Steven: I think one of the reasons that these periods of fasting are in almost all great religions, and they usually last for a month or six weeks. I think it was this braking system that everybody recognized from antiquity that we should throw on the brakes for a period of time.
Ben: I have a master’s degree in physiology, biomechanics, and human nutrition. I’ve spent the past two decades competing in some of the most masochistic events on the planet from SEALFit
Kokoro, Spartan Agoge, and the world’s toughest mudder, the 13 Ironman triathlons, brutal bow hunts, adventure races, spearfishing, plant foraging, free diving, bodybuilding and beyond. I combine this intense time in the trenches with a blend of ancestral wisdom and modern science, search the globe for the world’s top experts in performance, fat loss, recovery, hormones, brain, beauty, and brawn to deliver you this podcast. Everything you need to know to live an adventurous, joyful, and fulfilling life. My name is Ben Greenfield. Enjoy the ride.
Oh, hello. I almost didn’t see you there. That joke never gets old. This is Ben Greenfield, of course. Why wouldn’t it be? This is my podcast.
Hey, before we jump into today’s show, I had a lot of questions about that whole vitamin E podcast that I did. A lot of you who were running should throw out your multivitamin, if it doesn’t have what are called tocotrienols in it, and instead has tocopherols. If you missed that podcast episode, it’s over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/tan. That’s BenGreenfieldFitness.com/T-A-N. Because I interviewed Dr. Barry Tan, he made a lot of really good points, and I’m certainly a fan of the tocotrienol form of vitamin E that he talked about. But I also, because I got inundated with so many questions for my listeners, kind of dug into this quite a bit more. And, there’s definitely evidence that tocotrienols can have a lot of the benefits that we talked about in the episode.
But you don’t necessarily need to rush out and throw out your multivitamin, if it has tocopherols in it, because what it turns out is the case is that the literature around tocopherols is a little bit clouded, because there is what’s called a synthetic or also what’s known as a, in chemistry, a racemic configuration of tocopherol. And, that’s what’s used in most supplements and in many of these studies. It’s inexpensive, and it’s a poor form of vitamin E. If you were to use the natural form of vitamin E, the alpha-tocopherol that is the natural form, then you would skirt a lot of these issues. See, synthetic vitamin E, particularly that derived from petroleum products, it’s manufactured as what’s called all-racemic alpha-tocopherol acetate with a mixture of eight different what are called stereoisomers.
And, only one of the alpha-tocopherol molecules in this is in the form of what’s called RRR alpha-tocopherol. But when you find alpha-tocopherol in nature, it’s always completely the RRR alpha form. And, in that form, it doesn’t appear that a lot of the issues are created that Barry and I talked about in the episode on vitamin E. And, as a matter of fact, for people who are using a vitamin E supplement, what you should look for are mixed tocopherols or else a natural non-all-racemic form of alpha-tocopherols. In many cases, naturally sourced what’s called d-alpha-tocopherol can be extracted and purified from seed oils, or gamma-tocopherol can be extracted and purified in what’s called methylated to create d-alpha-tocopherol.
And, the issue is that a lot of supplements don’t do this. So, I would recommend you look for mixed tocopherols, or the form of vitamin E that we talked about in that podcast episode tocotrienols. I’ve mentioned before that, for example, I used the Thorne multivitamin. After investigating that one, I’m perfectly comfortable with that as a natural form of alpha-tocopherol. Meaning, the RRR alpha form. It’s also known as the DDD alpha form and that would be a safe form. And, sometimes, it does take a little bit of digging. You may even need to call the company from which you’re using a multivitamin and find out what the source of that vitamin E is.
And, in an ideal scenario, if you could get a multivitamin that’s got like tocotrienols in it along with alpha-tocopherol, mixed tocopherols, that would be a pretty good approach. So, anyways, it just comes down to whether it’s synthetic versus natural. I know this is just like a whole can of worms and a whole bunch of chemistry. But ultimately, you don’t need to rush out and throw out your multivitamin, because not all forms of vitamin E are created equal. So, there you have it.
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My guest on today’s show is–he’s a brilliant guy. He’s a physician. He’s a cum laude graduate of Yale University with special honors in human biological and social evolution. He’s completed residences in general surgery and thoracic surgery at University of Michigan, if I can talk. He serves as a clinical associate at the NIH. He has invented devices that will reverse the cell death that you would see in an acute heart attack and has actually developed the world’s most widely used device of its kind to protect the heart from damage during open-heart surgery.
He’s actually done fellowship himself in congenital heart surgery, and really pioneered infant and pediatric heart transplantation. He also pioneered the field of xenotransplantation which is the study of how the genes of one species react to the transplanted heart of a foreign species. So, he’s investigated the immune system at a very deep level even with respect to heart transplants. He’s also one of the fathers of robotic surgeries, if that weren’t enough, and as a consultant to Intuitive Surgical. He’s received early FDA approval to use robotic-assisted minimally invasive surgery for coronary artery bypass and mitral valve operations.
He is also a real wizard in the realm of nutrition. And, he has written a book you’ve probably heard of because he’s been a guest on my podcast before. He wrote the book called, “The Plant Paradox: The Truth About Lectins” and appeared on my podcast last year to discuss that book, and the idea of mitigating some of the built-in natural defense mechanisms of plants. But he now has a new book called, “The Longevity Paradox: How to Die Young at A Ripe Old Age.” I just finished the book a couple of days ago. It’s dog-eared. I got a bunch of pages folded over. I have plenty that I want to talk to him about.
His name, in case you hadn’t guessed already, is Dr. Steven Gundry. Dr. Steven Gundry. And, as we talk on today’s show, if you’re interested in getting his book, if you’re interested in other notes, research articles we mentioned, anything like that, just go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/longevityparadox. That’s BenGreenfieldFitness.com/longevityparadox. And, you can delve into all the goodies over there.
So, Dr. Gundry, welcome back to the show, man.
Steven: Hey, thanks, Ben. Glad to be back.
Ben: Yeah. This new book is amazing. I would imagine that amongst this growing movement of folks who are interested in eating animals and the carnivore diet and protein consumption and the general fitness audience that tunes in that we may generate a little bit of controversy with this show. And, I’m sure we’ll get a chance to delve into some of that stuff because you talked about some of that in your book. But ultimately, man, there’s so much in here. And, if you’re game, I thought the most interesting part of the book was where you talk about the seven deadly myths of aging. Would you be game to get into those?
Steven: I think that’s a fun area stuff.
Ben: Oh, yeah. That area especially had me thinking a lot, some smoke coming out of my ears. So, the seven deadly myths of aging, can you go through them with us?
Steven: Sure. Well, let’s start with number one. Number one is the Mediterranean diet promotes longevity. Now, that will stir some controversy.
Ben: Yes, indeed.
Steven: So, when you look at the Blue Zones, and the Blue Zones was a term coined by the journalist Dan Buettner, who I have a great deal of respect for. And, at that time, and subsequently, he’s written about five communities around the world that have had pretty interesting extreme longevity. I might add that as far as I know, I’m the only nutritionist who has actually spent most of his career living in one of the Blue Zones and that was Loma Linda, California, where I was a professor. So, I love to talk to people about Blue Zones because having lived there, I guess I know at least one of them of which I can speak a great deal on.
So, these Blue Zones were the Island of Sardinia, Okinawa, Japan, Loma Linda, California, the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica and the Greek island of Icaria. And, these folks, the argument is since two of these places are in the Mediterranean that all we have to do is follow the Mediterranean diet and we’ll be fine. And, I do not disagree with that at all. In fact, anyone who looks at my programs will see a lot of the Mediterranean diet or parts of the Mediterranean diet in all of my writings, in all of my advice.
