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Dr Jonny Bowden is the co-author of The Great Cholesterol Myth and in this book he and Dr Stephen Sintra get to the truth about cholesterol levels.
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Allan (1:15): Dr. Bowden, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Dr. Bowden (1:21): My pleasure, Allan. This is round two. I enjoy it the first time.
Allan (1:26): Yes, it is. The first time was great, and I’m very, very happy and feel privileged and honored to have you back on.
Dr. Bowden (1:33): Thank you.
Allan (1:34): We really had a good discussion about cholesterol in that one. And the name of this book is The Great Cholesterol Myth. We’re going to talk about cholesterol some more today, but I think what I took out of this book that was a little different than other, I guess, anti-cholesterol books or those kinds of books in general…
Dr. Bowden (1:55): Cholesterol skeptic books, let’s call them that way.
Allan (1:56): Skeptic books. Okay, let’s call it that. You and Dr. Sinatra didn’t just say cholesterol doesn’t matter. You took us to that next step to say, “Here’s how you can use those numbers in some way.” But then there are these other four things that are actually what we ought to be paying attention to, and we’re being distracted by this number.
Dr. Bowden (2:21): And those four things I call “The Four Horsemen of Aging”. And here’s an interesting factoid. When we did The Great Cholesterol Myth, we looked at the factors that actually promote heart disease – the real ones, not cholesterol; that’s a minor player – but the real factors, and we isolated four of them. But what I want to tell you that I think is interesting is a previous book of mine, which was originally written in 2008, called The Most Effective Ways to Live Longer, is now being revised in a revised and updated edition for 2019. And guess what? The same four factors are what contribute to early death. So not only are these four factors that I’m about to tell you major promoters of heart disease, they’re major promoters of every disease. In fact, every degenerative disease you don’t want to get, whether it be Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart disease – they all have these four factors playing in some proportion or another. So these are not just about heart disease. Now I guess you want to know what the factors are, right?
Number one is inflammation. Inflammation is a silent killer. We’ve known that since that famous Time magazine cover about 20 years ago that said, “Inflammation: The Silent Killer”. Nobody knew what it was back then. Now people are talking about it, but I don’t think people really understand the enormity of the contribution of inflammatory processes to just about every disease they get. We get stuffed noses and colds – we know we’ve got inflammation. We get a splinter caught in our shins, and we know we see inflammation. We see it will get all red, but we don’t really comprehend the damage and destruction of chronic inflammation that flies under the radar. Not the stuff you see – not the abscess on your tooth, or the growth of a pimple or any of the inflammation signs that we’re all very familiar with, but the stuff that goes on under the hood – in our arteries, in our veins that we don’t see – that’s the inflammation that kills us, and that is the number one of the four things that we identified as The Four Horsemen of Aging. Inflammation.
Now we can stop right there. I’ll give you the overview. And I’m sure these are many things that you’ve covered on your shows, because these are core subjects that everybody who’s interested in health looks at at one time or another. So inflammation was number one. Number two is oxidative damage. So everything you ever heard about antioxidants – they’re all about fighting this Horseman of Aging – oxidation, oxidative damage, the kind of thing that happens inside your body that parallels what happens when you leave metal out on your front yard and in the rain – it rusts. And when you rust from the inside, you’ve got oxidative damage. So, fighting that is one of the big goals I think of any kind of “anti-aging” program, or any heart disease program for that matter. The number three is something you and I were talking about offline, which is stress. And I know we have a lot to say about stress, so let me put it in context. It’s one of the four biggest promoters of disease, magnifiers of disease, amplifiers of disease, causes of disease. It’s just an enormous factor in all diseases, especially in heart disease, and I can give you some examples of that a little bit later on. And the last one is something that people may not be as familiar with. It’s called glycation. And actually they’re not in any order, because all of these are equally destructive. The fourth Horseman of Aging is sugar, because there’s no glycation without sugar, so we might as well forget about the biochemical process known as “glycation” that ages you from the inside and outside, but let’s talk about the cause of the glycation, which is sugar. So there they are, The Four Horsemen of Aging – inflammation, oxidative stress or oxidative damage, stress, and sugar.
Allan (6:16): Okay. Now, one of the things I harp on my clients, and I probably shouldn’t harp on them because it probably stresses them out a little bit, but I explain to them that we get ourselves kind of locked into one metric. And that metric for most of my clients is going to be their weight. They want to lose some weight, so they’re focused on that one metric. And I keep saying, “If you’re eating whole foods and the scale is not moving, what are the things that are happening inside your body that are good because of what you’re doing, that you just don’t see?” I think inflammation and oxidation and glycation are all those internal things that we could go decades without recognizing that it’s killing us, but we also can go decades when we’re improving our health to just not see the needle move. What are some things that I can look for under the hood? I can go in for blood tests, other things. What are the things I can look for to know that I’m kind of on the right track with regards to those three?
Dr. Bowden (7:26): First, Allan, I want to emphasize and underline what you just said because it was profoundly true, and it’s something we forget about because we’re in such an instant gratification kind of environment. We all are programmed to want results and want to see results overnight. And the drug culture amplifies that, because we all know if you take a Tylenol, your headache is gone, so it’s an instantaneous kind of result. What you were just talking about so wisely and so correctly was the fact that there are many things that don’t show up for a decade or more. For many men – I don’t have the figures in front of me, but they are available, they’re in the National Institute of Health, you can look them up on Google – I’d say it’s for a double-digit percentage of men, a heart attack is their first symptom of heart disease. The heart disease didn’t start with the heart attack. Diabetes has no symptoms. I’m not sure what the number is. I’m not as much of a data nerd as I guess I thought I was, but a very high percentage of diabetes cases are undiagnosed because people have no symptoms, so they don’t go to the doctor. High blood sugar doesn’t have a symptom, neither does high blood pressure. And these things are destructive forces in the body. I often use the smoking example, because people get that right away. If I started smoking tomorrow, I wouldn’t get cancer on Wednesday. I might not even get it in a month or two or six, but I’m going to get it, or I’m going to have my odds of getting it increase by 80%. So, understand that there’s a latency period on a lot of these measures, and that doesn’t mean they’re not important. They’re damn important. You just might not see them as readily as you would see a change in your weight. I just wanted to underline that because you said that.
Now, what are some of the things we can look for since we’re not seeing it on the scale, for example? I always start with energy. There is not a person who has a ton of energy in the world who’s feeling bad, so energy is a good marker for how you’re doing. You can’t fake it. If you’re not getting it from some external source like a drug or a lot of caffeine or something, your energy is going to be generated naturally, and that’s a very good metric for how you’re doing. How you are sleeping is a pretty good metric. How you are feeling about life and about people is a good metric, because your brain and your emotions and different centers of fear and pleasure in your brain are all effected by your environment and your nutrition. So I’d look at those basic ones. How do I feel? How am I feeling about life? Do I wake up with any kind of energy and spring in my step, or do I wish I could sleep 10 more hours? Those are the metrics I’d look at while you’re waiting for the scale to change.
Allan (10:05): I think that’s really hard to do – the energy part of it – when you’re constantly in this state of eating sugar or simple carbs. It’s one of the beautiful things when you start understanding what healthy fats are, because they’re fats that are not going to cause the inflammation or oxidative damage. Can we recap what some of the good fats versus the bad fats are, so we don’t fool ourselves?
Dr. Bowden (10:35): I would love to do that, and I would urge everyone listening to understand the division between good fat and bad fat that I think more and more people are accepting. Even people I know that really know nothing about nutrition and you talk about fat in the diet, they say, “There’s good fat and bad fat.” It’s like everybody knows that, right? Here’s the next level of knowledge. You’ve got to understand that what we think is good fat and what we think is bad fat, is not good fat and bad fat. We have been taught that bad fat is fat from animals. Bad fat is saturated fat. Good fat is anything that doesn’t come from an animal or isn’t saturated, like vegetable oil and corn oil. Big, fat lie. Big, fat deception here.
Bad fats are damaged fats. It has nothing to do with whether they’re saturated or not. There’s been a wealth of evidence since 2010 that has absolved saturated fat from a causative role in heart disease. It’s damaged fat. It’s overused vegetable oils that get rancid and form carcinogens and trans fats and things like that that are really, really bad. And vegetable oils do not get a free pass. Just because it came from a vegetable like corn or soy or cottonseed or safflower does not necessarily make it healthy. Those fats are actually pro-inflammatory, and the Omega-3s are actually anti-inflammatory. So we need to be in a balance. We’ve got to forget everything we learned about saturated versus unsaturated. Here are two great examples. Coconut oil is a saturated fat that is really good for you. People are beginning to get that. But one of the ones they’re not yet really getting on board with enough, as far as I’m concerned, is Malaysian palm oil. That still suffers from all kinds of bad ideas from 20 years ago, and a different source of palm oil and a time when it was tainted. Modern Malaysian palm oil is a health food. First of all, it’s got all these tocotrienols, which are healthy for the brain. It’s a sustainable fat. It’s made without a lot of high heat or chemicals. It’s non-GMO. And people worry because it’s a saturated fat. It’s a great fat. I use Malaysian palm oil all the time. I use coconut oil all the time. And I use saturated fat from healthy animals all the time, like grass-fed beef and pastured pork and free-range chickens. Those are not the fats you need to be afraid of. What you need to be afraid of is too much of those fats that look all healthy and they come in those plastic things, and they’re corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil and soybean oil. Too many of those lends towards inflammation, not towards anti-inflammation. And we want anti-inflammation. So that’s the first thing about fats. What else did you want to talk about?
