[06:45] News Flashes: Science Says Squats Makes You Smart
[13:46] Physical Activity with Learning an Amazing Tool for Schoolchildren in Finland
[18:53] Why Homo Sapiens are So Damn Good at Endurance Running Compared to Animals
[23:27] 24-hour Fasting Regenerates Stem Cells and Doubles Metabolism
[28:30] Medieval Antibiotics
[31:38] Special Announcements
[41:13] Listener Q&A: How Much Alcohol Makes You Fat?
[1:01:30] Is MSG Natural or Not?
[1:07:24] Is Smoked Salmon Healthy?
[1:17:10] End of Podcast
In this episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness Show: How Much Alcohol Makes You Fat, The Best Exercises For Getting Smarter, Good Versus Bad MSG, and much more.
Ben: Brock, do I sound medieval to you? Medieval?
Brock: Very, very medieval.
Ben: Well, I’ve been living, for the past two weeks, supposedly I guess my medieval accent’s, like, uppity English accent. I don’t know if that’s actually how they spoke back then.
Brock: Probably not.
Ben: I’ve been living in Estonia. It’s like the medieval-ist of the medieval cities. This city, Estonia. Have you been there?
Brock: I have not. Why is it medieval? What’s medieval about it?
Ben: Well, the whole thing is just like, this old medieval town.
Ben: It has to do with castles and people walk around there like, clad in their medieval garb. I mean, it’s like a renaissance fair on steroids, honestly.
Brock: Are you sure you weren’t at a renaissance fair and they just told you it was Estonia?
Ben: It’s possible. The first restaurant we went to, they had a sword fight. Literally. During dinner. You show up and you’re eating this big leg of pork dipped in mustard.
Brock: Oh, I see what happened!
Ben: And it’s full on medieval! Like, they actually tweak the menu.
Brock: So, you were at Medieval Times really?
Ben: Kind of, every restaurant there is Medieval Times.
Ben: But done right. Like there’s no, for example, tomatoes or potatoes because apparently they didn’t eat nightshades back then. And so, they don’t have them on the menu because that’s not something that they ate.
Brock: Well, the potatoes came from the New World. So, they maybe just plain up… straight up didn’t have them yet.
Ben: The New World does hath no potatoes.
Brock: It was Sir Walter Raleigh, I believe, who brought potatoes back to England from the islands.
Ben: Well, your level of medieval knowledge trumps mine.
Ben: But, I can tell you this, I had beer. I was drinking like, honey beer and mead brought to me foamy and frothy by my own personal beer wench.
Brock: What! You mean Jessa?
Ben: I had… Just as I offend bartenderesses everywhere. I don’t actually call them beer wenches unless I’m at a medieval restaurant. I had… Yeah, they had like, a strong dark beer with herbs added in, just like they drank back in the medieval days, so they told me. I had a spiced wine, but they didn’t call it spiced wine. You know what they called it?
Brock: I don’t know. I can’t even guess.
Ben: Spiced wine because they pronounce everything different there.
Brock: That’s a bummer.
Ben: Yeah, but actually, there were some really. Really good foods. And, by the way, in the news flashes today, I have another interesting article that came out about medieval times, medieval days, and something we can glean from them for bacteria, for our immune system. But one of my favorite dishes… one of my favorite foods that I had there in Estonia, if anybody goes to Estonia by the way, you gottta go to this place. It’s called Olde Hansa. Olde Hansa. And they bring you out all these royal duck liver pates and something they call Neptune’s platter which is, like, salmon eggs served over this wild salmon, which apparently they did have back in the medieval days. But, they have a game sausage made out of bear, wild boar, and elk. Bear, wild boar, and elk. Two of those animals are animals that I have hunted unsuccessfully, one I have hunted successfully, wild boar. I’ve come back emptyhanded from my elk hunt and my bear hunt and so it just brought a big smile to my face to be able to walk into a medieval restaurant and eat game sausages made out of animals I’ve unsuccessfully hunted.
Brock: I do love me some sausages and bear is a delightfully tasty meat. It’s hard to find, but it really is tasty.
Ben: It’s hard to find good bear. You’ve got to fly to Estonia. Anyways, I was there for Mind Valley University where I speaking on longevity and beauty to medieval people. So, it was actually… It was cool. It was a good event. They actually put this event together where they bring entrepreneurs and their children together from all over the globe to go to school during the summer and learn things you don’t learn in school, like my children were learning emotional intelligence, body language, they were going out to, like, parks and forests, and I suppose they were doing foraging. I don’t know, I just sent them off with a teacher and kept my fingers crossed that they weren’t going to get killed by archers. But, it was quite the event: Mind Valley University. You should check it out if you haven’t been to one of these events. I really like what they’re doing, though. They’re taking education and reinventing education to make it more of an international community experience where kids learn important life skills they might not otherwise have learned in life.
Brock: So, I’ve got to wrap my head around this… So, Estonia is just north of Latvia…
Brock: And your kids were able to go to school there. Do they speak English there?
Ben: Yes. Well, Mind Valley brings in all these teachers. Like, my children were being taught by special instructors that they brought in, for example, I finished up one day of my own day of teaching and lecturing and listening in to other experts come in and talk, and then my kids came to me and I said who was your teacher today and it was Jim Kwik.
Brock: Oh! I know Jim!
Ben: The Brain Expert. So, Jim Kwik was their guest lecturer and he came in and taught him his memory palace techniques and how to memorize things and how to use your brain as a cutting edge weapon to develop enhanced memory and it was pretty cool.
Brock: Not to shoot lasers out of your eyes though.
Ben: Not to shoot lasers out your eyes.
Ben: Because he apparently worked with the squad from the Avengers movie with some of those techniques.
Brock: And the X-Men as well.
Ben: Yes, yes. So, if anything, I came back with elk sausage chards in my teeth and children who can memorize copious amounts of objects now. So….
Brock: And a serious amount of beer bloat, I’m guessing, as well?
Ben: It was a very productive trip, baby.
Ben: So, Brock, I am always on the lookout these days for things that primarily enhance cognition and longevity. Those are, like, my two darlings of late. I’ve got the fitness and the body composition piece worked out pretty well in my own head, I think. And so, now I’ve really been bent, maybe it’s because I’m getting old, but I’ve been bent towards cognitive enhancement and longevity. And so, whenever a study comes across my plate that combines not only exercise and fitness but also cognitive enhancement, my eyebrow goes up – my right or my left one.
Brock: You totally beat me to the old comment, by the way.
Brock: It’s purely because you’re getting old and your interest has shifted.
Brock: And that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Brock: I’m older than you. So that’s… I’m happy that your interest has shifted to that because I can benefit from it too.
Ben: Mhmm, you can piggy back on it.
Ben: This one made my inner brain go “hmm” as it does my inner caveman, medieval brain. So, this one’s a study on neurological health and what kind of exercise actually enhances neurological health. And, I’ll link to this as I will do with all the articles and the research studies that we talk about if you just go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/387. That’s BenGreenfieldFitness.com/387. I say it twice just like they do on the 800 commercials on the internet or television.
Ben: Yeah, what do they call those? Infomercials. Infomercials.
Brock: I haven’t had…
Ben: Does anybody watch those anymore these days?
Brock: I don’t even know if they still have them. I haven’t had cable in so long, I have no idea.
Ben: I don’t have cable as well. Anyways, this research study looked at what kind of exercise would do things like enhance neural stem cells to produce new neurons and cause neurogenesis in the same way that there’s lots of chatter out there on the interwebs right now and also in books and popular culture about psilocybin and DMT and drug-like experiences that enhance neurogenesis. And, lion’s mane extract is a popular one.
Brock: Even just coffee.
Ben: Even coffee.
Brock: And aerobic exercise. You don’t have to drop acid to get it.
Ben: Better yet, drop acid and have a cup of coffee with lion’s mane in it.
Brock: There you go! And then go for a bike ride.
Ben: Total rabbit hole, but that’s actually a very potent stack. You take a microdose of psilocybin, about, depending on your body size, 0.2-0.5 grams and then you stack on top of that lion’s mane and niacin. That’s an extremely mind spinning and actually character developing stack. It allows for you to have a great deal of introspection. It’s good for like, if you’re going to do a typical microdosing protocol would be 10 weeks. You microdose every 3 days or so. And, for enhance neurogenesis and also for basically, dissolving the ego just a little bit and being open to new ideas, setting aside some of your preconceived beliefs about the world etcetera. I know I’m kind of getting a little woo-woo and esoteric here, but you take lion’s mane, niacin, and psilocybin every three days and you try to combine that with a long walk in the forest. It’s a very, very cool way to do a little bit of introspection, self-development, and also get all the benefits of neurogenesis as well. So, there’s that.
