December 9, 2009
Introduction: In this podcast episode: barefoot running, essential fatty acids, more on amino acids, ankle injuries and the genotype diet.
Ben: That’s right, podcast listeners. Today’s episode is a double interview super special. My first featured topic is going to be on barefoot running with a fellow named Tellman Knudsen who I mentioned last week is currently running barefoot across the country. And I called him up and interviewed him live while he was running through Ohio. You’re going to get to listen to that. We also have an interview with Dr. Cohen from Bioletics. This will be Dr. Cohen’s third appearance on the show and he’s going to be talking about the powerful potential of essential fatty acids and how you can actually get those tested, what to do if you’re deficient and much more. So you’re not going to want to miss those featured topics. We have just a few brief special announcements today and we also have a Listener Q and A. But before we go on to any of that, I do need to make you aware of a few small changes to the podcast over the next five to six weeks. Basically, I am putting together for any of you triathlon listeners out there a huge side project that’s going to bring you a bunch of free teleseminars, phone conferences with triathlon coaches, triathlon pros, with authors – not just conferences where you sit there and twiddle your thumbs and listen but live Q and A where you’re going to be asking questions. A huge amount of interaction there. It’s going to be over at a website called www.rockstartriathlete.com. I’ll put a link to that in the Shownotes but I want to warn you listeners, that based off the amount of energy that I’m having to put into bringing those audios to you, this podcast is going to be limited – just for the next few weeks to primarily Q and A – to answering your questions on fitness, fat loss, nutrition or human performance. So make sure that you follow that link in the Shownotes to see why the podcast is going to be changing so much over the next six weeks. I thank you all for the support that you give, for the rankings in iTunes and for you just listening in. I promise that this podcast is not going anywhere. Don’t worry. It’s just going to be a little bit shorter over the next few weeks. So with that being said, let’s go ahead and move on to this week’s special announcements.
So this week’s first question comes to me from Listener Joe, and Joe says… this is a funny question.
Joe asks: One question that I have not been able to get a straight answer on is what exactly do bodybuilders do and how exactly do their diet and workout change to get that paper thin skin? I would like to at least one time in my life experience walking around the earth tan and in high definition. Will you please help me with this?
Ben answers: Well Joe, I did bodybuilding for a couple of years and that was actually one thing that I was really concerned about – was that paper think skin, or lines or wrinkles or age spots – because as most of you are probably aware, body builders have to spend a lot of time in tanning booths and that causes a premature aging in the skin. It literally speeds up the aging process in your skin. So it not only causes your skin to dry out but it makes your skin lack moisture. You start to flake, you peel, you wrinkle a lot more. Even little things like you start to see more wrinkles around your eyes when you smile. The skin loses a lot of its collagen and kind of becomes loser whereas those of us who are hydrated and not really dried out all the time – you’re going to notice a more moist, supple… not a stretched out, but a non-wrinkled appearance to the skin. So tanning beds – long periods of time spent in the sun – all of that will do that to your skin. Now Joe, I’ve been backstage at bodybuilding shows and when you get close up to these people, it’s just horrible. Tiny, tiny little collagen damage wrinkles everywhere. Okay? And it’s because of the amount of tanning. Now, some bodybuilders, and I tried to do this when I was bodybuilding used just a heavy, heavy amount of tanning lotion. A lot of times there are little gold flakes in that so the light shimmers off you and makes you look even more muscular when you get under the lights or on to stage. But do not crave that paper thin skin. When you get close, it’s just – it’s like a thin, thin ice full of wrinkles and you don’t want that on your skin. I would recommend – if anything, if you want to get that look and just see what it looks like – go pick yourself up some bodybuilding tanning lotion and put it on your body and you’ll see how easy it is to actually achieve that same look with a little bit of a topical application. So, we’re going to move on to a question from Listener Scott.
Scott asks: After watching the video you posted on the Master Amino Pattern, I’m wondering how sold you were on the product. There’s a mention of over 40 tests or clinical trials yet no links to the information on their website. I would think if there’s scientific evidence of effectiveness it would be plastered on there. if you do believe in it, would you recommend substituting NatureAminos for whey protein or even your recipes that include Mt. Capra protein powder?
Ben answers: That’s a great question, Scott. And as far as the scientific effectiveness or the research studies, there are links over there on their website and I also put some links in the Shownotes to podcast number 71 on the studies that were done in terms of the nitrogen utilization rate of this MAP. And for those of you who didn’t hear that podcast last week, it’s a capsule that’s full of all the essential amino acids that you need. Now, in terms of substituting NatureAminos for something like whey protein or protein powder, Scott, what you need to understand is that this is amino acids, okay? It’s not calories. It’s not sustenance so to speak that’s going to stick to your ribs or give you energy to work out. Consider it more along the lines of like an essential fatty acid or another type of supplement that you would take, but not as food. So whey protein, I would consider food. The Mt. Capra protein powder that you mentioned, I would consider food. This is a supplement. So, for example when I finish a workout, I’ll take 10 of these and an apple so the apple is giving me the carbohydrate and this is giving me the amino acids that aren’t in the apple. But continue to use regular recipes. You can eat whole food and real food. I’m not endorsing switching to capsules or supplements for all your intake. This just ensures that your body is getting everything that it needs because if you have a bowl of rice or if you have an apple or if you have anything that doesn’t have that complete amino acid profile in it, you’re going to miss out on the amino acids and then also every single food on the face of the planet has a lower nitrogen utilization rate than this stuff. So it gets absorbed a lot better and it’s just kind of that extra secret weapon that you can have for recovery, for muscle building or for enhancing sports performance or decreasing soreness.
