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Open the Podcasts app and search for The Doctor’s Farmacy. If you’re viewing this site on your phone, you can just tap on the

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Episode 151
The Doctor's Farmacy

How To Eat Smarter

Open the Podcasts app and search for The Doctor’s Farmacy. If you’re viewing this site on your phone, you can just tap on the

Tap the subscribe button and new shows will be added to your library.

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Our bodies are built and maintained by our food choices; we literally are what we eat. Unfortunately, that means the majority of our country is made of ultra-processed food-like substances that create disease. The good news, though, is that small dietary changes can have huge payoffs in a short amount of time. 

My guest on today’s episode of The Doctor’s Farmacy has experienced the dramatic impacts of using food as medicine firsthand. At just 15, he broke his hip simply from running because his bones were so brittle from a diet void of nutrients. At 20, he was diagnosed with degenerative bone and disk disease. After just 9 months of revamping his diet to focus on whole foods, that diagnosis was completely reversed. Shawn Stevenson is here today to tell us how food affects our bodies on the deepest level and how we can eat smarter. 

Shawn and I explore what mechanisms are at work when our bodies process food. You might be surprised to learn how important the liver is for our metabolic health; Shawn explains how it regulates the endocrine system and why non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is on the rise in our country due to the overconsumption of sugar and starch. 

We also get into the history of calorie counting, food morality, and the association of hunger and weight loss. We discuss the misinformation around weight and diet and how a fresh perspective on food quality is what our bodies need to function optimally and even heal from disease. 

Food truly is the best medicine. I hope you’ll tune in to learn more. 

This episode is brought to you by Thrive Market, Athletic Greens, and Simple Mills.

Thrive is offering all Doctor’s Farmacy listeners an amazing deal. Select a free gift from Thrive Market when you sign up for a 1-year membership. And, any time you spend more than $49 you’ll get free carbon-neutral shipping. Just head over to thrivemarket.com/Hyman

Athletic Greens is offering Doctor’s Farmacy listeners a full year supply of their Vitamin D3/K2 Liquid Formula free with your first purchase, plus 5 free travel packs. Just go to athleticgreens.com/hyman to take advantage of this great offer.

Right now, Simple Mills is offering Doctor’s Farmacy listeners 20% off. Just head over to simplemills.com and use code HYMAN20 to try their Artisan Bread Mix and other amazing products to stock up for the holidays.

I hope you enjoyed this conversation as much as I did. Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD
Mark Hyman, MD

In this episode, you will learn (video / audio):

  1. Shawn’s personal health journey and the physical injury that led him to understand the healing power of food
    (2:48 / 7:28)
  2. The link between our societal issues, our diet, and the obesity epidemic
    (9:06 / 13:46)
  3. How blood sugar swings impact our ability to resolve conflict
    (10:15 / 14:55)
  4. The relationship between nutritional deficiency and violent behavior in prison inmates
    (12:00 / 16:40)
  5. Why calories in, calories out is not the key to weight loss
    (14:00 / 18:41)
  6. How the gut microbiome is impacted by obesity and visa versa
    (24:14 / 27:33)
  7. Inflammation, non-alcoholic fatty liver, and body composition
    (27:51 / 31:10)
  8. Why being slightly overweight or obese makes you more at risk for negative effects from COVID-19 and how you can make quick changes to improve your health
    (31:46 / 35:05)
  9. Hormone dysfunction, metabolism, and weight loss
    (34:01 / 37:20)
  10. Why it’s no just what we eat but how we’re eating, and who we’re eating with
    (39:49 / 43:08)

Guest

 
Mark Hyman, MD

Mark Hyman, MD is the Founder and Director of The UltraWellness Center, the Head of Strategy and Innovation of Cleveland Clinic's Center for Functional Medicine, and a 13-time New York Times Bestselling author.

If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.

