Health. How do you define it? In the 1980’s WHO noted down the definition of health as “your ability to withstand challenges to your health.” So how does this definition of health tie in with the healthcare system we have today? In short, the modern healthcare system is much more about trying to treat illness than it is about optimizing health.
There have certainly been huge advances from treating infectious diseases, making childbirth safer (decreasing infant mortality), hygiene in medical practice/surgery, and trauma emergency medicine — and big extensions of average human lifespan as a result of these advances. However, modern medicine has made relatively little progress in terms of treating the massive epidemics of chronic diseases in the Western world (obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, autoimmune diseases, etc.)
If you start investigating, you will quickly find that our healthcare system, despite great advances in technology, is still falling behind as it can’t keep up with treating the ever-growing epidemics of chronic diseases that result from the mismatch of the way our biology is designed and the modern world in which we live.
At the same time, all these advances in technology (smartphones, health tracking apps, etc.) are here to stay, but they will never be able to advance (fast) enough to save our lives from chronic diseases.
So how do we bridge the gap between the definition of health, technology, and the healthcare system?
If you want to know the answer to this question — and if you care about your health, then you definitely DO need to know the answer to this question — then you need to listen to this podcast.
In this podcast, I talk with researcher Dan Pardi, PhDc. Dan is the CEO of humanOS and the host of humanOS Radio. He’s a researcher at Stanford University and his specialties include building systems for health, behavior optimization, and habit building. In this episode, Dan and I will discuss the true definition of health, some of the major problems of our current healthcare system, and how we can start using technology to our advantage.
In this podcast, we’ll cover:
- What is the true definition of health? (And why our modern healthcare system doesn’t actually have much to do with the true definition of health)
- Dan’s take on what the optimal healthcare system SHOULD look like
- What space travel actually does to the human body (and why that’s much more relevant than you think when it comes to your body in the modern world, on planet Earth)
- One of the major problems with our healthcare system
- How the constant technological developments affect our life
- Why is there so much chronic disease in the world today?
- How disrupted circadian rhythm habits affect cortisol
- How (and why) we should use modern technology to support our health
- Is the “you need 8 hours of sleep” advice really supporting your health? (Hint: It’s much more complicated than just “get 8 hours of sleep”)
- The #1 reason why research on plants/phytochemicals that impact health isn’t being done nearly enough
- Dan’s experiences with the fasting mimicking diet
- Why you can’t rely on technology to be able to save you if you get sick
- Dan’s top tips to stay healthy in a modern world that isn’t very conducive to good health
Download or listen on iTunes
Listen outside iTunes
The True Definition Of Health Versus Our Healthcare System (And How Technology Can Boost Your Health And Energy Levels) – Transcript
Ari Whitten: Hey everyone, this is Ari Whitten and welcome back to the Energy Blueprint Podcast. Today I have with me a very special guest, Dan Pardi, who is someone that I’ve followed his work for many, many years now and been a fan of his work from afar, and recently had the chance to connect with him in person face to face, and really am now even much more of a fan of his work than I was before. He’s just, he’s a brilliant guy. He’s doing wonderful, wonderful work. And I follow his work. I’m a fan of his work. I love what he’s doing and I know you guys are going to love him. So I think this is gonna be the first of several podcasts with Dan. So enjoy.
And let me give you guys his quick bio before we get into this. Dan is the CEO of humanOS and the host of humanOS Radio. He’s a researcher at Stanford University and his specialties include building systems for health, behavior optimization and habit building.
So, welcome Dan, to the first of what will likely be several podcasts. It’s such a pleasure to have you on the show, finally.
Dan Pardi: It is really great to be here. I’ve known your name for a while and I have become more… Fortunately, I have become more invested in your work recently and I think you’re doing great stuff, Ari, so thank you. Thank you for having me on. Thank you for the work that you do.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, thanks brother.
Dan Pardi: And also thank you, Ari, in advance for giving me more than one chance to come on.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, definitely. Well, if you screw this one up, then no more chances. Sorry.
Dan Pardi: Oh, I’ll get it right next time.
Ari Whitten: So, I would love to start us off if you could just talk a bit about your background in health and as a researcher and kind of your educational background and all that.
Dan Pardi: Yeah, sure. You know, it’s funny, you can tell a very consistent story about, “oh, this was my journey,” but I think all of our journeys are filled with multiple streams. Indicators that, yes, this is the direction that you should go because your interest is there and hopefully it’s met with some degree of capability to do something good in the space. But for me, a focus early in my life on the body came from an injury that I wanted to fix so that I could get back into this passion of mine which was playing sports, soccer and basketball. That led, then, into thinking that I wanted to do sports medicine, which actually became more of an interest in exercise physiology, particularly how the… a good way to think of exercise physiology actually is not just how do we get to exercise better, but how does the body work under dynamic conditions, so whether you are exercising at different intensities or in different heat or cold.
And that actually led to a real interest in neuroscience. It sounds like a bit of a leap there, but we… there were multiple tracks in the exercise physiology department in my master’s at Florida State and the track that I was on became the official neuroscience track a few years later. So we were looking at leptin levels and how they regulate blood pressure. And then I did some work with Dean Ornish, I’m sure some of your listeners are familiar with his name, so right out of school. And what he was doing was looking at… he was constructing a multifactorial lifestyle program to attempt to address patients that have existing prostate cancer. So I really appreciated that because so much research is trying to isolate a single variable so that we have an understanding of those controls.
Right? We have control over that one thing that then gives us confidence about, is that one thing having an important effect in whatever we’re looking at.
We, also, though, need to do a different type of work where we might have less certainty about what’s having the effect, but we tie together what we think are good lines of work to see if we can optimize for the patient outcome. And that’s really what we’re trying to do. So it was stress management and diet and interpersonal communication counseling with the patient and their spouse.
We also had, we had 180 patients come once a week for a seven hour intervention where they would visit the different stations and then we would have a community meal. It was really incredible work and it left an impression on me. From there I went and worked in Bioinformatics, a company called DoubleTwist. We were using clustering alignment technology to try to mine the human genome, and then from there I went to the pharmaceutical industry, which was really just through a connection at the job that I had at DoubleTwist because that company went out of business.
Companies in the space did, they were all sort of absorbed into pharma. And so now I find myself in the pharmaceutical industry working on a drug in sleep, knowing nothing about either and becoming extremely fascinated in sleep and also the medication that we had. It was a very unique situation because that particular drug is called Ghb (gamma hydroxybutyrate) and it has a very rich history. So it has clear therapeutic, interesting potential, but it also has a history of drug abuse. It has a history of sexual, being used for sexual facilitated assaults. And, yeah, it just was, there was a lot to learn, there was a lot to understand. And eventually that… I started the medical affairs department at Jazz Pharmaceuticals and ran a research grant program and scientific publications until I got to the place where I wanted to do my own work and I left to start my PhD.
So my PhD work is, the sponsorship is through Leiden University in the Netherlands, and I work with endocrinology and neurology there and then at the Meijer Lab where we did sleep and circadian biology research. So I have this great collaborative group, very supportive, very smart, and at the same time when I started my PhD, I was hearkening back to my work with Ornish and I wanted to… I knew that I eventually wanted to do something related to public health. Which is a sort of boring way of saying it, but something that related to health, actual health versus disease management or sickness care or even getting somebody better from being sick. But how do we keep people healthy? And I developed something called the Loop Model to sustain health behaviors. That took about six months of a very deep dive into behavioral science.
And the executive summary of it is in order for people to adopt and sustain health behaviors long term, they should know why they’re doing a specific action, they know… they should know how to do it. So why to do it, how to do it, are you doing it, and is it working? And really those, each one of those four components is different from each other. And so one deficit that I observed in public health discourse or efforts was sort of monosyllabic efforts to try to get all of the, all of your health out of one silver bullet. And so it’s like, you know, if I try to do Paleo for just, to just pull up some example out of it, and you’re not doing it well, it’s because you didn’t learn enough, so we’re going to put more information at you. And so the exclusive attempt to fix the problem always happens through more information or just that one vehicle.
And I think what’s happened is that it’s caused a lot of confusion.
