Why you should listen –
Dr. Barry Sears is a leading authority on the impact of the diet on hormonal response, genetic expression and inflammation. He has published 40 scientific articles and holds 14 U.S. patents in the areas of intravenous drug delivery systems for cancer drugs and hormonal regulation for the treatment of cardiovascular disease. He’s also the founder and president of the non-profit Inflammation Research Foundation from where he continues his work in the developing of new dietary approaches for the treatment of diabetes and cardiovascular and neurological diseases. On today’s 300th episode of Bulletproof Radio, Barry and Dave talk about flavonoids, lab results in the food industry, inflammation, intermittent fasting, fertility through food and more. Enjoy the show!
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Dave: Hey, it’s Dave Asprey with Bulletproof Radio. Today’s cool fact of the day is that well, you don’t eat your lipstick, at least I hope you don’t, but there’s a good chance that some of it gets in your mouth when you eat or lick your lips, at least if you wear lipstick, which is at least half of the people listening in today. Many beauty products contain gluten for a whole bunch of different reasons, and sometimes in just trace amounts, so if you’re really sensitive to gluten, even the amount of gluten in your lipstick might give you symptoms, although it’s not that likely, but still it’s kind of interesting that they somehow find a way to get gluten in your lipstick.
Today’s guest just about needs no introduction. He is a very famous guy, a guy who’s work had a big impact on my life when I was working to lose 100 pounds and learn how to keep it off. Going back even into the mid-90s. He’s been a persistent voice, one of the very early voices, talking about what hormonal effects of foods are in the body. Today he’s a leading authority on the impact of diet on genetic expression and on inflammation. He’s published 40 scientific articles, has 14 US patents in IV drug delivery systems for cancer and hormonal regulation and cardiovascular diseases. He’s written 13 books, including a number 1 New York Times best seller called “The Zone” that sold 6 million copies. I’m talking about none other than Dr. Barry Sears.
Dr. Sears or Barry as I’m going to call you in the interview, it’s an honor to have you on the show. I can’t believe I’m talking to you in person. It’s so cool.
Barry: Well, Dave, thank you very much. I’m very, very honored to be on your show.
Dave: In order to prepare for this, I actually asked a bunch of fans on Facebook like if you could ask Barry Sears any question on earth what would you want it to be. So we sort of compiled this. Usually I don’t have pre-prepared questions. I just have some ideas about what I want to talk about, and I have my own set of things I want to ask you. But today we’re going to make sure that people who took the time to write in with a question, that we get at least some of the most popular questions out there.
Number 1, you said that the most important new discovery you have is flavonoids, which is different than the sort of things you wrote about with eicosanoids and some of these other things in your original work with The Zone diet and all of the work you’ve done since then. Why do you put flavonoids so high on your list?
Barry: Well, I again, when I wrote the book, “The Zone” back in 1995 we knew nothing about polyphenols of which flavonoids is a subgroup of. That’s why it wasn’t in the first book. We now know that these polyphenols are incredibly important agents because they are gene activators. Drugs can’t do this, but these polyphenols, if they’re taken in therapeutic levels, can activate our genes. Particularly there are 3 different types of gene classes they activate. At lower levels they activate anti-oxidative genes. These are the genes that cause a transcription of enzymes, antioxidant enzymes like superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase.
Why is this important? Most antioxidants are really one and done. They can knock out one free radical and they’re done for the day. But these antioxidant enzymes can basically destroy 10s of thousands of free radicals over and over again. They’re free radical eating machines. At still higher levels these polyphenols now activate anti-inflammatory genes, especially with those that basically inhibit the activation of nuclear factor kappa B, the master gene that turns on inflammation. At still higher levels they activate the anti-aging gene SIRT1 that makes the enzyme AMPKinase thus a key to controlling our metabolism. We understand now the power of these polyphenols, but again, like a drug, they’re only useful if given in a therapeutic levels.
Dave: Can you get therapeutic levels by eating your leafy greens and your bell peppers and things like that?
Barry: You certainly can, if you’re willing to eat about 2 pounds per day. Your laugh indicates most people say, “No way, no way.” That’s the problem. The levels of polyphenols in leafy green vegetables and non-starchy vegetables is actually only about 1/10th or 1% of their weight. So I have to eat a lot to get just enough.
Dave: What about America’s favorite beverage, coffee?
Barry: That’s America’s primary source of polyphenols. Not the best, but it is the primary source for Americans. Now, are American’s the healthiest people on the face of the earth? Probably not. But the one group of people who eat large amounts of polyphenols are those who basically live in the Mediterranean region. That’s the secret of the Mediterranean diet. Not the pasta. Not the wine. The wine does contain polyphenols, but let’s go back …
Exactly, let’s go back to that same. I need about 1 gram per day of polyphenols to turn on anti-inflammatory genes. How many glasses of red wine do I have to drink per day? The answer is about 11. I don’t like the red wine. It’s too bitter. I like white wine. Fine, you’re going to eat 110 glasses a day to get enough polyphenols. You see, getting polyphenols is a difficult process, yet is key because they are the controllers of not only the genes that basically control much of our metabolism, but they are the master sculptors of the gut.
Dave: Is there any reason not to just take these as vegetable concentrates? I take grape skin polyphenols, grape seed extract, I take resveratrol, trans resveratrol, pterolstilbene, and a handful of other polyphenol substances in my normal daily stack of things. In your experience if I eat those with a meal, especially a fat containing meal, is there any difference to my body between those and eating a pound or 2 pounds of vegetables a day?
Barry: Probably not.
Dave: I’m happy you said that though.
Barry: But there is a difference in bio availability, even having the fat, all the polyphenols you mentioned are incredibly water insoluble. If they’re water insoluble, they can’t get into your blood. If they can’t get in your blood, they don’t do you a whole lot of good. Now there are certain polyphenols which are more water soluble. These are the ones you find primarily in berries. But then you have a problem. Berries are also rich in sugars. So you have between a rock and a hard place. That’s why concentrates, concentrates of polyphenol sources, which have been now stripped out of non-biologically active materials and stripped out of carbohydrates, become a very, very excellent source to maintain the levels of these key ingredients we have to have on really a daily basis.
Dave: One of the other guests on the show Alberto Villoldo, who’s a cultural anthropologist, who got a start finding drugs on the Amazon 25 years ago and very unusual shaman, because we’re talking about mitochondria all the time, but he recommends doing things with high amounts of polyphenols only for 3, 4 days a week, taking a couple of days off to basically keep your body from getting attenuated to having these substances say your antioxidant enzyme systems get stressed naturally. Are you a fan of cycling your polyphenols or do you take polyphenols every day?
Barry: Every day. The reason why because the half-life of polyphenols, 1, they’re not very well absorbed. You have to take a lot just to try to get in the blood. If they get in the blood their half-life is incredibly short, measured in hours. They have only a very limited ability to basically do their activation of the genes and then they’re gone. The genes they’re activating are the 121 turned on all the time.
Dave: Are coffee polyphenols water soluble?
