[Transcript] Q&A 460: Sex & Fertility, Smart Drugs, Can Cholesterol Increase Testosterone, The Truth About “Natural Flavors”, Is Nitric Oxide Bad? & Much More.

Affiliate Disclosure


From podcast: https://bengreenfieldlife.com/podcast/qa-460/

[00:00:00] Introduction

[00:00:34] On this Episode

[00:02:25] Antioxidants Or Nutrients Can Improve Markers Of Male Fertility

[00:10:30] Wine for Sexual Function

[00:18:42] A Look At Testosterone And Lipid Profiles

[00:23:24] Nootropics

[00:35:13] Listener Q&A: Natural Flavors

[00:51:37] Nitric Oxide From Red Light Therapy

[00:58:05] End of Podcast

[00:58:36] Disclaimer

Ben:  In this episode of the Ben Greenfield Life show.

Sex and fertility, smart drugs, can cholesterol increase your testosterone, the truth about natural flavors, is nitric oxide bad, and much more.

Faith, family, fitness, health, performance, nutrition, longevity, ancestral living, biohacking, and a whole lot more. Welcome to the show.

Alright, welcome everyone to this episode of the Ben Greenfield Life show. It's the time when I wax all things scientific, biohacking, longevity, spirituality, and a whole lot more to you, just me and my lonesome. There is a video episode of this show as well as comprehensive shownotes as usual available at BenGreenfieldLife.com/460.

Am I feeling good or what? I just got back from Park City Utah where I did an epic climbing expedition with my friend, Dr. Harry Adelson up there scrambling all over the South Ridge up in Park City. And then, the next day, he put me under a full body anesthesia and injected every single joint of my body with stem cells; Wharton's jelly, umbilical-derived stem cells along with exosomes, a massive dose. It's called his Full-Body Stem Cell Makeover. I do this thing ever every so occasionally, anywhere from every one year to every five years. I consider it to be one of the best longevity-enhancing protocols one can do especially to make me at age 41 feel like I'm 18 and have recovery like freaking Wolverine. It's pretty crazy. So, I'm finally recovered from that protocol and just got back from Park City, back on the home front, and feeling very stem celled.

So today, I'm going to be going over some news flashes with you, replying to a few listener questions. And, if you have a question you want to ask for the podcast, you can always do so on the socials or you can leave a comment or question or feedback over in the shownotes at BenGreenfieldLife.com/460. So gosh, a lot to cover with you today, so I figure, what the heck, let's just jump right in.

Alright, well, I figured we'd kick things off with the ever-popular topic of sex and fertility. So, the first study or really more appropriately a systematic review that I wanted to cover with you that was super interesting was this whole idea of male fertility and whether various antioxidants or nutrients can improve markers of male fertility. Sorry, ladies, I'm sure that some of these things are good for you too but this one was specifically about male fertility. They took male participants from 50 different studies that either had males with infertility or subfertility and then looked at what kind of antioxidants and nutrients would affect semen parameters, the outcomes of assisted reproductive therapy, and live birth rates.

And so, what they find? Well, they looked at a whole bunch of different popular fertility interventions that you no doubt see thrown at you on average advertisements in Amazon and supplement websites and beyond, vitamin E, vitamin C, carnitines, coenzyme Q10, N-acetylcysteine or NAC, zinc, folic acid, selenium, lycopene. And, they did note that 29 of the 50 studies that they analyzed found substantial and significant beneficial effect of certain antioxidants and nutrients on male fertility.

Now, I realize you may not have a mind like a steel trap and some of you fellows listening in may also be desiring balls with a steel trap. So, anyways, I will put a list of all of the ones that they found to be significantly beneficial along with the dosages in the shownotes; however, here's the quick overview. Vitamin E, yes, effective at 400 milligrams. Please note that with vitamin E, I am not a fan of synthetic supplementation of vitamin E. I think a full-spectrum vitamin E is better, meaning a mixed bag of tocopherols and tocotrienols, the two main components of vitamin E. I had a fantastic podcast with Dr. Barrie Tan about this. And, because of that, I think one of the best food-based sources of vitamin E or plant-based sources of vitamin E is called annatto, A-N-N-A-T-T-O. Also happens to be fantastic for heart health, but you can get annatto from there's one company called Designs for Health. I like that version and they found about 400 milligrams in this review to be beneficial. Carnitine meaning like L-carnitine, for example, which you can find as capsules or even as intramuscular injection, a lot of people who exercise are liking to inject with carnitine. I think I even mentioned that on Q&A 459 and gave the reasons why. But, carnitine at 500 to 1,000 milligrams and vitamin C, 500 to 1000 milligrams, very similar to vitamin E. I'm not a fan of synthetic vitamin C supplementation. I like to recommend people get it from whole foods sources. The main reason being there appeals to be a little bit better bioavailability and cellular uptake of vitamin C in its whole-food form versus synthetic ascorbic acid. Even though a lot of people will tell you they're similar as you'll learn about say MSG later in this podcast, that's not necessarily the case once you get down into the nitty-gritty.

Now, vitamin C as far as a whole food source of that. I personally use a stuff from a company called Jigsaw Health. They make a whole foods Vitamin C powder called Adrenal Cocktail. I think that's a pretty good version. Acerola cherries, by the way, are fantastic as well for vitamin C at this new farm that I'm building over in Viola, Idaho right now. I definitely plan on figuring out a way to hack the system and that might even include a greenhouse approach to be able to plant copious amounts of these cherries for the vitamin C content. But nonetheless, 500 to 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C, CoQ10 also great for heart health, and an absolutely necessary supplement for anybody to be on if they're on a statin because the myopathy and muscle soreness one gets from statins is also because those things strip your body of CoQ10. You can also find CoQ10 in very high amounts in heart.