Brock: Alright. There’s that.
Ben: But you could also do this.
Brock: You could also do squats!
Ben: Squats! You could squat. It turns out that exercise, particularly exercise that uses the large leg muscles, enhances neurological health in a way that’s different than, like, high intensity interval training, in a way that’s different than steady-state endurance training, in a ways that’s different than working your bis and your tris on a Tuesday and you’re shoulders and your triangular deltoids on a Wednesday. It’s actually essential for your brain and your nervous system to grow to actually have to move the legs. This study highlights why, but it really brings squats just another notch of the totem pole.
Squats and, probably, hex bar deadlifts and I say hex bar just because people of any age can lift a pretty heavy hex bar without throwing out their back and a hex bar almost forces you into decent form which is a little bit more glute and hamstring utilization, a little less strain on the upper back. My go to exercises, if I had to do nothing else, would be back squats and hex bar deadlifts, and this study talks about how it’s critical to brain and nervous system health.
So, not only should you be including squats in your program, I would say for me, I’m going to publish on this week’s Weekly Round-up, which comes out Friday, subscribe to my newsletter, my entire training program right now. Like, exactly how I train. Well twice a week I lift heavy and both those lifting days include back squats or goblet squats with a kettlebell. The other interesting thing about squats for you biohackers and self-quantification nerds out there is that I have attached a heartrate variability monitor to myself to see the effects on my sympathetic nervous system and my parasympathetic nervous system when I squat.
There’s no exercise, compared to the squat, that actually dumps my nervous system into a hole – meaning lowers my HRV more than a back squat. And that might sound bad, but when we’re talking about hormetic response to exercise and choosing exercises that specifically stress your body so that your muscular skeletal system and your neuromuscular system bounce back more fit, you actually want to choose exercises that suppress your HRV temporarily. And, you can try this for yourself. If you have a Nature Beat or if you have an Oura Ring or if you have anything that can track your HRV in real time…
Brock: Apple Watch.
Ben: Yeah, most people use these to, say, box breathe or do alternate nostril breathing or meditation and they want to breathe themselves or meditate themselves or think themselves into a state of low stress, but you can use these in the opposite manner. You can actually go and figure out the things that stress you out quite a bit to determine, if you rest and recover afterwards what’s going to move the dial most for say, fitness. So, a lot to be said for squats. I think the back squat thing is because you have this heavy object on your back, death is imminent, it’s as though a sabretooth tiger has [13:05] ______ on your back…
Brock: Tackled you.
Ben: And it’s about to sink its jaws into your vertebrae, into your cervical spine, and you have to squat it away. You have to scream and squat. So, I suspect using the little pad on the bar probably reduces the effectiveness of it a little bit. I just like to think that. I was always proud of myself that I don’t use that pad and I instead have this nice little scar on my upper neck because of that.
Brock: Yeah, I’ve got one of those too, it’s like, sort of a rough piece of skin with some of a permanently inflamed lump.
Ben: Mhmm. Yeah. So, leg exercise is critical to brain health. But here’s another thing that’s critical to brain health and actually enhances learning. There’s this concept, way back from the Grecian days, from the Greek days, now we’re going to jump behind the medieval days just a little bit. I’m kind of an idiot when it comes to history. But, I’m pretty sure the Greeks came before the medievals.
Ben: Anyways, so, in Greece, this concept of a walking university, this concept of walking lectures, moving lectures to learn as one moved with something that philosophers would do. I believe, if we look at some of the Stoic philosophers, I think Epictetus was one. What was another Stoic philosopher, Brock?
Brock: Aw man, I don’t know.
Ben: Yeah, anyways. They would walk while teaching and so they actually did a study where they compared children who are physically active during their academic lessons, so six weeks of active math and English lessons, and they compared this to children who were in a traditional sedentary environment in school sitting while they learned. Well, it turns out that the children who move, the children who engaged in light to vigorous physical activity throughout the day, including during their actual learning sessions, had much higher educational performance on the tests that followed those lessons when they were active as they were learning. And this is actually something that, for example, Finland incorporates in some of their schools. And there are… close to Estonia, speak of the devil, but they’re known to have one of the most robust and effective education systems on the face of the planet. And, they move as they learn. So, the way that this would translate to, say, adults because I know not everyone listening in is a fifth grader…
Brock: Or a breeder.
Ben: Yeah, if you have something to learn or something to teach, try it while walking. And this is actually a strategy I’ll use. Let’s say there is a Ted Talk that’s pretty dense that I want to listen in to, because some of my favorite podcasts are the Ted Talk podcasts and the Ted Radio Hour. I listen to a lot of Ted Talks. I’ll also listen into some podcasts that can tend to be kind of dense like Knowledge Project is another one. There are a few others. I like my podcasts to teach me a lot if I’m going to listen in, I don’t want to listen in to, like, three hours of chatting about, say, someone’s I don’t know. What’s an example? You know, just like banter.
Ben: I hate banter. Don’t you hate banter, Brock?
Brock: I don’t know, I listen to your entire interview with Joe Rogan and somehow I managed to get through that.
Ben: Yeah. Well, we weren’t bantering that much.
Ben: I caught a lot of flak for interrupting him a lot just because I had a lot to say. I mean, when somebody asks me a question, my brain just starts spinning and I say a lot. But, anyways, we digress.
This idea is that I’ll go for a walk when I have my most dense listening to do or I have an audio book that I’m going through that has a lot of new concepts in it, you could of course stack said supplement stack, I talked about it earlier, something that’s going to enhance neurogenesis like Lion’s Mane for example or that Lion’s Mane psilocybin and niacin stack. But anyways, when you want to learn something dense, choose a day, or stack up all your most dense educational podcasts or audio books and choose a day and go for a walk. And, movement enhances your ability to learn. Isn’t that cool?
Brock: It does. I’m reading the research here though and they were actually disappointed in the effectiveness of this though it was their self-reported engagement levels… So, the kids didn’t feel like they were learning more, but they were. I guess that’s a good thing. Why are they disappointed with that?
Ben: They felt less… I know, they felt less engaged somehow when they asked the pupils, they call them. Pupils…
Ben: If they were engaged and they felt like their engagement levels were lower, but they were learning more effectively which I think is a good thing, because it almost means you’re activating the default mode network in your brain. Right, you’re almost learning subconsciously while you move as you learn versus when you’re sedentary as you learn.
Brock: Yeah, I guess… I don’t know why they called that disappointing. That actually, like, I was misled by the word “disappointment.” That totally seems like exactly what you want to do. You want the kids to just almost accidentally be learning more because that’s going to stick with you a lot more and make it a lot more intriguing, and hate to use the word engaging, but it’s going to want to make them do it more often if it doesn’t seem like it’s a chore. So, yeah.
Ben: Sneaky way to gets kids to learn without making them think they’re learning. You take them on a walk. So, there you go.
Brock: Stupid kids, they don’t even know they’re learning.
Ben: Something to be said for travelling universities. Someone should start a school in which kids just learn the whole time that they’re moving. I think that was a… my former podcast guest Katy Bowman, her kids go to like, a forest school.
Ben: But it’s only for I think it’s only for preschoolers and kindergarteners. And then, as they get older, they have to go into the normal schools.
Brock: And, in Germany, they’ve got schools, I think all the way through the… at least the elementary school levels, where you can do it in the forest, but Germans are… they’re so much ahead of us in some things.
Ben: Yeah. So, speaking of moving, someone sent me an amazing infographic. At least I thought it was very interesting. The argument’s for why Homo sapiens are some of the best endurance animals on the face of the planet, meaning we can hunt down just about any animal that exists provided that you give us some water and some food, and even with the absence of water and food we can go for pretty long periods of time.
Ben: And this infographic, if you’re listening in, you’ve got to look at this infographic because it’s got a picture of somebody running and it’s one of those graphics that has text point…
Brock: The person is nude too. He hehe.
Ben: Yeah. It’s a nude hunter gatherer. So, anyways, they detail everything that goes into making humans perform well at moving for long periods of time. Moving for long periods of time, like, for example, just the fact that we’re upright allows for better body cooling. But then it goes into a lot more than that, like loose, low, and wide shoulders with a head that’s decoupled, meaning the way that our upper cervical spine is oriented, allows for swinging of the upper body and movement of the head that counteracts the leg movements. And, a lot of animals, upright animals, don’t have this same mechanism. We have, for example, compared to some of our ape cousins, shorter arms and that reduces the effort in the actual arm swinging while still allowing us to counterbalance with the legs. We have extremely well developed Achilles tendons, much of anyone’s who’s had an Achilles rupture. Have you ever had that happen, Brock?
