[00:00:45] Sipping Chocolate
[00:02:23] Podcast Sponsors
[00:05:52] Guest Introduction
[00:08:53] “We All Have Cancer”
[00:16:34] How drugs stack up versus a diet targeted at cancer prevention
[00:31:11] Microbiome and ingesting healthy bacteria for longevity
[00:39:14] Podcast Sponsors
[00:42:48] Biochemical Individuality
[00:50:10] Foods that can control the growth of cancer within us
[01:12:11] Closing the Podcast
[01:13:41] End of Podcast
Ben: On this episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast.
William: It's not just about the weapon that we can design in the lab, it's really how the patient's body resists cancer as we know it. It's not just the food, it's how our body responds to what we put inside it. And among the responses that are important is our microbiome.
Ben: Miso, natto, tempeh, fermented soy sauce, any of those type of things I'm a fan of.
Health, performance, nutrition, longevity, ancestral living, biohacking, and much more. My name is Ben Greenfield. Welcome to the show.
You hear that? Oh my gosh, that is good. I am into sipping chocolate these days. And although they're not a sponsor of today's show, I have this stuff called MiCacao. I could put a link in the show notes of them I guess, but I got a bunch of different recipes I use of this stuff. It's just basically like cacao shells that are ground up, that are just chock-full of theobromine and feel-good dopamine. What I do is I have one of these glass water boiling pitchers, the same ones that I talked about in my podcast with Luke Storey last week. So, the metals from the teapot often leach into the water with these glass water bottles or these glass water boiling bottles that doesn't happen. And then it's got a little built-in glass or like a wire mesh filter where you pour the water out. So, it automatically filters everything in there.
So, what I do is I just cover the bottom of this thing with these cacao shells, and then I put about a teaspoon of powdered stevia or one dropper full of this organic vanilla stevia that I use, and then I put a pinch of sea salt and a little bit of cinnamon, and I pour hot water over that, and I let it really, really go for a long time. I'll steep it for like 10, 15 minutes and then I pour it in. Oh my gosh, this is so good. You can put a little peppermint in there too if you want a little bit more of a holiday cheer.
Oh, and what else? Oh, my new fiction book just got published. It's just in time for Christmas. It's young adult fantasy fiction. I've woven like health, survival, fitness, all sorts of things into the book. It's beautifully designed hardcover, stunning illustrations, character portraits that's really cool map. I wrote it really for adults, and then when I ran it by everybody, they're like, “Ah, it's a little bit more like young adult fantasy fiction.” So, it's young adult fantasy fiction. That's cool for adults too, honestly. It is the first of a series of fiction books I'm working on and you can get it at bengreenfieldbooks.com. It's called “The Forest,” bengreenfieldbooks.com. And I'm going to keep sipping this tea as we go. It's so good. It's just like I'm drinking a pure chocolate bar.
Okay. So, this podcast is also brought to you by, speaking of tea, another form of tea called Pique Tea, P-I-Q-U-E Tea. It's a fasting tea. It was designed by previous podcast of mine who wrote a really great book about fasting, Dr. Jason Fung. He developed this tea with a high amount of catechins in it with a whole bunch of antioxidants. They triple toxin screen it for heavy metals and for pesticides and for mold, and they specifically designed these teas to suppress food cravings and to give a little bit of a bump up in metabolism.
The cool thing is they're powdered, so you can just stir them into cold or hot water rather than going through the incredibly long process I just described that I use from MiCacao tea. And they're perfect if you're fasting. They would actually pair quite well with the upcoming Kion fasting challenge that we're going to be launching soon over at a getkion.com/fasting. You should add some Pique Tea into the mix.
This podcast is also brought to you by Kion. And we have put a big sale on our extremely popular Kion Aminos. And specifically, the tablets are really, really convenient when you're on the go. I gross people out because I just like will take the whole bottle and dump the tablets into my mouth before I go punish the kettlebells or after I finish a workout. I don't even mess around with the powder. I'll go straight to the tablet sometimes. Or you can swallow them if you're a normal person. But these are essential amino acids way different than branched-chain amino acids. They give your body everything it needs to keep blood levels of amino acids high, which helps with neurotransmitter, hormone balance. It can assist with blood sugar regulation, repair of the gut. I mean, there's so many things that essential amino acids do. But above all, folks are using these to build muscle or to maintain muscle in a fasted state, and also to recover way faster. So, the discount code you get on these things, the aminos, over at getkion.com, getK-I-O-N.com is BGF10. BGF10 is going to save you 10% at getkion.com.
So, I was recently talking to my friend, J. J. Virgin, and she told me I had to look up this guy, Dr. William Li. So, I did and it turns out he has this book called “Eat to Beat Disease.” And I see tons of books like this. It's like this superfood, that superfood, blah, blah, blah. But this one was actually different. It's a really, really good book. I featured it in my weekly roundup actually several months ago after I read it because I literally just devoured the thing in about a day after J.J. told me I need to read it, reached out to Dr. Li and he was kind enough to agree to come on to today's show.
So, he's not just an author, he's also the chief executive officer. He's the president and the medical director of the Angiogenesis Foundation, which is basically a foundation that studies how to grow and maintain blood vessels, which is what a lot of this book is about, although there's a whole lot more in there. U2 lead singer Bono has actually said that Dr. Li is one of the top 10 people with the potential for changing the world in the next 10 years. I've had a chance to talk with Dr. Li at a conference and he's just as smart in person as he is in his book.
He's worked with the White House, the Clinton Global Initiative, the National Institutes of Health, ton of different Fortune 500 companies, bunch of universities and medical institutions. He got his undergrad from the teeny-tiny little old Harvard College. He got his medical degree from University of Pittsburgh, and also did his clinical training at the Massachusetts General Hospital, which is a teaching hospital of the Harvard Medical School. He has a bunch of peer-reviewed scientific and clinical articles out there all over the place from science to the New England Journal of Medicine, to Lancet, to Nature Reviews. So, this dude knows what he's talking about.
Everything that we discuss in today's show you can access in the show notes, which you will find in handy-dandy form at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/eattobeatdisease. That's BenGreenfieldFitness.com/eattobeatdisease. That's where you can also grab Dr. Li's book.
So, Dr. Li, and tell me if you want me to call you William or Dr. Li as we talk, welcome to the show.
William: Well, thank you, Ben. It's a pleasure to be on and I've enjoyed reading your books as well and hearing what you're doing. I think there's a lot of common interests that we actually have and I'm really pleased to be able to talk about areas of common passion, which is how do we actually optimize our health.
Ben: Yeah, yeah, for sure, using all these crazy–dude, you have so much in this book from black squid ink to wearing sunscreen on airplanes. So, there's a lot of places we could jump in, but the part of your book that just initially made me turn my head and sit up and pay attention was when you said, “Near the beginning, we all have cancer.” And I'm curious if you could delve into why you said that and if that's actually true.
William: Yeah. Well, look, so first of all, I'm a physician, internal medicine doctor. So, I deal with young and old, men and women, healthy and sick. And in terms of sickness, I actually have been involved with a lot of cancer patients, often the end-stage of disease. And in my day job with the Angiogenesis Foundation, I've been involved with really trying to help develop the real state of the art, real cutting edge cancer treatments. And one of the things that I learned about cancer itself is that it's not just about the weapon that we can design in the lab to treat the patient, it's really how the patient's body resists cancer as we know it.
So, cancer is a term that we're really frightened by. Nobody wants cancer. And yet when you actually look at the secrets inside the body, we are made up of 37 trillion cells, right? Those are the elemental [00:10:11] ______ units of our sick bodies. And these cells are dividing. They're multiplying themselves all the time. And what is cancer? Cancer is when there is a division that makes a mistake creating a mutation. Well, a few cells making divisions, you could probably quality control them and not have too many problems. Well, you get 39 trillion, cranking it out, like just furiously dividing. You can vet that we have one or two mistakes being made all the time.
So, in fact, little microscopic cancers are just sort of a natural side effect of running our body's factory, our cell factory at full steam ahead. In fact, even fit people, not to mention sick people, wind up actually, or people who are not so healthy, wind up cranking up their cells and multiplying them at furious rates. And so the side effect of running the factory at full speed, so think about whether you're making a tennis shoe or whether you're making a microchip, you're going to make a few mistakes. That's okay. They come off the production line, right? And you just don't actually bring them out to the public. But the body will naturally spot these natural mistakes and take care of them.
So, we're in effect forming these–we're having errors, which are mutations that are microscopic cancers forming in our bodies all the time. And our body defense systems naturally repel the cancer, take care of the problem, take the mistakes off to production. So, they never actually get out into the public or cause a problem for us. How common is this? Well, we started to realize that these natural errors occur at an invisible pace when there were autopsy studies done of women between the ages of 40 and 50 who died of car accidents, trauma, and they were having autopsies done. About 40% of women between the ages of 40 and 50 actually already had microscopic cancers in their breasts. They were just accidentally discovered during a routine autopsy. That's like, holy cow, we're finding these microscopic cancers in their breast, 40%. And yet most of these tumors will never ever pop up to become anything significant, but all it takes is for one of those things to escape our body's defenses, and yeah, it will become significant.