Ben: I think that was the Mediterranean Diet Institute calling you just now, by the way.
Steven: Yeah, I think it was.
Ben: Or the olive oil foundation of America.
Steven: I don’t know why they’re calling me, Ben. I’m going to try not to have them calling me.
Ben: Yeah. You’re apparently in demand, man.
Steven: Well, I’m in a hotel room, unfortunately.
Ben: Well, I appreciate you making this happen from your hotel room.
Steven: Okay. So, maybe they won’t bother me. Okay. So, speaking of olive oil, as you’ve probably heard me say one of my favorite sayings is the only purpose of food is to get olive oil into your mouth. And, I firmly believe that, and in fact, if anybody wants to follow my teachings to the letter, I want you to be a gorilla who lives in Italy. And, by that, I mean the more leaves you eat and pour olive oil on them, probably the better you’ll do.
But getting back to the Mediterranean diet, and particularly the Blue Zones, one of the implications that’s made, not only implications, but teachings and urgings is that the Mediterranean diet is healthy because it contains whole grains and beans. And, that the key to the Mediterranean diet is eating whole grains and beans. And, quite honestly, I referenced a number of papers that show that, I believe and others believe, is incorrect. I was probably most influenced by a gentleman you’ll recognize by the name of Staffan Lindeberg, who was a physician. He since passed away.
But one of the most impressive books I’ve ever read, I think covering the subject of nutrition is his book, “Food and Western Disease.” And, in it, he makes among other things a very strong case that cereal grains are a negative aspect of the Mediterranean diet that are compensated for by the more positive aspects of the Mediterranean diet. And, those include the polyphenol-rich foods in olive oil, in fruits and vegetables, in red wine, and also actually in the coffee that the Mediterranean diet uses. And, that these are positive factors that in a way compensate cover up from the negative factor that cereal grains have.
And, as you know, I think, and he actually thought that lectins are a major bad component that these things are compensating for. Interestingly, I add two other Blue Zones, and there are actually plenty more that we could add. One that I’ve enjoyed studying thanks to Dr. Lindeberg is the Kitavans or Papua New Guinea. And, the other one that Dan Bruettner didn’t know about is the little hamlet south of Naples that I visited last year, Acciaroli.
Ben: Acciaroli, Italy. Rosemary Country.
Steven: Rosemary Country. And, interestingly enough, those folks do not eat pasta or bread. They actually believe it’s far too expensive. So, they are one of the few Italians that – any cereal grains. And, we’ll get into this later. But they do like lentils. And, I think that’s actually an important point to make as we go on.
Ben: Interesting. And, by the way, to interrupt you real quick because you do make a good point in your book. There are a very small number of grains. Although, I guess technically, it’s a grass that would actually not have these high levels of lectins. And, you mentioned in your book, I think we’d be remiss not to name it, and that would be millet. You get into millet in the book and how it can actually work wonders for your gut and your microbiome. And, it’s one of those few grains that would have almost no inflammatory potential at all based on the limited number of plant defense mechanisms in it.
Steven: Right. Yeah, millet and sorghum and another very tiny grain called teff don’t have a hull. Actually, the hull is where most of the defense mechanisms of the plant are located. So, these three grains or grasses actually have no lectins. And, if anybody wants to google it, you’ll find in fact there are no lectins on these particular grasses.
Ben: Now, one other question not to derail you too much from what you’re getting into on the Mediterranean myth. But what about whole like unprocessed barley? It’s my understanding that that was pretty heavily consumed traditionally in a Mediterranean profile for a long time. Are you saying that that would fall in one of the categories of something that one of those things they’re eating and living a long time despite that inclusion in their diet not because of it?
Steven: Yeah. Barley also has gluten, interestingly enough, and we can really do a crazy deep dive. Rye was actually a, for lack of a better word, weed that resembled wheat very closely, and it would spring up in wheat fields and get picked. And, as people move to northern climates where we didn’t not do well, the rye seed came along with the wheat and the rye flourished and the wheat died off. And, so, rye because of its similarity to wheat, got a ride on wheat seeds to northern climates where it took over. Again, you look at how plants think. And, rye hid among wheat to take over northern climates. But that’s a nicer side.
But yeah, one of the things I think we tend to forget about traditional cultures is that there were no storage systems for any food. And, so, much of the time, grains were fermented either by accident or rapidly on purpose because fermentation among other things will dramatically decrease the amount of lectins. The bacteria actually enjoy eating lectins. So, we tend to forget that about traditional cultures.
Ben: Now, what about this idea, because I know that you make a point in the book that many of these Blue Zones do not eat significant amounts of animal protein, and instead have a diet that’s rich in polyphenols and some of this kind of slower release carbohydrates such as lentils, for example. But I know that the Mediterranean diet, for example, they are eating eggs and poultry and fish and things along those lines. How much of an aspect though of the Mediterranean diet do you think is influenced by the Greek Orthodox Christian practice of fasting? And, the reason I ask is because my dad is a member of the Orthodox Church and he, for example, during Lent that begins and throughout Lent and then ends on Orthodox Easter, there’s no animal consumption whatsoever, no meat, no poultry, no dairy, no eggs, no animal fats. And, I think there’s fish allowed on like two specific days.
And, do you think that part of it is the press pull cycling that anabolic catabolic cycle that those populations would be getting if they are following the traditional religious aspect of that diet?
Steven: Yeah. I think that’s a huge factor in a lot of these diets is these usually religious or cultural aspects of fasting. And, I get into that a lot in the book. There’s something I think that’s fascinating about the Mediterranean diet that’s missing in the discussion. And, that is a few years ago, the Cleveland Clinic invented a test that looks for a compound that got bacteria manufactured primarily from animal protein called TMAO. Then TMAO is actually a pretty nasty compound in terms of damaging the surface of blood vessels.
And, they even did some experiments showing that vegans who force themselves to eat animal protein would not produce this compound because they had a different set of bacteria. But then to their credit, they said, “Now, wait a minute.” The Mediterranean has very low incidence of coronary artery disease, and yet like you point out, they eat chickens, they eat fish, they eat sausages, they eat meat. Is there something in the Mediterranean diet that’s protecting them? So, they went looking again. And, they found a compound that’s called 3, 3-dimethyl-1-butanol that is present in most olive oils, balsamic vinegar and red wine.
So, it’s an analogue of choline that prevents bacteria. It paralyzes the enzyme system. So, it paralyzes the bacteria from making TMAO out of choline and carnitine. And, so, these substances which are ubiquitous in the Mediterranean diet, turn off production of TMAO which can damage blood vessels. And, they wrote about it to their credit. Here’s another factor in the Mediterranean diet that may mitigate the consumption of meat animal protein.
Ben: Now is all TMAO created equal? Because I saw a study that came out, it was in the past year that showed that elevated TMAO that was associated with fish and seafood and vegetable consumption could actually reduce heart disease symptoms and that certain species of fish would increase serum TMAO, and yet fish are associated like this reduced cardiovascular risk. So, does the mechanism via which the TMAO is elevated matter here?
Steven: Yeah, I think that’s true. And, I actually argued fairly vehemently with the Cleveland Clinic folks about this point because TMAO is present in almost all seafood particularly shellfish, and yet if you look epidemiologically, people who are fish eaters as a general rule have much less cardiovascular disease and better health than “meat eaters.” And, my argument was well, TMAO is so bad for you then obviously the TMAO is not TMAO if it comes in different places. And, this paper last year, I think, correctly pointed out that maybe all TMAO is not created equal.
Ben: Yeah. It’s interesting. So, would you say that with the Mediterranean diet, if we’re going to follow that for longevity, it wouldn’t be like an Olive Garden restaurant, breadstick appetizer, and pasta Mediterranean diet, but it would be rich in polyphenols and rich in olive oil and red wine and not meat absent, but richer in fish and eggs, and then also includes some type of fasting component if, for example, red meats and more anabolic compounds or higher amounts of protein were included in that diet?
