Speaker 1 (00:00):
Welcome to the Dr. Gundry Podcast, the weekly podcast where Dr. G gives you the tools you need to boost your health and live your healthiest life.
Dr. Steven Gundry (00:16):
Welcome to the Dr. Gundry Podcast. Can limiting how much meat and dairy you eat help you live longer? Well, according to a growing amount of research, it actually can. In fact, the less animal protein you eat, probably the better off you are. But if you want to live the longest, healthiest life possible and don’t like the idea of adopting a completely vegan diet, don’t worry because today I’m going to share some alternative ways to limit your animal protein intake without having to give it up. On this episode of the Dr Gundry Podcast, I’ll be sharing details about my five day modified vegan fast in both The Plant Paradox and The Longevity Paradox books. I’ll also share my tips and instructions for fasting mimicking, and intermittent fasting. Both of these things can help you live a longer, healthier life. So stay tuned to hear more.
Okay. So let’s start first with why limiting animal protein helps your health. Well, I’ve written about this in The Plant Paradox and in The Longevity Paradox. And let me start with the Adventist community of Loma Linda, California, where I was a professor for a great part of my career. As you know, the Loma Lindans are one of the blue zones of the world. And Loma Linda is the only blue zone in North America. I think that’s important to know because the Adventists as a religion in general are promoting vegan or vegetarian belief and eating. And in fact, in our hospital, there was only a vegetarian selection of food. There was no animal products except for cheese and eggs.
But what’s interesting in the longterm studies of some of the longest living people in the world, the Adventist of Loma Linda, it’s actually the vegans that have the longest lifespan and best health span followed by the lacto-ovo-vegetarians, followed by the pescatarians, followed by the chicken eaters, followed by those who cheat and have other forms of animal protein. And this has been now studied for well over 20 years on an ongoing basis. And my colleagues at Loma Linda have published on this and I’ve documented in my books and sadly, for every amount of animal protein that’s added to the Adventist diet, we see increases in heart disease, decreases in longevity, and increases in cancer. And I’ve postulated on this in all of my books on why that might be.
Now, there’s been some excellent studies out of St. Louis University looking at Calorie Restriction Society members, who as you may or may not know in general, reduce their caloric intake by about 20, 25% over normal because of the very strong experimental evidence that calorie restriction extends health span, number one, and in all animals studied except for rhesus monkeys, extend lifespan. And as I wrote about in The Longevity Paradox, there were two competing rhesus monkey studies, both showed improved health span. These animals lived better lives for as long as they lived. One study showed that they lived longer lives than comparable rhesus monkeys. The other did not show a benefit in lifespan. These studies are different, believe it or not in the amount of protein that was in these two diets.
And lo and behold, the protein in the rhesus monkeys that lived longer was less than the protein in the group that did not live as long. And this is actually confirmed in the St. Louis studies of the Calorie Restriction Society. They looked at a hormone that I measure in all my patients called Insulin-Like Growth Factor. It’s abbreviated IGF-1, if you’re looking for it, and you can ask your doctor to measure it. Insulin Growth Factor is probably our best way of looking at how a receptor called mTOR, and I’ve talked about this before, is turned on. Now quite frankly, we have fairly high levels of Insulin-Like Growth Factor while we’re young because quite frankly, we’re growing. But as we age and cross 40 years of age, we actually see that Insulin-Like Growth Factor One levels, IGF-1 should start falling.
Why? Because if you look at people who have extreme longevity and are doing great in their late 90s or early 100s, they have very low IGF-1s. If you look at instead cancer patients who develop cancer, they remarkably have high Insulin-Like Growth Factors, unfortunately. And I’ll give you an example later on of a recent patient. So at St. Louis University, they took calorie restricted members, and quite frankly, the Calorie Restriction Society does not bar eating animal products. In fact, they do. So they asked some of the Calorie Restriction Society members to keep calorie restricted, but change to a vegan diet rather than having animal protein in their diet. And lo and behold, their IGF-1 levels plummeted when they took down animal protein.