Brock: No, thank goodness.
Ben: Yeah, I haven’t had it either. Apparently it feels as though like a horse has kicked you in the back of your lower leg and it just feels like it’s been shot with a shotgun. Anyways though, that well-developed Achilles tendon acts as a spring, so it stores and releases elastic energy. Thyroid and adrenal glands, they’re larger than a lot of other species. Humans have larger thyroid and larger adrenal glands and this allows us to more efficiently utilize the limited energy stores that we do have particularly carbohydrates and fat. Even down to the detail of our toes, like, our big toe is inward and projected and then our mid-foot is compact relative to other species and that restricts excessive rotation of the feet as you run or as you walk as you move for long distances. So… a ton… the article goes into the ears, the eyes or the infographic goes into the ears, the eyes, the brain. Really fascinating though how well equipped the human is to move for long periods of time.
Brock: I find it really interesting, the whole thing about the adrenal glands of the thymus and stuff being larger. Can you imagine how delicious sweet breads would be from humans?
Ben: Mmm, sweet breads. You mean, like… what’s a sweet bread? Isn’t that the adrenal? The kidneys?
Brock: No… Yeah, it’s the adrenals and thalamus and stuff.
Ben: Yeah, you cut up the kidneys, you thin slice them and then you bread them and then you fry them. That’s a sweet bread, right?
Brock: No, it’s… hmm, I thought it was brain and… I’m going to google it. This is the part of the show called Brock Googles Things.
Ben: Look it up. I’m pretty sure I had these in Spain. I raced the Triathlon World Championships for ITU a few years ago in Vittoria, Spain where all these bars have pinchos which are appetizers and I believe one of the things I was served was sweet breads.
Brock: Yeah, it’s the culinary name for thymus which is the throat, gullet, and neck or pancreas especially from a calf or a lamb.
Ben: There you have it.
Brock: There you go. So, I was just thinking you take the thymus out of the human… probably very tasty based on this infographic, I’m saying.
Ben: Yeah. Similarly, the last time I went for hunting in Kona, I harvested from the wild sheep that I shot, the testicles based on the recommendations of the guide I was down there with. And I thin sliced them, I dredged them in coconut flour, and then I fried them in… or dredged them in coconut flour and egg and then fried them in macadamia nut oil. And, they were tender and juicy and amazing.
Brock: Mm. Sure.
Ben: And I’m pretty sure my balls got bigger after I ate them. I think. I’m just saying. Maybe it was a placebo effect, but either way…
Brock: Maybe you were just aroused.
Ben: I don’t know how it went from endurance running adaptation to eating balls, but there you go.
Brock: That was my fault. I started talking about cannibalism, so….
Ben: Alright. I got a couple other interesting studies for you.
Ben: So, this next one’s very interesting, I couldn’t let this podcast go by without mentioning it. It was a study at MIT and it was entitled “24-Hour Fasting Regenerates Stem Cells and Doubles Metabolism.” Doubles metabolism!
Ben: Regenerates stem cells. So, we know that the magic mark for fasting kicks in around the 16th hour, but at 24-hours, we actually see regeneration of stem cells and it kind of flips this metabolic switch, specifically in the gut. It enhances intestinal stem cells particularly, which is really good news for people who have gut issues. Just the simple concept of incorporating, saying, a weekly 24-hour fast for cellular cleansing and also the doubling of the metabolism that occurs afterwards, is intriguing. You know, there’s this guy, Valter Longo, who endorses eating normally but incorporating a few longer extended fasts, his recommendation is up to 5 days of fasting during which you actually see a slight lowering of metabolic rate and a slight loss of lean tissue. But then the body bounces back afterwards, increases the metabolic rate. You get all the detoxification and cellular turnover, they call it cellular autophagy benefits and longevity benefits, and stem cell benefits and then the body bounces back after the fast.
Now, five days is a long time. But, returning back to how I mentioned in this week’s Weekly Roundup that I’m going to publish from the site, I publish this every Friday if you go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com, sign up for the newsletter there or just visit on Friday, visit the site on a Friday. And this Friday, I’ll be publishing my training routine and not only does it incorporate Monday and Friday squats, not only does it incorporate these daily walks that I talk about which are my opportunities to learn language or to listen to a more involved and cognitively demanding podcast or audio, but I also implement a weekly 24-hour fast.
So, I fast every day for 12 to 16 hours, meaning I’ll skip breakfast or I’ll eat a late breakfast or occasionally eat an early dinner. But, either way, I always give my body that 12 to 16 hour clean up window. 24-hours though, something a little bit more magical happens, and so I fast from Saturday dinner to Sunday dinner which is pretty easy. And by the way, does not necessarily require caloric restriction. I can eat a big ass celebratory dinner, fast all day, fast through the night. You know, skip Sunday breakfast, skip Sunday lunch, and then have another huge Sunday dinner at which I’ll often eat 2,500 calories. So, I’m not necessarily engaging in calorie restriction, but just this idea of not eating for 24-hours appears to do… to give some profound benefits to your biology including this stem cell production and doubling of the metabolic rate. Isn’t that cool?
Brock: It is cool and this study in particular, the one that was done in MIT, that this article is about was done in mice, of course. But, that doesn’t mean that they haven’t done similar things with humans and they’re certainly, it’s been years of people trying these different types of fasts. Well, not even years, hundreds of years of people incorporating fasts into their lifestyles. Whether it’s a religious thing or a socio thing or whatever it happens to be, we’ve been doing this for a really long time. So, I think sometimes people see these studies and go “oh, well it was done in mice” but this study was done in mice, but there’s certainly a lot of evidence to show that there’s a lot of benefits and maybe it’s not exactly 24-hours like it was in mice, but it’s certainly, probably close.
Ben: Yeah, that’s also as I get old in the tooth, something I really focus on a lot these days.
Brock: Just your teeth?
Ben: Yeah… are the spiritual disciplines. Right, fasting is considered a spiritual discipline. Silence and solitude is considered a spiritual discipline. Meditation and prayer. And then self-reflection, like, asking yourself at the end of the day what good have I done this day and that actually pairs very well with gratitude in the morning. So, self-reflection and gratitude, meditation, silence and solitude, prayer, and fasting kind of falls into that category as well. So, that’s something that I really focus on now structuring into my daily routine, right. Like, did I go my morning gratitude journaling, did I self-reflect at the end of the day on what good I accomplished that day or how I actually went about my day? And in addition to that, I incorporate the 12 to 16-hour fast, the 24-hour fast, and periods of time where I can be engaged in silence or solitude which for me right now is just sitting in my sauna at the end of the day, kind of quietly; I’ll light a candle in there, burn a little incense sometimes, and just sit and be with myself. So, the spiritual disciplines are just as important as squatting, I think.
Brock: I do the same sort of thing, but I go and sit on the roof with a pint of ice cream and reflect on my life.
Ben: Smoke a joint, eat some Ben & Jerry’s.
Ben: Sit up there, gaze off into the Canadian wilderness. The other thing is this finding that I alluded to earlier about the medieval stuff, the medieval medicine.
Brock: Mhm, yeah.
Ben: And this article was actually pretty fascinating. I was talking about this at dinner the other night while I was eating at a medieval restaurant with someone. We were talking about wisdom that we could derive from medieval medicine and medieval drugs particularly. And what they found was that many of these medieval antibiotics that they’ve unearth in medieval literature and lore actually work on modern bacteria that is even antibiotic resistant. And these contain things that you would kind of assume through logical analysis would in fact be effective against bacteria, like the Bald’s eyesalve, they call it Bald’s eyesalve. It’s also found in Bald’sLeechbook which was discovered in the British Library. It’s an ancient Anglo-Saxon recipe and the ingredients are garlic and alliums that you mix with wine and ox gal and they would put this in a brass vessel and let it stand for nine nights and for eye infections, this stuff was and still is effective.
This was something we brought up a couple years ago in a podcast when there was this news article about a medieval potion that killed MRSA better than the antibiotic drug Vancomycin and it was very, very similar. It was like garlic and leeks, some kind of bile from a cow’s stomach, but they basically mixed all this stuff together and it worked extremely effectively against MRSA. So, people who are out rolling in Jiu-jitsu gyms or playing turn on a football turn that’s rife with MRSA, all it really comes down to is harvesting some bile from a cow’s stomach, a little garlic, getting yourself some allium from your local grocery store, and then hunting down a brass vessel maybe from EBay and mixing it all together and letting it sit. The more I think about it, the more laborious this sounds.