Barry: No. They’re somewhat water soluble, but by the time you get coffee … The green coffee bean is very rich in polyphenols. It’s incredibly bitter. That’s why it’s rich in polyphenols. When you roast the coffee you release the flavor but you destroy a lot of the polyphenols. The same is true of chocolate. The cocoa bean itself is very rich in polyphenols, but once you start to ferment it and roast it to release the flavors you begin to destroy many of the polyphenols.
Dave: With Bulletproof coffee beans we do a medium roast to help preserve the integrity of those of those. There’s an argument for a darker roast as well because you have more chlorogenic acid which has other health effects that aren’t as polyphenol driven. It’s one of those, you want both, but man how do you get both in 1 cup of coffee. It’s probably 2 different ones.
Barry: You’re trying to maintain a zone, aren’t you?
Dave: Well said.
Barry: That’s the secret. In nutrition nobody is wrong but they’re often not completely right. Everybody is like 12 blind men trying to describe an elephant. They’re all partially right. Nutrition is incredibly complex. I stand back after spending 40 years in this area, say, just in awe of how complex it is and really how little knowledge we have. You have certain primary things that you have to follow through. You need adequate protein on a daily basis. You need adequate essential fats. Without them you can’t live. You need adequate levels of polyphenols.
I consider polyphenols within 10 or 15 years will be considered essential nutrients, essential for human health. Now you try to get them all together with the least amount of calories and the best hormonal response, and say, “Oh my god. This is so hard. It’s taking all the fun out of food.” Except food is far more powerful as a drug than you’ll ever achieve, because food can affect hormones, food can affect the expression of our genes. It’s really gene therapy in the kitchen.
Dave: There’s something very interesting happening in the food industry. I make coffee and nutritional oils and protein powders and things like that. I’m aware of some of the effects that they have, even when I have studies using my stuff I’m not allowed to talk about the studies because I manufacture them, because I’m not a drug company, I’m a food company.
I’m seeing huge numbers of startups and food companies making the so-called functional foods that have genetic benefits, that change your gut biome, that do all these things. As soon as the creators of those foods, who care enough about the problem they’re trying to solve to actually put their life’s time and money at risk in order to make a company, they basically stand up and say, “It tastes good.” Because if you say anything else you’re probably selling drugs. Do you see that changing?
Barry: No I don’t. We have 2 very powerful industries in America, the financial industry and the pharmaceutical industry, and neither one likes competition. I think you’ll not see that change. What does require the problem is you have to do more clinical research. Clinical research in humans is very tedious, very expensive. Yet, if you do it, the FDA rules are clear. You can’t make drug like claims if they’re supported by good clinical research. “Well, that means I can do a couple of rat studies from China.” No. You’ve got to use humans and that’s one of the problems.
These effects of these, of nutrition or any ingredient is very hard often to see in the absence of having a total overall format. By looking at ingredient X, let’s say I’ll use a polyphenol, if I have some people eating cheeseburgers and others eating basically pasta, I want to have different effects. All this noise, this background noise you get from the other hormonal effects of the food wipe out the subtle effects of the ingredient you’re looking at.
Dave: One of my favorite words is called the exposome. We have the epigenome and we have our human genome, but exposome is the set of all environmental variables we’re exposed to over the course of our life. The amount of data in that is so big that it makes the human genome look completely trivial. Because it’s all the things that no one thought about, like the combination of this food and that food, and what was the atmospheric pressure. I have no idea if the position of the stars actually matters or if solar flares matter, but they’re in my exposome, so we can do a data correlation. There’s no end to the amount of data that we sort of think we’re doing a double blind study. But all these variables are happening at the same time. This is one of the things that I think goes against nutritional research in humans, is that unless they’re in prison and you control everything that they have access to you really don’t get very good data because of all those random stuff that happen.
Barry: That’s the problem, you have to treat human beings like lab rats. You can’t let them think, you must provide them all the food, and try to control the conditions as best as possible. Then people start whining, “Is too hard.” “Hey, grow up. If you want to play with the big boys, act like a big boy.”
Now the reason why drug companies can get away from this because drugs are more concentrated and have more power, but it also means they have more side effects. That’s why in the drug world we talk about a therapeutic index of a drug. That is there is a range, a zone, a therapeutic zone of which below which the drug won’t work, above which the drug is toxic. Now for cancer drugs that therapeutic zone is about 1. Cancer drugs are about as toxic as they are basically useful. That’s why our war on cancer has failed for the last 45 years. But again, under the right circumstances, and I’ve published studies, I’ve done this type of treating humans like lab rats, you can get very consistent results.
One of the best ways of doing this are doing crossover studies where you’re now taking into account the lack of genetic variation using each individual and basically over and over again. There are more complex studies in double blind placebo, but here’s your typical nutritional study coming out of Harvard Medical School.
You get a lot of fat people together. You split them in 2 groups. One group you give them here’s a diet book of X, here’s a diet book of Y, read the books and come back 2 years later. You say, “You’ve got to be kidding. You’ve got to be kidding.” Then they say diets don’t work. Of course they work, but they only work if you take them at the right dose at the right time.
Dave: That makes a lot of sense. What about like for instance on The Zone diet you have specific percentages of macro nutrients for a meal. I’m wondering. I’m finding men and women seem to have different requirements for carbohydrate. On average, not always, some people. Have you noticed something like that or is it pretty much like the standard macronutrient ratios are pretty much fixed? You’ve seen a lot more people that I ever have.
Barry: No. I think on page 82 I said here’s the average ratio.
Dave: Oh, so it is an average ratio.
Barry: As you can see in my first book I said it’s a bell shaped curve because we’re not all genetically identical. But the curve isn’t that wide either. Basically you have to do some variations and take into account genetic variability. One of the problems with when I wrote the book, “The Zone” is really written for cardiologists. The fact that anybody ever read the book or even bought the book, let alone read it, was always amazing to me and even more so to my publisher.
Dave: That’s hilarious. I had no idea.
Barry: But again it was, I went to that detail to illustrate to cardiologists you have to treat food like a drug, there’s a rhyme or reason. Is not based on I think and saying, “Here’s the data of basically they’ll probably give the best hormone responses.” Now that’s a testable hypothesis. In all the studies which have been well controlled, and there aren’t that many, but in those states which have been published The Zone diet has been found to be the best diet relative to controlling hormonal responses in terms of losing excess body fat, in terms of basically reducing the levels of appetite, and more importantly and the reason why I developed The Zone diet in reducing inflammation. One of the problems I have tried to fight for the last 20 years, it’s a weight loss program. I said, “Has anybody ever read the book?” “No.”
Dave: It’s an inflammation control program.
Barry: Inflammation, in the zone, you need some but not too much. Again, if I was a better writer, maybe they would’ve understood this 20 years ago. But 20 years ago no one knew anything about inflammation.
Dave: I was 20 years ago around 280 pounds at the time. I was 300. I was living in a water damaged building so I had toxic mold exposure, which directly turns on inflammation throughout the body. It’d be a whole bunch of different cytokine pathways, which we didn’t understand back then anyway. I did all sorts of different diets, but the Zone Diet had a really profound effect. I remember this time I was eating handfuls of almonds, because you were the first person I’d ever seen who was writing about how these things controlled inflammation.