Steven: Yeah. I think as you go along into the longevity paradox, you’ll see that I agree with Valter Longo from USC, that I think you can mitigate a bad diet with a five-day period of fasting mimicking diet, or a modified vegan fast carried out five days in a row. And, you can actually act as if you were on a calorie-restricted diet that entire month.
Ben: But you would need to do that like, from what I understand, on a quarterly basis?
Steven: Yeah. You got to do it pretty religiously. He would like you to do it every month. I wouldn’t mind if you did it every month, but certainly a quarterly basis is a reasonable thing.
Ben: Yeah. It’s interesting because I had this discussion with Dr. Paul Saladino when we talked about the carnivore diet approach, not only the importance of restricting excess methionine consumption by consuming bone broth and liver and heart and marrow and a lot of these so-called awful compounds that would introduce more glycine into the diet.
Steven: Glycine, yeah.
Ben: But to also prioritize the inclusion of hormetic stressors that would induce cellular autophagy, like heat and cold and fasting and exercise. And so, even on a diet like that I think that one needs to be cognizant of the fact that when we look at longevity inducing diet like a Mediterranean diet, for example, you have to include these periods of cellular autophagy or of catabolism.
Steven: Yeah. I realize the carnivore diet is the end thing this week, but that’s just renaming the traditional Atkins diet. The carnivore diet, high protein diet works really good for weight loss, because breaking down protein is really expensive energy wise and you lose 30% of calories and protein just in breaking it down. And, so, the other thing that people tend to forget is that most of these diets are actually lectin limited diets. And, one of the reasons I say they work is that almost all of these low-carb diets whichever one you care to name, one of the main things they do is eliminate lectins.
Ben: Yeah. And, by the way, for people listening in, we probably won’t spend a great deal of time on plant defense mechanisms just because Steven and I talked about that for a good hour in our last episode, so I’ll link to that. It’s called, “The Truth About Lectins and The Plant Paradox” for you to listen to. Just go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/longevityparadox because I really want to focus on some unique aspects of this book that go beyond plant paradox.
And, in the same section where you talk about the myths of the Mediterranean diet, you also mentioned a couple populations. One of them you already named the Kitavan population and also the Okinawans. And, you talk about the type of carbohydrate that they consume quite frequently that appears to provide a protective effect against things like blood sugar spikes and inflammation. Can you get into what that carbohydrate is?
Steven: Yeah. The Okinawans, the actual only definitive look at the Okinawan diet, the traditional Okinawan diet was done by the US military in the late 1940s as an occupying force. And, it’s available, I referenced it in the book. But fascinatingly, the dish in the Okinawan diet and 85% of their diet was a blue or purple sweet potato. And, really, only about 5% to 6% of their diet was white rice. They did not eat brown rice. They ate white rice. And, the other 5% to 6% of their diet was soy-based products, but it was primarily miso and natto. They really did not eat much tofu. And, the rest was a little bit of fat, and it was pig fat. It was lard.
So, the Kitavans eat about 60% of their diet is taro root and another 30% of their diet is coconut and coconut oil. So, taro root and sweet potatoes have our resistant starches. These starches are fairly unique in that, and I referenced this extensively in the book, they really do mitigate blood sugar spikes. And, I think the other thing that we tend to forget that I spend a lot of time in the Longevity Paradox talking about is these are the sort of starches, the soluble fibers, that gut bugs, our microbiome really, really, really enjoy eating. I think the message from the book is the more we eat for our gut microbiome, the more that our gut microbiome is going to take care of us.
And, the longer I’ve been at this, the more impressed I am with the influence of a diverse healthy gut microbiome on our longevity. And, we can dive into that as well.
Ben: One of the things that I really like about that is when – and I think you actually even get into this in the book about how the Kitavans, not only do they have this, I believe they have the APOE e4 genetic snip that would predispose them to heart disease and under normal conditions, and not only do even under those conditions they eat a lot of coconut oil. But this high consumption of taro root seems to nourish and protect the gut, and they have low cholesterol levels and a near absence of heart disease. And, I think a big part of it is due to this purple potato or taro root consumption.
And, it’s kind of funny because one of my favorite things to do, I do this all when I’m in Hawaii, is I’ll go buy the taro root. You can get fresh taro root on Amazon, for example, and I make it into a purple mash, and I cook that up with coconut oil, and then I sprinkle it with a little bit of raw honey and some crumbled macadamia nuts. And, it’s a wonderful, wonderful feast. But you mix those saturated fats up with the purple potato, and it’s like a match made in heaven.
Steven: Yeah. Another good example of mitigating the appellee four gene is Nigerians actually carry the highest concentration of the APOE e4 gene of any people. And, their starch is millet which we mentioned earlier. And, there’s pretty interesting evidence, so despite having this huge percentage of APOE e4 carriers, they don’t get Alzheimer’s disease. And, it’s actually something that Michael Greger and I actually agree on that probably the more millet you eat the better you’re off protecting against Alzheimer’s.
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Yeah, that’s fascinating. And, I know we’ve only covered one of the seven myths that you get into in the diet. But before we move on to the next myth, one thing that I think a lot of people wonder about if you start to eat, let’s say, like a plant rich Mediterranean diet is this whole issue with roughage and fiber. And, many people, including myself, have become disillusioned with the giant kale smoothie and the big-ass salad made of raw vegetables at lunch. I’m no longer doing that, and I’m actually experiencing some very improved gut function. Not to mention I’m crapping out big brown snakes every morning instead of seeing pieces of vegetable in my stool. And, you mentioned this in the book about roughage and fiber. What are your feelings on roughage and fiber intake?
Steven: Well, the whole fiber thing got started years ago by an English colon surgeon by the name of Denis Burkitt, and many people know him from Burkitt’s lymphoma. But his story I think is illustrative. He was a colon surgeon from England, and he went on a mission to Africa, and he really went to operate on hemorrhoids and colon cancer. And, when he got among the tribes, he unfortunately found that nobody had colon cancer, and nobody had hemorrhoids. And so, he was rather disappointed. But since he was there, he started to look at these people’s stools and these guys would go out into the countryside and crap. And, he noticed that they were these huge snakes, and he became obsessed with these snakes. And, he looked at the food they were eating, and they were eating a huge amount of tuber yams, and they were also eating things like millet.
And, so, he said, “Oh, my gosh. It’s all this fibrous stuff that they’re eating.” Now, he didn’t know that there was a difference between soluble fiber in these compounds and insoluble fiber which is in general on the outside of whole grains. So, he went back to England, and again, he didn’t know the difference. And, England, they didn’t actually have yams and sweet potatoes at the time. But they had plenty of grains, so he said, “We got to eat whole grains.” And, he’s really one of the proponents of the whole grain goodness. And, that’s actually where the idea that you had to have fiber in your diet.
Now, what’s rather sad and humorous is that he actually died of colon cancer. And, there is some pretty interesting evidence that I talked about in my first book that the non-soluble fiber, the insoluble fiber, actually acts like razor blades on the inside of your intestines. And, I give some examples where it actually can induce colon cancer. So, I think unfortunately, there is a huge difference between soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. So, back to tubers, I talked a lot about the naked mole-rat, and I’m just obsessed with the naked mole-rat…
Ben: A very, very attractive young creature.
Steven: Yes. Please have your listeners google it that some people describe it as a penis with buck teeth. It’s actually a pretty good description. So, the naked mole-rat lives in Sub-Saharan Africa in tunnels, and they actually have a colony very much like bee colonies and ant colonies. And, before we leave today, I do want to talk about the importance of social aspects of longevity. Don’t let us forget.