Allan (13:26): I guess the other side of was… And this is always the funny thing. One day I’m probably going to just say this to my doctor if he tells me to eat egg white omelets again. I’m just going to say, “It sounds like I shouldn’t try to lose weight, because I’m pretty sure that the body fat that I would be trying to lose would be saturated fat, and I don’t really want that as a fuel.” That’s one of those things that always strikes me, is why would we store fat as a saturated fat if we weren’t supposed to be eating saturated fat?
Dr. Bowden (14:04): I’d ask your doctor even more pointed questions. This is what amazes me about these guys that tell you to eat, whether they’re doctors or not doctors, anyone who continues to advise egg white omelets – my question to them is, even by their standards, and their standards are that anything that raises cholesterol is going to be bad because cholesterol causes heart disease – even by that outdated, wrong theory, we already know that eating cholesterol doesn’t change your blood cholesterol. So, why are they still telling us to throw away the best part of the egg? Even the National Institute of Health and USDA no longer consider cholesterol a nutrient of concern, because the data is in – dietary cholesterol doesn’t affect your blood cholesterol. Even the people who still believe in this cockamamie theory, why are they still advising egg whites?
Allan (14:55): I guess it’s just really hard to walk away from a paradigm you’ve been telling patients forever. Our prior generations, when they went to the doctor, the doctor told them, “Here, put this leech on you.” They would take the leeches.
Dr. Bowden (15:15): My parents’ generation would let them. My parents’ generation believed anything. Then the doctor was in the community, we knew him, they were in big, impersonal places. We had a relationship with them, and there was kind of, “Doctor knows best.” With my parents, you could not question anything that Dr. Leo said; you just couldn’t. I hope we’ve come a little further than that. They are not the keepers of the faith and the guardians of our health. They are members of our healthcare team and we need to be more proactive and stop buying into every paradigm that they give us that was given to them by the pharmaceutical industry and it’s kind of out of date right now.
Allan (15:52): Yeah. Talking in terms of pharmaceuticals, a question I’ll often get from my clients is, “Should I supplement, and what are some things I should supplement with?” I always direct them and say, “You can go get some blood tests for the basic vitamin D, vitamin B, some of these other things to kind of just see.” But in the book you do go through what I would call some of the core supplements. There are things, like you said in the book, that are going to help you have a healthier heart. The first one is Coenzyme Q10.
Dr. Bowden (16:28): If I may, let me back up one step before we go there, and just put supplements in an overall context. I’m going to guess you’re more like me than the average person, but I probably take 38 to 40 something pills a day, or potions or drinks or some combination of nutrients in different delivery systems. I’m probably taking 40 or 50 things a day, and have for most of my adult life. They’ve changed, depending on what I’m particularly trying to do and what I’m experimenting with. I’m a very committed biohacker that way. I don’t recommend to people that they start out with 40 or 50 things. They don’t need 40 or 50 things. Most of the people who I interact with on Facebook, Facebook Live, my website – JonnyBowden.com, “Ask Dr. Jonny”, our Clean Eating Magazine – they are generally well-informed consumers who really don’t want to take a lot of pills and they want to know what’s the best overall program they can be on with the least number of things they have to take. So I would like to at some point address that, and then we can go onto what you mentioned, which is I’m sure going to be Coenzyme Q10 and L-carnitine and things like that, because those are specifically chosen for people who have issues around their heart. And those were things that Dr. Sinatra has also found to be incredibly helpful over the years, but he also, I’m sure, would agree with me that you’ve got to start with your basic stuff.
Not everybody needs all the nutrients for the heart, not everybody needs all the extra support for the liver, like some people who might have hepatitis. Not everybody needs additional support for the brain. It would be lovely to take all these things, but you’d be taking about 100 things a day. You’ve got to do a little picking and choosing when you decide how to target things. All medicines might be great, but you don’t take them for every single disease. It’s the same thing with this. You want to cover your basics, which I can talk about in a minute. I can do that with four items and it’s pretty easy for most people to wrap their minds around. And then we can talk about how these additional nutrients like Coenzyme Q10 or L-carnitine might help someone in a particular situation, such as strengthening their heart.
Allan (18:38): Yes, please do.
Dr. Bowden (18:42): Here are my four basic supplements – a multivitamin, magnesium, vitamin D and fish oil. I just gave you the headline, and if you want to stop listening, that’s all you’ve got to know – a high-quality multiple, an absorbable magnesium, a good vitamin D, and a high-quality fish oil. Now, let’s get into why one brand over another or why you would make one choice over another. Multiples usually range from… I’m not going to disparage a brand, but we all know the kind – you take one every day and the big-box store has it. This is minimum wage nutrition; it’s generally the cheapest form of the nutrients – for example, magnesium oxide instead of magnesium citrate, that kind of thing. And it’s usually the minimal dosages that are really RDA. There isn’t a nutritionist alive who believes the RDAs make any sense or that they are in any way optimal levels for people to take. So, a high-quality one means one that is really well-formulated by people who know what they’re doing, and use the right dosages and the right amounts. I have brands for all of these and I’m going to tell people, because these are the ones that I use. For multiples, I’m 100% for Rainbow Light’s Vibrance line. That’s like your Lexus line. They were the first company to do vitamins from foods only, the cold food vitamins. They’re very advanced in the advisory boards that they use. And I’ve looked at their formulas. Those are the ones I recommend to friends – the Rainbow Light Vibrance line for any multiple. They make a teenage boy, a teenage girl, a young woman, young man; they make it for every stage and age in life, and they’re very well-formulated.
Magnesium. We’re going to talk later about stress, and magnesium is one of mine and Steve Sinatra’s number one remedies for stress. But what we’re talking about here is a basic. I like at least 400, if not 800 milligrams of magnesium a day. I personally prefer to drink mine. I use Natural Vitality’s Calm. It’s a drink that fizzes up, and I kind of like the whole ritual of it because actually it’s interesting where it dissolves and that’s the oxygen combining with the carbonate and making your magnesium citrate available to you. It’s kind of cool, but it’s one less pill I have to take. It’s easy to remember, and I take them in the little travel packets that go with you. So I take the Natural Vitality magnesium.
Then vitamin D – I’m not partial to brands because it’s a very easy nutrient to make, as long as you get the D3 form. And the actual dosage is going to vary. The Vitamin D council has some good recommendations for how to bring your vitamin D up, but I would recommend to everybody that they get the OH-25 vitamin D blood test when they get their blood test, because we should all know our levels. The people who I think are the most accurate and are thinking about this in the most clear way are recommending that your ideal level will be around 50. It’s not 20 or 30 the way the government says it should be. So, you want to bring that level up, and it’s very easy to do it with supplements, assuming you receptors work well.
And then the fourth supplement that I think is a must for everybody is fish oil. I am an enormous believer. My great nutrition teacher, the great late Robert Crayhon used to say, “If I could do one thing to increase the health of the American population, I’d put every pregnant mother on fish oil.” And I know, knowing him many years, that he really meant that for the entire population. But you could certainly start with pregnant women. And I’m a big fan. I just think they’re the most anti-inflammatory molecule, they undo so much damage of inflammation on so many different levels. They help with circulation, they help with the brain, with the heart. There’s a form of them that I recommend, because so many people tell me they burp them up or, “My kids won’t take them. It’s brutal hard to get them to take them, and they need it very badly.” There is a formula called Seriously Delicious Omegas. It’s an emulsified Omega-3. It’s made by Barlean’s. In fact, the children’s version just won the next year award at Expo East for the most innovative product in children’s products. It’s an emulsified Omega-3 that actually tastes a little bit like a fruit compote and it’s delicious, and you can get kids to eat it and it’s actually even better absorbed than the oil form. So, those are the four things I recommend – the Rainbow Light Vibrance brand for multiples; whatever your particular demographic is – if you’re young, old, middle-age, there’s a formula for you. The Natural Vitality Calm magnesium drink. Vitamin D by any reputable company that makes a vitamin D3. And Barlean’s Seriously Delicious Omegas for the Omega-3. That’s my four cornerstone products that I can pretty much recommend across the board, and they’re going to benefit about 99% of people. Now we can talk about some of the specifics for things like heart or liver or brain, as we’ve been talking about the heart.