Now, why is that? Well, simplistically, mTOR, the mammalian target of rapamycin, we now know that mTOR exists in all creatures, including yeast, is an energy sensor. And it senses simplistically amino acids from protein and sugars. And that’s what it is interested in. It turns out that there are certain amino acids in animal protein that are far more abundant than there are in corresponding plant proteins and experiments have shown that if you lessen those specific amino acids in animal protein, then you correspondingly decrease the activation of mTOR. And believe me, we in the longevity community do every trick possible to trick mTOR from being turned on. And if one of the easiest ways to do that is dropping off animal protein, so much the better.
Now, so many of you, including me, having been raised in Omaha, Nebraska, think that animal protein, eating meat, animal protein of any kind, whether that’s chicken or fish or eggs or cheeses is essential for health. I got news for you. There’s absolutely no evidence that any of these are essential to health or to build muscle for that matter. I, again, like to remind my patients that gorilla does not eat animal protein and he has more muscle than you will ever have in your life. A horse only eats grass. And I got news for you, more muscle than you have. In fact, the largest animals on earth are actually plant eaters. So the idea that we can’t grow and develop normally just eating plants is one of the great myths. And that myth of course, has been perpetrated by our industries in agriculture of meat consumption and dairy consumption.
Myths are really easy to do as well because you got advertising dollars. Okay. Now, as you know, I wrote in The Plant Paradox and in The Longevity Paradox that beef, lamb, and pork in their tissue, in their muscles, if you will, have a sugar molecule called Neu5Gc that we actually make a antibody to. We have a different sugar molecule that we share with fish and chicken called Neu5Ac. And why all that distinction is only one molecule difference. When we see Neu5Gc and we make an antibody to it by mistake, we often attack this sugar molecule on our blood vessels. And there’s several papers that suggest that one of the reasons meat eating is associated with more coronary artery disease is an autoimmune attack on our blood vessels. And I think we should be aware of that.
The other thing is that cancer cells use Neu5Gc to shield themselves from detection by our immune system. And so that may account for the very strong epidemiology-linked correspondence between for instance, colon cancer development, or even breast cancer development and meat eating. Now, those associations are actually fairly strong, but it could just be that the sugar molecule in beef, lamb, and pork may be part of the consequence, not just the fact that you’re eating animal muscle. Now, I understand that going vegan or nearly vegan isn’t something everybody wants to do. In fact, I don’t do that. As most of you know, I am a self-described veggie-aquarium in that most of the food I eat are plants, are vegetables. And I supplement my diet, usually on the weekends with shellfish and occasional wild fish.
But that doesn’t mean that I don’t eat meat. In fact, believe it or not, probably every three months, I will have a grass fed, grass finished piece of steak. You can visit me at Lucky’s in Montecito where I eat that grass fed, grass finished steak every now and then. Do I do it every day? No. Do I do it once a week? No. It is a rare occasion. Hey, I’m from Omaha, okay? I got to do it occasionally. So if you’re in the group that says, “There’s no way I’m going to go vegan. There’s no way I’m even going to go vegetarian. I like my meat. I like my chicken. I like my fish.” That’s okay. Here’s the exciting part. I’ve become, I think good friends with Dr. Valter Longo, who’s the head of longevity research at USC Medical Center.
I think Dr. Longo is rightfully one of the greatest researchers in longevity and how to achieve the benefits of calorie restriction or the benefits of fasting without actually doing either one. I want to just talk about fasting for a moment. I know I’ve talked about this before, but fasting has certainly become a Voga game. And for the average American listening to this, fasting, a water fast, a prolonged water fast, unless you’re properly prepared and taking protection with certain supplements like activated charcoal, like chlorella, like liver enzyme detoxification supplements, then you probably don’t want to do a prolonged water fast because unfortunately, heavy metals and pollutants are stored in our fat. And when you and me go on a prolonged water fast, and I’m talking three days or more, you start using up the fat in your fat cells.
Well, duh, but as you use up that fat, outcome those heavy metals and the pollutants. Now the problem is the liver does a horrible job of detoxifying these guys and even getting rid of them. And I’ve talked about this before, you actually excrete your heavy metals in bile back into your intestines and then your body reabsorbs them. And I see so many people who have been doing fast and they have incredibly high levels of mercury and lead, and cadmium in their blood while they’re doing this without realizing they’ve actually released this from their fat cells. That tuna, that sword fish that has toxic levels of mercury in their flesh are big strong animals because the fat is in the, sorry, the pollutants are in the fat where they can’t do any harm.