Ben: Yeah, certainly. And, by the way, I have a whole podcast I did last month on the growing epidemic of loneliness and the importance of social life and relationships and respect to longevity. So, I did cover that pretty recently.
Steven: Perfect. So, the naked mole-rat lives 20 or 30 times longer than a normal rat. The normal rat lives about two years. Naked mole-rat can live 20 to 30 years. In fact, there’s some who think that there is actually no upper limit to its mortality. So, the naked mole-rat, if you look at the gut microbiome of the naked mole-rat, it has literally the identical microbiome of a healthy 105 humans. And, moreover, the naked mole-rat, unlike any other rat which are primarily grain eaters, grain predator, the naked mole-rat eats tubers, roots and fungi that are growing on these roots in these subterranean tunnels.
And, if you look at things that promote a diverse gut microbiome and certain really cool gut buddies, you really ought to be eating tubers and roots and mushrooms. So, I think we ought to be naked mole-rats.
Ben: Yeah, that’s very interesting. I mean, I know they have some pretty robust protein chaperon mechanisms that seem to provide some amount of DNA repair from a genetic standpoint. That’s something I’ve addressed in previous talk I’ve given on anti-aging and some of the ways that human beings might be able to enhance some of their own protein repair mechanisms. But it’s kind of yet another advantage to tubers. And, I know a lot of people might still be trying to wrap their head around this, but it’s so easy. I mean, I even have a whole pantry full of just BPA free canned pumpkin, and it’s so convenient because it’s pureed. It’s easy to digest. I can mix it with little yogurt or have it next to some fish, and it just works fantastically. You can get the same thing with sweet potato.
And, as you mentioned in the book, especially with people who suffer from leaky gut or irritable bowel syndrome, if you can mush or use a pressure cooker or do something to take your vegetables and even your tubers and just render them almost like baby food, yet you feel fantastic and they digest amazingly.
Steven: Yeah. I’ll tell you. You brought up kale and I’ll tell you a funny personal story. We tend to forget that particularly bitter leaves have a lot of lectins in them. The bitterness is to warn you that if you eat me, you’re going to be sorry. And, I’m profoundly tolerant of leaves over 20 years. But a few years ago, my wife, Penny, bought a NutriBullet and decided to go on a kale smoothie kick. And, she made a pure kale smoothie. I’ll never forget the first day, and I drank it down because I eat kale, not a lot, but I eat kale, but I eat a lot of greens. And, sure enough, about two hours later, I had just intense cramping and then luckily got rid of my kale smoothie in the bathroom.
And, I’m going, “What the heck?” And, I realized that the emulsification process had really released every last lectin for me to get attacked with. So, I learned very early with my autoimmune patients, and about half of my patient population is autoimmune and leaky gut. And, you cannot tolerate even these lectins and you really have to destroy them, and I really asked my IBS folks and leaky gut folks just to stay away from these guys until late in the course of healing the gut.
Ben: Yeah, it’s a good tip and I think a lot of people get on this kale smoothie bandwagon and just shoot their gut specifically in the foot. Now, how about myth number two. There’s this idea about animal protein. Can you get into that?
Steven: Yeah. I grew up in Omaha, Nebraska and Milwaukee, Wisconsin where meat is king. And, we, of course, have to realize that the Department of Agriculture is in control of our food pyramid. And, the Department of Agriculture is in the business of selling agricultural products. And, it’s like the fox guarding the hen house. So, much of our advice has come from people who are interested in you and me consuming animal protein. I spent as you know much of my career at Loma Linda and I got to know Dr. Gary Fraser who was and still is in charge of studying the Seventh Day Adventists and their longevity. And, he’s published I think now, oh gosh, six maybe seven studies, and he just published another study a couple weeks ago looking at the effect of animal protein consumption on the longevity of the very long-lived Seventh Day Adventists in Loma Linda.
And, sadly, he’s shown that the vegans live the longest, the ovo-vegetarians live next to ovo-vegetarian live next. I can tell you that a number of the Adventists cheat and some of them are pescatarians and some of them have chicken. And, he’s shown that the more animal protein that’s added to the diet, the less longevity. He’s recently published that you can actually track coronary artery disease rates and stroke rates and show that any animal protein has a risk factor. I wish that wasn’t true, but Gary is a superb epidemiologist, and he’s been tracking these numbers for a very long time. So, now, does that mean that you can’t have it? Well, I think Valter Longo and I would argue that you can have your meat and eat it too as long as you take some steps such as periods of fasting or periods of five days of a modified vegan fast.
And, as you’ve noticed in the book, I think the unifying factor of all the Blue Zones is not grains and beans because certain Blue Zones don’t eat grains and beans, but it’s the fact that all of these Blue Zones animal protein is a very limited part of their diet.
Ben: Now, what about though the idea of the methionine/glycine ratios? Because it’s my understanding that the real issue here is that high amounts of methionine that we get from chicken breast and a cut of ribeye steak that’s kind of the primary amino acid that is increasing levels of IGF-1 and may contribute to a shorter life span. But I know that studies have looked into glycine and found that it actually has like an IGF reducing effect. Not to kick this horse to death, but it returns to if you’re going to eat animals, you need to eat nose to tail and include, as you’ve mentioned, some amount of caloric restriction, fasting, other hormetic stressors. But I think a big, big part of this is absence of glycine.
Steven: No. I think that’s true. And, there’s a beautiful pig study, I may have referenced it in The Plant Paradox. But you can take pigs, and we know that pigs put on a methionine restrictive diet. Well, I have about 50% increased lifespan. But you can duplicate that methionine-restricted diet by giving pigs their regular diet and supplementing them with glycine. And, you’re right, glycine is probably one of the secrets to all this, and I take a couple of grams of glycine twice a day, and you’ll notice it on my supplement list. So, I think there is something be said that glycine is the balancing factor. But when you look at particularly Gary’s death, and you look at the Blue Zones, you can’t find a super long-lived people who are primarily carnivorous, sadly.
Ben: Because I know like Staffan Lindeberg who you already mentioned, I know he looked at the Kitavans who were consuming a lot of wild animals and would have fish in their diet or like the Maasai eating milk and meat and blood. I mean, can’t we name some populations that did indeed eat some of these animals and in pretty hefty doses?
Steven: Yeah. But even the Maasai don’t have extreme longevity. And, I think we’re trying to die young at a ripe old age, and I’m just trying to tease out, “Okay. How are we going to do this?” and I think one of the things we can learn from the Blue Zones, and I think probably the only thing we can learn from them, is that the less animal protein, not absent, but less animal protein maybe the one thing that ties them all together.
Ben: Yeah. It’s kind of a matter of striking that sweet spot, right? I know many of our listeners are in the fitness world, and they want to maintain muscle, and they want to go out and do a Spartan Race or an Ironman or competing CrossFit, and so there are some populations I think who are in need of higher protein. But yeah, I mean, if you’re engaged in low-level physical activity all day long, living a more ancestral lifestyle, spending time in the sun, outdoors, barefoot, not beating up your body with eccentric exercise every day, I certainly think that animal protein needs to diminish.
And, again, if you are consuming them, you need to include your bone broth and your liver and your gelatin and your marrow, and a lot of these other things that seemed to offer some kind of protective effect. And, I guess related to this is this issue of growth hormone because a lot of these folks especially athletes, for example, they’re going after amplifying GH to a certain extent to increase their vitality, and you talk about that. I believe that’s actually myth number three that you get into. So, touch on your thoughts here on growth hormone?