I went to this nutrition seminar at lunch. I worked for a big Silicon Valley company right there on Great America Parkway where Cisco and all the big companies are. They brought in this kind of chubby nutritionist. She was telling us we ought to eat like no fat. I’m sitting there at lunch time eating a handful of almonds going, “Oh no, I’m eating my almonds like they’ll protect my arteries.” This lady started spitting. She was so mad that I could say something so offensive as that. I just even then I noticed a difference in my inflammation which was my primary problem there and the hormonal responses and all rough.
I noticed a difference from shifting to something that was, in fact I had a red Zone diet, I was adding olive oil to my things and I had upped my fat a little bit because I had been low fat before that. I also tried Atkins, I tried all sorts of stuff, but I did notice a change from adding that stuff. I changed from using my antioxidants and things like that. Then my doctors tell me, “Oh, you’ve got to stop using vitamin C, 3 grams a day, like that could kill you,” was his direct words. It was that moment that I’m like, “You know what? These guys, they don’t have a clue. Like they don’t know who Linus Pauling is.” For people listening who don’t know who he is, that’s okay, you’re not a doctor, you shouldn’t be expected to know. But he won like 2 Nobel prizes, took 90 grams of vitamin C, and is one of the big researchers in this space.
That sort of thing really frustrated me, but your book was one of the guiding lights that led me to think that, “Okay, I’ve got to do something differently.” As I fast forward 20 years I also just like you believe inflammation is at the very core of it and I found that there’s a few things that at least for me and for a lot of people tend to correlate with inflammation. One of them is excessive omega 6s like from soy and cheese.
Dave: What do you think about like the omega 6, omega 3 ratio and things like that? What’s your take on that now that you’ve had 20 years to see the results?
Barry: Actually that’s why I got started 40 years ago, because I was looking at … Both omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids are known as essential fatty acids. Why are they essential? They are the building blocks of powerful hormones that control inflammation. They’re called eicosanoids. Big word 20 years ago. Still a big word today. But you need a balance. As long as you maintain a balance, you have basically a nice homeostasis.
But what’s happened in America is that our ability to make omega 6 fatty acids has become monumental in terms of our ability and lowering the price. As a consequence, now omega 6 fatty acids, vegetable oils, rich in them, are now the cheapest source of calories in the world today. As a consequence, the ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 has dramatically increased. Since the omega 6 fatty acids are the building blocks of pro inflammatory hormones, our levels of inflammation have also increased dramatically.
As a consequence, almost virtually every disease state we’re railing against, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, these are all known to be inflammatory diseases, and yet we are fueling that fire by incorporating more and more omega 6 fatty acids in our diets. To add insult to injury when we basically start increasing the levels of insulin, that’s like adding a match to a vat of gasoline, a lighted match, you get an explosion of inflammation.
That’s what happened, basically happened first in America because we are ground zero in omega 6 fatty acids. Once we saturate our society we look for export markets. We found them throughout the world. When I first went to Italy about 20 years ago the first question I was asked … Actually wasn’t a question, it’s a statement. “How dare you. How dare you as American tell us what to eat. Americans are fat because they are stupid, they are lazy and they can’t cook.” I said, “All those things are probably true, except everything you see in the shores of America will be on your shores in 10 to 15 years.” Today in Italy Italian children are now the fattest in Europe. One generation ago they’re the leanest.
Dave: That’s because they’re lazy, right?
Barry: They’re lazy and they’re stupid.
Dave: Just like I was when I weighed 300 pounds, yeah.
Barry: The reason why you gained the 300 pounds in the first place because you had developed a fat trap, the calories were coming into the mouth and being trapped in your fat cells and not being released to make energy so just ATP. Literally you are basically gaining weight but you are starving at the same time.
Dave: I was tired as hell at the time. I was just exhausted all the time. When you’re fat, when you’re exhausted, you have no emotional regulation because you don’t have enough energy.
Barry: That’s basically what … It’s not because people are weak-willed. They’ve caused a significant change in their metabolism that they are constantly starving of energy. Without the adequate levels of energy being released from the fat cells, which is our Swiss bank account, we cannot make enough ATP. When you can’t make enough ATP, 2 things, you either slow down or eat more calories. Those are not the cause of obesity. They are the consequence of basically developing a fat trap caused by increased inflammation.
Dave: Now there are hundreds of thousands of people listening to the show right now. Probably … Well, if they were listening for a while, let’s say only 40% of them are obese instead of 50%. What would you say to someone that was, “All right, I acknowledge that I have an inflammation problem and I acknowledge that it’s not that I’m weak-willed, it’s that like there’s something wrong metabolically.” What step 1, what step 2, what step 3 that you recommend for people who are trapped with these fat traps, with these inflammation-
Barry: Step 1 is saying is not your fault. Now you relieve the guilt. It’s like saying, “Oh, this person has breast cancer. They’re a weak-willed person.” Say, “It’s not their fault.” Let’s get over the guilt aspect. “Okay, it’s not my fault. What’s causing the problem?” Say, “Your metabolism is out of whack.” Our goal … What’s metabolism? It’s a nice big word that says converting dietary calories into energy, this black box called the metabolism. We have to do a better job of doing this.
In doing so, how do you know it’s going to work? You’re not hungry for next 5 hours after a meal. That’s your sign from God you have rectified your metabolism. They say, “I mean, God will speak to me?” “Yes, if you just eat the right thing.” How do you know? Look at your watch. 5 hours after your last meal if you’re not hungry, your last meal was hormonally correct for your biochemistry and your genetics.
People don’t eat that many things. They eat maybe 10 different meals their entire life, 2 different breakfasts, 3 different lunches, and 5 different dinners. As they go at the restaurants they go to the same restaurant over and over again, maybe 5 restaurants. The menus are very large. They eat the same thing over and over again. We’re creatures of habit. You keep adjusting the things you eat at home and the things you eat out until the watch says I’m not hungry. Now I found the right mechanism for myself.
Dave: 5 hours.
Barry: That’s the secret.
Dave: Now something that blew my mind when I was developing Bulletproof Coffee, and Bulletproof Coffee is grass-fed butter, special coffee that doesn’t have some toxins that affect mitochondrial respiration, that come from fermenting coffee, and brain octane oil which is a purified, it’s one of the 4 kinds of MCTs that raises ketones. Usually within a half hour you can get your blood ketones up enough to suppress ghrelin and to turn on CCK. These are hunger hormones for people listening who aren’t biochemist nerds.
When I do that the first day with someone the odds are they’re going to go 5 hours. But it’s not really a complete breakfast. It’s almost like a form of fasting. There’s only fat. There’s no carbs, there’s no protein, it’s just fat, some polyphenols from coffee, but the hormonal response is so strong and so sudden that if you can’t do 5 hours after that like something is very broken. What do you think of an approach like that? It’s okay to be really critical of it. You’re a very learned guy. What’s your take on that? Is it a hack? Because it meets those requirements in almost everyone.
