2 is a powerful resolver and a powerful anti-inflammatory. The inflammation went away. The plaque was reabsorbed. So, they equated this to if a person stays in the sun for one year all the plaque in their body would be literally reabsorbed. So, when you start to look at these things… And then, the real kicker is there’s not a higher degree of skin cancer at the equator. How could that be? If the sun causes skin cancer and all these people who live by the equator and are in the sun all the time, then they should have skin cancer times five from what we have. They don’t.

Ari Whitten:  Well, you know, there’s, it’s funny. My mind is overflowing with ideas to interject here. But just to follow up on your last point there, there’s also research comparing outdoor workers with indoor office workers in terms of rates of skin cancer. One of the things that is sort of an obvious thing you’d expect to find if the sun causes skin cancer is the people who are outdoors with their skin exposed to the sun for hours and hours and hours every day for years or decades should have far higher rates of skin cancer than indoor office workers. They don’t. They actually have lower rates. So, going back to kind of connecting the dots with what we were talking about earlier with hormesis and sort of this infrequency and lack of predictability of the hormetic stress.

What I think you…. What really will, you know, kind of explains the connection between sun exposure and skin cancer is people who are not getting sun exposure most of the time and then they go on a vacation where they get tons and they get sunburned and then they actually cause skin damage from way excessive skin exposure beyond what their body’s adapted to, especially combined with poor diet and the photo reactive substances and the lack of phytochemicals in the diet that are protective substances. Now you are creating irreparable DNA damage in your skin. That infrequent sort of toxic exposures to the sun, its kind of explains that link. But that, you know, again, those outdoor workers who are getting sun exposure regularly below the threshold of sun burning, they’re protected from skin cancer.

Carl Lanore:  Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah, you know, part of the problem with our species today is we’ve lost all of the instinctive critical thinking mechanisms that have actually gotten us out of the caves and to this point. Everybody is looking to a book to teach them how to raise their kids and how to have a good relationship. And they are turning to physicians and asking them, “What should I do about this?” And the reality is we’ve kind of lost critical thinking. Like if you hear these facts right now like we’re talking about, I challenge the people in your audience to go and look them up. And when you see that this is accurate, then ask yourself, “Why are you putting all that Banana Boat SPF 80 stuff all over your body when you go out in the sun? Why don’t you do what your ancestors did and just slowly as the seasons change, get more sun exposure and you’d be prepared by the summertime?” You don’t need all that stuff. And then quite frankly, there’s a whole another group of work that’s showing that those Nano particles that they put in those things, titanium oxide stuff, they are small enough to breach the stratum corneum of the skin and get into the skin. And we don’t know what that’s doing inside the body.

Ari Whitten:  It’ll get into the bloodstream.

Carl Lanore:  Absolutely. Absolutely.

Ari Whitten:  Yeah. I’ll also add, I don’t know how much you’ve explored photobiomodulation with red and near infrared light, but I think that’s another big layer to the story of the benefits of sun exposure. And there are a number of different mechanisms that that’s active through. But that red and near infrared light is actually penetrating through our skin a couple inches into the body and is affecting mitochondrial function, and energy production, is acting as a form of hormesis that’s strengthening the mitochondria and internal antioxidant and anti-inflammatory and detoxification systems of the cells. And, there’s also some research that it may interact with chlorophyll metabolites and help the regeneration of CoQ10 into the active form, ubiquinol. And, it’s also affecting retrograde signaling, so it’s literally affecting signaling from the mitochondria to the nucleus, which is affecting the expression of a wide variety of different genes that are involved with cell defense mechanisms and anti-inflammatory systems. So, it’s literally affecting your gene expression. So yeah, I agree with what you’re saying, 100 percent. I think the sun is absolutely vital and I think, you know, the people who are trying to reduce this down to just vitamin D are painfully ignorant of what’s really going on.

Carl Lanore:  You see, part of the problem with that is that that’s what people want to know. What’s the one thing? Tell me what the one thing is. And unfortunately, if we were an amoeba, I could tell you what the one thing is. But we are the most sophisticated species on the planet and there is nothing about us that’s just one thing. Nothing. You know, the reality is that people need to invest a little more time learning and understanding and not going, “Oh, well, I’ll just listen to the Today Show tomorrow morning. They’re going to tell me, you know, how to do this and how to do that.” No, you can’t. It takes a lot longer than that.


Iron overload and how that pertains to health

Ari Whitten:  Yeah. So, one other thing I want to make sure that we get into is iron overload. And this is actually something I discovered, I would say more in the last couple of years, relatively new for me. I’ve been studying health for over 20 years at this point and I really didn’t pay much attention to this issue. But I’ve discovered that there is enormously strong data around blood donation as being a very, very powerful way to improve your health and protect against disease. So, talk to me about iron overload and blood donating and why this is such an important and yet overlooked topic.

Carl Lanore:  I did my first show about therapeutic phlebotomy with Dr. Michael Smith from Life Extension Foundation in 2009. And we reviewed all of that data. That show is probably in my archive somewhere at the website. But we looked at all the data and the summary is this. Because of menses, women have the equivalent of three blood donations a year just from having their period normally. Men obviously don’t lose blood unless you’ve had an accident. And as a result of that, men categorically have much higher iron levels than women. When women go through menopause, they start to develop some of these same maladies. And there are lots out there who started to say, “Well, it’s because they are accumulating iron.” So, a lot of people pooh-poohed it all. Well, let’s look at iron overload for a second. And let me first say that it was a novel idea a decade ago to think that, “Oh, wait a minute, like my testosterone and your testosterone levels optimal may be different than what the lab work says is optimal.”

Right? So now we know individualized medicine. Ah, so it’s individual. Okay, but for some reason iron has been relegated to like, no, this is everybody. And that’s a mistake first of all. If you’re Mediterranean like me, then chances are you were eating a lot more chicken and fish and lamb and not as much beef because cows were used for dairy, they were used for cheese, they were used for ricotta cheese, they were used for milk, they were used for these kinds of things. And, now that I finally have woken up to all this and I think back, I don’t remember, my father maybe ate six steaks in his life that I ever saw. My mother always made chicken, she always made fish. She always made lamb. But then there a high, there was a lot of vegetables in our diet as well. And so, I actually used to do shows regularly about periodic blood donations. And I was even doing it, too, up until two years ago. So, two years ago for whatever reason, I stopped doing my every other month Red Cross visit. At the same time, I always ate a pound of beef a day, always, always.

So, around the same time that I stopped donating blood, I upped my beef intake. And at the end here, just a few months ago, I was eating two and a half pounds of beef a day. Now keep in mind this was not the carnivore diet that has become the zealot rage today. I just like beef and it was easy. I could swing through a Wendy’s and I’d order six patties and that’s a pound and a half and that would go down real easy and I’d do is a second time later in the day. And I was done. But I would have vegetables, I would eat avocado, I would eat other stuff too. I wasn’t restricting anything. Well, about a year ago I started developing some symptoms. And these symptoms were what we expect old guys like me to develop, like stiffness in the muscles, my muscles started getting really stiff. I started to develop polyneuropathy, right? And I have stellar, like my fasting blood sugar is 67 in the morning. My HbA1c was three point something just recently. So, I have like stellar blood sugar management Why am I getting, why are my feet getting numb? Why are my hands getting numb? Oh, well maybe I am a bad methylator. Well we looked at that, B12 and folate. No problem. I got plenty of it in my bloodstream and I’m a methylator and everything is working great. It started getting worse. By the time it was all the way up to my thighs, I got it in my back, my face gets numb sometimes. I’m like, “Man, is this old age for me?” Okay. My sleep started to suck really bad. I started to wake up in the morning with brain fog, random pains in the joints. I never had joint pain, never, never, ever, ever. All of a sudden, my knees hurt, my hips hurt, and you know when your hips hurt, it’s in your groin. It’s not out here by your butt. I know what hip pain is. So, I start connecting some dots and I have a concierge relationship with my doctor, and I texted him and I said, “I think I need to have my ferritin and my TIBC checked.” TIBC is direct iron. It’s not enough to just checks ferritin, by the way. Because if you take high doses of vitamin C, which I do, your body will manufacturer ferritin even without additional iron. See, ferritin is just a protein, it’s not iron. It’s a protein that is designed to bind to iron and carry it around and get it stored. But there’s plenty of ferritin in your body that doesn’t have iron bonded to it. So, checking ferritin alone is a mistake. You have to check direct iron as well. So, when we looked at my blood work and he’s like, “Yeah man, you’re high.” Like I think the high end for ferritin is supposed be two hundred and something and I was like 800 and something. So, I now do therapeutic phlebotomy again, but I’m doing it a little accelerated. I’m doing it every other week right now, getting blood work done after that and it’s coming down and the symptoms are starting to go away. So, most people would have said to themselves, “This is just, you know you are 60, what do you expect? Your muscles are going to get stiff. You can, you know, you can’t get around that.” And then I started to think, “How many people on this planet have these symptoms and their doctors never, ever, ever think, hmm, I wonder if it’s iron?” So today Dr. Dale Bredesen was on my show and I thought to ask him, I said, “Dr. Bredesen, I recently had this experience with iron. I do believe that people can be within range but still experience iron overload because I think there are people who are more sensitive to it than others.” I say, “Does it play a role in Alzheimer’s?”

He said, “Yes. The research shows that iron causes inflammation in the brain.” Iron is like the most inflammatory thing you can have in your body. It actually makes red blood cells burst. My spleen numbers are through the roof because my spleen is trying to get all these damaged red blood cells out as quickly as possible. It’s overwhelmed. It’s like, I can’t handle this. Stop sending me more bad red blood cells. My hematocrit is through the roof. My blood viscosity is through the roof. And he said, “Absolutely, we have found a link between iron and the development of certain types of dementia.” So, when you look at all the people in the world, their doctors do CBCs. It doesn’t include ferritin or direct iron. What if these people could just donate blood four times a year and extend their lives, but more importantly have their health spans emulate their lifespans?

Not be, you know, “Oh my muscles hurt. I can’t stand up. I don’t want to do that anymore. I don’t sleep well. You know, I’ve got all of these problems.” And just write it off to being older. So, I am really trying to get more people to have your iron tested and your ferritin and then undergo therapeutic phlebotomy and get your iron and your ferritin down as low as you can before you start losing energy and feeling bad. And then just go up a little bit and keep it there by donating blood every two months. Keep it there. Because I predict years from now if people do this, their outcomes will be much better. And when you talk about energy, I mean when you… One of the hallmarks of iron overload is chronic fatigue. Has anyone ever looked at a fibromyalgia patient and said, “Let’s check your iron.”? No, no. So, I think iron is a real opportunity for those of us who are thinking, and we have our eyes open to actually grab a hold of a couple of extra years of in lives and also improve how we feel living those years as well.


Blood donations impact on health

Ari Whitten:  Yeah. Well said. I do have one question on this which kind of is going back to my very first question to you on paradigm, looking at things from an evolutionary perspective. What, how do we interpret blood donating in the light of an evolutionary perspective? Like how does this make sense? Is it that we’re eating too much meat nowadays and so we’re getting way too much iron then we’re actually designed to cope with?

Carl Lanore:  That’s just part of it. So, let me tell you the perfect storm I created. I take 20,000 IUs of vitamin A a day. That increases absorption of even plant-based iron. I take three grams of liposomal vitamin C a day. That increases the production of ferritin. I’m on, my testosterone levels, because my liver isn’t clearing it fast enough, and I am on a high dose, was 3000. My DHT levels were 740 something. My DHEA levels were 700. So, I, between high testosterone levels, eating two and a half pounds of beef a day, and taking artificial supplements. Well, I’m taking, we wouldn’t have gotten 20,000 IUs of vitamin A, you know, a half a million years ago unless we ate a polar bear liver, you know. So, the reality is that I created a perfect storm for absorption and storage of iron in my body. Those things wouldn’t be even available to us, you know, a thousand years ago, 500 years, even 300 years ago.

And then yes, I really think like when you look at the Mediterranean diet, there’s not a lot of red meat in it. There’s just not. There’s lots of cheese and there’s lots of fish and there’s lots of lamb and there’s lots of pork and there’s lots of chicken, but there’s not a lot of beef in the Mediterranean diet. In fact, I’m full blown Italian. The only time my grandmother made beef was Christmas time. She made a big bowl of meat sauce that had braciola in it and sausage and lots of stuff. I don’t remember my grandmother ever making beef, ever make like a roast beef or nothing like that. So, I think its accumulation of several things and some of them are artificial, you know, me supplementing with testosterone. They wouldn’t have done that back in the day.

Ari Whitten:  Yeah. Interesting. So, are there any other keys? I feel like there’s…

Carl Lanore:  Wait a minute, wait a minute, Ari. I want to say one other thing. So, when we use evolution as an indicator of what’s appropriate for us, we have to understand that not everything that our ancestors did lead to longer lives. We don’t know what the potential effects of high iron loads on let’s say a group of pre-historic individuals who only had access to, I don’t know, pick some animals, and ate a lot of them all the time. We don’t know that they fared better than another group that had a different diet. I want to be careful. When I talk to people about using evolution as a backdrop to look for answers, I want people to remember that it all wasn’t gold and glory for them, right? A lot of them got sick and died for things that we know now you don’t do. So, I just wanted to throw that in there that we don’t know, a lot of them could have developed diseases related to iron overload. And we want to be smarter today.


Carl’s thoughts on the latest FAD diets

Ari Whitten:  Absolutely. One follow-up question I have to this and then a follow-up to that follow-up. I would love your thoughts on the carnivore diet, which your kind of, you mentioned in passing earlier, which is becoming more popular now. And also, your thoughts on long-term keto dieting.

Carl Lanore:  So, all of these diets are highly restrictive and they’re not realistic for long term, they are not realistic for doing for long periods of time. This is somewhere we do look at evolution. We evolved to produce ketones because our prehistoric ancestors underwent famine from time to time. And so, we were selected for, the people who weren’t metabolically flexible probably became food for animals because they fell down and passed out. And those who were metabolically flexible, we are their offspring, guaranteed. But they didn’t embrace that. They were not like, “Wow, I feel so good when I’m starving. I think I’m just going to starve a lot longer.” And so today we have people taking intermittent fasting way too far. We have people taking, you know, a high fat diet way too far. And quite frankly, we have people taking the all meat diet way too far. Can you do it for 16 weeks?

Absolutely. You can do vegan for 16 weeks before you start developing metabolic problems due to nutrient deficiencies. But the problem with all of these diets is this. There was a study done in December of 2015 that appeared in psychology today. And the study title was “Why do Vegans have Greater Mental Illness than Omnivores?” And what this study came away from was that these people were sick already and were looking for a diet that would make them feel better. And the vegan diet did in fact make them feel better for a while, for a time. And in the brilliant words of a man I have a lot of respect for, Ron Penna, the founder of Quest, he once said to me, “You know, Carl, sometimes it’s more important what you stop eating and not what you are eating.” So, when you look at all of these diets, you look at the carnivore diet, you look at the keto diet, you look at the vegan diet, if it’s done right. Vegan implies vegetables. If you’re eating Pop-Tarts and Hot Pockets just because there’s no animal proteins in them, you know, you are not doing a vegan diet. And even if you look at the Paleo diet, these four diets there is a million people that will tell you they saved my life. “I went keto, it saved my life, all my symptoms went away.” “I went carnivore, it saved my life.” “I went Paleo, it saved my life.” I went vegan, it saved my life.” Because of what they stopped eating. And when you look at these diets, if you make a circle, you’ll see that they all overlap in one area. And that’s predominantly shitty carbohydrates, you know, man-made garbage, they are out of those diets. But people seem to think, “Oh, no. It’s the high fat.” Or “No, it’s the….” So, I think that there is in fact therapeutic value to eliminating certain things from your diet. And if the only way you can adhere to that is to eat meat all the time because you like it and you do for 12 or 16 weeks and you lose some weight and you feel great, but then you got to start to incorporate things back into your diet.

And I love Shawn Baker. He was on my show before he even started the N Equals One that led to what the carnivore diet is today. And I think the guy is super smart and I have a lot of respect for him. At the same time, I think that when your diet comes with a membership card and an annual cruise, you’re eating that way for the wrong reason, you know. You don’t select your diet based on you want to be part of a group of friends. You select the diet based on its sustainability and its ability to produce health. And the carnivore diet remains to be seen that for what period of time it actually, you could do it without starting to get not feeling good. And there will be people… And that’s why I started doing the iron overload shows because there’s a lot of people pounding down two or three pounds of beef a day and they think, “Man, I feel so good. This is great.” But if they start getting high iron, they are going to start feeling really crappy and they’re not going to understand why. They could mitigate that by donating blood every couple of months. And then they can eat the carnivore diet for a lot longer. But again, these diets are very restrictive. They’re not practical to be on for the rest of your life. And they’re telling your body that you are really… If all you have is meat to eat, your body doesn’t want that. I know Sean likes to say that you don’t need vegetables. Where I do agree with him is, I think our love affair with fiber is misguided. I think its part of the reason for all the distended stomachs we see today. We’re actually starting to look like asustralificus robustus again. You know, asustralificus robustus was the last of our ancestors that was vegan and ate branches and twigs and dirt and it had a big jaw and crushing molars. And it ate all day long, ninety percent of its waking time was finding and chewing food. And as a result of that they had these huge distended stomachs. And I think that when we look at people’s guts today, we see a lot of people that have these really bow shaped bodies where their stomachs are just distended. And they are lean. Their arms are lean, their legs are lean, but they have this big gut. And I’m starting to think that the overconsumption of fiber may be a part of the problem. But with that being said, some fiber is okay. You know, the fiber you get in a dish of spinach, that’s okay. And I think that those things are really important for the diet. Because in ancestral times, we were creatures of opportunity. We would eat anything. If we came upon beehives, we ate honey for two days. We didn’t go, “Wow, this honey diet is good. I think I’ll eat this for the rest of my life.” We went on and then we found a deer and we killed it and ate that for a couple of days. And that’s more appropriate for humans.

Ari Whitten:  Yeah, absolutely. What about long-term keto? Which arguably we talked about all meat and then the carnivore diet. That’s, I would say, a very nice thing that’s a very small fraction of people relatively speaking that are doing that, even though it’s becoming more popular. But keto is already sort of in full swing. There are millions of people going keto. And there are a number of people, you know, health gurus out there promoting it as it’s, you know, the greatest diet ever and everybody should be eating this way and our ancestors were all keto and that sort of thing. So, what is your take on that?

Carl Lanore:  I love when they say babies are born keto. Not by their choice. And I don’t even know that that’s actually true, but it could be, it could not be. I don’t know that anybody’s testing babies for ketone levels at birth. But the keto diet is very different than any other diet. And that’s why it actually has drug like effect. You know, you could actually reverse astrocytoma glioblastoma brain tumors by going keto. The keto diet is unique because even… Like people will say, “Yeah, but I’m eating 3000 calories a day of fat and bacon, like my body doesn’t think it’s starving.” Actually, it does. Keystones are a signaling molecule. They’re not just an energy substrate. And in fact, prolonged high dose keto will actually alter mRNA in a father’s sperm and in a mother’s egg to program the offspring to be prepared to come into a nutritionally hostile environment. It’ll actually program that child with more of what we call thrifty genes so that that child will actually, if that child doesn’t eat keto, they will get fat. And so, Joel Green, who’s brilliant, we’ve done a couple shows on this. And we have actually talked about like if you are one of those couples like you and your husband, you are both keto and you are posting your keto strip reading, “Oh, I was two mmol this morning and he was four. And we are keto, and keto is fun. All this is so great.” And then you get pregnant. You’re going to have a baby that’s going to have some real issues with staying lean. Because the body is going, “Man, this is a really nutrient deficient diet. It’s not only nutrient deficient, it’s mineral deficient.” Like the place that these two people picked to live apparently must really suck for food and their diet is really not the kind of diet that you want to raise a child on. So, we have to alter the machinery so that their offspring is prepared to live in this hostile, this nutritionally hostile environment. And there’s studies that show that high dose, high level of blood ketones change mRNA in men and women to encode what is called transgenerational…. Oh, Joe, I wish Joe was here right now. But it’s basically you are passing on to your child that you are making the probability that food will not be abundant for you, so you’re going to have to turn everything into fat that you can. Nutritional inheritance it is called, nutritional inheritance, generational nutritional inheritance.

Ari Whitten:  Interesting. So, do you think that there is any positive role for the keto diet to have, you know, for short term uses?

Carl Lanore:  Absolutely, short term, do the 12 weeks. Don’t get pregnant while you are doing it. You know, don’t. Do it for 12 weeks, lose a bunch of fat. And then switch it. And let’s also be clear about something else, Ari. Any diet that produces ketones is the ketogenic diet. So, if you’re eating 600, 800 calories a day, but it’s vegetables and its meat and it’s a little piece of bread here and there and you’re staying under the threshold of energy that your body requires to get through the day, you’re going to produce ketones. You’re definitely going to wake up producing them. I mean in a 16 hour fast, I get to 1.2, 1.4 every day. But I don’t stay there all day. I don’t go, “Oh, this is great. I’m going to stay there” you know. I break my fast after my workout. But really, this idea that the only way to do the keto diet is to eat tons of fat and bacon and all that sort of stuff, that’s not right.

You can produce ketones eating a variety of dietary templates if you do it right. And also, without, I’m not going to be mean, but there are people out there who are like keto gurus. And they look like shit. And I don’t care what they say about, “Well, I just had my blood work done and it’s great.” I don’t care what you say about that. You know, you can tow a Winnebago with a Vega and it may run really good for a year or two. But eventually it’s going to collapse. It’s going to fall apart. So, there’s plenty of people out there doing keto that they just don’t, they don’t look good. And like they’ve been doing keto for two years and it’s like in two years you still haven’t been able to get lean? It’s not working for you. You need to do something different.

Ari Whitten:  Yeah. My last question to you, well, maybe I have two more if you have five or 10 minutes.

Carl Lanore:  Yeah.


Carl’s view on how to end brain diseases

Ari Whitten:  I’m real curious. I want to cover the Dale Bredesen stuff because we had talked about that prior to starting to record. I know you just talked to him. You interviewed him for the second time today. What are your biggest takeaways of his work and his thoughts on optimizing brain health?

Carl Lanore:  It’s not about brain health. His work is the seminal work on anti-aging, the name of his book is “The End of Alzheimer’s.” Everybody should read the book because the template that he lays out to actually reverse Alzheimer’s disease, he is doing it. You’ll see on TV tonight something that, you know, there’s no cure for Alzheimer’s, but Aricept will… BS. There is a way to reverse Alzheimer’s. It’s not in a pill, it’s a lifestyle change. Alzheimer’s Is a disease of lifestyle. You have genetic predispositions. There are genetic predispositions, the APOE allele, APOE 4 I think it is. You can have a higher risk of developing it, but you don’t have to develop it. There’s plenty of people out there who have the genetic markers for Alzheimer’s. They never develop it. So I would say that what Dr. Dale Bredesen has done is, I could shake his hand and make a deal with him and say, “I’m going to change the name of this book, we’re going to reprint it and we’re going to call it ‘How to Live Longer and be Healthier,'” because that’s really what is at the core of his approach to addressing the disease itself.

And the reality is, you know, as we said before, all of these diseases today are diseases of modernity including Alzheimer’s disease. And in fact, I would venture to say, you know, people like to say the number one killer is heart disease. The number one killer is autoimmunity. Every disease that is popular today can be tracked back to autoimmunity, and autoimmunity means your gut. But yeah, his, everybody should read his book. And don’t be afraid. Someone’s going to say, “Oh my God, you have Alzheimer’s?” No, this is the book to read if you don’t ever want to get Alzheimer’s or any other disease. This is the book.

Ari Whitten:  Yeah, well said. I mean, I just want to comment on one thing which is we have these pharmaceutical companies who are spending billions of dollars trying to find a drug cure to Alzheimer’s while Dale Bredesen is over here reversing it. And they’re trying to find a cure. I think this is a fundamental issue of paradigm. And that’s why, you know, again, going back to the first question I asked you to start this interview, what is your paradigm of health? I think that is a super important question to ask anyone that you’re taking health advice from. Because if we look at this Alzheimer’s thing encapsulated, you know, in this pharmaceutical companies are spending billions of dollars trying to find a cure through a paradigm that basically says, let’s look at the brain tissue of Alzheimer’s people, people with Alzheimer’s under a microscope, see what it looks like. Let’s do biochemical analysis.

Ari Whitten:  Let’s figure out what these amyloid plaques are made out of and let’s figure out, you know, the enzymes involved in the synthesis of the amyloid plaques. And then let’s come up with a drug that interrupts whatever enzyme is involved in this or that process that is involved in this sort of, the sequence of events that takes place in Alzheimer’s disease. And they’ve been doing that, they’ve spent enormous sums of money with basically nothing to show for it. And then you have Dale Bredesen over here basically looking at things through the paradigm that you presented earlier in this interview, which is what is going on in the modern world that is causing this epidemic of brain disease and Alzheimer’s and how can we systematically identify what are those components of the modern world, the modern environment, the modern lifestyle, and then fix all of those things. And by doing that, he is actually reversing Alzheimer’s disease.

Carl Lanore:  So, do you know what beta amyloid is, what its role in our body is?

Ari Whitten:  I’ve heard a number of different theories on that, but I’m curious what you think.

Carl Lanore:  Well, no, no, beta amyloid… So, the only reason I know about this is because I’ve been studying a peptide and experimenting with a peptide called LL-37 which has the ability to reverse a variety of autoimmune disorders by targeting gram negative and gram-positive pathogens in the gut as well as fungi and viruses. It’s amazing. Well, LL-37 is the baby brother of amyloid, beta amyloid. Beta amyloid is the body’s most powerful antimicrobial, anti-fungal. It’s dispatched when the body sees an area that is being overrun by hostile microbes or fungi or viruses. And so, when you hear that, I’m sure you’re already thinking, so why is the brain producing all that? Well, because there are hostile microbes and fungi and bacteria that have breached the blood brain barrier and are getting into the brain. And now when you think about that and you go, “Wait a minute, that’s totally different than what the medical orthodoxy is promoting beta amyloid is. They are saying beta amyloid is this harmful thing?” No, the body is trying, is mounting an attack to protect the brain. And the plaque buildup is actually the sandbag walls trying to push the levy back. Like keep the stuff out of this area of the brain, keep this stuff out of this area of the brain. And unfortunately, while it’s doing that, it’s also affecting blood glucose access and uptake and it’s affecting inflammation, because don’t forget the immune system is…. When we talk about inflammation we might as well just say, let’s call it the army of the immune system.

Oh, I have Inflammation in my knee. Wait, wait, let me rephrase that. I have the army of the immune system attacking my knee right now because that’s what inflammation is. Inflammation is a necessary and important ally or tool of the immune system. That’s how it fixes shit. And so amyloid, beta amyloid is a very important protein in the body that plays a very important role in protecting the body from being overrun by bacteria and fungi and viruses. So, once you realize that, you say to yourself, “What the hell is going on in the brain that so much beta amyloid is developing?” And that is why Dr. Dale Bredesen has had the success he’s had. It’s because he is addressing it from the root cause and not like, “Well, let’s make a drug that just makes beta amyloid go away.” That hasn’t worked. Aricept doesn’t work. It doesn’t stop the disease progression. And if anything, it gives people terrible dreams and all of these other problems, they have personality… And meanwhile the bacteria or mold or viruses that have infiltrated the brain that are attacking the brain that the beta amyloid was trying to stop, now they’re having a house party. Like, “Oh, shit. We can do whatever we want now. We’re just going to eat this brain up.”

Ari Whitten:  Yeah. And to further add to that I’ve even seen at least one study where a drug that interrupts the synthesis of beta amyloid, which was theorized to be the “cause” of Alzheimer’s actually accelerated the progression of the disease.

Carl Lanore:  Sure, because what you basically did, you got a riot and you go and tell the police, “Nah, go home. They’ll straighten it out themselves.” No, the riots going to get bigger.


Why you need to be militant about your health

Ari Whitten:  Yeah. So, my final question to you, and thank you for spending a little extra time. I appreciate that…

Carl Lanore:  Yeah, of course. I’m impressed that anybody wants to talk to me.

Ari Whitten:  So, I want to, it’s another quote that you had, and I think this is a nice way to wrap up. You said, “In order to be healthy today, you almost have to be militant about it.” What do you mean by that? And I know what you mean. I think this is such an important point because there are so many people today that I encounter that are unwell, that are experiencing chronic fatigue or migraines or some other health issue. And they look at their friends and they say, “But you know, I eat a better diet and I take better care of myself than so and so. And they’re healthy, so why am I not healthy too? Why can’t I just do what everybody else is doing in the norm of our society and be perfectly healthy?”

Carl Lanore:  So, when you get to peak behind the curtain and realize that Oz doesn’t have any special powers. I’m talking about the medical orthodoxy, pharmaceuticals and stuff like that. And all of a sudden you start to fix your own problems. You become very aware of this phenomenon and you want to tell everybody about it. You are like, “I can’t believe it, but like…” You know, like my journey, I mean I had a dysrhythmia. They were ready to put a pacemaker in. I wasn’t even 40 yet. And so, you want to help other people. And my mother used to say, “Advice isn’t worth anything if somebody didn’t ask you for it.” So, you tell your friends, “You know what I discovered?” And they are like, “No, I don’t want to hear about that.” And so, you go off on your merry way and you’re building your body and you’re getting stronger, you’re feeling great. And then people start saying things to you like, “Gee, I hope you don’t get any skinnier.”

Well, I’m not skinny, I’m lean. I’m actually 232 pounds. It’s just a lot of muscle. Or you know, “Oh, loosen up, you know, have a piece of cake” or whatever it is that they say. And if you’re not militant, you are going to cave in. And not just once, but every time. Every time somebody calls up, “Come on, let’s go out drinking tonight. You haven’t been out drinking in like six months.” “No, I really don’t want to. I want to get a good night’s sleep because I want to go to the gym and train tomorrow.” “Oh c’mon, you’re so rigid for crying.” “Oh, okay.” And so, you have to be militant today because the pressure to be sick, even though they don’t realize it, well-meaning family and friends. The pressure to do things that will make you sicker are in abundance and you have to be militant. You have to say, “I don’t fuck care if you don’t like me because I’m not going to go out drinking with you tonight. In fact, maybe I need better friends.” And the reality is that’s why people like us, we end up finding people who like the same things that we like. And we try to surround ourselves with those people because now we have a fortress of people who like the same things and think the same things and we don’t have to fight. I don’t have to be militant with you. When we went out to dinner and I said, you know, “I’m just going to have a piece of salmon and some broccoli and no dessert.” And you wouldn’t be like, “Why not dessert, come on.” You’d be like, “Yeah, I think I’ll have the same thing.” So, you have to be militant today because the large majority of Americans and probably Europeans as well, but not as bad as here in America, they are they just plain out stupid. They’re actually like, like I refer to type two diabetes as acquired diabetes. I’ve been doing this for like eight years now. Because you have to give yourself type two diabetes.

You have to do all the stupid things that you have to do, and you have to do them for years to give yourself type two diabetes. And when you look at the number of people who have type two diabetes, you realize, “Oh my God, the population is lost. They don’t have a clue.” So, you have to be militant. You have to push back. I remember… Look my militancy led to my divorce. I wanted to live. I didn’t want to eat that crap food anymore. I didn’t want to, you know… So, when I discovered the importance of sleep 20 years ago, I used to put eye covers on and ear plugs in my ears. And the kids used to laugh and say, “Oh, dad’s in his apartment” because I would go to bed at 9:00 PM. I didn’t care. And that’s militant. My ex-wife would say to me, “But the kids need to go to bed.”

I would say, “The kids need to go to bed when I go to bed not when you go to bed. If you want them to go to bed later than you put them to bed. I want to go to bed now. Let’s put them to bed now.” “Aww, it’s too early to put them to bed.” “Okay, good night.” And I’d put my ear plugs and my eye covers on and I’d go to bed. And there’s probably a lot of people in the audience going, “Well, you were an asshole.” No, I was on the verge of dying. I was saving my own life and I had to be militant about that. Because had I not done what I did, I would have a pacemaker and who knows, maybe I’d be dead by now at 60. Maybe I would have diet at 60,

Ari Whitten:  You know, but those same things are at work in somebody who is not in that dire of a situation who is not obese and suffering from serious health problems. They’re at work in all of us all the time. And those decisions, in your case, were saving your life. In the case of people who are younger and not suffering those severe health problems, they are also saving your life. They’re just doing it in a really slow, progressive way that’s much harder to see.

Carl Lanore:  Yeah. It’s harder to observe. Absolutely. Absolutely.

Ari Whitten:  Yeah. Well, Carl, thank you so much for this interview. Thank you for the extra time. I’ve really, really enjoyed this discussion and I know we’re just scratching the surface of your knowledge. I think a podcast part two and part three, maybe a part four is in order at some point.

Carl Lanore:  I’m happy to do it. Thank you for having me on.

Ari Whitten:  Yeah, it’s been a pleasure and I know I’m going to be coming on your podcast in the near future as well. I’m very much looking forward to that and great to connect with you in person after listening to your show for many years. So, thank you so much. And then where can people follow your work?

Carl Lanore: We have an archive. RSS Feed has about 500 shows in it. You can find us on iTunes, on Stitchery, on iheart media. I’m trying to think what other podcasts aggregators… And then of course at the website,

Ari Whitten:  Yeah. And for everyone listening, I highly recommend listening to it and subscribing to it. I listen to episodes from it all the time. It’s one of my favorite health podcasts that’s out there. So, thank you again Carl, and enjoy the rest of your day.

Carl Lanore:  Thank you, Ari.

Sun, Sex, Hormesis, Blood donations, Longevity and More with Carl Lanore – Show Notes

Carl’s approach to optimal health and longevity (1:45)
Lifespan in the past versus now (6:29)
The importance of sex for optimal health and longevity (11:28)
The power of hormesis (and how to use it for optimal results)  (15:14)
The importance of sun exposure (27:28)
Iron overload and how that pertains to health (40:55)
Blood donations impact on health (50:26)
Carl’s thoughts on the latest FAD diets (54:00)
Carl’s view on how to end brain diseases (1:07:00)
Why you need to be militant about your health (1:14:00)



You can find Carl’s podcast here

Increase Energy, Improve Performance, and Eliminate Pain using Movement Training with Movement Jedi Austin Einhorn | sun, sex, Hormesis, blood donations, longevity, with carl lanore,
Movement is essential for optimal health! Listen in to the podcast with Movement Jedi Austin Einhorn.

How To Balance Hormones Naturally with Dr. Christiane Northrup

How To Balance Hormones Naturally with Dr. Christiane NorthrupAre you going through menopause, suffering from hot flashes, or maybe you’re just adversely affected by the hormonal changes that occur with your cycle? Many women struggle with hormone imbalance and are often told that either the only way to balance their hormones is through hormone replacement therapy, or they need to just push through because it’s not possible to safely relieve their condition. Are these really the only options, or can you balance your hormones naturally?

In this episode, I am with Dr. Christiane Northrup, who is a board-certified OB/GYN physician and New York Times bestselling author. She’s internationally known for her empowering approach to women’s health and wellness, and her goal is teaching women how to thrive at every stage of life. Dr. Northrup shares her knowledge on hormone imbalance and answers the question of how to balance hormones naturally.

In this podcast, Dr. Northrup covers

  • The key factors to hormonal health (And why your doctor doesn’t tell you about it)
  • Is hormone testing worthwhile?
  • The first steps in balancing your hormones
  • The #1 food culprit that affects your hormones according to Dr. Northrup
  • How does stress affect hormones?
  • Dr. Northrup’s take on vaccines (And how they affect hormonal health)
  • Are you breathing the right way? How breathing can affect your health and wellbeing
  • How to balance hormones after menopause the natural way

Download or listen on iTunes

Download the right way to breathe for increase performance and energy on iTunes

Listen outside iTunes


How To Balance Hormones Naturally with Dr. Christiane Northrup – Transcript

Ari Whitten:  Hi everyone, welcome back to the Energy Blueprint Podcast. I am your host Ari Whitten and today I am honored to be joined by Dr. Christiane Northrup, who is a board-certified OB/GYN physician and New York Times bestselling author, a visionary, pioneer and leading authority in the field of women’s health and wellness. She’s internationally known for her empowering approach to women’s health and wellness, and she teaches women how to thrive at every stage of life. So, I’m very honored to have you on the show today. Dr. Northrup, welcome to the show.

Dr. Christiane Northrup: Thank you. It’s my pleasure to be here.

Ari Whitten:  Yeah. So, I’m, as we just were chatting about, I’m excited to be able to do two podcasts with you, but we’re going to split this up because you have so much great content to share. One of the topics that I want to delve into this with you is on women’s hormonal health.

Dr. Christiane Northrup: Right.


Dr. Northrup’s experience with hormone replacement therapy

Ari Whitten:  And this has been sort of your bread and butter for a long time. I think you, I know you graduated from medical school, what, back in the early ‘80s or something or somewhere around there, late ‘70s?

Dr. Christiane Northrup: In the ‘70s, in the ‘70s. Yeah. Yeah. So, I’ve been at this for a while and, you know, back when the only hormone that was given was Premarin. Premarin stands for pregnant mare’s urine. So, it’s horse urine basically. And the reason why that was the gold standard was it was just sort of the first to the table was the main thing on that. And so, as I went along, I noticed there were other alternatives to that, but they weren’t as well known. And then I got into, in the early ‘90s, I met the people who were doing work with natural progesterone, bio-identical progesterone. And I found that this was working so much better than medroxyprogesterone acetate, which is a synthetic progestin. All birth control pills, by the way, are not native to the female body and they have side effects.

Or as my colleague, Dr. Bruce Lipton says, “These are not side effects, these are effects.” So, I began to use bioidentical progesterone. And Dr. Joel Hargrove ran the menopause center in Nashville, Tennessee, the late Joel Hargrove. And I had him come to our hospital to give a lecture because he was the guy who patented oral micronized bioidentical progesterone. In other words, what I wanted people to know, including doctors, was that if you take the three-dimensional shape of a hormone that is exactly what is produced in the body, you’re going to get the same effects as what the body would produce.

But if you take something in a lab and you make it different from something found in nature, it’s going to have totally different effects. Now, to this day, my colleagues do not seem to understand this difference. I just, it’s like it’s mind-blowing to me that my own profession cannot see the difference between the three…

And you know, and if I had my book, “The Wisdom of Menopause” here, we could hold up the slide that shows all the methyl groups added to native progesterone to make it not anything found in nature. Now people need to understand this. The only way to patent a hormone, you can’t patent naturally occurring substances, which is why the area of herbs and natural substances and vitamins is so underrepresented because the way it has worked for big pharma is you can’t make money unless you create something not found in nature. So, think about that one. Right? And so, therefore, there’s no money in giving women the kind of hormones they need. Although we made some progress because things like the Climera and the Vivelle Patch, these are transdermal patches. They patented the delivery system. They patented the glue that makes the patch.


The most important factor when you start on hormone replacement therapy (and the important steps you need to take BEFORE start hormone replacement therapy.)

So, I was on the Oprah Winfrey show with Suzanne Somers and the head of OB/GYN at Northwestern. And Oprah had me on one of her very last shows. Now you know, she had this show for 25 years and I’m on there as the referee between Suzanne Somers who is all bioidentical hormones, all from formulary pharmacies, and Dr. Lauren Streicher, who’s from Northwestern University.

And she and Suzanne Somers were at each other’s throats because Suzanne Somers didn’t see how you could ever get anything in a regular pharmacy that wasn’t dangerous and Dr. Streicher didn’t understand that stuff from a formulary pharmacy isn’t regulated the same thing as the FDA. It was unbelievable and I’m there in the middle trying to show the audience what’s the truth that both of them, both of them have the truth, but let’s bring it together, shall we? Okay, so that is that if you’re going do hormones then get the hormones that exactly match those found in the female human body.

And that is all the term bioidentical means. That’s all it means. You can get those in regular pharmacies because they have finally figured that out. Now, most hormones that are given are not bioidentical. So usually you have to do a little research. However, and you and I discussed this before we started this Podcast, there are so many alternatives to bioidentical hormones. When I went through the menopausal transition, I remember trying all the bioidentical stuff because I wasn’t afraid of it.

So, I would do the creams and I’d have it made up at the formulary pharmacy. And I noticed that nothing did anything because my lifestyle was the biggest determinant of whether or not I had hot flashes or anything of that nature. So, let’s just take a look at that. So, some women find that when they eat a diet high in sugar or they drink a lot of red wine or they eat certain cheeses, they get hot flashes or if they’re under some kind of stress.

So, what is stress? A plane trip between here and LA is stressful. Thanksgiving dinner with relatives you don’t like is stressful. Eating a lot of sugar, eating a lot of donuts, eating a lot of wheat. For some people who are sensitive to gluten, which is a lot of people, that’s all stressful. And all of those things change the way your hormones are metabolized. I think that is my main take-home message is that cortisol and epinephrine, the stress hormones created by the adrenals actually change the way hormones are metabolized in the female human body. So, there’s a great connection between the adrenal glands where the stress hormones are made. Cortisol from the medulla of the adrenals, and epinephrine from the cortex of the adrenals. The adrenals are two little glands that sit on top of the kidneys and they interact with the ovaries in this lovely, lovely dance.

So, when your adrenals are healthy, and probably many of your listeners have heard of chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, adrenal fatigue, that’s what’s really going on in menopause. That’s what’s, because let me just slide in a little metaphysics here. At age 42, we all go through what’s called a Uranus opposition, men as well as women. And that is a wakeup call from your soul and we call it a midlife crisis, but it really isn’t. It’s the soul saying, “Hey, wait a minute. Hey, wait a minute.” Okay, you went to school, you got your degree, you did what you’re supposed to do. You’re working in a job that you’re supposed to work in. And then you hit about age 42 and the timeline of your soul wakes up and says, “Really, really? Is this what you want to be doing the rest of your life? Because I noticed that you, too, were working, doing other people’s work.” And you said, “Wait, I have a vision that’s a little different, so I want to do this on my own.”

That’s what the whole midlife crisis is about, and if you ignore it, then the stress hormones increase because your body is a barometer of your soul’s trajectory. So, if you expect that anything outside of yourself, whether it be bioidentical hormones or herbs or whatever, is going to do it, it won’t do it until you get yourself back on the right track. Then these other things enhance your life. Now is there… There’s no question that estrogen is the gold standard in women who have hot flashes and they can’t sleep, and they can’t sleep and therefore they get depressed. But in many, many cases, their life is requiring a reset button and getting…

You know, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross way, way back, who was a pioneer on death and dying. She would say, “You know what? When you’re in pain, morphine works well.” Sometimes you just need to get the thing to get you through and I’m fine with that, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that at midlife… The whole reason, by the way, that chronic degenerative diseases increase at the age of 50, you know, when they tell you get your first mammogram, get your colonoscopy. The only reason for that is you’ve generally been ignoring your body for that many years, and finally it says, keep it up and I’m going to show you what I can do to get you back on track. There’s no reason why suddenly at age 45, 50, whatever, the incidence of breast cancer and colon cancer and heart disease should go up. That’s just demographics. That’s just how someone has been living.

Always interested in the outlier people. So, do all women need bioidentical hormones? Absolutely not. Because when the adrenals are healthy, when you have looked at your soul trajectory when you are leading a life that is driven by and guided by your soul, then you just, you don’t need nearly as many things from the outside. Now I myself started a company called Amata Life when I heard about this herb from Thailand called Pueraria Mirifica. And the people in Thailand knew this for 700 years. And a Pueraria Mirifica means “miracle herb.” In the 1930s the Germans discovered, don’t you love it? Someone always discovers what the hill tribes in northern Thailand had only been doing for 700 years and now it’s a big discovery. Not for them, this is like what we’ve been doing. And because this particular herb with a phytohormone, a plant hormone, works so well for menopausal symptoms that I started a company to bring that into public consciousness because it’s not a prescription and it works so well and it protects the male prostate, too, and all the rest of it. So, what I did for a couple years is I just recommended it with someone else’s brand. I recommended it to get the right amount of clinical feedback to know that it worked. And what I found was that there are women… So, here’s the way I do it. It’s kind of a hierarchy.


How to balance hormones naturally – vitamin D and nutrients

So, you start with changing your diet, getting your adrenal glands where they should be, and that also involves getting your vitamin D levels to optimal.

And I’m kind of on a soapbox with vitamin D levels because we’ve been taught to be afraid of the sun. And no one should burn. We know that. But we need optimal levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D is both a nutrient and a hormone, and so the level in your blood should be 50 to 80. That’s optimal. When you go and get it drawn, you’re told it’s normal, normal for what? Preventing rickets? No, no, no. You need optimal. Women who have optimal levels of vitamin D have an 80 percent reduced risk of breast cancer and men have the same reduced risk of prostate cancer because one in eight men will get prostate cancer. But if you get your levels where they ought to be, which takes 5,000 IUs per day, generally speaking. And there are those people who just don’t make the vitamin D from the sun exposure.

So, it’s not necessarily about getting more sun exposure, although that would help. So, get your vitamin D levels up there, make sure you’re getting enough iodine in your diet. You can get that through kelp, through seaweed through, you know, sea salt doesn’t have it. Celtic sea salt doesn’t have it, Himalayan sea salt doesn’t have it, however, they are replete with other minerals that we all need. So, a good way to get iodine is frankly what I do, I just get it from Amazon, Lougal’s solution, which is both molecular iodine and potassium iodide, and you just do, you know, three to seven drops per day in water and you’ve got it. It’s necessary for hormone balance. So, vitamin D for hormone balance, iodine for hormone balance, we all need more magnesium than we’re getting because the soils are depleted. And you do all that stuff first.

Then if you still need additional help, then you do the herbs. That would be either the Pueraria Mirifica or maca. They are women’s herbs that have been, you know, just used for millennia. Only then, after you’ve tried these things and if they haven’t worked for you… Oh, and then you need enough omega-3 fats. We have too much omega-6 from the seed oils like canola and corn oil and all that, and we need more omega-3s from flaxseed oil and from cold water fish and those things make up most of the cell membrane of your brain. So, people get depressed because they don’t have enough of the right stuff making up the coating of their nerves and the cells of their brains. So, all of those things, once those are in place, most people don’t need additional hormones because… Now, this is important, when your testosterone levels, the adrenals make testosterone in women and the ovaries make testosterone in women.

And there’s this interesting thing during the peri-menopause that nobody talks about, which is that the center of the ovary, the medulla begins to hypertrophy. You get more and more so healthy women make more testosterone at midlife and less estrogen. And if you have enough testosterone, which is sort of the hormone of desire, the hormone of life force, if you have enough of that, then your body will take that and make the necessary estrogen and progesterone. So, you know, I know that the conventional approach is… you know, Dr. Prudence Hall is the big hormone doctor in California that Oprah was going to and she has had women on the Wiley Protocol. This was Suzanne Somers’ approach, get your hormones at the level of a 21-year-old. And Suzanne Somers, and the Wiley Protocol was cycle your hormones so you have a period every month. Well, who wants a period every month in their eighties?

Most women don’t. And the Wiley Protocol gives you a period every month. Suzanne Somers didn’t tell the world that she’s had a hysterectomy, so she doesn’t get a period every month. So that’s something that women should know. We, okay, so here’s the thing, we all want to die young as late as possible.


Fertility after the age of 37

And what I want women to know and why I wrote “Goddesses Never Age” was that I wanted them to know that what we call aging in our culture is largely preventable and a tremendous amount has to do with the way you think with the cultural portals. You know, so age 35 for a woman who hasn’t had a baby yet, that’s a cultural portal where she’s been taught by the culture that her eggs are all going to get old now and that fertility falls off like that. It doesn’t, it doesn’t. For a large population, yes.

But I’ve seen women in their forties who are physiologically, biologically older than many women in their sixties. And the data, by the way, from Gina Ogden out of Harvard, who’s a Ph.D. in human sexuality, points out that it is women in their sixties and seventies who are having the best sex of their lives and nobody hears about this. And so, if you need additional help, there’s additional help available. No woman should suffer from what’s called, I hate the terms we use in medicine, atrophic vaginitis. What that means is the lining of your uterus, which is very sensitive to estrogen, isn’t getting the estrogen that it needs.

So, there are creams that you can use for that… I worked for years to create a vaginal gel that has Pueraria Mirifica that works really well. It’s nonprescription. However, regular sexual expression with a partner or alone keep that area in good working order by bringing the blood into that. We’re sexual creatures our entire lives and there’s nothing about turning 40, turning 50, turning 60, turning 70 that changes that. But we’re taught in our culture that things are supposed to stop working. Men, my God, men are taught that they need Viagra at the age of 40. And this is, it’s a terrible thing to teach men because there, that does not need to happen at all. Again, Dr. Oz had one of my most favorite quotes, which is, “The penis is the dipstick of men’s health.” And when erections are… And it’s true because the cardiovascular system is reflected in one’s ability to get an erection. And so, when men can get good, strong erections, which you can have forever, it means that your cardiovascular system is in good working order. And it’s also interesting that the penis is a barometer of life force. It is a turned-on woman or a turned-on man, whatever your preference is, that turns on the nitric oxide, that increases the blood flow to the penis.

And so, we need to start paying attention to that. And I think, you know, celebrate that as this barometer of life force that men have or those who identify as male, because we’re trying to be politically correct these days, that they have that. And once you understand about this life force, this Shakti, this chi that’s available to you for your entire life. And some people need hormones and some people don’t need hormones.

One in three women will have her ovaries removed by the age of 60. You sure don’t hear about one in three men having his testicles removed by the age of 60 because even though that’s a cure for prostate cancer, no man is willing to lose the family jewels. Women are willing because we’ve been brainwashed into that and we’re afraid of cancer. So those are all issues that are part of the discussion.


The Women’s Health Initiative Scare

So, I don’t think that there’s a, an either-or answer for the hormones. But if you’re going to be… You know, it’s interesting. In 1994 “Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom,” the very first edition came out. And I said in there the Women’s Health Initiative is using the wrong hormones at the wrong dose so they’re not going to find out what they wanted to find out. Because the deal was, they believed that what would happen there is they would prove that hormone replacement decreased the risk of heart disease in women and therefore you needed to take these hormones. And what happened was 2002. Bam, they stopped the Women’s Health Initiative overnight, scared millions of women to death who then thought, “Oh my God, I’m on these hormones, I’m going to get cancer, I’m going to get a stroke, I’m going to die.” So, they went off it cold turkey, not really helping anyone with much of anything.

And ever since then, this was 2002, it’s almost like the OB/GYN profession has been scrambling to come up with what is the truth? What is the truth? And the truth is you need an individualized approach. So, start with nutrition and lifestyle. Then go to herbs and supplements like the iodine, the vitamin D the magnesium, maybe Pueraria Mirifica or maca. Then only then, if you need something extra, would I do the prescription hormones, but they need to be those that are found in the female human body. And those, by the way, are made from soybeans and wild Mexican yams. They start with that as the template and then in the lab, they do the conversions. But if you’re big pharma then they’ll do the conversions to make something not found in nature unless you have patented the glue that puts the patch on your skin. So that’s my big hormone spiel.


The most common reasons why there is a lot of female hormone balance in the modern world

Ari Whitten:  Yeah. Well, thank you for that. That was like a masterclass on the practical aspects of what you do about menopause and female hormone balance. I almost want to step back for a moment into, and you touched on some of this, but to go back into why are women having such serious hormonal issues both before and after menopause? And there’s a lot of estrogen dominance. There’s a lot of infertility. There’s a lot of early menopause. What’s going on in the modern world that is leading to these issues with female hormone imbalance?

Dr. Christiane Northrup: Well, I would say the number one is too much insulin from a diet that’s too high in sugar. And when I say sugar, I’m talking about white bread, white flour, junk foods, anything that increases insulin. So, we’re seeing adult-onset diabetes in eight-year old’s now around the planet. We’re seeing pubic hair growing in six-year old’s. And that is because of hormone disruptors, the phthalates, that’s p-h-l-a-t…, whatever it is, phthalates. And that’s found in many kinds of industrialized chemicals.

We have kind of this perfect storm now of GMOs, genetically modified organisms, glyphosate, Roundup is found in nearly every human being on the planet. That’s a hormone disruptor.


The problem with vaccines according to Dr. Northrup

And then let me be enormously controversial here because, you know, we’re not brought to you by any mainstream media and I’m not being paid. And that is the fact that we are now injecting people with all of these neurotoxins starting at a young age.

So, in the United States, 99 percent of newborns get a hepatitis B vaccine, which contains 15 times the amount of aluminum that even the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control, consider safe. And the only way you can get hepatitis B as an infant is to have sex with a prostitute or use a needle from a drug addict. Or, obviously, if your mother has it. Now, that’s a valid use for a hep-B vaccine at birth. Your mother has hepatitis B. Otherwise, no. So, what we’re doing now is we’re starting life by giving our babies, our infants what amounts to, and this is the schedule in the United States, but in very many countries it’s the same, 72 different injections by the age of 18. All of which contain trace amounts of thiomersal, which is mercury, and this particular aluminum that’s not found in nature. So, people will say to you, “Oh, aluminum is safe. It’s in the Earth’s crust.” Unfortunately, that’s not the kind of aluminum used as an adjuvant in a vaccine.

And the other thing that’s happening… Now, this started in the United States in 1986, where President Ronald Reagan was pressured by the vaccine manufacturers because of liability. To make them immune to liability. And they started a vaccine court so that the pharmaceutical industry pays in a little bit of money to give money to those whose children have been vaccine injured. Well, the rate of autism, I think it was in maybe 1970, 1980 was one in 10,000. It’s now one in 40. And we know now the HPV vaccine has resulted in infertility and premature menopause in many, many girls. And the standard rhetoric, the standard narrative is that the HPV vaccine will prevent cervical cancer. This has never been proven. And so, this is just one example of the environmental toxins people are exposed to. So, it’s kind of a perfect storm of insulin that is too high, which causes estrogen dominance and diabetes. Vitamin D that is way too low and that interacts with all the different hormones. Up to 72 different vaccines, all of which contained neurotoxins. Read the insert on a vaccine injection – formaldehyde, fetal cells, monkey cells, aluminum, thiomersal, even trace amounts. And then it’s all of this working together. Then we have the chemtrails where, you know, we’ve had weather changes, climate changes. Not enough sunlight. All of this stuff is working together to decrease fertility. In fact, the birth rate is going down around the world. And one could ask are there some kind of, you know, elite forces on the planet? When we make public health, the public health discussion… And well-baby checks are just about vaccines.

They’re not about, “Hey, let’s get the vitamin D levels optimal. Let’s make sure that hemoglobin A1c levels are optimal. Let’s get the inflammatory profile of omega-3 to omega-6, let’s make sure that’s optimal. Let’s make sure that your hemoglobin A1c is optimal.” Those would be the places to start. But what we do in modern medicine always is we wait until the horse is out of the barn and then we go back to look at the fences. “Wow. I guess that fence was broken.” But we don’t even look at that. And then what we do is we start putting things on horses to get them to stop breaking out of the fence. I mean, it’s so bass backward. It’s so nuts. Really. There’s so much, you know. Then there’s exercise and meditation and you know, don’t even get me started on people working 40 to 80 hours a week.


How to balance hormones naturally with nutrition and lifestyle

Ari Whitten:  I was going to say, I mean I totally agree with you to look at some of these biomarkers like let’s say hemoglobin A1c or fasting insulin levels. But I think equally, especially when you’re talking about kids, you could just be looking directly at the nutrition and lifestyle habits that we know are either associated with poor outcomes, disease outcomes, or you know, lifelong health and prevention of disease. I don’t think you even need to wait. If you see somebody living off diet, you know, off of soda and donuts and French fries. I don’t know that you need to wait until that’s manifesting in biomarkers that are disrupted before you start a diet change.

Dr. Christiane Northrup: No kidding. No kidding. I mean that’s just absolutely the truth. In fact, it’s so obvious, right? It’s obvious to us. And so, what I would say to people, remember nutrition is still not really taught in medical schools. I mean those of us who have had anything to say about nutrition… My God, in the 1980s I had to close my door so that my colleagues would not hear me when I talked to a woman about nutrition. And it was considered so heretical then I couldn’t even talk to them. Then I would show up with my brown rice and my seaweed and all of that and people would just make fun of me. That’s, you know, and my aunt who was a pediatrician gave me a book called “The Nuts Among the Berries” when I went to medical school because she was convinced that diet has nothing to do with anything. This is insane.

Ari Whitten:  I’m glad you brought that up because at one time that paradigm, the idea that nutrition was not playing any role in these diseases, was thought to be really advanced, sort of cutting-edge scientific knowledge. You know, that was the evidence-based paradigm.

Dr. Christiane Northrup: That’s right. That’s right. Yeah, so I think it’s all of those things. However, the good news is all over the planet there are what we would call subcultures of wellness. I’m sure they’re your listeners. They’re my listeners, and they are complete outliers. They’re not part of this fast food nation. They’re just not and so it’s resulted in these wonderful… Here in my state of Maine, we have an enormous number of farms to table restaurants, a lot of organic food, a lot of that, so that’s all happening at the same time. It’s almost like as the old is dying this new is rising at the same time. So, I’m not helpless and hopeless in any way because I see things changing, but you’re never, okay, you’re never going to see it in the mainstream media. That’s going to be the last place you see it because the mainstream media is brought to you by the same old, same old paradigm. I mean, I was watching this show called Forensic Files with a friend of mine. He loves this show. I could not believe the drug ads. It’s like, you know, every 10 minutes, five minutes, there are ads for these drugs that I, as a physician, have never heard of. And the side effects of them are unbelievable. You know and talk about a dinosaur that needs to be brought down. It’ll end. It will end. Maybe not in my lifetime, but it will end.

Ari Whitten:  Yeah. I want to come back to what you started with, which is the practical side of treating hormonal health for women. So, it sounds like, which I love and am really excited about is that nutrition and lifestyle changes are really the foundation for women’s hormonal health.

Dr. Christiane Northrup: Absolutely.

Ari Whitten:  And whether we’re talking about estrogen dominance or, you know, avoiding early menopause or whether we’re talking about infertility, whether we’re talking about, you know, hormonal balance, post menopause the foundation is nutrition and lifestyle.

Dr. Christiane Northrup: Always, always, always. There’s no way around it. And I would say the biggest issue is excess sugar. And I mean, what I mean is added sugar because there are many, many people… For instance, if they follow the work of Anthony William, the medical medium, you know, he’s talking about fear of fruit. You know, that many people think that has got too many carbs and all of that. Now, for some people that’s true. For most, it isn’t. Fruit is so loaded with hydrating nutrients, stage four gel water. And it’s absorbed very, very quickly. So that’s not the issue. It is just foods that spike your blood sugar and that’s kind of fake foods that nobody should be eating.


How lifestyle habits are connected with your hormone levels

Ari Whitten: Excellent. So, the next step beyond that, and actually I want to emphasize one point here. This is something that I encounter quite a bit when people talk about hormonal balance is, I think there’s a disconnect in people’s minds between nutrition and lifestyle changes and hormones. People think that if they have hormonal imbalances, the only way to fix that is by doing some specific intervention that targets that specific hormone. Or by using, let’s say, bioidentical hormones. They really don’t realize that doing things like meditation or adjusting your nutrition or, you know, taking certain supplements or decreasing the stress load in your life and a number of other aspects of exercise and sleep and circadian rhythm changes and vitamin D and all these kinds of things. They don’t understand that all of those are intimately connected with estrogen and progesterone and testosterone and all these other hormones. So, I’m just wondering if you could kind of speak to that interconnection for a moment.

Dr. Christiane Northrup: Yeah, I can. And I would say that the biggest wake-up call for me was the work of Dr. Rollin McCarty at the Institute of Heart Math. And what Rollin discovered and proved was that when you get into cardiac resonance, so that’s where the parasympathetic and the sympathetic nervous system. Sympathetic is the gas, parasympathetic is the break. So, one is fight or flight, the other is rest and restore. When those two are balanced, then the beat to beat variability of the heart called cardiac coherence is installed.

So, you have cardiac coherence when you get a nice balance, parasympathetic/sympathetic. And they can measure that and there’s software available so that you know, you put a little finger sensor on, and you can determine when you’re in cardiac coherence. Well, guess what, you’re in cardiac coherence with the breath. So, breathing through your nose and breathing out through your nose will put you into cardiac coherence. So, if we were to just take a moment, and let’s do this experiment. We will have everybody breathe in through their mouth. Mouth breathing is a stress response. So here we go. Breathe, take a deep breath through your mouth and then let it out. Okay. Now let’s rest a minute and let’s take a deep breath in through our nose. Here we go, and out through your nose. All right. Now if you do that a couple times, what did you notice in the breath through your mouth versus the breath through your nose?

Ari Whitten:  It was definitely more relaxing through the nose.

Dr. Christiane Northrup: It’s also deeper because there are these turbinates in the nose that go right down to the diaphragm. And so, you literally shoot the air down to the lower lobes of the lungs where, where not only where the blood is, but where the vagus nerve, the principal nerve of the parasympathetic system goes through the diaphragm. So, when you breathe through your nose, let’s just do that again… and out.

Dr. Christiane Northrup: Alright, you have engaged the rest and restore parasympathetic nervous system just through breathing through your nose and maybe holding it a moment at the top. Now, when you go through life breathing that way through your nose and even exercising that way, this is the work of Dr. John Douillard, then you’re going to maintain cardiac coherence. And when you’re in cardiac coherence, now we’re going to get to the hormones, the level of DHEA produced by the adrenals, that’s the mother hormone. That DHEA level increases and that is what sends, that’s the mother hormone that will go down each of the pathways and create the balance of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone that your body needs. So, it begins with this meditative state of breathing through your nose, calming, getting into cardiac coherence. The cardiac coherence increases DHEA. Therefore, you now have the raw material for the hormones you need, the sex steroids that you need, progesterone, estrogen, testosterone.

You are so right. Nobody understands that. They think, “Oh no, I have a hormonal imbalance.” And then I just demonstrated to you that breathing through your nose will begin to change that hormonal imbalance because it also does something else. Breathing through the nose begins to digest the excess stress hormones, cortisol, and epinephrine, and therefore, the metabolic pathways are instantly shifted toward… See, in the face of stress hormones, cortisol, and epinephrine, your DHEA or your estrogen will actually be metabolized into another stress hormone called catechol estrogen. I learned that from Dr. Joel Hargrove and I’ve never heard it from anyone else. So, in the face of stress hormones, you’re going to take the hormones floating around in your body, the sex steroids, and you’re going to make additional stress hormones. But when you are calmed down, you’re going to take that same raw material and it’ll go down a pathway of normality.


Why hormone panels largely are a waste of money

Ari Whitten:  Yeah. Fascinating. And that’s a great example. Even just something as simple as breathing is going to affect very important hormones in profound ways, you know. And also, you were mentioning cortisol earlier, cortisol is in very dynamic interplay with things like, for example, circadian rhythm and sleep as well as your stress level and whether you’re doing things like yoga or meditation. And all of those things are having a huge impact even from one day to the next on cortisol levels. So, it’s not just, I think people have this disconnect where they don’t understand that connection of the nutrition and lifestyle habits and then they think, “Oh my cortisol level is this, therefore I need to be on cortisone therapy, or I need to take a supplement to fix my poor adrenals.” And it’s no, you need to fix the nutrition and lifestyle factors that are impacting the amount of secretion of that particular hormone.

Dr. Christiane Northrup: Right. And, also, you bring up another point, and that is people are very hung up on hormone testing, “I need my hormones tested.” Well, here’s the problem with that. The hormones change minute to minute, so if you’re going to get a hormone profile, I would do what’s called the DUTCH test. And you can just Google DUTCH test and you, they’ll send you like five strips and you pee on those through the day, so you’ve got about four to five points on a graph and so it’ll give you an idea. However, I have found over the years that hormone testing is generally, other than thyroid, not very helpful because it’s one point in time and testosterone levels, for instance, peak in the morning,

Ari Whitten:  I am so happy to hear you say this and I cannot tell you how few people that I speak to agree with you or understand things in the way that you understand things. But I have seen so many times people do hormone panels and literally, you can do this. You can split test it from one day to the next and you can get wildly different results in the same individual on the same hormonal panels from one day to the next. Or you do different types of hormonal testing, like saliva versus blood testing versus urine testing and you get totally contradictory results. So, there is so much of that testing out there that just is just not valid or insightful data,

Dr. Christiane Northrup: Not at all. And what happens is then people think you can take it to the bank. So, “Well, I have low this or I have low that.” It’s like not really. And it’s interesting. I mean I’ve been in this for, you know, 30 years. And if the testing were useful, I would know it by now, I think.