Now Scott goes on, he’s got a second part to his question. He says…
Scott asks: I recently injured my calf just above the ankle. I believe it’s a muscle injury since it feels like a charley horse type of discomfort or spasm that occurs when I walk on or with plantar flexion. (And for those of you who hear that term, that’s pointing the toes.) I bought an ankle Ace wrap which made the spasm sensation go away and felt like it allowed my ankle to relax. I was able to perform an sprint interval session on the treadmill with minimum discomfort. When the ankle began hurting, ensuring I was using proper form seemed to alleviate the pain. I’d like to be able to continue exercising but do not want to injure my ankle further. Do you have any recommendations?
Ben answers: It’s kind of tough to say, Scott. Ankle sprains go in three different grades and grade 1 is just kind of that slight amount of tearing or damage to the tendon or ligament. Grade 2 and 3 are more serious. Sounds like if you were able to run on the treadmill, this is just kind of a slight amount of inflammation and if that is the case, just control your inflammation with one of nature’s best anti-inflammatories and that’s ice. I highly encourage you to stay away from ibuprofen and what are called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that can cause kidney damage, GI bleeding, and they actually end up limiting the amount of healing that occurs because they affect inflammation in a different way than something like ice does. So I’d recommend ice. I’d also recommend that you go to www.bengreenfieldfitness.com and do a search for “wolverine.” I wrote an article a few months back called How To Make Your Body Heal Like Wolverine From X-Men. Rather than going through that on the podcast, I’d like you to go just do a search for “wolverine” at the Ben Greenfield Fitness website and that will give you even more recommendations.
Dave asks: After listening to John Kenny’s high stroke rate per minute in your swimming podcast, I realized I have a very poor stroke rate per minute in comparison. I think my low SPM (which stands for stroke rate per minute) correlates to my slow Ironman swim times. My stroke is a stroke and glide routine. I’m beginning to realize that I’m using momentum with each glide resulting in a slow swim, particularly in open water. My question is what would be a good course of action in order to train and develop a faster arm turnover in freestyle swimming?
Ben answers: That’s a great question Dave. And it is true that a higher arm turnover is necessary to go faster in the open water. You can get away with gliding in a pool but once you start to glide in the open water, a lot of the turbulent flow slows down that glide a lot more than what you’re experiencing in the pool. Now, developing quicker arm turnover is based on training your neuromuscular system. Meaning your nerve endings right there in the muscle to actually fire faster. So it’s not about getting stronger. It’s not about making yourself more tired. It’s about getting your mind muscle connection to actually think faster. So a few different ways you can do that. One, and this is something I have, it’s called a Wetronome. There’s also something called a swimming metronome. You could Google “wetronome” or you could go to www.swimsmooth.com. And the guys over at www.swimsmooth.com do have that Wetronome. You put it in your swim cap and it makes a little beeping noise. You can set it for a turnover and it actually has a chart that shows you the optimum rate of arm turnover based on how fast of a swimmer you are. So the Wetronome is a good way to keep yourself honest and that beep drives you to naturally improve your turnover. You’re going to have to practice with it for a while though. It takes a little while to get used to, to going with that beep and getting that rhythm and regularity. The next thing I would recommend is a bungee cord, a swimming bungee cord, and the way that you use these is you’ll tie one end to the diving block on one end of the pool and then you’ll swim away from it and it’s pretty hard. You’re going to be really working force and strength in the water when you swim away from it. But as soon as it starts to pull you back, you actually have to have a very fast arm turnover going back the other way. Now to get your hands on one of those, if you go to my website on the right side of the page there’s a link to www.swimoutlet.com. And if you click on that link, it’ll take you to Swim Outlet and you can find bungee cords under the training aids option over there. And then the final recommendation in addition to the Wetronome and swimming resistant cord would be actual spring 50, 75, even 25 meter repeats. Put it into your program on a weekly basis. I know a lot of Ironman and distance triathletes get real stuck on the 200s and the 300s and the 500s and maybe swimming for a half hour during lunch without stopping. The very fast sprint style repeats are not only going to give you better bang for your buck in terms of the time that you spend in the water, but they’ll also teach you how to turn over more quickly. So I highly recommend doing that as well. Hopefully that helps Dave, and great question.
Matt asks: I saw a naturopathic doc yesterday and the recommended that I start the genotype diet as it may help my stomach issues. I’m not sure about this and know nothing about it. I was curious if you came across it. It is by the same guy who started the blood type diet.
Ben answers: The genotype diet – and I went over to the website because I actually wasn’t familiar with this diet – but what it does is it’s based off the fact that America is one big genetic melting pot and what works well for one person might not work well for the other person so what it does is the book teaches you things like how to take your thumb print, your blood type, your torso length, your leg length and all these help you build kind of an idea of what your genetic code is and then there are diets on that book based on your genetic code. So anything that’s customized like that is probably going to give you a meal plan that maybe causes a little bit less GI distress if you’re a person who has food sensitivities or food allergies. And it can work quite well. The problem with a diet like this is that – and this is something I run into a lot as a nutritional consultant – you sometimes end up eating a diet that is so strange or so different than anyone else around you, it gets tough especially on family and especially on social situations to actually eat the way that your genotype is supposed to eat. I mean imagine if you had a bunch of your friends over for dinner and you know, your Japanese friend, they just had to have sushi and your friend who was of Norwegian descent just had to have fish and the Pacific Islander insisted that you use a coconut oil for your cooking – you just have to be careful if you start on a diet like this to realize that it could limit you quite a bit socially or if you’re married sometimes your wife doesn’t want to eat because her genetic type is different than your genetic type. I would say for medical management, it could be something that you could look into, but just from a social perspective, you have to be careful with these kinds of diets. I like a diet and use a diet for my clients that tends to be a little bit more flexible than something like this. But great question, Matt.