As a matter of fact, I eat beef heart myself about once a week. And, the trick, it's literally up in my refrigerator right now because I'm going to prepare it tomorrow night is you soak heart or any other organ meat you're going to cook in a dairy medium. Buttermilk works like a thin yogurt works. And, I like to use kefir. The enzymes in kefir degrade or kind of tear down some of the rough fiber in the heart or the chewy fiber in the heart take some of the gamey flavor out of it. And then, I like to sous-vide. It's a water bath approach. You can get a sous-vide wand though. There's one called the Joule that I like. I put that in a pot of water, dropped the heart in there in a heat resist distant sous vide bag. There's a brand called Stasher that's pretty good. And, sous vide the heart in a water bath at about 145 degrees for around eight hours. So, I'll have it in that bag the whole day after I've rinsed the kefir off of it. And, the kefir soak, by the way, is about 24 hours beforehand, and then I'll just give the heart a quick fry and some butter. So good. So anyways, heart is great for CoQ10. You can also supplement with CoQ10 100 to 300 milligrams.

N-acetylcysteine, also a great precursor for glutathione in the body, fantastic, 600 milligrams. By the way, if you feel bad when you supplement with glutathione, if you feel like your body just doesn't feel right or you get brain fog or irritability or gastric upset or anything like that when you take glutathione, there's a reason for that. A high number of people do not contain the enzyme that allows you to use orally available glutathione. And so, because of that, you often have to use glutathione precursors instead of glutathione. And, you can have that tested. There's a gene test for it. One company called the DNA Company. They're fantastic. They can do a gene test for it. I have a podcast coming up with them in which we discuss this issue with glutathione and some other things to think about in the realm of genetic testing. But nonetheless, N-acetylcysteine is a glutathione precursor. Selenium is also. And, this review found that not only N-acetylcysteine at 600 milligrams but selenium at 200 milligrams impacted favorably male fertility.

Folic acid was another one. Very similar to vitamin C and vitamin E. I recommend you not use a synthetic form of folic acid such as you would find in many multivitamins but a bioavailable form of folic acid. Once again, organ meats to the rescue. Liver is very high in folic acid, but if you're getting a supplement, you just want to look for methyl tetrahydrofolate or methyl folate, methylated folate version of folic acid rather than synthetic folic acid. The reason for that is it can get converted to homocysteine in the body and that can be an inflammatory marker. So, folic acid at 0.5 milligrams, zinc at 25 to 400 milligrams. If zinc upsets your stomach, [00:09:37] _____ conversion called zinc bisglycinate. At Kion, we have an immunity product that's a mix of vitamin C and zinc and we use zinc bisglycinate in that because it's just more friendly to the gut. So, zinc at 25 to 400 milligrams. And then, finally, lycopene that fantastic compound you will find in tomatoes at 6 to 8 milligrams.

So, that's your rundown of all of the different things that have actually been studied and proven in the antioxidant and nutrient department for male fertility. Once again, vitamin E, carnitine, vitamin C, CoQ10, N-acetylcysteine, zinc, folic acid, selenium, and lycopene. So, there you have it.

Alright, and I will link as I do with all of these to the full study in the shownotes at BenGreenfieldLife.com/460.

Alright, let's move on to another sex-related topic, wine. And, this was interesting, there was a study that looked at wine and the consumption of wine, particularly for sexual function. This one discussed women but was primarily, again, sorry ladies looking primarily at the fellas. Now, it's interesting because some of us consider wine to be an aphrodisiac, and I've always wondered well is that because it's actually a potent blood flow precursor, so much so that the cheap hack when I used to bodybuild was we drink red wine and eat dark chocolate backstage to allow for better vascularity or is it the relaxing component of red wine, is the fact that maybe you're in Paris at a fancy restaurant drinking wine on a hot date, and that's why red wine has the reputation as an aphrodisiac. I don't know what the answer is until I went through this study at least.

So, let's talk about this. So, red wine, alcoholic beverage, it's obtained from the fermentation of dark-colored grapes rich in phytonutrients. And, there is a lot in wine besides just water and ethanol. You've got organic acids, aldehydes, ketones, esters, minerals, lipids, what are called phenolics. So, there's a lot going on in wine and the beneficial health effects of red wine have been primarily associated with its polyphenolic content, very high amount of what are called flavonoids and non-flavonoids. So, we've got things like quercetin, myricetin, catechin, epicatechin which you'd also find in things like green tea, what are called hydroxycinnamates like caffeic acid, glutaric acid, hydroxybenzanate, a lot of stuff going on in wine due to its polyphenol content.

Now, the alcohol content of red wine has, of course, been a major issue of concern amongst many people, yet moderate alcohol consumption has also been associated with a cardio-protective effect and an increase in HDL, a reduction in your platelet adhesiveness. And, those are both responsible for the onset of atherosclerosis. So, it turns out that one to three glasses of wine per day may reduce cardiovascular risk. I know that some people will say that alcohol in any amount is bad for you. The studies being used to make that claim typically don't break out say drinking a glass of wine each night with dinner and being a teeter taller and having seven glasses of wine all in a row on a weekend. It's important that wine be consumed in small doses, any alcohol be consumed in small doses, a small hormetic dose so to speak. This would be the same as say running 25 miles on the weekend versus running 3 miles a day. Your body's going to be able to handle that far differently.

So, the polyphenols in red wine are incredibly high, especially if it has a lot of the skins, a lot of the seeds, if it's a very tannic wine. I always choose biodynamic or organic wine such as you would find from the countries of France or New Zealand or Italy. Those tend to be three safe countries that use fewer herbicides and pesticides that often also use dry irrigation methods that result in higher antioxidant content of the grape, sometimes lower alcohol content. You can find a lot of this information in the podcast that I did with Todd White who has a company called Dry Farm Wines. I've been a subscriber to their wine service for like 10 years. I think it's around six or eight bottles delivered once a month to my house all organic biodynamic wine.

So, this study said, well, if wine's got all these things going for, what does it do when it comes to fertility, sexual desire, sexual function, spermatozoa, which is the name implies can be correlated with the quality of your sperm and just overall sexual function? So, they took all of the studies out there that have been done on red wine related to sex. And, I found some interesting things. So, first of all, red wine appears to, in a dose-dependent manner, affect your follicle-stimulating hormone, testosterone, and prolactin levels. And, this is a lot of studies that were done in male rodents but it appears that all of these could be beneficial when it comes to restoration of erectile function. They've also found that red wine can cause a reduced amount of the breakdown of nitric oxide, the same reason people would take say Viagra or sildenafil to increase nitric oxide where the polyphenols in red wine seem to allow for some smooth muscle relaxation, what's called the corpora cavernosa of the penis and also increased penile vasodilation.

