[00:01:42] Podcast Sponsors
[00:03:54] Guest Introduction
[00:08:39] A Typical Morning For Joel
[00:14:44] History In The Realm Of Biohacking
[00:29:19] Ben's Process For Writing A Book
[00:31:49] Podcast Sponsors
[00:34:45] Eat Apple Skins
[00:45:18] The Two Bacteria To Focus On For Resetting The Gut
[00:58:17] Why Joel Is Not A Fan Of Probiotics But Loves Prebiotics
[01:14:31] Orange Juice In The Morning
[01:20:03] Lose Fat By Eating Cheesecake
[01:29:40] Is Cold Thermogenesis An Effective Weight Loss Strategy
[01:38:04] Mitigating The Effects Of Cycling Fat Loss Strategies
[01:48:55] End of Podcast
Ben: On this episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast.
Joel: There's a lot of things that will give you short-term results that are very good and they come with massive long-term consequences. And after about 10 or so changes, we had something that was a pure weight gain meal and it's gone to something that's very, very fat loss-friendly just by making small incremental shifts in the way the meal will be metabolized. You have to embrace what's really true. And to get to what's really true, the answers are not in what you know, they're in what you don't know.
Ben: Health, performance, nutrition, longevity, ancestral living, biohacking, and much more. My name is Ben Greenfield. Welcome to the show.
Well, howdy, howdy, ho. You guys have been asking me for it. You've been asking me and asking me when I'm going to release the podcast with this guy who I keep alluding to, the guy who I recorded three and a half hours of absolute audio gold with, and his name is Joel Greene. I split the podcasts because it was so epic into Part 1 and Part 2. Part 1, you're listening to today. Part 2 is going to come out as the next episode after this episode drops. So, don't worry. You won't have to wait too long for it. And get out your thinking caps, get out your notepads, anything you want to write stuff down with because this one is going to blow your mind. You may be hitting rewind a few times during it, but man, you're absolutely going to love this show, I guarantee. I fell in love with Joel after reading his book and I think you will, too.
Now, this podcast is brought to you by my playground for all things health and wellness, the company I created to blend ancient wisdom with modern science to give you pure, efficacious shotgun formulations of supplements and functional foods, all research-backed, all real-world tested. We've got stuff for muscle gain, for fat loss, for joint support, for immune support. We have a wonderful clean organic coffee, we have our super popular, chocolatey, coconutty, salty, mouthwatering goodness of an energy bar, a clean energy bar. I'm super proud of everything we have over there and we'll vouch, anything you can find at this website is something I personally use every day. So, it's called Kion, K-I-O-N, Kion. Pronounce that correctly, folks, Kion. And you go to getkion.com, getK-I-O-N.com. And your 10% code over there is BEN10. So, BEN10 at getkion.com.
And this podcast is also brought to you by something we don't discuss much on this episode, but something that I also do every day and that is shining red light on my entire body, yes, including my balls because I stand naked in front of this giant red light panel. I was reading a research study today that shows it's also good for your eyes. It actually helps the mitochondria in your retina to function properly. So, there's yet another notch in the cap, so to speak. I don't even know what that means, but I'm just going to say it anyways. Is it notch in the belt, feather in the cap? I don't know. But anyways, these Joovv lights have so much going for them for sexual drive, for sleep, for wound healing, for muscle recovery, for skin rejuvenation, for joint pain, and inflammation. They are my go-to for red light therapy. And what the good folks at Joovv are going to do for any of their systems, the tiny little travel ones, the big full body ones, is if you go to joovv.com/ben, that's J-O-O-V-V.com/ben, they're going to give you a free copy of my brand new book “Boundless” when you get any of their Joovv lights. So, enjoy that free gift. Enjoy your light, joovv.com/ben.
Alright, folks. This episode has been a long time coming and one that I've actually been pretty excited about because I feel like my guest today kind of sort of flies under the radar in the usual podcasting circuit, but I've had the pleasure of having dinner with him at the farm–what was that place we ate at, Joel, the farm shop down in the–
Joel: The Farmhouse, I think.
Ben: Yeah, Farmhouse. Where was that at? It wasn't Santa Monica, it's–
Joel: No, it was up in kind of Beverly Hills area.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. It's on the tip of my tongue the actual area that it's at. I'm sure people who are familiar with L.A. know it well, and I'll remember later on. It was fantastic restaurant and I was honestly a little bit interested in going out to dinner with you, A, because our mutual friend Ron Penna, who was also out to dinner with us and who's a previous podcast guest of mine, you're just chockfull of really interesting information that not a lot of people are talking about. And so, I was interested in that, and I was also interested to see just like what you have for dinner because you have a very, very interesting approach.
So, folks, if you're not familiar with Joel Greene, he has been around for a while. Back in the '70s, he was already doing high-intensity interval training and Olympic lifting. He started studying medium-chain triglycerides back in the '80s before any of us are really into this. Now, pretty popular ketogenic diet. And then, in the '90s, he was already deep into studying the keto diet and releasing articles and content about that. Same thing with intermittent fasting, he was one of the first out in terms of actually creating content and research on intermittent fasting. And then, in the 2000, he published one of the first nutrition websites with a ton of cutting edge nutrition research. And I'm going to link to all of his stuff. The shownotes are going to be at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/joelgreene. That's spelled with an “E,” by the way, Joel Greene with an “E.” So, BenGreenfieldFitness.com/joelgreene because there's going to be a ton of links and extra goodies for you guys as we go along.
Anyways, so 2000s, early 2000, like 2001 I believe, he had the first nutrition website where he was publishing a bunch of cutting edge research on diet and nutrition and kind of outside the box thinking regarding that. And then, in 2009, he really got into gut bacteria and his take on gut bacteria is just fascinating. We're going to get to dive into that today because I think it's intriguing. In 2010, he began activating the AMPK pathway, which we all really only started talking about, if you pay attention, in like 2017 and Joel was on this early. In 2013, he had, by that time, the world's largest body of anecdotal outcomes for body composition targeting and fat loss, specifically via utilizing alterations in your gut bacteria.
And now, he is in incredible shape, on one workout a week, eating whatever, whenever, no drugs, no SARMs, no prohormones, no ergogenic aids. He is an old-school biohacker that I'm incredibly happy to be able to bring to you. So, he has just written a book that I think is fantastic. This book has so many pages folded over and so many little rabbit holes we're going to dive into today and it's called “The Immunity Code,” “The Immunity Code: The New Paradigm for Real Health and Radical Anti-Aging.” It's a beast of a book. It's fantastically written and just a real page-turner for me being a nerd in nutrition and fitness, and diet research, and the type of things that Joel talks about. And so, you guys get the pleasure of hearing Joel's brilliance on today's show. So, Joel, welcome to the podcast, man.
Joel: Oh, right. After that super kind intro, I think I can retire now. I'm good. I think that caps the whole thing off. I'm ready to go.
Ben: Well, by the way, your bio on your website says you do work out once a week and eat whatever, whenever. And I've seen you and been with you and you're in remarkable shape and well put together, you're not an unhealthy guy.
So, I'm just curious because that's going to perk a lot of people's ears up, before we even delve into your background and everything, for you, what's that actually look like in terms of–like this morning, if you're going to work out before we do this monster of a podcast and have breakfast if you do that, what's like a typical morning look like for you going into a show like this?
Joel: Well, let's assume that this just happened to fall on the day where I really make it a point to actually do what most of us would consider a workout. Preceding this day would have been a lot of what I would call fasting amplification, which would be taking all the signal pathways and all of the mechanistic actuators that make fasting work and just really supercharging those without actually having to fast, which we'll get into in a little bit. And then, coming into this morning, it would be kind of a checklist of things. In terms of the pre-workout stuff, mainly, it's just making sure that all of the signal pathways for fasting are just getting supercharged, which we'll talk about probably later in the show, and it's the idea that you can get results in terms of things like muscle gain and things like that by amplifying the opposing pathways.
So, if you want muscle gain, you can amplify starvation pathways because the body is set up to keep you alive, it's set up to defend against starvation. And anything that taps into survival is where all of the genetic bang for the buck is. So, just really trying to tap into those pathways with things like timing of the workout, timing of the time I get up. So, right around the genetic rush hour between 4:00 to 6:00 a.m. And in that period of time, taking things like, nothing too esoteric, but things like berberine, apigenin, things along that line. And then, coming into a workout, mainly, the main two things is to make sure that I get in some deadlifts and some sprints. And with that, it's really just replicating starvation at the optimal time of day so that all the signal pathways of longevity and anti-aging and the AMPK pathway are firing full strength, and really just mimicking what happened for tens of thousands of years and just trying to take modern technology and tweak all that so that the signal strength is much, much, much stronger, and so that I'm getting a bang for the buck return on the time that I invest, and then anything else in the workout.
So, me typically, I'll definitely get in one bodybuilding like workout a week, and that's my joy. In fact, I just went on a mission this past Saturday. I hadn't worked out in a gym like in two and a half months. I was dying. I literally got in my car and started going down streets, looking for gyms that had the windows all blacked out in the front and going, “Uh-huh,” pulling around the back and looking for an open door. And I found one, and then I finagle my way in, paid the guy to let me use the gym privately for the next foreseeable future, and got back into a gym.
Ben: That's amazing.
Joel: I just completely stopped. So, yeah.
Ben: So, for you, if you're going to work out once a week with this so-called bodybuilding style workout, what would that workout look like for you?
Joel: Well, again, the two main things that have to be in it are–well, the bodybuilding thing that has to be in is deadlifts, and then the other thing is sprints. And I talked about this thing in my book called a young body. I don't know if I did a good job, but I tried to make the point of making a differentiator between a young body and what we think of as a fitness body. In reality, they're actually very, very different. And there's a test. The test for the young body is with no warmup, just go into a complete sprint and don't get injured. And that is something that all teenagers can do, all kids can do it. And somewhere between 20 to 40, you can't do it without getting severely injured.
And so, keeping the body sort of in an athletic range of youthfulness via sprinting is at the top of the list because there's only one and only one exercise in all of the inventory of exercises that survival depends on, and that's the ability to go from zero to flat out immediately, and all mammals share that characteristic. So, survival points for sprinting, reward points for the body, for keeping the body young are higher for that exercise, I would contend than any other exercise. And you're just replicating chasing after game. And then, the next step is just picking up game and carrying it back to camp, which involves deadlifts. So, you got to do those two things. And there's a whole bunch of good research on signal pathway activation, and then growth hormone, and all that stuff from deadlifts and sprints together. So, those two have to be in the picture and then everything else is just for looks.
Ben: That's interesting. That reminds me, and I actually haven't interviewed this guy in the podcast, but he runs this company called Ancestral Supplements, Brian Johnson. And he and his wife, this is a little match for me, and my wife says like, “You're never going to get me to do that,” but they do, from what I understand having read an article that he wrote about his protocol, is once a month, they do a five-day water fast and they actually proceed that fast with a super hardcore workout they call the Barbarian, and then maintain that fasted state after having completely exhausted glycogen stores and then kind of sandwich the fast and do another hard work out on the other end of it to simulate what our ancestors might have experienced going through times of stress to trigger this autophagy followed by anabolism. And it sounds like your approach is a little bit similar. And you get in the book into this concept of young muscle versus old muscle, and we're definitely going to talk about that when we get to the section of this show where I want to talk about aging. We'll return to that. So, any of you who are scratching your head a little bit about this whole concept of young muscle versus old muscle that Joel briefly alluded to, we'll get back to that, don't worry.
But before we do, Joel, I'm curious about your background. When did you actually begin this process of experimenting on yourself as a sort of like early biohacker? And what was your original motivation? What's your history in this whole field?