Ari Whitten:  So, I want to come back to wrap up this Podcast. I want to wrap up with kind of going back to hormonal replacement for one minute. And I’ll mention Dr. Mache Seibel who I had on the Podcast recently who is a big advocate of hormonal replacement therapy. And his sort of central, the core of what he teaches is basically that in 2002, as you mentioned earlier, we had that big study come out, this sort of bombshell study saying hormonal replacement is dangerous. Everybody kind of freaked out. Tons of women stopped doing it. A lot of doctors also became confused as to whether they should be recommending it or not. And then in 2006 I believe there was a reanalysis of that same data and they basically concluded that when you, and I’m forgetting the exact specifics, but it’s something like when you looked at women who didn’t have a big gap between the time that they went into menopause and when they started the hormonal replacement and you looked at people that started the hormonal replacement very soon after menopause, it actually showed net benefits and really the harms weren’t there. And so, he’s essentially saying, “Hey, for people and for women in menopause, hormonal replacement is a very good thing.” And then sort of as a side, and I don’t want to misrepresent anything he says here, but my take on it is sort of as a side in addition to that, you should also be sort of working on your nutrition and lifestyle habits. But I want to contrast that with what you’re saying, which is nutrition and lifestyle is the foundation that is the core of what’s really going to promote hormonal balance. And then we have things like herbs and supplements that can help as well. And you mentioned several of those. And then if you still need further help, that’s when you should be looking into hormonal replacement.

Dr. Christiane Northrup: That’s my approach. Absolutely. Absolutely. And I know all the data he’s talking about. They have massaged that data, JoAnn Manson, that whole group, The Women’s Health Initiative, this huge cohort study. And it’s amusing to me because when I began practice in the early ’80s, we suddenly were terrified of hormone replacement because all of these women were getting uterine cancer from Premarin. So, then they brought in Provera, medroxyprogesterone acetate, which all they saw that as was a vacuum cleaner for the uterus. So, you wouldn’t get a waxy buildup that would result in endometrial cancer. So suddenly hormone replacement went, you know, went out of favor. It all started in the ’50s with a book called “Feminine Forever” by Robert O. Wilson. And I read it as a med student. I remember being in this little community hospital in Vermont and “Feminine Forever,” Robert O. Wilson. And you know, and he would say, “Well, women are no longer feminine and, you know, that’s why they all need this hormone replacement.” It sounds good.

And you then do some research on Robert O. Wilson. And chances are very good that his wife started to speak up when she reached menopause. Like, you know, she was no longer, you know, the little woman like folding the towels. She, her soul spoke. So, we call that lack of hormones. That isn’t it. That’s not it.

Ari Whitten:  Yeah, that’s funny.

Dr. Christiane Northrup: I’ve been in it long enough to see it, you know, the pendulum swing. And thank God women have access to this kind of information now. And there’s no one right answer for everybody. That’s what I think we finally have to get across. And we can’t allow mainstream doctors to tell us what the best thing is because if you look at the history of medicine with flamidamine and the Dalkon Shield IUD and I swear, as I live and breathe, the HPV vaccine. You know, people believe, “If that were the case, they would have told us. If it were that dangerous, they would have told us.” Well, let’s take Vioxx. How many people died unnecessarily because of that. So you’ve got to make a wedding really between your intellect, your medical care, and your own intuition to find the right answer for you.

Ari Whitten:  Yeah. And you talk in some of your work about people sort of being a partner with their physicians in the decision-making process. And there, being many options out there, you need to be armed with facts. So, I guess my final question to you would be, do you have any recommended resource and maybe your book on this subject as being the best resource for women who want to be armed with as much of the facts as possible about how to approach hormonal balance post menopause?

Dr. Christiane Northrup: I think that my book, “The Wisdom of Menopause” kind of lays out the big picture of what’s going on and I’ve never seen anything that’s like it. On the other hand, there are many, many, many books on menopause and on bioidentical hormones. There’s, you know, there is Suzanne Somers’, “The Sexy Years.” There’re all kinds of… And she does a lot with supplements and nutrition. So, I think she’s made a great contribution. But I would say just read the first five chapters of “The Wisdom of Menopause” and you’re going to find the information there.

Ari Whitten: Excellent. Excellent. Well, Dr. Northrup, thank you so much. I’ve really, really enjoyed this conversation. It’s been such a pleasure. And I know we have one more Podcast that we’re going to do. So, thank you so much for your time. And I will talk to you again very soon.

Dr. Christiane Northrup: Very good. Okay.


How To Balance Hormones Naturally with Dr. Christiane Northrup – Show Notes

Dr. Northrup’s experience with hormone replacement therapy (1:05)
The most important factor when you start on hormone replacement therapy (and the important steps you need to take BEFORE start hormone replacement therapy) (4:28)
How to balance hormones naturally – vitamin D and nutrients (12:15)
Fertility after the age of 35 (16:47)
The Women’s Health Initiative Scare (21:00)
The most common reasons why there is a lot of female hormone balance in the modern world (23:00)
The problem with vaccines according to Dr. Northrup (24:42)
How to balance hormones naturally with nutrition and lifestyle (29:35)
How lifestyle habits are connected with your hormone levels (34:24)
Why hormone panels largely are a waste of money (40:07)


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Dodging Energy Vampires with Dr. Christiane Northrup, MD Do Toxic Relationships Rain Your Energy?
If you haven’t already, I would also recommend that you listen to her previous podcast Dodging Energy Vampires with Dr. Christiane Northrup – Are Toxic Relationships Draining Your Energy? It happens to be the most popular podcast episode of 2019.
What Science Says About Menopause, Perimenopause, and hormone replacement therapy with Dr Mache Seibel - how to balance hormones naturally with Dr. Christiane Northrup,
Listen in to the podcast I did with Dr. Mache Seibel on hormone replacement therapy and learn more about what this can do for you.

You Can Fix Your Brain (Just 1 Hour A Week For Optimal Health, Energy, Memory, And More) With Dr. Tom O’Bryan

You CAN fix your brain. And according to Dr. Tom O’Bryan, it can be done in just an hour a week.

Are you struggling with symptoms like brain fog? Do you find yourself moody or lacking motivation and drive? Or maybe you’re having more difficulty remembering things that used to come easily to you? Do you get fatigued easily after things like driving or reading or working?

These are all early warning signs that your brain is struggling. If the health of your brain is not optimal, it can lead to energy problems, cognitive function problems, and ultimately it can progress to neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia (which are now becoming epidemics). Fortunately, you CAN fix your brain. And it is relatively easy to do so.

In this episode, I speak with Dr. Tom O’Bryan, who is the founder of and the author of the books “Autoimmune Fix” and “You Can Fix Your Brain.” He’s considered a Sherlock Holmes for chronic disease and metabolic disorders, holds teaching faculty positions with the Institute for Functional Medicine and the National University of Health Sciences. Dr. Tom shares his knowledge about how you can fix your brain (in just 1 hour a week) for optimal health, energy, memory, and more.

In this podcast, Dr. Tom O’Bryan will cover

  • Dr. Tom’s pyramid framework for identifying the root cause of brain-related disease
  • Why do MIT statisticians predict that one in two kids will be on the autism spectrum in the next 10 years?
  • Dr. Tom’s view on lectins and how to check for sensitivity (and the new test that can detect gluten and lectin sensitivity with up to 97% accuracy)
  • For women — why you should do a detox before you try to get pregnant
  • For men — why eliminating toxins is critical
  • Dr. Tom’s top nutrition tips for brain health
  • Why Dr. Tom believes gluten is a problem for virtually EVERYONE
  • Dr. Tom’s tips for reducing EMF exposure (and why it is critical for optimal brain health)
  • What your posture and body position have to do with chronic fatigue (and how you fix it)
  • Dr. Tom’s top strategies for improving brain health

Download or listen on iTunes

Download the right way to breathe for increase performance and energy on iTunes

Listen outside iTunes


You Can Fix Your Brain (Just 1 Hour A Week For Optimal Health, Energy, Memory, And More) With Dr. Tom O’Bryan – Transcript

Ari Whitten: Hi everyone, welcome back to the Energy Blueprint Podcast. I’m your host, Ari Whitten, and today I have with me Dr. Tom O’Bryan, who is the founder of and the author of the “Autoimmune Fix” and the new book which I have with me here, coming apart a little bit with the cover, but “You Can Fix Your Brain.”

He’s considered a Sherlock Holmes for chronic disease and metabolic disorders teaching that the underlying mechanisms that trigger the development of chronic disease are the key to health. He also holds teaching faculty positions with the Institute for Functional Medicine and the National University of Health Sciences. He has trained and certified tens of thousands of practitioners around the world in advanced understanding of the impact of wheat sensitivity and the development of individual autoimmune diseases. So welcome to the show Dr. Tom O’Bryan.

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: Thank you, Ari. It’s a pleasure.


What “You Can Fix Your Brain” really means

Ari Whitten: Yeah, it’s a pleasure to have you. So, you wrote this new book “You Can Fix Your Brain.” I want to talk to you all about brain stuff today. So first of all, I think a nice kind of overview of different sort of brain related issues would be helpful and kind of what specific things we’re talking about when we’re talking about fixing our brain.

So, you know, there’s things like brain fog, there’s things like brain related fatigue and sort of poor brain stamina and poor ability to focus. There’s also dementia and overt neurological diseases. And you know, probably a number of other different subcategories there or even whole categories. So how would you kind of categorize all of this in terms of what are we specifically talking about fixing when we’re talking about fixing your brain?

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: All of the above and more. Everyone knows someone who’s had a heart attack and survived, changed their diet, started exercising, and they look and feel better than they’ve been in years. Most of us know someone diagnosed with cancer, went through some protocols, alternative or traditional, put the cancer into remission and are thriving. No one knows anyone with a brain deterioration diagnosis who’s thriving. It terrifies us. It just terrifies us because we think that from the neck down, we can heal anything but the brain we have no control over. And that’s just not the case.

Every cell in your body regenerates. Every single cell, including your brain. We used to think the brain did not regenerate. Now we know it does. There are many studies, for example, with wheat sensitivity and people that have shrunken cerebellums, areas of their brain. They go gluten free, a year later their cerebellum is bigger, that they rebuilt some of the damaged cerebellum. And their coordination is better, the brain’s functioning better, and all of that.

There’s a number of studies like that. Every cell in your body regenerates. The purpose of this book is to take the system of the body that scares us the most and guide us in taking a step back, at looking at the big picture of where does this problem come from? And with fatigue, as an example, that’s a really good one to use.

There is, I refer to a pyramid to health and that we have to look at our health from a pyramid perspective. What does that mean? There’re four sides to a pyramid, there’s the three sides coming up, and then there’s the base, so there’s four sides and what does that mean? There’s the structure that’s at the base, that’s the realm of trainers and chiropractors and massage therapists and Feldenkrais technique, Alexander Technique, pillows that you sleep on, yoga classes, exercise, muscles, bones, ligaments.

That whole world of structure may be where your fatigue is coming from. We’ll talk about fatigue, but I could easily say migraines, or I could say infertility. I mean there are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of studies of the most surprising conditions that reverse when you fix structure. So that’s the platform, structure.

And then there’s three sides to the pyramid. One side that we all tend to focus on more than any other is the biochemistry. That’s pharmaceuticals and nutrition and foods and diets and air and water. And that’s a really important component.

The next side is the emotional or the spiritual, which I think is the most impactful of all, and we run away from the most, you know. We don’t want to deal with “Why do I have recurrent bladder infections or kidney infections.” Well, what’s pissy in your life? And people don’t want to go there to look at what’s pissy in their life.

But they create these stress hormones that cause a suppressed immune function and you get bladder infections, right? And sometimes that’s the side of the pyramid that needs to be addressed. And the last one, new to humanity in the last two decades, never before on the planet like this is electromagnetic. And electromagnetic pollution can cause cancer.

It can cause a heart attack, cause strokes, it can cause, there are, once again, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of studies. So, there are four sides to the pyramid that we have to look at with any health condition.

You can’t just focus on, “Well, I’m going to take these pills because it’s going to help my mitochondria work better and my energy is going to go up.” Now that may be that you have a deficiency of CoQ10 or Alpha lipoic acid or any of the other great nutrients that sometimes help with fatigue. It may be that you have a deficiency and the pills are going to help. But why do you have a deficiency?

Then you have to look to, “Well, maybe my food selections aren’t very good.” “No, I eat organic and I’m eating a really good selection of food.” Okay. Then maybe it’s absorption and your guts not working right. So, you have to do a gut evaluation.

The point is we all have been raised with the idea, single symptom, single cure. And that concept is taking us down the toilet. The numbers keep going down and down and down. In terms of the number of diseases they’re going up. The quality of our healthcare, it keeps going down and down. And that more kids with autism than ever in the history of humanity.

I came out in practice, it was one in 10,000. Now the CDC said not too long ago it’s one in 33 and there are numbers coming out by MIT biostatisticians that say within 10 years will be one in two kids on the autism spectrum. That’s a brain that’s not working right. Let me give you an example of brain function and fatigue. If you’re diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity, if your child is, the recommendation is to take medication. The medication is called Ritalin or Adderall. Those are the most common medications. They are speed. Why do you give a kid speed to slow them down?

What’s that about? Well it’s really easy? Their brains are not working properly. Their brains are not working on all eight cylinders. You know, I’m born and raised in Detroit, so I talk about cars as analogies a lot, right?

Ari Whitten: And it’s got to be a V8 of course.

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: It’s a V8, eight cylinders. I’m an old muscle car guy, you know. There’re other nice cars, but… So, you know, I had 13 cars going through undergrad years that costs less than $100. I didn’t have any money. I paid my way through school. So, you buy a car for 75 bucks and it lasts you for four months and it dies. Okay. Get a new car, right? Right. So many of those cars needed a tune up really bad, but I don’t, I’m not going to pay for a tune up when it costs more than the car, right?

So, some of those cars that need a tune-up really bad, they’d stall at the red light. How do you stop a car from stalling at the red light? You rev the engine. You put it in neutral and you rev the engine a little bit, or you put the clutch in and you rev the engine. You’re not hot rodding. You just don’t want the car to stall. Light turns green, put it in drive and off you go, right?

Adderall and Ritalin rev the engine of your brain. It’s a brain that’s not functioning very well, so you’ve got to give the kids speed to slow them down. So, the question is, why is their brain not firing on all eight cylinders? There’re so many triggers to that. I’ll give you two examples. There’s one study in the book about electromagnetic pollution causes a lack of brain function. It slows down neurotransmission.

So, if your child has an alarm clock on the nightstand next to their pillow, you may be frying their brain a little bit every night contributing to the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. I’ll give you a second example. Seventy three percent of people with a sensitivity to wheat have something called hypoperfusion. It’s a really good scrabble word.

What it means is a lack of blood flow into the brain. And if you have a lack of blood flow going into the brain, hypoperfusion, well in my talks, I have all 200-300 doctors say, “Will everyone please cross your legs for a minute? Come on, cross your legs.” And they’ll go, “Agh, alright. And they cross their legs.” And I’ll say, “Leave them like that for three hours. Then stand up and run.” Give your child toast for breakfast if they have a wheat sensitivity, send them to school to learn. It may be a biochemical imbalance that’s contributing to their attention deficit. It may be an electromagnetic imbalance that’s contributing to their attention deficit. The brain that’s running too slow, so you have to give them speed.

So, when you think of fatigue, like brain fatigue, it’s a great example, that you have to look at the entire pyramid. All four sections and start asking questions of where’s this coming from?


How the 4 pillars in the pyramid of brain health can be used to solve most brain related issues

Ari Whitten: Perfect. That’s a perfect segue to me asking you a question. So, we have this pyramid, the four sides of this pyramid. Structure, biochemistry, and then we have the emotional and spiritual component and psychological component, and then we also have the electrical sort of bioelectrical EMF component.

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: Right.

Ari Whitten: So just to be clear, this sort of paradigm this pyramid that you’ve created as a conceptual framework explains both root causes and the path to a solution. Correct?

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: Exactly. Exactly.

Ari Whitten: Okay. And pretty much all of the different brain conditions, whether we’re talking about autism or ADD or overt neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or whether we’re talking about brain related fatigue, pretty much all of that, and brain fog, pretty much all of that can be basically sort of seen through the lens of the four factors of this pyramid. Correct?

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: I believe it’s the most comprehensive lens by which to look so you don’t miss something. Every child, every child that they check… Back in the 1990s, every dog that they autopsied in Mexico City had evidence of the mechanisms of Alzheimer’s. Every dog. In the mid 2000s to the late 2000s, they had tests now for urine and blood tests. Every child that they check in Mexico City has evidence of the inflammation that triggers Alzheimer’s. Every single child.

Ari Whitten: What explains that?

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: The air pollution, it’s so bad. The particulate matter that they’re breathing in goes right through their nose, straight up to the brain, right through the lungs, straight up to the brain. It’s triggering the inflammation. We now know of the five main types of Alzheimer’s, the most common type Dr. Dale Bredesen, our friend at UCLA who has done so much great research on Alzheimer’s, says 60 to 65 percent of all clinical cases that come in are inhalation Alzheimer’s.

It’s what’s they are breathing that’s triggering the problem. So, we think we’re going to give them a drug? Two pharmaceutical industries have closed down, companies have closed down their Alzheimer research departments, and laid off the scientists. They said, “We’ve spent billions. We’re never going to find an answer. Let’s allocate our research somewhere else.”

Ari Whitten: While you have Dale Bredesen over there reversing it in nine out of 10 people.

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right. Because he talks about the 37 different factors that you have to look at. And it’s electromagnetic, it’s biochemical, it’s emotional, spiritual and it’s structural.

Ari Whitten: Well, yeah, I mean this is a fundamental issue of paradigm here. I mean, this is, you have a number, a group of people, you know, people within conventional medicine and the pharmaceutical industry that’s essentially trying to say what’s going on in Alzheimer’s? Let’s look at it under a microscope. Let’s analyze the blood, let’s, you know, do histological examinations and biochemical and gene analysis and find the specific mechanisms on the micro level that are going off, going wrong in Alzheimer’s relative to normal people.

And then we develop a specific compound. Which is going back to what you were talking about earlier, is this sort of one, you know, kind of single pronged one factor attempt to find a solution to a specific problem. Let’s develop a drug to fix Alzheimer’s. And that has been remarkably unsuccessful. And then you have Dale Bredesen over here doing this thing, which a lot of people in conventional medicine would think of as quackery, doing it with nutrition and lifestyle and successfully reversing Alzheimer’s.

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: Over a 100 cases now fully documented.


Why lifestyle and nutrition matters to our health and survival

Ari Whitten: Yeah, so you know, I mean I just think kind of this state of affairs and I think that the Alzheimer’s thing really encapsulates it so well that just the nutrition and lifestyle approach to treating chronic disease is just so vastly superior to the pharmaceutical approach.

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: I don’t think there is any other way to be successful with a vast majority of the people. Dr. Bredesen’s protocols are the go-to protocols to deal with any brain dysfunction. But it’s very geeky, very technical. And what this book has done, “You Can Fix Your Brain” is in general layman terms on a day to day basis just open the person’s mind.

What? Again, what? For example, you go to Starbucks or some coffee shop, you get your coffee and you’re walking out with it. The steam from the hot beverage rises up, it condenses on the underside of the lid. It drips back down into the coffee full of bisphenol A and the other phthalates, the category of chemicals that mold plastic. You put the coffee cup up to your lips and the hot beverage hits the entire underside of the lid, tapers down through the opening full of bisphenol A. So, you’re getting these phthalates.

They just published a study a few months ago. They took, I think it was, I’m sorry, I don’t remember if it was 230, 280 pregnant women, somewhere in that category. And they collected their urine and their blood, and they measured in the urine the level of two of these phthalates of these families of chemicals that mold plastic.

They measured two of them. And they put the results into, for all the women, into quarters. The lowest quarter, the middle quarter, the third quarter and the highest quarter. And they followed these offspring of these women for seven to 11 years.

And for the two chemicals that they checked, if women were in the highest quarter of concentration of these phthalates, this particular phthalate, there were two different ones in their urine. They were in the highest quarter, their offspring were six points, and in the second chemical, seven points lower IQ by seven years of age, every one of them, seven points lower IQ. And that’s substantial. And that’s because the child’s brain, theoretically, nobody knows for sure, but the assumption is their brain never developed properly because the phthalates affect brain development in utero.

When baby’s growing inside of mom. We know for example, if mom has bisphenol A in her bloodstream, it inhibits the laying down of myelin, that’s like the saran wrap over the areas of the brain called the hypothalamus. So, there’s less myelin, which means that brain is not going to develop quite right. Why do we have such an increase in autism now? Well, there are many factors, but the toxicity of this world is one of the big factors.

So, this concept of one symptom, one drug or one piece of nutrition or one diet is going to fix it. It can help temporarily, but you have to look at the whole picture now. It’s a very different planet than it was 10 years ago, 20 years ago. It’s very different. We’re at the stage now, and I say this often, we don’t have time to mess around anymore. I’ll tell you two studies. The World Wildlife Fund published a study about two and a half years ago that there has been on an average of 58 percent reduction in the population of everything on the planet with a spine, insects, birds, mammals, fish, everything except humans.

Fifty eight percent reduction across the board between 1970 and 2011 in 41 years. Forty-one years, 58. it was 35 percent for the birds. Seventy eight percent for mammals living near fresh water. Seventy eight percent of the beavers are gone. The porcupines, they’re gone, in 41 tears they’re gone. Seventy eight percent of them. Why? They’re drinking the water. And if you are drinking the water coming out of the streams or out of the rivers by your home, you get cancer quicker. You’d be unable to reproduce just like the animals. There’s no mystery as to why this is happening. They’re being poisoned. Second study, they did a meta-analysis. That’s when you look at a whole bunch of studies on one subject, and this is between 1974 and 2011, 37 years. So, the same timeframe, 37 years, 186 studies on sperm count in healthy men, not infertile men.

Healthy men like you, Ari, and your friends, your buddies. You know you’re a young guy, you know…

Ari Whitten: Now I’m afraid of what you’re going to tell me about my sperm count.

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: Yeah, you should be. It’s a 59 percent reduction across the board. Fifty nine percent in 37 years. It doesn’t mean anything to anyone. Until you read that scientists worry about extinction of a species at 72 percent. We’ve lost 59 percent in 37 years. That’s all the guys. Everyone. Why? Because these toxic chemicals that are called endocrine disruptors. They bind onto your estrogen and testosterone receptor sites. And when they bind onto those receptor sites inside your body, they alter testosterone function. They alter estrogen function. And you get, eventually you get the results that you’re just not functioning properly anymore. You’re just not making enough sperm.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. I’ve also, to add to what you’re saying, I’ve also seen another piece of research from, I forget which specific wildlife organization, but basically talking about how the incidence of hypospadias, of basic, and ambiguous genitalia has been skyrocketing across basically all animal species in the last few decades due to basically hormone disruptors in the environment.

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: That is exactly right. Yeah.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. So, this is a huge issue. So…

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: May I tell you one more?

Ari Whitten: Yeah, absolutely.

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: That’s for the guys, here it comes for the women. In the Nordic countries they did a study. It was supposed to be a six-month study. It went for two and a half years almost because there was so much information coming out and so polarizing. The pharmaceutical industry, the chemical industry is, “No, no, it’s not a problem,” and yet consumers are saying, “We’ve got a problem here.” And the topic was should we recommend women not breastfeed in a first pregnancy? This went for two and a half years, serious study, lots of discussion. Why?

Because people in the Nordic countries eat a lot of fish. The fish come from the fjords. The fjords are long and narrow and deep. The farmers have been using pesticides, insecticides for 40 years. The rain washes that stuff into the fjords. The fish have PCBs in them.

There is no study that shows that the PCBs in a fish that you eat from the fjords is going to be dangerous for you. There is no study like that. However, if a person doesn’t detox those chemicals, when they eat that fish, those chemicals accumulate in your body. And where do they accumulate?

They are endocrine disruptors, so they accumulate in the testosterone and estrogen receptor sites, i.e., women’s breasts. So now this 28, 30-year-old woman gets married, she gets pregnant, really happy. It’s a healthy pregnancy. Now here comes the delivery. It’s a healthy delivery, uneventful. And her brain has sent the message on, let’s make some milk here. Let’s feed this newborn that’s about to come out.

And so, the breasts start producing milk. They lactate. Well, where does the raw material come for the breast milk? From the fat cells of the breast. But where have these endocrine disrupting chemicals been being stored for the last 25 to 30 years? In the fat cells of the breast.

So, the breast milk, the first three days called colostrum. The colostrum is loaded with PCBs at very toxic levels to baby. This is no longer just a little bit in one fish. This is 25 to 30 years of accumulation. And they are endocrine disrupting brain deteriorating chemicals that are in the breast milk. Now, this is a wakeup call for everybody. This is not some far-fetched theory. This is going on right now.

Why do you think we have so many autistic kids? This is another piece of the puzzle for that, right? So, the end of the report said, “No, no, it’s more important to breastfeed than not.” And I personally agree with that with one caveat. All women of childbearing age need to take six months before they get pregnant and detox their breasts. Everyone needs, every woman needs to do that. If you want to have kids, you want to protect your future baby’s brain, and this is one of the critically important things to do is get that crud out of your body. And you don’t know you have it because you don’t feel sick. It just stores in there and it accumulates.

Ari Whitten: And are there any sort of breast detoxification specific strategies or is it we’re talking general detoxification strategies?

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: There are some strategies I’ve been talking about with my friends, so I can give you the checklist of things you need to do. The first thing is you have to look at your genetics as to where is your detox capabilities compromised, likely compromised because of your genes. And then you check to see, “Am I detoxing properly? Am I methylating well? Am I producing enough glutathione?” There’re some technical things to all that. But you just check to see if detox is working for you, and you’ll find the areas that are vulnerable or weak. Those areas you supplement a lot and then you have to have really good elimination. You have to make sure that you’re hydrating at least a half ounce per pound body weight every single day.

You must have the venue to get rid of this stuff as you start mobilizing it. And you have to have the nutrients in your system to break these chemicals down. Once you get them out of the fat cells and you start to mobilize them and then you do aerobic exercise. You wear a pulse monitor. You’re not going out there trying to, you know, kick butt. You’re just, you’re being aerobic so that you’re mobilizing fat. Hot yoga does that.

You know if you’re sweating or infrared saunas, there’s a number of ways of doing. But you want to mobilize fat, mobilize fat while you have enough of the nutrients that your body may be genetically vulnerable to not having enough of to break down these chemicals. Because when you start mobilizing fat, you don’t want these chemicals hanging out and then going up to your brain.

You want to get them out of your breast and out of your body. So, if you drink a half ounce of water per pound body weight, “But it’s a lot.” Yes, it is. “But I’ll be peeing all day.” That’s the idea. That’s the idea. You got to get this stuff out of there to protect your future baby’s brain. One last point, this world is so messed up now that Einstein said this, he’s attributed to saying this, “The problems we’ve created today cannot be solved with the same level of thinking that created the problem.”

We need to up our game. But as adults we are pretty locked in to the direction that we think and how we process information. We need the next generation thinking outside the box. So, we have to protect these future babies’ brains. That means mom, you got to do the grunt work now… Oh, I forgot. You also put castor oil packs on your chest three times a week for a half hour to mobilize this stuff and get it out of there. And so, mom, you need to do the grunt work to detox. You’re going to feel so much better just in general, but this is for your baby your future baby’s brain.


How your posture can help you fix your brain

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Excellent. So, I want to get back to your pyramid and I want to start at the base with structure. This is, you know, interestingly enough, just like two days ago, I was having, doing another podcast interview with another chiropractor who is a specialist in fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.

And I broached the topic of structure and posture and muscle balance and movement and that sort of thing. And I was actually very surprised that he kind of, he almost brushed it off like it was not that important which is very interesting to me because my older brother is a chiropractor. I’ve seen him do remarkable things with people with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome just by addressing the structure and the movement side of the equation.

So, and there’s also, one other person I’ll mention is Raymond Perrin, I don’t know if you’ve heard of him. He’s a chronic fatigue researcher out of the UK who originally kind of found this link between posture and a person’s structure and chronic fatigue syndrome. And then has kind of developed a method around that. And then kind of it evolved into him developing a theory that it’s specifically revolves around toxins stagnating in the lymph system and the glymphatic system of the brain. And he developed now a specific protocol of lymph drainage technique. And from what I can tell doesn’t emphasize structure anymore. But I personally am a big believer that structure is a big part of the equation. So, I would love to hear your take on this.

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: Yeah. If you herniate your disc in your low back, you get low back pain. You want the best orthopedic surgeon that does that specific surgery a couple times a day, every day doing your surgery. That’s his window. That’s what he does. He’s dialed that in. If you have a particular condition, you want to listen to the guy who does this every day. The compromise to that though, is that aside from the trauma, treatments for trauma like surgery, in general when we have a health condition, we need to make the decisions on our body. Which means we have to be able to ask questions and kind of get an overview, “Does this make sense or not?”

And when you read, “You Can Fix Your Brain,” you understand there’s a pyramid here. And sometimes it’s the electromagnetic that’s causing the problem. Sometimes. Sometimes it’s the structure that’s causing the problem. And for anyone to say that, “No biochemistry doesn’t matter. I’m just going to deal with emotions. You come sit on my couch and we’re going to process your childhood and that’s going to deal with your migraines.” Well, you know, it may be that there is a component there. But it also could be the person’s got a posture where their head is in front of their shoulders and their head is drooped down like this and they need to deal with posture…

Ari Whitten: Which is, of course, incredibly common nowadays given our technology addiction.

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: You know, you always want to be careful, aside from trauma, you always want to be careful when you’re dealing with a healthcare practitioner that bleeds, “It’s my way or the highway.” You just want to be cautious, always. And the whole concept behind “You Can Fix Your Brain” is to get the big picture of you. And there are so many of the little things in here that just drop your jaw again and again, like some of the bullets I’m giving you. That’s why the subtitle of the book, you’ve got the book there. What’s the subtitle?


You Can Fix Your Brain – Just 1 Hour A Week For Optimal Health, Energy, Memory, And More

Ari Whitten: The subtitle is, “Just one hour a week to the best memory, productivity and sleep you’ve ever had.”

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: Exactly. That’s not a cutesy little phrase, you know, with some big claim. It’s the way that you get successful is that every Tuesday night after dinner, every Sunday morning after church, whenever it is, you’re going to spend an hour and you’re going to learn a little more about your condition, whatever it is. And for example, when you read that the phthalates in plastic Tupperware containers, any plastic containers leach phthalates into the food.

You stop using plastic containers to store your food and you stop using plastic wrap on your food. Well, what does that mean? Well, it means you got to go to… In the book I talk about or go to and you’re going to look for glass containers. “Well, let’s see. I’m going to need four round ones. I need a couple square ones. Different sizes. Yeah. Sometimes there’s like lasagna leftover. It’s bigger so I need a big one, you know.” And it’s going to take you an hour. Then you’re done for the week.

That’s the one hour a week. Next week you’re going to do one more thing and in six months you’ve got this. You’ve got this nailed where you’ve implemented the lifestyle changes that have you in the direction of really dealing with whatever the health concern is that you have.

Ari Whitten: “But Dr. Tom, that sounds way too difficult. I just want to have one thing like a pill that I get to pop right now that will be the solution and then I don’t want to have to ever think about this again.” And obviously I am saying this sarcastically but, of course, we know that that kind of thinking, not so much the people listening to this podcast, but it’s way too prevalent in the general public.

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: That is… That’s exactly right. That’s the tattoo for millennials today. I want it all and I want it now. I want it now, like this. You aren’t going to get it now, you’ll be one of those statistics. You won’t be able to have kids because you’re infertile. Or your kids are going to be autistic, and that means for the rest of their life, right? This is a wakeup call. This is really a wakeup call as to where we are in our history right now.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. So, in terms of specifics on this structure point, do you have any specific practical recommendations of how people should address their structure?

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: You bet. You bet. The first thing, find a good chiropractor. We all need a good chiropractor. We all do, whether you have back pain or not, because our structure is not designed to sit in chairs and car seats. And with, you want to see how bad your spine is? Get in your car.

Before you start the car, get comfortable, put your hands on the wheel, adjust the rear-view mirror so that the top line of the rear-view mirror aligns with the top line of the rear window. So, it’s just aligned perfectly right? Then start your car and drive away. Go do your day, whatever you’re doing. At the end of the day when you’re getting into your car to go back home, don’t turn the car on. Look at the mirror. Oh, you have to adjust the mirror.

And if you have to adjust the mirror, your spine has shrunk during the day. And you have to adjust the mirror to the top line of the mirror, top line of the back window. That’s how you know that your discs are not hydrated very well. That’s a long-term mechanism that’s been going on, but that’s a wakeup call when you see that.

And when you start doing mechanical care to get mobility and flexibility and you start doing the little things, they’re in the book. Like most of us drive our cars with our car seat leaning back and we’re like this. I’m exaggerating so you could visualize it. So, what you do on the first of every month, you click your car seat one click up. Just a little bit every month or else it gets too much of a strain on the muscles of your back. And the next month a little bit more.

And the next month, a little bit more. And the next month, a little bit more. And within five, six months you’re sitting more straight and you’ve seen a chiropractor, you’ve gotten a massage every once in a while, you’re more flexible. Now you’re checking your mirror and at the end of the day you go, “Yes, it’s the same.” You know, it’s the same. That means your spine is more pliable, more flexible. You have a younger spine. Everyone needs mechanical care. Everyone does because of the chairs we sit in, they’re not designed for humans.

It’s what we were born and raised in. But we’re supposed to squat. Our posture is designed to squat or to sit on our knees the way they do in Japan. That’s what the physical structure is designed for. Doesn’t mean you have to do that. But, you know, we’re all going to sit in chairs and sofas and things and car seats. But you have to accommodate the stress that that causes.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Also, movement I think relates to this and I know you kind of touched on that a little bit there. But, you know, the pumping action that is created around the spinal discs just from moving your body also helps kind of pump fluid back into those discs. So, somebody who’s sitting all day long is going to notice that effect more.

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. There is no blood going into the disc after the age of 26, 28, the blood vessels dry up. The only way you get blood into the disc to keep them mobile is that the plate of the bone above and the plate, the top of the bone below, when they move, they squirt a drop of blood. They hydrate that way. It’s a hydraulic system. There’re no more blood vessels going into the disc. So, if you aren’t moving and if your joints aren’t moving, if you don’t have good range of motion, when you turn your head to the side, if you like… Here’s the bathroom mirror, right? I’m looking at the bathroom mirror right now. You go straight 90 degrees to the bathroom mirror.

Make sure your shoulders are 90 degrees. And then you turn your head. If this is as far as you can turn your head… My eyes can see 90 degrees, but that’ll fool you. You have to look at the tip of your nose. When you look at the tip of your nose you see that I’m looking over here, I’m not looking…

Ari Whitten: And just for people listening who can’t see this, he’s looking like his head is not turned all the way to the side and basically, it’s more like a 45-degree angle relative to the mirror.

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: Thank you. Yes, but my eyes are looking 90, so I think I’m fine. So, you look at the tip of your nose and you see, “Wow, I’m only turning 45 degrees.” And you’re really supposed to be able to turn your head directly over your shoulders. That’s just an easy little screen. Do you have normal mobility? That’s not excellent mobility. That’s normal. That’s how it’s supposed to be. So, there’s lots of little things like that that you can do.


How EMFs affect your brain

Ari Whitten: Yeah. I would love to dig deeper on this topic with you, but there’s a whole bunch of stuff on my list here that I would love to cover with you and I know we’ve only scratched the surface of what you have. I want, there’s some controversial aspects of what you do or what you recommend. So, I want to talk to you about some dietary stuff, you know, grains and gluten and lectins and stuff like that that, you know, a lot of that stuff is controversial.

But EMFs is one of your sides of the pyramid. That’s another controversial area where, you know, we have kind of a lot of people in the natural health community who are really going on and on about how important EMFs are as a factor. And even some people, you know, like I can think of Dr. Jack Kruse, for example. He’s a little out there, but he really considers nonnative EMFs, or manmade EMFs to be the primary driver of chronic disease.

Then we have a lot of people, you know, in this sort of skeptics’ communities, more mainstream communities. And to be fair, there’s quite a bit of evidence also supporting the idea that these things are perfectly safe and non-harmful. So, we have kind of this mixed bag of evidence of some studies suggesting its harmful, other studies suggesting no harm. So, what has led you to conclude that EMFs are a very big factor that we should be concerned about?

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: Well, good question. Really good question. They are a component. For some people they are the primary component triggering whatever their health concern is. For others, they are a fueling component. And for others, they are no problem at all. It just depends on the individual. So, it’s dangerous to always think it’s all or every.

There’s only a couple of things that are all in every. But when you read the science it is really clear. Everyone has a problem with wheat, whether they know it or not. Just read the science. There’s no controversy if you read the science. When that topic of disagreements come up, I go back to, I’ve got a slide that’s a cartoon from the 1950s.

And in the background is a nuclear bomb going off. And then there’s a couple sitting on their porch and they’re looking off in the distance to the nuclear bomb, the mushroom way out there. And they’re sitting on the porch reading the paper, and the headline of the paper says, “Government Study Says Nuclear Bombs Are Safe.” Right?

And then the next cartoon is from the 1980s when it was BGH, bovine growth hormone is safe, right? And so, the industry tries to sneak around ways of diffusing any concern. They always do that. And that’s the same with the cell phone, the electromagnetic field right now. Just last night I was at an event with Dr. Gilles Seralini, who is the French scientist who identified Roundup is a huge problem.

What he identified a number of years ago was that Monsanto said Roundup is perfectly safe. It doesn’t harm humans. No, I’m sorry, they said, glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate does not harm humans. And there’s no study that shows that it harms humans.

It harms the microbiome seriously, but that’s not human tissue. And so that’s how they get away with that. But it’s the, 46 percent of Roundup is glyphosate and 56 percent is listed as inert ingredients. And so, nobody checks the inert ingredients, they are inert. And the government regulators just let that stuff slide.

But it was Seralini’s lab that found out the inert ingredients are highly carcinogenic. There is lots of toxic compounds in those chemicals that make up more than half of Roundup. And so…

Ari Whitten: Wasn’t it, to my knowledge, correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t he attacked. Monsanto kind of went after him and attacked his research.

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: Aggressively, aggressively, and it’s been years. There’ve been seven lawsuits. He’s won every lawsuit because the judge finally said, he just throws Monsanto’s lawyers out. And…

Ari Whitten: Good for him.

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: So, the story that there were 18 lawyers for Monsanto. And then Dr. Seralini and his one lawyer. You know, you’re up against an army over there. But they’re trying because it’s a billion-dollar industry for them.

So that’s true with electromagnetics right now in that they’re saying there’s no evidence there’s any harm. It’s the accumulation of the amount of toxic input that our bodies are getting. For some people, electromagnetics, they’ve got good resilience against electromagnetics. Some people don’t and they’re the canaries in the coal mine.

The yellow canaries in the coal mine. For them electromagnetics is critically important. You know, it was 25 years ago that it would take a room twice the size of the room I’m in, so about 40 by 40, floor to ceiling computers to have the computing power of this phone, right? And anyone 25 years ago could never have imagined that this was possible.

You walk around, and, in your hand, you’d have this thing. But this thing secretes electromagnetic pollution. And for some people it, you don’t hold a battery next to your brain. There’re too many studies that show it may be a problem for some people. Every one of you listening should have an electromagnetic case on your phone.

Now I drive an Acura and as I walk up to the Acura with the keys in my hand, the lights by the door handle turn on soft light, so at nighttime I can see where I am, and the interior dome light goes on as I get close to the car. The key sends a message, right? But if I’m holding the key in the same hand as my phone, which has a Pong case on it…

Ari Whitten: P-O-N-G?

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: P-o-n-g. It doesn’t work. The lights don’t turn on and I have to take the keys out of the hand with my phone and then it works just fine. This case now there may be better cases, I don’t know, but I know the Pong works because it doesn’t turn on the lights in my car.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, that’s the reason I was curious about the spelling of the specific brand you’re using because, yeah, I’ve heard mixed stuff around this. But I’ve heard from people saying that if you do get one of these cases and it actually is effective than your phone won’t actually function.

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: My phone works fine. And I’ve used a Pong, oh gosh, it must be six years now, six, seven years. Every time I upgrade the phone, I just get a new one.

Ari Whitten: Okay.

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: You know, I can trash that argument right away.

Ari Whitten: Have you tested the EMF emission of it with an actual EMF tester?

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: I have not. And I will. I’ll buy a tester soon. I just haven’t got around to buying one, but the lights don’t turn on my car.

Ari Whitten: Okay.

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: Bottom line, the lights don’t turn on.

Ari Whitten: Got you. It’s blocking something at the very least.

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: It’s blocking something, right? I mean there might be some that are better. I’m not saying this is the best, but I’m saying we all should have something just to reduce the assault on our brain and our electromagnetic system. We are electrical beings. And when you, when you throw your electrical radiance out of balance, when you lose your Schumann waves, Schumann waves, 7.83 megahertz. It’s what protects planet earth from the radiation out there.

Humans have Schumann wave brain patterns, 7.83. And when you don’t have enough Schumann waves you get anxiety, you get depression, you get brain dysfunction because your electromagnetics are out of balance, right? We’re electromagnetic beings. And that’s a component of what we have to get some balance to.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. So, like rapid fire, in addition to the case on the phone, do you have maybe two other strategies that you know, just quick tips for people as far as reducing EMF exposure?

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: Oh, absolutely. Turn the wireless off at night. Who needs wireless on when you’re sleeping? You know, turn it off. “Ohh, it’s a pain in the butt.” Well, we’ll put that on your tombstone, right? So, turn the wireless off. And second, get anything electrical that doesn’t have to be in your bedroom, out of your bedroom. That’s where you spend six, seven, eight hours a night, a day, every day. Have that be as electromagnetic free as possible.


How diet affects your brain

Ari Whitten: Nice. So, I want to get into not the whole biochemistry side of the pyramid because that, I’m sure we could talk about that for 10 hours by itself. But specifically, some of the dietary stuff for brain health. I want to make sure that we cover some of these controversial things that I mentioned, and I know we’re somewhat limited for time now.

I appreciate that you don’t have a hard cutoff right now, too, but I won’t take advantage of you too much here and keep you too long. But hopefully we can cover this relatively quick. So, lectins and gluten grains and dairy. So real quick, sort of in a rapid fire way, I know that these are very nuanced, complex topics, but what would you say to skeptics of people who, you know, don’t support Dr. Gundry’s theories around lectins being harmful, for example, or say that there just isn’t much evidence to support the idea that gluten and grains are driving autoimmune disease. So, what do you feel are the strongest arguments to support that lectins are toxic, or grains are?

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: Mrs. Patient, your immune system is the armed forces of your body, army, air force, marines, coast guard, navy. It’s there to protect you. If your immune system is called out and says, “We’ve got a problem here with these lectins,” you’ve got a problem. That doesn’t happen out of the blue. There’re no such thing as normal, elevated antibodies. It’s never normal to have elevated antibodies. If your immune system is fighting something, there’s a reason why it’s fighting, and you have to pay attention to that. And there are new tests that just came on the market recently. It’s so cool. I’ll go to wheat first and then I’ll come back to lectins. That in the world of wheat sensitivity the problem has always been, but there are multiple components of wheat that may trigger an immune response. But the laboratories, every laboratory in the world checks one, it’s called alpha gliadin and that’s all they check.

Some labs will check two. They also check deamidated gliadin, but that’s all they check. But there’s at least 62 different components of wheat that may trigger an immune response. And so, if your immune system is fighting gluteomorphins, a component in wheat, but you’re only checking alpha gliadin, alpha gliadin comes back normal.

But you’ve got elevated antibodies to gluteomorphins when you eat wheat, it’s directly going to affect your brain because it hits the opiate receptors in your brain. That’s why they’re called morphine, like morphine. And so, you’re going to impact brain function with that sensitivity that you’ve got. But you’d never know that because your doctor only did the tests that looked at one component of wheat. January of 2016 Mayo Clinic came out with a study. And this is from Dr. Joe Murray and his lab. He’s one of the top researchers in the world on celiac.

There are four horsemen in celiac. I call them the four horsemen. He’s one of them. And he’s the only one that doesn’t have any pharmaceutical affiliations. He is as pure a geek scientist as you could want, wears a bow tie, leather patches on the elbows of his sport coat, horn rimmed glasses. Just a wonderful guy. Just classic geek of geeks. His team published a study.

There’s a new era in laboratory medicine and there’s technology now. Just like we talked about with the cell phones that what’s in your hand now took a room, a 40 by 40 room 25 years ago. The same is true in laboratory medicine and there’s a technology called silicone chip technology where they can look at 6,000 different antigens, things that stimulate an immune response, in one blood draw, 6,000. So, they came out with a test using this technology called the Wheat Zoomer and the Wheat Zoomer looks at 26 different peptides of poorly digested wheat, 26.

Plus it looks at intestinal permeability and it has a 97 to 99 percent accuracy every single time. There’s never been a lab tests that had that kind of sensitivity and specificity before, but it’s a new era in technology. They’re remarkable. I tell you this because there is now the Lectin Zoomer that’s come out that looks at, I haven’t counted, 25 or 30 different lectins. If your immune system is fighting lectins, you got a problem with lectins. You need to read the “Plant Paradox.” But if your immune system comes back with this technology tests and says there’s no problem with lectins, you don’t have a problem with lectins as far as we can tell. So, I disagree with Dr. Sinatra that every person needs to avoid lectins. I fully agree with him that everyone has to check.

Ari Whitten: So, did you mean to say Dr. Sinatra or Dr. Gundry?

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: Gundry. Excuse me. I get both steeds confused sometimes. Thank you. So, I think that everyone needs to check if they have a food sensitivity to lectins and if you do, you can’t argue, body language never lies. If your immune system with this most comprehensive test… You can find out about the tests at, They’re all there. But if your immune system says you got a problem, you got a problem.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, I think that’s a nice nuanced and evidence-based approach to answering that apparent dichotomy and controversy there. There’s also, you know, kind of the issue of how common… Well, I guess there’s a few issues here, but how common this is happening, you know. With Dr. Gundry’s approach, he’s making the case that these things are causing so many different diseases, but then you actually go into the literature and you look at a lot of the foods that are supposedly high in lectins and you go, is this food associated with disease and accelerated aging?

You know, for example, tomatoes. We can just take that, and you know pretty much every place you look, you find that in general, the research supports the idea that tomatoes are protective against various diseases, protective against neurological diseases. Now that certainly doesn’t mean that in certain cases somebody may be reactive to them and they may be harmful. But I just don’t think it’s supportable that you could say these are universally harmful to everyone when the science is just clearly showing that they’re not.

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: I fully agree with you. I completely agree. The way to look at this and with the technology that we have today, and of course different types of tomatoes are on the Lectin Zoomer profile. You can find out if your immune system is fighting, if your immune system is activated against tomatoes, do not eat tomatoes because it’s causing more inflammation for you. And inflammation is the driver to every degenerative disease.


The problem with gluten

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Yeah. Excellent. So, based… how common do you think it is for people to have a problem with wheat and gluten or various compounds in wheat?

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: It’s 100 percent. The studies are very clear. I’ve got five studies, five different studies on this. Every human gets intestinal permeability every time wheat comes out of the stomach into the small intestine, every person, every time. But Mrs. Patient, you have an entire new body every seven years. Every cell in your body regenerates, the inside lining of your gut is the fastest, every three to five days. Some cells are very slow, like bone cells and brain cells, but every cell regenerates. So, you have toast for breakfast. You tear the lining of your gut, but it heals. So, you’re fine. You don’t feel anything. You have a sandwich for lunch, you tear the lining of the gut and it heals. Pasta for dinner. You tear the lining of the gut, it heals. Croutons on your salad. You take thyroid medication that’s got wheat in it, or some of your vitamins or your probiotics have wheat in them.

You tear the lining of the gut, but it heals until one day you don’t heal anymore, and that’s called loss of oral tolerance. When you lose oral tolerance, there are many reasons why that happens, but when you, and that’s all in the “Autoimmune Fix,” my first book. When you lose oral tolerance, now you get pathogenic intestinal permeability, which we call the leaky gut. And now these larger molecules get through the tears in the cheese cloth into the bloodstream.

And these macromolecules, your immune system fights these macromolecules trying to protect you like lectins or something. It might be fighting lectins if the macromolecule of tomato got in and your immune system makes antibodies to tomatoes because of that. It’s just trying to protect you and then because of molecular mimicry and there’s seven reasons, but now you run the risk of developing autoimmune diseases.

Because your immune system, trying to protect you from the macromolecules getting through the tears in the lining of the gut into the bloodstream, create your cross reactivity and you attack your brain, or you attack your joints, or you attack your skin.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Now, just a couple specific points on that. First of all is that gut permeability, do you feel that’s the most common driving factor for why food intolerances develop and why so many people develop more and more food intolerances to such a wide array of different things? It’s just because you’re getting these macromolecules leaking into the bloodstream and then the immune system is now fighting it. Now you become intolerant to the food.

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: That’s a really good question and that’s exactly what happens. I mean, it’s a given in functional medicine practice, when you do a 90-food panel for someone, they come back sensitive to 20, 25 different foods. Then, “Oh my god, that’s everything I eat.” Well, of course it is. Your immune system’s trying to protect you. You’ve got a leaky gut. We need to heal your gut. Wait three to six months and check again and then you’ll have one food, maybe two that you have to stay away from. Yeah, yeah. That’s a very commonly accepted mechanism. Lots of research on that.


Why not all types of gut permeability are inherently bad

Ari Whitten: Got you. And I want to play devil’s advocate on one point regarding kind of the stimulus of the gut permeability. Exercise itself, like just doing a workout, for example aerobic exercise, whatever kind of workout, creates a transient gut permeability.

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: Correct.

Ari Whitten: So, given that and given that we know exercise is so strongly associated with such a wide array of health benefits, how much stock can we put in sort of that mechanism of action being so critical. And I’m asking this question, but I do agree that probably just the frequency at which you do it. If you’re doing it chronically, every day, multiple times a day, it’s probably a problem. Even if it’s from exercise.

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: Well, there’s a difference between endurance athletes who are pounding the pavement and just beating themselves up and people who are doing aerobic exercise, 30, 40 minutes, three, four days a week. There is a huge world of difference. And the intestinal permeability that comes from exercise is transient, as you said, it’s transient and you heal. You heal immediately unless there are so many factors coming in causing a tearing of the lining of your gut.

Exercise is one more in there and then you got a problem and then you have a huge problem. It’s not the exercise, it’s the environment in the gut and here’s the pearl. You have to rebuild the microbiome and when you rebuild the microbiome exercise is not a problem anymore. Caveat, the endurance people. That’s a whole other… you’re doing hundred-mile runs, trainings and all that. That’s a whole other world. You’re going to pay the piper when you do that.

Ari Whitten: Definitely. Well there is still a pretty long list of stuff that I would love to have covered with you and maybe I can have you on again at some point. I’ve really enjoyed this conversation. I have one final question for you, which is what are the top three or four tips that you want to leave people with, or practical recommendations for improving their brain health? And I would also, since we didn’t sort of cover the positive side of food, of maybe like brain health boosting foods, can, I would like to request that one of the four be maybe a mention of a few specific foods that you like for boosting brain health?

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: Sure, of course. First one, half ounce of water per pound body weight. Critically important for every system of your body, including your brain. Got to be able to flush out toxins, get them out of there, have the highway running smoothly. So, when you’re dehydrated, everything’s sluggish and backed up. It’s like you’re doing a 30-minute drive, but it’s bumper to bumper traffic, it takes you two hours.

That’s what happens when you’re dehydrated inside your body. Second one, eat the colors of the rainbow every day. Five different colors every day, some blueberries, some orange carrots, some red tomatoes, some green broccoli, some purple cabbage, every day, five colors of the rainbow. Every day. Third one, and this is a real pearl, go to It’s in both of my books, VitalChoice. They have the highest quality wild seafood commercially available that I’ve ever found.

The president of the company is a friend. He was a salmon fisherman for 20 years and put four families together to bring this food out to the world and they have a particular type of tuna fish. And most of us don’t eat tuna fish much anymore because we all know that it’s high in mercury. All the tuna is high in mercury except for this one because Randy, my friend, figured it out that salmon fisherman always catch tuna in their nets, you know. And usually the baby tuna hang out with the salmon for some reason, don’t know. And they throw the baby tuna way. There’s nothing they can do with it. So, Randy said, “You know, I’ll take, let’s take the baby tuna.” And so, he takes, he cuts the belly of the baby tuna and cans it. It’s called Ventresca.

And because the baby tuna hasn’t had enough time to eat big fish, bigger fish, because tuna eat… Tuna is a big fish, it eats, tuna eat the middle-sized fish that are concentrated with mercury. So, tuna get more mercury per gram of meat. But the baby tuna hasn’t eaten big fish yet. They’re still eating plankton and whatever else they’re eating. Right? So, the baby tuna is mercury free. They can’t say no mercury. Some competitors filed a lawsuit because if you do spectroscopy, you’ll find some mercury in there, but it’s not measurable. Right? So, you get cans of Ventresca, v-e-n-t-r-e-s-c-a, Ventresca at One can of Ventresca has 7,000 milligrams of omega 3s.

Ari Whitten: Nice.

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: That’s enough brain food for your child for a week. Make them a tuna fish sandwich. He’s got enough brain food for the week. So that’s just, it’s a pearl. That’s just a pearl. My jaw dropped when I learned that.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, that’s fascinating. I’ve never heard that before.

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: Yeah. Another one, from VitalChoice is the salmon roe, the salmon eggs. Infants love salmon roe.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. I can attest to that very much from my own personal experience. I have a two-year-old son and we’ve been feeding him the salmon eggs, the ikura from VitalChoice since he started eating when he was about six months old.

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: Marvelous. It’s great food for them. Great brain food. It’s got the omega 3s plus a few other fats in there that are just great for them. It’s got the astaxanthin, the polyphenols, it’s great, great brain food.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, there was actually just a study that came out maybe two or three days ago showing that people with the APOE4 genotype that are predisposed to Alzheimer’s were… They found that omega 3s in the phospholipid form, like you’d get them sort of with astaxanthin and with the phospholipids, like in the salmon roe was uniquely beneficial in supporting brain health and brain uptake of the omega 3s.

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: Oh, marvelous. Marvelous. Glad to hear that. I wasn’t familiar with that one. Yes. So, a few things increase your water, rainbow – five colors a day, salmon roe, and Ventresca.

Ari Whitten: I love it. Well, thank you so much Dr. Tom, this has been an absolute pleasure. I’ve really enjoyed talking to you and having you on the show for this podcast and you’re a wealth of wisdom. I hope that I can have you on again at some point and we can tap into some of the other many aspects of the four sides of the pyramid. In the meantime, I would recommend to everybody listening in who cares about their brain.

And whether you have brain fog or whether you have brain related fatigue, or you just care about protecting your brain from Alzheimer’s and dementia, which everybody should, get this book, “You Can Fix Your Brain.” Also, I think you mentioned, Dr. Tom, that you have a freebie that you want to give away. We can set that up at a link on the… We’ll set it up at And what, do you want to tell people about what that freebie is?

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: You bet, you bet. It’s one of my pantry essentials. It’s the anti-inflammatory brain boosting staples. It should be in your kitchen, from herbs and spices to nuts and seeds, proteins, beverages, fermented foods, dark colored fruits, cruciferous vegetables, and a bunch of other things. So, I put this list together for you and you can download it at the link that you’ll have for them

Ari Whitten: Yeah, so So, Dr. Tom, thank you so much again. It was an honor, a privilege and I hope I can have this conversation or have another future conversation, an extension of this one in the future with you and have a wonderful rest of your day.

Dr. Tom O’Bryan: Thanks, Ari. I would just say to all of your listeners, this is a critical concept for you guys, for you and your children and your future children to just learn some basics, how to take a step back. So, thank you for the opportunity to talk.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, really a pleasure. Take care of Dr. Tom.


You Can Fix Your Brain (Just 1 Hour A Week For Optimal Health, Energy, Memory, And More) With Dr. Tom O’Bryan – Show Notes

What “You Can Fix Your Brain” really means (1:17)
How the 4 pillars in the pyramid of brain health can be used to solve most brain-related issues (11:35)
Why lifestyle and nutrition matters to our health and survival (15:39)
How your posture can help you fix your brain (28:37)
You Can Fix Your Brain – Just 1 Hour A Week For Optimal Health, Energy, Memory, And More (32:29)
How EMFs affect your brain (39:33)
How diet affects your brain (48:53)
The problem with gluten (56:20)
Why not all types of gut permeability are inherently bad (59:42)


Get Dr. Tom O’Bryan’s book “You Can Fix Your Brain” HERE

Download the FREE pantry list of staples your pantry should have to boost brain health

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If you want to know more about brain optimization, listen to the podcast with Dr. Datis Kharrazian
How-to-Detox-Your-Body-with-Real-Science-instead-of-pseudoscience-with-Dr-Bryan-Walsh │ You Can Fix Your Brain with Dr.Tom O'Bryan
One of the ways you can fix your brain is by detoxing.
Listen in to the podcast with Dr. Bryan Walsh on how to detox your body using real science.

What Sabotages Healthy Lifestyle Habits and How to Become Unstoppable In Achieving Your Health Goals with Dr. Susan Pierce Thompson, Ph.D.

What Sabotages Healthy Lifestyle Habits and How to Become Unstoppable In Achieving Your Health Goals with Dr. Susan Pierce Thompson Ph.D.Have you ever tried implementing healthy lifestyle habits (such as changing your diet to lose weight, starting an exercise regimen, or beginning a daily meditation practice), only to find yourself right back where you started with your old habits within a few weeks or months? Healthy habits do no good if you can’t actually stick with them. So what’s the secret key to success with healthy habits, and how do you avoid the seemingly inevitable backslide into your old ingrained habits? That is the subject of Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson’s new program, “Reboot Rezoom”.


In this episode, I’m speaking with Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, who is an adjunct associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester. She’s president of the Institute for Sustainable Weight Loss and founder and CEO of Bright Line Eating Solutions, a company dedicated to helping people achieve the vibrant health that accompanies permanent weight loss.

In this episode, Dr. Thompson shares the key principles of how to make new healthy habits STICK (the basis of her new program “Reboot Rezoom”) which helps people pick themselves up after breaking their new healthy habits and get back on track, and helps them avoid getting off track in the first place.

In this podcast, Dr. Thompson will cover

  • The key to healthy lifestyle habits and sustainable weight loss (it is not what you think!)
  • Why Reboot Rezoom can help you achieve your goals
  • What is Bright Line Eating?
  • How to get back on track with your healthy diet and lifestyle habits when life gets in the way
  • The personality traits of people who are successful in implementing long-term diet and lifestyle change (and how you can become successful too)

HOW TO GET FREE ACCESS TO HER NEW REBOOT REZOOM TRAINING: If you’re interested in losing weight or the secrets of how to make healthy habits STICK, make sure to also go sign up for Dr. Thompson’s FREE training on this that is available for the next 10 days. You can get free access HERE.

Download or listen on iTunes

Download the right way to breathe for increase performance and energy on iTunes

Listen outside iTunes


What Sabotages Healthy Lifestyle Habits and How to Become Unstoppable In Achieving Your Health Goals with Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D. – Transcript

Ari Whitten: Everyone. Welcome back to The Energy Blueprint Podcast. I’m your host, Ari Whitten, and today, I have with me my good friend, Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, who is an adjunct associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester, New York Times bestselling author, and she specializes in the psychology and neuroscience of weight loss, willpower, and food addiction.

She’s president of the Institute for Sustainable Weight Loss and founder and CEO of Bright Line Eating solutions, a company dedicated to helping people achieve the vibrant health that accompanies permanent weight loss. She and her team are on a mission to help 1 million people get into a right size body by 2030. So welcome to the show.

Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: Thanks, Ari. So good to be here with you.

Ari Whitten: I’m going to call you Susan instead of Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson because that just sounds a little, a little overwhelming given that we’re good friends for going on almost three years now.

Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: Yes.

Ari Whitten: And, we have had some beautiful discussions over the years, and we’ve become good friends, and this is the second time I’m now having you on the podcast and it’s really a pleasure to reconnect with you and share your wisdom with my audience yet again,

Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: It’s so good to be here, Ari, and you are, I say it to you all the time, but I will say it again. You’re my favorite person to talk about the science of health and weight loss and fat loss and energy and everything… because, yeah… there’s no one whose mind I respect more.


What is Bright Line Eating?

Ari Whitten: Thank you so much. I appreciate that. And the feeling is very mutual.

So, weight loss and your new program Reboot Rezoom. So, I guess let’s step back. So, for people who are unfamiliar with you, let’s talk a bit about what you do with Bright Line Eating and kind of a general overview of that first. And then I want to get into your latest work and the latest stuff that you’ve been coming out with — your new program that you’re releasing called Reboot Rezoom. And I want to talk about all the details and the science around that. But talk first a bit about your background with Bright Line Eating for those in my audience that are not familiar with who you are and what you do.

Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: Yeah. So, I think a lot of us who do this kind of online thing we have a personal story that leads us to kind of show up with a particular message and mine is really about addiction. And then like in particular food addiction, I struggled with my weight and my food for most of my life. I was overweight as a teen and the only way I knew how to manage that was with drugs, which was not the most elegant solution. Crystal Meth, crack, cocaine, get you thin, but not well.

Then I got clean and sober when I was 20 and then the food addiction just swooped right in and engulfed me. And I was obese by my mid-twenties and binge eating disorder and just like just hooked on that cycle of like trying to lose weight and then falling off the wagon, trying to lose weight, falling off the wagon.

And in those cycles through my twenties, my weight just climbed, in every, like few months or a year, seeing it reach another sort of 10-pound increments. Okay. Now I’m at this desk, this is like up and up and up. And when I was 28, I fell in with a community of people in a 12 step food programs that were like really specific with their food and I lost all my excess weight. And I’ve been in a right size body now for over 15 years. Which res, the odds of someone who’s obese, rocking, skinny jeans for over 15 years. It’s just, it doesn’t happen, right? The odds are really, really slim. No pun intended.

But then I have this academic path too, right. Like I got clean and sober when I was 20 and I just went back to school and I just dove in and I started studying the brain and the mind and neuroscience and psychology and got really interested in how the brain works and why a brain like mine can go so far off the rails, right?

Like I’m really addictable and I was kinda curious about the science of what that’s about. And I got my PhD in brain and cognitive sciences became a tenured psychology professor, started teaching a college course on the psychology of eating and the neuroscience of food addiction. And then in 2014 those worlds kind of collided. They met. And I don’t want to sound freakish or whatever… But I got a message in my morning meditation to write a book called Bright Line Eating. It was the weirdest thing, like in language, like, right. I’d never even heard those words, Bright Line Eating. But so, I started out to try to write that book and that the Bright Line Eating movement has grown out of that and we help people who struggle with their food and their weight to get all the way slender, like really down into goal weight, they’re right sized body, they self-chosen, right size body and then stay there long term.

And we really, really invested in people’s longevity with that. Like how do you stay there? Everyone can lose a few pounds. That’s not the issue, right? How do you stay there? And my latest course really sort of picks up with, I think what’s a missing piece of that puzzle of longevity, right? Like I’m living in a right size body lifelong. I’ve been doing it now for over 15 years and we got people in my community. Bright Line Eating is four years old now. We’ve got people who’ve been living in right sized bodies for three and a half years now with Bright Line Eating. And I hope that jet flying overhead isn’t too loud for you. But anyway, that’s, that’s kind of the backstory.

Ari Whitten: So, I wanted it for people who are not familiar with this term and maybe people are wondering what bright lines or what does that mean and what is Bright Line Eating mean, in that context?

Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: Yeah. So bright lines are a legal term originally. If you Wikipedia a bright line rule, what comes up is that it’s a legal standard that you apply this, this rule every time to produce consistent, reliable results. And psychologists co-opted that term several years ago and started applying it in like sort of situations of willpower depletion, or temptation, right? Like if you’re going to be the designated driver at a party, you’ll be way better off if you have a bright line for alcohol, which means a clear boundary, you’re not going to cross. I’m not going to drink it all tonight as opposed to not a bright line, which is, boy, I’m going to make sure to drink moderately tonight. Which, you never really know which side of that line you’re on, you know.

So, what I’ve sort of been teaching and through my own research, the more, the more susceptible to addiction you are, and people really differ, there’s a continuum of susceptibility to addiction.

