Ben: In this podcast, the perfect health diet, training for a triathlon, eating for healthy kidneys, do endurance athletes live longer, using a run-walk strategy, man boobs, coconut oil, and the problem with a gluten-free diet.
Hey folks, Ben Greenfield here, and maybe the title of this podcast, Podcast #152, got your attention. If you click through from BenGreenfieldFitness.com because it’s titled “If you could eat fat all day, would you?” and the reason for that is because in today’s podcast, I’m going to be interviewing the author of the Perfect Health Diet book, Paul Jaminet, and in that perfect health diet book, the carb-fat-protein ratio that’s recommended is 20% carb, 65% fat, 15% protein, which sounds like a pretty crazy diet but the book is compelling and it’s got a lot of really good information in it so, I was pleased to be able to get Paul on the show, incredibly intelligent guy, and I think you’re really going to enjoy the interview and I would recommend that you consider reading the book; there’s a lot of really good information in it. We’ve got some great questions that came through today so, we’re going to have a few special announcements and then, move in to this week’s content.
Ben: Well first of all, last week, I taught a 1-hour long seminar called “Eating for Endurance” in which I kind of, taught the idea behind how to use carbs, fats, proteins, electrolytes in water, during endurance activities of about, 2+ hours in duration, and if you engage in those type of endurance-based activities, you will want to grab the free download of that lecture and you can get it over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com in the show notes to this episode, Episode #152; I’ll put the free download to that Eating for Endurance seminar. Now a couple other announcements, first, my Shape21 Lean Body Manual, the exercise and diet manual that’s kind of a flip, day by day, page by page, to shed as much fat as possible in 21 days, that’s available on Facebook as a downloadable app that you can access right there on Facebook, and all you got to do is go to Facebook.com, do a search for Shape21 or go grab the link to that, right there in the show notes to this episode at BenGreenfieldFitness.com. And then, finally, I know this is kind of early to be announcing this but I also know that the winter and the holiday season tends to fill-up pretty quickly so, I want to tell you right now that my wife and I just signed up for a triathlon in Jamaica, in November. I would love to have you join us and meet us there; this is a blast, I’ve done this race twice; it’s a great excuse to get away for the winter. Pretty short triathlon, Olympic distance, just a fantastic time; super laid back down there in the Caribbean. Anyways, I got a 20% discount code for you to register and if you head over to the show notes for this episode, you can get the discount code, the link to the race and come join us in November. A couple of other things, first, for any of you in the Portland area, I’m coming down to Portland for the next week, July 3rd through July 10th, for that Portland Rev3 Triathlon. So, I will be down there all week; stay tuned to Twitter.com/BenGreenfield if you want to know where I am, if you want to meet up with me, meet me, I’d love to meet you, I’d love to get together and meet listeners so, just look me up when I’m down there in Portland and then, finally, big thanks to all those of you who have donated the dollar to keep this podcast going; very easy to sign up for a $1 donation each month, you go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com, you press the $1 donation button on the right side of the page and what that basically is doing is it’s helping to support what I need to pay for everybody to go download the podcast each week, because I have to pay for all the transfer-that-information, and the payment is based off in the number of people who download so, if you can go in and donate a dollar for your monthly digest of BenGreenfieldFitness.com, it’s huge; it really helps. So, let’s have one quick announcement and move on to this week’s listener Q & A.
Craig: Hey Ben, this is Craig from Birmingham and I’m sitting here in my Ben Greenfield T-shirt, and I have a question about training plans. I’m just beginning as a tri-athlete; right now though, I’m training 3 days a week and on each of those days, I swim, bike and run, and all the training plans I’ve been looking at do it differently and do, it looks like no more than 2 of the sports on any given workout. I was just wondering, am I thinking wrong? Is this good? Is this bad? And, I wanted to have your opinion on that, thanks. bye.
Ben: So, to be perfectly honest with you Craig, you won’t see many triathlon programs that actually have you swimming, cycling and running every single day for each of your workouts, especially if they’re for like longer, say triathlons, because it’s very difficult to get a high quality workout in that’s really devoted to one of those sports, swimming, biking or running and still be able to squeeze the other 2 sports in. Now that being said, there’s certainly a great deal of sport specific training that occurs. If you’re training for a triathlon, when you swim at the gym pool and then you get out of the pool, you run upstairs to the bicycle and you get on the bicycle, you ride the bicycle, and then you run outside and you run for 20 minutes, those are the type of workouts that really get your body used to the type of training that you’re going to do during a race, and in fact, in the last couple of weeks leading up to a race where my workouts get shorter and shorter as I taper, a lot of times I will do that and squeeze multiple workouts into 1 day and sometimes, swim, bike and run all in 1 day but, more often than not, in my own program and the program of the athletes that I’m working with, we’ll do something like, say bike and lift on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and then swim and run on Tuesday and Thursday, do some type of long workout like a long bike ride, followed by a mid-distance run on Saturday and then take the day off or do a really easy swim on Sunday. And that type of scenario allows you to focus more on the quality or the length of the sessions, the latter especially important for training for say like a half-ironman or an Ironman distance triathlon, without them worrying about trying to squeeze all of the different disciplines into one day. Now, if you’re training for a shorter race like a sprint-distance triathlon or an Olympic-distance, then you could probably get away with doing most of your workouts as kind of like a combination swim-bike-run workout every single day. Just make sure that you lay it out properly so that you’re not doing high intensity interval training on one day, and then following that up with more interval training the next day. So for example, if you’re swimming, biking and running all in one workout, your Tuesday and Thursday workouts might consist of simply skills and drills and a high note of aerobic work, and then Monday might be, kind of like long, slow intervals and Friday might be long, slow intervals and Wednesday might be short, very intense intervals and maybe Saturday, short, very intense intervals as well. So, there’s a few different ways you can do it but ultimately, I hope that clears up the air in terms of how you should be structuring your triathlon training workouts. And remember, if you have an audio question to leave, click Ask a Podcast Question at the bottom of this page.
Mario: I like to listen to music and podcasts, but is there a set of headphones you would recommend for use, both indoors in the gym and outdoors? I especially hate it when they snag and rip out of my ears. What do you use?
Ben: That term, ripping out of the ears, that kind of makes me shudder because I literally, like an hour ago, I just got back from the doctor and I was about, 2 years ago, flying back from a race that I did and right before I got on the airplane, I went in the ocean and I went for a swim, and the water ended up getting pressurized into my inner ear. During the airplane flight, they got an ear tube put into my ear and it wouldn’t come out and so, just about an hour ago, I went into the doctor and he kind of did like surgery without anesthesia and just kind of ripped it out of my ear, and that was some of the worst pain I’ve experienced in a really long time. So when you say “ripping out of the ears”, I literally did have something ripped out of my ear about an hour ago, and I asked to keep it; he gave it to me, a little tissue paper and a head blood and wax on it and it was kind of nasty, but I wanted to keep it as a souvenir. My kids thought that was pretty cool, when they saw that I had an ear tube that’d been pulled out of my ear, so anyways, back to Mario. Mario, I recommend these earphones called the yurbuds, it’s y-u-r-b-u-d-s; I’ll put a link to those in the show notes for you but first of all, they allow you to hear noise while you’re training, and so it’s not quite as dangerous to be riding your bicycle or running on a road with headphones on, and second of all, you can yank the heck out of those things and they don’t come out but they don’t hurt when you yank on them either. So, they’re kind of a newer headphone; they’ve only been around for about a year but they’re called yurbuds and I’m a big fan; they work really well. I came across them at, kind of a fitness expo last year and yeah, super nice headphones, good sound, they allow you to hear what’s going on outside, they don’t come out so, that’s what I recommend.
