Sometimes you listen to a podcast that does it all and blows you away in the process. This conversation between Tim Ferriss and Rhonda Patrick was one of those epic, all-encompassing long-form conversations that kind of covers everything in just the right amount of research-backed detail.
If living long and living well are your thing then this conversation is for you. We’ve hacked it down to our favourite bits and added in a little Fibr along the way. The interface between nutrition and genetics, aka nutrigenomics, plays a central theme with a focus on mitigating the damaging effects of ageing.
Despite individual variances and the role of genomics, there are many rules of thumb strategies that can positively impact health and even longevity - of course with a little bit of individual variation as a consequence of each of our genetic idiosyncrasies. How exciting!
Pre-warning: This is fairly long and a bit of a ‘geek out’ so skip to the bottom now if you’re short on time for the best bang for your buck nutri-life hacks list. If you’re keen to take a deep dive into actionable longevity researched backed topics, then put the kettle on and sit back for our deep dive review.
“Healthspan” is living for as long as we can while doing our best prevent deterioration from the diseases of ageing.
Outlined are some exciting research backed compounds, nutrition hacks and lifestyle interventions that show promising results in terms of health span enhancement.
Best of all, they don’t require a doctor’s intervention, a prescription, lots of money, lots of time or much brain power. In fact, they may just boost brain power!
A shift from Life Span > Health Span
Right, Let’s Get Started With Sulforaphane!
A discussion on longevity and ageing wouldn’t be complete without a note on sulforaphane or broccoli sprouts. This compound is derived from cruciferous vegetables and is the most potent antioxidant on the planet and is particularly abundant in broccoli sprouts, at 50 to 100-times more than in mature broccoli.
When it comes to these precious sprouts, Sulforaphane is undoubtedly the most beneficial compound but they are a powerhouse of nutrients, most notably:
Indole-3-carbinol: A unique nutrient found in cruciferous vegetables, which may have beneficial effects against cancer.
Carotenoids: Broccoli contains lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene, which may all contribute to better eye health.
Kaempferol: An antioxidant with many benefits for health. It may protect against heart disease, cancer, inflammation and allergy.
Quercetin: An antioxidant with numerous benefits, including lower blood pressure in people with high blood pressure.
But it's really the sulforaphane we’re interested in here as it activates a special genetic pathway in our cells known as Nrf2 and it does so more potently than any other known naturally-occurring dietary compound.
Nrf2? This gene, a master regulator, controls over 200 other genes…….affecting whether or not they’re activated and working. These include genes related to our anti-inflammatory and antioxidant processes, and even the ability to inactivate potentially harmful compounds we’re exposed to on a daily basis from breathing.
Think of it as on-switch for some of our native stress responses. Our ability (or not!) to cope with physiological stress down to the cellular level, ultimately affects how rapidly we create cellular damage i.e. age.
Nrf2 is a stress-response pathway and is activated by sulforaphane.
The compound itself functions as what is know as a xeno hormetic, meaning it's slightly stressful to cells and therefore elicits a biological stress response which has a cumulative effect, resulting in a net gain in resilience.
Of course, we can easily start adding this powerful compound in the guise of broccoli sprouts to our daily diet but there are important ways to increase bioavailability.
Hacking your broccoli sprouts:
¼ cup broccoli sprouts = a serving.
According to Rhonda Patrick @ Foundmyfitness:
The best protocol for your sprouts is 10 minutes at 60-70 degrees Celsius to mature broccoli.
Heat water to 70 ⇢ pour on for 10 minutes ⇢ rinse off = 3.5X bioavailability of sulforaphane.
Once activated you can eat straight away, save them for later, freeze them, cold press juice them or place in a blender for a smoothie……...
A note on juice - all the myrosinase gets activated the second you “squish” because you break open the plant cells...so if you were to drink that juice immediately you would get most of the benefit of sulforaphane.
Looking to incorporate the benefits without consuming the sprouts then Broccoprotect is one of the best supplements out there unless you happen to be in France……..if you are, be sure to pick up some Prostaphane.
This is one of the most powerful and easily implementable lifestyle interventions with the potential to prevent obesity and other metabolic related diseases.
Limiting our eating within a certain time window during the day, ranging from only 8 hours to up to 12 hours per day has shown astounding effects on health span.