Now, I don't know if I necessarily need to be drinking a lot of wine as I just got a massive amount of stem cells injected into my own nether regions. Nonetheless, in the absence of stem cells, red wine appears to be a pretty good idea when it comes to the polyphenol content and what that does to both your endocrine system as well as your balls when it comes to a better sexual function. They've also found that the antioxidant properties and polyphenols found in red wine are positively correlated to serum testosterone levels. This is interesting. Most people tell if you're going to drink alcohol, it will suppress your testosterone levels. But, in fact, they have shown, and again, most of the studies I will admit were in rodent models but that the low-to-moderate consumption of red wine actually resulted in an increase in testosterone levels and also seem to balance phytoestrogens or the phytoestrogens in wine seem to balance the body's estrogen levels. And, that influenced what's called steroidogenesis and also seem to cause a slight growth hormone response. So again, we're talking about low to moderate amounts, but that seems to be fantastic as well.

They did look a little bit at women and they showed sexual desire and vaginal lubrication to be higher in women who consumed around a glass of wine a day. And, it was actually better than women who consumed a whole lot of wine. So again, a little bit of a trade-off here when it comes to the amount of wine that you're drinking. If it's a giant fish bowl-sized glass of wine or multiple glasses or half the bottle, probably not. As a matter of fact, that appears to decrease female sexual function or the quality of female sexual function. But, in small doses, again, around a glass a day. It seems to be beneficial for women. So, hooray. Hopefully, I'm making a lot of fans with what I'm saying about wine here. And again, we're all talking about low to moderate amounts. And, this may vary from person to person depending on your ability to be able to metabolize alcohol. There are some genetic components here, but we're painting with a broad brush across a lot of studies. You should also note that chronic alcohol intake can reduce testosterone levels, impair spermatogenesis and decrease testicular volume.

Now, note that I said alcohol intake because if you isolate alcohol and give it to a human being in those doses, it doesn't appear to be beneficial. But then, when you combine it with the wide host of polyphenolic compounds in red wine, those appear to be protected against the actual effects of the alcohol. So, in a nutshell here or in a grape shell or grape skin, I should say, what it appears is that red wine intake seems to be beneficial for male reproductive function and sexual function in low to moderate amounts and the same seems to be able to be said for women at least when it comes to sexual desire and vaginal lubrication. So, there you have it. It turns out that when I was drinking red wine backstage when I used to bodybuild and found it to be incredibly vascular that it seems to have that same effect in the bedroom so to speak. So, everybody rush out and grab your low to moderate dose of red wine.

So, another thing related to hormones and to sexual function, and this was a look at testosterone and lipid profiles. The reason that I wanted to bring this up, and I've been guilty of saying this as well, is hey, don't listen to your doctor when they tell you you have a high lipid score or high cholesterol because, in fact, cholesterol is something that is necessary for say the formation of your cell membranes or acts as a precursor for steroidogenesis or for testosterone or other estrogens, et cetera, in the human body. This is partially true; however, it does not require high amounts of cortisol. In other words, after digging into this, it appears that, yes, even very young human beings who tend to have very low cholesterol levels but are in a highly anabolic state and getting ready to go through puberty and have huge surgeon testosterone tend to have low cholesterol levels. Furthermore, your blood cholesterol levels that you're testing don't really that closely mimic what's going on on a tissue level anyways. That's why I think anybody who's testing, and I've said this recently on a few podcasts, their cholesterol panels because they want to be careful that they don't develop heart disease should instead be putting more of a focus on their plaque score or their calcium scan score and not their lipid values. If you're going to pay attention to anything from a heart health standpoint, I think it should be inflammation, should be blood glucose, triglyceride level, and then possibly also this marker called ApoB, a protein that might be associated with the potential for a high cholesterol count or high LDL to be problematic.

But, back to the testosterone piece. So, what they found in this study that looked at the relationship between testosterone and lipid profile, and this was in Chinese men, was that testosterone levels were correlated negatively to triglycerides and LDL and positively with HDL, meaning to a certain extent, the lower your cholesterol, I'm not going to say bad cholesterol because it drives me nuts, no cholesterol is bad, right. LDL cholesterol is good. HDL cholesterol is good. Impaired balances or values of those can be bad. But basically, what they found was that if you have very high triglycerides and very high LDL, you tend to have lower testosterone. Not as a lot of high cholesterol diet advocates would say higher testosterone and if you have high HDL that tends to be correlated with higher testosterone. So, when you're running into some paleo diet or eat 10 eggs a day or ribeyes for breakfast lunch and dinner, dietary advocate who says that's you keep your testosterone levels up because it increases cholesterol. And, when you increase your cholesterol, you increase your testosterone. Please note that the amount of cholesterol that you need for adequate testosterone is nowhere near what you'd be getting from a diet that is very heavy in saturated fats, oils and completely throws out the window the idea that some of this could contribute especially in a heavily exercising or inflamed person to the onset of cardiovascular disease.

So, I'm not saying fats are bad, what I'm saying is that a high-fat diet is not going to increase your testosterone at least not based on the research. And furthermore, you do need to make sure you are living a very low inflammation avoiding hefty amounts of exercise, especially intense exercise and taking very, very good care of the body, and paying close attention to your plaque score or your calcium scan score if you are going to eat a high-fat diet. And arguably, you should also have a lot of artery-scrubbing polyphenols and flavanols in your diet as well. Pomegranate would be a perfect example of that or the lycopene from potatoes or the red wine I was just talking about.

And frankly, I see a lot of these like carnivore high-fat diet, even the dirty keto type of enthusiasts not consuming enough polyphenols because they're simply not eating enough of these vegetable compounds because they've heard that plants are going to kill you so they don't. And, I just think that's a bad idea from a cardiovascular disease standpoint. And furthermore, no, having super high cholesterol levels is not correlated with having high testosterone levels. Your body does need cholesterol to make testosterone, but you can get enough cholesterol to make testosterone from two eggs a day. You don't need that much. And, this study actually showed an inverse correlation between cholesterol and testosterone. It's just something to pay attention to and think about.