Alan: I eat low carbohydrate foods, but my father is having kidney issues and is being told he cannot eat much in the way of protein or potassium. He’s being told to eat everything I have learned is bad, and will lead to weight gain and insulin issues such as white bread. He’s also on blood pressure medications etc. This is certainly beyond me and the doctor/nutritionist are advising and do not seem concerned about what seems to be an extremely unhealthy diet. Do you have any thoughts on what he could do or where to look for better advice?
Ben: Well first of all, before I answer your question Alan, let me clarify something; high protein diets are not bad for healthy kidneys, okay, and that has been proven; there have been numerous studies, the more recent one was a study on well over a thousand women who were part of an ongoing nurses’ health study and what the investigators’ said he found, was that the danger of kidney problems from a high protein diet is limited to people who have existing kidney problems. Okay so, if you’ve got some type of renal insufficiency or kidney issue going on, that’s what we might want to discuss, potentially limiting protein and I’m going to, kind of give a caveat to that in a minute here, but if you’ve got healthy kidneys, don’t think that a high protein diet is necessarily going to destroy your kidneys because there’s not a lot of evidence for that, and although kidney function will certainly decline with age, and a lot of older people will get that like 40-50% kidney function, usually it’s related to this gradual loss of the kidney’s filtering unit or their nephrons and that just naturally occurs as you age, but it can certainly be accelerated through the long-term use of pharmaceutical drugs, pain killers, even something like aspirin; untreated high blood pressure is another primary cause of loss of kidney function, heart disease due to poor blood circulation through the kidneys can be another issue, and you can even harm your kidneys through chronic dehydration or just not drinking enough water so, all of these would be bigger issues in terms of causing some renal problems, in contrast to a high protein diet, but I think it’s certainly possible to delve even deeper into some issues that really aren’t talked about in the medical mainstream, when it comes to kidney function. So, we tell you something that has been discussed on this show before which is AGEs or ages, which stands for Advanced Glycation End Products and remember, this is typically something that’s going to form when you’ve got a lot of sugar in your diet, particularly a lot of free glucose in your diet, can stick to proteins, it can stick to circulating fats or lipids in your body, and it can change the way that these structures actually function and when you’ve got chronically-elevated blood glucose levels, you get a lot more advanced glycation end product formation, and this can eventually kind of, overload the enzymes in your body that help to regulate the formation of these advanced glycation end products and keep them from doing damage. We look at the diet again from a carbohydrate perspective and you have fructose, and fructose, which, as we’ve talked about on the show before, is mostly processed by the liver, so it’s kind of hard to get out of blood circulation and it tends to be able to alter liver functions, especially when you’re consuming in high loads and you’re in a sedentary state when you’re consuming the fructose, so it can contribute to insulin resistance and not only that, but it’s structurally a lot more reactive than glucose or a lot more likely to produce these advanced glycation end products compared to glucose, and because of that, both high levels of elevated blood sugar or chronically-elevated blood sugar levels as well as fructose consumption, especially in a sedentary individual, what can happen is you can have some problems with kidney function and it’s specifically related to the abilities of these advanced glycation end products, if I can say that one time correctly on this show, these AGEs to be able to damage some of the structures, particularly in the glomerulus of the kidney, which is a part of your kidney that is responsible for the function of the kidneys, the re-absorption process and the filtering process that the kidneys are doing. So, that’s a big issue and that’s kind of a red flag with, your father being prescribed this higher carbohydrate intake diet. Inflammation can be another issue and inflammation is definitely problematic for kidney function, and one of the main ways that this actually happens is again, related to fructose consumption interestingly, and there is a protein that is increased when you’re actually consuming a high amount of fructose and it’s called monocyte chemoattractant protein or MCP, and that can actually, deleteriously affect kidney function and in particular, these monocytes can attack part of the nephron, which is part of the kidneys, and it can decrease your renal function. Autoimmunity is another issue when it comes to kidney function, and there are a lot of autoimmune diseases or autoimmune reactions that again, cause damage to the nephrons and the kidney, and a lot of these are related to gluten, particularly the activity of something called transglutaminase, and so a high-gluten-based diet, consuming a lot of wheat-based products, specifically those that are higher in gluten like eating a lot of pasta, eating a lot of bread, that could also cause some kidney damage when in excess. So, another issue when we look at the kidneys is that when we have these chronically-elevated insulin levels which can be related to, like a high sugar, high carbohydrate diet, not only can it produce these advanced glycation end products, the inflammation, but the other thing that can happen is you get an elevation of what are called growth factors and what can happen when that occurs is you get a decrease of the production of something called sex hormone binding protein, and an increase in epithelial growth factor and also in something called vascular endothelial growth factor, and both of those can damage your kidney function. So, once again, we see that carbohydrate or elevated carbohydrate intake can be something that affects this. The other thing is that aldosterone, which is a hormone that is intimately related to the kidneys, in terms of regulating the electrolyte balance, regulating blood pressure, aldosterone can cause sodium retention, it can cause you to excrete potassium, we talked about this a little bit when we talked about adrenal fatigue, but basically what happens is it increases your blood volume or it increases your blood pressure and when you’re consuming a lot of carbohydrates, you have a lot of insulin and you have what’s called hyper insulinism, it can cause this increased blood volume, which when combined with the aldosterone production can really step up the blood pressure and once again, put increased risk or increased load on your kidneys; interestingly, and we talked about this a few weeks ago, cortisol or that stress release hormone is something else that can have similar effects to aldosterone. So, kind of the paradox here is if you can’t eat a bunch of carbohydrate like your father’s currently being recommended to do than what you eat, because we’ve all heard that if you are eating a lot of protein, you can get a lot of these ammonia-based byproducts from the breakdown of protein and these could increase the amount of filtering that has to be done by the kidney and that’s certainly true even though, again, like I said, that’s not an issue in healthy people but could be an issue when it comes to people who have reduced renal function and that’s where, I thought that this would be a good question to answer, particularly in the podcast that we’re talking about today because we’re talking about a high-fat diet today and we even mentioned the term ketogenesis today, or the primary burning of ketones or fatty acids as a fuel, and there’s actually a really interesting, recent article that appeared a couple of months ago, about how a low-carbohydrate diet can reverse kidney failure, particularly in people with diabetes and what these folks are actually metabolizing were ketones or fatty acids, and the diet that they were on was described as a low-carbohydrate, moderate protein, high-fat diet, very similar to the one that I’ll be talking about with Paul Jaminet today, and what happens is that when you’re eating that diet, the cells using ketone instead of glucose for a fuel, glucose isn’t metabolized and since a high amount of glucose metabolism can cause kidney failure, the idea was that the ketogenic diet would block the toxic effect on the kidneys of glucose, and it was found that they could actually reverse diabetic kidney failure with this ketogenic diet, so it’s very interesting and we’ll delve into something like the chronic disease management capabilities of something like a low-carbohydrate hig fat diet later on when we talk with Paul, but it’s interesting that this really plays into the kidney issue and perhaps, you should listen to the interview with Paul Jaminet and read the book that we’re going to talk about and that might be something to look into introducing to your dad; not to be given as medical advice from me, but this is just something that I would certainly explore.
Sam: I just read an article (and it links me to an article and the article that he links me to is one about Tour de France riders and a study that they did on Tour de France riders and specifically, the article that he links to is called “Increased Average Longevity” among the Tour de France cyclists,) and what they did was this research study that was based off the fact that it’s widely held among the general population and health professionals that moderate exercise is healthy but long-term high intensity exercise is not. So they went out, they took all these Tour de France riders and they looked at their survival period and compared the survival period of these Tour de France riders that were riding between 1930 up into the 1960’s, with other people who are similar age from similar locations, who were alive at the same time but not doing that same type of training, and they found that the average age with 50% of the population died, who was not a Tour de France rider, was 73 years old and the Tour de France rider’s average age of death was 81 years old; it’s almost like an 8-year increase in life span or an observed increase in life span among these Tour de France riders, and so, I ask what do you make of it? Are these Tour de France cyclists, exceptions to the rules? Or, how does this assessment compare to yours?