The more susceptible to addiction you are, the more likely bright line rules are gonna be really helpful for you. Right? Like you can picture the three pack a day smoker, the nicotine moderation program might not work that well for them. They might really need to quit smoking, like just n zero tolerance policy ever for cigarettes and our society accepts that really readily. But our society is less quick to accept like a no sugar policy for example, where for some of us that’s really the best approach. Like the one experiment bonds is about as bad as the one cigarette experiment. Like it’s just I got no business. I’m dabbling in the one cookie experiment. So…

Ari Whitten: I have to say on a personal note, this, this has been an area of my own education in the context of becoming friends with you and learning more about your work because, initially our relationship got off to a rocky start because I had some, some, I think we both had some, some hesitance to accept it, to accept some of the other person’s kind of views on certain things when it came to a sustainable fat loss.

And one of the areas that I was coming at it from was sort of a everything in moderation. And we need, we need to avoid demonizing certain foods and having very strict, rules against eating this or that because that can kind of potentially backfire. And you can get people who become orthorexic and eating disordered or who just kind of, they fall off the wagon and then kind of get wrapped up in this, sort of negative thought cycle of I can’t do this.

This doesn’t work for me. And I, because of that, my approach, trying to avoid those outcomes was everything in moderation and you basically told me, and I’ve seen now because I have about a probably a thousand or so members of, of people who are in my program who have gone through my program, who have also come from your program. So, I’ve seen amazing levels of success with people following your program and you have an amazing group of followers who swear by it. That’s the only thing that’s ever worked for them.

And that a certain point I just had to accept, hey, there’s a segment of the population, pretty sizable segment that the moderation approach just doesn’t work for them. they, they don’t. Their brains are not wired to be able to have a little bit of this or that. And then to be able to stop. It sends them in a downward spiral that becomes completely counterproductive. And the only way that you can deal with that situation is through these, these bright lines.

So, it’s been a process of me learning. I’m being incredible value that you’re bringing to the table and what a simple and elegant and novel solution it really is.

Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: Thank you so much. And I just want to presidents how much you’ve influenced me too because there, there really is no one right way for everybody. Right. And Bright Lines are not for everybody and I never deny anyone their research. Right? Like try it out, see, see what works, you can do the one cookie experiment, the one piece of pizza, trial and it, it kind of works for you. Like the proof is in the pudding really. And that’s kind of a bad Bright Line expression, but results speak for themselves. Right. And we do have a track record of helping people who’ve been for example, formerly obese people who are obese today and start Bright Line Eating our 55 times more likely to be at a normal BMI in one year than the typical population.

So, we have a research program we’re publishing. I did, I tell you are our first paper got accepted for publications. Now we have three conference presentations and one paper in press, in a peer reviewed journal, and like two or three more papers in preparation.

Ari Whitten: That’s awesome. Congratulations. So glad to hear that. I’m not. No, that’s another one of the things I really love about what you’re doing is that you’re not just somebody out there that’s saying, Hey, here’s my program. My program is the best. You’re actually conducting formal scientific research to prove that your methods are the best, which is more than can be said about pretty much any other weight loss approach and existence. I mean, some of the approaches have been…

Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: [Crosstalk]


Why Susan developed the Reboot Rezoom program

Ari Whitten: Yeah. So, but I, I want to make sure that we spend lots of time here talking about your new work, your latest work that you’ve been working on, which is called “Reboot Rezoom”.

Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: Yeah.

Ari Whitten: So, tell me kind of the context and the background for this and why you’ve developed this.

Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: Yeah. So, well, as always, it just comes out of that fire on my own gauntlet. Like it’s like, what happened for me ironically, as I came into the beginning of the Bright Line Eating movement. Like with that idea that came in my meditation, write a book called “Bright Line Eating”, at that point I’d been pretty solid rock in my bright lines for like 10 years, I had a little stretch in there of two and a half months where I thought I might be cured and like healed. Then I try to competent eating like an intuitive eating thing. And I was like, oh yeah, that still doesn’t work.

So other than that, break, it was like eight years, two and a half months, and then two or three years. And I mean for those eight years, like not a single baby carrot did I eat off my plan, like not one bite of food that I hadn’t pre-committed and was completely unplanned. Like just a ridiculous track record of automaticity and success and whatever. And then I started Bright Line Eating.

My food was really clean for about a year. And then the sort of discombobulation I’ll say of the success. I mean, you kind of watched a lot of it. Bright Line Eating just exploded to a degree that I didn’t anticipate that, I got three little kids I had to like get out of my tenured professorship in the middle of that hand back tenure and figuring out how to extricate myself from academia and like…

I started breaking my bright lines like I didn’t have structures in place in my life that were robust enough to handle the travel, the restaurants, the interviews, the TV, the podcast, building a team. Like I never intended to be a business person. Like I didn’t want to charge for anything. And then my husband was like this is costing a lot of money. Like we have a thousand dollars on our credit card that you better start charging for this.

So, all this happened, and I got into this loop that a lot of people experience a falling off the wagon and getting back on. And, Ari, you’ve seen a lot of this like the morning after a binge and like here you are again. we’ve gone for walks on the beach like more than once with my food. Like, how are you doing? Well, my food just went off the rails and you know me, right? Well my food’s off, everything’s off like I’m a fucking wreck, right? And but a lot of people have food issues can relate to that. It’s like, you start off with some great intention and motivation and you got the new system now and you’re crushing it and the weight is falling off. You feel great, you look great.

And then like little time warp, who knows what happens there, right? Kid’s got an ear infection, mother-in-law’s in the hospital, work ramps up, I’m going on a cruise, it’s the holidays friggin whatever, fill in the blank of that little, storm right there. And all of a sudden, you’re taking your comfort in food. You’re indulging, you’re off track. You’re kind of trying not to notice. And like before you know it your way, it’s all back on and you’re like, “damn it man”. And you’re like figuring out the new system, the new thing you’re going to try because now you got to get it all together again. And I kind of went on this rollercoaster, it was like over three years.

Now, I didn’t gain any weight because, I guess honestly because my belief in my, like the necessity of leading the Bright Line Eating movement was strong enough that I’d watched a few pounds creep on. I’d be like, “well this won’t do. I’ve got to be on TV on Thursday, representing Bright Line Eating.

So, we’ve got to get this weight off”. Right. So, I would break and Rezoom at break and Rezoom a break and Rezoom. It was whip lashing. And what happened though is that, I collected a lot of data just watching all this come down and I noticed two trends through these three years.

One is I stopped being in pain about it, like it stopped impacting me on an emotional level. And I started getting curious about that. Like, why, why aren’t I scared anymore? Why aren’t I hurting over this anymore? Like I can actually sit with a bowl of cookie dough, downing it and just kind of go, “Huh, that’s interesting. I’m eating a bowl of cookie dough today”

And then like get back on track and like what shifted in me that I was able to have poise through that and then the breaks stopped happening. I got really curious like how did that happen? And just recently I looked back at the track record, no more breaks happening anymore. And I started piecing together the framework that my system had learned through those three years.

Like what was I now doing differently that got me off that merry go round. I’m not on that merry go round anymore. and so that was the birth of the Reboot Rezoom course and the reboot Rezoom system. What I’m, what I’m telling people is like, there is a way to inoculate yourself against this, like starting off with motivation and then crashing into the gutter. This like, or losing weight, putting it all back on, losing weight, putting it all back on.

And it requires a different mental approach to the whole process. You’ve got to reframe the whole process of what you’re doing, because you’re setting off with expectations that set you up for that crash. What the course teaches essentially. And that’s the reframe and I got a free video series that talks about it because I always liked to put everything for free, for people who can’t afford to or don’t want to do the program or whatever. I put the nuggets and the videos so that like at least people can walk away understanding the new reframe.


The disconnect between what the science says and  thegeneral public knows about weight loss

Ari Whitten: I want to introduce a little bit of context in here that I want to talk about, but I want to present it to the audience because I think it’s really important for people to understand this. So, there’s a gap between what is known in the science about weight loss and what is commonly thought within the general public about weight loss.

Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: Man, Ari. I love it when you talk about that! Spring it. Yes, there is.

Ari Whitten: So, one of the things that, and this is not the fault of the general public, this is the result of, of marketers and people trying to make money, who are knowingly misrepresenting the science and are misleading the public for the sake of making money.

Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: Right.

Ari Whitten: And one of, one of the end results here is that for decades now, there’s been this all this talk, and everybody’s wrapped up in this thinking, “Oh, is it fat that makes us fat? Is it carbs that make us fat? Is it what’s the, what’s the proper list of good and bad foods? Are Lentils, good for me or bad for me? Are grains, good for me or bad for me.

Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.:And what about lectins?


The key factor to sustainable long-term weight loss

Ari Whitten: Everybody’s different, there’s lectins and there’s gluten and what about dairy? And should I go vegan? And should I go keto? And everybody… And, and what people don’t understand is that for the diet industry, for all of the people who are the bad people, and there’s some good people in the industry for sure you’re obviously one of them, but there’s some bad people out there who are, who are fakers, who are charlatans, who are knowingly misrepresenting the science for the sake of just trying to make money off of people.

And basically the end result of this is that we have a general public who’s caught up in all of those different details of what’s the right diet, what’s the best magical diet that will get results when in fact in the science community that among obesity researchers, it’s extremely well established at this point because they’ve done lots and lots of studies comparing specific diets that there isn’t one magical diet.

The key factor is adherence to the diet. It doesn’t matter like if you look at long term success rates of people on low carb Atkins diets to vegan, low fat, Ornish diets, to Mediterranean diets, to South Beach Diet, to lots of other names, diets that have been introduced with varying levels of carbs and fats and proteins and animal foods and lots of other differences. Polar opposite diet. If you track long term differences in outcome, there’s very, very, very little differences in terms of these long term out weight loss outcomes.

The key factor of the people who actually lose weight successfully and sustainably and it’s a very small percentage of people in general with most of those approaches. The key factor is adherence to the diet. So, what what? Like basically in other words, the people who actually stick to whatever it is that that diets getting you to do are the ones that are successful in the long run.

So, where your approach differs from basically all the other diets that are out there is all the other diets are trying to come up with a magical macronutrient ratio of carbs to fats and the magical list of good and bad foods that are acceptable or not acceptable based on whatever biochemical and physiological mechanisms and your approach is fundamentally different because you understand that adherence is the key factor. So, everything that you’re doing is designed to get people to actually do it and stick to it and have it be sustainable for life.

So, I want like, I want everybody listening to understand that sort of fundamental difference. This is not just, oh here’s another person with another diet that saying here’s the new list of good and bad foods that you should eat. And, and this is an extremely well thought out approach that is designed with adherence in mind and that’s the key factor to success.

So, I just want to emphasize for everybody listening that that is the key distinction, the key difference. This is not just another person out there with, “Oh, here’s, here’s my special diet with the new list of good and bad foods. You understand that adherence is the real key to long term success. And your program is designed with that in mind to facilitate that through like specific strategies that are designed to help people actually stick to all of these, these habits and actually make them habits for life.

Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: Yeah, absolutely. And the Reboot Rezoom program takes that even to the next level. That’s all I think about. Like I geek out on sustainability, longevity, adherence. I love the way you use the word adherence. Like, the key is like what are you actually going to be doing a year from now, two years from now, three years from now, and how does the way you start off, the way you set up your program impact the odds of that longevity, like the odds of actually be doing it long term.

So, for example, let’s just take a small thing that, people can debate or whatever, but like meal frequency, right? How many times a day should you eat? Well, if you’re thinking in terms of longevity and automaticity, fewer meals is better. Like what are the odds that you’re going to succeed brushing and flossing your teeth six times a day, day in and day out, and not miss and like have your toothpaste and floss on you at the right times and like stop what you’re doing to go floss your teeth, like the odds of getting that right are really slim. Like to succeed long term, you need to be eating with the type of automaticity that is in play when you’re brushing your teeth morning and night.

There are these time of day cues and these location cues that cue you into the right behavioral pattern. That’s how you need to get your food. It’s not about making the right choices. You won’t succeed if you’re making choices. You can’t. I think the research is like we make 200 food related choices a day. Odds are we’re grumpy and depleted during some of those choice moments. You need to avoid that situation where you’re like, F* it, let’s order a pizza, right? Like, I can’t even think about dinner right now. Take out please. It’s Friday night. I deserve it,

So, when you start to think about, implementation over the long term, you start to ask the question differently. It’s not like what’s, what digestive system and what are our ancestors do and how many. It’s not about that. It’s like what’s actually going to set me up to be able to execute long term in the face of stress in the real world.

Right. So, this is where like you and I, at the beginning we kind of went toe to toe because you are like, well the studies show this and I’m like, Ari, the studies haven’t been done. I’m talking like five years later who’s getting someone thin and keeping them there. Those studies haven’t been done and what I’m telling you is my system give me five years with somebody and not all of them, but I’ll have a chunk of them. The ones that were really willing and really ready, I will have them in right sized bodies five years from now. And like those are the factors that aren’t being studied.

Ari Whitten: I will say that I was skeptical of all that at first, but now having a, like I said, I have probably a thousand or so members in my, in my Energy Blueprint Program who have, who have been through Bright Line Eating and I’ve seen it, I’ve seen it firsthand. So, I just have to kind of shut up and accept that it’s true at this point and, and, and embrace it. Embrace that I’ve learned something really valuable from you in terms of realizing that those methods that you’re teaching really are key factors for long term success.

Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: Wait, before you ask another question. So, I haven’t shared this with you yet. I’ve been in this like mode of like synthesizing all this sort of implicit data collection that I just did, right? And I just came up with an acronym for what I’m calling the essentials of long-term sustainable weight loss. Like if you really boil it down to its key elements, and you’ll love this because this is what everybody’s doing. Who’s living in a right size body, who’s living lean.

All of them, whether they get it for free because their system naturally rolls that way, they got a fast metabolism, they got good genes and they love to hit the gym and eat their Kale or people like me who fight for it the hard way and like, scratch and claw their way down to lean and figure out how to stay there.

This is what we’re all doing. It’s three things. The essentials are as fundamental as breathing air “A I R” and it’s Automaticity, Identity, and Rezoom. So, the automaticity is like, you have to be thinking about habits that become nonconscious. It’s not about making good choices, it’s about having good behavioral habits wired in, right? So, and you set that up in a way that works for your life, right? Like, some people are late morning eaters, some people like to eat breakfast at success. I’m like whatever. You have to wire in your automatic habits and have a baseline sort of behavioral pattern that rolls through your system automatically, like brushing your teeth.

So, automaticity and then identity. Like you have to be a person who lives healthy. A person who doesn’t eat that stuff. A person who thinks, “yeah, not joining you for, McDonald’s, because I don’t eat at McDonald’s, right? I’m not, I’m not like rocking up to an amusement park all day with no thoughts of what I’m going to eat because like they serve crap there and I don’t eat crap. Right?” So, a person whose identity is such that you’re not thinking, “oh, I can’t have that because it’s not on my diet”. No, you would never say that. Or “Oh, I think I’ll have a cheat day on Sunday”.

You would never say that. Like, you’re not someone who eats, crap normally is dieting right now and now having a cheat day. Like that’s the wrong identity frame, right? Like you’re someone who fills their body with whole real healthy, awesome food, right? That’s who you are. It changes your languaging, it changes how you think about yourself.

And then the Rezoom is like. And just so we spell it “REZOOM” like the speed, right?

Zoom, zoom right back. Rezoom. Someone in my tribe came up with that few years ago? I thought it was really cute. So, I think that’s gonna be my third book “Rezoom”

Ari Whitten:Nice.

Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: Coming in 2021 probably. All right. Anyway, the Rezoom is like people who are healthy naturally, their systems want the Rezoom, like their systems cry out for the Rezoom.

Like they run on moderation, they deviate too far and they’re like, ” oh that kind of felt off a little extra. Like, oh, we got to get back to our home base our like baseline, like where we run naturally”, those of us who don’t get it for free, we wander off path and we’ll keep going if we don’t have things like bright lines or things like a community or whatever to pull us back to the center. But you got to expect the lapse.

You got to expect it and be ready to like have a way to pull yourself back because you know perfection is not available. This is planet earth with human beings. We don’t need to be perfect, but we need to be unstoppable and we need to have that Rezoom. So, Automaticity, Identity, and Rezoom A I R. That’s the framework. That’s what actually constitutes living happy, thin, and free long term.


The secret to healthy peoples success

Ari Whitten:  Yeah. I love that. So, you, you just made a piece of research that I looked at probably four or five years ago, pop into my head. I don’t know if this is something that I’ve talked to you about before maybe a few years ago, but there’s research around something called that the healthy obsession and it’s research that I’ve always really been a fan of. I was thought it was very insightful in terms of, one of the things that they found is that people who are successful long term have a certain kind of personality or certain kinds of personality traits I should say. And one of the things that that happens, I won’t, I won’t go into all the details of this, but they developed this sort of healthy obsession with. And we have a negative stigma around that word obsession. But in this case, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a very positive thing.

It’s the people who are successful, long term improving their health, losing the weight, keeping it off for many, many years have become in a healthy way, obsessed with healthy habits. They become, uncompromising in their devotion to eating well to having healthy lifestyle habits. And what, there was one little facet of this research that I think is, is really interesting and related to what you’re talking about, also counterintuitive, which is that the people who are successful long term have a stronger negative reaction to deviating from their normal healthy habits. So, they have a stronger negative emotional reaction. Now, that kind of sounds like a bad thing that basically it’s the same thing that you’re talking about.

It’s that people who are, are committed to their achieving their goal, react to deviations, react to, coming off the plan with a sort of immediate negative emotional reaction, where they say they recognize the fact that they deviated and then they catalyze that negative emotional reaction into getting back on the plan.

Whereas the people who are not as successful, they either don’t have a such a strong negative emotional reaction. They kind of just go, oh well, whatever, screw it, and they’re sort of more laissez faire about the whole thing or it doesn’t actually become a catalyst for a, resuming positive change. It just becomes something where they’re now beating themselves up and berating themselves for deviating, but without any sort of productive, strategic thinking around what the solution is.

So, I’m just curious. I just wanted to introduce that and see what your thoughts are on that.

Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: I love it. I love it and I’d love to see the data because here’s what I would predict. In psychology, there’s all these different graphs and different domains that kind of do the same thing where it’s like, okay, down here this is like not enough activation energy that in this mid-range is the right amount and up here is too much. Right. That sort of general framework applies to so many things. Right? But like you can think of sort of the productive zone of discomfort and then the unproductive zone of panic. Right? And so, what I would predict is that some of my people experienced too much negative a reaction from a deviation and it becomes unproductive, right?

So, some of the reboot Rezoom framework is like, how do you expect that you’re going to relapse? Expect the falling off track in some way, even if it doesn’t go all the way to your food, you ate a cookie.

But it’s that, okay, I didn’t down my food for a few days and I’m not meditating anymore, and I haven’t. whatever your habits are, they keep you on track. The labs or the relapse always happens at some point, life shows up and you just feel a little off track. Guaranteed. The key is like to expect that your food journey is going to show up in sine waves with periods of time where you’re on your game and you’re on a peak and then periods of time where you’re lapsing or relapsing and falling off your game.

And how do you put in adaptive responses as you’re on the way down to language it in a way where it’s no big deal really, like it’s a thing but it’s not too big of a thing. Right. And it’s like, okay honey, well here we are in the lab space, and we know how to Rezoom, we know what to do to get back on track and like getting it back up there so that it’s not, what happens for some of us who have a really strong reaction because if we’ve gained back all our weight, like other people in my tribe who gained and lost 100 pounds five times in their life, right?

That starts to get terrifying. Like really scary. Like, oh no, I just picked up some food that’s off my plan. Am I about to shoot up? Like at, at my worst I gained from a size four to a size 24 in three months. That’s obscene. Like that. Like watching yourself do that. Google what a size four and a size 24 looks like. That’s off the hook from like petite, tiny, slender to morbidly obese in three months and basically sitting in a closet and eating for three months.

Okay. So, if you’ve watched yourself do that, being off track could be noticing you just ate a cookie and you’re a bright line eater. You don’t eat cookies like that could be really scary. So what happens when the system, your body is freaked out is a massive sympathetic nervous system response, fight or flight, which narrows your, your focus and it floods your body with hormones that signal like, you’re breathing heavy, you feel like you gotta, get out of dodge or you’re frozen or whatever, and all of a sudden it becomes really hard to do some basic things that would help you get back on track.

Right? In particular, like if we, if we access the anxiety literature, what differentiates people who experience anxiety, like fear over airplane travel for example, and people who don’t is a feeling of perceived control. Like I step onto an airplane and I feel in control. I got my little area, I’m going to do my work. I’ve got my computer, my laptop, my journal, I’m going to watch a movie, I’m gonna, take a nap. Like I feel completely in control.

Someone who’s afraid of airplane travel there thinking I’m in a steel box, 30,000 feet up in the air and I could plummet to the earth at any time and I got no say that I’m completely out of control this whole time…

Ari Whitten: Going 500 miles per hour.

Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: So, if you’ve picked up the bite or you’re like, you’re off track, like having a framing where you’re in control of that process, you expected it and you know exactly what to do now. Like we know how to ride the train, right?

So I love how you said those, those people who who are successful living, I call it happy, thin and free, whatever is my tagline, right? those people who are successful at that, it’s a thing when they fall off track, it’s not, it ain’t no thing, it’s a thing and they use that as activation energy to get back on track. So, it’s a two-part thing, right? It’s got to be both. And I would add a third thing. It can’t be too much of a thing.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Too much of a thing that you are depressed, and you hate yourself and you hate your life.

Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: You are in a shame spiral. What happens is it pulls you away from support. Now you’re like, okay, I’m a piece of shit and I can’t be. I’m not fit for human company. And I got to like go hide until I get this figured out on my own. That’s not the helpful response.

Ari Whitten: So, I want to mention one quick thing in case it’s not obvious to people listening to these principles don’t just apply to weight loss. These principles equally apply to, for example, people going through my program trying to recover their energy levels. It’s the same principles you’re hyped up, you’re super excited. You just got this new program. You go into it full force. I mean as with any program, we know, you know the stats. The same thing with reading books, buying any program, starting a meditation practice, anything.

You’re super excited about it. And then you do it. Maybe it, like religiously and consistently for a few days, a few weeks, maybe a few months, and then we naturally start to fall off whatever, whatever it is, whatever the habit or, or the practices or the program or the book, whatever it is that, that same principle applies. So, what you’re talking about is sort of identifying the key elements of how do you get back on track.

Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.:  Yeah. Yeah. And really it’s like you take, you take this like restart sort of crash and burn merry go round cycle and you just smooth off the edges and then you raise the whole thing up so that the sine wave there has some cushion between your low points and what I call like the danger and destruction zone, that zone where you’re really engaging in some profoundly unhealthy behaviors, right? You just create cushion there. And in my experience, some of the most potent things for creating that cushion are social support.

Like we’re herd animals and we will engage in behaviors that are normalized by our tribe. And we will not continuously engage in behaviors that everyone around us is saying are weird or aberrant. so, you got to be really careful who you run with and a lot of us have family and colleagues at work whose health behaviors we have no control over, right?

So, what that means is you’re going to have to self-select a community and make it robust enough like develop actual real connections that are meaningful to you in that community to normalize the healthy habits that you want to emulate.

Because the reality is that, society out there right now is profoundly unhealthy. If you roll with the normal, you’re going to be fat, sick, miserable with no energy and dying, 15, 20 years too young with a lot of joint pain. That’s just the way it’s going to be, right?

So, you have to surround yourself by choice, by design with people who feedback that your behaviors which are swimming upstream from society are normal and appropriate. And the people giving you flack about it out there, well they’re off their rocker because like look at them like you don’t, you want to be different from that.

Ari Whitten:  I’m so glad you brought this up. I talk about the same principle in slightly different words, but one of the things I tell people is “Hey look, everybody has this desire to sort of be normal, to not do behaviors that are weird, that are perceived to be extreme, that are perceived to be radically different from whatever the norm is” and that’s fine and that’s programmed into us by evolution. Here’s the problem.

In the modern Western world, the majority of people, what is normal as a result of the way and pretty much everybody is living, they are destined to become overweight or obese. They are destined to get some kind of chronic disease, which is a disease of lifestyle. Things like heart disease, most cancers, most neurological disease, many of these other things that are becoming massive epidemics in the last few decades. These are becoming normal.

So, what you have to understand is that if you let that desire to be normal and to be like everybody else run you, you too will be destined for those things. So, if you don’t want to be destined for those things, if you want to be lean, energetic, and live a long time free of debilitating symptoms and disease, you have to make a conscious decision to be a little bit weird. and I use that word as weird as, as perceived by most regular people. You have to be different. You have to be quote unquote extreme, in your commitment to being healthy.

Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: You gotta surround yourself with five or six people that you’re actually in touch with on a regular basis who were weird like you. No one who’s a human being with a beating heart. And sensitive to the social cues little which is all of us, no one can run that different sustainably long term.

We just can’t. We have to surround ourselves with people who mirror back that we belong and that we’re okay. And you, yes, you got it. You got to develop a tribe so that that creates some of the cushion. I think the rest of the cushion is created by, while there’s some positive psychology, things that are really helpful like meditation. Boy adjust, especially around food behaviors because eating is one of these things that happens with a certain frequency, right?

The you’re going to need to be engaging in eating behaviors when you’re triggered, when, when you’re emotional, when you’re fighting with your partner, when your kids are crawling at you and you’re going out of your mind like you have to build in that pause, that sense of not jumping into reaction mode.

Being able to respond rather than react and meditation is. It’s the best way to sort of be able to respond to the world with poison equanimity even when it’s feeling a little crazy. So, meditation, Super Helpful. Gratitude is super. I know these are these sound like so Mamby Pamby, right? Like just such like, Whoa, Whoa, whatever, but they fricking work. They really do. They really do.

And then it’s the. It’s the actions like in Bright Line Eating, we’re so into how the actions turn into habits, turn into automatic habits that then you get for free so they’re not taxing your cognitive resources and it becomes like brushing your teeth like stuff you execute every day without the sticky note on your mirror to remind you. That you don’t wake up every day saying, I’m going to brush my teeth twice today. I got this. I’m not going to fail like I’m on a roll now.

I’ve been doing it for a month. I got to keep going. Right? You have to think about that with brushing your teeth. You got to get your food. You’re eating wired in like that and, and that’s why I tell people in Bright Line Eating, Ari, you’re so right. I don’t care if you’re Keto. I don’t care if you’re a whole food plant based. I don’t care if you think that you know you need more fat or less fat or a different kind of protein like whatever.

As long as you’re eating a ton of vegetables and you’re not eating sugar and flour, which is code word for like all processed crap, right? The like the body’s gonna forgive you on the details. Eat or vegetables. Don’t eat the sugar and flour. I don’t care what you do with the rest, but do it the bright line way like automaticity, identity, Rezoom. We’re going to get you doing this for years and years and years and years. Right? I guess just like you said, it’s not about the magic macronutrient combination. Get your head out of that. It doesn’t. That doesn’t matter. It doesn’t.


The problem with the need for novelty

Ari Whitten: I have one more question for you. I know you have to run at the top of the hour here. So, my last question is, in this kind of picture of, being on it and then, and then kind of falling off the wagon and then getting back on track or not getting back on track in some cases.

What, importance do you give to novelty? And, and what I mean by that is I’m like, the way I’ve always perceived this as that novelty is kind of a factor in people’s motivation is that people hear about some new diet. It becomes trendy. And it’s like, oh, the grapefruit diet. Oh, Keto.

Oh, the, the Carnivore Diet, oh, this, this particular, whatever, Atkins or, Ornish or South Beach or whatever it is. And so that becomes a thing. It enters people’s consciousness because they’re hearing about it or reading about it or seeing ads about it or whatever. And they are now convinced, oh, this is the magical diet.

The reason I failed on all my previous attempts, was just because I didn’t have that right magical diet and the true list of good foods and bad foods. Now this is my real ticket to success. So, and, and, and then, once they do that new thing for a period of time and then the results sort of wane and then they start to fall off and they’re less, they lose motivation. Like what happens with everything. And some new thing comes into their awareness. And now they have this really strong motivation again. So, how do you keep people’s motivation really high in the absence of that kind of novelty?

Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: Yeah, I agree. That kind of novelty is a problem. it’s super problematic. And at the end of the day I would say two things. when you’re choosing a plan, like you’re, you are overweight, obese. Some if a health issue and you’re choosing a plan, I want you to be thinking about a few things.

It’s kinda like you want to climb Mount Everest. Almost nobody loses their excess weight and keeping it off long term. It’s light, it’s dangerous. It’s like this is a track and don’t ever around. Right? So, find a guide who can prove to demonstrate to you that they make it up the mountain and back with lots of people who are just like you at your fitness level, at your, whatever. And that they’ve done it before. Right?

Like none of those plans that you mentioned have any track record of getting people into rightsized bodies and keeping them there.

Ask them they don’t. Right? So, before you go jumping on the novel thing, it’s like, where’s the science that shows that, this program is actually helping someone like me get thin and stay thin, right? So that’s the first thing that test will eliminate most plans and then you’re going to have to stick with something long term. Like longevity is the only thing that works.

And in my experience, what keep you there is the people, the community. Again, you have to invest in relationships with people who are doing it so that at the end of the day when your head tells you, “oh, this is hard, I’m tired of this. I don’t know if this is working for me anymore.” It’s going to happen. Like the melees sets in.

You have human beings who are surrounding you and keeping you on the ship. You’ve got to be on the mothership with the people. And they’re like, I know. I feel like sometimes I feel that way too, but don’t worry how you got this right. Like, don’t leave us. We’re all here together on this journey. It’s got to be a track that you take with other human beings because otherwise you’re just flitting from plan to plan, to plan, to plan and. Good, good luck with that. Right? How well has that been working for you?

Ari Whitten: I’ll mention one quick thing. I, in my younger years, I was a personal trainer for, for many years. And one of the things that I and many other trainers always talk about is you see people who are looking for the magic plan, who we’re looking for, here’s the magic, the exercise regimen that just results in amazing transformations in a matter of days or a few weeks and then after, so they’re doing a plan that you’ve designed for them.

Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: And then after a few weeks go by, they’re seeing slow, steady progress, but it’s not quite fast enough. So, they’re there in that magic pill mentality. They want to see radical transformation like that.

So then, after a few weeks they shift to a totally different style of working on a totally different plan. And then after another few weeks they shift to another totally different style of working out. And then guess what, four years later, five years later, 10 years later, they still look exactly the same as they did at the outset, whereas the people who decided they were going to model the people who are successful, boring and lacking novelty as it may be, but just grinding away consistently at those fundamentals day after day, week after week, year after year.

Ari Whitten: Those are the people who over time move mountains and become radically different and I think it’s the same here. It’s like part of it is just having the intelligence to find something that has a proven track record of success and committing to consistently follow that for months and years and then like just doing it and resisting that magic pill urge to find the next magical thing that’s going to give you instant results.

Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: That’s right? Look at us, but we’ve liked synced up are totally. Instead of only thinking about 150 hours of scientific discussions on the science of fat loss.

Ari Whitten: Now we’re good. No more arguing.

Cool. Well, Susan, this has been an absolute pleasure as always, and we’ll have a link. I’m going to be supporting your launch of your new Reboot Rezoom program. We’ll have a link on page, we’ll put it up the energy forward slash Rezoom. So, do you want to leave anybody with a sort of final words about this program? What is it? What are the dates? But it’s launching by the way.


How to register for Reboot Rezoom

Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: Registration opens December 28th and closes January third and the video series. We’ll be open for longer than that. but that’s when the course is open and yeah, my final words are. I’m just remember you are not called to be perfect on this journey. You are not. Your called to be unstoppable.

Ari Whitten: Beautiful. I love it. Well, thank you so much Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson. As always, such a pleasure and I’ll let you get to your next meeting. Have a wonderful day and I hope that we have a lot of people join your new launch and I’m sure that it’s going to be absolutely wonderful material.

Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: Thanks. Ari. So, going to be with you

Ari Whitten: Yeah.


What Sabotages Healthy Lifestyle Habits and How to Become Unstoppable In Achieving Your Health Goals with Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D. – Show Notes

What is Bright Line Eating? (1:35)
Why Susan developed the Reboot Rezoom program (11:11)
The disconnect between what the science and general public knows about weight loss (17:14)
The key factor to sustainable long-term weight loss (18:20)’
The secret to healthy peoples success (29:00)
The problem with the need for novelty (44:22)
How to register for Reboot Rezoom (50:42)


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If you want to know more about Bright Line Eating and one of the most common side effects of starting a weight loss program, Listen to the previous podcast I did with Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.

What Science Says About Cravings (And How To Stop Food Cravings) with Dr. Elena Zinkov

Have you ever been on a diet only to find yourself craving a food that wasn’t included in the list of “allowed” foods? Or maybe you are just hit with a desire for chocolate or a burger and you ended up bingeing on a food that you know isn’t beneficial for your health? No matter what, you are not alone. Millions of people struggle with cravings on a daily basis. Unfortunately, most end up overindulging in these foods, which can cause long-term health issues. So, what does science say about why we experience cravings? And how to stop food cravings efficiently?

In this podcast, I am with Dr. Elena Zinkov, the founder of the Proactive Health Clinic and author of the fascinating book, ”The Crave Reset.” Dr. Elena’s passion is the science behind cravings and she has made it her mission to help people overcome their impulsive reactions to food cravings. In this podcast, Dr. Elena gives us the dish on what science says about cravings and how to stop them.

In this podcast, Dr. Elena will cover:

  • Why we have food cravings
  • The link between cravings and your brain (serotonin and dopamine)
  • Why listening to your body’s signals (your intuition) are essential for optimal health
  • Why fasting is essential to good health
  • The different types of cravings
  • How your environment can influence your cravings (and how to prevent falling into the ”craving trap”)
  • How your body signals when it needs a specific nutrient/food (and when it doesn’t)
  • The difference between intuition and impulse (and why they matter)
  • Is the claim “if you crave a certain type of food, eat it” true?
  • How to stop food cravings
  • Why carbs are essential to stop cravings
  • The difference between healthful and unhealthful carbs

Download or listen on iTunes

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Have you ever been on a diet only to find yourself craving a food that wasn’t included in the list of ”allowed” foods? Or maybe you are just hit with a desire for chocolate or burger and you ended up binging in a food that you know isn’t beneficial for your health. No matter what, you are not alone. Millions of people struggle with cravings on a daily basis. Unfortunately, most end up overindulging in these foods which can cause long term health issues. So, why do we experience cravings? And how to stop food cravings efficiently?

In this podcast, I am with Dr. Elena Zinkov, the founder of the Proactive Health Clinic and author of the fascinating book ”The Crave Reset”. Dr. Elena’s passion is the science behind cravings and she has made it her mission to help people overcome their impulsive reactions to food cravings. Dr. Elena will uncover what science says about cravings and how to stop food cravings

In this podcast, Dr. Elena will cover

  • Why do we have food cravings?
  • The link between cravings and your brain (serotonin and dopamine)
  • Why listening to your body’s signals (your intuition) are essential for optimal health
  • Why fasting is essential to good health
  • The different types of cravings
  • How your environment can influence your cravings (and how to prevent falling into the ”craving trap”)
  • How your body signals when it needs a specific nutrient/food (and when it doesn’t)
  • The difference between intuition and impulse (and why they matter)
  • Is the claim ”if you crave a certain type of food, eat it” true?
  • How to stop food cravings
  • Why carbs are essential to stop cravings
  • The difference between healthful and unhealthful carbs

What Science Says About Cravings (And How To Stop Food Cravings) with Dr. Elena Zinkov – Transcript

Ari Whitten: Everyone. Welcome back to the Energy Blueprint Podcast. I’m your host, Ari Whitten. And today, I am with  Dr. Elena, who is the founder of proactive health which is Naturopathic clinic and author of a fascinating book called ”The Crave Reset”.

I’ve gone through a book. I think this is a, this is a really cool, fascinating concept that I think honestly, most people have been afraid to go into because it’s so complex. There are so many nuances and layers to this whole story around cravings and there’s so much kind of black and white, overly simplistic thinking that you’ll find on the internet around this topic that just isn’t really grounded in science.

So, I first want to welcome you to the show Dr. Elena, and it’s a pleasure to have you. I’m glad we got to finally connect after meeting in person a few months ago. And I want to applaud you for having the courage, the kahunas, so to speak, to take on this, this really complex, tough topic of cravings and try and bring in evidence based lens to it.

Dr. Elena Zinkov: Thank you. Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Yeah. So I’m curious, what’s the background story here as far as how you actually got into kind of being obsessed with cravings?

Dr. Elena Zinkov: Yeah. Well the story goes back to when I was, I played semi professional tennis when I was younger. And as a female athlete, I know I struggled with making really good food decisions and I didn’t quite know how to eat for my body type. I didn’t know of the biology, you know, how to properly feel my body and my mind for optimal performance.

And I ended up resorting to things that were basically processed, you know, really quick sources of fuel for me. But then I realized that slowly my body was breaking down and I was having digestive issues and skin issues. And here I am trying to plan a really high level of tennis and my body’s breaking down on me and I’m suffering through school. And so as I went after I stopped my tennis career when, you know, fall into academics.

I realized that I was gaining weight, I was really unhappy and I was feeling that with food and I, and I’m sure that a lot of people can relate to that, that we sometimes use, you know, food is like a drug sometimes for people. And I was falling into that trap like so many of us do. And before I got into med school, I actually started to research more of this. How can I fulfill whether it’s like my sweet, salty or fatty cravings with something healthier and how can I still find the joy in the food? Right?

But would that necessarily negative consequence is that so many of us go through and it’s been. Honestly, it’s been like over a decade that I’ve been on this journey where I finally saw what was working in my life as an athlete, as a student, as a parent in helping me manage my personal food cravings and I decided to write a book about it because I had this medical understanding that as you know, that the things that we experienced, I joked that I could’ve written about headaches and I would’ve taken the same naturpathic whole body approach to dealing with headaches.

But food is such an emotional topic for people. It’s like religion, right? There’s so many opinions there. There’s just so there’s so much around food and it has such a huge emotional imprint on us that people really need better tools to understand where they’re coming from because, like you mentioned, the information online is really superficial and it doesn’t really go into that core of what our food cravings and preferences are all about.

The difference between cravings (when are they intelligent and when are they not intelligent?)

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Interesting. So,  you know, I, as I was kind of preparing for this interview and structuring my questions, I have, I kind of ultimately decided I was just going to go by feel of how we kind of went into this because there’s so many different potentials kind of starting points to go down this path of creating.

But I want to start with kind of this, this notion that some people have around the intelligence of cravings. Because I, I think that there’s a really good indication that sort of, there is a real need for bodies to have been designed with some sort of intelligent craving mechanism to make sure that we crave the nutrients we need. And so that there’s certainly layers of legitimacy there as we’re gonna get into.

And we have lots of information online of people saying, you know, Oh, if your body craves this, it’s because you needed it. If your body craves sugar, it’s because your body needs sugar. If your body craves fat is because you need fat. If your body craves chocolate, you know, and, and so on and so forth. And so, you know, even with some people, some kind of in the intuitive eating community going really far with that logic and saying like, you know, if your body craves junk food, it’s because your body needs that junk food and, and so on.

And then we have other people who just kind of leave cravings totally out of the picture and they’re like, go on this extreme diet. And yeah, you may have cravings like, you know, go on, for example, the super low carb carnivorous diet where you’re eating nothing but meat and if you have cravings for any sort of plant food that’s just a sign of pathology and it’s totally unintelligent and you should not listen to that and just keep continuing to only eat meat. Right? So we have this like that’s a pretty extreme spectrum of views. Now what you’ve done is you’ve brought evidence to this and you are kind of like understanding all of the territory in between those two poles of the spectrum. So I guess what’s your take on sort of the intelligence or non intelligence of cravings? When are they intelligent? When are they not intelligent?

Dr. Elena Zinkov: I have so many clients have come to me because they’ve gone to a therapist who have told them, you know, listen to what your body wants. If you want to eat the whole cake, eat the whole cake. This is what your body wants. And that just does not make sense to me. It didn’t make sense in my mind. And I think intuition is a, it’s a skill that we develop over time and honestly, there’s a difference between intuition and an impulse, right? And so I feel like I want a piece of cake. I’m going to eat the cake.

That’s more of an more of an impulse versus intuition is can I tune in into my own body’s wisdom and understand where is this craving coming from, you know, and so, and intuition is being able to understand on a deeper level, you know, all the different layers of health and wellness and psycho emotional and all of these different elements that are coming together.

And so there’s a difference between intuition versus impulsive behavior. But I like science. I think there’s benefits to really understanding how the human body works and I always avoid the extremes because there’s only, there’s really only a small percentage of people that do well with extreme dieting and extreme lifestyle changes. And personally, whenever somebody has a craving that that’s a symptom that we need to pay attention to.

Our bodies are telling, that we basically just need to pay attention and look at all the different layers that are involved. Because if you’re craving sugar, what I’m saying, even in the book, it’s, let’s check in with how your sleep is.

Let’s check into what the possible reasons of why you’re craving sweet or salty or whatever that it is. Rather than being impulsive about it and saying, ”oh, I’m tired, I need sugar”.

And actually I had a client I know. And throughout the book I share a lot of my real, real stories. You know, obviously names are left out of the book, but you know, sharing a lot of the real stories like my clients. She thought that the reason that she needed sugar was because when she would come off of the sugar, she would have these headaches. So she thought that it is actually sugar was good for her and going off of sugar made her feel horrible.

And so the science behind that is that, you know, there’s, my education about is that of course, even in like Japanese cuisine, right? You have the savory, have the earthy, you have the salting that you have the sweet in the end. But if you look at even like Japanese desserts, they’re really small little cookies, you know, they’re like tiny little candies.

It’s not like a whole pie or cake that people have. And I spent a lot of time in Japan and I really appreciated that about their cuisine is that they had a variety of things and you could have a little bit of this, a little bit of that and you kind of feel satisfied in the end. But even in my work is my client is that it was really this education component that you can have sweetness, you can have sugar, but it, it’s best to get it from natural sources like, you know, fruit and healthy sources of carbohydrates like sweet potatoes and squash and vegetables rather than depriving yourself from it.

The importance of fasting

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Interesting. I know of a lot of people having a, having worked in the past with a lot of people who are trying to lose weight. It was one interesting experience that I, that I had with a lot of people actually once I experienced this for the first time and it shocked me and then I started kind of probing future clients that I was working with and I found out that it’s actually really common, which is a lot of people never experienced hunger. They literally are so used to eating you know, every few hours that. And they’ve done that for years and years and decades that they have forgotten what it feels like to actually be truly hungry.

Yeah. Yeah. Like like to actually go without food for a long enough period of time and you know, maybe also be expending energy and physical activity that you get to a point where you feel that deep burning sensation in your belly that is like you, you’re, you’re, you know, your body’s telling you you need to eat some food right now we need to refuel because we’re out of fuel or we’re running low on fuel stores in Glycogenen. So on a, in a, in a way that’s almost kind of like the most prime, like the most central basic craving. Is it not?

Dr. Elena Zinkov: Well, you know what’s interesting, I love it. I love the study of genetics around cravings because, and this is why I looped back to why a lot of extreme, extreme dieting doesn’t work because we’re all so individual and we’re also unique and you know, our genetic code, we have like 22 different genes that dictate our desire for sweets are our appetite, we know, sense of fulfillment or even, you know, energetic blueprint.

And I had to say that, but, but so, you know, genetics are fascinating and that’s why I think whenever somebody applies whatever nutrition or lifestyle approach to their life, they have to understand that it’s going to be their own and they’re going to get a different response than, you know, than somebody else. And I definitely think that, you know, that one of the reasons that we have these, since we’re talking about the prime of reflex, and I do absolutely agree with you that people have lost their, you know, they’ve disconnected from what it’s like to go for hours without, without eating because food is in every corner.

You know, there’s starbucks, a gas station, those holes with all of these sources of food. But genetically, like if we go back a couple of hundred years, like our answer answers does not have the same access to sugar and fat and all of these readily available products and foods compared to us. Like for us, we can prime it and we’ll get it in a couple of hours. Right?

I mean, everything is just so easily accessible. So we’ve kind of disconnected from that primary reflex and, you know, the one thing that I do recommend, again, I don’t like the extremes, but I do recommend intermittent fasting because I see a lot of good benefits. Doesn’t mean that you have to do it every single day, but there’s something about kind of encouraging your body to regulate itself, to give it a break and to naturally put this in a fasting state where it can use a little bit of a glide kitchen, tap until a bit of the fat stores.

Make the liver work a little bit harder, give your gut a little break, you know. But that’s an excellent point. Just about that people can have kind of lost touch with what it’s like to just not have access to something for like for maybe six hours, 12, 16 hours a day. And I actually so you know, like I did hot yoga before, it wasn’t even hot, hot yoga, you know, the, the trend. And I did Paleo and Quito before it became Paleo Quito and it has to do with my sports medicine background. But I’m also, I’m an Alpine climber, so I’m used to being in the mountains for 16 hours, 24 hours, you know, if you get lost, you’re going to be without food for at least 24 hours until you can get back, get back on the trail or until, you know, the weather changes and actually experienced such.

I experienced both the negative and the positive aspects of Keto, you know, having trading, training Keto, being in the mountains in Keto mode I experienced the good and that you can run on sustained fuel for a really long time and be very, very much focused and aware. But then the whole trend about being on a Keto is what I’m worried about that extreme is that it burns a lot of people out. It burns out their genomes.

And if somebody is already deprived, which is why I’m not a carbofobe, I’m not against carbs by all means. Right. And I’ve, I’ve looked at your book, but it’s like, I just think that it’s important to just understand that there’s a time and a place for those things and that you really have to understand the, how it impacts physiology in the long run.

How to overcome cravings that are not contibuting to your health

Ari Whitten: Yeah, absolutely. I agree 100 percent. So I think, you know, to be perfectly honest, I think that there has been one big stumbling block for me to really develop an interest in delving into the science around cravings and the reason that I maybe never did what you’ve done, which is that it’s, it’s kind of going back to what I was saying, the fact that so many people have never haven’t experienced true hunger, just basic hunger for food and so many years or decades.

And there’s also this element of how the modern supply overrides kind of our ability to sense I’m properly, what our body is actually truly craving. Like we will have cravings for donuts and cookies and cakes and, and, and chocolate and ice cream and pizza and all these kinds of things. And if those, especially if those foods are in our immediate presence, we will feel a craving and an intense urge to go consume those foods rise up in us.

It’s clear when you look at the overall data of nutritional science, you know, stating the obvious, we know that consumption of these foods is linked with very bad health outcomes and yet humans can feel a craving for that, for those stuff, those kinds of foods.

And yet, we also seem to have the capacity for intelligence. Cravings were about, the body is genuinely communicating, ”Hey, you’re deficient in this nutrient and you need to consume more of this kind of food”. I think that in the modern world, though, just the modern food supply has, has kind of overwritten most people’s ability to actually be in touch with intelligent cravings. And there are more operating in this sort of, you know, their bodies and their brains have been wired into all sorts of unintelligent cravings that their body is being led down bad pathways.

So how do you overcome that? And maybe you can speak to that in greater depth and sophistication than I can, but how do you help people overcome that and sort of get in touch with any sort of level of being able to draw intelligent cues from their body about what they should be eating?

Dr. Elena Zinkov: Gosh, I can say so many things about that and you did such a great job of positioning that, that question and I think it’s wonderful. Nobody has asked me and on that level before and there’s a few things and I’m going to try to keep track of my thoughts because as you were talking, I had so many, so many things that came up for me so I’ll try to put it all together.

But the things like the pizza, the cookies, the chocolate, the drugs, the alcohol, they all feel the same pathways in our brain. It serotonin and dopamine and we have come to associate those things as pleasurable activities and so every time we participate in the intake of the food or the activity, whatever that is, it creates a surge of Serotonin, which is the pleasure, pleasure neurotransmitter, and then you have dopamine coming from the other side and it’s what solidifies that behavior because from a primal standpoint, because I always talk about how we live in urban environments, you know, but our brain is still pretty primal.

You know, it’s developed, but it’s still really primal and so the body wants to avoid pain and search word pleasure, and that is the point of Serotonin and dopamine in is that the body wants to continue to do things that are pleasurable and anything like not eating the cookie or not eating the pizza is kind of painful.

I mean, people are irritated, right? When you take that away from them, people will get grumpy. They feel fatigued like you’re. You don’t feel good. And I, you know, I even mentioned in the book how that withdrawal symptoms when you take out the junk food can be similar when you’re taking out somebody who’s addicted on alcohol or any sort of drug. The symptoms can be really similar. Maybe not as, but very similar. And I think the reason why we are, we have this confusion in our ability to, because I absolutely agree with you, the body will let you know when there’s something is missing.

And classically we know like a magnesium and chocolate, right? But there’s a difference between like Hershey’s kisses and like dark raw cacao powder, which not many people associate that like, I’m craving chocolate. That’s what I’m going to have. Right?

They usually, if they have a craving for chocolate, it’s something else, a little bit more process that’s gone for manufacturing. All of that stuff. And I think that the reason why people are a little bit, not a little bit about, but really not in tune with what their body really needs is because of our broken food system, is that over the years from the time that we’re born and we’re exposed to so many different foods, we already have those neural pathways developed. Right.

And so it can take time and I encourage people, you know, even in my book, I have the 14 day cleanse. Yeah, but it’s still going to take like 30, 60, 90 days to really start forming this new neural pathway so you can actually break yourself free and start developing a new palette for these things. But I really think that it’s the, you know, kind of like that magnesium analogy that when you crave chocolate it could be a magnesium deficiency. And there’s a reason why we have the research on magnesium wait to, to possibly like iron deficiency. I mean, sorry, cravings for chocolate tend to be iron and magnesium deficiency.

But because we’re so we, our association is that when you tell the junk food to curb that craving, we lost touch with what our inheritability to really tell what it is, what it is that our body needs in the moment.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Yeah. It’s fascinating. So I want to I want to dig into some of this sort of other specific elements of what caused cravings. So you mentioned neurotransmitters, but, but I want to actually ask you something about a personal story and to see if this. You can understand this better than I can. A few years ago it was in the Himalayas trekking and when you’re, when you’re up there in the, in the Himalayas, there’s, you’re kind of going to different Sherpa villages and pretty much you’re eating a diet of basically nothing but lentils and rice and maybe a little vegetable curry, like some, some greens and some carrots and some potatoes with curry sauce, mostly rice and lentils.

So after several weeks of this, my wife and I ended up traveling to India and we went to a coastal town in India called Arcola. A very pretty place. And you kind of have this walkway right on the cliffs above the ocean and right there there’s a bunch of restaurants with seafood and then most of them are serving seafood and they kind of have these big stands out front of the restaurant where they’re presenting all the fresh catches of the day.

So after several weeks of being in the Himalayas, we were looking at this, you know, the first couple of days we got there and were like, wow, this looks amazing. Like just you crave seafoods so intensely to, you just crave being by the ocean after being up in the mountains, which is kind of a different level of craving. So like different environment. But on a food level it was this intense craving for like seafood. I need to get food from the ocean in me. And so that was there.

We ended up like maybe the second night there was a huge thing of prawns laid out and they just looked amazing and we’re just craving them so intensely. So that night we were gorged on prawns. We ate a ton of these tiger prawns, like just a mountain of them and I remember the next day walking by all of these stands where the restaurants were and seeing platters of prawns laid out and actually feeling like a sense of discuss like almost a design like nausea, like desire to vomit at the thought of having to eat any number of prawns. It was like my body was screaming at me. You do not need to eat any more prawns for awhile. So it was to go one day to the next from an intense craving to like repulsion was very interesting and I’m just curious if you have any insights into that.

Dr. Elena Zinkov: No, I think what you’re talking about is that classical, that there’s a time to feast and there was a time of famine and what you experiences that you were checking in the Himalayas and you didn’t have as much of access to those readily available sources of protein as you do on the coast or anywhere or like even back at home. Right.

So one is you really had to replenish, had just had just done attract right in the Himalayas. Seafood, you probably needed some iodine for your thyroid, but I think it’s just, and this is what people miss these days is going back to not being able to, you know, going back to the primal reflex of eating and feeling the hunger and depriving yourself of something for an extended period of time to finally getting back to.

I’m getting back to being exposed or certain food, food element, a food group that you haven’t had in a little while.

So I think there’s multiple factors in place. So when you experienced at the feast or famine, right, is that when you’re in Himalayas you only have access to some delicious and lentils and some rice. Mostly a high carbohydrate diet, right? Don’t have access to too much protein too.

You’re probably deprived and you need to replenish whether it’s like you know, your amino acids, muscles, all of that stuff just to replenish your body. But I think three from nutritional perspective is that there are probably some nutrients that are frequently found in seafood, like iodine that you absolutely needed to replenish and probably some omega three fatty acids as well from the fish as well.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Yeah. I think you’re spot on. I also, my hunch was always like maybe there’s some specific compounds in shellfish, iodine, selenium or some concentration of some of those, those minerals that my, my body seemed. It was almost like my body detected that it was, had excess amounts of those all of the sudden. And then it went from deficiency to excess amounts and it was like you don’t need to have that for awhile.

Dr. Elena Zinkov: And sodium as well between like seafood frequently when you have a thyroid deficiency or thyroid dysfunction, people will create salty, salty foods. And a lot of times seafood, for example, you know, high in iodine, selenium and then also saw that the association between like you can see me right has assault and the iodine in it as well as sodium.

And so but it also has a really protected mechanism as well, you know, from that, the seafood in terms of the, when you go through a long, a long period of exposure to stress, whether it’s physical endurance activity, right then that creates a lot of oxidative damage in the body. And so, and that can actually like taking when somebody is compromised with the thyroid function, that’s why you get on with just a little bit of iodine, right? Not to throw into thyroid storm, but a limited that protective function for the thyroid.

How serotonin and dopamine affect cravings

Ari Whitten: Fascinating. So you mentioned kind of the neurotransmitter layer of cravings, serotonin, dopamine, and kind of how some of those pleasure pathways can be rewired or overwritten by the modern food supply. What are some of the other layers of factors that affect our cravings?

Dr. Elena Zinkov: So yes, then neurotransmitters as hormones, classically thyroid, adrenal dysfunction. And then of course digestion. So I came across such fascinating research when I was writing this book because I, you know, we hear about gut microbiome and how it affects our mood and depression and anxiety and our unity. And then I came across as I was doing some research for the book that the foods that we eat actually caused population of certain gut bacteria and that is the cravings that we experience, particularly for carbohydrates are for cheese or for some of this processed food is actually based on the type of bacteria that we have.

And I can’t recall the specific name, the gut bacteria because, you know, they have such long names and there are so many of them. But that was fascinating to me and that you know, that there is, that there is science and there is research that they’ve done studies that people would, certain cravings for certain foods.

There’s a direct correlation for the type of good gut bacteria that’s done that predominates. And I, since I do a lot of guts stuff in my clinic, I always like to take a look at if there’s any gut dysbiosis happening with people because the foods that we eat, especially if there’s a standard American diet high in processed carbohydrates that can create gut dysbiosis and that I, you know, then you start to creating more of those foods because then you have the gut bacteria that is essentially trying to create an environment where it’s trying to thrive and it’s releasing chemicals, your transmitters and hormones to make sure that it survives by giving you the cravings so that you eat the food in order to sustain it. So that was one of those, like a fascinating thing for me to find.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Just to add to this, and you kind of sparked an idea in my head, which is just that a lot of people when they have a dysbiotic guts, they will react negatively to things that are actually health promoting. So for example, like some of the resistant starches and prebiotic fibers, a lot of times people with dysbiosis will have bloating and gas and abdominal pain and other negative symptoms,

Going back to the neurotransmitter level, I just wonder how much you then have, you know, just as you’re talking about these people are kind of the bacteria’s craving causing them to crave eating bad foods in order for those bacteria to get the stuff they like that selectively feeds them. I wonder how much also people are being wired out of eating the foods that they should be eating by virtue of kind of linking unpleasant, painful experiences to eating some of those beneficial foods.

Dr. Elena Zinkov: Yeah, precisely because you know, you eat the bad food, refuse the guy bacteria and then. But you’re also perpetuating Serotonin, the dopamine cycles. So you’re kind of in this vicious cycle and that’s why I’m always for you got to cleanse yourself. You got to cleanse yourself from the junk food.

You got to get rid of it for a little while. And you know, in my personal story, I think people get discouraged really frequently. They try something for a week or two weeks and they’re like, well, this doesn’t work, you know? But the thing is that we all know that health requires really sustainable action day in and day out, and I think so many times people get discouraged and that they don’t see something working really quickly and they give up on that.

And I say like, even in my own personal journey, when if you read the book, I could easily down a cake easily, you know, it was like because I was hungry and that seemed like a really good fuel source and it was organic carrot cake that seemed like a good idea, but it took me a couple of years to really rewire those food cravings to cook more in the kitchen to make own raw treats and Paleo treats.

And but that effort that you put in is, is just like, it is so, so necessary. And you know, 80 percent of Serotonin is actually produced in your gut from beneficial good bacteria. But if you have, you know, I kind of calmed the [inaudible].

Like if they’re dominating the scene, then you’re not producing. No. All they’re doing is creating all this fermentation and not producing the Serotonin then they need to be. And so you’re really like gut health is really important.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Yeah. Interesting. So you mentioned chocolate and magnesium cravings. Are there any other examples that are kind of well spelled out in the scientific literature around, you know, where, where we really have strong evidence that cravings for this specific, where that specific food are linked with this specific deficiency.

Dr. Elena Zinkov: So the other one was iodine, iodine and seafood and seaweed. Um, so there’s some evidence on those particular. I’m trying to think of the other. Alright. Cheese and chromium deficiency. That’s another one.

Ari Whitten: People not cheese deficiency though. People with chromium deficiency will, will tend to crave cheese.

Dr. Elena Zinkov: Yeah.

Ari Whitten: Or it could be a cheese deficiency. And then you crave chromium supplements.

Dr. Elena Zinkov: Deficiency has been shown to be related. Chromium deficiency has been shown to be related to cravings for cheese. That’s, that’s what I meant. Yeah. So those are a few ones that I’ve come across and I, I think that

Ari Whitten: the limitation there is more just a function of the fact that there haven’t been many experiments into testing that, I would imagine. It’s not that, you know, there’s been hundreds of studies testing, you know, the link between cravings and specific foods and they just haven’t found them as I’m under the impression that it’s more just that there haven’t been very many studies even probing those questions.

Dr. Elena Zinkov: Yeah. There really haven’t been in it. Just like for me, even in writing the book I am, it was really interesting that the studies that I’ve seen, of course all those studies would say know more research needs to be more research needs to be done in this and more research. And I tried to find studies that were really good with high quality but I think it all came down to really providing people with really easy, easily applicable tools and they can do on a daily basis to provide them with things that they’re craving.

And healthy alternatives to that to satisfy that craving and just give him a little bit more insight that possibly there is a nutrient deficiency, but more often than not, it’s just not, it’s not, it’s not just a nutrient deficiency. It is this combination of so many different symptoms that play into our lifestyle, our gut and our health. Because in the end, like even in the client, the clients that I see really high stress, will it really top performance, the top performance and the reason that they crave the processed food or the junk food is because their adrenal function is tanked.

I talk about cortisol. Cortisol is what regulates your blood sugar. One of the things that regulate our blood sugar and when your cortisol levels are low, it’s really hard for you to get your blood sugar up. And so you ended up resorting to things that are provided that instant fix.

How a nutrient deficiency can show up as a craving

Ari Whitten: Gotcha. I have another weird one for you. I read in an article recently on the current carnivore diet. I don’t know if you’ve heard of that, but it’s basically an all meat diet with essentially no plant foods. Um, or very close to no plant foods, someone was saying that you know, that one of the things that the diet may promote is scurvy, vitamin C deficiency and that we have, I didn’t fact check this, I didn’t actually go to see if there was, you know, research supporting this or not, but this researcher was saying that people, when they’re on vitamin C deficient diets that are going to kind of promote scurvy, they will start to get cravings for citrus fruits and sort of this very specific craving like our, our biology seems to be wired with some sort of knowledge of what contains vitamin C and you will experience, you know, basically you’re saying the people on all meat diets or at some point going to fail to adhere to that diet.

And, just like all diets, there isn’t 100 percent adherence rate. People will deviate here and there. And he was saying specifically they’re going to probably deviate by consuming by feeling this compulsion to go eat oranges or grapefruit or some, you know, other citrus fruit. Have you ever heard of something like that?

Dr. Elena Zinkov: I have, and I think it also comes down to I think psychologically we’ve kind of program that vitamin C oranges, right? But if we think about other sources of vitamin C, like it’s not just [inaudible], right? There’s so many other plant foods that you wouldn’t even think about that have high vitamin C, but they do, but I think it’s not just but I think the reason one of the reasons that they mentioned in particular is because you’re primed to, to go for the citrus foods.

When we think about why I didn’t see no, that that particular craving is vitamin C, but I think the best thing that your body knows, like you can think about it, your body may be deficient vitamin C, but it’s going to go for citrus because that’s what he knows best. That’s, that’s what it’s been programmed to know is what contains vitamin C compared to other food sources.

How to stop cavings

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Interesting. What about the idea of like carb cravings for people on Super Low carb or keto diets or, or stop cravings for people on Super Low fat diets. To what extent do you feel those sorts of cravings are legitimate?

Dr. Elena Zinkov: Well, I think carbohydrates are an important fuel source and it’s all about the quality of our carbohydrates. So I frequently say that like if you’re craving carbohydrates, there’s, there’s a reason to like your, we need carbohydrates for like jen or it’s just simple energy source or us.  We need carbohydrates. They’re most carbohydrate. Rich foods contain key vitamins and minerals. So even when you mentioned, you know, the Carnivore Diet and [inaudible] vitamin C, it would be one of the things I would worry about.

I would worry about all the other nutrients that you’re depriving yourself of by just being on a meat diet. And so, and a lot of really wonderful nutrients are found in carbohydrates. So I think that when people crave carbohydrates, it’s honestly, I think that there it’s not just a carbohydrate itself as an bread crackers or something like that, but certain vitamins and minerals that those things contain. It’s again, it’s just the programming, right?

Ari Whitten: Just to clarify that, there’s a lot of people I know here the word carbs or carbohydrates, bread, pasta, crackers, so just so people understand where you’re coming from. Can you talk about maybe some of these other carbohydrate containing foods that you’re referring to

Dr. Elena Zinkov: so you know, fruits, apples, pears, vegetables, broccoli, brusselsprouts, kale, mixed greens and sweet potatoes, squash, asparagus, so really emphasizing vegetables and even old grains like brown rice and some that ancient grains. Those are all healthy source of carbohydrates and you can load up on those sources of carbohydrates and reprogram yourself to crave those foods instead of junk stuff. Right?

Like the processed white bread or wheat bread or crackers and I’m white rice and all of those more highly processed foods and thinking with that. I think that there’s the problem is not in the fat. It’s the quality of fats and we need fat to make our hormones and we need fat for our cellular integrity because cells we have. We’re made of billions of cells and each cell has this beautiful border around it to a protective order made out of fat and fat for that.

But there’s also bad fat, there’s good fat and things that are highly processed like soybean oil, vegetable oils, canola oil, and then the Omega3, I’m sorry, Omega fatty acids that are commonly found in meat, again in moderation, I believe in a balance between Omega three, six and nine. But I think people tend to focus more on, tend to get more of the 6 and the 9 fatty acids and not so much omega 3 antiinflammatory fatty acids.

So it’s not even like the low fat but the quality of fat. So, and we need fat, you know, for, for nervous system, for brain function. It’s um, I think it’s natural for people to crave fat when you go on a low fat diet because it’s just the carbohydrates. Fat is involved in so many different processes.

How to stop food cravings – check your environment

Ari Whitten: Very interesting. What about one of the other layers you talked about in your book is environmental influences, so like kinds of immediate physical environments sort of stuff. How does that affect cravings? So, you know, I,

Dr. Elena Zinkov: I came across a couple studies that I wasn’t really dove into more of the psychology of cravings and the environment which I wasn’t actually really familiar with until I started to write the book and things like that face, for example, the the layout of tape of tables when you walk into a, like a buffet or even the whole foods hot bar, like the positioning of the food and the container for the food.

All of those things can impact how we perceived the amount of food that we may be needing or craving. That’s one thing. So they actually, even things like lighting can impact our craving. So right light versus dim light music can impact our cravings. So there’s so many. There’s all these factors which made me think about how, like, how restaurants operate and how in certain in certain areas it really ties into our psychology.

But I think the other really big part in about environment is our social environment. And this is where I see have seen a lot of people struggle is what’s happening in their work environment. And I still don’t get why corporate offices have like candy jars everywhere. I don’t get it. Like I had one of my clients and she actually has a binge eating disorder and we worked with her for a number of years and she said, ”Elaina, I’ve come so far to have, just to be more in tune with my body and to understand that if I haven’t an impulsive desire that is, that’s all it is, just an impulse that I have to act on it, blah blah blah”. So there’s so much that we went through, but she goes, you know, it’s the holiday season and people are bringing cookies and baking stuff and there’s candy everywhere.