Brock: Have you ever heard of the Roman thingy… The Elder?
Brock: That sounds totally like something he’d do. Like, if anybody hasn’t looked him up, look him up. It’s amazing the concoctions. Anything you can think of! Any ailment you can think of, he’s got some crazy-a** thing, like putting blood in an egg and tricking a dog into sitting on it for a week and then feeding it to your neighbor to rid yourself of syphilis and stuff. It’s quite amusing.
Ben: Pliny the Elder. Alright, so this begs the question: did Pliny the Elder actually write any books that one can buy and read?
Brock: He sure did! It’s a huge encyclopedia of all kinds of maladies and remedies called Naturalis Historia or Natural History.
Ben: Natural Historia meaning Natural History. How do you know that means Natural History?
Brock: I’m looking at the Wikipedia page for it.
Brock: I totally cheated.
Ben: It’s Italian. He’s Italian. Commo Italy, baby! So, check out Pliny the Elder and also everything else that we mentioned in today’s News Flash is over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/387. I also, every single day, publish two or three interesting news flashes and pieces of research on twitter, so you can check that out at twitter.com/BenGreenfield.
Ben: Alright, Brock, I’ve got something better for you than medieval antibiotics. What do you think happens when you combine cherry juice with ginger, turmeric, white willow bark which comes from salicin, salicylic acid, the same stuff you find in aspirin. Hyaluronic acid, boswellia also known as frankincense which is one of the most potent natural anti-inflammatories you can get your hands on, and then something called myristoleate which is a fatty acid that supports joins, particularly some interesting studies on it in restoring knee function in arthritic conditions. You take all of that, you throw in proteolytic enzymes to break down the fiber that makes you sore after a workout, you throw in 20 different bio-organic minerals and electrolytes including potassium and magnesium, and then some collagen, type II- chicken collagen, along with some glucosamine, and some chondroitin. What do you think you have?
Brock: You’ve got yourself a stew there, baby!
Ben: You’ve got yourself one of the most potent soreness killing and workout recovery stews that exist. I’ve got clients who’ve gone into surgery and loaded up with this stuff. I have, myself, used it both morning and evening to knock out injuries really quickly. It’s really good if you’re sore. It’s a very potent anti-inflammatory. It’s called Kion Flex. Kion Flex. And you can get this, along with all the other supplements that I formulate over on the Kion website. It’s www.GetKion.com. Right now, they’re running 10% off of Kion Flex. GetKion, that’s K-I-O-N.com. So, you get Kion Flex for mobility and flexibility and recovery and everything else good. That happens when you consume every anti-inflammatory nutrient known to man.
Brock: It’s like shooting yourself with a healing gun.
Ben: Yeah, another good one that’s floating around there is this concept of nicotinamide riboside. Nicotinamide riboside. I’ve talked before how I personally do, every month at least, an NAD injection. It’s an incredibly uncomfortable injection, feels like your whole body is on fire, but NAD is one of the most potent ways to enhance your mitochondrial health. It’s also fantastic for everything from addiction to anti-aging, decreasing the rate at which stem cells shorten, enhancing your stem cell availability. Well, the idea is that NR, nicotinamide riboside, is like a precursor to NAD. And if you consume it, it can actually increase your own NAD levels. So, the cool thing is, that it’s the key ingredient in one of today’s sponsors that has these NR capsules. And, I actually use them in-between my NAD injections to keep my NAD levels elevated. So, this stuff is called Tru Niagen. Tru Niagen. And, they have this stuff that’s created by California-based nutraceutical company called ChromaDex that has developed this extremely effective and absorbable form of NR, nicotinamide riboside. It’s got zero negative side effects and you can just take about two capsules a day to keep your NAD levels elevated. You don’t have to inject NAD, but even if you are injecting NAD, it works really well to keep NAD levels up in-between injections. And, everybody listening in can get this stuff from truniagen.com.
It’s T-R-U Niagen and Niagen is N-I-A-G-E-N truniagen.com. Very cool, unique, new supplement out there for mitochondrial health, for energy levels, for stem cell production, for kind of that longevity effect. So,Tru Niagen.
Another interesting one, I’ve got a lot of supplements here, but these are very… not fringe, but lesser known supplements I would say.
Brock: Yeah, I’ve never heard of this next one. It’s kind of cool.
Ben: Yeah, there’s research from Dr. Alessio Fasano at Harvard, that shows that pretty much all gluten is inflammatory and triggers an autoimmune response whether or not you have celiac disease. Like, everybody has a slight inflammatory response to gluten. And, in addition to that, many people just want to go to an Italian restaurant every once in a while, but have to fight that uphill battle against glyphosate and copious amounts of gluten, especially in some of these wheat crops that are grown for higher commercial yield. And, we’re surrounded by gluten. Sometimes you want to pound a couple slices of pizza or have a burger and have it not brought out in kale and romaine lettuce, and in a case like that, you can actually consume something called dipeptidyl peptidase. Dipeptidyl peptidase. And it’s a form of special protease that breaks down the coating of the gluten protein. So it, basically, causes you to be able to digest gluten when you would not normally be able to. This stuff is called Gluten Guardian. Gluten Guardian.
Brock: I love the name.
Ben: Great title. Yeah. And you can save 10% off with the code Greenfield if you just go to GlutenGuardian, just like it sounds, GlutenGuardian.com/Greenfield. That’s GlutenGuardian.com/Greenfield. So, you can partake in all those rare gluten-filled delicacies that your grandma serves you when you visit.
Brock: And I believe the Gluten Guardian is joining the Avengers in the next series as well.
Ben: Yes. Mhmm. Yeah, Gluten Guardian will be the new guy that throws loaves of bread to people.
Brock: He’s going to come back and save everybody from Thanos.
Ben: Yeah. Sourdough bread. So, the final sponsor for today’s episode is GAINSwave. Have you done a GAINSwave treatment, Brock?
Brock: No, and it scares me a little bit. If I didn’t have to go all the way to Florida for it, I’d probably feel a lot more inclined.
Ben: You don’t.
Ben: They have providers all over the US. Yeah, you threw me a softball there.
Brock: But nobody in Canada though.
Ben: I don’t know about Canada, actually. That’s a great question. But they use this safe non-invasive, non-drug treatment protocol that basically involves blasting your crotch with acoustic soundwaves. It’s this patented frequency of soundwaves, breaks open old blood vessels, it builds new blood vessels. I’ve done it four times. I’m actually going to Florida at the end of this month. My wife is going to do it. They do it for women. It’s called FEMMEwave for women. So, when my wife and I go down to Florida, we’re going to be in Miami in Ft. Lauderdale the first week of August. We’re going to go and do a couples’ session of GAINSwave.
Brock: That doesn’t sound romantic at all really.
Ben: But it gives you… It… Well, it is once the numbing cream wears off, baby. Seriously.
Brock: Nom nomnomnom.
Ben: Yeah, you can’t feel anything for, like, four to six hours and then all of a sudden you’re like it’s like you were in high school again for the next month. It’s crazy. So, everybody listening in gets 30% off GAINSwave. You go to GAINSWave.com/Ben. Men or women. The female version, by the way, is called FEMMEwave. So, you go to FEMMEwave.com/Ben or you go to GAINSwave.com/Ben. So, if you have not yet experienced the magic wand of GAINSwave, you are missing out on an important part of life. Little bit of better living through science, baby.
So, that all being said, just a couple of quick things coming up before we jump into this week’s Q&A. I’ll be travelling to Bozeman, Montana, for any of you who live in or near Bozeman, Montana, or want to fly in. The Ancestral Health Symposium is coming up quick. It’s July 19th. That’s in just… gosh about a week or so and that’s a very cool, more scientific conference that goes into everything from diet to movement to sleep to stress to epigenetics. I’ll be speaking there on biohacking, of all things. And it’s actually quite a good time. Great food. Wonderful people. Good little parties in the evening and extremely didactic, very didactic, they should have a walking university there, because it’s pretty dense information, honestly.
Brock: Yeah, it’s one of those ones you walk out and your brain’s going to explode?
And in addition to that, there’s a few other events coming up. There’s a great, speaking of biohacking, Biohacking Conference coming up in Toronto, Ontario. I’ll be speaking there October 15th through the 17th, 15th through the 17th.
Brock: I think it’s the 14th through 16th.
Ben: Something like that. I don’t know. Mid-October. The SPARK Biohacking Conference in Toronto, Ontario. So, check that out.
