Master Your Health
Learn // Master // Achieve
Master Your Health
Learn // Master // Achieve
Is Fruit Fattening? Podcast with Dr. Stephan Guyenet
For much of our history as a species, the threat of chronic food shortage and malnutrition has loomed over us.
Fortunately, due to global economies and remarkable advances in technology and agriculture, most of us living today in industrialized countries will probably never need to worry about starvation.
But ironically, we now must battle the consequences of excessive abundance of readily accessible food. All over the world, modern societies are confronting the challenge of obesity and diseases emanating from obesity.
An analysis of trends in adult body mass published in the Lancet puts the progression of this public health crisis into useful historical perspective: It revealed that the number of obese individuals has risen from 105 million in 1975 all the way to 641 million as of 2016. Over the past 40 years, we have gone from a world in which prevalence of underweight was more than double that of obesity, to a world in which people with obesity outnumber those who are underweight.
There has been vigorous debate on what aspects of our food supply are responsible for this relatively rapid shift in collective body composition. Recently, sugar has come under particularly fierce scrutiny, and understandably so. We do know that overconsumption of simple sugars can contribute to obesity and related diseases.
So what about fruit? Most types of fruit are naturally high in simple sugars, and we have essentially unlimited access to fruit year-round, even in the dead of winter. Could sweet fruit be a hidden contributor to the obesity epidemic?
And that brings me to our guest.
On this episode of humanOS Radio, we welcome a familiar face back to the show - Stephan Guyenet. Stephan spent 12 years at the University of Washington researching the neuroscience underlying body fat regulation. There is perhaps nobody else, at least in our view, who has done more in recent years to help the general public understand the evidence related to energy regulation and weight control. This is why he is uniquely qualified to address the question of whether fruit actually does make you fat.
Last year, Stephan decided to answer the question of whether fruit was fattening in the most rigorous manner possible. Specifically, he wanted to look at the impact of whole, fresh fruit (as opposed to fruit juice, or other processed forms of fruit) on energy intake and adiposity. To that end, he conducted a systematic review of randomized controlled trials and prospective cohort studies, and that is what we have brought him on to discuss.
To learn about what he found, and what it means, check out the interview!
The Align Method. Podcast with Aaron Alexander
Have you ever wondered what your great-great-grandparents would think of the world today - and how we live - if they were transported here via a time machine?
Our lives have changed drastically in too many different ways to recount here (and most of these changes are, arguably, pretty great to be honest). But for those of us who study health and human biology, our patterns of physical activity is perhaps among the most glaring. Surveys suggest that the average American spends about 13 hours per day sitting, and it is estimated that they typically get around 4774 steps per day. This stands in stark contrast to the tremendous amount of activity that was likely normal for our hunter-gatherer ancestors many thousands of years ago. Indeed, modern humans are not merely physically inactive relative to their own ancestors, but also compared to other free-ranging non-human mammals. And it is likely that we pay a substantial price in the form of chronic disease.
But the impact of our rapidly changing lifestyles probably affects us in other more subtle ways. One interesting manifestation of this is postural stress induced by our interaction with technology, which has been recently exacerbated by the ubiquity of smartphones, tablets, and other smaller digital devices.
A series of photos by the photographer Eric Pickersgill draws this effect into sharp relief. In these portraits, people are shown in otherwise mundane settings and events, only the cell phones that were previously clasped in their hands have been carefully edited out. What is striking about these pictures is the hunched posture assumed by virtually all of these individuals. With the smartphones extracted from the scene, it becomes really clear how awkward and unnatural this pose is. And yet so many of us spend much of our days like this.
Movement and how we inhabit our bodies is an integral part of the human experience, affecting our health, our performance, and our quality of life. And it goes way beyond just exercise.
That brings me to our guest. On this episode of humanOS Radio, I speak with Aaron Alexander. Aaron is a manual therapist and movement coach who has worked with elite athletes, celebrities, and ordinary folks to relieve pain, increase strength, and optimize their movement patterns.
Aaron is a unique guy, with remarkable insight into the fundamental role of body posture and body movement in health and performance. The foundation of his message revolves around what he calls physical inhabitance. Physical inhabitance goes beyond activity - it encompasses the way that you sit, stand, walk, breathe, look, touch, listen, communicate, and generally the manner in which you occupy your body at any given moment throughout the day.
Aaron has authored a newly released book called The Align Method: 5 Movement Principles for a Stronger Body, Sharper Mind and Stress-Proof Life. This book lays out his integrated approach of functional movement and body alignment
Becoming aligned isn’t just about sitting up straight, or working out in a gym, or getting 10,000 steps per day. The Align Method is built around five basic optimizations that can be effortlessly integrated into your day:
To learn more about the Align Method, and how paying attention to your physical inhabitance can enhance your health and performance, check out the interview!