So in our modern society, fasting, prolonged water fasting should be done with caution, should be done under medical supervision. And you got to use the right supplements to help you with that fast. Okay. So what can you do instead? Well, thanks to Dr. Longo’s work, which I cite in all of my books, what he did was say, well, wait a minute. We know that eliminating animal protein for a period of time changes how mTOR is turned on. And he actually designed experiments first in mice, and now replicated in humans that show that a five day period consecutively of a modified vegan fast, where you’re only eating about 600 to 800 calories of basically vegetables, you can certainly have fats from plants, but you eliminate all animal protein, you eliminate dairy, you eliminate eggs. So you have dramatically dropped the amount of animal based amino acids in your diet.
And what he found was all you need is five days in a row of doing this consecutively and you will act in terms of activating stem cells, activating your immune system, activating anticancer genes as if you had been on a fast, a calorie restricting diet for the entire month. Think about that. It’s as if you’re going to take your mitochondria, the energy producing organelles in all your cells that I’m going to deal with in The Energy Paradox, boy, you’re going to love your mitochondria. You take them on a retreat, you take them and take their work away from them for five days in a row. And that’s the key again, you’ve got to do it five days in a row. You can’t say, “Well, I’m going to do it once a week for the next five weeks.” Dr. Longo’s work has shown, sorry, that’s not going to do it.
But the exciting thing is you only have to do it for five days. So for instance, this week I’ve done that exact thing. I’ve done a modified vegan fast. So I started on Sunday and I finished last night, and all I had was vegan food. Now, as you know, I do it even weirder. I don’t eat breakfast. I don’t eat lunch during that time. So I’m eating my calories in the evening from 6:00 to eight o’clock at night. So I’m done. I’m done with my modified vegan fast. Was I hungry? Absolutely not. Was I stuffed? Absolutely not, but I enjoyed myself. And guess what? For four of those meals, shocker, I had pressure cooked beans and mushrooms, and olive oil. That was my meal and a bunch of herbs in there. And it was easy. And quite frankly, beans, as long as they’re pressure cooked, are one of the better foods that you can eat. So there.
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Now, what can you eat, not eat during the fast? Well, like I said, no animal protein. That’s the key. The other thing is you can’t have 3000 calories of pasta and tomato sauce. You can’t have a lot of calories. That’s the other piece. Why? Because whatever calories you’re eating, whether they’re carbohydrates, whether they’re fat, whether they’re proteins and proteins from plants, your mitochondria have to use one or the other or all three to make energy. And what’s really exciting that you’re going to learn about in The Energy Paradox is that if you number one, limit your mitochondrial choices to one or two of the fuels it needs, and then limit the amount of work that they have to do, they get to relax. And I talked a lot about this in The Plant Paradox, thinking about your mitochondria as workers on an assembly line and doing three shifts a day to try and keep up with your eating.
Imagine the benefit to them of really reducing the amount of time you’re eating, and we’ll talk about that in a second, and reducing the amount that you’re eating. They go, “Oh man, this is great. I am on vacation. I don’t have to work. I can binge watch Netflix instead of make energy for you.” Question, can you drink coffee? Yeah, you can drink coffee. In fact, I really strongly recommend if you do not react to coffee, you should have coffee as a part of your program, but don’t put any cream in it, it’s going to have some animal product. How about alcohol? I’ve written before that I did a six day alcohol red wine fast. Now, no, I didn’t drink alcohol all day, but I stayed in ketosis having a glass of red wine every night during a six day fast.
And there have been other documentations that red wine will not put you out of ketosis. But do you go on an alcohol binge? No. Is there any preferred time of month to do this? This is the beautiful thing about it. You can do it whenever you want. I think it’s easiest to do during the week because what the heck, hopefully a lot of us are back at work now and we’re back on a schedule. Right now with COVID, if you’re still locked down, you can do it anytime you want because one day is exactly the same as the next. I feel like Bill Murray some days in Groundhog Day where every day is exactly the same. Can I spread these days out over a month? No, you can’t. Dr. Longo’s work says, sorry. And I certainly agree with him. You got to reduce your time to five days in a row.