A 2016 study highlighted even an 11-hour eating window associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer and potential recurrence by as much as 36% in women.
Our metabolic genes are more active during the day and less so at night so this makes sense. Late night eating may “reset” peripheral clocks and result in misalignment of metabolism, which means when you wake up your metabolism is already at end of its cycle.
When healthy adults eat meals that are identical in terms of both their macronutrient and caloric content at breakfast, lunch, or dinner, the postprandial glucose increase is lowest after breakfast and highest after dinner, even though the meals were 100% identical.
This is just one example that suggests metabolism changes throughout the day. Everything from making neurotransmitters, to insulin, to glucose transport inside of cells, to oxidizing fatty acids, to repairing damage is on a 24-hour cycle clock that is influenced by these external cues involving metabolism.
Our basic metabolic physiology is designed and fine-tuned to behave differently depending on the time of day. Even the bacteria that we harbour in our guts have a circadian rhythm, with the species of bacteria changing according to the time of day - some bacteria dominate during the morning and others during the evening.
So we can understand why an extended overnight fast can be beneficial to our overall health and is indeed linked to a plethora of positive health outcomes.
Again, we’re not talking 24-hour fasting, more like a 9-12 hour window, which has been associated with:
- Decreased fat mass
- Increased lean muscle mass
- Improved glucose tolerance
- Improved lipid profile
- Reduced inflammation
- Higher mitochondrial volume
- Protection from mild-age related fatty liver
- Protection from obesity
- Generally favourable improvements in gene expression
- Increased production of ketone bodies.
Multiple studies are proving Time Restrive Eating to be a powerful tool in anybody’s longevity toolbox:
- 2016 study - Eating within an 11-hour window was associated with a decreased breast cancer risk and reduction in recurrence by as much as 36%.
- Earlier meal timing associated with improved effectiveness of weight-loss therapy in overweight and obese patients.
- 2016 study - for each 3-hour increase in nighttime fasting duration was linked to a 20% lower odds of elevated glycated hemoglobin (HbA1C), which is a more long-term marker of blood glucose levels.
- 2015 study -For each 10% increase in the proportion of calories consumed after 5pm there was a 3% increase in the inflammatory biomarker c-reactive protein otherwise known as CRP.
- 2015 study - Eating one additional meal during the day (instead of the evening) was associated with an 8% decrease in CRP.
- Eating within a 12-hour window improved sleep and increased weight loss in normal weight people.
Time restricted eating is a powerful and effective tool to improve your overall metabolic health.
A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2015, showed that sauna use was associated with longevity. The study recruited over 2000 middle-aged men in Finland for 20 years and compared frequency of sauna use with:
Sudden cardiac death
Fatal coronary heart disease
Fatal cardiovascular disease
All-cause mortality, including cancer.
The size of the cohort (2000) and the fact that heart disease is the LEADING cause of death in the UK and US makes this study hugely relevant.
Fatal cardiovascular disease was 27% lower for men who used the sauna 2 to 3 times a week.
BUT 50% lower for men who used the sauna 4 to 7 times a week compared with men who just used the sauna once per week.
Benefits don’t just stop at cardiovascular-related mortality - the study also found that sauna use lowered all-cause mortality full stop.
Using the sauna 2-3 times per week was associated with 24% lower all-cause mortality.
Sauna used 4-7 times per week lowered all-cause mortality by 40%.
Heat stress from sauna use increases plasma volume and blood flow to the heart, known as stroke volume. This results in reduced cardiovascular strain so your heart has to do less work for each beat that it does to pump oxygen-rich blood to your tissues and brain.
Furthermore, long-term sauna use has been shown to generally improve blood pressure, endothelial function, and left ventricular function.
On a practical level, yes this improved heart health really does boost endurance.
This is pretty radical fodder - furthermore, a 2015 study demonstrated that a 30-minute sauna session two times a week for three weeks POST-workout increased the time that it took for study participants to run until exhaustion by 32% compared to baseline.
Back to the JAMA Internal Medicine in 2015 - the researchers found a very interesting association from the same cohort that they later published in another paper. This time, less cardiovascular health - more cognitive health.
