[Transcript] – Can Smoking Cigarettes Make You Live Longer, Are The Blue Zones A Myth, Which Meat You Should Think Twice About Eating & More With Dr. Steven Gundry

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From podcast: https://bengreenfieldlife.com/podcast/steven-gundry-gutcheck/

[00:00:00] Introduction

[00:02:39] Japan as a blue zone and food fermentation

[00:12:06] Sardinia as a blue zone and smoking

[00:20:00] The benefits of goat and sheep products

[00:26:24] What is Neu5Gc and why it is an issue?

[00:39:33] Statistical issues with blue zones

[00:46:16] What should we do when it comes to chickens?

[00:50:50] What is mitochondrial uncoupling?

[00:54:07] Other things to uncouple mitochondria

[00:58:23] Closing the Podcast

[00:59:20] End of Podcast

[00:59:42] Legal Disclaimer

Ben:  My name is Ben Greenfield. And, on this episode of the Ben Greenfield Life Podcast.

Steven:  These guys are eating goat and sheep yogurt and sheep cheeses and sausages, and they have the highest life expectancy of any country. And, that certainly goes against the party line.

Ben:  Fitness, nutrition, biohacking, longevity, life optimization, spirituality, and a whole lot more. Welcome to the Ben Greenfield Life Show. Are you ready to hack your life? Let's do this.

Well, folks, a long time ago, I interviewed a doctor and he made a lot of waves on my podcast because we talked all about these compounds that you find a lot of foods called lectins. He actually wrote an entire book about this called “Plant Paradox.” And, it kind of turned a lot of heads in the health industry because we're often told to eat our vegetables and potatoes and tomatoes and whatnot. And, this went into how there could be some issues with that. And, I'll link to that podcast if you go to the shownotes for today's podcast at BenGreenfieldLife.com/GutCheck. But, that same doctor, Dr. Steven Gundry, who hosts the top-rated health show The Gundry Podcast still sees multiple patients per day. We were talking before the episode. He's still a hardworking physician. He's the founder and director of the International Heart and Lung Institute Center for Restorative Medicine. He's a founder of Gundry MD, which is a line of wellness products and supplements. And, most relevant to today's discussion, I'm going to hold this up for those of you watching the video version even though it's probably the ugly pre-release that I'm not supposed to be holding that regardless, [00:01:53] ______ new book.

Steven:  There's the real one.

Ben:  Let me see. You've got the real one. Hold on. I want to see. Okay, yeah, the real one looks way better. I'll have to get my hands on that eventually. It's called “Gut Check.” And, it is not just all about how you need to go jump off a cliff if you eat a legume, it's instead all about the mitochondria, the microbiome, some very interesting things about the blue zones which I thought was super interesting, and all sorts of new information that I think sometimes defies a status quo in the nutrition industry but I think it is important stuff to talk about. So, Steven, I'm pretty happy to have you back on, man.

Steven:  Ben, thanks for having me. It's great to see you again. And yeah, I'm really excited about this book.

Ben:  Yeah, yeah.

And, you know what, you can see here in the video I got all sorts of pages turned over, but the part that I thought honestly was most interesting, the whole book is great, but you poked some holes in the blue zones. I want to hear your take on the blue zones because it's super interesting. And, I just got back from a conference in Vegas where Dan Beuttner was the headliner, and there's of course the new show in Netflix. So, tell me what you think about the blue zones.

Steven:  Well, it's interesting. I do have a whole chapter about it and like I say in the chapter, Paul Simon once sung that A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest. And, certainly, in my years of research, people actually look for things that confirm their bias and disregard things that don't confirm their bias. And, I've spoken with Dan, he's a great guy and very dedicated, but the blue zones actually came about most people don't know at a meeting in Montpellier, France in the south of France a number of years ago that Dan attended. And, in that meeting, it was on longevity, a researcher took a blue felt tip pen, magic marker, and had a map of the world, and circled five areas that he thought had exceptional longevity. Now, again, the word is “he thought,” number one.

Ben:  Obviously he wasn't just blindfolded and throwing a random pen on the tail of a donkey.

Steven:  No.

Ben:  Did he have any reason for circling the areas that he did?

Steven:  Yeah. There were actually pretty good reasons, but what those reasons are, I think, are quite frankly subject to debate. And, my take is that if you're looking for things that support your worldview or nutritional view of veganism or vegetarianism, then these five blue zones at the surface look like pretty good places to plant your flag. Having been the only nutritionist who's actually spent much of my career in the only blue zone in the United States, Loma Linda, California, I guess I have a right to say something about that interpretation.

So, one of the things is touted in blue zones is that the blue zones all in general don't eat a lot of meat, and that in fact I completely agree with. But, it's what they eat that maybe is more important that's missing. So, the blue zones supposedly eat a lot of grains and beans. And, the eating of grains and beans is what make them so healthy. But, interestingly enough, Okinawa is one of the blue zones, and actually the only description of the traditional Okinawan diet was done by the U.S. military right after we took over that island after World War II. And, we actually recorded their diet. And, the diet consisted of 85% purple or blue sweet potato. And, they don't eat rice because they can't–

Ben:  Really?

Steven:  Yeah, they can't grow rice on Okinawa.

Ben:  That's surprising. I think a lot of people just synonymize Japan with rice, but they don't even eat it in Okinawa?

Steven:  Nope, not at all.

Ben:  Wow.

Steven:  And, they don't eat soy, they eat miso fermented soy but they don't eat tofu. And, they're actually notorious or famous for eating lots of spicy greens and vegetables. In fact, throughout Japan, they're called the spice eaters.

Ben:  Now, could I derail you for just a second, Steven? You made an important differentiation there that I don't want to necessarily skim over. You said they eat fermented soy not soy, why is that important?

Steven:  Well, traditionally, cultures have always detoxified the plant toxins by fermentation and they, like other cultures, fermented the toxins in soy and used as miso or natto. And, that's what they eat. And, I think that's really important. And, I talked about it throughout the book, and fermentation changing plant compounds or for that matter, changing animal compounds with fermentation is really one of the highlights, the key points of gut check. Yeah. So, they ferment soy.

