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Alternative Health
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Alternative Health
Health & Fitness
Natural Sciences
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The most interesting people in the world of science and technology

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The most interesting people in the world of science and technology

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The Best in Class

By drjohndeluca - Sep 03 2019
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The premier science and medicine podcast. You always come out a little bit smarter after listening.

Thank you 🙏🏾

By ForeverLoveAboveAll - Mar 12 2019
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I greatly appreciate the wisdom you share! Thank you for help to open my mind <3

iTunes Ratings

464 Ratings
Average Ratings

The Best in Class

By drjohndeluca - Sep 03 2019
Read more
The premier science and medicine podcast. You always come out a little bit smarter after listening.

Thank you 🙏🏾

By ForeverLoveAboveAll - Mar 12 2019
Read more
I greatly appreciate the wisdom you share! Thank you for help to open my mind <3
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Updated 4 days ago

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The most interesting people in the world of science and technology

Rank #1: Episode 24: Doug McGuff talks about resistance training, myokines, strength and health

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One could say that Dr. Doug McGuff is one of the pioneers of BMX motocross bike racing in Texas. He built the state’s first race track, having gotten hooked on the sport as a teenager in the 1970s.

The sport also triggered a deeper interest in fitness. As McGuff tried strengthen his core for bike racing, he discovered Arthur Jones’ Nautilus training technique and bartered janitorial services for a Nautilus gym membership.

McGuff’s interest and aptitude for studying the body led him to pursue medicine at the University of Texas in San Antonio. He specialized in emergency medicine, was chief resident of emergency medicine at the University of Arkansas in Little Rock, and a staff physician at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Hospital in Ohio. McGuff is currently an ER physician with Blue Ridge Emergency Physicians in Seneca, South Carolina.

The other side of McGuff’s career is dedicated to fitness, or as he says—helping people never have to go to the ER. Realizing a lifetime dream, he opened up his own fitness facility in 1997 called Ultimate Exercise. The gym is dedicated to the type of high-intensity fitness training using the Super Slow protocol.

In this episode of STEM-Talk, McGuff talks about why this type of exercise is better for the body, safer, and able to prevent age-related conditions such as sarcopenia.

McGuff is the author of three books: “Body by Science: A Research-Based Program for Strength Training, Body-building and Complete Fitness in 12 Minutes a Week,” (co-authored with John Little), “The Primal Prescription: Surviving the “Sick Care” Sinkhole,” (co-authored with economist Robert Murphy), and “BMX Training: A Scientific Approach.”

He is also featured in several YouTube videos on high-intensity training. His recent IHMC lecture, entitled “Strength Training for Health and Longevity,” is available at

2:03: Dawn reads an an iTunes 5-star review from “Guy who likes Chipotle,” which is entitled “Interesting and just complex enough.” “STEM-Talk does an amazing job of delivering high-level information on a variety of topics, without making it too complex to understand.”

4:21: Dawn introduces Doug and Ken.

4:47: McGuff says that as a young teen, shortly after getting interested in BMX bike racing, he started working out with his brother’s weights, which was transformational. “It is still the closest thing to magic or a miracle that I’ve ever experienced in my life.”

6:44: Also as a teen, Doug McGuff bartered janitorial services for a membership to a Nautilus gym, where he found a copy of a book by Nautilus founder Arthur Jones  ( about training principles. “It was the first book I ever read cover to cover. To say that book changed the course of my life would be a massive understatement.”

8:13: During the summer of 1994, McGuff met Arthur Jones, who greatly influenced his thoughts on exercise resistance training.

12:00: McGuff went into ER medicine because “It was rare to find something that I felt that I had intrinsic talent in. I felt like I functioned very well in that environment.” His career has focused on two things: taking care of people who fall down and get hurt; and trying to prevent it from happening in the first place.

13:00: McGuff talks about being a pioneer of BMX in Texas, as he built the first track there and went back to racing in the late 90s and won the state championship. He also trained some world champion level BMX racers.

14:30: Now he characterizes himself as “a practicing physician so busy with the chronically sick and massively debilitated; the chasm between day to day life and actually thinking about prevention is such a wide chasm that it’s hard to imagine.”

15:00: “I would love to see the day where the commercial says, ‘Ask your doctor if diet and exercise are right for you….’ Instead of whatever pill of the day.”

15:44: McGuff notes the idea of physiologic headroom, which economist Arthur De Vany came up with. “Physiologic headroom is the difference between the least you can do and the most you can do.” See De Vany’s book, “The New Evolution Diet”:

17:50: “The better part of our lives, in terms of our functional ability, are much less than what they should be.”

18:45: McGuff says that high-intensity interval training is what appears to reverse the biomarkers of aging, according to the literature on the topic.

21:00: In McGuff’s book, “Body by Science,” (, he presents the concept of Super Slow training: lifting and lowering weights very slowly. This protocol emerged out of Nautilus, after Arthur Jones commissioned a University of Florida research study on osteoporosis. Ken Hutchins, an employee of Arthur Jones, was the primary person who defined and popularized the Super Slow form of resistance training exercise.

22:40: The protocol applied to younger subjects resulted in similarly good results.

23:18: More important is the style and intent (of lifting weights). “If your intent is to as intensely and deeply fatigue the muscle as you can…if you start weight-lifting with as gradual a load as possible, and then you just try to lift and lower with high effort, during that initial phase, depriving yourself of initial momentum allows the speed to express itself organically.” In one person, that cadence might be 4 seconds up, 4 down; or 8 up; 8 down. In most people that ends up being 10 seconds up; 10 down.

25:03: Commercial break: STEM-Talk is an educational service of the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, a not-for-profit research lab pioneering ground-breaking technologies aimed at leveraging human cognition, perception, locomotion and resilience.

25:23: Ken talks about the importance of avoiding injury when exercising and posits that Super Slow should be good in this respect.

25:48: McGuff says that he opened his gym, Ultimate Exercise, in 1997. They average 100-120 workouts per week. “We’ve never injured anyone in the facility…. That gives some credit to a slow cadence protocol. You can still get hurt [during a slow cadence protocol] if you don’t observe good biomechanics.”

26:40: The mastermind of “congruent exercise” is Bill DeSimone (, which is based on using biomechanics to prevent injury.

27:45: At his gym, McGuff tells his trainers: “train ‘em hard as hell, don’t injure anyone, give them adequate recovery.”

29:00: “When we talk about sarcopenia, the population has it in their head that it’s a natural consequence of aging. And it’s not. Sarcopenia is a natural consequence of aging with our modern Western lifestyle injected into the equation.” McGuff notes this did not happen in hunter gatherer societies. “That doesn’t mean modern tech cannot be exploited to leverage those evolutionary adaptations.”

30:10: Age-related sarcopenia occurs when there is atrophy in the type II muscle fibers. “When you recruit muscle to do work, that happens in an orderly and sequential function.” You start with lower-order muscles to do work. Finally, you recruit higher-order muscles, which produce a lot of force output, but they fatigue very quickly. The latter are hard to get at, so you have to produce fatigue in a disciplined fashion.

32:54: An elderly person loses balance because if you go off the vertical plane (not on bone and bone tower), the only way to right yourself is by activating very powerful muscles to correct that posture deficit. “They fall because they don’t have the fast-twitch IIB fibers to yank them back into corrective posture. That’s why they go down like a tree in the forest.”

34:00: McGuff defines exercise as protocolized strength training; disciplined and aimed at achieving a deep level of fatigue rapidly. You can’t stand more than 12-15 minutes of that intensity. You want the minimal effective dose.

35:07: “Most people think of exercise as directly causing the adaption. The exercise produces the stimulus; your body receives it and makes a physiologic adaption.”

35:40: “I make a clean distinction between exercise and activity.”

36:41: “Once you create this physiologic headroom, you want to use it. It’s like having a Ferrari and being restricted to the school zone. It just doesn’t work. That’s not a bad thing.”

37:30: McGuff talks about muscular failure, a term coined by Arthur Jones meaning lifting and lowering weight, and getting to a point where you are trying to lift weight, but it won’t go. The problem is that failure in and of itself does not necessarily define an adequate stimulus. The desired stimulus is a meaningful depth of fatigue, or a substantial reduction in one’s starting level of strength. In the gym, one may reach muscular failure in a particular exercise without reaching an adequate depth of fatigue.

41:25: Ken notes that the Super Slow protocol, as described in McGuff’s book, is performed exclusively on machines, and asks whether this training transfers to what are sometimes called “real world” functional movements and basic movement patterns (squat, hinge, push, pull, carry).

41:50: “When people talk about functional movements and movement patterns, I find that they are fairly ill-defined. Human movement in a functional sense is inherent to our physiology and anatomy. What is necessary for those to express themselves in real world applications is that you have to have a motor that is able to drive the movements of that appendage.”

43:00: “The notion that you have to recreate those functional movement patterns in the gym under load for those functional movement patterns to be expressed out of the gym is a little bit of a false construct. Some of those natural movement patterns, when done under load, are very joint incongruent.”

44:47: Ken and Doug note that confusing “sport” and “exercise” can be dangerous.

44:55: Dawn asks Doug about low intensity training as typically prescribed for the elderly.

45:15: Exercise recommendations for the elderly are often off-base. People making them don’t understand how to invoke high-intensity and low force at the same time. Being physically active at a low level of intensity is part of our evolutionary and biological background. If you get at those IIB fibers, that type of activity expresses itself organically.

46:40: What happens is that you carry out a type of long-term, low-intensity activity that says: This animal is carrying out chronic low-level activity. This becomes interpreted as a negative thing—the stimulus to lose type IIB muscle fibers rather than gain them. “In the long term, you’ve jettisoned one of largest glucose reservoirs in your body, and you have therefore undermined insulin sensitivity.” This accelerates sarcopenia.

47:20: Ken notes that one often sees this adaptation in marathon runners. McGuff, says, “That is why marathon and ultra-endurance athletes look cachexic … because they delivered a biological stimulus to their organism that says these type-IIB fibers are unnecessary for this activity and we need to get rid of them.”

48:12: Dawn asks about exercise while traveling and without good access to good equipment.

48:30: Doug, replies that “We’ve gotten the notion that weights are a necessary part of the equation, and they really aren’t. Through infimetrics, I can provide an intensity of workout that exceeds one with weights. It’s hard to describe in a podcast, but Google McGuff’s name and timed static contraction protocol or infimitric YouTube videos.

50:00: Ken notes that Blood flow restriction training, such as Kaatsu, increases localized IGF-1 levels and sensitivity via accumulation of metabolites, particularly lactate and H (+) and asks if McGuff thinks this type of training is useful.

51:53: Doug discusses blood-flow restriction training, which can produce equal hypertrophy and strength adaptions using a much lighter weight. The theory is that you are concentrating the by-products of metabolism that occur during exertion locally within the muscle, for example the entrapment of local IGF production.

52:46:  “I think it is of benefit from several standpoints, one is the fact that it requires less resistance to get an equal result — that increases the safety margin and increases the safety margin for extremely strong people.”

53:37: When you use a slower-cadence protocol, that creates a high degree of sustained muscular tension that produces vascular congestion within musculature that traps metabolites in the same way blood flow restriction does.

54:48: Ken says he’s had good results using blood flow restriction (using the Kaatsu system). He particularly appreciates blood flow restriction training for those with painful or compromised joints given the very light weights.  Also, hotels often have a very limited selection of relatively light weights, which are no problem with blood flow restriction.

55:18: Dawn asks whether electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) training might offer promise as a way to safely hit fast-twitch muscle in all age groups and whether McGuff has experience with EMS?

55:40: Doug discusses his experience with EMS and thinks it does let you hit the fast twitch fibers.

57:07: When you lose motor units, body starts to disconnect enervation of motor units.

57:52: Elderly with sarcopenia also have deconstructed this neuro-motor connection to higher-order motor units. “Where EMS is useful as a therapeutic modality is being able to activate type IIB motor units at the end of the set, so when they reach fatigue, that’s not fatigue like a younger person who still has that connection intact. You could invoke EMS at the end of the set to wake back up those type II motor units. The enervation of those motor units wakes up as well.” He says this is a “stop-gap measure to rehabilitate the enervation of higher-order motor units.

58:55: Commercial break: STEM-Talk is an educational service of the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, a not-for-profit research lab pioneering ground-breaking technologies aimed at leveraging human cognition, perception, locomotion and resilience.

 59:20: Ken mentions that Brian Caulfied at University College Dublin has been doing interesting and important work on EMS in both athletic populations and older cohort groups.

1:00:00: Ken says he’s optimistic about the future of EMS as new companies, such as PowerDot are offering systems that run on smart phones, etc.

1:00:39: Doug notes that people often “conflate athleticism and health.”

1:02:26: Ken notes that myokines have both local actions within the muscle tissue but also hormone like effects that target distant organs.  He asks McGuff to discuss the role of myokines in exercise and the adaptations that occur as a result.

1:03:00: Resistance training is much greater than the sum of its parts.

1:04:30: Skeletal muscle is not just a tissue that produces movement. The muscle is the biggest and most active endocrine organ in our body; there’s a whole host of myokines—probably only of which a handful have been discovered. They are signaling locally and remotely—skin, hair, nervous tissue, cardiovascular system.

1:05:27: “The signals are going everywhere, and very few of them have been delineated thus far…. but the health benefits are becoming more and more obvious.”

1:05:46: The cytokines released by muscles have profound anti-inflammatory effects: they are the antithesis of metabolic syndrome and have anti-neoplastic effects. They are protective and reversive of neoplastic changes. “There’s a treasure trove there.”

1:06:30: Dawn asks about the role of myokines in tumor growth/suppression.

1:08:30: Doug says myokines have been found to arrest tumorigenesis for different types of cancer.

1:09:20: Different myokines are invoked by different forms and intensities of exercise.

1:10:35: Dawn asks how insulin sensitivity influences the production and sensitivity of myokines and Doug discusses their interaction.

1:12:11: Ken observed that recently the ketone body acetoacetate has been shown (in an animal model) to serve as a signaling metabolite in mediating muscle cell function and growth.   Specifically, acetoacetate potentiated the stimulatory effect of IGF1 on muscle cell proliferation and antagonized the inhibitory effect of myostatin. Ken asks McGuff whether he sees a role for endogenous (or exogenous) ketone bodies in augmenting myokine-induced hypertrophy.

1:12:47: “The answer is yeah, I think so.  It is just now becoming evident that those two operate by a similar mechanism.” Myostatin is a myokine that acts as a negative regulator of muscle growth.

1:14:00: With a sedentary lifestyle you can develop an overexpression of myostatin, one of the players in sarcopenia. It is upregulated in HIV, and certain cancer cells involved in cachexia.

1:14:18: “Acetoacetate has been shown to blunt its (myostatin) effect.”

1:15:10: Ketosis is when food supply is dwindling, and you tend to hunt and gather. The highest levels of physical output occur during hunting and gathering; it seems natural that ketosis and high level muscular activity would tend to occur/run in tandem. Those two things are running on parallel tracks biochemically.

1:16:17: Ken comments that both exercise induced myokines and ketone bodies appear to inhibit myostatin … yet pharma has spent decades looking for a safe and effective myostatin inhibitor.

1:17:00: McGuff refers to the Simon Melov paper which he found that 196 genes are expressed differently in youth and the elderly; they found an extensive reversal (back to their youthful levels) of gene expression in the elderly after physical training. Link to paper:

1:19:42: Dawn asks Doug about his thoughts on nutrition and to what extent does he see nutrition playing a role in skeletal muscle adaptation to exercise?

1:20:10: McGuff is a proponent of the Paleo diet: “You can never exercise your way out of a bad diet.”

1:22:28: Ken and Doug discuss how obesity is a recent phenomenon and that poor nutrition is at the heart of the problem.

1:28:08: Doug talks about his book, “The Primal Prescription: Surviving the Sick Care Sinkhole,” co-authored with economist Robert Murphy ( It talks about the ER as the de facto safety net in the American healthcare system.

1:31:08: “[Writing the book] has given me a front-row seat to decay and collapse of medical system in this country; how it happened; and how recent attempts to address through ACA have put it on steroids, and made the medical system impossible to navigate.”

1:33:10: Dawn closes out the interview. She mentions McGuff’s lecture, entitled “Strength Training for Health and Longevity,” which can be viewed at:

1:34:20: Dawn and Ken sign off.

Nov 08 2016

1hr 34mins


Rank #2: Episode 35: Stuart McGill explains the mechanics of back pain and the secrets to a healthy spine

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Back pain has become the world’s leading cause of disability.

Stuart McGill has been at the forefront of non-surgical approaches to addressing back pain for many years. His 2015 book “Back Mechanic: The Secrets to a Healthy Spine Your Doctor Isn’t Telling You” is a wonderfully accessible account of his methods and perspectives.

McGill spent 30 years as a professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo in Canada. His laboratory has become a renowned destination for everyday people as well as Olympic and professional athletes from around the world who are struggling with back pain.

He is the author of more than 300 scientific publications and 3 textbooks that address issues such as lumbar spine function and injury mechanisms, patient assessment, corrective exercise prescription, and performance training. McGill also consults for many medical management groups, governments, corporations, legal firms, and elite sports teams.

He has won numerous awards, including the prestigious Volvo Bioengineering Award for Low Back Pain Research.

He released his landmark text, “Low Back Disorders: Evidence-Based Prevention and Rehabilitation,” in 2002. It changed the way coaches, bodybuilders, athletes and non-athletes approached core training. His new book, “Back Mechanic,” is written for a lay audience and addresses common misperceptions about back pain. It also provides a step-by-step guide of the McGill Method to fix back pain. is a web site also geared for a lay audience and is dedicated to providing access to evidence-based information and products that assist in preventing and rehabilitating back pain. Products featured on the website have been tested in McGill’s lab at the University of Waterloo.

McGill and his staff have also produced a video, “The Ultimate Back: Enhancing Performance,” that synthesizes McGill’s approaches for avoiding back injury and enhancing athletic and physical performance. It is available for purchase on Vimeo.

4:23: Stuart talks about how he was more interested in becoming a plumber than a scientist until his high school football coach asked him to return to school and earn his high school degree. That led him to college where he met professors who got him excited about mathematics and physics, and eventually the study of spine biomechanics.

7:00: Ken asks Stuart to describe the remarkable research atmosphere Stuart was able to create at the University of Waterloo.

8:08: Stuart explains that he did not go to medical school, but that he learned he had a unique talent of assessing and relating to people with back pain.

11:00: Ken shares his experience of back pain and traveling to Canada to visit Stuart as a patient, which prompts Stuart to describe his process of assessing people.

14:53: Dawn asks Stuart to talk about his motivation for writing “The Back Mechanic.”

19:53: Although back pain is the world’s leading cause of disability, Dawn asks Stuart why back pain is underappreciated by so many people in the medical community.

22:04: Stuart explains some of the most mechanisms for back injury and ways to prevent them.

26:22: Ken asks Stuart to talk about a study he did several years ago on firefighters with the Pensacola Fire Department.

30:36: Stuart talks about how heavy weightlifting will probably shorten the careers of modern golfers like Rory Mcllroy, and how the great golfers of old who had wonderful long careers – Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player – weren’t weightlifters.

33:53: Stuart talks about the great strikers in mixed martial arts and the UFC are the leaner ones who can unleash muscle. The same is true of the great sprinters, the great golfers, and the great home run hitters, who are the ones who can create a very brief muscle power pulse, and let it go.

34:33: Dawn asks Stuart about reports that the rate of back surgery in the U.S. is five times higher than in other developed countries.

39:31: Stuart provides an overview of the how to about a self-assessment of pain triggers.

46:29: Dawn asks Stuart to explain the McGill method to fixing back pain.

55:03: Ken asks about the technique of power breathing and the implications for spinal disability.

57:15: Ken mentions that he and Stuart are fans of kettlebells, and that power breathing is what a a person does when swinging a kettlebell. Ken asks Stuart to talk about the exercises that he sees as most beneficial with kettlebells.  Ken and Stuart discuss the relative benefits of kettlebell swings, farmer’s walks, and bottoms-up carries.

1:06:49: Stuart talks about measuring competitors in the World’s Strongest Man competition, the NFL, heavyweight UFC fighters, and then asks Ken to guess who had the strongest core Stuart had ever measured. Ken says it was probably a kettlebell dude like Pavel. Stuart confirms that yes it was Pavel Tsatsouline.

1:10:29: Dawn asks if it is true the spine is weaker and more vulnerable to injuries in the morning.

1:14:30: Stuart talks about sciatica, which is usually caused by narrowing of the discs and a little bit of arthritic activity in the vertebra.

1:18:35: Stuart talks about what he describes as silly stretches and exercises, which includes sit-ups and crunches.

1:21:19: Ken asks Stuart to run through the McGill Big Three exercises for spinal stability.

1:30:41: In American training culture, Stuart says there’s too much emphasis on time under the bar, and not enough emphasis on pushing heavy stuff around. He goes on to explain how pulling a slid is a tremendously strengthening and athletically enhancing activity.