And it’s really not hard, particularly if you do it in a workweek. Next question. Can you tweak the schedule if you’re going on vacation or something? Sure. In fact, quite frankly, when I used to go over to Europe and sampling with chefs, I would find the best time to do this was when I arrived back in the United States, I was usually carrying a few pounds that I didn’t want. And so I could reset the clock immediately by going on a five day modified vegan fast. How do you do this? Well, in both The Plant Paradox and The Longevity Paradox, I actually give you the recipes and how to do this. It’s actually really quite easy. Just eat vegetables. If you want to make beans a part of this, please, please, please pressure cook your beans. I use Eden brand beans, which have been great. They’re already pressure cooked.
But the modern Instapot, which I profile in my new book, The Plant Paradox Family Cookbook, Instapot makes this so easy. You can use soups, you can use mushrooms, you can just eat salads. I have done this just eating salads for five days. You can put in avocados, you can put in anything you want in those salads. Just go easy on the olive oil during this time, because remember, olive oil has about 150 calories in a tablespoon. So you’re going to use up your allotment of calories very quickly when you increase your oils and when you increase your nuts. So just for this five days, back off. Everybody asks, during fasting or during this time period, can you take them? Yes, whenever I’m fasting, I continue to take my supplements and no, it doesn’t break your fast.
Now, if this five day fast sounds too extreme for you and you’re saying, “There’s no way I can make it five days eating 800 calories a day,” okay. Believe it or not, you can, but as I’ve written about, particularly in The Longevity Paradox, and you’re going to hear a whole lot more in The Energy Paradox, the more you can intermittent fast or time restricted feeding or both, the better. Now, there is a difference between intermittent fasting and time restricted feeding. Although in the web of sphere, those two terms get intermingled. The original concept of intermittent fasting was a couple of days a week, you would reduce the amount of calories you ate to about five to 600 calories. And the other days of the week, you would eat normally.
And this was popularized, sometimes called the 5:2 diet, sometimes called the Eat Fast Eat diet. The original research was actually done in mice, and they found that you could take mice who are nighttime feeders and for 24 hours not give them anything to eat. And then for the next 24 hours, give them two days worth of food so that every 48 hours they ate exactly the same amount that they would have eaten every day. And compare that to mice that were given their regular food every day. And what was startling was that the mice who ate the same amount of calories but ate them every other day lived essentially twice as long as the mice who ate every day. Now this has been studied in humans and quite frankly, the day off for humans, in other words, you get to eat for 24 hours and then you don’t get to eat at all for the next 24 hours, and then you get to eat again.
And the same benefits were found in terms of improvement in metabolism, improvement in insulin resistance. But quite frankly, it was extremely hard for people to stick with. People really got grouchy and angry on that 24 hour off cycle. So at least in a clinical situation, this doesn’t work very well. On the other hand, if you know that two days out of the week, and with my patients, I use Monday and Thursday as the days of the week to do this, you know that those days you’re still going to get to eat, but it’s not very much. It’s about 600 calories, but all the rest of the days, you actually do get to eat. Now why Monday and Thursday? Well, Monday you’re coming off of a weekend and the odds are you probably overindulged. Thursday is the day before the weekend and you’re probably going to overindulge. So Thursday is a pretty easy day to cut back.
And my studies and other studies have shown that implementing this actually makes most people lose about a pound a week. And as I’ve written about before, a pound a week can’t be beat in terms of weight loss. Okay. So that’s intermittent fasting. Now time restricted feeding is different. Time restricted feeding means we’re going to limit the number of hours during the day that you’re going to consume calories. Now there’s actually several different ways of doing this. As many of you know, Dr. Dale Bredesen, who wrote The End of Alzheimer’s, and who has a new book coming out in August called The End of Alzheimer’s Program, which I’ve had the pleasure of reading and reviewing, and Dr. Bredesen and I have become good friends through the years.
He thinks that for best mental health, you should absolutely have a 12 hour window of not eating every day. So that 12 hours you’re not eating, and 12 hours you can eat. What does that look like? Well, let’s suppose you start eating at six o’clock in the morning. You get to eat all day and you stop at six o’clock at night. That means if you start eating at eight o’clock in the morning, you stop eating at eight o’clock at night. So that’s a 12 hour window of eating. Now, he and I both agree that if you carry the Alzheimer’s gene, the APOE e4 gene, that 30% of people carry, that’s about 90 million Americans carry this gene. You should absolutely scrunch the time period that you’re eating down to 10 hours, eight hours, maybe six hours.