Joel: So, about a billion years ago when I was a kid, a lot of people don't remember this, but there were only three channels, like that was it. And so, I would get up in the morning waiting for Captain Kangaroo in “The Banana Splits,” and before that was Jack LaLanne. And so, I had on my little Tigger onesie and he had a onesie. And next thing you know, I'm just doing everything he's doing, and I was just kind of hooked right from the get-go. And I would just get up every morning at 5:36 a.m. and do my thing with Jack, and the organ music, and the dog, and all that, and it was cool.
So, it just became part of what I did and I started making up routines for my family like around 7:00, like exercise routines and trying to be the personal trainer at the house, and nobody really paid attention to me. So, that led into–I just happened to be sort of at the consumer inception point of what was first, the running craze in the '70s, where if you go back far enough, America was just basically a bunch of fat, lazy like Ozzie and Harriet watching kind of like potato chip grabbing people. We have no idea what exercise was. And first came really like the Muscle Beach movies in the '60s and people thought bodybuilders were disgusting and they thought they were gross-looking.
So, along comes Frank Shorter, who takes a silver in the '72 marathon in the Olympics. And next thing you know, everybody in America is running. So, I just got into running right around third, fourth grade because I saw this segment on a show of kids running and I wanted to run, and then I wanted to be fast. So, in fifth grade, I just started going to the blacktop every day and just running interval sprints. I didn't know what they were, I just wanted to get faster, so I'd run these 50-yard intervals. I just happened to be in San Jose, and a lot of people don't know this, but San Jose, California, it's got an interesting history of like Italians and building contractors and kind of like rough and tough people that are really into fighting in sports.
I just happened to be right around the mecca of track and field. So, there were all these Olympic level of track and field athletes like Bruce Jenner, or Caitlyn Jenner, and Mac Wilkins, and Ben Plucknett, and Millard Hampton, and all these wonderful athletes. A lot of them trained at my high school. So, I was just around that. I really got into like Olympic lifting and interval training in track and field. The thing that really stuck out of my mind though was in the late '80s, I was at UCI and there was a big push of fitness into the mainstream throughout the late '80s. I was just like you or just like a lot of listeners, I was just that overly curious information starved consumer who would do anything that “like authority would tell me to do.” Actually, Ron Penna and I have had a laugh about this. There was this article that came out about getting an inch on your arms in one day and all you had to do was work out 12 hours straight. So, I was like 22 years old and I went and did it and just got nothing but sore arms.
Ben: Wait, did you say 12 hours?
Joel: Yeah. The workout was 12 hours straight of curls. So, I just showed up at the gym with a bunch of bananas and started curling, and my arms were like wrecked for–in fact, I don't think they ever–
Ben: I assume the theory here is massive eccentric-based muscle tissue damage followed by long recovery to spark that type of growth.
Joel: I think the theory was sell magazines. I think that was the theory, but one really interesting thing stood out from that whole era to me and I could never shake it and it was this company called Champion Nutrition came out with a product called Metabolol II. And on the label, it had fatless fat, MCTs. And what a lot of people don't realize is that in this era, fat is good, but in that era, fat was vilified and everything you could think of had zero fat on the label, like no fat, no fat, no fat. And that made it good.
And so, this was this company saying that these fats were good, and not only that, that you can't store them as fat. And I was floored by that idea. I couldn't shake it and I began doing everything I could to learn about how this worked. And it was very difficult to get information in those days. It was really just stuck in libraries and places like that. But I started studying as much as I could find about these fatless fats, MCTs. And then, really right about that time, a couple of big things happened. Number one, the keto diet took hold in–Vince McMahon started this bodybuilding federation and he put all these bodybuilders on a keto diet. And it was kind of a curiosity at the time in the gym, like everybody doubted, everybody was like, “You're just all going to get fat.”
And he took everybody off steroids and everybody except Gary Strydom showed up not in their best shape. But I became fascinated with this whole fat thing because again, it was the era of fat is bad and fat makes you fat. So, I was looking at keto diets and kind of tinkering. And then, MET-Rx came out. And I read this article by Jeff Everson that said he was eating one meal a day and just doing MET-Rx and it was revolutionary because it had glutamine in it and lactoferrin and all these cool things nobody knew about. I was like probably number 98 out of 100 in line to buy the two cans of the stuff and I got completely peeled. I mean, like sub 5% body fat for a number of years.
And this is really the thing that started everything for me. And again keep in mind, I'm just a dumb consumer here. I'm just literally just going, “Okay, I'll do it, I'll try it,” and taking everything and trying everything, and I'm getting results, that's the scary part. And that really performed something in my brain that today–I write about it in the book that there's a lot of things that will give you short-term results that are very good and they come with massive long-term consequences, and that happened to me. So, I was peeled for several years. And then, I didn't know about leptin, [00:21:25] _____ and all that gut hormones hadn't been discovered. But what happened to me was after about four years, I was just eating uncontrollably and I didn't know what I had done. And I had some idea it had to do with just–essentially, I was doing time-restricted feeding. I was eating one meal a day in the evening and doing a couple of MET-Rx things during the day, and that was what I did for years.
And what happened was, what I know now, is that long term, I had so pulled back the rubber band on the gut hormones and on leptin that I had activated these survival mechanisms that long-term, we're going to ensure that I was going to survive. And so, it took me years to fix this problem, like years of compulsive overeating. And when you're in the middle of it, it's very difficult to understand because all you're seeing is the benefits, all you're seeing is the fact that you're ripped and you're peeled, and everybody is asking you what you're doing and wants to know how you've got there. And what they're not seeing is the five years later sort of cost, the bill coming due on the credit card of all of the–I've talked about this with Ron, I call it time mapping, and it's really just taking anything and mapping it out over time and looking at the curve. It's interesting. The curve for just about everything is very similar. You'll see an upward spike in the beginning phase of anything, which is the benefit phase. And then, the longer you go, it begins to look like a sine wave, which is sort of the credit card bill due phase, the consequence phase.
And so, coming into the early 2000s, right about 2000, 2001, PYY was discovered and I was–my interest was 100% purely just understanding what I've done. And so, I was just experimenting with everything I could find. I was experimenting with like fresh, whole clean organic, I'll just do that, and then it was just macros, just count my macros and make sure my–and then Zone diet macro ratios. I was just trying everything I could and I kept getting the same result. I would get super ripped. And then, later on, I would get sort of this out of control kind of like bounce back from it. And all of those things for me really culminated in 2006 where I wound up running this tech company. We had a nice run for a few years and revenue shot through the roof, kind of your typical tech company boom thing. But I was working. I came to that job like just ripped as very low body fat, great shape, and then I was working these 15-hour days, tons of stress, tons of problems. And by the end of that, I was 260 pounds and fat. And I just–
Ben: I've heard that story before.
Joel: Yeah. And that was, for me, the end of the road for the classical fitness paradigm. So, I'd given that paradigm for 30 years and I've been just a consumer, just first in line, just always trying to educate myself, just pretty much like everybody listening to this program, just wanting to educate myself. And I reached the end of that road when everything that I knew to do just–it required time I didn't have, and that's what happened, and I got fat. I didn't have an answer and it really pissed me off, really bugged me because this is my passion in life and I couldn't make it work under real-life circumstances, and that really bugged me.
So, coming out of that was when all the whole gut biome thing started. And I did this article on Dr. Jeffrey Gordon's research in 2006, which was the first big gut biome article. And basically, I just, from that, piece together what's in the book that I called the Daisy Cutter. And the results were mindboggling, for me, like I went–
Ben: The Daisy Cutter. We'll get to that, by the way, folks. For those of you listening in, don't worry.
Joel: Yeah. We'll get to the Daisy Cutter. But for me, the results were incredible. I went from 229 to 212. And at the end of that, I went to FitnessWave down in Irvine. I immersed myself in water, got my body fat measured, I was–
Ben: And that transformation, by the way, was all inspired by the link that you found between the fact that the obese people in some of these research studies you were looking into had microflora or bacteria that was allowing them to extract more calories from food, and you figured out how to actually affect your gut flora so that your body essentially extracted fewer calories from food.
Joel: Yeah. That was basically it. And it was very surprising in a lot of respects, like number one, I did not have the energy to work out. So, I didn't work out once in seven days and my poop turned green and smells like menthol. And it was very persistent, like it was kind of a nice thing, like it wasn't a room-clearing thing, it was more like I went to the bathroom and everybody's like, “Oh, cool. Yeah, big deal.” But that was a game-changer for me to drop that much fat that fast, get it measured, get the empirical data behind it and do it with no exercise, and I was like, “Okay. Wow, this is cool.” That really began what I would call the “biohacking phase.” Like really seriously looking into–and my motivation was one thing. I really wanted to find out in under real world's ecosystems, real-world circumstances, what would survive and persist and what would work. And it led me down this road that was really completely different from the fitness ecosystem, just a completely different road in terms of looking at if I had no time, I don't mean five minutes, I mean no time, what would I do? How would I do this?
I like in it to a kung fu movie where at the end of the kung fu movie, it isn't just that they have a fight, it's that they're up on stilts and there's knives going back and forth horizontally, and there's flames coming up from the bottom, and you got to fight with all that going on. And replicating real-life circumstances, it became this thing I was fascinated by, the real-life ecosystem. It mainly just came out of my own experience where I couldn't make my stuff work, and that really, really changed me, and that became my thing for years.
Ben: Wow. And I know that since then, you have been steeped in this stuff and getting tons of results from people. I mean, like there was the article–I think I saw the article you published in “Muscle and Fitness” in 2015 where you targeted the bacteria L. reuteri, which I still make yogurt with to this day for stimulating testosterone. And again, targeting gut bacteria for a lot of these changes is one thing that it seems that you really specialize in, and that's actually where I would like to dive in today. When we're really going to get boots in the streets and start giving people practical examples and we get to educate people, one of the very first tips, one of the very first things that you get into in the book–because the way that you write a book, the book is almost like an adventure, like every chapter builds on the next in terms of, “Okay, this week, introduce this. And then, this next week, all you introduce is this.” And you just go on and on through the book. So, by the time you got into the end of the book, you have all these new habits, but it starts very simple. Very early in the book, all you're telling people to do specifically related to the bacteria Akkermansia and to restore the gut lining is to eat apple skins. So, why apple skins?
Joel: By the way, if I may, before I dive into this, allow me to–you've been very kind about my book, allow me to return the favor. You were kind enough to send me your book. And having just finished the book, I don't know how you did that. I mean, like I got to 370 and I was just done, I couldn't do anymore page, I was like over it. I'm reading this monster you're saying it just–
Ben: Well, I'll tell you, and it's the same way that I'm writing a book right now. I write my books in chunks. So, what I do is I'll think of an idea for a book and then I give myself typically two to three years to write that book. This is what I did with “Beyond Training.” This is what I'm going to do with my current book, which is more about spirituality. And when I sit down to write, I treat each chapter as like a miniature article, meaning, I do all the research, all the skeleton, the outlining, everything of that one chapter, that one article in the book. So, for me, starting off and really getting my writing chops as almost like a blogger, that's a really good way for me to wrap my head around a book is I write it as almost like a series of blog posts, and I edit as I go.
It's my same approach to working out. Unlike you, I work out every day in small, frequent doses rather than doing just like one big soul-crushing workout a week. And that's the same way I write, like I write tiny little doses every day, sometimes 300 to 500 words. Typically, if I'm in a book writing phase for a giant book, my goal is to get a chapter done every two to four weeks or so. And then, of course, there's a ton of backend editing that happens. But for me, it's tiny bits of consistency day after day after day because otherwise–I mean, it's like anything in life. If you think about the end goal or the end project, whatever, 600-page book, it's daunting. But if you take it tiny bit by tiny bit, chapter by chapter, and even break those chapters down into tinier sections, I mean, that's how I've always written.