And I’m like, that stuff still exists in corporate America? Didn’t they get the memo that sugar is bad and that we need to protect our employees from it or something like that, you know. But so there are social environments and the pressures from the social circles. So like you go out to eat. I used to feel bad about this, but you know, I would be like that annoying person in the restaurant, like I’ll have you know, this without that and with a side of this and when it came to own that because that’s what works for my body and I really don’t care anymore if people think you know, about my preferences and I kind of teach people that you’re going to get resistance when you go into your social circles.

Like if you say I’m going to pass on the alcohol or I’m going to pass on this or I’ll have a side of that that prepared to get some resistance and it depends on if you’re willing to kind of stood up for what you believe in and what’s really good for your health or in other people’s agenda.

And so, but so that, that social element, that peer pressure, you know, to eat something, to drink something and also just the exposure that a lot of people, you know people get exposed to the different other people’s food preferences at work or whatever. Whatever’s in there on the refrigerator. So that also ties into the whole environment concept, so a lot of times to educate people about what to bring with them to work, what to stash at their desk, how to say no, you know, it’s crazy as it sounds. But to teach people how to save.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Well let’s, let’s segue into that. I want to talk about some practical solutions to, to cravings sort of issues. Let’s, let’s start with that one in particular. So let’s say somebody works in an office environment, there’s other employees in that office who are bringing in plates of chocolate chip cookies that are filling the air with that beautiful chocolate chip cookie aroma that everybody will intuitively want to seek out. It’s like, you know, as soon as you smell hits you, it’s like Whoa, I need some chocolate chip cookies. So what, what do you recommend somebody does in that kind of environment to combat that craving that is leaving, leading them in a bad direction?

Dr. Elena Zinkov: A couple of things. One is don’t be, don’t be caught off guard. So if you’re walking into, and this is kind of a grounding ourselves, so if you walk into an environment and you’ve totally caught off guard, like maybe you skipped breakfast, maybe you just got done with a stressful conference call and maybe you’re not in the best of moods. So if you’re caught off guard and you’re walking into the situation, then it’s all fair game, right?

Most likely you’re going to given into that chocolate chip cookie smell and you’re going to partake in a chocolate chip cookie. And so something that I recommend is be sure that you’re not caught off guard by making sure that you have all the checks and balances in place. Keep your blood sugar stable, right? So if you know that you’re somebody who tends to be an impulsive eater. So like for me, I’ve trained myself not to be an impulsive eater.

So even that cookie smell is not going to get the best of me because most likely I’m not caught off guard that I had something healthy to eat before I walk into my office or even if I am, if I’m caught with that, that desire for the cookie have something alternative on hand, so something that can satisfy that craving without the negative consequence of the cookie. Because what happens when you have one cookie, chances are you’re probably gonna have a second cookie cookie, and that’s where I’m like, there’s nothing wrong with having just one cookie, but that’s not where people stop. The issue is not in that one cookie that you’re going to have. It’s in the course of the day, how many cookies you’re going to have in the course of the meal.

So number one is don’t get caught off guard. Make sure that you keep your blood sugar balanced by having healthy snacks throughout the day or having something readily available at your work desk or in the break room that you can satisfy that craving with

Ari Whitten: interesting neurotransmitter layer of this. What are some strategies that people can start to implement to, to fix what’s going on in a neurotransmitter level?

Dr. Elena Zinkov: One of the things I recommend is actually eating healthy carbohydrates, so getting that similar but not exactly with things like healthy carbohydrate sources like I mentioned, the vegetables and the squash and things that because what happens is like there’s a difference between eating, like licorice twists, right? And versus a sweet potato. Sweet potato has its sweets, but it also has a lot of great sources of fiber and vitamins and minerals. Whereas the licorice twists, for example, has just a bunch of sugar and chemicals and it, that’s all it is.

And so you might get an and it’s the the amount of the serotonin surge. So because the sweet potato has that additional fiber in it compared to just like a piece of candy, you’re still going to get that little spike in serotonin, which is going to give you that pleasure without the.

But it’s not going to be as big of a serotonin surge as it would with the candy. But still you’re going to get that satisfaction from having something that like a healthy carbohydrate. So just for, for Serotonin in particular, it’s really, I’m finding satisfaction in other stores or fueling serotonin with other forms of carbohydrates. And then of course supplement wise 5HTTP, it’s a serotonin precursor. You can find it anywhere really these days, but it can be a really nice and natural way to support serotonin national search, one in production so that because genetically some people produce less Serotonin, just some people I produced less serotonin compared to other people and therefore I need to pay closer attention to my diet in order to avoid the ebbs and flows throughout the day that they can experience him a blood sugar and my mood. Um, and then supplementing with five htp, she just helped to promote those nice healthy serotonin levels.

Ari Whitten: What about dopamine, is there any aspect of addressing the dopamine layer of this as well?

Dr. Elena Zinkov: No, dopamine is mostly behavior, so this is why I recommend intervention. So a lot of impulsivity in particular is really breaking that habit loop by going for a walk around the block, the stairs, getting a little bit of an endorphin boost, really finding activities to satisfy, not necessarily to satisfy a craving, but to break that cycle.

So dopamine is mostly like get your body into a different environment to start breaking that bad habit. And this is what I talk to people about. Maybe it’s meditation, maybe it’s going for a walk outside, maybe it’s incorporating a short workout at your depths or whatever. Who Cares? Like if anybody’s watching they’re just jealous they wanted to be doing squats and lunges with you. But also the key nutrient is… which is a precursor for dopamine that also some people can be just genetically predisposed to producing less dopamine.

How to stop food cravings – do mindfulness

Ari Whitten: Interesting. Are there any other sort of areas of strategies that you think are important apart from the sort of Serotonin, dopamine layer of the environmental layer is, is there any other aspect of this that you think needs to be addressed?

Dr. Elena Zinkov: I think mindfulness is a huge, huge component. I think many of us are in a go mentality all the time that we kind of forget to justice. We forget to fast from food because we always just eating. I think we forget to just pause sometimes and to really reconnect with ourselves and understand are we really, I’m in a fight or flight mode or are we safe and are we making a bigger deal of a situation than it really didn’t. It really needs to be because the tendency for our brains to magnify things, right.

Again, it’s a really protective mechanism and I think I’m having a mindfulness practice. Something that you can just give grounded in can be really helpful in identifying as something are you, are you hungry, are you frustrated, are you bored? And kind of really understanding what that impulse or that craving is really about.

So I think mindfulness is number one and multitasking, right? There’s no such thing as multitasking. You can only really focus on one thing at a time. And so one of the things that I talk about is having some structure to your day. When are you eating? What are you working? It’s just kind of having those two things separate is because I think when you’re working, when you’re eating, you’re actually kind of, you’re trying to avoid some aspects of your work because the eating is giving you pleasure, right? As you’re constantly studying, right?

You’re kind of like, you’re eating and you’re studying, you’re eating, you’re studying and, but it’s what is that having a snack at your desk? What is it trying to distract you from? So really practicing presence and mindfulness.

 How to stop junk food cravings

Ari Whitten: My final question to you, going back to something we talked a bit about earlier as far as people not knowing what hunger feels like anymore, and people kind of have being wired into this mode where all of the cravings that they’re experiencing, our cravings, driving them to do things that are associated with bad health outcomes.

So in other words, craving donuts, cookies, crackers, pizza, ice cream, that sort of thing. Um, so there’s an element for someone like that that they, they just, they’re not in a position where they can immediately start trusting their cravings through body’s cravings. There’s to some extent, it’s a skill to to be able to listen to your body’s cravings and to actually have intelligent cravings that you can act on in a way that is ultimately beneficial to you.

So it’s a skill that has to be cultivated and also like there’s a biological biochemical level of your body has to be actually in a healthy enough state that it is communicating good signals instead of pathological signals.

So how does that transition process look? Is it basically just a matter of eating pretty much an entirely whole foods diet and then the system’s kind of reset in a way that your body starts communicating a good intuitive craving signals?

Dr. Elena Zinkov: Yeah, absolutely. You know, the body inherit and these are really resilient machine, you know, we just get out of its way. It’ll do its thing. But I think what happens is that over time we do no damage to it, that we kind of forget what feels good for us. And it all starts with doing a cleanse and doing an audit and seeing what works and what doesn’t work and really focusing on introducing the foods that our body knows as, you know, as medicine really ask and absolutely a whole foods diet.

And I think the tendency is for people to go to the extremes is that, okay, I’ve been eating junk food now I’m just going to go full on Keto. But the big problem with that is that people don’t usually know how to offboard of that program. If they go Keto, they go, you know, just start eating meat or whatever we decide to do face sometimes the biggest problem that people have is not necessarily starting, but coming off of that and being really strategic, super strategic about it because it’s like you and I are in medicine or in science and we kind of know how to ease our way out of that.

And we guide our clients how to do that properly. But, but, but most of the time people are preoccupied with other tasks in their day, you know, and just support their family. And so they don’t, they don’t have time to do the proper research or don’t have access to the right information out to come off of those extreme diets sustainably. And they ended up what I call the rebound effect, basically pendulum back to where they were before and then be frustrated.

So the reason why I liked just the whole foods approach is because it’s sustainable, it’s easy, it’s not a big stress on the body, we’re not asking you to do crazy things. We’re just asking you to eat foods that are not all packaged and fried. Right? And that are super inflammatory. So, and, but it takes time. And that’s why, you know, in my research what I’ve, what I’ve found is that it takes at least 90 days to fully start getting the benefit of those neural pathways of developing those new neural pathways to really see that, oh hey, wait a second.

I’m not as dependent on that thing as it used to be for. So you know, you’ve got to give it some time. But really, you know, the, the, the foundations of health with the movement or the exercise, the sweating, in a whole foods diet can just do wonders, but, but it, but it takes time and you have to be able to do it in, within also changing or modifying your lifestyle because if you have high amounts of stress, we need to make sure that you have the tools to help you manage the stress better.

So, I shared my experience of becoming a mother in my book and how, you know, I’m really good about my guide. I’m really good about my exercise, but in a constant of a hormone imbalance that I experienced postpartum, it was like all those things went out the door and I was craving foods that I haven’t craved in a decade.

And I was relying on more caffeine than I normally would. And that was even an at. That’s at the same time I was writing the book. So literally as I was writing that story, I was going through this and I was trying to figure out, you know, how to heal myself. And, and that was a, and that was a moment of insight and that we got to have those other things. You got to have those ducks in line as well.

We’ve got to make sure that our hormones are functioning properly so that they’re sending the right signals to ourselves. We have to make sure that we’re managing our stress, our relationships, and how we respond to those relationships into the stressors and, you know, of course, address the diet component as the foundation of it all.

Ari Whitten: Awesome. Well, Dr. Elena, I’ve really, really enjoyed this conversation. As I said at the beginning, I applaud you for having the Kahunas to, to explore the science around this very, very complex, nuanced and complicated topic, and I love your book. It’s great. I highly recommend everybody listening,  who struggles with cravings and wants to understand them and have practical solutions for fixing some of these cravings that are, that are problematic in your life that are leading you down bad pathways of how to fix them. It’s, you know, goes into greater detail than what we covered in this, in this interview. And I highly, highly recommend it. It’s called ”The Crave Reset”. You can get it on

And  Dr. Elena, do you want to direct anybody? Did you want to direct people to any place in particular to follow your work or learn more about you or if they want to work with you or someone in your clinic?

Dr. Elena Zinkov: Yeah, so they can find in two places on my website, And then I’m always on instagram sharing tips and tricks and videos. So you can find me on Instagram, Dr. Elena Zinkov.

Ari Whitten: Wonderful. Thank you so much. It was such a pleasure and I look forward to talking to you again soon.

Dr. Elena Zinkov: Thank you.

What Science Says About Cravings (And How To Stop Food Cravings) with Dr. Elena Zinkov – Transcript

The difference between cravings (when are they intelligent and when are they not intelligent?) (4:01)
The importance of fasting (09:19)
How to overcome cravings that are not contributing to your health (14:26)
How serotonin and dopamine affect cravings (25:46)
How a nutrient deficiency can show up as a craving (33:20)
How to stop cavings (35:35)
How to stop food cravings – check your environment (39:06)
How to stop food cravings – do mindfulness (48:16)
How to stop junk food cravings  (50:17)


To work with Dr. Elena Zinkov, go check out her website.

In this podcast, Summer Bock shares how to restore healthy gut flora.


How To Use Food For Healing Your Body With Dr. Michael Murray (The Healing Power Of Food Summit)

How To Use Food For Healing Your Body With Dr. Michael Murray (The Healing Power Of Food Summit)Nutrition and herbal approaches to healing have existed for thousands of years. But many people within conventional medicine regard such approaches as not nearly as scientific as the pharmaceutical-focused conventional medical paradigm. They assume that if such things actually had scientific evidence to support their effectiveness, they would have been incorporated into conventional medicine long ago. So, if natural plant medicine has been used for years, why is it not a standard practice in modern-day conventional medicine? Is it all pseudoscience or is it actually effective to use food for healing your body?

What if you could quantify the effectiveness of eating a particular food to a pharmaceutical drug intervention (e.g. apples vs. statins, or saffron vs. Alzheimer’s drugs, or turmeric vs. painkillers)? And what if there are even examples where simple food interventions can actually perform BETTER than drugs (with positive side effects instead of negative ones)? 

I’ll let you in on a little secret that many conventional doctors aren’t aware of, and many pharmaceutical companies don’t want you to know: There are indeed dozens of examples where even very simple, non-comprehensive diet and lifestyle changes dramatically outperform drug interventions. (And it’s certainly very likely that in many cases, if research were done comparing drug interventions to comprehensive nutrition and lifestyle changes, the drugs would be badly embarrassed in terms of effectiveness.)

In this podcast, I am speaking with Dr. Michael Murray, who is the author of The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine (and 29 other books) and one of the world’s leading authorities on natural medicine and the science of how to use nutrition to heal your body. I was very impressed with Dr. Michael Murray (as you’ll hear in the podcast) — he’s extremely knowledgeable and committed to truth rather than going along with health fads (like far too many health “gurus” out there.) He’s one of the top trusted sources of health information, in my opinion, and I strongly encourage you to follow his work.

Listen in to this podcast as Dr. Michael Murray reveals his top recommendations for how to use food for healing your body, and The Healing Power Of Food Summit.

Also Make Sure to Sign Up For Dr. Murray’s Healing Power of Food Summit – Free access for just the next few days in October (Sign Up HERE): Before we get into the podcast, I also strongly recommend signing up for Dr. Murray’s Healing Power of Food Summit. You can get FREE access to Dr. Murray’s Food Summit for just the next few days (and then you have to pay for access.)  It’s packed with great content. Here are a few speakers that are must-watches, in my opinion: David Katz, MD, Dr. David Friedman, Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Dr. Ben Lynch, Dr. Joe Pizzorno, Jackie Bowen, Razi Berry, Jade Buetler and Ocean Robbins. Get access to the whole summit for FREE right here. (Note: I believe it’s shutting down in just a couple days, but there will be an encore next weekend where you will be able to get free access to everything for a couple of days.)

In this podcast, Dr. Murray will cover:

  • How to use food for healing your body
  • The rare, but powerful studies (that will blow your mind) that compare the healing efficacy of nutrition/lifestyle interventions vs. drugs
  • The best oils for health
  • How much fat should you actually be eating (hint: not necessarily a low fat diet, but probably a lot less than is currently trendy)
  • Why a meat-centric diet can be bad for your health
  • How your microbiome affect your health (and is there a unique best diet for every individual?)
  • The truth about grains and gluten (there are some twists to the story!)
  • Are legumes good or bad for you?
  • Why phytochemicals are essential for health and disease prevention
  • The best diet for health and longevity (hint: the answer will surprise you)
  • Michael Murray’s best foods for healing and health (his top superfoods and superherbs)

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How To Use Food For Healing Your Body With Dr. Michael Murray (The Healing Power Of Food Summit) – Transcript

Ari Whitten: Hey everyone, welcome back to the Energy Blueprint Podcast. I’m your host, Ari Whitten, and today, I have with me a very special guest Dr. Michael Murray. Dr. Murray is one of the world’s leading authorities on natural medicine. He’s published over 30 books, 30 books. I’ll repeat that. That’s a lot of books featuring natural approaches to health. He’s a graduate, former faculty member, and serves on the board of regions of Bastyr University in Seattle, Washington and he’s the chief science officer of Enzymedica. He’s also the author of the Magic of Food and the Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. So with that said, welcome to the show Dr Murray. Such a pleasure to have you.

Dr. Michael Murray: Likewise. It’s great to be here with you.

Why natural medicines are considered alternative

Ari Whitten: Yeah. So, I want to, I was kinda debating before we started this, about how I wanted to start this podcast. There’s a couple good, great stuff that, a couple of great things that I wanted to get into here. I’ll start with one quote that I really liked that’s on your website and it says one of the great myths about natural medicines is that they are not scientific. The fact of the matter is that for most common illnesses there is greater support in the medical literature for a natural approach than there is for drugs or surgery. So that, that in itself is a really bold statement that…

Dr. Michael Murray:  It is.

Ari Whitten: … would probably get you branded by a, you know, a lot of people in conventional medicine as, as you know, ”Whoa, that’s, this guy’s crazy!” And yet, I would love for you to kind of explain what this is all about and maybe some instances where this is actually true because a lot of people in conventional medicine just say, hey, if that stuff worked, then it wouldn’t be sort of alternative It would be integrated into conventional medicine. It, you know, what, what we call anything that has science to support it is just medicine instead of alternative medicine or her, you know, if it’s not integrated in the conventional, allopathic paradigm than it must be nonsense sort of thing. Can you kind of elaborate on what that quote is all about and give maybe a few examples where that’s the case.

Dr. Michael Murray: Thank you. I appreciate that. It’s a great way to start this off. Yeah, there is a wealth of information in the scientific literature would support the use of natural approaches, diet, lifestyle, modification, attitude adjustments, deep breathing, other natural therapies, acupuncture, etc. And it is a myth that there’s a little scientific support for these approaches. Over the last 40 years. I personally gathered over 70,000 scientific articles which support the use of these approaches in the treatment of a disease and in the maintenance of health. And it just takes some common sense. I mean, you don’t get a headache because you’re deficient in aspirin and you don’t get depressed because you need vitamin Prozac.

You don’t have digestive issues because you need to take Nexium or Prilosec.

There are underlying core factors, root causes of these situations and others. And the way we should be dealing with those underlying causes is not through suppressing symptoms, but actually promoting the body’s ability to nourish and heal itself.

And that’s the fundamental approach that I take and I think it’s just common sense and it is supported in the medical literature for a lot of health conditions. Take a look at something like diabetes or high blood pressure. Those conditions really respond very well to diet, lifestyle and a proper nutritional supplementation. Variety of different herbal approaches.

We can make noticeable improvements in those conditions. In the case of type two diabetes, we can completely reverse it if we can help people improve the action of insulin throughout their body. And that can be done quite effectively in most cases. It’s just that people don’t know it. They’ve been told by their doctor, ” you’ve got a type two diabetes, you’re gonna have to take this drug for the rest of your life. And there’s no way around it”. Well, that’s not true.

How an apple a day may keep the doctor away

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Yeah. Interesting. I’m reminded as we’re talking about this, of this, this kind of fascinating and also hilarious study. I’m trying to find it. I think it was published in the British Journal of Medicine, that basically tried to quantify the effectiveness of statin drugs in reducing the incidence of cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Michael Murray: Right.

Ari Whitten: And you’re laughing make, which makes me think that, you know, which study I’m referring to already. But they quantified it and try to compare it to the traditional sort of common sense advice of eating an apple a day, you know, sort of an apple a day keeps the doctor away and they actually ended up quantifying this in a way were they concluded. And this was actually a real piece of research. They concluded that the effectiveness of the statin drug and reducing cardiovascular disease or atherosclerosis was on par with the advice to eat an apple a day.

Dr. Michael Murray: Yeah. Actually the apple a day is a little bit better if you look at the data is really not supportive the use of these statin drugs in most cases. I think they do have their use of someone who’s had a heart attack, has a clear clinical evidence of heart disease.

Yeah, there might be some benefit that the research does support improved life expectancy. But statins have not been shown to be helpful in other cases, there’s not a study that shows that it actually increases life expectancy in women. There’s no, no valid studies showing any real influence on reducing mortality by taking a statin women.

And as I mentioned for men, it’s just restricted to those very limited cases of either a prior heart attack or severe cardiovascular disease.

If we look at the overall benefit of taking a stat and from the best studies it shows a reduction in cardiovascular death by about 28 percent. If we look at a study, the studies with apples, they showed that eating one apple three times a week reduced the risk of having a heart attack or stroke by 37 percent.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, wow.

Dr. Michael Murray: And then… one of the studies that really amazed me. I was looking through a medical journalist… this was years ago. There was a study where there was an ad for metformin and it says, you know, basically to doctors ”Get your prediabetic patients on this drug glucofage because it reduces their risk of developing type two diabetes.” And I looked at the reference, I was familiar with the diabetes prevention study and what the study showed is a divided people into three groups.

One group, was a control group. The other group, took the metformin. And the third group, they instituted a diet and lifestyle changes. The only thing that the people really change as that they were walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week. So just a little bit of exercise. Okay. Then they found that compared to the control group, the people that took a statin did reduce their risk of developing type two diabetes by 38 percent.

But in the people that walked 30 minutes a day for five days a week, they reduced their risk of having type two diabetes by 58 percent. So it was nearly twice as effective and then I looked at that data and they had information in there that looked at the effects of the drug by age group 30 to 40, 40 to 50, 50 plus.

And what they found was, is that the drug had very little effect on people over the age of 50 and that’s when most people are getting placed on these drugs.  and so what they found in those patients is the drug was not effective at all that reducing the risk of developing type two diabetes.

But again, the fact of walking persistent.

So yeah. So it’s just, there’s so much a simple things we can apply in our lives that can make a huge difference in where we are.

Ari Whitten: Yeah…

Dr. Michael Murray: but what we don’t know is what happens when you’ve combined everything,

Ari Whitten: right? Yeah, absolutely. And well, you know, there’s unfortunately studies in both of those, these types of things that we’re talking about. So on the one hand, studies that let’s say compare a drug intervention to a simple singular lifestyle and mentioned like going for a few walks a day or a few 10 minutes walks a day or 1 30 minute walk or something like that, or  you know, taking a spirulina supplement as opposed to take, you know, taking statin drugs. Like unfortunately those studies are extraordinarily rare almost to the point of nonexistence. In a lot of cases.

I really wish there was a lot more of that kind of study. But then as, as you’re pointing out also, there are very few studies on comprehensive lifestyle and nutrition interventions where you just overhaul a person’s diet and lifestyle. You know, if you consider what we mentioned before about, you know, for example, the diabetes drug versus a walk or the, an apple a day versus statins. If you consider some of those, how you know, the effectiveness of a simple nutrition or lifestyle intervention, it only makes sense to imagine that a comprehensive nutrition and lifestyle intervention would just vastly outperform drug interventions almost every time.

Dr. Michael Murray: Absolutely. And we see, we see evidence of that for sure, but there’s always exceptions and so people will say, yeah, well, I know, I remember so and so. He did everything wrong. He ate everything he wanted and smoked cigarettes and drank and he lived till he was a hundred. And I know joe blow and he did everything right. He died having a heart attack, running, running a mile or whatever. So there are always exceptions, but when you look at a large group of people, we see really good trends and it’s, it’s amazing.

And we just have to incorporate as many of the good things in our lives that was, that we possibly can. And a good to stay away from those things that aren’t so good. You know, our talk reminded me of another study that I thought was really interesting. The EPIC study was a European study looking at cardiovascular disease and overall health and provided a lot of really interesting studies when they, they looked at, this is a study when they looked at, in the Greek population, people that are eating a traditional Mediterranean diet.

They found that which all always reduces the risk of having a heart attack or stroke, but they found that when people took a siesta that it reduced their risk of having a heart attack or stroke by 67 percent.

Ari Whitten: Oh wow. I haven’t seen that.

Dr. Michael Murray: Oh yeah. I’ll send you that study because I was glad to see that because I’ve had the luxury of spending a lot my working days working at home and being able to take a 15-minute meditation or maybe a little power nap is part of my lifestyle. And I like seeing that. I got to believe I’m doing good things for myself.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Well I’m with you. I also work from home and you know, especially as we get into more of the fall and winter months, one of the things that I do is in the middle of my day, I always keep that part of my day free. I never book appointments there. And the reason is I take my dog to the beach. I live walking distance to the beach here and  I will take my dog to the beach here in San Diego. And spend probably an hour, hour and a half. I’m walking her and just sitting with her on the beach and often getting a little meditation in as well, or little yoga or something like that. So that’s kind of my, my midday siesta to two, but now I have even more reason to continue doing that based on the research you just said.

Dr. Michael Murray: Yeah. In it makes a lot of sense if you know nutrition and physiology, you understand the importance of putting yourself in that parasympathetic state, relaxation state and taking that time like you’re doing when a great prescription for health through giving yourself.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. And I combined it with sun exposure to a, which is why that, that midday portion is kind of critical, especially during the winter months because that’s the only time you can really get it.

Dr. Michael Murray: Yeah.

The best diet for health

Ari Whitten: So one other aspect, and this is an area that I, you know, as we were talking about before we started recording that I’m really a fan of yours and I want to dig into this a bit with you. You are someone that is communicating what the evidence actually says. You’re someone that is committed to looking at the evidence and then you’re trying to communicate to the public the truth about what the evidence says.

As I said to you before, I oftentimes, unfortunately this is a case. I oftentimes feel like I’m surrounded by health gurus who are either not scientifically literate or who are just intentionally, deliberately cherry-picking the evidence, a selectively exciting the studies that support their, their preconceived notions and their dogmas, or the particular sort of diet book that they’re trying to sell and make money from a while selectively ignoring all the evidence that conflicts and contradicts with their views.

And there’s just way too much of that sort of nonsense going on where people are putting their dollars before truth. And I really appreciate about your work that you do not do that, that you, that you put truth and evidence before dollars. With that in mind, I’d love to dig into some specific aspects of nutrition here. And let’s start with a very direct, blunt question that I know that there’s no easy answer to, but based on looking at the evidence, can we say that there is one best diet for health? What is your take on that?

Dr. Michael Murray: No. We are individuals and one man’s poison, maybe another man’s food. You know, we’re learning more and more what those differentiating factors are related to maybe our genetics, our genomics, and our microbiome.

So we’re getting closer and closer to really understanding what is the best diet for a particular person. So in the meantime, all we can really do is go buy some general principles. And there are certain principles I think are irrefutable. A diet that is too high in refined carbohydrate, A diet that is too high in the wrong types of fat and not supplying the right type of fat and all the other nutrients that we need is not a healthy diet and that’s the diet that most people are, are following.

So when they change to a healthier diet, whether it’s a vegan or paleo or keto, they generally get better but you know, we have to look at what’s best for the long run. And there are ways that we can look at that, looking into the scientific literature, we can look at population-based studies where we can look and see what people were eating or are eating in an area that’s associated with health and long life. We can also look at system prospective studies and there are some intervention studies with diet and we can gain a lot of great information from that evidence. And so that’s kind of what I base my diet on and, and I think you do as well.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, absolutely. So what as far as the evidence, what does the evidence say about, I guess the first layer of this is the principles of, of what good nutrition for health looks like.

Sort of regardless of let’s say the specific food choices or the macronutrient ratios of the diet, what are the principles of nutrition that we know are good for human health and longevity? And I’ll let me phrase this differently because another way of asking this in the context of what you just said, that we’re all unique individuals. Is there any indication based on any evidence that eating a diet of donuts, french fries, piZzA and ice cream, is the ideal bio individualized diet for anyone?

Dr. Michael Murray: No, for sure. Yeah. The basic principles are to stay away from, from those sorts of foods and to eat a diet that’s going to support blood sugar control. I think that’s for most people, that’s really what they should be thinking about is… They should choose foods that are going to support their, their blood sugar levels. We need to eat. You make food choices that are low on the glycemic index and have meals that are low on the glycemic load, so that means staying away from foods that quickly raise your, your blood sugar. The more processed food is generally the higher glycemic index and glycemic load. We need to eat a variety of fresh and cooked vegetables each day, five servings of vegetables two servings as a fruit. Those numbers aren’t just picked out of the air. Those numbers are based upon what we see in these population-based studies.

If you look at the incidents of all these chronic degenerative diseases, not just cancer and diabetes and heart disease and strokes, but macular degeneration, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, we see that if people are able to hit that milestone, that that’s where you really start seeing the preventive effects.

So that’s something that we should be trying to achieve each and every day. I mentioned eating the good fats and staying away from the bad fats. I think the good fats are the ones that we get from nuts and seeds from good oils like olive oil. And I like avocado oil now. I think that’s, that’s a great one.  I like a macadamia nut oil and the coconut oils find them. We need those cold water fish or fish oil supplements. We need to stay away from those omega six fatty acids to get too much of those in our diet.

So safflower, corn, soy,  you need to stay away from those, and damaged fats like trans fatty acids and you know, some of these other manmade fats, we need to stay away from those Frankenstein fats. And I think if people do that, they’re going to get the right types of fat in their diet. Many people need to reduce their intake of meat and dairy to achieve that goal as well.

So then we have to eat a high fiber diet. To me that, that doesn’t mean more muffins and whole grains. I think getting those from vegetables and legumes are, or the way to go. We’ve got to get enough water each day. I think that’s something that a lot of people don’t think of as nutrition, but water is, is, I mean, we can go a while without food, but we can only go a few days without water. So it’s really critical that we get good clean water. So those are some of my basic principles.

Why you should get rid of certain types of omega 6

Ari Whitten: Great. So there’s, there are even a few things there that I want to dig into that are, have become a maybe on perhaps unfortunately have become controversial. So you mentioned, for example, going with deeper into the concept of fats. One of the things you write in your book is get rid of omega six sources, like the ones you mentioned more and you’re not talking about nuts and seeds necessarily. You’re talking about more safflower, sunflower oil, soy oil, corn oil, a lot of these sorts of cooking oils that have worked their way into the process foods and restaurants and things like that.  and sometimes people’s home cooking. And you talk about emphasizing olive oil, monounsaturated fat, avocados, coconut oil. Actually, there’s one more layer to this in your book you write, I’m curious if you still are on board with this, but you said total daily fat intake shouldn’t be more than 30 percent of calories and that’s, that’s something he wrote in the, in the magic of diet.

Is that something you’ve changed your stance on it all because, obviously the, the latest trends, there’s a lot of people out there who are promoting keto diets and saying that the best diet is one that 60 percent or even 80 percent fat and kind of crazy high-fat numbers like that.

And then there’s one more layer to this, which is the coconut oil aspect. That too has become controversial, right? There are some people saying, hey, especially in kind of vegan circles, a lot of vegan diet gurus are saying, hey, coconut oil is a saturated fat. That’s also bad for us. we need to avoid it. The American heart association came out recently and said, coconut oil is something to be wary of. So what’s, what’s your take on this whole mess of fats? And how popular and kind of trending high fat intake diets have become.

Dr. Michael Murray: Yeah, I’m okay with it to a degree, but I had a really good discussion with an expert like yourself recently. It was nice because we had a nice exchange and he was someone who I respected as well because he too has looked at the literature and him too kind of follows a, a diet very similar to me.  again, the key thing is to eat, to control blood sugar levels. And the ketogenic diet is becoming quite popular as a, as a tool to achieve that goal.  I think if it has good therapeutic benefit usually as a short-term intervention, but I don’t think it’s really the ideal diet longterm. And I think that for a lot of reasons,  one  I still think that a ratio that I have in the book, third, no more than 30 percent.

I think that’s a good general guideline.  but as we said earlier, even people are different.  I like to have a little bit of a dashboard for my nutritional of life. I use a body fat scale that measures my body weight, my body fat, my muscle content, my visceral fat, and my water content. I can see what effect different ratios have and what effect intermittent fasting has or what time of meals and lots of different things. I can see what the impact is on my body fat percentage. That’s what I’m most concerned about because I think that there’s a, you know, we, we think about body weight, but it’s really not body weight, it’s the percentage of body fat that I think we want to keep under control. As we age, we lose muscle, we gain fat. I think there’s a relationship to accelerating the aging process and you know, putting more fat on and losing more muscle.

So at age 60 have very motivated to maintain muscle mass and keep my body fat percentage at or hopefully a slightly trending downward to what it is right now. So I find that for me that ratio still works. Now,  I also think it’s important to get the calories were, I think the diet should primarily consist of and that is the vegetables and the vegetables are or attend to be very low in fat. And so we then those should be the primary components of our diet along with, you know, the good oils and high-quality protein. We need those vegetables because they provide all these different health-promoting phytochemicals, plant-based chemicals that act as antioxidants or enhance our detoxification mechanisms and feed our microbiome. Fats are important in feeding our microbiome, but what we’re learning is that it’s not just the prebiotic fibers that are in the vegetables and fruit and legumes that are so helpful, but they also contain these phytochemicals that are critical to the health of the microbiome.

There’s a big focus in research right now. It’s fun, isn’t it? To see what they’re discovering about how food and diet impacts this microbiome and there certain things that we’re learning in. One of the things that we’re learning is that what’s important is to have a microbiome that has great diversity. What determines our diversity in our microbiome is the diversity in our diet. Most Americans eat the same foods over and over and over again. And that’s what happened. That’s another thing that happens on a ketogenic diet. People start eating the same foods over and over again, and a lot of times they start eating too much animal fats in a week, you can get a lot of fat from avocados and nuts and seeds and whatnot. But,  I think people end up moving over and getting a lot of fat from animal foods.

The link between microbiome and health

Ari Whitten:  I don’t think you. Do you mind if I interrupt you on one point related to the microbiome and diversity? there’s one aspect of this as sort of the concept of the microbiome is becoming better known and the role and health are becoming better known. And we have these companies like ubiome and some that are sort of microbiome testing companies that are emerging.

There’s one really big misconception that I feel a lot of people have right now as this is happening, which is a lot of people are now thinking in the mindset that, oh, I need to get my microbiome tested and find out my unique microbiome and then I need to be prescribed a specific diet that is the right diet that I need to eat for the rest of my life based on my unique bio-individual, a bio-individual, sort of my unique microbiome. And I just want to point out that that sort of thinking is actually reversed from the thinking that you’re talking about, which is the diversity in the diet, determines how healthy and how diverse your microbiome, which in turn influences how healthy you are so that people just kind of have this thought process reverse. Like I need to find out my microbiome and then eat a very specific diet that facilitates my microbiome. Right?

Dr. Michael Murray: Yeah. Yeah. I don’t know, Ubiome and what their dietary recommendations are. I’m familiar with viome and they’ve discovered a lot of interesting things and I think the goal with, with their recommendations is to move people into a healthier microbiome. But we’re just scratching the surface on our knowledge, but there are some, some things that we do know and diversity and richness is very, very important in the way that we support that is to have a diet that is diverse and rich in these phytochemicals.

So that’s why I haven’t really changed much in my composition of the diet in terms of the calorie allocation. because you, if you load up on, on fats, it’s gonna reduce into via a true ketogenic diet. Your intake of fat has to be about 80 percent of your calories. You can’t really have much protein and you can’t really have much a much carbohydrate even if it’s good carbohydrate. Again, I think that there are applications of that therapeutic diet for sure. No question about it. To be helpful as a kickstart for someone for a weight loss program or to help them get control of their blood sugar. But I think long-term we can achieve that same benefit by eating a low glycemic load diet.

How oil, meat, and legumes affect health

Ari Whitten: So there are a few other points of contention here. Coconut oil is one. Even meat is now one. I mean there’s, there’s just a wide variety of perspectives on, on meet with a lot of people saying, you know, me to sort of unequivocally linked to disease and lowered mortality and then we have, you know, a lot of people kind of pointing to evidence that omnivory inclusion of meat can lead to just as good of outcomes,  and dairy, and legumes even now you’re here hitting over within the anti lectin stuff. Dr. Gundry’s stuff. Demonizing lectins, legumes are obviously a big part of your dietary recommendations and there’s a huge body of evidence linking them to improve health outcomes. And yet, we have some people swearing that legumes are driving disease.

So I’ll let you kind of address which specific points there that, that you think are the most relevant or worthy of addressing.

Dr. Michael Murray: If we look at population-based studies and we look at areas like Blue Zones where people live a longer healthier life, we see the legumes are a common component of most of these Blue Zone areas, so I’m not sure why people are saying to stay away from them.

And then the whole idea of the lectin issue, lectins are these plant proteins that are destroyed by cooking. Nobody’s eating raw kidney beans. So I don’t understand why there’s a big concern about, about lectins and there’s no data that shows that these lectins are absorbed into our body and produce any harm at all. So I think it’s a bit flimsy the recommendation to stay away from what I consider a health building food.

I think there’s a lot of great benefits to a lagoon diet, particularly in people that have blood sugar issues, that they lower cholesterol levels as well. They’re very good for your kidneys and elimination. So there’s a lot of good reasons for including legumes in your diet on a regular basis, in my opinion. And I think the literature supports that.

Coconut oil, I think coconut oil is a good fat. I think that like a lot of our foods some things had been blown out of proportion. For example, what the research shows is that if you substitute coconut oil for butter or other saturated fat in the diet, that people actually will lose weight. Now, but that has been translated to is, oh, if you add coconut oil to your diet, you’re going to lose weight. So, you know, I remember when this first came out, I had patients, they were saying I don’t understand, I’m add adding coconut and I’m gaining weight because they’re like most Americans, they add a little bit that it’s not working, so they add a little bit more and you know, they’re adding more and more calories to their diet.

And as a result yeah, they started gaining weight. So in terms of its effects on the heart, I think there are differences between the saturated fats that we get in coconut oil, these medium chain triglycerides versus the saturated fats that we get from meat and other products, which even then we, we can, we can kind of challenge some of the concern there.

I personally haven’t eaten much a red meat and the last 40 years. That’s based on a few things for me. When I look at the meat supply in 2018 is much better than it’s probably been for many, many years. We have more a grass-fed, pasture raised animal products out there. I think that’s really important. This is a little segue, but I think you’ll find it really interesting. I think the greatest threat to human health right now is not some superbug or eating too much sugar.

I think the biggest threat is this ever-increasing load and environmental pollutants, pesticides, herbicides, flame retardants, etc.

There was a study that was done in 2006. It was based on the national nutrition survey and they actually had blood measurements of pesticides and herbicides and they found that when they divided people into exposure levels based on their blood levels of these persistent organic pollutants, that you can make a stronger case that obesity and type two diabetes had more to do with persistent organic pollutants than it did for eating too much sugar or any other dietary factor.

Okay. So what they found was, is that they divided people by exposure to pesticides and  also by body weight and they found that a person that was obese, if they had high levels of these pesticides, they had a 40 times greater risk of developing type two diabetes than those that had little or none of those pesticides. And even someone who had an ideal body weight, if they were at the highest level of exposure, they were 20 times more likely to develop type two diabetes and someone who is morbidly obese.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. The numbers are amazing.

Dr. Michael Murray: It Yeah. I look at that and then I see all the comorbidities with obesity and type two diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease for example, and it really starts making a lot of sense when they looked at where these people were getting their pesticide load from.

It wasn’t from eating vegetables. What people don’t realize is that the higher you go up on the food chain, the more concentrated these contaminants become. So we’re always concerned about, you know, the dirty dozen and eating organic produce, but what is probably more important as eating clean, as clean as possible sources of meat and dairy.

So that’s been one of the reasons why I stayed away from, from those foods because you’re more likely to have a higher concentration of contaminants that our body doesn’t respond well to their hard for our body to get rid of. That’s why they’re called persistent organic pollutants.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. I’m debating whether we should stay to nutrition or go into the, into the talks and stuff right now. But,  I have one more question on this. This red meat aspect of things. I don’t know if you’ve seen the latest diet trend, which is the carnivore diet.

Dr. Michael Murray: Yes. You know, I follow a guy on Instagram, but I love him and he posts great information and before and after pictures and people are leaning out, they look like they’re in great shape. And  I just don’t think… I think… here’s what the literature shows with kidney stones. They found it. If someone ate a lot of meat… if they had a lot of vegetables, they didn’t get kidney stones, but if they ate a lot of meat and didn’t eat any vegetables they, they got kidney stones. So we didn’t, it wasn’t the meat intake, it was the absence of vegetables really that determined whether they would get kidney stones or not. And I think that they may be, you’re kind of ”robbing Peter to pay Paul”  that the bottom line is that in the long run they may be ending up not getting something that their body needs.

Dr. Michael Murray: And I, I really believe that we need. These were, were hunter gatherers, hunters.  but  I do think there’s individual variation and I don’t know, I don’t think it’s solely due to blood type that I think that it is due to kind of how we’re made in some of this may do better on a higher a meat-based diet.

Just make sure it’s clean made meat.  for me,  I’m pretty happy with, with where I am. I get my protein, I like whey protein.  I’ve looked at the different types and again, I kind of see how my body feels and how  I see my retention of muscle and me do really well with, with utilizing whey protein in, in smoothies. If I have eggs, I had one organic egg and then I have a supplement it with egg whites.

If I’m making an omelet or a scramble, I think scrambles are great. I’m a big fan of really spicing up your meals, adding spices and herbs because these are concentrated sources of these valuable phytochemicals that we’ve talked a lot about in foods. These are gifts. These are ways that we can really take advantage of getting really high concentrations of really active compounds from food and so, you know, take advantage of it. It’s been great.

I love some of the changes that have happened in our food supply.  it’s, it’s so much easier to eat super healthy and to make a choice. for example, we now we have a lot of fresh herbs now in the stores. Years ago we just had, you know, maybe parsley or basil if you are lucky. I’ve fallen in love with the microgreens. In San Diego, you’ve got to have those… instead of getting these lettuces and arugula and even kale and all these other green leafy vegetables with a lot of leaves and not a lot of nutrients. We can get these micro greens that taste better and I think are more nutritious. So I mean there’s, there’s just, there’s just a lot of choices and available now to choose healthier forms.

Phytochemicals – how they affect your health

Ari Whitten: Yeah, absolutely. And this is a nice segue I want to get into, to phytochemicals with you. So one of the really interesting things, and I don’t know if you’ve delved much into the research on this subject, this is a big passion of mine.  I’m fascinated with the science of phytochemicals and one of the really interesting things to me is this pervasive myth and misconception around phytochemicals that they are”antioxidants” and basically the research around them as what are called xenohormetins or xenohormetic phytochemicals, actually, they’re not actually acting as direct antioxidants in most cases. They are in many cases actually acting as pro-oxidants, which we would think intuitively is a bad thing if antioxidants are good then prooxidants bad and yet there are associated with all of these remarkable health benefits. So,  is this something that, are you familiar with the research on this topic?

Dr. Michael Murray: Yeah. Yeah. Of course.

Ari Whitten: So I would love for you to explain how that all works and, and, and kind of the mechanisms and some of the misconceptions that people have.

Dr. Michael Murray: Well, first of all, our body is incredible. And nature is incredible. in this day and age. I think we’ve all fallen in love with the technology. I mean, it’s amazing what we can do with these and what we’re doing right now of being able to talk to each other. But the greatest technology in the universe is nothing that man has created. The greatest technology in the universe is natural. And we talked about my latest book, the magic of food. I named it that because Sir. Arthur Clarke who wrote 2001 a space odyssey said any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

And I just told you that nature is the greatest technology in the universe. Well, it’s through food that we commune with nature on a daily basis. And what makes food really magical are these phytochemicals. So these compounds are really interesting and we can talk about their benefits to us as humans eating them, but they’re really designed to protect the plant or perform plant functions.

And yeah, some of them were designed so that we wouldn’t eat the plant. Some of these compounds and we have in our body and incredible protective mechanism to allow these plant compounds to be utilized in areas of need when they’re needed.

For example, everyone’s probably heard of curcumin, the yellow pigment from turmeric. All of these compounds like curcumin, and polyphenolics and phenolic compounds. When we ingest them, they get, they end up getting bound to a glucuronic acid, so they float around in our body in an inactive form.

And so you say, well, what’s, what’s a sense of that? Well these are pharmacologically active compounds. If, if we didn’t have a protective mechanism, every time we ate something, even something as simple as an apple, we’d be taking in all these drug-like compounds and it would overwhelm. Our physiology would cause chaos.

Dr. Michael Murray: So nature built in so that we would have this protective mechanism. So for example, curcumin, it’s an anti-inflammatory and an anticancer compound as multiple mechanisms of action. We know that based upon test tube studies and then we know that it has some effects in animals, and in clinical studies as well. What’s interesting is that when it’s floating around in our body, it’s floating around in this bound form and it’s not active, but it sites of inflammation or whether there’s cancer activity, then the cells secrete an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase. And this enzyme will break that bond, free up that curcumin and deliver it to the cell so it can exert its anti-cancer, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. And  I just think that’s really beautiful. It just shows the harmony of nature and I know that you’re passionate about phytochemicals because it’s addictive because you start looking at it how they work and you’re like, oh my god, this is a beautiful symphony.

Yeah, you want it… and for me… It really inspires me to, to eat more of them in my diet. And that’s what I tried to get across in my book. I think, you know, my goal was if people understood the magic of what these foods do, they’re going to make healthier choices.

And so, you know, as far as the hormesis and some of the other thoughts on this and, you know, are they really pro-oxidants or antioxidants?

Some of that goes away when you start looking at how these compounds are metabolized. For example, everybody’s probably heard that you know, blueberries are a brain food.  one of the interesting studies that I reviewed recently, they fed blueberries to, to adolescence, and they found that it made them happier, one serving just feeding blueberries. So these kids have made them score happier on mood indexes.

Anyone who’s ever had a teenager, this is valuable information to be happier. So how are the blueberries exerting this affects? Well, it turns out that these beneficial compounds more likely are broken down into other compounds that are then broken down by not our digestive secretions, but by the microbiome and transformed into other compounds that are able to get across the blood-brain barrier, change blood flow, and also influence neurotransmitter effects.

So just very interesting. And it’s, it’s really cool what controls our digestive functions to large extent is the vegas nerve. This is one of the largest nerves in the body. And what’s interesting about the vegas nerve is that 80 percent of the transmissions are from the gut to the brain and 20 percent are the other way around. So what is it but they theorize is happening, is that there’s this communication between the microbiome or intestinal organs and our brain. That’s where that mind, brain, and gut connection comes from. It comes, it’s a two-way connection that most of the incoming information is coming from the gut.

So when people talk about a gut feeling, that’s true. And again, that’s why you think it’s so important to take advantage of, of, of phytochemicals because I think they are the fuel of the gut-brain axis. And I, I’m sure that’s what you feel as well. Oh

Ari Whitten: yeah, yeah, absolutely. I think… there are so many thoughts running through my head of avenues we could go from here. But, you reminded me of one study on pomegranates that I saw recently where they should go that specific microbes in the intestines, actually transformed a specific compound from the pomegranates, a specific chemical phytochemical that into another compound that then enters the bloodstream and had these profound effects on mitochondria that profound benefits to mitochondria. But you know, going back to what you were talking about earlier with the microbiome, if somebody doesn’t have the proper diversity in their microbiome, they may not even have that bacteria or a significant amounts of that bacteria to transform that chemical from pomegranate into the right chemical that’s then going to benefit the mitochondria. So there’s this very unique interaction now between phytochemicals and the microbiome and the chemicals that they are produced, which then can impact the body or not, maybe depending on that person’s diversity of their microbiome.

Dr. Michael Murray: I’m going to talk a little bit about gluten really quick as it relates to the microbiome because it’s really interesting.

What we’ve learned, there’s been an explosion of information on the microbiome because there are improved analytical methods to know what’s really going on down there. And we’ve discovered that there are many important gut bacteria. One of the most important bacteria is akkermansia muciniphila. And this bacteria is given, that name was muciniphila, because it loves the use and layer and it works along with the cells that line the intestinal tract to produce that protective mucin layer. And if someone is not getting enough food for that akkermansia muciniphila and it’s gonna mean that you’re going to have a breakdown in that protective mucous.

So again, I think not getting enough vegetables and in legumes and whole grains on occasion that you’re going to have lower levels of that bacteria and eating a carnivore on the diet. I think it was going to put you at risk for, for that happening.

So with lower levels of akkermansia muciniphila? We started exposing our intestinal lining to a harsh environment and it gets damaged and we get to leaky gut and all the consequences there.

So when you’re looking at gluten sensitivity that’s an immune-mediated situation, we see that it only affects, you know, maybe five to ten percent of the population. But we see all these people saying, oh boy, I go on a gluten-free diet. I feel better now. Some of that may be placebo, but I also think a lot of that is real because it turns out that gluten is very toxic to this bacteria.

So if someone has a really flourishing amount of akkermansia muciniphila, in their microbiome, they can withstand gluten. But if someone has lower levels and they have a bit of gluten, then that can wipe out that beneficial bacteria and exposed to the intestinal lining, that harsh environment. So, I think that’s why we’re seeing so much of an issue with gluten. I also think that a wheat is one of the most heavily sprayed foods.

So I think some of the detrimental effects are related to glyphosate, glyphosate, these pesticides, they are antibiotics, so they are extremely destructive to the microbiome. Many drugs are extremely detrimental. So, you know, we got a, all these people that are on proton pump inhibitors, Nexium and Prilosec, for example, very destructive to the microbiome. They started eating a lot of gluten or eating gluten.  they’re, they’re gonna, they, they could see the more sensitive to them, to the ill effects of gluten. So I do think that it goes beyond an immune-mediated effect and it’s probably mediated through the microbiome.

How whole grains affect health and why you should minimize whole grain consumption

Ari Whitten: I have one more follow up question to that, to play devil’s advocate a little bit, which is that, as you know, there’s also at the same time as you know, maybe these mechanisms that you’re talking about are going on. There’s also this body of evidence showing that whole grain consumption, certainly not refined grain consultant, whole grain consumption is, is pretty unequivocally linked with health benefits for a variety of different diseases as well as just sort of it’s associated with longevity in general. So how do you kind of make sense of those, those two things, kind of the mechanisms you’re talking about as well as the research?

Dr. Michael Murray: Yeah, I think there are some benefits with whole grains consumption and when I’m talking I’m, I try to envision who I’m talking to and I don’t know your audience all that well, but the general audience, we’ve got a problem with obesity and type two diabetes. So if you look at the Mediterranean diet pyramid, I just cross off bread, pasta, grains.  I think those foods made a lot of sense when we really needed a lot of calories, but we only have so many calories that we can consume in a day healthfully. I kind of the way the health benefits that we get from the different foods and grains are really a great source of easily absorbed calories. Starches in general.  I’d rather spend those calories are consuming those calories from richer sources.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Yeah. I’m, I’m with you on that. I say that as someone who eats brown rice in my diet and, quinoa sometimes, and also even some sourdough bread every now and then.

So I’m not a hardcore anti-grain person, but I completely agree that they are kind of a very rich source of calories relative to not that much nutrients.

Dr. Michael Murray: I don’t know if you’re like me, but I’m very aware of the glycemic load of a meal. I think I try to, when I’m working with people with diabetes and weight loss and just general health, I try to help them have a working knowledge of what is the glycemic load.

So ideally I like to consume a glycemic load no greater than 20 for two and a half to three hour period. So with that limitation, if you have a cup of white rice, you’re wiped out. If you have a banana, you’re wiped out for three hours, no more carbohydrates, brown rice, you can have two-thirds of a cup and, some steamed vegetables, aside takes vegetables and still be still be okay.

So, you know, if you’re going to eat grains, make it, make it whole and keep the portion size a moderate.

That’s my message. I’m a that said, if I have a choice of eating some brown rice with my meal or having a piece of dark chocolate at the end of my meal, I tend to eat the dark chocolate if you ended well.

The best foods for healing and health according to Dr. Michael Murray

Ari Whitten: So I want to come back to my favorite topic, which is phytochemicals. And I want to make my final question or a couple of questions to you is on a very practical level, what are your favorite super foods and super spices?

Dr. Michael Murray: Oh, very good. Yeah.  I try to eat a very high intake of flavonoids. I like phytochemicals as well. Flavonoids, I think are the most fascinating. These are the compounds that give much fruits, flowers and medicinal herbs and vegetables, their color. They’re about 8,000 flavonoids that have been identified. And what’s interesting is that our body will concentrate different flavonoids in different tissues.

And what also is interesting is that the deposition pattern often mirrors the historical use of the fruit or medicinal plants. So for example, milk thistle gets concentrated in the liver. A bilberry gets concentrated in the retina, in the veins,  gingko gets concentrated in the brain and in the adrenals. So it’s really interesting.

They radio label these flavonoids that their deposition mirrors their historical use. I think that’s really interesting. How did they know? So I try to get a really good intake of Flavonoids on it on a daily basis. I mentioned dark chocolate. I generally have one ounce of dark chocolate a day. That’s, that’s a good amount. I like  80, 82, 86, 92 percent to a and I think anything lower than 82 percent you’re going to get, you’re going to get some sugar. And again,  I think you develop a taste for the chocolate and like the bitterness and, and so you may need to start at 70, 75, but keep working your way up. Your, your health will be better.

Berries. I try to eat berries every day and I mix it up. I don’t eat the same berry every day. Again, you want to have diversity in your diet. So I think berry’s and flavonoid-rich foods, the green tea they are true superfoods.  it doesn’t have to be something exotic to get those flavonoids. We talked about an apple. An apple a day is not a bad thing. I, I’d say three tight at three a week is a good thing because that’s where we start seeing those, those benefits.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. You mentioned another really nonexotic one is lemons, or lemon peel. You know, I have a lemon tree growing in my backyard. My yard, before I moved into this house, was totally neglected. And there’s this, this lemon tree that was out there that was kind of like a half bad, but it’s been alive for 30 years and it’s producing these huge lemons now that we water it. And if you look at the research on,  just the phytochemicals and lemons and you look at things like Heseltine and roudine and d-limonene, and they’re still really amazing phytochemicals that have remarkable benefits just in a lemon.

Dr. Michael Murray: Yeah. The, the, the anticancer benefits and detoxification benefits. These volatile oils.  we have to have them in our, in our diet.  so you talked about, you know, kind of super herbs, we, you know, I could go into this, the standard ones, ginger and turmeric and, and you know, capsicum but I really liked the aromatic ones, the mints, basil, and oregano, rosemary, they’re fantastic. And here’s an interesting thing. There’s really interesting research coming out of the animal feed, a research because what they’re trying to do is we’re trying to get away from hormones and antibiotics and so they’re looking to nature. So they’re seeing what effects, you know, feeding these animals cinnamon has. Feeding them oregano and in time, and sage is in there. They’re seeing a, not only beneficial effects on the microbiome, but they, they, they help the animals, the digestive process, digestive enzymes, the assimilation of nutrients, so they grow healthier and if they’re healthier and they’re growing, well, they don’t have to use the antibiotics or steroids.

So I love these, these volatile herbs. Dill is another one and you know, there are different ways to utilize them. I preferred them in their fresh form and I think it just tastes more vibrant. And I mentioned scrambles. I’ll rotate a different herbs like, You know, I think a scrambled eggs and egg whites with dill on them is just really great tasting and you know, same thing with basil or oregano or rosemary or thyme, you know, so I have a little coffee grinder that I, a grind these fresh herbs and put them on. a pesto. I found this great pesto at a health food store. It doesn’t have any parmesan cheese and it has cashews in it and I tell you that is, that is healthy in a jar, you know,

Ari Whitten: Now you’re speaking my language. I actually, for whatever reason, I’ve never liked the taste of dill very much much to my wife actually finds a totally bizarre because she loves dill. but a basil. I go nuts for basil, asked her to make me like huge things of homemade basil, like huge jars of it. I just scooped so much of that stuff on my food. It’s kind of ridiculous,

Dr. Michael Murray: you know, I got to tell through a funny, a funny story here.  you know, there are some people that react to cilantro in 20 percent of people that eat cilantro. They swear it tastes like stink bug. And so yeah…

Ari Whitten:  I heard it. Soap, don’t, some people say like soap.

Dr. Michael Murray: Yes. A soapy taste. And  I just couldn’t understand it.  this was many years ago.  but this woman was just saying, oh, I don’t like that has cilantro in it because she knew and she could just, she knew something, had cilantro and she described to me that this had this effect. And she said, no, some people have this, this, this is what it tastes like to some people. I didn’t believe her. Sure enough, she was absolutely right. So I, that that’s really interesting too. And the way some people metabolize asparagus, they don’t smell it in their urine.  they don’t. They lack the enzyme that will break it down into the asparaginase. Todays. So anyway, that’s, I think, I think it’s interesting and again it goes back to we’re all a bit different. I don’t know why you don’t like dill.

Ari Whitten: I don’t know either. But I love pesto. I’ll tell you that.

Dr. Michael Murray: Yeah, he’s got to be a reason for it. Right. And I think, I think you got to trust it. I know we’re coming at the end of time, but I want to just interject. One of the most famous studies in nutrition is a study that was published in the Journal of American Medical Association in 2006, and they looked at, they looked at caffeine and taken the risk of having a heart attack or stroke and they broke people down into whether they were a fast metabolizer or a slow metabolizer. if someone was a fast metabolizer and they drink two to four cups of coffee a day, they would reduce their risk of having a heart attack or stroke by 47 percent. So for those people it was beneficial if someone was a slow metabolizer of caffeine and they drank two to four cups of coffee a day, they actually increase her risk of having a heart attack or stroke by 247 percent.

Ari Whitten: Wow.

Dr. Michael Murray: So what’s the difference? It’s not the food is fat. The beverage is how that person metabolizes and matched the future of nutrition and that’s why there’s no one diet fits all and we’re learning more and more what works for one person and the other. And for now people just have to kind of trust and develop a sensitivity and user their common sense and work with a professional that can help them know if they’re reading what’s right for them.

The Healing Power Of Foods Summit

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Yeah. BeaUtifully said. And on that note, I think that’s a really great segway to your summit, which is happening right now. I’m going to rush this podcast to get out this weekend and it’s the Healing Power of Food Summit. We will have a link to it on the page where we’re going to publish this podcast and we can set up. We’ll set up that page as So the And then there’s a link to sign up for your summit for free, correct?

Dr. Michael Murray: Correct. It’s free. And we have a 30 top experts talking about a wide variety of topics, different opinions. I know some summits, they bring everybody that singing the same song. I didn’t do that. I brought people that are talking about their philosophy and why they think vegan is the way to go. Next person talking at paleo and keto. And then we have pescatarians and you know, we have a variety of people talk on a number of different subjects.  it was, it was truly an honor. And I appreciate your support of the summit.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, my pleasure. And you know, going back to something I said earlier, I just want to reemphasize, you know, and in a world filled with nutrition gurus who are misrepresenting and cherry picking the evidence, I really appreciate your honest, intellectually honest take on the evidence and your desire to communicate the truth. Instead of doing this sort of traditional marketing ploy of, hey, here’s my Brand new diet and here’s the new list of good foods and bad foods, and here’s how to lose 20 pounds in the next 15 days and you know, with, with my new magical diet, I really appreciate your honesty and commitment to the truth and the evidence. So a, an integrity, most of all.

So  I highly recommend everybody to follow your work to sign up for your summit. I give that endorsement to very, very few people when it comes to nutrition that this is someone that I truly believe is communicating the evidence accurately. I highly recommend people to sign up for the summit. Again, you can get it at And thank you so much Dr. Murray, it’s been an absolute pleasure to have this conversation with you. And I, I really, truly hope that we can do this again because we didn’t even get into the toxins issue. Even within the realm of nutrition. I’m sure we could talk for 10 more hours on lots of different things. So this has been a blast. Thank you so much.

Dr. Michael Murray: It’s been great fun for me and I just will say that  I really appreciate your enthusiasm and there’s, there are very deep understanding and knowledge coming through you and I applaud everyone that follows you as well.

Ari Whitten: Thank you so Much. Yeah, like, seriously, been an absolute pleasure and I really look forward to part two.

Dr. Michael Murray: Very good.

Ari Whitten: Thanks so much, Dr. Murray. Have a great day.

How To Use Food For Healing Your Body With Dr. Michael Murray (The Healing Power Of Food Summit) – Show Notes

Why natural medicines are considered alternative (1:11)
How an apple a day may keep the doctor away (4:39)
The best diet for health (13:00)
Why you should get rid of certain types of omega 6 (20:19)
The link between microbiome and health (27:12)
How oil, meat, and legumes affect health (30:13)
Phytochemicals – how they affect your health (40:38)
How whole grains affect health and why you should minimize whole grain consumption (25:08)
The best foods for healing and health according to Dr. Michael Murray (55:30)
The Healing Power Of Foods Summit (1:04:03)


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Listen to the podcast with Ocean Robbins on how to use food to heal your body.

How To Prevent and Fight Cancer Naturally And Effectively with Chris Wark (Chris Beat Cancer)

How To Prevent and Fight Cancer Naturally And Effectively with Chris Wark (Chris Beat Cancer), theenergyblueprint.comCancer. Likely one of the most feared diseases in the modern world. And with good reason as many die from the disease every year. So, what is the best way to fight/prevent cancer? And is there an answer to how to fight cancer naturally and effectively (either in prevention, or as a treatment, with or without conventional treatments)?

In this podcast, I speak with Chris Wark, a cancer survivor, speaker, health coach, and author of the book “Chris Beat Cancer, A Comprehensive Plan For Healing Naturally”. Chris will share his amazing story about how he overcame stage 3C colon cancer. He will uncover some of the science on cancer treatment. So listen in as Chris shares his story about how (as his brand says ) “Chris beat cancer” and his take on how to best prevent and fight cancer naturally and effectively.

(DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this podcast are based on Chris’ experiences and Chris’s personal views on the best approach to cancer treatment. This podcast is NOT intended to communicate any sort of blanket recommendation of natural anti-cancer therapies or any sort of shunning of conventional therapies. Please be aware that your choice of therapy for cancer treatment can be a life vs. death decision. If you have cancer, you should ALWAYS do a thorough analysis of the views of experts on this topic, and consult your physician (ideally multiple physicians, and ideally at least one Integrative physician with strong expertise in nutrition and lifestyle factors) BEFORE making any decisions on which way to go. This podcast is NOT intended to encourage people to shun conventional anti-cancer therapies (which can be life-saving and a very effective in some types of cancer). Please also be aware that even if you go a conventional route, there are natural/holistic strategies with science-backed nad proven efficacy to enhance conventional treatment (e.g. chemotherapy) efficacy. So even if you go a conventional therapy route, I strongly encourage working with a physician with expertise in nutrition and lifestyle strategies that enhance the effectiveness of the conventional cancer treatments. With all of that said, please enjoy Chris’ perspective on fighting cancer. There is much wisdom to be gleaned from his experiences and perspective.

Also please note that I intend to have two cancer researchers — with differeing perspectives — on the podcast in the near future, to provide you all with a comprehensive picture of the views of the best anti-cancer therapies from the experts.)

In this podcast, we’ll cover

  • The wild (and emotionally intense) story of how Chris beat cancer
  • The best anti-cancer foods
  • Chris’ take on what science says about chemotherapy for different cancer types
  • Keto vs. vegan diets. Why Chris favors a plant-based approach ot anti-cancer therapy rather than keto
  • Why most cancer treatment protocols don’t include nutrition and lifestyle
  • Chris’s top 3 tips for anyone with cancer who wants to know what to do

Download or listen on iTunes

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How To Prevent and Fight Cancer Naturally And Effectively with Chris Wark (Chris Beat Cancer) – Transcript

Ari Whitten: Hey there, this is Ari Whitten with the Energy Blueprint Podcast and welcome back. Today, I have with me Chris Wark, who is an author, speaker and health coach. He was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer in 2003 at 26 years old. He had surgery, but instead of chemotherapy, he used nutrition and natural therapies to heal himself. Chris has made appearances on radio and television and was featured in the award winning documentary, ”the C word”. He inspires countless people to take control of their health and reverse disease with a radical transformation of diet and lifestyle. And he is the new author of the book, ”Chris Beat Cancer, A Comprehensive Plan For Healing Naturally”. So also I want to mention that, I’ve promoted his program square 1. It’s called square one a couple times before and I’m a big fan of his work. So with that said, Chris, welcome to the show

Chris Wark: Ari. What’s up, man? Thanks for having me.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, my pleasure. It’s great to have you here. Finally.

Chris Wark: Yeah. Dude, good. I spent a long time coming.

How Chris beat Cancer

Ari Whitten: Yeah, definitely. So, I would love to get started by digging more into your story. So you were diagnosed with stage three colon cancer at age 26, this was all the way back in 2003. So take our listeners through that. What, what was that like being, you know, kind of receiving that diagnosis of cancer at such a young age and your mid twenties and then what, what was that whole process like as far as the decision making and the emotional state and all that?