 
Shawn Stevenson

Shawn Stevenson is the author of the international bestselling book Sleep Smarter and creator of The Model Health Show, featured as the number #1 health podcast in the U.S. with millions of listener downloads each year. A graduate of the University of Missouri–St. Louis, Shawn studied business, biology, and nutritional science, and went on to found Advanced Integrative Health Alliance, a company that provides wellness services for individuals and organizations worldwide. Shawn has been featured in Forbes, Fast Company, The New York Times, Muscle & Fitness, ESPN, and many other major media outlets. He is also an in-demand keynote speaker for numerous organizations, universities, and conferences. 

Transcript

Shawn Stevenson:
Nobody’s talking about that in these cookie cutter diets that you need to address the inflammation in your brain in order for you to lose weight, right? So these are all [crosstalk 00:00:09]

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Absolutely.

Shawn Stevenson:
And the beautiful part is, it’s possible. It’s not just possible, it’s probable when you have the right inflammation, and we avoid the things that create the inflammation.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Welcome to The Doctor’s Farmacy. I’m Dr. Mark Hyman, and that’s Farmacy with an F-A-R-M-A-C-Y, a place for conversations that matter. And if you’ve ever struggled with your weight, and you’ve ever tried to figure out why it’s so hard to lose weight, or tried a million different things and want to know how your body really works, you better listen up because today’s conversation is with Shawn Stevenson, who is a master of the human body. He has investigated it in ways that most physicians haven’t, most nutritionists don’t know, and we’ll give you insights into how your body works that are pretty remarkable, so I would pay close attention to this podcast.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Shawn is an incredible guy. He’s the author of Sleep Smarter. He’s been on the podcast talking about that. He’s the creator of The Model Health Show, which has been listed as the number one health podcast in the US, it has millions of downloads. He’s done so many great things, but the most important thing that he’s done is care about us, care about you and how, [inaudible 00:01:15], what’s going on? And he came to this the hard way from growing up in really difficult circumstances, and not knowing anything about food, and experiencing all the bad stuff that the toxic food world has brought us. So welcome Shawn to the podcast.

Shawn Stevenson:
Mark, it’s an honor to be here. I love talking with you.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
All right, me too. All right, let’s get right into it. I’m going to open up by reading from the opening of your book, Eat Smarter. And your book is titled, Eat Smarter: Use the Power of Food to Reboot Your Metabolism, Upgrade Your Brain, and Transform Your Life. It sounds like a good plan. I think I’m up for that, out late December 2020.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
All right, here we go. In the book, you start off by saying food is complicated. It’s one of the most valuable multifaceted things in our universe. And I completely agree with that. It’s a key controller of our state of health or disease, it’s a social centerpiece that compliments the most important moments of our lives. It’s the building blocks that create our brain, enabling us to have thoughts and feelings and emotions. It’s the very stuff that makes up our bodies. We literally are what we eat and what we see looking back at us in the mirror. Food isn’t just food., it’s the thing that makes us who we are.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
But food is also ridiculously simple because you just put it in your mouth. Your body handles the fine print after you chew. It’s because food’s a simple sign that we sometimes miss just how miraculous it actually is. Still, even if we don’t know the details, food is able to work on us to change us to literally shape our lives. Shawn, this is a beautiful opening statement for your book. Tell us how you got into this. What is your journey? Because you had your own struggles with food, and this really shaped your life’s work, and inspired you to do what you’re doing today?

Shawn Stevenson:
Yes, thank you so much for that, Mark. And that was my mission really is to bring about the dynamic aspect of food. Because as you know, in this field, we tend to put food into this pithy box or diet. Most folks link up the word diet to body weight, and we don’t really get an analysis or an overarching understanding of how food impacts every single area of our lives.

Shawn Stevenson:
And of course, I grew up, I had no idea that food mattered at all. I just thought it was just stuff you eat, and that’s the end of the story. I grew up in what you refer to and you’ve shared so much information about, in a food desert. We oftentimes we were on WIC food stamps. We got our food from a local shelter oftentimes, and just trying to find ways to get by.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Food stamp Christmas you said?