Now we’re going to go ahead and move into the featured topics for today. First interview is going to be with Tellman Knudsen on barefoot running, and then we’re going to move on to a essential fatty acids with Dr. Rick Cohen. And remember if you have a question, just email [email protected] or call 8772099439.
Tellman Knudson: This is Tellman.
Ben: Hi Tellman, this is Ben Greenfield calling. Are you running right now?
Tellman Knudson: Hold on. Hold on. One second. Alright, Ben are you there.
Ben: I’m here Tellman. Where are you running right now?
Tellman Knudson: I’m in Fly. That’s FLY. Yep, I said it, I’m in Fly, Ohio. It’s snowing.
Ben: It’s snowing and you’re running in your bare feet right now?
Tellman Knudson: Sure am.
Ben: Wow. Tellman, I get tons of questions from my listeners about what barefoot running is actually like and you are probably one of the most knowledgeable guys on what it actually feels like. So right now, running in the snow, what do your feet feel like?
Tellman Knudson: Well, let me clarify. I’m not running in the snow. It’s snowing on and off. But there is no accumulation yet. However, how does it feel? At the moment, one gets worried about the cold and the reality is that your feet get pretty warm when you run in shoes anyway. When you run barefoot, you get really great circulation. And the soles of your feet definitely get much denser and tougher. So really, when you get cold and you just start to get a little numb… so it’s not really uncomfortable. That’s kind of how… like when you’re in the middle of a snowball fight with bare hands. So you can totally do it, but it’s not… most everybody can imagine themselves reaching down into a pile of snow making a snowball and throwing it at somebody a few times… so that’s kind of what it feels like except because your circulation is so good and because your feet constantly are coming off the ground anyway… it doesn’t really soak up the… it doesn’t soak the body heat out of you so you don’t really get cold.
Ben: In your journey so far Tellman, what’s the longest you’ve run in your bare feet?
Tellman Knudson: So far a full marathon.
Ben: Wow. And in terms of the surfaces are there any particular surfaces that you think are best for bare feet or that feel most natural?
Tellman Knudson: Well, I mean… if you’re talking about what I would prefer to run on if I have the choice, I would say I really like a nice dirt trail without a lot of rocks. That certainly feels the most natural. I like a dirt trail where I can see everything on the trail. You know? There was one that has a lot of leaf coverage, or something like that. But running across the country barefoot, you don’t get the opportunity to run on a lot of that awesome trails. It’s mostly all on the white line and when you’re running a lot of distance every day, the white line is a very useful tool. So right now I’m running the white line like a freaking (inaudible). I feel like I’m in Tron running barefoot.
Ben: And are you on a highway right now?
Tellman Knudson: Right now, I’m on – you can’t run on interstates legally and you can’t run on divided highways. So I’m on a road that has two lanes total. One eastbound, one westbound. And you know, not too much traffic. Kind of just running through town.
Ben: Have you ever worn, Tellman, the barefoot running shoes or any type of real minimalist running shoes? Are those different than running barefoot?
Tellman Knudson: Totally different than running barefoot. I know a lot of people consider themselves barefoot runners who run in five fingers and I appreciate that it is much, much better to run in something like five fingers than in traditional running shoes and I will applaud anyone who’s using that footwear because you have to completely learn how to run all over again. However, running across the United States of America, while wearing five fingers would not be nearly as difficult as running with nothing on your feet. Even five fingers don’t wear through like skin does.
Ben: Now what type of injuries have you sustained on your feet since you began, Tellman?
Tellman Knudson: So far, only one to speak of. And it was an overuse injury because I scaled up to a marathon a day a little bit faster than the… (inaudible) heel. So I ended up getting deep heel contusions. Deep heel contusions basically are…f or me anyway, they’re inside my heel. So think about getting blisters inside of your feet, not on the outside. And those blisters are just kind of hanging out and getting worse and worse as they slowly rise to the surface where the closer they get to the surface, the softer your heel becomes versus normally when you get a blister, you get it and that’s when it’s the softest. Whereas the ones that I got, because they were on the inside and they slowly rose to the surface… they were so bad when they were deep and they got worse as they moved out further because every time I would hit a rock in the dead center of my heel, they’d basically sink into my foot which was very, very pleasant. So I just came off that. Taking a few weeks off to let that heal up. The doctor’s orders. And now, at the moment I’m running three miles today because I have to run three miles every day for a week then I’m allowed to ramp it up to four miles and assuming my heels don’t break down again, I’ll be able to begin the ramp up process again up a little bit higher and hopefully get back up to a marathon plus everyday here in short order. That’s what I’m hoping for.
Ben: Amazing. Now Tellman, what’s your top piece of advice to the listener who wants to start barefoot running?
Tellman Knudson: Start today. Run five minutes barefoot. Just do it as a warm-up. Slow down to 10 to 12 minute miles even if you could run faster. Just slow down to 10 to 12 minute miles because – don’t do any more than five minutes a day for the first week. Because first thing is, you’re going to put a lot more weight on your lower calf muscles and if you overdo that, it’ll take you out of running for a couple of weeks. A lot of people go out the first time and do 3 to 5 miles because they can and it puts them out for 2 weeks and then they never want to try it again. So 5 minutes at a time for the first week. Then bump it up to about 10 minutes, assuming you’re feeling good and it’s not chewing your feet too bad. Then slowly bump it up to 15 minutes. I did it in about 5 minute increments to build up. And I was running 5, 6 days a week.
Ben: Wow. Well Tellman, for people who want to learn more, your website is www.runtellmanrun.com.
Ben: Fantastic. Alright, well I’ll put a link to both those in the Shownotes and I’ll let you get back to your run. Thanks for joining us today, Tellman.