Chris Wark: Yeah. So man, when I was 26 years old I was having abdominal pain and I thought it had an ulcer and I ignored it for the better part of the year because I just thought, you know, I don’t know, maybe it’ll go away or whatever. And unfortunately the pain just got worse and worse. So, my wife talked me into going to see the doctor and they kind of referred me around to a few different doctors and they prescribed me some medicine for ulcers, didn’t help. And then eventually the pain just got so bad that it was balled up on the couch every night after dinner I was just like, man, like, something is wrong.

So I went to a gastroenterologist, he did a colonoscopy and uh, when I woke up after that procedure… You know, my wife and I are in this little, this little room or whatever. And he comes in, he said, look, you’ve got a golf ball sized tumor in your colon and you know, I was still on some pretty heavy medication, propophol or whatever they used to put you out. And, I just just like, like what? Like, this doesn’t even, I just doesn’t even make sense. Like what, what, what are we talking about right now?

So he said, look, we got to, you’ve got this tumor and might be cancerous. We took a biopsy, we were gonna send it to the lab and see if it’s cancer or not. So a day or so later I got a call and they said, listen, it is in fact colon cancer. We need to get you into surgery right away and get this thing out to do before it spreads and kills you.

And at that time in my life, I was, again, 26, pretty young. I’ve been married less than two years. I was in real estate, building a real estate business and I had never had any friends or family members go through cancer. So I’d never really seen it up close and personal. And I’m like most cancer patients, I was pretty clueless about treatment, about the disease, about the industry. I didn’t know anything. And so when they said you’ve got to have surgery, uh, and we’ve got to take this thing out of you right away. I said, I was like, okay, right. I got it if you say so, I, you know, I cancers seems pretty scary, so I guess I should do this.

And this was just a couple of days before Christmas. And so I was like, man, you know, is there any way we can. We can postpone the surgery until after Christmas. Like I’m already kind of depressed enough and I’d rather not be in the hospital on Christmas. And they were like, yeah, that’s fine.

So I went in on December 30th and they took out a third of my large intestine was supposed to be laparoscopic, but when he put the scope in and started looking around, the surgeon was like, uhoh, like this doesn’t look good and he could see that the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes and there’s a lot of inflammation around the, around the tumor site and stuff.

So he opted to just cut me open old school, uh, took out a third of my colon. The ascending colon, which is on the right side of your body, took out my appendix while he was in there, uh, I took out the tumor and a bunch of lymph nodes in an attempt to get clear margins. Right?

So I woke up and they said, well, you’ve got more bad news for you. We thought it was, we’re hoping it was going to be staged to a but it stage three c and because it’s stage three, that’s it’s metastasized to your lymph nodes. It was spreading, um, you’re going to need nine to 12 months of chemotherapy in order to prevent a recurrence.

And so I’m like, oh, like I hadn’t even thought about chemo, like you’d never, we’d never even talked about it because they thought they could do the surgery and just go back to my normal life.

So now, you know, on some heavy drugs, laying in the hospital trying to recover from the surgery and I’m just like, thinking about my life and what was gonna happen to me.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, wow.

Chris Wark: And I initially had accepted the fact that I was going to be a, just a very typical cancer patient, right. Just a chemo patient and I can lose my hair and I don’t know what…

Ari Whitten: And at this time you weren’t particularly health conscious, this health consciousness was not on your radar, that you were not, you know, like me, kind of like a health geek from the time you were 12 years old?

Chris Wark: Nope. I’ve gone through phases in my life where I had gone to the gym and I grew up playing sports and things like that. But at that time in my life I was eating just a very, very, very western diet. I was eating tons of meat and dairy, tons of processed food, junk food, fast food, anything I wanted because I’ve always been thin.

So like I was a junk food connoisseur man and tons of barbecue because I live in Memphis, you know, it’s like the barbecue capital of the world. So yeah, I was not taking care of myself at all and I was under a lot of stress in my life. I was like, you know, trying to build this business as an entrepreneur and real estate is really tough and you deal with a lot of difficult people, a from contractors to tenants and whatever.

And so yeah, I just had just all, just all kinds of things in my life that were contributing to my, to my disease, which we’ll talk about in a minute. But so two things happened in the hospital that started me thinking differently and I did have a background, like I worked at a wild oats when I was in college. So like I knew about health food, right? Like I knew what it was. I was very aware that there was health, food, junk food.

Ari Whitten: Like you knew that there was such a thing as you were shoving Mcdonald’s in your face.

Chris Wark: Yeah, yeah, I was aware. I was aware. The thing about the health food industry in general and the natural living and health industry is a lot of people that are drawn to it are drawn to it because they have disease, right? Because they’re trying to heal.

And I’d never had any problems so I wasn’t drawn to it. My mom’s another story, which I’ll tell in a minute. So these two things happen in the hospital, the first thing they, that, that happened was the very first meal that they served me after taking out a third of my large intestine. Do you know that? You know what it was,

Ari Whitten: I’m guessing some terrible hospital food.

Chris Wark: It was terrible. Hospital food. Yes. It was a sloppy Joe.

Ari Whitten: Oh Jeez.

Chris Wark: Sloppy Joe, which, you know, the sloppy joe is it really kind of interesting food item in and of itself because I’m, they don’t serve Sloppy Joes in restaurants. Right? Because nobody likes him. The only way, the only place you can get a Sloppy Joe is summer camp, you know, maybe if you’re in the army or prison, and apparently at the hospital if you have cancer.

Ari Whitten: I’m just curious, I’m wondering if, I don’t know the answer to this, but I’m wondering if Sloppy Joes is an American thing only. It probably is. And so maybe to all my non American listeners, maybe you just want to explain what that is.

Chris Wark: Sloppy Joe. Yeah. It’s basically ground beef, some kind of ground up mystery meat ground beef,  that they do in sort of like a tomato sauce. Right. And then they get a burger bun and they just kind of slop it on there. Yeah, right.

Ari Whitten: Like a burger not formed into a patty with certain kinds of seasoning and it’s like falling all over the place out of the bun. So hence the sloppiness.

Chris Wark: Yeah. Yeah. Kinda like meatloaf. But it’s almost just like a soup they just laid onto your bun. almost if you, if you little chilly onto a burger bun, it’s kind of like that.

Ari Whitten: That’s a good way of explaining it. So anyway, I mean, you know, red meat is a group two carcinogen, specifically known to cause colon cancer. Right? And they’re like, here you go, buddy, you go colon cancer patient would just cut out a third of your large intestine, enjoy this Sloppy Joe.

So that, so strange to me. And I was just looking at it going, I don’t understand. Like I didn’t know that it was… it caused cancer, but I just knew it was like such terrible food and I didn’t want to eat it, but I was really hungry. So I did. Then the second thing that happened in the hospital was a, the, the day I was, they told me I could go home.

The surgeon came in to check on me and we were having a conversation and I said, is there any food I need to avoid? Because instinctively I wanted to take care of myself. Like, I already had the mindset that I want to help myself get well, right. I don’t want to screw up the surgery or the stitches, eat the wrong thing, or are there rules like, you know, I’ve never had my guts cut out and sewn back together. So I’m like, yeah, you know, is there any food I need to eat or avoid? And he says, no, no, just don’t lift anything heavier than a beer.

Ari Whitten: That’s great.

Chris Wark: Yeah.

Ari Whitten: Don’t lift anything heavier than a beer candy bar or.

Chris Wark: Yeah. So I’m like, uh, okay. All right.And that was it. I mean that’s all the nutritional advice I got from my surgeon. So I’m thinking, you know, the wheels are turning right. And I’m thinking why is there such a disconnect between health and health care? Like nobody seems to care like about healthy eating. And it was weird to me. So I go home, I’m recovering from surgery, I’m on trying to get off pain medication because that, it just didn’t like feeling doped up and, you know, just after a few days of being home I was just really thinking a lot about my life and my future and you know, how many birthdays I had left and uh, what, what going through chemotherapy was going to be like, what is going to do to me and I just started develop this, starting to develop this increasing resistance to chemotherapy.

I mean to the idea that I needed to poison my way back to health. Like that didn’t make sense to me like we’re going to give you, this stuff is going to make you really sick, right? But it’s supposed to help cure your cancer.

And like I said before, I had never had anybody go through this in my life, so I really didn’t know. I just was operating on instincts and I, my wife and are Christians and I was just like, I don’t know what to do. And so we, we prayed about it and I just said, God, if there’s another way besides chemo, just show me because I don’t know what to do. This doesn’t feel right, feels wrong for me. It’s not that it’s wrong for everybody, but it felt wrong for me. Like deep down on something was saying like don’t do this. And I felt like really it was just, just, just, it would destroy me.

I was very physically vulnerable at that time. I was skinny, underweight already had lost a ton of weight over the previous year from not eating because when you have the digestive disease like you don’t want to eat because it causes pain.

So I was eating a lot less, lost a lot of weight. Then I had the surgery, lost more weight because that it need for, you know, days. And I just felt like I don’t know if I’ll even survive that. Two days after I prayed about it, I got a book that was sent to me from a man in Alaska who knew my dad. And this guy was a business client of my dad’s. I’m in Tennessee.

And so this book shows up on my doorstep, open the package and start reading this book. And the guy who wrote it, we had had discovered he had colon cancer back in the 19 seventies and he had watched his mother suffer and die through cancer treatment and other church members and things. And he just was like, well, you know, I’m not doing that. And he happened to have a friend who’s like a health nut who told him, man, you just need to go back to the garden of Eden eat raw fruits and vegetables only and you should probably start juicing carrots too.

You need to drink a lot of characters. So this guy does this, and a year later his tumor is gone. The body’s body healed, right? It wasn’t like a Miracle Cure. It’s just his body healed, right? Whatever he was doing that contributed to his disease, it might have been multiple things he stopped doing and you started doing things that contributed to health.

And I’m reading this guy’s story and I’m like, oh my gosh, this is it. This is exactly what I needed to do. I asked for something. This showed up. This is what I’m doing, like no doubt whatsoever. Right. And it was, again, I didn’t have a bunch of studies or science or proof or anything. I had one guy’s testimonial, one guy’s story and he was still alive, you know, 30 years later or whatever. And I just knew, right? I knew this was it. I called my wife and I was really excited about it. I’m trying to explain like I got this book and a like, this guy is talking about like a raw food diet. I’d never heard of it.

I mean, nobody was talking about raw foods in 2004, right? There was no youtube, there was no instagram. Facebook, raw food wasn’t like hot, sexy singles, you know, it wasn’t like the supermodel diet or whatever. And so it was just a diet for fringy kind of hippyish weirdos.

And uh, but anyway, I’m trying to explain that to her. I’m like, we got to get a juicer and all like, you know, she’s at work or on the phone. And she’s like, well, what are you talking about? Like you’re still doing chemo. And I’m like, no, I don’t really want to do it, you know, I feel like I don’t know, I don’t want to do it.

And so we get off the phone. It didn’t really end. The conversation didn’t go very well. Get off the phone. And then, you know, almost immediately other family members are calling me saying, we heard you’re thinking about not doing chemotherapy…

Ari Whitten: Jeez…

Chris Wark: This is really serious. You need to do exactly what the doctor says. I’m don’t you think if there was something better, they’d know about it and you know, I knew somebody that tried alternative therapies and they died.

And I’m like, oh my gosh, what is happening? You know, I went from like all this like excitement and elation and like answered prayer kind of bliss and excited about radically changing my life and embarking on this healing journey to everybody around me saying, no, it’s a mistake. Don’t do that. Like, that’s wrong. And so like you can imagine just like the swirling emotions of like fear and doubt and anxiety and stress. Like all of that, and I’m trying to figure out like what, like what do I do? I don’t know. I don’t know what to do now.

Ari Whitten: It’s almost, you know, it’s like if you’re alone and you’re just, you know, let’s say a 26 year old guy and you’re single and you don’t even really have that closer relationship to your family or they don’t really have such strong opinions on this. It’s almost easier to make the kind of decision that you were trying to make and now you have all these people like thinking you’re crazy and stressing you out and trying to talk you out of it.

And you know, now they’re adding this other layer of psychological stress, which I would imagine is pretty intense psychological stress when your life is at stake.

Chris Wark: Super intense.

Ari Whitten: Yeah…

Chris Wark: Super intense. But I had a couple of things going for me. One, um, I’m an only child and I’m pretty stubborn. And so, I, despite all of that, I was, I just knew like, this is what I gotta do I have to do this and I have to survive. And, and you know, there was sort of a deep regulatory apifany that I had and the big revelation was the way you’re living is killing you. Right?

And if that’s true, then you need to change your whole life. This is the same thing I tell every cancer patient, right, not to blame or shame anybody, but it’s like, look, this is a wakeup call here.

Uh, I know so much more about cancer now than I did back then. But uh, if, if I contributed to this disease in some way, and by the way, the first book I read was making the case that the reason we have, you know, cancer is such a big problem. So because of our diet, like it’s so much of, it’s driven by diet and lifestyle and eating way too much meat and dairy from fast food, processed food, junk food. And I’m like, yeah, that’s me. And so, you know, it’s the first I’ve ever heard anyone talk about that. Like the lot of cancers are caused by our diet. In fact, what’s, this is crazy.

The number two cause of cancer is obesity number two, cause number one. Cause most people can guess it’s smoking. Number two is obesity and obesity accounts for over 600,000 diagnosis of cancer every year.

Forty percent of all cancers are caused by obesity. It’s like what? Like, no one’s talking about this, but this isn’t just. Chris is weird statistical analysis. This is like National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, like look at any of the major governing bodies that cancer research. They agree.

And so that’s kind of a mindblower right now. I wasn’t obese. Okay. So skinny people can get cancer too, but it was a, I mean, it’s a testament to the fact that our diet which is contributing to contributing to obesity, right? Is the leading cause of cancer aside from cigarettes.

So, I realized I’ve got to change my whole life and I love the, the holistic approach to wellness, which was in a nutshell, enabling your body to heal, right? Instead of treating a symptom, right? Or targeting a symptom or targeting a disease, right? You are trying to restore health rebuilds your body and create an environment, an environment where cancer cannot thrive, right?

Because if you have cancer, the tumor is not the problem, it’s a problem, right? But it’s not the problem. It’s a symptom of a systemic metabolic disease, head to toe disease, and it essentially means your body is hospitable to cancer. Your immune system is overloaded or suppressed and you have multiple, multiple, just, we’ll just say system wide dysfunction.

So, those are big ideas, right? But when you look at cancer that way you realize, man, you know, cutting it out, poisoning it, radiating it. That doesn’t solve the body problem, right? That doesn’t fix my terrain where cancer is thriving.

Ari Whitten: I’ll mention a quick story, personal story in my family, , that is relevant to this highly relevant and I, I didn’t grow up in, in, in a family that was mainstream in they’re thinking and that like, I, if, if I was you at 26 and I had the same diagnosis and I said I don’t want to do chemo, I want to treat this naturally. My family, my parents would have had no problem with it whatsoever. And there’s the reason why is that my, my grandma, my dad’s mom actually was diagnosed. I’m actually forgetting what specific type of cancer it was. I was, I was very young at the time. I was, maybe not even born yet actually when this was happening or maybe just a few years old when she was diagnosed with a very severe, I think it was stage four of some kind of cancer.

I’m forgetting what specific kind, but she was given about six to eight weeks to live and she decided that she, you know, she wasn’t really given any options. She was just told you have probably six to eight weeks to live and she decided to go down to, to Mexico, to the Gerson Clinic and do an alternative approach to cancer. Which at that time, this was back in the early nineties or maybe the late eighties, uh, and at that time it was not common or popular at all like it is today. It was a pretty wacky idea. Everybody thought she was crazy for doing that.

And, she lived another six years after that and then actually died from something totally unrelated. She died from getting bitten by a brown recluse spider. But, um, but she lived six years after, given been given that diagnosis of living six to eight weeks and she was all about green juices and coffee enemas and you know, the whole, the whole Gerson Protocol, I think they also do liver or something like raw liver..

Chris Wark: They used to. They used to raw liver juice. Yeah. Yeah.

Ari Whitten: I grew up in that and in an environment that was very friendly to those sorts of things because we all saw what it did for, for my grandma.

Chris Wark: That’s amazing. And I hear stories like that all the time, which I just like are so great. And it’s amazing that anybody even found out about this clinic’s back then because it was all word of mouth right now you can find them online, but back then literally like somebody had to tell you about it basically, you know.

So get this. My mom was a, had always been into health and even though we’re in Memphis, Tennessee, it’s not a healthy place, right? It’s not like California. And she’d always been into health and, you know, love to go to the health food store and buy some little supplement she read about in Prevention magazine or you know, our, our pantry always had like the, you know, peanut butter, you had to stir up.

Right. And we always had like sprouts in the fridge and Kiefer and stuff like that. So my mom was not near the level of today’s hardcore, like crunchy mamas, but she was like, you know, healthier than the average mom. And she would buy whole grain bread instead of white bread.

She wouldn’t let me buy lucky charms. It was like, you know, I dunno, whatever granola or something. So,  but my first birthday was at a Mcdonald’s. So like, just, just so I understand, like I, I lots of fast food and junk food growing up too. But my mom had amassed this library of books on nutrition, on alternative cancer therapies, raw food. Like, she had all these books about it and she had read them all.

She was just like an avid lifelong learner. Just loved to learn, loved to read, loved to read, loved to research, loved information on health and healing, natural therapies, stuff like that.

So when I told her, well, you know what I want her to do, she was all for it. So she was the only person in the beginning that really supported me. Now my dad supported me, but he, he was just kind of, this just kind of didn’t oppose me. Wasn’t enthusiastic either way. Yeah, he just was there just for whatever you decide, I’ll support. Right.

My wife’s side of the family, it was a little bit more, you know, they love me. They wanted me to survive, but they didn’t understand and they were much more conventionally minded. Right. So they’re really pushing me to do that. But having said all that, you know, like I said earlier, I was stubborn so… I was like, I don’t care. I’m doing this work. And I went out and bought a juicer immediately loaded up fruits and vegetables, like bought a bunch of carrots.

I went to whole foods and it was like, Oh man, they sell like 25 pound bags of juicing carrots. Like, oh, okay, this is a, this is a thing, you know, like, this is for people who are serious about juicing I guess. And that’s me now. Like, yeah. So for me, I didn’t spend really any time researching beyond this first book. Like it was like I got a book, learn something, I’m doing it, I could take action, we’ll figure it out as we go, like there’s no time to waste.

How many oncologists use a fear-based approach to get people to sign up for chemotherapy

So converted to a raw food diet overnight. Just raw fruits and vegetables and juicing and um, and then kept reading and researching and learning about other books and like trying to figure out like, okay, what else can I do, what else can I do? And, but also in order to appease, you know, family pressure, I reluctantly agreed to go see the oncologist, you know, because people are saying like, you know, we just go here what he has to say.

And maybe there’s some alternative therapies available. I mean you just never know unless you go see. And I’m like, okay, alright. So we go the, we go to the clinic, the parking lot’s full, the waiting rooms packed, you know, I walk in there and I’m looking around and you know. It’s weird because you’re like, okay, I’m a cancer patient, I have cancer, I’m in a Mike in the cancer club now. Who else is in the club? Right? Like the first day of school, you know, like who else is in my class? And you’re looking around and I’m looking around. Everybody has gray hair. I’m 26, handlebar mustache, long shaggy hair. Like I was a musician too.

I was playing in rock bands and like I don’t, what am I doing here? I just don’t eat, I don’t belong here. Everyone is here. Everyone here is twice my age or several of these people are three times my age and we sit down on the couch were, you know, to check in.

We’re watching the TV. Like you know how waiting rooms are here than there for like an hour no matter what. And out comes, Jack Elaine on the TV on one of the morning shows and he starts going off and the guys like 78, 80, somewhere around there and he’s just going off about nutrition and he’s like, look, the reason we’re all so sick is because running on is manmade food and processed food and junk food. If man made it, don’t eat it. And I’m like, Whoa, what is happening?

I can’t believe this is on right now in the cancer clinic on the TV. And I turned to my wife and I was like, she was like, yeah, it’s pretty weird.

And so we go back to see the oncologist and he gives me the, just the boiler plate pitch, right? He’s like, got my file open. And he’s like, look, you know, for 26 years old you have stage three c colon cancer. It’s very aggressive in young adults you’re going to need chemotherapy, five fee plus Leucovorin. And you’ve got about a 60 percent chance of living five years with treatment. Now, I didn’t know anything, back then.

And had I known things, I would have asked a lot more questions. By the way, there’s a free guide on my website now. It’s called 20 questions for your oncologist that I created that like is something I wished existed when I was going through this, but anyway, so he basically just telling me how it’s going to be.

But I asked a couple of questions and that really shifted the tone of the conversation in it ended up going in a direction that I did not expect at all. So the first thing I said was, well, you know, what about the raw food diet because I’ve been on it for one week. And he said, no, you can’t do that. It’ll fight the chemo.

I didn’t ask him why. I learned later that I’m there. They were afraid that raw food is dangerous when you’re taking chemotherapy because chemotherapy decimates your immune system. Right? So you become very vulnerable to otherwise harmless bacteria on an apple. Right.

Ari Whitten: Was the concern that concern of micro organisms or concern of the phytonutrient content?

Chris Wark: Maybe a little bit of both, but the neutropenic diet is sort of an old concept that originated around cancer cancer therapy where they, they think patients need to eat cooked food, microorganisms, which has since been proven to not be an issue. But he said, it’ll fight the chemo. The other thing about raw food and, and chemotherapy is a raw food diet is a very aggressive detoxification diet. So when they, when they give you chemotherapy to a patient eating raw foods, you know, your body is so in tune with like whole foods, right?

When you put something foreign in there, it’s like, Whoa, like what is this? Like get it out. So it detoxifies a lot, lot faster and the chemo is typically less damaging. It doesn’t do as much harm as they want it to do.

Ari Whitten: Harm to the cancer cells?

Chris Wark: Right. So, uh, the other thing he said, no, he didn’t explain any of that. I learned that later. Um, the other thing he said to me that I thought was really weird, uh, well, that really changed the conversation actually, is I said, well, are there any alternative therapies available? And he said, no, there are none, if you don’t do chemotherapy, you’re insane.

And from there, the conversation just turned into him just like braiding me with reasons I had to do chemo. And the main one was basically, if you don’t do it, you’re going to die. Right. And I, I went into this sort of deer in the headlights state, right? Because stress and anxiety affect your brain function. Like everything just kind of goes haywire when fear and stress takeover. And he’s talking down to me, he’s telling me all these things, they got to do chemo and, you know, just and I wasn’t even really hearing what he was saying. I just wanted to run out of there really. But one thing he said that, that jumped out was he said, he said, look, I’m not telling you this because I need your business. Which was like, wait, what? Like I was in sales and they taught me a technique in sales called the ”push away” and this guy just did the ”push away” on me and I’m like, wait, what? And like, what does business have to do with it? Like I didn’t even think about business. I thought this just like health care. Like I wasn’t thinking about it like a business.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. It’s one of those things where like, yeah, I didn’t even realize it was a business. I thought you were just genuinely trying to look after me in the best way that you know, what you think is in my best interest and, but now that you’re talking about business makes me think that maybe business is a big part of this conversation.

Chris Wark: It’s a huge part. And most of us view the medical industry as this sort of altruistic, you know, a profession of like selfless angels or whatever. And there’s a lot of wonderful people, wonderful people in there. But, it’s such a screwed up industry that… it’s a screwed up industry that screws up people in it, right? And it and it turns enthusiastic, well-meaning Med students who want to help make a difference in the world into a sort of like, you know, like the old star trek thing where like you will be assimilated into Klingons or whatever. Like it just turns them into or not are the Borg the Borg.

Ari Whitten: I actually was never into Star Trek so you can say anything right now. I just nod my head point

Chris Wark: It was like, yeah, everyone is conformed like going into the military, like you have to conform and become this thing that we make you into. Right. And they jam people… medical students and doctors like into this box of conformity. And so I’m, I’m getting off track a little bit…

But the interesting and kind of crazy thing is that the medical profession has the highest rate of suicide of any profession because it’s so just mentally, emotionally and physically difficult to be a doctor. And because of the system, right? Because of this money driven a machinery system like institutionalized medicine system. So my appointment with the oncologist concluded and I got up and walked straight out of that office into the lobby to the desk like a robot and made an appointment to get a port put in to start chemo in a few weeks.

Like I had, I just been programmed, like manipulated with fear and uh, my wife and I walked out to her car and sat in her car and just held hands and cried and I choked out a prayer, you know, and was just, my faith was shattered. My confidence was gone. Like I was just terrified. And the reality is that cancer clinics, many of them are really fear factories. They use… So there’s so much fear in there and they use fear to manipulate people to say yes to treatment and cancer patients more often than not are making fear based decisions, not fact based decisions. And definitely not faith based decisions. They’re just making a decision out of fear, which is I just don’t want to die. I’ll do whatever you say. And I have sort of a two part mission in one of them is to help educate patients so they understand the risks and benefits of treatment before they say yes. That’s at that 20 questions guide is all about like ask the right questions so you understand what you’re getting into so you can make an informed decisions, you can make the best decision for you.

I don’t tell people don’t do chemo or don’t do treatment, like I don’t tell people those things, but I do talk about it with a great deal of scrutiny and criticism. The perils and pitfalls of conventional cancer treatment.

So anyway, I went home and I was fortunate and just thank God that I had several weeks before I was supposed to start chemo because a lot of patients, I mean they get them in chemo the next day, like a lot of cancer patients, they are diagnosed, they have got them in chemo within a day or two, right? Because they’ve kind of flip flopped now. They like to do chemo before surgery. And so like, well we need to do chemo first to shrink your tumor before surgery. So patients are just rushed in man, they don’t know what’s happening to them. No idea.

And so I am, I am recovering again, still recovering from surgery. I, but I am. And I was thinking like I don’t know what I was gonna do, like everybody wanted me to do chemo. I was afraid not to do chemo and but I had enough time to, to really do more reading and researching and praying and thinking about what I was going to do. And it’s kind of like this, I have to paths before me. I had like the wide paved, brightly lit road that everybody’s going down. That’s the road that leads to the chemo train and Chemo train is this beautiful modern express train. Right? And everybody’s cheering you on. Like, oh, we support you, we love you. We bake some cookies. Like we made some tee shirts that say, go Chris, you know, and we’re going to run a race for you, Right?

Because you get on the chemo train and it’s beautiful and everybody’s so nice to you. And the chairs are so comfortable, right? And they bring you a little cookies and treats and all your needs are met. Everybody loves you and supports you. And then there’s the other path where you’re just walking into the jungle alone in the dark, right? And there’s barely a path, right? There’s a few people have been through it, but that’s, you got nothing. You’ve got no guides, no support…

Ari Whitten: Might just be a cow trail. You’re not sure yet.

Chris Wark: Been a badger, maybe a hedgehog. Yeah, nothing. Right? And both. And I and I should’ve mentioned that, you know, as nice and wonderful and loving and supportive as the conventional treatment chemo train is. Once that thing starts, it’s very hard to get off right? And the suffering begins immediately and you just don’t know what’s going to happen at the end of the line and you’re going to get off better or worse, they’re going to tell you, we’ve done all we can do. You know where, sorry.

And then the, the jungle path. Who knows, not going to get lost in there and die alone. So both options were, were scary and I wished more than anything that some option could give me. There was an option that I gave me confidence, right? And there I didn’t have one.

Ari Whitten: So what ultimately made you decide and we already know the, the, the ending of this story, which is that you decided not to do chemo…

Chris Wark: The ending of the story is right here in the back. You’ve got to buy my book to find out if I lived or died.

Ari Whitten: Is that another one of your sales techniques?

Chris Wark: Yeah, exactly. We’re going to buy the book. Did he live or die? It’s out now. Find, find out what happened to Chris?

How Chris beat cancer – The best nutrition to cure cancer naturally and effectively

Yes. So, you know, when it came time, the day of when the day finally came that I was supposed to go get that port put in, I just woke up that morning and I was like, I’m not going. I’m not doing it, you know. I had been in, by the way, even though I was discouraged and afraid, and confused, and struggling mentally, emotionally about what to do a man. I went, I fired up the juicer. Dude, you know, I just was like, I’m doing this. I know I’m definitely doing this. I don’t know if I’m doing that, but I’m doing this.

Ari Whitten: [inaudible]

Chris Wark: Yeah, exactly. So, I mean, in those weeks, I guess about three weeks, you know, I was just raw foods and juicing, man, I was just doing it, doing it, doing it, and I was feeling so good and so confident. And in that, in the meantime I had found a naturopathic doctor and I’d found an integrative oncologist who also supported me and had come out of retirement because he didn’t like being retired. And in his new season of practice, he was in his seventies in, is this new season of his practice. He was, he was actually integrating natural nontoxic therapies that were not FDA approved, but they were nontoxic, right?

Because he really was trying to find something that would help his patients. And his main concern was how can I help their immune system? Again, he’d spent his whole life as an oncologist. So he had seen how ineffective most cancer treatments are, especially when they’re caught in later stages.

And he just wanted to help people. And so he was doing IV vitamin C and other things. And so, so I, so I started to assemble a little bit of, of, of a team to support me on my mom, at the nutritionist and an oncologist. So that’s what I had in the beginning. And so that did help my confidence. Right.

And then so when the day came to to, to get the port put in, I was just like, I’m not doing it. I’m not going right. I, I’ve, I can always do chemo, right? If I just looked at it, sort of like a little, a bit of a last resort. And the idea of radically changing my life, overdosing on nutrition, giving my body more than it’s ever had before nutritionally. And changing my whole life. I loved that idea. I loved that. Was excited about it.

Like what, what will happen if I do this? And I also wasn’t just like, let’s see what happened, what will happen. It was like, I believed it would help me. Right. I just believed so deeply that this was good, this was good for me. And when I looked at chemotherapy, I thought this is bad for me. Right? Again, not saying it’s bad for everybody, everybody’s going to make their own choice on their treatment.

By the way, you can do both, right? You can overdose on nutrition, you can take care of yourself, you can change your whole life and support your body’s ability to heal while you’re doing conventional treatments. So it’s not, it’s not either or.

Ari Whitten: And actually, you know, I’ve seen so research more recently in the last few years showing how certain phytochemicals can actually enhance the effects of Chemo, for example. So…

Chris Wark: Curcumin and Boswellia or two of them and black seed oil in the Jealous Sativa.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, I think I’ve seen some on sulfuraphane as well.

Chris Wark: Yeah, from Broccoli. Right? So in cruciferous vegetables. So which I’ll talk about. So anyway, I, I’m. So there I was, right. I’m like, I’m doing this, I’m going into the jungle. Like, and it was, it was really me stepping out in faith because it’s like, okay God, if you showed this to me, you opened this door, I’m going through it and you better, you better see me through. Right? You better get me through the jungle man. Because I don’t, it’s just me and Jesus, I don’t have anybody else really.

And it really forced me to step out in faith, right in a big way and step out into the unknown. And really that’s when miracles happen in your life, right when you step out into the unknown. And so that was scary and exciting and part of me, I had this sense that, you know, it wasn’t planning to be a blogger or you know, being interviewed by Ari Whitten, right?

I was just wanting to survive and, but I had this sense that if I could get through this, I could help other people get through. If I could get through the jungle, like I could show people the way. But again, it wasn’t like, oh, I’m going to write a book or whatever. It’s just like I just want to survive. I don’t care about anything else right now. All I care about survival.

And so I gradually just kept reading and researching. And the cool thing about that time that was different, there was, there was, there’s pros and cons, about 2004. Holistic cancer healing in 2004. Um, I’ll start with the cons. The cons is there was very little information, there was nothing on the Internet that was helpful unlike today. No Youtube, no facebook, right? There was no social media like you couldn’t find anything. I tried and I was like, all the websites were super sketch and there was no videos online in 2004 really.

And so that was frustrating. I couldn’t, I couldn’t really. It’s hard to find other cancer survivors who had healed with nutrition and natural nontoxic therapies. So that was the con.

But the pro was that the information I did find all pointed back to the same strategies. So like from book to book to book, they were all saying raw foods, juicing, detoxification, stress, forgiveness, right. Key supplementation and uh, you know, some advanced therapies like IV vitamin C and things like that and, and far infrared saunas. So it was very confirmatory even though I was, had had a shortage, but like a shortage, a shortage of information. It was enough for me, like it was just enough to keep to keep me on track and to keep my confidence at a level that I was able to maintain what I was doing. And so nutritionally I’ll take exactly what I did.

So every morning I juiced 64 ounces of juice. So it’s about five pounds of carrots at a champion juicer. I still do. But it was about five pounds of carrots and beets, celery, ginger root. That was the basic everyday juice formula. And some days it was all carrot juice. I started out with all carrot juice and then as I started to learn more, I was like, oh, I want to incorporate some more stuff in here, you know, just amp it up. And then I would start adding like Greens, Greens, powder to it, wheat grass, barley grass, like spirulina, chlorella, like all that good stuff. And just trying to add as much nutrition as I could to the juice have made a big batch in the morning, 64 ounces, drank it throughout the day. So it’s about eight ounces every hour, you know, eight, eight ounce servings. Roughly.

The goal with juice is to keep adding nutrition to your body, into your blood, and to keep your blood levels high, right? To keep high levels of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and all these wonderful phytonutrients, phytochemicals from plant food in your blood, right? Just circulating, right? Your dosing every hour. So that’s the point of juicing.

I, there were several periods where I did extended juice fasts, five days, 10 days. There. But on the days when I was eating, I would often just use through breakfast, I might have some fruit midmorning a grapefruit or green apple or something if I was feeling a little bit hungry. And then for lunch I had a giant salad, not like a salad you get at a restaurant or a Mcdonald’s a. This was a giant bowl of vegetables, right?

And mainly cruciferous vegetables. So, um, one of my favorite studies on nutrition and cancer is, is one where they actually dripped the extracts of many different vegetables on cancer cells on eight different cancer cell lines. You’re probably familiar with this study and just to see like, hey, if we just juice some vegetables and drip them on cancer cells, will anything happen? And surprisingly yes, they found that the number one anticancer vegetable, which just decimated cancer cells stop their growth, killed cancer cells like super powerful is garlic.

The garlic was the clear winner against all eight cell lines, Leeks and onions were basically number two and three against almost all of the cell lines. And then the remaining top 10 anticancer vegetables where all the cruciferous vegetables, like Broccoli, cauliflower, Kale, cabbage, even spinach, which isn’t cruciferous technically. And my salad was Broccoli, cauliflower, Kale, cabbage, onions, mushrooms, which are immune boosters, spices, anticancer, spices, Cayenne pepper, tumeric, a curry powder, which is a mixture of tumeric and a lot of other stuff, Oregano and I love Brag sprinkled two, which has 24 different herbs in it and garlic powder.

And then I would top it with apple cider vinegar, which is a great fermented food, um, sauerkraut and a little bit of olive oil and peppers and sprouted garbanzo beans or lentils or mung beans or all three and was just as monstrous, right salad and avocado like, uh, ended up, did I say Zucchini and squash also, like, so dude, I’m just like, just pile in it on right.

And that meal, which I call the giant cancer fighting salad was this was my staple meal for lunch and dinner every single day, every day with no variety. And I loved it. It was just because as I was thinking through, I was trying to be methodical and I knew I had to do something that was simple and sustainable where else I just couldn’t keep it up.

I even got some raw food cookbooks and I was like, flipping through them. And I remember flipping through and being like, I don’t know so many ingredients and like all this prep time and yet I need to get a dehydrator for, to make these raw crackers, you know? And I was like, no, this isn’t, I can’t do it. Right. I just, I’m just getting the same thing every day. Right. And then also looking at raw food recipes, I’m like, well, there’s only five ingredients in this recipe and my salad has like 15, you know, or more.

So like every time I compared some recipe with the salad, I’m like, that sounds more nutritious than in any other recipe, but just, just because of the sheer variety, right? That was in it.

So it just became very clear to me like juicing giant salads, this is what I need to do. And then I started incorporating fruit smoothies. Berries are the most potent anticancer fruits, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, throw a banana in there, throw a fresh coconut, you know, scoop out the meat. But the juice in there, blend it up. And then I’ve got this amazing delicious fruit smoothie that I would drink for a snack or have for breakfast. So I just created something that was simple, sustainable and super potent, in. It was just trying to hit every single angle of anticancer nutrition, uh, to give my body would, it could use to heal.

Ari Whitten: Nice. And what’s the, the end of the story? Did you live?

Chris Wark: I died and came back to life. So the end of the story is a lot, uh, to, to, to summarize the journey for me was the first two years were really difficult, right? Mentally, emotionally, right? Just staying, just staying the course, giving my fear to God and just doing the same thing over and over every day. Right. So I got this system in place and I just worked it right.

I had blood work done every month, uh, had every six months for the first couple of years because the oncologist I was working with was very concerned about my immune system, very concerned about the cancer coming back and we were just keeping a very close eye on things. And it took a couple of years before, you know, we both felt like my blood work. I didn’t have any obvious tumor markers, but there were just things in my blood that were weird, you know, my immune system was very low.

It seemed like it was a, there was immunosuppression going on, very low white count, you know, we just couldn’t figure that out. But after just a few years of just doing it, doing it, doing it, and just like building a new body, right? Just rebuilding every tissue in my body with whole plant foods basically. And I will say after 90 days I started adding cooked food back in because just I needed more calories.

So I added sweet potatoes and keenwah and some organic brown rice and other cooked veggies like that just to give me more calories. And My nutritionist, uh, at the time recommended, he said, well, you know, you’re, you’re really underweight or you probably need a little bit of animal protein. Why don’t we add a serving of wild caught salmon or maybe some organic lamb a few times a week. And at that time I thought, well, no, I didn’t become a Vegan for animal rights.

I became a Vegan for survival. And so I was just kinda like, well, if you really think it’ll help, I just want to live like I don’t care about anything else, I just want to live. So if you think this will help me, I’m willing to add a little bit of animal protein back into my diet. So I did. Obviously, it wasn’t enough to hurt me. In hindsight. I don’t know if it really helped and I think it might’ve been a little bit risky at the time.

But anyway, after the two year mark I started to feel really good. I mean, just as far as mentally, I’m more confident, right? That it wasn’t going to come back because the first two years of the most critical and then I just kept, stayed the course, kept doing it and then, you know, and then I woke up and it was like almost five years had another scan totally clean.

And then my oncologist at the time, the one I was working with retired and I was kind of handed to a new guy and he said, man, I think you’re, I think you’re out of the woods. You know, I think need to then come back now I don’t think it’s going to come back. And so that was like celebration time for me and that’s when I started thinking about sharing my story. Right.

Ari Whitten: And, and this was what year?

Chris Wark: So that was around 2009. Um, and I started the blog in 2010. Nice. And so that’s what I was like, okay, well, you know, I should just at least, because people kept sort of asking, you know, word started to get around just locally and people would ask why aren’t you? Didn’t he had cancer and you didn’t do chemo, what’d you do? And you know, I’m like, well how much time do you have?

You know? And so I’m thinking, well maybe I’ll put, I’ll put it on like a blog or something and then I can just send people there and like, oh just go here. And so I’ve got it all on this blog and you can see what I did and I have to tell my story over and over again.

Ari Whitten: Nice.

Chris Wark: See how that turned out. But what happened? And I didn’t realize what was going to happen, I had no idea, but there so many people out there looking for this information on Google. And as soon as I stepped out and started talking about it and blogging about nutrition and anticancer therapies, natural therapies, nontoxic therapies, people just started coming out of the woodwork, right? They found me, they found my blog. They started following, subscribing to my email newsletter, sending me messages like, can we talk?

And I’m coaching people. Like in my spare time I try to help them navigate their healing journeys. And then, uh, things just kind of grew and grew, you know, you understand. And then after five years it was just, my audience got so big, I was like, wow, this is kind of like my profession now. Stop doing real estate and just focus on this and this is all I want to do anyway. It’s help people with this.

And so the big pitch, I did write a book and it’s a, comes out September 25th, published by Hay House.

So yeah, the book tells my story, which, you know, you guys have kind of heard in the podcast, but it also has a very pretty lengthy section on, on the cancer industry, like the things that really no one knows about the cancer industry and in and in cancer treatment. So there’s a, there’s a section in there that sort of critical for anyone who wants to be informed and either if they’re, if they have cancer or know someone with cancer or just want to have that knowledge to carry forward into life about the way the industry works so you can make smart decisions and navigate it.

And then the prescriptive stuff is the third section of the book where I, you know, just kind of break down the daily routine, my diet, lifestyle, stress reduction habits, like everything I did to change my life to transform and restoring my health is in there. I’m pretty much…

Ari Whitten: If you, if you don’t mind, I have a few questions for you if you have 15 minutes,

Chris Wark: Yeah, yeah.

Chris beat cancer – How alternative medicine is viewed  and the studies that have been done on cancer

Ari Whitten: So one thing I want to mention, we talked a bit about kind of doctors oftentimes, well, well meaning people, and I’m going to use your, your perspective on this so well meaning people but kind of tend to often get sort of corrupted by the industry and influenced in negative ways. One thing I’ll mention here is there’s often a genuine desire to be evidenced based and to follow the evidence, but when it comes to cancer, especially, there’s a huge limitation in the evidence, which is that.

Actually, let me back up one point. There’s often this saying amongst skeptics, right, that if, if you know any, any type of medicine that was alternative that actually worked. It’s now called conventional medicine, right? It’s just called medicine.

Chris Wark: What do you call it? Alternative medicine that works medicine, right?

Ari Whitten: Yeah. So you know, there’s this idea that right look like everything’s been tested and if something’s in the domain of alternative medicine, therefore it’s by definition according to that view, it’s by definition, quackery and pseudoscience. So one limitation here, especially in cancer is that there haven’t been like randomized controlled trials, let’s say comparing the type of diet that you did or really any other nutrition and lifestyle intervention versus let’s say chemotherapy or let’s say versus radiation for any really any particular type of cancer like that evidence pretty much doesn’t exist.

And, and there are certain ethical concerns around why that type of research hasn’t even been done for the most part. But if let’s say in that environment, in that context where somebody’s trying to be evidenced based and that’s their commitment and their genuine value system and they genuinely think being evidenced based is the best strategy to help people.

Well if evidence doesn’t even exist on nutritional interventions for cancer for the most part, then like you know, there’s, there’s a clear limitation in the advice that a physician can give you on that subject. Add in the fact that, you know, they never, for the most part, 99 plus percent of physicians never even received a single nutrition course in medical school and you just have some, some limitations there as far as this, all of this type of stuff that you’re talking about. But do you want to elaborate a bit more on maybe why, why the types of therapies that you’re talking about, natural nutrition and lifestyle therapies are not kind of within the domain of evidence based, conventional medicine?

Chris Wark: Yeah. I love talking about this actually. So, um, yeah, the, the, the skeptics and the critics of people like me, I’m a, I like to call what I talk about quackery, but nutrition is the foundation of health, right? Nutrition is not alternative therapy, right? Food is medicine, right? But they’ll never call food medicine. And we, the current medical system as it exists today is one that’s controlled by the pharmaceutical industry. So in order for something to be a medicine, it has to be a patented drug, right? So by definition, nutrition is not medicine to them.

And so, ’ that’s sort of point number one. Point number two is they don’t, there’s no money in nutrition and when you’re, when you’re looking at an industry that is driven by dollars, right? Everybody’s got to make a living. I get it right? Pharmaceutical companies are in business to make as much money as possible for shareholders.

They’re not funding research studies to test nutritional interventions against cancer. They don’t care about nutritional interventions against cancer. If they’re funding anything on a natural compound, it’s to try to create a synthetic patentable extract of that compound, like Tumeric, for example, that they can develop into a drug, right? So, yes, they studied plant compounds all the time, but they want to make them into a patentable drug. So the big deception of the term science based medicine or evidence based medicine is that it’s, that it is based on all of the evidence. But it’s not. Ot’s only based on science and evidence that lead to patented billion dollar drugs. Okay. That is how the industry is built, has been built. So. And you’re right, you can’t do a placebo controlled double blind crossover study with diet, right? You can’t tell patients they’re eating a carrot when they’re not eating a carrot, you know what I mean?

So that can’t be done now. It could be done where and, and by the way, we’re, I’m working with an MD and we’re in early, early process of doing a pilot study on nutritional intervention for cancer. Now, you can take patients radically changed their diet and lifestyles and measure their outcomes. And there’s one very famous study where they did this.

There’s a couple actually, but Dr. Dean Ornish took early stage prostate cancer patients that had no treatment, uh, and put them on an inner, a diet and lifestyle intervention. They put them on a plant based Diet and added exercise and stress reduction classes every week. And what they found was every patient who followed this program had reversal in their PSA reversal of prostate cancer from following a plant based Diet evidence, exercise and stress reduction. So that’s where he’s amazing. Then there was a followup study where they did it with late stage prostate cancer patients and they found the same thing, the patients that followed this advice, right, that follow the program closely.

Because, you know, compliance is an issue when you have diet and lifestyle intervention, right? People have to stop eating twinkies, like some people like don’t do it. They like to eat a little healthy and then they need more cheeseburgers. But the patients that complied had reversal in their PSA numbers. So that’s an amazing one. That one happened.

Anybody can Google ”Ornish, prostate cancer” and the study will pop right up. You can read it. It’s fantastic. But the only reason he got permission to do that was because it was early stage prostate cancer and you know, it’s slow growing and so they felt like it wasn’t unethical.

So the way the, because the pharmaceutical industry has infiltrated every aspect of medicine, they have written the rules. And so one of the rules is it’s unethical to treat a person with nutrition if there’s already an approved treatment called Chemo.

Ari Whitten: This standard of care…

Chris Wark: Standard of care…

Ari Whitten: Established as this. And that sort of, that’s what’s viewed as evidenced based then to subject people to anything like in lieu of that, that is kind of in the domain of alternative medicine as a substitute for the standard of care becomes unethical by definition.

Chris Wark: Yup. Yup. And the crazy thing, I don’t like the term alternative medicine or alternative therapies because it can, it can mean anything, right? You drink your own urine. Okay. Eating tree bark, living off bugs like anything is alternative. Right? So I, I shy away from those that term because it really does. Some of it is total quackery. Yeah. Right. There are people in, in my space, in the holistic health and wellness world that, unfortunately, to my dismay, tend to have the idea that everything alternative is somehow good.

Ari Whitten: Oh, thank you for mentioning this drives me crazy.

Chris Wark: Yeah. And better than conventional or whatever. And I am not one of those people. Right? I’m very cautious. I love evidence. I love and, and let’s talk about evidence too.

So here’s the evidencewe do have. We have hundreds of thousands of nutritional science studies, right? Published peer reviewed evidence based studies on nutrition and a large chunk of those are on the anticancer compounds in fruits and vegetables. In food. And the cancer promoters in certain foods like meat and dairy, uh, and the anticancer compounds and other foods like cruciferous vegetables and berries. Okay. So we have all this amazing nutritional science evidence that people who are critics of what I talk about call somehow try to convince their audiences that that’s quackery, that nutritional sciences somehow quackery [inaudible], but they never quite call nutritional science quackery, but they call me a quack. Right?

So, uh, but so we have all that which I get really excited about because in the beginning I didn’t have access to any of these studies. Like I’ve only found them once. I started blogging and started like, wait a minute, okay, I did these things. I got, well, I’ve met a bunch of other people who also did these things and also healed and other types and stages of cancer.

There’s gotta be something to it, what, what evidence exists. So then I started on the quest like you, like what do we have? And as I started to research, I found all this was amazing stuff, right? Like, oh, that explains it. Buries ellagic acid, garlic, alison, right? Broccoli, cruciferous vegetables have sulforaphane and isothiocyanates indole three carbinol. So, uh, like my brain is exploding, right? Like learning all this wonderful stuff. And I’m connecting all these dots, right?

Oh, obesity contributes to cancer because it raises estrogen, promotes inflammation, right? Secretes a hormone called fgf two, which can convert healthy cells into cancer cells, especially from belly fat. So like, right? So learning all this stuff and like, wow, there’s all this evidence, nobody’s talking about it.

Ari Whitten: There’s also another huge layer of evidence which is around prevention and the relationship of that with nutritional science. We have lots and lots of, of, of longterm epidemiological studies. And granted, you can’t necessarily draw a causation from this, but what we know of course, if you connect the dots and it’s really not hard to connect the dots, all the pieces of the puzzle are there. We know that healthier lifestyle factors, including certain nutrition habits, dramatically reduces your risk of dozens of different types of cancer.

And we also know, as you mentioned now kind of on a smaller, more mechanistic level, we have research showing that specific nutrients from specific phytochemicals and specific plans, whether garlic or cruciferous vegetables, et Cetera, et Cetera, um, act on specific mechanisms to help encourage to help either limit cancer cell growth or cause a pop ptosis program, cell death of cancers and so on. So, um, you know, that, that evidence exists, but you know, and, and even skeptics I think don’t necessarily deny that even, you know, a lot of it is just ignorance in a lot of cases that they just are unaware of that all of that science exists and they think talking about nutrition and relationship to cancer is nonsense. But even those who I think recognize that that evidence exists, there’s still kind of this hard line that they’re unwilling to cross between prevention and treatment.

And yeah, okay. Maybe all that stuff is helpful and wonderfully effective in prevention of cancer. But to talk about it in the context of, of treating, treating or curing cancer is ben becomes quackery and pseudoscience.

Chris Wark: Yeah. Well, and there’s the third layer of evidence. Okay, so we’ve got the broad population studies epidemiological, which aren’t perfect, but hey, when you got hundreds of thousands, millions of people with much lower rates of cancer than the US, right? When there’s dozens of nations with rates of cancer that are half as long, half as much as the US a third, right? The rate of colon cancer in rural Africa is 50 times lower. You know, like when you look at these studies like hello, like outcomes razor, let’s just, let’s see what they’re doing. How is it different? Probably is the way their diet and lifestyles probably are the reason. Right?

And we know in some cases their diet and lifestyle is definitely of reason. So you’ve got that level, then you’ve got, like you said, the sort of biological level, all the nutritional science studies on anticancer compounds in food. But then the third layer is all the anecdotal evidence, which people hate anecdotal evidence, right? They hate it. They can’t stand it. They can’t stand the fact that people are healing cancer.

They’re sharing their stories. Right? And, but I love anecdotal evidence, I mean, we learned from the experience of others and every major scientific discovery pretty much started with an anecdote. But the problem is we don’t have clinical trial evidence, right? That’s the one thing missing.

We’ve got four, three of the four major evidence pieces, right? And,  hopefully in my lifetime, in our lifetime, some benevolent billionaires will fund some really well designed, diet and lifestyle intervention trials, more of them, right?

The Ornish studies are amazing, uh, just, uh, just an amazing clues and like indications that, hey, this is the jet, this works, your body can heal. And what I say often is like the body creates cancer. The body can heal it if given the proper nutrients and care. Right? So it does take. It’s not about a magic bullet, it’s not about a Miracle Cure.

It’s not about an alternative cure, right? It’s about radical diet and lifestyle transformation, like massive action. That’s, this is what I encourage people to do to take massive action.

It’s not this lotion or potion or job or supplement or weird concoction, right? It’s, you’ve got to change your whole life, you’ve got to eliminate everything in your life that may be contributing to your disease and replace those things with evidence based diet and lifestyle strategies that can only help you. And that’s the great thing about the holistic health world, at least my little little corner of it is that I’m only interested in promoting things with great enthusiasm that can only help, right? That can only help. I’m not encouraging people to do like risking wacky, you know, IV therapies or whatever, right? Like snake venom or something. Yeah. So a couple specific questions I have for you.

How To Fight And Prevent Cancer Naturally And Effectively – The truth about treatment plans

Ari Whitten: A couple of areas that are controversial. One is, you know, some people might listen to you talking and say, Hey, this guy’s advising me to avoid conventional medicine, to treat my cancer and avoid chemo. Avoid radiation. You know, as just a blanket rule. I want to inject, first of all the fact that you’ve already mentioned a couple times, you’ve, you’ve said, hey, this is, these are my decisions, these are not necessarily right for everyone, but I’ll add to this that every type of cancer and the treatments that are available are often radically different from one type of cancer to the next as far as the actual evidence on conventional treatments like Chemo for that specific type of cancer. And in some cases, the evidence is very poor that, that chemo is effective in helping that particular type of cancer. And in some cases it’s quite good.

So, you know, there’s, there’s a lot of degrees of nuance there around the specific types of cancer and the specific treatments that are available. Um, my first question is I wonder if you have any thoughts on that.

And then,  my second question is, you’ve also said I think some controversial stuff around kind of veganism and meat and dairy and things like that that I know some people would disagree with. And there are even some people now you know, promoting the Keto Diet, which has become very popular for weight loss. A lot of people are, are promoting that sort of the metabolic theory of cancer cancer feeds on carbs and sugars and so by starving enough carbs and sugars and, and, and eating a kito diet, high fat, and that’s very much inclusive of animal proteins which you’re saying are, are bad for cancer. People are saying that that can be very effective for cancer.

So I’ll just present those, those two things and I’ll let you take it where you want to take it.

Chris Wark: This is good. Good questions. Good questions. Ari. So yeah, first of all, I am, have been accused by my just say call them opponents. Okay. But um, intellectual theory or theoretical opponents of telling people not to do treatment, which I don’t do. I don’t tell people not to do treatment. I do highlight, like I said earlier, the perils and pitfalls of treatment and I created a guide called 20 questions for your oncologist. So a patient can ask the right questions and figure out if treatment makes sense for them because like you said, there’s a lot of different types of cancer. Some cancers respond very well to treatment and some don’t respond at all. So a couple of easy examples.

Childhood leukemia has a very high cure rate. Ten year survivals over 90 percent, uh, testicular cancer. It’s about the same and even lymphomas, highly responsive to chemotherapy, a very high ten year survival. Okay. Now, the most solid tumor cancers though, do not respond well. And respond is a weird word. It’s an industry word, right? Respond, just means, oh, did it shrink a little? Oh it responded, right? But we’re talking about survival. The most important statistic that everyone should know surrounding cancer and the cancer industry and the progress they’ve made is that in the last 60 years, the death rate, which is the purest measure of winning or losing the war on cancer, the death rate has only improved by five percent since the introduction of chemotherapy in the 19 fifties. Five percent reduction in the overall death rate from cancer. Now again, for a small percentage of cancers, they’ve really made huge progress in its may basically leukemia, it’s blood based cancers, leukemia and Lymphomas, and then testicular and like some really rare ones like Burkitt’s lymphoma is another lymphoma.

But the solid tumor, breast, brain, colon, lung, liver, ovarian, cervical, pancreatic, or major cancer killers, they’ve made very little progress if any, in some cases, zero progress in improving the death rate in the last 60 years.

So that’s, you know, that’s a pretty powerful indictment against the cancer industries progress despite the hundreds of billions spent on research. Okay. So, so there’s that. But again, every person needs to be informed. Like if you download my free guide, if you ask those questions, then you will get answers. Is the treatment you’re being given Palliative or curative, right? Is the treatment. What is the success rate of that drug therapy for your cancer type and stage, sex, and age group, right? Most patients aren’t asking those kinds of questions. How about, hey, can I speak with three to five people who are long term survivors with my type of cancer that you’ve treated?

Right. Great question to ask your doctor, do you have some successes I could meet and talk to that? Did this drug therapy and had my kind of cancer and are alive and thriving five, 10 years out.

So again, I have sort of a two pronged mission. One is to help patients make a very informed decision with all the evidence, right in facts about their cancer and treatment, right? Not Get rushed in, out of fear. So that’s sort of like, that’s one prong. And then the other prong is to empower them with knowledge and information that they can use to transform their health that they can help themselves, like with evidence based nutrition, lifestyle medicine, that will only help them even if they do all the treatments the doctors want them to do.

So, you know, that’s, that’s the way I look at it this way I approach it, and it’s totally fair to say that, yeah, some cancers respond better than others, but again, you can pretty much boil it down to, is this an epithelial cancer or non epithelial cancer? Solid tumor cancers don’t have a great success rate. Blood based cancers have a much better success rate. Then there’s the famous two percent study. So the two percent study came out the year I was the year after I was diagnosed were the university of Sidney, uh, I believe it came out of Australia, but they looked at 22 different types of types of cancer and the study is called the contribution of cytotoxic chemotherapy to five year survival in adult malignancies. And what they found was, is that of the 22 cancers, they looked at, a chemotherapy only contributed two point one percent to five year survival. Right now, again, it’s an average.

So some of them contributed zero, right? And then some of them contributed better, like up to 30 percent, uh, for one of the lymphomas in the study. So people like to throw that two percent number around, but they usually misquoted and say like, chemotherapy only works two percent of the time, but that’s not, that’s not what the study found. It found, it only contributed to percent five year survival, which still isn’t good. Right? It was a groundbreaker industry shocker. Uh, but it didn’t, nothing changed. Right. And that was 12 years ago, uh, treatments haven’t really gotten any better. And you know, it’s not like the industry was like, oops, well we should stop doing that now because they didn’t.

Since I’m on those lines, immunotherapy people, you know, that’s on everybody’s mind. What about immunotherapy? Immunotherapy is a great idea. It’s a great idea to improve the immune system right to him and to try to empower the body’s innate ability to heal itself. Right? And that the problem with immunotherapy is, um, there were several problems. One only eight percent of cancer patients right now, uh, can have any benefit from it. And that’s just for a certain few number of cancers.

So a very low number of patients can have any benefit and I benefit doesn’t mean cure, it just means, oh, it shrunk the tumor temporarily or whatever. Right? So a very small percentage of patients for a small percentage of cancers have some experience, some benefit in clinical trials. That’s problem number one. It’s been overhyped problem number two is it’s insanely expensive, like some of these immunotherapy drugs or a million dollars a year, right? It’s like what? Like this is absolute insanity.

So that could improve over time. They could come up with some perfect immunotherapy drug tomorrow and, and whatever. That’s great. I hope they do. And believe me, the minute the industry comes out with a treatment or drug that cures cancer, I’ll be like, great, go do that. Just go do that, right? Go do that. Great if it works, do it.

But the myth is that there’s gonna be some kind of, if you donate enough money to cancer research, we’ll find a cure. Right? But there’s hundreds of types of cancer. They’re all different. There will never be one cure it. All they’re really doing is just trying to incrementally create drugs that work a little bit better than the current drug. And if they work a little bit better than the current drug, they can make billions of dollars, I could just takes, you just have to work a little bit better and then you totally replaced the existing drug. So that’s, that’s what cancer drug developments all about. I mean, sure, they’d love to find something that cured cancer. I mean, yes, but the reality is they don’t have to cure it. They just have to improve a little bit for them to make billions. So yeah. Does that answer the question?

How To Fight Cancer Naturally And Effectively – Chris’ view on keto, and veganism

Ari Whitten: It does, yes. The next question is just Keto is becoming quite popular in obviously it’s a huge trend now as far as weight loss diet, but it’s also a popular in certain integrative and holistic anticancer circles. So what’s, what’s your take on Keto, which obviously, you know, a lot of those people would have significant differences of opinion with someone like you who’s coming more from a Vegan perspective and plant based avoiding lot of the animal foods, they’re saying no, avoid carbs, high fat, moderate protein, and we can be totally inclusive of animal proteins because we don’t think that those are harmful.

Chris Wark: Yeah. Okay. So I’ll answer in two parts. One, I’ll talk about animal protein. Then I’ll talk about Keto specifically. There’s, there’s a number of ways that animal protein fuels cancer growth. The first is a hormones, so when you eat animal protein, you raise IGF1 one, which is insulin like growth factor in your body. And insulin like growth factor is IGF1. One is cancer rocket fuel. It tells cancer cells to grow. So if you eat anything from an animal, right? Dairy, meat, fish, eggs, you are sending growth signals to cancer cells via all these hormones that exist in animal food.

Doesn’t matter if it’s pasture raised or farm raised obviously, or a factory farm raised. They all have hormones, whether they’re an added extra hormones in the feed or shots, or they just never have an hormone injected ever. Right? It’s a living being. It’s full of hormones.

So hormones and animal food fuels cancer growth. [inaudible], which is an amino acid that’s very, very high in meat, uh, and it’s very, very low in vegetables and almost nonexistent and fruit and methyanine, nothing, um, is an amino acid that many cancer cells are dependent on to survive. So you, you actually starved certain types of cancer cells by eating a diet that’s naturally very low or restricted in methyanine, the third way is saturated fat. So cancer cells like saturated fat for fuel and saturated fat. There’s multiple studies on saturated fat from animal foods, fueling cancer growth. Uh, the fourth way is when you cook me a, you create heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are cancer causers in meat. When animal flesh or animal fat are cooked at high temperatures. Bacon isn’t as an example that most people don’t know, but processed meat, bacon, sausage, jerky, you know, hot dogs, lunch meats, processed meats are a group one carcinogen.

That’s the highest level of evidence of any substance on earth in terms of the confidence that it causes cancer. So cigarettes, right, arsenic and bacon are all group one carcinogens, they cause cancer. Red Meat as a group to which means it has a lot of evidence, not as much as group one. So, there are a number of reasons why animal food fuels cancer growth and uh, and again, I don’t come at it actually from a Vegan perspective because I’m not a Vegan. I eat a plant based diet, but I do eat a little bit of animal food a few times a month I might have some fish or I might have some eggs or something, but, um, my diet’s about 98 to 99 percent plant based because in my quest for my personal health journey went from healing cancer right to once I was confident that I was healed.

I went down a lot of dietary rabbit trails, Paleo, you know, Weston Price, like I went down all these holes in, experimented with a lot of different diets because I was curious. I, I was really interested in longevity, right? It’s like, okay, I’m, I’m cancer free now. I’m alive, I’m healthy. What do, how do I need to eat and live longterm? Because being a raw foodist is not a good. It’s not a healthy diet long term, right? It’s an amazing healing diet, short term for detoxification and all that. But longterm. Yeah, it’s not, there’s no evidence. There’s no healthy long living populations in the world that are raw foodists or that are Vegan, but there are very healthy long living populations. The longest living that eat a diet that’s about 95 percent plant based, which we know from the blue zones for example.

So it’s kind of a long way of me saying like my, my diet now is one that is really just geared toward longevity in which means eating tons of plant food, tons of fruits and vegetables. Every day. When I was healing cancer, I was eating 15 to 20 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. And now I like 10 to 15 servings because I don’t juice all day like I did then. But, um, but having said that, right? Small amounts of animal food, it’s okay. I’m not a Vegan. I don’t see a huge threat there. There may be some benefit or maybe it isn’t enough to hurt you, if it’s less than five percent of calories. But for healing cancer, I think it’s risky and it should be cut way back to zero or maybe a few times a month tops.

So the keto and by the way, so there’s, there’s all of that. I’ve said all that and then I’ve interviewed, you know, we’re approaching 70 people now that I’ve interviewed on my site and there’s more coming at me like every week who have healed cancer with nutrition and natural therapies and all types and all stages of cancer.

And some of them healed without doing any conventional treatment. Some of them healed after conventional treatment failed. Those are the two types of people I like to interview because those stories are the most compelling, right? If they did all the chemo and all that, and they also did juicing and whatever, it’s like, okay, that’s great. Glad you’re alive. But you know, the cancer industry would look at you and say, oh, well the chemo cured you, right?

So anyway, I gravitate towards the people that had these just amazing, remarkable healing and cancer reversal stories. And I’ve interviewed a ton of them. And guess what? They all did raw foods, juicing, radical life change, like they all basically did the same stuff as me. So this, this is a transition into the keto conversation. So in 2012 I started seeing articles and a little stuff on online popping up about the ketogenic diet for cancer.

Chris Wark: So I’m like, hmm, what’s this about? And went down that rabbit hole. I understand on the surface it’s very compelling, a theory hypothesis really that cancer cells run on glucose and if you deprive the body of glucose, you’re starving cancer cells and you know, you, they can’t use ketones for fuel. And so you starve cancer. It’s the best anticancer diet and it’s so sciency and Thomas Siegfried road, this textbook about it, right? And so I’m like, wow, this is, this is fascinating. I’m, I’m really interested in this.

And so  I started talking about it a little bit about my interest in it and had an article, an interview with someone about it on the website, on my blog or whatever. And then, um, but I had this funny feeling about it, like there’s something in my gut that was like, had this uneasiness about it and I couldn’t shake it.

I was like, I don’t know, something is weird about this. And then, so I just kept paying more and more attention. And then I realized, well, wait a minute, there’s all these people saying how great it is, where are the survivors? where are they, where are the people who, who did reverse their cancer with this diet? And I realized there was a couple, right? So like I can count on one hand and one of the, one of the big proponents, there was a chiropractor a few years ago. He was really trying to convince everybody, uh, he had brain cancer. Ketogenic diet was just telling everybody how great it was. Then he died and I’m like, hm, okay. And then somebody else I knew who was the big key to genic diet promoter and was a breast cancer survivor, her cancer came back. And I’m like, okay, wait a second, there’s more to this than meets the eye.