Ben: And I’m sure that Sam is referring to my thoughts about the amount of inflammation and excessive body use that something like an ironman tri-athlete can put on to the body, and my proposal that it is indeed not necessarily healthy, even though I do it, and it is instead potentially damaging even though it is a pretty cool thing to be doing. So, my thoughts on this Tour de France study kind of, go into a few areas. First of all, from what I can tell in terms of the statistical analysis, it actually uses a good statistical analysis that shows a very clear trend that would suggest that people who’re riding the Tour de France actually live longer than people who weren’t riding as much as these guys were, but there are definitely some confounding factors or some potential confounding factors; for example, we know that right away, being a former athlete would put you in a category where you’re going to tend to probably be a little bit healthier, you’re probably going to drink a little bit less alcohol, you’re probably going to smoke a little less, and so, those could’ve certainly affected like a selection bias for these Tour de France riders actually living longer. There are certainly genetic variables that allow for someone to be successful in a competitive race like the Tour de France that may also put them into category where they’re also pre-disposed to just live longer, so there’s another, kind of a selection bias there. However, the authors did bring up this bias in their article and they cited another study that compared the genetic profiles of 100 different, world-class male endurance athletes and they found that of all these different risks, like risk for cardiovascular disease, risk for high blood pressure, risk for insulin resistance, risk for cancer etc. they didn’t find any difference in these risks genetically, between these advanced endurance athletes and the general population, so it’s kind of interesting. A couple other thoughts that I have are that a.) it’s possible that the diets of these individuals training, back in the 1930’s through the 1960’s, were a lot healthier than the diets of the many endurance athletes these days, specifically in the realm of the amount of processed and preservative laden foods, that they were likely not consuming compared to athletes these days. Obviously, that’s a pretty simple fix; you can eat more whole, real raw food if you are an endurance athlete. The other thing is that I do not think and I do not notice; this is something that I would love to be able to find out but I wasn’t able to find it out in time for this podcast; I would be interested in their actual training protocol, back in the ‘30s, and I would not be surprised if cyclists back in the ‘30s, were not training anywhere near as hard as modern-day Tour de France cyclist or say like a, modern-day ironman tri-athlete and that would simply be an issue of me being able to see a typical training protocol of someone who is training in the ‘30s, the ‘40s or the ‘50s for the Tour de France. So if you have access to a training protocol like that and you’re listening in, let me know; that’d be really interesting to see. So, it was an interesting article and those were my thoughts on it.
Craig: Jeff Galloway’s philosophy of run-walk-run has helped me in my runs. Could this apply to triathlon?
Ben: Well first of all Craig, a guy who is really well-versed in the whole run-walk-run protocol, is a guy named Bobby McGee and over on another website that I run called EndurancePlanet.com, we have a really fascinating, 4-part video interview series with Bobby McGee; it’s totally free, but I would suggest you go over to EndurancePlanet.com and I’ll link to this in the show notes to this episode, and you watch that interview series with Bobby McGee, who’s got a some really good insight into the run-walk-run protocol, and what the run-walk-run protocol is, is you go out and you do a half marathon or a marathon or a triathlon or whatever, and you are following a specific run-walk ratio so like, your run-walk ratio might be a 9:1 ratio of running and walking, where for every 9 minutes that you run, you’re doing 1 minute of, kind of like a fast-paced walk and the walk allows you to not only do something like fuel or hydrate, but also decrease your body’s core temperature and then pick the running pace back up, and as long as the running pace between each of the walks is faster than the running pace that you’d be able to sustain if you weren’t walking, the idea is that you can complete an event more quickly, and there are certainly people who’re incorporating this type of strategy to run a marathon in less than 3 hours, or a half marathon in less than an hour and 20 minutes so, it’s certainly a strategy that can work; it’s one that I personally have done in half iron man triathlons before, where during the run portion of a half iron man triathlon, I will walk for about 60 seconds; just a very fast walk at the 5k, the 10k, and the 15k mark, and I’ve done that a couple of times in very hot races to allow my body temperature to come down a little bit, and there are certainly different types of philosophies for the run-walk-run strategy, but yes, it can certainly apply to triathlon, especially for like distance triathlon and it would be something that, maybe beneficial for you to play around with so, go watch that Bobby McGee video interview series and if you have any more comments or questions about that, just leave them in the comments under the show notes to this episode, Episode #152.
Andre: Is there really such a thing as beer gut?
Ben: Well, I think that there certainly is Andre, and the reason that I say that is, there is basically 2 main areas where you’re going to store fat; underneath your skin, and that’s called subcutaneous fat, and the other place you’re going to store is in your abdominal cavity, and that’s called abdominal fat or it’s also called visceral fat. Visceral fat, which is what you see when you’re looking at a beer gut or a beer belly, is what gives people that large waist circumference, the big waist-to-hip ratio, and interestingly, visceral fat is a highly active type of fat, from a metabolic point of view. So what I mean by that is, it produces or it can produce a lot of what are called cytokines which are inflammatory molecules. Visceral fat is also a little bit easier to rupture and to cause inflammation, and visceral fat is actually one of the predictors that can be used to predict your propensity for things like insulin sensitivity, impaired glucose tolerance or a lot of blood sugar fluctuations, high blood pressure, high circulating blood fat or triglycerides so, if you’ve got a lot of visceral fat, you are definitely at a higher risk of a lot of chronic diseases. Now what’s even more interesting is that when they look at visceral fat in rats, if they surgically remove visceral fat from rats, those rats do not develop insulin resistance or elevated insulin when they age, and so, it’s very interesting that visceral fat is one of the ways that your body develops insulin resistance, and when they’ve studied this, once again, in rats, what they can do is they can increase the rate of glucose release into the fat tissue of rats by injecting out their glucose or insulin into the bloodstream, and when you inject these or put these into the bloodstream, you get this increased glucose uptake by fat cells, but what happens is when you get this increased glucose uptake, visceral fat amps up its production of what are called fat-derived peptides, a ton, compared to subcutaneous fat or that fat underneath the skin, and these fat-derived peptides that are produced by the visceral fat, they promote insulin resistance. So once again, you put a bunch of sugar into visceral fat cells, which is the type of fat cells that are produced by like, a beer belly and those cells up-regulate the production of these fat-derived peptides and the fat-derived peptides can significantly increase your risk for insulin resistance, and remember, when you get insulin resistance, that means that your body, eventually, is not able to take blood glucose and use it for energy, and you instead get high levels of circulating blood glucose, which means you get that vicious cycle of producing more fat, you can get nerve damage, you can get blood vessel damage, you can get inflamed cholesterol particles, and a lot of the other things that go along with insulin resistance. So the reason that something like beer or really, any food that increases blood glucose is going to be an issue because any of these foods will lead to the greatest increase in visceral fat; anything that causes an abnormal release or a large release in blood glucose, especially if you’re in a sedentary, non-exercising state, followed by that large release in insulin, is going to cause visceral fat to grow. So, fructose can trigger visceral fat formation, so if we’re talking like high fructose corn syrup, agave syrup, maple syrup, honey, high-carbohydrate consumption, beer consumption, wheat consumption, any of these are going to lead to that visceral fat formation and as many of you know I consume a lot of those foods that I just listed off. If you look over my shoulder at the restaurant, you would certainly see me grabbing a piece of bread, you know having some rice or potatoes with dinner (that type of thing), but you have to remember that I am a proponent of timing your carbohydrate while you’re in an insulin-sensitive state, so you will see me eating the majority of my carbohydrate when I am within two hours of having completed an exercise session, when I am about to go out and do an exercise session or when I’m right in the middle of an exercise session, and aside from that I’m very careful, and I don’t know if you know this recently but I have a six-pack and I don’t have very much visceral fat at all. And one of the reasons for that is that I do really control my carbohydrate intake. I also don’t really like beer, but I do like wine, so that’s really what’s going on with the beer belly and I’m not against alcohol; I think that alcohol is really given too much of a bad rep, I think part of that might be because of an article that I wrote about how alcohol makes you fat and how it gets converted into acetate by the liver and how that acetate, the use of acetate as a fuel kind of takes precedence over other things like carbohydrates, but the fact is that the consumption of alcohol or the production of acetate alone isn’t going to cost you to get fat, it’s all the other stuff that you consume along with it – it’s the nachos and the peanuts and usually the junk foods and the carb foods that we’re eating, when we drink or just the fact that drinking causes us to drink more than we would normally consume when we have our wits about us, so it’s very easy to drink 4 beers once you’ve already had 2 beers, and that’s where you start to get the beer belly issue. So, I really don’t have much of an issue with alcohol consumption in moderation – I personally, probably average about 2-3 drinks each week so, that’s kind of where we’re at with the whole beer belly thing, so hopefully that didn’t confuse you or cause more questions and I actually answered with that.