Barry: Oh it does, but again, we go back to the early aspect, we have to have adequate levels of essential amino acids in the course of the day, we have to have adequate levels of essential fatty acids in the course of the day, and the right balance of those to maintain insulin in a zone. Now you’re quite right. The fat would have no effect on insulin.
The medium chain triglycerides were actually developed first at Harvard Medical School back at the 80s for treating burn victims. Now how they work it’s unique because they are … The medium chain triglycerides are relatively water soluble. They enter into the blood stream through the portal vein. They go directly to the liver and they’re metabolized there on the spot. But to do so they wipe out all the storage of glycogen. That’s where you get in ketosis very quickly. But now you have no reserve levels to basically maintain blood sugar levels for the brain, the only organ that can basically use energy.
Dave: How do they wipe out glycogen? I wasn’t aware of that.
Barry: Because again to burn the fatty acids, because these short chain fatty acids are also very effective surfactants. They dissolve membranes. There’s a good reason let’s say you’re in here but you’re out of here, we’re going to convert you to co2 and water as quickly as possible. To do this we need some carbohydrates. That’s why they induced the ketosis. They take the reserves of the glycogen.
Now that’s okay. You’ll get the 5 hours. No question about that. But, and studies at Harvard Medical School have shown this, if you maintain a ketogenic diet what occurs after about an adaptation after 1 or 2 months is that you start to increase the levels of cortisol. If you’re not going to basically put enough carbohydrates into your mouth the brain will say, send out his buddy Mr. cortisol to start tearing down muscle mass to make glucose for the brain. This is why even during starvation diets when you’re bringing in no food that the blood sugar levels never really drop below say maybe about 60, they’re very low but they don’t go to 0, because the body is now using a countervailing hormonal response that can increase production of cortisol and there’s also a corresponding decrease in thyroid hormone production.
What you’re looking is for that sweet spot. I’m using the Bulletproof Coffee with the medium chained triglycerides as an early morning drink. Okay, that’s good, but it’s not saying why we’re doing all the time because otherwise you have no way, you’re basically almost inducing an increase in cortisol down the road.
Dave: Because you want to have lunch and you want to have dinner and you want to have some carbohydrates then.
Barry: You have to because again-
Dave: Exactly. That’s what I recommend by the way.
Barry: It’s saying that we can get you … What you’re looking at, remember with the word breakfast, it means come from breaking the fast. What you need, I need to get some energy because without that we have a hard time getting out of bed. Again, the develop of ketosis early in the morning can give you a burst of energy, but you say I’ve used up some of my reserves, I’ve got to replenish them.
Dave: One of the biggest questions that people asked on Facebook is there’s been an explosion in research on intermittent fasting, the idea of not eating for 18 hours a day. I’m a proponent of doing it, although during the non-eating period I use Bulletproof Coffee to just spike ketones so you’re still keeping insulin, you’re keeping protein digesting enzymes low. But let’s set aside the Bulletproof version of that. When you look at The Zone principles and the 40, 30, 30 idea, and you look at that in the context of intermittent fasting, are you a fan of intermittent fasting, not a fan of it, or sometimes sometimes? Like many people asked this question, so what’s your take on intermittent fasting? I’m dying to know this.
Barry: Well the take is the published studies have looked at meta-analysis of intermittent fasting versus low calorie saying there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference. Now because it is a calorie still is a calorie. Calories do count. I’ll use an example. Let’s say that if I have a diet where I’m just loadings lots of fat in the system, I have no reason to release my stored fat from the adipose tissue, because that fat in the blood stream can now go directly to the mitochondria in the liver and also into the muscles to make ATP. Again, to really basically live longer you have to restrict calories. To lose weight you have to restrict calories. Now you want to do that without hunger and without fatigue.
Dave: Does that mean the converse though, that to lose weight you have to restrict calories? Does that mean if you restrict calories you’ll lose weight?
Dave: That’s really, for people listening that’s a huge difference.
Barry: When we say you have to restrict calories but I said you can never be hungry and never be tired. You can never be tired because you have to be able to make adequate levels of ATP. You can’t be hungry because you’re keeping your hormones in that zone. Now that’s why a calorie is a calorie, but not in terms of hormonal responses. Now we have to say you have to restrict calories but you have to keep your hormones in that zone to allow you to function in the highest levels of efficiency. That’s my definition is the maximum conversion of dietary calories to ATP. Then you have a system you can follow for lifetime.
Dave: There are various substances that enhance ATP production. Or actually you can get straight ATP and use it sublingually if you want to. What role do those have to play in that equation or human performance?
Barry: I think a fairly small role. The body is an amazingly efficient machine, but ATP is interesting because any cell in the body will only store about 10 seconds worth of ATP. You have to make it on demand and you don’t know when that demand is going to be. Basically the body has an ability to say I can’t store ATP. I could easily store excess fat in the adipose tissue, but I can’t store ATP, but I can make it on demand. Now I have to basically call in a wide number of different mechanisms to do that to maintain myself, primary the heart. You think about muscles, there is basically the super muscle that keeps on pumping day in day out and without us paying attention to it, but it’s consuming massive levels of ATP. Likewise, the brain is basically a glucose hog because it needs that to make the ATP to keep it going.
There’s a lot of nuances but in reality your grandmother was at the cutting edge of 21st bio technology. She told you 4 things. She said, eat small meals throughout the day. Why? Food was very expensive in those days and therefore you can only have small meals. 2, she said, have adequate protein and ideally throughout the day. Not only adequate protein, but adequate protein rich in leucine. Of the 20 amino acids only 1, leucine, can activate another gene transcription factor called mTOR that makes muscle. She also said, you basically can’t leave the table until you eat all your vegetables. Why? They contain the polyphenols and the fermentable fiber your guts need. The last thing your grandmother told you, you’re not going to leave the house until you take your tablespoon of cod liver oil.
Now everything she said was right down at the forefront of bio technology. Wow, she was really smart. No, she was really the accumulation of millennia of observations of what works and what doesn’t. We’ve let the wisdom of those observations since the beginning of human history 200,000 years ago go by the wayside after World War 2 in our going after cheap food. You opened the Pandora’s box. Industrialized food say, “We can give you food that’s incredibly tasty, incredibly cheap, but there’ll be some collateral damage.”
We’re seeing it right now. Not the collateral damage of obesity, but the collateral damage and this goes to your other question about the environmental factors, but basically altering our gene structure. Not altering the gene structure, but the expression and really at the epigenetic genetic level. This becomes a very, very scary aspect, because again, we are witnessing the devolution I believe of the human genome. This was called transgenerational epigenetics. Basically this is why each generation is getting fatter. Why? Because these changes in the epigenome is now being carried forward and amplified from one generation to the next.