Steven: Well, one of the things that Dr. Longo has taught me is there’s this very interesting group of people in Ecuador called the Laron named after Zvi Laron who first discovered them. They have absent growth hormone receptors. And, these people are very short, as you cannot imagine, but they actually don’t have any cancer, diabetes. Now, unfortunately, since they found the western world, they do have a high rate of alcoholism as many primitive people do. But they’re also similar to a group in Brazil that carried the same syndrome. And, interestingly enough, when you block the IGF-1 receptor in mice, they live 40% longer than normal mice. And, if you restrict the calories that these mice consume, they live even longer.
But if you give them growth hormone, it actually abolishes the longevity effect of the calorie restriction. So, at least in humans, there’s pretty good evidence that growth hormone, particularly as we get older, is pretty mischievous. And, in mice, probably it’s not a great idea. The other thing that you look at and I measure IGF-1 in everybody every three months, and if you look at my super old people, I call them 95 and above, who are doing well, these people tend to run insulin-like growth factors in the ’70s and ’80s. Now, when we’re young, we run very high insulin-like growth factors, but it tails off as we get older.
But for instance, if you look at 50-year-olds who still are running and so on, their growth factor is in the 200s or 225 and going forward, they have a much higher incidence of cancer than people who run low insulin-like growth factors. In fact, all of my cancer patients, when I get them, they almost always have elevated insulin-like growth factors. And, one of my jobs is to drastically reduce this and knock on wood but I do a pretty good job of it. I’ll give you a one recent example. You saw a gentleman in his early 60s who has a pretty impressive lymphocytic lymphoma, and he takes both testosterone and human growth hormone. And, his doctors who sent him to me, they’ve been trying to convince him that this is really stupid, and he keeps saying, “Well yeah, this is making me strong and youthful.” And, they’re going, “Are you crazy? You’re feeding the dumb stuff.”
So, I was the first person and he had an insulin-like growth factor in the high 200s. And, I was the first person to show him this data, and thank God, he stopped. So, we’ll see what happens.
Ben: Yeah. Well, I think the sweet spot for IGF, it tapers off once you exceed about 150 or so, and I was looking into this recently because there’s a lot of people now using growth hormone inducing peptides and things like tesamorelin and ipamorelin to enhance sleep or as a muscle growth mechanism. So, I looked into this and it turns out that a course, the growth of a variety of malignant cells are related to this excess insulin-like growth factor or IGF. But a big, big part of it is the absence of the binding proteins that can enhance apoptosis in a lot of these cancer cells. And, these binding proteins, it turns out are increased with the consumption of all things quercetin which you’d find in onions and grapes and green vegetables, et cetera.
They have these antiproliferative effects. So, I think if anything, if you’re using any of these, it looks like quercetin supplementation might be able to at least allow you to maintain slightly higher IGF-1 levels with some type of protective effects of quercetin from wild strawberries seem to have a similar effect. So, I think that the inclusion of those, if folks are listening and they are trying to amp up IGF, I think it’s a no-brainer to include like quercetin and emphysema supplementation.
Steven: I absolutely agree. I take both every day.
Ben: Yeah. If we get a chance, and I don’t know that we will, but you have a list at the end of the book of all the supplements that you take every day. I think most of the people in the longevity and anti-aging sector, who I talked to fight this uphill battle against airline travel and living in a post-industrial era and nutrients stripped foods, they’re popping 80 to 100 different capsules a day. Your list at the end of the book and maybe I’ll use that as a teaser to tell people to go out and buy the book if they want to read your full list. I was lying in bed reading and actually, I turned to my wife and I said, “You think I take a lot of supplements. Check out would this dude is popping.”
Steven: Yeah. Check out this guy.
Ben: Yeah. So, how about myth number four. What’s myth number four?
Steven: It’s important to get plenty of iron as you age. Iron is one of the most deadly substances that we have. And, everybody says, “Oh gosh, you need iron to make lots of red blood cells, and the more red blood cells, the more hemoglobin, and the more hemoglobin, the more oxygen you carry.” And, so, that’s a really good thing. And, in fact, calm and wisdom particularly from the 1950s and ’60s, there was a very famous tonic Geritol which Lawrence Welk pushed among other things. And, Geritol was for iron-poor blood. But the evidence is pretty overwhelming both in human studies and certainly in animal studies that iron is actually really dangerous for mitochondrial function.
And, one of the fun studies that I referenced in the book is the Denmark and Swedish researchers were worried that people gave a lot of blood, donated blood fairly religiously would get iron deficient. So, they tracked people in terms of frequency of blood donation through their lives, and they found that people who actually donated the most frequently had the longest lifespan versus people who donated less frequently. So, these were all blood donors and they’re all matched for lifestyle, everything else. And, that’s been confirmed in another study. One of the theories of why women live longer than men is that women for half of their lives donate blood every month, and men no longer wrestle saber-tooth Tigers.
Ben: Nor the most men engaged in heavy amounts of endurance exercise which I think creates its other host of issues but that’s another way to decrease iron is to just go pound the pavement every day.
Steven: Yeah, that’s true. The other thing I think we can forget is that probably up until 100 years ago, most of us had iron leeching parasites in our guts. And, we avidly absorb iron probably for this reason. And, those parasites really no longer exist now, that does not mean your listeners should go out and get some worms and tapeworms.
Ben: Although you can. I do have an article about that, about pig whipworm and rat tapeworm consumption.
Steven: That’s true. In fact years ago, when I was first getting into this, a gentleman approached me that we should have a weight loss product that would have tapeworms. And, then we know how to kill tapeworms, and so when you got to your final weight, you just kill off the tapeworms. But we actually researched, and the FDA wouldn’t let us sell.
Ben: Yeah. Well, the only reason that I did the first stint was to experiment with the effects on immune system modulation particularly during travel. And, I actually am not doing that right now. And, primarily, it’s based on the expense of the stuff. It’s just super expensive to order like good-good non-opportunistic parasites that you could consume that aren’t going to populate your gut. It’s not something that I’m currently doing. But I do think that you make an excellent point in the book, and I think anybody who’s getting regular blood tests – I mean ferritin and GGT are in my opinion musts on a blood test to be able to track your potential for this kind of internal rust, since GGT is a liver enzyme that helps to metabolize glutathione. And, it is highly interactive with iron. You can use its tract levels of excess free iron or unbound iron in your blood. And, then ferritin as an iron storage protein is another.
So, even a lot of doctors just don’t pay attention to those values, and you make such a good point in the book. It’s like iron has been put on a pedestal. It’s this magic compound that increases your ability to be able to climb mountains, but it’s certainly not so.
Steven: Let me add a little thing about ferritin. I found with my work that ferritin, particularly in women, is not a great marker for iron, but it is a really good marker for inflammation. And, an elevated ferritin level in a woman if she has a normal iron level, most women will. Unless they’re huge spinach eaters. Elevated ferritin level in a woman is a really good marker of inflammation and make you go look for an autoimmune disease if you weren’t looking before.
Ben: Wow. Yeah, that’s an important one. There’s another myth that you talked about regarding metabolic rate. Everybody’s going out and getting their metabolism tested and trying to keep their RMR elevated. Can you get into metabolic rate in the myth about that?
Steven: Well, again, I’m going to back to my old friends, the naked mole-rat. One of the things that’s interesting about naked mole-rats is they actually have a very low metabolic rate. And, I write about this years ago in my first book because in my super old people, they almost run on the edge of hypothyroidism. They run low basal body temperatures. They’re sitting around 96 degrees sometimes 97 degrees, and they’re inefficient what I call the Toyota Prius rather than a 12-cylinder or Hammer. And, when you look at the one of the old series around the turn of the last century is of the rate of aging equals the rate of energy utilization. I think there’s something to be said about this. Efficient use of energy I think is going to win the race, and the more you can actually turbocharged cells to have more mitochondria to encourage mitochondrial division, so that you become more efficient at calorie burning I think is going to win the race in the long run.