Joel: Man, that's amazing that you are already onto your next one. That blows my mind. I finished this one and I was like, “Ah, never again.”
Ben: Yeah. Well, it's actually going to be my second book since writing “Boundless,” and then we'll get back to apple skins because we're rabbit holing a little bit. But I wrote, during this quarantine in the past 70 days, I wrote–it's about a 300-page cookbook, massive recipe database on fermentation, soaking, sprouting, all my crazy impostor syndrome-esque ideas that have popped into my head regarding cooking and food prep. And just literally, it's off at the publisher now. And then, the one that I'm working on now is all parenting, spirituality, the spiritual disciplines, meditation, gratitude, fasting. And so, that book will be more like a two-year project, but yeah, I mean, that's–so I'd love to see those, right.
Alright, I hope you guys are enjoying this rollicking episode, but I had to interrupt it to tell you about my top place to shop online for healthy groceries. So, there is this company called Thrive Market. They have organic and non-GMO food, they got clean, beauty, safe supplements, they got non-toxic home supplies, they've got ethical meat, sustainable seafood, clean wine, they let you filter everything by choices such as keto, paleo, gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO, Fair Trade Certified, BPA-free, castrated–no, I don't think they have that as a filter option. But anyways, you get the idea, pretty much any category you fall into, you can filter everything. Even better yet, it's all 25% to 50% off traditional retail prices, and half the stuff that's there you can't find at Amazon, you can't find at your local grocery store, and they curate this stuff amazingly, meaning, it's all guilt-free.
You're not going to get a bunch of crap and vegetable oil like you might walking out of Trader Joe's or Whole Foods. And they're a membership-based website, but the membership is super-duper affordable. For a 12-month membership, it comes down to a little under five bucks a month. So, it's risk-free. You can take the first 30 days to determine if it's right for you. Just cancel within 30 days, you get a full refund. They have a one-month, they have a three-month, they have a twelve-month membership option, which is why your prices on healthy groceries drops so low. And to get that deal, it's very simple, you go to thrivemarket.com/ben. These folks are on a mission to make healthy living easy and affordable for everyone, and I think they've cracked the code on doing just that. So, thrivemarket.com/ben.
And while you're out shopping, you should also look into something very similar to what Joel and I talk about on today's show, that red fennel powder. Well, it turns out that Organifi Red satisfies that criteria, but it's also got 11 other antioxidant-rich superfoods in it. They've got a bunch of herbs, medicinal mushrooms, and berries. They have cordyceps to help modulate immunity. They have Siberian ginseng, which can help to decrease anxiety and increase sleep and decrease insomnia. They've got reishi, which has some beta-glucans in it that have been shown in research to be as powerful as antibiotics in some studies. So, this Red juice is just like red juice on steroids, plus, plus, it's low sugar. There's like a gram of sugar in the entire thing, which is nothing compared to what you'll find in most fruit juices on the market. And anyways, you got to try this stuff. You mix it with some cold water, put it in a smoothie, you name, it just works. You can use it the same way that Joel and I are talking about during this episode too, as a way to amplify your gut bacteria. So, 20% off. You go to organifi.com/ben. That's Organifi with an “I” dot com/ben. And that will get you exactly what you need from Organifi. So, check out their red juice and let's get back to the show.
So, let's get back to apple skins.
Joel: Okay. I was going to say, yeah. Yeah. So, this gets to a much bigger question than–one of the things I talked a lot about in the book is that we're in this age and this paradigm that we don't know that we're in, which is–I like in it to baby talk, I like in it to knowing a word, but not really putting sentences together. And I make this case in the book, however, well I might make it, that it's just the way of seeing things, and there's a much bigger, much better way of seeing things, which is really asking the question, what, when and how, and looking at the structure function of the thing that we're trying to do.
So, if we started with the gut and we asked the question, how can we build the perfect gut? How can we build the perfect gut? We would come to a structure-function question. We would come back to, well, how did the gut get built? That's what we'd come back to. And if we ask that question and we come back to “How did the gut get built?” two things would pop out. Number one would be the need for a substrate, and number would be immunity. So, the two requirements from scratch are immunity and substrate. And if we ask that question, then right away, a couple of things would just pop right to the surface, a couple of toolsets. One of them would be apple skins, and it's actually pretty interesting for a number of reasons.
So, kind of high level, apple skins have a fiber called pectin. And pectin just by itself is sort of interesting and it does some cool things. It's been shown to lower cholesterol when you're on a high-fat diet. It's great high-fat diets. If you're on a high-fat diet, pectin lowers cholesterol, it can increase certain enzymes in the lower part of the small intestine, which help close the gut junctions up, and it can redirect inflammatory factors that drive colitis and drive inflammatory markers like interleukin 6, things like that. So, that's all good. But where pectin and apple skins get really interesting is there is a combination of things going on. One is there's a very, very unique kind of fiber–or excuse me, kind of phenol that is present in apple pectin, and that type of pectin holds what's called a polymerized procyanidin.
And a polymerized procyanidin, it's a flavanol or phenol, but what makes it very interesting, very unique is when you combine it with the pectin that's in apple skins, it doesn't absorb. So, when you look at it, it's gigantic. It's over 30,000 Daltons in size. And most phenols are about 100 Daltons, so they readily absorb. But polymerized, highly polymerized procyanidins, what happens is, when they're combined with apple pectin, is when they get to the cecum in the gut, they don't absorb. And so, what happens is they cause the pectin to ferment. And by fermenting with the polymerized procyanidins, they produce eight times more Akkermansia than any other known food.
Joel: So, they're very, very, very useful in that sense. They also do some other things and they seem to target LPS directly, the lipopolysaccharide directly. And at the same time, they seem to work on the gut junction proteins, specifically quad in one.
Ben: You mean they act on lipopolysaccharides, which would normally be almost like a form of bacterial toxicity to downregulate formation of lipopolysaccharides?
Joel: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Joel: They seem to work on a couple of levels. So, one is they close up the gut junctions just by themselves, and then the other thing is they seem to also prevent lipopolysaccharide from doing its thing. So, that on its own makes this great case for like this giant what? Like, oh well, apple skins, just take apple skins. But it gets quite a bit more complex than that when you come back to the basic question of, “Well, how do we build the perfect gut? How do we do that?” So, again, we would have to come back to substrate. So, apple skins are a great substrate for the gut. They're great to feed the raw materials. And then, if we look at one other thing, which is human milk oligosaccharides, you can make a very good case that this is the perfect pairing for a number of reasons.
Joel: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Joel: Yeah. So, the reason those are included–so in the book, I started out with one basic step, which is, hey, just start doing some apple skins, okay? Super easy. And all that came out of my experiences of needing to have things that take no time that are massively impactful. So, the next thing would be if we ask about immunity in the gut and we ask how does immunity–you've heard that immunity begins in the gut. The real question is how did immunity begin in the gut? When you were a baby, how did it begin? Because that's where you find the answers. And so, if we go back to that question, what we find is that–and in mother's milk, there's these specialized carbohydrates called human milk oligosaccharides. One-third of mother's milk is just specifically these types of carbohydrates.
Ben: Okay. So, in the milk itself, not necessarily the colostrum specifically?
Joel: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Ben: Okay. And what you can do is actually get human milk oligosaccharides–and I actually know a lot of functional medicine doctor using this with their patients now, like my friends, Dr. Matthew Cook, Dr. Michael Ruscio is another, and you can isolate these HMOs in powdered form from–I'm assuming in most cases, they're getting them from like a cow's milk source, not a human milk source, but you're combining these with the Akkermansia-inducing benefits of the apple skins?
Joel: Yeah. So, when you just look at the HMOs by themselves, they're very interesting. First of all, there's over 200 of them. It's not like there's just one, there's a bunch, but there's really just two that we've been able to isolate so far, and the main one is 2′-Fucosyllactose. But in the coming years, there's going to be dozens of these things coming out. But right now, we just have really the one that we can play with. But just the one is pretty compelling when you look at what it does. There's a couple of things.
So, these carbohydrates, they are basically glycans. Okay. Glycans are long-chain sugars that are bound to proteins, and glycans are endemic to immunity. Like wherever you look for immunity, you're going to find glycans at work because they facilitate binding in one way or another. And so, what you're going to find with HMOs is that they are endemic to formation of the immune system in the infant gut because they act as decoys. What they do is they are able to bind both pathogens, like bacteria like E. coli or H. pylori, and viruses. So, like human norovirus, they combine–and the way they do that is for these pathogens to gain a toehold in the gut, there are very specific types of antigens in the blood. They're called histo-blood group antigens, HPGAs.
And structurally speaking, the HMOs are very similar to the HPGAs. So, these pathogens in the infant gut, they bind to–instead of binding to the antigens, they bind to HMOs. And so, HMOs have a very, very strong presence informing immunity in the gut, and they also bind two different classes of lectins. In fact, there's a class called selectins that are basically involved in helping human immune cells bind to the enterocyte surface, the choanocyte surface. And the HMOs actually facilitate just the right amount of selectin binding. You can't have too much; you can't have too little. If you have too much, you'll get a thing called basically rolling where these immune cells just kind of roll down the immune track and they don't bind. And this gets into a whole another thing, but far from lectins being bad, they're actually quite functional in a lot of ways, it just depends on the bacteria.
Joel: Oh, for sure, yeah. Absolutely, yeah. Yeah. Lectins are very selective with different types of bacteria and different types of carbohydrates. So, in the presence of certain types of bacteria like bifidobacteria, there are very specific lectins that work to facilitate their entry into the gut, and it's a very positive thing. Again, that just gets back to the baby talk of good or bad, like lectins are bad. No, they're neither good nor bad, they can be both. But HMOs, getting back to that just for a sec, they also drive Akkermansia production as well. So, if we were to come back to–okay, how do we build the perfect gut? We would need to have immunity; we need to have substrate. And if we were to inventory a list of, well, what can we bring to the table that is going to have the biggest bang for the buck with the least effort? At the top of the list, I would argue HMOs and apple peels are kind of right there, number one and number two because they hit both immunity, substrate, and they both have unique functional properties that drive the production of the most important bacteria we need in the gut.
Ben: Okay. So, the HMOs are helping to steer the gut towards immunity and steering the macrophages towards restoration of the gut lining, especially when combined with eating apple skins. And then, kind of like the third component, to my understanding, like I guess the third part of this–I'm blanking on the weapon, the trident, the third part of this trident would be red phenols, and that's kind of like the last thing that folks add in when they're doing the apple skins. And the HMO powder is red phenols. Why do you throw those into the mix?
Joel: Well, if you think about it, the red phenols are already present in the apple peels, like you've got red phenols in the apple peels. But the phenols themselves come in varying sizes. And so, the apple peels have the gigantic non-absorbing polymerized procyanidins. But as you look at other classes of phenols and look at their size in terms of Daltons and function and what they feed, you get a great inventory of substrate that ultimately feeds both bifidobacteria and Akkermansia. And I make this case in the book, those are the two bacteria that you really need to focus on, is bifidobacteria and Akkermansia.
Ben: Yeah. I mean, you even argue that throwing all probiotics aside, and we'll get into probiotics and why you may not be such a huge fan of those momentarily, but pretty much if you were going to reboot your gut specifically to steer yourself towards fat loss, pretty much the two that you want to focus on are Akkermansia and bifidobacteria?
Joel: Yeah, 100%. And there's some fantastic reasons why that's so. Now, again, with everything in the book, I devoted in entire Chapter 2 the notion of balance that–really, the key truth of physiology, in general, is homeostasis and balance, things need to be balanced so that really, anything can be bad, anything can be good, okay, and it's really more about understanding the order of operations so that you get the right amount of the right thing at the right time in the right way.
