These simple habits can optimize your gut and brain bacteria
What you eat — and when — can make you superhuman.
DAVE ASPREY: One of the things that's come out, just in the last five years, is the importance of the microbiome. And the functional medicine crowd has been talking about it for 20-plus years, and we just didn't have good data. But today, there is a company that has more than 100,000 people's poop. And what they've done is they've gone through and sequenced everything. And I don't mean just high-level genetic stuff that's been available for a little while. They're using technology that was invented by a national laboratory for biowarfare detection, and this means that they're looking at viruses, fungus, bacteria, parasites, the percentage of human DNA -- how much gut shedding you have -- in a very simple test. And this company, called Viome, has actually added 10,000 new species to our database of bacteria that lives in the gut that we just didn't know about before. So it's the golden age of figuring out what's going on in the gut. And we found some shocking things.
We also have better imaging than we ever have. So people started looking inside cells when they're alive, and we can see this level of detail that you couldn't get from an electron microscope. And they found something that completely defies all understanding. Inside the brains of perfectly healthy people, there are bacteria. There is a microbiome in your brain. How weird is that? And we thought we knew everything about the blood-brain barrier. There's a lot of BS in the story of the blood-brain barrier. And it turns out these are the same species of bacteria that live in the gut. So these things are part of us. And that means that if you eat foods that disrupt your gut bacteria -- you don't eat enough fiber or you eat industrially raised meat that had antibiotics in it -- that you're probably not going to live as long. People who age well and live a very long time have way more diversity in their gut bacteria. There's more species present. And as we age, you can actually predict someone's age, within a couple of years, just based on looking at their gut bacteria populations. Old people have bad poop. Can I just say it? And how do we fix that? Well, it turns out what you eat is key.
When I started writing Super Human, I used the Viome test, and I quantified I had 48 bacteria in my gut. And one of the problems there is that I travel extensively, about 150 days of the year, and it's really hard to get enough vegetables when you travel. You can get veggies at home. But you go to a restaurant and you say, I would like a plate of vegetables, and they bringing three spears of asparagus. And then you say, I'll give you $1,000 for a plate of vegetables, and you get six spears of asparagus. They just don't understand what a plate of vegetables looks like. And the people who live a long time, they eat a plate of vegetables with a moderate to small amount of grassfed or wild-caught protein and lots of healthy undamaged fats. That's the recipe. You can't buy that. So I put together a prebiotic. And a prebiotic is a set of things that good gut bacteria will eat. It turns out prebiotics have more of an influence on what's going on your gut than probiotics. And both can be useful. Over the course of writing Super Human, I was able to raise the number of species in my gut from 48 to 196. And that is a very healthy, diverse population. And all I had to do was add a couple scoops of probiotics to my Bulletproof coffee every morning. It's not that hard to do. You can also eat a variety of spices and herbs and vegetables, there's all sorts of things. I do that too. But even when I did that, I wasn't hitting the numbers I wanted.
On the flip side of that, there is a type of bacteria that's responsible keeping your gut lining intact, and it's called Akkermansia. We didn't really know much about this, we just thought, oh, this is the stuff that eats the mucus that lines your gut. And yes, you have mucus in your gut. It doesn't sound very attractive, but it's way more attractive than having the food you eat soak through your gut lining into your blood and cause inflammation everywhere, which is what happens when you don't have healthy Akkermansia. This stuff, its job is to eat the mucus and then refresh the mucus. It's a really cool part of keeping your barriers intact so that you can extract the energy and the nutrients from your food without taking a biological hit from what you ate. That means you've got to eat the right stuff. But how do you make this bacteria stronger and healthier? It's pretty amazing: You do it by not eating. And the people who live a long time practice fasting.
Now, when I weighed 300 pounds, I ate six meals a day. I was sure that, if I didn't eat all the time, my body would go into starvation mode and I'd put on even more fat, as if there was room for more fat in my skin. And it turns out that's not how it works. Today, there's something called intermittent fasting -- that's been a core part of the Bulletproof lifestyle and the Bulletproof diet. You basically skip breakfast and you eat what you're going to eat for a whole day in a six- or an eight-hour window. So you have lunch and dinner. And it's not particularly painful to do that, even though it sounds like, oh, my goodness, am I eating enough fat? It's completely good to go. But that window where there's nothing in your stomach makes the good gut bacteria sort of wake up and say, oh, I guess I should refresh the lining of the stomach. Basically, it gives you a chance to run some repair systems. But if you're always full of food -- you have your midnight snack, you eat before bed, and you eat every little while -- your gut doesn't get to go through the normal cycles that a gut should go through.