Tellman Knudson: Thank you guys. I’ll talk to you soon.
Ben: Alright, bye.
Hey podcast listeners, this is Ben Greenfield and I have back on the line by popular request Dr. Rick Cohen from Bioletics and in the past, Dr. Cohen has talked to us about the six key internal performance factors and we had that initial interview with him where he went into great detail about how you could enhance your health and performance using those factors and I personally ended up going through that full range of testing with Bioletics for everything from hormones to vitamin D to minerals. And now I’ve got Dr. Cohen back on the line because he has added to his recommendations for people to actually look at, something called an EFA test. And so, without further ado, Dr. Cohen, I’m going to thank you for coming on the line and just have you jump right into it and tell me what this EFA test is all about. What EFAs are and why you’ve added them to your recommendations for internal performance factors.
Dr. Richard Cohen: Great. Thanks Ben. Yeah, as essential fats are sort of one of my favorite subjects perhaps when I was… in the low fat era, I guess that was in the 90s, low fat?
Ben: Yeah I think. 90s, 80s. Yeah.
Dr. Richard Cohen: Well probably early 90s. It was such a misconstrued idea of eliminating fats and we’re really starting to learn how important fats are to our body and fats in their natural state. And there are some neat stories which I’ll share with you which give you a better understanding of fats and their structure and how metabolically active they are in your system. You wonder… how we ever thought fats were harmful to us. This simple… the upshot is if this is all that people can take from our chat here is fats are extremely important for our body. They have a variety of different metabolic activity. They control hormones, they control our cellular function. They control our genetic code and it’s not the fats in of themselves which are damaging, and just like (inaudible) it’s the processing of the fats which have led to problems. It’s eating unnatural trans fats. Eating too many (inaudible) fats which we’ll discuss as well, and that’s where the problem comes in. So, we could talk a little bit about natural fats and sort of getting back to your first question, with this other factor initially when we came out with the 6 factor and the Bioletic assessment, there wasn’t a practical inexpensive at home collection which has been our gold standard, is trying to find inexpensive assessments that can be done and collected at home because we’re trying to give power back to the athlete, to take control of your health and understand how what you’re eating is affecting you and then be able to tweak it. So now there is a finger stick test that ‘s available similar to the D and the amino acids which red blood cell determined and use ratios and there are some key ratios of understanding the types of fats in your body – the percentage of Omega 3 fats which is a critical component. And recent research has shown that you really need – it’s called an Omega 3 index, and this Omega 3 index was shown actually in the Framingham study – one of traditional medicine’s gold standard of cardiovascular assessment of risk – when this Omega 3 index, meaning the percentage of Omega 3 fats in your body is 8 to 10% which is kind of an ideal, you really probably want to be over 10%, the risk of cardiovascular disease is less than 90% of what the standard would be. So this Omega 3 index is probably one of the more powerful – I probably throw in a vitamin D as well – but gosh, if you had a normal vitamin D and Omega 3 index of 10, the risk factors of cardiovascular disease and (inaudible) disease, which is also something we can touch on is virtually eliminated. That’s so powerful.
Ben: So this blood stick test for the listeners, it’s literally – or the finger stick test – it’s literally just a few drops of blood and that measures the Omega 3 fatty acid level or does it measure the Omega 6 fatty level?
Dr. Richard Cohen: Actually, how about this. It’s one drop of blood.
Ben: Oh that’s nice.
Dr. Richard Cohen: How cool is that? One drop of blood. One drop of blood – it measures all the essential fats. So it actually measures the Omega 6 fats, the Omega 3 fats, the mono unsaturated, the saturated and then you can start looking at some ratios. And these ratios each have some significance. And how you want to address that. So I guess you just want to take a couple of minutes and just discuss Omega 3 and sort of fats for a little bit. People might like a little primer on that.
Ben: So what are the reasons that someone would actually be concerned enough about his essential fatty acid levels to actually want to do a blood stick – give a drop of blood and find out what their levels are? What function do these fatty acids serve within the body and why should someone be concerned about it?
Dr. Richard Cohen: It’s actually real important for people to understand – one, the importance and the different types of fat. Because it can get kind of confusing, and two, to directly answer that question is how these fats then play a role into essential fats. Now essential fatty acids as the name implies and as we spoke together are similar to essential amino acids. These are fats that our bodies really can’t produce or they’re critical for life and function and generally are needed to be obtained through the diet. Essential fats… are critical because they actually control substances in the body called prostaglandins. Now these prostaglandins I think are best thought of as little intracellular hormones and what’s a hormone? A hormone is just a communicator. The same way we have endorphin hormones which means that these are communicators basically from the brain to organ systems – testosterone, estrogen, progesterone – these prostaglandins actually control the cellular function and there are a variety of these prostaglandins. Some people… there is a multitude of them. In essence, there are good prostaglandins and well actually let me rephrase that. There are prostaglandins that have generally positive function and then there are prostaglandins which would have negative function. Now in the truer sense of the word, they’re all beneficial. Just like ying and yang. Prostaglandins can affect the way the blood clots. They can affect the vessel tension. They can affect blood pressure. They can affect immune response. They can affect how your brain processes information. Neural activity – you get it. Prostaglandins… basically they control everything within our body. Now, when I say good and bad – is it bad that your body clots when you’re cut? Absolutely not. Is it bad that we get a fever when we need to kill a virus? Absolutely not. Is it bad that we have a response to an injury – inflammation – by sending in all these immune cells to create healing? Absolutely not. So, the problem with good and bad is – they’re all necessary – it’s a question of balance. When our system goes out of balance, the so-called “bad”… these prostaglandins which control repair, restorative or protective mechanisms begin to dominate or basically they’ll be on or in a higher presence so that blood clotting, that inflammation, the pain begins to take control and be there in a much higher amount. And that’s not good. And that’s why it would be harmful to the system.