So then I went sort of really going down the rabbit hole. I started to, I talked to a friend of mine who runs a Gerson clinic in Mexico. He was like, it doesn’t work, don’t do it, like don’t tell anyone to do it, doesn’t work. And then Dr. Nick Gonzales, the late Dr Dickens wrote an amazing article, really just kind of dismantling it, a hige lengthy piece about the history of alternative cancer treatments, about the Ketogenic Diet, about how Atkins, actually most people don’t know that Dr Atkins a had a wing in his clinic where he was treating cancer patients with ketogenic diet and it was a colossal failure. So this article like rocked my world pretty hard and then I started really digging into the actual published studies on the Ketogenic Diet and like, okay, well what are these studies? What, what studies are out there.

Okay. Like, what do they actually finding or proving or whatever.

And that’s what it actually got, you know, for lack of a better word. Comical. Okay. So like there’s one study where, uh, you know, there are several rat studies where they find that the rats live longer on a ketogenic diet, but what they did was they implanted Human Glioma, bring human brain cancer into a rat’s body, which would never happen. Okay? Brain cancer doesn’t metastasize into the body, but anyway, they put human brain cancer into a rat a and they put these rats on a ketogenic diet. Again, humans aren’t rats either. And the rats lived, you know, a 55 days longer on a ketogenic diet plus hyperbaric oxygen therapy than the rats that weren’t on it. Okay. So, okay, they live longer, but they’re rats and it’s an unrealistic scenario, right? There’s another rat study where they live longer on a, on a supplement called keto-cow.

Uh, and they lived like a five days longer than the rats that are. No, no, the, the rats were given Quito cowl and treated with radiation. Uh, so they, they achieve remission. I don’t know how long their mission was. They achieve remission. The rats treated with just the ketogenic diet. Only live five days longer than the control rats, and then there’s a pilot study on humans where there were 16 patients were treated, ketogenic diet, all died.

Then there’s another study I found a 2012 study that found that tumors can use ketones for fuel.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. This is, this is an interesting thing and you know, I’ll mention real quick, I’m actually about to interview two cancer researchers. One is actually a proponent of ketogenetic diet and has written a book, her name is Nasha Winters and then the other one is actually highly critical of Kenogenic diets in the context of cancers and talks much like you’re talking now about how, how much the science on it has been misrepresented and how certain types of cancer can even feed preferentially on Ketones over glucose.

Chris Wark: Yeah. And I can even tell you which study. There’s a study that came out in 2017 last year that there is a, uh, there’s, there’s a certain genetic mutation in, in some types of cancer that actually, if that allows them to grow faster with ketones. So basically 50 percent of melanomas will grow faster if you are on a ketogenic diet, 10 percent of colon cancers, a hundred percent of hairy cell leukemia, cancers grow faster on ketones and about five percent of multiple myelomas. And then, you know, there’s a couple other studies, again, like there’s one, uh, you know, there’s several other patients studies where it’s like, you know, they give them a ketogenic diet and they, you know, they do a little bit better for a little while, but no one’s cured, right?

And even though there’s a 2018 study on mice where they found that, like when they combined, p one, three k inhibiting drugs, a ketogenic diet, it worked better than just the drug, but the mice that they just gave the ketogenic diet, uh, they had accelerated cancer growth of acute myeloid leukemia. So anyway, yeah, there’s, there’s all these studies that really don’t.

The evidence is so weak. Even the published. The weirdest thing about it is that there’s all these people running around saying how great this diet is for cancer. And yet when you look at the published studies, it’s terrible. It’s like, doesn’t, you know, just not really proving anything. A mice live a little longer then die. Humans maybe live a few months longer and then die or it works better if you combine it with radiation than not. Okay. Well that’s something. But um, at the end of the day, I, you know, in the absence of good clinical trials on humans, you’ve got to just compare the anecdotal evidence if that’s all we have to look at.

The anecdotal evidence is huge and I mean, we have decades and decades and decades of survivor stories and one of the funniest things I do is finding these people and interviewing them of people who’ve healed and they’re all doing the same thing.

There’s not a restriction on carbohydrates. They’re eating tons of fruits and vegetables. Most of them are juicing and changing their whole lives and all that. And you know, it’s just like, why are we ignoring what’s really working? You know, and it has. It doesn’t mean it works for everybody. You know, I can’t promise everybody a cure or whatever, but why would we ignore that in favor of a FAD diet that has almost no evidence, anecdotal or otherwise, and it’s completely an unhealthy, unnatural and unsustainable, and there’s no population in the world that eats a ketogenic diet. There is no ancestral population that eats that way. There are no hunter gatherers that eat that way. Even the inuits and the Eskimos, uh, who eat a lot of fat are not in Ketosis. And so like, it’s just unfortunately, it’s consumed the culture. It’s just the biggest FAD.

I mean, it’s just like Atkins, right? Atkins was everywhere and you know, there were whole grocery store sections devoted. If you remember, there were entire aisles of Atkins products, Atkins friendly, like the Atkins label was on like everything back in the, I guess nineties or whatever. And it’s just, you know, history repeats itself. And so now it’s just every time I turn around something is keto this, keto that, you know, and, uh, I, you know, it’ll, the fad will pass. I think I’m ready for it to pass so we can get back to the stuff that’s really helping people.

Ari Whitten: So  I want to be sensitive of your time here. We’ve gone way over. I really appreciate you taking the time to do that.

Chris Wark: Of course.

How To Fight Cancer Naturally And Effectively – Chris’ top three tips to beating cancer

Ari Whitten: I would love it if you could just wrap up with your top three real quick tips that people should, should it be aware of if they are looking to either prevent or treat cancer?

Chris Wark: Yep. Absolutely. I’m really, there’s, there’s three pillars of health, diet and lifestyle, environment, and stress. Okay. So your diet and lifestyle are, are huge contributors. The, I believe the two best things any person can do for themselves. Dietarily and lifestyle is one. Eat a plant based diet. Don’t have to be pure vegan again, but eat tons of fruits and vegetables, tons of fruits and vegetables and limit your process, food and animal products to less than five percent of your diet. Really one to two percent. That’s, that’s where I’m at.

the lifestyle stuff is eight. Alcohol and tobacco, you know, promote cancer. So if you smoke, you should probably stop. If you’re taking pharmaceuticals, you should work with your doctor to get off them. Beautiful thing about a plant based diet is you can reverse a lot of chronic health conditions with a plant based diet, you know, especially if you’re overweight, because when you lose weight, you can reverse type two diabetes, you can reverse arthritis, autoimmune disease, inflammatory diseases, all kinds of stuff just by getting back to a normal, healthy way.

So, and then, you know, using pharmaceuticals are taking pharmaceuticals, can increase your risk of cancer and alcohol abuse increases. I mean, now the latest is even one drink a day increases your cancer risk. So you want to be very cautious about that. So that’s the Diet component, the light. And the other piece of the lifestyle thing is, is exercise. Like you’ve got to move, like being sedentary increases your risk of cancer, increases your risk of obesity, obesity increases the risk of cancer. So like making it at the minimum, walking 30 minutes a day, just make that a minimum. Like this is a non negotiable thing. Way that you take care of yourself every day, it’s just going for a walk 30 minutes every day or twice a day for 15 minutes, three times a day for 10 minutes or 30 minutes of brisk walking.

Of course you can do more. I love to go to the gym. I love crossfit kind of stuff and all that, but running, hiking, rock climbing, Jujitsu, Yoga, like anything you do to move your body to sweat and get huffing and puffing and get your heart pumping. Hopefully getting the fresh air and sunshine as well. It’s just amazing for you. So good. So that’s the physical component. And then diet and lifestyle.

The second thing is environment. And so we have to be aware that there are environmental pollutants that cause cancer, right? So where you live really matters. If you live around a lot of pollution, industrial area or in a big city, then you will have an elevated cancer risks.

I do believe you need to filter it, a really good filtration system for your water. You need to filter your shower water and you need an air filter, really good air purifier in your home because indoor air is five times six times more polluted than outdoor air because of all the [inaudible] off gassing from furniture and stuff like that, so got to be aware of environmental factors and do your best to clean up your environment, remove toxic stuff from your home, get rid of air fresheners and candles and toxic cleaning products and all that kind of stuff.

Even clean up your body care products. I mean, it’s a big process right, to to sort of clean up your life, but I think it’s necessary if you’re serious about healing and prevention.

All of this stuff I talk about in my shamelessly promoted new book, ”Chris beat cancer and comprehensive plan for healing naturally”.

And then the third thing is stress and stress is like the secret killer, right? The silent killer, and it really is the underlying cause of most disease. You can trace back to stress because stress leads people to destructive behavior. When you have resentment, bitterness, unforgiveness, jealousy, anger, prejudice like negativity. When your critical, judgemental, insecure, when you’re carrying around guilt and shame, all of those negative emotions produce stress in your, in your mind, in your heart, and your body and lead to an unhealthy physical state. One, stress produce a elevate stress hormones which increased inflammation and suppress your immune system and to stress leads us to medicate, right?

And so many of us engage in unhealthy behaviors to medicate ourselves when we self medicate with drugs and alcohol, with cigarettes, tobacco and with food, even with promiscuous sex, with workoholism, with excessive binge watching, a media entertainment, and so that the root cause of all the stress, right?

Most people are overweight or obese because they overeat and most people overeat because it’s a coping mechanism, right? They use food as medication and food really should be used as medicine, right? It’s a big difference. And so, so addressing that, and again, that is also a big component in, in my book is identifying and eliminating the sources of stress in your life. Because I really truly believe that, and I’ve seen this experientially, that if you don’t address stress in your life, you can do everything else right and still not get well, right, and it can outweigh everything else.

And so your spirit, mind, body, right, they’re all connected. And if you’re spiritually, mentally, emotionally sick, eventually you will be physically sick as well. So that’s the big thing.

And forgiveness, I can’t, I cannot overstate how powerful forgiveness as it is, just the one of the best things you can do for yourself is to forgive the people who’ve hurt you in life is when you forgive them and you let it go. Give it to God and just say, Hey, they’re all yours. Like you can deal with them. I’m letting it go. And you just release that burden, man. And it’s so freeing. It’s so healing and uh, it’s just an amazing thing you can do and you’re not doing it for them. You’re not, you know, letting them off the hook. They’re going to get what they deserve eventually, right? You’re just deciding it’s not going to be for me, right?

Like I’m not responsible for the payback. They’re going to get it right. We all understand Karma. We all understand. You reap what you sow. What goes around comes around, right? People that hurt you in life. We’ll get what’s coming to them, but you just need. Just let them go and give it to God and let them deal with them. It’s powerful stuff, man. Telling you if, if, if a person can only do one thing from this whole interview, there’s only one takeaway from the whole thing. It’s forgive it. Forgive everyone who has ever hurt you. Just just do that.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Well said, man. I think that that’s a great way to end. So Chris, thank you so much for taking almost two hours out of your day to do this. I really appreciate all the…

Chris Wark: Only for you, Ari.

Ari Whitten: It’d better be only for me. No, seriously. I really appreciate you taking the time to do this and very excited to get this out to my audience and share your new book a so people can get that on and it’s Chris beat cancer.

Chris Wark: That’s the book right there, man. And again, thank you for taking the time to let me share my story and talk about my talk about my passion and just share it with your audience. It really means a lot.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. My pleasure man. Well, enjoy the rest of your day and thanks so much and everyone makes sure to go grab his new book on Amazon and I’ll talk to you again next week.

How To Fight And Prevent Cancer Naturally And Effectively with Chris Wark (Chris Beat Cancer)– Show Notes

How Chris beat Cancer (1:29)
How many oncologists use a fear based approach to get people to sign up for chemotherapy (26:28)
How Chris beat cancer – The best nutrition to cure cancer naturally and effectively (40:15)
Chris beat cancer – How alternative medicine is viewed  and the studies that have been done on cancer (58:09)
How To Fight Cancer Naturally And Effectively – The truth about treatment plans (1:13:05)
How To Fight Cancer Naturally And Effectively – The truth about keto, and veganism (1:23:45)
How To Fight Cancer Naturally And Effectively – Chris’ top three tips to beating cancer (1:39:32)


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Ocean Robbins Food Revolution Summit │ The 4 Keys to Good Nutrition For Health, Energy, and Longevity │ Chris Beat cancer How to cure cancer naturally and effectively with Chris Wark
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4 Natural Lifestyle Hacks To Fix Behavioral Issues And Mental Illness In Children (And Manage Your Energy As A Parent) with Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD

4 Natural Lifestyle Hacks To Fix Behavioral Issues And Mental Illness In Children (And Manage Your Energy As A Parent) with Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD (1)Behavioral issues and mental illness in children is increasing at an alarming speed. More and more children end up on mood and behavior controlling medications (which often come with a slew of side effects). However, these medications often serve as bandaids and don’t fix the root causes. This raises the question, what are the core reasons for many of the behavioral issues and mental illness in our children today? And, how can parents help their children overcome these issues?

Managing our own health , energy and self-care becomes significantly harder when we have children to care for. It gets even harder with kids with special needs, or who have psychological health challenges, or mood and behavior issues (things like ADHD, autism, bipolar, depression, anxiety).

So how can you help your kids function optimally, while also taking care of your own health and energy levels in the process? And if you don’t have kids, how can you better understand your own psychological health (and the factors that underlie so much of the depression, anxiety and other psychological health issues that are becoming so common today)?

That’s the subject of this week’s podcast.

This week — in one of my personal favorite podcast episodes of all time — I speak with Dr. Nicole Beurkens. Dr. Nicole has a PhD in clinical psychology, masters degrees in nutrition and special education, and is a board-certified nutrition specialist. She’s the founder and director of Horizons Developmental Resource Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and is a bestselling author, award-winning therapist and published researcher.

Dr. Nicole has made it her life’s purpose of helping children overcome psychological and behavioral issues by focusing on the root cause. Her approach to helping children recover from mental illness is unique and helps the whole family get better health, less stress, more energy, more connection, and most importantly, more happiness.

Listen in, as Dr. Nicole shares the 4 simple lifestyle changes that can help fix behavioral issues and mental illness in children (and help parents manage stress and energy.)

In this podcast, we’ll cover:

  • What Dr. Nicole has found to be the main causes of mental illness and behavioral issues in children
  • Why we have seen a drastic increase in mental illness in children over the past 20 years
  • The problem with most typical psychologists and psychiatrists
  • The questionable science behind so much of the paradigm of psychiatry
  • What does science really say about treating psychological health?
  • The connection between nutrition and mental health
  • What makes parents choose to medicate their children (even when they don’t want to)?
  • Dr. Nicole’s 4 keys to fixing behavioral issues and mental illness in children

Download or listen on iTunes

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4 Natural Lifestyle Hacks To Fix Behavioral Issues And Mental Illness In Children (And Manage Your Energy As A Parent) with Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD -Transcript

Ari Whitten: Hey everyone. Welcome back, to the Energy Blueprint Podcast. Today, I have with me Dr. Nicole Beurkens, who is a very unique combination of a psychologist, nutritionist, and special education teacher. She has 20 years of experience supporting children, young adults and families to improve behavior naturally.

She’s an expert in evaluating and treating a wide range of learning, mood and behavior challenges including ADHD, autism, anxiety, mood disorders, and sensory processing disorder. Dr. Nicole has a doctorate in clinical psychology, masters degrees in special education and nutrition and is a board certified nutrition specialist. She’s the founder and director of Horizons Developmental Resource Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and is a bestselling author, award winning therapist and published researcher.

And all around bad ass, I can say from experience. She’s become a personal friend of mine over the last few years and I’ve had the pleasure of having many conversations with her and this is a much, much, much delayed a podcast episode because I’ve been meaning to have you on for a very long time.

So welcome, Dr. Nicole it is such a pleasure to have you on.

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: Thank you so much for having me. Excited to be here.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, so, you know, first of all, kudos to you on an amazing background and all these impressive credentials. I mean, you know, I’ve gone to a PhD program in clinical psychology. I’m literally the only one, in all the years of cohorts that were going through the program, I’m literally the only one, and including the teachers, who knew anything about nutrition among all of those people.

So you are in a very unique position that you are a PhD in clinical psychology and you have a masters in nutrition and a masters in special education. And you’re a board certified nutrition specialist. And I think this is really impressive but also extremely important because as I was going through my PhD program in clinical psychology and I’m looking at the research on all these things.

One of the things that I kept running into is that there’s actually a whole bunch of research on nutrition interventions that relate to different psychological disorders and things like that. And none of that is taught to anybody who is getting their degree in clinical psychology, which is remarkable.

The disconnect between psychological disorders and then looking at the physiology and the underlying cellular and metabolic health of that individual, I mean, it’s just massive. So I just applaud you for going out and educating yourself and getting credentials in all these different areas so that you can really help people in the way they deserve be helped.

Why supporting parents is essential for helping a child with mental illness

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: Thank you. And you know, it’s interesting, I didn’t set out to do any of this. Life sort of has taken a weird and winding path. I mean people would say, “well you’ve got all these different degrees, like how did this come about?” And, you know, really, I mean my undergrad work was in special education and I thought. ”I love kids, I love working with kids who are challenging and…”

So went into special education and really enjoyed that. Enjoyed being a classroom teacher. I specialized in working with kids and teenagers with pretty severe emotional behavioral kinds of disorders. I would take the kids nobody else wanted to work with and that was great. I would close my door and nobody bothered me and I would just do my thing with them and it was awesome and I really enjoyed it. But what I quickly started to see, was that there was a very limited impact I could have in the six to six and a half hours a day that I had those kids.

And I had the parents coming to me saying, “help us know what to do to help our kids. Like it’s awesome. They’re doing well here. They’re learning all of these things, but we’ve got them the other 18 hours of the day and we’re really struggling.”

And I really began to see the need for pulling parents into the process, for giving them education tool support that they needed. And ultimately that’s what led me then to pursue my doctoral work in clinical psychology because I wanted to be able to work with families from the point of first having concerns about their kids, through being able to do good evaluation and diagnosis for them, and then all the way through the treatment process.

And that’s really what spurred me to go on and get the clinical psychology degree. And in the process of that, started doing a lot of work in private practice with families, shifted away from the school environment and more towards working one on one and in groups with parents and helping them to understand what was going on with their kids and to be able to have tools and strategies to use because parents are really left out of the process.

And you know, parenting in general is not for wimps, right? I mean, you know that, you’ve got a child. I have four kids and man kids do not come with instruction manuals and it is an energy intensive effort to be a parent. And especially then when you have a child who has got special needs, whether those are developmental disorders like autism or ADHD, or they are mental health or behavioral types of conditions like anxiety, depression, bipolar, you know, those types of things.

It takes the stress of parenting in general and just amps it up significantly. And so parents really have a lot of need for support and yet tend to be left out of the equation. And so my work with them, you know, really was focused on, “here are the things that you need to understand, here’s what you can do,” and really helping to empower parents.

And so, you know, I got my doctorate in clinical psychology, had my private practice going doing all of that good stuff and began to realize that a lot of the kids that were coming in to see me and to see my team here at the clinic had lots of different things going on, were on lots of different psychiatric medications and weren’t getting better.

And that really led me to start to question several things about how I had been trained. You know, you mentioned at the opening that your experience in the realm of your training in psychology was that, you know, there really was no talk about the body, about physical health, about nutrition. And that was my experience too.

I mean, I was trained in a very good, typical clinical psych program where the idea kind of is that everything from here up, you know, the brain, the mind is stuff that we deal with in psychology. And everything from here down is stuff that’s in the realm of physical medicine, whatever.

And unfortunately that’s the prevailing view I think in medicine, in mental health and it’s so wrong. It’s so wrong because the brain and the body are so interconnected. So I had been trained in that way. You know, my role was to do good counseling, to work with families, to use psychosocial and behavioral interventions, and then if kids were still needing support, refer them to their primary care doctor or their psychiatrist for medication.

So I’ve been trained that way. That’s how I practiced until I began to realize, “wait a second, if this really works, how come all these kids are coming to me still with all of these symptoms even though they’re on medication?” And, in fact, I began to notice that many of them seemed to be getting worse over time as medications were increased, medications were added and changed. It really caused me to delve back into the research literature and look at the whole issues around medication. What psychiatric medications are, what evidence we have for them, particularly in kids.

At the same time as I was looking at that and realizing that maybe a lot of how I’ve been trained was not really consistent with what the research says. I was noticing a pattern, too, in a lot of the kids that were coming to us that they had a lot of physical health problems.

So here we have kids with brain based issues, “mental health problems.” But also many of these kids had things like asthma, terrible eczema, chronic constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, terrible sleep problems, all of these types of physical issues. And that also began to interest me to say, “huh, is there some kind of connection here?”

Now, today that seems ridiculous to me to think that I didn’t know that there was that connection. But honestly, that’s not how we’re trained in these fields to think about things. So again, I went back to the research and started exploring what was out there and found, much like you did, that wait a second, there’s this whole body of research out there that talks about the connection between the physical body and things that are going on with physical health and the brain and mental health symptoms.

So that really got me interested in that whole area. And that’s what led me to go back and get another masters degree in nutrition because I really wanted to understand the connections, I really wanted to understand the science of that so that I could utilize the best protocols to help patients. And you know, I’ll tell you, that really has made such a significant difference adding that piece of nutrition, of integrative health, of the science of that into the treatment that we provide for kids and for parents really just led us to be able to have such better treatment outcomes for kids. And another tool to empower parents, to empower them to improve their own health.

Because one of the things with kids is if we’re going to make changes for them in the realm of their nutrition and health, we want to do that as a family. And many of the kids who come to us, their parents also have significant mental or physical health types of symptoms.

And so the interventions that we’re using with kids become really helpful for adults as well. And the parents end up feeling better, functioning better. The stress level comes down in the entire family. And it’s just a good thing all the way around. So that’s sort of the winding story of how I started in a classroom with special education and ended up having a clinic where we do all of these integrative kinds of things.

What science actually says about treating mental illness in children (and adults)

Ari Whitten: Beautiful. Well, I wanted to interrupt you like five times during that to comment on so many different things, but I restrained myself. But, you know, a couple of things. To go back to this point of the training that you received and this kind of this gap between the training and science.

I really want to emphasize that like the sciences is there already. I mean, granted, there’s certainly much more we can learn and we will continue to learn over the next 10, 20 years. But there’s already a huge amount of science showing that, you know, things like depression, anxiety, autism, things like learning disabilities, things like bipolar disorder, that there are nutrition and lifestyle links to these conditions. And you know, just like bipolar disorder for example, there’s a mountain of evidence on circadian rhythm and sleep for example.

So, you know, there’s a saying that I kind of like, it’s cute, it’s obviously hyperbole, but it’s a nice saying. It’s like “doctors know more and more about less and less until the point where they know absolutely everything about nothing.”

And if we think about like a trend over the last, maybe just even 100 years, there’s been a trend from like, you used to go see your local doctor, you know, regardless of if you had a broken arm or you got stabbed or you have an infection or you’re giving birth or whatever it was. You’d go see your local doctor and he was a systems thinker and understood the whole body and and how everything ties together and his job was to have generalized knowledge. And there’s been a trend towards greater and greater specialization, so learning more and more about less and less.

And we’ve lost systems thinkers. We’ve lost the people who understand all the pieces and how they all tie together. And it’s vital. It’s absolutely vital. I mean if you take somebody with a psychological condition like bipolar or depression, they don’t just need talk therapy. They also need all of these other nutrition and lifestyle factors, and even things like community, that can’t just be provided by people who are solely looking at things from the paradigm of, “oh, this is all just a problem that’s in your brain or in your mind and we need psychological techniques to fix it.”

It’s not just that. So, but the people who are in those paradigms can’t see how all of the pieces tie together. So again, I just really appreciate the fact that you’re a big picture systems thinker, you’re truly a holistic thinker. And I think that kind of approach is vital and necessary and unfortunately becoming all too rare in today’s world.

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: I want to say there that it’s so interesting to me, of getting back to the research evidence piece. It’s bizarre to me that these types of things are the things that are considered alternative. Or, you know, not the norm or these aren’t the things based on science. And that’s especially interesting to me when we compare things like nutrition and lifestyle interventions to things like psychiatric drugs.

If we want to talk about which side of that coin is lacking in evidenced basis in the research. It’s amazing to me that we accept the idea that psychiatric medications are a necessary, integral and research based part of treatment to the point where that is just accepted practice. That is the “gold standard of practice” to put people on these medications and yet we have far less research evidence for that then we have for some of the basic nutrition and lifestyle things that we’re talking about.

And it’s just interesting how that whole way of thinking has evolved as well, particularly in mental health which used to be much more about some of the things that you mentioned. Much more about building community for people and getting to the root of what was going on in their lives and all of those kinds of things and helping them improve their lifestyle and improve their way of thinking and their relationships in order to to have a better quality of life. And we have really shifted away from that, and it’s more to you go to a couple of counseling sessions.

And if that hasn’t totally taken care of your problems, then we’ve got one of several different kinds of drugs that we can put you on, the little magic pill that will help you feel better. And it’s just so bizarre to me that that’s become the accepted practice when we have all of this research evidence for these other kinds of things.

Ari Whitten: I really feel compelled to like reach through my computer screen right now and give you a huge high five for saying that, because yes, exactly that. I agree 100 percent and it just, it shows you how much of common practices and what are the standard practices are more a function of the zeitgeists, the sort of the trends and the perspectives of that particular age in history.

What’s a popular way of thinking about things in any given moment in time as opposed to what the science actually knows about these conditions. Like if we were treating mental, psychological conditions based purely just as an extrapolation of here’s all the evidence, everything we know about what’s involved with these conditions, now let’s create a profession that is designed to help people with these conditions. It wouldn’t be a psychologist, it wouldn’t be a psychiatrist.

It would be what you are right now or what I am, you know, or like people who are big picture thinkers, I mean specifically for psychology related conditions. More what you are since you’re doing some of the more necessary one-on-one work.

But, you know, it would be people with a very broad education in nutrition, lifestyle, psychotherapeutic techniques, understanding the social aspects of things. Big picture. But anyway, I digress just because I’m particularly passionate and I love that we’re so on the same page on this subject.

 One other thing you mentioned in passing that I want to get back to since this is the Energy Blueprint Podcast, is how all of this ties into energy and fatigue specifically. So parenting is rough, you know, just being a parent can wear you out pretty darn good. It can be stressful, you can be sleep deprived, you have much less time for self care. There’s all sorts of aspects of being a parent that tax you and can potentially lead to burnout, fatigue, sleep deprivation, energy problems.

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: Yeah.

Why we see an increase in children with mental illness and behavioral issues

Ari Whitten: It’s even more amplified in kids, like a lot of the kids that you work with who have learning or psychological conditions. So how, you know, first of all, why is this becoming so prevalent that so many kids in today’s world are experiencing mental health problems?

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: Yeah, it’s a great question. And it’s something that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about and get asked about really frequently because there’s absolutely no denying that the number of children with neurodevelopmental and/or mental health conditions continues to rise. I mean, that’s just the facts of the statistics of it.

Back when you and I were kids, the numbers that we were using for prevalence of autism was one in 500 kids, one in a thousand kids. Just in the 20 years that I’ve been practicing and working with these populations of kids, we’ve gone from one in 500 to a thousand number, to now we’re at one in 36 boys in the United States is diagnosed on the autism spectrum. You know, getting, that number grows every year. ADD and ADHD, same thing. You know, we can all think back to a kid maybe who was in our class who now would be diagnosed with classic hyperactivity or something like that. But now what we’re seeing is we have 11 percent of school aged children, so kindergarten through high school, 11 percent of children in our schools are diagnosed and/or medicated for ADD or ADHD.

And we see those statistics playing out across the board in things like learning disabilities and mental health issues. The rates of anxiety and depression in children are skyrocketing.

So something is clearly happening that is driving this trend of more and more and more children having these kinds of issues. And we know, and this study was actually done already almost five years ago, but you know the last sort of prevalent study in this country for chronic illness in kids showed that 54 percent of children in the United States have some form of chronic illness.

Whether that is a physical chronic illness, or a mental or behavioral or developmental chronic illness. That’s a little bit over half, and that data is already five years old. So these are things that impact almost every family, if not every family in some way.

And I think there’s several things that I’ve observed and that the research shows are driving this. One is certainly the environment. The physical environment that children are growing up in now is markedly different than it’s been for any generation prior.

So our physical environment has a lot more toxins in it. The air is filled with a lot more toxins. Our soil becomes more depleted and more toxic over time. Our water is filled with toxins and all kinds of things in the physical environment that take a toll on people in general, adults and children.

But the thing about children, they’re kind of the canaries in the coal mine because kids’ systems are smaller, less developed and much more sensitive and vulnerable to these kinds of environmental insults.

Particularly when we’re thinking about babies, even in utero and then through infancy and toddlerhood and preschool years. So our kids are showing us through developing, you know, the high prevalence of these chronic illnesses that something in the environment is going on.

Food supply, another big issue. Not only has the quality and the nutrient density of foods that are grown reducing over time, but we’ve got kids eating a much more processed diet than ever before. So you know, when I think about how I ate growing up and certainly how my grandparents ate, very different than how kids are eating now.

Kids are doing a lot of fast food, a lot of microwaveable meals, a lot of packaged kinds of foods. And we know from the research that the chemicals, the additives, many of the things that are used in processed foods have a negative effect on not only physical development but particularly on brain development. So the nutrition and food piece of it is certainly an issue.

I feel that technology is an issue that is partly driving this trend. Kids are more sedentary than ever before. And a big part of that is because many of their activities, their social lives, their preferred things that they like to do are on a little screen this far from their face.

And while I think that certainly there’s a role for technology and devices in the lives of kids, what has happened is we’ve gone to this extreme where kids are spending so much time on that stuff that they’re not getting even basic physical movement that’s needed to fuel normal development and health.

And one of the things that many parents are not aware of is that movement, physical activity and moving the body is critically important for brain development in children, particularly from birth to about third grade.

Movement and physically exploring and moving through the environment sets the foundations in the brain for all higher level learning. So, you know, academic learning, higher level social relationships, those types of things have as their foundation brain development that comes as a result of movement. So when we’ve got infants, toddlers, elementary aged kids spending a lot of their time sitting, lying down, passively sort of consuming things on screens, that is taking a tangible toll on their brain development and the research shows that. So I think that’s another piece.

And I would also say just the busyness of life and the toll that that takes on parents and on family systems. So, you know, we were talking actually before we started the podcast just about how busy things are and when you have kids it’s like time flies and there’s so much going on and things move fast. And I think, especially a lot of parents, we’ve got two parents in the home who are working in the majority of situations. So they’re busy with that. Kids are in daycare or school. Parents feel compelled and feel pressured to have their kids in all kinds of activities, right? From a very early age.

It’s sort of like keeping up with everybody else in the neighborhood or the school system with making sure that your kid is in all the sports, all the extracurriculars, all of these things. And all of that contributes to this busyness level that creates a ton of stress that takes a toll on parents, on their energy levels, their ability to really be present and engaged with their kids and parenting in a way that supports kids development. And it just takes a toll on kids because kids need downtime. Kids need unstructured free play time and a lot of them aren’t getting that.

So I think that that’s another factor, too. And there’s lots of other things that we could get into that, but I think those are really some of the core trends that I’m seeing and some of the core things that we’re seeing come out of the research that are explaining why it is that we’re seeing so many more kids who are ending up with these kinds of symptoms and diagnoses.

The importance of social life and community for good mental health

Ari Whitten: What do you think about the role of social life and community in all of this? How does that figure into this and, you know, and I know you know, one of the books that had a big influence on me is Phillip Cushman’s, it’s called “Constructing the Self.” I don’t know if you… are you familiar with that book? It’s kind of an obscure book, but basically I’ll give it like sort of a very brief encapsulation of what this book is all about.

But the basic idea of it is there’s been a dissolution of community and even of the family unit over the last several generations since, especially since World War II. And this is obviously an America centric sort of focus of this book. So speaking specifically about the US. There’s been a dissolution of the family unit, of the extended family, of community more broadly, of like sort of more of like you’re a part of this particular community who has these beliefs and traditions and so on.

And we have all sort of… we’re all living in these little boxes in huge cities of millions of people, but we’re less connected than we ever have before. And that, that loss of human connection and community has been a big part of this rise of mental health problems.

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: Yeah, it’s so true. And I think there’s two phases of development in particular where that takes a huge toll on children and their brain development, and their mental health. The first is in the early developmental stages of life, so infancy, toddlers, preschool years because children, their brains develop through relationship with other people. That’s just hands down.

Developmental psychologists have been researching that and have understood that for decades now. That the way that you nurture and support a child’s brain to develop in all areas is through key relationships with other people. Parents obviously being the primary people that they’re engaging with. And then as they get a little older, that circle starts to spread to, you know, extended family members, siblings, maybe daycare providers, teachers, those kinds of things.

But children’s brains develop through relationships with others. And so the more disconnected we get, the busier we get, the more we get absorbed as parents in our work and our devices that we’re on in our free time, you know, maybe holding the baby on one hip and scrolling facebook on the other.

Over time that does take a toll and it does negatively impact the development of young children because the way that they learn about the world, the way they learn about relationships, the way their brain literally grows new connections is by experiencing the world alongside and through the eyes and the experiences of primary caregivers.

So that’s one key developmental stage of life where we see that idea of connection and social relatedness being really important. And then the other one that I notice, really this has an impact on now, is with teens and preteens and their social development and their mental health. And there are several really important studies in the last year that have come out on this issue showing exactly what you said, that yes, we’re connected to the world more so than ever before when you look at being connected through the internet or whatever else.

But we’re more disconnected socially and relatedly than ever before. And so what we’ve got is these preteens and these teens who are very vulnerable and susceptible to, you know, dynamics in relationships at those ages. And we’ve got this profound disconnection from real life interaction and engagement and relationships and it’s a lot of online social media, all of those kinds of things. And it really is having a very detrimental impact on them.

So, it’s not that these things aren’t important for kids at other ages too, but I think those are two key areas that I would want parents to really be thinking about in relation to how the disconnectedness and the disengagement that can come as a result of the busyness of life, being away from extended family, all of the technology, those kinds of things where it really can take a toll.

Why behavioral issues and mental illness in children can be connected to lifestyle (and why medication may not be the answer)

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Beautifully explained. So now that you’ve gone over all these different layers of, you know, lifestyle, nutrition, toxins in the environment, other environmental factors, how the social and interpersonal dynamic has changed over the last few generations, and the loss of community, and all these different things. The solution is obviously just to put people on medications that affect their neurotransmitter balance, right?

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: Clearly, because obviously the real root of the problem is that we have a Prozac deficiency and that, you know, so we just need to give a pill and it’s all taken care. Of course. NO!

Ari Whitten: Makes sense to me. I mean, I just, it just seems like everything that you were saying up until this point just leads logically directly to the conclusion that we need to administer pills that correct the problem that’s going on in the brain, right?

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: When you think about it that way, right, and it’s like that’s total insanity. And yet that’s what we do. “Oh, your teenager is feeling sad and anxious and you know, is withdrawing from things. Well, clearly that’s a Prozac deficiency. You know, they have depression. Let’s give them some medication.

Let’s not examine what’s going on in their life and what the family dynamics are and what their diet is like and how they’re sleeping and the fact that they’re on social media and texting with, you know, friends or whoever and trying to resolve their friend’s crisis at three in the morning when they should be sleeping.

Let’s disregard all of that. And clearly this is just a chemical imbalance. Or a child who is having significant emotional and behavioral dysregulation, throwing temper tantrums all the time, not seeming to learn from consequences or from their experience, very dysregulated kids. Well, clearly they need an anti psychotic drug to help them with that.

Let’s not explore what they’re eating, whether they’re sleeping, what the family dynamics are, let’s not looking at any of that.”

And it’s ridiculous when you think about it, but yet that’s what we do. And there’s several problems with that that I think parents need to be aware of. Because the reality is if you’re a parent who has a child with these kinds of struggles and you go into their primary care doctor, their pediatrician or even to the school and say, “I have concerns about my kid, you know, here’s what’s going on.” Chances are you’re going to walk out of that appointment with a prescription for a medication. Or if you go to the school, they obviously can’t give a prescription. What they’re going to say is “well, you know, yeah, your kids is really having problems in the classroom, you know, these behavior problems, inattentive whatever. You should really see your doctor about, you know, an ADHD diagnosis and some medication.”

And that’s what the experience is for most parents when they raise these concerns. And we’re so conditioned to, you know, when people in white coats say things like that to us, we think, “okay, this is a person who knows what they’re talking about. Oh my gosh, if they feel like my child needs medicine than I should give my child this medicine.”

What’s interesting though, while most parents will do what the physician or the prescriber or whoever the professional is telling them to do. There is this voice in the back of the majority of parents minds going, “I don’t really feel good about this.” And I know that from 20 years of working with parents who 99.9 percent of them will come in and say, “I didn’t want to put my kid on the medicine, but this is what they told me to do and I didn’t know what else to do and so I felt like I should do it.”

So parents, I get why they’re doing it. They’re not bad people. They’re not trying to make poor decisions. They’re being told by people that they’ve been taught to respect and to trust that this is what they need to do. And so they’re following instructions. And yet there is a big part of them that feels like “uh, this probably isn’t the right thing.” And then that just gets confirmed when for the majority of kids putting them on these medications doesn’t resolve the issue.

And that gets to one of the big problems with utilizing medication as a primary, you know, approach or even as any part of the approach to treatment for these kids because they don’t work for the majority of people. And that’s not even just for kids, that’s for adults, too. The research literature on psychotropic drugs is sketchy at best.

I mean, that’s just the reality of it. And people like to argue with me about it, you know, other professionals do. But I just say “read the research literature on it.” You know, we have very sketchy basis for using these medications.

The studies that are done are very short term. We don’t actually have any good longterm studies that show us what happens with these medications in the body over time, especially not for children. So parents are led to believe that these things have been well researched, well studied, they’re very safe. And the reality is we have almost no research evidence to support the use of most psychotropic drugs in children.

Stimulants for ADD/ADHD are the exception. There are studies that have been done, obviously, particularly on kids, but no longterm studies. We don’t have studies that show us if you start giving a kid Ritalin at five, what might that look like for them at 20 or 30 or 75 years of age. And there’s real reason to question now looking at studies that are being done on older adult populations, the impact that these kinds of drugs do do have on that.

What we’re finding is that as adults age the longer they’ve been on these kinds of prescription medications, the more likely they are to have problems like dementia, Alzheimer’s, significant emotional issues, those kinds of things. This is looking at older adults who started on these kinds of drugs in adulthood. What does that look like then for the last two generations of kids who have been started on these kinds of drugs when they were young or when they were in elementary school? What does that look like for them? We don’t know.

The reality is we have no idea and there’s every reason to believe that there’s going to be big problems for these kids down the road. Just looking at what we know and understand about side effects in kids who take them. And that’s the other issue, so not only do we have a very poor research basis, we also have a slew of problematic side effects that accompany these drugs and particularly in kids.

Again, kids bodies and brains are more vulnerable, they’re more sensitive than adults are. And so we’ve got these medications which we really even have very little dosing guidelines on. Most parents don’t realize that either. When a psychiatrist or, you know, a prescriber of whatever sort is prescribing these, for most of these medications, there are no specific guidelines for how to dose them in kids. So they’re taking a guess. “Well, this kid’s maybe half the size of an adult, so we’ll give them half the amount…” They’re really, there’s no rules or standards for that because the studies haven’t been done. So…

Ari Whitten: Yeah, and…. sorry, no go ahead. I’m kind of interrupting.

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: Well, no. I was just going to say that I think it’s important for parents to understand that. That it’s very much a guessing game and we know there’s a ton of problematic side effects. Everything from worsening their mood and behavior and anxiety problems to causing acute suicidality in kids who were not suicidal. Now we start them on these medications. They’re acutely suicidal or aggressive or a danger to themselves or to other people.

Things like insomnia, causing attention problems. And then we’ve got the physical side effects, chronic headaches, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, all of these types of issues, you know, reduced appetite, all of those things.

So we’ve got poor research basis, medications that haven’t been looked at long term or even short term in many cases with children. We’ve got a slew of side effects and the bottom line is no medication on the market today treats the actual root cause of any of these problems.

So at best, even when we use a medication to try to address a certain symptom, we’re putting a bandaid on that. Even when it’s effective. Because it is true for some kids, they go on a medication like a stimulant and they focus better. Okay, great. But what happens eight hours later when it wears off? Well now they can’t focus again because those medications, even when they seem to work, are a bandaid. They’re not treating the root issue.

And that really is my biggest concern and my biggest complaint about how we treat kids with these medications is we’re not ever getting to the root. We’re just putting these bandaids or we’re actually making worse problems. And we’re never really identifying or treating the underlying reasons why they’re having these symptoms in the first place.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, you nailed it. And that was beautifully said and I’m so glad that you explained that because I was actually wanting to interrupt you to explain exactly what you just said. Which is that there’s this kind of problem with the fundamental paradigm that is popular in the world of modern medicine and that includes psychiatry and to some extent psychology, but more conventional medicine, allopathic medicine.

Which is that the fundamental thing that they’re trying to do is basically look at things on a smaller and smaller level. So right now you have the macro, you’re looking at me or you as the person. Then we go beneath the skin, okay, what’s happening beneath the skin? Okay, what’s happening in the bloodstream, what’s happening at the cellular level, what’s happening with different molecules and biochemical pathways or neurotransmitters, or neurotransmitter receptors and things like that?

And then once they get down to those kinds of levels and they say, “oh, bipolar disorder. We’ve detected this abnormality at the biochemical level” or you know, “depression or anxiety, we’ve detected this abnormality, therefore we found the cause. Okay, so now that we found the cause, because we’ve looked at things on a very micro level and found this biochemical imbalance, we’ve found the cause, now let’s create a drug that interrupts this biochemical pathway in some way and alters it to get it back to normal.”

So that’s like the fundamental paradigm that has been popularized not just within conventional medicine but in the general public as well. That’s how most of the world now thinks about these problems.

But let’s now present a different way of imagining this. Just hypothetically, let’s imagine that, what if that biochemical pathway is also affected by your sleep habits? What if it’s affected by your circadian rhythm and the fact that we live in a modern environment that is chronically disrupting our circadian rhythm? What if it’s affected by the food you eat, you know, novel idea, right?

What if it’s affected by whether you move around versus be sedentary? What if it’s affected by whether you get sun exposure? What if it’s… and have vitamin D and things like that?

What if it’s affected by your interpersonal relationships and community and or whether you’re just sitting in front of your tv or your computer or your phone all day and not interacting with other humans, you know, novel idea, right?

What if it’s affected by… all of those biochemical things on a micro level are affected by all of these things that are, again, back on the macro level that are clearly visible. And, in fact that is, as of course you know, that is of course actually what’s happening.

So the problem is that the modern paradigm has just stopped at the level of the biochemical level and they’ve confused what’s happening there, which are mostly just biochemical correlates of a person’s environment. They are a reflection of their environment and lifestyle. They’ve confused what’s going on there with the cause.

So it’s, to make this really blunt, it’s like the equivalent of somebody smashing their foot with a hammer and then getting pain and bleeding and swelling and then being like, “I have pain in my foot, I guess I need to take a pain killer, a painkilling drug and, and you know, a nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drug or some aspirin or something like that to get rid of the pain” as I continue to smash my foot with a hammer. That’s the paradigm of modern medicine. It’s exaggerated, but that’s largely what it is.

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: Yeah, that’s absolutely right. And the way that I describe it to people, and there are several people in the world of functional medicine that talk about it this way too, it’s like if I’m sitting on a tack and that’s causing pain, the solution is not to take Tylenol. The solution is to get rid of the tack, take the tack out, right?

That’s really what we’re talking about shifting towards, is a way of conceptualizing of these symptoms and these disorders from a root cause. A way of thinking about it that says, okay, if we can understand the factors that are driving these symptoms, then we can actually start to address those things from the bottom up and start to actually help people heal, help them to improve.

And that’s a totally different way of thinking about it then as you said, the current paradigm. And I’ll tell you, pharmaceutical companies have done an exceptional job of marketing this paradigm and this way of thinking about it because that’s really where it stems from.

This idea of one chemical imbalance, one pill. They have sold that to the world. They’ve sold that to people in the field of medicine, people in the field of mental health, the public at large. I’ve got just about every patient who comes in here, adult, child, whatever they’ve been told, “you have a chemical imbalance. You need to have this medication for the rest of your life to fix this chemical imbalance.”

And the reality is there’s no research to support that. So it’s a huge issue and I’m just really passionate about helping parents understand the bigger dynamics of what’s really going on because ultimately that’s what’s empowering. And you know, what I think is the best thing that we can do for these kids is to help parents feel empowered and capable and competent to help their kids.

Because there is no worse, more stressful feeling in the world than being a mom or being a dad and feeling completely helpless to do anything to support your kid. That’s like the worst feeling in the world. And so my thought is if we can help empower parents by understanding, look, this isn’t something that’s fundamentally flawed about your kid or your parenting. There are reasons why these symptoms are happening and once we understand those, you can do things that will improve those.

That’s incredibly empowering, it’s incredibly energizing, it’s incredibly stress reducing for parents, which then just helps the whole family system and helps the kid.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Beautiful. So let’s go practical.

Key #1 – Ensure healthy nutrition

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: Yeah.

Ari Whitten: What specific things should… you know, I think it’s obviously very important that, as you said, that you empower parents with the knowledge of how they can start to help their children beyond just psychiatric drugs.

What are some of these other treatment options and what does this look like on a practical level? And maybe you can give specific examples as far as, you know, obviously there’s a lot of different conditions we’re kind of all blending together, behavioral issues from autism and psychological conditions and things of that nature. So I’ll let you kind of take it whatever direction you feel is appropriate.

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: Yeah, I mean the good news is regardless of what diagnosis we’re talking about, all of these symptoms exist on a similar type of spectrum and so it’s the same five core foundational things that are important for parents to think about, whether your child has autism or your child has depression or whatever else they may have.

So let’s practically dive into each of these. And I want to give the parents who are listening, you know, a couple of takeaways of things that they can think about in each of those areas. So the first area, and we’ve already been talking about it, is nutrition. There’s just no way around it, what we feed our kids, the food that we put in our bodies has a huge impact on how our brain functions, a huge impact on our mood, on our anxiety level, all of those things. So, you know, I tell kids and parents, when you put garbage in your body, you’re going to get garbage out, you’re going to get garbage behavior, you’re going to get bad moods, those kinds of things.

That’s a simple way of thinking about it. And I am not one of those, you know, professionals who says, “well, you have to go 100 percent organic, start growing your own food, like don’t, you know, don’t go and buy anything from the supermarket.” Look, I am a mom of four, I’m very practical with this stuff.

I’m not shooting for ideal. I’m just shooting for helping parents to make better choices and understanding what those better choices might be. So some of the key things nutritionally, one is in the realm of diet is looking at feeding kids what we would call more whole foods and less processed food. So a whole food is the food the way that it grows or the way that it is, right? So a piece of fish or a potato, a carrot, a, you know, an apple, those types of things. Processed foods are foods that have been manufactured in some way.

There’s been chemicals or things added to them. They tend to be in boxes and bags and those types of things. And you know a food has been processed if you look at the ingredients and it’s more than just what should be in it, right? So a great example is apple sauce. If we were going to make that at home, pretty simple set of ingredients, right? You need some apples, you need some water, you may add a little bit of, you know, some kind of sweetener to it.

But you look at apple sauce packaged on the shelves, which a lot of kids are eating in their lunches or for snacks, and suddenly you see this list of about 75 ingredients on there. It’s a great example of that food has been very heavily processed. And what we know from the research is that the chemicals and the additives and the things that are put in these processed foods can have a very negative effect, not only on kid’s body health, so things like obesity and, you know, blood sugar and those kinds of things. But also on their brain health.

So reducing the amount of processed foods and shifting to more whole foods is one very simple thing that parents can start to do. And if it feels overwhelming, just pick one thing. Just say, “okay, I’m just going to start having more fruits and vegetables available in the house.” Or “I’m going to start reading packages. If I’m going to buy apple sauce,” for example, “for my kid, for a snack, I’m going to compare the options at the store and if there’s one that just has a couple of ingredients and one that has 30 ingredients, I’m going to go with the simpler one, the less processed option.” Very basic things that we can do.

Another basic thing from a food intake perspective is shifting kids towards drinking more water and getting rid of things like the soda pops, the juices, the sports and energy drinks, you know, all of those types of things. That seems like such a basic thing, but it can have a tremendously positive impact on kids because water is really the liquid that we need.

And especially for children, they need to be well hydrated, not only for physical growth but for brain development. And we have a lot of kids walking around pretty dehydrated. And when we think about the amount of sugar and chemicals that are in a lot of things that kids are drinking, very detrimental.

So I think beverages can be a simple starting point, too. And again, does that mean you have to go get rid right now every non water beverage you have in the house? No. And in fact if you have a family situation where you have tended to drink a lot of pop, a lot of juice, a lot of those types of things, it’s going to take some time.

I don’t recommend for most parents for their sanity and their own stress level that they just cold turkey all this. Especially if you have older kids. Start talking about the, start just gently making some shifts in a better direction. The one thing that I would say if parents are looking for what is one type of food or ingredient that would be really essential to avoid giving kids, it would be artificial sweeteners.

Things like aspartame, sucralose. There’s a lot of names that these artificial sweetening chemicals go by. Basically anything that you might see that has the word “diet” or “light,” you know, in it is going to be something with artificial sweeteners. The companies have gotten clever now though. They know that parents are looking for things with lower sugar, so you have to watch the ingredient lists, too, for products marketed towards kids that say “no added sugar.”

Okay. But you have to read what the chemicals are. And the reason I’m so firm about that is because those are known neurotoxins and kids are especially sensitive to them. And so there is just really is no place for those types of artificial sweetener chemicals in a kid’s diet. And it’s relatively easy to get those out. There’s a lot of other options.

In fact, you know, I had a mom say to me just recently, she was a huge Diet Coke drinker. The kids had grown up on Diet Coke and she was like, “I don’t know if I can get rid of soda pop.” I said, “listen, I feel so strongly about getting the aspartame out of your diets that I would rather you go to just drinking regular Coke, that would actually be better for you at this point. Let’s like wean to that and then we’ll work on getting off of that.” That’s how strongly I feel about that and just the difference that that can make for kids. So those are some of the things food wise from a nutrition standpoint…

Ari Whitten: And real quick on that subject. I know the point of artificial sweeteners is still kind of a contentious thing and there’s still debate back and forth and people on both sides. Have you seen in your practice very noticeable results as kids get off of consuming those things?

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: Absolutely. It’s one of the things that I see the quickest difference in. It’s also one of the things that I see driving a significant number of physical health symptoms in kids as well. So it’s just a good thing I think for parents to get in the habit of reading labels and watching for some of those things that, you know.

Other ones along with that would be things like food dyes, you know, the artificial dyes, anything that has like a color and a number next to it is an artificial food dye and there’s some good research…

Ari Whitten: You mean that blue number 45 doesn’t grow on trees?

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: No, it’s shocking. I know those blue Slurpees are not like that from the blueberries they add to that. I’m sorry to let you down with that. So I think that’s another type of ingredient that’s pretty easy for parents to look for. And the good news is there’s a lot of companies now that are recognizing that parents are becoming wiser to this stuff and are using more natural, you know, food colorings from natural fruit and vegetable dye.

So it’s pretty easy at this point to find replacements for some of maybe your kid’s favorite snack foods or treats or things like that. There’s a lot of options available in the mass supermarkets where you can find things that don’t have those ingredients. So it’s a good starting point for people, I think.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. One more question on diet. I love how you’ve simplified things. Obviously we live, as you know, and we’ve had discussions about this in the past, but we live in a culture of diet fads and extreme diets and to be frank, very stupid extreme diets.

When parents are often, you know, kind of themselves being influenced by some of these diet trends that are going on, they may be inclined to start tweaking their kid’s diet, you know. If they start believing this food and that food are evil foods that are the source of all of our problems, they may end up putting their kids on those kinds of diet fads that we only find out years later, or many of these people find out who are not necessarily reading the science, find out years later that maybe are not as good as they thought they were. What is your recommendation for people to avoid doing that?

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: I think it’s really important for parents to think about balance when it comes to food. Any diet that goes to extremes of cutting out whole groupings of… like no carbohydrates. Let’s talk about no carbs for a second because that’s a very popular thing right now, right? The whole more extreme Paleo/keto kinds of things. And I had a couple in here several weeks ago now where they had, at one of the gyms that they attend, had listened to some seminar where, you know, the person doing the seminar recommended the ketogenic diet.

So they decided to go on it and, like you said, then they started feeding the family this way. They have three kids. It is very problematic for kids. We cannot think about children and their nutrition needs in the same way that we think about adults simply from a growth standpoint. And so kids need the full complement of nutrients.

Kids absolutely need carbs to fuel growth. They absolutely need things in all of the different categories. So things that maybe are not as problematic for adults who have reached their full adult height and all of that and are not physically growing anymore, totally different ballgame. When we’re talking about kids, particularly at different developmental points where they have huge need for more calories, for a balance of energy sources in their food, you know, infancy, toddlerhood, and then adolescence. And a lot of times parents think about feeding their kids like they think about feeding themselves. And that’s not appropriate when we consider the growth needs of children.

So I really steer parents and families away from diets that emphasize taking out large portions of the types of foods that are, that we know are supportive of health. Now there are exceptions. You know, I’m talking about some general guidelines for parents to think about when they have kids with these kinds of issues.

There are children with some types of conditions where a very strict or restrictive type of diet is important. Seizure disorder, certain types of seizure disorders would be one example where we know that a well done, well put together ketogenic diet plan can be essential for some children to manage their seizures.

But if a child is going to require something like that as part of their medical treatment plan, that needs to be done with a team of professionals who understand how to meet the child’s growth needs, how to meet their overall nutrient needs in the context of that diet.

That cannot and should not be done because I read six articles on the internet where somebody said, “oh, this would be a good thing to do, so I just start playing around with it.” Same thing with some children we know on the autism spectrum or with related more significant neurodevelopmental kinds of issues.

There is good research evidence that diets that restrict things like gluten and dairy, for example, or specific carbohydrate diets or, you know, certain types of Paleo diets can be helpful for them. Again, you have to have a foundation first of good healthy parameters around eating, which means we’ve got as many whole foods as possible. We have a good balance of fruits and vegetables and all of the compliment of things that provide the nutrients that kids need.

Because what I see quite a bit of is parents who have gone to a lot of professionals even and their kids had been put on different kinds of diets. And what’s interesting to me is you can still be on a junky diet even on one of these specific nutrition kinds of plans. And gluten and dairy free is a great example of that.

I see many kids come in and they’re like, “well, we’re doing this gluten and casein free diet.” And I’m like, “great, let’s talk about what they’re eating.” And they’re eating a diet that’s full of packaged, processed, junkie gluten and dairy free stuff. That’s not a nutrient dense health or brain supportive diet even though it doesn’t have gluten or casein in it. So I think that it’s really important to get those foundations in place and then if we need to dig deeper and look at removing certain types of foods or having certain types of composition to the diet, great. Then let’s do that if it’s necessary.

But the reality is the majority of kids with these kinds of issues see significant benefit just from putting the foundations of good nutrition and good eating in place.

Key #2 – Getting proper sleep

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Beautiful. So what else beyond nutrition? We are a little overtime here, so maybe two more factors, whatever you have time for.

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: Let’s talk about the other two that I think are critical. The second is sleep. And I think again, parents underestimate the impact of sleep and quality sleep and getting enough sleep on kids’ development and their brains.

And there’s just a slew of research showing us that children with these kinds of conditions – autism, ADHD, anxiety, depression – many of them have disrupted sleep. They aren’t getting enough sleep and it becomes a chicken and an egg thing. Okay, so does the condition caused the sleep problem or is it the sleep problem causing the condition?

The bottom line is it really doesn’t matter from the standpoint of we need to address the sleep problem. Some of the big things that parents should be watching for, you know, if your child has difficulty settling down and falling asleep at night, if they are having episodes of night waking pretty consistently where they’re not sleeping all the way through the night and they’re, you know, obviously not an infant anymore.

Episodes of night terrors, recurrent nightmares, kids who have chronic issues with nightmares, kids who are doing a lot of sleep talking, sleepwalking kids with restless legs or just restless sleep in general. You know, the kind of kid that nobody wants to be in the bed with them because they kick and thrash and you know, are banging into the wall next to their bed all night. Snoring. Those types of things.

All of those are red flags that we have a sleep issue, either a quantity or quality or both issue with sleep that needs to be addressed. And you know, there’s studies that have been done specific to ADHD, for example, that show that anywhere from 25 to 40 percent of kids diagnosed with ADD or ADHD actually have an undiagnosed and untreated sleep disorder. That when you treat the problems with their sleep, suddenly they don’t have the symptoms of ADD/ADHD anymore.

That’s how powerful sleep is, and it is for all of us. I mean obviously we all need good sleep to function. But again, children are more susceptible to problems with sleep and so it’s really something for parents to be aware of and to pursue with their healthcare provider, to work with somebody who will really help them be able to address that.

So that’s the second area.

Key # 3 – Ensure your child moves every day

And the third one is movement. Kids cannot grow and develop properly, cannot regulate their moods, their stress level, their learning, any of that stuff if they’re not getting adequate movement. So ensuring that kids are having periods of physical activity during the day. And unfortunately we can’t count on them getting that at school anymore. Most schools now, even from very young ages are reducing or eliminating recess periods.

They’re not giving the kids time to go out and do physically active play.

Gym classes are getting cut. So kids even from kindergarten on are spending a lot of time sitting at desks, sitting behind computer screens. So as parents we need to make sure then that after school, in the evenings, on the weekends, that they’re getting physical movement.

That we are requiring that they put down the devices or turn off the TV and that they go out and ride their bike, run around with the neighbor kids, climb a tree, take a walk, do whatever it is they’re going to do. That’s really critically important for just their mental health, for their physical health, all of that.

So hopefully that gives people some tangible things to think about in those three areas, at least, that they can start applying with their kids.

Key #4 – Establish a good relationship with technology

Ari Whitten: One more I want to ask you about, technology. Obviously this is a huge issue and I know we’re just scratching the surface of your knowledge here and we could probably do a part two, maybe we should do a part two.

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: That’d be fun!

Ari Whitten: But technology, like this is a huge problem as you talked about earlier. I have a niece for example, who is a beautiful really smart girl who has grown up in a great family with us and very connected to us, connected to her uncles, me and my brother, as well as my parents, her grandparents and she’s been just such a joy all of her life.

And then she got into her teenage years and now she just has no interest in connecting with the family and she just wants to be left alone and stare at her phone. She will stare at her phone for hours and be annoyed if anybody tries to talk to her. So, you know, technology is a big problem. Is there… and it’s obviously very addictive. Is there any thing that you would recommend on that front?

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: Yeah. I recommend that parents be aware of the negative impact that extended and extended periods of time and overuse of technology can have on kids. And it’s interesting because we’re the first generation of parents parenting kids in this 24/7 sort of internet connected, wifi connected, device connected society, right?

Our parents didn’t have to deal with that and so we’re figuring out as we go along and a lot of adults are struggling with managing their own use of these devices, right? So it’s important to be aware that the research is showing more and more very clearly that over use of these devices is creating problems for our kids. So the bottom line is moms and dads, we have to be willing to be the bad guy in this situation.

We have to be willing to put limits in place and we have to be willing to enforce those limits for the good of our kids.

No kid is going to be happy with mom or dad saying, “time to turn the TV off, time to put the smartphone down,” you know, whatever it is, we’re doing something else. Or “you have to go outside and play, you know, practice your piano, get your homework done, whatever before we do the devices.” No kid’s going to be happy with that.

But it’s one of those things where we don’t need our kids to be happy about it. We need to do that for their own good. And we need to model limits and boundaries for ourselves and healthy use for ourselves of these devices.

Really tough to tell a 13-year-old you can’t, you know, use your device for hours at a time when they see us come home from work and basically spend the entire evening sitting and scrolling through facebook or doing work on the computer or whatever.

So we need to be models for that. Two things I want parents to think about. The first is device free meal times. Simple basic rule and standard that I think is important and necessary and that every parent should implement in their home.

Nobody needs to have an electronic device at the dinner table, at the lunch table if we’re all eating together. When we’re eating, that is a time to socialize, to engage with one another, to engage with our food, to be present in the process of eating and spending time together.

And we can do that for 15 or 20 minutes without having our devices. So a very simple starting point. The second thing is devices in the bedroom at night. Big, big no-no. And it’s something that I work with parents on extensively. Nothing good happens in the middle of the night for your kid on the internet period.

There’s no reason a child of any age needs to have access to the internet or their devices in the night. I know they will tell you “but I use it as my alarm, how am I going to get up in the morning?” You can go to Target and buy a $5 alarm clock just like we all had growing up, and lo and behold, they can get up in the morning.

So I’m really, really firm on that with the families that I work with because I see the really detrimental impact that device usage has on kids sleep patterns, on their ability to regulate their behavior and their emotions, and just socially and emotionally the stuff that they might be engaging within those unsupervised hours at night.

Even if they’re telling you, “oh, I’m not doing anything.” No, there’s just… it’s one more thing that parents don’t need to deal with the stress of monitoring what kids are doing on those devices at night. You have a spot in the kitchen or wherever you want to put that, where everyone in the family puts their devices before bedtime.

That’s where they’re charged and housed overnight and we can engage with those when we wake up. We’re not having those things in the bedroom during the night.

Ari Whitten: Beautiful. Well, Nicole, I have absolutely loved this interview and I love the work you’re doing, I think it’s so, so important. And I think also, I mean I just love all of the positive repercussions of this. You know, how this trickles down to so many different areas of the happiness and the health of the parents and the kids and their ability to relate to one another in a happy, healthy way. And I mean it’s just, you’re just spreading love and happiness throughout so many different layers through the work that you’re doing.

And I just, I really appreciate everything that you do. Also, I personally want to recommend to everyone that they go out and get your book. It’s not a new book. It’s not like you’re just launching this, but it is wonderful.

You gave me this copy when we met about a year and a half ago, “Life Will Get Better: Simple Solutions for Parents of Children with Attention, Anxiety, Mood, and Behavior Challenges.” And you can get it on Amazon. And anything else? Where can people follow your work and learn more about what you do?

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: Yeah, so my website is, or they can also go to the clinic website, which is We work with families throughout the United States and all over the world. So they can connect with me there, lots of free videos and articles and lots of resources to help parents plug into these ideas and to just learn more about the things that we started to scratch the surface with tonight.

Ari Whitten: Beautiful. Well thank you so much Dr. Beurkens. Oh by the way, how do you spell your last name? So your website is drbeurkens…

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: Yeah, that’s a good one, it’s b-e-u-r-k-e-n-s.

Ari Whitten: Wonderful. So I hope you guys have enjoyed this interview. I personally have absolutely loved it. So thank you again Dr. Nicole. And have a wonderful night.

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: Thank you so much.

Ari Whitten: Hey there, this is Ari again. One more quick thing before you go. Just make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel, The Energy Blueprint. And also make sure to subscribe to this podcast on your favorite podcast platform, whether that’s iTunes or Stitcher or anything else. Hope you guys enjoyed this interview and I will see you again next week.

4 Natural Lifestyle Hacks To Fix Behavioral Issues And Mental Illness In Children (And Manage Your Energy As A Parent) with Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD – Show notes

Why supporting parents is essential for helping a child with mental illness (3:00)
What science actually says about treating mental illness in children (and adults) (10:49)
Why we see an increase in children with mental illness and behavioral issues (17:43)
The importance of social life and community for good mental health (25:22)
Why behavioral issues and mental illness in children can be connected to lifestyle (and why medication may not be the answer) (29:54)
Key #1 – Ensure healthy nutrition (45:30)
Key #2 – Getting proper sleep (1:00:05)
Key # 3 – Ensure your child moves every day (1:02:27)
Key #4 – Establish a good relationship with technology (1:03:44)


Get Dr. Nicole’s book Life Will Get Better: Simple Solutions for Parents of Children with Attention, Anxiety, Mood, and Behavior Challenges here.

You can visit Dr. Nicole’s website here and the website for her clinic here

How To Get More Energy As A Busy Mom │ Balancing Stress, Health, And Energy While Raising A Family With Wellness Mama FB 4 natural lifestyle hacks to fix behavioral issues and mental illness in children (and manage your energy as a parent) with Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD,
Learn more about how to get more energy as a busy mom as Wellness Mama shares how she balances a career and a family of 8.