So more prebiotics, and don't eat sometimes. Today, as you'll read about in the book, I oftentimes, once a week, once every couple of weeks, I just won't eat for 24 hours. And instead of feeling, oh, this is like running a marathon, it's so terrible, because I have metabolic flexibility, well, I get that because I eat enough fat and because I don't always have carbohydrates. And that means 24 hours without food, no big deal. I didn't have any food this morning. I probably will eat lunch, but I might not have time, and I won't notice that I don't do lunch.
- The importance of the microbiome has really come to the fore in the last five years. Viome, a company that analyzed the feces of 100,000 people, has discovered 10,000 new types of gut bacteria.
- Additionally, Improved imaging technology led scientists to discover you don't have just one microbiome, you have two. The second one is in your brain, populated by the same bacteria that live in your gut.
- Simple habits can foster healthy gut and brain bacteria, which can help you live longer and age more slowly. Eat mostly vegetables, take fiber and prebiotics, and practice intermittent fasting, says Dave Asprey.
- Is Jordan Peterson's carnivore diet really healthy? ›
- Science: drinking wine and coffee is good for your gut - Big Think ›
- Belly fat: gut bacteria checks could lead to personalised diets ›
What would happen if you tripled the US population? Join Matthew Yglesias and Charles Duhigg at 1pm ET on Monday, September 28.
New experiments find weird quantum activity in supercold gas.
Quantum Mechanics, Onions, and a Theory of Everything<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="036ae7b8dd661df2d125a3421a0299ba"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/bcVruA0AJ-o?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America with three Michelin stars, joins Big Think Live.
Having been exposed to mavericks in the French culinary world at a young age, three-star Michelin chef Dominique Crenn made it her mission to cook in a way that is not only delicious and elegant, but also expressive, memorable, and true to her experience.
Researchers say that moral self-licensing occurs "because good deeds make people feel secure in their moral self-regard."
Books about race and anti-racism have dominated bestseller lists in the past few months, bringing to prominence authors including Ibram Kendi, Ijeoma Oluo, Reni Eddo-Lodge, and Robin DiAngelo.
Whether or not women think beards are sexy has to do with "moral disgust"
- A new study found that women perceive men with facial hair to be more attractive as well as physically and socially dominant.
- Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength, social assertiveness, and formidability.
- Women who display higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, are more likely to prefer hairy faces.
Beards and perceptions of masculinity<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg0MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzkxMjM3N30.cH-GqNwP5GVqvstgJWAhBPn1B_lYpVEAI0I7iax7EQw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C1900%2C0%2C849&height=700" id="caae6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cb0a355a4e8e1899789bc45f3f7aef56" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo Credit: Wikimedia<p>The study used 919 American (mostly white) women ages 18-70 who rated 30 pictures of men they were shown with various stages of facial hair growth. The photographs depicted men with faces that had been digitally altered to look more feminine or more masculine, with a beard and without a beard. The women rated the men according to perceived attractiveness for long-term and short-term relationships. The study found that the more facial hair the men had, the higher the men were rated on their attractiveness, particularly for their suitability for a long-term relationship.</p><p>Part of this might be attributed to facial masculinity — i.e. protruding brow ridge, wide cheekbones, thick jawline, and deeply set narrow eyes — which conveys information to a woman about a man's underlying health and formidability. Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength and social assertiveness. It can also indicate a man with a superior immune response. The researchers suggested that their findings favoring bearded men could be due to the fact that facial hair enhances the masculine facial features on a man's face, like creating the illusion of a thicker jaw line. This could communicate direct benefits to women like resources and protection that would enhance survival among mothers and their infants. In other words, while a beard doesn't mean superior genetics in and of itself, it might be a primitive, ornamental way of saying, "Hey girl, I'm a testosterone-fueled lean, mean, pathogen fighting machine." <br></p><p>It could also be that a beard becomes its own destiny. The researchers in this study cite prior research that found that by growing a beard, men felt more masculine and had higher levels of serum testosterone, which was linked to a higher level of social dominance. They also tended to subscribe to more old-school beliefs about gender roles in their relationships with women as compared to men with clean-shaven faces.<span></span><br></p>