Ben: If someone’s low on essential fatty acids, what type of symptoms would they be experiencing or what type of things would they actually be concerned about happening to their bodies?
Dr. Richard Cohen: Right, ok. So we talked about prostaglandins. And that’s the ultimate sort of response for essential fats. So now the creation of these prostaglandins – and it’s sort of a fun pathway from a chemistry point of view. We could spend a lot of time on this but the essential creation of the pathways are dependent on these essential fats, okay? And these essential fats are these Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats and the Omega 3 fats – basically that’s just a chemical term that is a nomenclature based on how long the carbon is and where that first double bond is within the carbon fat. So Omega 3, it’s in the 3 position and Omega 6 is in the 6 position.
Ben: And so for the people who are listening. A fat is just a really long chain of carbons, right?
Dr. Richard Cohen: Correct. It’s a long chain of carbons. Exactly. And the chain of carbons has a particular amount of double bonds. So the Omega 3 fats has a carbon in the 3 , 6 and 9 position. 3 double bonds. The Omega 6 has it in the 6th carbon and it has two. 6 and 9. The Omega 3 has an additional one. Through chemical processes, the Omega 3 is broken down and added onto actually and becomes a 22 chain carbon and that’s EPA and DHA. Those are specifically then converted into the sort of more beneficial prostaglandins…
Ben: So when you’re turning over like the label to your fish oil, your flax oil and you see things like EPA and DHEA, that actually…
Dr. Richard Cohen: DHA.
Ben: Oh I’m sorry, DHA… that actually indicates the presence of the Omega 3 fatty acids?
Dr. Richard Cohen: Right, okay. So it’s all that chemistry. EPA is Eicosapentaenoic acid. Eicosa means 20. Pentaenoic is… basically it’s a 20 chain carbon with five double bonds. That’s where that comes from. Pretty straightforward but it’s got a nice little branding now. EPA. It sounds good. And DHA. They’re just short for the chemical constituents of it. But these five carbon fats are essential to creating these beneficial prostaglandins. That’s why the Omega 3s are so critical for our health. So getting back to what are the benefits, as we say you’re creating these prostaglandins which promote oxygenation of the tissues that are involved with a proper immune response. That are involved with brain function. That are involved in proper blood clotting, etc. The list goes on and on. Basically every function in your body, when you’re looking at a beneficial activity relies on the direction of the cell – genetic code on these healthier prostaglandins in its most simplistic terms. Now the Omega 6… which have two double bonds, the problem with the Omega 6 is they have a split. They’re sort of like a chemical funnel and the Omega 6s require conversion to something called GLA which is gamma-linoleic acid, which is found in large amounts in primrose, oil and borage oil. That’s why people may supplement those. And those too are good with a healthy prostaglandin. It’s the prostaglandin 3 series. Not really majorly important but that there’s a funnel there and that conversion doesn’t occur due to stress, diet, trans fats, nutritional deficiencies. So we don’t readily convert these Omega 6s very well further down the chain. And the other problem is the Omega 6s will be converted to something called arachidonic acids. And arachidonic acids are further down the fatty chain. That goes to the prostaglandin 2 series which has the negative effect. Again, it’s all a balance. The issue is when we throw that balance off or when they’re deficiencies or blocks into these enzymes which convert that. We start running into difficulty.
Ben: So it’s the Omega 6s aren’t necessarily bad. You just wouldn’t want them in a ratio that was too high compared to the Omega 3s? Is that what you’re saying?
Dr. Richard Cohen: Exactly. Omega 3s… that’s the main point. None of it is bad. We need arachidonic acid. We need prostaglandin 2 series. They’re critical for life. But we don’t get those now. Or we don’t have the balance that our body evolved to exist. So, if you look at Paleolithic hunter gatherer societies, we ate a ratio of about 1:1 Omega 6 fats. And if you look at grass, planktons, algae… they’re 1:1. 2:1. If you look at grass fed beef, buffalo, wild range chickens. Although there’s not a lot of fat in chicken per se. They’re always bred out with white breast. Their ratios are 2:1, somewhere in that range. That’s what we need to exist on. That’s how these complicated chemical pathways sort of evolved to process fats in that range. Maybe you know the answer to this, but what do you think that the ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 is today in America?
Ben: You mean like in our typical diets?
Dr. Richard Cohen: Typical American diet?
Ben: You know, I think I’ve heard something like I believe it was 50:1 or 100:1 or something like that.
Dr. Richard Cohen: Not that bad. But it’s 20 plus to 1. Obviously for some people it’s worse. Because if you think about how much Omega 3… where is Omega 3 found? Omega 3 is in fish, cold water fish. Omega 3 is found in wild grass fed game. Omega 3… small amounts in walnut. It’s a higher amount in Chia seeds. Other than really eating Chia seeds, I think it’s growing… people become aware of Chia seeds, flax seeds, but not in the typical American diet, right?
Dr. Richard Cohen: Some pumpkin seeds have Omega 3 in a higher percentage. Walnuts. But that’s about it. Some soy. Omega 3 prevalence unless you’re eating a lot of fish and meat which is where we predominantly go these and some of these nuts and seeds… the majority of people don’t get any. Whereas modern industrial food, it’s reliant on grains. We didn’t have grains. We’re getting corn, flour, soy… canola.
Ben: Those would be higher in the Omega 6s then.