Okay. Now, next we're actually going to move away from the sexual health and hormonal topic and into what I just happen to be intrigued with, experiment a lot with, talk to a lot of people about. And, that is this whole idea of nootropics. One of the best papers I've ever read on nootropics came out a couple of weeks ago and it goes over the mechanism of action and spectrum of effects of all these different drugs or compounds that people are using to enhance their cognition.

Now, what are nootropics? Well, technically, they are classically defined as a group of drugs that have the ability to do a lot of things; improve memory, restore impaired cognitive function of the brain, improve learning and information reproduction, stimulate active wakefulness, and increase the body's resistance to adverse or extreme factors such as say excess stress or sleep deprivation. Now, according to the definition by the WHO, nootropic drugs include any drugs that have a direct activating effect on learning processes, improved memory, and mental activity and increase the brain's resistance to aggressive influences. Again, say stress or even concussion or head injury, you can use a lot of these things for.

So, the term nootropics comes from the Greek words “noos” and “tropes.” So, if someone asks you what nootropics mean, the word noos means mind or thinking and tropes means direction. So, literally the word nootropics could be thought of as meaning mind director. And, it positively affects cognitive and integrative brain functions. That's how it would be defined by the Belgian scientists who coined this term.

Now, there are a lot of different nootropic compounds out there. For example, I took some this morning. I'm holding them right here in my hand if you want to see the video of what these things look like. This little canister that I'm holding is called Upbeat. This other one is called Brain Flow. I'll read you the ingredients. I got these from a company called Nootopia, N-O-O-T-O-P-I-A. Kind of a cool service. You go to their website. You fill out a form that identifies your unique neurotransmitter type and then they custom package a big black box of nootropics designed for a variety of effects and ship them to your house. So, Upbeat, I stacked the Upbeat with the Brain Flow because they recommended these two as stacking well together. The Upbeat, which is recommended for confidence, ambition, positivity, and when speaking with other people to maximize emotional intelligence or EQ, is comprised of omnipept, theobromine, phenylalanine, acetyl l-tyrosine, caffeine, 5-HTP, curcumin, grape seed, forskolin, cayenne, piperine, methyl B complex, guarana, theacrine, vitamin D and vitamin K. You'll learn about some of these in this article I'm about to tell you about.

And then, the other one Brain Flow, it says increases verbal fluency and optimizes productivity. So, if I guess if I lose my words during this podcast, this can be a horrific advertisement for this stuff. It's two capsules. One, internal capsule inside this external fatty capsule. The internal capsule is omnipept, caffeine, choline, pregnenolone and piperine. And then, the oil is ginger oil, peppermint oil, black pepper oil, MCT oil, and malkangani seed oil. That's a new one. So anyways, I am taking a nootropic right now. And again, I got those from the company called Nootopia.

So anyways, what do all those things do? Well, this is where the magic of the article kicks in. It goes into all the different categories that you're going to find inside a nootropic or nootropic stack and defines what they do. So first, for example, racetams. Racetams, I think, they're fantastic. This would include piracetam, oxiracetam, aniracetam, pramiracetam, rolziracetam. There's a lot of them out there. But basically, racetams increase the brain metabolism. And, when you combine them with anything that's going to improve the availability of choline to the brain, it's like pressing the gas pedal down harder on your brain while simultaneously dumping more fuel into the gas tank. I don't think either of these Upbeat or Brain Flow have racetams in them. They have a few racetam-like compounds in them, but that's the reason that both of them also have choline and some other oils in them to replenish the brain's gasoline that is burning through more quickly. So, the racetams, those would increase brain metabolism and they're also classified as substances that have a neuroprotective function for something like inflammation or oxidation in the brain.

The next category would be what are called acetylcholinesterase inhibitors. These would be things that cause choline to be broken down more readily. You want more choline around because your brain needs to use it when you're thinking harder and trying to make your brain work faster. So, this would include things like galantamine, donepezil, another one called tacrine, amiridin but they're called acetylcholinesterase inhibitors. There are also other substances that can increase the synthesis of acetylcholine. Acetyl-l-carnitine, citicoline, lecithin, phosphatidylcholine. These are all fantastic additions to a nootropic.

As a matter of fact, there's one guy who I interviewed recently, Andy Triana, he wrote an entire book, I've got it back there on my shelf, on nootropics and smart drugs. He says the best compound, the best two compounds he's found above all if you're going to stack them, I'm quoting this one from memory, but I believe it's the racetam. So, some kind of racetam and then a choline. So, one makes the brain work faster, one basically restores the gasoline. And, that's kind of like if you're just going to cut through a lot of the clutter and go straight to a really good stack that you could try if you've never tried something like this for the brain, that would be a good one to go for. Racetam plus some kind of a choline like piracetam plus citicoline, for example.

Then, there are substances that affect the system of excitatory amino acids. This would be like glutamic acid or glycine, substances that affect the GABA system. This would be like lithium or oxybutyrate or phenibut and then what are called neuropeptides. This would be neuropeptide Y, the intranasal peptides like Semax or Selank. There's another one that's called Noopept, which is very interesting because when you heard me reading off the ingredients of Upbeat and Brain Flow, you hear me say omnipept and they've got a few different forms of what are called omnipept that's very similar to Noopept, which is a neuropeptide, allows for these small amino acid fragments to go into the brain and can be very helpful.

Then, we have brain antioxidants like alpha-tocopherol and ubiquinone and selenium. We have neural protective drugs like vinpocetine. That's one that was used, I believe, in Dale Bredesen's book on “The End of Alzheimer's” as a treatment that they would use for Alzheimer's and dementia. I've seen that also when used in management of TBI and concussions.