Shawn Stevenson:
Yes, lovingly referred to as food stamp Christmas that will come around and …

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I would like to know, what was that? What did you eat at food stamp Christmas?

Shawn Stevenson:
Oh man, we didn’t have cheerios, we had toastios, so we took those food stamps and we’d go buy a bunch of off-brand food. And these were the things I was making my body out of. and of course we were habitually eating fast food as much as we possibly could. And some of the things we’ll talk about today, the economics made it very affordable and made what we call higher quality food something that was much more complicated for us to get.

Shawn Stevenson:
And so being that I was making my body out of these things, which I had no idea that it mattered, I thought that I can eat whatever I want if I just workout. But I grew up in a family of folks who were obese, and it was just our culture, it was the nature of what I was around. And that played out for me a genetic predisposition. But we, of course we know about epigenetics today. But I ended up, at track practice, just 15 years old, and I was an incredible aspiring athlete. And I was doing the time trial, and just 15 years old, I ended up running doing a time trial and I broke my hip just from running around the track because my bones were so brutal, my bone density.

Shawn Stevenson:
And for a lot of folks, we just get the marketing side of bone density, calcium is at the front door. And we don’t realize that your bone density, dozens if not hundreds of different compounds come together to make your bones. And if you’re deficient in these things, what do you think your body’s going to do? But I had no idea. And it wasn’t until …

Dr. Mark Hyman:
But there’s also a lot of things you were doing that dissolve your bones, right?

Shawn Stevenson:
Yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
You were drinking lots of soda, which has phosphoric acid. And that actually is one of the biggest drivers of osteoporosis, is the phosphoric acid that leaches out the calcium from your bones.

Shawn Stevenson:
Yeah, it was just a daily part of my life, drinking soda, drinking so-called Hawaiian punch, which is 1% juice. And of course, sugar has an impact on your bone density. And so many other factors. Omega-3s, I had no idea that any of these other things mattered, but I was deficient in so much. And so fast forward the story, at the age of 20, I was finally diagnosed with degenerative bone disease, degenerative disc disease, so it’s essentially arthritis of the spine. And my physician told me I had the spine of an 80-year-old man when I was just 20 years old.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
You’re 20 going on 80.

Shawn Stevenson:
Yeah, right. I was like Benjamin Button, the wrong weight.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Oh boy.

Shawn Stevenson:
And so I also had two herniated disc that were causing me a tremendous amount of pain. And unfortunately he told me that this situation was incurable, there’s nothing I can do about it. And I went about my life for the next two years, just in a lot of pain and suffering. My fat genes, I was the skinny kid in my family, but my fat genes kicked on with vengeance at that point, and so I gained a bunch of weight. And I was scared. I was scared to move around because every physician I see … And by the way, I want to encourage everybody. Whenever you do get bad news like this, I highly encourage you to get a second, third opinion before taking any type of action. And in most cases, if you have time. And I did that, but it was the same bill of goods.

Shawn Stevenson:
And to put a bowl on the story, because obviously it turned out okay. It wasn’t until the final physician that I saw telling me the same thing that I started to change the question that was going on in my mind, habitually. And I talk about this in the book as well. There’s a brain reflex, it’s called an instinctive elaboration. And your brain is really [inaudible 00:07:24] the questions that you ask constantly. And oftentimes they’re unconscious, because it helps to filter out the trillions of bits of data that your brain is trying to process to basically give you the most important information that you need to survive in your environment.

Shawn Stevenson:
And so I was habitually asking, why me? Why did this happen to me? Why won’t anybody help me? And so I’m just looking, scanning my environment constantly to affirm those questions and answers those questions on how much my life sucked and why I was so alone. And in an instant after I really realized truly they do mean well, but they don’t walk in my shoes, I finally asked what can I do to get healthier? Just like a light bulb got turned on, and I started to ask different questions. Okay, my spine is degenerating, what is my spine made out of? And started asking these questions …

Dr. Mark Hyman:
The obvious question, right?