And then, finally, I should mention that the Switzerland Retreats, two weeks, myself, my wife, and a team of health professionals over in Switzerland are going to lead you on a journey to the Swiss Alps where you get to taste the most cutting edge forms of European medicine, particularly antiaging and detoxification medicine, while eating amazing food and going on amazing hikes in the Swiss Alps. You really cannot beat that. This is going to be one of my highlights of 2019. It’s going to be in the summer in July of 2019. I’ll put a link to all of the details in the show notes. It is about two-thirds full right now. So, I believe that means there’s 5 rooms left at this resort up in the Swiss Alps. So, if you want to go, go to the show notes, BenGreenfieldFitness.com/387 and I will have all the links right there in the show notes.
Margie: Hey, Ben. This is Margie from New Hope, Pennsylvania. Long-time listener, second time caller. So, I have three questions on alcohol and I listened to the alcohol podcast twice and I’m hoping that maybe you can clarify a few things. Number one, does alcohol really slow or halt your body’s ability to metabolize fat and after, cause weight gain? This has been a big argument I had with a friend of mine. She says no, that it’s all about calories. I say yes, it’s about the slowing of the metabolism.
Number two, so, if this is because of the sedative effect of the alcohol, would that mean that any substance that calms the nervous system causes slowing or halting of metabolism?
And then, number three, is a daily dose of alcohol safe for the liver to detoxify every day?
Thanks so much. I appreciate all your interviews and all that you do. Have a great day, bye-bye!
Brock: I really liked this question because like, the guidelines are all over the place and they really actually depend on where you live, like, in North America I think it’s two drinks per night for a man, one for a woman. In France, it’s like three and two. And, then in Sweden, it’s one and none or something… No! It’s five a week I think. They bring it down.
Ben: Yeah, the form of alcohol differs too. Like in Poland, where vodka is your blood and is literally in your bloodstream from an early age, you could probably just take shots all day long. Italy, same thing, bottle of wine with dinner. For me, personally, it’s… I haven’t been drunk in about seven years. But, I drink every day. I have one drink a day. But, honestly, based on the size of the Greenfield drinking vessels…
Brock: Yes, I’ve seen those.
Ben: [42:58] ______ bowl size wine glasses and the giant Moscow mule mugs. That’s probably, about more like a drink and a half. But I drink close to 365 days a year. I have a drink and I rarely, if ever, exceed two drinks because I am well aware of the spill-over of acetaldehyde, the ability of alcohol to be tapped into as the primary source of energy, trumping carbohydrates, and proteins, and fats, and anything else that might be in your body at the time. And so, yeah, there can be some tradeoffs when it comes to weight gain, but it’s actually fascinating. And I want to take a little bit deeper dive into alcohol because in some cases it’s actually been shown to speed metabolic rate and cause weight loss. So, the thing is, as far as actual research goes, when we look at actual literature and not anecdotes from different populations from around the world, light to moderate alcohol intake is not a risk factor or is very often not a risky factor for obesity or being overweight, whereas heavy drinking and binge-drinking are pretty consistently linked, not only with adiposity, but with inflammatory adiposity, meaning you’re not just increasing your levels of subcutaneous fat underneath the skin and your arms and your legs, you’re creating more inflammatory fat in the waistline, the quintessential beer belly for example.
Brock: The dad body!
Ben: Yeah. First of all, what happens is when you consume alcohol, we know that it is relied upon as the primary metabolic source of fuel over and above anything else that you consume at the time and simultaneously it inhibits fat oxidation. So alcohol is around 7, 7 ½, I think it’s 7.2 calories per gram is what alcohol comes out to as far as the actual calories, but it inhibits fat oxidation when you consume it and causes actual fat sparing and thus, higher body fat long term. And that is assuming that this whole physics equation of calories in versus calories out is not being weighed in light of the actual alcohol consumed. If you were at a caloric deficit and alcohol is being consumed as a primary source of your calories, you should be more concerned about the liver, the inflammation, and the amount of acetaldehyde, the toxic byproduct of alcohol metabolism more than you should be concerned about weight gain. But once you’re eating to caloric excess, if alcohol is part of that eating to caloric excess because of the suppression of fat oxidation and the ability of alcohol to be able to encourage the formation of higher body fat levels, particularly deleterious inflammatory fat, you should be pretty dang careful with this stuff. Like, I don’t eat to caloric deficiencies, but I am very aware of not only my timing of alcohol but also how much I drink.
So, to give you an example, your muscles lack the actual enzyme necessary for taking the fructose from alcohol and converting that into muscle glycogen to be able to store that alcohol to be used for, say, the next day’s work out. Now, your liver can take fructose and your liver does have the enzyme that’s capable of taking fructose and storing it away as liver glycogen levels, but you can only store 350, 400 calories in your liver. And when you have a drink, unless you’re in a fasted state, let’s say you’re going to have, I don’t know, a mimosa in the morning after you’ve done a 16-hour fast, in most cases you’ve got already 200 to 250 calories of storage glycogen in your liver. So, once you’ve had maybe one drink with enough fructose 100 to 250 calories worth to replenish your liver glycogen, anything else is going to spill over into the bloodstream and cause more triglycerides and increase amounts of storage body fat. So for that reason I always have my alcohol unless I’m having a really nice steak in which case I want a little glass of wine as almost like a palate cleanser in between bites of steak, I always have my alcohol on an empty stomach for dinner. And the added advantage of that is alcohol, if you’re drinking alcohol that’s more of like a bitter or digestif such as Moscow Mule is one of my weapons of choice, it’s got ginger in it, often mint, some lime, these digestifs that can actually enhance your ability to digest a meal and even enhance your insulin response to a meal causing the meal to spike your blood glucose less significantly. So the timing of alcohol is important as is the amount, meaning that the timing in an ideal scenario would be on an empty stomach before a meal. And the cool part about that too is if you’re drinking for the destressing effect or you’re drinking to kind of feel it to get that nice little happiness-inducing buzz, that happens a lot easier when you’re drinking on an empty stomach with a slightly empty liver glycogen level compared to if you’re drinking after or during dinner. Does that make sense?
Brock: Mhmm. Yeah, definitely.
Ben: Okay, so, in addition to that, there’s some really interesting mechanisms via which alcohol could cause you to become overweight in addition to its ability to be able to burn [48:10] ______ as a fuel and its ability to decrease fat oxidation. So for example, we know that it influences a bunch of different hormones that are linked to satiety, leptin would be one for example, [48:24] ______-like peptide would be another. So, what seems to occur is that alcohol can increase appetite and influence hunger by acting on the opioid and the serotonin pathways in the brain, both of which can increase your appetite. Now, the cool thing is, another area of the brain that alcohol acts upon is the GABA, the gamma-aminobutyric acid pathway. And that’s an inhibitory neurotransmitter which is why a glass of wine or some kind of alcohol towards the end of the day can assist with sleep a little bit. The problem is, you drink a whole bunch of alcohol, you get a huge amount of GABA released and when that beings to wear off, you can actually get this excitatory response which is a reason that you would wake up after a few too many drinks around 2 or 3 AM as all that wears off. It’s kind of a combination of that, having to pee, and if you look at the Chinese medicine clock, the potential for that being the period of time when, if you have liver issues, you would wake up a little bit. So, a whole host of reasons that you would wake up in the wee hours by drinking to excess, but it appears that some of the same mechanisms can also spike hunger and so that’s another reason why alcohol might be associated with obesity especially heavier alcohol consumption would be the suppression of your appetite-regulating hormones at an increase and some of the hormones responsible for increasing appetite.
Brock: That’s interesting because you couple that with this sort of decreased being sensible and you get a little bit hungry and all of a sudden you’re making a fourth meal instead of just having a little munch in the evening. You get that little bit of a hunger boost and then you also lowered your inhibition so it’s like ordering pizza instead of just having a carrot or something.
Ben: Right, exactly. And the problem is that you look at someone could say well, marijuana does the same thing and marijuana makes you hungry. It’s true, but marijuana doesn’t have calories, so you’re not piling calories on top of calories and marijuana also does not suppress fat oxidation. So, I mean, if let’s say a couple of drinks make you hungry and smoking a joint makes you hungry, technically smoking a joint would be healthier. I mean, actually alcohol is responsible for way more deaths and metabolic issues than marijuana ever will be. But, at the same time the big picture is that we know that alcohol can also make you more hungry, especially in excess.
Ben: So, the interesting thing though, and something that I alluded to is that we do see a certain population of heavy alcohol consumers in particular, who not only don’t gain weight but actually have higher metabolic rates. They have higher metabolic rates and this is fascinating. So, there is this metabolic pathway, it’s kind of similar to the brown fat pathway, you know how when you take a cold bath you get some of your white adipose tissue converted to brown fat and brown fat takes calories and burns them to generate heat. It’s very metabolically active tissue.