Men that used the sauna 2-3 times per week had a 22% lower risk of dementia and a 20% lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease compared to men that only used the sauna one time per week.
Men who used the sauna 4-7 times per week had a 66% lower risk of dementia and a 65% lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease compared to men that used the sauna once a week. It’s also important to add benefits seen with mood and attention - IRS has been shown to increase norepinephrine whilst affecting our sensitivity to and production of beta-endorphin - creating a kind of "runner’s high."
For the minimal benefits of lower cardiovascular disease mortality, lower all-cause mortality, and lower Alzheimer’s disease risk, we have to address the literature that actually observed these effects.
How to Sauna for optimal brain, cardiovascular and endurance benefits:
20 minutes at 174º F (or 79º C) 2-3 times per week.
Remember, those who hit the sauna 4-7 times a week had an even more robust effect.
Heat and Cold Exposure
Exposure to the cold has powerful effects on the brain and overall mood. Again, norepinephrine elicits this effect and is the catecholamine responsible for triggering the browning of fat - making our fat more metabolically active.
Heat from sauna use also increases norepinephrine which highlights how both hot and cold, rather than having opposing effects, at the molecular level are nudging some of the same pathways in the same direction.
But how cold is cold?
Cold stress studies have shown threshold temperatures and times required to be:
Immersion in cold water at 40°F (4.4°C) for 20 seconds increased norepinephrine 2 to 3-fold (200 to 300%) and this release of norepinephrine didn’t seem to be reduced with habituation to cold. Long durations of cold water exposure under more moderate temperatures have a more potent effect on norepinephrine release.
For example, in another study, people that spent 1 hour in 57°F (14°C) water increased norepinephrine in their bloodstreams by 530% over baseline.
A 2015 study clearly proves that temperature positively impacts longevity. However, the mechanism is not as simple as previously thought but is largely due to neuroendocrine mechanisms in responses to a low temperature that in turn impact on ageing and longevity.
In practice and daily life? Showers are an obvious one and can be even colder than the temperatures noted above.
Furthermore, ice baths/cold showers interspersed with sauna use have an extremely powerful effect on not only fat metabolism but improving sleep and enhancing mood.
Nootropics & Longevity Enhancing Nutraceuticals
Every second of every day, our brain is ageing.
Nootropics AKA brain supplements have been shown to slow down ageing and improve mental performance, contribute to better memory, cognitive performance and overall brain health.
In fact, many of these nootropics are currently being investigated as cures for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other disorders affecting intellectual capacity.
So what is the best nootropic for anti-ageing and brain health?
Choline can either be used to make acetylcholine (acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that connects neurons together) or phosphatidylcholine or methyl groups. Cholines effects on the cholinergic peripheral system peaks between 1 and 2 hours after ingestion. Choline itself (without forming acetylcholine) acts on a subtype of nicotinic receptors (alpha 7 nicotinic receptor) involved in long-term memory.
Acetylcholine also acts on all the nicotinic receptors but Choline does not cause desensitisation of this receptor like other agonists do (like nicotine), in fact, it increases this receptor subtype.
Certain neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer's Disease are linked to decreased acetylcholine so it’s therapeutic uses are promising.
There are different forms of choline supplements but phosphatidylcholine is the most bioavailable and gets into the brain faster.
L-Alpha Glycerylphosphorylcholine (more commonly known as alpha GPC) is a naturally occurring form of choline able to cross the Blood Brain Barrier quickly - doses of 600 mg per day are recommended for cognitive enhancement.
Another powerful nootropic, Lion Mane’s active compound hericenones is capable of activating nerve growth factor (NGF) which acts on cholinergic neurons in the central nervous system and is essential for the growth of new neurons and survival of existing neurons.
In a 2009 Japanese double-blind placebo-controlled trial elderly men with cognitive decline were given 1 gram doses of 96% Yamabushitake dry powder three times a day for 16 weeks for a total of 3 grams per day. Those individuals given the lion’s manes extract but not placebo had a significant improvement in cognitive function at weeks 8, 12 and 16 of the trial. However, to maintain positive results continuous intake necessary as effect wore off 4 weeks after discontinuing treatment, at least in cognitively impaired older adults.
Four Sigmatic - each packet contain 1.5 grams of lion’s mane extract from the fruit body only (which would contain hericenones).