Allan (23:47): Yeah. I don’t take quite as many supplements as you do. I really do base it on my blood test, on the time of the year. If I’m eating a lot of fish, then I’ll probably take less fish oil. If I’m getting outside like I am now, and it’s still 90 degrees and hot, humid here… I get out and get some good sun from my walks that are half an hour to an hour, so my vitamin D levels are smack on. When it starts getting cooler, then by all means, yes, I’ll start doing that. So, those are also the four that I would say I take the most often. I don’t take them every day, or it’s just a standard stack regularly. I do base it on what my current nutrition profile is and lifestyle and everything else. I probably need to kick up my magnesium, and we’ll get into that in a minute. But let’s jump into these others, because I hear about these, but we really haven’t spent a lot of time talking about them. Coenzyme Q10.
Dr. Bowden (24:49): Great. So, Coenzyme Q10 is called a ubiquinone, because it’s ubiquitous. It’s in every single cell in the body and it’s manufactured in every single cell in the body. The best and simplest way to think of it is a spark plug that creates energy for organs that need it and cells that need it. And there’s nowhere where it’s more needed more consistently than the heart, because the heart doesn’t get a vacation; it beats 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, constantly. It’s a huge consumer of energy. It’s like the American fossil fuel – we just consume the oil. And like many things, nature plays a trick on us and we make less of it as we get older. It’s one of the many things we make less of – collagen being another one, hydrochloric acid in our stomach being another one, testosterone being a third. And sure enough, Coenzyme Q10 is one of the things that we don’t make as much of as we get older. And of course the heart doesn’t stop needing it. So, for cardiologists like Steve Sinatra, Coenzyme Q10 is like a spark plug of energy and very, very important for our heart.
A second more insidious reason that it’s important is that statin drugs, which is what all the conservative, all the mainstream, the conservative wing of the American medical establishment is still very much in the throes of the cholesterol hypothesis. They still very much believe blood cholesterol is a causative factor in heart disease and must be controlled by statin drugs, which they think are the seventh wonder of the world. So, you are very likely to be prescribed a statin drug if you are an American going to a conventional doctor for elevated cholesterol. This is not the approach I would take or that any of my colleagues would take, but it is the approach that much of mainstream medicine takes. So if you are very likely on a statin drug, your Coenzyme Q10 is being depleted, because one of the things statin drugs do, they’re called HMG reductase, coenzyme reductase inhibitors. They inhibit an enzyme that makes cholesterol, but it also makes Coenzyme Q10. Too bad for you. So now when you need it the most, you have the least amount of Coenzyme Q10. So Steve recommends that people who are on statin drugs take at least 200 milligrams of Coenzyme Q10 a day, and that’s a lot. I recommend about 100 for everybody who’s not, just as a preventative or as a general antioxidant, 60-100. But if you’ve got issues with the heart, and God knows if you’re on a statin drug, you need more.
Allan (27:27): Right now I don’t want to go down that argument of the statins, because I had such a horrible experience with them. I’m not a cardiologist, I’m not a doctor. I had my experiences with them and it was horrible.
Dr. Bowden (27:39): I’m not telling anyone to throw their statins away. That’s got to be done under medical supervision. But I can certainly point you to the research on side effects, that they are quite considerable, they’re under-reported. This is all in the research. It’s all documented in our book, The Great Cholesterol Myth, complete with the studies that show this. They do have a lot of side effects. And in my opinion and Steve’s opinion, their benefit is way less than we’ve been told it is, and it certainly doesn’t extend to a lot of the population who are getting prescriptions for statin drugs and they really never show any benefit from them. So, I’m all for trying to see if we can decrease the number of prescription drugs we’re on. I think as a general rule that’s a good idea.
Allan (28:19): But if you’re on a statin and you can tolerate it and you’re working with your doctor, Coenzyme Q10 is going to be something you want to make sure you’re taking.
Dr. Bowden (28:27): Yeah. And by the way, that’s not controversial. Merck got a patent for a combination of statin and Coenzyme Q10, or for Coenzyme Q10 – I’m not sure which it was, but they didn’t pursue it because they didn’t think anybody really knew about it or cared about it. But it is very well-known and noncontroversial. Even your conservative doctor, if you bring it up, will admit that in fact statin drugs do deplete Coenzyme Q10. That’s not a controversial piece of information.
Allan (28:58): Okay. Now, I’ve had Dr. Know on the show and he and I got into D-ribose. I know that D-ribose is one of those helper cells for mitochondria. It helps mitochondria. How does it help my heart?
Dr. Bowden (29:18): D-ribose is a sugar, and it appears to have some energy-producing. I’m using that in the most general sense, because that’s not how science talks about it. But what people report is that it seems to help them with energy. It works with Coenzyme Q10. I guess the best way to say it is, there is a currency called ATP – that’s the cellular currency of energy. We run our economy on money, on cash, on checks; the cells run the body on something called ATP. This substance, ATP – it stands for adenosine triphosphate – is actually the cellular currency of energy. So you need ATP to blink your eyes, you need it to run the marathon, you need it to sleep. We need it right now to be talking on microphones. ATP is needed for any movement, any thought, anything that the body does. So how does it make it? D-ribose is one of the ways that it actually helps your little cellular energy factories, which we call the mitochondria, to produce more ATP. It’s like we said in the book – metaphorically D-ribose acts like a little elf shuttling the material needed to make ATP to the factories where it’s made. So, they’re a great adjunct in the creation of cellular energy, and that’s why they’re in the book. D-ribose.
Allan (30:47): Okay. And then L-carnitine?
Dr. Bowden (30:50): L-carnitine is like a shuttle bus. So, I live in LA; I’ll use the Hollywood Bowl analogy. You can’t ever really get too close. The bus drops you at the bus stop and then you take a shuttle over to the Hollywood Bowl, so that you don’t have to park there. Carnitine is like a shuttle bus. What it does is it shuttles fatty acids into the mitochondria, of which we have been speaking, which is basically the energy-production organelle in the cell. It shuttles the fatty acids into the mitochondria so that they can be used for energy. I will say there’s a good argument that most people have enough carnitine from their diet. This is not true for vegetarians, by the way, or vegans, because carnitine is not in anything but meat products. Sorry. So if you’re a vegan or a vegetarian, this doesn’t apply to you, but many people do have adequate carnitine stored. However, it has long been thought that since it plays such a central role in the transport of fatty acids into energy-burning factories in the cell, that people who are either overweight or maybe whose heart is not working at top performance levels could possibly use a little bit of extra help with that shuttle bus.
Allan (32:08): Alright. So now, the topic that’s really kind of near and dear to my heart. I guess of all the things that you can focus on for health and wellness – be it food, exercise, sleep – my current focus now is really much more on stress and stress reduction. Why is stress such a bad player when it comes to heart health? It’s one of The Four Horsemen. How did it get that title of being part of The Four Horsemen? Because there are other things – obviously the inflammation, the oxidation, and the sugar – we see that time and time again. But stress now, in your book you’re indicating, it’s just as big a player.
Dr. Bowden (32:57): You have to think of what happens in the body when you’re under stress. There’s a number of ways to demonstrate this. Here’s a fun one. Have your listeners Google the term “voodoo death”. There are documented cases of voodoo doctors putting hexes on people and them dying. Why do you think that happens? It doesn’t happen because something magically goes in the airways and poisons their food. They die from the stress of knowing, because they buy into that system. They very much believe in that whole, whatever the religious order is that allows that to happen – they believe in it and now they believe that somebody with authority has just put a hex on them, and the stress level kills them. It’s called “voodoo death”, and it’s been documented.
Everyone should understand that what we think about has a profound effect on our physiology. This has been demonstrated a zillion times. You can demonstrate it for yourself by sitting calmly and picturing something peaceful, wonderful, loving, feeling safe and protected, and watch what happens to your heart rate and your blood pressure. And then if suddenly you were to think about a horrible car accident with someone that you loved possibly in it, what would happen? You would not have moved from your chair, but your blood pressure will have gone up, your heart rate will start to elevate. If we were measuring your hormones, your cortisol would be above the roof. Your adrenaline would be pumping. So, what we think about, these stress reactions, which involve very powerful adrenal hormones – they have a profound effect on our health. They’re inflammatory, for one thing. Cortisol has an effect on belly fat, it has an effect on energy, it has an effect on insulin sensitivity – all things which we all know to be major factors and players in heart disease. We have to think, Allan, what did nature, or the genome organizing device, or God, or however you conceptualize it – why were we given these stress hormones? What were they supposed to do? When you think about it, they were supposed to get us out of an emergency. So, if we’re a caveman and we hear some rustling in the leaves and it’s a wildebeest coming to eat us for lunch – immediately our heart rate goes up, our blood pressure starts to rise, the blood starts to pump into the legs instead of the digestive system, because we’ve got our start to run like hell. They are the “fight or flight” hormones. They are meant to either let us fight and prepare our bodies for that, or let us run and prepare our bodies for that. That’s what the “fight or flight” hormones work for. They’re short-term solutions to a danger. They’re like first gear on a car; they get you out of a ditch. Here’s the problem. We’re running on the 405 North at 70 miles an hour in first gear, because those stress hormones are only supposed to be elevated for a minute here and there to get you out of an emergency. Then it’s good and adaptive stress. We live under 24-hour stress. It’s chronic stress. It doesn’t stop. It doesn’t even stop when we go to bed. And that kind of chronic elevation of these stress hormones wrecks metabolic disaster. So that’s how stress kills. It starts a cascade of events that we’re fine if we’re on short-term, like first gear, but if you drive in first gear for a long time, you’re going to strip your transmission. And that’s what happens in the body.