Dr. Richard Cohen: They’re all virtually Omega 6. A smaller percentage in canolas, a small percentage in soy. But the ratios are extremely high and that’s what’s in all the processed foods. That’s what’s in the grains. So the ratio… sometimes I’m surprised that the average person is not supplementing with fish oil. They’re not getting any Omega 3s at all. So that ratio… that just causes these prostaglandins to go out of control in a negative way. It’s one of the cores of the illnesses of today’s society. So it’s not… you said in the beginning, it’s not the types… it’s not fat. it’s the balance of fat and it’s the processing of fat. So if we look at where did we go wrong? It’s too many –way too many of these Omega 6 oils. That’s a problem. The other thing, it’s the processing of the oils. Which is sort of my favorite understanding or point to understand of fats… so we talked, the first point is fats are converted into these prostaglandins, and the Omega 3, Omega 6 ratio is critical for a healthy balance in prostaglandins? Okay? The second thing to understand about fats is they’re extremely susceptible to damage, especially these so called healthier fats. The Omega 3 fats. Nature evolved to exist that way. In order for these healthier Omega 3 fats with all these double bonds – why have double bonds? Well double bonds make fat more flexible. And they need to be in your cellular membranes. So the more flexible your membrane is, the better tissues – the better nutrients you’re able to get into these cells. Also, in colder climates, you need a fat that would be liquid or flexible and not solid. So, the colder the climate, the more unsaturated the fat. So you find, if you think about food supply, the farther north cold water fish… salmon, cod… they have lots of Omega 3. Makes sense. Work your way down the chain. Grasses… northern… where’s flax grain? Canada? Lots of Omega 3. Work your way down grasses, again northern plain lands. It starts to balance out a little more. And working down into the southern temperature… corn, peanut, canola. Those are all southern… they require a little bit of a warmer climate generally. They start to push more of the Omega 6s. As you go further down into Mediterranean, you get these monounsaturated fats. Olive oil. Peanut even has some monounsaturated. Those monounsaturated… we’ll talk about those in a second, and then what types of fat do you find in the islands? Coconut, palm kernel? They’re all saturated. What fats are present in the body in the most part in meat and animals? Saturated. So, the bodies have evolved that the higher the temperature, the more fats get saturated. Because temperature light and oxygen damage fat. And they cause free radicals. And the body has a way… and animals have a way of using these saturated fats to actually protect the unsaturated fats from 98 degrees consistently. If you took a fat, take fish oil and put it in 98 degrees, in a day it would be awful. So it’s the potential damage to fat. That’s where the problem occurs. Is not only the Omega 6 but the Omega 6 that are processed in high temperatures. Trans fats are created from these fats and if you think about Crisco which is really where this all started… and Crisco stands for crystallized cotton seed oil. Okay? It was created by… and here’s a name we all know. Proctor and Gamble. Proctor and Gamble in the late 1800s were candle makers. And when Proctor and Gamble started running into problems, is they couldn’t get adequate lard – animal fat, to make the candles. It was too expensive. So, they hired a German chemist to see how can we take oil and make it more like lard so we can use it for candles? It would be cheaper. And they came upon this process of hydrogenation where you throw an extra hydrogen into these double bonded fats to make them stable. So you could burn them and it would be solid again. You needed a fat which has lots of energy to be solid at room temperature, so they can have a candle. Well that worked really well. You took a natural fat – a natural oil, and you sort of plasticized it and you could burn it. When electricity came in, people said their market for candles just fell apart. So they said, wow. Really in essence, what do we have here? It sort of looks like fat. Why don’t we sell it as a food. And that’s exactly what happened. They took their candle as a food, as an oil – initially it didn’t go and it took some really creative marketing and changing of the colors but in essence Crisco, which was a candle became a food source. Now initially they had no idea of the problems. They didn’t know the molecular changes that were occurring. Later on it was… they did understand it but they kept selling it because it was cheap. That’s why trans hydrogenated fats are present in all processed foods. They don’t go bad and they’re really, really cheap. It’s the trans fats… the oxygenation, the hydrogenation, the changing of the molecular structure… it is extremely unnatural and damaging to our body and those are the two cruxes of the fat problem. It’s not fat. it’s not low fat is good. There’s no society that exists with low fat. There is in this month’s December National Geographic, there’s an article about the Hadzas, which are one of the few remaining hunter gatherer societies in the world at this point. The journalist went in to live with them for a few weeks and the delicacy or the thing they strive for are fats. When they kill a baboon, it’s the eyes, it’s the brain… it doesn’t sound real great, but that’s what they needed because that was the energy source. It was rich, it was natural and there’s no carbohydrates and cheap calories. It was all very valuable. Fat was the energy source. Fat was the thing that drove the metabolism in the body. So, this whole anti-fat, low fat, saturated fat it’s just honestly a bunch of crap. We can edit that out I guess but it’s just absolutely wrong and we really need to understand healthy fats are beneficial to the body and they provide… there are all sorts of others… there are short chain fats that have benefits to the immune system and they’re critical for the intestinal tract. There are medium chain fats which are medium chain triglycerides which are found in coconut which are used for energy very effectively. So, this understanding of fats being extremely powerful for the body is really important. You could go from there.
Ben: Yeah, and I completely agree with what you’re saying. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t edit that part out. As a matter of fact, I give most of my clients I work with a T-shirt that says “My personal trainer told me to eat more fat.” And I’m sure that people… I’ve written a few articles on it and there are multiple articles out there that talk about what you just touched on and in going to even greater detail about how one of the issues with health in America and especially cardiovascular disease and things of that nature is not an increased consumption of fats, especially like animal based fats that you were talking about, because that consumption has actually gone down as cardiovascular disease has gone up. But the problem is more along the lines of the other stuff you touched on. The trans fats and the processed fats and even the sugars and the starches and things of that nature. What I found intriguing was I didn’t know you could actually find out what your essential fatty acid levels were. And that’s what I found was really interesting. That you’ve actually figured out a way to allow people to test their essential fatty acid levels. Can you talk about how that works and what somebody does and then if they’re found to be… I guess it’d be deficient, not necessarily high. I don’t know if you can have Omega 3 fatty acid levels that are too high. I guess that’s another question for you. But how do you do the test? And then what do you do once you find out the results of the test? Can you walk me through the process?