So, coming back to bifidobacteria and Akkermansia, generally speaking, what we find is that they're common to people who are lean, and there's very good reasons why that's true. Number one, Akkermansia contracts the surface area of the gut. So, it seems to be common to all lean people, and there's good reasons for that. Akkermansia is the bacteria that really maintains–most responsible for maintaining the mucin layer of the gut surface. And so, it acts as a calorie controller or calorie dial. And it also lends itself out to a really fascinating discussion, which is probably tiring, but interesting nonetheless of, do all calories matter? And when you pull in Akkermansia and you realize that there's always that person you know who just eats whatever and they stay lean, well, the reasons they stay lean is because they're lean in the first place because they have Akkermansia because they're not absorbing calories in the same way that other people are.
I think what would be a really interesting experiment would be to kill off all the Akkermansia in a really lean person that can eat anything and watch him eat anything and watch him get fat. So, to the notion that all calories matter, we got to factor in the gut surface area and the dials that control that. And then, bifidobacteria is hand in hand with that. So, bifidobacteria activates a number of human genes that are involved in keeping you lean. One of the most important, and I wrote about this about 10 years ago, is fasting-induced adipose factor. And fasting-induced adipose factor is potentiated by bifidobacteria. And essentially, what it does is it impairs, or rather stimulates lipoprotein lipase.
So, what you'll find is that there is a protein mediator that's common to lean people that helps them stay lean by stimulating lipolysis and it is potentiated by bifidobacteria. And so, these two bacteria together seem to be common to lean people, and not just that, seem to be common to the longest-lived, healthiest people in the world. And again, structure function-wise, it makes sense. You're not going to live long or be lean without the gut mucus layer intact. And then, in terms of living long, we'll get into this later, energy production in the cell directly correlates to long life. So, cells have energy gauge within them. And when energy production within the cell falls below a certain level, it's a trigger to kill the cell. And when that happens across the entire body, you die.
So, keeping the body's ability at a cellular level to produce energy intact is directly correlated to living a long time. Energy production in life go together. And bifidobacteria is intimately associated with energy production on a number of levels. It drives B vitamin synthesis, all kinds of things, and it's easy to prove just in sort of anecdotal sense. If you look at little kids, they're loaded with bifidobacteria, they have crazy energy. And as you become an adult, your bifidobacteria dies off and your energy dies off with it. And the funny thing with that is that if you do some of the–like, for example, I put people on the Daisy Cutter protocol where they just drive bifidobacteria through the roof, and their energy goes through the roof.
Joel: That's correlated to being lean also. There's a lot of things that work there, but what we probably can say and be on safe ground to say is that higher populations of bifidobacteria seem to correlate to long-life, seem to correlate to energy production, and seem to correlate to being lean.
Ben: Now, bifidobacteria will also stimulate the production of butyrate to my understanding, which kind of begs the question, why wouldn't you also throw something like butyrate or butyric acid into the mix? Which I know a lot of people are doing for their gut, especially people who are in like a low-carb or a ketogenic diet.
Joel: Well, it doesn't so much do it directly. It does it indirectly through cross-feeding reactions. So, bifidobacteria makes metabolites, poops out metabolites, and then other bacteria pick those metabolites up and feed on those. So, it's kind of like a top predator in a sense, or a reverse top predator. It makes the things that the other fish need to feed on, and then those fish poop out butyrate. So, it indirectly drives that. And by virtue of indirectly driving butyrate production, it indirectly drives Akkermansia production. So, the two kind of work in a cycle. But with respect to the question of, “Well, why wouldn't you just supplement directly with butyrate?” there's some very interesting reasons to put the brakes on before you do that. One reason has to do with the type of transporter for butyrate needed in the oral cavity versus being made endogenously in the gut.
Joel: So, when you're taking butyrate through the oral cavity, there are very specific transporters utilized that are activated by the presence of butyrate in the mouth. There's some research that suggests that combination of things may be oncogenic. So, it may be cancer-promoting to do that. The next reason has to do with dosing, and it just has to do with, how do you know that you're getting the accurate dose? So, there's very good research that suggests that if you get too much butyrate, that cancer cells can develop a resistance to it, particularly in the colon. So, that's a little scary.
Ben: So, your argument then would be to equip the bacteria to produce their own butyrate–the butyrate being beneficial because that will steer the macrophages in the gut lining towards more anti-inflammatory profile. But rather than supplementing with butyrate, what you're proposing then is to generate the production of Akkermansia through the consumption of something like these apple skins to feed the bifidobacteria, or to I guess allow for the propagation of more bifidobacteria along with the gut healing with the use of these human milk oligosaccharide powders. And then, finally, the red phenol powder would be the actual–the prebiotic food source for the bifidobacteria. So, those three in combination, you're essentially amplifying bifidobacteria and Akkermansia, which is going to produce butyrate. And so, you've got those three things, bifidobacteria, Akkermansia, and butyrate all working their magic in the gut, so to speak?
Joel: Yeah, yeah. That's a really good way to say it, yeah.
Joel: And the key is food. So, the key is just using food because food does things that are very difficult to do using non-food sources. Food does the right thing in the right place in the gut. Food has structural properties not present in supplements. It's bulky. It coats the inside of the digestive tract in a radius of 360 degrees versus supplements can't do that. And food gives the right dosing in the right compartment. And so, those are critical things that are very difficult to get around. And the more that we learn about–going back to time mapping, there's that big benefit at the front of something, and then long-term, the negative, the longer that we are present with protocols that are, “Well, just take these probiotics or just take this.” The more we are seeing that, that time mapping play out. The more we're seeing, “Oh, gosh, it was amazing, and [00:53:45] _____ going, but now I'm having all these problems.” And one way to avoid that is with food.
Ben: And obviously, red phenol powder in someone who might be watching their consumption of total carbohydrates or fructose intake, yeah, you can get that in fruits like raspberries, and grapefruit, and apples, et cetera, but I know that's readily available, like in organic powdered mix. There are tons of companies where you can get organic red phenol powder. If you were going to take a supplementation approach rather than just like eating tons and tons of berries along with your apple skin, are you opposed to that? Would you classify organic red phenol powder as kind of falling into the category of something like food?
Joel: It's probably most a prebiotic at best. And in fact, we could make an exacting case that apple peels and HMOs and red phenol powder are prebiotics. But that again gets back to, “Are prebiotics good? Are they bad?” And that's just sort of like a baby talk question. What we've been doing here this whole time is really mapping out an order of operations. So, it's very much like the engine on a car, like if you want to restore the engine to perfect function, well, you don't go, “Are pistons good?” Well, I don't know. “Are fuel injectors good?” Yeah, fuel injectors are good. Are they? No. It's like, okay, Step 1, you got to replace the fuel injectors.
Step 2, you got to clear all the carbon scoring from–there's an order of operations. And in that order of operations, these things are fantastic. Outside that order of operations, well, then you get varying results. And so, that's I guess the way to understand, like yes, these are prebiotics and in conjunction with, they can be very powerful, but A, there's a specificity to what they are, and when you use them, and how you use them.
Ben: Okay. Got it. And then, the two other follow-up questions related to that concept of food versus supplements. One probably relatively small question, but I'm curious about this, for human milk oligosaccharides, I would imagine you're not actually drinking human breastmilk. Do you have a source you like for human milk oligosaccharides?
Joel: Yeah. Great question. I get asked this one a lot. By the way, in my book, I put in an early draft, which I think is still in the book, I put–you can go to our website and get it. And then, as the book got published, I decided that in the first year, I really wanted to stay away from supplements. I just really wanted the book to stand on its own.
Ben: Right. So, sometimes they can come across as like fox guarding the henhouse type of stuff. I run into that, like in my book when I talked about proteolytic enzymes, I'm super self-conscious. I own a company that sells proteolytic enzymes, and so it's difficult to maintain some amount of ethics in your journalism when you also have the supplements that are available to people. And so, I respect that. But regarding human milk oligosaccharides, you guys actually have those at your nutrition company?
Joel: Not right now, no.
Joel: Probably a year from now. I just want the book to get out and do its thing without anybody pointing fingers and going–that kind of thing. So, the simplest and easiest source is just to use baby formula, and baby formula with HMO on the label. It has some really great pros, it has some cons. The pros are that you can be sure that the legit thing is in there because these companies, these gigantic companies–
Ben: Like Gerber baby food sells HMO.
Joel: Right. Yeah. They have enormous buying power. So, they are able to get HMOs at price points bulk that are very difficult for supplement companies to touch. So, that's a pro. And I've given them to people. In fact, Mark Bell was a shining example of the power of these things. He went from lactose issues to none in 30 days and he's never had them since just by using these things. So, they work. The drawback is–and if I live long enough to get to this, I will, which is nutrition for both babies and old people. It's all the other junk that they stick in there, just horrible.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. I found one company called PureHMO that does a pretty decent pure human milk oligosaccharide. That was one that I was able to find. There's a few other brands on Amazon. And there's one that Matt Cook sent to me. I think that was only available through physicians. I don't have it on me or the brand, but you're right, it's not difficult to hunt down HMOs even if you're just like eating some of these baby food formulas that have it added in. Obviously, check the label if you're going with something like Gerber to make sure that you're getting good, pure HMOs without a bunch of added fillers ingredients. But yeah, they can be found.
And related to this idea of food also, probiotics. So, you're not really a fan of taking probiotics in say like an encapsulated form versus the use of real food such as fermented foods, or these prebiotic fibers. Why is that?
Joel: Well, let me give you the experiential anecdotal, and then I'll dive a little bit in the research. So, the experiential anecdotal is in the early going here. Maybe four, five years ago, six years ago. I was recommending probiotics. And then, really, what I started seeing a lot of was after a couple of years, just almost to a person, everybody was getting issues with brain fog and SIBO and all these kind of issues really related to that. And when they went off the probiotics, all that stopped. And the issue with probiotics, generally speaking, not always but generally, is that it's very difficult to control exactly where they're going to open up in the gut. And so, you get good bacteria in a bad place, in the wrong place. And so, really lately, there's been newer research coming out that seems to confirm that there was a paper in the Journal of Gastroenterology that basically connected lactic acidosis, brain fog, bloating, SIBO, all these things to probiotic use. And what they found was that when they pull people off probiotics, the symptoms went away.
Now, that being said, I do believe there is a place for probiotics. There are very symptom-specific conditions that show a lot of promise under a very skilled practitioner who really knows their stuff to use very specific strains to ameliorate different types of conditions. And so, I think that that's a great place for probiotics. I think the indiscriminate use of them long-term is probably causing more problems than it helps. That would just be my opinion based on what I've seen over the years.
Ben: Well, I kind of like the way that you explain things in terms of–and this really made sense to me, this idea that probiotic capsules may sprinkle the gut with some bacteria here and there versus the passage of fiber bulk through the gut, such as you might get from apple skins or some of these powders, for example, passing as a bulk through the gut and essentially almost like painting the lining of this garden hose that passes through your body rather than sprinkling the gut. Is that an appropriate analogy?
Joel: Yeah, that really just speaks to a unique–so there's a section in my book where I talked about specifics, like, why can probiotics never mimic the power of food? And it's because you have to come back to structure-function. So, if we look at what this thing we call the gut, well, what you're talking about is a tube. Okay? It's a tube. And in that tube, in a radii of 360 degree–that sounds more cool saying radii than radius, doesn't it?
Ben: It does.
Ben: You finally sound smart for the first time on the show.
Joel: Oh my gosh, thank you. So, in a radius of 360 degree–my internal dork meter, like when I said that went dork. In a radius of 360 degrees, you have cells in all 360 degrees. Okay? So, if you have a capsule that you take and it pops out a little bit of stuff, well, what you're probably not doing is–the analogy is like a pipe cleaner. What a pipe cleaner does is you shove it down a pipe and it brushes the pipe cleaner bigger than the pipe. And so, there's this kind of pushing against all 360 degrees of the pipe to clean the pipe. Food does that. Food has the property of bulk bolus. So, food in the right amounts can do things that probiotics can't. And by its very nature, it's going to handle the correct pH, it's going to handle the correct type of fermentation-based on the bacteria that are in each specific section of the digestive track.