1:37:35: Ken talks about friends who’ve sustained back injuries, and points out that was often after they had joined certain training programs focused on Olympic style lifts with high reps. She asks Stuart if he is seeing increased number of spinal injuries with the increased popularity of those type of training programs?

1:43:38: Dawns asks if there’s a direct correlation between back pain or injury and a person’s ability to brace.

1:45:29: Ken asks Stuart to comment on a 2016 study showing that taken as a whole young men today have much less grip strength than their fathers.

1:50:39: Stuart talks about the kinds of back injuries that are associated with sex and ways to mitigate spinal pain associated with sex.

1:52:02: Stuart talks about how his lab was the first to measure orgasm.

1:55:16: Ken and Dawn thank Stuart and sign off.

Visit to learn more about the approaches and back pain exercises that can rehabilitate and prevent spine injury.

Apr 11 2017

1hr 57mins


Rank #3: Episode 20: Dr. Alessio Fasano discusses the gut microbiome and how it affects our health

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When Alessio Fasano entered medical school at the University of Naples (Italy) School of Medicine, his goal was to eliminate childhood diarrhea. Working with a mentor who’d studied the physiology of the gut, Fasano decided to focus on the microorganisms that cause diarrhea. That opened up his world to specialize in overall gut health, and Fasano became a leading expert in celiac disease and gluten-related disorders.

Following medical school, Fasano spent three years at the Center for Vaccine Development in Baltimore, and later returned to the U.S. to pursue his career. Today the world-renowned gastroenterologist is chair of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition at Harvard Medical School and director of the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment. He is also the director of the Mucosal Immunology and Biology Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Fasano was the lead researcher of a seminal 2003 study showing that 1 in 133 Americans have celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder characterized by gluten-induced damage to the small intestine. His book Gluten Freedom has been hailed as “the groundbreaking roadmap to a gluten-free lifestyle.” He is also the author of “A Clinical Guide to Gluten-Related Disorders.”

His lectures at IHMC “The Gut is Not Like Las Vegas,” (November 2014) and “People Shall Not Live by Bread Alone: People Shall Not Live by Bread Alone” have gotten over 70,000 views on YouTube.

Fasano has been featured widely in media, such as NPR, CNN and Bloomberg News. In this episode of STEM-Talk, Fasano talks about his early life as a curious boy in Italy, with a scientist grandfather as his first mentor, the impassioned trajectory of his career, and the underlying importance of gut health in determining our overall health.

00:56: Dawn describes Fasano as “a leading light in the study of the microbiome.” Fifteen years ago, Fasano and his colleagues discovered the pathophysiology of celiac disease and role of the protein zonulin in causing it.

1:10: Ford cites growing evidence that the microbiome content of the intestinal tract influences our metabolism, stress tolerance, immune response, memory and cognitive performance.

2:56: Ford reads five-star iTunes review of STEM-Talk entitled “cognitive satiety:” “Never have all the lobes of your brain been so satisfied. Every episode is fascinating and beautifully orchestrated. The content is interesting and diverse. There’s no room for boredom. The double secret selection committee does a superb job of keeping the listeners educated, engaged and more intelligent with every minute. And the hosts have a linguistic seduction that you wish it would never end. I could listen to STEM-Talk for hours. Thank you, and please keep the talks coming.”

3:51: Dawn introduces Fasano as a world-renowned pediatric gastroenterologist and research scientist. He specializes in treating people with celiac disease, wheat and gluten sensitivities, as well as infants and children with difficult to treat gastro-intestinal problems.

5:15: Dawn welcomes Alessio and Ken to the interview.

5:37: Fasano talks about his childhood in Italy. He was raised largely by his grandfather, a retired physicist who had once worked in Enrico Fermi’s lab. During World War II, Fasano’s grandfather refused to move to Germany as Mussolini had requested, so he ended up teaching high school science.

6:26: “I remember vividly being with him in his lab. [That] sparked an interest in physics and science.”

7:03: Fasano’s initial focus in medical school was eliminating childhood diarrhea— “not a glamorous field to get into.” At that time, five million people died annually from diarrhea, 80 percent of them children.

9:08: On his medical school mentor’s suggestion, Fasano went to the Center for Vaccine development in Baltimore to study micro-organisms in the gut. His two-month term became two years. Afterwards, he went back to Italy for a year and a half, returning to the U.S. in 1993, where he has been ever since.

9:47: Ken points out that Fasano has said that, “Twenty-five hundred years ago, Hippocrates posited all disease begins in gut: emerging understanding of the interplay between gut microbiome, intestinal mucosa and immune and nervous systems seems to support this contention.”

10:05: “Hippocrates was so right, without having all the information that we have right now,” Fasano says.

11:14: Fasano says that his thirty years of studying the gut have boiled down to the past five years, with the emergence of “the perfect storm of knowledge” about the microbiome.

11:50: The intestinal mucosa, a 3,000 square feet interface, negotiates cross-talk between us as human beings, the ecosystem, and our interaction with the environment.

12:30: Besides digesting food, the gut is involved in a continuous discussion with our environment, regulating the friends and foes that enter. The gut is the organ with the most immune cells; it’s also considered the body’s second brain, and has even more neuronal cells than brain itself.

13:28: The gut is a 20-foot-long tube. The epithelial cells interact with various types of immune cells.

16:00: The nervous system cells coordinate the interaction between the immune and epithelial cells, sometimes through messenger cells.

17:17: “Imagine all this decision making,” Fasano says. The epithelial cells have sensors that see who is in the lumen: friends, or if it’s foes, “You have to prepare for war.”

17:50: Commercial break: STEM-Talk is an educational service of the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, a not-for-profit research lab pioneering ground-breaking technologies aimed at leveraging human cognition, perception, locomotion and resilience.

18:33: Recent information indicates that the microbiome develops in the womb during the last trimester of pregnancy, but the major imprinting happens in the birth canal. That is why full-term, vaginal births are best for healthy microbiome development. Then other things—breastfeeding, for example—should occur to ensure sustained microbiome health.

22:05: The immune system developed to fight micro-organisms.

22:52: The microbiome teaches the immune system to work in a child’s first 1,000 days. A good, balanced microbiome is one that teaches the immune system to set the bar high for infections.

23:45: An unbalanced microbiome in infancy may be caused by the Western diet, C-section delivery, and infections. These things teach the immune system to have a low threshold for infections, placing infants at risk for chronic inflammatory diseases later in adulthood.

24:50: Fasano comments on the Human Genome Project: As humans, we have 23,000 genes, most of which we share with other animals; 95 percent of our genes are identical to a mouse. Only 400 genes distinguish us from chimpanzees. Other species have many more genes: Worms, for example, have 75,000 genes.

26:07: What are the implications of our relatively shallow gene pool? “We were not supposed to be dominant creatures on earth,” Fasano says.

26:53: Fasano explains his piano player analogy: Our 23,000 genes are like piano keys. There is an infinite combination of notes. The piano player is the microbiome that decides, based on genetic cross-talk, what notes should be played and when—just as genes express or suppress their activities.

28:10: Whereas previously, we were told that having the genes to develop diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease, cancer, and multiple sclerosis determined our fate—that we would get those diseases—we now know that’s not true, Fasano says. “It all depends on our lifestyle; and how that affects our microbiome, which in turn affects which genes are turned on or off…. If I have the genes for Lou Gehrig’s disease, that does not mean I will get it. It depends on how I live my life.”

29:00: Until recently, we thought our disease destiny was determined by our piano player—assumed to be an outside. Now we understand that the piano player—our microbiome—is living inside of us.

29:57: Now the questions that we can ask are: What kind of player is there? What kind of music does he play? What kind of music is playing as we speak? “Doing mathematical modeling, we can predict if playing certain kind of music, you will end up with that kind of clinical outcome.”

30:48: “We cannot manipulate our genes, but we may eventually be able to manipulate our microbiome so we can keep ourselves healthy for a much longer period of time.” This is primary prevention; or precision medicine.

31:34: Ken comments: “This interaction between our genome and the microbiome is the part that I find most interesting and hopeful for the future. It explains the riddle of how a simple genome produces such a highly differentiated and complex animal; and opens up new pathways for medicine and human performance and resilience.”

32:10: “This is the best time to be in science,” Fasano says. “Technology and knowledge are moving so fast.”

33:18: “It’s up to us to keep [our microbiome] in a compatible, friendly discussion with the genome we inherited from our parents.” But the health of our microbiome also boils down to our lifestyle. “The way we live will dictate the destiny we have.”

34:54: Commercial break: STEM-Talk is an educational service of the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, a not-for-profit research lab pioneering ground-breaking technologies aimed at leveraging human cognition, perception, locomotion and resilience.

35:30: Two ingredients of auto-immune disease were once thought to be genes and environmental triggers that create inflammation. The question that no one could explain was: “How can these two worlds physically interact to make this happen?”

38:24: Then they stumbled upon zonulin, a protein modulating the permeability of tight junctures between cells in the digestive tract.

39:20: Now zonulin has been linked to a myriad of auto-immune and GI disease such as Crohn’s Disease, as well as multiple sclerosis, cancer, schizophrenia, and autism.

40:12: Larazotide acetate is a promising peptide that blocks zonulin. It is now in in a phase three clinical trial.

44:40: Zonulin negotiates the interaction with the environment when it’s at the forefront of the gut; it also modulates traffic between body compartments, including the blood brain barrier (BBB).

45:00: German scientists have linked the production of zonulin to more advanced stages of glioma; the more compromised the BBB is, the more zonulin is present.

45:30: The microbiome may have a role in autism, since kids with autism have GI upsets. They are trying to understand what the role of the microbiome is in that. Either the activated immune cells create inflammation in the brain; or the microbiome produces metabolites that have a direct effect on the brain.

46:40: The truth of today is the garbage of tomorrow. Science is refurbished every five years. “You need to put yourself in the discussion all the time,” Fasano says. “If you are not open-minded enough, you will go out of business.”

47:35: Fasano’s grandfather told him, “If you want immediate success, science is not your field.” Another attribute of a scientist is humility: you have to question yourself all the time. “Science is a constellation of failures with very few successes, and we live for those. How bored would we be if every experiment that we did was successful?”

49:38: Dawn relays a personal story about scientists’ dedication: As a post-doc, she had a sign in her office that a mentor had given her, which said: “Brick walls are there for a reason. They make you prove how badly you want something.”

50:06: “Science in Italy is a hobby today,” Fasano says. Italy invests less than three percent of its GDP in science. “There’s no way that Italy can keep apace with countries like the U.S. that consider science an investment. Bright people relocate to unleash their creativity and make a difference.”

51:36: He adds, “Italian science has the resources to be at forefront of the story.”

52:47: Fasano recently opened a research institute in his hometown of Salerno called the European Biomedical Research Institute. It is on the site of the first Western medical school, where the first medical school textbook was written; the first diploma to be a doctor was given; and the first female physician practiced.

55:40: This institute is mainly focused on nutritional health.

56:30: Fasano says his biggest adjustment to living in the U.S. has been lifestyle. “Here people live to work.” And of course, the food. “In the beginning I could not adjust to fast food. I am a strong proponent of slow food. Drive-ins in Italy are inconceivable.”

58:00: What he loves about living in the U.S.: “The sky’s is the limit in terms of realizing your potential.”

59:10: Ken wraps up: “We humans appear to be a kind of super organism. Humans and microbes have developed a co-dependency which affects our wellness, including the expression of our genes.”

59:46: Dawn and Ken sign off.

Sep 13 2016



Rank #4: Episode 27: Robb Wolf Discusses the Paleo Diet, Ketosis, Exercise, Nicotine … and Much More!

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For fitness and Paleo Diet aficionados—and perhaps regular STEM-talk listeners—Robb Wolf is the type of esteemed guest who needs no introduction. Many people already know him by his best-selling book, “The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet,” ( or his top-ranked podcast by that same name. (

But what some people may not know is that Wolf also started the world’s first cross-fit affiliate gym; that he’s raising his young daughters on a paleo diet—which may account for their mouths having a similar phenotypical expression as hunters and gatherers; and that nicotine—yes, nicotine—can actually be good for you (just not delivered by cigarette) in some contexts.

STEM-Talk Host Dawn Kernagis and IHMC Founder Ken Ford talk to Wolf about these and other fascinating insights in this episode.

Wolf hailed from a relatively unhealthy family, which pushed him towards discovering good health on his own terms. A keen interest and aptitude in science (he was a biochemistry major at California State University-Chico) set Wolf on the path of evolutionary medicine.

He began thinking seriously about pre-agricultural diets in response to his mother’s poor reaction to her consumption of grains, legumes, and dairy. Since that time, Wolf has become an expert, researcher, and self-experimenter of the Paleo Diet. His expertise has led him to become a review editor for Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism; co-founder of The Performance Menu, a nutrition and athletic training journal; and co-owner of NorCal, one of Men’s Health magazine’s top thirty gyms in America. He is also a consultant for the Naval Special Warfare Resiliency Program.

Wolf recently gave a lecture entitled “Darwinian Medicine: Maybe There IS Something to This Evolution Thing” at IHMC:

2:10: Dawn reads iTunes review entitled “No Bro Science Here” from someone nicknamed “Leafy Sweets:” “Science-based interviews with experts, post-docs and department/lab heads on relevant topics. No Bro Science here!  Interesting discussions relevant to one’s well-being and interests.”

3:46: Dawn welcomes Robb and Ken.

4:10: “I was raised by two well-meaning, but quite ill parents. Both of them smoked, neither of them exercised, both of them developed Type-2 Diabetes pretty early in their lives, and I’m not really sure why…but somewhere along the line I suspected that if I ate better and exercised, that I could maybe have a better outcome.”

5:00: “They really kind of acquiesced all their health to the medical establishment, and I went just as opposite that vector as you can possibly imagine.”

5:30: “I had a pretty good interest in science in general… I got into an organic chemistry class (in high school) and loved it like I had never loved anything before, and actually discovered that I had an aptitude for spinning molecules in my head and thinking about bonding and stuff like that.”

6:55: After his degree in biochemistry, Wolf considered medical school, but he had some personal health problems. That’s when, “The evolutionary approach to health/medicine got on my radar.”

7:28: Plus, he says, “Academia seemed to move at glacial speeds.” “Around 2000-2001, I found this weird thing called Cross-fit. I opened a gym, and it happened to be the first cross-fit affiliate in the world, and I opened a second one (the fourth in the world) … That was kind of the medicine that I wanted to practice. I got to talk to people about sleep, food exercise; and build community.”

9:15: Wolf describes his entry into evolutionary medicine: He was vegan, he was not sleeping and he had moved to Seattle, into a tiny basement where he didn’t see the sun for several months. He had a lot of gastro-intestinal problems, as did his mother, whose rheumatologist told her she was allergic to grains, legumes and dairy.

10:47: Around 1998, Wolf learned about the Paleo Diet through the work of Arthur De Vany and Loren Cordain (who would become Wolf’s mentor). Lauren had written a paper called “Cereal Grains: Humanity’s Double-edged Sword.” (

12:00: Dawn asks about the “contemporary collision between foods we’re wired to eat and what we find on the shelves of local supermarkets.”

12:15: Wolf responds: “We’re set up for failure. I half-jokingly say that if you live in this modern environment and you’re not diabetic and broken, then you are kind of screwing up. You’re not paying attention to your evolutionary history.”

12:45: “We have limitless caloric input. We don’t need to expend effort to obtain these items. We have limitless palate options.”

15:00: Wolf’s short definition of the Paleo Diet: “You’re generally not eating a much in terms of grains, legumes, and dairy. You eat everything else: meat, fruit, roots, shoots, vegetables.”

16:27: He also cautions against the trendy uptake of the diet: “Paleo became this thing where people were asking: ‘Is this Paleo or not?’ instead of ‘Is this a good item for me?’”

17:00: Wolf decries the use of the term “Paleo,” which was used early on in the anthropological literature to describe the diet.

17:25: Wolf says that he has been low-carb for a long time; he currently eats 100-150 grams of carbs a day. “I’ve really enjoyed ketogenic diets in the past. That’s where I get my best cognition from.”

17:35:  “I am playing again with a ketogenic diet again because I am being leaned on by folks like you (Ford) and some other people to see if I can fuel my Brazilian Jujitsu activity.”

17:49: He can eat lentils, beans and corn…but not gluten. “I am highly reactive to gluten and gluten-like grains.”

18:45: Wolf discusses the role of genes in what we ought to eat, and the gut microbiome in modifying those genetics…He cites the studies of the Weizmann group in Israel, in which 800 people were given a sub-cutaneous glucose monitor and then fed a battery of meals. “The glycemic response was all over the map.”

20:00: “One person would eat a banana and have virtually no blood glucose response …Another person would eat a banana and get into nearly diabetic ranges… It’s clear in my mind that there’s massive variation in folks, and that a one size fits all approach is really, really problematic.”

21:00: Ken comments: “It would be surprising to me if Northern Europeans and Kitavans would both be ideally suited to eat exactly the same diet, particularly for genetic reasons, but also for gut microbiome reasons.”

21:50: Dawn asks if anyone has looked at the impact of ancestral diets on people doing manual labor jobs or professional athletes—since our ancestors were more active than we are.

22:00: Robb answers that most of the studies have been done in disease populations, such as people with cardiovascular disease, Type-2 Diabetes, insulin resistance or stage I/II renal disease.

23:43: “Both coaches and elite performers tend to be ahead of academia in empirically figuring out what works well.”

23:55: The Paleo way of eating has reached the Navy’s Special Warfare community.

25:05: “In college, most of us had some sort of horrific diet like pizza and beer for months on end and it didn’t kill us, so my greasy car salesman pitch is why don’t you give it [the Paleo diet] a shot for a month and see how you look, feel and perform; do blood work before and afterwards and see how it works.”

26:30: Dawn asks if an obese individual following a cleaner, healthier diet is enough to shift his/her phenotype to a healthier place.

27:11: “I think for the optimum human experience we need some sort of vigorous physical activity at least occasionally.”

28:00: “Ketogenic diet plus fasting can actually mimic a lot of the physiological processes that we see with exercise, but I’m not sure how much mileage we can get out of that. There’s some indication that a ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting can enhance certain elements of our metabolism, like mitochondrial density [along with] pro-apoptotic and autophagy benefits.”

28:50: “We need periods of relative abundance and some scarcity, and that is then sending signaling that is possibly most consistent with health and longevity.”

29:10: Wolf discusses who food and the metabolic byproducts of food and exercise are often signaling molecules. “There’s an expectation for a certain type of cadence and beat to our physical activity and nutrient intake, and if we get out of step with that, then I think that we’re pre-disposing ourselves to a transcriptome that may be pathogenic at some point.”

30:00: Commercial break: STEM-Talk is an educational service of the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, a not-for-profit research lab pioneering ground-breaking technologies aimed at leveraging human cognition, perception, locomotion and resilience.

31:15: Dawn asks about studies comparing unprocessed, whole-food diets to comparable Paleo diet.

31:46: Robb cites a Lynda Frassetto study comparing the Mediterranean and Paleo diets. ( The two groups were fed at a level so they would not lose weight. It was hard to get the Paleo group to eat enough food so they would not lose weight. Absent weight loss, they saw dramatically improved blood lipids and systemic inflammatory markers in the Paleo diet group.

34:26: Dawn talks about being vegetarian for 22 years, an emotional decision rooted in growing up on her grandparents’ farm during the summer and being uncomfortable eating what had been killed and that she had helped raise. “When I was seventeen, my grandfather told me who I was eating at the dinner table. So I called it quits…. But a lot of us are interested in the Paleo diet.” She asks about recommendations for vegetarians interested in the Paleo Diet.

36:08: Robb says, “If we’re doing eggs and dairy, it really is pretty easy to make that work. Properly prepared legumes are a great background, primary energy source; lots of coconut, coconut oil; cheese and butter.”

37:38: One possible caveat for those on vegetarian diets is to avoid a monochromatic dietary pattern. We need to be better about rotating foods in and out, like eggs.

39:50: At Wolf’s house, he does 90 percent of the cooking. His wife, who is Italian, was vegan when Wolf met her—and he impressed her with his cooking. She switched to his diet.

41:22: We really don’t eat much in the way of gluten. Many people think it’s just a fad. I’ve spent twenty years studying this from an immunological perspective, and there are a lot of folks that benefit from gluten free.

42:05: The preponderance of what they eat is sweet potatoes, fruit, fish, seafood; both of Wolf’s little girls eat homemade sauerkraut, homemade kimchi; liver.

42:22: His kids’ dentist has noticed that the kids have a lot of space between their teeth—and broad jaws, a notable phenotypic expression. This likely means they won’t have crowding of their teeth. Wolf attributes this to their nutrient-rich diet. On the contrary, lower nutrient-dense foods cause a shortening of the dental arch and crowding of teeth. “That would kill us were it not for modern dentistry.”

45:10: Still, his kids express the same attraction to sweet foods as everyone else. “We have to find some way …so that we aren’t on the losing end of food intake.”