Dr. Richard Cohen: Absolutely. Right, so all this understanding is wonderful but at the end of the day, how does that affect me and how can I monitor my fatty acids? It’s such a critical foundation of health. And by monitoring these and getting these balanced and getting it right, you’re going to do a lot for your performance as well as your well-being. So the test is a single one blood finger stick. It just gets – you drop your blood, you prick it with sort of a spring-loaded lance. You really don’t feel it at all and you drop that one drop on a sort of gauze like card and let it dry for about an hour or so and just pop it in the mail to the lab. The lab sends back a full report of these essential fats. Or all fats. All fats that are present within the body and you can break down those fats into the Omega 3, the Omega 6, some of these Omega 9 fats and saturated fats. The key things that we’re looking at are one, the percent of Omega 3 that are present in your body. That’s sort of critical, at least from a cardiovascular immune perspective. And you want about 10%. Because that’s what we’re looking for. People, hunter gatherers… the highest protected level. If that’s deficient, you need more Omega 3 right off the bat. So you need to supplement more. We can talk about sources but the other thing we look at is that Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio. Typically you want it 2 to 3:1. That’s sort of again what we’re seeing. If that Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio is too high, we need to look at your diet and say well, too many nuts. Too many oils. Too many grains. Where are you getting that? I’ve seen people who are too high in Omega 6 and they’re just eating too many nuts which isn’t necessarily… I don’t have a problem with, but it may not be a balance that their body is optimal with. So you can gauge that. Maybe shift to a more seed-based and more Chia and more flax and fish oil and so forth. So that’s another critical… that Omega 6, Omega 3 ratio is also a very strong marker of the inflammatory status of the body. That’s for probably a whole other talk but inflammation is probably at the root cause of most illnesses. And when the Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio is right on, the likelihood of inflammatory diseases which range from cardiovascular to diabetes to over frequency of injury all increase significantly. So that’s also important. The other key ratio… you can look at many of them, but this is the third key, is that arachidonic acid to EPA. While arachidonic acid has beneficial properties, or you need it, it can flow more to the inflammatory pathway. So when someone has a high arachidonic acid, it also suggests that there is an imbalance in the processing of fats and they may do well with some primrose or borage oil to bypass that block in the Omega 3 or the prostaglandin 3 formation. You can actually see the percent of trans fats. So if someone is high in trans fats, you’re busted. You know you’re eating processed foods, fast foods at a high amount. There’s naturally trans fats in dairy. So if you do eat some yoghurts and dairy products, that will show up. But if someone’s running over 1 ½ to 2 percent, they’re not doing their body good and you’re incorporating too many of these molecularly changed fats into your system. So, once you get this balance you can start to specifically make some subtle changes in your diet, or sometimes drastic changes. You can start adding in more Omega 3 based fats, reducing Omega 6 based fats and eliminating other fats in your diet as well. So if we look at – what are the fats… I guess the corollaries… what are the fats that people really want to focus on? We talked about grass fed game as much as possible. The majority. That’s one other point that’s sort of overlooked, is the meats that we eat… meat, game, animal – the fats in them are not harmful. In fact there’s a lot of benefit to them. The commercial fed meat do not have the natural fatty acid patterns that they always did. What do we feed cattle? Go watch Food Inc. It’s corn and grain. So we’re fattening up the cattle with insulin producing grain, with different fats. The fats that we talked about in corn is highly Omega 6. The fats in grass which cattle were made to – cows and buffalo, they eat grass. That’s more of a balance. So grass fed natural beef has higher Omega 3 and the saturated fats are different. The commercially farmed cattle or commercially farmed salmon do not have the healthier fatty acid pathways. So you start pushing that Omega 6 balance in the wrong way. So grass fed wild, game type are always going to be far, far superior. Same thing – wild salmon. Unfortunately today, with all the chemicals and pollutants, it’s not ideal but wild periodically is still probably okay. At least in my mind. Then what other grain… Omega 3, we talked Chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp has some Omega 3. Pumpkin seeds. You make a blender, I’ll typically grind up Chia or flax or hemp in the blender and drink. So those are going to be your best sources of pure Omega 3 fats with obviously some fish oil supplements. You can get those and EPA, DHA obviously are beneficial.
Ben: Now I’m not a big fan of calorie counting and necessarily trying to quantify everything in your diet, because I think it can be a little nonconductive to adherence, but when somebody does something like this test, can you actually – based on the results of the test – figure out about how much of the Omega 3 fatty acids or any of these other sources that you’re talking about – you would actually need to bring yourself into a proper balance? Can you quantify it if you wanted to so you’re not shooting in the dark?