Shawn Stevenson:
Right. And it starts to send me down this wonderful journey, and long story short, I used several different protocols. I started off trying to lose weight with SlimFast. All right. I was drinking a shake a day, two shakes a day, and then healthy dinner, all that. But eventually by asking different questions, the right data showed up. And I started to really look at food as one of the primary inputs to get these raw materials my body needed, my bones needed, my spine needed. And I completely reversed the condition about nine months later when I got a scan done, and it really just set in place a very strong passion to help other people and to serve, and it really transformed my world.

Shawn Stevenson:
But Mark, I got to share this one little nugget. It wasn’t just that my body changed, the way that I thought changed, my mind changed.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah, okay.

Shawn Stevenson:
That’s the power of food as well.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Tell me about that because … Okay. This is really important because right now we’re seeing so much violence and anger and hatred and divisiveness that we’ve never seen in our society. And if you look at the mirroring of that with our obesity epidemic, and with our increased consumption of processed food, there seems to be for sure, an associative link. But when you look at the research on behavior, violence, mental health, depression, anxiety, disruptive behavior, ADD, even gun violence, it’s connected to our diet because our diet shapes our thoughts, our feelings, our moods, our brain function, and activates the fight or flight response. Literally when you eat junk food, you activate cortisol and adrenaline. It’s literally like you’re being attacked by a tiger when you eat this food, even though there’s no immediate threat or danger, your body doesn’t know the difference, and so your emotions respond like that.

Shawn Stevenson:
Absolutely. And this is some of the most important data for me personally that I wanted to really get out to the world. I’m so grateful, Eat Smart is going to be available at a prominent feature in Target stores across the country [crosstalk 00:10:10]

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Oh, that’s good.

Shawn Stevenson:
… for everyday folks to get this information. Because there was one fascinating study and this was conducted by researchers at the Ohio State University. And they wanted to see what it was like in couples trying to problem solve and perspective take and solve their issues when they had big swings in their blood sugar, which is largely related to the food that they’re eating.

Shawn Stevenson:
And they found shockingly or not so shockingly that this term we use today of being hungry, had a massive impact on their ability to communicate with each other. They found that test subjects were much more angrier and aggressive towards their problem and less likely to resolve their conflict when they were having these swings in blood sugar.

Shawn Stevenson:
And we think this is a joke. We think this is some small thing, but how often do we create conflicts in our relationship on the smallest silliest things? And there’s a checklist that I go through in the book of really tuning in with yourself and asking, “Am I hungry? Is my partner hungry or deficient in something? Are we sleep deprived?”

Dr. Mark Hyman:
You put snacks in your pocket, so in case you’re going to fight like you feed your dog snacks, just give your wife a little snack. [crosstalk 00:11:17]

Shawn Stevenson:
You don’t want do that. You don’t want to throw Scooby Snacks at your [inaudible 00:11:23], but you just want to be aware [crosstalk 00:11:26]

Dr. Mark Hyman:
You give it to yourself.

Shawn Stevenson:
Right, or give yourself a few, they do the shaggy pig. And so, but that’s just a small slice of it. And as you mentioned, right now we’re living at a time when there’s an incredible amount of divisiveness in a lack of empathy, because we can solve so many of our problems if we can communicate and talk.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yes.

Shawn Stevenson:
And my point being, and the data clearly shows that not that it’s impossible, but it’s much more difficult to communicate with other people when you don’t feel well. And so the data, one of the things that you pointed to, and this was a fascinating study done by researchers at Oxford University. They had to look at prison inmates, which ironically, it’s a really great way to track these results because it’s a ward study. Everything is controlled, unfortunately at the same time. But after, what they did was they took a group of inmates, and they gave them more nutrition. They gave them essential vitamins and minerals and omega-3 fatty acids, and tracked them against a control group who got a placebo. And at the end of the study, they compiled all the data and they found that there was about a 37% decrease in violent offenses, simply by getting higher quality nutrition into people’s bodies.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
They were just giving them multivitamin and not even changing their diet that much, right?