Dave: My first book is called “The Better Baby Book” and it was what do you do before you get pregnant to prevent that effect so you can have smarter happier kids. I did it for my own family because my wife was infertile. She had PCOS when she was 35 and we had our kids at 39 and 42 without using all the fertility drugs and things like that, using this amazing drug called food as you called it, turning off inflammation, turning down fungal stuff that’s correlated, and then trying to send that signal to my wife’s body so that it’ll select the right egg basically that says, “All right, this is an environment where there’s adequate fat, where there’s adequate antioxidants, where there’s enough calories, enough bio available calories, where you can select for someone to thrive in that versus selecting for an energy famine or a highly stressed world.” I can’t tell you with an AB double blind study that that works. It’s kind of hard to do that with pregnancy.
Barry: Well it’s hard. Actually we’re doing those studies actually right now in Italy. I wrote a text book last year called The Metabolic Consequences of Pregnancy. Why that worked for your wife with polycystic ovary syndrome it’s a condition characterized by insulin resistance. What you were doing was basically by experimentation she seemingly getting better, but once I reduced the inflammation the fertility returns. It’s almost magical.
Dave: It was interesting. She’s Karolinska-trained physician. She practiced drug and alcohol addiction in the emergency medicine, internal medicine, the kind of stuff, and reasonably well-trained. She was not overweight by a long shot, but she was doing a couple of things that just triggered inflammation. One of them was soy milk and the other one was excessive pre-ground flax meal consumption, pre-oxidized flaxseed oil. When we just took those 2 things away it affected her ability to gain weight, like healthy weight. She was too thin. It’s funny. Those are both primary triggers for inflammation for hormonal problems. What’s your take by the way on those things? Those for me I know that biochemistry, at least I think I do, but what’s your take on soybean, or at least on soy milk and on flaxseed specifically, because flaxseed is a very interesting subject in and of itself.
Barry: I wrote a whole book on soy called “The Soy Zone” surprisingly. It was a book to demonstrate to even vegans you could follow The Zone diet very effectively. Actually The Zone diet is not a diet. What it is it’s a blueprint of how to balance your plate. It brings peace to our time because it’s a dietary blueprint that basically says whatever your dietary philosophy, you can follow it, because it’s simply saying take 2/3rds of your plate and fill it with colorful carbohydrates. They’re called foods and vegetables. That is universal between a vegan, a lacto ovo vegetarian, a paleo, or an omnivore. So they’re only census for contention the last third of the plate. It has to be protein. If you’re a vegan your choices are somewhat limited. But you can do it. If you’re a lacto ovo vegetarian you have much greater choices. A paleo advocate, you basically take out certain aspects. If you’re omnivore you have complete freedom. But other than that 1/3rd of the plate which basically is driven by dietary philosophy the plates are all identical.
Now going back to the soy bean, there are a lot of anti-nutrients in soy bean. It is not benign. I went through that book and said there are some good points about soy protein, but only if you remove all of the anti-nutrients which are massive and because they can also have hormonal effects especially on inhibiting thyroid binding. I had experiments with my own daughter who basically, she couldn’t … My wife has having trouble getting enough breast milk for her so went to formula milk. She couldn’t handle the formula milk, so we went to soy milk and 10 years later she developed severe hypothyroidism.
Again, I say it’s okay if you’re able to basically take all these anti-nutrients out and it’s tough. As far as flaxseed when you grind the flaxseed you’re exposing it to oxidation. Flaxseed oxidizes very quickly. Oxidized fat is incredibly toxic because it’s going to set off a complete series of inflammatory responses. Going back you can say at the molecular level the 2 things she did removed possibilities of hormonal disruption and increased inflammation.
Dave: That matches my understanding of things really well. I have also read, and this is not well publicized, but it looks to be true based on a couple of studies that I came across. When you look at the amount of these phytoestrogens, the things that are estrogens that are made by plants, soy is a primary source of them as I’m sure you know. But flaxseed oil or at least flaxseeds themselves are substantially higher in phytoestrogens than even soy, but it’s sort of like baked into everything as sort of a panacea. I look at like baked flaxseed and I go why would you do that, because the oil in that thing is clearly damaged at this point because it’s unstable just in air. Are you an advocate of flax under any circumstances?
Barry: Not really. The flax is rich in short chain omega 3 fatty acids. They say, “Oh this is good.” I say, “Except they have no anti-inflammatory properties unless are transformed into the longer chain omega 3 fatty acids found in fish.” Now fish can’t make these, but they simply accumulate alga. It’s pond scum that basically gives us one of the gifts of life. I have to take in massive amounts of flaxseed oil, even if it’s purified, to get the same benefit of a much smaller amount, the same anti-inflammatory benefits of a much smaller amount of fish oil. But if I take in so much flax seed oil I have got now a really smoking bomb in the blood because the 3 fatty acid groups are now much more prone to oxidation than the 2 fatty acids unsaturated double bonds in things like linoleic acid. So you’re putting a much greater oxidative stress on the body and the body responds to oxidative stress by increased inflammation.
Dave: So for everyone listening right now, that’s one of the many reasons that just liberally putting flaxseed oil all over the place maybe isn’t a good idea.
Barry: It’s politically correct, but hormonally it’s not a good idea.
Dave: Yeah, I even see it in some paleo type of things. I’m like, man, if you look at the fatty acids things, it’s just, it’s not meant to be there and doesn’t seem like a good thing. What about chia seeds?
Barry: Chia seeds are the flaxseed of South America. Flaxseeds are grown in the upper climates of Canada and northern Europe. Chia seeds are grown down in the Patagonian region in Chile. The omega 3 fatty acids in plants grow in response to cold temperatures.
Dave: So they’re different species though, right, as far as I understand.
Barry: Different species but basically from a human standpoint they are identical.
Dave: No kidding, including the phytoestrogen levels? That I did not know. I knew that the saturated or the mono saturated …
Barry: There’s a lot of nice things in flaxseeds, as long as they aren’t grounded up they contain lignans which are very, very interesting. I tell people, sprinkle some flaxseeds on a meal.
Dave: Whole flaxseeds right?
Barry: Whole flaxseeds, they give a nice crunchy taste, and you’re gaining the lignans which has some very very nice benefits, but don’t overdo it.
Dave: I used to take flax lignans. It took 45 pounds of flax to make a little bottle of flax lignans. That seemed like the best way to enjoy flax but it was kind of expensive and I’m not sure-
Barry: Yeah, again, you’re still getting a lot of omega 3 fatty acids, the short ones and oxidized ones with those lignans.
Dave: Very fair point. It was your work that originally led me to change how I cook because you helped me to understand, all right, oxidized fats of any flavor are bad for you and where I ended up is, “Okay, if I’m going to be cooking something that contains fat,” like I try not to cook with fat, if I cook something with fat in it, I usually add a little bit of water and I use lots of antioxidant spices on it, because the water keeps the temperature down so you’re not going to get the burner temperature, you’re going to get the temperature of steam and no more. I believe that cooking is one of those things that triggers inflammation in a way that people often just don’t think about. You see these paleo meals and like, “What did you do to that rib,” like, “I’m not sure that that’s a good thing to eat anymore.”
Barry: Well yeah, this is why there’s some very, very good scientific studies on paleo, Paleolithic … Actually The Zone Diet started when I read the paper by Boyd Eaton in the 1985-
Dave: No kidding.