Ben: Okay. It seems to make sense, but why would so many companies still be saying, “Are probiotics seeds the gut?” Or you're going to find that you actually get changes in the bacterial profile of the gut upon consumption of this probiotic. I mean, it would seem to me that they're doing something, and we obviously have some data that they can do things like affect mood or affect appetite. So, are you saying that the potential for them to cause things like the small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and the fact that you could get the same thing via real food dictates that those just aren't your go-to option?
Joel: They're not the first thing that I would go to, me personally. And also in my experience with corporate wellness engagements and stuff that I've been doing for a number of years, I've seen food do just mindboggling, remarkable things not possible with other things, not possible with probiotics, not possible through any other means when it's done correctly. And that is something that–food is boring. It's kind of a boring topic to most of us. It's like just food, but when you really apply like an order of operations and do things in the correct way, food is capable of incredible things, incredible things. I mean, things not possible that I have not personally experienced from anything else.
Now, that's not to say that there are not benefits to probiotics. And again, I really believe the future of probiotics will probably be–there are practitioners who are gaining skills year by year, month by month who really know their stuff and know their right type of probiotic for the right issue, and I think that's a great place for them. And it's not to say that in all cases that there may not just be sometimes that jumpstart that you need to them. I think that the continual dosing of them all the time just kind of as like, “Probiotics are good, we should take them all the time,” I think that's a bad idea.
Ben: Okay. Got it. Now, prebiotics, you're obviously a big fan of those. And when someone has begun to jumpstart their Akkermansia, bifidobacteria, and butyrate production with red phenol powder, with apple skins and with these human milk oligosaccharides, you then encourage people to begin consuming these prebiotic foods such as semi-green bananas. And another one that you talk about for stimulating AMPK, one of the master regulators of aging is grapefruit. And you say those are two synergistic foods like just throwing in something as simple as grapefruit and semi-green bananas at the same time you encourage folks to begin to consume things like asparagus, and onions, and even olive oil with some of these other things that can feed the bacteria in the gut.
And I think that one thing that some folks might push back on here is, in functional medicine, there's this big discussion about FODMAP issues, about bloating, gas, constipation, and even aggravation of gut issues upon the consumption of some of these prebiotic-rich foods like the semi-green bananas and some of the super fiber-rich foods, and especially the high FODMAP foods like onions and garlic, et cetera. Have you run into that issue with folks, like bloating, gas, even aggravation of SIBO when they're introducing these type of prebiotic-rich foods?
Joel: This is a fascinating question and it opens up a universe of things. I'm going to try and really succinctly encapsulate here as best I can. But let me net it out first and I'll do my best to break into like the fine details. The reason that you're seeing those types of things has been conflated into an incorrect notion of why those causal a causally incorrect notion, which is that, “Oh, it's the food. The foods are wrapped.” That's the net of that current groupthink. But if you delve into structure-function of how things work, you're going to get a very different answer. The answer that you're going to get is that there's an order of operations that's missing, and that order of operations is related to structure-function of the gut itself.
So, first of all, let me try and break this down a little bit. When you look at the gut mucus layer, in the gut mucus layer, there are very specific transporters for butyrate. There's monocarboxylate transporter 1, MCT1, and that's the transporter needed for butyrate. What happens is when you have gut issues, what you're going to see is that the mucosa of the gut is inflamed. And so, there's an order of operations here. When the mucosa is inflamed, the MCT1 transporter is not going to work. And it's not going to work because TNF alpha, tumor necrosis factor-alpha, is impairing the function of it. So, in the order of operations, before butyrate transport can be restored in the inflamed mucosa, in other words, before fiber can work, TNF alpha has to be cleared first. Okay?
So, what you see a lot of is people with gut issues, and then they take fiber and it makes it worse. Well, the reason is not that fiber is in itself inherently bad. The reason is that there's actually an order of operations that we really haven't identified. And so, to come back to structure-function order of operations, what you're going to see is that there's a receptor in the gut, GDP 109, that is shared by butyrate and niacin. Okay? It's also expressed quite a bit in adipose tissue as well. We'll get to that later. So, in the impaired gut, one of the things that we see is that niacin applied into the butyrate transporter impaired, inflamed mucosa seems to go a long way towards helping to first restore function in the mucosal lining. And then, there's a number of other things that we can do in the gut to clear TNF alpha first.
So, order of operations would be if you have gut issues like you've got IBD or things like that, before you can have fiber, you've got to clear all of the inflammatory mediators first and you've got to rescue butyrate transport again. Now, what happens is in the enterocytes and the choanocytes, when they begin to use glucose instead of their primary substrates, so the enterocytes, the large intestine, small intestine, what you're going to see is that when the enterocytes stop using glutamate and switch to glucose, what happens is the mucus layer gets inflamed. They can use glucose, they can use it just fine, but the gut layer gets inflamed.
Now, that goes a long way towards explaining why you'll see people who have gut issues, they try eating fiber, it irritates them, and then they switch to meat. And they go, “Oh, my issues are solved.” Well, it's not that you've solved your issues, it's that you've ceased to aggravate them because the butyrate transporter is working. And a good analogy would be that you've got an engine that has a dual drive. You've got an electric drive; you've got a gas drive. And the pistons are fouling in the gas drive, but the electric drive works great. So, every time you try and put gas in the car, the car fouls and you're like, “Oh, well, gasoline's bad. We shouldn't use gas.” Now, it's not the gasoline's bad, it's that you need to fix the engine, you need to pull the pistons, you need to do some work in a specific order, put them back in, and then you can use gasoline again. That's to a very large extent kind of a broad analogy a lot of what's going on.
Ben: Okay. So, like in the book when you say it's not the food, it's the bugs, and that you can actually acquire the ability to digest things like lactose and gluten, what you're specifically referring to–for example, one study that you cite in the book is a 2017 study summarizing the root cause of gluten intolerance that states that it is aggravated by a dysbiotic gut bacteria profile characterized specifically by decreased butyrate or production, or decreased butyrate-producing Firmicutes more specifically and/or bifidobacteria leading to low levels of intestinal butyrate, which then leads to things like glute intolerance or lactose intolerance. And what you're proposing is then by resetting the gut using some of these specific compounds we've been talking about, one would then be able to induce a scenario in which they are, A, harnessing fewer calories from things like carbohydrates, thus being able to spark fat loss through targeting gut bacteria. And B, even inducing a state where they might actually be able to do things like digest lactose or digest gluten due to the actual presence of bifidobacteria, Akkermansia, and butyrate in the gut.
Joel: Yeah. I would say that that is the highest level of the pyramid. The bottom layer of the pyramid is you've got issues, like you have compromised gut mucus layer issues, you've got IBD, you've got colitis active, you've got something going on there. And so, that is a specific set of protocols apart from putting butyrate because butyrate is not going to work at that point. So, you've got to clear inflammation, you got to do some things first. Again, the gas engine analogy is you got to get the pistons cleaned up and working again. But then, once the car can use gas again, then the next step to that is, well, how can we make it go better?
And so, then yeah, all the things you just said come into play. And then, at the very high level, there is a small but very compelling and emerging body of research that strongly suggests that–and I use this quote in the book. It was a very funny study. It said that people–long story short, people that spin up bifidobacteria in the gut seem to “sidestep” issues of gluten intolerance and gluten sensitivity. And I just thought that word was really kind of funny, sidestep. Sidestep, meaning, they don't have those issues, meaning, those issues are not endemic to the foods, they're an issue of missing bacteria. And if you dive into this, it makes a ton of sense because there's this chapter in the book I talk about, the three genomes, and there's this lesser of greater, which is the idea that the lesser is that the human genome runs your body, and while it's true, it's not the whole truth. The greater truth is that three genomes interacting run your body.
And when it comes to things like fiber and carbohydrate metabolism, the genes you need are not in the human genome, they are in the bacterial genome and they can be acquired, you can acquire the genes you need. And lo and behold, the research strongly suggests that that's exactly the case, that there is again a growing body of research showing people who seem to be acquiring the genes needed. In fact, one of the key genes has to do with production of a protein called gliadin, which when bifidobacteria is present, it seems to work on this protein and helps you to sidestep gluten intolerance issues.
Ben: Yeah. The interesting thing also, and this is probably the last piece that I want to talk with you about regarding the guts because–you also have some really fascinating things regarding fat loss, sleep, and this so-called young muscle concept. And that is this idea that with a leaky gut or an inflamed gut or a worn gut, that would normally be fixed, or at least the inflammation would subside with the introduction of things like Akkermansia and butyrate. One of the things that appears to be able to help with that is something you refer to as hesperetin. And you get into the consumption of orange juice and the fact that you're a huge fan of combining orange juice with kind of like a morning–I believe it's like a morning protocol, and I thought that was really interesting too because once again, we see at least in the community that listens to this podcast often the vilification of things like orange juice to the high fructose content, the high carbohydrate content, et cetera.
Yet you're saying definitely drink orange juice as part of this gut healing process. So, explain to me how the orange juice is working and where that fits in, and whether you again get concerted all about excess sugar intake versus just like supplementation with hesperetin instead of drinking orange juice.
Joel: There's a foundational notion that this touches upon that, if I may, just is probably worth expounding on for a minute or two. It's something I put forth in the book and I think it needs to be elucidated, which is that I put forth this idea trying to get past grams, calories, macros, that kind of school of thought that unique foods possess unique functional properties and that they work independent of calories. Okay. Now, the really interesting thing about that is that what we have today is these polarized camps of belief sets regarding plants, meats, fats, all that stuff, and it's very reminiscent of '90s martial arts where you had like one school that was karate, one school that was like kung fu, one that jujitsu.
Ben: Right. Or you have early UFC, the karate artist versus the sumo wrestler.
Joel: Yes, 100%. And it's like a kung fu movie. It's like Wang Yu, Tiger Manace sucks, Flipping Crane is best. You get this thing going on. And so, you have these camps that are in these polarized viewpoints at war with each other. But what's really interesting is with regard to their beloved food source, they 100% agree with that, like 100%, like, “Yeah, bro, 100%. Yeah, dude. Meet heels for sure, dude.” In other words, you get this thing of like, “Yeah, we agree. Our beloved food source has unique functional properties not found in other foods that work independent, that, we agree.”
But where you get this interesting differentiator is when it comes to the opposing schools. So, they're not just neutral, they're not like, “But other foods don't.” They're negative, but other foods are bad. Plants have anti-nutrients, or meat is bad, meat causes cancer. You get into this stuff. But that's neither none of those things are–the greater truth is that across all classes of foods, there are foods that have unique functional properties that work independent of calories. It's true in the plant kingdom, it's true of meat, it's true of fats, it's true in all of these different schools.
And I believe that we're in an era that's passing, that's very reminiscent of the '90s, where what we have today is something much more–if you look at mixed martial arts, you see that really, you use the right move in the right situation. So, if you're on the ground, there's a certain set of moves you use. If you're on your feet, if you're standing, and if you're [01:17:05] _____. And I believe that we're moving to that with food that there's sort of the appropriate what, when, and how for every food. There's a time, there's a place. It doesn't mean that that food is good or bad, it just means that it has a function that's useful under certain situations. And that's kind of the approach that I think I put forth in there.
Ben: Yeah. And you do a good job outlining that in the book about the effects being unique to the whole. I mean, even with something like orange juice, you talk about experiments that show that hesperitin in whole orange juice is different in terms of the way that it raises blood serum levels of phenols compared to just like hesperitin supplementation. And that's probably due to the unique fibers, and sugars, and proteins, and fats that when you combine them creates a distinct functional entity that's very unique to the whole versus the pieced out compounds.
