While we accept the notion of the important influences of lifestyle choices as they relate, for example, to the heart, the immune system, lung function, longevity, and even cancer risk, the notion that what we choose to eat and the amount of exercise we get, in terms of influencing the brain, until recently, has been kept off the table. Fortunately, there are dedicated researchers around the country who are part of a vanguard team, making it very clear that we are, in fact, the architects of our brain’s future. Our choices, day in and day out, are exceedingly influential in terms of how our brains will change over time, for better or worse.
Certainly, this has been a central theme in the books I have been writing over the years, as well as other elements of my social outreach. But importantly, and gratefully, I am not alone in this endeavor.
As you may recall, the last time we had the opportunity to interview Dr. Robert Lustig was when he published The Hacking of the American Mind, elucidating how the processed food industry has hacked our bodies and minds to pursue pleasure over happiness, fueling widespread addiction and depression. I’m excited to let everyone know that we again have the opportunity to feature Dr. Robert Lustig on the podcast talking about his new book, METABOLICAL. This new work addresses nutrition, food science, and global health, and explains how by focusing on real food we can reverse chronic disease and promote longevity. For the first time, all strands of this pandemic—the medical, the economic, and the environmental—are pulled together into one clear narrative. And to be sure, the pandemic we are referring to is the pandemic of chronic, noninfectious, preventable diseases, not COVID-19.
Describing the eight pathologies within the cell that belie all chronic disease, Dr. Lustig illustrates how they are not “druggable” but rather “foodable” (i.e. medication can’t cure what nutrition can) by following two basic principles: protect the liver, and feed the gut. He uses this science to chronicle the breakdown in our current healthcare paradigm, which has succumbed to influence from Big Food, Big Pharma, and Big Government. In the special chapter “Food in the Time of Corona,” Dr. Lustig addresses the way “pre-existing conditions” (i.e. diet-induced chronic diseases) make us vulnerable to succumbing to acute infectious diseases like COVID-19. He also argues that the nutrition facts label hides information from the consumer by omitting what’s been done to the food, which is more important than what’s in the food. Continue reading
With ever increasing rates of overweight and obesity in America, we see, almost in lockstep, increasing rates of diseases that are linked to weight gain. Likely, mostly for cosmetic reasons, weight loss programs are proliferating at a record pace. And, truth be known, most weight loss programs, with strict adherence, will lead to weight loss, despite how they may vary in the diets that are recommended. While this challenges the notion as to what type of diet should be recommended for weight loss, it begs the question as to what gets people into trouble as it relates to weight gain in the first place.
It seems clear that there is a relationship between high consumption of refined carbohydrates and risk for weight gain. And for sure, other issues that are not specifically related to the types of foods people consume also have an impact on weight gain including things like sleep and exercise. But in this blog, I would like to consider new research that reveals how exposure to cigarette smoking from parent to child sets that child up for weight gain later in life. Continue reading
The United States government recently issued its Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This happens every five years so we are now going to have these guidelines in place until 2025.
Unfortunately, as you will see, these guidelines are profoundly insufficient as they relate to nutrition. They are administered to all Americans and become the backbone of nutrition for schools and the military and the general population of our country. In fact, the diet that is recommended is designed only for healthy people, and ultimately that represents only about 12% of our population. This is a one-size-fits-all diet that does not reflect the diversity of our country in terms of race, culture, and importantly, variations in metabolic health. Continue reading
We are now at the dawn of a new age as it relates to our understanding of important chronic diseases like metabolic syndrome, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. It is now clear that uric acid, previously just considered to be a waste product of metabolism, is playing a central role mechanistically in these pervasive problems.
In a recent review published in the European Journal of Internal Medicine entitled Uric Acid in metabolic syndrome: From an innocent bystander to a central player, scientists explored how uric acid plays a fundamental role, signaling the body to make and store fat, increase its blood pressure, and enhance glucose production. We all carry this type of physiology as a legacy of our primate ancestors for whom making and storing fat, for example, proved to be a survival mechanism during times of food scarcity. Continue reading
I was recently participating in a room on a new social media platform, Clubhouse, when a very amiable gentleman was invited to the stage to speak. He related how he had written a book of poetry about his experiences, and life in general. As it turns out, he is an interventional cardiologist. As such, he literally holds the destiny of his patients in terms of life or death, in his hands, on a daily basis. And he has used these experiences as the basis for a book of poetry, Ibadah, that explores meaning, the role of servitude, love, and loss. Here’s more about him:
Dr. Ankur Kalra is medical director of clinical research for regional cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, section head of cardiovascular research at Cleveland Clinic Akron General, a university professor at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine (Associate Professor) and NEOMED (Adjunct Associate Professor), and founder of the non-profit startup, makeadent.org. He is director of Barry J. Maron Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Center in New Delhi, India. He is also the host of the cardiology podcast show, Parallax. He has presented late-breaking science at national and international scientific cardiovascular meetings, and has published over 200 scientific manuscripts in various peer-reviewed journals. Continue reading
There is so much we can do from a lifestyle perspective to help safeguard our brains against declining function. And certainly getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important choices a person can make to help preserve and protect this vital organ. In October 2020, I wrote a piece on the relationship between sleep duration and cognitive decline, and it was based on a very large study performed in England. This study demonstrated that there was risk for cognitive decline with not enough sleep as well as too much sleep. And it concluded that between 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night is the “sweet spot” in terms of being related to the least risk for cognitive decline.
This week, a new study published in the journal Nature Communications entitled “Association of sleep duration in middle and old age with incidence of dementia” reviewed data from close to 8,000 participants over a 25-year period of time. They demonstrated that there was higher risk for developing dementia with sleep duration of six hours or less at specific ages of 50, 60, and 70 years. The findings of the study showed the risk for actually developing dementia was increased by 30% in all three age categories. To be sure, these findings were independent of sociodemographic, behavioral, cardiometabolic, and mental health factors.
Interestingly, in contrast to the study I quoted last year, these researchers did not find strong evidence that longer sleep duration is associated with dementia risk. In fact, there were very few individuals in the study who actually experienced long sleep duration so this was difficult to evaluate. Continue reading
How does SARS-CoV-2 reach the brain? This is actually a critically important question for which we now have meaningful answers. In this podcast, I have the honor of interviewing Dr. Frank Heppner. His research uses electron microscopy to visualize intact coronavirus particles in the human brain. We now know that COVID-19 is not just a respiratory disease but can affect various other parts of the body including the gastrointestinal system as well as the nervous system. One in three individuals with COVID-19 does in fact have neurological symptoms and we are going to explore this in our time together today. Continue reading