Then finally, we have vitamins like vitamin E, vitamin B, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, alpha lipoic acid, ginseng, ginkgo biloba, lemongrass, et cetera. These are vitamins and they're vitamin analogs which when combined have a neuroprotective effect on the brain. So, when we combine all these things together in the right way when you look at done-for-you supplements like the one I mentioned by Nootopia or Qualia has one called Mind or Onnit has one called the Alpha Brain, I believe, or there's a Chinese herbal one called TianChi, they're typically taking a lot of the substance that I just described and they're combining them all together to get this type of effect.

Now, it is interesting like a few of these, I would love to just talk with you a little bit more about. So, for example, piracetam, it's anti-hypoxic, it's anxiolytic and it's a nootropic. So, not only is it working to increase blood flow to the brain, increase oxygen for the brain, but also to decrease stress and anxiety and act as a nootropic for improved cognitive function. So, piracetam has a wide variety of mechanisms of action, which is why I think piracetam is one of the best nootropic type of ingredients out there. 

Phosphatidylcholine is another one that ranks really high has what's called a cholinergic mechanism of action. They have shown that the administration of that to humans with cognitive dysfunction and dementia increases the concentration of acetylcholine in the brain and improves memory. So, this can actually be used for brain deficits or in a situation such as concussion or TBI. It may even have a protective effect which a lot of these do if it's in the system when you get the head injury.

So, for example, they've shown that being hydrated, let's say if you're a UFC fighter going into a fight, helps you to bounce back faster if you get hit in the head or injured. The same thing could be said for ketones, lesser known but high blood values of ketones–for example, when I was down in Salt Lake City, I went to the UFC fight and I think there were four TKOs at the fight. Any of those guys, if they would have drank liquid ketones before their fight, would have been able to stave off some of the brain damage that can occur when you get a concussion or a TBI. Well, you could say the same thing if you had some something like a piracetam in your system or you had something like acetylcholine in your system. Most of these nootropics, they're not banned by world sporting organizations so you can literally take them prior to an event in which you might have a risk for a head injury and stave off the potential damaging effects of a head injury.

So, there's another one that I wanted to focus in on in this particular article even though I highly recommend you read it if you really want to wrap your head around what all these do and it's one that is right now not that popular but that I think will be quite popular. It is called Mexidol, M-E-X-I-D-O-L.

So, what is Mexidol? Well, it was synthesized at the Zakusov Research Institute of Pharmacology. It has antioxidant and anti-hypoxic properties and also it is a neuroprotective and anxiolytic and antidepressant and anti-convulsant and anti-alcoholic. And, it has several other effects including being able to allow for better mood protection of the brain in response to stroke and treatment of cognitive impairment in human people who have things like Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's, and multiple sclerosis. This one has a lot going for it. After reading this article, I actually bookmarked to start to go down the path of hunting down what appeared to be safe sources of this Mexidol.

And, if you happen to be listening in and you've kind of done some of this research yourself, drop into the shownotes and share this with everybody. Go to BenGreenfieldLife.com/460 because Mexidol, which is technically 2 ethyl, 6-methyl, 3-hydroxypyridine succinate is something that, of the different nootropics listed on this entire paper, has what's called a POLYTARGET mechanism of action and appears to work on a variety of different Pathways in the brain for everything from memory improvement to mood improvement, to mitochondrial biogenesis, to a neuroprotective effect. So, that one seems to me from reading this entire article to be the one that would rank the highest. But anyways, if you really want to turn yourself into an expert on what kind of things that you can consume to make your brain work better, I highly recommend that you check out this article. I'll link to it in the shownotes at BenGreenfieldLife.com/460.

And now, I do believe it's time for our listener Q&A. Alright, well, like I mentioned, if you want to leave your question, just go to the shownotes at BenGreenfieldLife.com/460 or you can send me a direct message on Instagram or Twitter or Facebook mentioning that you have a question for the podcast. And, I keep track of all those on a spreadsheet and pick a few good ones every week.

So, the first question is about natural flavors. This guy says I have a question regarding natural flavors. Bobby at FlavCity teaches to avoid all food with natural flavors because the ingredients used do not have to be disclosed. It is confusing when shopping clean products and you see natural flavors used. That's a great question. 

Let's see what Bobby at FlavCity based on what I found is his most recent Instagram post has to say about natural flavors. And, the caption says, “When you see natural flavors on the ingredient list ‘run Forest run,' it is one of the biggest issues in the grocery store and almost every product contains it. Even organic natural flavors are still poopy sign,” which I assume means [BLEEP].

So, here actually is the audio of what Bobby at FlavCity has to say as he holds a canister of organic mustard which apparently is going to kill.

Bobby:  When you see natural flavoring on a label, which 90% of the ingredients in a grocery store has that, there's nothing natural about that. The rule is they have to start with something natural like a mustard seed, a tomato, a peach. As long as they start with something natural, they can literally add up to 100 chemicals to it and change it and alter it in a lab with a scientist and still call it natural. The reason why they can do that is because it's not a government-regulated term and it's totally bad for you because it kind of acts like MSG because it gets you hooked on the product. What they do is they isolate the most bold flavorful properties in the natural flavoring to excite your taste buds, excite your brain, buy more. What happens when you buy more, they make more money. So, they pretty much have hijacked our taste buds and the natural flavorings are completely unnatural. So, stay away from that.

Ben:  Alright. Well, this is interesting. And, by the way, I do not personally avoid natural flavors. I pay attention to their source but I don't avoid natural flavors. Let's talk about natural flavors and where they even come from. So, they come from all around us, right? They come from fruits, vegetables, spices, leaves, trees. There are hundreds of natural substances that can be combined to make a strawberry flavor or a pomegranate flavor or ginger vanilla flavor, whatever. As a matter of fact, flavorist are actually people who have a full-time job as part chemists and part artists. I've worked with many of them, for example, to develop the flavor profiles of everything from the Kion aminos to the whey protein, to the energy bar. Flavor profiling agents are very good at what they do. They mix and match using a knowledge of chemistry and a pretty good palates to be able to make a food taste how you want it to taste and still allow that food to be packaged up and presented in the way that you would desire and say a bar or a protein powder or whatever.