Ben:  And, what happens when you ferment soy? What's in soy that you'd want to get rid of? When you say you ferment the toxins, what exactly is going on?

Steven:  Well, soy is a legume and a bean, and beans have a lot of proteins that are a plant defense compound called lectins. And, as I've talked about plants, a lot of plants don't want us to eat them and they don't want us to eat their babies except under circumstances where they can control the action. And, these lectins are proteins that interestingly enough bacteria enjoy eating. 

Give you an example, we know that there are oxalates in foods that are another defense system of plants, but normally, we would have a gut microbiome that eats oxalates, thinks they're delicious. Most people who are sensitive to oxalates or think they're sensitive to oxalate don't have those bacteria in their gut anymore for reasons that I talk about in “Gut Check.” Believe it or not, there are bacteria that enjoy eating gluten, which is also a lectin. Most of us don't have those bacteria anymore. So, fermentation was a way for people to detoxify lectins. For instance, the Incas certainly use quinoa as a food, but the Incas always fermented their quinoa. They let it rot.

Ben:  See, I always thought you just rinse it and this is what I do also that I'm going to have quinoa, I'll soak it overnight and rinse it a few times to try and remove the, what I understand is a soap-like irritant called the saponin from it.

Steven:  Yeah.

Ben:   But, I'm guessing that in addition to the saponins, the only way to remove the lectins from quinoa would be fermentation.

Steven:  Fermentation or pressure cooking.

Ben:  Oh, yeah. Okay.

Steven:  And, the other thing I think somebody just for fun, people. Traditionally, beans have always been soaked for soaking “leeches” lectin out of beans and the saponins.

Ben:  Yeah.

Steven:  But, if anybody has actually soaked beans for any length of time, they'll notice that a large scum occurs on the top of the water and it's kind of bubbly. And, believe it or not, there are bacteria on the skin of beans that ferment the beans. And, we, to our peril, didn't understand that traditional cultures soaked their beans; not just the soaking but the soaking actually started the fermentation process. And so, even traditionally prepared beans were fermented by traditional cultures. And, that's how they actually detoxify them.

Ben:  Do you think that, because my wife does this, that sprouting quinoa would result in a similar deactivation or removal of the lectin similar to fermentation of something like that?

Steven:  Actually, the exact opposite happens and I referenced that in the “Plant Paradox.” When the lectin content of a plant actually increases at the moment of germination because now the baby is at its most sensitive to predation. And so, plants actually increase lectin content at sprouting. Now, once it starts growing, the lectin content decreases.

Ben:  So, does that mean if you had a sprout you'd want to eat it far into the sprouting process?

Steven:  Correct, correct.

Ben:  Okay. Okay, which is what we do anyways. We harvest when the tail is pretty long and it's been several days, but you're saying eating baby sprouts or sprouts that you've just started would actually do a worse job for your gut than just eating say the bean unsprouted.

Steven:  Yeah, that's actually true. And, I reference that. The references are in “The Plant Paradox.”

Ben:  Okay. Alright. So, back to Japan, they're eating a fermented soy and then when I interrupted you, you were talking about some kind of a hot spicy thing that they eat.

Steven:  Yeah. Actually, they eat a lot of spicy vegetables. They're literally called the spice eaters. So, the point of all that is that one of the blue zones don't eat what is keeping everybody so healthy. But, I think probably the most remarkable example of the blue zones is Sardinia. And so, Sardinia is an island off Italy. Sardinia is essentially two populations on Sardinia. There are people who live down by the water and they're mostly fishermen. And then, there are people who live in the mountainous region that are sheep and goat herders. And, what's interesting is only the people who live up in the mountains have longevity. Number one, the folks who live down by the water don't have remarkable longevity. The other thing that's striking is that it's actually the men who bring the age up and it's the men in the mountains that actually live as long as the women. Now, most people know that men in general live six to seven years less long as women.

Ben:  I know. It's annoying.

Steven:  Yeah, I know. And, we can debate why that is, but these men actually live as long as women. And so, that pulls their age up. Now, what's interesting is about 95% of the men smoke and only about 25% of the women smoke.

Ben:  Wait, 95% of the men. Including these long-livid mountain men in Sardinia?

Steven:  Believe it or not, it's the smoking that promotes their longevity. And, that's what makes them number one live as long as women. The other thing–

Ben:  Wait, wait, wait, what do you mean the smoking promotes their longevity smoking cigarettes?

Steven:  Oh, yeah.

Ben:  How?

Steven:  Well, nicotine is one of the greatest mitochondrial uncouplers that anybody has ever discovered. And, uncoupling your mitochondria as I've written about in my last two books is probably the smartest way to live a long time. And smoking, unfortunately nicotine is a great way to do that. Now, there are side effects of smoking as all of us know and as a heart surgeon and cardiologist, don't smoke, folks, but we should learn the effects of smoking from the blue zones.

Let me just digress for a second. Staffan Lindeberg who spent his lifetime researching the Kitavans in Papua New Guinea who are a long-lived group of individuals who smoke like fiends and yet they have never been found to have a case of coronary heart disease, never had a stroke and never had a case of cancer.

Ben:  And, I'm assuming, by the way, that they're smoking the same kind of cigarette somebody might be smoking in America. Because I have some friends who will light up, I think there's a brand called American something and it's a natural tobacco with supposedly fewer carcinogens than the average cigarette. But, these aren't special cigarettes or something like that.

Steven:  No.

Ben:   Okay.

Steven:  But, smoking is really bad for producing oxidative stress. And, I've written a lot about the negative effects of smoking that are countered by vitamin C-containing foods. And, interestingly enough, the reason we don't see the negative effects of smoking in these populations, and Sardinia and Kitava are not the exceptions believe it are not on the island of Ikaria in Greece, another blue zone. The men, 99% of the men smoke and only about 25% of the women smoke. In Acciaroli, south of Naples, the largest population of over the age of 100, it's a community of about a thousand that I've visited, 30% of the people are over the age of a 100. And there, the same thing is true, the men are smokers and the women are not smokers. And, it's the men smokers who pull up their average lifespan.