Barry: New England Journal of Medicine of looking at what he thought at the time was the best ratio of protein, carbohydrate, and fat. Now in 2010 Boyd and other colleagues were all academic researchers, updated their studies and they said to our best estimate, what the Paleolithic diet at least in east Africa was 15,000 years ago was I believe 40% carbohydrates, 31% fat, and 29% protein. I said, “That’s good enough. I’ll take that.”
Dave: That’s pretty different than 40, 30, 30. I mean, come on Barry.
Barry: I know, I know. Oh yeah. But it’s good enough for government work. But the thing that same article pointed out that those same Paleolithic individuals were eating between 6 and 14 grams a day of long chain omega 3 fatty acids from fish. That’s why you look at human evolution, much of it was always along the sea coast because it was fish that gave us the ability to break out of the mold and basically improve our brain power.
Dave: Let’s talk about that for a little while. We have EPA and we have DHA, like the 2 fish oils. You talked about cod liver oil from our grandmothers earlier. Now I’m a fan of krill oil because it’s phospholipid, because it’s more bio available for the brain, because there’s antioxidants in it. But for people listening there’s a good number of them who eat fish like I do, there’s a good number of them who supplement with either fish oil or some other potentially pond scum derived kind of omega 3. What is the ideal EPA to DHA ratio in a supplement that you’d recommend?
Barry: Again, we’ve gone over the years, we’ve always used really a 2 to 1 ratio of EPA to DHA. The reason why I always like both because they do different things. The EPA is more anti-inflammatory than the DHA. DHA has structural properties that make it very unique compared to the EPA and both at high levels can make another group of hormones called resolvents which are really the holy grail of medicine. You need them both but you need adequate levels.
What I try to do is not say how much you should eat but tell people, “The blood will tell you.” This is not a guessing game. Take a blood test. Now people hate to take blood tests. Why? It hurts. That’s why most people have their annual physical every 5 years. But now that’s why we’ve developed the finger stick test, a drop of blood you can measure now all the fatty acids. But we look for the ratio-
Dave: In a drop of blood?
Barry: … DHA but of arachidonic acid to EPA. That’s the marker of inflammation. Your goal is to keep up between 1.5 and 3. Because that’s a sweet spot of controlling inflammation. For example, the average American is 18, which explains why our healthcare cost is so high.
Dave: You just read my mind. My next question was going to be, if I measure my blood and I look at my omega 6 to omega 3 ratio, what should it be and you said 1.5 and …
Barry: And 3.
Dave: And 3.
Barry: But that’s really the ratio of arachidonic acid, which is the precursor of the hormones, the direct precursor, and EPA, the direct precursor of the anti-inflammatory hormones.
Dave: It’s a different number then because it’s just of one of the things. For supplementation you do 2 EPA for 1 DHA.
Barry: Yes. Again, the key is not looking so much the ratio but you need adequate levels of both, and that’s why basically you’re titrating the goal. Just like you do with statins you titrate the goal. How much statin should I take doc? Well, let’s check your blood. If it’s too high, I’ll give you more statins. Of course more side effects but more statins. The same is true of omega 3 fatty acids. How much should I take? The blood will tell you.
Dave: What if you get too many though? I mean, there are some people saying too much fish oil can mess you up, and I’ve seen that happen. How do you know when you’ve got too much?
Barry: Well there’s 2 things about fish oil. 1, most fish oil in the market is basically unsuitable for human consumption. They make flaxseed look good. 2, can you take too much? Of course you can. Actually a very good study it was called The JELIS study, some 18,000 Japanese who already had a low ratio and they’re all taking statins but they took more fish oil, halved it. By lowering their ratio from 1.5, which you find in the Japanese population, to 0.8 you saw a significant improvement or significant reduction in cardiovascular events even though they’re all taking the statin. But there was an increase included. That’s why I like to use as a stop gap never go below 1.5 but never go above 3.
Dave: Now you mentioned statins a couple of times there. Are you a user of statins? Do you advocate them?
Barry: Please, no, I hate statins.
Dave: You had me scared for a minute there. Barry, I was like, “Oh man, I don’t have like I’m still promoting statins on my show.” Like I would if you had a good argument but okay.
Barry: I have no good arguments whatsoever. The statins are the only drug known to medical science that can increase the production of arachidonic acid. This is why cardiologists love statins, neurologists hate statins. Statins were poised as using an ad for the drug companies that’s very effective, “If your cholesterol levels are high you’re going to die.” That’s not true but it’s a great, a great ad.
The fact is that statins were not the first drugs to lower cholesterol. They were the 19th. The first 18 all lowered cholesterol but they increased mortality. Somehow statins, they, “Oh my god, they didn’t increase mortality and we actually lowered cholesterol. It works.” It turns out that the reason why because it turns out the statins had an unknown side effect. They’re also anti-inflammatory drugs. That’s the reason why they worked. But even today, people taking statins, they’ll have between a 10 to 20% chance of getting a heart attack within the first year.
Dave: Because of mitochondrial poisoning basically.
Barry: These are nasty little drugs. Again, the most common side effect is again loss of memory, besides the muscle weakness. But the marketing has been superb. The scare tactics have been amazing.
Dave: There’s one statin drug that I absolutely love that really helped me to feel amazing, it was the first statin drug ever discovered, it’s called nystatin. It’s antifungal agent that isn’t absorbed and doesn’t have a mitochondrial effect, but every statin drug there is is a potent anti-fungal, which is a very interesting side effect, because if you have a fungal infection depending on the type of fungus it is your body will raise cholesterol as a way to help escort those fungal born toxins out of the body. I’m not saying that’s the primary reason they work, it’s not, but it’s an interesting thing that there’s these little angles to the drugs that’s just not known. But I do know that affecting the fungus growing in the gut can have a profound effect on weight loss.
Barry: Oh no question, and now we come to the whole area of gut health.
Dave: Yeah, let’s talk about that.
Barry: Hippocrates said this 2500 years ago. He said 2 things, let food be your medicine, let medicine be your food. What did the old guy know? He also said, all disease begins in the bowel. He’s probably right, because again, we now know one of the problems was called metabolic endotoxemia. That basically very small fragments of bacteria, just gram-negative bacteria, if we have even the trace amounts of a leaky gut can get into the blood, and once they’re in the blood you set off Defcon 3 of basically not as much as you would get with a sepsis which means death to half to people who get it, but at maybe 100 times lower levels where basically you now are increasing low level chronic inflammation below the perception of pain.
This is how why 80% of all antibiotics made in America are sold given to raising farm grazed beef, chickens, and cattle. Why? They basically cause dysbiosis in the gut leading to a leaky gut syndrome where just enough of a gram-negative bacteria enter the blood stream, they interact with toll-like receptor 4, they cause chronic inflammation, and one of the first aspects you gain weight very quickly. It’s worked very well for animals in the last 50 years. It also works for humans.
Dave: This is one of the primary, primary reasons that when people say it’s calories in, calories out, you just have to exercise more and basically you’re fat and lazy and have no self-control if you’re fat. It’s like, look, you can take a cow and you can give them hormones in their ear, xenoestrogens called zerinol which come from mycotoxin purified from aspergillus, or you can give them antibiotics and either one …
Barry: Very low levels. It doesn’t take much.