And so, we'll find these flavors, of course, in most packaged products and the question is, what happens when you consume them? So, if you get into this, when you're smelling or tasting natural flavors, you are in many cases smelling natural flavors, artificial flavors or a combination of both. Now, both natural and artificial flavors are synthesized in laboratories. Okay, just because it's natural doesn't mean someone picked it off of a tree and somehow put it into your plastic packaging. They are synthesized in laboratories but the source, the natural flavor, okay, an artificial flavor come from anything; petroleum, other inedible substances, chemicals, whatever. But, the definition of a natural flavor is it's anything that comes from a spice, a fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf, meat, seafood, poultry, egg, dairy product or anything fermented from any of those foods.

Now, the fact is natural and artificial flavors can be the exact same molecules. Nutritionally, there can be no difference between them and both are used quite a bit in our modern world where we consume food that has been enhanced in some way by one of these so-called flavorists. For example, if you want to create a passion fruit flavored product with actual passion fruit for say a vodka, a flavorist would need to consume basically a quarter of the world's passion fruit supply to make that happen. That's not cost-effective nor is it friendly to the environment, so they'll look for cheaper sources that mimic the passion fruit's molecular fingerprint. So, a flavor profiling agent will say order fresh passion fruit from a supplier and taste it and identify using a special lexicon of words, very similar to what a sommelier using a wine wheel might do. And then, they'll go into a research and development laboratory to identify the molecular fingerprint of the passion fruit and try to match compounds to compounds that are available in a flavoring lab. So, natural sources might be African violets to the bark of some random tree with a little bit of natural vanilla flavoring. And, they're basically combining all of these things and then diluting those extracts with things like water or glycerin or ethanol to begin to build that tropical flavor profiling note.

Now, this is something that of course makes a lot of people nervous because they think that just the pure fact that it was created in a laboratory environment and has some sort of chemicals or extraction added to it that it could be unhealthy for you. And, as a matter of fact, there are entire agencies such as FEMA is one that has a full-time job of evaluating what is called GRAS status of a lot of these flavors, generally recognized as safe status under authority granted them by the United States Congress and they publish annual reports on what is and is not recognized or generally recognized as safe. And, most people in the food industry are using GRAS products whether it's natural flavors or artificial flavors. That doesn't mean that there aren't specific use cases like if you have say small intestine bacterial overgrowth, you should avoid sugar alcohols, whether you consider them to be natural or artificial or whether they're generally recognized as safe or whatever, your gut bacteria will metabolize the hell out of say mannitol or would be another couple of examples, sometimes sucralose. There are others like allulose, et cetera. A lot of these can be very fermentable in the stomach if someone has SIBO. It doesn't matter if it's good or bad for you. In terms of generally recognized as safe status, it's just not something that is going to agree well with your particular tummy.

So now, these flavors, they're combining all of these different chemicals and solvents and emulsifiers and flavor enhancers and preservatives. And, natural flavors and artificial flavors are both used in that same way, it's just that natural flavors must come from the bark of the tree, the root, the meat, the vegetable, et cetera. So, when you look at natural flavors then and the fact that they've been studied and generally recognized as safe, there's a lot bigger things to be worrying about. For example, if you visit the whole foods website, they have pretty good food ingredient standards. You won't find partially hydrogenated oils or FD&C colors or a high amount of preservatives that you'd use in packaged foods like a whole bunch of sulfites in wine or a certain sweeteners like aspartame or aspartame-acesulfame salt or cyclamates or saccharin or sucralose or certain all-purpose white flowers that have been bleached with benzoyl peroxide or bromated with the addition of potassium bromide. You won't find a lot of this stuff at Whole Foods. However, there are other things that they just make a big deal about Whole Foods. I don't think they're that big of a deal. You can't find activated charcoal in foods from Whole Foods. You can't find certain probiotic strains with really long names like Bacillus coagulans. You can't find certain things like ethylene glycol or even Hawaiian black salt or grapefruit seed extract. They've got a lot of stuff that you can't find at whole foods that I would consider to be natural agents that are generally recognized as safe that you really don't have to worry as much about.

So, let's go into a little bit more of the research on when natural appear on food packaging if you really should be forming your opinion on whether or not that food is healthy based on that. So, like I mentioned, we have FEMA, which is a trade group that evaluates the safety of flavor additives in the U.S. Now, in most cases, natural flavors appear safe for human consumption when consumed occasionally in processed or ultra-processed foods. Again, there's a lot of other things like the spike in blood glucose or the mix of vegetable oils and sugars, et cetera, that you do need to worry about in processed foods. But, most of these natural flavors have had the heck studied out of them when it comes to whether or not there would actually be an adverse reaction.

Now, yes, food manufacturers sometimes aren't required to disclose whether incidental additives and food come from a natural or a synthetic source and some flavor source from genetically modified crops can be labeled as natural. And, that might be concerning to some people, but at the same time, just because something is natural even artificial has a big scary name on does not mean that it's bad for you. Okay. So, they'll use amyl acetate, distilled from bananas to provide banana-like flavor in your baked goodies or they'll use citral or geranial, which is extracted from lemongrass or lemon or orange or pimento for a citrus-flavored beverage or sweet or benzaldehyde. Yeah, it sounds scary but they get it from almonds and cinnamon oil or castoreum. People say, “Oh, that's scary, it's found in the anal secretion of beavers.” Well, let me tell you, if you eat any amount of meat at all, you are eating a lot more than just the anal secretion of a beaver, so live with it. Other natural flavors, massoia lactone comes from coconuts, acetoin that comes from butter, [00:45:31] _____ that comes from honey.

So, the artificial flavors, yes, are less expensive to produce, they're more appealing to food manufacturers, you're going to find those more in food. But, natural flavors, yeah, they're a little bit more expensive for these people to get their hands on or to make but they also are studied a ton to confirm that they actually do meet safety standards. So, I think it's better if you're eating something and you get a tummy ache or your HRV drops or your blood parameters aren't responding well that you're careful with it, but I've seen zero evidence that you need to drop everything and avoid natural flavors.