And then, on the other side of the equation, you have technology companies that are doing all sorts of things to trigger and reward people for doing actions, but they’re sort of decontextualized from any sort of important paradigm. And so like are we gonna… nobody’s going to just keep doing something because they’re getting a notification on their phone if they don’t know why. They might do it for three weeks and then stop. That’s very common. And so you need, you really need an umbrella approach to address health effectively and that’s what the efforts that I’ve been making. So in parallel, I started to work on early version of Dan’s Plan, which is now all been growing towards humanOS, and then also doing the science for my PhD. And, yeah, that’s a long winded explanation of my background.
Ari Whitten: Beautiful. What’s your PhD going to be in?
Dan Pardi: Yeah, so my PhD is, has basically two parts. A lot of it was in the science around gamma hydroxybutyrate, so looking at it in Parkinson’s disease, in narcoleptics, in a lot of trying to understand metabolism. So we know that people, that one of the side effects of Ghb usage and one of its actual usages before it was banned, because you could used to buy the stuff in in a grocery store or a supplement store, is weight loss. So what is causing that effect from the agent? And it’s a challenge, we don’t have a clear answer.
Ari Whitten: Oh, really? I always thought it was because it boost growth hormone levels. Is that not accurate?
Dan Pardi: It is. No, that is accurate. It’s just probably not the only thing that’s taking place.
Ari Whitten: Gotcha.
Dan Pardi: So, if you look at the end of it, gamma hydroxybutyrate, some people might think, “oh, that sounds familiar.” Beta hydroxybutyrate is the major ketone that a lot of people will have fascination and interest in now. And then there’s also butyrate, which is produced by the gut bugs pooping after they eat fiber. All butyrates, all three of those have some overlapping effects and then distinct effects. But they do act as HDAC inhibitors, which affects a sort of the epigenetic regulation of genes. And you can see, for example, the activation, reprogramming, differentiation of beta cells if you take things like butyrate or beta hydroxybutyrate. And so they have these very interesting effects in the body. So there’s a panoply of different effects that are taking place with these compounds and Ghb. What’s so interesting about it is that it’s one of the only agents that will increase the amount of slow wave sleep that you get and most hypnotics that you take, because you can take it at night, they will help you go to sleep faster, but they’ll actually reduced the depth of sleep that you get. So they’re okay for short term usage if you just can’t sleep for, let’s say you traveled to Europe or you have something very stressful in your mind. They’re really problematic if you take them long term. So that, because of that effect, there was interest in studying this drug for every condition that had sleep as some sort of sequela to the back condition – depression, Parkinson’s disease, fibromyalgia, etc.
And so there was great interest in the grant program that I ran to decide to set up the system to receive grants, to review them with our board and how to do that ethically and create best practices. So that was a lot of the work that I did there, which was stimulating.
What humanOS is
Ari Whitten: I have several more questions on that topic specifically, but I know we have lots to talk about. So, real quick, tell us about humanOS and what that’s all about. Because you had originally done work under a brand called Dan’s Plan. I know you were working with Stephan Guyenet a lot doing a lot of stuff related to sleep, stuff related to helping people lose weight. And now over the last maybe year or two, everything has shifted towards humanOS, which I love what you’re doing with this, but can you just talk to everyone a bit about what humanOS is all about?
Dan Pardi: Yeah. I’ll talk about that evolution because the first thing, the thing that I’m quite proud of, what came first was the investment into really the model that I thought was going to be scientifically backed that was going to lead to outcomes that we really care about, which is the lifelong adoption of good habits. And in fact I was talking with my team the other day that the use of the term “behavior change” and “habits,” they’re sort of feckless in real life, right? It’s academic and something that you can exchange and talk about like “this is what’s happening,” but you don’t really want to use it in the intervention itself, I think. It’s kind of funny. But anyway, Dan’s Plan was really building towards some of the first, testing out some of the original ideas and part of that was collaborating. It’s always been part of the vision is to collaborate with good thinkers.
Stephan and I got deep real quick and started to put together what we call the Ideal Weight Program, which is to say, what are all the determinants of bodyweight and then how do we affect people’s behavior around those determinants so that they can get the outcome that you really want. Because the outcome that people really want is a permanent reduction in body fat level, not a temporary loss of weight, and whether somebody articulates that or not, that is what we are really after.
How do we achieve that? And this is going to probably get into deeper parts of the conversation overall today, but one existing downfall that humans do currently, is we look for the silver bullet, right? We look for the one thing that’s going to explain everything where my opinion of the reality is that there are many, many different things that have an influence.
Some of those have higher priority or more of an impact than others, but overall the more of those determinants of whatever your goal might be that you can include and modify in the right direction, the more likely you are going to experience success with whatever that specific outcome might be. So now with humanOS, what we do is we create peer reviewed health courses on a diverse set of topics that affect the human body. So we have a new program that’s four courses on circadian rhythms.
We have one on the Mediterranean diet. There’s 11 courses in the Ideal Weight Program. The courses are designed to be short, they’re interrupted with quizzes and we do that intentionally. It causes more friction because you can’t just put it on in the background, but we want you to really attend to it and we’re trying to do is all based off of this. I came up with this term with information, with information we have fresh, familiar and fluent. So fresh is the new stuff, right? And we have a bias towards just sort of finding, hearing what’s new. It’s exciting, I’ve haven’t heard it before. Familiar is where a lot of people land, and familiar means, “yeah, I’ve heard it before, but I can’t really tell you about it.” And it’s really difficult to implement knowledge in your life if you don’t know it well enough to teach it. And so fluency is really what we’re trying to promote, which means that you could sit down and have a cup of tea or coffee with a friend and tell them about what you learned, and your ability to exploit that information for your benefit is drastically enhanced when you get to that level. That’s what we’re trying to facilitate. So that’s one part.
And then we’ve got things like daily recipes and workouts. You could use those or not, right? So we’re not saying this is the right way, but rather we think that we’re serving as choice architects. We’re giving you good options, pretty much any one that you choose you could probably do well with. Maybe not, right, for your specific situation, but they’re all generally good options you need to personalize and find out. But, that is then trying to simplify a person’s day. Can we use technology in this fashion to make today easier? And we also have a tracking component where we know that the behavioral science strongly suggests that if you have a very clear goal and you have objective means to track that, you’re much more likely to reach that goal. And one of the challenges that we have in modern life is not that we don’t know something is important, is that life gets in the way. And so we have to think about strategies to stay engaged with these things that we know are good for us. I call them the mundane but meaningful over the longterm. And I think we need what I call a countervailing technology, technology that helps counteract the technology that’s causing us to live in different ways. And one solution is just give it up altogether. It’s not practical for a lot of people and it possibly isn’t even ideal because a lot of these things that are potentially health impairing, they’re simply powerful and we need to learn to live with them, because there’s also interwoven into these things like social media or technology usage are good things too. Right? So if we can… it’s about responsible usage in a way and it all comes down, for me, is the overall sort of thesis of HumanOS is can we make you more knowledgeable about the things that can help you? Can we make you more knowledgeable about yourself and empower your ability to then execute on those good ideas so that your pattern of living becomes defined not by the occasional dalliance of, you know, of going to the gym three times a month, but that the regular inclusion of the thing that’s going to be good for you. So that is the overall mission of what we’re doing and then we’re going to be adding, you know. How we do that is something that we’re constantly iterating and adding to, but I’m pretty excited about where we are now.
Philosophy of health
Ari Whitten: Yeah, me too. I, like I said at the beginning, I really am a fan of what you’re doing. I love it. And, you know, I listen to your podcast myself and I’m a member of your program and I’m also intimately familiar with a lot of the stuff that you’ve taught for a long time. You’re producing great content. And I also, I should point out I do not give this endorsement to most people that I speak to and have on the podcast. There’s, I have a lot of people on the podcast that I like and have value to give, but rarely do I express this kind of like “yes, you guys, everybody listening to this needs to be following humanOS, follow the podcast, sign up for the program. Like this is really quality content that everyone needs to see.” So I think what you just said is a really nice segue into transitioning into the meat of this conversation that I want to have with you.