45:48: Ken comments that the neuro-regulation of appetite is currently of huge interest and asks Rob to discuss it.

46:11: In the last fifty years, there have been a lot of macro-nutrient wars such as those between high and low carbs. “At the end of the day, what we want to see is some ability for people to eat an appropriate amount for their energetic needs and not much more/less. [It] boils down to the neuro-regulation of appetites.”

47:10: “The state of ketosis is incredibly satiating, and seems to be disproportionately so relative to caloric intake.

47:22:  “One takeaway that I would love for folks to noodle on is that within medicine and dietetics, there is only one disordered eating that they acknowledge, and that is trying to limit palate options in some way. If you show up eating a big gulp and Twinkies — you are good to go.”

48:00: In every study that’s ever been done comparing the American Dietetics recommended diet with the vegan diet, or the high protein diet, etc. … the diet that fails consistently is the moderate, don’t-exclude-any-food-groups diet.

49:42: Ken asks Robb how he felt in ketosis initially, post-adaptation period.

51:22: Robb says when he first clicked into ketosis, around 1998, “It was amazing. I had incredible mental focus. I could go hours or even days without eating. It just didn’t phase me at all.” He was also very active at the time, doing gymnastics and Brazilian Capoeira.

54:30: Robb says exogenous ketones are “reasonably impressive.” Ketone salts give him GI upset. He is getting ready to play with ketone esters. He mixes MCT oil with soy lecithin and nut butter (as a carrier.) That mitigates his GI problems.

59:30: Robb comments on the cultural tendency to over-train. “We hold elite athletics on a pedestal. We assume their training should be emulated, and I haven’t seen that to be the case. And I see a lot of people break themselves as a consequence of that. Endurance athletes especially are neurotic about training.”

1:01:40: Ken comments: “Marathon running has been a sacred cow, and a symbol of personal virtue…We hear more and more of negative consequences associated with long-term, extreme endurance activities.”

1:04:12: Commercial break: STEM-Talk is an educational service of the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, a not-for-profit research lab pioneering ground-breaking technologies aimed at leveraging human cognition, perception, locomotion and resilience.

1:04:50: Robb used to recommend high dose Omega 3 supplements. Now he recommends getting as much of it from your diet as you can, with deep water fish that are smaller on the food chain such as mackerel and sardines.

1:06:40: He says Omega 3s are “highly reactive poly-unsaturated fats: if we dump that into an already inflamed individual, that could be a disaster.” In certain people, other issues need to be tackled first before using Omega 3s as an adjunctive therapy.

1:08:30: Ken says nicotine gum seems to provide focus and a productivity boost, especially during activities demanding focus such as writing a book.

1:09:09: Robb started researching nicotine when he was giving talks on sleep, nutrition, alcohol and nicotine for the Navy SEALs. He found that nicotine enhances dopamine status; and is beneficial for gastrointestinal issues. The culprit (i.e., cigarettes) is the delivery system.

1:11:03: Robb tried nicotine gum, about which he says: “It was a whole other layer of peeling back the fog, and the focus. Plugging into the matrix for 45 minutes to an hour. I shared this information with the SEAL community. The flight docs just wanted to barbeque me alive.”

1:11:54: He recommends lozenges and gum, not cigarettes.

1:13:55: Dawn says her dad smoked when he did fine-scale modeling.

1:14:27: Ken comments that nicotine is among the most addictive drugs in common use.  Nicotine has a 90 percent addiction liability (90 of 100 people would become addicted). Opiates are 50 percent; and alcohol, about 10 percent. With nicotine, there is not much of a list (unlike for opiates and alcohol) of societal or personal health hazards.

1:16:45: But one should probably be cautious regarding nicotine in cold weather. Robb once did long bow hunting in very cold weather and chewed nicotine gum, and because of the vascular constrictive effects, he went from being completely comfortable to his hands and feet turning into blocks of ice.

1:17:17: If you’re prone to Raynaud’s disease, nicotine would not be a good idea; or in a situation where your extremities need to be warm, it’s not a good idea.

1:18:04: Robb talks about the Lazy Lobo Ranch and the work of Allan Savory, who developed a process to reverse desertification by using smartly controlled grazing animals.

1:19:15: Robb moved to a three-acre ranch in Reno. Comments that Nevada used to be a giant grassland.

1:20:58: He uses a mob grazing technique with electric fencing. Because animals are bunched up tight, they compete to eat everything. The before/after photos of this piece of desert land are just stunning.

1:23:14: Allan Savory makes the point that one third of all the land masses on the planet are grasslands; this is amenable for growing grass/animals, and we’ve shied away from using these areas in these ways.

1:24:15: “I think there’s a real opportunity to produce lots of food, address some soil carbon issues, and heat sinks and water utilization. When you re-establish these grasslands, the water doesn’t just run off; you don’t get flooding. It actually re-fills aquifers.”

1:25:11: Ken says, “Allan Savory is a person that more people should know about and pay attention to.” (

1:25:49: Robb’s new, upcoming book, “Wired to Eat,” is looking at the evolutionary biology story again. “The thing that seems to pop up again and again is sense of guilt and failure of morality around eating.” He diffuses that in the front of book.

1:28:24: “My hope is that both on a cognitive level and an emotional level people can plug into this and understand: ‘I’m not a failure because this stuff is hard.’” The back part of book contains a 30-day re-set for the neuro-regulation of appetite and getting your insulin in line. The final chapter is titled ‘Hammers, Drills and Ketosis: The Only Tool Your Doctor Will Never Use’. A carpenter wouldn’t argue about whether to use a drill, saw or ax — they each have specific and well-appreciated purposes. Ironically in medicine, the use of ketosis and fasting as tools is a controversial topic.

1:30:20: The book will be out in March or April, 2017. Amazon is taking pre-orders. (

1:30:46:  Dawn asks about the genesis of Robb’s popular podcast. At first, the podcast was about answering questions from the audience and over time he shifted the podcast to an interview format. Currently, Dobb is thinking about adding a “news round-up” section to the podcast.

1:33:19: Dawn and Ken thank Robb for the interview and his recent IHMC lecture, available for viewing at:

1:34:38: Dawn and Ken sign off.

Dec 20 2016

1hr 35mins


Rank #5: Episode 18: Dr. Colin Champ talks about how the right nutrition and exercise can help treat cancer

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As STEM-Talk Host Dawn Kernagis points out in this interview, guest Colin Champ looks like he could be featured on the television show “The Bachelor.” But the striking young doctor (who alas, is in a serious relationship) is a radiation oncologist at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Center.

Dr. Champ is also deeply invested in researching how exercise and nutrition can help treat and prevent cancer. In his very popular book entitled, “Misguided Medicine: The Truth Behind Ill-Advised Medical Recommendations and How to Take Health Back into Your Hands,” Champ tackles several popularly-held myths regarding health such as the perils of salt and meat intake. Take a look at:

On Dr. Champ’s web site, The Caveman Doctor,, he also challenges conventional wisdom and governmental guidelines on nutrition.

Dr. Champ received his medical degree from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and his bachelor’s in chemical engineering from MIT. He grew up, in his own words, in the “blue-collar, steel town” of Pittsburgh, in a mixed lineage family of Austrians, Irish and Southern Italians.

At an early age, he excelled at both sports and science.

Dr. Champ’s lecture at IHMC, “Augmenting Cancer Therapy with Diet,” can be found at:

He also regularly writes for Health Wire:

In this STEM-Talk episode, Dawn and IHMC Director and CEO Ken Ford talk with Dr. Champ.

3:33: Dawn introduces Dr. Champ as a radiation oncologist focused on breast cancer, cancers of the central nervous system, clinical nutrition/exercise relating to cancer treatment/prevention. He is board certified in both radiation oncology and integrative medicine.

5:00: Champ discusses his upbringing outside of Pittsburgh. “My family structure greatly influenced my life…. My grandfather was the son of Austrian immigrants. My grandmother was Southern Italian. My dad’s side was also Southern Italian and Irish. My grandfather ran the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie railroad accounting with no college education. He built most of his house and was always into health/fitness. He had an organic garden and left a strong imprint on me.”

6:15: Champ’s mother was “a good cop,” and very loving. His father pushed him to work hard, and there were three cornerstones to Champ’s upbringing: sports, health and academics. “Certainly sports played a huge role in my upbringing. I was involved in sports. I played basketball until I hated it.”

7:00: Science was also pushed heavily in the household. “I was good at science and math at a young age.”

7:50: Champ’s father wanted him to go to the Air Force Academy. Champ realized it wasn’t for him and went to MIT instead.

8:55: “From there it was just kind of a springboard of science and really questioning things.” That led him to medical school.

11:20: Champ discusses what drew him to radiation oncology: “I get to see patients everyday. I don’t think in any other field of medicine that you see people so often. It allows you to forge relationships with people. Providing cancer patients with hope is rewarding.” He added that the science of it (for example, working with giant linear accelerators) is a fun aspect of the job.

15:00: Champ says the low-fat diet is a medical myth that makes certain false promises: to make you skinny, prevent diabetes and cancer, and stop your arteries from clogging. Other myths include the need to decrease your salt intake; exercise by running marathons; and stay out of the sun (which has a lot of health benefits). And, “a little stress is not bad for you—it causes body to fight free radicals as innate antioxidant mechanism.”

17:15: Champ discusses the fallacies of the American dietary guidelines.

20:15: Instead, one way to approach diet is by asking questions such as: If you were to not eat anything for the next five days, what would your body eat? A small amount of carbs (50-150 grams per day, for example.)

23:25: Champ says that if you work out a lot, you need to salt load.

26:00: Some epidemiological studies show that eating less fat cholesterol decreases your risk of dying from a heart attack. But that doesn’t decrease your risk of dying from everything else.

29:00: Champ discusses the widely publicized association between processed and red meat and cancer. The findings are based on flawed studies, Champ says: “A lot of the studies group red meat with hot dogs, etc. People are eating these things wrapped around a bun.”

31:20: Meat provides a nutrient-dense resource for our bodies. “Every food can be dangerous to some degree, but we need foods to survive.”

33:20: Vegetarians can also follow the ketogenic diet; they should lean more on macadamia nuts, diary, eggs, and safer oils including those made with avocado, macadamia, and palm.

35:30: Champ discusses his own diet: It’s short on carbs (50-150 grams/day) and high in fat. “I cook a lot; cooking is like meditation. If you don’t cook, it’s pretty hard to maintain a healthy diet.” For breakfast, he eats bone broth or eggs with spinach or Bok Choy; or an omelet; and tea. For lunch, he has a green leafy vegetable, cooked in a fat source like ghee or grass-fed butter; and fish or organ meats. Dinner resembles lunch. The evening before this interview, Champ ate feta cheese-wrapped lamp meatballs, Brussel sprouts, dark chocolate, and red wine.

38:50: Champ does martial arts/lifts weights 3-4 times per week. Low level activity is very good for burning fat; high intensity is good for stimulating muscle growth. “I’m not a fan of long-distance running. It provides a mental benefit for many people. But it wears and tears at the joints and heart.”

42:35: Sun exposure is linked to some skin cancers; squamous and basal cell carcinoma (the latter of which are almost always non-cancerous); and the bad one, melanoma.

44:00: But sun exposure is also associated with a decreased risk of prostate and breast cancer. The sun confers other health benefits including making bones stronger; and lowering blood pressure.

49:00: Mice studies show that combining radiation and the ketogenic diet can kill tumors. “The intriguing thing is that as metabolic therapies come out, the ketogenic diet may provide an escape mechanism for cancer cells.”

54:00: Taking exogenous ketones may make the ketogenic diet easier to follow.

55:00: Commercial break: STEM-Talk is an educational service of the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, a not-for-profit research lab pioneering ground-breaking technologies aimed at leveraging human cognition, perception, locomotion and resilience.

59:00: Although it’s not completely certain that the ketogenic diet does help cancer patients, Champ says, “we have to keep trying.” Especially for patients with low life expectancy, such as those with glioblastoma, who on average survive only 15-17 months.

1:00:53: AMPK down regulates mTOR (one pathway that tells cancer cells to grow.) It pulls sugar from our blood and up regulates mitochondrial biogenesis. It puts body in an anti-cancer state.

1:07:50: New data is coming out that says fasting 13 hours a day may improve breast cancer outcomes.

1:09:10: It’s the era of the active patient: both exercise and diets (like the ketogenic diet) are allowing patients to take control of their own health.

1:09:38: Champ started the Caveman Doctor web site as a medical resident: to look at the whole medical/healthcare system from a historic point of view: evolutionarily, culturally; common sense wise. And, to make it simple for people to understand. “The goal is to get the average person healthier.”

1:11:10: Champ also tries to get people to question their own food narratives. “I have a lot of issues about how our health is dictated by cultural/societal norms. No one thinks about eating organ meats—or insects.”

1:12:50: Champ wrote a Health Wire article entitled: “Is Exercise Making You Fat?” “If you don’t exercise the right way, and don’t eat the right kind of food, exercise might actually make you fatter.”

1:14:35: Champ follows, and tells his patients, to follow this protocol: Question things first; figure out the answers; implement those. “More often than not, in medical school, we avoid numbers one and two and go to three. We’re taught not to question things.”

1:16:15: “The best patients are those that ask questions. More people need to do that with their own health, especially people on a low-fat diet.”

1:19:30: The whole argument against cholesterol/fat was based on a rabbit study; but rabbits eat nothing like humans, Champ says. There are many non scientific interests with clinical trials. “Even with gold-standard trials, special interests come into play.”

1:21:30: Champ travels regularly to Italy and talks about his favorite (non-pasta/pizza) food there: Italian cheese and wine; squid, octopus, Roman tripe; Florentine steak.

1:25:16: The “Mediterranean diet” is a term that gets used a lot, but what does it really mean? In Italy (and Spain), it means “whole foods; but a lot of cured meat; certainly not a low-fat diet; but it’s real food.”

1:26:50: Champ’s health advice in a nutshell: eat real foods; get eight hours of sleep per night; limit carbs; take the stairs, not the elevator, and park far away; cook your own meals.

1:28:50: Ken calls Champ “impressive on many levels.” Champ’s knowledge provides “a ray of hope in a sometimes bleak medical landscape.”

1:29:26: Dawn and Ken sign off.

Aug 16 2016

1hr 30mins


Rank #6: Episode 79: Satchin Panda discusses circadian rhythms and time-restricted eating to improve health and even reverse disease

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Dr. Satchin Panda is a professor and researcher at the Salk Institute who has become recognized as one of the world’s leading experts on circadian rhythm. In today’s wide-ranging interview, he discusses how the body’s natural day-night cycle can help us improve our health, get a better night’s sleep and lose weight. He also shares how adopting a lifestyle that is aligned with the body’s natural internal clock can even help us prevent and reverse disease.

Satchin also has been generating significant attention for his research into the health benefits of time-restricted eating. He is the author of “The Circadian Code” and in today’s interview he shares how listeners can become involved in a research project he and his colleagues are conducting through a smartphone app called My Circadian Clock.

In addition to his work at the Salk Institute, Satchin is also a founding executive member of the Center for Circadian Biology at the University of California, San Diego.  Key topics covered in today’s interview include:

  • [00:03:46] How a rapidly evolving modern society disrupts the interconnectedness of our biological rhythms.
  • [00:13:41] How Satchin became interested in circadian rhythms and metabolism.
  • [00:17:11] Satchin’s first mouse study on time-restricting feeding, which so surprised him that he ended up repeating the study three times.
  • [00:21:37] The role of ketosis in time-restricted eating, particularly in regard to weight loss and potential health benefits.
  • [00:25:01] Whether having black coffee signals the beginning of a person’s eating window.
  • [00:27:31] The potential use of caffeine to treat jet lag induced by international time-zone travel.
  • [00:29:31] Satchin’s mouse studies that looked at obesity and type-2 diabetes.
  • [00:30:58] The dangers of shift work and the importance of sleep.
  • [00:45:39] Satchin talks about the importance of darkness when it comes to sleep and our circadian rhythms.
  • [00:48:42] Satchin’s 2017 paper in Aging Research Reviews titled “ Circadian rhythms, time-restricted feeding, and healthy aging.
  • [00:51:59] Satchin’s recent paper in Cell Metabolism, “Time-Restricted Feeding Prevents Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome in Mice Lacking a Circadian Clock.”
  • [01:00:19] The role of diet in people who lost weight during time-restricted feeding.
  • [01:06:30] “My Circadian Clock,”an app Satchin and his lab at Salk Institute have developed.
  • [01:20:02] Satchin discusses how he convinced his mother to try time-restricted eating.
  • [01:25:32] What Satchin’s diet and eating window looks like on a typical day.

Show notes:

[00:03:05] Satchin begins the interview talking about being raised in India and his parents’ expectation that he would become a doctor or engineer.

[00:03:46] Satchin talks about his book “The Circadian Code,” which is dedicated to his maternal and paternal grandparents. He touches on how a rapidly evolving modern society disrupts the interconnectedness of our biological rhythms.

[00:06:14] Satchin shares how when he was a junior in high school, he lost his father in an accident with a truck driver.

[00:07:21] Dawn asks Satchin to talk about how going to agricultural school like his father did cemented Satchin’s interest in science.

[00:08:44] Dawn asks how Satchin ended up with a research job at a flavor and fragrance manufacturer in India after finishing his master’s degree.

[00:10:10] Satchin talks about what led him to Canada and eventually the U.S.

[00:11:21] Ken asks Satchin why he decided to pursue at Ph.D. in plant circadian rhythm.

[00:13:41] The circadian rhythm field primarily focuses on understanding the timing mechanism in biological systems like plants, fruit flies, mice and humans.  Satchin discusses how he took a different route and became interested in circadian rhythms and metabolism.

[00:15:13] Dawn asks what it is like to work at the Salk institute, a place where Nobel laureates such as Francis Crick once worked.

[00:17:11] Satchin talks about his first time-restricted feeding mouse study, which so surprised him that he repeated the study three times.

[00:19:03] Ken asks Satchin what he was expecting to learn when he started the mouse studies.

[00:20:06] Dawn asks about Satchin’s published findings of his experiments in 2012, which raised the question of whether eight hours was the magic number for time-restricted eating.

[00:21:37] Knowing that people go into ketosis after 12 to 16 hours without food, Dawn asks if Satchin has looked at the role of ketosis in time-restricted eating, particularly in regard to weight loss and potential health benefits.

[00:22:39] In the mouse studies, the mice that followed time-restricted eating also had an endurance benefit. Dawn asks if Satchin thinks this might also be related to ketosis.

[00:25:01] Satchin says in his book, “The moment you eat breakfast, or have your first cup of coffee or tea, is the beginning of your eating window.” Dawn points out that Satchin also says in the book that water doesn’t signal the start of the eating window. She then asks about black coffee, which, like water, has no calories.

[00:27:31] Ken asks about the potential use of caffeine to treat jet lag induced by international time-zone travel.

[00:29:31] Satchin talks about mouse studies his lab did a few years ago that looked at obesity and type-2 diabetes.

[00:30:58] Satchin discusses the point he makes in his book about the dangers of shift work and the importance of sleep.

[00:35:11] Dawn asks about a study Satchin is currently undertaking looking at firefighters and shift work.

[00:38:10] Numerous studies have shown that time restricted feeding schedules may be able to shift the phase of activity in animals such as mice. Ken asks what Satchin thinks the underlying mechanisms of this may be.

[00:40:56] In his book, Satchin mentions that chronotypes — the existence of night owls and morning larks — are largely a myth. Ken asks if we really know whether chronotypes exist or not.

[00:44:14] Satchin talks about how he responded when, while at a symposium in Stockholm, a well-respected scientist in the area of obesity came up to Satchin after his talk and said there was no data that shift work causes more disease.

[00:45:39] Satchin talks about the importance of darkness when it comes to sleep and our circadian rhythm.

[00:48:42] Satchin’s 2017 paper in Aging Research Reviews titled “ Circadian rhythms, time-restricted feeding, and healthy aging.“ points out that circadian rhythms optimize physiology and health by temporally coordinating cellular function, tissue function and behavior. Dawn asks how this study found that optimizing the timing of external cues with defined eating patterns could sustain a person’s circadian clock and possibly prevent disease.

[00:51:59] Satchin discusses his mouse study that was detailed in his recent paper in Cell Metabolism titled, “Time-Restricted Feeding Prevents Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome in Mice Lacking a Circadian Clock.”

[00:54:59] Ken asks if the benefits of time-restricted feeding reproduced in different mouse strains and across genders, or if all studies been done on the same mouse strain/gender.

[00:56:43] Dawn asks if the experimental models using mice, who are nocturnal animals, are presenting difficulties in terms of translating the effects of time-restricted feeding on humans.

[00:58:39] Ken asks Satchin for his thoughts on the findings of Joseph Takahashi’s work. Ken wonders if Takahashi’s findings imply that some of the benefits of caloric restriction in mice may actually be due to time restriction.