Allan (36:21): I like that metaphor, because I think so many of us can relate to the fact that we’re in this stress perspective and there’s nowhere to really run. I was writing a story, putting it together for the book, and I was thinking in terms of, I’ve had moments of chronic stress and I’ve had moments of the acute stress, just that moment where my boss calls me on the phone and says, “Come up to my office, I need to talk to you.” Suddenly your heart rate’s going and everything and you’re like, “I can’t go and burn this off. I can walk up the stairs or I can get on the elevator and I can go up there and see him.” Then afterwards I know I need to go to the gym and burn that off. But I was in a situation where the CEO was not really happy with me; we were constantly at odds. And every day I knew I’ve got to sit in front of this guy and I’ve got to do my job and I’ve got to just not react to what my body is screaming at me to do, which was fight or run away. Neither one of those would have been a good solution.
Dr. Bowden (37:31): Right, but that energy stays in you; it’s not like it just dissipated into the ether. It’s now running its hormonal game on you and all kinds of things are happening physiologically that are probably not the best for you.
Allan (37:45): So, if we know we’re in a situation and we can’t, in the short run, do something about it – get out of that job, get out of that relationship – what are some things you would advise people to do to manage their stress?
Dr. Bowden (38:03): I would start with deep breathing. I think I told you offline – Michelle and I started meditating last July, so we have just completed a year and a month or so of meditation. It’s taken me my entire life to be able to find a context, a way to do that. I was one of those people who found it incredibly difficult, and I could not keep my mind still and I couldn’t concentrate and do all the other stuff they tell you to do. And I found a method that works for me and I do it every day, twice a day and really, really rarely ever miss. I think even if you’re like me up to a year ago and you couldn’t do the full round of meditating twice a day or even once a day for 10 or 15 or 20 minutes – try deep breathing. Try this little thing I used to do myself for years, where it’s just like a four-minute timeout. You sit at your desk and you literally close your eyes and you lower your heart rate, and you just breathe in deeply on a count of four – 1, 2, 3, 4, and you hold just a bit, maybe another count of four, and then you exhale on a count of seven. Just long exhale. And the number doesn’t even matter; you could reverse it, but the point is to keep some number in mind, say seven, inhale on four, hold for six or seven counts, exhale. You set the timer on your iPhone for four minutes and do that a couple of times a day. It’s so little time out of your day, but it will act as a partial reset of your brainwaves, your blood pressure, your cortisol levels. It will be like a mini vacation. I think that it would be great if you could work up to an actual meditative practice, but any kind of deep breathing.
Walks in greenery seem to have remarkable restorative powers. There’s an entire discipline of psychology and it’s called ecotherapy that has to do with seeing greenery, walking around in your neighborhood. If you’re lucky enough to have trees, look at them, because there are studies even showing that in hospitals, those who have views of lawns have better metrics. There’s something about seeing greenery that really is stress-reducing.
I am a big fan of, going back to supplements – Natural Vitality’s Calm. It’s called Calm for a reason, because actually magnesium’s very, very calming. Anybody who’s ever had intravenous vitamin drips knows this, because if you have an intravenous vitamin drip with magnesium in it, you will sleep like you’ve never slept in your life. And I speak from personal experience. I used to have these drips all the time. So, I’m a big fan of taking that Natural Vitality Calm. And I like it also because for me there’s something calming in the ritual. It’s not just popping a pill; it’s pouring a spoonful of this into some mortar, watching the fizz, wait until the bubbles come up. There’s a 60-second ritual to doing it. And I’m a big believer that rituals are calming as well. I try to do my same four or five things every morning like clockwork, and it tends to be very calming and grounding. So, I think all these things can be helpful to reduce stress. Exercise certainly can help; walks can help; meditation can help; better sleep can help; and certain supplements can help, like Natural Vitality’s Calm as one example.
Allan (41:29): Alright. This is episode 343. Are there any links or anything where you’d like for me to send people to learn more about you and what you’re up to?
Dr. Bowden (41:41): I’d love them to come to the website, especially in a couple of weeks when it’s being all redesigned. There’ll be all kinds of good, cool free stuff and e-books and things like that. So just check in with my website, JonnyBowden.com. And you can follow me on Twitter @jonnybowden. Just remember, no H in Jonny.
Allan (41:57): Cool. As I said, this is episode 343, so you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/343, and I’ll have those links there. Dr. Bowden, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.
Dr. Bowden (42:11): Allan, it’s my pleasure, anytime. You were just a wonderful interviewer, so passionate. You actually know so much, so your questions are so pointed. Your listeners are very lucky to have you, and I’ve been just honored to be on your show. Thank you.
Allan (42:23): Thank you.
I’ll have to admit that I wasn’t quite sure that I would get this episode out on time. As you may know, I live in Pensacola Beach and we just had a Category 4 storm – Hurricane Michael – come through and did a lot of damage. Fortunately, we were on the safe side of that hurricane and sustained almost no damage or problems around here, other than the scare of it. But my heart and prayers go out to the people who were affected in the panhandle of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. I know this is a devastating storm and has done a lot of damage, and I’m sure there’s going to be some loss of life involved. So again, my heart goes out to you if you’ve been affected by this. It is a time of year. We don’t typically get storms of that magnitude, so this was kind of a freak one. I hope that it’s not something that we have to deal with. I hope the season’s over for 2018 and we can move into a better time of the year.
Before I go though, I did want to reach out and ask you if you didn’t mind helping the show out a little bit with a little bit of support. There are two ways that you can support the show. The first one is that you can leave a rating and review, and if you haven’t done that already, please do take the time. On your app right there, there’s going to be a way for you to review the show. Please do that. That definitely helps us get out there, get noticed and let people know that we’re still active. And the apps see us and they want to show us a little bit more when they see that you’re engaging with us.
And then, I’ve come up with a new way that you can support the show, and it’s really cool. It’s a service called Patreon. And what Patreon lets me do is provide additional perks, if you will, for people that do want to financially support the show. I’ve set up four levels that allow you to be even more engaged and involved with the creation of the show, mentioned on the show notes among a lot of other things too, even being live with the recording when I’m doing the interviews. So, you’ll actually be there when I’m asking the questions as we go and be a part of the creation of the podcast. So, you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Patreon, and that’ll take you to our Patreon page. They make it really easy for me to give these extra perks out and for you to support the show. So go check it out. I put a little video up there to explain it a little bit better. So, please do go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Patreon and help support the 40+ Fitness podcast, and let me help even more people the way I’m trying and working to try to help you.
Dr. Jonny Bowden is the author of Smart Fat: Eat More Fat. Lose More Weight. Get Healthy Now. He is a board certified nutritionist. He’s known as the nutrition myth buster. He’s a bestselling author of 13 different books.
I get a book a week doing this podcast. Every time I do an interview, I’m reading their book. But this is one of the few books – Smart Fat, we’re going to talk about today – that I actually purchased on my own just to read. I don’t do that very often because I do get a lot of guests on and I do a lot of reading. So for me to actually go out and purchase a book, you know it’s got to be good. So, This is going to be a great conversation.
Allan (1:21): Dr. Bowden, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Dr. Bowden (1:25): Thanks. It’s great to be here. Thank you.
Allan (1:27): Today we’re going to talk about your book, Smart Fat, and I’ll tell you, I don’t do this very often because I have a lot of reading to do, reading the books for the podcast. But your book was one of the few books that I actually went out and bought myself, well before I had you on the show. So I was really excited when Krista reached out to me and said, “Let’s get on the show.” And I’m like, “Yes, I definitely want this man on my show.”
Smart Fat was kind of my precursor to really understanding what was going on in my body. I had started eating Paleo as a way of managing my weight, and what ended up happening was I ended up in ketosis. And I was trying to figure out, “I’m in Ketosis, but my doctor is yelling at me about saturated fat and cholesterol in my food. I’m doing this for the right reasons, I think.” And then reading your book set me on a really good, smart course for making sure that I was getting smart fats in my diet. It really made me happy that I had that knowledge coming away from your book.
Dr. Bowden (2:28): Thank you. I’m glad that book accomplished something for some people. It wasn’t one of our bestsellers, but it really warms my heart when someone says, “I got something out of your book that made a difference in my life”, because that really is the reason we write.
Allan (2:41): I think that’s the point – initially you start out and you’re saying, “They are telling you to eat healthy fats, and exactly what does that mean?” And it’s all over the place. We’re going to talk about fats in a minute, the way you break them down, but one of the reasons that a lot of people will come to a personal trainer or they’ll see a book like yours and say, “I need to understand that” is all the conflicting information about metabolic syndrome.