I want to talk about health philosophy and I want to talk about… and people hear that word “philosophy” and people, their eyes might immediately start to glaze over. This is not going to be boring and this is extremely important for everyone to hear. But Dan, there’s this, and you could probably articulate this better than I can, but there’s so many different views and paradigms, philosophies and schools of thought about health and all these different approaches that are now emerging. We have like the evidence based fitness community that it’s like, “hey, everything’s just calories in, calories out. There’s… everything else outside of calories in, calories out is nonsense and quackery.” And that’s kind of their whole bubble. And then we have, you know, conventional MDs who primarily operate in a paradigm where the tools are drugs and surgeries for the most part, wonderful, amazing technologies in certain areas and also very limited in other areas. And most of them tend to be not very aware of those limitations and the blind spots in their paradigm.
We also have like alternative schools of health, which are unfortunately often a mix of quackery and pseudoscience and oftentimes actually very good stuff that is evidenced based. And we have the emergence of functional medicine and integrative medicine, and all kinds of different kind of schools of thought. And I know you’re very into like the meta of all of it. You like survey the whole landscape. And I am very, too, I’m very much this way too, which is why, you know, we talked about this a lot in our first conversation and kind of geeked out, and I love what you were expressing. But, you know, kind of like looking at what’s going on in this whole landscape of health and all these different schools of thought about how they’re thinking about it. I would love for you to kind of articulate this landscape of health and also healthcare and also like why there is so much chronic disease in the world today. And I, and we can get into that in layers and you kind of… I’ll let you lead the way from here.
Dan Pardi: Okay. So I have been thinking about this a lot recently in particular, and I’ve thought about it… there are moments over the last couple of years where I’ve been able to dedicate a deeper dive into this exactly. And it stays with me most of the time, but sometimes we’re focused on something specific. But I think that having… operating within the world with the right mind frame is possibly one of the most powerful interventions that we could possibly adopt, or you’re going to get a lot of power from that. So in order to, I think, talk about some of these very specific ideas that you brought up, I want to go back and… there is a course that we created called Road of Health. So a lot of this is going to allude to the information that is contained within there. The purpose of that is to say, we’re not going to talk about the specifics here, but we’re going to talk about the mind frame that you need in order to move forward. In a way that is, what I think, it’s my best thinking on the subject now in terms of like it’s… I’m sure that that will evolve, but it’s where I am now.
So generally this idea of, well, what does health mean? And I remember I was giving a presentation in a company a couple of years ago, probably five years ago, and somebody asked me that question and I just stumbled because it’s one of those questions that’s so big, it’s really hard to address. And it turns out that defining health has been hard over the centuries because it’s really a term that means multiple different things. So when you say that one thing, you’re not exactly sure what somebody’s speaking to. But the World Health Organization did a good job in the 1980s after earlier attempts in the century where they sort of failed. But they basically defined health as your ability to withstand challenges to your health. So resilience and your ability to maintain homeostasis in the face of challenges. But the other second aspect of health was that health serves as a resource for life in that it helps you achieve your goals and your aspirations.
I often think a lot about energy. So there’s two ways you know, am I hamstrung by a specific sickness, injury or do I also, have I been attending to my health in a way that gives me, that makes me feel really vibrant and robust. And, so, if that’s what health means, then you know, our healthcare system must be totally designed around achieving those objectives and it’s not at all, right? We know that because our healthcare system gets, I think, often much maligned. There’s tons of issues. But it was born at a time when humans were fighting the biggest challenge to life that we’d ever known, which was infection. So it came out of the 18th century and our knowledge around pathogens, et cetera just gave us new visibility into how we could address them. And that created the basis of our contemporary healthcare system and its marriage to a pharmaceutical industry that was able to create vaccines and antibiotics that could address them.
And it was, it was amazingly successful. We forget about that because we’ve been born into a time where all of that benefit has been realized and so now our normal is just that it has always been there. But if you were born in 1910, your health, you would.. the average life expectancy was about 47 to 49 years I think, and within one century that went up 70 percent. So that if you were born in 2016, your life expectancy was close to about 80 years. It’s almost like two lives in one life, so that has been really, really successful. But the problem is that all that, all those additional years we’re now burdened with chronic disease. And what we’ve tried to do is use the old model of, let’s say, well, we’re just going to wait for diabetes to arrive. You’re perfectly healthy until you get sick. We’re going to wait until diabetes to arrive, we’re going to drug it and it’s going to go away.
The optimal effective healthcare system
Ari Whitten: Right, because you don’t treat an infection with antibiotics before you get an infection. You wait until there’s an infection and then you start to administer a drug. I mean it only makes sense, and so they’re looking at a lot of these chronic diseases, diabetes or many other types of diseases through that same kind of model.
Dan Pardi: Yeah, so the… what you do give in advance is the vaccination, right? The vaccination is meant to try to address things before it occurs. And we’ve actually literally tried to create vaccinations against current diseases that have been very costly failures, and I see this as, it’s a failure of perspective. It’s a failure of an incomplete understanding of, appreciation of all that is health and therefore a system that is meant to address all parts of it. And so we’re giving a Ted Talk in September. What I’m going to propose in that talk is that an effective healthcare system, or a more effective one, has a very good sick care system that is doing the latest with surgeries and medications and diagnosis. Trying to figure out, you do have something, you figure it out as soon as you can and then we figure out ways to then address that problem.
Ari Whitten: That’s great.
Dan Pardi: We still need to do that. We just can’t treat every aspect of health that way. So we need an effective sick care system. But we also need an effective self care system and that self care system should look entirely different than the sick care system. And we see a lot of attempts to try to medicalize self care, which is really about lifestyle. And so my opinion is that in an ideal world, self care begins really with when we start to train and educate young children. So I don’t know exactly what the percentages, but let’s say 50 percent of I think schooling should be dedicated to giving kids, young kids the ability to actually know how to attend to their bodies throughout their life.
But if you think about what that challenge is, it’s not just like “I took a course on it” and then when I got to an adult then I was fine. I think about what the real challenge is, you have to learn fundamentals. You have to then learn the ability to like, okay this, I’m making this a part of my life. But we live in a world now where the torrent of information is more than even one can keep up with.
So there’s new ideas about how to better take care of ourselves all the time and your ability to stay in sync with that is going to benefit you. But we also live in a world that is changing so it’s not like we’re living on the Pleistocene, and we’re just getting a lot more information about ourselves. We’re getting a lot more information about ourselves. We’re also getting the… the world is changing at a blink of an eye, right?
So new technology is invented like the cell phone or every Fortnite, and it changes how people live instantaneously and then you are changing. So the information is changing. The environment is changing and you’re changing across the lifespan. And so I think a mature, sophisticated relationship trains the capacity of somebody who doesn’t want to necessarily be like you and I are are, completely invested in health. That’s our work. They can be a lawyer or an architect or whatever, but they are not outsourcing how their lifestyle is the responsibility of their doctors, their government or somebody else. That there is a fully embracing, that your health is something that you need to attend to on a daily basis and get better at. And you’re the one that benefits if you do. And what we treat it as now is that, ah, you know, you go to a couple of… let’s say in a perfect world, you go to the doctor, your primary care and you talk about, you know, you do some tests and they give you a couple of tips about how to be healthy from somebody that’s not trained in that discipline of health.
That’s not… even in a perfect world that they spent all of their time, that’s not how behavior… that’s not how we change how we live. That’s totally not optimized for that. So that is really… I think we treat it too casually. We’re perfectly healthy until we’re not. It’s not true, right? The new major issue of today’s world is not infectious disease, although, you know, with antibiotic resistance, etc., it could be. It’s not like that’s perfectly solved, but let’s just encapsulate that and say yes it is. It’s chronic disease and it’s learning about all the different things that influence it of which we know there are many. So that’s what I think, the big… that’s the probably the best approach to it. And if you weren’t born into a world where 50 percent of your school is dedicated to teaching you how to be healthy, then what do you do now? And luckily I don’t think that you have to… you didn’t miss the boat.
You can make it an importance in your life and many people do. So everybody listening to this already is doing that. You could make it an importance of your life. So it’s not like I’m talking to people saying you don’t get it. It’s more about a perspective shift that yes, your investment being weird and caring is really smart. It’s really smart.
The true definition of health
Ari Whitten: So I want to come back to something briefly that you kind of went over in passing but I think is a really important point. Can you define the WHO’s, the World Health Organization’s, definition of health for me one more time?
Dan Pardi: Yeah, sure. So it’s two parts. It’s the ability to withstand challenges or threats to your health. So that would be like an infection and your ability to recover that, to maintain homeostasis in the face of those challenges.