Shawn Stevenson:
That’s right.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And when the same studies were done with dietary change, there was a 56% reduction in violent crime with the food alone, and you add a multivitamin, it goes down by 80%. Imagine if there was something we could do that 80% would reduce the anger, violence, divisiveness, gun vi- all of it, it’s crazy.

Shawn Stevenson:
And this is the situation we’re in right now. We have folks who are deficient and unhealthy who are battling it out and trying to communicate with other folks who are deficient and unhealthy. Now I’m not saying this to be mean, I’m saying this on the strength of a recent study, massive meta analysis determining that only 12% of United States citizens are metabolically healthy.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah.

Shawn Stevenson:
We see the numbers but we don’t really get it. And I’m going to continue to share these numbers because they’re important. We have over 200 million folks here in the United States that are overweight or obese. We have about 135 million folks who are type-2 diabetic or pre-diabetic right now in this country.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s crazy.

Shawn Stevenson:
And it’s continuing to grow. And we have about 115 million people who are chronically sleep deprived. What are we doing? And this is just some of the numbers. This is some of the numbers.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah, it’s pretty bad. But in your book, you describe some of the solutions to this problem, right?

Shawn Stevenson:
Yes.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
In Eat Smarter, you talk about our idea of calories being a little bit misconstrued, that the whole science of calories in and calories out, something that I’ve talked a lot about, is not really true. And then just so you know, Shawn, even though you and I have looked at the science, and we’re not PhDs in nutrition, we don’t work at big academic centers although I do work at Cleveland Clinic, and there are endocrine societies and specialists and so forth that look at all the data.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
But what I know, I was having a conversation with my colleague from Harvard, and David Ludwig, who has been researching the science of calories and glycemic load in an index for 30 years. And it’s really clearly established, very carefully designed experiments, not just population studies, but carefully designed interventional experiments with randomized control groups, looking at different effects of metabolic health or different calories.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
He did one study where he literally found there were, if you ate exactly the same calories, but low carb and higher fat, you would actually burn 450 calories more a day than the control group eating exactly the same calories, just because the different effects of these macronutrients on your metabolism. And what I was shockingly informed of by him the other day were two position papers by the endocrine society that reiterated that weight loss is all about calories. Why is this so wrong?

Shawn Stevenson:
Yeah. Well, first of all, in Eat Smarter, we go back and look at the inception of the calorie. I’m a big fan of doing this, where did this whole thing come from? And looking at how this became such the focal point in nutrition, it really revolves around the calorie, which when it was invented, it wasn’t even utilized. Nobody was looking for anything to measure energy and food, by the way. It was used in physics and engineering, but it made its parlay into the nutritional world, thanks to Wilbur Atwater, which we have the Atwater System which goes on a lot of food labels right now, which is very skewed by the way.

Shawn Stevenson:
But what really impressed it upon our culture, it was a massive bestseller in the early part of the 1900s, Dr. Lulu Hunt Peters, and it sold like two million copies, which is like a billion copies today. It’s just like everybody had this book and she made the shift in that point as a popular paradigm in the culture of looking at food in terms of numbers, no longer looking at food in terms of food and the dynamic aspects that it has on our bodies, as far as its relationship to our endocrine system and our neuro-transmitters and all those other things.

Shawn Stevenson:
And so she said, “From this point forward, we would no longer look at a slice of bread. We’ll no longer say a slice of bread. We’ll say a 100 calories of bread. We’ll no longer say a slice of pie, we’ll say 350 calories of pie.” And within that indoctrination, she also began the widespread association of food with morality and impressing upon culture as a character defect if you’re not able to manage your weight and using terms like punishment and sin.

Shawn Stevenson:
And this was also during the time of World War I, so there was widespread food rationing going on too. And so, one of her quotes, and I went back and read this oldfangled book. I just couldn’t believe some of this stuff in here, but she said that essentially, “For every hunger pain you feel, you should have a double joy in knowing that you are preventing the pains in another starving child.” Basically you’re supporting your country in making sure other people can eat. And this also is very important because it associated weight loss with hunger. You know it’s working when you’re hungry, and these things have continued to proliferate in our culture unchecked.