They did the same thing for men between the ages of 50 and 60, men who died in car accidents and trauma. When they did the autopsy, they found 50% of men in that age bracket and they already had microscopic prostate cancers. Okay? But most of them will never become harmful. And then above the age of 70, 70 and above, almost a 100% of men and women already have microscopic cancers in their thyroid. And yet that's not what most people in their 70s above died.
Ben: Those microscopic cancers aren't an issue unless they sprout because of increased blood flow to those areas, correct?
William: That's exactly correct. So, tiny little microscopic cancer can grow to the size of about two to three millimeters in diameter. So, if you take a ballpoint pen and you snip off the tip of it, that's the size, it's the biggest size that a microscopic cancer can grow. Why? Because it doesn't have enough blood flow. It doesn't have enough oxygen. It doesn't have nutrients. And so that sort of size is limited to about two to three millimeters. And then it will also sit there and the body naturally will prevent new blood vessels from growing to it and our immune system will spot it and take them out. So, think about our immune system as kind of like your neighborhood cop and patrol that just take all the criminals off the street when they find them is that when these tiny little microscopic cancers can hijack our body's ability to grow blood vessels, that's angiogenesis, how our body grows blood vessels.
Ben: And that's basically what the Angiogenesis Foundation is all about. You guys are trying to figure out anti-angiogenic countermeasures?
William: Well, that's exactly it. It turns out that until the 1980s, we really had no idea how the body grows blood vessels. But after that, we started to realize that angiogenesis, how the body grows blood vessels is, in fact, a common denominator in the diseases that are significant, ranging from cancer to blindness, to heart disease, to obesity, to diabetes, to stroke. These are all problems where you have either too many blood vessels growing to where they're not supposed to be, like a cancer feeding the cancer, bringing oxygen and nutrients, or on the other hand, not having enough blood vessels to be able to keep the tissue alive. We see this in heart disease, in muscle atrophy, brain dementia. We don't have enough blood flow to the brain.
So, the body is critically dependent on having the right amount of blood vessels, angiogenesis. And what the difference between a harmless microscopic cancer that we all have and a deadly one which would send it to the hospital and change our lives entirely is whether or not these tiny cancers are able to hijack blood vessels, angiogenesis, tumor angiogenesis in order to feed themselves. And an amazing study showed and the lab showed that when you prevent blood vessels from hitting a tumor, it'll stay two to three millimeters. The moment the blood vessels, the first blood vessel touches that cancer, it delivers oxygen and nutrient. It's like injecting fuel and air supply. That tumor can grow 16,000 times its size in just two weeks.
Ben: That's gross. It's just absolutely fascinating. You did a TED Talk, and in your TED Talk, you talked about this head-to-head comparison that you guys have looked at of the potency of a whole bunch of different foods versus drugs on angiogenesis. You had like four different cancer drugs, you had seven different medications like anti-inflammatory drugs, and statins, and a blood pressure medication, and an antibiotic. And then I think it was 16 different foods like dietary factors that you studied to see what type of things would actually limit this vascular growth to these cancers that you've just described. I'm curious what you found in that study to be most notable, and also which foods you found to, or which food groups or food components you found to be most effective at limiting this type of growth. And I realize that that's kind of a complex question, but we got time.
William: I'll break it down really simply for you. One of the things that I've done in my career is to really help develop biotech approaches to treating cancer. And the biotech approach that I've taken is really finding wasted old drugs that cut off the blood supply feeding those cancers, thereby, starving the cancer. So, this actually led to more than a dozen now FDA approved new treatments for cancer that do not have the side effects of chemotherapy because you're really not poisoning the body, you're really just biologically snipping off the supply lines, right?
Okay. So, in order to do that, I was part of a real international effort to develop the testing systems that would allow us to look at whether or not a drug or any substance you dump into the test system could inhibit abnormal angiogenesis. In other words, could stop those bad blood vessels from growing, starving the cancer. And so using this kind of gold standard test for drug development, we were really interested in testing of course cancer drugs. So, we've tested a bunch of targeted therapies, new cancer drugs, also some chemotherapies to see how they work.
And we also threw in some common drugs just for “what the hell” and see how regular drugs work as well. These are all new discoveries that–the drugs that you expect would work, yeah, they work. But some of the common drugs also like [00:18:13] ______ angiogenesis, holy cow, that might be useful to find a cheaper, more accessible, safer way to actually do this as well. But then, and this is going back, by the way, Ben, like more than 10 years, we realized that–and this is my personal story. Being involved with drug development, I thought it was crazy that I could sit at a computer in the lab and go online and pick out a chemotherapy or a fancy biotech drug, mail order it, have to FedEx to me the next day, I could pop it into this testing system and within three or four days, I would know just how potent the medicine is.
But yet I could call a grocery delivery service or even a pizza delivery guy and have food delivered in a half an hour to me piping hot, and a typical cancer researcher would have no idea how to study the impact of the food on cancer, then [00:19:10] ______ is crazy. And so what I did recognizing that gap, I said, “Well, okay. So, could we actually start to break down foods into their dietary factors by extracting them, finding like really cool ways to just pull out the active stuff from all foods? And then can we just throw what's coming out of the food into the exact same system head to head against the drugs?” And that's what we did, and that's what I talked about in my TED Talk. And what's amazing is that we can see many foods are equal to drugs, including cancer drugs in terms of cutting off the blood supply tumors, but some are even more powerful. So, ones that really impressed me in terms of potencies, and I've got actually pull out a list right now, soy extracts. We extracted from soy, tofu, soybeans, fermented soy. I mean, I'd tell you, it shut down angiogenesis by almost 90%, and much more powerful than some of the cancer drugs that are out there.
Ben: I'm going to interrupt you and we may rabbit hole as you go through a few of these, but soy is pretty controversial these days. I know in your book you do talked quite a bit about it being like this ancient legume that came from Eastern China thousands of years ago. But nowadays, although soy, and I have seen some of the data on this, has all these anti-angiogenic bioactive compounds like the isoflavones and then a bunch of other ones that I think a lot of folks have never heard of like genistein and equol and some of these glyceollins. The issue of course is we hear a lot about the estrogenic potential of soy and the concerns about things like breast cancer or prostate cancer. And so do you differentiate between forms of soy like fermented versus unfermented? Do you look at GMO versus non-GMO? Do you look at estrogenic potential? Like, what's your take on soy?
William: Yeah. So, it's a great question, and essentially, something that I am really happy to have the opportunity to bring a little clarity to your podcast line. So, here's the thing. When it comes to food and health, and food and disease, there's lots of ideas about their–most of the ideas are well-intentioned interpretations of very complicated signs. And nowhere is this more true than with soy. And the whole issue about soy being dangerous for breast cancer is an urban legend, actually, and it's so widespread. Even doctors actually tell their female patients to sort of stay away from soy if they are afraid of breast cancer, if they have a breast cancer.
So, let me kind of clear things up. Soy is a legume that comes from a plant, and there's a lot of these bioactives, naturally active chemicals, natural chemicals found in soy. It is true that soy has a phytoestrogen. That's a word that literally describes a plant-based, estrogen-like chemical. And this is where I come from, which is signs. If you take a look at the chemical structure of a phytoestrogen from soy and you were to compare it like side by side with the chemical structure of human estrogen, you'd see that they look nothing alike.
And you got to know the chemistry to look at these things, and it is true that some human breast cancers are fueled by human estrogens. And the way that those human estrogen-sensitive breast cancers are treated or prevented is by giving an estrogen blocker. And it's natural to think, well, if you just kind of hand wave it and say, “Well, you don't pay attention to the detail. Okay, so it's got estrogen, so better stay away from soy.” That's where this urban legend comes from. But actually, real research shows that not only do these [00:23:08] ______ plant estrogen, human estrogens. They don't look alike. In fact, when you put them and test them in the same system, the plant estrogen blocks the human estrogen and actually is anti-human estrogen against breast cancer.
So, on top of that, some of the other soy estrogens or phytoestrogens, including the genistein, which is one of these phytoestrogens, actually are also anti-angiogenic. So, they actually cut off the blood supply, as well as directly block the effects of hormones. So, all the sounds like scientific mumbo-jumbo, how do we know this is actually true? Well, in my book, you could be diseased. I actually talked about, like I try to put mostly human studies in there because at the end of the days, rubber meets the road, not based on the theory but whether or not we're actually finding this works in people.