The second part though, which is what I think is a really rich opportunity, is that health is a resource for realizing your goals and aspirations. And that’s where I sort of wanted to introduce a different term. And this term is… there’s an impurity to the term “health” because then if I say “health,” are you thinking… it almost doesn’t mean anything because it can mean a lot of things.
So you want to be more specific. And so we then talk about like fitness. Fitness is just one very small part of it and it also, if you’re operationalizing for fitness, you could actually do some things that aren’t necessarily operationalizing around just your health. That was the primary focus. Is it prevention? That’s very much in the medical mindset of like, well it’s all about the disease and preventing it and prevention doesn’t get people to act, right? You’re not going for a run to prevent peripheral arterial disease. It’s not how we live.
And is it, is it wellness? I don’t know what that even means. So I think the term that I really like is “health performance,” which is the space above sickness that is encapsulated in the health term that… first of all it’s what you are performing at, it’s your lifestyle, the willful actions that you’re taking. And it’s also indicative of the performance of your health to then help you perform in life. It’s action oriented and then it leads to an outcome of better performance by virtue of good health or optimized health.
Ari Whitten: Beautiful. And then health, we’re still looking at as resilience, the capacity to withstand stressors and be robust as well as health as a resource, as this energy reserve or vitality reserve that is fueling your pursuits in life. I think that’s actually a wonderful definition of health and obviously far superior to just the typical absence of disease sort of thinking. But what you said in passing that’s really interesting is, I think is a point worth making, is you asked the question is our current healthcare system optimized for what they’re saying Is the definition of health – resilience, energetic reserves, kind of robustness, vitality? Is that what, like when you go to a hospital or to see your doctor, are they doing interventions for you that are actually facilitating those things?
Dan Pardi: Yeah, only if you have an existing sickness or disease that can hopefully get you to a better place, but not at all helping prevent that from occurring. And so they’re both needed and you know, we’re not gonna.. this whole conversation is beyond the mess that is our healthcare system and insurance and sort of the way… there’s so many problems with it. It’s sort of looking at it from like an idealized perspective that taking care of us when we’re sick should be in the realm of doctors but also, in that ideal world, the doctors would have really supreme self care help as well. It’s kind of like, I made an analogy last night, the way that we are treated now is that, well, you go to this pilot that knows how to fly a plane and you’re assuming that they know how to fly a helicopter because they know how to fly a plane.
It’s different. It’s very different. So what you eat, you know, doctors only have three hours of training in sleep, eight hours in nutrition. These are the major movers, part of them are major movers in the health performance aspect, right? What you need… the way I look at it as you’ve got a canvas of the 24 hour period of the day, right? And you need to populate that with a lot of the, you know, the things that are going to provide those environmental and behavioral signals to keep the body working well. So that is, we need a totally different approach to that, totally different.
Ari Whitten: So what does that look like? Given those definitions of health, what would an optimal healthcare system look like? What should it look like in your opinion?
Dan Pardi: Yeah, so this answer will probably be unsatisfactory in terms of not having specific suggestions. Well, you just got to be sure that you’re eating this and that you are, you know, exercising this amount…
Ari Whitten: Get your eight hours of sleep every night. Drink this many ounces of water everyday. Yeah.
Dan Pardi: Exactly. Those things may or, those things will probably evolve, right? And we’re going to have, they will be fundamental determinants so we have to make sure that we’re getting all those. And then we’ll also undoubtedly learn of better ways to, areas to focus. So we might learn that, you know what, if we use this approach, this lens to view our health, and this leads to a lot of efficiency in the effort that we make in yielding health. I think, you know, there’s a lot around mitochondria that you can think about is using that as sort of that operational, operating principle. But we have to know, like 15 years ago circadian rhythms and gut health was not a part of any model that was aimed at trying to predict this type of health, right?
It was about nutrition and exercise. So we are going to be learning more. And so the problem now, then, with evidence based medicine is, there’s several problems with it. It gives us a high amount of confidence in knowing, because it’s been rigorously tested through double blind placebo controlled trials, to know, yes, this actually is a good approach generally. But none of those types of trials are looking to optimize for an individual.
And so one example of the problem with that is you could say with reasonable confidence that most people need between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. You can say that, that’s the recommendations of the National Sleep Foundation, based upon an assessment of all the literature and agreement with most scientists. But so then you say, all right, the average is eight, but if you need, assuming that you still fall in that 95 percent confidence interval of most people that do actually need that.
If I say get eight, Ari, and you actually need seven, then it could lead to behaviors like, well I need to take ambien because I’m not sleeping enough, right? It can lead to these externalities of improperly using evidence based averages. Or, the converse, get eight but you need nine and now I’ve just prescribed a sleep deficit to you, which will have all the downstream consequences of somebody getting an hour less sleep, no matter what your need is. And so that’s an example of part of the problem.
Why most of our current healthcare systems are imprefect
Another part of the problem with evidence based medicine is that it is very expensive and we live in a capitalistic society where we’re not going to go through the process of testing in these multimillion dollar studies if there’s not a chance for financial remuneration.
So one thing that frustrates the heck out of me is at the end of every paper that’s looking at something like plant polyphenol, they’re trying to make it into a druggable target, right? How do we then find a way to make this into something that we can capitalize on? And so, a lot of that natural based research only goes so far. If only goes so far and it will only ever go that far. So that’s another problem. So…
Ari Whitten: And just complete that thought for people who… why will it only go so far?
Dan Pardi: So it’ll only go that far because there… people can’t benefit on the backside of making money from a plant based compound.
Ari Whitten: Right. And this is not, just to clarify for people, this is not any sort of conspiracy theories or anything like that. This is just simple like economics of this. You can only put so much money into something without getting anything in return before people who are funding this, they’re like, “okay, I think we’ve spent enough.”
Dan Pardi: Yes. I hold no opinion that any sort of big agency is out to get us. Undoubtedly there are egregious errors that you can point to with every big sort of calcified agency. But I don’t think that the, you know, it gets really wacky quickly. Generally I think that it is just the virtue of the fact that if somebody cannot capitalize on it. It comes down to what the researchers, they need to figure out a way to publish, it might not be publishable. That is probably like a lower concern. But they also then be able to fund their labs? And so it’s just sort of the ecosystem that we live in and it’s one of the problems and it takes a very long time. So one of the problems with evidence based research with cutting edge modalities that, like let’s say consumer tech that is meant to change behavior, the papers that come out today are on the device that was available like three years ago, and so it’s already obsolete by the time it’s public. But that’s another issue.
And so now is the question, we have evidence based medicine but it’s imperfect, so do we disregard it? Do we not look to it? No, it’s valuable, we consider it, but it has a place. We don’t live there only. Healthcare systems live there because that’s the most, that’s where they have the most confidence, but it’s not the best way to achieve perfect health for that individual. And then we have this range above this, which is, you can call it biohacking. There’s lots of different terms. Functional medicine. It’s figuring, it’s trying to do better, it’s trying to do better and all of these are imperfect, too. So you could look at functional medicine and you can say, “you know what, you’re causing this person to spend a lot of money on this test that is not validated .” And somebody can take that opinion and say “this doctor wasted a lot of money with me, money of mine. ” Or you could say “well, I’m trying to go beyond. I’m unsatisfied with the care that I’m getting from the main system, which is really gonna walk me down towards a drug or do nothing if I’m not at that druggable limit.” And yet you want to try to really prevent it, so eat right and exercise. Nothing wrong with that guidance. It’s just not helpful. And so one issue that I see that’s popping up is still the over medicalization of lifestyle. So in the functional medicine community, the person might have really great resolution if they start to do a lot of things well that lead to the lifestyle, and yet we’re hunting down some… we’re trying to find that silver bullet still. We’re trying to find the infection, the equivalent to the infection that’s causing everything. And in that space there’s some truth there and there’s some false there.
So the way that I think of it is you really want to try to get as many things, of those basics right, and the way that you need to first. And then if you have existing issues, then you can take more exotic approaches to try to hunt down what that might be. But you know, one of the reasons why we have so much autoimmunity issues is because we live in a world that has artificial light in it, which then causes a downstream effect on misaligning our circadian rhythms, and thereby our immune system, causing inflammation in our gut. We never think about that if you’re looking just within the gut and you’re not looking at the entire system.