They know that they’re insulin resistant, they know that they’re prediabetic, their doctor is telling them to eat a certain way and they’re reading all this stuff and it just gets confusing. Can you talk about metabolic syndrome? I was really shocked at some of the numbers. I think you said 50% of individuals over the age of 65 suffer from metabolic syndrome.
Dr. Bowden (3:26): Yeah, and it’s even worse than that. One third of everybody suffers from that, and most of them don’t know it. And that’s across adult age groups. Metabolic syndrome used to be called in the ‘80s and ‘90s… It was discovered by a guy at Stanford named Gerald Reaven, and he called it “Syndrome X”. They didn’t even have a name for it. They knew that there were a cluster of symptoms that tended to hang out together, and when you had three or four or five of these symptoms, you were known to have metabolic syndrome.
Your listeners will probably recognize this more than they do metabolic syndrome – it’s also known as prediabetes. So when your doctor says you have prediabetes, they’re talking about metabolic syndrome. And what that is is a cluster of five conditions – low HDL cholesterol, high triglycerides, abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, and some degree of insulin resistance; and we can talk about what that is as well. So your blood sugar is a little elevated, your insulin is elevated, you’ve got a little bit of high blood pressure, you’ve got some fat going on in the abdominal region, and your HDL cholesterol is low. That’s metabolic syndrome. Even if you had four of those five, it’s considered metabolic syndrome.
Why it is dangerous and important and serious – multitude of reasons. The first is, you’re not even going to feel symptoms. High blood pressure doesn’t have a symptom. Diabetes doesn’t have a physical symptom that you feel. In many cases this damage is being done and going on under the hood and you’re not aware of it. So, that’s one reason it’s dangerous, that you live blindly thinking, “I feel fine, nothing wrong.” The second reason it’s dangerous is it almost always progresses to diabetes, and then can progress to heart disease. Diabetics have – I don’t remember the exact number, but it’s a double digit increase in likelihood of getting heart disease. They’re very, very related. In fact, as we talk about all these things – obesity, diabetes, heart disease – we’re going to find time and time again that they all share certain characteristics in common, certain basic causal characteristics. One of them being a disorder of carbohydrate metabolism, which is almost always called insulin resistance, and we’ll certainly get into that.
So, metabolic syndrome needs to be taken seriously. I have said for a decade, I don’t give a you-know-what about somebody’s cholesterol reading, but I do care about their high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a real risk; high triglycerides are a risk in different and interesting ways; low HDL can be a risk; and abdominal fat is a big indicator of insulin resistance. We can talk more about what the definition of insulin resistance is, but for now I’ll just tell you this: If you want to do an insulin resistance test at home for free, it’s real easy. This is how you do it. This is the Jonny Bowden low tech version of an insulin resistance test. Stand in front of a wall, walk towards the wall. If your belly hits the wall before your nose, very likely you’ve got insulin resistance.
Allan (6:42): One of the funny things is when I’m working with a client, they’ll tell me, “I want to lose weight.” And I’m like, “I’d rather not measure weight on the scale. I’d rather we wrap a tape measure around your belly.” In my mind that is a better measurement of health and wellness than what the scale is going to tell you, particularly if we’re trying to also gain some muscle mass and do some other things.
Dr. Bowden (7:07): You’re absolutely right.
Allan (7:10): I know they hate that. They say it’s easier to step on the scale. And I’m like, “Easy doesn’t always win the game. Sometimes we’ve got to go a little bit further.”
Dr. Bowden (7:18): I totally agree with that. I use the scale as well, because it’s an added motivator, it’s very easy, and it’s still a piece of data that you want to know. I know what you’re thinking and what maybe some of the listeners are thinking. It doesn’t reflect body fat and you could be gaining body fat and losing muscle and your weight would be the same. All of that’s true. Nonetheless, someone like me who’s been monitoring my own body functions and weight and whatever else for 30 years – I’m pretty good at figuring out the correlation between weight and if I’m losing muscle or gaining body fat. So I use both. I check the waist measurements of course, but I also do a daily checking on the weight just to see if it’s moving in the right direction or if it’s staying still or what it’s doing.
Allan (8:01): You talked a little bit about insulin resistance, and now most doctors will track that and that point where they’re going to call you “prediabetic” is typically through looking at your A1C, which is a measure of blood sugar over a period of time. That number I believe is still 5.5 as the guideline?
Dr. Bowden (8:19): No, it’s a little higher. I think it’s 6.0 or 5.9, but we’re in the ballpark.
Allan (8:23): Okay. So, for someone that’s actually trying to look after their wellness, what are the health markers? You’ve mentioned a few of them, but what would you say if I was going into the doctor and I was going to get a blood test and talk to my doctor about things? What are the things that I should look for and say, “This is a clear signal that I have to change?”
Dr. Bowden (8:40): I’ll tell you what I would want to be tested, but I’ll also tell you that you may have an argument with your doctor about this, because if the doctor doesn’t know to do these tests and you’re telling them, the likelihood is they’re going to say, “You don’t need that. That’s just Internet stuff.” So if they’re not already giving you these tests, if they don’t already see the value of these tests, they are probably going to take that position that it doesn’t matter and it’s nothing and it’s all just nonsense. I have seen that happen with CRP tests – high sensitive, C-reactive protein, which is a general measure of inflammation that I think everybody should know what their CRP level is. And you’ll get doctors who say you don’t need that, and they’re just plain wrong. They just don’t stay up with the literature, they’re very stuck in their belief system and views. “Cholesterol causes heart disease, fat is bad, stop the saturated fat.” And it’s not going to change. So, it’s not as simple as going into my doctor and saying, “I think I’d like a Fasting Insulin test.” They’re going to say, “What do you need that for? Where did you read that?”
It’s not as simple as that, but let’s take the doctor out of the equation. Let’s assume you have someone who’s trained in functional medicine, which is a certification that MDs, NDs, PhDs and other people in the field will go and get after their graduate work, because it is an orientation to medicine that is not taught in medical school, and that is to look at the whole body as a whole.
So they look at all of it integrated. Most doctors do not do that. They’re all specialists. A thumb specialist looks at the thumb, a heart specialist looks at the heart, and nobody talks to each other. So, if you have one of those doctors, you’re going to have trouble. If you have a functional medicine certified doctor, they’re not going to argue with you about these tests; they probably will have given them to you anyway.
So I would look at the CRP test, I’d look at homocysteine. I would forget and burn forever and ever the stupid HDL, LDL cholesterol test, and I’d get the much more modern and much more informative Particle Test. Another one that your doctor will probably argue with you on, but the Particle Test – and we can get into that later – is the only one that really gives you valuable information about cholesterol that you can use.
I would also look at a marker called Lp(a), which is notoriously difficult to modify with lifestyle. It can be done, but it’s very hard, and that’s one of the reasons that’s not something we bother with, because they think you’re kind of stuck with your Lp(a) levels. But the fact is, Lp(a) is a better predictor of heart disease than anything else; certainly better than cholesterol. It’s a particular kind of lipoprotein; it’s not good to have that elevated.
Other than that, I would do some low tech tests that you can do yourself. And this is for everybody. This is really one of the best secrets in health. If you have a basic blood test, I don’t care how rudimentary it is, it’s going to have triglycerides on it and it’s going to have HDL and LDL. If you take your triglyceride reading and you make a ratio to your HDL reading – that number will predict your heart disease probably better than 90% of the markers out there.
Let me explain how to do it. So let’s say your triglycerides are 160. That’s elevated, that’s high. And let’s say your HDL cholesterol is 40. So the ratio is 160:40, or 4:1. It’s a very high ratio. If, on the other hand, your triglycerides were 100 and your HDL was 50, you’d have 100:50, which is 2:1, which is very good. That’s a little math test that’s very easy. You just divide the smaller number into the bigger number, you get a number, and that’s the ratio. You want that to be as low as possible. When it reaches up into the 4 and 5, it’s high risk. When it’s down into the 2 and 1, you’re in the smooth sailing. And that’s a test everybody can do at home.
Allan (12:56): I’m due for another test here soon, but the last time I had it tested, my triglycerides were 94 and my HDL was 89.
Dr. Bowden (13:06): One out of 300 times somebody will actually have a negative ratio. Not a negative ratio, but under one, like you do.
Allan (13:16): Really close to 1.
Dr. Bowden (13:17): Your triglycerides are so low. It’s a wonderful number – under 100. Fantastic. And your HDL is off the charts high. 89, holy moly, I’ve never…
Allan (13:27): Now, my LDL is really high; it’s typically running around 250.
Dr. Bowden (13:33): So your total is in the 3s.