The other thing that I mentioned is that carnivores tend to run much higher body temperatures than herbivores simply because breakdown of protein actually generates a lot of heat. And, carnivores, as we all know, spend most of their time sleeping for, I think very good reasons to try and lower their metabolic rate.
Ben: Yeah. It’s really interesting because I go to a lot of these fitness conventions and you see like the bodybuilders or the Ironman triathletes from a distance, and they look like an Adonis or like an aerobic engine in spandex. And, you get up close and you see a significant amount of skin oxidation which of course reflect collagen degradation farther down to the core. And, these folks are highly inflamed yet super fit. And, the fact is that I think it’s probably not a newsflash to people anymore that that fitness or performance is not synonymous with longevity, but this idea of keeping your metabolism constantly elevated with high-intensity exercise and weightlifting I think is a real mistake versus the low-level physical activity throughout the day, lifting heavy stuff and sprinting every once in a while.
But being cognizant of the fact that if you want to live a long time, you simply cannot be exhausting that battery every single day. But one thing I want to ask you I don’t think you mentioned in the book though is how do you strike the sweet spot between fitness and maintenance of cardiovascular health, for example, and having a low metabolism?
Steven: Well, I’m going to throw something from my original book, “Dr. Gundry’s Diet Evolution.” Actually, one of the best examples of dropping metabolic rate is hibernating animals. And, hibernating animals, if you look at their non-hibernating counterparts, hibernating animals can live two to three times longer than their non-hibernating counterpart. And, that’s because for part of the year, they dramatically reduce their metabolic rate. And, I think we should learn from that and I talked about this in the book. There are periods where we should have energy expenditure, and we have to have periods of less energy expenditure. And, I think that occurred probably naturally when there were actual seasons. But we now live in 365 days of endless summer, almost regardless of where we live in the world.
And, one of the things I urge is these cyclicals change in activity, cyclical change in eating. I think one of the reasons that these periods of fasting are in almost all great religions, and they usually last for a month or six weeks, I think it was this braking system that everybody recognized from antiquity that we should throw on the brakes for a period of time.
Ben: Yeah. It’s a good point. And, again, it returns to this idea of press pull cycling or periods of anabolism and periods of catabolism. But you make a very good point in the book–low body temperature, lazing around quite a bit, there’s low-level physical activity versus intense exercise. There seemed to be some pretty profound longevity benefits. Of course, I’m not one to argue that you want to live life cold and drive lists and without any muscle, who wants to live 150 years if you’re just lying on the couch all day. But at the same time, you do make a very good point with that one. Another myth and there are two other myths I want to cover in the time that we have is what you talked about regarding saturated fat. Can you get into the myth about saturated fat?
Steven: Yeah. Saturated fat is in again. And, I follow Dr. Ancel Keys’ writings ever since I got into this. Probably everyone in the paleo community mentioned Ancel Keys, and he’s immediately bonafide as the guy who set everything off in the wrong direction by saying fat is bad. He was a nutritionist from the University of Minnesota, for your listeners who don’t know, but they probably do, who invented the K-ration in World War II that actually saved our troops. And, when Dwight Eisenhower had a heart attack in the mid-’50s, very robust, thin male, who would they call out basically every time Ancel Keys to say, “Hey, come and figure out why this happened.”
Well, Ancel Keys had actually been working on starvation experiments, and so he went around literally the world looking at actually over 20 countries, looking at foods and their relationship to coronary artery disease. And, eventually, he published the Seven Countries Study which in the reading basically the more saturated fat people ate, the more heart disease they had, the less saturated fat they ate, the less heart disease. Now, he’s been wildly criticized because he cherry-picked his data. But you can go online and see the whole data. And, there’s still definitely a trend towards saturated fat. But what I think Dr. Keys did not say is that plant fats, he did not actually say were bad for you, that was implied from his work. But he retired to a village south, actually just above Acciaroli, south of Naples.
And, last year, I had the opportunity to interview his housekeeper. He died just shy of 102 years of age. So, he’s actually the oldest living nutritionist. Nutritionist do very badly in terms of longevity as I joke about in the book. And, people are just waiting for me to kick off and prove myself wrong. So, anyhow, Ancel Keys actually ate huge amounts of olive oil living in Italy. And, I think we’ve missed that in vilifying Ancel Keys. And, I’ve looked at all his work over and over and over again. And, I don’t think he made the connection that in general animal fat is accompanied by animal protein. And, again, I hate to beat a dead horse or eat a dead horse, but I think where there’s smoke there’s fire. And, what he may have been seeing is the influence of animal protein.
That being said, I think there’s so much evidence of the health benefit of olive oil particularly on brain function on perhaps mitigating the effect of TMAO production from our microbiome that we shouldn’t vilify monounsaturated fats.
Ben: Yeah. I mean you’re talking to a guy who’s a member of an olive oil club. I get fresh olive oil delivered to my house quarterly from all over the world, and we have tastings with the kids to get the sense and the nose and the fragrance and then the tasting notes. But how much of this do you think is also related to the APOE gene because I mean it affects the size of our chylomicrons and it changes how we metabolize fats throughout our body. And, I personally used to do like a full-on ketogenic diet, and of course, the pantry was full of coconut cream and coconut milk and the refrigerator full of lard and ghee and all these compounds that are chock full of saturated fats.
And, then upon finding out I have a version of the APOE gene called the 34 genotype, I shifted my diet dramatically only about 10% of my total fat intake are from these saturates. And, part of it I think could be related to the fact that some people may not actually manifest issues with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease in response to saturated fats while others do. I think it’s tough to paint with a broad brush, isn’t it?
Steven: Right. Yeah. Thirty percent of people carry the APOE e4, either the 34 which is the most common or a 44. And, through the years, I’ve developed a huge practice in APOE 34 and 44 who were referred to me. And, one of the things I noticed fairly early on is that saturated fats particularly in coconut oil, but also in the animal fats particularly cheeses really increase small dense LDLs and oxidized LDL in these people. I try my best to really limit for the 4s consumption of the saturated fats. The other thing I think we have to realize about these saturated fats is they are carried across our intestinal wall in chylomicrons, a transport vehicle.
And, chylomicrons are the way that lipopolysaccharides LPSs or as I call them little pieces of shit actually hop through our intestinal wall. So, if this is the way, absent a leaky gut, that lipopolysaccharides get into us, I would like to limit the amount of lipopolysaccharides getting into me.
So, I’ll tell you a funny story. You actually could relate to this. I have a gentleman whose father has Alzheimer’s disease. He got it early in his 60s. He’s in his 40s. He carries the 34 and for years, he loves cheese. And, for years, I’ve been asking him to really back off on cheese. And, every time I see him, every three months, he carries a lot of these small dense LDLs. He oxidizes his LDL despite lots of polyphenols. And, after about three years of this, I said, “Humor me. Give up cheese for two weeks before the test, and let’s see what happens.” He says, “Okay, I’ll do that for you.”
So, we get his new tests and his small dense LDLs are now normal. He doesn’t oxidize his LDL. And, I said, “Look at this.” He says, “It’s the cheese,” and I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Oh, you know, this is great news.” I said, “Oh thank you. You’re finally getting it.” He says, “Yeah, this is great news. I can stop eating cheese for two weeks before the test and you’ll never know it.”
Ben: Well, what else you should have told him to do, because you talked about it in the book is a fermented green tea, Pu-Erh tea because you talked about how akkermansia bacteria is protective in terms of increasing mucus production in the gut and helping with this lipopolysaccharide and the consumption of these fermented teas. And, we already touched on how some of the purple potatoes and the taro root can help with the akkermansia, the proliferation. But Pu-Erh tea is another one you talk about in the book.