Ari Whitten: There’s also, you know, I love what you just said there, there’s also, it’s funny, I’m bursting with things I want to say. I’ll try and condense this down. I think that tendency towards searching for the silver bullet is some kind of like weakness in human psychology. We all, I think, are built with this tendency to find the one thing, and this is the one problem, and here’s the one pill, and the one physiological pathway, and the one biomarker, you know, and the one herb or whatever that we’re going to use to fix this thing. And we just know that physiology is a thousand times more complex than that level of thinking. And it happens in the conventional medical community, it happens in functional and alternative medical communities, too, like you said that, that search for the one thing and the silver bullet.
To put this in functional medicine terms, if you were to do a thousand different tests of a thousand different biomarkers, you could find abnormal biomarkers on every one of those things. Like let’s say you did an organic acids test and found three, you know, three of those organic acids are off, high or low or something. You could do a different kind of blood test or metabolomics test, hormone panel, salivary, urine, you know, all these… you could do a thousand different tests and you will show abnormalities on all these different things. My point is there isn’t a pill that fixes each one of those abnormalities on each one of those different tests. We’re looking at system wide dysfunctions and we have to have systems thinking in how we correct those things. Not just, “oh, this abnormal biomarker means I prescribed this drug or this herb, you know, or this vitamin” and so on. It needs to be much, much more of a systems wide thinking, at least in my opinion.
Dan Pardi: I’ll give you a specific example around your exact point. Let’s say you go and you get a test done and it shows that your cortisol level is high or low for a certain time, you know, what it should be, out of the range. And then you give some supplements to try to correct that when the real correction is actually aligning the circadian rhythm so the timing of your cortisol rhythm is actually synchronized with in a way that you want it to be for proper functioning.
Ari Whitten: Exactly.
Dan Pardi: One may address symptoms, but it might not. It might even just mask the symptoms which a lot of…
How disrupted crcadian rhythm habits cause your cortisol to rise
Ari Whitten: Yeah, and just to add to that, there is actually good data showing not only bright light exposure in the morning, evening light exposure, artificial light at night, even things like night eating or being a night owl chronotype will all cause abnormal morning cortisol level measurements. And despite that body of evidence existing, literally almost every physician, every functional medicine doctor that I know that tests for morning cortisol levels does not address those factors. Like at least 95 percent of them do not address those factors. They just go “oh, your adrenals are off. It’s adrenal fatigue. Let’s give you some adaptogenic herbs and maybe some adrenal cortex glandulars,” or something like that. “Here’s some vitamin B and vitamin C,” and I mean that level of thinking is extraordinarily problematic.
Dan Pardi: And I might say something that’s a little surprising here. I don’t actually even mind if you have a strategy to try to address something important in somebody that’s not going to do the right behavior, but it should be mindful of it. Right? So you, the order of priority of how you try to treat the person starts with the thing that’s causing the issue, or all the things you know, and then you adapt according to what the capability is of that individual.
So that’s different than, just again, trying to look for the keys under the spotlight, which is, you know, and there’s… my old boss had a saying, “if you’re a hammer, the world is a nail,” right? So we have these trainings, we have training. That’s why people have to oftentimes go do a lot of different doctors if they have something complex because you go to the person who has specialization in one area and they’re, that’s where they’re going. That’s their expertise. So that’s where they’re going to look. Not an awful thing. But again, if we’re talking about how to make the system overall more effective, there’s definitely cross talk between all versions of sick care and self care.
And that self care, really the world that we’re living in is, a lot of it is about personal responsibility which people don’t really, they don’t love. Some people don’t, you know, they bristle to that. It’s your fault. It’s not really the message I like to say, there’s opportunity here to do something that’s better for you and I will never have all the information across my entire life of all the things that matter. What will we know 15 years from now, 10 years from now that we didn’t know, that we don’t know now? And you know, just like with the gut microbiome and with circadian rhythms, that’s new information. And so you have to have the ability to adapt. And this gets to what I think is evolved strategy for health today, which is aiming to try to understand, you know. It’s basically a regular engagement. Listening to podcasts. It’s finding your sort of brand, how do you want to consume information and learn. It’s making a regular effort towards it. But realizing that information alone does not vaccinate you against the healthy lifestyle. So I think that probably the best truistic is how do you find ways to live more naturally?
How being in space affects Astronauts
Ari Whitten: Let’s delve into that a bit more. One of the things that you shared with me before is you have an analogy of astronauts, and I think this is a really good analogy. I’m pissed off that I didn’t think of this myself, but I’m going to have to steal it from you. So can you kind of explain how this works and how this relates to the epidemics of chronic disease that we’re seeing today?
Dan Pardi: Yeah, so I think of it as a very useful metaphor. Space travel, right? It’s, first of all, it is a visceral illustration of just how powerful technology is. We can transport people off of our planet and into space. And so because we can see it, you know, it kind of demonstrates that power. But despite all the money that we’ve spent to try to counteract the known negative health influences of being in space, you see loss in blood volume, right? You see a 30 percent reduction in skeletal muscle. This is after being in space for about a month. You see the a dysregulation of the immune system and reactivation of viruses like herpes, and then not even to mention all the different psychological consequences of being alone in space and stressed out. And so the point is that if you take the human body out of the original conditions through which we’ve evolved, then things are going to break, right?
Things are going to start to just function less ideally. We don’t need to leave the planet in order for the power of technology that surrounds us, this environment that has completely embedded itself into modern life and into our worlds, to cause us to live in a way that is unnatural, thereby causing a natural factors deficiency. We’re not getting sufficiency of the natural factors that aren’t just health boosting, they’re requisite for the healthful functioning of our body, like light exposure and sun exposure, etc. And so the goal of mine is not to say give up all modern luxuries, it is just to learn how to live with them, right? I don’t think that tech is going to be the, I think the ultimate part of the solution is you guiding your life, but then using tech to empower your goals and desires to live more naturally.
I think this idea of like, oh, you know, turn on some AI thing, AI algorithm telling you to shut down your phone. You’re not going to listen to it if you don’t understand why. You have to have the desire and then possibly let tech power you. Now if you say, “I want to give up all tech”, that’s cool, “and I’m just gonna completely check out.” That’s great. So we only need tech because, in my mind, you know, the reality of the world is that it’s required for us doing our jobs in so many ways. So we just need to live… it’s kind of like with a young child, some television might be fine. We all need a chance to chill out. It’s storytelling at an appropriate age and there’s better choices than others, but just letting somebody watch television all day every day… You might have the desire to do that, but you have to counteract it. Similarly, if you were just listening to your taste buds, you’d only eat ice cream all day long and that’s what kids want to do because they have no awareness of, you know, they have no awareness of the fact that like “it could, it can be bad for me” and it’s also like “I will eat my dinner if I can have ice cream.” So we have these extraordinarily powerful shapers of how we live that exist in our world. We all need to learn how to live with them and it’s great to embrace that. I mean, it’s a constant struggle and I also think it’s kind of fun to, you know, it’s good to have fun with it. And so what I think powers this more than anything else is the recognition and getting exposure to the feeling of getting your body to work really well.
And so a lot of what I do is also focusing people on the things you can do within your day to make your day better. And that I think is sort of the secret sauce because longterm health prevention, we all care, nobody wants diabetes, nobody wants heart disease, it does not get people to change their action. But making yourself better at your day, making it more frictionless, help bring out the fullness of your personality. It’s not just productivity, I got more done, but it’s also do you have then enough energy to get through? It’s a feeling of satisfaction of doing whatever your work is well. It’s then having enough energy for hobbies and for fully showing up with your family life and being your best self and with your friends. It’s all of those things that feel good. That should, I think, that if we could harness that, we can use that to motivate your continual engagement.
And, the one other thing that I’ll say to that I think is really important is in this world where you don’t know everything and there’s plenty of expensive tests that try to guide us in the right direction. I’m not opposed to all of them, but what’s probably the best signal? And I think right now, subjective signals supersede almost everything. So how do you feel? And you engineer a lifestyle where you feel really robust, sharp, all the things that are actually that aspect of health that we said is this helping you achieve your goals in life. The problem with that is that we can accommodate to the feeling of feeling less robust as normal, and so if you can get exposure to that feeling of feeling better that is distinct enough, then that can keep motivating you to keep going.