The Science of How to Eat Healthy │ How to Eat Right For Health and Longevity with Dr. Mike Israetel

The Science of How to Eat Healthy How to Eat Right For Health and Longevity with Dr. Mike Israetel - Ari Whitten │ Eat right │ eat healthy, theenergyblueprint.comEating healthy is a major factor when it comes to health, energy, and body composition. Unfortunately, there is so much conflicting and contradictory dietary advice in the health sphere that most of us tend to end up confused, trying one fad diet after the other without getting the results we want. Fat is bad, then it’s good. Carbs are good, then bad. Whole grains and lentils are good, then bad. Lectins, gluten, eggs, dairy, meat, veganism, keto, Paleo … etc. etc. The truth is that there are a lot of diet gurus who intentionally misrepsent and cherry pick the research in order to come up with new trendy diets to sell people on, but the reality is that the actual scientific evidence — once you cut through all the pop nutrition pseudoscience — is much more straightforward than diet gurus would have you believe. So is it really so difficult to eat healthy? Most importantly, what does science say about how to eat right for optimal health?

In this podcast, I speak with Dr. Mike Israetel. Mike is the Chief Sports Ccientist at Renaissance Periodization, has taught at Temple University, has a Ph.D. in sports physiology, is a former consultant on sports nutrition to the US Olympic training team, and he’s the author of the book “Understanding Healthy Eating”. In this podcast, Dr. Israetel discusses how to eat right for optimal health and longevity.

In this podcast, we’ll cover

  • The best diet for health and disease prevention. (Is there one?)
  • The roles carbs and insulin play in health
  • Why calorie balance is essential to health and longevity
  • The number one factor that determines your health (accounting for 60% of the nutritional factors that affect health)
  • The main (and often overlooked) factor as to why people today accumulate more body fat than they did e few decades ago
  • How highly processed (junk) foods affect your body
  • Is it possible to be obese and healthy?
  • How nutrient timing matters
  • Mike’s take on how macronutrients affect health (fats, carbs, and protein)
  • The reason why some people can live a relatively unhealthy lifestyle without being affected by it
  • How important are supplements for improving health outcomes?
  • The science on how gluten, grains, red meat, egg yolks, and “magic” foods affect your health
  • What science says about the ketogenic diet
  • And much more!

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The Science of How to Eat Healthy │ How to Eat Right For Health and Longevity with Dr. Mike Israetel – Transcript

Ari Whitten: Everybody, welcome back to the Energy Blueprint Podcast. I’m your host, Ari Whitten. And today I have with me Dr. Mike Israetel, and hopefully I’m pronouncing your last name correctly, it’s kind of like Israel, but Israetel.

Mike Israetel, Ph.D.: With a “t” in there, yeah, close enough. There’s actually no really right way to pronounce it in English since it’s like a Russian last name, so…

Ari Whitten: Okay, that’s good. So I’m glad I can butcher it however I want, good to know. So Mike is the chief sport scientist at Renaissance Periodization. He’s a former professor of public health at Temple University. He’s the author of the book “Understanding Healthy Eating” and he’s a PhD.

He has a PhD in and he’s been a consultant on sports nutrition to the US Olympic training team in Johnson City, Tennessee. He’s also a jujutsu practitioner and he has won, I know, a couple of big tournaments. The Arnold Classic Jujutsu Tournament. Is that what, I think it was the Arnold Classic.

Mike Israetel, Ph.D.: That’s correct, yes.

Ari Whitten: Yes. Nice. So awesome. Mike, it’s a pleasure to have you on the show. I’ve been following your work for several years and I’m really a big fan of what you’re doing and kind of how you take such an evidence based approach to nutrition and training and really a pleasure to have you on the show.

Mike Israetel, Ph.D.: Thank you so much for having me. I’m super pumped.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. So I would love to get started by just having you talk a bit about how you got into this field and your background and what led you to have such an obsessive passion about training and nutrition.

Mike Israetel, Ph.D.: Yeah. So I originally began wrestling when I was in high school, and they brought in a nutritionist to talk to us, but I was 15 years old so it never really registered. But I knew that like, if you wanted to win, you had to sort of pay attention to making sure that stuff went into your body and it mattered. And of course, nobody who’s 15 really pays attention to health at all.

So that was all for nothing. And then as I went to undergraduate studies I became very passionate about getting stronger because I became a competitive power lifter. And once I did that, you know, it started to be… because I was in charge of my own training I had to really start learning stuff to ensure the fact that I was getting stronger at the best rates possible and staying injury free. And then as I continued to get bigger, I started to get a passion for more bodybuilding and muscle size training.

And at that point, you know, you’re getting bigger and that does take a toll on your health. So I began to really look into how that size gain, etc., was affecting my health and maybe what I could do with my diet and physical activity to reduce the health impact of the sport of bodybuilding on me. And, at the time I was doing a lot of personal training at various points. So I had a lot of clients that were interested in diet and health and physical activity. And eventually I became so passionate about all these things that I went through a master’s program and a PhD program and became a professor of all of this stuff. So it was all started with my own pursuits and eventually went to help other folks as best as possible.

Mike’s take on nutrition and health

Ari Whitten: Excellent. So a lot of the work of yours that I followed is really centered around training and nutrition for body composition and I want to get into that stuff with you. But I know that you’ve also written a book called “Understanding Healthy Eating” and you’ve really delved deep into the literature around nutrition as it relates to health and disease prevention.

So let’s start with that. And I think we have this landscape of all this, all these sorts of competing and contradictory claims out there about the right way to eat and the best diet, and some people are saying keto and some people are saying veganism and some people are saying, you know, it’s all about carbs and fats and macros and calories and sort of… And there’s all these contradictory claims, right?

People are saying “gluten is the, you know, the scourge that’s causing all disease.” And other people are saying, “no, gluten is really not that big of a deal and the evidence doesn’t really support that.” So with all this landscape of competing and contradictory claims, what is your sort of overarching take about what’s important when it comes to nutrition and health?

Mike Israetel, Ph.D.: Yeah, that’s a really good question. Originally, one of the reasons we started looking into this at our team at Renaissance, several of my coauthors and I who wrote this book, is that a lot of folks get into nutrition for body composition and basically that’s answering the question of what makes me leanest and most muscular and they start to become leaner, more muscular. And then of course a lot of folks have concerns about their health as well. One of the reasons people try to get lean is to look better, to perform better, but some folks it’s really health is number one. And then they get into these nutrition, ways of understanding nutrition that optimizes how you look and how you feel, how you perform, but maybe not how good your health is doing. So we’d get a lot of questions at seminars and, you know, “what about for health?”

And we’d say, “well, you know, it didn’t really matter much,” you know, and then they say, “well what about this for performance?” It works for performance but maybe not the greatest thing for your health. And when you tell people that they’re like “wait, hold on a second. So there’s things I’m doing to make me look better and perform better that might not be the best thing for health?” Well, yeah, absolutely.

So yeah, very curious, we got very curious and then we looked out into the landscape of literature that was available and saw mostly a very bleak picture just as you just described, of various competing absurdities and extreme views that are mutually contradictory. So we looked into a ton of research and the thing is, this is relatively well-researched subjects with thousands of research papers on them.

A lot of people just don’t like to look at them. The results are either just disheartening or don’t favor your pet hypothesis. But when you look into them, you start to develop a very, very clear picture of what’s going on. Here’s a very brief summary of that picture. Without putting too fine a point on it, how much body fat you’re carrying, and to some extent how much weight you’re carrying, is a huge determination of your risk for a variety of real major diseases and lack there of.

So, you know, if you weigh 150 pounds and you are average height, you know, your risk for real nasty health detriment isn’t something that’s greatly apparent to your doctor until he or she runs blood work. Show up to your doctor’s office, you are normal weight, and they’re like, “all right, well, you know, you’re concerned about your health?.” “Yes, dearly.” “Oh, let’s run some blood work and see how the internals are looking. ”

Right? And if you show up to your doctor, weighing 450 pounds, they’re really not going to do blood work first. They’re going to be like, “okay, this is clearly a problem,” right? And there’s not really a way, when you’re like, “Oh, but I eat super healthy,” right? “But I’ve been staying away from gluten.” They’re going to say, “okay, well, you know, your weight is in excess.” Why would they say that? Because the research on the link between excess body weight and health morbidities and mortalities, massive, overwhelming, not even controversial. And what does that mean for nutrition? It means that if you are grossly overweight, or grossly underweight your calories, the amount of food you’re eating might not be a conscious priority. You might be able to change some other things about your diet that change the calorie balance. You might be able to become more active, still eat the same amount of calories, but the calorie balance, the ratio of how much you’re eating to how much you’re burning off has to change in the long term in order to bring you into a healthy body weight range.

But the good news is healthy body weight ranges, not those stupid insurance tables you see people share on social media where it’s like, “oh, if I’m five three I have to weigh exactly 117 pounds. If it’s 116 pounds come and get me from the hospital and force feeding me, if it’s 118 pounds I’m morbidly obese, I’m just going to die tomorrow.” It’s a pretty wide range. It’s in excess of 50 pounds around every inch of height.

You can be 50 pounds lighter or heavier and in very, very good health, especially granted if you are very active and eat well fundamentally. But outside of those ranges, the number one priority is calorie balance to get you back into those ranges. So if there’s the biggest feature of health, if someone weighs 450 pounds, they come to you and say, “listen, I got to change my eating to be healthier, what do I do?” Your answer doesn’t have to verbally say reduced calories.

Whatever it is has to either reduce their intake, increase their expenditure or both. That probably accounts for something like 60 percent of all of the variants in health we see between individuals in Western countries. But that’s it, calorie balancing. You point to someone who’s really unhealthy, chances are their calorie balance could use improvement. It would bring a really, really, really big effect. So that’s number. Number two…

Why the science of how to eat healthy talks about calories

Ari Whitten: I wanted to interrupt you for a minute and digress on a little bit of a tangent, but there’s going to be some people listening to this who have read Gary Taubes or Jason Fung who go, “Oh, this guy is talking about calories? He’s clearly, you know, in the 1980s of research and he’s not up to date on the latest science.” So for those people who are thinking that right now, like, “why is this guy talking about calories? Doesn’t he know it’s all about carbs and insulin?” What is your response to that?

Mike Israetel, Ph.D.: I liked the 1980s. I still have a Game Boy, the fashion was great. That was the extent of my response. Like, oh wow, the 80s were pretty good. So is my connection coming in okay?

Ari Whitten: Yeah, you are great.

Mike Israetel, Ph.D.: So, my response to that would be that in the absence of a caloric environment, excessive calories, there’s no way to gain body fat in any measurable amount and ruin your health no matter what you do. So put this in perspective, competitive body builders will eat literally 600-800 grams of carbohydrate per day, per day.

Roughly three times the average American intake there, two to three times. And they will actually inject artificially designed insulin, even more than they’re secreting. So you would think, “oh my God, recipe for fat!” They’ll do this while losing fat into a bodybuilding show, into the low single digits. And you think, well, “how in God’s name is it possible that they’re shooting insulin, taking in hundreds of grams of carbs and getting leaner?”

And the answer is they are not eating a whole lot of fats and just enough proteins to keep the calories under what their bodies need. And the thing is doing that, it’s actually pretty dangerous because if you shoot a little too much insulin and take in not enough carbohydrates, you can go very hypoglycemic. Your blood glucose can fall so much that you risk coma or death or really, really bad stuff. So when you have an environment in which you have a high level of insulin, carbohydrate in the blood, that doesn’t really mean much of anything as far as weight gain, unless it comes with a whole lot of calories. Another line of disproving this logic, so to speak, is to actually examine the diets of individuals that are obese in the United States. The percent of them that eat a lot of carbohydrates is very high. The percent of them that eat too much carbohydrate is very high.

The percent of them that can competently, at the same time, eat a very low fat diet is pretty close to zero.

We know what makes people obese. It is a very delicious hyper palatable, they’re called junk food, basically, if we’re going to step around the issue. Super delicious foods that are high in simple processed carbohydrates and fats, lots of fats. You can’t get enormous without putting in lots of fats unless you’re a competitive bodybuilder. I am currently trying to gain weight on a low fat, high carb diet. It’s the hardest thing in the world. You get tired of eating that much food. But if I could have a high fat diet with high carbs, boy, oh boy, I’d be 300 pounds right now. So it’s one of those things when people say, “it’s the carbs.” Well, it is the carbs, but only if you add a whole crap load of fat. And then it really looks like the calories.

The truth about excess fat consumption and weight gain

Ari Whitten: Okay. So let me, one more tangent on this topic, which is people are listening to this and saying, “well, you know, this guy is saying low fat, or reduced fat, and that makes it easier to lose fat or harder to gain fat. But didn’t we all go low fat? You know, wasn’t there a whole low fat era where everybody went on low fat diets and lost, and didn’t lose weight. And we just got fatter. ”

Mike Israetel, Ph.D.: Man, yes. In an alternate universe, there was, so it’s a very, very, very good question. And it’s a pretty common myth or misconception. It’s a kind of a sensical myth and misconception. It makes sense on the face of it. The USDA back in the 1980s and 90s basically said that, you know, fats are what cause obesity, which is not entirely wrong, not entirely right.

And then it tried to get people to eat a low fat diet and advocated one for half a generation or so. The thing is, what they advocate and what actually happens are two really different things. And the reality is, if you look at the actual data what people were consuming, not difficult to find.

Restaurants will tabulate all their orders, and you can do surveys of consumers on what they buy in grocery stores. It turns out people never really lowered their fat intakes. They just ate more carbs and then later they ate even more fats. And then recently they actually reduced their carbs a little bit and ate even more fats and they’re still getting enormous. It was one of those things like, yeah, that was the recommendation. But, boy oh boy, you know, for better or for worse, most people just aren’t very good at listening to government guidelines. So…

Ari Whitten: You know, and just to add to that, we have that data and it’s very clear. I mean, you can look at, I’ve seen the actual charts where they showed that fat intake, average fat intake did not actually decline at all and in fact, in absolute terms went up slightly during that time. But people added so many calories from especially refined carbohydrates and maybe even low fat sort of refined carbohydrate rich foods, that the calorie percentage in relative terms of fat lowered slightly during that time, while absolute actual grams of fat intake increased slightly. And so there are people out there who are misrepresenting that and saying, “oh, everybody went low fat and just got fatter.” So…

Mike Israetel, Ph.D.: Yep. And you can skip that whole process altogether and just look at straight up calories. If you look at calories per capita, they’ve just been going up for a real long time. I mean, that’s culprit number one. There’s just really not a situation in which folks are controlling their… you know, so there’s a camp and some of those folks are in that camp. There’s more nuanced and a less nuanced one.

The less nuanced one says that calories don’t matter, it’s all hormones. Mildly absurd because there’s never been a person who manipulated the hormones properly and with not enough calories managed to gain weight and ruin their health. There’s literally no such human being can exist. If that person could do that then please tell me. I don’t know why I’m starving for bodybuilding shows over here. I would love to be able to eat a ton of calories and lose weight or the other way around. I’m sick of stuffing myself. I’d love to gain weight without eating a ton of calories.

The more nuanced version is that when you eat a lot of carbohydrates, a very insulin secreting environment, it makes you take in more calories because it makes you hungrier. I mean there’s some semblance of truth to that. There is some value there. But the first opinion is just wildly wrong. The second one has something to it, but, and I can expand on that if you like. It’s more nuanced than they say.

The connection between eating healthy and energy

Ari Whitten: I want to get into that more, but maybe we’ll come back to that because I don’t want to digress too much from, you know, the first key point as far as nutrition for health is calorie balance basically, and maintaining relative leanness and not letting yourself get extremely overweight. So we went on some digressions, me guiding those digressions, into those tangents. So let’s get back to number two. What’s the second big factor beyond energy balance?

Mike Israetel, Ph.D.: Yeah. So the second big factor is going to be food composition. It accounts for roughly 20 percent in our estimate of the variance in health among individuals. And food composition means, okay, you know, you’re basically eating proteins, carbs and fats. Those are your macronutrients. And where are you getting them from? Where, what kind of food are you eating? Granted that you’re getting, let’s say 2000 calories a day.

Are they 2000 calories a day of, you know, like fry grease from McDonald’s, you know, bologna and sugar cubes, or is it 2000 calories a day of lean chicken or tofu and broccoli and almond oil or something like that.

Now the real critical factor here is 20 percent is a lot less than 60 percent, so what you never want to do is start “eating healthy” and tell yourself “it doesn’t matter how much I eat or what my body weight is, I’m eating the right stuff.” But you also don’t want, less so, but you’re still don’t want to, know that you’re at a healthy body weight and just eat god knows what because if you want your best health, and you know best health doesn’t strike people in their twenties and thirties much.

When your kids start getting a little older and in your forties, you want to be around for all the stuff, then it starts, the details might start to matter a little bit more. Or the doctor says, “you know how you’ve always been pretty healthy,” and you’re like “uh-huh” and he’s like “that’s just not true anymore. Your blood work came back and you suck.” You know, you’re “oh crap.” That 20 percent can start to matter and that 20 percent… I mean the recommendation there is consume most of your foods, most not all, you don’t have to be religious about it.

Most of your foods from a combination of lean protein sources, basically, you know, like poultry and meats, what have you, or, they can be vegan protein sources as well. In the following order of veggies, fruits, whole grains for carbohydrates with minimum processed stuff.

And then primarily healthy fats. You want to get sort of healthy fish and omega three fatty acids, but you also want the majority of your fats outside of that to probably come from a lot of mono-unsaturated heavy sources: olive oil, canola oil, nut butters, nuts, avocado, stuff like that. The good stuff, right?

Can you have some ice cream? Can you have some cookies? Totally. But if maybe like three quarters of your food comes from stuff you know is healthy, that’s probably a really good idea for your health. The thing is with consistency on average over the long term. If you have a weekend here or there where you eat like total crap, your body doesn’t go down a ton or it comes back down, it’s okay as long as day in day out your weekly routine has mostly healthy foods.

Back when I taught this kind of subject matter at a university and we actually had an entire course about teaching my students how to help other people make their healthy, make their eating more healthy. One of the best ways to attack this problem is getting folks to figure, you know, like… going out to birthday parties, whatever, we eat whatever we want.

You know, if you’re going to watch what you’re eating at a birthday party and you’re not like on a mission to lose a ton of fat because your health is real bad, if you’re just trying to be healthy and you’re okay, if we live in a totalitarian society, then nothing’s worth it at all. Right? But you know, where you can really work on it is, what are you eating for breakfast?

What are you eating for lunch and is your dinner at least decently healthy? Like can you have some ice cream after dinner every now and again? Totally. But like if you’re… you know, you choose what you eat for lunch, you definitely choose what you eat for breakfast, you mostly choose what you eat for dinner. Make it good stuff. And the thing about people ask “what’s good stuff?”

That “Understanding Healthy Eating” book has all the definitions. And like I said, you know, lean proteins, veggies, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats. But the thing is, I’ll tell you this, Ari, I think nine out of 10 people, no matter the socioeconomic status, demographic, you give them two foods side by side, you say “which one’s healthy, which one’s not.” They’re going to be able to tell you. It’s not rocket science.

There is nowhere in America where you whip out a cheeseburger or a shake and you whip out a fruit or like a platter of nuts and greens and you’re like, “which one’s healthy?” And they’re like, “cheeseburger.” That just doesn’t happen. Everybody knows to the extent that they care. Different people care about different things.

To the extent where they would still eat the cheeseburger? Totally, right? But people know. So when people like “what’s healthy,” like “what do you think is healthy?” And they’re like, “oh, I know, but I don’t always like to eat that stuff.” Listen, nobody does. You’ve got to develop a healthy eating habit.

Before that it all tastes like health food and it’s just not going to taste… What is it, Dr. Spencer Nadolsky says “nothing tastes as good as candies.” Forget about finding anything that good. Be an adult. Choose your food wisely for the most part and go from there.

How to eat right. The mechanisms that control body composition and health

Ari Whitten: Great. So I want to come back to your percentages and ask a couple of questions around that. So you’ve kind of given this 60 percent is about energy balance and body composition, 20 percent is about food choices. So when we look at like the links between junk food consumption, highly processed foods, refined grains, refined sugars, fatty foods, mixes of highly palatable, highly rewarding foods that are usually a mix of sugar and fat and starch or salt or some combination of those…

Mike Israetel, Ph.D.: Good stuff.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, ice cream, pizza, potato chips, donuts, you know, things like that. What is it specifically in your opinion that makes those things unhealthy? Is it primarily just about the fact that they make you, they don’t work with your hunger and satiety hormones very well and cause you to passively over consume food and then, therefore, get out of calorie balance and gain fat over time? Or do they also mediate damaging effects through effects on the gut microbiome or immune dysregulation or, you know, kind of inflammation in the body. How big of a factor are other mechanisms beyond just the effects on calorie balance?

Mike Israetel, Ph.D.: Well, I think a big part of the answer is in that 60 percent to 20 percent ratio. So like what is that, three to one, right? My math is not that far off. If you take out the effects of those foods at boosting calories, you lose 75 percent of their negative health effects. For example, if somebody eats a diet mostly of junk food almost entirely, but they keep calorie balance, they’ll be free from roughly 75 percent of the adverse health effects of those junk foods.

This has actually been proven several times. The most notable incident was a case study by one of the professors of our colleagues actually that works with me at Renaissance Periodization, Dr. Jen Case. She had a PhD in nutrition under a gentleman who coined the sort of “Twinkie diet.”

He was at a meeting with other professors and he got on a little bit of a tangent with them in a discussion about like “calorie balance is super important,” and they’re like, “no, that’s ridiculous.” I think they were harassing him for having like a Twinkie at lunch or something with other food. He’s like, “I bet you guys I can eat basically only snack cakes with a little bit of essential nutrients and some protein thrown in.

I can do this for months and I’ll lose weight and improve every health parameter.” And they’re like, “no way.” And he did it, and sure enough it worked. And then there’s the documentaries of guys eat at McDonald’s and losing a bunch of weight, losing fat, improving their health. It can be done. It’s a ridiculous way to go about things. The hunger dysregulation makes it almost impossible because if you eat 2000 calories of Twinkies, you’re just going to want to eat 4,000 more calories of junk food after that.

There’s no way you can, most people can have any satiety like that. But most of the ill effects of fat are in fact calorie related, not all of them, especially in proportion to how much of your intake is composed of those foods. For example, if you have like a coca cola, full sugar coke and a cheeseburger once a week, twice a week or three times a week, I mean it’s within the context of a calorie controlled diet and the rest of your food is healthy. If someone comes up to you and they’re like “do you know what fructose does to your body? Like it’s killing your cells right now and you’ve got dysbiosis” or some word, they sort of curse really, you know, but not really. You’re just loading… it’s just a bunch of crap shooting that nonsense, right? There’s not going to be any kind of effects that are medically detectable from that sort of thing.

Now, if a really big part of your diet, even though you’re a skinny person. You know, some people are just naturally thin, they just control calories through a lot of just excess energy expenditure, they’re just kind of jittery, they always move around. But they have a total crap diet.

Yeah, they’re actually going to have elevated markers of inflammation, of kind of nasty, low level systemic inflammation that causes heart disease later down the line. They might have some blood pressure control issues, their lipids are going to be off, definitely off of what you would expect based on their composition, right? Like, you know, if you think every lean person is healthy, go ahead and find some drug addicts on the street that are very lean. Do their blood work, you’ll quickly find out that this is absolutely not the case.

Ask them what their diets are like and holy crap, you just sort of eat whatever you happen to buy at a convenience store. That stuff will add up.

So hopefully that starts to kind of give a picture of what’s going on. Yes, these fructose mediated effects, highly processed sugars, the possible potential effects on gut microbiota, they’re definitely real. They’re not enormous until you start eating a diet very, very high in those foods and low in nutritious foods. That being said, it’s almost esoteric. It’s curious to you and I as we are nerds.

That debate, so to speak, is very not super relevant because almost everyone who eats a lot of those foods is hyper caloric overweight. So when you reduce those foods, it’s a one two punch to both sides of the problem. Both the sort of chemically mediated effects and the caloric effect.

Obesity and metabolic health, and how your genes can play a role in health

Ari Whitten: So let me follow up on this with the example of the concept of metabolically healthy obese people. What do you think of that concept? Is it possible to be in a calorie surplus, accumulate body fat, you know, significant amounts of body fat over the course of years and years and years, be actually very overweight and yet be perfectly healthy still?

Mike Israetel, Ph.D.: Multipart answer to that one. First of all, a lot of those folks are abusing unicorn dust and I’m still trying to get some. It’s really difficult to find actual unicorn dust and unicorns are tough to find to begin with, but the dust. I don’t even know if it’s ethical. Is it crushed up unicorns? I don’t know what it is, but it works. If you consume it, you’re just healthy no matter what. So now that we’ve got the unicorn dust out of the way, two part answer. The first part is the least relevant part, explains less of the variance. But it’s, nonetheless, I think, important to point out some folks just have gnarly genetics for health and they can do whatever. So…

Ari Whitten: Is “gnarly” the proper scientific term for that.

Mike Israetel, Ph.D.: Literally in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition, “gnarly” is defined as, you know, highly robust, intractable health. And I know some people just have really good health genetically and boy oh boy, is learning from them a real bad idea for the rest of us. One of my coaches, his grandfather worked in the coal mines basically his entire life and he ate essentially almost exclusively saturated fat and drank heavily. Lived in West Virginia or something like that.

He was angry his entire life and at one point he got sick and, because he was working in the coal mines and breathing God knows what. And the doctor, this was back in the sixties, prescribed him daily dianabol, that’s an anabolic steroid. It’s oral so it’s supposed to be taken for only weeks at a time if you’re an HIV patient or something like that to spark you back to life.

Highly degrading, kills people. This guy took hundreds of milligrams of dianabol for pretty much every week of his life thereon after, and lived into his, I think, mid seventies. And by my coach’s account, he was healthy the entire time, muscular for no good reason, working in a coal mine…

Ari Whitten: I can think of at least one good reason why he was muscular if he was taking…

Mike Israetel, Ph.D.: I’m sorry, you’re right, for sure. Taking lots of dianabol, how he could be muscular. And then, the way that my coach describes the way he died was he just got fed up with life and just checked out. He didn’t… no degradation, he wasn’t like super weak and then floated away, he was just like, “ah, whatever.” That’s it. He was angry all the time. The anger also possibly explainable by the dianabol. So what can we learn from a gentleman like that? One thing for sure, some people just have unbelievable genetics for health and most of us don’t have unbelievable genetics for health. The rest of us are on a bell curve. It’s a spectrum, right? Some decent people, some people require a lot more management. Some folks will be pretty unhealthy no matter what they do, even if they stay on everything, it’s tough if you have that.

Most of us are somewhere in the middle. So we got to just make sure that if there’s case reports of people that are very overweight and have perfect health, you got to know some of them are for sure just gifted, right? But that explains maybe five percent or something like that of all those folks. Ninety-five percent is a little bit more of a nefarious sort of explanation.

Here it is. If you are metabolically relatively healthy, if you’re one of those pretty healthy people, and especially if you’re related to Leon, if you gain a considerable amount of weight in your childhood, teen or early twenties and thirties, once you have gained the weight, you may still be fairly metabolically healthy and resilient. But the thing is that that excess weight, due to the physical stress, the hormonal dysregulation, so on and so forth is a, I don’t want to say time bomb, that’s kind of an inaccurate. It’s slowly leaches away and degrades your health. And how long does that take?

Sometimes it can take years if you’ve pretty good, robust health to begin with. Sometimes it can take a decade or more. So if someone, you know, used to be very physically active, just has great genetics for health, is a healthy body weight. After college, they put on a lot of weight. Now they weigh 300 pounds, five foot six, you know, college graduations is at age 22. It might be until their mid thirties until they actually see any kind of blood work ramifications because, you know, there’s some people walking around that have stellar blood-work. My wife, I think her average resting blood pressure is like a hundred over 60.

Like I have no idea how she is physically upright and not passed out all the time. Like if she took a turn for the worst with her health or behaviors, she’s actually a medical doctor so there’s no way that’s happening. But, you know, it would take years, years, years for her blood pressure to register as abnormally high. It would just be like the biggest uphill battle of all time. So a lot of those folks end up, you know, going years and years and years without paying the price. Every single one of them, except for those people that work in coal mines and eat dianabol tabs, every single one of them will pay the price eventually.

Once the debt collector comes as far as degraded health, that is an accumulated degradation of health. There’s not an easy way to reverse that, versus losing the weight, getting super healthy and keeping it like that for a long time. And sometimes there’s no reversing it at all. It’s just damaged done. So when investigators collect data about who’s fit, who’s fat and how healthy, they are, if they profile those folks that are in their twenties and thirties, have pretty good health, genetics, but have put on a lot of weight, they’re going to notice this fit yet fat group and they’re going to say, “oh, looks like that’s okay.” But it’s not okay.

It’s like a car that hasn’t got an oil change in a long time, but it’s still in the safe range. It would be like, “well, this car hasn’t had an oil change here forever, but it’s still running.” Is the conclusion there that we never need to change our oil. God, no, the conclusion is quite the opposite. But we wouldn’t be able to tell that given the way we’re looking at the problem.

Ari Whitten: Gotcha. Beautifully explained. So, is there a number three factor and, you know, if not, I have some specific questions to dig into.

Mike Israetel, Ph.D.: Please.

How to eat right – carbs, fats, and proteins and how they pertain to health

Ari Whitten: Carbs and fats and protein. So we have several claims around these. For example, obviously low carb and keto have become very popular. And still the idea that, you know, kind of carbs and insulin are not only making us fat, but are key drivers of aging and disease is still very prevalent. We need to go keto, you know, that’s a very popular thing right now.

We also have a lot of vegans out there who are saying, “hey, we need to avoid animal proteins and eat low protein diets to keep IGF 1 low and because that’s a key driver, and mTOR low because those are key mechanisms of aging and disease.” So what do you say in response to those claims? What’s your take on carbs, fats, and proteins as they pertain to health?

Mike Israetel, Ph.D.: Yeah. Well, gee, you beat me to that number three factor which is macronutrient balance, right? Or macronutrient ratios. And that’s how much protein, carbs and fats compose your calories and healthy, hopeful, foods. And what effect does that have? So the first part of the answer is really the biggest, the net total in our estimate of the effects of the different kinds of macronutrient ratios is about 10 percent. That’s the total effect on health, and notice we already have the 60 percent from calories and the 20 percent from the composition, that’s 80 percent of the way there as far as a healthy diet. If you can do 80 percent with good consistency, honestly, that’s almost everything any medical professional can ask of you. I mean like if your nutritionist, if you have a nutritionist, or doctor, and he knows that you’re doing calories and, you know, or mostly healthy foods properly, they really can’t… they’d be crazy to ask you to do much more than that.

I’ll put to you this way. If all of the Western world, America included, went to 80 percent only, didn’t worry about anything else, but did it consistently, our public health disasters would pretty much dry up almost completely. We’d cut healthcare spending by like a 10th or by nine tenths, right? It would just be like this huge revolution. So 10 percent is, it’s a very small number and here’s why. So long as you get the minimum amounts of proteins, carbs, and fats to operate your body and keep it healthy, which is a very different thing than keeping it performing at a high level muscle, etc. And this is where those things kind of split apart a lot. If you get enough protein, carbs, and fats for the minimum basics, you can fill up the rest of your calories with any real combination of carbs, proteins and fats, so long as they’re mostly from healthy sources and the calories are good to go. Boy, it matters just very, very little. It matters so little that it becomes really difficult for the researcher to start to really delineate what it is exactly that we can conclude is like the optimal healthy diet, right?

Ari Whitten: I want to interrupt you for a second and just emphasize a point that you’re making, which is if we look at the last 15, 20, maybe 30 years of talk around the diet that is optimal for health or the diet that is optimal for body composition almost, at least in the… outside of scientific circles, but more in, you know, the general public sphere, almost all of the conversation is centered around carbs and fats. It’s like “it’s carbs,” “no it’s fats,” “go low fat,” “go low carb,” “go keto,” you know, or proteins to some extent with kind of the vegan people. But it’s very, very carb and fat centric and we’ve, you know, like everybody’s thinking is really centered around carbs and fats as the key mover and shaker that determines our health and our body composition. And I just want to point out, emphasize that you’re saying that that carb to fat ratio is probably about 10 percent of the overall picture when it comes to health.

Mike Israetel, Ph.D.: Yeah. If not less. Once you exclude protein consumption, we’re talking maybe seven percent. I don’t know, something. And maybe less, actually. Most of the way we generate that 10 percent figure is, you know, kind of accounting for people deviating a little too far away from optima. For example, if you use a strict keto diet, you got to be real careful about getting in your vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, fiber, because most of those come from plant foods and reduce your carbs a lot, plant foods lower than you’re looking for some trouble. If you’re a strict vegan it is a little bit difficult to get certain kinds of fats that are considered essential fats. So if people err on the side of one or another, they start to get into some health concerns. But within the minima it’s even less than a 10 percent difference.

And then it comes down to, I think a real, I don’t know if it is a controversy, but it’s just not clear from the evidence. For example, like, let’s refute some of the common sort of thinking on this. To the individuals that think that carbohydrates are the cause of a lot of health maladies, we present to you the statistical category in nutrition called vegans and vegetarians. In many surveys they consume in excess of 70 percent, sometimes up to 80 percent of their daily calories in carbohydrates, which boy, oh boy, if the carb-insulin hypothesis is as real as some folks think, maybe they should just be dead bodies in these places.

They should be the most unhealthy people in the world. The thing is, in many, especially older analyses, I’ll get to newer analyses in a bit, vegans and vegetarians are some of the healthiest people ever studied.

I mean, maybe they don’t have a dominant philosophy on health. Maybe there’s other ways of eating and there are that are just as healthy, or close. But if carbs and insulin really were as bad as people say they couldn’t be one of the healthiest. They could just be average, maybe, and some other weird way to explain it. But one of the healthiest, that’s tough to describe.

On the other hand, folks say the high protein diet is really bad for your health. Well, if you look at a fitness enthusiast that consume high protein diets, they’re really healthy, super healthy. But if you take away the ones that abuse anabolic steroids and you look at everybody else as a big correction factor, man the high protein diet fitness enthusiasts are some of the healthiest people period, right? And then, you know, if you look at, you know, some sort of more… sometimes it comes from vegans in saying, you know, a high fat diets real bad for your health.

Well, there’s folks following a mostly keto approach, eating tons of fats, you know, mostly healthy fats and still getting enough greens and proteins and stuff, they are also super duper healthy and a lot of people lose a lot of weight and get real healthy eating like that. So any extreme approach that seeks to say, okay, but certainly carbs or fats or proteins are bad. There’s a group of people eating a lot of that, but it’s a large group of people, it is very well studied for a very long time and they’re just not dying off or having all these bad health problems. And that’s really the simple fact of the matter and everything in between.

So, you know, people say, “well, carbs are okay, fats are okay, just don’t eat both of them together.” Like a lot of people. Eat both of them together. You’re basically saying that the following… like a meal of salmon, raw almonds, brown rice and mixed greens is unhealthy because it has a high combination of fats. What, are you crazy? Every time we study people that eat like that, they outlive everybody, you know, so that’s one of those situations where, you know.

Can we say that eating a higher protein diet probably degrades health in some ways, probably. The vegans probably are onto something with that, it probably has an effect on mortality, see, the higher protein diet. On the other hand, it has an opposite effect on morbidity. People who eat high protein diets die of strokes strong as hell, just taking a walk and just boom stroking out and falling over and they’re in the middle of gardening or taking a walk or riding a bike or something like that. You feed on a real low protein diet, you die twenty years of bed rest later in a nursing home as you began to be too weak to take care of yourself twenty years ago when you were already under muscled. Hey, you lived a long time, good for you, so when you take into account morbidity and mortality.

And I think it’s also important to take into account quality of life indices. We get, you can design the optimal diet. It’s going to drain all of the fun out of everything, and live some number of, some short number of years longer, a little less morbidity. I don’t know, man, what’s the point of that like? Remember those, you know, you’re 90 years old and remember those memories you have of pasta night with your family and everyone’s laughing and the world just couldn’t be any better.

Nope. Because you didn’t have pasta night because you didn’t eat pasta because it was really bad for you. All of a sudden a lot of the best things in life are just mixed right out. So when you integrate quality of life, it just becomes, you know, eating the calories, a proper amount of calories, eating mostly healthy foods, eating enough proteins, carbs and fats, really excellent. It’s actually about 10 percent of your calories for each one roughly, and then whatever else you fill that in with, it really it just washes out in the net balance.

And let me make another really quick point. A lot of people will say, it’s actually something I was thinking about earlier. They’ll say, you know, man, we’ve got these studies on protein, mTOR and this and that, really bad. I’m like, if that’s going to matter in the big picture for you, your consistency and adherence better be like 99 percent of all the other stuff. Your calories better be flawless and you better consume almost exclusively healthy food. Like, I can’t believe how many folks I’ve seen and being like “mTOR” or “protein” and you know, it’s gonna, “you’re gonna die” and then take like a shovel size spoon of natural peanut butter and jam it down and you’re like, “so your calories” and they’re like, “I’m eating alpha” and I’m like “right on,” you know, or eating like vegan chocolate chip cookies or something like food compositions.

Terrible. And you’re like, “okay, you know, the amount of the mTOR protein thing is hardly used like this and the amount you’re doing with calories, a little bigger than my screen and the amount of food compositions is here.” So if folks want to get super in depth on their diet, yeah that stuff may be worth a consideration. Trading off the morbidity stuff of course.

But most folks, it’s just one of those things that I think people have almost this kind of hypochondria about health claims where they read an article that says “protein causes mTOR, which causes cancer, “and they’ll go, “oh crap, I gotta eat less protein.” No, you’ve got to eat a calorically balanced diet with mostly healthy foods. Then you have to shut up for a while, let your health improve, and then if you are just unbelievable like the million dollar man of nutrition and you never make mistakes, you can start thinking about protein and all that stuff. That’s kind of my take on it.

How to eat healthy – why it is important to eat right while you live your life

Ari Whitten: Gotcha. Okay. So just to play devil’s advocate on one thing you said, I want to present the polar opposite of, you know, this picture that you created of somebody who’s kind of very, very on it as far as adhering to very healthy habits and then kind of like giving them permission, “say, hey, indulge, have some pasta once in a while, have some ice cream, have some cake once in a while.” What about the other side of this where a person is constantly using this as justification for poor eating habits. And it’s like, “well, I’d rather, you know, live my life and just, you know, eat what I want to eat and have cake and ice cream and pizza because eating healthy food and being judicious about my food choices is just too painful and restrictive and, you know, I’ll be suffering all the time. I’d rather live a shorter life with more disease. But I get to actually enjoy my food.” What do you say to someone like that?

Mike Israetel, Ph.D.: That’s a really good point. I think the “suffering less” is an interesting use of verbiage, which we will begin to examine immediately. When your fifth toe in as many months is being amputated because you’re diabetic, it won’t seem like you’re suffering very little anymore. And just when you’re finally making enough money that you’ve paid off all of your debts, your children are finally growing into the beautiful people you always knew they could become. You are starting to break apart, you have no idea why and the doctors can’t help you. If that sounds like a great way to live, hell yeah. Eat whatever the hell you want. You’re going to be great. It’s going to be exactly the life you want. So, and to be honest, some people, they’re okay making really interesting trade offs. I’m here talking to you right now, weighing 260 pounds knowingly degrading my health for the sport of bodybuilding.

But knowingly, very knowingly, profoundly knowingly, wrote a whole textbook on it knowingly. I know what I’m trading off. I know almost exactly how many years I’m trading off and exactly the kind of morbidities I’m going to be getting myself into. A lot of people just don’t know that. So if somebody is really well informed on exactly what’s waiting for them, with the free range lifestyle so to speak, and they still say “yes,” they’re either way too young or immature to process what’s going on or enlightened and are making an interesting trade off that I think everyone in a free society should be allowed to make.

Ari Whitten: That’s a very generous option that you gave.

Mike Israetel, Ph.D.: There’s people like that, 90 percent here, 10 percent here in that last group. But the thing is, once people find out that health and eating is so important for long term health, they start to change their tune most of the time. That’s a real thing. Another thing I used to teach in that class where I taught folks how to change other people’s health behaviors or help them do that, which you never want to do is help someone eat a healthy diet and really trump up the short term benefits. Especially the perceptive benefits. Like “don’t you just feel great eating broccoli and chicken?”

Nine out of 10 people who have been eating Taco Bell and all this other stuff their whole life would be like “no, I feel terrible. I hate it.” Right? So I guess some people say like, “I’ve been following a healthy diet and I feel so good.” Like at Renaissance, we run a ton of healthy diets and it’s always nice to us, but kind of in the back of our heads when people are like, “I’ve been following the templates for a week and I feel great.” Like really? That’s nice. It was a total coincidence. Usually if it’s a fat loss diet you’re supposed to feel worse.

The real health benefits of healthy eating kick in months later, years later, decades later, and it’s stuff that doesn’t happen to you versus stuff that does. If you eat healthy in your thirties and forties, your fifties will be largely uneventful. If you don’t, your fifties will be very eventful in exactly the way that you don’t want them to be. Once people hear it like that, they’re a little less apt to choose the laissez faire approach with their own diet.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. I’m glad I asked you that because your way of speaking about that issue of kind of like whole foods versus, you know, kind of indulging here and there is I think directed. You’re used to speaking to audiences of people who are fitness fanatics and who are maybe on the, to a large extent on the extreme of like eating extremely healthy food and oftentimes orthorexic, “I can’t ever have any cake or ice cream because it’s terrible for me or it’s going to make me fat.”

So you’re kind of giving people permission to do that. But there’s also, and I’ve encountered a pretty sizable portion of the population of like the general population who is not, they’re not fitness fanatics, they are not health fanatics, who do genuinely feel that way where they’re like, “I’d rather get to enjoy what I eat, and you know, and have that pleasure than suffer all the time by having to eat whole foods.”

Mike Israetel, Ph.D.: You will suffer, you will suffer if you choose that path, you’ll suffer a lot more. Yeah. It’s a very good point. I think that’s one of the, when we talk about how to change people’s behaviors, I think that’s a really good time to sort of bring back something I said earlier, which is, you know there’s times and places to enjoy your life eating tasty foods. I’m sorry for swearing, but that shit is not all the time. If you’re eating fast food for breakfast, lunch and donuts for dinner, you’re not living your best life. You’re just making really terrible choices.

If you go out with your family on a Saturday night and you have some nachos and fried chicken at the movies, you’re just living great. And during the week, if you’re having just healthy basic meals that you bring with you to work and a good healthy breakfast and lunch and dinner, you’re doing a great thing. So it’s one of those times when people, like, “I want to enjoy myself.”

Well, you sure as hell seem to enjoy yourself every conceivable meal, your life is just all enjoyment all the time. It would be like, “I don’t want a job because I want to enjoy myself all the time.” Well, not having a job leads to very short periods of enjoyment until you don’t have any money left over.

Ari Whitten: I think also the concept of hedonic adaptation is interesting. Just what we know is that people actually normalize to whatever their typical, you know, in this case diet is. So, if you actually were able to measure the amount of pleasure that someone’s getting from eating donuts and cookies and ice cream and pizza all the time, versus someone like you who’s having brown rice and salmon and broccoli, let’s say. The actual enjoyment is not actually that different. You probably enjoy those meals and they enjoy their meals. You’ve normalized to it and you don’t get this extreme pleasure all the time by eating donuts and cookies and ice cream, you know what I mean?

Mike Israetel, Ph.D.: Hundred percent. That’s actually how with bodybuilders that have, that’s how we know that your body’s starting to resist you gaining any more weight when you’re pushing it forward. Right after you’re very lean and you lose a lot of weight, when you start gaining weight, like cookies and ice cream and all that stuff tastes like only drugs can make you feel.

And it’s, you know, sublime. When you gained all the weight back from after your contest and you’re rushing into a new high body weight, man, someone’s like, “hey, you want to, you want a cheat meal tonight?” And you’re like, “okay, like, what do you want to eat?” ” I don’t know.” I’ve literally had to, you know I’m friends with… a lot of my friends are bodybuilders and one guy was gaining weight. One of my colleagues actually at Renaissance and I was like, “James, what do you want to eat tonight?”

I was on a diet. He was massive, right. So, I was vicariously eating through him and I was like, he was like,” I don’t know,” and I was like, “Taco Bell” and he’s like, “all right.” We were at the Taco Bell and I basically had to help him order because he just didn’t care what he ate it was, nothing was bringing enjoyment anymore and I had to talk him into eating all the stuff. And you would think Taco Bell is delicious.

But for him, he had been intentionally putting on weight for so long, soaking up both the calories and the hedonic power of those foods that he just tapped out on it. So I think some people fear like, “oh, but I’m never going to have tasty foods ever again.” Well, once you get used to eating healthier foods, they’re going to be pretty good actually.

Like I love my healthy foods. And there’s also, there’s ways to make healthy foods taste amazing. So it’s not an excuse anymore nowadays. And also, you know, when you do have your little bits on the weekends and in the evenings, every now and again, junk food will taste better than it ever has if you are used to eating healthy food. Some people, junk food just tastes like regular food. You’ll actually have more fun eating if you eat well, most of the time.

Really quick analogy to that. If you’re always on vacation, there actually are some pretty good studies showing that lottery winners are no happier than the average person. Like if you’re always on vacation, it’s not a vacation anymore, it’s just regular life, you get used to it. But if you work really hard, vacations are super fun and there’s that balance in life that can be achieved through food and that’s a really good one.

The last 10% of strategies for healthy eating

Ari Whitten: Yeah, absolutely. Well said. So I think there’s a fourth factor here, just by virtue of simple math. We have 60 percent energy balance, calorie balance; 20 percent food quality, food choices, whole foods versus processed foods; 10 percent macronutrients, protein, carbs and fats. And there’s another 10 percent there,

Mike Israetel, Ph.D.: Yeah, split into two factors, actually three, if you want to get technical. First one accounting for five percent is nutrient timing. The second one and third one, accounting for two point five respectively is hydration and supplementation, because supplementation is a big factor in eating, you know. People say, “should I be taking fish oil? Should I be taking this and that, is it going to make me healthier?”

And of course, the supplement industry would love for everyone to believe that supplementation accounts for 60 percent of differences in health rather than…

Ari Whitten: Ninety percent

Mike Israetel, Ph.D.: Right, ninety… one hundred. “You know, not one hundred, ninety five, you shouldn’t eat junk food too often, but here, take this pill and you can eat most of it.” You know, it’s not the two point five they want you to believe. And then of course hydration plays a role. We don’t have to talk about hydration much at all, just avoid extremes.

If you’re drinking water every hour like it’s a healthful… stop. Hyper-hydration does not make you healthier. If you just go hours without drinking water and you’re peeing tea color, that’s not a good thing. Get more fluids. That’s all we have to say about hydration. You can ask me more questions about it if you want it’s a relatively uninteresting subject.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, I mean, most people have the idea with that one. It’s pretty straight…

Mike Israetel, Ph.D.: Most people are fine, actually most people are… That’s another really interesting myth is people think like, “oh man, like I’m going to eat healthy.” I’m sure you get this a lot. You’re like, “okay.” And they’re like, “I’ve got to really start worrying about hydration.” I’m like “who the hell told you that?” It’s one of those things it just keeps floating around. Like “I got to get in lots of water.” And you’re like, “why?” Like “flush out my toxins.” Like “that’s not how it works.”

Ari Whitten: Or use electrolyte supplements.

Mike Israetel, Ph.D.: Oh boy. Yeah. Just flush it all out or something like that. So hydration aside, supplements we can get to later. But the thing is, it’s nothing really, two point five percent. We can only talk about it so much. Nutrient timing is five percent and there’s some stuff to say there.

Ari Whitten: So yeah, let’s get into that. What is optimal nutrient timing?

Mike Israetel, Ph.D.: Yeah. So first of all, it’s five percent. So by definition, it really doesn’t matter that much. The most important thing with nutrient timing for health is that you eat in a way that supports a high level of physical activity because physical activity, there’s a whole pyramid of physical activity in health and it has a huge, huge effect on health. How much physical activity you do, the more the better generally speaking. So you want to eat in a way that promotes high levels of physical activity and because it’s not all about health, the rest of your life, in a way that promotes good cognitive function, moods and energy levels that are conducive to seeing your kids and not trying to kill your boss, not sleeping at work or something like that, or staring at a spreadsheet like this, you haven’t had food in a day and a half, you have no idea what you’re typing.

Your boss is like, “what did you type day, what did you produce today?” You’re like, “I think I hit the ‘o’ button of about 10,000 times.” That’s great. You’re a great worker, right? And so if you could avoid all of those things, your nutrient timing for health… now for athletics, it’s 10 percent and it’s some more detail to talk about, largely uninteresting, I’m sure for your audience. But for nutrient timing for health, you know, they’ve studied folks that consume six, eight, ten meals per day. If they have all the other big parts of the picture, stunningly healthy.

They studied folks who do a daily intermittent fasting, so maybe 16 hours of fasting during the day and you know, eight hours of feeding. And they’ve studied a four hour feeding window and a two hour feeding window.

Believe it or not, as much as the body building side of my soul is pained by this, it’s not very great for bodybuilding. That’s actually just fine for your health and there’s some unique health benefits there, mostly canceled out by the unique health detriments, but it’s just fine. And then they’ve actually studied pretty extensively the daily alternating fasting. So you literally, one day you eat, the next day you don’t, one day you eat, the next day you don’t. And they found that that is actually quite conducive to health.

The only reservation I have about recommending those things, as soon as I say that people say like, “so I can do that. Right?” And I say like, “yeah, you know you probably go to work.” I don’t know if anyone’s ever been to work where they haven’t eaten the whole day but, boy oh boy, does that get to be really unproductive and a very irritating environment after a while. And you might go through work just fine and then you got to see your kids later. Right? And they’re yelling at you, “mommy, mommy, what are we having for dinner?” Well, mommy’s not having anything for dinner today because it’s an alternate fasting day.

Laugh in front of your children as they are eating chicken nuggets, a real bad thing. So, so If you’re into that lifestyle, if you’re on some kind of spiritual journey and want to do an alternate faster, it’s totally great. But for most folks, three… two to five meals per day, roughly evenly spread, some good protein and veggies in most of those meals and some carbs and fats when necessary or when desired. That’s probably really like the middle ground that just through adherence and lifestyle applies to most people. But if you really want to get quirky with the timing, there’s probably no reason you can’t do it.

How to eat right – is gluten bad for you?

Ari Whitten: Okay. So a couple things. One, I wanted to get into training. I think we’re going to have to save that for part two with you. I’d love to have you on the show again because I know you have a lot to share on the topic of training and we haven’t even really gotten into that deep to body composition. I know we can get into both nutrition and training for that. Obviously there’s lots of overlap here as you’ve talked about with health.

But I want to, I’m hoping to have about seven more minutes with you if you’re cool with that. I would love to talk about some specific foods because we have a lot of claims around, like for example, grains and gluten are terrible for you. Eggs or egg yolks or red meat are terrible. And also I want to hear your opinion on keto. So I’ll let you take those topics and you can decide which one you want to address first.

Mike Israetel, Ph.D.: Sure. So there are some foods that offer just more numerically of things that are healthier than other foods. The balance is they have a higher nutrient density. Mostly when we talk about nutrient density, we’re referring to vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, which are a special kind of plant compounds that have a small effect on health, but there’s like 100 million of them, so they add up to again, a very small number, but something that’s meaningful.

And of course fiber, which is very healthy in about 10,000 different ways and some significant ones. So if you have a food that has a whole lot of those things in it, it’s pretty objectively healthier on average than food that has less or has none of those things. The problem there is before you say, “oh my god, I’m going to eat a whole lot of that food.”

A good example is kiwi fruit. Kiwis are loaded with vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and fiber, unbelievable, food of the gods, I tell you. The thing is fruits, vegetables and every single food also come with a certain amount of irritants, proinflammatory agents and allergens, and comes with an inherent monotony of consumption. Kiwis are amazing until you eat 10,000 of them and then you swear you’ll never eat a fucking kiwi again. Pardon my language. So when people look for magic foods, they have to consider that there’s… any food that you eat in excess is going to start to get, benefits you a ton, but also give you these problems of excess.

And then, in addition to that, it’s going to be an issue of adherence where you’re going to be on this magic food diet where you eat only kiwis and lean ground beef, you know, whatever, healthy almonds or something, and then you’re just going to be super healthy. And you will be really healthy, right?

But, you’re just not going to be able to sustain that because you’re are just going to die of boredom at some point. Before you die of boredom you’re just going to start eating who knows what and then you’re going to stop eating the magic foods. And usually when people are on a magic foods diet and they step off of it, they don’t step down to a balance diet of diverse intakes.

They step right off the thing and fall into the pit of Oreos mixed with peanut butter and, you know, fried into pizza. Aw shit, I should be a chef. That sounds delicious. So the magic food stuff is, it’s definitely true that there are some foods that are healthier than others, but there’s nothing healthier than a wide variety of those foods eaten to taste and preference on occasion and just mixing it in.

So, are there some lean, healthy proteins, is salmon, the healthiest fish? It doesn’t really matter because there’s five other fish that are almost as healthy as salmon, even if it’s the healthiest or something. And they’re great to rotate into your diet. Fish is actually a particularly interesting example, because certain kinds of fish that are very healthy also have higher levels of mercury and PCBs or some other compounds, which over time can add up to really negative effects.

But if you alter your fish intake, wild caught versus farm, then you can obviate most of those effects. So in the end, the magic foods thing or the special kinds of foods, man it really just kind of washes away. And the answer is, you know, there’s a whole lot of foods in every single category, which is why those categories are important. You know, lean protein sources, fruits, vegetables.

If you’re getting different kinds of fruits, different kinds of vegetables, different kinds of whole grains, different kinds of lean proteins and different kinds of healthy fats, it doesn’t mean you have to have every single part of your plate has to be a little different. You can eat the same stuff for a week. And then different stuff for a week and then different stuff for another week and every day that week the same stuff. You’ll be super duper healthy. Just change it up a little bit, get some variation in there, and you’re super good to go. So is that a sufficient answer for the…?

Ari Whitten: Let me ask you real directly. So in your analysis of the evidence, did you see strong evidence that indicates that grains or gluten or egg yolks or red meat are significant drivers of aging and disease?

Mike Israetel, Ph.D.: Grains, absolutely not. The opposite. Whole grain consumption is linked to everything magical. It’s pretty much unicorn dust. It’s amazing. Whole grains are amazing. Gluten is really bad if you have celiac disease, it’ll kill you sooner or later. It’s going to make you have chronic diarrhea until then. If you don’t have celiac disease, it is almost certainly true that you can’t even tell if there’s gluten in your food.

There’s a possibility that there’s a short spectrum of gluten, I want to call it even intolerance. Yeah, just not jiving with it. But that’s very unclear actually. It’s probably 90/10 that it just doesn’t happen, right? So the thing is when you feed people gluten and they say they’re gluten intolerant, none of them have celiac disease. They don’t actually know almost at all that you’re feeding them gluten, they literally can’t tell.

And a lot of times, this is actually really very pertinent to your audience. I’m sure it’ll be very curious finding for them. I’m sure you’re probably pretty aware of this. Those same folks that claim to be affected negatively by gluten. They actually fed them a diet designed to eliminate every known irritant to the gastrointestinal tract. And then they have another diet, another piece of food that has every known irritant in it. There was no difference between how much they complained about irritation of various sorts, but they complained excessively both times.

And it’s kind of like, that’s definitely psychology at that point. It’s a very, very high probability where people think their food is poisoning them and if you don’t tell them that this one’s not irritating, this one is, they just think they’re definitely having a bad response to this, a really bad response to this. Like one of them had nothing in it that should be irritating you and this one had everything in it that was irritating you, and you said they irritated you the same, right? So throw…

Ari Whitten: No, I actually haven’t seen that study. I would love to actually get a link to that.

Mike Israetel, Ph.D.: I’ll see if I can dig it up for you Fascinating in a real depressing kind of way. Like, holy crap. So, yeah. So in any case, that kind of stuff… because, you know, the FODMAPs and other irritating foods have a lot of attention and a lot of people really do have foods that they should be avoiding, but that’s on a real individual basis, you know, so I’m never going to tell someone that gluten is just absolutely golden and totally fine if they don’t have celiac, eat it up. If you think gluten doesn’t do you right, stop eating it or eat less of it. But if you honestly can’t tell, think it maybe… keep going, it’s totally fine. So grains are great actually, is the opposite. Gluten is probably fine for 99 percent of all people.

Ari Whitten: And just to clarify that point, that there is a link in literature with refined grains and poorer health outcomes, but whole grains are generally linked with better health outcomes.

Mike Israetel, Ph.D.: Correct. Because they have higher nutrient densities, because over eating them is very difficult. The link between refined grains and poor health when you take away other control factors like smoking, risk taking behaviors, health prioritization and high calorie diets, refined grains go down to about this much negative effect. So they by themselves practically don’t do anything bad, maybe a little bit, but it’s really hard to tell once you take away everything else. The kind of people that tend to eat a lot of refined grains also just, pardon my language, don’t give a shit about their health to begin with. So they do 50 other things that are really bad. And the people, the kind of people who eat a lot of whole grains, you see them at Whole Foods and stuff. Those are that kind of people. They worry when they come to the doctor and the doctor’s like, “I don’t know why you’re here, you’ve never been unhealthy, get out of my office.” Those kinds of people. “I know something is wrong, damn it.”

Ari Whitten: Okay. So I have a big challenge for you if like, and this is impossible, but I would love to get just like quick one line answers to red meat and egg yolks, if you think those are significant drivers of disease. Because I know there’s obviously lots of vegan diet gurus that are convinced like they are the most terrible thing in the world.

Mike Israetel, Ph.D.: Red meat drives some kind of disease, prevents and is better for other kinds. On the net balance, maybe a tiny, tiny negative in the context of a whole big diet. Nothing to worry about unless you’ve got every other horse lighted up.

Ari Whitten: Unless you’re on the carnivore diet and you are only eating red meat.

Mike Israetel, Ph.D.: For sure. Then you’ve got a lot of other problems. Mostly psychological ones I assume. And then egg yolks. Man, you know, I haven’t even heard that one. I’ve done the analysis, the evidence is egg yolks are one of the healthiest foods that you can eat, but…

Ari Whitten: Well, you have certainly heard the whole like dietary cholesterol…

Mike Israetel, Ph.D.: Oh, sure, sure, sure. Yeah. Sorry, I should have rephrased it. I haven’t heard that one in like five years. It’s hilarious that, it’s still around. Again, if you are high, really high levels of cholesterol, if it’s been shown to you by your doctor that your own dietary cholesterol effects it a lot, which is really pretty rare, then you may have an argument in the context of a diet if you eat like tons of egg yolks, maybe you… The biggest thing about egg yolks is like when I go out to eat and I order an omelet, I usually order it without egg yolks because I want more egg, but, I don’t want as many calories from fat. I mean it is just calories, forget the fat. So it’s a great way to lower calories, but there’s nothing too magical about it is bad for you.

How keto affects health and fat loss

Ari Whitten: Okay. Last thing. Your thoughts on keto and we can speak specifically in the context of health or you can introduce fat loss, but, and I know it’s a challenge to maybe cover this in just the span of a few minutes, but just your quick thoughts.

Mike Israetel, Ph.D.: Sure. In the context of fat loss, keto is in part effective, can be effective because it reduces appetite. For some folks, it does not, and then it is ineffective. So that’s a benefit of keto. In some individuals it stops that sort of recursive consumption of carbohydrates and thus calories. And another benefit of keto is that it delimits highly palatable foods considerably. If someone’s like, “you got all night, baby, let’s go out there and eat the world,” you’re like, “let’s do it.” They’re like, “”no carbs.” You’re like, ‘hmm.”

As I’m saying, there’s only so much ranch dressing you can pour on bacon and chicken until you’re like, “we’re done here.” Right? So really tough to eat a lot of calories on keto. So potentially beneficial. On a counter point to that, it’s just very unsustainable because sooner or later you’ll, somebody will give you a cookie at a work party, you’ll remember what carbohydrate tastes like, you’ll zap out because it’s just heroin like at that point as far as how good it makes you feel, you’ll wake up in a dumpster with severed clown heads and cookies and you’ll have no idea how you got there. The police will be asking all sorts of uncomfortable questions.

Basically like, you know, a lot of people do strings of keto, they’ll loose a good amount of weight and then they’ll get carbs back in there. They’ll go to a resort or they’ll go on a work trip, they’ll take carbs again, and then they have… I think a lot of your philosophy. They have no hedonic control mechanisms around carbs anymore because it’s just like free for all and all of a sudden they’re just eating an excess and they gain all the weight back and they’re like, “I need to do keto again because carbs are the problem.” No, it’s the fact that you were eating trillions of them because you sensitized yourself to their delicious effects. Outside of that… so that’s the keto and I think that kind of balances out to like… the summary is it’s an effective dietary strategy for some individuals that can do it in the long term and for whom it works really well for appetite regulation.

That being said, the physical process of ketosis, the molecular chemical events in the bloodstream and so on have heretofore demonstrated zero actual health improving metabolically altering magical effects. I mean I said magical, just effects, right? People like measure their pee and be like, “I’m in ketosis.” Like, “hey, Is there a handshake I can give you? You’re the man.” We are still looking for it. There’s nothing magical about ketosis anyone has found that makes you in any way healthier. If you’re in ketosis and you’re hyper-caloric, you’re eating too many calories, you’ll be in every way very, very unhealthy. Just exactly as unhealthy as you were getting too many calories any other way. There is this idea of like, it’s the ketosis. No, it’s the reduction in calories and a lot of people focus on that. The biggest problem as a public health professional that I have, or when I used to be a professor and now I’m in private industry, but still very much passionate about public health, is that you don’t want to recommend things that don’t work for most people in the long term.

So, when I see people excited about keto, I think it’s great to get a sort of a habit of eating a lot of lean meats and maybe even fatty meats throughout the day. What I try to get them to do is add more green veggies into that and they’ll be like, “okay, I feel great and I’ll keep losing weight and being healthy.” And then I might ask them to eat a couple of fruits, that are just raw pieces of fruit every now and again with their meals and they’ll feel just fine and even better because it’s some carbs.

You know you’re not going to go crazy eating fruit. And then we’ll weave in some whole grains maybe and all of a sudden they’re eating a great balanced diet and everything’s awesome. Same with paleo. The paleo diet cuts out a crap load of foods that you can really eat, but it’s fundamentally a really healthy diet. You just weave in the healthy versions of carbs back into paleo. A couple of months later you’ve got somebody that’s just eating a really well balanced diet. So that’s kind of my views on keto. Like if you’re sort of mythologizing it, if you are just deifying it, putting it on a religious pedestal, you’re doing a disservice to your understanding of nutrition and probably your health as well.

Ari Whitten: Beautiful. Mike, this has been an absolute pleasure and content packed, which I would expect no less from you. So thank you so much. We have to wrap up now, which is unfortunate because I would love to talk to you for two more hours and I know you have much more wisdom to share. I need to…

Mike Israetel, Ph.D.: I actually have to go to jujitsu soon to get beat up. So…

Ari Whitten: Okay, perfect. We definitely need to have you on again to talk about body composition and training. But in the meantime, to close, where can people find more about your work and what you offer?

Mike Israetel, Ph.D.: So I help run a company called Renaissance Periodization. It’s a really fancy name for something that’s really straightforward. We help folks lose weight, get healthy, get in shape and look cooler like they maybe want to look, more muscular, less fat. And @rpstrength is our instagram. That’s a real good place for a lot of folks to get started, looking at the pictures, transformations, diet stuff. We’ve got healthy eating guides. We’ve got programs to just tell you kind of what to eat, food categories you pick and it gets you lean. We’ve got private coaching. You can do one-on-one with a professor or a doctor or a PhD that can help you navigate these lifestyle things, loose weight so on and so forth, get healthy. And we have a ton of books and all this stuff. So…

Ari Whitten: You also have workout templates, correct?

Mike Israetel, Ph.D.: We do. Yeah, totally. I was going to save that for the next time you and I talked, but workout templates to get you in shape and build some muscle and get you healthy. And all that is at Don’t bother with that. Just go to instagram @rpstrength, letter “r” letter “p” strength. It’ll get you started and there’s clickable links in there to take you to the website and everywhere else you want to go. And if you are really curious about the details of the discussion we had today, a book of ours, it’s an ebook, easy to download, super cheap, “Understanding Healthy Eating,” available at So, If you go to @rpstrength, you can find it no problem.

Ari Whitten: Beautiful. Thank you so much, Mike. Really such a pleasure to have you on, and I’m going to connect with you in the next couple of days to schedule a part two.