Well, there’s another similar metabolic pathway, it’s a mouthful, it’s called the microsomal ethanol oxidizing system, the MEOS, and you find this system in the liver. Now, when you burn ethanol, when you burn alcohol using this pathway, it’s actually taking the alcohol and burning it to generate more heat than it is to generate ATP. And so the idea is that people who drink a lot, what they get is an upregulation of this MEOS pathway and so they see an increase in their metabolic rate. They see an increase in the amount of the alcohol that’s actually burnt to generate heat to maintain the body’s thermal regulatory mechanisms and this might be why, for example there’s one fascinating study where they increased alcohol consumption to 2,000 calories per day derived from alcohol. So, that’s a good four to five drinks at least.
Brock: Whoa! At least!
Ben: Now, the weight gain that occurred in response to that, this was in a human study, was only 6 grams per day, barely anything. And then they did the same thing with chocolate and chocolate caused a weight gain of 198 grams per day, meaning chocolate blew alcohol out of the water, heavy alcohol consumption out of the water in terms of the ability of chocolate to cause you to gain weight compared to alcohol. And the idea is that this MEOS pathway as soon as you start to drink a whole bunch begins to get activated, increases the metabolic rate, and causes you to metabolize alcohol more efficiently. The problem is, that only takes into account whether or not you’re going to gain weight and does not take into account your liver health.
Ben: Alcohol is well-known as one of the best ways to kill stem cells. I talked about this, I believe, in my podcast with Dr. Dan Pompa a couple of weeks ago. Alcohol, of course, has effects on acetaldehyde, not just the liver, but the kidneys. So, this MEOS pathway can get activated, but it turns out that that’s probably not a very good excuse for you to be drinking a lot of alcohol. But there is something to be said for the skinny fat people who drink a lot, one of the reasons is that they maintain higher body heat by activating this MEOS pathway.
Brock: That’s really interesting when you were talking about the sleep portion of if you drink too much before bed. Like, when I have drank too much before bed, it’s usually at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning, you wake up and you have to pee but you’re also super hot, just radiating heat.
Ben: Exactly. Exactly.
Brock: So, that’s this effect then.
Ben: Yup, and that is why actually insufficient sleep has been heavily associated with great alcohol consumption and excess body weight. Like sleeping less than 6-hours per night goes hand-in-hand with alcohol consumption in many studies. So, that’s probably one of the mechanisms because one of the best ways to sleep well is to decrease your core temperature. And one of the best ways to sleep poorly is to eat a heavy meal and drink a bunch of alcohol before bed.
Brock: And that’s increasing your core temperature. So interesting.
Ben: Yeah, exactly. Then there’s also the genetic determinants, like alcohol dehydrogenase. We know that some people rapidly eliminate ethanol because they have more active alcohol dehydrogenase pathways, kind of like there’s fast coffee metabolizers and slow coffee metabolizers. The same could be said about alcohol consumption. And because of those detox pathways, not only do we see some people gain weight in response to alcohol, and some people don’t gain weight as much, as a matter of fact, I know a very lean guy, Todd White, the guy who owns Dry Farm Wines, he fasts all day, which I’m sure has a pretty significant impact on his…
Brock: Yeah, he’s strict-strict keto.
Ben: He’s pretty strict. But he also has a whole bottle of wine with dinner most nights, an entire bottle. And he’s actually maintains a very good metabolic profile and he is in very good health and part of that is because he’s drinking this biodynamic filtered wine. It’s organic, it doesn’t have a lot of additives and preservatives in it. It’s lower in alcohol, but it’s likely also because he may have the genetic capability in terms of alcohol dehydrogenase mechanisms and the ability to even produce some enzymes that are liver protective enzymes based on his genetics to be able to handle alcohol a little bit more easily. Another person who I know who drinks a copious amount of alcohol is Wim Hof, the Ice Man, Wim Hof.
Brock: Yeah, he drinks a lot of beer.
Ben: And again, granted the ice probably confers some protection, he does have a big red nose which I think might be because of that alcohol consumption, but at the same time…
Brock: Oh, I thought it was because he was Santa.
Ben: Yeah, he’s in relatively good metabolic health and part of that is likely due to the genetic variations he possesses. With his history, he’s Danish and you look at some populations that have a history of more alcohol consumption and he’s able to function pretty well on higher amounts of alcohol as well. So, there are certain genes that not only code for your alcohol dehydrogenase, but also for liver detox genes, things like glutathione for example or the metabolism of acetaldehyde which we’d find as a byproduct of ethanol metabolism. And, if you possess these genes, then you’re also going to do a better job metabolizing alcohol.
When I interviewed Dr. Ben Lynch, Dr. Ben Lynch who wrote the book Dirty Genes and he runs this genetic analysis pathway called StrateGene, he outlined, and if you go listen to that interview, I’ll put a link to it in the show notes. Basically, I don’t produce the endogenous antioxidants responsible for assisting me with the metabolism of ethanol. And so, he actually sent me a few supplements that I now take as almost like a stack if I do anticipate that I’m going to be at a party and I might be having, for me, partying, I’ll be honest with you, it’s two to three drinks rather than one to one and a half. That’s a good time for me.
Brock: That’s a Saturday night!
Ben: That’s plenty of dials in my brain, right. But, if I’m going to do something like that, he sent me molybdenum and a couple others, something called HomocysteX, which is a homocysteine-based supplement and there’s one other. But, anyways, I will link to my interview with Ben Lynch so you can hear a little bit more about some of the genetic factors that would be responsible for allowing you or disallowing you to be able to metabolize alcohol.
And then, finally a couple of other things Margie asked would anything else that has a sedative effect, because I mentioned how alcohol increases your GABA production, will anything else with a sedative effect do the same thing? Well, it turns out there are a host of medications that have a sedative effect particularly by acting on your serotonin pathways that are directly associated with weight gain and these would also be things you’d want to be careful with. Probably the biggest ones would be any drug that would be an antidepressant. So, Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, those are some of the biggest weight gain offenders because they block the reabsorption of serotonin that makes more of it available to send messages between nerve cells and it can increase appetite significantly. So, it’s not lowering the metabolic rate as much as it’s just making you more likely to grab a snickers bar or carton of Ben & Jerry’s, but ultimately that sedative effect of some of these things like anti-depressants can do the same thing, but it’s not because they lower your metabolic rate.
So ultimately, the big picture here is coming full circle. Moderate level of drinking, light to moderate level of drinking seems to confer some longevity benefits especially if you’re drinking a nutrient-dense form of alcohol, such as say red wine. In addition, drinking on an empty stomach when the liver’s glycogen stores are empty, is probably going to help you out with the potential weight gain from alcohol. Analyzing your genetics to see if you should be taking certain supplement stacks or certain endogenous antioxidants or non-endogenous antioxidants, meaning, an oral antioxidant or an anti-oxidant… like a weekly, glutathione injection or something like that if you’re going to drink, is probably a prudent thing to do.
And then finally, I do have a podcast that I did in which I took a deep dive into alcohol damage mitigation, like what to do if you are going to go out partying and we cover everything from turmeric to activated charcoal to different things you can put into your body to protect it. That was a podcast with Thomas Delauer and it was just a couple of months ago I recorded that. So, it’s fresh off the presses and everything is updated and relevant. So, I’ll put a link to that as well if you go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/387 and that being said, Na Zdorovie!
Brock: Wait, can I add one thing to end it here, just, I think one of the biggest things that people sort of miss in the studies, like they talk about green zones and how people in the green zones live a really long time tend to have a moderate intake of alcohol, I think something that’s missing or that a lot of people miss when they look at that information is that it’s not alcohol sitting in your basement by yourself sort of medicating yourself, it’s very social in general. Like it’s going out in the evening with friends, playing checkers in the square, having some wine there. I think context has as much to do with it as just the amount that you’re having. And you have to be careful when you’re just sort of saying like, two drinks or three drinks a day or five drinks a week or whatever it is, the situation and the surroundings has a lot of effect on whether it’s going to confer a health benefit or just going to numb you to the sadness around you which is sad to say, but it’s true.
Ben: In other words, it’s okay to have a flask full of whiskey that you toke on regularly as long as you’re doing so while playing checkers in the square, sitting across from your other alcoholic friend.
Meg: Hey, Ben. It’s Meg from Park City, Utah. I am wondering if you could take a slightly deeper dive into MSG. My son and I have a disagreement about whether or not it’s okay to partake. I’ve heard for so long that it should be avoided, but he says that recent studies show that it’s safe and it’s a natural occurring compound in vegetables. And he sprinkles extra MSG on his food, but I still avoid it like the plague. What gives? Is it much to do about nothing? Thanks so much! Talk to you soon! Bye.