Ben:  And, can I can I ask you a quick question about the smoking also? Because for example, Andrew Huberman has talked a lot about alcohol and the potential for alcohol to decrease lifespan but many of the studies that I think he cites don't differentiate between say a serving of alcohol a day with dinner and having all seven of those seven drinks a week at once on a Saturday evening. And, this makes me think a little bit about the smoking. Are we talking about chain-smoking throughout the day or are we talking about microdosing, I suppose, maybe a cigarette in the morning or the evening or something like that?

Steven:  No, these guys are pretty heavy smokers. And so, the question is, how do they get away with it? Well, again, smoking actually uses up almost all of your vitamin C, and as you and I know, we are one of the few animals that don't make our own vitamin C.

Ben:  Yeah.

Steven:  And, vitamin C is essential among other things for repairing the cracks that occur in collagen. And, collagen is basically our rebar. And, collagen is actually the rebar in blood vessels, and we knew in smokers that blood vessels flex in coronary arteries and the collagen breaks, and normally that collagen is reknit together by vitamin C. In smokers, their vitamin C is used up in handling the oxidative stress. And so, smokers have and had a classic pattern of blockages in coronary arteries where the flexion of vessels occur. But, their coronary arteries were gorgeous beyond where these discrete blockages were. And, as a heart surgeon, it was in a way a piece of cake to do bypass surgery on smokers because number one, they were skinny. And, number two, they were discrete blockages and the rest of their blood vessels were gorgeous. So, what is proposed in these long-lived people who smoke is that they're getting the benefit of nicotine. They're blocking the effects of oxidative stress by having a very high antioxidant-rich diet. For instance, olive oil actually increases our own native vitamin C production, doubles the production of vitamin C that we do make. So, that's how they “get away” with it but also get the benefit of nicotine.

Ben:  Interesting. You're making me feel really good about that annual cigar I'm going to smoke on New Year's morning. And, we do an annual New Year's Day Polar Plunge down at the river, and then me and my friend smoke a cigar in the hot tub.

It's interesting though this idea about nicotine. I've been aware of its benefits for some time. I'm actually wearing, you might not be able to see it in the video because it might be too far down, but I wear this little nicotine patch. It's about a 14-milligram nicotine patch. And, that's because of the effects of nicotine on mitochondrial uncoupling, in addition to focus and energy. And, I do that because some of the delivery mechanisms for nicotine can be fraught with artificial sweeteners or in the case of cigarette carcinogens, oxidative stressors, et cetera. And then, I also have a hefty use of mitochondrial uncoupling strategies that I incorporate throughout the day. I have bitter melon extract before dinner. I do a cold plunge. In the pepper grinder, I've got grains of paradise instead of black pepper, which is a mitochondrial uncoupling agent. And so, I'm aware of this and weave it in throughout the day, but do you think that the blue zones where people are smoking that these people would live even longer if they, for example, were still taking in these high doses of antioxidants and mitochondrial uncoupling agents but weren't smoking?

Steven:  Well, I think that's a good question. But, mitochondrial uncoupling, at least in the research that's been done, is truly one of the keys to longevity is as you and I both know and I assume that's why you're wearing your nicotine patch, it's also a really good way to stay thin.

Ben:  It's alright. Coffee and cigarettes, the oldest school cheap fat loss hack ever.

Steven:  That's exactly true. Now, again, smoking is really dumb. It's really dumb. Particularly, since most smokers, Western smokers, do not have the benefit of all of these other plant compounds that they're eating that's protective to them. I think the other thing that I point out in the book which is remarkable is that almost all of these societies are first of all, they all live in hilly communities. Loma Linda means beautiful hill and Loma Linda is a hilly community.

Ben:  I didn't know that.

Steven:  Yeah. So, they all live in hilly communities. But, number two, almost all of these areas, Sardinia, Ikaria, the Costa Rica, the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, the other blue zone, all are sheep and goat herders. Now, what's so interesting about that is that goat and sheep milk, 30% of the fats in goat and sheep milk are medium-chain triglycerides. And, as you and I know, medium-chain triglycerides are absorbed in a totally different way as a fat and go directly to our liver and generate ketones. And, as I wrote about in “Unlocking the Keto Code,” in my last book, ketones are a signaling agent that tell mitochondria to uncouple and promote mitogenesis. And, that's my humble opinion of why they work so well. So, these guys are consuming large amounts of sheep and goat yogurts and sheep and goat cheeses. And so, there have another uncoupling agent as part of their diet. And, it's fascinating that all of these communities are sheep and goat herders. In fact, as I talk about in the book, the country in the world with the longest lifespan, the longest recorded average lifespan is a small country between France and Spain called Andorra.

Ben:  Andorra. Now, people don't bring that up as much when they talk about the blue zones, do they? Because I haven't heard that one discussed very much.

Steven:  Well, because they happen to be sheepherders. And, the diet of Andorra is sheep yogurt, sheep cheeses, and get this, sausages. And, that story certainly does not resonate if you're trying to make a case that beans and grains are the keys to longevity.

Ben:  I don't see Dan Buettner eating a lot of sausages, no.

Steven:  No, Now, you go, “Well, wait a minute, how are these guys getting away with eating sausages?” Well, as I point out in the book, people ancestors did not have any storage system for the animals that they ate.

Ben:  When you say storage system, you don't mean endogenously, you mean a place to actually store the meat to keep it from spoiling?

Steven:  Yeah. I mean, meat spoils. There weren't any refrigeration. There was nothing. So, people and particularly you're not going to waste any part of an animal and you eat nose to tail. So, most of these people have figured out how to ferment their meat. And, that fermentation process, the bacteria actually eat a really nasty compound in beef, lamb and pork and milk called Neu5Gc but that's another subject. And, they completely make this food not only not bad for you but actually good for you.

The other thing that happens with fermentation is that you produce polyamines like spermidine. And, spermidine is another spectacular compound for mitochondrial uncoupling. So, these guys are eating goat and sheep yogurt and sheep cheeses and sausages, and they have the highest life expectancy of any country. And, that certainly goes against the party line.

Ben:  Yeah. Well, that makes me want to visit Andorra as well. It sounds like a fantastic breakfast.