A specific example of this is whatever’s on my phone at night, I’ve engineered this device to be a interest machine for me, right? My apps are different whatever, you know than others. But if I’m going to have the autoplay on Netflix for the next show that I’m watching stop. I need to say, “you know what? I want to feel my best tomorrow, so I’m going to put it down even though that looks really appealing.” And that’s a very specific example of like this battle, this competitive battle that’s taking place with your desire to want to show up with these things that are going to try to get you to engage with them. It might not have your best interest in mind.
Tech will save us! True or false?
Ari Whitten: Yeah. Beautifully said. There’s one aspect of what you’re talking about that I want to come back to, which is this kind of, there’s like a battle I think of paradigms of people who are, I think more in the ancestral movement who are acknowledging, “hey, you know, the modern world is clearly deviated from our ancestral past, the environment that our biology has evolved in and is designed for, and that environment is necessary for us to express optimal health. So we need to move back to that kind of environment.” And then there’s people who I think are like, “tech will save us, you know, do a microbiome test and do metabolomics panels and hormone testing and let’s optimize your hormones and your biomarkers and do this, these pills and these injections.”
And, you know, I’ll give you a funny little anecdote, but I met a guy at the beach who was there with his wife and two kids, and I was there with my wife and son and he kind of interrupted us and started talking to us. And, to make a long story short, and this turned into like an hour and a half kind of hanging out with this couple, but the guy is like a super ultra wealthy person. At least he’s either that or he’s like totally delusional and was making up a bunch of stuff. But he was like, “oh yeah, last week I was on my yacht in Monaco with the Prince of Monaco” and this and that. “And I told him what I do and he’s like, ‘oh, you need to be my guy. I’ll pay you and I’ll do consults with you.’ And he said, ‘money is no object, I’ll pay you whatever you want.'” And then, but then the story got more complex and he’s like… by the way, he’s there drinking, like chugging beers, like multiple beers and liquor, various kinds of liquor while we’re there in the span of an hour and a half, smoking a cigar.
And he’s like, “I need your help because I know how to eat and I know I should know how to be healthy, but I have a problem. I’m a partier and I can’t stop drinking and smoking cigars and staying up late and not sleeping and all this stuff.” And then he starts telling me he owns a company that is developing nanobots that you can inject into your body that monitor your health parameters. So he was telling me how, he was trying to convince me that I should go get these nanobots injected into me to monitor my health and how great they are as he’s smoking cigars and drinking alcohol and talking about how terrible his lifestyle habits and how he wants to hire me to be, not to tell him… I said “I can be your teacher and teach you how to be healthy, but I’m not here to coach you. I’m not your Daddy. I’m not going to enforce things on you to do things you already know you should be doing.”
But the point I’m getting at is the paradigm is so interesting. This is someone who thinks that technology will save him from all of his bad lifestyle habits and that he can just spend money and that technology will evolve and fix his lifestyle habits and that he doesn’t have to move and try to replicate the environment of his ancestors, “all that’s nonsense, that’s primitive. I’m just going to inject some nanobots in me and do some advanced blood chemistry testing and then take the pills that my doctor says to take.” So I would just love to hear your thoughts on those kind of two schools of thinking.
Potential effects of the fasting mimicking diet
Dan Pardi: Health businesses that give people permission to do the things that they want to do are often successful. Like, you know, put so much butter in that coffee. You’ve got a lot of things that are now, that are actually natural reinforcers. So the caffeine and then the butter, right? That was prime for success. And then also the license, the license is a psychological term that gives you the ability to say, “ah, you know, I can do this, an authority said I can, this is why I lost all this weight.” So I think that that thinking either consciously, explicitly stated or subconsciously hoped for is pervasive in our world and it is a result of the fact that we don’t train people appropriately. And it comes to a point that I wanted to make, that I actually didn’t even have time to include in my talk. But recently, very sadly, a very good friend’s father passed away with cancer.
And to juxtapose his experience, he, a friend of mine also came down with cancer and he did fasting and we know that fasting shows some very interesting potential for augmenting the effects of chemotherapy. And so my friend Mike, who is a young guy was basically at stage four, which is like a death sentence. He did Valter Longo’s fasting program and he’s now a hundred percent cancer free.
Ari Whitten: Wow, in conjunction with chemotherapy or…
Dan Pardi: Yeah, it was. Yeah. So not to go on this tangent, but what fasting has been shown to do is called differential stress sensitization so that the healthy cells become stronger. The cancer cells due to differences in metabolism become weaker. And then the result is when the chemotherapy comes in, your healthy cells are more preserved and the cancer cells are weaker and die. And so that has been a very effective therapy. And in fact they’re both effective, but they’re synergistic together.
So that’s really exciting. It’s an example. But this other gentleman who I’m speaking about, I broached it with him and he didn’t even have the capability to even consider it. I think that we think that we can live however we want, but when the crisis happens we’ll spring to action and we can do it, and that’s not always the case. And the sad part to me is that, you know, it might not have worked for him. I’m not saying that… I’m not even saying that he should have. But it wasn’t an option and it could have saved him possibly, but it wasn’t an option because he didn’t have the ability to actually take advantage of his responsibility and his health, which was to do anything other than take a pill or show up to a doctor’s appointment on time and that is a problem.
The importance of education
It’s a problem that goes back to the education. So it’s not necessarily just what we’re teaching, but that we have to teach the capacity to take care of yourself. Evolve that. So all of our thinking on how to do this. I mean, I’ve also envisioned this time where if you think about the analogy of AI and that game Go. So I’ve never played it, but it’s apparently extraordinarily complex. And they wanted to put Go against the world’s best Go player because I thought there’s no way that this AI could sort of figure it all out, so how would it do? And if telling the story correctly, Go won hands down, it beat this guy 100 times in a row or whatever, you know, whatever those numbers were. But it did so in a way that had never, it played the game in a way that had never been done before.
Right now we are all operating under certain ideas that have been spread into the world and then we’re doing versions of them and some of those versions kind of change and evolve. There could be, we could use technology to say “you know what? This is the easiest, most effective way to be healthy. You’re going to get 80 percent of the effects and it’s way easier if you do this.” We will probably come to a time where we might actually have those types of discoveries But, I’m excited about what technology can do. But I think that until we know, you know, until then, this idea that it’s going to save me at the end, it’s going to come in like a deus ex machina, the god of the machine, it’s going to then just solve the problem for you. Not only is that, I think the biggest issue is that it’s a missed opportunity. Because again, health is not just about delaying disease.
It’s actually the richness of your day. And that is the best. And so I’m not somebody who’s like, you know, you need to live like a spartan in order to, If you’re attending to personal responsibility. That’s sort of why I like biohacking, which is a term that I think is, does not live into its full potential at the moment because it’s fringy. It’s about, it’s all about sort of trying the latest gear. But from a higher level, I think from a more pure level it is the idea of doing little experiments on yourself and trying to be observant of those, collecting objective data, but also then listening to yourself and then seeing, you know, “yes, did this make me feel better, do I have energy.” And with things we can become so intoxicated with the paradigm that we can be blind to the fact that it’s not serving us well until the signal is strong enough.
And so I think if you can go through life taking care of a lot of things that we know are really good for us and just living naturally. It actually doesn’t have to be as complex as it sounds. Going for walks and sleeping and you know, things that actually do feel good to you. And then doing little experiments. Does this diet help me more than the other one? Hearing people share their perspective and trying to understand it well enough. I love the saying “have strong opinions held loosely.” And to me what that means that you learned something well enough where you understand it, and then you think through what you’ve learned today. This is where I stand now, but “held loosely” means that you’re not then the person who is going to defend an opinion even in the face of data that is very convincing. They just become the zealot, right? The health field is filled with that and then people are searching for simplicity and they don’t want their framework to be challenged and I get that too. But I think that having this capacity to then not completely trend top, where whatever is popular and new, I’m just now I’m only doing that.
But you still actually say, all right, new information is coming out. Why don’t I give this a shot? And by the way, the “how you feel” paradigm isn’t perfect either. There is no perfect solution here, but at the moment I don’t know of a better one.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. Interesting.