So, when it comes to soy and breast cancer, I talk about this study to 5,000 women who already have breast cancer. So, these are the most vulnerable women. And the study was done over a period of years showing that those women who eats more soy, so breast cancer–women with breast cancer who ate more soy had about almost a 30% lower risk in dying from their disease, lower risk of dying from breast cancer. And if they had their cancer completely removed or treated, those who ate more soy had a 30% reduction in having their cancer coming back compared to the people who didn't eat much soy.
So, how much soy did they have to eat to be able to achieve that amount? Because the amounts or the doses of important. It's about 10 grams of soy protein per day on average in the study. And that's the amount of soy that you'd find in one glass of soy milk. That's just by an example, pragmatic, doable. And then critics will say, “Well, that's just one study.” Even 5,000 patients, that's a lot of people. It's reproducible. Well, other people have done what we call a meta-analysis, and this is where you take many different studies and just aggregate them together to see what the net effect is because lots of repetition and reproducibility is very important for medical research. Well, there's been a meta-analysis of 14 different studies of breast cancer and death, and soy consumption in every single study. And the meta-analysis show that in every single case, soy was associated with survival, and in no case was it actually associated with mortality. So, that's pretty convincing.
Ben: Yeah. I do know, because I think I talked about this on my podcast like two or three years ago, the isoflavones in soy particularly and some of the animal studies that show potential for activation of some genes related to cancer or growth of cancer, I do know, if I recall correctly, it was massive doses of like isolated isoflavones that they were giving to these animals. I think that in this case, it was a rodent model, but that's far different than say consuming let's say a whole fermented soy product like natto or miso or tempeh on a regular basis. It'd be like if a study came out on rodents that showed that massive doses of the amino acid methionine cause cancer and then everybody's saying steak is going to give you cancer. I mean, it seems like that's kind of the type of logic being used here.
William: That's exactly true. And we all know that the dose makes the difference between the poison versus the cure. It's like an ancient saying. And it's true in medicine, right? Not enough doesn't give you enough. Too much could actually be fatal. And I'll give you the great example like–and we know this can be very true for certain types of foods. Here's something super common in the Mediterranean diet, which we know is healthy is garlic, like allium. Garlic is related to onions, it's related to chives, everything else. Garlic is good for you. There's a lot of natural chemicals in garlic that actually lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, help your telomeres, those kinds of things.
But if you have a ton of garlic–and I remember when I was in college, I had a teacher who was super into garlic. You could smell it coming from a mile away. He ate something like 30 cloves of garlic a day, which is an unreasonable amount. And high doses of something like garlic actually can box your kidney. So, [00:27:49] ______ one of the kidney failure died. Like I said, and I think your point is well-made, which is be very careful interpreting animal studies for the human and saying you want to always look at what dose they've actually tested because again, doses between the cure versus the poison.
Ben: Yeah. And of course, a lot of people are probably trying to jump through the podcast right now and are shouting about all the anti-nutrients in soy like the saponins, and the phytates, and the trypsin inhibitors, and the goitrogens. But basically, if you're eating fermented soy, and I don't know if you have any comments on this, Dr. Li, traditional fermentation pretty much destroys most of those anti-nutrients. I tell people they don't play it safe. Yeah, don't grab the block of tofu out of the produce section of the grocery store, but I mean, miso, natto, tempeh, a fermented soy sauce, any of those type of things I'm a fan of.
I don't personally–like when I go to sushi, just because I am concerned about the anti-nutrients, I don't eat at a moment. I don't grab the bags of like the soy nuts, the good crunchy soy nuts, but I just don't eat them. And even soy sauce I'm careful with unless I'm actually consuming fermented soy. I went to Japan last year and made this wonderful batch of a fermented miso that's in my refrigerator right now, and I've been having a big tablespoon of that a day, and it's fantastic, full of wonderful bacteria. But yeah, I do think people should ferment soy. What's your take on fermentation?
William: Yeah. Well, fermentation does a lot of things besides make the food taste different, better, richer, great, more umami. One thing that it does is it actually changes the chemical structure as you point out. One of the things that I run–what I think we're discovering in medical research when it comes to food, the whole food is medicine research movement, there are people like me that just–we just go by science. So, we try not to have any preconceived notions.
Fermentation changes the chemistry. It does tend to take down some of the less useful substances that might be naturally occurring, and it tends to concentrate the good stuff. So, in the case of genistein as one example, fermentation concentrates the bioactive in soy. So, your instinct, Ben, is probably pretty good. When you eat edamame, if you like to eat it, that's probably fine. But in fact, getting fermented nattos and tempehs more of that beneficial nutrients that you would actually have from the soy. So, you'd get more with more fermentation. The second thing is actually you get bacteria, which then turns the food into kind of having that probiotic quality, which is also good for our gut, which then improves our immune system. So, optimizing our body [00:30:40] ______. Good natural fermentation, traditional fermentation is supposed to have factory-run fermentation. It's probably the way to go.
Ben: Yeah. And actually, I'm going to derail you from your TED Talk for a second because you only talked about one of the anti-angiogenic foods that you found, soy. And I think we established that fermented forms of soy, preferably like from a non-GMO source, those are definitely not bad news bears for most people's diets. But of course, you were just talking about the bacteria. And in the book, I had folded over a page where you talked about this researcher. I think his name was Metchnikoff and he suggested that one secret to longevity was consuming healthy bacteria.
And then in the book, you cite this study of–I think it was over 1,000 ridiculously healthy people who had no health issues or family history of serious disease across all age groups. And the common denominator among them was their microbiome and specific bacteria that seemed to induce profound impacts when it comes to health. So, if that's true, are there, and have you found this in any of your research, are there specific forms of bacteria that people should be looking for if they're going to supplement their diet with some type of yogurt, or some type of probiotic, or some type of specific bacteria?
William: Yeah. So, what's really interesting is in my book, “Eat to Beat Disease,” I talked about when it comes to food in health, it's not just the food, it's how our body responds to what we put inside it. And among the responses that are important is our microbiome. It's one of five health defense systems. Angiogenesis good circulation is one of them, our stem cell is another, the microbiome is the third one, our DNA protection nexus is the fourth, and our immune system is the fifth one. So, these are five [00:32:32] ______ that defend our health and the microbiome is turning out to be much more important than anyone ever thought.
So, going back to this guy Metchnikoff, his name Elia Metchnikoff, and he's like from the early 20th century, like 19 [00:32:47] ______. He was a zoologist and he was in France during the cholera epidemic. He was saying like color, like just knocking people out, like killing people left and right. But what's on is he found that there were, when he actually grew bacteria in a petri dish that contained cholera, these lethal bacteria, that some bacteria actually killed the cholera. So, back then, it was like all bacteria's bad, right? That's kind of our normal thinking. And cholera is really bad. Metchnikoff found that when you put some bacteria into a dish of cholera, some of those bacteria are good bacteria. They killed the bad bacteria.
So, that kind of led us. Those are the early roots back in the early 19th century and the 20th century, 1900s. They lead us into thinking about the cause of–or maybe not, maybe we've got some good bacteria. Fast forward, we know–and when I went to medical school, I knew for a fact that you gave super powerful antibiotics that would clear out the gut bacteria. You could get this thing called C. diff colitis where you have an overgrowth of a big bad bacteria called Clostridium difficile, C. difficile, and that could kill you. It actually turns out that the best way to treat this kind of infection besides giving and getting another antibiotic, which then knocks your body in the other direction, that's just treating a bad thing with another bad thing is actually a fecal transplant. So, you actually put good bacteria in–treating bad bacteria with good bacteria, you can actually calm down this kind of disaster of the gut with bad bacteria.
So, let's take a look at where we are now. We now know that our body contains 39 trillion bacteria on average, 39 trillion. That's more bacteria in our body than our cells. And most of the bacteria lives in our gut. And there are so many different types of species of bacteria, tens of thousands of species. We haven't even figured them all out yet. So, this is an undiscovered country jungle out there we're figuring out. However, what's really interesting–and again, I go by science, and so I'm not going to tell you this Metchnikoff probiotic, but I will tell you that Metchnikoff notice that poor Bulgarian monks who lived in really crappy conditions where people are getting sick all over the place, when they ate yogurt, actually [00:35:18] ______ product, they tended to live like a ripe old age, and he thought that that bacteria might be poor.
Ben: You should note, by the way, this isn't Dannon Fruit on the Bottom Yogurt that's pasteurized or–like this is full-on natural rich full-fat yogurt I would imagine.
William: That is completely the case. And it's also not the sweetened yogurt with added sugar, kind of like coating the whole thing because most of the commercial stuff to get there is like really sugary jelly stuff that got a big [00:35:51] ______ yogurt put on top of it. So, again, back to the theme of sort of like [00:35:57] ______ being important, here's what we do know. When you actually look in the stool of people who are really healthy, there is sort of the ecosystem that we're starting to be able to characterize of 39 trillion bacteria. We're just starting to have the ability to kind of pick out which ones are really good.