Dr. Richard Cohen: Not directly. But you can certainly get a baseline of how much Omega 3s they may need initially. Depending on what they’re experiencing. Everyone’s pathway to produce prostaglandins are different. Someone has some inflammatory conditions or injuries or performance issues, you might push more Omega 3 type fat initially and then cut back especially if they were deficient. So that’s sort of the beauty of it. If they’re running at 6%, I certainly would say they might want to take a couple tablespoons of a pharmaceutical grade fish oil. Off the top of my head, even generally 800 mgs EPA, 600 mgs DHA per dose. Initially pushing that pathway and trying to move it in the other direction. Then you could taper down as time goes. So it’s a little bit of science, but it’s also a little bit of art. If you push the pathway too much to this prostaglandin 1 series, you could – too much of a good thing is also a problem. Generally it’s starting out a certain way, it’s adding in things and then eliminating them… just pay attention to your body with that. Getting rid of the processed fats, dramatically reducing or eliminating some of the Omega 6 oils. You do need some, but you can get all you need from nuts and natural grains. All the other… anything else added in is just throwing you in the wrong direction in essence, because you’re just not going to avoid it at all. In a realistic sense. Don’t count. You’re going to go crazy. That’s not a realistic way to live and what we also… and I’m sure you do… is if people need more calories, especially if they’re trying to eliminate calories, you summon the more neutral fats. Some of the saturated fats such as the coconut are really a wonderful addition to add in or to cook in – coconut or ghee, hat’s the other sort of real life component, what’s good to cook with? Actually saturated fats are better to cook with because they’re not going to become damaged and clarified butter or ghee, which has been around for thousands of years is probably one of the more resilient types of fats because it doesn’t have as many of the proteins that become denatured and it’s very resilient to heat damage. So coconut, butter, ghee, olive oil is obviously wonderful to cook in. Not at a high temperature because it still has some polyunsaturated in it, but that’s really it. You don’t want to cook in anything else. Because otherwise you’re just damaging it.
Ben: Interesting. Well in the limited amount of time that we have available, because we’re actually running a little bit short on time for the interview, as far as people doing this test – is all the information about it on your website? If I were going to put that link in the Shownotes? Can people go there and find out more about the EFA test?
Dr. Richard Cohen: Yeah, we’ve added that on. We’ll be adding more specific information, but you can order that test either individually or as part of the performance profile. We’re going to be doing some shifting. Actually I can talk to you some more specifically. Sort of breaking down some of the tests and making them available in some different ways as well. But that is available in of itself and along with – I probably put that and amino acids and vitamin D as your three most critical as a baseline.
Ben: The essential fatty acids, the amino acids and the vitamin D?
Dr. Richard Cohen: Absolutely. The reason they weren’t in the profile initially is twofold. It runs a little more… it’s a bit more expensive test than D (inaudible) which actually sort of mentioned it’s now available by finger stick. So you can check your iron stores by finger stick, not by going to a lab. That’s the first time it’s available anywhere in this country commercially. So we’re excited to have that one. But with regards to amino acids and essential fats, the majority of people are either deficient in some amino acids or not at balance with essential fats. Generally, if you look at someone – I’m sure you see, Ben, in consulting with people if you look at the diet off the bat, you’re almost 98% sure they’re not going to be right on. So generally what we’ll sometimes do is have people make the shift first and then okay, I’ve made my changes. I’m adding more essential fats. I’m getting rid of the processed fats and I’m not eating as many of the Omega 6 oils. Now we’ll check it to see what fine tuning I need. Unless someone really needs the information, it’s certainly great to know and it’s a motivation for a lot of people. When you really sit down and look at someone’s diet, even a 3,4,5 day general survey – it’s pretty clear that unless they’re supplementing, unless they’re very cognizant of these things that we’ve talked about – it’s unlikely to be in balance to begin with.
Ben: Yeah, absolutely. So you’re saying get it dialed in and then look at getting a test to find out really if you’re going to need to make even more changes.
Dr. Richard Cohen: Right. So you could go two ways. If you think you’re dialing… that’s the other thing. A lot of people may be listening and have a lot of this information, then okay, let me see where I am and how do I fine-tune it? Versus if you’re way out of whack, it’s pretty clear you know. Make the changes first. And then re-test it. There’s no major benefit other than just giving you motivation. Seeing the number. A lot of people go whoa. 5% Omega 3 index. That’s not good. And so that would be… you’d be at extreme risk for inflammation. Your performance is going to suffer. We haven’t specifically spoken about that. But these prostaglandins stimulate hormone production, oxygenation, recovery, reduce inflammation. So you’re going to have these balances corrected, you’re just going to recover quicker. You’re going to have a better hormonal response.
Ben: Interesting. Alright, well what I’ll do is I’ll put a link to that in the Shownotes where people can go find out more about the test and as far as some of the things that you went over, I know there’s a lot of resources out there but are there any books that you’re aware of that really go into it? If people wanted to find out more about the issue with fat especially in our typical western diet, and the fact that we’ve a lot of times got the wrong perspective on it? Are there any books you’d point people to, or resources?
Dr. Richard Cohen: Gosh. There are so many. Artemis Simopolous I think has written a lot on essential fatty acids. Dan Eads writes on protein powder, a lot on essential fats and – if someone was concerned about some of the cardiovascular risk, he’s right on and he has a wonderful blog and just insightfulness of information.
Ben: Yeah, I’ve heard of that book, Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill. That’s one I know.
Dr. Richard Cohen: Right, Udo Erasmus is another. Donald Rubin. These are some of the classic educators with fats. Michael Horavin, Barry Sears. The whole… The Zone was based on this 30, 40… the ratio doesn’t exactly – is not perfect. But the whole principle behind The Zone was this dietary manipulation of essential fatty acid pathways. Again, that 30, 40, 30 is not exactly right on – the philosophy and the idea and what using diets to balance these prostaglandins was the whole concept behind The Zone.
Ben: Interesting. Well, if you’re listening here in the audience and you have other books or resources that you’d recommend, definitely leave a comment in the Shownotes to this podcast. Dr. Cohen, thank you for coming on today and for giving us more useful information as usual.
Dr. Richard Cohen: My pleasure. Fats are fun.
Ben: Fats are fun. Alright, maybe that will be the title of this podcast.
Dr. Richard Cohen: Fats are fun. Yeah.
Ben: Alright, I’ll talk to you later.
For personal nutrition, fitness or triathlon consulting, supplements, books or DVD’s from Ben Greenfield, please visit Pacific Elite Fitness at http://www.pacificfit.net