I think you just mentioned something really important though, this Neu5Gc because, of course, especially with the audience that we're talking to, Steven, people are kind of aware that they should need ultra-processed foods and some of them are being very careful with grains and some of the hefty doses of lectins and seed oils and the like.

Steven:  Yeah.

Ben:  But, of course, I think that beef and pork and, well, what was the other meat that's high in the Neu5Gc besides beef and pork?

Steven:  Lamb.

Ben:  And lamb. These are popular. And, even if people are choosing grass-fed, grass-finished, it's my understanding they still do contain Neu5Gc. Can you explain what that is and why it's an issue?

Steven:  Yeah. And, I talked about it, I talked about it in “The Plant Paradox.” And, I got interested in Neu5Gc as a xeno heart transplant surgeon and researcher. And, xenotransplantation means one species to another. And, people who've been watching the news know that there have been a couple now pig to human heart transplants done by a friend of mine, Bartley Griffith, at the University of Maryland. And, when we were researching this in the lab, if you put a pig heart in a baboon, that pig heart would last about three or four hours before all the blood would clot in its blood vessels. And, I became famous for having a unmodified pig to baboon heart transplant for about a month rather than three or four hours.

Ben:  Wow.

Steven:  But, one of the things that vexed us was this sugar molecule called Neu5Gc. Now, we carry a sugar molecule on the lining of our blood vessels that's virtually identical called Neu5Ac.

Ben:  Neu5Ac. And, the lining of the blood vessels, by the way, correct me if I'm wrong, but I just did a podcast with the folks who have a supplement company called Calroy and I started taking something they have that's called Arterosil, which supports my glycocalyx. And, when you're talking about the interior of the blood vessel and how it has these neu5, I don't even think you talk about this yet but I think it's Neu5Ac, that Neu5Gc somehow displaces, this is the glycocalyx you're referring to, yeah?

Steven:  That's exactly right.

Ben:  Okay.

Steven:  Yeah. So, the glycocalyx is this little lining that line our blood vessels of primarily sugar molecules. And, those sugar molecules in us are made up of Neu5Ac. They differ from Neu5Gc by one molecule of oxygen. That's the only difference. Now, in the past, we thought, well, we didn't think. So, if you and I eat a Neu5Gc-containing food, have a glass of milk, we will absorb that Neu5Gc readily in our small intestine and we will make antibodies to it as a foreign compound. And, we can document this in humans. Humans have been nice enough to do this and we can watch the antibodies rise. The more Neu5Gc-containing foods, the more anti-Neu5Gc antibodies we make. So far so bad.

Now, it was thought that because these two compounds are very similar that with those antibodies could by a molecular mimicry attack our Neu5Ac sugar molecules in our glycocalyx. They're also in the glycocalyx that forms the blood-brain barrier and they're also in the linings of our joint surfaces. Now, why is that interesting? Because I'm the first to admit that association does not mean causation, but there is strong association between meat eating and milk drinking and arthritis, dementia, coronary artery disease, vascular disease, and cancer. Strong, now, doesn't mean causation, but the new research, I think, shows causation. Now, why? It turns out that Neu5Gc can displace Neu5Ac in these various glycocalyx and it is an antigenic molecule and we make antibodies to it. So, we attack Neu5Gc that's been substituted for Neu5Ac.

Now, the good news is–and, I grew up in Omaha Nebraska, I have no dog in this fight. In fact, I ought to have a dog in the fight the other way around.

Ben:  You ought to be having a porterhouse every night coming from there.

Steven:  Exactly. In fact, funny I see Omaha Stakes International advertise on TV every night. My parents were best friends with the owners of Omaha Stakes International. So, yeah, I should have a dog in this fight. And, quite frankly, I love a good grass-fed, grass-finished piece of meat, but the good news is the less Neu5Gc food you eat and the more Neu5Ac food you eat, which are fish, shellfish, and chicken, proper chicken, and we can talk about that too, then you displace Neu5Gc off of these structures, which is great news.

Now, the other way, how we got to this point is fermentation. Bacteria eat Neu5Gc, so the fermentation process got rid of Neu5Gc and the fermentation process of milk gets rid of the Neu5Gc in milk. That's why all these long-lived guys were having sheep yogurt and goat yogurt and they were having sausages. In fact, believe it or not, prosciutto is a fermented food, and prosciutto is loaded with polyamines.

Ben:  Yeah. Well, first of all, all the milk that I have is fermented. Ever since I interviewed Dr. William Davis, I have access to goat's milk from our Nigerian dwarf goats in the backyard. One of my friends gets raw cow's milk and I do a 36-hour fermentation with three different strange of probiotics that Dr. William Davis introduced me to and my gut feels fantastic. It's wonderful. You get a steep rise in oxytocin, a feel-good hormone. You consume this stuff as well.

Steven:  L-reuteri.

Ben:  But, the meat, I don't do a lot of fermentation of my meat. So, I do have a few questions for you about this. Does dry aging and/or wet aging count as fermentation, do you think?

Steven:  I believe it does. I've got a friend who's a James Beard award-winning chef who is hot on the trail of this. And, he's shown that this sort of fermentation dramatically reduces Neu5Gc. And, I think it's interesting because growing up in Omaha, any legitimate steakhouse dry aged, their beef, which is fascinating, and these things were crusted with molds and scum.

Ben:  I know. I've got a steak locker out in my garage, by the way. I haven't used it as much as I probably should be using it based on what I'm discovering from you and in your book. But, when I have, there's a lining like a moldy lining on the outside. It freaks a lot of people out. You scrape it off. You make sure there's no little streaks of that going into the meat in which case you got to cut off that little piece, but that's basically what dry aging is. I set it out of humidity at a temperature. I dry age. One of my friends on YouTube on the Guga Foods Channel, he recently did a video about wet aging and it results in a similar bacterial buildup on the outside of the meat. So, of course, it must be fermenting if the bacteria are building up there.

Steven:  Yeah. And again, look at these ancient cultures. And, of course, this was the only any way they had a preserving meat, but it turns out it made a potentially bad source of food into actually a superb source of food. And, I think we tend to forget that.