Ben: This question makes me want Chinese food.
Brock: I hear you!
Ben: I love it with an MSG salt shaker.
Brock: Yeah, somebody bring me a little pile of MSG that I could liberally sprinkle. Who does that?
Ben: I don’t know, but you know what’s interesting. That stuff is not any different than the MSG you get people say, oh MSG from food is different from the MSG you get from Chinese food. It’s not. You can get a bunch of MSG in food, like kelp and seaweed are really high in that umami flavored MSG. So is fish sauce, so is soy sauce. You buy a good hard cheese, like a parmesan cheese. Parmesan cheese is incredibly high in MSG. Shitake mushrooms, a lot of mushrooms are high in MSG. A lot of shellfish, which is a super ancestral food, humans who originated living primarily on coastlines ate copious amounts of shellfish and that has a lot of MSG in it as well. It might be why we retained kind of a taste for that pleasant umami flavor of MSG.
Well, the fact is, when you look at natural versus manufactured what they call umami or MSG, what happens is it all winds up going through the same metabolic pathway in your body. So in the stomach, monosodium glutamate or MSG dissolves into basically sodium cations and glutamate anions. It’s a very simple chemical equation. And essentially all of that winds up in your body is L-glutamic acid or glutamate. So, whatever form MSG is in, it’s going to wind up doing the same thing in your body metabolically whether for better or for worse and we can talk about that in a second. But ultimately, there’s not a difference between the MSG that you’re going to find in the little umami salt shaker that they’ve got sitting on the kitchen counter at the Chinese restaurant that you go to and the umami you’re going to get from parmesan cheese or mushroom or anything else like that.
Ben: Now, glutamate or glutamic acid, it’s an amino acid, totally naturally occurring like I just mentioned. I just listed off a bunch of foods that have it in there and a lot of those contain pretty appreciable amounts of glutamate. There are a lot of benefits to glutamate. It can improve your digestion. They’ve even found in chronic gastritis patients that glutamate actually helped to heal the gut, it’s a close cousin to L-glutamine, a known supplement that we take to heal leaky gut. Glutamate can help to enhance the flavor of foods, obviously. You take some vegetables, you splash some fish sauce on there, or you do a sate and you do some parmesan cheese and a handful of shellfish or muscles on there and you’re adding glutamate umami-rich flavors. At the same time, there are certain populations that do not do well with glutamate based on imbalances in their brain levels of glutamate and some other neurotransmitters. For example, they’ve noted that children who have autism get beneficial changes that occur when they remove concentrated sources of glutamate from their diet – concentrated sources being things like Chinese food, MSG seasoning, or fish sauce.
Another one would be migraines. A lot of people get triggered by high amounts of glutamate and that can cause migraines. If you get migraines, that would be another reason to cut glutamate or MSG-rich foods from your diet. So kungpao chicken would be out if you get headaches. Obesity, there seem to be some appetite stimulating effects of MSG and glutamate and it’s probably because it is one of those hedonistic flavors that triggers this ancestral mechanism in humans to like food. And so, probably one of the worst things you could do for your waistline as you’ve already learned from this podcast, is to booze it up and eat Chinese food. So, that would probably be one of the worst 1-2 combos, maybe smoking a joint afterwards because pretty much all you’re going to want to do at that point is eat copious amounts of food. So, we know that alcohol and glutamate are both known appetite stimulants, but they are known calorie-containing appetite stimulants which is kind of the worst 1-2 combo you can get.
So anyways, that’s the skinny on glutamate. So, if you have a child with autism or yourself have autism, you get migraines, you’re trying to control appetite glutamate is probably not going to do you any favors. If you just love cool flavors and you want to improve digestion, there’s zero evidence that MSG is going to be an issue. Just as with anything in moderation but in my opinion, probably the deleterious reaction that a lot of people have to glutamate-containing foods is because they’re notoriously used in situations where there are other food colorings and histamine-rich compounds which we’ll talk about in a second. And vegetable oils and other things that cause bigger issues than the MSG. So, I would say that Chinese takeout food in the cute little paper box, as far as the MSG in that is going to be something just fine. Go to town.
Alex: Hi, Ben. Love your show, long time listener. Question I have is about smoked salmon. Obviously we know about the dangers of smoked meats, classified as a carcinogen, but it’s very difficult to find information on smoked salmon. Actually, salmon itself is touted as a superfood, but keen on your thoughts on whether smoked salmon has the same benefits as regular salmon or if it should be more akin to smoked meats which we should definitely be avoiding? Thanks again, Ben.
Brock: I love me some smoked salmon too.
Ben: It’s great for the breath too. It’s perfect, like, pre-date food.
Brock: Oh yes.
Brock: You want to make out with somebody?
Ben: Yeah, put a little fish sauce on there. So, I mean, smoked meat does kind of get kicked under the bus nowadays as a carcinogen, but smoking is actually…?
Brock: Is it true that it’s actually classified as a strong carcinogen? I… that’s what Alex said. I’ve never heard that before.
Ben: Not necessarily. I mean, it really depends on the food, but smoking is one of the world’s oldest food preservation techniques. I mean, our ancestors used to strip pieces from animals and smoke them on wood fires until they were basically cooked. And smoking, depending on the food, is really not an issue. Like salmon particularly stays very stable when smoked. They’ve studied this. They’ve looked at where the fragile fish fats are oxidatively stable in response to smoking. Not only did smoking in one study done on smoked salmon at a relatively high heat protect omega-3s from oxidizing, it actually concentrated the stability of the omega-3 fatty acid.
Ben: So, it was almost like the smoked salmon became more stable and less susceptible to oxidation. Furthermore, if you take that salmon, you can make it even more stable and less prone to oxidation if you want to keep it for a long period of time by fermenting it after you smoke it, or by buying smoked salmon and fermenting it. And, that’s actually very simple to do.
Fermenting is something that scares a lot of people, but it’s super-duper easy. You literally just take smoked salmon that you smoked yourself for that you’ve purchased and then you put it into a big, glass mason jar with some lemons, like some lemon juice or whey works too, whey is the clear liquid that you could, like, strain on top of the yoghurt container… that clear liquid. And then, you could add any number of different herbs you want like fennel is really good. Dill goes really well with fish. Bay leaves, typically like peppercorns, that’s another thing that you’d put into a big jar for fermentation. And then, you put some salt in there and then you put the lid on and then you just basically keep that at room temp for about a day or so, and that initiates the fermentation process, then you just stick it in the freezer. That’s how you ferment fish. It’ll keep for several weeks. Did I say the freezer? I meant the refrigerator.
Ben: Yeah, you stick it in the refrigerator. Yeah, freezer, you got some smoked salmon popsicles. But the refrigerator, just stick it in there and that’s a very simple fermentation method. I love, for example, what’s Sally Fallon’s cookbook? Nourishing Traditions. My wife and I use that all the time to learn how to preserve foods, how to ferment foods. It’s a great, great book to have on hand. But yeah, so smoking salmon and even fermenting that smoke salmon is a known food preservation technique.
The problem is that any smoked food gets concentrated levels of histamine. Concentrated levels of histamine and histamine can be an issue. The problem with histamine, and people who are sensitive to it, is it can cause a host of reactions from gut issues to headaches to low energy levels to poor sleep. And, you typically will find a lot of histamines in any fish that’s been smoked or dried, in any canned fish like canned tuna or canned sardines, any marinated fish, most seafood is relatively high in histamines as are most crustaceans. So, if you are sensitive to histamines, I’ll tell you in a second how you can figure that out, you actually would want to avoid smoked salmon.
There are a lot of different ways to test whether or not you’re sensitive to histamines, like there’s a stool histamine test, there’s a blood histamine test, most of them are very inaccurate and don’t work. If someone’s telling you they’re going to test your histamines in your stool, blood, none of that seems to correlate with histamine or histamine intolerance. Intestinal bacteria can produce a lot of histamine and so a stool histamine test is a lot of times more reflective of what your bacteria is doing rather than your own sensitivity. Blood does not appear to be very reliable as well. Really, the best way to see whether or not you’re DAO deficient, DAO deficient, or whether or not you have a genetic issue with being able to handle histamine would just be to feed something like 23AndMe data through that guy’s protocol that I talked about earlier, Dr. Ben Lynch’s, strategy analysis. That’s in my opinion, a bulletproof way to test for histamine intolerance. It tells you exactly if you possess the gene that does not allow you to digest histamine properly and yeah, you can supplement with certain things that will shut down the histamine reaction.