And Dr. Madison from the National Institutes of Aging has shown in a brilliant paper recently that probably a six hour window of eating is the most effective way of maximizing your health span and your lifespan. So what does that look like? In other words, you eat at six o’clock and you finish at noon. You eat at noon, you finish at six, that’s a six hour eating window. Now the important thing to realize is that’s the time you get to consume food. You don’t get any snacks in those other times, that’s your reading window. And as you’ll see in The Energy Paradox, there’s incredibly good reasons why this is going to maximize your health, reduce your chance of developing cancer, reduce your chance of developing heart disease, and maybe most importantly, reduce your chance of dementia or Parkinson’s or any of the other neurologic diseases.
And you’re going to learn why that is in The Energy Paradox. Now, one more way to do this, which is done by millions and millions, and millions of people around the world on a yearly basis, it’s called the Ramadan fast. And for those of you who are not familiar with this practice, during Ramadan, the 30 days of Ramadan, you have to eat your first meal of day before sunrise and you can’t eat or drink again until after sunset. And there have been some beautifully designed papers that show when you do that, when you go about a 12 hour window of not eating or drinking, not drinking water, imagine that, that you actually activate tons of anti-cancer genes. You become literally a anti-cancer patient by just not eating and drinking for 12 hours. And that effect works during that time period.
By the way, you can also lose some weight during that time period. But interestingly, most Ramadan fasts don’t lose weight. And I have a number of patients who practice this fast and it’s interesting, almost none of them lose weight during Ramadan because quite frankly, there’s a lot of eating before sunrise and a whole lot of eating after sunset. But it’s very effective at turning off cancer causing genes and turning on cancer suppressing genes. So keep that in mind. That pretty much gives you the idea on how to do this. What happens if you get hungry? Well, first of all, remember, our ancestors were hungry. Embrace the hunger, number one, believe it or not, you are not going to die from this. Most of us in this country, about 80% of us are insulin resistant.
And so that when you really cut calories, many of us are not able to make it, our blood sugars drop because insulin is pulling sugar out of our system. Please don’t go have a glass of orange juice, have some nuts. It’s one of the easiest ways to get through this time period. Have a tablespoon of MCT oil, medium chain triglyceride, another easy way to get through this. And those steps are all in the book. In fact, in all my books. Does intermittent fasting make you lose weight? Yeah. If you do it right, you definitely will lose weight. And people want to know, do I do this? Well, as you know, I think this was my 18th year. And I wrote about this back in 2007. I was actually, as far as I know, the first person to describe time restricted feeding as a tool during January through June 1st, during the week I don’t eat any breakfast.
I don’t eat any lunch. And I eat all my calories from 6:00 to eight o’clock at night. So I have a 22 hour window of not eating. And during the weekends, I don’t eat breakfast, but I do eat lunch and dinner usually. So I’ve been doing this now, I think this was my 18th year. You’re right. It’s now June. And guess what? I can break my fast if you will. But I didn’t eat breakfast today and I am not eating lunch today. So doggone it, it’s just a habit for me. So it’s doable. Okay. I mentioned The Energy Paradox book, and you’ll notice when I posted about take your mitochondria on a spa treatment, a five day vegan fast absolutely gives your mitochondria the little energy producing organelles in all of your cells, in your heart, in your brain, every part of you, a much deserved rest.
And the more you can rest your mitochondria, the longer and better you are going to live. And the stuff you’re going to see in The Energy Paradox on why you want to do this and what we’re actually doing to our mitochondria currently will number one, blow your mind. Will number two, scare you to death that you can’t believe that you’re doing this. And number three, will hopefully really cut you back from snacking. It’s probably one of the worst things that you could do for your mitochondria that I’ll show you why. Let me give you a recent example about Insulin-Like Growth Factor from a couple of patients. One patient with some autoimmune issues, a young woman, we through our testing, determined that she was very sensitive to egg, egg protein, egg yolk. And we took her eggs away from her.