But more deliberate research is finding some amazing good actors. One of those good actors is that common bacteria called Akkermansia. That was specifically called Akkermansia muciniphila, Greek word, hard to pronounce. Let me just say for your listeners that this is a healthy gut bacteria that makes 1% to 2% of our gut population, our gut bacteria population, and it lives in the mucus that naturally lines our gut. So, our colon naturally secretes mucus on there. And when you have bad diarrhea, it's mucusy, like that mucus is not normal, and that bacteria thrives.
It turns out Akkermansia has now been identified as one of the surveillance bacteria that helps keep us healthy. It's just basically like a lawnmower and it keeps the general tenor of our health normal like you [00:37:12] ______ Akkermansia. And if you don't have Akkermansia, which by the way, even common antibiotics you would use that if somebody prescribed kind of like for bronchitis, that will wipe out most of your Akkermansia. And also your body's surveillance system for health goes down. And in Akkermansia, you cannot actually eat as a probiotic. The only way that you can grow Akkermansia back in your body, to our knowledge currently, you may change it in a few years, but currently is actually eat the right kinds of food.
So, it turns out that pomegranate juice, full strength, full bore pomegranate juice that you would press yourself actually contains a natural chemical bioactive component, ellagitannins. Those ellagitannins don't do anything to the bacteria themselves, but they naturally prompt our colon cells, gut cells in our gut to secrete mucus. Once you actually have a lot of mucus there, it's basically throwing fertilizer to the soil. Whatever tiny little Akkermansia particles are left, they'll start to bloom like roses in your garden and you can grow right back up. Okay?
And this has turned out to be the difference between patients with cancer who respond to the latest immune therapies that use the body to knock out cancer. And if you have Akkermansia, you will likely respond to the immune therapy because Akkermansia helps your immune system. And if you don't have Akkermansia, look at how many cancer patients get antibiotic. It's just a normal course of the treatment. If you don't have it, you're likely not to respond. So, here's one bacteria that sciences pinned up [00:38:52] _______ that seems to be kind of life or death surveillance of health, very important that you can't eat a probiotic for, but that you can actually nurture with foods, pomegranate juice, cranberry juice, even conquered grape juice, they actually have those natural chemicals that prompt secretion. So, that's one of them.
Ben: Hey, I want to interrupt today's show. I was talking about chocolate earlier. Now, you want more chocolate? You want every different kind of dark chocolate on the face of the planet from stevia flavored dark chocolate to sea salt almond dark chocolate, to coconut infused dark chocolate, to even chocolate with bacon in it? Go to Thrive Market. Thrive Market is this online grocery store that has sourced everything, and then giving you 25% to 50% off traditional retail prices. It's an online membership-based market. All their stuff is organic, non-GMO.
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I'm going to throw a wrench into the equation though because I do know that biochemical individuality or at least genetic individuality may play a role here as well with Akkermansia because there are some studies I've seen showing it to be associated with some neurological disorders, like Parkinson's or–I think MS was another, possibly Alzheimer's as well. And I think it's unclear at this point whether high levels of Akkermansia in the biome of these individuals is something that predispose them to disease or something that occurred post-disease. But regardless, there's some kind of a correlation there.
And for me, just from the data I've seen, if I had a high genetic risk for a neurological disease like Parkinson's or Alzheimer's or MS, I might consider limiting Akkermansia or at least perhaps looking into some of the data on it because it's one of those weird good bug, bad bug type of phenomenon and–I don't know. Sometimes I wonder when I look at a whole bunch of healthy people from one specific area of the world that have a high amount of bacteria, certain bacteria in their gut, I question if the logic should flow to, therefore, everybody should have that bacteria in their gut. Do you think that's an unfair thought or should we proceed with caution with some of these bacteria?
William: Well, I think it's a fair point, which is that there's no single organism that is the magic bullet that is just going to protect us. And so, a little Akkermansia doesn't mean a ton of Akkermansia can [00:44:23] ______. What we know is that no Akkermansia is probably not good for you. And so encouraging to grow is actually better, and that's really linked to the common use of antibiotics that will wipe it out. We'll deep dive a little bit into your nuance here because that's actually important.
Some people metabolize the ellagitannins very differently than others, which can actually have a different type of effect in the gut in the microbiome. And so I think correctly, you point out the fact that very individual metabolizes from it differently. And so it's very important to look at yourself as an individual, look at what your individual risks are. And some people won't tolerate pomegranate juice at all. The body reacts poorly to it. Our body actually is an incredible quorum sensor. It knows when the neighborhood is good and when the neighborhood is like unhappy with things.
So, I think that the 39 trillion bacteria were just at the beginning of teasing this out. So, research is actually showing another bacteria called Lactobacillus reuteri being really important and with some remarkable activities for our health. And this is a bacteria that actually moms give babies. And the amazing discoveries come with eight months pregnant. If she has these bacteria in her colon, the uterus at least sends a signal to the colon. It's like calling an Uber. And the bacteria in the gut actually respond by hopping into cells called neutrophils. These are normal white blood cells.
But they don't actually infect the cell and destroy them. They just like hop a ride into the cell and they ride the cell from the colon all the way up into the breast. And then like an Uber, the cell drops off these bacteria near the breast ducts, the milk ducts and the breast. They kind of camp out there until the baby's born. And when the baby first starts suckling for breastfeeding, the milk ducts actually inject along with this Lactobacillus reuteri, which is one of the first bacteria to colonize the baby. This is actually one way that moms [00:46:42] ______ and microbiome get passed onto babies and why maternal health and hygiene is actually one way to optimize the health of a baby.
So, this whole optimization starts really from the get-go of life. What we found out about Lactobacillus reuteri is it actually helps to boost the immune system. It actually speeds up the healing of injury. It does this actually by prompting better blood vessels to grow for healing. It also helps to remarkably make hair shinier. So, it actually improves even the quality of your hair like an end-organ on your skin, which improves the optical quality of the hair. And in animal studies, okay, we're back in the lab now, it actually gives a powerful suppressor probably by the immune system to prevent tumors from growing in the gut like colon, and it also prevents tumors from growing in the breast as well.
And so, this is again sort of a growing [00:47:44] _____ that Lactobacillus reuteri support. And unlike Akkermansia, with Lactobacillus reuteri, you can take this as a supplement. And they're often found in the [00:47:53] ______ supplements. And the other thing is you can get them in food. It turns out that not all people can tolerate dairy and too much dairy is not good for you. But Lactobacillus reuteri is used to make Parmesan cheese, like originally, the original Parmesan cheese. It's also used to make the original sourdough bread. It's actually the bacteria that creates that sour taste.
Ben: Yeah. And there's a doctor who I interviewed, Dr. William Davis, who gave me his recipe for the reuteri yoghurt, which I began to make and it's very simple. It's just coconut milk with some of the BioGaia L. reuteri tablets you can get on Amazon. You crush them in like a mortar and pestle, and then you can combine those with the yogurt, and you just ferment it for like 100, 110 degrees in your oven or in a food dehydrator for a day and you get billions and billions more organisms out of–then you'd get from just like taking the L. reuteri capsule or the tablet in this case that you get from Amazon.
And then the other one that I like is I interviewed a guy from a company called Seed, and it's this probiotic called Seed, and they like envelope L. reuteri and these other bacteria in an [00:49:05] _____ like a protective [00:49:07] ______ layer so it resists the acidic nature of the stomach and winds up actually, as the name implies, like seeding the actual intestine with L. reuteri or L. reuteri. So, it's a very, very cool bacteria. I've been using it ever since I interviewed Dr. Davis, either in supplement form like with the seed probiotic or by making my own yogurt using that trick that he taught me with those tablets off Amazon.
William: And I'll give you one additional tip since you're getting such great tips from the people you're guesting in your show. It turns out that L. reuteri actually competes with and destroys in your oral microbiome, your mouth. It actually destroys the bacteria strip mutants that causes cavities on the teeth. So, it actually combats tooth decay.
Ben: Wow, wow. Cool. All right. Well, everybody, every one of my listeners is going to be taking L. reuteri at this point because I've talked about it now on enough shows. So, we, and I'm sure some people are wanting me to come back full circle to your TED Talk because we basically–we talked about soy and we took a rabbit hole in the fermented soy, then we took a rabbit hole into Akkermansia and L. reuteri, but what would be another food that you found to be highly anti-angiogenic and control some of this potential for cancer growth from the cancer that we all have but that really needs to have blood vessels growing to it to become an issue?
William: Yeah. So, I think something that helps make–things that impressed me that make a lot of sense are berries. So, it turns out that different types of berries, the tartness of the berries is often due to ellagic acid, and that tartness, that acid, the actual acid actually is a powerful effect to inhibit angiogenesis. In fact, it is more powerful than the drugs we actually tested when you go head to head in our system for my TED Talk. And by the way, these are black raspberries, chokeberries. Most people just think about berries like blueberries. The strawberries and blackberries are common things you see in the supermarket. But it's really worth going out there and hunting for other edible berries in markets like I wouldn't go into the [00:51:29] ______ in farmers' markets or just reading about indigenous berries that young people in Latin America eat. There's amazing properties that we're starting to discover from them.