What does disgust have to do with beard preference?<p>Obviously, not all women dig beards. The researchers were particularly interested in what traits make a women prefer bearded men over clean-shaven faces. They looked into several factors including a woman's disgust levels on various concepts, her desire to become pregnant, and her exposure to facial hair in her personal life. </p><p>According to the study, women who were not into facial hair were turned-off by potential parasites or other critters they imagined could be in the hair or skin. Women ranking high on this "ectoparasite disgust" scale might have viewed beards as a sign of poor grooming habits. However, women who ranked higher in levels of "pathogen" did find the bearded men to be desirable, possibly because they perceived beards as a signal of good health and immune function. An intriguing discovery in the study was links to morality. Women who displayed higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, were more likely to prefer hairy faces. The authors opined that this could reflect a link between beardedness, politically conservative outlooks, and traditional views regarding performances of masculinity in heterosexual relationships.</p>
Additional findings<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg1My9vcmlnaW4uZ2lmIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDI1NjUyOX0.P9B8WbmJR0q4nfzYZKbuNSA-2SAigVWJgrQE-_Gxlds/img.gif?width=980" id="49143" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2ed3b1d6f20fc170bf2974646e565e8d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />Giphy<p>The correlations that existed between married and single women's rating on the attractiveness of beards were not particularly clear, although the researchers noted that single and married women who wanted children tended to find beards more attractive than the women who didn't want children. They also found that women with bearded husbands found beards to be more attractive, which might indicate that social exposure to beards influences how desirable they are perceived of as being. Or it could be that men with wives who like beards grow beards.</p><p>It's important to note that culture plays a huge role in how attractive women perceive certain male characteristics as being. This study looked at a small, culturally specific group of American women, so no big, universal claims should be made about masculinity, facial hair, and male desirability to women. However, research like this is important in highlighting how human grooming decisions are driven by much more than fashion trends. Sociobiological, economic, and ecological factors all play a part in the way we choose to present ourselves.</p>
Yet 80 percent of respondents want to reduce their risk of dementia.
- A new MDVIP/Ipsos survey found that only 35 percent of Americans know the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.
- Eighty percent of respondents said they want to reduce their risks.
- An estimated 7.1 million Americans over the age of 65 will suffer from Alzheimer's by 2025.
Credit: logika600 / Shutterstock<p>Remaining healthy requires regular screenings. Here again we see a disassociation between risk reduction and proactivity. Seventy-seven percent of respondents don't talk to their doctors about lifestyle habits that support brain health; 51 percent have never been screened for depression; 44 percent have never had a neurological exam; and 32 percent have never been screened for hearing problems. </p><p>Common early warning signs of dementia, <a href="https://news.yahoo.com/americans-worry-alzheimers-disease-survey-140644803.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">according to</a> Dr. Jason Karlawish, co-director of the Penn Memory Center, include repetitive questions and stories, difficulties with complex daily tasks, and trouble with orientation. </p><p>In terms of intervention, <a href="https://bigthink.com/21st-century-spirituality/does-lack-of-exercise-lead-to-dementia" target="_self">exercise</a>, <a href="https://bigthink.com/surprising-science/obesity-dementia" target="_self">diet</a>, building a <a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/brain-reserve" target="_self">brain reserve</a>, and challenging your brain (such as learning a new language or musical instrument) are all proven methods for staving off the ravages of Alzheimer's. Oxytocin has also <a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/alzheimers-oxytocin" target="_self">showed promise</a> in brain-addled mice, while researchers found positive results for a <a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/intermittent-fasting" target="_self">group of intermittent fasters</a> in promoting neurogenesis. </p><p>Epidemiologist Bryan James says that dementia is <a href="https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2013/04/15/176920391/how-exercise-and-other-activities-beat-back-dementia" target="_blank">not an inevitable result</a> of aging. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"It's simply not pre-destined for all human beings. Lots of people live into their 90s and even 100s with no symptoms of dementia." </p><p>Professor of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine, Andrew Budson, <a href="https://news.yahoo.com/americans-worry-alzheimers-disease-survey-140644803.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recommends</a> aerobic exercise and the Mediterranean diet. As has long been known, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, fish and shellfish, and healthy fasts like nuts and olive oil seem to have brain-boosting properties. </p><p>To learn more, take the <a href="https://www.mdvip.com/brain-health-iq-quiz" target="_blank">Brain Health IQ quiz</a>.</p><p><span></span>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>