How DEXA Can Help You Achieve Your Goals. Podcast with Jason Belvill
Why do so many people struggle to stick to a healthy lifestyle?
Health-related goals are largely the product of long term modifications to how we live. And we generally don’t see an immediate payoff from these individual choices, at least not in the moment.
To paraphrase James Clear, it is only after your efforts have compounded over time that you start to see the payoff of these behaviors, for better or for worse.
But therein lies the problem - we are short-term creatures, and most of us aren’t able to easily identify these subtle benefits and costs when we are actually making these countless health-related choices every day.
So how do we overcome this?
Well, one tried and tested method is to track progress over time. This enables us to continuously see what’s working - and what isn’t working - and helps keep us accountable and committed to the behaviors that support what we are trying to achieve.
This is true of pretty much any health- or fitness-related objective that you could imagine, but it has particularly obvious application to body composition goals.
But for this sort of tracking to be really effective, ideally you would want the most accurate data, right? And with respect to body composition, not all methods are created equal. The scale, in particular, is a fairly limited and sometimes misleading tool.
And that brings me to our guest. On this episode of humanOS Radio, I speak with Jason Belvill. Jason is the CEO and Co-founder of BodySpec, a company that offers DEXA scans on the West Coast.
DEXA (dual energy x-ray absorptiometry), as you probably know, has been demonstrated to be one of the most reliable ways to estimate body composition, and offers a number of advantages over other methods.
For one thing, the scan is able to differentiate between fat, bone, and fat-free mass. This means that it not only can distinguish between fat and lean tissue, unlike a scale, but it is also not subject to errors associated with variations in bone density. DEXA can also provide measurements for specific areas of the body, meaning that it can highlight differences in where fat is distributed.
So what’s special about BodySpec? Well, BodySpec offers the least expensive DEXA scans available in the country as far as I know ($45 per scan, compared to as much as $100 or more at other providers). They also perform RMR (resting metabolic rate) tests and VO2 max tests at some locations, so you can gain a lot of insight into your body and your performance if you pay them a visit.
But what truly sets BodySpec apart is that they are mobile. BodySpec has a fleet of DEXA scan trucks that can be booked at gyms, offices, and events throughout the west coast. So you can go to their storefront, or they can come to you.
Services like BodySpec make it extra easy to quantify your body fat, muscle, and bone density, and then track over time how your training and diet regimen is affecting all different regions of the body. To learn more about the merits of DEXA, and why you might want to get a DEXA scan yourself, check out the interview!
The Meat Controversy and Why Nutrition Research Is Hard. Podcast with Michael Hull
All of us have heard the aphorism, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” This maxim, of course, is usually attributed to ancient Greek physician Hippocrates.
However, if you’ve ever spent time looking at health-related content on Twitter and Instagram, you’ll realize that conflating diet and medicine is a modern phenomenon. We like to think of certain foods and combinations of foods as exerting drug-like effects. And as we unveil the functional properties of natural compounds in edible plants - like flavonoids, just as one example - it’s easy for the lines between pharmacology and nutrition to become blurred.
But food is not a drug. And the distinction between the two becomes plain when we look at what happens when scientists try to elucidate the effects of dietary exposures on health outcomes.
To illustrate what I mean by this, let’s start with drugs. You probably already know that when scientists want to test a pharmaceutical intervention for safety and efficacy, the gold standard is a randomized controlled clinical trial. In this study design, participants are randomly assigned to either the substance being tested or a placebo (or usual standard of care). Neither they nor the individuals assessing their progress are told what they are taking.
Now, in theory, that would be the best way to examine the effects of diet as well. But if you stop and think about it, it should be pretty clear why it simply doesn’t work the same way for nutrition. For instance, it’s really hard to measure what people are eating outside of a lab, blinding is tough to do for studies involving food, compliance for diet trials tends to be poor, and the most rigorous studies are extremely expensive. Those are just a few of the most obvious roadblocks.
This mountain of ethical, financial, and practical limitations makes the field of nutrition horrendously complicated. That is why we have historically relied upon a combination of observational research (mainly prospective cohort studies), randomized controlled trials, and mechanistic studies. But some have recently questioned the rigor of this approach, and in turn are challenging major aspects of the guidelines for nutrition and health used around the world.