Now, of course, there are certain things that I don't trust the SDA on or I'm sorry the FDA on. Let's talk about MSG. If you go to the FDA's website, they will actually say that the glutamate in MSG is chemically indistinguishable from the glutamate present in food proteins and your body metabolizes both sources of glutamate in the exact same way. They say MSG occurs naturally in many foods like tomatoes and cheeses and people have eaten glutamate-rich foods throughout history. And so, if you go to a restaurant and they're using chemical MSG that's exactly identical to the natural MSG that you would find in proteins, and that is simply not the case. Not only since 2018, to my awareness, have we had the ability to be able to measure stable isotope ratios of glutamic acid contained in food versus chemical MSG and you can easily differentiate between the carbon and nitrogen ratios of glutamic acid versus MSG.

When we look at MSG, there's actually two common forms of glutamic acid, L-glutamic acid, and D-glutamic acid. The L-glutamic acid which you find in protein is the bound glutamic acid. Now, in real natural foods, amino acids are rarely free. Usually, they're linked or they're bound. And so, D-glutamic acid, which is artificial and chemically produced outside of the body, that is a different type of glutamic acid known as monosodium glutamate or MSG. So, the L-glutamic acid, again, is bound to protein, the D-glutamic acid is not and is used to make MSG. Now, when you eat foods containing proteins, your body breaks down the proteins, hydrolyzes them in the stomach or the lower intestines using hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes. And, in a healthy person, your body controls the amount of glutamic acid that it derives from protein. It doesn't store excess glutamic acid in the body because in high amounts, glutamic acid can cause a little bit of neurotoxicity or cellular toxicity.

Now, utilize that way using the body's natural processes, eating glutamic acid that would be found in proteins or other plants, wheat, beets, corn, molasses, whatever, that that's all going to be relatively harmless when it comes to the glutamic acid because it's bound. In a chemical MSG manufacturing plant, the bound glutamic acid is broken down or made free of proteins using hydrolysis and autolysis and modifying and fermenting and it makes this white crystal powder. It looks like salt or sugar and that's the type of chemical MSG that they would use in a lot of restaurants.

Now, when you consume that, you get a rapid uptake of the free glutamic acid. That rapid uptake can cause blood levels of glutamate that are eight to times 10 or 8 to 10 times higher than what you would get from food. And thus, you see a lot of people reporting even though the studies are kind of weak on this that they don't feel that great after they have, let's say a huge meal at a restaurant. I'm not going to say Chinese restaurant because honestly I think that's a little racist because almost every restaurant uses MSG. This isn't just Chinese restaurant syndrome people, it's any restaurant really that uses high amount of MSG or any processed food that contains a high amount of MSG, massive amounts of glutamic acid circulating in the body. And, that might be a slight health hazard because high levels of that glutamic acid have been associated with cardiotoxicity, hepatotoxicity, neurotoxicity, low-grade inflammation.

When you dig into the studies, it is in very high amounts. You're not going to have this happen to you if you're eating at a restaurant once a week that uses MSG in their foods, but if you're regularly consuming processed foods and eating out at restaurants that use MSG, theoretically, you're getting close to the dose that in some of these studies has been shown to cause concerning effects. And so, yes, one might argue MSG is a natural flavor because the way that you make it in a lab is to ferment sugar beet molasses, corn, cassava, and tapioca starch, which are all natural sources. And therefore, since MSG is natural, it's generally recognized as safe and good for you but I beg to differ. We can't throw everything under the bus but we need to pick what we are and are not going to vilify when it comes to natural flavors and I realize it's a pain in the butt, but you just have to do your research. If you look at say our Kion Energy Bar, for example, or Kion Aminos, it'll say natural flavors on it, but we have done extensive looking into about whether the natural flavors that we use are good or bad and the flavoring agents tend to stick to the generally recognized as safe standards for those type of natural flavors. However, I don't just eat anything that has natural flavors in it and don't ask any questions because you do want to check whether or not there's actual research on the potential of those natural flavors to cause harm. I still am careful with process and ultra-processed foods, but honestly, I'm way more worried about blood sugar spikes and vegetable oil and some of the stuff that's actually been proven to be deleterious for the human body, especially in high amounts. And, I don't throw natural flavors under the bus, I think it's just a way for people to turn heads and get some social media clicks. But honestly, just because something says natural flavors does not mean it's bad, my friends. So, there you have it.

Alright, got a couple more questions here. Hello, Ben, can you comment on nitric oxide from red light therapy? We hear that stimulating nitric oxide production could be more harmful than helpful. Actually, this is going to be the last question that I respond to because I've realized I am running a little bit short on time. So, this is the last one we'll go through.

Nitric oxide. Well, contrary to popular belief, more nitric oxide is not better. As a matter of fact, nitric oxide is something that is considered a reactive oxygen species that can create inflammatory, cell-damaging, free radicals when present in the body in high amounts. As a matter of fact, if one were to inhale nitric oxide despite nitric oxide in cardiovascular health research getting the much coveted Nobel Prize, you would actually have a lot of problems. It's a very volatile gas. And, if you get high, high levels of nitric oxide in your system, you can get blurred vision, you can get respiratory ailments, hematologic damage, metabolic disorders, arterial stiffness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, more is not necessarily better, and even in lower amounts such as overdoing your red light therapy, you could actually get the formation of what are called reactive oxygen species in high amounts.

So basically, the interplay between NO and ROS is something that needs to be in balance, meaning that both reactive oxygen species and nitric oxide can have beneficial and deleterious effects depending on the concentration and the exposure time. And, they've actually looked into this with red light therapy and have found that with most of these devices, once you exceed about 20 minutes of red light therapy, you can tend to get excess reactive oxygen species generation partially because of the big increase in NO that could be further aggravated by all these people who are taking arginine and citrulline and Viagra and all these blood flow precursors prior to doing their red light therapy. It's kind of like a phototoxic effect.

Now, the reason this happens is red light therapy and near-infrared light therapy as well, the reason it works is it helps your cells to make more adenosine triphosphate or ATP. And, that relies on the activation of the mitochondria, which are the batteries of your cells which produce that energy currency and that means more energy to drive cellular processes like testosterone production or cell reproduction or collagen synthesis, which is why we like red light for things like skin health benefits or sexual health benefits or just overall energy benefits.