Mike Israetel, Ph.D.: Perfect. Thank you so much for having me.

Ari Whitten: Awesome, man. Enjoy the rest of your day.

Mike Israetel, Ph.D.: Thank you.

The Science of How to Eat Healthy │ How to Eat Right For Health and Longevity with Dr. Mike Israetel – Show Notes

Mike’s take on nutrition and health (3:18)
Why the science of how to eat healthy talks about calories (9:00)
The truth about excess fat consumption and weight gain (12:26)
The connection between eating healthy and energy (16:06)
How to eat right. The mechanisms that control body composition and health (21:30)
Obesity and metabolic health and how your genes can play a role in health (27:11)
How to eat right – carbs, fats, and proteins and how they pertain to health (33:44)
How to eat healthy – why it is important to eat right while you live your life (44:44)
The last 10% of strategies for healthy eating (53:48)
How to eat right – is gluten bad for you? (58:56)
How keto affects health and fat loss (1:09:00)


If you want to learn more about the work of Dr. Mike Israetel, go check out his website.

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How functional nutrition and holistic medicine can heal chronic diseases with Andrea Nakayama │Eat Right │ Eat Healthy,
Nutrition is used to prevent a lot of diseases. Listen in, as Andrea Nakayama shares her take on how to eat right to prevent a lot of diseases and fatigue

Science Says The Best Diet For Fat Loss Is The One You Can Stick To │ How To Lose Body Fat Using SCIENCE, with Researcher James Krieger

The Best Diet For Fat Loss -- How To Lose Body Fat - James Krieger CoverSome people say fat loss is all about calories. Other people say it’s not about calories and that it’s about carbs, or fats, or insulin (or other hormones). To make things more complicated, new diet fads are constantly showing up that give us conflicting and contradictory advice (while seducing us with promises of losing 20 -30 pounds in a matter of weeks). So, what does science say? What is the best diet for fat loss?And how can we lose body fat in a way that it stays off and you come away from the process feeling happy, healthy, and full of energy (instead of fatigued and hungry all the time)?

This week, I speak with researcher James Krieger. He has spent the last several years digging through all the scientific studies on fat loss (and even doing research himself). He is a powerhouse of knowledge on the science of how to lose fat. In this interview, James will talk about the truth about what diet is best for fat loss and how to lose weight and keep it for life — all backed up by the latest science.

In this podcast, we’ll cover

  • The truth about how we gain fat (and what that means as far as the best ways to lose fat)
  • Do carbs and insulin control fat gain and fat loss?
  • How people continually get duped by “the latest magic solution for weight loss” – why most of the latest diets aren’t living up to their promise
  • What the latest scientific research says about fat loss – and how to navigate through research effectively
  • Is it really all about “calories in, calories out”? (What does the science say?)
  • What is the best diet for fat loss?
  • Why good quality foods are essential for successful fat loss
  • What science says about the ketogenic diet (Are keto diets superior for fat loss?)
  • 3 main reasons why we gain fat
  • Why the most important concept to understand when it comes to fat loss is “food reward”
  • James’ top 3 strategies for fat loss

Download or listen on iTunes

Download the right way to breathe for increase performance and energy on iTunes

Listen outside of iTunes


Science Says The Best Diet For Fat Loss Is The One You Can Stick To │ How To Lose Body Fat Using SCIENCE, with Researcher James Krieger – Transcript

Ari Whitten: Everyone, this is Ari Whitten and welcome back to the Energy Blueprint  podcast. Today I have with me James Krieger who is the founder of Weightology. He’s also someone I’ve personally followed for several years and has actually been a big influence on my personal thinking around weight loss and around macronutrients, carbs and fats and proteins and, what regulates body composition and stuff like that.

So I’m intimately familiar with his work and have been a fan of his work for many years. He’s got a master’s degree in nutrition from University of Florida and a second masters in exercise science from Washington State University. He is the former research director for a corporate weight management program that treated over 400 people per year with an average weight loss of 40 pounds in three months. James is a published scientist, author and speaker in the field of exercise and nutrition.

He has published research in prestigious scientific journals including the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and the Journal of Applied Physiology. He’s been involved in health and nutrition and fitness field for over 20 years and has written over 500 articles. He’s a strong believer in an evidence based scientific approach to body transformation and health. And I can attest to that. This guy is absolutely committed to the science. I’ve read a lot of his, not only articles but actually a lot of the research that he’s been involved in.

So with all of that said, it’s such a pleasure to have you on James. Welcome to the show.

James Krieger: Yeah, thanks for having me.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, so I would love if you could just talk a bit about what led you to get into this and what kind of made you gravitate towards taking such a frontline role in the realm of weight loss such that, not only you’ve created this wonderful resource in Weightology where you have a huge amount of content, you know, that’s evidenced based reviewing of the science, kind of breaking everything down and relaying everything in simple practical information, but you’ve also been involved in a lot of, not only just studies but a lot of actually important studies in the field as a researcher for several years. So what motivated you to actually get into all of that?

James Krieger: It’s kind of funny, you could probably say my initial motivation was to attract women because coming out of high school I was so skinny, and I’m still a relatively slender guy.  But compared to what I was then, it’s just no comparison. I mean, my dad used to always say if I turned to the side I’d disappear, you know? So, I got into weight training at the time because I was actually a computer science guy for a long period of time and I got into weight training and I just got fascinated by the changes that were happening in my body.

So, you know, I would read the Muscle and Fitness and all those magazines and stuff. But I love… what I always found myself reading was the articles that would talk about the research in exercise and things like that.

And so it kind of started going down that path and eventually I moved away from computer science and actually ended up getting my degree in exercise science instead. And then went to graduate school and ended up with two master’s degrees, which wasn’t really planned. I had originally planned to have a PhD but it didn’t work out that way. And yeah, I just got really heavily involved in the research and then I made a lot of connections with people like Brad Schoenfeld and Alan Aragon and stuff. And so, which then gave me opportunities to collaborate on a lot of research. And I’ve done a few investigations on my own,

Ari Whitten: I’ll interject for my audience. Most of my audience is not into the kind of evidence based fitness.  Brad Schoenfeld and Alan Aragon are other really highly respected researchers and scientists in the field of  fitness and nutrition and kind of the interface of the two.

James Krieger: Yeah. So I started collaborating on a lot of research with them, and I have a few publications on my own as well that I did in Grad school. But yeah, that’s kind of what led me along those lines. So I always had a scientific mind coming from a computer science background. It kind of morphed into more of the exercise and nutrition field. And so I love science, I love trying to figure things out and trying to synthesize data and then try to apply it, you know, figure out, you know, how does this information apply to just general people, you know. So because there’s a lot of research out there that’s interesting if you’re interested in basic research, like you know, cellular mechanisms of certain things and everything.  But some of it doesn’t have a lot of applicability to the general person and I’m more interested in the research that you can actually take and apply to the general population.

How we gain fat (and how to lose fat)

Ari Whitten: Awesome. With that in mind, I want to start broad here and then kind of give us room to dig into more specifics.  But let me see if I can present a nice overarching context for this that will allow us to kind of delve into a lot of different topics. So the way I see the realm of weight loss, the whole kind of space and typical things that are talked about, theories and stuff like that, ideas that are floating around the internet.

There are two general sort of paradigms when it comes to why we gain fat and how to lose fat. And one is calories in, calories out. Okay. And there are simplistic and complex variations of that and there’s a lot of also misrepresentation of that theory and I’m sure we’ll talk about that. And then there’s kind of the idea that calories don’t matter and it’s about hormones and specifically we have Gary Taubes and the carbohydrate theory of obesity, the idea that it’s carbs and insulin specifically that are causing us to gain fat and that we have to restrict carbs and lower insulin levels in order to lose fat.

So would you agree with me, first of all, that those are kind of the two basic paradigms that are out there?

James Krieger: Yeah, mostly. Yeah, definitely for the most part. Yeah, definitely.

Ari Whitten: Can you just kind of break down that whole space and like those two paradigms and maybe… I  know this is a very broad topic so we’ll dig into specifics as we go along, but kind of overarching context of what those two paradigms are all about and maybe where the science supports or doesn’t support them.

James Krieger: Yeah. So, I ‘ll start with the whole calories in, calories out thing. So, and as you said, that gets misrepresented a lot. So the idea of calories in calories out is like if you want to lose weight, you gotta expend less calories or I’m sorry, expend more calories than you take in. If you gain weight, you’re taking in more calories than you expend. I’m personally going to say that that’s actually true and it comes down to basically just physics.

And if you think of anything that we eat and our bodies and everything, are made up of carbon atoms. Think of the atom carbon. It basically makes up all of life on earth. You know, carbon is like the big thing, right? If you want to gain mass on your body, you have to have more carbon atoms, right? You know, and that comes from the food we eat, you know, and I’m ignoring nitrogen which is in protein and stuff like that. But everything – carbohydrates, protein, fat, they all contain carbon. Okay. If I want to gain body fat and gain weight, I have to basically add more carbon to my body.

When I expend energy, I basically expend it. I basically take that carbon and I generate energy from it to produce work like move around, things like that, or maintain… keep myself alive. And then also breathe off that carbon knowing, in terms of my carbon dioxide production, so we can think of that in terms of energy expenditure.

So the only way for me to lose weight is I have to basically, if you can think about it in these terms, I have to be breathing out more carbon than I’m actually consuming in food, if you want to look at it in that terms. So if you think of your breathing out the carbon dioxide, the carbon… when you’re breathing that stuff out, that’s coming from the energy processes in your body. And so really that’s what we mean by calories in, calories out, and from a fundamental perspective, that is true.

If you want to lose weight, you have to… I mean there’s no way around it. You cannot, you have to expend more energy than you take in, ignoring changes in body water and things… that’s a different thing. But, if you want to actually lose total tissue mass, you’ve got to expend more than you take in. That’s a simple fact.  Now the problem is people will misrepresent that sometimes as then they’ll say, “oh, so what you’re saying is the type of foods you eat don’t matter.” You know, like you can lose just as much weight on just eating cakes and cookies versus, you know, having whole foods and things like that.

And that’s what we call a straw man. That’s not what calories in, calories out means. The types of foods you eat do matter, but they matter in the sense, in the way that they affect your appetite regulation and possible your energy expenditure as well. So the types of foods you eat are actually tied into the whole calories in, calories out thing.

You know, calories in, calories out is regulated in your body.  Like your body regulates calories in by changing your hunger levels and appetite. It will also regulate your calories out by, you know, making changes either in your metabolic rate or your NEAT levels. You know, how fidgety you are, physical activity, things like that. So it’s a very, it’s actually a very complex system that…yes, it’s calories in versus calories out, but there’s a lot of complex things that are regulating that system.

And so then if you want to translate that over to the hormone side, people will say, well, it’s just all about hormones. You know, you got to regulate insulin or whatever hormone that you’re interested in. And the problem with that side is they’ll ignore the fact that the calories in, calories out. So they might say, for example, they say, “oh, you just got to control your insulin levels. You can just go low carb.”

Well, I don’t care how low carbohydrate you go, if you’re still taking in more energy than you’re expending, you’re going to gain weight whether it’s low carb or low fat, it doesn’t matter. And so, but it’s not… the problem is people make it a false dichotomy. They say it’s either the calories in, calories out or it’s the hormones.  Well, it’s actually both. They both… like your hormones affect calories in and calories out. You know, there are a lot of hormones that regulate appetite.

There a hormone that’s produced by your stomach called ghrelin, it affects hunger levels. That’s a hormone that is affecting calories in.  There’s catecholomines in your body like adrenaline, noradrenaline, your fight or flight response, that type of thing cannot only affect your appetite and your calories in, they also affects your calories out.

So it’s actually a very complicated system and everything is working together to regulate what we would call energy balance. And so it’s very frustrating for me when people misrepresent energy balance and what it involves because I think it does people a disservice because then that leads you to people that… For example, let’s say they’re not losing weight and there’ll be like, “yeah, but I’m only eating like five grams of carbs a day. I should be losing weight” and they’re not understanding the energy balance still matters, you know. So I, hope that kind of answers your questions from both ends, that’s a…

How hormones affect weight loss

Ari Whitten: Yeah, it does. So let me ask you more specifically… let’s say someone consumes, you know, let’s say they’re burning 2000 calories a day.  And let’s say they consume a 1500 calorie diet or let’s say a 1200 calorie diet that is a high carb, low fat diet, and they, you know… I guess let’s phrase it in terms of a group. Okay, so a group of people all burning 2000 calories a day, eating 1200 calories a day of a high carb, low fat diet, let’s call it 75 percent carb, five percent fat And then we have another group that’s eating the opposite dietary patterns, or 75 percent fat, five percent carbohydrate, but the exact same number of total calories, 1200 calories a day, and burning the same number of calories, 2000 calories a day. Do the hormones… first of all, are there hormonal differences between those two in terms of insulin and maybe other hormones.  And second of all, do those hormonal differences translate into anything meaningful when it comes to actual weight loss?

James Krieger: First, to answer the first part of your question is yes, there are hormonal differences, particularly in insulin levels.  If you compare a five percent carbohydrate diet to a 75 percent carbohydrate diet, there’s going to be a drastic difference in insulin levels, but it’s not going to translate into greater fat loss. Assuming protein intake is the same between the two conditions, the fat loss amount is going to be exactly the same. In fact, there’s some research suggests that the high carb might lose just a little bit more fat, but really we’re talking gram amounts. It’s not enough to be of any practical significance. So we can roughly say that it’s actually going to be roughly… it’s going to be the same fat loss. Now that said, that doesn’t mean that people are going to feel the same on both diets, you know. There could be different satiety responses on both diets.

You know, depending like for example, if the person on the high carb diet… if most of those carbohydrates are coming from refined carbohydrates, you’re not getting much fiber, you know, very energy dense foods, let’s say, that person may feel more hungry, you know, compared to the person on the low carb diet. Because we do know that there’s some evidence that low carb diets tend to suppress hunger somewhat. That’s probably why some people tend to have spontaneous success with them. They, you know, they just don’t feel hungry on them.

And so you could have a difference in satiety response which then affects dietary adherence. So over time that person who’s eating mainly, let’s say refined carbohydrate, not much fiber, things like that, they’re feeling hungry all the time. They’re gonna have a hard time sticking with 1200 calories a day and pretty soon it’s 1400, 1500, 1600 and they’re not going to be losing as much. But if they can stick with the 1200, they’re going to lose the same amount of fat as the low carb diet that sticks with the 1200.

How to identify navigate scientific research on nutrition and fat loss

Ari Whitten: I want to come back to this concept of adherence and, you know, how a person feels, hunger levels, energy levels on different diets.  But let’s just go back to the simple conclusion that you just came to which is that both of these groups will lose the exact same amount of fat. Now there’s probably a portion of listeners saying, “well, what does this guy know? Because you know, I heard that low carb… you know, insulin is the thing that regulates body fat. So, and I’ve read books by Taubes or Jason Fung, or someone like that. So how should it… why should I believe you over them? What is the actual evidence that supports your claim and how do I know that you’re not just cherry picking?”  I’m speaking as the listener? “How do I not you’re not just cherry picking the data to support this idea? And that really the truth is what Gary Taubes and, and Jason Fung are saying?”

James Krieger: Yeah. So I’ll say a couple of things. First you have to look at what the weight of the evidence is, and you also have to look at the quality of that evidence. So in terms of nutrition research, the highest quality research you can have is where you have people housed in basically hospitals or metabolic wards where you have 100 percent control over their diet and they don’t leave the premises. And so, yeah, basically have control over their lives for so many weeks.

Okay, that is the highest quality research that you can have because as soon as people start getting out in free living environments and stuff like that, when people self report their food intake, it’s not, they’re not accurate. Even professional dietitians aren’t accurate in reporting on food intake. So that’s a common thing. So you have to have people in a very well controlled condition to research this. Okay. So if you look at the studies where people have done this and there’s actually, there’s a fair number of studies now that have done this. They overwhelmingly have shown the exact same fat loss between a low carb and high carb…you know, and so, you know, I would go with the weight of the evidence. The problem with that…

Ari Whitten: That hypothetical experiment that I presented to you a minute ago, one group over here burning 2000 calories but eating high fat, low carb and then the same group burning and consuming the exact same amount of calories, but high carb, low fat… that experiment or those kinds of experiments basically doing that exact thing have actually been done, is that correct?

James Krieger: Yes, they’ve been done a number of times now, by actually different … I mean the most latest work was done by a man named Kevin Hall. But even if you go back, you know, 10, 20 years, those experiments have been done in the past as well. So the problem I have… what Gary Taubes and Jason Fung, the problem with those guys is they ignore, they will ignore the high quality research like that.

And then they will cherry pick like very low quality evidence, like whether it’s anecdotal evidence or maybe a free living study where people self reported their calorie intake and they’ll use that type of evidence, or they may even misrepresent the research. I mean, I know for a fact that in Gary Taubes’ book, if you were to look up some of the studies he references, his references don’t support what he says in the book and sometimes say the exact opposite of what he says. So….

Ari Whitten: I know that there are actually online resources, I think you’ve done one and I know that are at least one or two by other people where they’ve actually gone through and systematically analyzed the references and said, you know, here he’s citing this study in support of this claim and this study actually doesn’t show this at all.

James Krieger: Yeah. There are… I just did a…  on my website a long time ago I did an analysis of just like, one or two chapters of his book, but it was just exhausting. It was exhausting just to go through one or two chapters. But another guy named Seth, I don’t remember his last name. Oh my gosh, I don’t know how he did this, but he analyzed almost every chapter in the book. It was just a monumental work and it’s freely available for people to look at it online and basically showed that most of Gary’s references don’t even support what he is saying.

So, but the thing is, you know, the general population, when they read a book like that, you know, they don’t have the time. I mean if it took me hours and hours of my time and I’m a researcher in the field, to investigate his claims. I mean you can’t expect a general layperson to do that, you know, and to even have the background to evaluate that those claims. And so, that’s the frustrating part, especially me being a researcher in the field, you know?

Ari Whitten: Yeah. I mean 99 percent of people, even if they were inclined to spend the time to investigate each one of the claims, don’t have the scientific literacy to be able to actually discern “does this study support the claim?” And it is also a problem of access. Most people don’t know how to access the full text of journals and you either have to pay for them or access them illegally.

James Krieger: So what’s funny too is, like, a lot of Gary Taubes’ references are really obscure, archaic, really old research from like the 1930s, 1940s. And he basically ignores more modern data. I mean, I remember when I was reading his book, I was just like, I was actually… I would literally get angry reading the book because I… because in my mind I’d be thinking like he’s totally ignoring all this new research, like he’s  focusing on this data collected in the 1930s when we have much better data now. And you know, so….

Ari Whitten: Yeah, gotcha. So one distinction you made is this, the difference between “metabolic ward” studies and “free living” or “ad libitum” settings. Why is that distinction important? And on the one hand, these metabolic ward studies where they’re tightly and precisely controlling for calorie intake and expenditure are extremely useful and definitive evidence to test a theory like the carbohydrate theory of fat gain. On the other hand, there’s some limitations in how they actually apply in a real world setting. So can you talk a bit about what’s going on there?

James Krieger: Yeah. So the limitations of that research is exactly what you said, because the food intake is so tightly controlled, it doesn’t necessarily mimic how a person may be able to adhere to a particular dietary strategy because the food is all… everything… the researchers are controlling what food the person consumes.

But when you have people in a free living environment and you just say, okay, I want you to follow this diet, you can have dramatic differences in dietary adherence from, you know, between various people and between different diets. And so that’s the limitation of metabolic ward research because it doesn’t tell you anything about dietary adherence. It doesn’t, you know… or how well, you know, people are going to be able to stick with any particular dietary approach.

That would be one of the biggest limitations that… why you can’t necessarily… metabolic ward studies are very good for assessing mechanisms and things like that. But from an applied perspective, you know, when you’re trying to determine, okay, what type of dietary approaches tend to work best for certain individuals? Then you need more free living studies to actually track adherence. So…

Ari Whitten: Okay, so what actually is going on that’s different in a free living setting that, you know, makes outcomes different than that controlled metabolic ward setting. What’s going on on a physiological level?

James Krieger: So on a physiological level, I mean, you have… man, there’s so many different things. First you have… and it’s funny because I actually just… I presented on some of this, I presented on dietary adherence at… for Martin MacDonald, MNU, in the UK just like about a month ago.  And so I basically I outlined, there’s three different ways that dietary adherence can be impacted. First, there’s the physical or physiological response. So basically like how hungry you feel, you know, things like that. There’s also the psychological component.

There’s a big psychological component to where, you know, when you’re in a free living environments, you know, you go to work and people are bringing donuts to work, you know, so you have a psychological temptation there, right? That may be totally independent of your hunger levels and things like that.

And then you have a third component, which is just the food environment that we live in. We have very easy access to very energy dense, very highly palatable foods 24/7. I mean, it’s very easy to get this food, there’s no obstacles to obtaining it. And so that’s another factor that plays a role in dietary adherence. You know, in a metabolic ward, you control for all three of those things.

You don’t have no… no one’s bringing donuts into the metabolic ward, you know, the people aren’t free to go to the store, you know, to get what they want.  And if the people are hungry, the researchers are like tough, you know, this is what we fed you, you know, it’s not an ad libitum study. So when, but when you get into a free living environment, you just have these things and you know, we first, you know, you mentioned the physiological solid focus on that first. And a lot of that has to do with like for example, hunger or like, you know, your energy levels, how you feel, which actually can be actually a combination of both physical and psychological. But….

How energy levels are affecting adherence to diet

Ari Whitten: And, you know, I think energy is actually important. I mean obviously my whole brand is the Energy Blueprint and it’s in the context of chronic fatigue and energy enhancement, but the interface between energy levels, subjective energy levels and appetite regulation is pretty interesting because I’ve actually seen research that shows that low energy levels is one of the biggest predictors of lack of ability to adhere to a particular diet. So as soon as people feel really like serious energy crashes, their intuitive nature is to look to food to increase their energy levels and oftentimes the willpower is the lowest in that state so they’ll do often the worst kinds of foods and their cravings will direct them toward processed foods, sugary foods, fatty foods, things like that.

James Krieger: Oh yeah, definitely. And so, you know it’s.. you know you talk… I mean, it’s almost interesting. It’s almost like a combination of physical fatigue and mental fatigue that plays a role in people’s decision making processes. You know, I know the whole idea of ego depletion and willpower has been questioned a little bit in the psychological research. I still would say, I’d say there’s probably enough data to at least support the concept in part, you know, people just seem to have a limited amount of how much energy because it takes energy to make decisions.

Right? And when you’re also making decisions about the food that you eat, and then you have all these other life stressors, you know, when it finally comes to eating the food, it’s like you just don’t have the energy to make the choices that you want to make. And then if you combine that with things like actual physical hunger or your body’s natural response to weight loss, which is another issue.  You know, there’s a natural counter regulatory response to weight loss where you, your appetite levels naturally go up, your body’s trying to resist that weight loss. And that’s another thing you’ve got to deal with. You know, it’s no wonder that people really struggle with their weight, you know, it’s an uphill battle.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. So I’ll tell you my way of thinking about this. Please tell me if you agree with this or not.  But the way I see it, the two biggest predictors of diet failure, so to speak, of lack of ability to adhere to a particular way of eating, falling off the wagon, are hunger, true physiological hunger or hunger pangs, or maybe not even, maybe also just doesn’t necessarily need to be true physiological hunger, but also psychological hunger and subjective energy levels.

So feeling fatigued. So my thinking around this has always been, we know that calories in calories out is true and that it’s not just about carbs and insulin, but what we also know is that hunger and fatigue and energy levels are very, very important here. So theoretically a, let’s say a 1200 calorie diet that is composed of foods that work with your physiology in a way that cause you to feel fatigued and also feel hungry versus a 1200 calorie diet with a mixture of foods that causes you to feel much more energetic and much less hungry is, in the long term, much more likely to result in long term weight loss success.

Ari Whitten: So first of all, do you agree with that or…

James Krieger: I would tend to agree with that concept. Yeah.

Ari Whitten: Would you say those are the two biggest factors in long term success, or what would you add to it?

James Krieger: It’s hard for me to say, because that’s a really good question. I might add to it the concept of rigid versus flexible approaches.  We know that the research is fairly strong that people who follow very, very rigid dietary approaches tend to fail more often than people who have some sort of flexible restraint. Now, when I say flexibility, I don’t mean you just eat whatever you want, but there’s a certain amount of flexibility in you’ll, in the way that you eat.

You know, it’s not like these foods are bad, I can’t have those, you know, that’s rigid restraint, in the literature that’s called rigid restraint. Versus a flexible restraint approach would be like, okay, I know most of the time I probably, you know, I’ll keep these foods out of my diet most of the time, but occasionally I’ll have it in there a little bit, you know, that’s flexible restraint. And the literature is fairly strong that flexible restraint works much better over the long term than rigid restraint does. So that’s probably the one thing I would add to it.

Why finding a weight loss plan that works for you is important

Ari Whitten: Gotcha. You know, on that note, to digress a little bit, in my experiences there seems to be some personality differences. I am, I tend to advocate more of an approach of moderation and with flexible restraints.

James Krieger: Yeah.

Ari Whitten: But I know of one program from a friend of mine named Susan Peirce Thompson who has a program called Bright Line Eating and she really is targeting people who are, you could call it addicted. I know that that word is kind of controversial when it comes to food, but to talk of sugar addicts or addicted to food and processed food and things like that, but who have binge like behaviors and lack of control around their food and processed food habits.

A subset of those people seem to do… seem to only succeed with the rigid restraint, the very black and white, like you have to completely abstain from these foods and have very, very clear rule sets that you can never break because if you break them, then they start to lose all control and binge and they can’t get back on track.

Whereas there is also seen… I think more broadly if you were to assess the population at large. I think what you’re saying is absolutely true. That as a majority of the population, most people will do better just because it’s like real world, like it is hard to abstain from any bite of anything really delicious all of the time permanently. So like having one meal a week or a couple of meals a week or one day or whatever, where you’re allowed to “cheat” I think works best for most people. Would you kind of agree?

James Krieger: I would agree with that and I would agree that at least anecdotally there does seem to be possibly a subset. But you know, when we talk about research and one thing I want to note when we’re talking about research, we’re talking about average responses typically because that’s what scientists do. They take groups of people and compare groups of people. But the average doesn’t necessarily always tell you what’s going on with individuals.

So when we talk about something happening on average, what we’re talking about is, hey, this is what’s gonna work for most people. And so yeah, flexible restraint is going to work for most people. That doesn’t mean though that there may be a small number of people who may actually have more benefit from a more rigid approach. And then there may even be situations where, for example, someone starts off with a rigid approach and then gradually introduces some flexibility over time.

I mean, what was interesting is the program that I used to be involved with 20/ LifeStyles. They had… they started off at… they would start when someone started the program, they’d start off as a rigid approach.  But each week they would gradually introduce just a little bit of flexibility, over time. So that was the approach they used and it was fairly successful. So, you can use a mix of some of these approaches as well. So it’s not like either flexible or rigid, you know.

Why you should be cautious about listening to the latest diet trends

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Absolutely. So I  have, I want to come back to this concept of adherence because this word you’ve mentioned a lot of times, but I think a lot of people listening probably don’t appreciate the importance of that word in the same way that you or I do.  Most people, because we have a diet culture where there’s a new diet book being published everyday that’s saying, hey, everything you thought you knew about the way to eat was right and, you know, really these foods are bad and really plants are killing you, and really you should go vegan or really you should go low carb or you should go keto or whatever it is.

There’s some new thing everyday. There’s, because we have all these people basically trying to profit and make money off of convincing people that they have the magic diet or that, you know, there’s a saying “people love good news about their bad habits.”

There’s a lot of people out there trying to make money off of telling people stuff that we know is not true and it’s not aligned with the evidence. But people will buy because they like the idea. So, because of that, there’s a lot of people that are used to thinking “what is the magic diet? What is the magic macronutrient ratio low carb to fat ratio that’s gonna… that is the real truth about how to succeed. Is it Paleo? Is it keto? Is it veganism? Is it low fat? Is it, you know, Mediterranean, is it intermittent…? What is the magic diet?”  And so there’s probably people thinking that right now as they’re listening to this, “why is this guy talking about adherence and calories? Like, just tell me what the magic diet is that is the one that actually works the best.”  So what’s your answer to that question?

James Krieger: Well, my answer to that question is the magic diet that works the best is the one that you can actually adhere to. So let me give you an example. There was a study done a few years back where they compared four different very popular diets. They compared Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers I think, and there was one other diet, I don’t remember what….

Ari Whitten: South Beach.

James Krieger: Yeah. It might’ve been, I don’t remember exactly,  but they compared four different diets. So when you look at the group data, there was essentially no differences in weight loss between all four diets, right? But then the researchers did another analysis where they looked at it in terms of dietary adherence and what they found is that the people within each diet who adhered the best to that particular dietary strategy had the best results. Now, one diet wasn’t better than the other in terms of adherence.

James Krieger: They both, all four diets had people who were very adherent and people who were not very adherent. So one diet wasn’t better than the other in terms of adherence. But if you looked within each diet, the people who adhered the best within that diet had the best results compared to the people who didn’t adhere.  What that suggests is from a real world perspective is that there’s a lot of approaches that can work for someone, but you’ve got to find the approach that you feel comfortable sticking with over the long term. Not just short term, but something that you feel like, okay, I could do this year in and year out. No problem…

Ari Whitten: Just to interject right now, because you said there’s a lot of approaches that can work for different people, in those studies that you’re referencing or that specific study, but  there are many others like it, they find that diets of completely polar opposite macronutrient ratios, often people will often lose the same exact amount of weight in the long term. And it’s more about adherence, that, word that you keep mentioning “adherence” rather than the magical macronutrient ratios.

James Krieger: Yeah, exactly. And so really what that means is there’s individualization. You need to find an approach that can work with you and how you feel and things like that. I mean, you know… if you feel great on low carb and you can stick with it for a long period of time, then do low carb, you know. But some people, they either feel horrible on low carb, or even if they don’t feel horrible on low carb, they can’t stick with it because, you know, carbs are so ubiquitous in our society. And so it doesn’t matter, even if the research showed that low carb was the magic one, right? If you can’t stick with it, then what does it matter? Like if you can’t actually adhere to it, it doesn’t matter anyway.

Ari Whitten: Just like, just to make that even more tangible for people. Let’s say hypothetically speaking, you had a diet that was proven in longterm studies. Okay, this is the magic diet. This is superior to everything else. But that diet was so extreme that we knew that when we track people over time, after six months, 75 percent of people cannot, are no longer on that diet because they can’t follow it. Versus some other diet that weight loss results are not quite as good even when it’s followed perfectly. But when we track six months later, we find that 90 percent of people are still on that diet. Which one of those two ones, two diets are you going to prescribe to people?

James Krieger: The second one, like hands down. It’s like there’s no contest because ultimately what matters is the real world results. Not some hypothetical magical number, which doesn’t, which we know doesn’t really exist based on all the data. So…

The best diet for fat loss – Paleo or Keto?

Ari Whitten: Yeah. So what would you say as far as what the overall body of evidence says about adherence in different dietary context of low carb or keto or Paleo? I know a lot of the research still isn’t in yet, but what’s your general sense of, you know, where adherence rates tend to be best? What kind of diets allow for best…

James Krieger: I will say, I will say adherence rates tend to be better when the diet is higher in protein because protein is a very satiating macronutrient and it helps keep you feeling fuller. So I would say that would be one. If you look at the National Weight Control Registry, which is a national database of people who have lost I think at least 30 pounds and kept it off for at least a year.

They’ve done a lot of research on this group of people and they found that those, people tend to… what’s interesting is there’s actually very few low carbers in that group. The people that are in that group tend to have a lot of fruits and vegetables, you know, just a lot of whole foods, things like that.  So that seems to be an approach that, you know, seems to be at least a little bit more effective over the long term.

From a society standpoint, you know, there’s data that a diet that’s higher in fiber, may help with adherence, just again, because it makes you… it helps you feel fuller. And also a diet that’s… I would say lower in energy density. So when I say energy density, and this is what I’m talking about, I always like to contrast, for example, an apple and a peanut butter cup. So an apple, you know, it might be a little bit bigger than the size of my fist.

And an apple that size is only about 80 calories. Right? A peanut  butter cup, which is actually much, much smaller than the apple actually has more calories than the apple does, even though it’s a fraction the size of the apple, that’s energy density. That peanut butter cup packs a lot of calories into a very small package.

We know that people who eat lower energy dense diets like fruits, vegetables, things like that… they feel more satiated and they will also spontaneously eat less than people who eat very energy dense foods. And, it has to do with things like food reward in the brain and everything. You know, our brains value energy density from an evolutionary perspective. Our brains value energy density, and so that’s why it’s very easy to passively overeat those types of foods. So, a diet that tends to minimize those energy dense foods tends to work better over the long run as well from a satiated inherit standpoint.

Ari Whitten: Great. What…so over the last year or two, keto has obviously become a huge trend. What is your general sense of… I know there’s a lot of facets to this. We could  probably spend five hours on this topic alone, but what is your general sense of keto as far as the research? Does it support a lot of the claims around keto and weight loss and other benefits of keto, or I guess we could focus on weight loss first and not digress too much on all the different aspects of health.

James Krieger: Yeah, well we do know that if you control for calories, there’s no fat loss advantage to keto.  We know that from Kevin Hall’s recent research, and things like that. So there’s no fat loss advantage if you control for calories. That said there is some evidence that being on keto may suppress your appetite a little bit.

There was one study that was done on obese people, so it was really interesting. It took obese people. They had them on a normal diet. Then they jacked their protein intake up really high and the people’s spontaneous calorie intakes went way down, like almost by a thousand calories a day or something. Some huge amount, so that was the high protein, right? And so then they decided, okay, well let’s take it even further and go really low carb, which would ultimately would cause them to go into ketosis.

And what they found is there was even further reduction in calorie intake, not nearly as much as the protein intake though it was like around maybe a 200 to 250 calories per day reduction in calorie intake. Which means that being in keto tended to suppress appetite even a little bit further than the high protein intake did. Although the protein was still the most powerful satiating factor.   So, from that perspective on… in the short term, people may have some satiety benefits from keto and then you also have things like when you go on keto you’re suddenly eliminating all these high reward foods like cakes, cookies, ice cream and stuff like that, you know, the foods that trigger reward centers in your brain or want us to eat more. So there’s that aspect as well.

How food rewards affect your adherence to diets

You know, when you remove that food reward aspect, that’s obviously going to play a role in saity. And that’s in the short term.  The problem though with keto, it’s very difficult to sustain it over a long period of time. And in fact, it’s very difficult to stay in ketosis even if you keep your carbohydrate low, you know, you have to be consuming, you know, maybe 25 grams of carbs a day, which is very, very hard to adhere to.

You know, it really limits your food choices. So from a longterm adherence perspective, I would say for most people, keto is not gonna work, you know, it’s just… there’s just… carbs are just way too ubiquitous. It just… it creates too much inflexibility in your food choices where I think, for most people, it’s not going to be sustainable in the long run. I’m sure there’s some people who have no problem sustaining it and that’s fine. But, there’s no magical… I will say there is no magical fat loss benefit to it other than possibly, like I said, small appetite suppressing effects that some people like. So…

Ari Whitten: Yeah.  Let me recap that real quick for people because there’s a lot of great information packed in there. So we have the general claims out there for low carb and keto, which largely revolve still around, kind of that carbohydrates and insulin are uniquely fattening and are driving fat gain. And so we have to lower those things to get into a hormonal state that drives fat loss. That aspect… those claims are not true. And we know that definitively from the metabolic ward studies, including very recent ones even funded by Gary Taubes’/Kevin Hall research that you’re referring to. But there is this other potential mechanism by which they can actually potentially, it’s not totally established, but there’s some research suggesting that it may help control, going back to the calories in, calories out stuff, it may help control calories in by suppressing appetite a little bit more or maybe considerably more for some people while being in a state of ketosis.

And by virtue of that, you’re lowering overall calorie intake, that’s driving fat loss.  So it’s not because of insulin, it’s because of still calories, so that shift is important. But then we also have to deal… the situation, kind of going back to what I was talking about hypothetically earlier, which is that it’s kind of a restrictive extreme diet at least by many people’s perceptions and especially given the ubiquitousness of carbs in our culture that, a lot of people have a really difficult time sustaining this in the long run, even if they were really successful in the initial few weeks or few months with that appetite suppressant effect and losing a lot of weight.  In the long run, a lot of people just, you’ll find  don’t actually stay on it, on a ketogenic diet in the long run, is that accurate?

James Krieger: Yup, yup, that’s accurate. Yeah.

Ari Whitten: So one other topic you’ve mentioned a few times in passing is the concept of food reward and palatability of the diet. What’s that all about?

James Krieger: So food reward basically deals with the fact that,  you know, we have reward centers in our brain that basically almost act as a motivator for us to do a certain behavior again. So, you know, various rewarding activities like sex and everything, all impact, reward centers in our brain.

Now extreme examples are addictions, like gambling, things like that where, you know, drug addictions, like cocaine, things like that, those stimulate the reward centers in your brain so much that you just have to keep getting that hit of that reward. Well, food reward kind of works in the same way and part of its from an evolutionary perspective, you know… if you think of our ancestors, you know they never knew when they were going to get food next, right? So our brains evolved to value calories. Our brains like calories because we want to make sure we get calories to sustain ourselves.

Well, the things that contain calories are fat and sugar, and, you know, and  the flavors and textures associated with those.  And, so when we eat foods, especially that contain the combination of both, it stimulates the reward centers in our brain.  You know, I actually like to use the example of kids, you know, most parents have a hard time getting their kids to eat vegetables. And the reason is is because vegetables are not rewarding to our brains.

Vegetables, in terms of a…  there’s something called optimal foraging theory, which is basically the concept that, you know, the value of a food to our brain is related to the calories that it gives us and also the calories that we have to extend getting that food.  Well for vegetables, you have to spend a lot of energy just gathering them and getting them, especially if you’re like a hunter gatherer, right?

But they don’t give you much calories. So, our brains don’t value that. Our brain certainly value fat and very, and things that give us a lot of energy, energy dense sources.  And, well, you know, food manufacturers have over the years learned to more refine ingredients to really enhance the reward properties of a food because they want you to buy their food. Right? I almost like to use… it’s a… the natural consequence of a competitive economy, you know, you have all these food manufacturers competing for your dollar, so they’re going to make the foods as rewarding at tastes and highly palatable as possible. Right?

Ari Whitten: It’s just smart business, right, to keep people coming back?  And there’s even, what was it, Pringles, was it or maybe Frito Lay or one of the potato chip brands was something like, “I bet you can’t just have one.”

James Krieger: Yeah,  exactly it’s that concept of food reward. And so what happens is we know that foods,  and typically the foods that are high reward foods are foods that are very high fat and high in sugar and things like that. And they’re very energy dense because they stimulate the reward centers of our brain because they’re telling our brains, oh, we’re getting calories.

Our brains, like I said, our brains don’t know that we live in a food… our brains don’t live in… our brains haven’t evolved to know that, okay, food is plentiful now, we don’t have to worry about whether we’re going to get it or not. Our brain still value that…  value calories. So anything that signifies calories, sweet taste, fat, the texture of fat… the composition of those foods stimulate the reward centers of our brain and basically motivate us to want to eat it again or eat more.

And so we’re more likely to passively overeat those foods without necessarily feeling full. A really interesting experiment done, a metabolic work study actually, was interesting. It was done in the early eighties and it was kind of almost accidental in a sense. So it was Eric Robinson and his colleagues, and he is like a well known metabolism researcher, he wanted to do a metabolic work study. But he wanted to kind of mimic a free living environment.

And so he didn’t want to just, you know, have set foods that he gave the subjects. He wanted the people to have at least some autonomy in the foods that they chose and stuff. So he just… so he had these vending machines, right? And these vending machines would have a lot of calorie dense, high reward foods. Now the intention wasn’t at the time when he did the research, was not for the people to overeat or whatever.

Typically what’s interesting is if you put humans in a metabolic work study, you try to get them to overeat, you actually, it’s actually very hard to do. But in his study the foods were all high reward foods and so what he found was the people overate massively without even the researchers telling them to overeat. And it’s because the foods that were available were foods like, you know, Pringles are a perfect example. I’ve had Pringles  before.

There’s a reason I don’t keep them in my house. I could seriously eat a whole tub of those, I mean a whole tube of those things, you know, because it’s just like, it’s, they taste so good, they stimulate the reward centers in your brain and it’s just not satiating. And so you can eat a large amount and pretty soon you’ve eaten like way more calories than what you would know. So yeah, so, and there is a lot of really strong evidence that food reward may in fact be… there are a lot of factors driving obesity, but food reward may be probably the biggest factor that’s been driving the obesity epidemic because…

The reason why we consume more calories today

Ari Whitten: Yeah, that was actually going to be my next question is, you know, of… so we know that calories do matter. We track the obesity epidemic over time, that calories have actually gone up. Calorie consumption per person has gone up by 400 or 500 calories per day per person over the last, what, I think 50 years or something like that. So the question is what is driving that increase in calories? Because it’s not that people just woke up one day and decided, hey, I think I’ll start eating 400 or 500 calories each day or more than my dad did, or our mom did. So what drove that? And it sounds like you think food reward and, you know, the prevalence of processed foods and businesses, food manufacturers consciously manipulating  the ingredients in formulas of their processed foods to maximize reward and palatability in our brain is probably, what the single biggest factor driving that increase in calorie intake and fat gain.

James Krieger: Yes, that’s my opinion. I, and I’m not the only guy that has that opinion. I mean, I know Stefan has that opinion and there are other researchers as well. I would say, I mean if you look at all the scientific data, that’s probably, I’d say, at least in my opinion, the weight of the evidence suggests that’s probably one of the biggest drivers of obesity. It’s not the only driver. There’s other things as well, but that’s definitely… it plays a big role in it. So…

The biggest factors for driving fat gain

Ari Whitten: Yeah. So I know we’re running short on time here, but what, real quick, what do you think are maybe like two other of the biggest factors driving fat gain?

James Krieger: Okay. So if we set the food reward aside, and I’m actually going to include food variety in that because there’s also evidence that when you have… it’s actually called the buffet effect.  You will eat more at a buffet than you would if you just had a set plate of a meal, you know, because there’s evidence that the variety of foods… we eat more when you have a higher variety of foods and we have a much higher variety of foods now available to us than we did 20, 30 years ago.

Just different flavors of things, you know, just things like that. I’ll include that in the food reward area. So aside from food reward, a couple things that come to my mind that I think are also big drivers. I would say… I’m actually going to name three, I’ll name three that I can think of.

One is the increased intake of sugary beverages over the years. There’s very good data suggests that sugary beverage intake is kind of correlated with obesity.  The thing is, when you drink your calories, you know, and that includes not just like sodas, but you know, you go to starbucks and you have a full calorie latte or whatever with all the calories in it and everything, you’re drinking your calories, there’s evidence that when you drink your calories, the satiety response is not as strong as if you eat solid food.

So even if I eat something that’s purely sugar, like jelly beans… in fact, there was a study that compared jelly beans to cola, I think.  And the people did not feel, even though they had the same amount of calories, the people felt more satiated with the jelly beans versus the cola because it was the liquid calories you just… it takes no effort to digest basically. So, I say liquid calories and sugary beverages are one component there.  I would say another component, I would say is sleep loss. There’s evidence that loss of  sleep, people are getting less and less sleep over the years over the past few decades and that seems to track with obesity.

Ari Whitten: And that, you know, also interfaces with the calories in, calories out, model in both ways in that it’s, you know, sleep loss and circadian rhythm disruption have been shown to affect hormones that regulate appetite control cravings. So you’re going to eat more calories in goes up. And then also calories out goes down for obvious reasons, you feel low energy and fatigue.

James Krieger: Oh, yeah, exactly. And even on top of that, I mean, if you’re not getting as much sleep, even just from a… you just have more… the more you’re awake, the more opportunity you have to eat. I mean, it’s also just a…  yeah you know…  if I’m only getting four hours of sleep per night, that’s another four hours, I’m awake.  Sometime in that four hours, I’m probably going to eat something.

Right? You know you have that much more opportunity to eat. So that’s even, even just that, ignoring hormones and everything else, that plays a role. So, I would say sleep loss is a second one.  And then a third one I will say is loss of physical activity but not necessarily from the energy expenditure component. So because if you track, you know, for example, the obesity epidemic really exploded between 1980 and 2000, in that 20 year period, but physical activity in that 20 year period didn’t change much. Now since 2000, or the late nineties and 2000, physical activity has started to drop.

And I would say it’s probably because of the tech explosion, you know.  In the late nineties and this decade, more and more people now have computer jobs compared to the 1980s and things like that. So now I would say physical activity is probably more and more playing a role.

But what people don’t even consider, you know, when people think of physical activity, they think of the calories out, the energy expenditure. What people don’t understand is the actually physical activity impacts how you regulate your food intake. And there’s evidence to show that people who are inactive do not regulate, their brains don’t regulate the food intake as well as people who are active. And so I would say that the increase in sedentary lifestyles over the years, may even have contributed to overeating because, you know, because our brains are just, are not regulating our food intake as well. So…

Ari Whitten: You know, I’ll add one little thing to that.  I’m sure you’ve seen the studies where they’ve looked at like NEAT compensators versus non NEAT compensators. So I’ll, well I’ll let you explain that, but my understanding is kind of like now that we’ve transitioned to a more sedentary world when we overconsume calories, some people, and it seems to mostly be genetic because they’ve done studies with identical twins to figure that out.

Some people naturally respond by moving their body more and fidgeting and having more of a tendency to get up and move and actually burn off the excess calories and thus not gain weight. And other people are biologically or genetically programmed not to really do that very well. And so when they consume excess calories, they just stay seated and store excess fat.

James Krieger: Yeah, that’s definitely true. And in fact, a man named Jim Levine did a study just like that. He overfed people by a thousand calories a day and then looked at the fat gain. And he found some people gained a lot of fat, some people didn’t gain very much fat. And what he found is that correlated with the response in their NEAT levels, or spontaneously physical activity.

So some people responded, their bodies responded to the overeating by suddenly they were fidgeting more and just, it’s like they were burning off the extra energy. And the other people who did not, were not as genetically lucky… didn’t experience that. And we know that, there’s even rodent esearch to show that. I mean, there’s a… you can actually, what’s interesting, I’ve talked, I’ve lectured on NEAT a lot and you can actually breed rodents to be physically active or sedentary, which means there’s a genetic component to people’s drive to be active, you know. So…

Ari Whitten: And what… do you think NEAT is a really important factor in all of this? And…

James Krieger: I do, I do think NEAT is a very important factor, especially I would say, especially in the past decade I would say. Like I said, with the explosion of the tech industry and stuff I’d say NEAT is probably playing a bigger and bigger role.

Ari Whitten: And, real quick, I don’t know if we defined NEAT. Did you define NEAT earlier?

James Krieger: Yeah, I didn’t, so NEAT stands for non exercise activity thermogenesis. It’s also called…  known as SPA, or spontaneous physical activity, and basically just refers to all your physical activity you do during the day, other than like your formal exercise, you know. So, you know, you go out for a run or you go to the gym or whatever. That’s exercise, that’s not NEAT.  But NEAT includes everything from as simple as fidgeting to even the movement of your mouth as you talk expends a little bit of energy. That’s NEAT. All of that falls under the umbrella of NEAT, so…

Ari Whitten: Gotcha. So do you think the loss of NEAT as we transitioned from, you know, kind of hunter gatherer lifestyles and agricultural lifestyles, jobs where we had to actually move our bodies, to now kind of sitting here at a computer like you and and I are doing, we both have online businesses and spend a lot of time behind a computer, not doing much.

We are physically active outside of that, but a lot of people aren’t. A lot of people are just seated or laying almost the entire day and don’t really do much NEAT or physical activity. So do you think the transition from a movement focused world where NEAT was built into our lives, to the modern sedentary world, do you think that’s a big driver of fat gain as well?

James Krieger: I do think so. I think that’s played a role and,  like I said, I think it plays both a role in the energy expenditure component, but also in the energy intake regulation component. I think even having lower NEAT levels probably plays a role in your appetite regulation. So it all ties together, you know…

Ari Whitten: Yeah. I hope people have a sense of that, like how many of these different factors, whether hormones or NEAT or inactivity, how they’re all kind of tying into the calories in, calories out equation.  Like calories in, calories out isn’t just how many calories you consciously are trying to eat or burn each day.  There’s so many different forces that are acting on our biology that are unconsciously influencing the calories out… the calories in, calories out equation.

James Krieger: Yes, exactly. And I think that’s what people need to understand, you know.  And just how complicated that regulation really is and all the different factors that play a role. I mean, that’s why we still do not have any really effective anti obesity drug because there are so many different pathways that are regulating both energy intake and energy expenditure. If I’m a drug manufacturer and I block one pathway, let’s say one component of a pathway that affects appetite, there’s still 100 other pathways in your body that affect appetite as well, you know, that will take over. And so that’s why it’s very, very difficult to develop an anti obesity drug because there are so many different physiological mechanisms that play a role.

James’ top 3 strategies fat loss

Ari Whitten: Well, this is, this has been great, James.  There’s tons of great content in here. What I’d love you to do now to finish us off is if you could give your top three kind of quick strategies, like practical strategies of what people should focus on if their goal is to lose weight. What are those people, your top three things that those people need to understand?

James Krieger: I would say my top three are, number one, eat out less. Reduce how much you eat out. That can actually play a big, I mean, especially if you’re a person who eats out a lot, just eating out less could actually help you out a lot. I’d say number two, either limit the accessibility or visibility of energy dense foods in your house or just keep them out of the house altogether. You know, I, I’d say, your home food environment is the number one thing that you can manage and control, and being that most of us are home at least a good chunk of our lives. I mean, that’s probably a good place to start.

So I’d say that’d be the second thing. And then I would say the third thing is, just making an effort to move around more. That may not necessarily help you with the weight loss. I mean, weight loss still… the biggest factor in weight loss is your ability to adhere to a particular diet versus your exercise program. Now I’m not saying exercise isn’t important, but the research is very, very, very clear on this. People who are very physically active do a much better job of keeping the weight off once they’ve lost it versus people who aren’t. So that’s, there’s… that data is overwhelming.

And so even if the physical activity doesn’t necessarily help you lose the weight a whole lot, it’s going to help you keep it off because what it does is it gives you a buffer.  One of the things it does is it gives you a buffer because once you’ve lost all the weight, you know, what’s going to happen is over time you’re going to get a little bit more relaxed with your behavior. Your calorie intake is going to start to creep up a little bit. But if you stay physically active, it gives you a buffer against that, you know, increasing your calorie intake. So I saying that’s the third thing.

Ari Whitten: Okay. One last question. We can call this number four. Do you think people need to learn the skill of calorie counting or can they just rely on their food quality? And, what’s your general recommendation as your, as your fourth? I said top three you’re going to do four.

James Krieger: So here’s what I would say on that. I would say if I were just to go on average, I would say most people would benefit from at least doing some calorie counting for a period of time. Just, if anything, to develop an awareness of how much energy you’re actually eating and how much energy is in certain foods. Now calorie counting can be very tedious, right? And it’s not necessarily a long term strategy for a lot of people.

Now that said, I know of plenty of people who lose significant amount of weights without calorie counting at all. Now they pay attention to their food quality or whatever. And if you’re one of those people who can do that, then that’s great. You know, you don’t necessarily need to count calories.  But, I would say, if you are a person who’s been paying attention to your food quality and you’re still not getting anywhere, then you’d probably want to break down and start tracking your calories at least for a period of time. And that means everything that goes into your mouth and don’t lie to yourself. Right? I have all kinds of interesting stories about people who didn’t track certain things because either they just kind of mindlessly ate the things or whatever.

Like, actually, Martin Macdonald had a great story for me one time about this one male client who was… what he was tracking… accordingly to what he was tracking, he should have been losing weight. And he wasn’t, but one thing he was not tracking was he would suck on these candies like all day, like he’d just put a candy in his mouth and I don’t know how many candies he’d go through, but it was mindless.  He wasn’t even thinking about that he was just putting these candies into his mouth and he was probably having 300- 400 calories worth of these candies throughout the day. And that’s why he wasn’t losing the weight because that was the one thing he was missing. So you need to know everything counts and a lot of times you’re probably eating more than you think.

So I would say for the person who is paying attention to food quality, but is not getting anywhere. Yeah, you’d probably want to track calories at least for a period of time to develop that awareness and educate because it is educational. So…

Ari Whitten: Awesome. Beautiful Man. Well, this has been great, great content. And I know that you have your program, Weightology, which is a membership site packed with content. Can you tell my audience a little bit about what that’s all about? I’ve seen a ton of what you’ve done in there. I’ve read it, like I said at the beginning, it’s actually been a big influence on a lot of my thinking in this area and I’ve learned a lot from you. But talk a bit about what Weightology is all about.

James Krieger: Yeah. So my website,, I have a number of different sections on the site. I have a number of free articles. So earlier we talked about insulin. One of the most popular article series on my site is a series on insulin and it’s freely available for people to read. And it’s still, I think that series probably gotten more hits on my website than anything else, but…

So I’ve a number of free articles. For people that are really interested in science and learning more about the science of weight loss and fat loss and muscle gain and all those things. I have a monthly research review,  and people just pay it… it’s a very nominal fee of like $12 per month. And in the membership site, you have access to all content including all past content. So I’ll cover all the latest research in things like appetite, nutrition…

James Krieger: I cover a lot on weight training and building muscle, things like that, so people that are interested in that stuff, you know, may want to check the research review out. And also, a lot of my past podcast appearances are on, I’ve posted on there… so this one, I’ll eventually post a link to it on there. But you know, people want to hear me talk about, you know, maybe topics that we didn’t get a chance to go into in this one, you can check out some of my past podcast appearances on there as well. So..

Ari Whitten: Yeah, I’m sure, I know there’s a ton more that people can learn from you. And also like practical, just step by step guidance as far as losing weight and what to do if you’ve plateaued. And, you know, all kinds of great stuff like that. So, and I’ve seen, like I said, a ton of content in Weightology and it’s brilliant stuff, and I mean, it’s all just hardcore evidence based content that you’re breaking down in simple ways. So I can’t recommend it highly enough to everyone listening. Go check it out, what is it, or?

James Krieger: Yeah, dot net, yes.

Ari Whitten: Dot net, okay. And we’ll have a link on the page as well, on this podcast page as well. So James, thank you so much. It’s been such a pleasure to do this with you and to finally connect with you in person after years of following your work. So, I’ve really enjoyed it and I know my listeners are going to love this as well. Thank you so much.

James Krieger: Yeah, thank you. Thanks for having me.

Science Says The Best Diet For Fat Loss Is The One You Can Stick To │ How To Lose Body Fat Using SCIENCE, with Researcher James Krieger – Show Notes

How we gain fat (and how to lose fat) (5:00)
How hormones affect weight loss (12:15)
How to identify navigate scientific research on nutrition and fat loss (15:32)
How energy levels are affecting adherence to diet (25:27)
Why finding a weight loss plan that works for you is important (30:49)
Why you should be cautious about listening to the latest diet trends (33:55)
The best diet for fat loss – Paleo or Keto? (39:37)
How food rewards affect your adherence to diets (44:38)
The reason why we consume more calories today (53:26)
The biggest factors for driving fat gain (54:51)
James’ top 3 strategies to fat loss (1:04:18)


Learn more about the work James does, here.

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How nutrient deficiencies cause fatigue(and the most important minerals and vitamins for fatigue) with Dr. Chris Masterjohn │ How To Lose Body Fat │Best Diet For Fat Loss,
Food is important, however, many walk around with nutrient deficiencies which cause the body to be unable to lose body fat. Listen in, as Chris Masterjohn shares his insight into nutrients and nutrient deficiencies.
The Best Way To Exercise For Energy, Weight Loss, And Longevity │Why Most People Are Exercising In Ways That Are Not Optimal For Health (And How To Overcome Exercise Intolerance) - Best Diet For Fat Loss │ How To Lose Body Fat,
While nutrition is essential for fat loss. Exercise and movement is key to heealth, energy and fat loss. Listen in to the podcast with Alex Viana on how to overcome exercise intolerance.

What Causes Food Intolerance? │How To Identify And Treat Food Intolerance (The Best Food Intolerance Test)

What Causes Food Intolerance How To Identify And Treat Food Intolerance The Best Food Sensitivity Testing Method With Dr. Keith Scott-MumbyFood allergies and food intolerances have become a worldwide epidemic. And food intolerances may be behind your symptoms, like fatigue, skin issues, migraines, and many other types of symptoms. When talking to many holistic health professionals about your reaction to foods, they will likely tell you that you need to get some sort of food sensitivity testing done. Contrary to popular belief, virtually all of these tests are highly inaccurate and simply not scientifically valid. (And they’re usually expensive, to make matters worse.) Even though these tests may have the appearance of being very cutting-edge and scientific, the research actually shows that they’re far from it. You are basically throwing your money out of the window with most of these food intolerance tests.

Does that mean that it is impossible to find out exactly what food you react negatively to? No. It is very possible, and it is actually much easier and cheaper than you think. (So not only will this podcast show you a much more scientifically valid and accurate way to identify your food intolerances, it will save you a whole bunch of time and money in the process.)

This week, I am with Dr. Keith Scott-Mumby, who is a pioneer in the field of holistic medicine and has been an expert on food allergies and food intolerances for over 30 years now (even before food intolerances were even recognized as a thing, and during a time when everyone thought he was crazy for talking about it.) He has spent many decades transforming the lives of patients who visit his clinic with complaints of fatigue, migraines, and depression. Dr. Mumby has devised a simple, yet powerful, food intolerance test and way of eating that will help you identify if you have a food intolerance within days.

If you want to know if food intolerances are behind your symptoms (like fatigue, skin problems, hair loss, low libido, excess mucous, joint pain, migraines, IBS, etc.), then this is the podcast to listen to.

In this podcast, you’ll learn

  • The bitter truth about food intolerance tests (the blood tests from labs)
  • The easy and scientifically valid way to identify what food or foods you are intolerant to
  • The huge difference between food intolerance and food allergy
  • How you can often identify if you have a food intolerance within just a few days
  • How food allergies and addiction go hand-in-hand
  • Why elimination diets are a short-term solution (and why staying on them for longer periods of time can make you sick)
  • The ways food intolerance symptoms show up (some of them might surprise you)
  • How food intolerance can lead to chronic diseases

(Note: If you want in-depth guidance on how to find and fix the food intolerances that may be driving your symptoms, I highly recommend Dr. Keith’s book “Diet Wise”, which you can get HERE.)

Download or listen on iTunes

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Listen outside of iTunes


What Causes Food Intolerance? │How To Identify And Treat Food Intolerance (The Best Food Intolerance Test) with Dr. Keith Scott-Mumby – Transcript

Ari Whitten: Hey, everyone. Welcome back to The Energy Blueprint Podcast. I am your host, Ari Whitten, and today, I am with Dr. Keith Scott Mumby, who is a pioneer in the field of holistic medicine. He is an MD, or the equivalent of that, you have a bunch of letters over in the UK, MBChB, but it’s basically the same thing as an MD here in the United States, and a surgeon, and he is specifically a pioneer and an expert in the field of food allergies and food intolerances. Interesting fun fact, he wrote his first book on food allergies when I was two years old, back in 1985, so he’s been doing this a very long time. Welcome, Dr. Keith.

Dr. Keith Scott-Mumby: Thanks, Ari. It’s great to be here. Actually, it was just funny hearing you say that. Back in the UK, because back in the early days, when all this was so new, that food allergies, they used to call it Mumby jumbo in my city, because I was the kind of pioneer figure. Of course, they ended up eating their words by the end of the ’90s. Everyone understood it, but I was considered a quack in the late ’70s and early ’80s. In medicine, if you go from quack to respectable in less than 20 years, that’s meteoric in medicine.

Ari Whitten: As we just kind of alluded to, you’ve been doing this for a very long time, long before holistic medicine and alternative medicine was popular, like it is now, and you’ve probably seen a whole lot of fads come and go in that span of 30 plus years. So, I would love to kind of just have you talk a bit about how you got into this field, and the origins at the very beginning of being probably more in the conventional paradigm, and then kind of figuring out the whole food energy stuff and pioneering that. How did all of that happen?

Dr. Keith Scott-Mumby: Kind of serendipity, I guess, you know? There’s a lot of doctors got into this kind of specialty and interest because they were sick. They had migraine, and someone showed them about food allergies, and they found it was bananas, or wheat, or something. Migraine went. That’s it. They were instant converts.

That’s not true for me, Ari. I read a book, actually, by a British psychiatrist called Richard Mackarness back in ’76, it was published. I thought, “Phooey. This is either baloney, or it’s an amazing breakthrough. I better find out.” Instead of being like my colleague and saying, “What a bunch of baloney,” I put patients on exclusion diets. Lo and behold, I got spectacular recoveries, and I thought, “This really does work. It’s amazing stuff.” So, I made the jump pretty well from the orthodox field. I’m orthodox trained, as you said. I’ve trained as a physician, a surgeon. I used to win prizes at medical school, but very unsatisfying, you know?

I was pretty happy to jump the fence, and by the early ’80s, I was pounding along, doing this. By the ’90s, they were calling me the number one allergy detective, you know? In fact, in ’86, maybe I should tell you, I made medical-legal history, because that was the first time anywhere in the world that a court accepted the idea that food allergies could make somebody violent. This kid was murderous, tried to strangle his stepfather. Well, of course it can, because it inflames and brain, and brain allergies can lead to anything, from schizophrenia and depression, to violent outbursts, ADD, and all of these things, and including, of course, some of the stuff we’re going to be talking about.

It can either excite the brain and send you off the Richter scale, or it can calm it down to the point where you become depressed and lethargic, and life doesn’t seem worth living anymore.

So, I wrote a book, and then I wrote another book, and then another book, and I’ve been active ever since. It’s one of the most satisfying things that I could imagine in anybody’s medical career. I spend an hour, hour and a half with a patient on the first visit. You get to know people, and they become friends. It’s a very different model.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, very interesting. I should also mention that I read your book 11 or 12 years ago, pretty, I would say, early on in my education, and it was a big influence on me in those early days, so thank you for that. Is Diet Wise your most recent book? Have you written anything since then?

Dr. Keith Scott-Mumby: Well, I’ve written quite a few, yeah. I mean, Fire in the Belly is along those lines, but it’s a mixture of the human biome, dysbiosis, food allergies, things that just cause systemic inflammation, basically, so I called it Fire in the Belly. That’s where the fire begins. We’ve got parasites, dysbiosis, candida, all of those things. That’s just one of them. I’ve written a book on anti-aging, living longer and living younger. I’m in my 70s. Most people think, “What?”

Ari Whitten: I haven’t read any of your books since Diet Wise.

Dr. Keith Scott-Mumby: I will send you a package, a shipment, because there’s about 10 you may not have got to.

Ari Whitten: Well, I’m happy to go and buy them off Amazon.

Dr. Keith Scott-Mumby: Right back, when we were talking in the early days, anti-aging was one of the first things I stumbled on. I was putting people on these exclusion diets, and they were coming back 10 days later saying, “Wow. I feel 10, 20 years younger. I’m so energetic. My mind’s alert. I’m looking so good, people are asking me what I’m on.” So, I realized there was a strong anti-aging impact in this, too. That’s how I got started on that. I’ve done a book on candida and dysbiosis on its own, parasites. I’ve got plenty of stuff, Ari. You’ll love it.

How you should feel when you wake up in the morning and why you are not

Ari Whitten: Excellent. Well, we have lots to talk about. I want to dig into a lot of the stuff you just referenced. But food allergies, let’s talk there. I want to go back to this … I wish I had it on my screen right now, but you said in the email exchange prior to this interview, something to the effect of, if you’re not leaping out of bed every morning when you wake up-

Dr. Keith Scott-Mumby: Yeah, bouncing with energy, bursting with energy to get the day … I mean bounce out of bed. I don’t mean drag yourself out from the sheets and crawl off to the bathroom. I mean bounce. But then you’re, in a degree, sick, you know? That should be our native condition. That’s what we’re like. I found long ago, decades ago, that the number one thing that interfered with that, Ari, was a food allergy, basically.

How food intolerance and addiction go together

If I may take a minute to help and enlighten your listeners a little bit, let me explain that, because food allergy and addiction go together. You’ll remember that from the book. People get hooked on the very foods that make them ill. Addiction, I mean the basic definition of addiction is you suffer withdrawal experience when you stop it. That’s really the technical definition. You have a dose, it clears up, like morphine. If you’re addicted, you don’t get any, you feel bad, but if you take some, you feel better. I mean, nobody in their right mind would take heroin, would they? Except that it reliev