Anonymous: My whole life, I’ve had lumps or nodes of tissue under my nipples. I’m a 32-year old male, I’ve never had any issues with this and I’m in great health; however, what are these and is there a way to make them go away?
Ben: Well, typically when you see something like this, it’s known as gynecomastia or man boobs – I did an episode about this over at the Get Fit Guy podcast and what this is, is it’s an abnormally large development or abnormal development of these mammary glands in males and sometimes it manifests as breast enlargements, sometimes it can manifest as funny-shaped areola or lumps under the nipples, puffy nipples (that type of thing) and, some guys are genetically pre-disposed towards higher degrees of gynecomastia, but male estrogens can certainly affect too much production of this mammary tissue and estrogen load could be increased through anything from chemicals in the environment, like a lot of the chemicals you’ll find in plastics and cleaning products, even some like the benzane-based molecules you’re going to find like sun block and soaps and perfumes and colognes. There’re certainly foods that contain higher amounts of estrogen – soy is one, interestingly; beer is also one, and there is some relationship between this drop in testosterone that occurs naturally as you age, and the conversion of that testosterone into estrogen – there’s an enzyme in your body called aromatase that converts testosterone to estrogen; so if you’re kind of going through andropause and have lower testosterone levels, a lot of times that testosterone is getting converted into estrogen and that can cause increased formation of these man boobs. And if you have really high levels of body fat, from just high calorie consumption or lack of exercise, what happens is you do have higher activity levels of this aromatase and so you get more of your testosterone converted into this estrogen. Now, I am not a boob expert and I am not like a physician who checks up on guys’ nipples, so I realized that you said that you’ve had this for a long time and that is not something that has gradually come up, you say you are in great health, and you say your whole life, you’ve had this lumps or nodes of tissue under your nipples, I would think that possibly, it could be more gynecomastia-related if it had just started developing or was related to dietary changes or lack of exercise or something like that, but since I’m not sure about that, I would say that my last piece of advice for you would be to go see a doctor and ask them, and that would probably your best bet if these things are really bothering you, especially if you’re convinced that you are indeed living a very healthy life so, definitely look into some of those estrogen issues though, if what I just said about male estrogens made you think that maybe there were some in your diet right now or in your lifestyle right now.
Chuck: I’ve heard that taking coconut oil can increase your metabolism up to 48% over 14 hours – is this true? Also, what I’m more interested in is I’ve heard that it can increase energy – is this true? And, how much coconut oil should I eat to accomplish this?
Ben: Once again, a good question to be asking during today’s interview because I know that the author of the Perfect Health Diet, Paul Jaminet, he kind of endorses coconut oil in that book. A lot of this research or a lot of this argument about coconut oil kind of increasing your metabolism is based off studies that have done, that have shown that when you consume a source of medium chain triglycerides, which are a type of fat that your body can burn as a fuel, there is an increase in what is called thermogenesis and an increase in metabolic rate, compared to the consumption of other foods, specifically the study that cited most used a type of fat called a long chain triglyceride and compared that to a medium chain triglyceride; they certainly did find an increase in energy expenditure – it was definitely not as high as that 40 some odd percent that you just talked about. It was kind of up there, like in the low teens; I think it was like 12-14% that it actually improved the thermogenic effect of food or the metabolic rate after consuming the medium chain triglycerides. So, it’s not one of those things you want to eat to boost your metabolism, as much as it’s something that you’d want to eat for some of the other good properties of coconuts, and what I’m talking about would be, first of all, what you’ve already brought up, Chuck, and that would be their ability to be used during exercise, for energy, for fuel and compared to a lot of other fats, they do burn pretty well during exercise so, what a medium chain triglyceride is, it’s a type of saturated fat; it’s got shorter chains of these carbon molecules and that can cause the medium chain triglycerides to be digested or metabolized more quickly by your liver, and they specifically don’t need this transporter called L-carnitine to enter into your mitochondria to provide energy, so they can act kind of similarly to carbohydrates, and so, they could possibly even cause you to not use as much carbohydrates during exercise, have access to a more dense energy source, and even help you to mobilize some of your body’s own fat stores for energy; and you’re usually going to find medium chain triglycerides in coconut oils or palm oils. The issue is that to take them in the amount that would give you a large amount of energy, is going to cause some diarrhea and going to cause some cramping if you’re exercising at higher intensities. So if you’re going on a 50-mile ultra run up in the mountains, kind of chugging along at a slow pace, not a big deal to have a trail mix bag with some almonds and some unsweetened coconut flakes; I definitely don’t recommend tossing like, whole coconut milk in your bike bottle for like a bike race or something like that simply because it’s too difficult to metabolize at those intensities, but it is certainly something for low intensity exercise that you can experiment with and use and it is burnt very well as a fuel. Now, in his book that we’ll talk about later on today, Paul Jaminet talks about some other, really important properties of coconut oil and I’ll kind of save some of that for the interview because I do ask him some questions about coconut oil and he’s got some good things to say about it and, just so you know, inside the inner circle, the Ben Greenfield Fitness inner circle, our next seminar, which is actually coming up this Saturday, July 2nd, and you can get into that over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/innercircle is how to take a coconut, and just like, go buy a coconut at the grocery store and my wife and I are going to teach you how to make coconut milk and how to make your own coconut water, coconut oil, coconut butter or I’ll just teach you to do just basically how to take a coconut and get everything out of that you can; it’s pretty cheap, it’s pretty easy to do, that’s what we’ve been doing now for our coconut, and you bypass a lot of the issues with potential for PCBs and guar gum and a lot of other stuff that you get in canned coconut, plus, it’s less expensive so, good question.
Tony: I have been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome and I’m experimenting with a gluten-free regimen. I am now struggling with blood sugar highs and lows, and I’m concerned that the relatively high glycemic index foods that I’m now eating, such as rice and potatoes, are causing these issues.
Ben: Alright. So firt of all, this is kind of one of my pet peeves as people switch to a gluten-free diet and you start consuming all these gluten-free grains or these gluten-free, I guess I shouldn’t call them grains, gluten-free processed foods. And if you do a nutritional analysis of like, standard gluten-free goods that are sold as gluten-free foods at most supermarkets, they’re still incredibly processed, they’re highly refined, they can still be loaded with calories and loaded with preservatives and really not give you much of an advantage other than potentially not causing the same type of irritation of your irritable bowel syndrome. If you’re going to go gluten-free, don’t do it by going and getting a bunch of packaged foods and products but instead, do it by eating real, whole foods. Stepping up your consumption of meats and proteins into a limited extent; seeds and nuts and some of the foods that we talk about today when I interview Paul Jaminet about the Perfect Health Diet book but, if you’re struggling with blood sugar highs and lows, it’s really not as much to do with gluten as much as it has to do with a macro-nutrient content of your diet and the timing of your carbohydrate intake. One of the best things that you could be doing would be to skew your diet towards lower carbohydrate intake and higher protein and fat consumption and to time your carbohydrates, like I just talked about a little bit ago in conjunction with activity levels and that will really help to contain your blood sugar levels because post exercise, during exercise, you’re going to be more insulin-sensitive and more likely to take that glucose and use it as a fuel or store it away, and if you’re sitting around eating rice and potatoes, no matter who you are, whether you’re eating gluten-free or a gluten-containing diet, you’re going to have blood sugar issues so, one of the best things you could do is go out and get a blood glucose monitor and monitor what’s going on, in terms of what you’re eating, what it does to your blood sugar levels and I think that you’re going to find if you’re moderately physically active and you time your carbohydrates around that physical activity and fuel that physical activity accordingly, and then switch to lower carbohydrate-containing gluten-free foods that preferably aren’t refined preservative laden foods during the times that you’re not exercising, it would really help with the issues that you’re having. So, I hope that helps and we’re going to go ahead and have one quick announcement and then move on to this week’s interview with Paul Jaminet.