Dan Pardi: I was saying all sorts of things. I was talking about sort of this idea of biohacking and testing. I see this as an engagement with these new ideas that will undoubtedly come out, but not at the expense of giving up on, sort of, you’re adding arrows to your quiver in way. But you’re not looking for that one silver arrow in a way. You’re being like, okay, I know myself well. I’m checking in, I’m learning, I’m exploring. It’s a lifetime of learning I think. And yet it doesn’t necessarily have to be a lifetime of fickle experiments where you’re just jumping all over the place. It shouldn’t be that. You can pick up a little tip here and there. And I think also another thing that’s very, very useful is having an orchestrating principle so that not all of your health actions are these hundreds of diverse things that don’t come together.
I think this idea, this commander intentive, living naturally within your day means you’re getting light exposure, right? My opinion is how did hunter gatherers live? And let’s not try to live exactly like them, but let’s use that as a part of our model to inform us. And then let’s also look at science. Let’s also look at our life and then all of that helps you formulate your current approach. And some people might say, you know, I got a great approach and includes a lot of things. I’m just going to set it and forget it. And that’s cool too, you know, that’s cool too. And for those that want to be like, “gosh, I smoke cigars and I drank whatever,” can you do better, right? Can you actually do some other things in your life that’s going to then nudge you into this feeling of like, “wow, I’m now getting in touch with what health feels like.”
Maybe in two years from now after making kind of concurrent progressive benefit there, some of these habits that you’ve built over time are thrown out. You know, hey, I’m still all about going out and living life richly. So I think we have to always juxtapose that.
Technology and health – does it work or not
Ari Whitten: Yeah, absolutely. One thing I wanted to say as you’re talking about this idea of like certain people are saying like, “technology will save us at the end.” I actually remember growing up as a kid and having this idea of modern medicine is so advanced and they’re on the verge of finding cures for every disease. And I mean I literally remember having kind of ideas like that, like seeing news reports, we’re going to cure this disease and that disease. And at some point in my teens I realized as I started studying health I realized, oh, these diseases are actually dramatically increasing in prevalence. We’re not finding cures to these diseases. And we’ve been pursuing this for decades with very little progress and I think if people understood that historical context of like how fruitless the pursuit of pharmaceutical fixes for most chronic diseases has been. I think probably most people are like me, that they grew up with that perception as modern medicine is so advanced there, it’s this amazing science and they’re going to find cures for all these different things.
And if I get a disease, sure enough, modern medicine will almost certainly have a cure for me by the time I ever get the disease. And I think most people are met with this very harsh reality, and they’re actually in that situation. “Oh, I have a disease and they don’t have a cure for me.” So to what extent do you think technology improvements will have a key role in fixing our health and our chronic diseases? Or to what extent do you think it’s necessary for us to be like, hey, technology is not going to save us? Modern medicine, pharmaceuticals are not going to save us. Vaccines are not going to save us from most of these chronic diseases. And we need to actually get serious about moving towards more of an ancestral lifestyle habit, a pattern, and kind of mimic that ancestral environment. What’s your feeling on that?
My feeling personally is very much on the side of we need to get serious about moving towards ancestral ways of life. And I’m also kind of a hardcore sort of survival of the fittest sort of person, with that in mind. Meaning the people who don’t do that, like I think that they will be, they will suffer serious health consequences as a result of that. They might procreate before that, but they’re going to suffer serious health consequences and have very poor quality of life as a result of their choice. I don’t think everyone can be saved, but I do think it’s up to the individual to make that decision for themselves.
Dan Pardi: I think that this idea of self preservation and self care is natural for humans. And I think a lot more people care than what you might assume simply observing the situation. The way that we live has a lot to do with the environment we live in and how people live around us and the options we have, right? The options we make are ultimately subjugated to the options we have and that’s also true, too. So if you live in a food desert, you don’t have good options. You might have to make an extra normal effort to just to do better. And so we live in wonderful parts of the country where we’ve got a lot of good options to kind of take advantage of.
And what’s also interesting too is the robustness that you feel in life can lead to better efforts towards your health, too. So that’s part of the reason why you can get somebody exposure, their own ability to then do more things that make them feel even better can rise.
I think that technology works when it empowers us to live more naturally in a technology driven world. So, for example, like the step counter, the much maligned Fitbit and step counter. People were so disappointed about it because they were expecting it to save us. The Fitbit, genomics tests, all of these things can possibly offer value, but they’re not going to be a solution. They might just help nudge us in the right way. You still need to be at the center, taking that good information and utilizing it. So let’s say you go to the company Habit and you get a metabolic test and you know, you get your genomic test and they say, this is your diet.
Well, we’ve been telling people that this is the right diet, insert diet here, Mediterranean, whatever for years. It’s sort of like, we’re sort of selling people a pig in a poke. The reason why we haven’t had the success is because our guidance was totally off. Sure guidances evolve, etc. People have made serious efforts towards things that were going to yield probably poor results no matter what, undoubtedly. But I think that the tech overall is not, we’re not going to find that one thing that solves us. But undoubtedly we are going to learn more about the gut, you know, when we get to a place where we can get a personalized micro… probiotic that does, that can yield better health outcomes because it’s personalized to you. Cool. I’ll totally embraced that when I see it. But right now I think that what we’re doing is we’re still searching for that magic silver bullet within our own genes.
You know, where you walk down that expensive process, both time and money, and you end up getting a recommendation for virtually the Mediterranean diet. Because unless you have some sort of monogenic trait that’s dominating your health, something that is causing a failure. So much about our world is polygenic. So there’s multiple genes that are interacting that are influencing the equation. Then there’s, of course, your epigenome and then there’s the way that you live which is influencing all of it. And so it’s kind of like the guy on the beach waiting for the nanobots to save him. These things could help, but they’re not going to do it for you. For tech to be healthy for you, it can empower you and your ability to be healthy. So all of the tech that I’m building is about education, making your day… making you better, making your day easier, and then just keeping you engaged with the goals that you set.
So where do I think real innovation might come from? Aging research. That might be the next step function elevation, like antibiotics and vaccines were in lifespan. Because they’re not trying to address symptoms of, let’s say, a very organ system oriented perspective of health. Like, “oh, you have heart disease.” Well, really you have heart disease because you have a body that is failing because of the way that it’s been living most likely. And that other… that’s why the co-occurrence of… if you have diabetes, or heart disease, you probably have diabetes and are obese. There’s all these things that occur at the same time, we just call them “x” when they meet a certain clinical criteria. Aging, however, that is getting more at the fundamental root of things. But there’s still a cautionary tale to be told. I think there’s really great promise here, but let’s say you come up with something like an exercise mimetic that generates one of the signals involved in exercise.
Does it generate all of the signals that are involved in exercise? Will it give people license to no longer do the exercise because they’re getting a fraction of the benefit that they can feel that’s real, but it’s now causing them to live in a way that’s actually… it’s just giving them license to live poorly. We’re going to see that. So I think that all the tech, again, it’s better when it just, it helps you do more things. I mean, I still think even with aging science, the better you live, the more that it’s going to have a chance to help you continue to live youthfully for longer. And we’ll see. That’s going to be an interesting one.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, absolutely. One last thing I want to comment on as you brought up genetics, and I know this is something we talked about briefly before, but it’s kind of this interesting paradox between having the appearance of being so remarkably scientifically advanced. Like one can have the impression that “oh, I’m going to get my genes sequenced, run them through this gene analyzer that tells me the optimal diet for my genes and the optimal lifestyle habits that I should be doing based on my genes.” It has the feeling for the average typical person that, “Oh, this is the pinnacle of scientific achievement and is the most scientifically advanced thing that I can do.” And in reality it’s very much the opposite. So much of what is going on in that realm is like… has very little research to support those recommendations. And so much of those things, it’s just like it’s all just a facade with very little actual evidence to back it up.
Dan Pardi: I think we might come to an inflection point at some point in the future where big… where we can use machine learning and AI to then look at all of the different systems that are intervening to then give us better recommendations. But I think what we’re hoping for is something that’s going to give us permission to just keep doing what we are doing.
Ari Whitten: You should be eating ice cream and pizza all day while watching Netflix.
Dan Pardi: And that’s what I do.