Ben:  Now, my second question for you regarding this is there must be something besides fermentation, I would imagine, that might offer some kind of protective effect when it comes to Neu5Gc. I know, for example, that some of these glycocalyx-supporting compounds they're based on sulfur-based products. I think that the Calroy one is even based on a seaweed-based product.

Steven:  Yeah, seaweed.

Ben:  And, I was also kind of thinking about polyphenols, a lot of these red powders and polyphenol-rich compounds and the dark reds and purples of the plant kingdom. Do you think there's any type of protective effect from anything you can imagine or you found in your research when it comes to Neu5Gc for people who aren't able to eat only fermented meat when they have lamb or pork or beef?

Steven:  Well, I think number one, the new evidence is actually very encouraging that you can displace Neu5Gc off of your glycocalyces by predominantly eating Neu5Ac foods: fish, shellfish, wild fish, wild shellfish, and properly raised chicken. So, that's number one. Number two, you're right, I've written a bunch of papers early in my nutritional career looking at people. We can measure the flexibility of blood vessels and we can actually measure the integrity of the glycocalyx, basically how sticky your glycocalyx is. And, I found that I could give people patients grape seed extract, which is a polyphenol and a polyphenol called pycnogenol French maritime tree bark along with fish oil, and show that the flexibility of blood vessels which had been stiff was then flexible and show that the stickiness of the glycocalyx was removed and it became non-sticky. And then, we showed that if we stopped those supplements, they would return to inflexible and they would return to sticky. And, if we restarted those supplements, the process would reverse.

And, that's one of the early reasons I became so passionate about polyphenols. And, I still have the same passion about polyphenol. So, yeah, there are clearly compounds that can help mitigate.

Ben:  Yeah. You talk about polyphenols and how many of the blue zone consume a wide variety of them. And, I'm completely convinced that they're one of the best things you can do for your microbiome. And, I suspect that they're probably going to help a lot with this Neu5Gc issue as well based on the mechanism of action that you've just described. And, I actually have even since reading your book been a little bit more cognizant about throwing a little bit of the whatever. I have the Organifi Red powder and I've been putting that my smoothie and keeping the freezer stocked with a few extra frozen organic blueberries and kind of gone from the occasional. I've been having a Croatian Pelinkovac liquor for a cocktail in the evening. I've kind of shifted back to just organic biodynamic red wine just because I do have not only beef and pork and lamb, but I actually do organ meats and bone broth as well, which I learned from your book are even more concentrated in Neu5Gc. So, this is good information for people. Eat your polyphenols and work in fish, really good poultry, et cetera, preferably more than the lamb and the beef and the pork.

But, I did want to ask you something, Steven, that's not I suppose probably related to nutrition but is related to the blue zones. I have heard some skeptics talk about inaccurate birth records or inaccurate or small sample sizes. Do you have any thoughts on any of the statistical issues with the blue zones?

Steven:  Well, and I talk about this in “Gut Check.” I think maybe the most glaring example is Okinawa. All birth records were destroyed in the bombing. And so, it was actually up to the U.S. military to record date of birth. And, what's remarkable about the Okinawan data is that there were a remarkable number of people who seemed to have the same birth year. And, that statistically shouldn't happen, but if you're guessing or don't understand the language very well, you could certainly come up with that. Most of the blue zones are actually very poor communities. And, particularly in Europe, the pension that's available to most European countries including Italy and Greece is based on someone who's actually alive and the reporting of deaths would lose a pension. And so, as I speculate and others have speculated, there's a lot of underreporting of deaths in these poor communities.

Ben:  Oh, yeah. Okay, okay. What's the island, again? You said Andorra.

Steven:  Andorra is a little country.

Ben:  Okay. It's a country, but would you say that that is an example like a more accurate example of what a blue zone would be?

Steven:  Yeah, yeah. I think we have to be very careful. Another good friend of mine is Valter Longo who heads up the Longevity Center at USC. And, Valter is very pro plant foods.

Ben:  Yeah.

Steven:  He's from Italy. And, Valter has a bestselling book in Italy about why Italians live so long. And, it's a humorous book to read and I like the book, but Valter would refuse to eat the foods in the towns that actually had longevity that didn't coincide with his belief system. And, he doesn't like the fact that the second longest life expectancy in the world is in Monte Carlo. And, he makes an argument in his book that, “Well, they eat a horrible not plant-based diet but they live so long because they have fabulous medical care.” Well, if that argument is what you would use, then Americans ought to have the longest lifespan in the world because we clearly have at least the most expensive medical care and we have some of the worst longevity in the world. So, I don't buy that argument at all.

Ben:  Yeah. Have you been to Monte Carlo?

Steven:  Oh, many times. I've actually operated in Monte Carlo many times.

Ben:  What do they eat there?

Steven:  It's a Mediterranean diet. Monte Carlo long ago was, as was [00:43:16] _____, was part of Italy. And so, it's a very Mediterranean diet. But, I mean they eat a lot of fish, they don't eat a lot of beans, they do eat a lot of pasta. Incidentally, the Acciarolis, these very long-lived people south of Naples, they don't eat any grain products. They don't eat any pasta. They don't eat any bread. It's thought long ago that they couldn't afford it. They do eat lentils that have been soaked, but what's interesting about them is they eat a lot of small fish, anchovies, number one. And, number two, they eat a ton of rosemary. And, one of the things that's interesting about these people, particularly the older men is they're apparently very horny.

Ben:  I think I've heard about these guys.

Steven:  Yeah. And, you go, “Well, wait a minute, why are these old guys so horny?” Well, it turns out that there are several compounds in rosemary that among other things are good mitochondria uncouplers, but they also have aphrodisiac properties. And, I just kind of did a little podcast on this recently. So, guys, if you want to get everybody horny, you just keep chewing your rosemary.

Ben:  Yeah, or feed your goats and your deer and your cows rosemary because those polyphenols concentrate in the meat, don't they?

Steven:  Exactly, and in the milk.

Ben:  Or the rosmarinic acid. That's what it's called?