Ben: Hey folks, this is Ben Greenfield and, one book that’s been getting quite a bit of press especially among the audience here at Ben Greenfield Fitness and the questions I’ve been receiving, I reflect that, has been a book called “The Perfect Health Diet” and this book was written by Paul Jaminet, he’s the co-author of the book and he wrote it with, I’m not even sure if I’m pronouncing this correctly, but Shu-Ching Jaminet and Paul is on the call today and Paul and I are going to be discussing this very unique diet called the Perfect Health Diet; it’s got a lot of things in it and I have read the book that I hadn’t seen before in other diet books and so, Paul is going to, kind of outline the idea behind what makes this Perfect Health Diet different and how it all began and how you might be able to implement some of the techniques in this book, in your own life, in your own training, in your own nutrition to help improve your health, your performance, your longevity and many of the other issues that Paul discusses in the book so Paul, thank you for coming on the call today.
Paul: It’s great to be here, thanks for having me Ben.
Ben: Well Paul, you have an interesting story about how you began this book and you didn’t exactly come from a pristine background of healthy living, did you?
Paul: No, I’m afraid not. I actually had some health problems from the time I was born; my mother had cancer and I picked up some infections very early in life; I had urine infections through my first,5 years or so; I’ve had some surgery later into that but, I was reasonably healthy until in my 20’s, I underwent a lot of course of antibiotics and then accutane for acne and started developing some more chronic conditions, just deteriorated over the next 16 or 17 years and, I was always very busy – I was a scientist and then I became a software entrepreneur and, so I was always working like 60-70-hour weeks and grabbing whatever food was most available; I would drink a lot of soda and so on, and so, none of that was good and that certainly promoted progression of my diseases and eventually, by the time I was in my 40’s, things started to get a little disabling and I decided I had to focus on my health and I started working on that nearly full time, trying to figure out. Doctors said they will help me, so I have to start learning about how I had a big advantage that my wife is a biologist at Harvard Medical School, a cancer researcher, vascular biologist and, so I got a lot of expertise in the house and what really helped me was starting to experiment with what you eat. It really started with experimenting with Chinese medicine and then it moved to experimenting with diets and I tried the Paleo diet, Art DeVany’s version and that really made a big difference and made a lot of things better and made some things worse, but that was very encouraging to me because medicines haven’t made any real difference to me in the past and, so that was the start and as I said, some things got better but some things got worse but that led me to a long period of experimentation and study and research, and it took us right about 4 or 5 years. My wife also had some chronic health problems, and so, we were experimenting together and we just spent 4 or 5 years searching through the litter, just trying to understand all the way to which diet influences health and we ended up cooking our food very systematically and figuring out a lot of the things that aren’t really out there in other diets and this was also helped by my best friends in economics so I had some tools for analyzing how nutrients interact with each other, helped me to make sense of the medical literature because in certain ways I’m interpreting it, things can seem very paradoxical. A lot of doctors and nutritionists have a very hard time making sense with all the results and the literature.
Ben: I see. So, let’s go ahead and jump in to the nuts and bolts. What is kind of the overview of the Perfect Health Diet? If you and I were trapped on an elevator together and we’re going up to the 20th floor, how are you going to explain the Perfect Health Diet to me in a nutshell? No pun intended.
Paul: Well, in a nutshell, it’s rated toward getting you all of the nutrition that your body can use and benefit from, and avoiding as much as possible any toxins. So foods, especially plant foods are full of toxins – toxins help plants defend themselves from animals and from insects and from bacteria and fungi, but also, they have a lot of nutrients and if you’re deficient in nutrients, you’re not going to be in perfect health and some nutrients become toxic if you take too much so, in general, what we have tried to do is figure out for every nutrient, both macronutrients and micronutrients, what’s the optimal range, we call it a plateau range, where you get all of the benefits but none of the toxicity and also, what are other toxins that people commonly get in their foods and how can you arrange the diet to minimize its toxicity.
Ben: I think probably, one of the most unique parts of this diet is the carbohydrate, fat and protein ratio and in your book, you list several reasons that you think that the ratio that you recommend in the book is ideal and the ratio that you recommend is about a 20% carbohydrate, 65% fat, 15% protein diet, obviously skewed very much towards fat intake compared to many other diets, but what are the reasons in your book that you kind of list, that you believe make this ratio ideal?
Paul: Yeah. Well, I should say that’s how the middle of our range is and a good recommendation for the average person. I think athletes, depending on what kind of athlete they are, might want to eat a little bit more carbs and protein, but basically, it gets back to what I was saying “what does your body utilize?” and typically, an adult human will use about 600 calories of glucose a day and a modest amount of protein which varies, depending on some other factors but typically for good health, you want to get the order of 300 or so calories of protein and so, if you want to give your body the least amount of stress, then that’s about what you should eat, around 600 calories of carbs and 300 calories of protein. Now, there’s some reason to believe that being slightly low carb may be beneficial, and we talked about reasons for thinking that in the book, and what happens is if you reduce the amount of carbs you eat, is that you substitute to some macronutrients derived from protein and fat, and your protein gets converted to glucose in your liver, or some fats get converted to something called ketones and those substitute your glucose a little bit so, we tend to recommend the average sedentary American to get around 400 calories of carbs, so that’s a slightly low carb, a little bit below than what your body needs, and force your liver to manufacture some glucose and ketones and keep the protein around 300-400 calories and that’s a pretty good diet for longevity, for avoiding bacterial and viral infections; it’s not so low carb that your body has difficulty in meeting its needs for glucose so, you’ll be well-nourished and you’ll be well-defended against typical diseases that strike at mid-latitudes and higher latitudes.
Ben: And, how do you know that about these ratios, that they derive these type of benefits?
Paul: Well again, like I said, our starting point is always to look at what the body needs and what it’s going to utilize and we can estimate glucose needs, some protein needs, pretty directly. So, glucose in general, is primarily used by the brain, the nerves, the immune system, and some other types of styles like the red blood cells, and we know more or less how much each one consumes and, so we can estimate pretty well how much you need and, so it’s a question of, if you want to meet those needs exactly, do you want to be a little bit lower, which can sometimes have some benefits especially for people who aren’t good at handling glucose, for instance diabetics, or you might want to get a little extra just to be safe, but then you’ll force your body to dispose of the extra glucose and say, by converting it to carb.
Ben: Okay, gotcha! So, glucose isn’t really like the body’s primary fuel that it uses for day-to-day activity?
Paul: No! It adds some specialized uses and certain tissues that don’t burn fat well, and it’s also used in intense exercise so, typically, glucose is never burned directly and it shouldn’t be. Burning glucose directly in most tissues is a keno type that’s associated with cancer; it’s a pathological type of process. Ordinarily, glucose should be converted to glycogen, which is a storage form that has, the glucose is attached to a phosphate molecule, which can easily be donated to make ATP, which is an energy molecule. So glycogen is a much healthier way to metabolize glucose and that’s what we use in intense exercise, so, if you’re doing an intense exercise like sprinting, resistance exercise, those kinds of things, then you’ll be using some glycogen, and elite athletes can use significant amounts of it, hundreds of calories a day. Typically, an elite athlete may use 100-200 calories of glucose per hour of training so, that can add up to how much training you do and how intense it is.