On her next set of blood work, number one, it was one of the big causes of her auto immune disease, good news. But number two, her Insulin-Like Growth Factor, which was actually pretty doggone good dropped about 40, 45 points, which is a dramatic drop. And she looked at it and she said, “Oh my gosh, that was the eggs. I love eggs. I was having a couple eggs a day. That was my breakfast.” And she said, “That did that?” And I said, “Yeah, that’s exactly the point.” Recently, actually this past week, I saw a patient for the first time. My PA had seen him before, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and he’s 70 years old. And he had his urologist elected to watch and wait and to monitor him. And when he joined us about six months ago, he was overweight. He had some insulin resistance as do most Americans. And he had an elevated Insulin-Like Growth Factor.
His Insulin-Like Growth Factor was about 200. And I saw him this week. And over the six month period of time, he’s no longer insulin resistant. He’s lost some weight, but perhaps most exciting, his Insulin-Like Growth Factor went from about 200 to 104. It dropped in half in six months time. And he had read my books and you couldn’t believe the excitement on his face because quite frankly, an Insulin-Like Growth Factor of 100 is very unlikely to stimulate cancer cells to grow. So then after we go through all this and he says, “Well, isn’t that interesting because my PSA, the way we measure how active his prostate cancer is, is plummeting.” And his urologist goes, “What the heck? Look at that, what’s that all about?” So he got a big grin on his face.
He says, “Look at that, so my Growth Factor is down. I’m not feeding my cancer cells anymore.” So take that to the bank. And as I tell my patients, as we get older, I guarantee you, there is nothing in us that we want to grow. So intermittently fast, time restrict feeding, make your mitochondria go on a five day vegan fast once a month and watch the exciting things that are going to happen to you, your skin, your mind, your overall outlook on life. And when it happens, embrace the hunger, your ancestor did it all the time and we can too. Okay. That’s it. We’ve got a comment from, E. Wellford on YouTube wrote, “I was wondering if you could recommend a brand of almond butter. It’s impossible to tell by reading labels if the blanching process extended long enough to remove the skins before grinding.It turns out that all almonds are blanched with steam, even natural raw ones before they are sold in the US.
Okay. Let’s dismiss that myth first of all, blanching does not mean pasteurizing. By law in the United States, all almonds must be pasteurized. Even the raw ones, guess what? Aren’t raw. They are pasteurized. By law, they have to be. Number two. You’ll notice that almonds aren’t on the approved list of nuts in any of my lists. They’re also not on the non-approved list of nuts. And I did that on purpose because the peel of an almond quite frankly, has a lactin that many of my patients, particularly with rheumatoid arthritis do react to. So you’ll see a lot of almond flowers that are made from ground up almonds. And usually they have a slightly brown color. There are blanched almonds where the peel has been removed.
And for instance, Marcona almonds, the peel has been soaked off and removed, and those are okay. But I can’t tell you the number of patients with autoimmune diseases who go on a almond flour kick, they’re making almond flour cookies, they’re baking almond flour bread. They’re having almond flour pasta, and their markers start to go back up. And we take that almond flour away from them and their markers start going back down. Now, most people are not going to do this, but that’s why the almonds are not on the approved or the disapproved list. Quite frankly, there’s far better nuts to use, particularly we should all realize that almonds are the most water intensive using crop that we grow. We have planted so many almond trees, particularly in California to keep up with demand. Please use a much more environmentally friendly nut in your cooking.
Yes, there are a couple of almond butters that are made from peeled almonds. I have no relationship with these companies. Almondie is one of them. Barneys is another. So if you got to have your almond butter, please get the peeled almonds, but there’s much better nuts that you can get. Macadamia nut butter is just marvelously sinful. Walnut butter is great. There’s better butters out there. Pistachio butter is phenomenal. Please back off on the almonds. Appreciate it. All right. That’s all we have time for today. I hope I was able to answer some of your questions about animal protein, fasting, and how diet will affect your lifespan, and most importantly, your health span. I’ll see you next week and I’m doing this because I’m Dr. Gundry, and I’m always looking out for you.
Thanks for joining me on this episode of the Dr. Gundry Podcast. Before you go, I just wanted to remind you that you can find the show on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. And if you want to watch each episode of the Dr. Gundry Podcast, you can always find me on YouTube at youtube.com/doctorgundry, because I’m Dr. Gundry, and I’m always looking out for you.