Allan (13:35): Yes. So my doctor loses his mind and he’s like, “You’ve got to quit eating egg yolks and…”
Dr. Bowden (13:42): This is the point where I would change doctors, and let me tell you why. It’s a legitimate point of view. I have integrative doctors who I love and respect, who do still worry about very high LDL. That’s a legitimate point of view. Here’s where your doctor hasn’t read a research article in 10 years. Dietary cholesterol, such as the cholesterol in eggs, has zero effect on blood cholesterol. Everybody knows this. The USDA and their advisory committee actually put out the comment, “Cholesterol is no longer a nutrient of concern”, meaning dietary cholesterol does not matter. Let’s get that really clear to the audience, in case you’re confused. The cholesterol you eat in your diet – eggs, shrimp, all of it, means zero to your blood cholesterol. So, the fact that he said that… I don’t hate him based on the fact that he’s concerned about LDL – I think it’s a wrong position, but it’s a legitimate position.
Allan (14:44): I’m going to step in and defend him just a little bit. We really diverge and we have that conversation on a regular basis. I get your point, but he’s really, really good at understanding the homocysteine and CRP.
Dr. Bowden (15:04): I understand and I don’t mean to knock on your doctor, but let me explain something. This is not a controversial area, this is not something where there are multiple opinions. Dietary cholesterol doesn’t affect… Let me make this a very clear statement so that the people who said, “But what about this? What about this?” I can handle it. There is a condition that’s called “familial hypercholesterolemia” and it runs in families. It’s a genetic anomaly and it causes you to have extremely high cholesterol no matter what you do. You look at an egg, you get cholesterol. For people who have that – that’s maybe less than 1% of the population – let’s put them in a separate category. They need special medical attention; I don’t want to give them advice. But for the other 99% of people, cholesterol in the diet doesn’t matter, and the fact that your doctor thinks it does puzzles me and makes me think that he has not read an article in the last 10 years.
Allan (15:58): And like I said, we have some really good discussions, and I actually did an experiment.
Dr. Bowden (16:02): How about pointing that out to him?
Allan (16:03): I have. I did pescatarian for an entire four months with no eggs whatsoever. My HDL plummeted, my triglycerides went up, and my LDL moved a smidge, like from 250 to 230. I would have to drop this number down nearly 100 points to get anywhere close to what the numbers would be. Actually when you look at my ratios, like you said, my triglycerides to HDL, I was worse health-wise than I was before. So I went back to a different way of eating. That’s where I think a big part of what’s lost in this research – I’m hopeful that books like yours are going to get more people talking about this – is that people will sit there and tell you they know there are different types of carbs, they know there’s the trash carbs that come in a box. They’re going to tell you they know those are processed carbs. And then of course if you’re getting plant materials they’re going to say obviously that’s a better quality of carb. People will do that with me and they’ll be like, “This is not a grass-fed cow.” So people are starting to have those conversations. They’re having the same conversations about the different fats and which ones are good, particularly when they found out that one that was manufactured for us is actually killing us. I want more conversations about the quality of our food. When you start talking about fat with the smart fat, the neutral fat and the dumb fat, to me it’s like, we need that conversation all the way across the food spectrum. Could you take a little bit of time to talk about smart fat, neutral fat and dumb fat?
Dr. Bowden (17:37): I’d love to, and thank you for bringing that up because it is a very central notion. And it’s a notion that I actually came to after probably 20 years, and I’ve noticed that some of the people I most admire have come to the same conclusion, which is, we have spent decades worrying about the percentage of protein versus the percentage of carbs in the diet, versus the percentage of fat in the diet. We worry about all these things and in fact, the position I’ve come to and many other people are coming to is that the quality of your food probably matters more than whether it’s the right percentage of protein and fat and carbs, or whether it’s Paleo or whether it’s South Beach. The quality of food matters probably the most. I always say that if people would just eat from what I call the “Jonny Bowden four food groups”, which is food you could hunt, fish, gather or pluck, then many of our health problems would disappear. I don’t care if you’re on Paleo or vegan or raw foods or high carb. If it was all these foods that you could hunt, fish, gather or pluck, you’re probably going to be alright. That’s the general way that I look at it in terms of quality of the food. It is probably the most important variable in the diet, the quality of the food that you eat.
Allan (18:53): I agree. I even said that in my book that I’m currently working on. I said it’s sad that we have to use the term “whole food” at all. It’s sad that term actually exists.
Dr. Bowden (19:04): Let me give a shoutout for a friend of mine’s new book, which I have no financial interest in, but she sent it to me and it’s excellent. It’s called Formerly Known As Food. If you want to really read what’s happening to the food supply and the stuff you’re eating that you think is healthy, check that book out, Formally Known As Food. It’s pretty scary. But you’re 100% right, Allan, it is the quality. I know you want to talk at some point about the quality of meat, which is a subject near and dear to my heart, but let’s talk about the quality of fats, since that’s what Smart Fat, the book is about, and that’s what you brought up.
So, the problem with the notion of eating healthy fats is that not everybody agrees on what’s a healthy fat. I guarantee you your doctor has probably been dragged into the 21st century enough to know that there is such a thing as “healthy fat”, but he has no idea what it is. And I’m willing to make a bet on that one. When you talk to these conservatives about healthy fat, they grudgingly admit the fat in salmon is good. They have no concept that there could be a saturated fat that’s good for you – that’s completely off their radar. So, it’s not enough to just say, “Let’s eat healthy fats.” We’ve got to get into the weeds and define what that is, and that’s what we try to do in the book.
There are plenty of saturated fats that are fantastically healthy for you. Whether a fat is healthy or not has zero to do with whether it’s animal or vegetable. I want to make that very, very clear. That is not the marker for good and bad fat. In my opinion, the marker for good and bad fat has one and only one characteristic. Is it a toxic fat or is it not a toxic fat? Here’s what I mean by “toxic fats” – fats that have been heated and damaged, like the foods that have been fried in restaurant fat that is used over and over again for seven days. Cooled and heated, cooled and needed. It’s a carcinogen factory, so that’s bad fat. Trans fats – really bad fat. They contribute to heart disease, they contribute to stroke, they have no particular value. Very bad fat.
Vegetable oils, one of the things we have been hammered to eat more of, are highly pro-inflammatory and probably one of the main reasons that everyone is experiencing inflammation in unprecedented amounts. We eat 16 times more of that stuff than we do Omega-3s, which are anti-inflammatory. So, all of the soybean oils, canola oils, safflower oils, cottonseed oil – all of these things that we’ve been told are healthy and good for us are literally creating tons of inflammation. As you know, and probably your listeners know, inflammation promotes or causes or contributes to just about every degenerative disease we know of. So, the notion of bad fats and good fats being classified parallel to whether they come from animals or vegetables is just antiquated and it’s wrong.
Here are some examples of very, very healthy saturated fats. Coconut oil – loaded with antimicrobials, loaded with lauric acid, which is great for the immune system, loaded with medium chain triglycerides, which help produce ketones in the brain that are used for energy. Coconut oil is a fabulous fat. One that people don’t know about as much, which is equally, if not better, is Malaysian palm oil. And let me tell you why. First of all, it’s red. Why is it red? Because it’s got tons of carotenoids, which is the same thing as Beta-carotene. It’s carotenoid, there are 600 of them, they’re red so they come in red foods like peppers and watermelon. Well, it’s got tons of that. It has something called tocotrienols, which are a fraction of vitamin E. There are four of the vitamin E components, and those tocotrienols in Malaysian palm oil have been found to protect the brain after a stroke. And why do I say Malaysian?
I’ve just got to give a shoutout to the environment, because I do care about animal rights. A lot of places that make palm oil actually deforest, and the orangutan’s habitat is harmed. In Malaysia it doesn’t happen. Fifty percent of the country’s rainforest is protected forever, compared to, say, 3% of ours. It takes 10 times more land to produce canola oil or soybean oil than it does to produce Malaysian palm oil, and the trees grow for 30 years. So this is a country that really protects its rainforest, cares about the environment, cares about the health and wellbeing of the animals that live there. And that’s why I really give a shoutout to Malaysia. Palm oil in general is a healthy oil, but let’s get it from companies that are being responsible and sustainable. So that’s another wonderful path.
The other thing about saturated fats in general is they stand up to heat. What people don’t understand is you can’t buy your extra virgin olive oil and then come home and fry stuff in it. It’s insane. The reason we spend so much extra money for extra virgin olive oil is it’s never been touched by chemicals or high heat. That’s what extra virgin means. If you can imagine the old wineries, where they would have these big barrels of grapes and the old big men would stamp. They would use the pressure of their feet to stamp them and turn them into liquid. But it’s like that – there’s no chemical processing, there’s no high heat. So you come home, you put that oil in the frying pan – you’re now destroying the very polyphenols that you just paid all that money for. You have to understand standing up to heat is a very important characteristic for food, especially if you cook. Saturated fat stands up to heat; you can cook it at higher temperatures without harming it. So there are a lot of wonderful fats in the saturated fat community and there are a lot of really harming fats in the vegetable fat community, such as, for example, canola oil. We’ve got to get past this notion that good and bad fat divides along the lines of animal versus vegetable, because that just isn’t true.