[01:00:19] In Satchin’s human studies, people who had 8- to 12-hour eating windows also had some health benefits and lost weight. Dawn asks what role a person’s diet played in weight loss.

[01:03:03] Satchin discusses his thoughts on the translatability of research examining circadian rhythm and inflammatory mechanisms in mice.

[01:06:30] Satchin and his lab at Salk Institute have developed an app called “My Circadian Clock,” which is part of a research project that’s using smartphones to track people’s daily behaviors. Dawn asks Satchin to give an overview of the project and discuss how people can participate in the research.

[01:09:53] Satchin briefly talks about any potential efficacy in commercial sleep tracking devices.

[01:12:08] Satchin talks about the findings of a National Institute of Aging paper that showed time-restricted eating might increase longevity.

[01:14:40] Satchin talks about his work with Dr. Valter Longo, who was the guest on episode 64 of STEM-Talk.

[01:16:45] While research on chronopharmacology is encouraging, Satchin discusses what some of the main logistical constraints we face in trying to apply its tenets in the clinic.

[01:20:02] Satchin discusses how he convinced his mother to try time-restricted eating.

[01:23:01] Commenting on how all of Satchin’s mother’s siblings have some sort of metabolic disease, either high cholesterol, diabetes, hypertension or a combination of the three, Dawn asks what is it about the Indian diet that is so unhealthy.

[01:25:32] Satchin talks about what his diet and eating window look like on a typical day.

[01:26:28] Regarding the symposium Satchin attended in Stockholm. Ken asks how he deals with travel and jet lag in terms of his circadian rhythm.

[01:28:27] In terms of the future, Dawn ends the interview asking Satchin what new studies he is considering and what direction he thinks his research will take.


Salk Institute

Dr. Satchin Panda bio

“The Circadian Code”

My Circadian Clock app

Circadian rhythms, time-restricted feeding, and healthy aging

Time-Restricted Feeding Prevents Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome in Mice Lacking a Circadian Clock

Dr. Valter Longo, who was the guest on episode 64 of STEM-Talk.

Learn more about IHMC

STEM-Talk homepage

Ken Ford bio

Dawn Kernagis bio

Dec 18 2018

1hr 32mins


Rank #7: Episode 37: Gary Taubes discusses low-carb diets and sheds light on the hazards of sugar

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The front pages of Gary Taubes’ new book on sugar feature a blurb excerpted from the magazine Scientific American:

“Taubes is a science journalist’s science journalist who researches topics to the point of obsession – actually, well beyond that point – and never dumbs things down for readers.”

Gary’s most recent obsession is documented in “The Case Against Sugar,” a book that argues that increased consumption of sugar over the past 30 to 40 years has led to a diabetes epidemic not only in the United States, but an epidemic that’s now spreading around the world.

Episode 37 of STEM-Talk features a more than two-hour conversation with Gary about his latest research as well as a look back at other nutrition and science topics that have dominated Gary’s journalistic investigations since the 1980s.

Gary first burst onto the national scene in 2002 with an article in the New York Times Magazine titled, “What If’s It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie?” Gary made the point that Robert Atkins and his high-fat, low-carb diet had a better history and scientific record of helping people lose weight than the low-fat diet that was and remains the centerpiece of the nation’s health policy and food pyramid.

The article had an immediate impact. As Michael Pollan pointed out in the introduction of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” in the fall of 2002 bread “abruptly disappeared overnight from the American dinner table.” Virtually overnight, wrote Pollan, Americans changed the way they eat.

Gary did not set out to become a science journalist. He graduated from Harvard College in 1977 with an S.B. degree in applied physics and went on to earn an M.S. degree in aeronautical engineering from Stanford University. But while at Stanford, he realized he wasn’t that passionate about becoming an aeronautical engineer and decided to enroll in the Columbia School of Journalism to become an investigative reporter.

In the ‘80s, Gary became fascinated with flawed science and started writing a series of magazine articles about bad science. That eventually led to a pair of books: “Nobel Dreams” in 1987 and “Bad Science: The Short Life and Weird Times of Cold Fusion” in 1993. After “Bad Science,” Gary turned to nutrition reporting and that resulted in the 2002 article in the New York Times Magazine.

He followed up on his research for the article with two books: “Good Calories, Bad Calories” in 2007; and “Why We Get Fat” in 2010. Both books detailed how refined carbohydrates are largely responsible for America’s rising obesity rate and a primary cause of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other chronic diseases of the Western diet. His new book, “The Case Against Sugar,” takes this argument a step further and shows how the explosion of sugar consumption and sugar-rich products in the United States has led to a global diabetes epidemic.

Dan Barber, author of “The Third Plate,” wrote in a New York Times review of Gary’s book, “Comparing the dangers of inhaling cigarettes with chowing down on candy bars may sound like a false equivalence, but Gary Taubes’s “The Case Against Sugar” will persuade you otherwise. Here is a book on sugar that sugarcoats nothing. The stuff kills.”

Below are links to Gary’s books:

“The Case Against Sugar”

“Good Calories, Bad Calories”

“Why We Get Fat”

“Bad Science”

“Nobel Dreams”

Show notes:

4:41: Ken and Dawn welcome Gary to the show and ask him to talk about how a Harvard physics major ended up going to journalism school to become an investigative reporter.

12:53: Dawn asks Gary to tell the story behind his 2002 article in The New York Times Magazine, “What If It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie?”

21:13: Gary shares how his work for “What If It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie?” led to additional research and the book, “Good Calories, Bad Calories.”

31:00: Gary explains how his study of physics gave him a passion for understanding the history of theories, and how that passion has helped him over the years as an investigative reporter.

43:44: Dawn asks Gary to share lessons he learned from the Nutrition Science Initiative (NUSI).

50:06: Ken refers to reports about Kevin Hall, a researcher at NIH, who essentially claims he’s disproven the carbohydrate-insulin hypotheses of obesity, and asks Gary for his thoughts.

1:02:40: Dawn asks Gary if he thinks there are specific populations where it would seem less appropriate to be on a low-carb diet?

1:06:44: Ken asks if elevated LDL-P should be a concern for people on low-carb diets since it’s a concern for people on normal diets.

1:13:17: Gary talks about the history of sugar in America.

1:18:08: Ken asks Gary to provide the background on how diabetes is now becoming a worldwide pandemic.

1:31:31: Gary elaborates on the sugars found in cane sugar and high fructose corn syrup.

1:34:43: Dawn asks Gary, “If you could remove sugar from the modern environment, but keep everything else the same, do you think we would have an obesity epidemic?”

1:37:21: Gary talks about what brain scans reveal about the addictive effects of sugar.

1:41:53: Dawn asks Gary to share the background on a 2015 report in The New York Times that Coca-Cola initially subsidized the Global Energy Balance Network.

1:46:55: Gary talks about the role of the microbiome.

1:51:31: Ken asks Gary to share his thoughts about the possible effects of artificial sweetners.

1:54:33: Dawn asks Gary how his personal dietary approach has changed over the years.

1:59:01: Dawn and Ken thank Gary and sign off.

May 09 2017



Rank #8: Episode 52: Nina Teicholz on saturated fat, U.S. dietary guidelines, and the shortcomings of nutrition science

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Investigative journalist Nina Teicholz joined Ken and Dawn remotely from a studio in New York City in mid-September for a fascinating discussion about the history and pitfalls of nutrition science.

Teicholz is the author of the international bestseller, “The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat & Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet.”

The Economist named it the number one science book of 2014 and the Journal of Clinical Nutrition wrote, “This book should be read by every scientist and every nutritional science professional.”

Nina began her journalism career as a reporter for National Public Radio. She went on to write for many publications, including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, The New Yorker, and The Economist. She attended Yale University and Stanford University where she studied biology and majored in American Studies. She has a master’s degree from Oxford University and served as associate director of the Center for Globalization and Sustainable Development at Columbia University.

“The Big Fat Surprise” is credited with upending the conventional wisdom on dietary fat. It challenged the very core of America’s nutrition policy by explaining the politics, personalities, and history of how we came to believe that dietary fat is bad for health.  Her book was the first mainstream publication to make the full argument for why saturated fats – the kind found in dairy, meat and eggs – belong in a healthy diet.

The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Mother Jones, the Library Journal and Kirkus Review named “The Big Fat Surprise” one of the best books of 2014. The Economist described Nina’s book as a “nutrition thriller.”


Nina Teicholz blog

— Amazon: “Big Fat Surprise”

BMJ: “The scientific report guiding the US dietary guidelines: is it scientific?”

“A Review of the Dietary Guidelines by the National Academy of Medicine”

STEM-Talk with Gary Taubes

“Statistical Review of US Macronutrient Consumption date, 1965-2011”

“What if Bad Fat is Actually Good for You?”

Show notes:

4:10: Interview begins with Nina talking about how her father, an engineer who also enjoyed computer science, sparked her interest in science.

5:41: Dawn asks Nina if she would share the story about her failed fruit-fly experiment in high school.

8:07: Nina talks about how an assignment to do a story on trans fats led her to become friends with journalist Gary Taubes, the author of “Good Calories, Bad Calories,” whom Dawn and Ken interviewed on episode 37 of STEM-Talk.

11:40: Dawn talks about an article Nina wrote for Men’s Health Magazine titled, “What If Bad Fat Is Actually Good for You?” It’s the article where Nina first laid out her case that saturated fats may not be bad for people’s health and might actually be good for people. Dawn asks Nina if she got pushback on that article.

14:07: Dawn asks about a paper Nina published in BMJ titled, “The Scientific Report Guiding the US Dietary Guidelines: Is It Scientific?”  Dawn asks Nina to describe what happened when 180 scientists wrote a letter asking BMJ to retract the paper.

19:52: Dawn comments about how the pushback to the article seemed to violate the very process that science is supposed to follow.

21:30: Ken comments about the orchestrated effort to make Nina look bad, which leads Nina to highlight the support she received from BMJ and its editor Fiona Godlee.

22:55: Nina talks about the difficulty a journalist faces when challenging the work of scientists from institutions like Harvard and Yale.

24:16: Ken mentions how we’re seeing more and more dogma dressed up as science, which that leads to a discussion between Ken, Dawn and Nina about the shortcomings of nutrition science.

30:32: Dawn comments that Nina has been quoted as saying that institutionalized science is an oxymoron, and once institutions started adopting the principle that saturated fat caused heart disease, the scientists who knew better were silenced. Dawn asks Nina to expand on this.

35:42: STEM-Talk blurb.

36:12: Nina talks about a review of the dietary guidelines by the National Academy of Medicine that came out just the day before her interview with Ken and Dawn in September. The report concluded that the scientific rigor used for the dietary guidelines was not up to par.

39:05: With a population that is genetically and environmentally diverse, and in the current age of information where individuals can increasingly access data to personalize their own approach to health, Ken asks Nina if there is still an important role for a standardized set of national dietary guidelines?

40:52: Ken comments that he doesn’t really want the government telling him what to eat or what color to paint his house, and Nina responds that at the very least the government should stop making Americans fat and sick.

41:47: Nina comments that we don’t really know what kind of diet is optimal for the longest life, which leads to a discussion about the zealotry of dietary activists.

43:46: Dawn references a 2015 a paper titled, “Statistical Review of US Macronutrient Consumption Data, 1965–2011: Americans Have Been Following Dietary Guidelines, Coincident With the Rise in Obesity.” The paper was based partly on Nina’s work, and Dawn asks Nina how the study come about.

45:11: The title of the paper suggested that there was a connection between the dietary guidelines and obesity rates, and a back-and-forth conversation ensues between Ken, Nina and Dawn about whether it is possible to determine that.

48:11: Ken comments that the study found the total amount of fat in the diet did not significantly decrease between 1971 and 2011, but the percentage of fat decreased due to an increase in total carbohydrates, as well as total calories. Ken asks Nina if she thinks we can differentiate an effect of the carbohydrates in the diet from this data, or could the problem just be total calories?

49:62: Ken agrees with Nina on the benefits of a low-carb diet and points out that the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data used in the 2015 study have been questioned by many researchers, with some saying that the majority of participants under-reported many hundreds of calories per day. And since we don’t know what was in those missing calories, Ken wonders if we still can make inferences between population macronutrient intake and overall health?

51:07: Dawn asks Nina about Dr. Tim Noakes of South Africa, who faced a hearing in front of the Health Professions Council of South Africa after a complaint filed by the Association for Dietetics in South Africa. The organization reported Noakes for advising a mother on Twitter that she wean her child onto low-carb, high-fat foods, which Noakes described as real food.

56:04: Ken asks Nina about hecklers at conferences, social media trolling, and all manner of other bullying that is aimed at her and people like Tim Noakes.

57:09: Ken comments there seems to be an unhealthy and largely opaque intersection of money, industry influence, government grants, politics, and national nutrition policy.  Ken asks, “How and why did this happen?”

59:50: Dawn comments that when the low-fat diet was officially recommended to the American public in 1961, just one in seven Americans were obese. Today, it’s one in three. It’s interesting that we started the low-fat initiative in an effort to reduce heart disease. But 40 years later, heart disease remains the leading cause of death for both men and women. Dawn asks Nina if she see any signs that the American Heart Association will revisit their recommendations?

1:02:17: Ken observes that the American Diabetes Association also seems to provide poor dietary advice. He points out that a pundit once observed that the Center for Science in the Public Interest is an organization that is neither science, nor in the public interest.

1:05:19: In speaking of a post-factual world driven by unsupported assertions and appeals to emotion, Dawn asks Nina to talk about the documentary, “What the Health.”

1:10:19: Dawn mentions how we’re seeing so many children becoming obese early in life and wonders if it could be a blend between epigenetic effects from previous generations and current food options. Dawn asks Nina if she thinks we are digging ourselves into a hole that will be tough to get out of healthwise as a population?

1:13:29: As we learn more about the gut microbiome, and how it plays a substantial role in our overall health and cognitive state, Dawn asks Nina for her thoughts about how the gut microbiome is impacted when people shift toward a low-fat diet.

1:15:14: Ken tells Nina that Gary Taubes suggested that Ken ask her about her experience spending two weeks with the Inuit in Greenland.

1:18:27: Taubes also suggested that Ken and Dawn ask Nina about the fish oil industry and how it has impacted fisheries worldwide as well as the food chain.

1:19:60: Nina talks about how there is no evidence that people should consume omega three fatty acids for good health.

1:20:59: Ken mentions reports he has seen about omega 3 to omega 6 ratios having a relationship with inflammation levels.  Nina discusses the research she has done on the issue.

1:23:33: Ken talks about how giving up animal fats for cooking and shifting to vegetable oils has had a negative effect on people’s health. Nina agrees and discusses the shift and its consequences.

1:26:10: Dawn wonders how a busy person like Nina manages to keep up with the chores of life, and asks Nina how she manages to fit in good habits such as exercise and sleep.

1:28:09: Ken and Dawn thank Nina for appearing on STEM-Talk.

Dec 05 2017

1hr 30mins


Rank #9: Episode 7: Mark Mattson talks about benefits of intermittent fasting

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Intermittent fasting—alternating days in which you fast or eat only a few hundred calories a day—may have significant long-term health benefits, according to some researchers.

Mark Mattson is a leading expert on intermittent fasting, and one of its proponents on a personal level as well. As a neurosciences professor at Johns Hopkins University, and chief of the laboratory of neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging (NIA), Mattson is particularly interested in how fasting can improve cognitive function and reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.

Intermittent fasting might play a role in preventing or postponing neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s, which fifty percent of Americans living into their eighties are predicted to get.

In this episode, Mattson talks with IHMC Director Ken Ford and IHMC visiting research scientist Dominic D’Agostino about the benefits of fasting and the physiological mechanisms behind those benefits.

Mattson is a prolific scientific researcher, and you can find links to some of his work at Mattson ARR 2015Mattson Cell Metabolism 2012 ; and Mattson Sci Amer 2015.

Mattson recently delivered an excellent lecture at IHMC on intermittent fasting and optimizing cognitive performance: You can also find his TED talk at

For more information on Mattson’s career and research, check out his Wikipedia page:

1:30: Ford says, “Intermittent fasting has become very popular and Mark Mattson is, in our view, the premier authority on this matter.”

2:30: Ford reads iTunes five-star review from “Carl”: “Really smart, really interesting people being interviewed by the same. IHMC is a fascinating place, and attracts like-minded people.”

3:57: Mattson’s interest in science began in ninth grade, when he wrote an essay on cryopreservation.

4:29: He got interested in aging during his Ph.D., while studying developmental neurobiology and cell death.

6:37: Mattson spent eleven years at the University of Kentucky at the Sanders Brown Center on Aging.

7:20: Mattson explains the basic rationale behind intermittent fasting: If you challenge yourself/cells bio-energetically through exercise or fasting, nerve cells respond adaptively—and pathways are activated that increase neuronal resistance to stress and age-related neurodegenerative disorders.

8:10: Mattson conducted studies in which he subjected animals to alternative day fasting, with a 10-25 percent calorie-restricted diet on the days in which they ate. “If you repeat that when animals are young, they live 30 percent longer.” The animals’ nerve cells were more resistant to degeneration.

10:10: Mattson explains the “5:2” study: There were one hundred women in two groups: one group ate 25 percent fewer calories daily; the other group ate only 500 calories/day for two days.

10:57: The take-home message: “Women on the 5:2 diet lost more body fat, retained more lean muscle mass, and had an improvement in glucose regulation. This is consistent with what we know about fasting in terms of general energy metabolism.”

12:08: Fasting for 12 or more hours causes fatty acids to go into the blood stream/liver and are converted into ketones, which are a good alternative energy source for cells.

13:00: Mattson describes how fasting may benefit the brain.

14:20: Mattson talks about three types of fasting regimens: the 5:2 diet; alternate day fasting (500-600 calories on “fasting” days); and time-restricted feeding, where you limit time window that you take in calories to six to eight hours.

16:58: Mattson explains the following dietary “myths”: breakfast is the most important meal of the day; it’s necessary to eat three meals a day; it’s healthier to eat mini meals throughout the day than one or two big meals. “Largely this isn’t based on any good science that we can find.”

17:44: Fasting can elevate ketones to high levels—even those higher than are typically induced on a ketogenic diet.

19:34: Ketogenic diets are still used in some patients with epilepsy, and they work.

20:36: Mattson and others have found that both exercise and fasting increase levels of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) in the brain.

20:42: We think BDNF is a key mediator of the anti-depressant effects of exercise as well as the most commonly used anti-depressant drugs. Beta-hydroxybutyrate increases BDNF production, which is also important for learning and memory; and neurogenesis.

22:09: Commercial break: STEM-Talk is an educational service of the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC), a not-for-profit research lab pioneering ground-breaking technologies aimed at leveraging human cognition, perception, locomotion and resilience.

23:00: There is interest in doing controlled clinical trials to test the efficacy of exogenous ketones to enhance brain health. Also, some ongoing trials are looking at the effect of coconut oils and branch chain amino acids on Alzheimer’s Disease.

23:55: There’s been no drug effective in slowing down the disease process in Alzheimer’s Disease.

24:15: With age-related diseases, the biggest impact will be on risk reduction: identifying what people can do in mid-life to reduce the risk of getting these diseases when they get into their seventies and eighties.

25:18: Data now show that if you live to your eighties, you almost have a 50 percent risk of getting Alzheimer’s Disease before you die.

25:42: Studies show that exercise and ketones benefit Parkinson’s Disease patients.

26:47:  Ford discusses a recent study that shows that autophagy is a critical regulator of stem-cell fate, with implications for fostering muscle regeneration in sarcopenia. Autophagy typically declines with age and this may cause stem cells to lose their “steminess” and become senescent. Both intermittent fasting and ketosis increase autophagy …  asks Mattson if this might this account for some of the common benefit sometimes seen in both strategies?  Mattson concurs.

27:36: During the bio-energetic challenge of exercising or fasting, autophagy is increased; in part by inhibiting mTOR. Cells go into a protective mode, reducing overall protein synthesis, and at the same time, improving their ability to remove “molecular garbage.”

28:55: The cells’ recovery period is important for increased protein synthesis, and the growth of muscle cells, dendrites and new synapses. All this could be preventive for sarcopenia.

30:00: Mattson says that it is possible to gain muscle during intermittent fasting, which does not necessarily mean caloric restriction.

31:07: There is quite a bit of evidence that high protein intake is not good for aging.

33:04: Mattson himself practices time-restricted feeding. For four to five days a week, he doesn’t eat breakfast or lunch. Then he will eat after working out and in the evening. “I think I’m more productive this way.” Following this regimen, he has also maintained the same body weight for thirty years.

34:12:  D’Agostino, Mattson and Ford discuss training while fasted.

36:22: “There’s no really solid scientific basis that would support a claim that three meals a day is the healthiest approach.” In fact, it’s very unusual from an evolutionary perspective.

37:00: Mattson’s diet includes fruits, veggies, nuts, fish, yogurt, whole grains, and beans. “At least half my calories are from complex carbohydrates.”