Joel: Hesperitin is interesting stuff just by itself. So, it seems to have a lot of unique function in terms of benefiting the gut and in combination, particularly with ascorbate. So, what you see in the inflamed mucosa is that ascorbate levels, particularly in people with IBD, are reduced by as much as 70%, 80%. And when you restore ascorbate into the inflamed mucosa, the inflammation seems to go away. So, you have kind of this sort of push-pull going on of–well, so you've got this carb load, so to speak orange juice, but at the same time, there's ascorbate with it and the ascorbate spreading together are extremely beneficial in the inflamed gut. And I've done this protocol with people who–like it works. It just seems to work. Hesperitin gets really interesting in this age because it does a lot of things above and beyond in terms of like COVID-19. It inhibits some of the enzymes that you need for coronavirus replication. It seems to impair the S spike docking mechanism.
Ben: We should clarify, by the way, just so we don't get in trouble, we're not recommending you drink orange juice to cure coronavirus, right?
Joel: No, 100% not, no. Yeah, no, no, no. We're just saying that there seem to be–I'm using the word “seem to be,” and “may,” and “suggest,” it seems to be that there's some research that suggests that it may have properties that are very interesting with respect to the spread of things like COVID-19. And let me just back up and look at it from a vitamin C perspective. Okay. I could probably buy that.
Ben: Yeah. So, this is all super interesting. And obviously, the actual protocol for combining a lot of these things together is laid out in the book. And I just think this whole idea of resetting the gut specifically to target things like changes in body composition is fascinating. So, if you're listening in, again, I'm going to link to all this stuff, you go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/joelgreene. That's Greene with an “E” in terms of the notes that I'm seriously taking and heading to the shownotes as we go.
So, the gut stuff aside, I want to jump now into something I found intriguing in the book regarding fat loss. Obviously, the bacterial profile things we just discussed are going to influence fat loss, but then you also get into actual food timing, and specifically how a meal that would normally cause you to gain weight significantly can actually be transformed into a fat loss meal. And one of the examples you give is actually that of cheesecake, which I'm sure will be very popular for people. So, using something like cheesecake as an example, get into how this works, like how can you turn a weight gain meal into a fat loss meal?
Joel: Yeah. So, all of this came out of my need to make stuff work in the real world, which is an ecosystem. And in that ecosystem, there are certain parameters. The parameters would be you have no time to meal prep, you have to eat everything on the go, there is social eating and socializing alcohol, no time to work out. Those are the parameters that crush people in real life, and all of this stuff came out of my frustration/i.e. being pissed off/failure to, during the mid-2000s, running a company. So, this is where the stuff came out of. And there's a foundational idea here. It's the idea that you're actually burning fat and storing fat multiple times in a day if you just think about it.
I have this exercise I like to go through, which is just taking times of day and asking, “Are you burning fat, storing fat? What are you more likely to do?” Like, middle of the night, I just more likely to store fat, burn fat. And people will give varying answers depending on what they think. But what the exercise illustrates is that we gain fat and we store fat multiple times in a day. So, the core idea is just imagine a sine wave, the upward part is when you are storing fat, the downward part is when you are burning fat. And just imagine that you're going to push down the wave where it's storing fat and then accentuate the way where you're burning fat, and that's the basic idea. Okay. And I also want to stress there's no panacea, there's nothing that works like 100%. Instead, what we want to do is we want to take a combination of 5% improvements and then just add them together. So, if we can come up with 10%, 15%, 5% improvements, then we can make a pretty serious dent over time, and that's the idea. Okay. So, when you talk about something like cheesecake, there's nothing I can think of that's more energy-dense, calorically dense, that's more likely to put body fat on, like nothing.
Ben: By the way, I have a very popular cheesecake recipe on Instagram. It's technically a raw cake made out of nuts, but yeah. I mean, I would approximate even a slice of that is likely around 450, 500 calories. And then, of course, cheesecake factory, I think the average slice, correct me if I'm wrong, you might know better than I, but I think it's up around like 1,500, 1,600 for one slice from The Cheesecake Factory.
Joel: Yeah, 1,500, 1,600 and some of them topping 2,000s.
Joel: It's incredible how much energy you can compact into such a small piece of food. Yeah, it's crazy. So, there's this concept in the book that I introduced called eating meals in sequences of three. And the idea with that is to just tap into a natural rhythm of burning fat and storing fat. So, the basic assumption is there's no hope with the cheesecake meal. You're going to put that on. The best we can hope for is to reduce the curve that we can take it down. And then, in the meals proceeding and the meals after, what we can do is we can accentuate the curve of fat loss in those meals. And so, using all this together, we could mitigate a pretty significant amount of weight gain.
And to introduce the concept, I introduce a baked potato and I just sequentially step through what the research has shown. So, I start with the basic baked potato, and I show the glycemic index, and I show the area under the curve, and glycemic load and all that stuff. And then, we make one small change, we just add in a whey protein shake with that. So, we add calories, but the area under the curve, glucose area under the curve decreases by about 20%. And the length of the curve stretches out. In other words, your insulin spike's going down, it's taking longer, you're actually less likely to store fat from that. And then, we make one more small change, we introduce timing. So, we push the whey protein shake back 30 minutes. And now by doing that, we get another 10% bump in the curve.
Ben: Meaning, protein or amino acid consumption, 30 minutes prior to starch consumption?
Joel: Yeah. Well, specifically whey protein, too. Whey protein seems to have some very interesting effects on insulin signaling and the large neutral amino acids and a bunch of other cool things. So, we had that in there. And then, we make one more small change, we let the potato cool down 15 minutes. Okay? So, now the starch in it condenses from starches into resistant starches, and then we get another 5%, 6%, 7% bump in the curve, and the curve stretches out again. And then, we just keep doing this. We just keep going down again. We have a little bit of butter, we have a little bit of cinnamon, we have a little bit–we just keep making incremental little 5% changes. And after about 10 or so changes, we had something that was a pure weight gain meal, and it's gone to something that's very, very fat loss friendly, very weight-friendly, just by making small incremental shifts in the way the meal will be metabolized.
Ben: In the book, you referred to this as basically like a preload where if you're going to eat a meal that you know–let's say you got a big night out, date night steakhouse, whatever, what you're trying to do prior is to consume certain things that are going to either shift the biome in the gut or enhance fat oxidation. Like with the cheesecake example, you get into like eating Jell-O before you have the cheesecake or consuming like green beans or red phenols to offset the sugar fermentation in the gut and speed up the gut transit time. And then, these are just like little strategies that you would use to offset the actual caloric density of the food.
Joel: Yeah. I mean, it's jujitsu, it's just jujitsu for food.
Ben: Now, a ton of people who are calories in versus calories out are going to flip out over this.
Joel: Yeah. But again, that paradigm does not reflect what's really true. And if you're going to spend 20, 30, 40 years of your life chasing something that's not really true, you're going to, at the end of it, not be very happy. You have to embrace what's really true. And to get to what's really true, the answers are not in what you know, they're in what you don't know. And so, the real truth is that calories and that whole sort of thing, there's a number of factors that impinge upon calories. We talked about Akkermansia contracting the surface area of the gut. And there's a laundry list of these things that can impact the way that energy is utilized and absorbed in the body. The cool thing is these are all like, I'm not making stuff up, I mean, these are all measurable, like measure this stuff.
Ben: Yeah. Okay. Well, I'm going to try this. I don't know if I'm going to do Cheesecake Factory, but maybe somebody listening can use themselves as a guinea pig, but basically, like 20 grams of whey protein, like a half-hour prior, and you recommend steel-cut oats as well. And then, afterwards, after you have the cheesecake, doing something like raw cauliflower or raw green beans, a little bit of this red phenol powder and a little bit of Jell-O.
Joel: Yeah. So, typically, if you're going to have cheesecake, it's going to be at night. That's when you're going to go out and do something like that. And then, if you just took each one of those things by themselves, you would have a very interesting–you could do an article on each one of those things, like glycine at bedtime does some really interesting–
Ben: I got this trick from you. I got the Jell-O trick from you. So, I was going to talk to you about sleep later on, but let's just jump in right now. Why the Jell-O trick? How's that work?
Joel: So, glycine is interesting stuff. It's very much involved in the utilization of serine within the body. And so, by its very nature, when you look at all the kinases in the body, these are serine kinases. And glycine has a very specific action in terms of its effects on adiponectin. It seems to potentiate adiponectin, seems to help you burn fat when you sleep, it seems to be involved in inflammatory signaling. It does a lot of really cool things. So, just glycine by its–and Ron, he's listening, he's just flipping out right now because he's just like, “[01:28:29] _____.”
Ben: Ron Penna? Well, you guys shared with me at dinner, now I've been eating my own homemade Jell-O that I make. I just use Great Lakes Gelatin, a little bit of coconut water, heat up the coconut water, put the gelatin in, and then let that sit in the fridge. I've been doing a big square of that before bed at night and it's amazing in terms of the appetite satiation and the enhanced sleep quality.
Joel: Yeah. Actually, we have a mini-cleanse in my vape system that we've used for a number of years and it's not fun. It's a cleanse, but one of the tricks is to add in some glycine at the hardest part of the day, right about four o'clock. And the glycine helps with knocking out all the hunger issues and it also helps speed up fat loss. So, it's pretty cool stuff.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. Okay. So, we've got Jell-O as a trick for offsetting some of this weight gain, but it kind of begs the question, why wouldn't you just like–and this is a strategy that I began implementing after noticing the profound impact it had on blood glucose control when experimenting with this and a continuous blood glucose monitor, and that's cold. Why not just like take a cold shower or go for a brisk walk in the cold weather rather than eating all these random things before and after the meal? Do you incorporate cold thermogenesis much at all as part of the strategy?
Joel: Okay. So, this gets to a what, when and how question, and order of operations, and structure-function kind of question, and it's just super, super fascinating. So, here's the thing with cold. Cold is a foundational toolset to do a lot of things. So, what I want to do is move us from listening into the, “Cold is good thing,” and move us into, “Cold works here, cold works here, cold works here, and here's when you do it.” Okay? So, the first thing about cold, to understand, is that it seems to potentiate macrophages, which are–I built my book around two concepts, an immune cell called a macrophage and then a protein called hypoxia-inducible factor, and they're both related.
What cold seems to do is, particularly in adipose mass, is it flips macrophages from the inflammatory state, I call them the red team, to the non-inflammatory state, the blue team, not the halo. Okay. And so, when we apply cold to adipose mass, there's a bunch of things that happen. So, we can use cold very strategically timed to periods of fat loss for very specific effects. Okay. A couple things to know before you start. One is that cold induction is one to one related to proliferation or inverse proliferation of Akkermansia. So, the reason Eskimos are fat is that cold induction drives down Akkermansia, and it makes sense. From a survival perspective, if you're enduring a lot of cold, like if you look at people who live in northern climates, northern latitudes, you need to make more energy. So, the body has a mechanism built in that makes you make energy, and that is cold induction spins up beating, spins down Akkermansia, increases the surface area of the gut. So, Akkermansia goes down.