Ben: Yeah. I was blown away by what you noted on chokeberry, sorry to interrupt, the chokeberry. I hadn't seen them in much data. Obviously, I knew about blueberries and what I consider to be an even better form of blueberry, the bilberry, and some of the cranberries and some of those that are high in the tannins that kind of had that little bit of a bitter tart aftertaste. But I hadn't really done much with chokeberries, and I underlined that in your book and wrote a note to myself. I have yet to actually find a good local source for chokeberries. I found on, I think it's nuts.com, you can buy like dried chokeberries. But if anybody who's listening in, I'm saying this out of pure selfishness, you live in the Inland Northwest, if you know of a good chokeberry source, let me know because it appears based on William's book that they're pretty potent in terms of anti-angiogenic properties.
William: Well, and also the other part that is amazing is that some foods activate multiple defense systems at the same time. In the case of chokeberries, which–by the way, if you're having trouble finding chokeberries, that's the name that–that's one way that it's called. Another name that sometimes that are found is called aronia, A-R-O-N-I-A. And if you look at aronia berries, that's what it is.
Ben: I didn't know that. Then I've had chokeberries. Never mind. Okay, cool. And I know you can you buy those like frozen on Amazon, aronia berries.
Ben: That's great. Okay, cool. Good to know. Awesome.
William: And they're used like in Eastern Europe for traditional jams and jellies and things like that. So, this is not a new genetically modified superfood somehow. This is actually a traditional berry that has different names to it, but actually, it's not that difficult to get. But what's really interesting is some researchers take a look at young healthy people. And again, trying to optimize health, they actually found that exposing the chokeberry extracts actually can protect your own stem cells, our natural stem cells, against stress, [00:53:51] ______. So, they actually make some more resistance to stress.
William: Yeah. So, parsley is another food that has anti-angiogenic activity. Most of us don't eat big bunches of parsley like you would eat another–some people can eat a lot of plant-based foods of a kind. But parsley is really kind of a condiment, the flavoring, but you can actually blend it into a smoothie. You can actually get quite a lot of it and you get some green colors, kind of a strong-ish plant-like taste. But that's actually remarkably the leaves of parsley actually have this remarkable anti-angiogenic, which would be tumor starving effect as well.
So, a small plant, small leaf potent flavor, and then you think about how parsley is actually used. Again, I think our food, our healthy food as we're discovering, or perhaps I should say rediscovering healthy food, we're realizing that fresh whole well-grown, well-processed, or cooked things that the techniques actually have a lot of sense. So, how's parsley used? I mean, the traditional cooks used to have a bunch of parsley growing by their kitchen. And whatever they're making, they would actually pick some of these leaves off and throw them into the meal, right? So, you're just adding an enhancement of something that only tastes good, but actually be good for you. But you can actually then take parsley and really do something with it as well. So, that's another impressive anti-angiogenic food.
Ben: Now, when you're talking about some of the tannins, like the chokeberries in some of these foods, I know you guys did some really interesting studies on not just wine, but a few different beverages like the Angiogenesis Foundation. You guys studied teas, you researched wines, and I think you also looked into like a hot chocolate or a cacao. Can you dig into what you found that when you were looking at different beverages?
William: Yeah. Well, so let me tell you [00:56:05] _____. So, everybody knows that green tea is good for you. I'm a big fan of green tea. My great-uncle who lived to 105 independently [00:56:15] ______, he lived at the base of a tea mountain in China. And so he drank tea his whole life and it was quite amazing how healthy he actually was. But what we tend to do I think in the health community when we're talking to people, it's so easy to leave the impression that like, “Okay. So, green tea, that's an answer, and all green teas are the same.” We wanted to challenge that to say, “Is that true? Are all teas the same?”
And by the way, some people say black teas aren't so good for you because they have been fermented and they've destroyed all the healthy polyphenols. We said, “You know what, let science tell us the answer.” So, we studied two different types of green tea, Japanese Sencha, which is often regarded popularly as the most powerful, Japanese green tea is super powerful, versus Chinese jasmine tea. And we said, “What's stronger, the Japanese or the Chinese tea?” Well, the assumption would have been the Japanese. It turned out that the jasmine tea is actually more powerful than the Sencha, the Japanese tea.
And then we found a surprise, the black tea. We looked at Earl Grey that the black tea actually had even more power than the green tea. Now, what is Earl Grey? It's black fermented tea. But it also contains bergamot, which is a citrus, which actually contributes to as anti-angiogenic activity as well. And then the real [00:57:43] ______ combined Chinese and Japanese tea, each of which was less powerful–they're powerful but less potent than the Earl Grey black teas. We combined those two, Japanese and Chinese tea. So, these are two teas that culturally would never be combined together. You would never just think of doing that, [00:58:03] _____.
Ben: Total tea bastardization.
William: Right, exactly. But when you combine those two teas, Sencha and Chinese jasmine tea, you wound up creating a hybrid tea that is more powerful than the Earl Grey. So, all of a sudden, you jumped even where you certainly have tea synergies. And so, this tells us that food combinations are important to understand and that not all teas are the same.
Ben: I'm going to interrupt you real quick because I guess maybe it's the entrepreneur businessman in me wondering this, but has anybody actually branded like a Japanese-Chinese tea combo that's like a Sencha jasmine tea and marketed that as an anti-angiogenic type of tea?
William: Yes. So, my organization, the Angiogenesis Foundation, we work with Harney teas. They're a tea distributor. And we use the research because they had donated a tea. We actually created that hybrid tea. So, you can search on Harney teas and look for angiogenesis tea and you actually get exactly the product that we actually discovered. But as an entrepreneur, I'll tell you this is the beginning of I think a future of entrepreneurism opportunities to be able to take a look at these–really use objective research, hardcore research, and really just explore these combinations. I mean, some combinations might make things weaker. Others might make them super powerful.
What happens if we combine these Chinese and Japanese tea, combine it with another tea, like an Assam tea from India? Could we get even more? So, the future is–like, I'm super excited by what it's going to have in the future. So, even with tea alone, we know that's powerful for wine. We know that red wine can be good for you and we know that it's not the alcohol. So, that's why moderation is really important. Drinking more than a couple of glasses of wine a day starts to veer into damaging your–having a potential damage to your liver and having more effects of the ethanol in alcohol than the bioactives that the fermentation of the wine–again, natural fermentation is pulling out the color of the red wine.
But one of the things that I wanted to find out is that, are all red wines created equal? So, we wanted to study this, but how do you study red wine head to head? You need wines that are grown in the exact same climate. So, we went to Napa and we talked to a grower that had Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot grapes, and they were all making the wines. We got the same [01:00:40] ______ from the same year. I think it was 2012. And we basically said, “Give us your commercial versions of the Cab Sauv, Cabernet, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot, and Pinot Noir.”
Now, if you were to ask typical health person who loves wine and say, “Well, Pinot Noir is going to be the most powerful because it's got–Pinot Noir grapes has the highest amount of resveratrol.” That may be true, but we wanted the output, the cellular output, like how powerful it is for inhibiting angiogenesis. And what we found when we just did the head to head, side by side, same [01:01:17] ______, same climate, same factory, same pickers, the only thing that was different is actually the species of grape, the varietal. We found that the three most potent wines from that vintage year were the Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and the Petit Verdot. And in fact, the Pinot Noir was one of the weaker wines that we found. So, again, you have to sort of just look at the data.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. And I would imagine, by the way, I mean, before everybody runs out and buys a big California Cab or even gets like a Petit Verdot, like the organic biodynamic nature of the wine is pretty important too because I have an article about this I can link to in the show notes at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/eattobeatdisease. But I mean, everything from the type of irrigation used in the crops to herbicides, pesticides, and I think the 80 plus different synthetic or derivatives or preservatives or chemicals that are allowed in wine these days influences my wine choices like I always look for organic, I look for biodynamic, I subscribe to that Dry Farm Wine company's wine where they ship bottles to my house.
And in the article I wrote, I talked about how–yeah, I mean, there's a lot of research on the protective effects of regular alcohol consumption. I think it's about two to three glasses of wine for men, one to two glasses for women for longevity, for dementia, for glymphatic function, for decreased stroke risk, decreased inflammation. And I even think that some of it might be a little bit of a hormetic effect of the alcohol as well. Like I think even though people consider alcohol to be a toxin, I suspect a little bit of it is actually providing a hormetic effect, just like sunlight or heat or cold or anything like that.
William: Totally agree with that. And I support, and I practice the same preferences of wine choice as you do, organic, biodynamic, all great. And some of the more progressive vendors are actually growing it that way if you like California wines as you said. French wines, it's very traditional. The most amazing biodynamic, organic growing is in the south of France at a place called Château la Coste, the fantastic wines to choose from as well. And I also, by the way, agree with the hormetic effect. Hormesis is a concept that is almost foreign, almost rejected by most of the medical community that is used to saying more is more.