Ben: When you say up to 100 calories of glucose, you aren’t counting glycogen, like storage carbohydrate in with that, right?
Paul: No, I am counting that. The glucose is converted to glycogen and then the glycogen is utilized for energy.
Ben: But, how could somebody who’s burning like, for example, if I go out on a hard bike ride, I’m burning 800-1000 calories an hour, how could that come out to just 100 calories of glucose? Is all the rest of it fat or how is that working?
Paul: Well, first of all, majority of the energy is still going to come from fat, not just glucose, but also, it’s not that easy to burn a thousand calories in muscle during exercise and in just an hour – your whole body utilization is typically more like, 200 calories per hour and 5 times metabolic rate is pretty intense so, you can do that in an hour. You could get up to maybe 400 calories of glycogen but remember, the total body storage of glycogen is not that large so, I’m forgetting the numbers now at the back of my head, they’re listed in the book.
Paul: But, you can burn through them pretty quickly so typically, people in marathons may exhaust the glycogen in 2 hours and, so that’s about the total body storage of glycogen, it’s 2 hours and 10 times success.
Ben: So if you take somebody who’s exercising, say everyday, let’s say you take somebody who’s pretty in to physical activity and they’re out there for anywhere from 60 minutes to 2 hours on a daily basis, engaged in physical activity, can they really eat like up around that 60-65% fat intake and still experience adequate energy?
Paul: Yeah! So, there’s a couple of factors that come in and again, part of this is an issue of how intense is the exercise so, the more intense it is, the higher the fraction of energy that you’re getting from glycogen rather than fats, and so, the more the intensity of your exercise, the more you’ll want to eat carbs and the less you want to eat fats so, you may well, as an athlete, want to elevate carbs. I still wouldn’t have a very high carb diet so, as an athlete, you might go up to maybe, by the most I would go up to would be 800 carb calories a day 600 protein calories a day, and for comparison, the average American eats more like 1500 carb calories a day so, you can get sufficient carbs but at the same time, that is a fair amount of plant foods so like, potatoes are about 300 calories per pound, so that’s almost 3 pounds of potatoes per day; cooked white rice is about 600 calories per pound, so that’d be over a pound of cooked white rice which is quite a bit, and typical fruits are around 200 calories per pound, so that would be like 4 pounds of fruit so people should know, when I say that our diet is low carb, I just mean that it’s low carb in the sense that I think you should slightly under-meet the body’s glucose needs and force the liver to manufacture just a little bit, but it’s not low in plant foods so, you should expect to eat several pounds of plant foods a day, in order to be well-nourished.
Ben: Got it. Now, when it comes to protein, I think that many people would be concerned eating around 15% of daily protein intake might not give the muscles what they would need for repair or recovery and how do you feel about adequate protein needs? I mean, do you feel that 15% is enough, in terms of say, helping someone to recover from exercise or to provide the body with adequate protein to maintain muscle mass?
Paul: Yeah well, protein is a fairly complex question because the body can make a lot of adaptations and now, it turns out that people have some innate appetite regulation which leads people generally to eat around 15% protein, and almost all people around the world eat about that amount, and in fact, protein has a much stronger impact on appetite than others so, in short-term diet studies, people tend to get satiated as soon as they’ve eaten around, maybe 360 calories of protein a day and if they have a low protein intake, they tend to have a high appetite; if they have a high protein intake, they tend to have a very suppressed appetite, and that’s much stronger for protein than for, either carbs or fat. So, that’s kind of one clue and then, another clue is that people’s nitrogen balance so, whenever you metabolize protein, you release nitrogen atoms and we can measure how much nitrogen is being excreted in urine and compare that, and it turns out that the body can adjust its metabolism over quite a wide range in order to match its protein metabolism to your protein intake. So, if you look at, for instance the World Health Organization recommendations for adequate protein, they only recommend a daily intake of around, like 0.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, which is about half the USRDA, but people kind of adapt to that and they can preserve muscle with the low protein intake. Now at the same time, if you have high protein intake, if you have an excess of protein amino acids circulating in your blood, that does promote muscle growth so, although you can preserve muscle with a low protein intake, you’re not going to be as strong as you would be if you ate more muscle, and if you want to maximize muscle, then you should eat somewhere around 600 protein calories a day, which is above what our natural appetite regulation leads us to be, and you should also try to be moderately high in your carb intake – at least 600 calories of carbs because eating carbs preserves protein. If you have a deficiency of glucose, it has to manufacture food protein. So, if your goal is maximum muscle, then you do want to eat a relatively large amount of protein and a fair amount of carbs too, but if you just want to be kind of an ordinary, healthy person, it’s not that necessary; you can still have what an ordinary person would consider strong muscles, eating 300 protein calories a day and eating 400 carb calories.
Ben: Gotcha, okay. Well, in the book, because I’d like to talk a little bit about some of the things that people may want to think about avoiding to optimize health or longevity or possibly, even physical performance and you actually have 4, kind of food groups that you say are some of the more dangerous food groups. Can you kind of, briefly outline what those 4 most dangerous food groups would be?
Paul: Yeah! Well, the most dangerous food groups are first of all, they’re all things that come from plants so animals in general, especially mammals, have biology very similar to ours, so we’re not going to get toxins for eating them because anything that would poison us would poison them too. So, the danger in terms of toxins, largely comes from plants and the main calcite clams is in the calorie-rich seeds, grains and legumes so, these are plants which produce seeds and have a lot of calories in them so they’re very attractive things to be eaten and they’re also plants that are generally eaten by mammals so, herbivorous mammals adapted to grasslands and the two species co-evolve, and so grains, which are the seeds of grasses like weed, corn, barley, many others, are used to having their seeds get eaten by cows and other mammals, and they’ve evolved a lot of toxins to sabotage mammalian digestion and get the seeds out the other end, with some manure, so that they can grow new plants, and these toxins are effective against humans and they not only sabotage our digestive tract, but also other parts of the body too. So, that’s one big set of danger, is grains.
Ben: Can I ask you a question about grains? Because this is something that I think is kind of controversial and it’s about soaking grains and seeds and things like that. When you soak or when you sprout a seed or grain product, how much do you remove some of that danger?
Paul: Well, that’s a great question and, you do detoxify the grain to a great extent but not completely, and every grain is a little bit different so, typically, soaking at the time of germination, when the seed has to grow a lot of shoots, it has a lot going on biologically and it doesn’t want to produce a lot of toxins which would detract from all the other things that needs to build, divert resources, but also, some of those toxins can also be toxic to the plant so generally, right at germination, there’s that minimum level of toxicity. Fermenting, if bacteria bear the brunt of a lot of these toxins, the bacteria have digestive enzymes which help start digesting the plant and breaking down some of those toxins and so that’s, sorry about that.
Ben: Well, that’s okay. I think I had that ring once.
Paul: Yeah. So, fermenting definitely helps detoxify and cooking is actually very effective at detoxifying some toxins. So, for instance, rice toxins are almost completely eliminated by cooking, and that’s why we call rice the “safe starch”; whereas, wheat toxins aren’t very well eliminated by any of those methods, so sourdough bread which maybe sour because of fermentation, traditionally it was, is less toxic than other kinds; beer is less toxic than bread because of fermentation, but it still has a fair amount of toxins. So, I personally would recommend wine over beer, I’d recommend rice over wheat, even if it was soaked and sprouted. Now, some things like some beans can be almost completely detoxified with soaking, sprouting and cooking. So, if you really like beans and you’re willing to put in the effort, then you can eat those. I personally, everybody’s busy; it takes time to soak things overnight and prepare them. One of the advantages of eating a relatively low carb diet is that you don’t eat quite as much, in the way of plant foods so, one of my fellow bloggers stepped on green at whole health source; it’s a pretty similar diet to ours but is higher carb and he spends a lot of time soaking, sprouting, cooking different kinds of grains and beans, and I think if you’re going to eat a high carb diet, then that’s the kind of thing you would do because otherwise, you’d be very short in variety; there’s not enough starchy foods that are safe without those kinds of detoxification efforts that, you probably get bored with them after a while, unless you just like eating rice and potatoes and sweet potatoes and taro and things like that everyday.