But the other thing that cold induction does, particularly in adipose mass, is it induces on coupling. And the really interesting thing that it does is it induces FGF21. So, FGF21 is fibroblast growth factor 21. It's a starvation enzyme made by the liver. And FGF21 is neither good nor bad. It's useful. It's extremely useful in certain places. What FGF21 does is it seems to adapt the body to starvation, adapt the body to fasting, and it can induce what's called a futile cycle in adipose mass, meaning that it can potentiate both the release and the storage of fat mass. And so, if you map it out over time in the short-term, it's fantastic, and the long-term, it's bad. But where this gets great is at the end of a period of fat loss, one of the–what we'll get into later, I'm sure, one of the problems that you're up against is that the–I called this in the book the fat loss paradox, the act of shrinking fat cells potentiates long-term weight gain through a number of mechanisms. So, we have to hack those mechanisms. One of the ways we hack those mechanisms is to hack FGF21 at the end of a fat loss period. And the way that we do that is through timing cold induction to the end of a fat loss period for a certain period of time and timing that to the production of Akkermansia. So, at the end of a fat loss period, you want to induce cold in adipose mass, specifically. And what this is going to do–
Ben: And by the way, to jump over, when you say, “at the end of a fat loss period,” let's say someone has done like a cleanse or a fast or gone through a period of calorie deprivation or something like that.
Joel: That would just reduce their body fat substantially.
Ben: Okay. Or exercise, yeah.
Joel: Right, yeah. If you don't want it to come back, there's a series of steps you have to do. Okay?
Ben: Okay. That's going to be super important for people because we know that–and you get into this in your book, the shrinking of fat cells can trigger changes that cause a regain of that fat pretty readily unless you do what you're about to explain.
Joel: Right. So, one of the emerging ideas in preventing weight regain after a period of fat loss is to induce FGF21. And also at the same time, to flip types of immune cells from the red team, the inflaming guys, the killers to the healers, the blue team. Okay? So, cold induction kind of checks all the boxes. So, post that loss, you got where you want. You need a week of cold induction targeted specifically to fat mass. And what it's going to do is it's going to flip macrophages in your fat mass to the anti-inflammatory kind. So, it's going to help resolve the injury that fat loss induces, which we'll get into. At the same time, it's going to drive FGF21 right when you need it.
Now, what you don't want to do is continue this, like for–the research seems to suggest right around between 7 to 10, 12 days. You don't want to keep doing it like for 30, 40 days because what happens is you're going to spin down Akkermansia, you're going to increase surface area of the gut, you're going to increase energy intake, you're going to aid the weight regain. But this is a specific example of taking cold induction as an idea and then applying it in an extremely targeted, extremely efficacious way for a specific functional outcome.
Ben: So, the cold then would be something that you do for a brief period of time after you've lost weight, but then you're not a fan of continuing the cold on a regular basis?
Joel: I think it's very good strategically. I don't think that it's something you should do all the time. What I have seen is that people who do cold induction all the time is they get this barrel chest look going on. They get weight concentrated kind of–
Ben: The polar bear swimmer, high amounts of brown fat deposition on the collarbone, shoulders, et cetera, type of look. Yeah. But we should clarify too, like that's some pretty hefty cold thermogenesis. Those are like 10 to 20-minute doses on a daily basis. My own strategy is quick. Jump in a cold pool before I start my day or quick cold shower. And I've found that to be fabulous for maintaining a lean body, but I have found not only endocrine disruption and some kind of significant sympathetic activation, and even like mild, what you might call some adrenal exhaustion or some symptoms of adrenal fatigue from people who overdo the cold thermogenesis. But these longer bouts of cold thermogenesis or cryotherapy chambers or something like that would be appropriate for a short period of time following something like a weight-loss protocol. After which, you'd want to dial it back.
Joel: Yeah. I think you really hit it on the head. So, what you brought up is you brought up the duration, you brought up the timing, and you brought up very important things that it's neither good nor bad, it's the order of operations, the way you do it. The other way that I find that's just incredibly powerful is really very similar to what you're doing. And in my own sort of lexicon of how I do things, it's on day two of the two-day pattern in my program where you're amplifying fasting signals, then cold induction before the workout, on the day you're doing sprints, on the day–the more you can replicate the ancestral dawn hunt, the better. And I think I talked about this one in the book, like it's the hardest one to do. People are game for everything else until it comes to the cold induction at dawn, they're like, “No, I'm not doing that.”
Joel: Yeah. What you find is that you'll get a similar effect. You'll get [01:37:37] _____ by topical application of menthol where adipose mass is, which is really one of the places you really want it. And so, by adding the two, adding all three, actually, adding fasting, adding early morning time of day, cold induction and menthol all in one spot, it's kind of–there's this new word in the science called combination therapy. Okay? And it's just like the smart word for just throwing everything at it, but the kitchen sink, and it's kind of that.
Ben: Okay. Got it. So, in addition to being careful with the excess amount of cold to ensure that you're not cycling the fat loss improperly, you also get into this idea that leptin can get dysregulated if you have been cycling back and forth from weight loss to weight gain. A lot of people deal with this issue. Can you get into what that problem is? Like, why we need to be careful with cycling fat loss, kind of a little bit of a beast to unpack. But what's going on hormonally? And what would you do to reset leptin that might be dysregulated from someone who's doing like yo-yo dieting or weight loss, weight gain cycles such as you would see in bodybuilding figure competition, or even just people who are on and off the weight loss bandwagon?
Joel: So, unpacking this big picture, and I'm speaking here from just having seen this happen over 40 plus years of this stuff. What you see is there's this long, long-term trend that really hasn't been talked about much, and it's what you see is early 20s, early 30s, no problem getting lean, every time, just works every time like a charm. And then, as you get into the 40s and 50s, every trip to the well, it gets harder and harder to drop fat, until finally all the things that used to work don't work and you can't drop fat at all. And the thing I talked about in my book is that in order to bring fat loss into the 21st century, and immune-centric paradigm is necessary because what ultimately governs fat loss are immune-centric mechanisms. And the first place we have to start is to understand that the old paradigm has programmed your mind with words. These words are things like, “Fats just stored energy, [01:39:43] _____, just lose the weight and feel great,” all this kind of hype. It has nothing to do with the reality of what happens when fat cells shrink.
If you go back thousands and thousands of years, fat cell shrinking always, for the most part, corresponded with periods of food deprivation i.e. starvation. And your body has all of these survival-based mechanisms and they're in multiple layers that are designed to ensure that you survive. By after a period of fat loss, or what we call starvation by another name, or dieting, or getting ripped, or getting in shape, or getting jacked, after a period of that, the body gets all these compensatory mechanisms that kick in, and they're cumulative, they're cumulative over time and it's now actually quantifiable. And so, when we come at this with an immune-centric point of view, the first thing to understand is that fat loss is an injury. You are injuring your adipose mass.
Ben: It's an interesting way to put it.
Joel: And we can quantify it. We can actually get in and begin to look at the suspects in the injury. So, the first is to understand fat is not fat. Fat is a system. The fat is a system of multiple components. It's not just fat cells. So, in that system, you have very specific types of collagen fibers embedded in what's called the extracellular matrix, you have what we think of as fat cells. And then, fat cells are essentially a mother ship that harbors all these little ships, and these little ships are different kinds of immune cells–I've lost count, [01:41:19] _____ 15 of them, there's tons and tons of different kinds of immune cells in your fat.
On top of that, you have essentially stem cells, pre-adipocytes. And the thing about pre-adipocytes is they don't have to differentiate out into fat cells, they can differentiate out into other kinds of cells, even immune cells based on the configuration of your fat. So, the very first thing that happens, and I used this analogy in the book, imagine a house that's made of bricks and mortar, and you shrink the bricks away from the mortar. So, what happened is what's called mechanobiology, a transfer of physical forces took place, shearing stress changed from the mass as a whole to the mortar. Well, the mortar we call the ECM, the extracellular matrix. So, the physical forces impinging upon your fat mass as a whole were transferred to just “the mortar.” Now, if you did that in your house, you'd be lucky if it didn't collapse. It would injure your house.
Well, something very similar happens in your fat mass when fat cells shrink. So, in the book, I make this big, big case that the fat loss paradox is the reality that the active shrinking fat cells enacts long-term weight gain. And then, I just go through and I just took off the mechanisms why. So, when fat cells shrink away from the extracellular matrix, there's a whole bunch of things that happen. The first is that there is shearing stress on the adipose mass, and particularly on the extracellular matrix. Now, the extracellular matrix we think of as just kind of this dumb thing. It's just like collagen, right? That's just collagen [01:43:04] _____.
Well, that's not how it works. It turns out that specific types of collagens basically work like artificial intelligence. They reprogram fat cells based on the type and the tension between them in the fat cell. And then, the fat cells in return reprogram the collagen fibers. In fact, there are very specific types of collagen fibers that we see in obesity, for example, Collagen VI, that are cancer drivers. And when you understand how these fibers work, the presence of these fibers works on very specific proteins, I use one, fatty acid-binding protein 4, to signal changes in the types of immune cells that are in your fat. Okay? The types of immune cells in your fat, the macrophages in your fat govern resolution of the injury that happens when you lose fat. And so, what we see long term is there's a short-term benefit–in terms of the immune cells, they seem to improve, but then long-term, there seems to be in a lot of cases, and it's genetically dependent, there seems to be a shift in populations of immune cells towards the red team, towards the inflammatory type, post-fat loss. So, this has massive, massive complications not just for your fat, but for the immune status of your body in general and for how your body ages.
There's a second kind of injury that takes place. This one is called a traction stress injury. So, what happens is when adipose cells pull away from the ECM–well, there is a very specific protein, it's an actin and myosin protein. It's the same protein found in muscle. It's the protein that allows muscles to contract. Well, fat doesn't work like muscle. So, in order to contract, in order to pull the fat cell back to the ECM, these proteins make fibers. There's a protein called cofilin that attaches back to the adipose mass and pulls the adipose cell from a single point. And I used this analogy in the book. Think about something. If your house got knocked off its foundation, and then a bunch of workers showed up and they attached a cable to the house from a single point and pulled your whole house back on to the foundation from a single point, they might succeed, but you're going to be repairing structural damage to that house for a long, long time.
And that is exactly what happens when fat cells are reduced, there is an injury to the cell. And we can measure that injury. It's measured in terms of things like heat shock proteins that are produced, post-traction stress injury. So, what we see is these inflammatory mediators in the cell spin up post-shrinking and post-traction stress in the cell. And then, the thing about heat shock proteins is they stick around a long time and they potentiate sort of inflammatory reactions within the cell. So, as we dive into this thing we call fat loss and we look at it, what we see is that when the ECM and the fat cell create a misfit, meaning that they're not tightly fit together just like bricks and mortar, okay, the fat mass, your adipose mass has two options to fix this. Option 1 and the easiest and the best is just refill the fat cell. That solves the problem. And this is potentiated by leptin. So, what happens is when fat cells shrink, you'll see leptin output goes down, not making as much leptin.
Joel: And there's all these other things that are going on at the same time. So, number one is called the energy gap problem. And this means that essentially–so leptin goes down, [01:46:51] _____ goes up, skyrockets. So, in essence, you want to eat more, but then at the same time, it's harder to get full and you have a lower metabolism, you've lowered your metabolic needs. So, this is called the energy gap. It's kind of a classical problem of fat loss. It's not the latest stuff, but it's like a 50% problem, like this just defeats 50% of your efforts. And it's mediated by the active shrinking fat cells, which if you just think about it, historically speaking before the modern era of fitness, the reason fat cell shrunk was you were starving. So, it makes sense the body has some mechanisms to prevent that from happening.
And the really, really important thing that we see is that there's an emerging view in the science, what's called ECM fibrosis or stiffening of the ECM over time is not exclusive to obesity that in fact, it may just be what happens to fat mass the more you mess with it. So, the more times you take it to the fat loss well, your body survival mechanisms have mechanisms in place to prevent you from starving to death. And if you view fat loss from a starvation historical perspective, the narrative makes a lot of sense. Think about it. The more you starve, every time you starve, your body wants to get better at not letting you starve, so it gets more thrifty with releasing fat and it doesn't release fat as easily. And the ability of fat cells to shrink and the ability of the ECM to deform and adapt to fat loss is one to one correlated with the ability for you to lose fat in the first place. So, the stiffer the ECM gets, which is a problem we see with obesity, the less able you are to lose fat. And this has never really been looked at, but there's no getting away from it because it's actually how things work, and it brings fat loss out of fitness and brings it into the much larger umbrella of an immune-centric approach because at the end of the day, it's immune cells and signals from immune cells that are just dictating all this stuff.