Now, the ATP is produced by an enzyme called ATP synthase. And, that enzyme is a tiny motor which operates in the fluid of your mitochondrial membrane. And, like any motor, the less resistance, the faster the motor can work. So, the fluid in your mitochondrial membrane is primarily made up of water, layers and layers of water, and this water exists in what's called the fourth phase. You can read a book called “Cells, Gels and the Engines of Life” to see how water that's in your cells and exists between membranes is not a liquid or gas or a solid, it's a gel. So, when ATP synthase, your little nanomotor is working its socks off to produce ATP, then you would actually slow the motor down because that structured water is more viscous than normal water and you would actually see an increase in ATP production and an aligning of that water in response to light that allows for faster ATP output. And, as a fallout from increased ATP output and mitochondrial respiration, you get an increase in reactive oxygen species.

And so, the more viscous the water in your cells is, the slower the ATP nanomotor operates and the less ATP is produced. And, when you introduce red light, the light expands the water layers that reduces the viscosity of the water, it allows the mitochondrial nano-turbine to speed up and that produces more ATP, which is great for energy but in excess doses can create a lot of nitric oxide and reactive oxygen species that can impair cellular function long term. And so, again, this is why in most cases most devices come with a recommended treatment time and in most cases, if it's infrared sauna, it's any somewhere from like 30 to 60 minutes. If it's one of these red light panels, it's 10 to 20 minutes.

And so, you do need to be careful because they have found again formation of reactive oxygen species with overdosing of photobiomodulation. More is not better. But, here's a tip for you. There is one compound that has been shown to inhibit nitric oxide stimulated what's called soluble guanylyl cyclase and can actually slow down those ATP nanomotors just a little bit and can cause the NO to build up a little less quickly. That compound, which is fantastic to take prior to red light therapy, is called methylene blue. So, you can actually stave off some of these effects by using methylene blue. Theoretically, you could also take a hefty dose of antioxidants after you've done a lot of red light therapy and both of those would be beneficial to kind of stave off some of the potentially deleterious effects of a whole bunch of nitric oxide production in response to red light therapy. But, it is a concern and that is why you're not supposed to do excess red light therapy because the excess nitric oxide and the excess reactive oxygen species that can result because of that.

So, great question, very intelligent question. I have a lot of listeners who are smart cookies. So, good job. That's going to wrap up everything I'm going to go over in today's episode, but again, you can leave your questions, your comments, your feedback. You can watch the video version if you just want to see a talking head of me talking to the microphone just super entertaining at BenGreenfieldLife.com/460. And, I highly recommend if you're able to leave the podcast a review or a ranking, that helps me tremendously. It really helps get more eyeballs on the show. It's one of the best things you can do. Don't just nod your head and say you're going to do it. Actually, do it, it'll take you 10 seconds to do. Just go in clicky-click, leave a star. I would heavily appreciate it. And, until next time. I'm Ben Greenfield signing out. Again, shownotes are at BenGreenfieldLife.com/460. Have an amazing week.

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Q: I have a question regarding “Natural Flavors.” Bobby at Flavcity teaches to avoid all food with natural flavors and that the ingredients do not have to be disclosed. Can you please address the topic? It is so confusing when shopping “clean” products and you see “Natural Flavors” used in the ingredients list…42:34 TO EDITOR: I REQUESTED THAT BOBBY'S ORIGINAL IG POST BE EMBEDDED HERE BUT LOOKS LIKE THAT STILL NEEDS TO BE DONE.

Ben Recommends:
  • Ben doesn't avoid “Natural Flavors” altogether
  • Where do they come from?
    • From all around us: fruits, vegetables, spices, trees, leaves, etc.
    • Flavorists are both chemists and artists that work in the “flavoring” industry
  • Both natural and artificial flavors are synthesized in laboratories
    • Artificial flavors can come from anything, such as petroleum and synthetic chemicals
    • Natural flavors are derived from natural food sources only
    • Natural and artificial flavors can be the exact same molecules
      • Nutritionally the same
      • Both used in the modern world to enhance foods
  • A flavorist helps reduce cost and environmental impact by finding ways to mimic flavors in the natural state
  • FEMA evaluates GRAS status (Generally Recognized as Safe)
  • Examples of natural flavorings:
    • Isoamyl acetate derived from bananas for banana flavoring
    • Citral derived from lemongrass for citrus flavoring
    • Benzaldehyde from almonds for cherry flavoring
    • Castoreum found in anal secretions from beavers
    • Acetoin from butter
  • Ben doesn't trust the FDA on substances like MSG
    • FDA claims that the glutamate in MSG is chemically the same as the glutamate found in food proteins
      • L-Glutamic acid is naturally found in protein and bound
      • D-Glutamic acid is not made synthetically and is not bound
    • MSG is made from fermented sugar, beets, corn, tapioca starch, and cassava
      • Promoted as safe
      • Ben disagrees
  • Kion Energy Bar and Kion Aminos both use good natural flavors based on extensive research
  • Ben is careful with processed foods, though more concerned with blood sugar spikes and vegetable oil

Q: Hello Ben, can you comment on nitric oxide production from red light therapy, now we are hearing that stimulating nitric oxide production could be more harmful than helpful?…58:55

Ben Recommends:
  • Contrary to popular belief, more nitric oxide is not better
    • Nitric oxide is considered a reactive oxygen species
      • Can create inflammation and cell-damaging free radicals
  • Reactive oxygen species and nitric oxide can have beneficial and deleterious effects depending on concentration and exposure time
  • More than 20 minutes of red light therapy can cause excess reactive oxygen species generation
    • Further aggravated by consuming blood flow precursors, such as arginine, citrulline, or Viagra prior to red light therapy
  • Red light therapy helps cells make more adenosine triphosphate (ATP)
    • Relies on activation of mitochondria
    • ATP is produced by ATP synthase
      • Like a tiny motor that operates in the fluid the mitochondria
      • Light allows faster output of ATP
  • To stave off potential deleterious effects of nitric oxide production from red light therapy, you can:
    • Take Methylene Blue (use code BEN to save 10%)
    • Consume high amounts of antioxidants

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