And what we're really looking at is this bell-shaped curve, which is to try to figure out what's that magic sweet spot where a little bit might not be enough, but just right amount gives you exactly what your body needs to optimize itself. And then if you go too much beyond that, you lose all the benefits, then you might get some of the benefits. So, I think exactly that that's where probably wine falls into that hormetic effect at the ethanol level.
And then chocolate, we talked about, is something we also looked at. It's really interesting. There's a couple of different types of chocolate research that we've been looking at. The most recent one, which I didn't write yet in my book because we hadn't actually done the experiment, but we just presented this earlier this year at the American Society for Nutrition, the ASN meeting. This is brand spanking new. It's not even in the book yet. I will tell you, we looked at dark chocolate cacao and we looked at greater than 80%. So, that's pretty dark. And it's the same kind of cacao that's used to make really dark hot chocolate. And we said, “Well, can we make the assumption that 80% cacao is the same as long as the percent is the same in terms of activity?”
And that's really what we're doing, you're hearing me talk about is challenging common knowledge or challenging the assumptions that most people have, that 80% cacao will be the same no matter where you got it and how it works. So, we looked at a Dutch chocolate, and then we looked at a Swiss chocolate, both 80%, and we found something amazing. First, both are anti-angiogenic. We also found that both dark cacao types would actually, and this is brand new discovery, would kill lymphoma cells, like directly kill cancer cells, the liquid cancers.
Now, here's what's either more interesting. We found that the Dutch chocolate actually had twice the anti-angiogenic activity as a Swiss chocolate. So, in other words, even though they were both 80%, like there's something different about where the cacao came from or how it was actually handled.
Ben: Now, what about South America? Because a lot of chocolate, a lot of cacao–like I drink this stuff called MiCacao tea. I've talked about it on podcast before. It's basically this blend where they take the cacao bean and they blend–I think it's like the shell with the nibs and it's Ecuadorian is where they source it from. It's like this hit of dopamine and theobromine. It's wonderful. It's like an alternative to coffee in the morning. But again, it's South American, it's not a Dutch origin. Did you guys look into South America at all?
William: Yeah, yeah. No. So, I'll tell you. So, when I mentioned Dutch source, we'd sourced it from a cacao distributor in The Netherlands versus Switzerland. But in fact, things actually come from Ecuador and they come from Latin America and Mexico, they come from Africa. That's the sort of the areas where cacao, your chocolate, cacao beans are actually grown. So, that's [01:07:02] ______ tracking back. So, research is sort of like laying brick by brick and then doing kind of like CSI investigation. So, the next thing we're doing, what I'm telling you is like steaming out of the oven kind of discoveries, whereas you're going to go back and track that [01:07:18] _____ beans came from as well.
Ben: Okay. Awesome. Very cool. Man, I've got this whole list of foods. It's kind of funny because I, this summer, did a lot of podcasting on the carnivore diet. And although I adopted a very kind of like nose-to-tail approach to eating all my meats, I now consume a large amount of bone broth, liver, heart, kidney, even things like the testicles of the animal and some of the suet, the fat around the kidneys. I never quite gave up on things like my wine, that cacao tea that I talked about, my coffee in the morning, a little bit of dark chocolate here and there, and then a lot of these–like I get like concentrated vegetable powders from Dr. Tom Cowan, and I supplemented my nose-to-tail carnivore-ish diet with a lot of these compounds.
I've just had a very hard time, especially after reading your book, finding many anti-angiogenic compounds that are naturally found in meat or meat alone. And this might be a little bit of a curveball. I don't know if anybody's ever asked you this question but have you ever seen any evidence that if you're eating a nose-to-tail carnivore type diet, you would still be getting some anti-angiogenic compounds even if you're in things like chokeberries, and wine, and coffee, and chocolate, and things like this?
William: Yeah. I wouldn't call it a curveball question, I'd call it a very sophisticated question, which is what has been done to discover anti-angiogenic properties in meats, right? So, it's not in a flesh. That I can tell you. It's not in the skin even, I don't believe, and not in the fat, but it's actually in the cartilage and the collagen because collagen actually in the body. So, think about an athlete. Our cartilage is naturally a vascular. It doesn't actually have a rich blood supply by itself. And that's important because it's actually not intended to be kind of like swollen and packed with blood, but really to give us more strength by what they're connected to, right?
So, they're like the spelunker's rope with a mountaineering rope is what our tendons are, [01:09:40] ______ collagen, and collagen is naturally a vast [01:09:43] ______. So, how do they stay a vascular? When the whole body and the muscles that the tendons are connected to are actually so vascular. Muscles are super vascular. So, just connected to them, it's completely a vascular, it's a tendons and collagen contain naturally-occurring anti-angiogenic substances that are found in tissues.
Ben: Okay. So, if you're eating, let's say, a bone broth, you would get some of those collagen peptides, I know. Or if you were like chewing the knuckles off of like the ends of some of the long bones of, let's say, a whole roasted chicken or something like that, I would imagine you might be getting a little bit if you're kind of digging into some of the grisly bits if you're eating a ribeye steak or something along those lines, but I would imagine that it's probably primarily bone broth and maybe supplementing a diet like that as I know a lot of [01:10:36] ______ to do with some type of collagen powder or collagen peptide or something like that.
William: Yeah. Well, something like this is the beginning of a new era of area of research that I'm looking into. It's super interesting to figure out, like do they come out in the broth? If you swallow them, will they actually have a biological effect? Outside, like somebody who appreciates food and culture, if you look in some Taiwanese, for example, favorite dishes, there's like beef tendon noodles, right? And so, they're actually cooking a tendon add the full flavor of the broth, and the whole tendon is actually digested. So, it's super interesting to think about like how those–identify what's in them, how available they are to your body once you eat them, and then to really start thinking or maybe even rethinking what are the benefits of these different types of diets including the carnivore diet.
Ben: Yeah. It sounds to me like just if–because I know a lot of my listeners now are trying this like nose-to-tail carnivore diet approach, you just supplement that with either homemade bone broth or a couple of cartons–I use that organic Kettle & Fire stuff, the Kettle & Fire bone broth, something like that to get these anti-angiogenesis factors that would inhibit the growth of blood vessels even if you're not eating a lot of vegetables and some of these other tannic foods that you've talked about. It sounds to me like that would be at least a smart thing to do in getting some kind of collagen fragments in your diet.
William: Absolutely, absolutely.
Ben: Okay. Got it. You know, we only scratched the freaking surface of some of the stuff that you talked about in this book. It is absolutely fantastic. And again, folks, the name of the book is “Eat to Beat Disease.” Dr. Li also has a fantastic TED Talk about eating to starve cancer, kind of covers some of the things in the book, but the book takes an even deeper dive. So, I think it's a wonderful read. And again, I'm going to link to it and a lot of the other stuff that we talked about it's over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/eattobeatdisease. As I do when I read, I tend to do a lot of like Kindle highlights as I go through the book, and I'll share a few of my biggest most notable takeaways and some of my Kindle highlights over there too, which I sometimes do when I do a podcast like this. And Dr. Li, dude, thank you so much for coming on and sharing this stuff with us, man.
William: Super, super pleasure for me to talk to somebody who is so incisive and passionate about figuring out how do optimize our health, and getting that information out to people, and doing it a super-intelligent, super practical and super exciting way. Thank you.
Ben: Oh, thanks, man. Thanks. I appreciate that. And yeah, again, so for all of you listening in, BenGreenfieldFitness.com/eattobeatdisease, and until next time. I'm Ben Greenfield along with Dr. William Li signing out from BenGreenfieldFitness.com. Have an amazing week.
Well, thanks for listening to today's show. You can grab all the shownotes, the resources, pretty much everything that I mentioned over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com, along with plenty of other goodies from me, including the highly helpful “Ben Recommends” page, which is a list of pretty much everything that I've ever recommended for hormone, sleep, digestion, fat loss, performance, and plenty more.
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**Editorial note: Please bear with the audio as we experienced a poor internet connection during the call.
Recently, my friend J.J. Virgin turned me on to Dr. William W. Li and his book “Eat to Beat Disease: The New Science of How Your Body Can Heal Itself”–a really great read that delves into the research-based healing powers of a variety of foods.
Dr. Li is CEO, president, and medical director of the Angiogenesis Foundation, a nonprofit organization he co-founded in 1994 to reconceptualize health and fight disease through angiogenesis—the process used by the body to grow and maintain blood vessels.
Spanning over two decades, Dr. Li’s leadership in the field of angiogenesis and its clinical translation has brought to the world 30 paradigm-shifting treatments for cancer, vision loss, and wound healing. His vision, expertise, and global multidisciplinary networks are focused on conquering disease, and improving quality of life and the human condition through diet, lifestyle, and judicious use of medicines that optimize health throughout aging.