Vitamin D and Omega 3’s
Not necessarily nootropic compounds but certainly able to enhance cognition, anti-inflammatory and protective to overall brain health.
Vit D amongst a myriad of other benefits affects serotonin production, essential for adults trying to stay healthy and live optimally but also for preventing neurodevelopmental disorders. Impaired serotonin production may be particularly important for early brain development when the foetus relies on the mother as its source for vitamin D. Deficiency is associated with an increased risk of age-related chronic diseases, including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, cognitive impairment, and cancer.
A 2016 study - showed how D3 improves protein homeostasis and slows ageing. If anything, this highlights the importance of maintaining appropriate vitamin D serum levels and may explain why such a wide variety of human age-related diseases are associated with vitamin D deficiency.
As such Vitamin D is something that should be periodically monitored via blood test in order to titrate to a dose that is appropriate - aiming for the sweet spot of 100 nmol/l.
Approximately 8% of the brain’s weight is Omega-3. The number of studies that demonstrate optimising intake of omega-3 has some effect on cognition or behaviour are multiple. As such it is an essential part of any longevity, cognition-enhancing protocol and one of our favourite nootropics! Check out Omegatropic, a mix of clinical grade Omega 3 and GPC, a bit game-changing!
Back to S U L F O R A P H A N E
Shown to cross the blood-brain barrier, well at least in mice which is compelling evidence that it at least exerts effects on the brain. In addition, it also affects the activities of the immune system which is now known to affect the brain via a series of lymphatic vessels.
The fact that sulforaphane is exhibiting clear effects on the brain and behaviour of people, such as those with autism spectrum disorder, hints that it might continue to show promise in other areas of cognition too. This is because animal studies have really shown a diversity of very interesting effects that are really just waiting to be replicated in humans.
For example, One study showed Sulforaphane to improve spatial working memory and short-term memory in mice in the context of conditions that can affect memory in a deleterious way, such as Alzheimer’s Disease.
Another study highlights the compound’s ability to increase neurite outgrowth, which is how damaged neurons and synapses repair themselves after damage from traumatic brain injury.
But what about dosage?
Estimates - broccoli sprouts at a concentration of about 1 gram fresh weight to around 0.45mg of sulforaphane: all dependent on seed quality, the age of the sprouts, how you consume the sprouts.
Turmeric has so many healing properties and has attracted a lot of interest in the way of clinical trials and research. Currently, there have been 6,235 peer-reviewed articles published proving the benefits of turmeric and one of its renowned healing compounds, curcumin. Turmeric is the most frequently mentioned medicinal herbs in all the scientific literature and its benefits are numerous and powerful.
However, clinical research has especially highlighted it’s anti-inflammatory powers with some touting it as more potent and effective than prescription drugs. Much of the literature is focused on Meriva - a patented, standardized form of Curcumin that is 29 times more bioavailable than ordinary curcumin.
Available from a few well-known brands, Meriva consists of a phospholipid complex with 20% curcumin dispersed throughout the phospholipid which helps to get the curcumin past the stomach lining and prevents rapid clearance from the liver.
A few clinical trials have looked into the effects of Meriva on pain and inflammation, for the better control of acute pain, thus providing a rationale for the analgesic properties associated with this curcumin formulation
In a 2014 study, runners who were given 1 g of Meriva twice a day found that it reduced delayed onset muscle soreness about 2-fold and caused a 60% decrease in markers of muscle damage and inflammation, specifically IL-8 and C Reactive Protein, after running until exhaustion downhill.
A 2016 clinical study noted promising effects when looking at the efficacy of 1 g of Meriva per day in reducing symptoms of osteoarthritis and increasing general mobility.
Here at Fibr, we recommend Designs For Health CurcumEvail, a patent-pending, highly bioavailable curcuminoid formulation (Hate to say it Rhonda….but more bioavailable than Meriva!). It contains a unique combination of three bioactive, health-promoting curcuminoids: curcumin, bisdemethoxy curcumin and demethoxy curcumin, along with turmeric oil. These three curcuminoids are the strongest, most protective and best-researched constituents of the turmeric root.