37:48: Exercise changes nerve cell circuits involved in cognition. Antidepressant drugs have a similar effect.

41:13: Plato wrote that he did some of his best thinking while fasting. Upton Sinclair wrote “A Fasting Cure,” and even Mark Twain touted the benefits of fasting.

41:41: “You are able to think more clearly in a fasted state; and you begin to contemplate things that you wouldn’t normally think about if you were in a more satisfied energetic state.”

43:26: The impetus for eating mini meals came from working with diabetes patients. The thinking was, ‘It’s important to avoid big spikes in glucose.’ But evidence shows fasting is better than mini meals for regulating insulin sensitivity.

45:10: Within about one month, people adjust to a fasting diet.

49:45:  Discussion of possible benefits of intermittent activation of mTOR as opposed to chronic low mTOR or continually activated mTOR.

51:45: Mattson explains his role at the NIA as chief of the laboratory of neurosciences. The organization of research at each institute is divided into labs, which are roughly equivalent to departments at a university.

53:15: Most cancer cells rely on glucose and are not able to metabolize ketones. Intermittent fasting and/or ketogenic diets, sometimes in combination with chemotherapy, may slow or stop tumor growth—and perhaps even protect normal cells.

54:56:   Ford and D’Agostino thank Mattson for a great interview.

55:10:   Kernagis and Ford discuss interview and wrap-up show.

Apr 12 2016



Rank #10: Episode 3: Rhonda Patrick discusses why your genes influence what you should eat

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Before Rhonda Perciavalle Patrick “stumbled into research”—at the renowned Salk Institute—the Southern California native was a biochemistry major and a passionate surfer.

She’s still an avid surfer, but of her college major, Patrick said, “I wasn’t feeling connected to synthesizing peptides in the lab, so I decided that I wanted to try out biology.”

After earning her undergraduate degree in biochemistry from the University of California at San Diego, Patrick worked at the Salk Institute’s aging laboratory, where she became fascinated with watching how much the lifespan of nematode worms could fluctuate depending on the experiments done on them.

Hooked on aging research, she pursued that thread all the way to the laboratory of renowned scientist Dr. Bruce Ames, who developed the Triage Theory of Aging, which focuses on the long-term damage of micro-nutrient deficiencies.

Patrick is currently working with Ames as a post-doc at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Hospital. Together, they are looking at strategies to reverse the aging process.

She also received her Ph.D. in biomedical sciences from the University of Tennessee, where she worked at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Patrick lectured at IHMC in Ocala in December. She also has her own podcast show, called “Found My Fitness,” at:

STEM-Talk host Dawn Kernagis and co-host Ken Ford talked with Patrick about her research and development as a young scientist who is now at the forefront of the longevity field.

:35: Dawn introduces Rhonda Patrick as “an American biochemist, cell biologist, science communicator and podcaster.” Patrick is currently studying the effects of micro-nutrient inadequacies on metabolism, inflammation, DNA damage and aging.

4:23: Patrick discusses her appreciation for her graduate school mentor. “I got a lot of micro-management,” she said, adding that she acquired the tools she would need to answer interesting biological questions regarding cancer metabolism, apoptosis, and nutrition.

6:00: Nutrigenomics, Patrick said, is a “complex interaction between the nutrients, micro-nutrients, macro-nutrients (fat) and certain genes that we have.”

6:43: As humans, Patrick said, “We all have the same genes, but alternative forms of these genes for unknown reasons. A single nucleotide change in the DNA sequence of a gene can alter the gene function.”

7:13: Certain polymorphisms, or genetic variants, probably emerged because of environmentally-induced genetic stressors, Patrick said. For example, soil high in selenium may have caused people to develop a polymorphism that inhibits the absorption of selenium because they get so much of it naturally.

8:11: Even if the polymorphism changes the gene in a negative way, you can often find a benefit, Patrick said. “That’s probably why it’s survived.”

8:42: Commercial break: STEM-Talk is an educational service of the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, a not-for-profit research lab pioneering ground-breaking technologies aimed at leveraging human cognition, perception, locomotion and resilience.

9:25: Hundreds of genes interact with micro-nutrients and macro-nutrients that we take in. For example, half the population has a polymorphism that changes the way your body metabolizes folate and folic acid, the oxidized form of folate.

11:05: Folate helps us make methyl groups, which are used for various biological functions. The MTHFR gene helps with that process, so people with a genetic polymorphism need to take a methyl folate 5 supplement.

12:00: The TRPM6 gene is a transporter of magnesium, an essential micronutrient required in over 300 enzymes in body. Some of its functions include making/using ATP; repairing DNA damage; establishing new neuronal connections in the brain.

12:27: People with a genetic polymorphism cannot transport magnesium in/out of cells, and have a significantly higher risk of diabetes than the average population.

12:52: Forty-five percent of the U.S. population does not meet the Recommended Daily Allowance for magnesium, which is 350-400 milligrams a day, Patrick said. “That, coupled with a high refined carbohydrate diet is like a ticking time bomb for Type 2 diabetes.”

13:19: Patrick notes another polymorphism for the PPAR gamma-macronutrient, which is very important for how the body metabolizes certain types of fat; and how the body can deactivate carcinogenic xenobiotics, foreign chemical substances within organisms.

13:34: “Our bodies are beautifully designed to handle all types of stress; but our genes have to be working; they have to have the right nutrients.”

14:08: Gene polymorphisms regulate our phenotype—including features such as eye and hair color. But they also regulate our risk of diseases; and the type/amount of certain foods we should take in or avoid.

15:05: Clinical trials in nutrition are often not done adequately, Patrick said. This is because of cost, and the heterogeneity of the population.

16:41: Heterocyclic amines, chemicals formed when you cook meat at a really high temperature, are shown to be carcinogenic in mice studies and linked to an increased cancer risk in humans in epidemiological studies. Some people have a gene polymorphism that does not allow them to inactivate the HCAs quickly, and the build-up can form a carcinogen.

18:51: More nutritional studies are needed because “There’s a very complex interaction between genes and diet.”

19:18: More and more physicians are becoming aware of nutrigenomics as patients bring it to their attention, armed with data from gene tests such as 23andMe.

20:33: Commercial break: STEM-Talk is an educational service of the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, a not-for-profit research lab pioneering ground-breaking technologies aimed at leveraging human cognition, perception, locomotion and resilience.

21:00: Patrick has had her own DNA polymorphisms sequenced by 23andMe. She takes supplements and avoids certain foods based on this knowledge.

22:50: Diet/lifestyle/stress can alter gene expression, which can carry over to the sperm/egg DNA and be passed onto offspring.

24:17: An Australian study published in Nature showed that obese, insulin-resistant mice on high inflammatory diets had female offspring, who despite being fed normal diets and having lean bodies, developed Type I diabetes.

25:40: The Journal of Cell Metabolism published a paper comparing methyl groups of obese males versus lean ones. When the obese males lost weight, there were changes in their epigenetic markers that control hunger hormones.

27:20: While bad diets affect your disease risk and that of your offspring, “You can make a change,” Patrick said. “If you’re obese, overweight, eating a terrible diet, it’s not too late.”

28:30: Unique gene signatures occur at various ages. Researchers can look at a blood cell and tell a person’s age within a few years.

29:30: Environmental factors affect the epigenetic markers that affect the genes controlling metabolism, DNA repair, new stem cell production. Certain diet/lifestyle factors can positively affect those genes.

30:44: Lifestyle factors such as exercise, sleep, a good diet high in micro-nutrients/low in refined carbs, and low stress likely affect changes at the epigenetic level. “More and more scientists are beginning to study this and will be able to tease it apart.”

32:16: When you heat shock an organism you activate genes involved in stress resistance.

33:17: Some of the benefits of exercise come from heat shocking the body. One Finnish study showed that men who regularly used the sauna had lower all-cause mortality. Other studies have shown that mice, flies, and worms can increase their lifespan by 15-20 percent.

34:39: Heat stress increases the brain-derived neurotropic factor, which is important for growing new neurons; maintaining neurons; and strengthening the synapses between neurons.

35:20: Exercise and sauna together have a synergistic effect. May positively affect your brain.

35:33: Ford notes that wrestlers, boxers and other athletes sometimes use sauna to elevate their heart rate. Sauna use also seemed to help with recovery.

36:51: Commercial break: STEM-Talk is an educational service of the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, a not-for-profit research lab pioneering ground-breaking technologies aimed at leveraging human cognition, perception, locomotion and resilience.

38:40: Vitamin D is important for making serotonin in the brain, and for early brain development. It helps shape the structure of the brain, guides neurons to the right place and ensures that the right type of neurons develop.

39:33: The developing fetus depends on maternal levels of Vitamin D. Deficient levels might alter brain development and lead to conditions like autism.

40:19: Serotonin plays a well-known role in mood alteration; it also affects impulse control, long-term thinking, planning and memory.

42:15: Many people have polymorphisms in serotonin-related genes, including Patrick herself. These polymorphisms, coupled with deficient Vitamin D intake, can be a “double whammy” for people.

43:11: “It is possible that this complex interaction between serotonin and Vitamin D may make a huge difference in peoples’ lives that are Vitamin D deficient.”

Mar 15 2016



Rank #11: Episode 43: Jeff Volek explains the power of ketogenic diets to reverse type 2 diabetes

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Today’s episode features an important interview with Dr. Jeff Volek, a researcher who has spent the past 20 years studying how humans adapt to carbohydrate-restricted diets.  His most recent work, which is one of the key topics of today’s interview, has focused on the science of ketones and ketogenic diets and their use as a therapeutic tool to manage insulin resistance.

In 2014, Volek became a founder and the chief science officer of Virta Health, an online specialty medical clinic dedicated to reversing diabetes, a chronic disease that has become a worldwide epidemic. The company’s ambitious goal is to reverse type 2 diabetes in 100 million people by 2025.

Earlier this year, The JMIR Diabetes Journal published a study coordinated by Volek and Virta that showed people with type 2 diabetes can be taught to sustain adequate carbohydrate restriction to achieve nutritional ketosis, thereby improving glycemic control, decreasing medication use, and allowing clinically relevant weight loss. These improvements happened after just 10 weeks on the program that Virta designed for people.

In addition to his role at Virta, Volek is a registered dietitian and full professor in the department of human sciences at Ohio State University. He is a co-author of “The New Atkins for a New You,” which came out 2010 and spent 16 weeks on The New York Times best-seller list. The book is an updated, easier-to-use version of Dr. Robert Atkins’ original 1972 book, “Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution.”

Volek has co-authored four other books, including “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living” and “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance.” Both books are co-authored with and delve somewhat deeper than “The New Atkins” did into the science and application of low-carb diets.

Volek received his bachelor’s degree in dietetics from Michigan State University in 1991. He went on to earn a master’s in exercise physiology and a PhD in kinesiology and nutrition from Pennsylvania State University. He has given more than 200 lectures about his research at scientific and industry conferences in a dozen countries. In addition to his five books, he also has published more than 300 peer-reviewed scientific papers.

Although numerous studies have confirmed the validity and safety of low-carb and ketogenic diets, Volek and others who support carbohydrate restriction are often criticized for being so one-sided that their work comes across as more advocacy than science. But in “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living,” Volek writes:

“What is the proper response when three decades of debate about carbohydrate restriction have been largely one-sided and driven more by cultural bias than science? Someone needs to stand up and represent the alternate view and science.”

As Volek explains in episode 42 of STEM-Talk, this has become his mission.


“New Atkins for a New You” —

“The Art and Science of Low-Carbohydrate Living”–

“The Art and Science of Low-Carbohydrate Performance” —

New York Times article:


Show notes:

3:016: Ken and Dawn welcome Jeff to the show.

3:32: Dawn asks Jeff when and how he first became interested in science.

5:24: When Jeff was studying to be a dietitian, he was looking at a low-fat, high-carb diet. But when he began to work with diabetics, something did not seem right. Dawn asks Jeff if that is what led him to begin studying low-carb diets.

6:39: Ken comments on how diabetes is perhaps the greatest healthcare challenge we face as a society, which drives costs to more than $300 billion a year.

7:59: Dawn asks Jeff about the effectiveness of traditional treatment and management approaches for people with diabetes.

8:27: Dawn asks Jeff to talk about Virta Health, a company Jeff helped found, and a recent paper and JMIR Diabetes Journal. The paper reported on the results of a study that looked at whether sustained carbohydrate restriction and nutritional ketosis could be part of a comprehensive intervention that would allow people with type 2 diabetes to improve their health.

11.54: Dawn asks Jeff why this approach would work at the cellular level, whether it is the reduction in glucose alone or if the ketone bodies are playing a role.

14:13: Ken asks Jeff why he thinks some patients respond so remarkably and others not as much.

16:27: Dawn discusses how Virta’s mission is to reverse diabetes for 100 million people by 2025. She asks Jeff if this is a realistic number or a stretch goal.

18:28: Ken asks Jeff to briefly talk about the business model of this process and how he sees it shaking out.

20:09: Dawn asks Jeff how he and Sami Inkinen, founder of Trulia and another co-founder of Virta, crossed paths.

22:00: Dawn asks Jeff what his thoughts are on the possible epigenetic effects of the ketogenic diet, with respect to general health and wellness.

25:46: Dawn talks about an athletic friend of hers with Crohn’s disease and how she had positive health outcomes from following a ketogenic diet. She then asks Jeff if anyone has seen improvements to conditions like Crohn’s disease or rheumatoid arthritis when considering the inflammatory nature of these diseases processes.


28:23: Dawn comments on how she has been a vegetarian for more than 20 years, and how it is difficult to be on a ketogenic diet with no meat as a fat source. She then discusses how “The New Atkins for a New You,” has a chapter devoted to a low-carb diet for vegetarians and asks Jeff if he has any tips to share for vegetarians or vegans.

29:59: Ken discusses a conversation he had with a woman about the difficulty of a ketogenic diet for someone who is fat-phobic. She has the idea that if she eats fat it will soon be on her. Ken then asks Jeff if this “fat fear” is something that he finds in working with patients.

32:30: Ken comments on how Rob Wolff reports that lipidologists are quite wary of the LDL-P, the particle numbers that they see in some people trying the ketogenic diet. As a result, these people have to increase their carb intake. Ken then asks Jeff what his thoughts on this are.

35:33: Ken discusses how LDL-P is more strongly correlated with heart disease than LDL cholesterol in the literature.

41:02: Dawn asks Jeff if he thinks that someone on a ketogenic diet would need a different amount of fiber per day compared to what has been recommended by the Institute of Medicine.

41:44: Dawn discusses how for decades recreational and competitive athletes have religiously consumed a diet rich in carbohydrates to fuel their performance, and the conventional wisdom has been to avoid fatty foods. However, in recent years these beliefs have been questioned. Dawn asks Jeff to give an overview of this trend.

44:58: Dawn asks Jeff to expand on why he thinks there was no difference in muscle glycogen between the two groups.

47:56: Dawn discusses a recent paper published in The Journal of Physiology where Louise Burke looked at elite race walkers while on the ketogenic diet. The team found that this diet impaired performance in elite endurance athletes “despite a significant improvement in peak aerobic capacity.” Her primary point was that race walkers showed increased oxygen demand for a given speed. Dawn then asks Jeff to share his thoughts on this paper.

49:40: Ken asks Jeff to briefly explain the role of PDH, and whether Jeff looked at this enzyme in his studies on athletes who were keto-adapted.

51:40: Ken discusses how in contrast to endurance sports, some more power-oriented athletes have reported that when on a ketogenic diet they experience low energy levels during the most demanding moments in the sport, but others do not experience this at all. Ken asks Jeff if he has any thoughts on power athletes on a ketogenic diet.

56:29: Dawn discusses how Jeff has spent a good amount of time studying keto-adapted elite ultra-runners, such as the western states 100 record holder, Tim Olson. Dawn asks Jeff what he learned at this event with regards to a low-carb endurance athlete, and how this informs recommendations he would make to athletes when they are fueling for a competition of this kind.

59:07 Dawn asks Jeff if he sees more athletes shifting towards a low-carb diet.

1:00:37: Ken discusses the use of exogenous ketone esters in the Tour de France races. He then asks Jeff for his opinion on this and to briefly address the confusion on this topic

1:04:01: Ken comments on how Jeff wrapped up the confusion nicely.

1:05:14: Ken and Dawn thank Jeff for joining them.

Aug 01 2017

1hr 7mins


Rank #12: Episode 50: Ken Ford talks about ketosis, optimizing exercise, and the future direction of science, technology, and culture

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Today’s episode features the second of Dawn Kernagis’ two-part interview with her STEM-Talk co-host and IHMC Director Ken Ford. This episode marks a milestone for STEM-Talk. It’s our 50th episode and follows Ken’s formal induction into the Florida Inventor’s Hall of Fame.

In part one of Dawn’s interview, listeners learned about Ken’s childhood and his years as a rock and roll promoter back in the ‘70s. Ken even shared an interesting story about how he went from being a philosophy major to a computer scientist. He also talked about his work in AI and the creation of IHMC and the pioneering work underway at the institute. If you missed episode 49, be sure to check it out.

Part two of Ken’s interview focuses more on his research and personal experience with the ketogenic diet, ketone esters, exercise and ways to extend health span and perhaps longevity. Dawn and Ken also discuss the nature of technical progress

As listeners learned in part one, Ken has a varied background. He is a co-founder of IHMC, which has grown into one of the nation’s premier research organizations with world-class scientists and engineers investigating a broad range of topics.

He also is the author of hundreds of scientific papers and six books. He received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from Tulane University. He is a Fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, a charter Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, and a member of the Association for Computing Machinery, the IEEE Computer Society, and the National Association of Scholars.

In 2012, Tulane University named Ford its Outstanding Alumnus in the School of Science and Engineering. The Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence named Dr. Ford the recipient of the 2015 Distinguished Service Award. Also in 2015, Dr. Ford was elected as Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

In January 1997, Dr. Ford was asked by NASA to develop and direct its new Center of Excellence in Information Technology at the Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, where he also served as Associate Center Director. In July 1999, Dr. Ford was awarded the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal. That same year, Ford returned to private life in Florida and to IHMC.

In October 2002, President George W. Bush nominated Dr. Ford to serve on the National Science Board (NSB). In 2005, Dr. Ford was appointed and sworn in as a member of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board. In 2007, he became a member of the NASA Advisory Council and on October 16, 2008, Dr. Ford was named as chairman – a capacity in which he served until October 201l.

In August 2010, Dr. Ford was awarded NASA’s Distinguished Public Service Medal – the highest honor the agency confers. In February 2012, Dr. Ford was named to a two-year term on the Defense Science Board and in 2013, he became a member of the Advanced Technology Board which supports the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.


IHMC website:

Ken Ford web page:

Florida Inventors Hall of Fame website:

Outside magazine story on Ken Ford and ketogenic diet:

Blood Flow Restriction Device. 15% discount code: IHMC

BhB Ketone Ester

Powerdot Muscle Stimulator


Suppression of Oxidative Stress by b-Hydroxybutyrate, an Endogenous Histone Deacetylase Inhibitor

Ketone Bodies as Signaling Metabolites

Ketogenic Diet Reduces Midlife Mortality and Improves Memory in Aging Mice

A Ketogenic Diet Extends Longevity and Healthspan in Adult Mice

Ketone Bodies Mimic the Life Span Extending Properties of Caloric Restriction

Show notes:

7:06: Dawn begins part two of her interview with Ken by pointing out that some of the work IHMC is doing in terms of human performance is focused on nutritional approaches, including ketogenic diets and ketone esters. Dawn mentions that Ken was an early adopter of the ketogenic diet and that some people even refer to him as “the keto guy.” She then asks him when he first embraced a ketogenic diet and what attracted him to it.

8:06:  Ken Talks about his long experience with the ketogenic diet and its effect on body composition.

10:30: Ken discusses how he became interested in ketone esters.

12:34: Dawn asks about research that seems to show that elevated levels of circulating ketone bodies have the potential to protect people from some of the diseases of aging.

12:47:  Ken discusses healthspan, lifespan, and bending the aging curve.

14:04:  Ken notes that, in his view, it should not be surprising that shifting something as fundamental as the fuel substrate for our metabolism would have widespread effects.

14:19:  Ken talks about the epidemic of insulin resistance, diabetes, and obesity.

15:20:  Dawn asks Ken to discuss the relatively newly discovered effects of ketone bodies which go well beyond their well-appreciated metabolic roles … and that might have various anti-aging effects.

16:59:  Ken asserts that many of the most exciting effects of ketones are not only those arising from their role as an energy source but also that they play critically important signaling functions.  Ken talks about the research showing that the ketone bodies are HDAC inhibitors and seem to link environmental cues, such as diet, to the regulation of aging.

17:23:  Ken explains how HDACs inhibit BDNF and as mentioned above, ketones inhibit HDACs … thereby increasing BDNF.

18:20: Ken discusses two new papers showing a substantial extension of healthspan and lifespan in adult mice.