Allan (25:16): That’s one of the things I really appreciate you had in the book, was a table that talks about the smoke point of these various oils, which tells you when you’re going to sit down to cook, which oil would be the most appropriate. So sometimes it can be avocado oil, or the palm oil, or coconut oil, and then you can use olive oil to drizzle, as a dressing, those types of things. I think that’s a really good guideline to help someone understand how to use oils properly. And if the oil can sit on your shelf for years and not change, probably not the best thing to put in your food.
Dr. Bowden (25:49): I couldn’t agree more. My co-author on Smart Fat, Dr. Steven Masley, took a year off of medical school to study at the Four Seasons. So he’s actually quite an accomplished chef and it was his contribution in there to put in these smoke points, because the oil changes quality, literally becomes a bad fat if you cook it at the wrong temperature. It literally creates damaging compounds. So, this is a very important consideration also when it comes to saturated fats – they stand up to heat, they don’t damage.
Allan (26:19): His recipes are excellent, by the way. I did the lemon butter sauce for the salmon, but my wife doesn’t like salmon, so we put it over asparagus last night. Awesome.
Dr. Bowden (26:29): Nice. I’ve done a lot of books that have recipes in them. We usually hire a cook or a chef or a recipe developer, and then we comment on it and all that. But we’re not cooks, we’re not chefs. Steve did his own recipes for that book.
Allan (26:43): Very, very good. You have to tell him that. Now, another area where I think people can get a little confused – it confused me a little bit in the early days – was, if we’re trying to cut back on our sugars, because sugar is a problem, then we’re going to look for foods with a lower glycemic index. Then there’s this term, “glycemic load”.
Dr. Bowden (27:05): I can clear that up for you in a second.
Allan (27:06): Okay, cool. Please do.
Dr. Bowden (27:09): Glycemic index is a measure that tells you how high your blood sugar goes for a given amount of carbohydrate, which is 50 grams. Here’s the problem. If I go to the supermarket and I see a spice, like imported saffron, and it’s $300 a pound – it tells me what it is for a pound, but if I’m making a recipe that needs a pinch of saffron, I’m not going to pay $300; I’m going to pay whatever that pinch is. Very different pieces of information. So with the glycemic index, it’s great that we know how much your blood sugar goes up and how long it stays up based on 50 grams of carbohydrate, but we don’t always eat 50 grams of carbohydrate. For example, we have pasta, even a relatively small portion of pasta, a reasonable portion – what they put on the Ronzoni box, which nobody eats; everybody eats the whole thing. But even if you ate a small portion, you’re at 200 grams of carbohydrate. On the other hand, if you eat a big bunch of carrots, only about 3 grams of that big bunch of carrots are actually usable carbs; the rest is fiber.
What the glycemic load does is it tells you what you’re going to pay at the register. Not how much it is per pound, but what you’re going to pay for the amount that you use. So glycemic load is glycemic index plus taking into account the portion size. That’s critical because again, if I’m going to eat pasta, I’m going to eat four times what the glycemic index shows me, but if I look at the glycemic load, that’s going to take into account that portion and it’s going to give me an idea of how high my blood sugar is going to go up with that amount of food. That’s why I think the glycemic load is far more accurate and far more predictive than the glycemic index, which is kind of a theoretical number. If you ate 50 grams, that’s what it would do. But what you’re actually going to eat – this is what it’s going to do, and that’s glycemic load.
Allan (29:16): I think that’s valuable, because we started the conversation talking about metabolic syndrome. If you are constantly spiking up your blood sugar, maybe you don’t think you are because this has a relatively moderate glycemic index, but the volume that you’re eating is much more than the 50 grams. I shudder to think, when I was training as a bodybuilder in my 20s, I would sit there and get a can of tuna and I would put it on this big, big heaping thing of pasta – pretty much the whole bag.
Dr. Bowden (29:49): That was the bodybuilder lunch. The guys, the trainers with tuna and white rice, or brown rice, at the time. That’s what everybody thought was the perfect bodybuilder diet.
Allan (30:03): And now looking back at it, if I’d known that information and what it was going to do to my future health, I would not have gone that route. I would’ve found a cleaner protein, cleaner way to do that. It would not have been exactly that way. I like having a better understanding of what food is going to do to our body, and glycemic load is going to do a much better presentation of how our body would respond.
Dr. Bowden (30:25): The only problem, Allan, is It’s a little harder to find. You can find glycemic index numbers all over the place, but not everybody knows about glycemic load, so sometimes glycemic index is all we have. But remember, glycemic index is a measure of how much 50 grams of carbohydrate will raise your blood sugar, eaten by itself. The minute you put olive oil in your cornflakes, the cornflakes no longer have the glycemic index that they had when they’re eaten by themselves. So, foods in combination have very different effects on blood sugar than foods eaten separately. For example, the brown rice might have a very high impact on your blood sugar if you ate it alone, but if you put some oil on it and eat it with tuna, the impact is considerably less.
Allan (31:08): Yes. You’re looking at in the book a much different way of eating, and you call it the 5-5-10. I like this because I’m a victim of this as well. We all like something simple. Simple helps us stay on track – calories in, calories out, step on the scale every morning, keep your fat low and this many grams, or however they want to go about this. But your plan basically says we need smart fats, we need clean proteins, and we need fiber, and here’s how you do it. Can you talk us through the 5-5-10 plan? I think we know now what smart fats look like. Talk about the clean proteins versus the mean proteins, and then fiber and why fiber is so important.
Dr. Bowden (31:57): Can I just point out that when you listed those three things that are essential in the diet, carbohydrate was not among them?
Allan (32:03): It’s not essential, yeah.
Dr. Bowden (32:04): Not essential. I always like to point that out to people.
Allan (32:07): Although I would say fiber technically classifies as a carb. It’s coming from carbs, but in a general sense, you’re right. Our bodies need the fiber to feel full and satiated, so that way where we’re not overeating and our body’s functioning the way it needs to, we’re giving her gut flora everything it needs. I agree – we don’t have an essential, but I think you still need to eat some plant matter. That’s why it’s 10 versus 5.
Dr. Bowden (32:36): I couldn’t agree more, but I think it’s important to remember because we’re constantly assaulted by that God awful American Dietetic Association, which changed its name to try to get away from its ridiculous roots. But they are still the American Dietetic Association as far as I’m concerned. They’re still apologists to the mainstream, they’ve never had an original thought, and they’re the ones that will keep going on and saying, “You’re going to lose essential nutrients if you don’t eat your cabs.” That is completely untrue. There is no physiological need for carbohydrates in the diet, in the human body, and that’s been shown time and time again. Now, that does not mean you shouldn’t eat them. As you said, we need the fiber, the polyphenols, the nutrients, the flavonoids, the vitamins, the minerals, all the things that are found in an apple. We need them; we want them. But what it does point out is that we’ve been given crazy dietary advice. We’ve been told to eat 60% of our calories from the one macronutrient we don’t even need. No wonder we’ve got an epidemic of diabesity. I wanted to point that out about the carbs.
Let’s go to the three essential things in the human diet – fat, protein and fiber. So the notion of five smart fats, I think we’re pretty clear on. We want to get things like Malaysian palm oil and coconut oil. By the way, the fat from grass-fed beef is wonderful. Nothing wrong with it. We’re going to get into the difference between grass-fed and not grass-fed in a minute, but there are lots of really healthy fats. I think we have some idea for sure, we talked about them. Five of those a day; 10 servings of fiber a day. That’s the 5-5-10. Ten is the fiber, which, as you point out, is essential for a number of things. One is to feel full, sure, but two is to moderate your blood sugar because when you add fiber to sugar, it has a very different effect on your blood sugar than when you just drink the sugar. Apple juice by itself has one particular effect on blood sugar, but if you were to add some kind of butter to it… I’m not suggesting this; doesn’t sound like it tastes good, but just theoretically if you were to add a thing of butter to your apple juice, it would have a different impact because the fat would slow it down, just like the fiber would. So, we need 5 things of fat, we need 10 of fiber, and we need 5 of what we call “clean protein”. And I would love to explain the difference between clean and mean protein, or what we call “clean and mean”.
Allan (35:03): Please do.
Dr. Bowden (35:05): So, when you buy meat, 95% of it – I don’t know what the figure is; it’s high 90s – comes from places that are known as CAFOs – confined animal feedlot operations, also known as factory farms. When I was a kid, we used to go to farms, different places for vacation as a child, and I know what real farms look like. Cows are grazing on their natural diet of grass. They walk around contentedly chewing their cuds or whatever it is that they chew there. And they’re getting a diet full of some insects and some worms, which contain Omega-3s, and they’re not given hormones or steroids or antibiotics. That’s what a cow’s life is supposed to be like. If you’re going to eat it, that would be the happy cow to eat. In a factory farm, the animals are caged in tiny containers, stressed out of their minds. They’re fed wheat, grain and corn, which does two things. One, it fattens them up and two, it makes him sick as hell, because they’re ruminants, they have four stomachs, they do not do well with grains. They need grass – that’s their natural diet. The grains and the corns and the wheats and all of that just makes them sick and requires more antibiotics. These cows are then shot full of steroids to make them bigger, hormones to make them grow and to make them have more fat, and antibiotics to just generally keep them from getting even sicker under these horrible conditions that they live under, and also because antibiotics fatten them. So the cows that you eat that come from factory farm operations are absolutely toxic waste dose. The fat contains all of the pesticides, fungicides and all the other stuff on the wheat that they shouldn’t be eating in the first place. You’re getting a nice helping of antibiotics, steroids and hormones, and you get none of the good Omega-3 fats, and lots of the inflammatory Omega-6 fats. That’s factory farmed meat. If that were the only protein available to me, I’d become a vegan, and I’m very far from the temperament of the vegan.