Dave: Yeah, very low levels gives them a 30% increase in feed efficiency, which means the cow got fat on 30% less calories, which is impossible if it’s calories in and calories out. Like how is this happening. Somehow it is.
Barry: This is the complexity of nutrition, that oftentimes people grab onto saying, “This is the holy grail,” and saying, “Come on, come on, this is the 21st century, this is a complex interplay.” But people are looking for simple answers and there are no simple answers. Because when we talk about nutrition we are talking about really genetic change, genetic change of our genes and epigenetic changes. This is incredibly complex.
But we’re understanding now how food can basically change our epigenome very, very quickly, and also affect basically through these gene transcription factors which were totally unknown 10 years ago to turn genes on and off, either to our benefit or to our detriment. That’s why I’ve had the luxury of being in the business long enough, I guess as Woody Allen said, “Sticking around long enough is the primary cause of success,” to see things rise and fall, but trying to put together an overall view. That’s why I say nobody in the old days, there was myself, Bob Atkins, and Dean Ornish. Bob saying, “Carbohydrates are evil.” Dean saying, “No, fats are evil.” I said, “Guys, maybe information is evil.” I thought saying, “Hey, this is great. We can be like the 3 tenors and take our show on the road,” except Bob Atkins and Dean Ornish hated each other so much I couldn’t keep up.
But now we have much more competing aspects because it takes time to basically be aware of all the things which have occurred over the last 30 years, 40 years, 50 years and put them into perspective and being open minded that a lot of new things, like I said, polyphenols, nothing was known about them. Now when I first saw them I said, “Okay, that’s why I write books, because the area of human nutrition is constantly exploding, because the area of inflammation is constantly exploding and how the 2 intersect.” For me it’s just a wonderful adventure that never changes. But certain things go back to your grandmother, she’s right on target with the 4 points, follow that and you can do pretty well. As long as your watch works, if you’re not hungry it’s working.
Dave: I couldn’t agree more on that rule. You’re the first person I’ve heard elucidate it that way, but yeah, if you have to eat before 5 hours there … Actually, I’m a fan of blame there, because like it’s your fault. It’s because when you ate in your last meal wasn’t right, and that’s okay, but you did have control of that.
Barry: You take that as a teaching moment.
Dave: Yes, not as a blame thing at all, but it’s like, look, you had control and you didn’t make the right choice, but now you know you had control which technically makes it your fault, but it means you can fix it and like it’s easy.
Barry: Exactly. That’s why people think that diets, “Oh I had a bad meal.” I say, “Hey, get a life. You had a bad meal, but you know how to get back on track.”
Dave: Right. I have a couple more questions from listeners. One of them is, “All right. What about butter?” I’m probably the world’s biggest champion of grass-fed butter, not industrial butter, which different omega 3s, stuff like that. What’s your take on butter?
Barry: Well, there’s good things and bad things. The good things, I do like the conjugated linoleic acid. It’s a very interesting one because it’s a very specific stereoisomer in butter, unlike the stuff you buy in a health food store which actually causes insulin resistance.
Dave: Really? That’s interesting.
Barry: Oh yeah. The other isomer that’s not naturally found in butter or beef products basically causes insulin resistance. That’s why when you basically do studies that mixes the 2 you get usually no results. If you basically have only one isomer you get very, very good results. From that standpoint butter is a very good way of concentrating the natural and most beneficial form of the isomer of conjugated linoleic acid.
What I don’t like about butter is that it’s rarely rich in palmitic acid. Now stearic acid I actually like because stearic acid once it’s absorbed is rapidly desaturated into oleic acid. That’s why stearic acid is the only saturated fat that will not raise cholesterol. Now palmitic acid it’s almost the same. It’s about the same, it’s almost totally different. Palmitic acid is a very, very powerful pro-inflammatory saturated fat. On the scale of 1 to 10 I give it a 15, because it can interact with specific receptors in cells and the same receptors that basically recognize the fragments of the gram-negative bacteria, lipopolysaccharides, they basically recognize the palmitic acid.
Furthermore, the palmitic acid is one that can interact with our hypothalamus and disrupt the satiety signals. That’s why when you look at animal studies when you feed them a high fat diet that’s usually high in saturated fat, they get fat very rapidly. Why? They start eating. It’s saying that if I could find saturated … Let’s say coconut oil, one of the good things about coconut oil is very low in palmitic acid. Therefore, okay, I’m not going to have the inflammatory effects. Unfortunately, basically will have some effects if I take too much and then I’ll wipe out my glycogen stores. But as a saturated fat it’s not bad.
Butter has some good parts because it has the conjugated linoleic acid, but it also has the palmitic acid. Again, we basically have to look, weigh the consequences.
Dave: One of the early reasons that I included at first just regular MCT and eventually I realized that some MCTs don’t metabolize the same ways as others. I use just one of the 4 kind of MCT now, the brain octane, the C8, but that type of MCT actually is protective in the presence of lipopolysaccharides and palmitic acid, which is present in butter, enhances lipopolysaccharide absorption. LPSs are made by bad bacteria in the gut just for people listening.
Then those can migrate across the gut wall when you have any high fat meal. But when you have something that helps to protect the liver from those at the same time, at least in my experience, I don’t get any of that hunger thing. Like people do Bulletproof Coffee and hunger is suppressed in a way that most people never experience. It is a profound thing. But if I do just brain octane oil without any other fats it doesn’t seem to work as well, like you don’t get the full satiety, like you get the long live satiety when you have the butter and you get the short term like I’m so done from the brain octane. I haven’t figured all of the reasons.
Barry: I talked about a couple of good things about the butter, the right isomer of conjugant linoleic acid. Remember, butter is also rich in stearic acid.
Dave: That’s true.
Barry: Stearic acid is once it’s converted is rapidly converted to oleic acid. That’s why now the oleic acid is then converted to basically the ethanolamide version which is a very powerful now satiety hormone. It’s not the oleic acid itself, it’s only when it’s converted to the ethanolamine version of oleic acid that it can now interact with the hypothalamus and say stop eating.
Dave: So it could be a stearic acid effect. Interesting. I would love to know all the reason and there’s a bunch of other ones I hypothesize in the Bulletproof diet. But I do know that, wow, weight loss is a lot easier when you’re just not hungry.
Barry: That’s the whole secret. Our whole mission to basically control obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes has failed miserably. But the answer is quite simple. If you’re never hungry, you eat less calories. You eat less calories, your blood sugar goes down, your blood lipids go down, your blood pressure goes down. But it’s hard to eat less calories if you’re always hungry and always tired.
The secret to basically combating all these metabolic disorders is to basically increase satiety. The battle ground is no longer the blood, it’s the hypothalamus. That’s basically the integration center for all these hormonal inputs going from the gut and the blood to the brain that say either eat or not eat. Whoever basically solves this best has solved basically the major medical problem of the 21st century.