20:57: Dawn asks about the effect of the ketogenic diet on the maintenance of muscle and strength as people age.

24:48:  Dawn asks Ken about the ketogenic diet and IGF-1.

26:45:  Dawn notes that stem cells become less effective with age and asks about the implications of this phenomenon for maintenance of muscle.

27:37: Ken explains what the ketogenic diet is.

29:48: Dawn points out the Google search term “ketogenic diet” now outnumbers searches for Paleo diets. She asks Ken if he thought this would be the case back in 2006 when he first returned to a ketogenic diet.

31:18: Dawn asks Ken about what he sees as the primary benefit of blood-flow restriction training and how he uses it in his training.

34:25: Dawn asks Ken about what other exercise methods he employs in his training to optimize muscle mass and minimize potential injury.

34:38:  Ken mentions electrical muscle stimulation (PowerDot), kettlebells, resistance training, Tabata sessions, and hiking in Wyoming and Maine.

35:37:  Ken discusses hierarchical sets as employed in resistance training.

36:27:  Dawn ask Ken if he “goes to failure” when engaged in resistance training.

37:13:  Dawn asks Ken if has any thoughts on eccentric movements when engaged in resistance training.

38:50:  Dawn asks Ken about NASA funded research at IHMC, led by Peter Neuhaus, aimed at developing technology to enable exercise devices for use on long-duration deep space missions.

39:41: Dawn mentions that when she first met Ken that she was doing research on apolipoprotein E in a neurocritical care laboratory. She asks Ken for his take on APOE in athletics and other approaches when it comes to harnessing people’s genetic information for optimized health.

42:03: Dawn asks Ken to describe a typical day and a typical week in the life of Ken Ford, including what his diet looks like and what he typically eats for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

44:03: Dawn wonders how many expressos, which Ken refers to as the elixir of the mind, he drinks in a day.

45:06: Dawn asks Ken about his time at NASA’s Ames Research Center.

46:06:  She asks Ken to talk about his experience on the National Science Board and whether there were any stories he could share.

48:48:  Dawn asks Ken to discuss his service on the NASA Advisory Council.

50:04: Dawn mentions that Ken has been a member of the National Science Board, NASA Advisory Council, Air Force Science Advisory Board, the Advanced Technology Board for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the Defense Science Board. She asks Ken for his takeaways from serving on those boards and councils.

52:10:  Dawn notes that during Apollo, NASA annually accounted for roughly 4% of Federal spending and asks Ken if he knows the percentage currently?

52:55:  Ken laments that public service is becoming increasingly unpleasant … and that the best people invariably leave as a result.

54:05: Dawn asks Ken to talk about the accelerating rate of technological progress and its effects on society and the individual.

54:25:  Ken distinguishes between “technological change” and “progress.”

57:11:  Dawn asks, if taken from a purely technological perspective, are we not advancing faster than ever before?

1:00:54: Dawn plays an audio clip of Ken talking about the zombie apocalypse, which she describes as one of her favorite stories, and asks him to expand upon on it.

1:04:20: Dawn thanks Ken for sitting down for an interview.

Nov 07 2017

1hr 6mins


Rank #13: Episode 87: Dom D’Agostino reflects on his 10 years of research into ketogenic nutrition

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Dr. Dominic D’Agostino returns to STEM-Talk to give Ken and Dawn an update on his research into ketogenic nutrition. Dom was the guest on episode 14 back in 2016 when ketogenic diets didn’t even show up on a list of the top-10 diets that people Googled. Since then, the search term “ketogenic diet” has risen to the top of the list.

In today’s episode, Dom talks about his past 10 years of research into ketogenic diets and what he is learning about the physiological benefits of nutritional ketosis.

Dom is tenured associate professor in the Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology at the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine.He also is a research scientist here at IHMC.Throughout his career, Dom has been a researcher with a diverse background in neuroscience, molecular pharmacology, nutrition and physiology.

Show notes:

[00:02:55] Dawn begins the interview mentioning that when she and Ken started hosting STEM-Talk, the ketogenic diet wasn’t on the list of the top-10 most Googled diets of 2015. Today, however, Dawn points that ketogenic diet is number one on the list. She asks Dom if he foresaw sudden mass interest in a ketogenic diet coming.

[00:04:12] Ken asks Dom for his thoughts on how the ketogenic diet has went from being very obscure to becoming a household term.

[00:06:04] Ken comments on the evolutionary component of the ketogenic diet and how our ancestors must have gone in and out of ketosis based on the availability of food. He also comments on the unique aspect of the ketogenic diet, being that it has an objective measurement, and asks Dom to talk about that.

[00:06:59] Dawn comments on the cynicism regarding the ketogenic diet, particularly from nutritionists. She asks Dom to address the criticism and pushback that the ketogenic diet receives from so many nutritionists.

[00:10:02] Ken mentions that some fields are resistant to change and new science due to the emotion behind established theories. Dom agrees and then talks about how people, even doctors, are resistant to new data and new science.

[00:11:13] Dom talks about the most common misconceptions and overrepresentations of the ketogenic diet.

[00:12:54] Ken discusses his dissatisfaction with the term “ketogenic diet” since the word diet implies the mandated consumption of certain food items. He goes on to say that if one is in ketosis, then, by definition, they are doing a ketogenic diet, even though they may be in ketosis because they have been fasting and haven’t eaten anything.  Ken and Dom discuss how knowledge about ketogenic nutrition has changed over time and that it is certainly possible to eat an unhealthy ketogenic diet.

[00:15:35] Dom and Ken talk about the results of a recent Megan Roberts paper, “A Ketogenic Diet Extends Longevity and Healthspan in Adult Mice,”that showed a 13% increase in the lifespan of the mice along with remarkably improved healthspan.

[00:20:26] Dom shares his thoughts on the potential of exogenous ketones in the context of blood glucose regulation.

[00:27:07] Ken asks if Dom has been tracking Virta Health, which was founded by Dr. Jeff Volek who was interviewed in STEM-Talk episode 43. Virta Health has been publishing impressive results of its trials that show  people reversing type-2 diabetes via a well-formulated ketogenic diet.

[00:29:13] Ken adds that the reported numbers from Virta show 60% to 70% of their patients going off their insulin medication or greatly reducing their insulin levels.

[00:30:55] Dawn asks about Dom’s experience going underwater for 10 days in participation of a NASA NEEMO mission. She asks him to talk about his personal experience as well as his background in hyperbaric physiology.

[00:32:08] Dom discusses his group’s work replicating the experimental design of his original oxygen toxicity work in aged and obese rats.

[00:33:35] Dawn briefly describes what oxygen toxicity is, and asks Dom about the first human studies, on which he is serving as a consultant, that are being conducted at Duke University to assess the effect of nutritional ketosis on oxygen toxicity and seizure risk. She points out that the studies that are being run by Dr. Bruce Derrick.

[00:36:36] Dom discusses brain energy metabolism, and cerebral metabolism, in the context of ketone bodies.

[00:39:23] Dom talks about his group’s research into kabuki syndrome, an epigenetic disorder that causes altered growth and cognitive dysfunction in children.

[00:42:02] Dom elaborates on the difference between ketone esters and ketone salts.

[00:44:00] Ken asks if there’s any evidence that people experience medical issues as a result of ketone esters or salts.

[00:48:02] Dawn asks about the transition into ketosis for women, which appears to be more difficult than it is for men, and whether the use of exogenous ketones would be a good option for women.

[00:49:43] Dawn asks if there are any more resources that have been generated on a vegetarian ketogenic diet, since the last time she and Dom discussed it on STEM-Talk.

[00:50:41] Ken asks about the differences between a ketone tolerance test and a glucose tolerance test.

[00:53:36] Ken discusses how some research suggests that anaerobic athletes such as wrestlers, boxers, and MMA fighters will experience a dip in performance on a ketogenic diet. He asks what the state of research is on this topic, and how such athletes can modify their fueling to obtain the benefits of the ketogenic diet (such as brain protection) while maximizing their performance.

[00:56:57] Dom discusses the ketogenic diet in relation to the gut microbiome, and the resolving of long-term GI issues for people who go on the ketogenic diet, as well as the study coming from the Sonnenberg lab at Stanford.

[00:59:58] Dom talks about his group’s exploration of an ecological idea of cancer treatment based on the ecological concept of animal extinction.

[01:02:37] Dom talks about his collaborative paper, written with his Ph.D. student, Andrew Koutnik, and Brendan Egan, titled, “Anti-catabolic Effects of Ketone Bodies in Skeletal Muscle.”

[01:05:11] Dawn asks about Dom’s research on cancer cachexia, and what spurred his interest in this topic.

[01:07:05] Dawn asks what targets people should shoot for on a ketogenic diet with regards to their electrolytes, and to describe the signs and symptoms of inadequate electrolytes.

[01:09:31] Ken asks what experiences stick out to Dom, as he reflects on the last 10 years of his scientific journey.

[01:12:11] Dawn asks about Dom and his wife’s new dog and their farm.

[01:14:15] Ken asks about Dom’s fitness routine now that he no longer goes to a gym.

[01:16:05] Dawn ends the interview asking if Dom recommends farming and gardening as a way to stay in shape.


Anticatabolic Effects of Ketone Bodies in Skeletal Muscle

Dom’s website

Dom’s USF website

Dom’s IHMC bio

Learn more about IHMC

STEM-Talk homepage

Ken Ford bio

Dawn Kernagis bio

Apr 23 2019

1hr 22mins


Rank #14: Episode 41: Dr. David Diamond talks about the role of fat, cholesterol, and statin drugs in heart disease

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Dr. David Diamond is a University of South Florida professor in the departments of psychology, molecular pharmacology and physiology and director of the USF Neuroscience Collaborative.

He is well known for research that looks at the effects of stress on brain, memory and synaptic plasticity. A primary research project over the past few decades has been the study of treatments for combat veterans and civilians with PTSD.

Although his academic specialty is neuroscience, recently he has been closely examining the role of fat and cholesterol in heart disease. He began looking into lipids after test results showed his triglycerides were through the roof.  He also launched a critical look into the effectiveness of statins, a class of drugs doctors frequently prescribe to help people lower cholesterol levels in their blood.

Dr. Diamond’s findings contradicted the low-fat, high-carb diet that he, as well as many Americans, had been advised to follow. This led him to explore ways for people to optimize their diet for cardiovascular health.

He eventually created a graduate and undergraduate seminar entitled, “Myths and Deception in Medical Research.” A lecture he gave at the university entitled “How Bad Science and Big Business Created the Obesity Epidemic” is now a YouTube video with nearly 200,000 views. The lecture focused on how “flawed and deceptive science demonized saturated fats and created the myth that a low-fat, plant-based diet is good for your health.”

Dr. Diamond received his B.S. in biology from the University of California, Irvine in the 1980. He continued his post-graduate work at the university and earned a Ph.D. in biology with a specialization in behavioral neuroscience.

From 1986 to 1997, Dr. Diamond was an assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology in the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver. He then moved to University of South Florida and since 2003 has been a professor in the departments of psychology, molecular pharmacology and physiology.

In addition to directing USF’s Neuroscience Collaborative, Dr. Diamond also is the director of the university’s Center for Preclinical and Clinical Research on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. His research projects at the university have ranged from “The Effects of Stress on Brain, Memory and Synaptic Plasticity” to “The Cognitive and Neurobiological Perspectives on Why Parents Lose Awareness of Children in Cars.”

Dr. Diamond has served on federal government study sections and committees evaluating research on the neurobiology of stress and memory and has more than 100 publications, reviews, and book chapters on the brain and memory. He is a fellow in the American Institute of Stress and in 2015 he received the award for Outstanding Contribution to Science from the Riga Diabetes and Obesity World Congress. In 2015, Diamond also received the University of South Florida International Travel Award.


USF lecture: “How Bad Science and Big Business Created the Obesity Epidemic”

IHMC lecture: “An Update on Demonization and Deception in Research of Saturday Fat, Cholesterol and Heart Disease —

Show notes:

4:31: Ken and Dawn welcome David to the show.

4:42: Dawn comments on how David has always been interested in science and even wanted to be a physician as a child. She also asks him about majoring in biology and receiving his PhD from the University of California, Irvine.

5:41: Dawn asks David about his varied research topics at the University of South Florida, including cognitive and neurobiological perspectives on why parents lose awareness of children in cars.

7:00: Ken asks David what led him to research cardiovascular disease and statins, since he has such an extensive background in memory and PTSD research.

7:46: Dawn mentions David’s lecture he gave at the University South Florida entitled, “How Bad Science and Big Business Created the Obesity Epidemic”.

9:51: Dawn comments on how David and one of his colleagues recently published a review paper showing that statins have failed to substantially improve cardiovascular outcomes, yet so many doctors continue to prescribe this drug.

10:39: Dawn asks David what additional risks he sees with statins.

11:44: Ken asks David to discuss relative risk versus absolute risk calculations, as there is much confusion around that topic.

13:41: Dawn asks David if there are any ongoing trials looking at the degree of cholesterol lowering and clinical outcomes using absolute risk statistics.

14:39: Dawn discusses the two interwoven stories: one of possible statistical deception and describing the putative benefits of statins, and the other issue of whether there are instances where it makes sense for physicians to prescribe statins. Dawn asks David if there are any subsets of patients that he would recommend treating with statins, and asks about patients with hypercholesterolemia.

16:24: Dawn asks David if there are any other subgroups where the use of statins may be defensible.

17:39: Dawn notes that  increased LDL is common in people who start a ketogenic diet while their other biomarkers tend to improve.  She asks David to comment on this observation.

18:45: Ken comments on how cholesterol has been so demonized that a lot of people are not aware that our bodies need cholesterol to synthesize the naturally occurring steroids in our systems. Ken then asks David to give an overview of the role that cholesterol plays in our bodies.

19:42: Dawn asks David to talk about some of the dangers of low LDL.

20:54: Ken comments on how an often overlooked aspect of lipoproteins is their role in the innate immune system. Ken then asks David if the medical community should look at lipoproteins from a bit of a broader perspective than simply looking at them as lipid shuttles and a source of cardiovascular disease risk.

22:24:  Dawn asks David what actually causes heart disease and what people can do to reduce the risk of having a heart attack.

24:44: Dawn asks David what types of diet or exercise approaches would be optimal for improving cardiovascular health.

29:34: Dawn asks David what an ideal ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 is in our diets, and whether or not David thinks this is important.

31:03: Dawn comments on how they have discussed David’s diet and personal routine and asks him what else he incorporates into his personal health regimen.

32:13: Ken asks David what kind of pushback he has received in response to his research findings and lectures.


34:06: Dawn discusses the London Daily Telegram’s story about a group of international experts, including David, who claim that cholesterol does not cause heart disease in the elderly and how trying to reduce it with drugs like statins is a waste of time. The story also points out that these experts’ claims drew immediate skepticism from other academics. Dawn then asks David how he thinks the public deals with conflicting messages like this.

36:25: Ken asks David that assuming his analysis is correct, if he has any thoughts on why errors this large and pervasive continue to persist.

37:14: Ken comments on how we do not often see stories like this in other professions, such as engineering. Ken then asks David what it is about medical research that amends itself to this process.

40:16: Ken comments on how doctors have very prescribed standards of care that they are expected to follow.

41:06: Ken asks David if perhaps the modest benefits of statins could be associated with their recently touted anti-inflammatory properties, rather than primarily their cholesterol lowering effects.

43:07: Dawn comments on how people seem conditioned to think that they can find good health in a pill. She then asks David if this is his experience.

44:00: Dawn notes that in the past people did not place great trust in medicine, however this has certainly changed over time. Dawn then asks David to speculate on why he thinks this is.

45:17: Dawn asks David if it is the right approach when people have an illness or a biomarker that seems wrong and they immediately want to tackle that specific symptom instead of looking at what is causing it.

47:09: Ken asks David if there is any evidence that prescribing statins changes people’s perception of their risk of cardiovascular disease, and thereby changes their behavior in ways that might increase their risk.

48:43: Dawn asks David what he would recommend to patients when their physician says that he or she is going to prescribe statins.

50:10: Dawn asks David what his thoughts are on the effects of statins for exercise performance and muscle strength, in particular how it relates to the aging population.

51:24: Dawn discusses how there seems to be a recent trend to take low doses of a statin drug two to three times a week coupled with zetia. Dawn then asks David what his thoughts are on this, in particular regards to a recent study completed by Johns Hopkins.

53:50: Dawn comments on how there is a greater discussion around precision medicine. She then asks David if there are studies that integrate genetic testing prior to the administration of statins.

55:18: Dawn asks about the Ascot LLA study, the results of which have been promoted extensively through advertising. Dawn asks David to talk about what the results of this study demonstrate and why the study was terminated early.

56:58: Dawn asks David to expand on the Jupiter Study that he discusses in his publication.

57:59: Ken discusses a very new paper titled, Statins for Primary Prevention in Physically Active Individuals: Do the Risks Outweigh the Benefits? The paper examines the potential benefits and adverse events of statins among physically fit individuals, in particular the association of statin use with beneficial cardiovascular outcomes and adverse effects in active duty military personnel. Ken asks David if he has any comments on this paper and its findings.

1:00:51: Ken comments on the new category of drugs called PCSK9 inhibitors. He asks David to talk about this.

1:04:24: Ken asks David to explain how he has been very critical of drug companies in their promotion of statins, yet his neuroscience research has been funded by drug companies.

1:05:25: Dawn asks David what interests he peruses outside of science.

1:06:15: Ken and Dawn thank David for joining them.

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Jul 04 2017


Rank #15: Episode 68: Steve Anton talks about diet, exercise, intermittent fasting and lifestyle interventions to improve health

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What’s the best way to eat and the right way to exercise to ensure a healthy lifespan? Our guest today is Dr. Stephen Anton, a psychologist who has spent his career researching how lifestyle factors can influence not only obesity, but also cardiovascular disease and other metabolic conditions.

Steve is an associate professor and the chief of the Clinical Research Division in the Department of Aging and Geriatric Research at the University of Florida. In today’s episode, we talk to Steve about his work in developing lifestyle interventions designed to modify people’s eating and exercise behaviors in an effort to improve their healthspan and lifespan.

One of Steve’s best-known papers appeared in the Obesity Journal titled “Flipping the Metabolic Switch.” The study looked at intermittent fasting and suggested that the metabolic switch into ketosis represents an evolutionary conserved trigger point that has the potential to improve body composition in overweight individuals.

Topics we cover in today’s interview include:

  • The increasing prevalence of metabolic syndrome associated with aging.
  • Why so many hospital health and wellness programs fail.
  • How fasting and intermittent energy restriction promote autophagy.
  • The relationship between muscle quality, body fat and health.
  • How age-related loss of muscle function and mass leads to sarcopenia.
  • Effects, risks and benefits of testosterone supplementation in older men.
  • Optimal exercise methods for long-term health.
  • Therapeutic approaches that potentially can help avert systemic inflammation associated with aging.
  • Steve’s study that looked at the effects of popular diets on weight loss.
  • Controversies surrounded calorie restriction as a strategy to enhance longevity.

Show notes:

2:30: Steve talks about growing up in Tampa and playing sports as a kid.

3:53: Dawn asks Steve about his decision to attend Florida State after high school.

4:17: Dawn comments on how Steve bounced between medicine, business, and psychology before finally deciding to major in psychology. She asks if having two parents who were also psychologists played a role in his decision.

5:24: Ken asks about Steven’s experience pursuing his Ph.D. at the University of Florida.

6:28: Dawn brings up that Steve became a fellow of behavioral medicine at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La. She mentions that Pennington has one of the nation’s premier programs in obesity metabolism and diabetes. She asks if that was the reason he decided on Pennington.

9:33: Dawn asks what prompted Steve to return to the University of Florida.

10:08: Ken asks what is driving the increased prevalence of metabolic syndrome that’s associated with advanced age.

11:19: Dawn brings up how hospitals have tried to promote health and wellness programs for decades, but notes how hospitals are designed to treat people who are sick and injured rather than delivering lifestyle interventions. She asks if Steve can give a summary of what he has learned in looking at ways to deliver interventions.

13:23: Dawn mentions that the traditional treatment and management approaches for type 2 diabetes are relatively ineffective and only reverse the disease in about one percent of the cases.

15:02: Ken mentions that Jeff Volek, STEM-Talk Guest on episode 43, has been a pioneer in researching type 2 diabetes.

16:49: Dawn points out that she and Ken had an in-depth conversation with Dr. Mark Matson about autophagy on episode seven of STEM-Talk. Matson also discussed fasting, and intermittent energy restriction and how it promotes autophagy, which is often described as the body’s innate recycling system. Dawn asks if Steve can elaborate a little on this process.

18:02: Dawn mentions that Steve has written about muscle quality and body composition and the risk of metabolic diseases and functional decline. She asks about the relationship between muscle quality, body fat and health.

19:17: Dawn asks if Steve can talk about how the age-related loss of muscle function and mass often lead to sarcopenia, and how this condition effects the individual and society.