Steven:  Yeah, rosmarinic acid and your folic acid are two of the biggies. In fact, interestingly enough, all these sheepherders and goatherders actively feed their animals these spices and these plants because you're right, you are what you eat but you are what the thing you're eating ate and we tend to forget that.

Ben:  Yeah. Rosemary sprigs are also fantastic in a cup of coffee. Like, if you have coffee and you kind of stir it up with a rosemary sprig to cool it off, you actually get rosmarinic acid in the coffee and it's a little bit of cognitive pick me up too. I was recently in Portugal and did that every morning. I get my coffee over by the spa. I go outside, walk out to the garden, get a sprig of rosemary, and sip my rosemary coffee out there. It was fantastic.

Steven:  Hey, the other thing is sage.

Ben:  Oh, yeah.

Steven:  Sage was called salvia by the Romans. And, sage and the basil family, the mint family also has some really cool polyphenols. And, I was exposed actually in Seattle and a number of years ago to a sage coffee where ground sage was put in the process. And, try it out, it'll knock your socks off.

Ben:  Yeah, that's fantastic because you technically could take a dried or even a whole herb and put it in a coffee grinder and just grind it up with the beans and use that in a French press I would imagine.

Steven:  Correct.

Ben:  Never thought about doing that. It's a good idea.

You mentioned chicken, and I did notice on one page of the book you were talking about sardines and small fish and shellfish and their benefits, then you talked about chicken but you didn't say chicken meat, you said chicken gristle and chicken skin. It's kind of funny when we make our whole chickens at the Greenfield house. I'm the guy who takes all the gristle, all the skin, the knuckles on the end of the bones and the rest of the family gets the meat because I just like to eat the weird bits of the chicken. But, why is it that you specifically focus on those components of the chicken and what should we be thinking about when it comes to chicken?

Steven:  Tell you a couple of things. Like I talked about in the book, at the end of this part about Neu5Gc, they're saying, “Oh, well, Dr. Gundry, then all you want us to do is eat chicken?” Well, not so fast. Again, growing up in Nebraska, chickens were farm animals, and chickens were actually taken out to the pastures where the cows were grazing. And, chickens were released into the pastures and they would go over to the cow pies, the manure, and they would dig with their claws through manure looking for the bugs and they would spread the manure. They were after the bugs. And then, they'd come back to the hen house and lay eggs. And, the only time you ever ate a chicken was when the old hen couldn't lay anymore and she became a stewing hen. And, she was so gristly that you'd have to literally stew her overnight or all day. And, that's where you got all this great collagen from. But, the chicken was basically an insectivore. Now, unfortunately, most of our chickens, particularly our organic chickens are fed organic corn and soybeans. And so, a chicken is no longer a chicken. A chicken is basically an ear of corn with feathers. As I talk about in the book, a normal commercial chicken–let me back up. Normally, if you're a foraging animal, you have a ratio of omega-6 fats to omega-3 fats in your flesh of anywhere from three to five times omega-6 to one part omega-3. And, that's a normal grazing ratio. If you look at an organic chicken, right now, that ratio is 25 parts omega-6 to one part omega-3. So, what you're eating is a giant ball of inflammatory mischief.

Now, I have a farmer in Texas who I'm a huge fan of. I have no relationship. Farmer Dan, I've had him on my podcast, lectinlightchicken.com. and, Lectin-Light Chicken, in fact, I had his turkey for Thanksgiving. They're pasture-raised, but he feeds his chickens grain-free lectin-free feed. And, he now has a bunch of other farmers that are doing it. Now, he has his ratio down to five parts omega-6 to one part omega-3. And, we're actually fiddling with his feed. We're going to put some more flax seed in it. But, the point of all this is a chicken is not a chicken anymore. And, you got to be careful where you get your chickens. The skin is loaded with spermidines.

Ben:  No kidding?

Steven:  Chicken skin is one of the highest sources of spermidine.

Ben:  And, it's way cheaper than a spermidine supplement.

Steven:  That's true.

Ben:  It's expensive.

Steven:  And a lot better tasting.

Ben:  Yeah. What was the other thing you said a while back is rich in spermidine? Now I'm forgetting.

Steven:  Mushrooms are rich in spermidine.

Ben:  I think it was the fermented cheese, wasn't it?

Steven:  Yeah, fermented cheese are rich in spermidine.

Ben:  Yeah. Why is spermidine so important? What's it actually doing?

Steven:  Well, it's a polyamine, and these compounds are actually really good mitochondrial uncouplers. And, to me, uncoupling mitochondria to a point, it does two things. Number one, it prevents the damage to mitochondria. And, you and I know we're only as good as our mitochondrial function is. And, number two, it actually promotes mitogenesis making of new mitochondria.

Ben:  And, just for the nerds amongst us, just give me an overview of what mitochondrial uncoupling is. How do you describe that to somebody on an elevator?

Steven:  Yeah, that's the hardest part. Normally in the electron transport chain in mitochondria, the job is to energize protons and electrons and try to get a proton to couple with an oxygen molecule to then produce ATP. That process of coupling oxygen with protons produces a lot of damage, free radical damage. There's a built-in system where there are essentially emergency exits in mitochondria where protons can escape without coupling with oxygen. And, believe it or not, you and I sitting here about 30% of all of our protons entering the electron transport chain are uncoupled on a daily basis. And, that generates heat. What we found is, this was work by Martin Brand that was published first in the year 2000, and it's a cute little paper, it's called “Uncoupling to Survive.” And, long story short, the more up to a point you uncouple your mitochondria, the more protected your mitochondria is from damage, and the more you stimulate more mitochondria to grow to carry the workload. So, uncoupled mitochondria are good. And, he's gone on to show that the longest-living people have the most uncoupled mitochondria of any of us. So, it sounds like that's a really good idea.

The best example I can give–there are many theories of aging and one of the theories of aging that is has been around forever is the cost of living hypothesis. And, the cost of living says, “Hey, in general, a little animal is going to have a very high metabolic rate and they're not going to live very long. And, a big animal like Ben Greenfield is going to have a slow metabolic rate and he's going to live a lot longer.” And, that's the cost of living hypothesis. The only problem with hypothesis is birds. Birds have an incredibly high metabolic rate and yet parrots can live 85 to 100 years. A hummingbird in captivity with a heart rate of 1,100 beats per minute can live 10 to 12 years in captivity.