Ben: Well, thanks for listening to today's show. You can grab all the shownotes, the resources, pretty much everything that I mentioned over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com, along with plenty of other goodies from me, including the highly helpful “Ben Recommends” page, which is a list of pretty much everything that I've ever recommended for hormone, sleep, digestion, fat loss, performance, and plenty more. Please, also, know that all the links, all the promo codes, that I mentioned during this and every episode, helped to make this podcast happen and to generate income that enables me to keep bringing you this content every single week. When you listen in, be sure to use the links in the shownotes, use the promo codes that I generate, because that helps to float this thing and keep it coming to you each and every week.
My guest on today's podcast, Joel Greene, already had his 10,000 hours in before I was even born.
- In the 1970s, he was interval training.
- In 1979, he was doing Olympic lifts 3 hours every night.
- In the 80s, he began studying MCTs.
- In 1990, he began studying the keto diet.
- In the early 90s, he was doing what would be called intermittent fasting today.
- In the mid 90s, he experienced the rebound from chronic starvation. You read this today for this reason.
- In the late 90s, he went through his clean eating phase, his macro phase, and his ancestral diet phase.
- By 2001, he had his first nutrition website publishing cutting edge research.
- By 2006, he came to the end of all the above and discovered none of it worked over time and under real-life pressure.
- In 2007, he authored the first article to the health and fitness community based on the new science linking gut bacteria and obesity.
- In 2008, his website lookcut.com hit #2 on Google for weight loss—with over 1,000 original groundbreaking articles that today represent many of the most widely copied ideas in nutrition.
- In 2009, he launched the world's first diet system based on targeting gut bacteria.
- In 2010, he was implementing signal activation of the AMPK pathway. The gurus only began speaking to AMPK in 2017.
- By 2013, he had the world's largest body of anecdotal outcomes for body composition targeting the gut bacteria.
- In 2013, he published the first article to the health and fitness community on the dangers of MCT oil supplementation.
Today, at 53, on 1 workout a week, eating whatever, whenever, with no drugs, SARMS, prohormones, or ergogenic aids ever, he is the world leader in hacking the body. He is the real deal. He has done it longer and always been far ahead. He looks it, he lives it. What the gurus say is impossible, he was living every day before they were gurus.
He has hacked peak human…
Working out once per week…
Eating whatever, whenever…
…and does it all on fast food!
He is the future of real-world health and nutrition, today.
Joel is the creator of the VEEP Nutrition System, the world's first commercially available program based on targeting gut communities to effect biomarkers. He is a featured author, speaker, and guest in top tier publications like Muscle and Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness Digital Magazine, CBS Online, Superhuman Radio, and beyond. His system has also been featured on the Dr. Phil Show, where it has delivered astounding life-changing results.
He is the future of real-world health and nutrition—today, and his new book was one of the most nitty-gritty deep dives into “rebooting your body” that I've ever read. The Immunity Code is simply a new paradigm and an entirely new way to think about caring for your body. The new goal is learning to control immunity, health, and aging using new science-based techniques (or hacks, if you will), to steer immunity for health, and to slow or even reverse aging.
This book will change everything you know about your body. Starting with simple, easy to-dos that build one on top of the other, you will emerge with a powerful understanding of how your body really works and how to control it over time, in the real world. Simply put, you will jump 10 years ahead of anything else on the shelf today.
During the first part of this discussion, you'll discover:
-A peek into a typical morning for Joel…8:40
- “Fasting amplification” the day prior and the morning: Ensure signaling pathways for fasting are working (without actually fasting)
- Timing of the workout (4-6 am)
- Replicating starvation at the optimal time of day
- One bodybuilding workout per week: Deadlifts and sprints
- Difference between a “young” body and a “fitness” body
-Joel's history in the realm of biohacking…14:45
- Began workout out at a young age watching kids shows on TV
- Frank Shorter, silver medalist in the 1972 Olympics marathon, began a running fad in the U.S.
- Joel lived in San Jose, CA, a mecca of sorts for athletics
- Consumers were told all fat was bad; a product called Metabolol 2 by Champion Nutrition promoted fats as a good thing.
- MCTs – fatless fats
- Keto diet became popular in the '90s
- MetRX – promoted by Jeff Everson
- Short-term gain, long-term consequences
- Early 2000s – went from a ripped dude to overweight, chronically stressed while leading a tech company
- Article on the gut biome
- This led to the “Daisy Cutter” protocol
- Key was understanding how to affect gut flora so that the body extracts fewer calories from food
- Article in Muscle & Fitness magazine on L. Reuteri
-Ben's process for writing a book…29:15
- Write in chunks
- Give a timeline (2-3 years)
- Treat each chapter like an article: skeleton, bullet points, etc.
- A new cookbook is upcoming (written during quarantine of 2020)
-Why eating apple skins is Joel's first advice for his readers…34:45
- Breaking down how the gut gets built: substrate and immunity
- Apple skins contain pectin (good for high-fat diets)
- Polymerized procyanidins combined with pectins produce 8x akkermansia bacteria than any other food
- Target LPS (lipopolysaccharides) directly
- Human milk oligosaccharide (HMOs) are found in mother's milk for infants
- Pair perfectly with apple skins for gut health
- Act as “decoys”; bind pathogens and viruses
- Drive akkermansia production
- Steers the gut toward immunity
- Steer the macrophages toward restoration of gut lining (with apple skins)
- Red phenols in the apple peels contain substrate that feeds akkermansia and bifidobacteria
-The two bacteria to focus on for resetting the gut…45:30
- Akkermansia and bifidobacteria
- Common in lean people and for longevity
- Find proper balance in everything: right amount, at the right time, in the right way
- Akkermansia and bifidobacteria are common among lean people
- Akkermansia maintains mucin layer of gut surface (calorie controller)
- Bifidobacteria activates genes that keep a person lean
- Involved with energy production in cells
- Fasting-induced adipose factor
- Bifidobacteria dies off with age, and corresponding energy levels
- Don't supplement directly with butyrate (can strengthen cancerous cells' resistance)
- HMO powder (PureHMO brand)
- Red phenol powder
- Food is the best transporter
-Why Joel is not a fan of probiotics but loves prebiotics…58:25
- When having clients use probiotics, they experienced brain fog, SIBO, etc. and it stopped when off probiotics
- Very difficult to control where they'll open up in the gut
- Paper in Journal of Gastroenterology on probiotic use
- Structure-function is why probiotics can't replicate food
- Food, when done right, is capable of things not possible with capsules and supplements
- Prebiotic foods: semi-green bananas, grapefruit,
- Causally incorrect notion of the function of food
- Order of operations is missing (related to structure-function of the gut)
- MCT1 transporter doesn't work when gut mucosae are inflamed
- TNF-A must be cleared before fiber can work (fiber makes an issue worse if not)
- Clear inflammatory mediators, then rescue butyrate transport
- Analogy of using the wrong fuel and wondering why the engine won't work
- 2017 study on gluten intolerance – dysbiotic gut bacteria profile characterized by decreased butyrate production
- 3 genomes interacting that run the body are in the bacterial genome, which can be acquired via the food you eat
-How orange juice in the morning helps to heal the gut…1:14:30
- Foods have unique functions that work independently of calories
- People's personal biases and ideologies skew their thinking regarding the efficacy of certain foods
- Ascorbate in the orange juice helps to reduce inflammation in the gut
- Unique foods possess unique functional properties; work independent of calories – true in the plant kingdom, true with meats, true in fats
- Research suggests ascorbate may have properties that reduce the spread of certain viruses
-How to lose fat by eating cheesecake…1:20:15
- Real-world parameters regarding food consumption (time, availability, etc.) are problematic
- The body burns and stores fat multiple times and at different times during the day
- Ben's cheesecake recipe
- Eating meals in sequences of 3: develop a natural rhythm of burning and losing fat
- Fat gain is inevitable, however, you can time it during the times of day the body burns fat vs. storing
- Use fat loss strategies in other meals throughout the day
- Adding whey protein, shifting time consumption, temperature of baked potato fluctuates into fat loss friendly
-Whether or not cold thermogenesis is an effective weight loss strategy…1:29:40
- Cold is a foundational toolset (different functions for different purposes)
- Cold flips macrophages from inflammatory to non-inflammatory state
- Cold drives down akkermansia (body needs more energy to survive in cold)
- FGF 21 induces a “futile cycle” in adipose mass
- Shrinking fat cells cause a regain of fat mass
- Cold is good strategically, not as a permanent practice
- Hack to amplify cold thermogenesis: topical application of menthol where adipose mass is
- “Combination therapy” – fasting, cold induction, menthol
-How to mitigate the effects of cycling fat loss strategies…1:38:15
- Fat loss becomes more and more difficult with age
- Immune-centric paradigm is necessary for fat loss in the 21st Century
- Change paradigm on how we view fat loss
- “Fat loss is an injury”
- Fat is a system of multiple components:
- Collagen fibers in extracellular matrix
- Fat cells contain tiny immune cells
- Preadipocytes are types of stem cells
- Mechanobiology – transfer of physical forces in the fat cells
- Traction stress injury
- Energy gap problem – you want to eat more, but harder to get full and lower metabolism
Resources from this episode:
– Joel Greene:
- The Immunity Code: The New Paradigm for Real Health & Radical Anti-Aging
- VEEP Nutrition
- Article in Muscle & Fitness Magazine on L. Reuteri
- Article on the gut flora and weight loss
- MCT Oil
- Pure HMO
- Organic Red phenol powder
- Whey protein
- Hydrogen water (use discount code GREENFIELD for a 10% discount)
- Apple-Derived Pectin Modulates Gut Microbiota, Improves Gut Barrier Function, and Attenuates Metabolic Endotoxemia in Rats with Diet-Induced Obesity
- Characterization of highly polymerized procyanidins in cider apple (Malus sylvestris var. kermerrien) skin and pulp
- A next-generation beneficial microbe: Akkermansia muciniphila
- Beneficial Effects of Human Milk Oligosaccharides on Gut Microbiota
- Apples and Cardiovascular Health—Is the Gut Microbiota a Core Consideration?
- Bifidobacteria and Their Role as Members of the Human Gut Microbiota
- AGA does not recommend the use of probiotics for most digestive conditions
- Prebiotics: Definition, Types, Sources, Mechanisms, and Clinical Applications
- Health Effects and Sources of Prebiotic Dietary Fiber
- A New Proposal for the Pathogenic Mechanism of Non-Coeliac/Non-Allergic Gluten/Wheat Sensitivity: Piecing Together the Puzzle of Recent Scientific Evidence
- Vitamin C, Gastritis, and Gastric Disease: a historical review and update
- Vitamin C and Infections
– Other Resources:
– Kion: My personal playground for new supplement formulations, Kion blends ancestral wisdom with modern science. Ben Greenfield Fitness listeners, receive a 10% discount off your entire order when you use discount code BEN10.
– JOOVV: After using the Joovv for close to 2 years, it's the only light therapy device I'd ever recommend. Give it a try: you won't be disappointed. Order using my link and receive my brand new book, Boundless absolutely free!
– Thrive Market: Organic brands you love, for less. Your favorite organic food and products. Fast and free shipping to your doorstep. Receive a gift card up to $20 when you begin a new membership using my link.
– Organifi Red Juice: Enjoy all the benefits of the 11 superfoods and their micronutrients that help increase resting metabolism, support cardiovascular health, and remove toxins to turn back the hands of time! Receive a 20% discount on your entire order when you use discount code BENG20.