20:31: Ken asks for Steve’s thoughts on the group of people who could be classified as having “pre-sarcopenia.” Ken mentions his interest in this group given that dietary and exercise intervention can still make a huge difference in their lives.

21:35: Dawn brings up the point of how testosterone tends to decline as men age, which is associated with a number of adverse health problems, including: cardiovascular and metabolic disease, sexual dysfunction, and mood disorders. Dawn asks about Steve’s study on the effects of testosterone supplementation in older men, and about the risks and benefits of supplementation.

24:12: Dawn asks if Steve can describe the difference between muscle quality and quantity, and if there is an easy way we can track and measure muscle quality.

25:28: Ken asks how we should be thinking about pharmaceutical therapies in these conditions as the field goes forward; given that so many new pharmaceuticals are in various stages of development, and that many of the currently available pharmaceutical approaches to age-related muscle loss have, to date, been effective at increasing muscle mass but not necessarily function.

26:30: Dawn asks what exercise methods Steve recommends for optimal, long-term health.

27:57: Dawn mentions that in 2016 a team of Spanish and Italian researchers published an article in the prestigious journal, Nature, showing that autophagy is a critical regulator of stem-cell fate and has implications for fostering muscle regeneration and sarcopenia as well as other disorders. She goes on to mention that autophagy typically declines with age, and this may be because stem cells start to lose their “steminess,” and become senescent (the loss of a cell’s power of division and growth). She goes on to ask about fasting and ketogenic diets, and how both interventions increase autophagy and could account for the common benefits we see in both of those interventions.

29:51: Dawn asks about the emerging concept of normal-weight obesity.

31:07: Ken asks about the consequences and challenges of sarcopenic obesity.

33:20: Dawn mentions that a growing body of evidence strongly indicates that chronic systemic low-grade inflammation plays a significant role in contributing to sarcopenia and associated functional decline. She goes on to say that preserving muscle and mobility is essential to maintaining a high quality of life as we age. She asks Steve what promising therapeutic approaches are out there that can potentially help avert systemic inflammation that’s associated with aging.

34:41: Dawn asks what the connection is between body fat and inflammation.

35:52: Dawn asks about the phenomenon that inflammation seems to be central to many lifestyle-related chronic diseases.

36:40: Dawn mentions that exercise has anti-inflammatory effects and asks if we should be considering anti-inflammatory intervention strategies as a starting point.

37:08: Ken mentions that Steve has a paper published in the obesity journal titled “Flipping the Metabolic Switch,” a study which looked at intermittent fasting and suggested that the metabolic switch into ketosis represents an evolutionary conserved trigger point that shifts metabolism to the mobilization of fat through fatty-acid oxidation and fatty-acid derived ketones. This mobilization shows that intermittent fasting regimes that induce ketosis have the potential to improve body composition in overweight individuals. He asks how the review was designed and what was learned.

39:17: Ken comments on how this whole discussion of intermittent fasting and the resulting elevated level of ketone bodies leads one to wonder whether exogenous ketones such as esters would recapitulate some of the effects of fasting or the ketogenic diet.

41:05: Dawn mentions that from religious to medical practices, fasting has been performed for thousands of years, dating back to the Greeks, Romans, and Chinese. She asks if Steve could give an overview of the history of fasting and also why so many researchers and scientists today are taking a renewed interest in episodic caloric restriction.

42:30: Ken asks if Steve could talk about the role of resistance training in maintaining muscle mass, function and quality as we age. Ken also asks what Steve has learned in examining exercise-based interventions as well as the combination of exercise and dietary interventions.

45:45: Ken mentions that poor muscle quality and functional decline are associated with the loss of type-two muscle fibers, and increased intramuscular fat. Going on to mention that these same changes are regularly seen in endurance athletes. He asks if these adaptations might become maladaptive as these athletes age.

47:15: Dawn asks if there is an upper limit of benefit, in terms of muscle gain, and a lower limit in terms of optimal body fat, when it comes to longevity. Inquiring as to whether there is a point of diminishing returns or increasing harm when it comes to gaining muscle or losing fat.

49:18: Dawn mentions another one of Steve’s major review studies that looked at the effects of popular diets on weight loss. Steve examined the evidence for the diets that were listed in the 2016 U.S. News & World Report’s rankings of the best weight-loss diets, which ranged from the Mediterranean to Atkins to Ornish to the Paleo diets. She goes on to say that the review found the Atkins diet to have the most evidence in producing meaningful short-term and long-term weight loss.

53:00: Dawn asks what Steve’s diet and exercise routine look like.

54:24: Dawn mentions how it is not the lack of knowledge on the biology of disease, and what interventions will be effective for different individuals, but rather the implementation and adherence at a population level. Given his background in psychology, Dawn asks Steve what his thoughts are on ways to help people implement these interventions into their lives.

59:59: Ken mentions how calorie restriction is a controversial strategy to enhance longevity. Some say that it is the only strategy that has worked consistently, across species, to extend lifespan. Ken mentions that there is also evidence from multiple meta-analysis that shows only about 50% of rodent studies result in a longevity benefit. When one accounts for the quality of the food given to primates, the situation becomes even more unclear as to whether or not calorie restriction has a longevity benefit. Ken asks Steve if the same could apply to humans.

1:03:49: Dawn mentions that she understands Steve persuaded his 72-year-old father to try intermittent fasting, and that his father has become a great testimonial for Steve.


Dr. Stephen Anton faculty page:

STEM-Talk episode 43, Dr. Jeff Volek:

STEM-Talk episode 7, Dr. Mark Mattson:

Molecular Inflammation: Underpinnings of Aging and Age-related Diseases:

Molecular Inflammation – FINAL Paper

Effects of Popular Diets:

Popular Diets – Published Article

Flipping the Metabolic Switch:


Jul 17 2018

1hr 7mins


Rank #16: Episode 82: Stu Phillips discusses the importance of dietary protein and its role in muscle

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Our guest today Dr. Stuart Phillips, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, who is best known for his research into muscle health and the benefits of dietary protein.

Stu is the director of the McMaster Physical Activity Centre of Excellence, a state-of-the-art exercise research and training center. It is devoted to studying and improving the health and well-being of older adults as well as people with chronic diseases and disabilities.

In addition to his work in the kinesiology department at McMaster, Stu is adjunct professor in the university’s School of Medicine. He is a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine and the American College of Nutrition. He received the New Investigator Award from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, the Ontario Premier’s Research Excellence Award, and the Young Investigator Award from Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology.

 In today’s interview we discuss:

 [00:08:19] Dawn introduces the importance of dietary protein and its role in muscle health, and tissue regeneration more generally, which makes it one of the only macro nutrients we need on a daily basis.

[00:10:59] A recent study (2017) showed that whole eggs promoted a greater amount of muscle protein synthesis than egg whites, suggesting that there may be benefits to the extra nutrients found in the egg yolk.

[00:12:53] Why Stu believes the recommended daily allowance for protein is too low.

[00:14:06] The differences between animal and plant-based protein.

[00:16:31] The phenomenon of muscle synthesis (anabolism) and catabolism.

[00:17:54] Highlights of the recent findings coming out of Kevin Tipton’s group which indicates that the dose-response relationship may depend on the amount of muscle tissue that was recruited during exercise, with the ingestion of 40 g protein further increasing muscle protein.

[00:20:43]A 2013 paper from Stu’s group titled, “Dose-dependent responses of myofibrillar protein synthesis with beef ingestion are enhanced with resistance exercise in middle-aged men.”

[00:27:52] Stu’s thoughts on the recommendation of pre-sleep protein feeding.

[00:37:52] An overview of the Physical Activity Centre of Excellence, a state-of-the-art, exercise research and training lab at McMaster.

[00:43:37] The importance of maintaining healthy functional muscle mass and function as we move into middle and later life.

[00:46:56] Stu’s paper,  “Muscle Disuse as a Pivotal Problem in Sarcopenia-Related Muscle Loss and Dysfunction.”

[00:50:25] The need to add more protein to our diets as we get older, which is something that Dr. Valter Longo discussed on episode 64 of STEM-Talk.

[00:56:24 How fasting affects muscle protein turnover, which were topics covered in episode 7 of STEM-Talk, an interview with Mark Mattson, and episode 79, which was an interview with Satchin Panda, author of the “The Circadian Code.”

[00:57:32] Whether a ketogenic diet with sufficient protein would in any way be detrimental to muscle mass.

[01:05:47] Stu’s thoughts on a study that was conducted on behalf of the American College of Sports Medicine that found supplementation with HMB failed to enhance body composition to a greater extent than a placebo.

Show notes

[0:02:51] Stu talks about being born in the UK but growing up in Canada.

[00:03:09] Dawn asks about Stu’s passions for all kinds of sports as a kid.

[00:03:27] Stu recalls his high school science teacher, who was responsible for getting him interested in biology and chemistry.

[00:03:44] Dawn asks what led Stu to choose McMaster University after high school.

[00:04:19] Ken brings up that Stu was captain of the Ruby team his senior year, and while it looked as though he was headed to a great season, things didn’t turn out as planned. He asks how that season led to Stu’s decision to focus on nutritional biochemistry.

[00:05:16] Stu explains how he ended up at Waterloo University to work on a doctorate in physiology.

[00:06:01] Dawn asks Stu why he headed off to Texas after graduating from Waterloo.

[00:06:36] Dawn asks if it is true that after three years in Texas, Stu moved back to Canada to get married.

[00:07:18] Stu talks about why he went back to McMasters to study protein, exercise, and muscle synthetic versus catabolic dynamics, among other things.

[00:08:19] Dawn asks how Stu first became interested in the process by which protein plays a role in regenerating muscle, making it one of the only macro nutrients we need on a daily basis, and to give listeners an overview on the importance of dietary protein.

[00:09:49] Dawn asks Stu how much of his work has focused on muscle- protein turnover and if changes in muscle-protein turnover directly correlate with changes in muscle growth.

[00:10:59] Ken mentions that many protein-intervention studies use supplementation in the form of whey, which has a clear benefit from a muscle standpoint given its high leucine content and convenience.  He goes on to mention, however, that some researchers are starting to look at interventions with whole food protein. A recent study (2017) showed that whole eggs promoted a greater amount of muscle protein synthesis than egg whites, suggesting that there may be benefits to the extra nutrients found in the egg yolk.Understanding this, Ken asks if it is possible that by taking an isolated supplement like whey, we are missing out on a spectrum of other nutrients found in protein rich whole foods?

[00:12:53] Stu explains why he believes that the recommended daily allowance for protein is too low.

[00:14:06] Dawn mentions that she is a vegetarian, and by that token has to be more creative about making sure she gets enough protein. She asks Stu to explain the differences between animal and plant-based protein.

[00:15:20] Ken asks if it might be helpful for vegans or vegetarians to supplement with essential amino acids, provided that they are vegan approved.

[00:16:31] Dawn asks Stu to elaborate on the phenomenon of muscle synthesis and catabolism, which are like a sinusoidal wave going from anabolism to catabolism. Over a 24-hour period, one may see more anabolism, then have a net improvement in muscle mass, and vice versa.

[00:17:54] The currently accepted amount of protein required to achieve maximal stimulation of myofibrillar protein synthesis (MPS) following resistance exercise is 20–25 g. Ken asks Stu to discuss the recent findings coming out of Kevin Tipton’s group which indicates that the dose-response relationship may depend on the amount of muscle tissue that was recruited during exercise, with the ingestion of 40 g protein further increasing muscle protein.

[00:20:43] Dawn explains that aging impairs the sensitivity of skeletal muscle to anabolic stimuli, such as amino acids and resistance exercise. She goes on to bring up a 2013 paper from Stu’s group which reported that, in the context of resistance exercise, “it appears that the MPS “machinery” in older muscles is less responsive to low and modest doses of protein.  The key finding from this study being that in middle-aged men, ingestion of beef promotes a dose–response relation for myofibrillar MPS, with the greatest response occurring with ingestion of 170 g of beef … roughly 6 oz containing 36 g of protein.

[00:22:45] Ken asks if given the leucine oxidation responses Stu reported, does it seem reasonable that approximately 170 g of beef is the maximally effective dose, after which additional protein would fail to increase MPS.

[00:24:29] Stu discusses the issue of “protein timing” in relation to a bout of resistance training and total protein intake over the course of the day.

[00:27:52] Multiple studies coming from Van Loon’s lab suggesting that 40 g of protein ingested before sleep can be beneficial for muscle protein synthesis, especially in older individuals.While consuming protein before bed may provide some benefits, it may also be detrimental from a circadian rhythm perspective. Forty g of protein equates to 7 eggs or 5 cups of milk or a substantial steak. Given the importance of sleep to anabolic and other processes, Ken asks Stu for his thoughts on the recommendation of pre-sleep protein feeding.

[00:30:15] Ken asks if the observed benefit of pre-sleep protein could be driven more by topping up of the day’s total protein consumption, or if the timing of protein right before bed matters?

[00:31:57] Ken asks for Stu’s thoughts on a 2017 paper published by Robert Wolfe in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Medicine, which concluded that the claim that the consumption of dietary BCAAs stimulates muscle protein synthesis or produces an anabolic response in humans is unwarranted.

[00:37:52] Stu gives a brief overview of the Physical Activity Centre of Excellence, more popularly known as the PACE lab, a state-of-the-art, exercise research and training center at McMaster.

[00:40:04] Ken brings up that loss of muscle mass, strength, and quality starts earlier in life than many realize, especially in more sedentary individuals, while also accelerating as people age. He asks if there are any warning signs people need to look out for.

[00:43:37] Dawn asks why is it so important to maintain healthy functional muscle mass and function as we move into middle and later life.

[00:43:37] Dawn asks if sarcopenia progresses the same way in westernized vs non-westernized populations?

[00:46:56]Stu talks about one of his papers published in the Journal of Frailty and Aging titled, “Muscle Disuse as a Pivotal Problem in Sarcopenia-Related Muscle Loss and Dysfunction.”

[00:48:34] Stu talks about anabolic resistance and whether there is compelling evidence to support low-protein intake for optimal healthspan and longevity.

[00:50:25] Stu talks about the need to add more protein to our diets as we get older, which is something that Dr. Valter Longo discussed on episode 64 of STEM-Talk.

[00:54:33] Stu talks about the myth that too much protein creates kidney damage.

[00:56:24] Mark Mattson discussed intermittent fasting in Episode 7 of STEM-Talk.  More recently, in episode 79, Satchin Panda of the Salk Institute talked about time-restricting eating. Stu gives his thoughts on how fasting affects muscle protein turnover.

[00:57:32] Ken asks if a ketogenic diet with sufficient protein would in any way be detrimental to muscle mass.

[01:02:13] Dawn brings up that physical inactivity impairs insulin sensitivity and that it is exacerbated with aging. A paper Stu and his colleagues produced examined the impact of two weeks of acute inactivity and recovery on glycemic control, and integrated rates of muscle protein synthesis, in older men and women.

[01:04:00] Stu discusses why most of the research on protein has been in relation to males.

[01:05:47] Stu discusses a study that was conducted on behalf of the American College of Sports Medicine that found supplementation with HMB failed to enhance body composition to a greater extent than placebo.

[01:10:13] Dawn asks if Stu had a $20-mllion budget and could undertake any research project without limitation, what would it be and why?

[01:13:05] Dawn ends the interview by mentioning that Stu had to give up rugby in his 40s. She asks what his exercise routine looks like now in his middle age, and if he still plays any sports.


Stuart Phillips McMaster faculty page

McMaster Physical Activity Centre of Excellence

Learn more about IHMC

STEM-Talk homepage

Ken Ford bio

Dawn Kernagis bio

Feb 05 2019

1hr 16mins


Rank #17: Episode 62: Keith Baar talks about muscle and explains mTOR, PGC-1a, dystrophin, and the benefits of chocolate

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Today’s episode is the first of a two-part interview with Dr. Keith Baar, the head of the Functional Molecular Biology Laboratory in the Department of Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior at the University of California, Davis.

In his capacity as a researcher, Keith has made fundamental discoveries on how muscle grows bigger, stronger, and more fatigue resistant. He is a renowned scientist in the emerging field of molecular exercise physiology, and is leading a team of researchers attempting to develop ways to improve muscle, tendon and ligament function.

Part one of our interview features our conversation with Keith about his background and his time time in the lab of John Holloszy, who is known as the father of exercise research in the United States.

Episode 63 of STEM-Talk has Dawn and Ken talking to Keith about his most recent research, which is looking at how to determine the best way to train, as well as what types of foods compliment training to decrease tendon and ligament injury and accelerate return to play. This work has the potential to improve muscle function and people’s quality of life, especially as they age. Ken and Dawn also have a conversation with Keith about the research he is doing on a ketogenic diet and its potential to reduce cancer rates and improve cognition.


UC Davis physiology department bio:

UC Davis biology department bio”

Functional Molecular Biology Lab website:

Molecular brakes regulating mTORC1 activation in skeletal muscle paper:

Age-related Differences in Dystrophin article:

Show notes:

3:14: Dawn opens the interview by mentioning that Keith grew up in Canada, and asks what he was like as a child.

4:02: Dawn asks if Keith was interested in science as a kid.

4:53: Dawn comments that after high school, Keith came to the U.S. to attend the University of Michigan, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology. She Keith if Michigan was where he first became interested in the science of how muscles work.

7:54: Dawn asks Keith if he played any sports at Michigan.

8:34: Dawn asks what lead Keith to attend the University of California, Berkeley to pursue a master’s degree in human biophysics.

9:39: Dawn mentions that after his time at Berkeley, Keith returned to the Midwest to attend the University of Illinois where he received his doctorate in physiology and biophysics. She asks why he decided on Illinois for his doctoral work.

11:12: Ken mentions that Keith’s Ph.D. work focused on the effect of resistance exercise on specific molecular markers that are related to muscle growth. He goes on to say that Keith identified that mTOR complex 1 was activated in response to resistance exercise and that the activation was proportional to the load across the muscle. He asks Keith to talk about this work and its significance.

16:20: Ken comments how surprising that discovery must have been.

17:33: Ken asks Keith to explain the two basic ways of activating mTORC1 in skeletal muscle. Ken also asks whether these two are merely additive, or if together they elicit a greater muscle protein response than either would independently.

29:49: Dawn mentions that after Illinois, Keith went to work in the lab of John Holloszy at Washington University in St. Louis, a professor of medicine who is known as the father of exercise research in the United States. Dawn asks if is Holloszy is the one who discovered that when people do endurance exercise that their muscles accumulate more mitochondria.

32:24: Ken asks about the role of PGC-1a.

38:43: Ken comments that we know most sports require a combination of strength and endurance for optimal performance, bringing up the topic of concurrent training.

48:02: Ken asks if we know which form of AMPK is activated by things such as Metformin or the ketogenic diet.

49:24: Dawn comments that Keith eventually accepted a position at Michigan where he worked with Bob Denis, who figured out how to engineer muscles as well as ligaments. She asks Keith to share some things about the research they did together.

50:41: Dawn mentions that after Michigan, Keith accepted a position at the University of Dundee in Scotland, where he worked for 5 years. Dawn asks what that experience was like.

55:20: Ken mentions that from looking at the literature, it seems as though Keith discovered that the non-contractile portion of the muscle plays a key role in the transfer of force, and that this is nearly as important as the size of the muscle fiber itself. He asks Keith to elaborate on this finding.

58:45: Ken asks if Keith’s work has elucidated a potential countermeasure to the loss of dystrophin, for both the aging population and cancer patients. Keith then talks about research at the University of California, San Diego, that has shown the beneficial effects epicatechin, a flavanol in dark chocolate.

1:00:37: Ken mentions that some athletes are using Transdermal Epicatechin, and asks about the efficacy of such practice.

1:01:54: Interview ends.

Apr 24 2018

1hr 3mins


Rank #18: Episode 59: Stephen Cunnane discusses the role of ketones in human evolution and Alzheimer’s

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Nearly five million people in the United States have Alzheimer’s disease. In 30 years, that number is estimated to be 16 million

In today’s episode, Ken and Dawn interview Dr. Stephen Cunnane, a Canadian physiologist whose extensive research into Alzheimer’s disease is showing how ketones can be used as part of a prevention approach that helps delay or slow down the onset of Alzheimer’s.

Cunnane is a metabolic physiologist at the University of Sherbrooke in Sherbrooke, Quebec. He is the author of five books, including” Survival of the Fattest: The Key to Human Brain Evolution,” which was published in 2005, and “Human Brain Evolution: Influence of Fresh and Coastal Food Resources,” which was published in 2010.

He earned his Ph.D. in Physiology at McGill University in 1980 and did post-doctoral research on nutrition and brain development in Aberdeen, Scotland, London, and Nova Scotia. From 1986 to 2003, he was a faculty member in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto where his research focused on the role of omega-3 fatty acids in brain development and human health. He also did research on the relation between ketones and a high-fat ketogenic diet on brain development.