Ben: Right! Okay, well, in addition to cereal grains, you obviously mentioned legumes as well but there’s a couple other foods that you talk about as being dangerous foods. What are those?
Paul: Vegetable oils, basically, Omega 6 containing oils are the next biggest danger and then fructose sugars. So in general, in terms of fructose, I would say limit yourself to maybe a pound of fruit and berries a day, but don’t get any other added sources of fructose.
Ben: And why is that?
Paul: Well, fructose is especially bad in combination with Omega 6 fats, and also Omega 3 fats so, it reacts with polyunsaturated fats and creates a lot of toxins in the body, and fructose, it’s not a nutrient, it’s sort of a nutrient because it can be converted to glycogen if you are glycogen-depleted, but apart from that, it doesn’t have any use so, whereas glucose enters into millions of compounds throughout the body. In our connective tissue, we have long polysaccharides made out of glucose and galactose, but there’s no structural compound in the body made out of fructose. So, it’s only possible use is to be burned for energy and it’s not burned for energy very well; in most people, drinking sodas made with fructose, they’re just converting the fructose to fat and you’d be much better off eating the fat directly.
Ben: Now, I’d never heard of that before that fructose interacts deleteriously with Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids, what’s the deal with that?
Paul: Well, those fatty acids are chemically fragile; they’re very readily oxidized and when they’re oxidized, they’re converted to various toxic compounds and actually, you mess up a lot of the body systems because they’re so fragile, that the body actually makes use of that and intentionally oxidizes them in certain circumstances and uses the oxidation products in signaling pathways and those are very important in all kinds of immune function and other diseases so, you tend to activate those, create a lot of inflammation if you oxidize them, and the combination of sugars with these fats, these fragile fats, leads to a lot of oxidative damage, chemical modifications that are problematic and now the fructose tends to react directly with proteins, so you get what’s called “fructation of proteins” and the proteins are damaged; they often maybe hard to clear so, there’s several pathways of damage but the fructose is especially bad in combination with polyunsaturated fats and that can lead to liver damage. So, in fact, the way to create a fatty liver and give yourself metabolic syndrome is to combine either fructose or alcohol with polyunsaturated fats. So, if you eat a lot of soy bean oil, corn oil, something like that, and then you drink a lot of soda, or anything else with high fructose corn syrup or you drink a lot of alcohol, then those things will combine in your liver to damage it.
Ben: Well, how about people who aren’t, say drinking soda and booze in large amounts but maybe, let’s say somebody who’s having some blueberries with breakfast and maybe a banana in the mid-morning and an apple in the afternoon and maybe at some other point during the day, some raisins or something like that, and then we’re talking about fructose consumption like that. Do people need to be concerned about that being poisonous?
Paul: Well, not so much but it also depends on the rest of your diet and what you’re combining it with, so, keep in mind that fruit and berries typically have only around 200 calories per pound, and about half of that is fructose so, that’s only 100 calories per pound. So you have to eat quite a bit to get a good dose of fructose, and then other things to consider, first of all is are you eating a low carb or a high carb diet? And have you been physically active? So, if you have room in your glycogen reservoirs to add more glycogen, then the fructose can be disposed there, and if you don’t, then the only way to dispose a fructose is by converting it to fat, which takes longer so, first of all, if you’re eating a low carb diet, then the fructose from food is less dangerous, and then secondly, if you’re eating a low Omega 6 diet because most of the polyunsaturated fats in the standard diet are from all these vegetable oils that we have around in almost every supermarket food and almost every restaurant food, and so, if you’re not combining them with polyunsaturated fats, then they’re fairly safe; you’re body can dispose of them before they react with anything. So, for instance, if you’re going to have fruit, the safest times to have it would be at breakfast because your glycogen reservoirs are low, so you can dispose of it and you’re not combining it with polyunsaturated fats, usually, if you just have a couple of bananas or with a dessert, if you combine it with saturated fat rich foods, like for instance, cream. So, if you have berries with ice cream, there’s very few polyunsaturated fats in cream or any kind of dairy milk product; if you have strawberries with whipped cream, that’s good; you can sweeten the whipped cream with rice syrup or something else that’s primarily glucose and you’re not getting very much fructose, you’re getting very low polyunsaturated fats so, it’s very healthy – there’s no toxicity from it.
Ben: Interesting. I actually really like coconut milk with bananas so, it’s a good breakfast – coconut milk, bananas, a little bit of cinnamon. Anyways, I want to go on to a few, kind of little things that you talk about in the book; for example, you say that you actually do eat conventional supermarket meat, and I saw you say that in the book but wasn’t quite sure. Does that mean that you don’t eat like organic grass-fed meat or choose that, or what does that mean?
Paul: Well, we do eat both. I think the grass-fed is better so, you’re always better off eating a healthy animal than an unhealthy one and if the animals have been eating good diets and they’ve been able to exercise, get out in the sun, eat their natural diets, they’re going to be healthier; and a lot of the mass produced agriculture, the animals are fattened just before they’re killed so, you’re eating an obese animal at least, and it could be sick in other ways like some are diabetic, but it turns out, when you analyze these meats at a molecular level, they’re not really altered that much and, particularly for the red meats, like for beef, it’s still pretty healthy, the supermarket meats. Now, some place that makes a bigger difference, so for instance in eggs, there’s a more significant difference in healthfulness between organic eggs and regular eggs. Now, as far as our advice, a lot of that is driven by cost, and we want to have a diet that’s accessible for everybody, even people on limited budgets and so, I don’t want to recommend for perfection and everything and make the diet become too expensive for a lot of people. And for ourselves, we live in Cambridge near Harvard Square, we don’t have a lot of real estate, so we don’t have a big freezer and so it’s not that easy to buy like a quarter cow or stuff like that, but I would say we definitely endorse grass-fed meats but also, we don’t think people should feel like they’re sabotaging their health with the supermarket beef.
Ben: Gotcha! I was just curious about that, based on the idea of the Omega 6 fats, kind of being unpreferrable and their high ratio in the conventional meats. Interestingly, and this something a lot of people don’t know about, in your book, you list vegetables as a fat source. How exactly does that work?
Paul: Well, I’m not sure I recall specifically what we said there, but vegetables are very low in calories; some of them are extremely low like spinach has only like 3 calories per pound, I think, and some of them are relatively richer in fiber than carb calories. So, actually, when you’re eating a certain of these low-calorie plant foods, a large share of the calories may come in terms of fiber, which is digested by gut bacteria and the gut bacteria cannot burn fats in the digestive tract because there’s not enough oxygen for it so, they have to digest carbohydrates. They’d digest these carbohydrates that we can’t and then they release extra fats which we can absorb. So, they tend to produce a lot of short-chain fatty acids like butyrate and some others, and those can actually provide their 5-10% of calories for us, and a lot of those short-chain fats are very healthful and people may actually get more calories from the fiber than they do directly from the plant foods.
Paul: And in fact, in the digestive process, the digestive tract consumes some glucose just to digest these things. So, even if you absorb some glucose from the vegetables, then that contribution of glucose may be zero, but you may be getting a typical ratio recorded in the literatures like 2.3 calories per gram from fiber and, which compares to like 4 calories per gram from starch or from protein.