Steven: Yeah, Pu-Erh tea is this fascinated fermented green tea from China and make sure you know your source and make sure it’s organic because there’s some pretty nasty stuff out there. But Pu-Erh tea actually increases this particular gut bug that literally increases your mucus production on the surface of your intestines. And, mucus, let me tell you, is the key, one of the real keys to having gut integrity as you get older. Mucus protects you against lectins. Mucus actually absorbs lectins. That’s one of the reasons it’s there. And, akkermansia, the more this guy you make the better so a Pu-Erh tea does it and the chicory family of vegetables may be one of the best foods for akkermansia, so radicchio, Belgian endive, chicory, frisée, Jerusalem artichokes have huge amounts of…
Ben: Fartichokes. You’ve got to be careful of those things.
Steven: Well, your gut bugs are telling you, “Thank you so much for dinner.”
Ben: Yeah. It’s funny because I literally just returned from Salt Lake City, Utah where I was attending a fitness convention called Fit Con. And, there was this whole corner there called the keto corner with keto donuts and keto cookies and keto chocolates. And, they all use enormous amounts of erythritol and maltitol and that’s a less favorable way to increase the amount of bloating and gas production in your gut, which I learned the wrong way after having about three “guilt-free” keto donuts for desserts. So, careful with your form of fermentation folks especially those of you following the keto kick. Now, you touched on dairy and that’s actually the final myth that you talk about in the book. It’s about how milk may not, in fact, do the body good. Can you explain?
Steven: Yeah. Two reasons: first, most of the milk in the United States is casein A1 milk comes from Holstein cows. There is increasing evidence that casein A1 makes a nasty compound beta-casomorphin which can produce type 1 diabetes and cause an attack on the pancreas. Number two, it makes an opioid. So, it’s maybe addictive to you. That’s why so many people like milk. But I think the big reason is cow milk is designed to make baby cows grow quickly because herbivores in general have to grow very quickly, so they can run away from predators or stand up to a predator. So, they make a lot of insulin-like growth factor IGF-1. On the other hand, human milk, humans are designed to grow very slowly. And, we actually have very low amounts of IGF-1.
So, the idea that we should be pouring IGF milk into our kids is really scary to me. Our kids are growing much too fast. I show in the book that adolescents who grow quickly have an 80% increased risk of cancer 10 years later. We’re seeing tremendous amounts of cancer in kids that we never saw in the past and I think part of the reason is this obsession that kids have to have milk. We are the only animal that drinks somebody else’s milk and don’t…
Ben: I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing because we’re also the only animal that flies enormous metal tubes across the sky. They take you from point A to point B.
Steven: Which maybe bad.
Ben: But my kids, they drink goat milk which is A2 form of protein and dairy from goat milk for a while I was even sponsored by the Camel Milk Co. which was a wonderful milk. My kids were loving that stuff. Another form of the A2 milk and sheep and water buffalo I know are another couple. But do you know about this website A2milk.com where you can actually go find sources of A2 dairy?
Steven: Yeah. I’ve actually met with the company A2 Milk. It’s actually Australian-based. They’re trying to get a toehold in America, but every time they make progress, our friends at the American Dairy Association tend to undercut their prices and it’s an interesting struggle to talk to them. On the other hand, goat milk used to be called mother’s milk because it’s incredibly similar to human milk. Cow’s milk has really no relationship to human milk even the A2 variety. So, goats’ milk, sheep milk are far better choices. And, if you can find Camel Milk, use it.
Ben: Yeah, exactly. I always go for like the hard-European artisanal cheeses. These forms A2 milk. But I treat dairy for the reasons that you’ve named about the insulin-like growth factor. I treat it like a condiment, right? I use a little dollop of yogurt on top of my pumpkin puree like I was talking about or I’ll use a sprinkling of a really good high-quality cheese on top of something I might have for dinner like fish or a roasted vegetable. Well, let me put it this way. I coached some people like high school football players who will hire me to help them put on muscle or people like hard gainer men who want to get big. And, dairy is the best way to turn a small mammal into a big old fat mammal. So, yeah, you need to be careful with it.
There is so many other things you talked about in the book. The link between the gut and the gut bacteria and rheumatoid arthritis and how you manage coronary artery diseases and immune system disease and your list of supplements that we talked about and even about how omega-6 fatty acids are unfairly vilified. There’s a lot in here that I think will really almost shocked people in terms of news flashes when it comes to nutrition. So, I would highly recommend that those you listening in check this book out. It’ called, “The Longevity Paradox,” and not only will I link to that in the shownotes, but also my original plant paradox interview with Dr. Gundry and his book, “The Plant Paradox.”
I’ll link to everything else that we talked about too from the podcasts on loneliness that I briefly mentioned to my article on tapeworms and whipworms to organic fermented Pu-Erh tea you can get on Amazon. I’ll put links to everything, so just go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/longevityparadox. And, also add The Longevity Paradox by Dr. Gundry to your list of books to read. And, Dr. Gundry, thanks so much for ignoring the hotel staff who so desperately wanted to get a hold of you early in this interview and devoting your time to us today.
Steven: As they probably found out, my credit card doesn’t work. I pulled them again.
Ben: The cops are coming to your door right now. Well, awesome. Thanks for coming on.
Steven: Hey, thanks for having me again. You were one of the first people to give me a shout out when “The Plant Paradox” came out. And, you were one of the defenders of me when my critic showed up. I like critics. They make us constantly re-examine our work. But thanks for sticking in there.
Ben: Well, thanks, man. I appreciate it and best of luck to you, and also to your podcast. Steven has a podcast for those of you listening in. You can find it over at iTunes. Fine, fine podcasts are found.
Steven: Yeah. And, I think we’re trying to get you on one of these days.
Ben: Yeah, we’ll make it happen. We’ll make it happen. So, again go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/longevityparadox. I’m Ben Greenfield along with Dr. Steven Gundry signing out from BenGreenfieldFitness.com. Have an amazing week
Well, thanks for listening to today’s show. You can grab all the shownotes, the resources, pretty much everything that I mentioned over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com, along with plenty of other goodies from me, including the highly helpful “Ben Recommends” page, which is a list of pretty much everything that I’ve ever recommended for hormone, sleep, digestion, fat loss, performance, and plenty more. Please, also, know that all the links, all the promo codes, that I mentioned during this and every episode, helped to make this podcast happen and to generate income that enables me to keep bringing you this content every single week. When you listen in, be sure to use the links in the shownotes, use the promo codes that I generate, because that helps to float this thing and keep it coming to you each and every week.
My guest on today’s podcast and former guest on my show “The Truth About Lectins And The Plant Paradox“, Dr. Steven Gundry proposes in his new book “The Longevity Paradox: How to Die Young at a Ripe Old Age“, that the “diseases of aging” we most fear are not simply a function of age; but rather, they are a byproduct of the way we have lived over the decades.
In “The Longevity Paradox,” he maps out a new approach to aging well—one that is based on supporting the health of the “oldest” parts of us: the microorganisms that live within our bodies.
He believes that – from diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s to common ailments like arthritis to our weight and the appearance of our skin, these bugs are in the driver’s seat, controlling our quality of life as we age.
Dr. Gundry is a cum laude graduate of Yale University with special honors in Human Biological and Social Evolution. After graduating Alpha Omega Alpha from the Medical College of Georgia School of Medicine, Dr. Gundry completed residencies in General Surgery and Thoracic Surgery at the University of Michigan and served as a Clinical Associate at the National Institutes of Health. There, he invented devices that reverse the cell death seen in acute heart attacks; variations of these devices subsequently became the Gundry™ Retrograde Cardioplegia Cannula. It has become the world’s most widely used device of its kind to protect the heart from damage during open-heart surgery. After completing a fellowship in congenital heart surgery at The Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street, in London, Dr. Gundry was recruited as Professor and Chairman of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Loma Linda University Medical Center. There, he and his partner, Leonard Bailey, pioneered infant and pediatric heart transplantation. Together, they have performed more such transplants than any other surgeons in the world.