In 2003, Dr. Cunnane was awarded a senior Canada Research Chair at the Research Center on Aging and became a full professor at the University of Sherbrooke. He has published more than 280 peer-reviewed research papers and was elected to the French National Academy of Medicine in 2009.


Lower Brain 18F-Fluorodeoxyglucose Uptake:

Castellano et al AD dPET J Alz Dis 2015

Brain glucose and acetoacetate metabolism:

Nugent et al dPET YE Neurobiol Aging 2014

Energetic and nutritional constraints on infant brain development:

Cunnane & Crawford J Human Evol 2014

Inverse relationship between brain glucose and ketone metabolism in adults:

Courchesne-Loyer et al PET KD JCBFM 2016

A cross-sectional comparison of brain glucose and ketone metabolism in cognitively healthy older adults:

Croteau et al. AD MCI CMR Exper Gerontol 2017

A 3-Month Aerobic Training Program Improves Brain Energy Metabolism in Mild Alzheimer’s Disease:

Castellano et al. exercise ketones JAD 2017

Show notes:

3:33: Dawn mentions that Stephen was born in London but that his family emigrated to Canada when he was an infant. She asks him about growing up in a suburb of Montreal.

4:02: Ken mentions that he has been told by a reliable source that as soon as Stephen got into high school he spent a lot of time in the chemistry lab, where sometimes created mischief.

4:58: Dawn asks if it is true that Stephen nearly flunked out of college when he first started.

5:16: Dawn comments that Stephen got his PHD in physiology at McGill University which is when his interest in science really caught on and asks how that came about.

5:55: Stephen talks about communicating with Desmond Morris while Stephen was working on his post-doc.

8:03: Dawn asks about Stephen’s post-doctoral research, for which he traveled to Aberdeen London and Nova Scotia; as well as what prompted his interest in nutrition in the brain.

9:01: Dawn mentions that in 1986 Stephen became a faculty member in the department of nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto. She asks how he ended up teaching nutrition when he didn’t have a degree in nutrition.

10:33: Stephen talks about accepting a senior Canada Research Chair at the Research Center of Aging and a full professorship at the University of Sherbrooke.

11:57: Ken talks about Stephen’s interest in human evolution how it eventually led him to research the nutritional importance of shore-based foods and omega-3 fatty acid in particular in the development of human’s brains. He asks Stephen to talk about his work leading up to the hypothesis that humans evolved near the water.

16:32: Dawn asks which of the various forms and sources of omega-3 are optimal for overall wellness and brain health, and what are the differences between them.

18:50: Dawn asks Stephen if there was any pushback against his research into the importance of ketones and fat in the brain development of infants? Dawn points out that Stephen was working on this during the middle of the low-fat craze in the U.S. and Canada.

20:33: Dawn mentions that there is evidence that intermittent fasting improves cognition, and asks if there is any evolutionary basis for that?

21:49: Dawn asks if it was Stephen’s research into the metabolism of omega-3 fatty acids and the importance of ketones that lead him to write his book Survival of the Fattest?

23:04: Dawn notes that it seems as if ketones are at the core of Stephen’s way of thinking about infant brain development. She asks him to elaborate on this.

24:15: Dawn asks Stephen to talk about what it’s going to take to transition to the therapeutic use of ketones.

26:06: Ken mentions how Stephen has noted the importance of ketosis in postnatal life for a number of reasons, including brain development and survival and early breast milk availability. Ken asks about the effect of women consuming a ketogenic diet while breastfeeding children, and if this inadvertently lowers ketone levels in the infant due to lower medium chain triglyceride (MCT) levels in the breast milk, a phenomenon found in rodents fed a ketogenic diet during lactation.

28:36: Dawn comments how Stephen has said that certain brain-selective nutrients — such as DHA, iodine, iron, selenium, zinc and copper — would be best supplied by a shore-based diet. She asks which shores humans would have evolved close to and which types of food made up this diet during human evolution?

32:29: Dawn mentions that at Sherbrooke, Stephen’s research has been focused on the use of brain imaging techniques to study changing brain fuel metabolism and cognitive function during aging. She asks if he can give an overview of what he is finding.

34:08: Dawn comments on the increasing interest in exogenous ketones for treatment of neurological disease. She further mentions that these ketone esters can elevate Beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) levels far beyond what is normally attained during the ketogenic diet. She asks Stephen for his thoughts on the initiation of ketosis through MCTs versus exogenous ketones (salts or esters) versus carbohydrate restriction versus fasting. She asks about mechanistic differences between each of these methods of initiating ketosis.

35:39: Ken mentions that Stephen’s tracer work has used 11c acetoacetate in the setting of endogenous ketones and neurological disease. He asks if there are any key differences in brain ketone metabolism between endogenous and exogenesis ketosis after mentioning how BHB and acetoacetate appear in a relatively predictable 1:1 ratio when ketosis is induced through diet.

37:28: Ken mentions that it has been noted that ketones are 10% more efficient than glucose as a brain fuel. He asks Stephen about his understanding of cerebral fuel selection given ample availability of both glucose and ketones.

38:25: Dawn asks if there are areas of the brain that are particularly high users of ketone bodies, and if so, could that have any link to some of the functional or behavioral changes, such as mood, that are seen in some cases of animals or people adhering to a ketogenic diet.

39:16: Dawn asks Stephen to talk about his research into how and why omega-3 fatty acid homeostasis changes during aging.

40:21: Dawn asks for Stephen’s opinion on what are the primary challenges that our brains face as we age.

41:12: Dawn mentions how that Stephen is currently focused on Alzheimer’s research and ketones. She asks for an overview of his research that’s looking into how ketones can be used to the advantage of a person suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

43:21: Dawn comments on how we know that APOE4 carriers have an increased risk of development of late onset familial Alzheimer’s disease. She asks if there is a link between the genotype and a change in brain metabolism.

44:42: Ken asks if substrate utilization differs between healthy subjects and those with neurological conditions, such as mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease.

45:18: Dawn asks Stephen what other metabolic interventions he thinks have promise for a neurodegenerative disease.

46:01: Dawn mentions that exercise helps to get more ketones into the brain. She inquires as to how much exercise is needed to do this effectively.

46:49: Dawn asks Stephen to elaborate on his recommendation that older people who might not be able to exercise effectively should consider consuming a ketone drink made from MCTs that people can make in their kitchen.

48:31: Ken comments how he envisions it not being too long before studies can be done with powerful ketone ester drinks, and that exogenous ketones will become more readily available and more potent, giving people more effective options to elevate their level of circulating ketones.

50:09: Dawn asks Stephen if chronically high systemic inflammations contribute to neuroinflammation and cognitive decline. She also asks if targeting systemic inflammation with nutritional ketosis would be an acceptable strategy to enhance and also preserve cognitive function and brain longevity.

51:15: Dawn mentions that we know ketones increase brain blood flow and metabolism. She goes on to ask if Stephen thinks that some of the beneficial effects might be working through the newly discovered brain lymphatic system or glymphatic system.

51:41: Dawn points out there are about five million people with Alzheimer’s disease in the U.S., and that the number of Americans with AD is estimated to swell to 16 million in the next 30 years. She asks if Stephen thinks this dramatic increase in the prevalence of Alzheimer’s is related to the Western diet which has created an epidemic of type-2 diabetes and other chronic diseases.

52:42: Ken mentions that a number of recent papers show dramatic improvements in both health span and life span of rodents that are fed a ketogenic diet. While humans are not rats, he asks Stephen for his thoughts on the effects of prolonged ketosis as a promoter of human healthspan and perhaps even longevity.

53:51: Dawn concludes the interview by asking Stephen’s about his interests outside of work.

Mar 13 2018



Rank #19: Episode 81: Charles Brenner discusses NR and the benefits of boosting NAD as we age

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Our guest today is Dr. Charles Brenner, the Roy J. Carver Chair of Biochemistry at the University of Iowa.

Charles is one of the world’s leading experts on nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, commonly referred to as NAD, which is an essential molecule found in every living cell.  In 2004, he discovered the nicotinamide riboside kinase pathway, which leads to a special form of vitamin B3.

We talk to Charles about his research into NAD and why he believes supplementation with NR could help people age better. In addition to his work at the University of Iowa, he is also the chief scientific advisor for ChromaDex, which markets the NR supplement Tru Niagen.

Toward the end of our interview, Charles talks about dozens of exciting new papers and studies that are on the horizon. One of those papers – Maternal Nicotinamide Riboside Enhances Postpartum Weight Loss, Juvenile Offspring Development, and Neurogenesis of Adult Offspring– was published in Cell Reports on the same day as our interview with Charles went live.

Also in today’s interview, we discuss:

  • [00:06:29] How Charles became the first cancer biology graduate student in the biology department at Stanford University.
  • [00:07:51] Charles’ research into nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) during his time on the faculty at Thomas Jefferson University.
  • [00:09:15] Charles’ discovery that nicotinamide riboside (NR) is a precursor of NAD.
  • [00:19:47] Why Charles doesn’t use the term “anti-aging.”
  • [00:25:52] The importance of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) and its role as the central regulator of reactive oxygen species toxicity.
  • [00:34:56] The circadian rhythms of NAD and the potential benefit of diurnal dosing.
  • [00:38:45] Why skeletal muscle is one of the most sensitive target tissues for the anti-aging effects of NMN.
  • [00:45:42] How the benefits of a ketogenic diet, intermittent fasting, time restricted eating could be related to NAD.
  • [00:47:02] A recent human trial conducted by the University of Colorado that found Niagen increased NAD+ by 60 percent in healthy middle-aged and older adults after just six weeks.
  • [00:49:19] The optimal dose of NR for humans.

Show notes:

[00:03:06] Charles talks about growing up as a kid who dreamed about becoming either a comedian or rabbi.

[00:03:26] Charles describes his success on the math team in high school and how he also enjoyed playing tennis and running cross-country.

[00:03:43] Charles reflects on his decision to attend Wesleyan University.

[00:04:09] Although Charles decided to major in ecology, he found out upon arriving at Wesleyan that they did not have an ecology department.

[00:05:05] Dawn mentions that after graduating with honors in biology, Charles traveled across the country to work in the Bay Area. She asks him what he did.

[00:06:29] Charles talks about when and why he became interested in cancer research, and how he was the first cancer biology graduate student in the biology department at Stanford University.

[00:07:51] Dawn asks about the work Charles did from 1996 to 2003 on nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) during his time on the faculty at Thomas Jefferson University.

[00:09:15] Ken brings up Charles’ research at Dartmouth, asking about his discovery that nicotinamide riboside (NR) is a precursor of NAD.

[00:12:35] NAD is a coenzyme found in all living cells. It serves both as a critical coenzyme for enzymes that fuel reduction-oxidation reactions, carrying electrons from one reaction to another, and as a co-substrate for other enzymes.  Charles gives an overview of the research into NAD and its relationship to overall health and age-related diseases.

[00:19:47] Dawn asks Charles why he doesn’t use the term “anti-aging.”

[00:20:54] Charles discusses how Verdin and numerous other investigators have reported that NADcontent declines with age in multiple organs, such as pancreas, adipose tissue, skeletal muscle, liver, skin, and brain, as well has his own hypothesis.

[00:25:52] Charles gives an overview of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH), which is particularly important because of its role as the central regulator of reactive oxygen species toxicity.

[00:29:19] Dawn asks about experiments Charles’ lab conducted on mice that looked at obesity and type-2 diabetes.

[00:33:08] Dawn asks if there is an easy way someone can determine if their NAD levels are dysregulated.

[00:34:56] Ken asks Charles about the circadian rhythms of NAD, and the potential benefit of twice a day dosing.

[00:36:02] Charles discusses why one shouldn’t simply supplement directly with NMN, despite the findings of a 2016 Cell Metabolism paper.

[00:38:45] According to the Cell Metabolism study (linked in the previous question), the authors suggest that skeletal muscle is one of the most sensitive target tissues for the anti-aging effects of NMN. Charles discusses his thoughts on this.

[00:40:42] Some people are going the route of intravenous NAD infusions. Since it is believed that cells can’t take up NAD directly, NAD IV clinics springing up around the country seem somewhat unlikely to be effective.  Charles discusses the possible reasons for the anecdotal evidence of reported benefits.

[00:45:42] Charles discusses the ketogenic diet, intermittent fasting, time restricted eating and how the benefits of these approaches could be related to NAD.

[00:47:02] Dawn inquires about the recent human trial conducted by the University of Colorado that found Niagen increased NAD+ by 60 percent in healthy middle-aged and older adults after just six weeks.

[00:48:14] Dawn asks if it is possible to deplete methyl groups by taking high doses of a B3.

[00:49:19] Ken asks what the evidence suggests the optimal dose of NR is for humans.

[00:52:16] Charles gives an overview, and his thoughts, on research reported in 2017 coming from Joshua Rabinowitz’s lab at Princeton, which challenged the long-held view that the mitochondrial inner membrane is impermeable to pyridine nucleotides and suggested the existence of an unrecognized mammalian NAD (or NADH) transporter.

[00:53:13] Charles give his thoughts on the 2018 Liu paper in Cell Metabolism, also from Rabinowitz’s lab,which seems to show that in mice oral NR is only converted to NAD by the liver with no other tissue is seeing enough NR (or presumably NMN) to reach adequate cytosolic levels. Thus, unless increasing hepatic NAD provides benefit, this study would lead one to believe that oral ingestion of NR is of little value.

[00:57:19] Ken asks what the future is for additional human trials with NAD and also what additional papers about nicotinamide riboside are on the horizon. (One of those papers – Maternal Nicotinamide Riboside Enhances Postpartum Weight Loss, Juvenile Offspring Development, and Neurogenesis of Adult Offspring– was published in Cell Reports on the same day as our interview with Charles went live.)

[01:00:52] Charles, as a fitness enthusiast, discusses what his exercise regime looks like.


Brenner Lab

Charles Brenner University of Iowa profile

Charles Brenner Wikipedia page

Chromadex website

Tru Niagen website

Learn more about IHMC

STEM-Talk homepage

Ken Ford bio

Dawn Kernagis bio

Jan 22 2019

1hr 4mins


Rank #20: Episode 91: Irina and Michael Conboy explain tissue repair and stem-cell rejuvenation

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Our guests today are Drs. Irina and Michael Conboy of the Department of Bioengineering at the University of California Berkeley. In their lab at Berkeley, the Conboys investigate the process of tissue repair in the body in an effort to determine why damaged tissues do not productively repair as the body ages.

In today’s interview, you will hear the Conboys talk about their early research and a fascinating technique they pioneered called heterochronic parabiosis, where the couple took a young mouse and an older mouse and sutured them together so the animals blood and organs. The Conboys found that the older mouse benefited from this fusion, its aged stem cells becoming rejuvenated and its muscle tissues becoming functionally younger.

Since then, the Conboys’ follow-up research has provided fascinating insights into stem-cell niche engineering, tissue repair, and stem-cell aging and rejuvenation. In 2015, they published an important study showing that high levels of the protein TGF-β1 impaired the ability of stem cells to repair tissues. While their experiments also showed that giving old animals young blood appeared to have some benefit to old stem cells, the Conboys’ most recent work provides compelling evidence suggesting the more interesting benefits are instead produced by a dilution of harmful signals in old blood.

The research coming out of the Conboy lab has profound implications in terms of postponing the onset of age-related diseases as well as the prevention of such degenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis and sarcopenia.

Show notes:

[00:03:23] Dawn opens the interview asking Irina about her time as a gymnast in the Soviet Union.

[00:03:56] Irina talks about how she became interested in biology.

[00:04:36] Michael describes how he was a bit of a nerd who spent a lot of time outdoors as a kid studying bugs.

[00:05:29] Ken asks what Michael’s plans were when he started his education at Harvard.

[00:06:00] Ken inquires as to what it was about lab work that attracted Michael to the point where he abandoned medical school and focused on research instead.

[00:06:56] Irina tells the story of her first overseas visit to Boston and how a female friend of hers had set her up with multiple dates for her visit before her plane had even touched down in the states.

[00:09:06] Michael recounts the story of his first time in Moscow, where he asked Irina if she wanted to hang out.

[00:10:52] Dawn mentions that after graduating, Michael got a job as a lab tech at Harvard, but eventually moved to Philadelphia to join the lab a friend of his was starting. Michael goes on to explain how he and Irina eventually became professional lab rats together there.

[00:13:44] Michael explains how he would likely still be a lab tech if it were not for Irina and her desire to study aging, and how that inspired him to pursue his doctorate at Stanford.

[00:15:10] Dawn asks Irina about her pursuit of a Ph.D. at Stamford in auto-immunity in the lab of Patricia Jones.

[00:18:30] Dawn asks Irina to explain her discovery that Notch Signaling had the potential to regenerate aged muscle, a discovery she made during her post-doc work at Stamford.

[00:21:30] Dawn mentions that Irina finished her post-doc work before Michael did, which allowed her to get work at a competing laboratory. Dawn asks if working at a competing labs created tension between the two of them.

[00:24:26] Ken asks Irina what led her to look into reactivating old stem cells and whether that might delay or even reverse the onset of aging.

[00:26:00] Michael talks about his inspiration for the parabiosis experiment, which involved two mice, one old and one young, being statured together.

[00:30:12] Ken asks what the results of the parabiosis experiment were.

[00:31:57] Ken mentions that the 2005 paper in Nature, which documented the findings of the parabiosis experiment, sparked an interesting reaction from the media that included headlines about “baby boomer vampires.” Ken asks the Conboys if they were annoyed with the overly simplistic interpretations of their study’s findings.

[00:33:27] Dawn asks about Michael and Irina’s research into finding an inhibitory compound in old blood that turned out to be transforming TGF Beta 1.

[00:37:44] Ken brings up Michael and Irina’s 2016 paper, published in Nature Communications,in which they described a new, more definitive, experiment than the parabiosis experiment. This blood exchange experiment, aimed to distinguish whether there was a curative property of young blood, or an inhibitory compound being filtered out of old blood, exchanged only blood between the two animals, rather than all of their organ systems.

[00:40:55] Michael explains that those experiments came at a time when funding was drying up for the Conboy’s lab. He talks about how discussions with Aubrey de Grey from the SENS Research Foundation aided him and Irina with their experiments.

[00:45:23] Dawn asks why Michael and Irina about their criticism of the company “Ambrosia,” a start up in Florida that claims it can combat aging by infusing plasma from young donors into its customers.

[00:47:15] Ken says the coverage of Ambrosia has sparked an interesting question of whether or not young people should store their own blood for future transfusions. He asks if anyone has modeled that in mice.

[00:51:46] Dawn wonders if it’s the age of a stem-cell’s environment that is the key. If so, she asks the Conboys if their research and findings are going to discourage the use of cell-based therapies to treat disorders related to aging?

[00:52:45] Dawn inquires as to how the Conboy’s and their colleagues in the bioengineering department at Southern Cal are developing “youthful micro-niches” for cell and tissue transplantation.

[00:54:11] Ken asks Irina to talk about her group’s 2014 paper published in Nature Communications,that showed that oxytocin in mice is vital for muscle maintenance and regeneration, and that the lack thereof leads to premature sarcopenia.

[00:56:37] Irina elaborates on the comment noted by Wendy Cousins in a media piece associated with the previously mentioned paper, where she said that oxytocin could become a viable alternative to hormone replacement therapy as a way to combat the symptoms of both male and female aging.

[00:58:03] Dawn notes off-label use of intranasal oxytocin is now widely used. Although there have been some human trials of oxytocin associated with mental disorders such as autism, schizophrenia and dementia, it would seem appropriate to have human trials aimed at the potential for oxytocin to prevent, slow, or ameliorate some of the undesirable consequences of aging. Dawn asks the Conboys if they know of any studies underway looking at oxytocin explicitly in the context of aging in humans?

[00:59:43] Ken asks Michael if the intranasal oxytocin would be expected to yield the same benefits in muscle as a subcutaneous injection, or if the dose wouldn’t be sufficient.

[01:02:33] Ken notes a variety of ways that aging can be slowed, from oxytocin to fasting, and asks Michael about a multifaceted approach to aging.

[01:06:27] Ken mentions that a group working at MIT has reported benefits in mice fed lactobacillus reuteri, which has been found to upregulate oxytocin significantly, and that lactobacillus reuteri counteracts age-associated sarcopenia as well.

[01:11:58] Ken asks the Conboys what scientific question they would like to answer if they were given unlimited resources and how would they go about answering it.

[00:14:05] Ken asks Irina about a bumper sticker she keeps in her office that says “don’t believe everything you think.”

[01:15:30] Dawn mentions that Michael and Irina have been married for more than 25 years and that although they don’t have any children, that someone dropping by their house might likely see “Sesame Street” on the TV. Dawn asks the Conboys about their fondness for “Sesame Street.”


Irina Conboy UC Berkeley page

Michael Conboy UC Berkeley page

Conboy Lab homepage

Learn more about IHMC

STEM-Talk homepage

Ken Ford bio

Dawn Kernagis bio

Jul 02 2019

1hr 19mins