There are certain natural anti-histamines that you can take, we’re getting a little long on the tooth, so I don’t want to jump into the mechanism of action for those, but there are supplements like Histamine Blocks, there’s another one called HistamineX, there are some forms of glutamine that help, there are some forms of creatine that help, there’s a lot of different ways to go after histamine sensitivity and you would just consume these at the same time that you would take the histamine. And I should mention, by the way, a lot of probiotics are very high in histamine.
So, what I would do is go order a 23AndMe genetic test if you don’t have one. If you already have one, take those results, run the raw data through StrateGene and then that will show the genes associated with histamine breakdown and also show you exactly what you can do if you have issues with histamine. But ultimately, for smoked salmon and many smoked foods in general that don’t become oxidized in response to smoking, the smoking is not the issue. Sometimes if you’re using woodchips and pellets that have a lot of preservatives and artificial compounds added to them, that could be an issue. But ultimately, I’m a fan of smoked salmon and the health benefits far outweigh any deleterious issues unless you’re super-duper histamine-sensitive.
Brock: Nice. The only thing I was thinking too was some of that smoked meat and some of the cured stuff that you find in regular grocery stores will have that smoked flavoring in them and maybe that’s what Alex was talking about that we definitely should be avoiding.
Ben: Yeah, that’s different. Yeah, that’s different.
Brock: But if it’s really smoked, then…
Ben: Yeah, you want t a good, healthy smoking process. The other thing is that, as we get into this week’s review, I’m going to grab myself a little sesame seed bagel, tomato, some cream cheese, some capers, some smoked salmon, sit back and listen to this week’s review.
Brock: Oh alright, I see what you’re doing. You’re going to have a little snack while I read.
Well, this one comes from Sweetscincy. I don’t know if that was supposed to be “science-y” or scincy. But anyways, it’s a five star review and it goes like this: “I learned of Ben Greenfield and The Ben Greenfield Fitness podcast from the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast. After one episode, I was hooked. Ben and Brock cover all sorts of exercise, nutrition, and supplementation strategies, and so much more. They provide recommendations backed by science, they debunk myths and bro-science, and overall provide a great listen for anyone trying to live optimally. Thanks to everyone involved in providing such a great resource!”
Ben: That’s nice. I like how you read resource, it’s not a resource, it’s a resource. Kind of like how it’s not spiced wine, it’s spiced wine.
Brock: Spiced! That’s because I’m learned.
Ben: You know, we started medieval… now I sound New Jersey. Let me see if I can revert to my medieval accent… So, first of all, if you’ve read your review on the show, e-mail [email protected]. That’s gear, [email protected] We’ll send you a t-shirt, a tunic, a helmet, a bow, an arrow, and a vile full of magical potion that kills dragons. You simply need to include your tunic size or your t-shirt size when you email [email protected].
If you enjoy this show, leave your own review. If our medieval voices annoy you, leave us a one star. If you learned anything interesting, leave us a five star! It helps out the show.
Brock: Well, I think they probably talked more like this really! I think.
Ben: I think they talked like this. They talked like…
Ben: Well, thank you for listening. BenGreenfieldFitness.com is where you can get all the goodies.
I sound like a drunk, smoked salmon consuming medieval wench! I’m a beer wench. I’m a beer wench! Thanks for listening.
July 12, 2018, Q&A Episode 387: How Much Alcohol Makes You Fat, Is MSG Natural Or Not, and Is Smoked Salmon Healthy?
News Flashes [00:06:43]
- Squats make you smart. Science says…
- Physical activity combined with learning seems to be an amazing tool for schoolchildren in Finland – meaning actually “working out” while you learn.
- Why us Homo sapiens are so damn good at endurance running compared to other animals.
- 24-hour fasting regenerates stem cells and doubles metabolism.
- Why medieval antibiotics work.
You can receive these News Flashes (and more) every single day, if you follow Ben on Twitter.com/BenGreenfield, Instagram.com/BenGreenfieldFitness, Facebook.com/BGFitness, BenGreenfieldFitness.com/Snapchat, and Google+.
Special Announcements [00:31:38]
This podcast is brought to you by:
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-Tru Niagen – Tru Niagen restores your body’s natural balance of NAD every time you take it and you can get some at truniagen.com.
-Gluten Guardian – If you’re at all sensitive to gluten (and even if you’re not, but just concerned about cross contamination, like we all should be)… then I recommend heading over to glutenguardian.com/greenfield. You can save 10% off the already discounted price, with the code GREENFIELD.
–Click here to follow Ben on Snapchat, and get ready for some epic stories about his morning, day and evening routine!
– July 19 – 21, 2018: Ancestral Health Symposium, Bozeman, Montana. “AHS” is a scientific conference which provides a forum so that learning and qualified discussion on all areas of human health can take place. Most noteworthy, at this conference you will go beyond diet and learn about the latest research across a wide range of topics, all united by an evolutionary perspective. speakers present on topics including diet, movement, sleep, stress, epigenetics, and more. Join me this summer!
– August 17 – 19, 2018: Colorado Rockies Ultra Beast and Sprint Weekend, Breckenridge, Colorado. The mountain is calling! This is an extra-special Spartan race. Team members of my company, Kion, and I are competing together in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. Experience the immense beauty of Colorado while conquering climbs, crawls, carries and traverses. See you there!
– October 14-16, 2018: SPARK BioHacking Conference, Toronto, Ontario. The 2018 SPARK Bio-Hack Conference features a series of talks by leaders across a range of fields with an eye on optimizing human performance, recovery, and longevity. Researchers, medical specialists and other biohacking experts will share provocative, informative, and inspiring presentations meant to invigorate your curiosity about health and amplify your life journey. Registration is now open, secure your spot here.
– October 11 – 14, 2018: 2018 RUNGA California Immersion Retreat. Runga is going to Napa! Join me, my wife, Jessa, Joe DiStefano and a small, intimate group of like-minded individuals for a weekend-long getaway. We’ve rented a beautiful mansion located in one of the most iconic countrysides in America– Napa Valley. We’ve thought of everything that you could possibly need to gently “press the reboot button” on your body and completely tune in to your heart, mind, body, strength, and spirit. Join the waitlist!
– December 2-8, 2018: RUNGA Retreat, Dominican Republic. You’re invited to join me at RUNGA in December 2018. Join me in the Dominican Republic, one of the most beautiful places in the Caribbean, for this retreat. In all RUNGA activities, RUNGA invites you to come home to yourself. To see everything you’ll be getting into, just click here. Use code BEN when you register so you get your gift when you arrive! I’ll be there, too. Join the waitlist here.
– June 23 to July 7, 2019: Swiss Retreat and Liver Detox, Swiss Alps, Switzerland. Join me for an immersive health retreat on the Swiss Alps in 2019. Just click here to know more or reserve your spot now.
Giveaways & Goodies [01:14:30]
-Grab your Official Ben Greenfield Fitness Gear package that comes with a tech shirt, a beanie and a water bottle.
-And of course, this week’s top iTunes review – gets some BG Fitness swag straight from Ben – click here to leave your review for a chance to win some!
As compiled, deciphered, edited and sometimes read by Brock Armstrong, the Podcast Sidekick.
How Much Alcohol Makes You Fat? [00:41:13]
Margie says: I listened to the podcast about alcohol twice but I still have three questions:
1- Does alcohol really slow or halt your body’s ability to metabolize fat enough to cause weight gain?
2- If it does, would anything that has a sedative effect (calms the nervous system) do the same thing?
3- Is a daily dose of alcohol safe for the liver to detoxify every day?
In my response, I recommend:
-My podcast on alcohol “Does Alcohol Really Make You Fat, Which Alcohol Is Healthiest, Hidden Ingredients In Alcohol & Much More: The Ultimate Alcohol Damage Mitigation Guide.”
–The MEOS Pathway
–Ben Lynch’s Stratagene podcast
Is MSG Natural Or Not? [01:01:30]
Meg says: I am wondering if you could take a deep dive into MSG. My son and I have a disagreement as to whether or not we should partake. I’ve heard for so long that it should be avoided but my son says that it is safe and that it is a naturally occurring compound in vegetables. He sprinkles extra MSG on his food but I avoid it like that plague. What gives?
Is Smoked Salmon Healthy? [01:07:24]
Alex says: Obviously, we all know about the dangers of smoked meat (classified as a strong carcinogen) but it is very difficult to find info on smoked salmon. Salmon is a touted as a superfood but I am keen to find out your thoughts on whether smoked salmon has the same benefits or if it is more like smoked meats, that we should be avoiding?