Dave: Well, I believe that there is major progress being made. That’s for sure. If there was only one supplement you could take what would it be?
Barry: Omega 3 fatty acids.
Dave: And krill oil, fish oil, what would you take?
Barry: No, I wouldn’t take any krill oil for the following reasons. 1, the krill oil again a study published about 2 years ago by Norman Salem show that the bioavailability is about the same when you have equal-
Dave: Interesting, I haven’t seen that one.
Barry: Another study came out only 2 weeks ago, basically made the statement that the krill oil actually increases insulin resistance.
Dave: Okay. I’ve got to see this. Sorry, I’ll have to look that up.
Barry: I’ll send it to you.
Dave: Okay, thank you. I’d really like that, because I’ll change my recommendations.
Barry: It’s a very interesting study. Krill oil it’s a little dirty. I mean, people say, “It came from the arctic waters. It has to be clean.” Because the krill, which are small shrimp basically also contain PCBs. Now most people don’t know much about krill oil production, but it’s all that similar from soy bean oil production. You take the krill, you dry them down, you extract them of gasoline, hexane. You take the gasoline extract and then add a nail polish remover, acetone, to precipitate out the phospholipids. But some of the phospholipids that some are mono glycerides and some are free fatty acids, so there’s a kind of like a mesh there but you have no way of purifying it. I think the krill oil story is, again we go back to saying, you’ve got to eat enough. Again, number 1 thing I say, let the blood tell you. The blood will tell you how much you need.
Dave: I like that.
Barry: That’s why we go back now to personalized nutrition. The blood will tell you what you have to do. I use 3 parameters from my markers of wellness. We have lots of markers of disease, very few markers of wellness. One marker of wellness is the ratio of arachidonic acid to EPA. The Japanese keep it between about 1.5, but they are biggest eaters of fish in the world, as a consequence their levels of PCBs in their blood are near the upper limit set by the World Health Organization.
Another parameter is the ratio of triglycerides to HDL on the blood. That’s a marker of insulin resistance in the liver. Insulin resistance actually manifests first in the liver before other organs like the muscles or even adipose tissue.
The final one is glycosylated hemoglobin. We think of this as only for diabetics. But actually it’s for everyone. The sweet spot, whether you want to be that gives maximum longevity is about 5.0. Maybe that’s 1% of the US population. They say, “Oh if you’re 6.1 and 6.5 you’re okay.” No you aren’t. To get down to 5.0 is really hard work.
Dave: You have to basically eat a lot less fructose to get there.
Barry: No, a lot less carbohydrates.
Dave: Less carbs in general.
Barry: Glycosylated hemoglobin. The fact of the story is one that basically also not has under careful studies is saying come see, come saw. The secret is keep all carbohydrates to a lower level and you’re looking at the glycosylated hemoglobin as your marker of saying that’s where I want to be. Depending on what your blood tells you, it tells you what you have to do in your diet to keep adjusting each of those parameters, because you can’t be considered well unless all 3 of those parameters are in their appropriate ranges. We’ve said for the glycosylated hemoglobin about 5, and triglycerides to HDL less than 1.
Dave: For people listening we’ll include the names of all these tests so you can to the transcript of this episode and get it all because I imagine if you’re driving right now you’re trying to write all this down and pausing your iPhone, you don’t have to do that.
Barry: Or texting, even worse.
Dave: Yeah, exactly. So all of this stuff is there. It’s on the website. It’s searchable. It’s all right. This is really precious knowledge and I do track all of those things. I don’t know if I do my glycosylated hemoglobin quite as regularly as I should but I definitely track those thing. I don’t remember my last number.
Barry: Because you’re doing the right thing. You have to basically have a constant of basically really way stations that say how am I doing, how am I doing in terms of controlling my future, and saying, the best marker is my blood. I’m looking to maintain a zone of wellness as long as possible.
Dave: That is a great way of looking at it. 2 more questions and then we’re done. One is, and this is from Facebook, what do you think about CBD oil for inflammation?
Barry: It’s interesting because again, it interacts with the same receptors in the brain as endocannabinoids. It has some potential benefits but the same endocannabinoids and the CBD would also be likely to do that can cause hunger. That’s why one of the first side effects for those who would actually smoke marijuana in the old days you got the munchies. It’s very hard to basically control hunger if those CB1 receptors in the brain are being activated by endocannabinoids or natural cannabinoids. I think it has some benefits but there’s still a lot to be seen.
Dave: Okay, more research there. Cool. The final question is one that I’ve asked all guests on Bulletproof Radio, and I’ve always learned a lot from this. If someone came to you tomorrow and said, “Look, I want to be better at everything I do in my life. Like I want to kick more ass at everything, not just exercise, not just career, but just I want to be better in general. What are the 3 most important things I need to know based on your entire set of experience?”
Barry: Well, I think the first thing you have to have a philosophy. If you don’t have a philosophy you don’t have a runner. You can’t basically, you don’t know where you’re going unless you have a game plan. One of the best game plans I think that has ever been developed was really stoic philosophy. It’s been around for 2500 years. It works very well. It says you’re responsible for everything that happens to you. You’re responsible for your own happiness and not happiness. Having a philosophy is a good starting point.
Then applying that philosophy to everything you do. Here’s the things you have to do. You have to eat right, and the blood will tell you if you’re doing that. You have to exercise. And you need to have stress reduction. Now if you can basically do those things, and of the 3 the stress reduction becomes oftentimes the most difficult. Why? I don’t have time to sit in a comfortable chair for 20 minutes and think of nothing. It’s an amazingly powerful tool. Is saying, these are the things you have to be make time for, otherwise your life will be a lot less enjoyable than otherwise could be.
Dave: Awesome. That’s a great answer. Dr. Barry Sears, where can people find out more about your work besides … Obviously you’re easy to find on Amazon, but what websites should they go to check out your latest work?
Barry: I think probably the most people can go to thezonediet.com because this could give you explanations about inflammation and really diet induced inflammation.
Dave: Beautiful. Well, I absolutely endorse your work. You’re one of the first people to talk about inflammation in such a meaningful way and had a profound effect on my own thinking and on my own path to losing 100 pounds and keeping off this amount of time. So thanks for your life’s work. It’s really made a difference.
Barry: Well thank you for the opportunity being on your show. And congratulations on the excellent work. Losing weight is easy. Keeping it off, that’s the hard part.
Dave: Absolutely. If you enjoyed today’s episode you know what to do. Check out Dr. Barry Sears work at zonediet.com, there’s a lot of value there, and think about what you can do to move the needle in the right way for the 3 biomarkers he talked about for any of the inflammatory things like homocysteine, lppL2, C-reactive protein, the other things that I talk about, because anything you’re going to do that lowers your inflammation is going to make you not just feel better, it’s actually going to make you nicer. When you’re nicer to all the people around you well the first thing you’re going to want to do is drink more Bulletproof Coffee. No, not really. I’m giving you a hard time. But what I do want to say though is seriously, when you get on top of the inflammation the first place you feel it is in your brain, your personality will change, you actually are nicer, and that we all win and you can do that without buying a single thing. Have an awesome day.