Ben: Okay! Now, you also very much recommend the use of coconut oil and, at one point in the book, you say that coconut oil leads to a naturally slim waist and of course I’m sure, when people are grabbing a big tablespoon of fat from a coconut oil jar, that may not be the first thing you’re thinking about but how does that actually happen? How does coconut oil lead to a naturally slim waist?
Paul: Well, about 58% of the calories in coconut oil are from shorter-chain fats, which are metabolized differently from longer-chain fats. They’re typically diverted to the liver, and they’re converted to ketones which are an alternative fuel for a lot of the body – ketones are very small molecules that are water-soluble, they can diffuse throughout the body, cross some membranes into mitochondria, and they can be burned everywhere. They’re typically taken up when they’re present by the brain and nerves by the heart and biotic tissues with high energy requirements, and ketosis does have a slimming effect so I actually, one of my top weight loss tips is to do intermittent fasting – maybe fast for 16 hours a day and then do all of your eating within an 8-hour window and that 16-hour fast tends to also put you into ketosis toward the end of it, and so, being in ketosis for a few hours a day can be very helpful for weight loss and, that’s an interesting observation but people who tend to eat, cultures that tend to eat a lot of coconut milk like Southeast Asian cultures, tend to be relatively slim and in weight loss studies, when they’ve compared coconut oil to other oils, the people tend to lose more weight on the coconut oil.
Ben: Now, what are the, when it comes to supplements, you have a section in the book on supplements, you have supplements that you recommend people take and supplements that you recommend people avoid, and one thing I noticed was that you recommend that people avoid calcium and, why is that?
Paul: Yeah! Well, it’s not so much that we recommend avoiding calcium as that or we recommend taking less than what most other authorities recommend so, basically, I think the medical community and the government went a little calcium-wild and they very often recommend, particularly older women take like 1200 milligrams a day of calcium, and the RDAs, there’ve been recommendations to take like 1000 milligrams a day, but what people have found is that heart disease rates go up the more calcium you take. And I think the mechanism seems to be a greater calcification of arteries so, in atherosclerosis, when your arteries get hard, that’s because they get calcified. So normally, just bones and teeth are calcified and soft tissue should be calcium-free, but in heart disease, people end up getting calcified arteries throughout their body but especially in their heart, and that’s what often leads to heart attacks, and if you’re depositing calcium into your arteries and you eat an excess of calcium through supplements, then this process can accelerate and so, calcium just hasn’t done well in clinical trials and I don’t think we need a huge amount in order to maintain our bones once we’re adults so, we need a bit more when we’re growing, when our bones are growing, if you’re recovering from a broken bone, but in general, if you’re an adult, your bones are fully formed, you don’t need a huge amount of calcium; probably around 600 milligrams a day is a good amount. So that, it depends on what kinds of foods you’re eating; if you eat green, leafy vegetables and dairy foods, then you’ll probably get enough calcium just from food. I recommend taking a multivitamin everyday – a multivitamin has 200 milligrams of calcium so that’s like 1/3 of your daily needs so that gets you a long way towards it. So I personally think, for most people, there’s no need to supplement calcium beyond a multivitamin, but if you’re worried about it, it might not hurt to do some nutrient analysis on your diet, and if the foods you eat don’t have calcium then you might benefit some more but in general, I wouldn’t recommend following the advice to take very large amounts of supplemental calcium.
Ben: I thought it was interesting that you also recommended for supplementation as something to take, iodine, and you recommend a high-dose iodine as one of the ways to optimize health and diet. Why would that be?
Paul: Alright, well, that’s a very controversial issue and one thing I would say is that we recommend about 8 supplements – you can see our supplements on our website, PerfectHealthDiet.com, we have a recommended supplements page and of those, I would recommend doing all of the other 7 before you do iodine, and with the iodine, you should increase the dose very slowly; so start low and increase the dose by no more than doubling it every month – that’s in order to give your thyroid time to adapt to different levels of iodine. The thyroid is a very sensitive organ to levels of multiple minerals including selenium, copper and others; it’s also affected during infections and some other things, and it can very easily be thrown off if you suddenly change the amount of, it has to make a lot of adaptations to the level of iodine in your diet, and it takes typically 3 weeks or more, 3-4 weeks, to adjust to a new level of iodine and you don’t want to make sudden changes, you want to let it adapt slowly and gradually, but in terms of why do we recommend it, well deficiency is very bad. Iodine is a very important molecule; thyroid hormone is very important – it’s important for immune function as well as for regulating energy and it’s much better if you, your thyroid can adapt to low levels of iodine but that’s not optimal and leads you vulnerable to toxicity from other environmental halogens which compete with iodine, like bromine – it impairs your immune defenses so, it puts you in a more fragile state. So, if you can consistently take a moderate level of iodine that’s beyond the minimum amount that your body needs, you can have much more a robust health, much more a robust thyroid function, better immune function, resistance to environmental toxins so, you want to be careful getting off to higher iodine doses but it’s beneficial to be there if you can do it consistently.
Ben: Now in our personal diet, for example, my wife and I eat a lot of seaweed and we eat a lot of sardines and cold-water fish, in situation like that, do you think that someone needs to supplement with iodine or is that type of dietary intake sufficient?
Paul: That’s a good question. I still think it’s beneficial now, again, I’m coming from the background of someone who’s had some chronic, infectious diseases so my illness has turned out to be due to infections and I believe that most of what we consider aging is actually due to the build-up of chronic infections and I think, even in terms of athleticism, a lot of people lose their athleticism due to chronic infections long before they would lose it to natural aging so, I personally believe in optimizing immunity and I think now, seaweed can be a good source of iodine but it also, seaweed tends to collect a lot of other compounds including toxins like bromine and heavy metals, and in general, the more iodine it collects, the more it collects those other things too so, actually, supplemental iodine in the form of potassium iodide, the other issue with seaweed is that the dose can vary quite a bit, and like I said, it’s good to be consistent in your iodine intake. So, I think that if you supplement potassium iodide, work your way gradually up to maybe 3 milligrams a day would be a good dose. I take 12 milligrams a day, which I think is also a good dose; that way, your body has a good amount of iodine, your thyroid is adapted to clinical iodine so, it’s not trying to absorb a lot of stuff from the blood, it’s not going to absorb bromine, other problematic things. I think you’ll be in good shape. I think relying on seaweed, you risk getting some toxins with it.
Ben: Gotcha! I just thought that was especially interesting in light of the fact that there have been studies that have shown endurance athletes in particular, which comprises a large number of people listening to this show, to be low in white blood cell activity, so it’s an interesting supplement, and in the book, for those of you who have been listening in and find this discussion fascinating, is Perfect Health Diet. Paul and I really only scratched the surface in the past hour, of what’s in this book and I do recommend it as a very good read; it’s incredibly insightful, lots of good research studies on each chapter so, you can be guaranteed that there actually is evidence to back up to what the Jaminets actually say in this book, so I will put a link to the book in the show notes as well as to PerfectHealthDiet.com where you can get some recipes and really, some very good articles from Paul as well as others over there. So Paul, I’d like to thank you for coming on the call and talking with us today.
Paul: Thank you Ben, it’s a pleasure.
Ben: Alright folks so, until next time. This is Ben Greenfield and that was Paul Jaminet from the Perfect Health Diet book, signing out from BenGreenfieldFitness.com.
Ben: Alright folks, well, that’s going to wrap up today’s podcast. If you have questions about the stuff that I talked about with Paul, leave them as comments on the show notes for this episode, Episode #152. please remember to leave us a ranking and a review in iTunes; it really helps the show out – just go to iTunes, do a search for Ben Greenfield, leave the show a ranking or review and if you’re able to those donations, it really help – $1 donation, you can do that at BenGreenfieldFitness.com and over there, you can also access some of the special announcements about joining me in Jamaica, grabbing that free in eating-for-endurance seminar, and checking out Shape21 on Facebook. So until next time, this is Ben Greenfield from BenGreenfieldFitness.com, wishing you a healthy week.
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