An important component of tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and skin, but also gums, muscle and the gut. Approximately 33% of collagen is made from proline and glycine, which most dietary protein sources are not especially high in. Proline also plays a role in wound healing - in the first 10 days after a wound occurs proline levels at the site of the wound are 50% higher than plasma. The fact that proline is actively being transported to the site of the wound is indicative it is a necessary part of the wound healing process.
A second note on proline - it is converted to glutamate and alpha-ketoglutarate and used by mitochondria to produce energy so that when glucose levels drop, proline is released from connective tissue to be used to make energy.
Check out our favourite smoothie recipe, an easy yet nutrient dense way to get your collagen fix.
Food Glorious Food
Food is information, a coding device to our genes and diet is a cornerstone of living well and living longer. Rhonda is up there with the best of them when it comes to nutrition so of course, we’re interested in her daily diet.
We are not predestined to look, feel or age in a particular way. What we eat and drink impacts us every facet of our physiology.
Micronutrients are about 30 to 40 essential vitamins and minerals that we must get from our diet because they are essential for life.
Of course the source and quantities of our macronutrients matter but there’s a lot to be gained from moving our attention away from our fixation on macronutrients to micronutrients.
It’s important to keep in mind the goal of RDA is not to prevent ageing but rather the prevention of easily observable, obvious diseases of deficiency.
An easy way to do this is by cramming in some extra servings of fruits and vegetables. Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all approach but there are 'rule of thumb' strategies that have a generally positive impact on health and longevity.
I thought it would be helpful to outline some healthspan enhancing meals.
Choline-rich scrambled eggs, sauteed (in avocado/coconut oil) kale and garlic topped with red onion, olive oil salt, and mustard powder. A grapefruit on the side for a hefty dose of the powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, Naringenin.
Nut and Berry ‘cereal’ with hydrolyzed collagen powder and coconut milk/yoghurt. Chopped nuts including walnuts, pecans, and macadamia nuts to provide a range of micronutrients including magnesium, calcium, zinc, a modest amount of protein and the omega-3 fatty acid, ALA. Blueberries for pterostilbene, a plant compound present in blueberries and chemically related to resveratrol but x4 more bioavailable. Oh and some flaxseeds, for more omega-3, ALA and fibre.
Smoothies are the easiest way to ramp up your micronutrient intake and doesn't necessarily have to be for Breakfast! Having a smoothie for lunch is a powerful yet convenient way to up your micronutrient intake when on the go!
Largely based on cooked vegetables such as sauteed folate-rich spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, beets and squash with a side of omega and protein-rich salmon.
A big salad full of greens providing a host of micronutrients including folate, magnesium, calcium, vitamin K1, lutein, zeaxanthin and sulfoquinovose. Sulfoquinovose is a prebiotic that feeds beneficial bacteria in the gut.
A side of sauerkraut or kimchi is a superb accompaniment to evening meals.
For protein, a big serving of baked wild Alaskan salmon, chicken legs or grass-fed organic steak. If tolerated well, lentils and black beans are superb plant based choices.
Favourite carbohydrates - sweet potato, parsnip chips, quinoa or high-quality white rice.Bone Broth
An effective and delicious way to support skin and gut health = Chicken bones + water + spices of choice + vegetables. Make your own chicken bone soup for the same goodies as hydrolyzed collagen powder.
And there you have it, the best bits of our all-time favourite long-form Nutri-Lifestyle conversations. Thanks for reading until the end ;) Read on for our most effective, yet easily implementable lifestyle changes for big gains.
Small Lifestyle Changes ⇨ Big Effects (‘Biggest Bang For Your Buck’)
#1 – Eliminate all refined sugar from the diet.
#2 – Practice time-restricted eating and eat in accordance with your circadian rhythm.
#3 – Maximize vegetable intake, using the micronutrient smoothie method as a way to jumpstart the habit.
#4 – Monitor your vitamin D blood status and titrate your dose toward the sweet spot.
#5: Try to get some form of meaningfully vigorous cardiovascular exercise, at least 30 minutes, a few times per week.
#6: Get bright blue light during the day, as early as possible.
If you want to listen to the whole conversation you can find it here. But rest assured we have picked out the best bits for you to hack healthspan and enhance longevity: no doctor’s intervention or prescription needed, low monetary investment, time efficient and very little brain power required…...In fact, they may just boost brain power!