Dr. Li’s work engages the White House, the Clinton Global Initiative, National Institutes of Health, Fortune 500 companies, and leading universities and medical institutions across North and South America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. Dr. Li’s work has impacted more than 50 million people worldwide. His TED talk “Can we eat to starve cancer?” has over 5 million views. In 2010, U2 lead singer Bono identified Dr. Li in The New York Times as “one of the top 10 with the potential for changing the world in the next 10 years.”
Dr. Li received his undergraduate degree with honors from Harvard College, his medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and completed clinical training in internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. He has authored over 100 peer-reviewed scientific and clinical articles, book chapters, and abstracts, including publications in leading journals such as Science, Lancet, New England Journal of Medicine, and Nature Reviews. Dr. Li has held faculty appointments at Harvard Medical School, Tufts University, and Dartmouth Medical School. He serves on the board of directors of the Angiogenesis Foundation, the American College of Wound Healing and Tissue Repair, and Wound Reach Foundation, as well as public and private companies focused on health and life sciences innovation.
A few big takeaways from his book include:
– Regarding stem cells: Some foods like dark chocolate, black tea, and beer can mobilize them and help us regenerate. Other foods, like purple potatoes, can kill deadly stem cells that spark cancer growth.
– We all have cancer growing in our body. Every single one of us, even you. Over time, however, some tiny nests of cancer can overwhelm the defense system and overcome antiangiogenic countermeasures by releasing huge amounts of the same growth factor signals involved in wound healing. In lab experiments, once new blood vessels sprout into the small cluster of cancer cells, a tumor can grow exponentially, expanding up to sixteen thousand times in size in only two weeks after angiogenesis starts.
– Even as little as thirty minutes of exposure to tobacco smoke exhaled by someone else is enough to stun your stem cells.
– Not surprisingly, air pollution is similarly damaging. Researchers have found that in people living in communities with major air pollution problems, exposure to fine particulate matter during pollution flares lowers the number of endothelial progenitor cells in their blood.
– Among the Malmo participants, researchers found that those with the highest levels of stem cell factor had a lower risk of heart failure by 50 percent, a lower risk of stroke by 34 percent, and a lower risk of death from any cause by 32 percent compared to those participants with the lowest levels of stem cell factor.
– During the cholera epidemic of 1892 in France, Metchnikoff mixed bacteria together in a petri dish and found that some bacteria could stimulate cholera growth, but to his surprise found that other bacteria hindered it. This led him to speculate whether swallowing some types of helpful bacteria might be useful for preventing deadly diseases. He was also struck by the fact that some people lived to a ripe old age despite harsh rural conditions and poor hygiene associated with poverty. In Bulgaria, he noted, there were peasants in the Caucasus Mountains who lived beyond one hundred years. He observed that the oldest villagers were drinking fermented yogurt containing the bacteria Lactobacillus bulgaricus. Metchnikoff suggested that one secret to longevity is consuming healthy bacteria.
– A study of 1,095 “ridiculously healthy people” who have no health issues or family history of serious disease across all age groups (from age three to more than one hundred years old) showed that a common denominator in both young and old is an almost identical microbiome.
– The scientists concluded that some healthy bacteria are resilient and can bounce back from a dietary insult, while others cannot. They called the persistent defect a “scar” left on the microbiome due to diet. Here’s where it gets interesting in this study. The microbiome scar became larger over generations when the researchers began breeding the mice and exposing each generation of mice to the high-fat, low-fiber Western-style diet. With each generation, more and more of the original bacteria from the healthy human disappeared from their microbiome. By the fourth generation (great-grandchildren of the original), a sobering 72 percent of the microbes from the initial healthy mice were no longer detectable. Generations of eating the same unhealthy high-fat, low-fiber diet killed off healthy gut microbes permanently.
– But wound healing was only the beginning. In the lab, L. reuteri also reduced abdominal fat and obesity in mice, even if they ate a junk food diet of potato chips. L. reuteri can stimulate the growth of thick, shiny, healthy hair; improve skin tone; boost the immune system; and prevent the growth of tumors in the colon and in the breast. And that’s not all. Experiments have shown that in male mice, L. reuteri in drinking water increases testicular size, testosterone production, and mating frequency. A truly fascinating finding was that L. reuteri stimulates the brain to release the hormone oxytocin, which is the social bonding neurochemical that is released from the brain during a hug or handshake, by close friendship, during kissing, breast feeding, and orgasm. The depth of research conducted with this one bacteria is so impressive it led to an article in The New York Times called “Microbes, a Love Story.” Needless to say, this is a probiotic worthy of taking because of the scientific evidence for its actions and potential benefits.
– Do you wear sunscreen every time you get on a flight? You should. A 2015 study by researchers from the University of California, San Francisco published in the journal JAMA Dermatology showed that pilots flying for just one hour at thirty thousand feet altitude receive the same amount of UV radiation through the cockpit window as they would from a twenty-minute session in a tanning salon.
– Solvents off-gassing from carpets, new cars, and chemicals in ordinary household products like nail polish remover, shampoo, and paint damage DNA, too. If you drive a car that uses gasoline, when you fill up the tank, you are breathing in fumes containing benzene, which damages DNA. It is wise to stand upwind of the vapor while you are at the gas station.
– Other epigenetic changes from exercise can block harmful genes. These are seen after swimming, sprinting, interval training, and high-intensity walking.
– A study by researchers at University of California, San Francisco showed that breastfeeding improved the length of telomeres in the child. In a group of 121 children, those who were exclusively breastfed when they were infants had longer telomeres by the time they were of preschool age (four to five years old) compared to children who were formula fed. This shows the durability of the telomere effect—that the benefits of breastfeeding remain years after a child is weaned and eating solid food.
– Scientists from the University of Southern California showed that fasting cycles can be used to build a fresh immune system. Remarkably, they showed that fasting two to four days in a row forces the human body to go into a recycling mode, which gets rid of the older, worn-out immune cells. Then, when food is started again, it jump-starts the hematopoietic stem cells in your bone marrow to start regenerating fresh immune cells thus rebuilding the immune system.
– Soyfoods represent dozens of different kinds of foods made from soybeans, an ancient legume that originated in eastern China three thousand years ago. From fresh soy products, such as edamame, soymilk, and soy nuts, to soyfoods that are fermented, such as soy sauce, tofu, miso, natto, tempeh, and more, soy is encountered in many forms. Asian markets will often have fresh soybeans, but you can also often find them in the frozen section of the grocery store. Fresh tofu is versatile and is a common food in Asia. In Western countries, the best sources to find tofu varieties are Asian markets. Look at the menu of a Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, or Vietnamese restaurant, and you’ll find many soy offerings. Soy contains antiangiogenic bioactives known as isoflavones, specifically genistein, daidzein, equol, and glyceollins. Fermented soy products have higher concentrations of them.
– Research has revealed that chicken thighs and drumsticks are especially healthy choices. Dark chicken meat contains vitamin K2, or menaquinone, a naturally occurring fat-soluble vitamin.
– At the Angiogenesis Foundation, we began studying teas for their biological properties using lab testing systems originally designed to evaluate antiangiogenic cancer drugs. We found that tea extracts had really exceptionally potent angiogenesis inhibitory effects, comparable to that of drugs. What was interesting was that different varieties of tea exhibited different potencies. We found Chinese jasmine tea to be more potent than Japanese sencha tea, and Earl Grey tea was even more potent than jasmine tea. The most remarkable finding was that when we crossed cultures and mixed sencha (Japanese) with jasmine (Chinese) tea, the resulting tea blend had a synergistic effect on blood vessel growth that was more than twice as potent against angiogenesis than either one alone.
– At the Angiogenesis Foundation, we conducted research on the antiangiogenic activity of six different wines made by different grape varietals from the same winery (Vintage Wine Estates) and the same vintage, grown on the same terroir. Among the six, we identified the most potent antiangiogenic wines as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot.
– At the end of the study, the researchers compared bloodwork from before and after the experiment. Amazingly, participants who drank the high-flavanol hot cocoa had twice as many stem cells in their circulation compared to the people who drank the low-flavanol cocoa.
– Scientists at the University of Montreal discovered that a diet rich in fish oil increases production of endothelial progenitor stem cells that can regenerate oxygen-deprived muscles.
– Squid ink, which actually usually comes from cuttlefish, contains bioactives that not only inhibit angiogenesis, but also can protect stem cells.
– Scientists at the University of Warsaw in Poland examined endothelial progenitor cells in the blood of healthy young individuals and found that exposing them to chokeberry extracts could protect the stem cells against stress. The exposure to chokeberry also improved the ability of the stem cells to migrate and participate in regenerating blood vessels.