Why you should work with humanOS
Ari Whitten: Well, Dan, this has been such a pleasure. I really, really enjoyed this conversation. I think this is so important for people to understand, this kind of meta view of how to approach health and what’s the right mindset to take in this vast amount of information that we’re constantly being bombarded with. I think this is absolutely critical for people to understand and I know people are going to love this, so thank you so much for coming on the show. Where can people find out more about your brilliant work with humanOS?
Dan Pardi: Yeah, thank you, Ari. Well yeah, come check out, it’s humanOS.me and you can sign up for a basic account. Explore the site a little bit. We have a Pro offering which is $9.99 a month. My personal mission is to create high value, low cost solutions so that cost is not the barrier for somebody getting access to something that can really help them if they want to go there. And so, I’ve been chided for not charging more given what we give, but I feel good about…
Ari Whitten: I was one of the people that chided you.
Dan Pardi: I mean I get it, right? I mean, like there is no, we have to make humanOS a very sustainable business so that we can keep doing all the work that we want. So, you know, we have to have the right business model here. But that is one of the efforts. Also go to humanOS Radio. So if you go to humanOS you’ll see our blog, every podcast that we publish and blog you can find there. But it’s been really fun. So I interview, where we sort of differentiate is I interview mostly professors about their research, but also executives that might be, have left academia that are starting some healthcare company or a health company in an entrepreneurial fashion and just say, “hey, we think this is a really good idea to capitalize on.” And I think a closing thought is that while a lot of the nature of this talk might sound dismissive of all these different ideas, I think that they will continue to yield value, will also continue to yield a lot of false starts. You can over intervene. But I think with the right mind frame, if you just ask, “does this make me better at doing the things that I… the taking action part,” then I think, that’s the best sort of tech. So with that mind frame in mind, I’ll close, invite you to come check it out, but you’re also in good hands with Ari. So you could just stay there too. And you’re going to do well.
Ari Whitten: No, everybody who listens to my podcast, I want them to also listen to yours because I think they’re really complimentary. We cover similar topics, but we also tend to interview different people and I think they’re very much synergistic and I would love for people to follow your work. I do myself. And, also, just to comment with more specifics about what I’ve tried to do with regard to your program. Dan has a membership program with access to all kinds of course, really extremely well put together courses with extremely high quality content on topics from how to lose weight to… name off some of the other courses for me.
Dan Pardi: Yeah. So a lot of what we talked about today is this one called Road of Health, which is like 25 minutes and it’s the mind frame. Fasting. By the way, all of our courses are peer reviewed. So I find somebody that has really made themselves an expert. Sometimes that means they published. And then we run it by a professor in that space who is doing research in that area so that they can review. Now that doesn’t lead to perfection, but we wanted to do, a lot of people have opinions and we wanted to create a process that led to a higher level of confidence that, you know, the errors that we made along the way could be identified before it went public. And so I really like that approach. And I’ll say one other thing, too, that you said about the synergy of our shows.
I don’t think all the value that can be gained only happens from researchers and, you know, CEOs. I also think a huge amount of value also comes from people that are sort of, where the rubber meets the road. They’re working with clients, they’re seeing what they, you know, they’re figuring out what actually works in real life. And I think that you’re right, it’s the synergy. It’s not, again, sort of silver bulleting and evidence based medicine versus a clinician. It’s really, the answer is unclear, it’s somewhere between all of them, and if you can have that bandwidth to sort of be open to finding that right idea across these different ways of sort of accessing knowledge.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, absolutely. I think also the peer review component is really, really important for people to have confidence in your courses and that is an important differentiating factor because there’s so much contradictory and conflicting information out there in the health space with so many different experts saying, “oh, carbs are the cause.” “No, it’s calories.” “No, it’s lectins.” “No, you go vegan.” “Go keto.” You know, all this kind of stuff constantly that people are being bombarded with, people are confused. People don’t know what to believe. And I think, that what you’re doing is really important. I’ve gone about it a different way where, and I really appreciate the way you’ve gone about it. I probably should have gone the same way, but I’ve just kind of established a reputation over the years from people who follow me that are like, “no, he’s actually very clear and honest about what is supported by the evidence and what isn’t and I’ve even witnessed him change his views on certain things as the evidence has evolved and he openly will acknowledge and change his views, and he’s like…” I’ve just established a reputation and people have developed trust for me because they see that I’m genuinely interested in what is the truth, not my, like promoting my specific dogmas are the one true way.
I think what you’re doing is great because people can have immediate trust without following you for several years like I’ve done, the way that I’ve done it. And they know, okay, this is produced by an expert. This is reviewed by another third party expert and is really high quality material. And I can be one of those third parties, too, that will vouch for how high quality your material is. But just one more thing, real specifically. I chided you because you’re offering so much great content for 10 bucks a month. And I said, you’re nuts. You’re actually devaluing the work that you’re doing by offering it so cheap. People will assume it’s low quality or, very like they’re just getting this little free little cheap e-book for 10 bucks or something. But the truth is they’re getting amazing courses for 10 bucks a month.
The reason that you do that is obviously because you’re hoping to scale this to a very, very large number of users. So, you want to get ideally tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people, so then it becomes something that can work for you. But obviously if you have 50 people at 10 bucks a month, you know, it’s like you can’t live off that. So, especially when you’re paying a team of people to put together courses and a team of people to put up your website and all the other employees that you have to have to run a business like that. So, I think the end result here is for the consumer. They’re getting access to amazing material for 10 bucks a month which is remarkable.
Dan Pardi: Thank you. And I’ll say one other thing about the courses, and I really appreciate that endorsement, Ari. It’s that we want to cover a lot of different subjects, but what we want to do is put out the steel man version of that. So the straw man is this super weak version, that’s a terrible representation of… let’s say I’m a Paleo guy, and I put up the straw man version of a vegan diet, and I just represent it in a way that can create the biggest difference between my opinion about what I think is the right way to do it, and that crappy version of it. That’s an example. What we’re trying to do is whatever is out there, can we create, what is the very best version of that idea. And that’s our goal. Whether or not we achieve it, that’s another thing, but we…
I think what also, this sort of the synergy… what you’re doing is you’re trying to look through all of the different paradigms and saying “where’s this, what can we do here, navigate between that.” And I think that’s really valuable too. So that is, I think, synergy. I think that your wisdom… if you learn something the right way and you learn it from a good source, your overall wisdom on health can elevate, right? And so it’s not just an academic exercise but is one that is totally worth it because you’re the one that is the direct beneficiary. But then also because you’re like, “ah, you know, I’m starting to see these relationships between these different subjects,” and there’s a lot of epiphany’s that can happen then when you’re like, “okay, I’m understanding health differently.” Which then also means that you’re less, you’re more resistant to the latest hotness kind of completely just undermining whatever you’re already doing or changing your perspective when maybe it’s a little premature to do so. So I’m totally in the camp of “I will evolve. I wonder how I’ll feel a year from now or two years from now.” I’m excited about that, the new perspective. But at the same time, like I’m really proud that even though it’s a slower process, that I can look back on… I’ll go take our courses multiple times and I’ll be like, “yeah, okay, that’s really solid.” So thanks, I appreciate that.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, my pleasure. Dan, honestly been such a pleasure having you on and thank you so much. And like I said at the beginning, this is the first of many. I know we’re going to do one on brain health, one on sleep research which you’ve been an expert in that area for a long time. And I know there’s plenty more to talk about beyond that. So I think this is a great introduction to Dan Pardi and humanOS. I hope you guys enjoyed it. Thank you so much for joining me. Thank you again, Dan, and I’ll talk to you again very soon.
Dan Pardi: Yeah, I look forward to it. Thanks so much for spending some time with me and for all the nice things that you said and the great questions and I really enjoyed it.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, my pleasure.
The True Definition Of Health Versus Our Healthcare System (And How Technology Can Boost Your Health And Energy Levels) – Show notes
What humanOS is (10:52)
Philosophy of health (17:00)
The optimal effective healthcare system (23:56)
The true definition of health (28:51)
Why most of our current healthcare systems are imprefect (35:56)
How disrupted crcadian rhythm habits cause your cortisol to rise (43:17)
How being in space affects Astronauts (46:22)
Tech will save us! True or false? (52:34)
Potential effects of the fasting mimicking diet (56:19)
The importance of education (59:00)
Technology and health – does it work or not (01:05:29)
Why you should work with humanOS (01:15:13)