That brings me to our guest. On this episode of humanOS Radio, Dan talks to Michael Hull. Michael has an MSc in human nutrition from McGill University, and works as a full-time senior researcher at Examine.com. Mike writes and updates the Supplement Guides, maintains the company’s vast database of supplement studies, and blogs about various topics in the realm of health and nutrition (yep, sounds like our kind of guy).
You might remember that back in October, a series of studies were published that addressed the impact of red and processed meat consumption on a number of health outcomes. Importantly, these papers did not present any new evidence on the subject. Instead, they summarized the findings of existing RCTs and observational studies, and concluded that adults should continue consuming red and processed meat at current levels of intake - an obvious contradiction of most established guidelines. This, naturally, elicited a lot of turbulence online, from all across the diet spectrum.
So, who’s right?
Mike wrote an excellent piece for Examine.com sorting out these studies, and was kind enough to come on the show to discuss the papers and their implications.
As you’ll see, this is arguably less a discussion of the health effects of meat per se, and more about the aforementioned difficulties in performing nutrition studies and interpreting research.
To learn more, check out the interview!
Tonal - A Revolutionary Home Fitness System. Podcast with Aly Orady
On this episode of humanOS Radio, we welcome Aly Orady - founder and CEO of Tonal - to the show.
Aly’s story is an all too common example of the price of success in the modern world. Aly was excelling professionally, but in the process his health was falling apart. He was overweight, and had developed type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea. And he was only in his mid-thirties.
He was moving on a dangerous path, and he knew it.
Realizing the peril that he faced, he quit his job and pivoted to an all-encompassing focus on health and fitness. He embraced strength training and lost 70 pounds in the process.
But as he sat on the bench at the gym at 5:00 in the morning, he experienced a moment of clarity. This routine that had restored his health, effective though it had been, was not sustainable. Eventually, he was going to have to return to work, and he would not be able to continue to commit the same amount of time and effort to exercise. How could he maintain the improved health and performance he had gained from training?
As he surveyed the equipment around him, he came up with an idea to remove all of the sources of friction associated with the gym, by packaging all of the exercises he performed into a single machine. And that inspired him to found Tonal.
Tonal is an elegant, wall-mounted device that employs electromagnetism to simulate and control weight, which enables it to replicate the resistance provided by many machines and lifts.
Tonal can deliver 200 pounds of resistance in a device smaller than a flatscreen TV, without having to drive to a gym, rack weights, or even change into workout gear. Better still, it can remove all of the usual guesswork involved with choosing exercises and planning programs. Tonal offers hundreds of guided workouts, presented via a 24” interactive display, and tracks your progress over time.
To learn more about Tonal, and about the future of home exercise training, check out our interview with Aly Orady!
Is Red Light a Missing Nutrient for Our Health? Podcast with Dr. Michael Hamblin
Light is essential to life as we know it. Plants rely upon sunlight to generate chemical energy, which is stored in their tissues and fuels various life processes. In turn, animals like us convert the energy from the food that we eat into mechanical energy.
Given its fundamental role in our biology, perhaps it makes sense that specific types of light are connected to our health in some surprising ways, which research is only just starting to elucidate. For example, short-wavelength light (or blue light) has been shown to modulate blood pressure. And some studies have suggested that ultraviolet light might protect against weight gain and cardiovascular disease.
But another form of light exposure, which you’ve probably heard about before, and which we haven’t had the opportunity to address here, until now, is red light therapy.
Like hundreds of technological advances that we take for granted today, the medical application of red light therapy appears to have originated from NASA. Scientists developed red light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to help promote growth in plants on space shuttle missions. From there, red light was investigated for potential medical uses. These LEDs were shown to stimulate energy processes in mitochondria - the organelles from which our cell’s energy is generated. By augmenting mitochondrial function, and enhancing energy production, you would expect cells to be better able to repair and rejuvenate themselves. But is that indeed the case?
In this episode of humanOS Radio, I speak with Michael Hamblin. Dr. Hamblin was (recently retired) Principal Investigator at the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, and an Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School.
There is perhaps no one alive with greater expertise in the health effects of red light therapy and near infrared light than Dr. Hamblin. He is a prolific researcher in photomedicine, having published over 400 peer-reviewed articles on the subject, as well as authored and edited 23 different textbooks.
In this interview, Dr. Hamblin explains:
What photobiomodulation is, and the molecular mechanisms through which it works its magic
What wavelengths and intensities of light are used for physiological effects
How photobiomodulation has been investigated for athletic performance, skin health and rejuvenation, and psychological conditions
When and how to use red light therapy for exercise performance and recovery
How red light functions as a healthy stressor to elicit anti-aging effects