Let’s look at the other kind of meat – grass-fed, 100% grass-fed, pastured meat. These are cows or pigs that live in their natural habitat. They run around, they’re not confined, they eat the grass, the insects or whatever it is they run around and eat there in their natural ways. They’re not fed antibiotics or steroids or hormones. They’re not treated cruelly. Those animals are health foods. And yes, I understand the conflict people have about animals. We are huge animal rights people here. We love animals. Our animals sleep in our bed. We love them. We feel about them the way we do about our children. I understand the horrible conflict a lot of people have about eating these things that we love so much. The problem is that human physiology does better with some animal products in our diet. We just do. When I argue with vegans about this, I want to tear my hair out of my head because they just make up their own facts. The fact is you cannot get DHA and EPA, or you can get a tiny bit of it from some algae, but you can’t get significant amounts of DHA and EPA in the human diet unless you’re eating fish. Unlike the vegan propaganda, if you eat plant-based Omega-3s, they do not convert to the kind that your body needs. They convert at such a tiny rate than it doesn’t really even matter. I don’t believe we can have a healthy diet that contains all of the nutrients that we need from a vegan diet, so we’ve got this kind of conflict, especially if we’re animal lovers. Everyone I guess has to find their own level that they can live with themselves on. Ours is, we don’t eat anything that wasn’t 100% grass-fed and raised. There’s enough there for us to be able to eat meat from time to time. It’s not like we can never eat it. That’s our particular line, and everybody has to find their own. The fact is – I’ve never seen any evidence to the contrary of this – the human body does better with some animal food products in it. Sorry, vegans.
Allan (39:13): But at the same time you even acknowledged in the book a little bit, I think Dr. Masley is on the other side. Not on the other side entirely, but at least there’s a conversation there to say all of your protein doesn’t have to come from animals either. You can get those from beans, there’s some really good pea and rice protein powders, whey protein. Again, if the animals are ethically raised, I think that’s also a good opportunity.
Dr. Bowden (39:40): Yeah, I agree with all of that, except for the fact that when you really look at the ratings on protein… And there are five different kinds; they keep improving them. So it’s gone from biological availability to PDA. There are all kinds of different ways of evaluating protein, but if you look at the evaluations, particularly the current ones – pea protein, rice – they suck. You’re way down in the 60s and 70s, as opposed to beef, which is like 92. So it’s important to know that yes, there are other sources of protein, but sorry, vegans, pea protein is not the same as beef protein. It just isn’t. It doesn’t have the same amino acid profile. Soy protein has a whole bunch of different things. And I’m not saying you can’t get protein other than meat. There’s fish, there’s a million different sources – whey protein, powder. Sure, some of the vegan protein powders or the vegetarian protein powders could be used from time to time, but let’s keep in mind, let’s not kid ourselves that pea protein is in any way as valuable, as rich in amino acids, with the same profile, or as usable as, for example, whey protein which does come from cows and which can come from grass-fed cows, by the way.
Allan (40:53): Yes. And one of the other things you mention in the book that I thought was really valuable, and it plays into some of the recipes that are in there, is that some foods actually do double duty, so it might not mean that you’re having as much food as this might sound like – 5, 5 and 10 servings.
Dr. Bowden (41:12): Sure, exactly.
Allan (41:15): So we might have eggs. If they’re well cared for animals, we’re going to get a good, healthy, saturated fat from the egg and we’re going to get the protein from the egg, along with a good dose of choline, which is hard to get from many other sources. I think you also mention in the book avocados are good source of fat and fiber.
Dr. Bowden (41:35): Avocado – we put that on the cover of the book. The avocado is such a star. I eat them as many meals… You can’t get enough avocado. They are great.
Allan (41:47): It also helps with the recipes and the meal plans that are in there for the first 10 days and the final 20 days. And then of course day 31 and beyond, now that they’ve learned this pattern. It becomes very, very simple for you to just blend through and say, “Here are my meals during the day.” You break it into typically three meals and a snack in the afternoon. Just makes it really easy for someone to go through and say, “Here’s my standard days of eating, and I know I’m getting good nutrition because I’m focused more on quality.” But we’re still keeping it pretty simple with the 5-5-10.
Dr. Bowden (42:17): Yeah, and let me just put a foot note to the 5-5-10. At this point in my career, 28 years into it, I’m not really that much of a fan these days of formulas, including the ones I’ve written, like 5-5-10. Here’s why. I think eventually people have to be their own GPS when it comes to food. These are guidelines. I don’t want people sitting there obsessively with a notebook. No, that’s not the point. It’s kind of like the Fitbits with the steppers. We have that kind of general goal that 10,000 steps a day would be great. I don’t know too many people who go crazy like, “It’s only 8,000. Let me go walk a couple of thousand.” We don’t want obsessiveness to replace good sense when it comes to nutrition. So, 5-5-10 is like an aspirational goal. Let’s strive for that. That’s ideal, like 10,000 steps. But please, people, don’t go nuts trying to fit into a formula. These are guidelines meant to help you find your particular pathway that works.
Allan (43:15): I have to raise my hand and admit walking around my hotel room when I was just 300 steps short.
Dr. Bowden (43:21): I would do the same.
Allan (43:24): The number was there and I was 300 steps away. I just started walking around.
Dr. Bowden (43:28): Of course. But you get my point, right?
Allan (43:31): Yes. I do, absolutely. Dr. Bowden, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness. If someone wanted to get in touch with you to learn more about your books, including Smart Fat, where would you like for me to send them?
Dr. Bowden (43:43): JonnyBowden.com. And starting in September there will be a brand new website with free stuff and all kinds of stuff. You’re welcome to visit me there and sign up for my newsletter, and when the new site comes out in September, you’ll be very happy.
Allan (43:58): Cool. This is episode 338, so you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/338 and I’ll make sure to have a link to Dr. Bowden’s site there. I can’t thank you enough, Dr. Bowden, for being a part of this podcast.
Dr. Bowden (44:13): It’s a pleasure, Allan. I loved it. Thank you so much. I hope you have me on again, it was a lot of fun. Went very fast.
Allan (44:23): I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Dr. Bowden as much as I did. I’m actually going to have him on again in a couple of more weeks. I’m really interested in getting into another book that he’s written. Very interesting topics, really interesting guy. If you enjoyed this episode though, please do leave us a rating and review. You can do that through the app that you’re listening to this podcast on, or you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Review and leave a rating and review, subscribe to the podcast there. It really is important for these reviews to be out there. It helps people find the podcast and it does show people what you think of the podcast, which is just social proof that gets them listening. So, go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Review, or leave a review on the app you’re listening to right now.
I do have a couple of extra bonuses to talk to you about in October. I am going to release some extra episodes in October and probably November. I want to give two a week. I’m not sure if I can keep up with that pace, but it is a goal of mine to start adding a few extra episodes in as we get into October, November, because that’s an important time of the year for us to start focusing on our health. A lot of us will tend to overeat as we get into this last quarter of the year, so I want to have a little bit more out there for you to keep you a little bit more engaged, a little bit more accountable. So I’m going to be trying to release some extra episodes during the month of October. You’ll need to subscribe to make sure that you’re getting all of the episodes. If you just log in on Monday to look for this stuff, you might find that there’s extra episodes out there that you’ve got to catch up on. So, I encourage you to go ahead and subscribe so those things come straight to your app. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Review, and that will lead you to the iTunes page. Again, you can leave a review and you can subscribe there. Or just subscribe on the app that you’re listening to right now.
Also, I want to announce October 1st, we’re going launch the Sugar Challenge again. I know some of you have already done this challenge. If you have, you know that it’s a really cool thing. It’s a 28-day challenge, it’s going to launch on October 1st. I’m going to be cutting off signups for that on the 30th of September, so you’re going to want to go out to sign up for it. It’s at 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Sugar. So go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Sugar, and that will help you sign up for the Sugar Challenge that we’re going to have in October.
And then finally, again, I do need you on the launch team, so if you would please go to WellnessRoadmapBook.com. I’m updating the website pretty much every week, so there’s new stuff out there, new changes as I build that out to support the launch of the book. And then of course when you’re there, please do join the launch team. Those are the folks that are in the know, those are the folks that are going to get some bonus material, bonus content that nobody else is going to get. It’s related to the book, but it really is a cool process and I want to have you on this team. So, go to WellnessRoadmapBook.com and join The Wellness Roadmap book launch team. Thank you.