– Zeaxanthin is a bioactive known as a carotenoid. It is a pigment that gives corn and saffron their yellow-orange color, but it’s also common in leafy green vegetables, like kale, mustard greens, spinach, watercress, collard greens, Swiss chard, and fiddleheads. The results of this study suggest that eating zeaxanthin-containing foods may help the performance of our stem cells for organ regeneration.
– The ellagic acid of the black raspberries activates stem cells.
– The leaves, stalks, and seeds of Chinese celery are all edible and contain a number of health-promoting bioactives, including a tongue twister: 3-n-butylphthalide (NBP). NBP is important because it was approved as a pharmaceutical drug in 2002 by regulatory agencies in China for doctors to use as a neuroprotective treatment in patients who have suffered a stroke. NBP, also found in supplements containing celery seed extract, improves brain circulation, lowers brain inflammation, grows nerves, and limits brain damage from stroke. Researchers from Soochow University in China studied how NBP helps patients recover from a stroke. They recruited 170 individuals who had suffered an acute ischemic stroke, meaning a blood clot caused an interruption of blood flow and killed part of the brain.
– While these results are from a drug form of NBP, it shows that a bioactive present in Chinese celery has stem cell–activating properties that may help heal and regenerate organs after a medical catastrophe like a stroke.
– Green tea has many well researched health benefits, and now among them is activating the regenerative system. This has been studied in people who smoke. Cigarette smoking chemically scorches the blood vessel lining, which leads to increased risk of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. Cigarette smoking is also damaging to stem cells, and reduces the number of circulating stem cells. People who smoke have 60 percent fewer stem cells in their bloodstream compared to nonsmokers—another reason not to smoke. Researchers from Chonnam National University Hospital in Korea and the Nagoya University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan examined the effects of drinking green tea on the stem cells of smokers. They enrolled twenty young men in their late twenties who had smoked for six years and gave them four cups of green tea to drink each day for two weeks (a total of 56 cups). Their blood was drawn at the beginning and at the end of the study to count the number of circulating endothelial progenitor cells present. The results showed that drinking green tea increased the number of circulating stem cells by 43 percent over two weeks. The health of the smokers’ blood vessels was also improved by green tea over the study period. Their vascular dilation response was improved by 29 percent. In the lab, scientists have discovered that green tea and its catechins can stimulate regeneration of brain, muscle, bone, and nerves and can promote wound healing.
– They found that one strain of L. reuteri in a sourdough starter that had been handed down from one baker to another since 1970 had actually evolved to live and thrive in bread dough. To dominate in their new turf, some L. reuteri strains in the starter actually developed the ability to produce a natural antibiotic called reutericyclin that kills other harmful bacteria growing around it. While the bacteria itself does not survive the high oven temperatures used for baking, scientists from Massachusetts Institute of Technology have shown that the benefits may not require live bacteria at all when it comes to L. reuteri. In the lab, scientists completely pulverized the bacteria so no live L. reuteri survived, but they found that substances coming from the particles of dead bacteria could create the same benefits as the live bacteria. This is a complete surprise, because it’s always been assumed that the benefits of gut bacteria require them to be alive.
– The Lion’s mane mushroom, renowned for its culinary and medicinal properties, was the subject of a study by scientists at Jiangnan University in China to test its effects on the microbiome. In the lab, they fed mice with severe gut inflammation the human equivalent of one tablespoon of Lion’s mane mushroom. The results showed that Lion’s mane could decrease the symptoms and the proteins associated with gut inflammation by as much as 40 percent. The mushroom increased the healthy bacteria Akkermansia while decreasing the harmful sulfur toxin-producing Desulfovibrio.
– In a study called the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), researchers documented coffee and caffeine consumption in 5,826 adults and showed that drinking more coffee was associated with longer telomeres.
– Tea drinking was associated with increased telomere length, but only in elderly men, not women. When the amount of tea consumed by men was analyzed, those who drank three or more cups of tea per day had longer telomeres compared to those who drank less than a third of a cup of tea. The difference in telomere length was equivalent to a calculated difference of five years of additional life between high-and low-level tea drinkers. No other food group was associated with any telomere lengthening in this elderly population. The study did not specifically ask which type of tea, but green tea and oolong tea are the most commonly consumed teas in China.
– At the end of six weeks of eating blueberries, the participants did a 2.5-hour treadmill run. First, researchers drew their blood before the run. Then, an hour before exercise, the blueberry eaters ate a larger than usual amount of blueberries (375 grams, or 2.7 cups worth of fresh blueberries). Immediately after the participants’ run, researchers took another blood sample. One hour later, blood was drawn one final time to see what happened to their immune cells and what the effect of eating blueberries was. The blood samples were analyzed for different immune cells, including T cells, B cells, and natural killer (NK) cells. The results were eye opening. Blueberry eaters had almost double the number of NK cells before exercise compared to those who did not eat blueberries. Normally, NK cells would be expected to rapidly decline after intense exercise. But in the group that consumed blueberries, the NK cells remained elevated for at least one hour after exercise ceased.
– Most cephalopods (squid, cuttlefish, octopus) squirt a black ink to escape predators. This ink is collected by fishermen from a sac in the creature’s body and is a flavorsome delicacy used to make rice and pasta dishes in the seaside cuisine of the Mediterranean. Some famous dishes featuring the ink include Spain’s black rice (arroz negra), Venice’s risotto di nero di seppia, and black spaghetti known as pasta al nero. Lab research on the ink has shown it can have antioxidant, antiangiogenic, stem cell–protecting, and immune-enhancing effects. Squid ink can even protect the gut microbiome against the side effects of cancer chemotherapy.
– In my TED Talk, some of the biggest audience reactions came when I showed the results of a study where we did a head-to-head comparison of the potency of different foods versus drugs on angiogenesis. We examined four cancer drugs, seven other common medications (anti-inflammatory drugs, statins, a blood pressure medication, and an antibiotic), and sixteen dietary factors from foods associated with lowering the risk of various cancers. Remarkably, fifteen of the dietary factors were more potent than one of the cancer drugs in the experiment we did.
As you can see, there's plenty to be gleaned from this book. So in today's podcast, I take a deep dive with author Dr. William Li on the nitty-gritty details of how to starve cancer and how we truly can eat to beat disease.
During this discussion, you'll discover:
-What Dr. Li means when he says that “we all have cancer”…8:53
- We need to be more aware of how an individual body responds to cancer, rather than the “weapon” used to fight it
- Microscopic cancers (genetic mutations) are bound to occur in our bodies, which contain over 39 trillion cells (like a factory makes a few mistakes when operating at full power)
- The body spots these errors and corrects them
- A study revealed that men, women of various ages had trace amounts of cancer in their bodies upon autopsy
- It takes just one mutation to not be killed off by the immune system to become problematic
- Angiogenesis: the physiological process through which new blood vessels form from pre-existing vessels, formed in the earlier stage of vasculogenesis.
- Difference between a harmless microscopic cancer and a harmful one is whether they can hijack blood vessels in order to feed themselves
-How drugs stack up versus a diet targeted at cancer prevention…16:33
- Cancer research isn't up to speed on how food affects microscopic cancers in us
- Many foods are equal to cancer to drugs in cutting off the blood supply; some are more powerful
- Soy extracts were particularly efficacious
- Soy is oft-misunderstood
- Has a phytoestrogen
- Soy estrogen side by side with chemical structure of human estrogen is completely different
- It blocks estrogen against breast cancer
- Study on 5000 women w/ breast cancer who ate more soy had lower risk of mortality and higher rates of remission
- Fermentation destroys most of the anti-nutrients in soy
- The dose is the difference between the poison and the cure
-Microbiome and ingesting healthy bacteria for longevity…31:25
- It's not the food, it's how our body responds to the food
- Microbiome is more important than previously thought
- Elie Metchnikoff found that growing bacteria that contained cholera, some bacteria killed the cholera
- Human body contains over 39 trillion bacteria; more than there are cells
- Pomegranate juice contains ellagitannins, which prompt the colon to secrete mucus
-Biochemical individuality: why one food may be good for one and bad for another…42:47
- There's no “magic bullet”
- Ellagitannins are metabolized very differently from one person to another
- Lactobacillus reuteri
- Communicated from mother to child in utero
- Boosts immune system
- Speeds healing
- Makes hair shinier
- Shown to prevent tumors from growing
- Can be taken as a supplement
- BGF Weekly Roundup features Dr. William Davis' reuteri yogurt recipe
- BGF podcast on Seed probiotic with Rajah Dhir
-Foods that can control the growth of cancer within us…50:24
- Berries – tartness is important
- Parsley has anti-angiogenic activity
- Add to a smoothie
- Green tea (Chinese jasmine tea more powerful than Japanese)
- Black tea has more power than green tea
- All red wines are not created equal
- BGF podcast with Todd White, founder of Dry Farm Wines
- Dr. Cowan's Vegetable Powders
- Nose to tail diet
-And much more…
Resources from this episode:
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