Among the many recommendations that seem like good ideas, we’ve often heard that getting out in nature is a healthy practice. But our mission is not to simply recapitulate what may represent common beliefs, but rather to explore these practices in terms of their scientific support.
As it turns out, there is a lot of science happening right now that is looking specifically at the health benefits ascribed to nature exposure. Much of the literature is being generated by researchers in Japan, where nature exposure is referred to as Shinrin-yoku, a term created by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries in 1982, and defined as making contact with and taking in the atmosphere of the forest, or “forest bathing.” Continue reading
The development of highly accurate and widely available genome sequencing technology has put us at a crossroads. Now, more than ever, the divergent views of nature versus nurture confront consumers wishing to be advocates for their own health. As we learn about our genetics it seems quite clear that the deterministic message about our health destiny is ringing loud and clear. More and more, the idea that we are at the mercy of our inheritance seems supported by the advancing understanding and interpretation of our individual genetic profiles.
An important message we have been espousing over the past decade centers on the importance of lifestyle choices, specifically directed to offset disease risk that may well be enhanced by genetics. This ideology centers on the notion of genetic predisposition in contrast to genetic determinism. It is this contrast that opens the door to empowerment and your health destiny.
December of 2019 marks the publication of a new medical textbook, The Microbiome and the Brain (CRC Press). The text features chapters focused on a number of important topics, among them the role of gut bacteria in a variety of medical conditions including autism, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease. The common theme throughout the book, as one would surmise from the title, is the relationship between the gut and brain health. The chapters have been written by some of the most well respected researchers and clinicians from around the world, and I am honored to be the editor-in-chief of this important contribution.
One area in which the relationship between the gut and the brain that seems to be getting a lot of attention as of late focuses on how variations in the gut bacteria may ultimately contribute to alterations in mood. Specifically, there is currently a fairly in-depth pursuit to understand the relationship between nuances of bacterial constituents and depression. Continue reading
Nutritional education for medical doctors is rudimentary at best. This reality is difficult to embrace as we recognize the incredibly powerful role that nutrition plays in human health. Recently, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, this failure of medical education was called out, along with some very meaningful recommendations for how we can improve medical education moving forward.
One of the most important goals of my life is to raise the level of awareness of the importance of lifestyle choices in determining a person’s risk for Alzheimer’s disease, a disease for which there is no meaningful medical treatment. To be sure, this narrative isn’t something that mainstream medicine fully embraces. But this isn’t necessarily a surprise as the whole notion of disease prevention still remains on the back burner as far as the world of Western medicine is concerned.
But the publications showing the powerful influence of specific lifestyle choices on Alzheimer’s risk are appearing with ever-increasing frequency in the world’s most well respected scientific publications. To that point, The Journal of the American Medical Association just published a powerful report looking at the relationship between genetic predisposition for dementia and the influence of lifestyle choices. This study begins by indicating that there are genetic risks for dementia. It then describes the focus of the research being dedicated to determining how much of the genetic risk may be offset by making specific choices in terms of things like smoking, diet, physical activity and alcohol consumption. Continue reading
By anyone’s definition, we must now consider Alzheimer’s disease to be an epidemic. Alzheimer’s is a progressive degenerative neurological condition that actually has its origins decades before the initial symptoms of cognitive decline begin to appear. Unfortunately, by the time these symptoms of the disease emerge—memory loss, cognitive decline, and behavioral shifts—there is very little that can be done as, according to our most well-respected medical journals, there is currently no meaningful pharmaceutical treatment for this condition. Despite this reality, pharmaceutical companies continue to market “Alzheimer’s drugs” to the tune of some $3-4 billion annually. Continue reading
By: Austin Perlmutter, M.D.
Depression is a global epidemic, a leading cause of disability that affects over 300 million people worldwide. Unfortunately, rates of diagnosed depression are continuing to rise in the United States, especially in our youth. When these disheartening statistics are combined with the relatively poor efficacy of our antidepressant medications, it becomes increasingly important to ask whether there may be non-pharmaceutical methods of treating this crippling condition. In recent years, scientific research has increasingly answered “yes.” Continue reading
I recently had the unique opportunity to serve as an advisor for the development of the next XPRIZE. Many of you may have heard of the XPRIZE for space, and this new prize is, to a degree, similar. The new XPRIZE is being developed to help spur research in the field of longevity. As such, unlike the space prize, in which a finite goal could be easily established, developing a goal that would serve as a surrogate for longevity is more of a challenge. Nonetheless, it is a work in progress.