Ben:  Wow.

Steven:  It turns out that birds have the most uncoupled mitochondria of any species, which explains their incredible longevity. Now, where do they get their mitochondria uncoupled? It turns out from their food for particularly hummingbirds, retinoic acid is a great mitochondrial coupler, and hummingbirds live on retinoic acid in the nectar that they drink.

Ben:  Wow. Besides food, are there things that you could do to uncouple the mitochondria? Sauna, cold, are any of these lifestyle practices?

Steven:  Yeah, exactly. When I was a heart surgeon, we were researching what was called heat shock protein. And, heat shock protein, we found that if we cut off the flow of blood in a coronary artery for five minutes and then reestablished it, we would activate heat shock proteins. That turns out we're really good at protecting myocardial cells from damage. And, we could cut off the flow of oxygen for an hour after doing this and show that nothing happened. So, I, among other people, got really interested in heat shock proteins. And, lo and behold, heat shock proteins work by uncoupling mitochondria. And so, you're right, sauna is a method of uncoupling mitochondria. Cold plunges uncouple mitochondria. That's how they work. That's how they're protective. Red light uncouples mitochondria. That's how it works.

Ben:  Yeah, I forgot about that one. Yeah.

Steven:  Yeah. So, all of these different divergent therapies actually converge in the same spot. And, that is the more you uncouple your mitochondria up to a point, the better you're going to do.

Ben:  So, smoke a cigarette, get in the sauna, do a cold plunge, and get some red light. It's a Gundry morning routine protocol.

Steven:  Well, stay away from the cigarettes. Get your nicotine in a safer way. How's that?

Ben:  What do you think about booze? You drink alcohol at all? You have a take on that?

Steven:  You're right. I drank biodynamic red wine. One of the things, again, I spend quite a bit of time in Italy and France going to these small villages and figuring out, “What do these guys do?” And, one of the things that we make the mistake is wine is a beverage that's enjoyed with a meal. There's no cocktail hour in these places. Nobody's having two stiff ones before they head to dinner. Wine is a beverage that is a part of the meal. And, wine is a great, particularly red wine is a great polyphenol delivery device. But, you're right, what we make the mistake is if we have a lot of alcohol all at once, it's really good at causing leaky gut in intestinal permeability. So, you got to dose it correctly. 

And, for instance, the Sardinians have a Cannonau grape that many people think is a grenache grape, but it's grown at high altitude. And, Sardinian wines, biodynamic Sardinian wines may be a piece of this puzzle on why they live so long.

Ben:  Yeah. And, you talk about in the book how polyamines can help to protect the gut lining. You also mentioned glycine. So, arguably, polyphenol-rich diet and perhaps some glycine intake before or after during alcohol drinking could help a little bit as well with the gut lining aspect, yeah?

Steven:  Yeah, absolutely. In fact, there's a lot to like about glycine in many ways, but I think one of the tricks of making glutathione is the combination of an acetylcysteine NAC and glycine, is still one of the best ways to generate glutathione. In fact, I take a bunch of glycine and NAC every night before I go to bed.

Ben:  Oh, yeah. And, the cool thing is even though it's a little bit higher dose, I think you got to get up to 4 to 5 grams. Glycine will actually shift the body's core temperature a little bit downwards.

Steven:  Oh, yeah, drops your temperature. It's great.

Ben:  Yeah.

Steven:  Yeah, it's a great sleep inducer.

Ben:  Yeah. If you've got the meat sweats, if you've been eating too much lamb and pork and beef before bed, have some glycine, so there you go.

Steven:  That's true.

Ben:  Well, Steven, as usual, I mean every time I get one of your new books, I learn a ton. And, this new one is fantastic. It's “Gut Check.” And, for those of you listening, you can go to BenGreenfieldLife.com/GutCheck to check it out. It should be out brand new, should be out by the time this podcast is released. And, in the meantime, if you go to BenGreenfieldLife.com/GutCheck, you could leave questions or comments or feedback for Steven and I. If you don't understand the whole lectin piece or “The Plant Paradox” piece, don't worry I'll link to my first podcast with Steven where we take a deep dive into that stuff as well. So, Steven, thanks so much, man. It's always a pleasure talking to you. I learned so much.

Steven:  Ben, it's always good to see you. You look well and fit and that liver isn't killing you yet. So, that's great to hear.

Ben:  Not yet. Alright, my friend, Happy Holidays.

Steven:  Alright, you too.

Ben:  Okay, later.

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Envision a life where you gracefully surpass the age of 100, untouched by the afflictions that typically accompany old age — no battles with debilitating diseases, no encounters with cancer, no navigating each step with the constant fear of stumbling and facing a hip-breaking incident.

In a captivating discussion with Dr. Steven Gundry, I explore the secrets of the world's blue zones, where vitality remains a constant companion, and thriving well beyond what is conventionally deemed “your best years” is not a distant dream but a tangible reality. 

Dr. Gundry is one of the world’s top cardiothoracic surgeons and a pioneer in nutrition. He hosts the top-rated health show, The Dr. Gundry Podcast, is the founder and director of The International Heart and Lung Institute Center for Restorative Medicine, and is the founder of Gundry MD, a line of wellness products and supplements.

After a distinguished surgical career as a professor and chairman of cardiothoracic surgery at Loma Linda University, Dr. Gundry changed his focus to curing modern diseases via dietary changes. He is the author of New York Times bestsellers, including The Plant ParadoxThe Plant Paradox CookbookThe Plant Paradox Quick & Easy, and The Longevity Paradox, along with national bestsellers such as The Plant Paradox Family CookbookThe Energy ParadoxDr. Gundry’s Diet Evolution, and Unlocking the Keto Code. Additionally, he has had more than 300 articles published in peer-reviewed journals on using diet and supplements to eliminate heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune disease, and multiple other diseases.

Dr. Gundry's latest book, which he and I discuss on this episode, is Gut Check: Unleash the Power of Your Microbiome to Reverse Disease and Transform Your Mental, Physical, and Emotional Health.