During his tenure at Loma Linda, Dr. Gundry pioneered the field of xenotransplantation, the study of how the genes of one species react to the transplanted heart of a foreign species. He was one of the original twenty investigators of the first FDA-approved implantable left ventricular assist device (a kind of artificial heart). Dr. Gundry is also the inventor of the Gundry Ministernomy, the widely used minimally invasive approach to aortic- or mitral valve repair, the Gundry Lateral Tunnel, a “living” tissue that can rebuild parts of the heart in children with severe congenital heart malformations; and the Skoosh™ venous cannula, the most widely used cannula in minimally invasive heart operations.
One of the fathers of robotic surgery, as a consultant to Computer Motion (now Intuitive Surgical), Dr. Gundry received early FDA approval to use robotic-assisted minimally invasive surgery for coronary artery-bypass and mitral-valve operations. He holds patents on devices for connecting blood vessels and coronary artery bypasses without sutures, as well as for repairing the mitral valve without the need for sutures or a heart-lung machine. He has served on the Board of Directors of the American Society of Artificial Internal Organs (ASIAO) and was a founding board member and treasurer of the International Society of Minimally Invasive Cardiothoracic Surgery (ISMICS). He recently completed two successive elected terms as President of the Board of Directors of the American Heart Association, Desert Division.
Dr. Gundry has been elected a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the American College of Cardiology, the American Surgical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the College of Chest Physicians. He is a member of numerous other surgical and medical societies. He is also the author of more than three hundred articles, chapters, and abstracts in peer-reviewed journals on surgical, immunology, genetics, nutrition, and lipid investigations. He has operated in more than thirty countries, including charitable missions to China, India, and Zimbabwe.
Inspired by the stunning reversal of coronary artery disease in an “inoperable” patient, using a combination of dietary changes and nutriceutical supplements, in 2001, Dr. Gundry changed the path of his career. An obese, chronic “diet” failure himself, he adapted his undergraduate Yale University thesis to design a diet based on evolutionary genetic coding, which enabled him to reverse his own medical problems. In the process, he effortlessly lost 70 pounds. The equally astonishing results from following what he came to call Diet Evolution in several of his staff led Dr. Gundry to accept a position in Palm Springs where he could devote his efforts to disease reversal.
No longer satisfied with repairing the damage of chronic diseases, since 2002, Dr. Gundry founded and has served as Medical Director of The International Heart and Lung Institute in Palm Springs, California, which serves patients referred from across the nation. He is also Founder and Director of The Center for Restorative Medicine, part of the Institute. Its mission is to prevent and reverse the chronic diseases of “aging” with diet and nutriceutical interventions, using surgical intervention for heart and vascular disease as a last resort.
During our discussion, you’ll discover:
-The myth of the Mediterranean diet promoting longevity…11:20
- “Blue Zones” is a term coined by a journalist named Dan Bruckner
- Gundry has spent most of his life living in a Blue Zone (Loma Linda, CA)
- Doesn’t disagree with the premise you should follow the Mediterranean diet, but there’s more to it…
- “The only purpose of food is to get olive oilin your mouth”
- The key to the Mediterranean diet is notwhole grains and beans
- Book: Food & Western Disease by Staffan Lindeberg
- Residents of Acciaroli, Italy do not eat pasta or bread but love lentil beans
- Millet, sorghum, teft do not have a hull (where most of the defense mechanisms of the plant are located)
- Unprocessed barley: People live a long time in spite of it, not because of it
- Influence of the Greek Orthodox church on the Mediterranean diet
- Fasting and abstaining from animal products are observed during Lent
-The missing link in the Mediterranean diet regarding longevity…20:45
- TMAO, a compound that is deleterious to the surface of blood vessels
- Cleveland Clinic invented a test to detect TMAO
- Recognized low incidence of coronary artery disease in spite of animal product consumption
- Present in most olive oils, balsamic vinegars, and red wines
- A structural analog of choline
- Not all TMAO is created equal
- The ideal Mediterranean Diet (Hint: Olive Garden got it wrong)
- Rich in polyphenols, olive oiland red wine
- More fish and eggs than meat
- Some type of fasting component
- You can mitigate a bad diet with a fast or fasting mimicking diet for 5 consecutive days
- Done on a quarterly basis
- The Carnivore Diet is a fad, fancy name for the Atkins Diet
-The carbohydrate Okinawans consume that staves off inflammation and high blood sugar…27:40
- ~85% of the traditional Okinawan diet is a blue or purple sweet potato
- 5-6% of the diet white rice (no brown rice)
- Remaining soy-based products and pig fat
- Taro and sweet potatoes are resistance starches
- “The more we eat for our gut microbiome, the more our gut microbiome will take care of us.”
- Nigerians carry the highest percentage of APO E-4 gene of any people on earth
- Their starch is melon
- Very low rate of Alzheimer’s
-Dr. Gundry’s thoughts on roughage and fiber intake…35:14
- Denis Burkittwent on a mission to Africa to operate on colon cancer
- Realized no one had colon cancer
- Studied their stools
- Eating huge amounts of tubers (yams) and millet
- Didn’t realize there was a difference between soluble and insoluble fiber
- Advocated for eating whole grains
- Ended up dying of colon cancer
- Naked Mole Rat
- Lives in tunnels in sub-Saharan Africa
- Lives 30x longer than other rats
- Gut microbiome is identical to healthy 105-year-old humans
- Eats tubers, roots, and fungi
- Organic pumpkin puree from Amazon
-The myth of the efficacy of animal protein for longevity…42:45
- US Dept of Agriculture sells agricultural products (owns the food pyramid)
- Gary Fraser’s study on animal protein
- Vegans live the longest
- The more animal protein consumed, the less the longevity
- You can mitigate meat intake with a vegan fast or fasting mimicking diet for 5 days consecutively
- Methionine/glycine ratio
- People who are primarily carnivorous do not historically have the highest longevity
-The myth of growth hormones…49:20
-The myth of iron intake for longevity…55:05
- Iron is one of the deadliest substances
- Iron is dangerous for mitochondrial function
- Regular blood donors have longer life spans than non-donors
- Endurance training helps reduce iron levels
- Ferritin and GGT are musts for a blood test to track “internal rust”
- Ferritin is a great marker for inflammation
- Elevated level indicates potential auto-immune disease
-The myth of metabolic rate…59:50
- Age is akin to the rate of energy consumption
- Carnivores run higher temperatures than herbivores; breakdown of protein generates a lot of heat
- Sweet spot between fitness and low metabolism:
- Hibernating animals can live 2-3x longer than non-hibernating animals due to reduced metabolic rate
- There are periods we should have less energy expenditure than others
- We live in constant summer, regardless of where we live in the world
-The myth of saturated fat…1:05:15
- Ancel Keys published the 7 Countries Study
- Said saturated fat was related to coronary heart disease
- He did not say plant fats were bad for you (although it was implied)
- Retired near Acciorili and ate large amounts of olive oil
- Did not make the connection between animal fat and animal protein
- The olive oil club Ben is a member of
- 30% of people carry APO E 4 gene
- Saturated fats in coconut oil, cheese increase LDLs in these people
- Organic fermented pu-erh tea
- Mucus absorbs lectins; is essential for gut health in older age
-Why milk does not, in fact, do the body good…1:14:45
-And much more…
Resources from this episode:
–My podcast episode on the growing epidemic of loneliness and relationships/longevity.
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