Previous podcasts with Dr. Gundry include:

In today's episode, join Dr. Gundry and me in uncovering topics for a long, healthy life, such as Okinawan food fermentation, Sardinian smoking, the benefits of goat and sheep products, and best practices for a vibrant existence.

During this discussion, you'll discover:

-Japan as a blue zone and the benefits of food fermentation…08:40

  • Gut Check by Dr. Steven Gundry
  • A chapter in the book is dedicated to blue zones
  • The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner
    • A meeting in Montpellier, France, about longevity
    • Dan Buettner circled 5 areas on the map
      • Areas with exceptional longevity
      • His reasons are subject to debate
    • People in blue zones eat a lot of grains and beans
  • Okinawa is one of the blue zones
    • Okinawans don’t eat rice
    • They don't eat soy — they eat miso, fermented soy
    • Famous for eating lots of spicy greens and vegetables
    • 85% of their food is purple or blue sweet potato
  • Traditionally, cultures have always detoxified plant toxins by fermentation
  • What happens when plants are fermented?
    • Fermentation was a way for people to detoxify lectins
    • Incas used quinoa as a food but always fermented it
  • Traditionally, cultures soaked their beans; soaking leaches lectins out
  • Pressure cooking also removes lectins
  • There are bacteria on the skin of beans that ferment the beans; soaking started the fermentation of beans
  • Soak Time For Common Seeds, Nuts, Beans and Grains
  • The Plant Paradox by Dr. Steven Gundry
  • The lectin content of a plant increases at the moment of germination
    • The most susceptible time to predation

-Sardinia as a blue zone and why smoking isn't hindering longevity…18:17

-The benefits of goat and sheep products…25:47

  • Ben’s stance on using nicotine
  • Mitochondrial uncoupling is really one of the keys to longevity
  • Western smokers do not have the benefit of all of the compounds
  • Sardinia, Icaria, the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, and the other blue zones are all sheep and goat herding populations
  • 30% of the fats in goat and sheep milk are medium-chain triglycerides
  • Medium-chain triglycerides are absorbed as fat and go directly to the liver and generate ketones
  • Unlocking the Keto Code by Dr. Steven R. Gundry
    • Ketones are signaling agents that uncouple the mitochondria and promote mitogenesis
  • Andorrans eat sheep yogurt, cheese, and sausages
  • The people in these areas ferment their meat
    • Do not have any storage system for their animal meat
    • Bacteria in the fermentation process consume the N-Glycolylneuraminic acid (Neu5Gc) compound found in beef, lamb, milk, and pork
  • Fermentation produces polyamines like spermidine, another compound that has mitochondrial uncoupling properties
  • People in these areas have the highest life expectancy of any country

-Neu5Gc and why it is an issue…35:33

-Statistical issues with blue zones…48:49

  • In Okinawa, birth records were destroyed in the bombing
  • Most of the blue zones, especially in Europe, are very poor communities
    • There's speculation that there is a lot of underreporting of deaths because of pensions
  • Valter Longo heads up the USC Longevity Institute
    • He doesn't like the fact that the second-longest life expectancy in the world is in Monte Carlo
    • Monte Carlo has a Mediterranean diet
    • Longo argues that their longevity is due to good healthcare
  • The Longevity Diet by Valter Longo
  • The long-lived residents of Acciaroli, south of Naples
    • Don’t eat bread and pasta; they don't eat any grain products
    • They eat lentils that have been soaked
    • They eat small fish, anchovies being the number one, and a lot of rosemary
    • Older guys are horny due to rosemary
    • Several compounds in rosemary are good mitochondria uncouplers and also have aphrodisiac properties
  • Sheepherders and goat herders feed their animals spices rich in polyphenols
  • Sage has polyphenols — sage coffee

-What to do when it comes to chickens…55:33

  • Chickens used to be released into the pastures where they would dig through manure looking for bugs
  • Chickens were basically insectivores
  • Today, chickens are fed organic corn and soybeans
  • In a foraging animal, the normal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is 1:3
    • Organic chickens today have 1:25
  • Lectin-Light Chicken has an omega-3 to omega-6 ratio of 1:5
  • Be careful where you buy your chicken
  • Chicken skin is full of spermidine
  • Spermidine is a polyamine that is a good mitochondrial uncoupler
    • Prevents damage to mitochondria
    • Promotes mitogenesis

-Mitochondrial uncoupling…1:00:06

-Other things to uncouple mitochondria 1:03:23

  • Researching heat shock protein
  • Cutting off blood flow in a coronary artery for 5 minutes activates heat shock proteins
  • Heat shock proteins protect myocardial cells from damage
    • Work by uncoupling mitochondria
  • Mitochondrial uncouplers:
  • In Italy and France, wine is part of the meal
  • Red wine is a great polyphenol-delivery device
  • Sardinia has a Cannonau grape that many think is a Grenache grape, but it's grown at a high altitude
  • Sardinia wines may be a piece of the puzzle and why people live so long there
  • Glycine intake before or after drinking alcohol
  • A combination of glycine and N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is still one of the best ways to generate glutathione
  • Glycine shifts the body's core temperature downwards

-And much more…

Upcoming Events:

  • Brain Rejuvenation Retreat: February 15–16, 2024

Join me from February 15th to the 16th at the Brain Rejuvenation Retreat, where world-leading peptide expert Regan Archibald and I will merge our knowledge in longevity, peptides, and fitness. This unique collaboration aims to offer you a transformative health experience, propelling you forward on your path to optimal health and vitality. Discover more about the Brain Rejuvenation Retreat and how these insights can shape your journey to complete well-being here.

  • Unlock Longevity: February 24, 2024

Meet me in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, February 24, 2024, for the Unlock Longevity event where I'll be presenting on “The 5 Elements in Your Environment That Will Make or Break Your Health.” Check out more by going to bengreenfieldlife.com/unlock-longevity (use code Greenfield10 for $10 off your ticket).

Resources from this episode:

– Dr. Steven Gundry:

– Podcasts:

– Books:

– Other Resources:

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