Shawn Stevenson:
Now, just going back to your point with calories in particular. Now, this is one of the most fascinating aspects of this, because it’s not that calories are not valuable, it’s a measurement of energy, it’s a tool of measurement, but it’s different because a meter is a measurement of distance, but that’s consistent. Within the human body, it’s completely eliminating the complexity of digestion.

Shawn Stevenson:
And so, one of the fascinating things that I want folks to know and starting to really evolve the concept of calories is that the type of food matters. One of these things I highlighted in Eat Smarter, and this was from the journal, Food & Nutrition Research. And they took test subjects and they had them to consume a meal of either whole foods or processed foods to see what it did on the rate of calorie burn. And it was shocking.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah.

Shawn Stevenson:
The whole food meal was what they called … They called this whole food meal, multi-grain bread and cheddar cheese. While the processed food meal was white bread and cheese product, which is cheese product by the way, that’s craft. All right, it’s craft cheese. We can’t actually call it cheese, it’s cheese product.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah, it has to be 51% cheese, that’s why it’s called American slices, not American cheese.

Shawn Stevenson:
So sad.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And that it should be your first warning, it’s a cheese like substance.

Shawn Stevenson:
Exactly. And so they compiled all the data. They had test subjects eat either/or, and after the compile the data, listen to this, this is what happened. The folks who consumed the processed food sandwich, even though it was the same amount of calories, the same amount of protein, carbs and fats, on paper, the folks who ate the processed food sandwich had a 50% reduction in calorie burn after consuming that meal of processed food. It changed the way their body was managing the calories they consume. And it caused their body to retain and hold onto more of that processed food energy. All right. That’s just one aspect when we go through about five or six of the different dynamics [crosstalk 00:19:55].

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So what you’re saying is what you eat is probably more important than how much you eat?

Shawn Stevenson:
It is definitely a major factor. And if folks can start to make this shift and just evolve, take it up a notch, because we tend to get into this, unfortunately, like you just mentioned, we have amazing colleagues who do work in this field. I just taught a neuroscience class at NYU yesterday, I get to do all of these really cool things. But the science on food and metabolism and weight loss, it tends to be very lopsided, even for the “experts,” the best in the business who are just like, “You just need to be in a calorie deficit. You need to be in a calorie deficit,” and completely ignoring the complexity of the endocrine system and digestion. And also one of the things we really dive into and provide the cutting edge research is the effect that your microbiome has on your rate of calorie burn.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Absolutely.
Speaker 3:
Hi everyone, I hope you’re enjoying the episode. Before we continue, we have a quick message from Dr. Mark Hyman about his new company, Farmacy, and their first product, the 10-day reset.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Hey, it’s Dr. Hyman, do you have FLC? What’s FLC. It’s when you feel like crap. It’s a problem that so many people suffer from and often have no idea that it’s not normal or that you can fix it. You know the feeling, it’s when you’re super sluggish, your digestion is off, you can’t think clearly, or you have brain fog, or you just feel run down. Can you relate? I know most people can.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
But the real question is what the heck do we do about it? Well, I hate to break the news, but there’s no magic bullet. FLC isn’t caused by one single thing, so there’s not one single solution. However, there is a systems-based approach, a way to tackle the multiple root factors that contribute to FLC, and I call that system the 10-day reset.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
The 10-day reset combines food, key lifestyle habits, and targeted supplements to address FLC straight on. It’s a protocol that I’ve used with thousands of my community members to help them get their health back on track. It’s not a magic bullet. It’s not a quick fix. It’s a system that works. If you want to learn more and get your health back on track, click on the button below or visit getfarmacy.com, that’s getfarmacy with an F, F-A-R-M-A-R-C-Y.com.
Speaker 3:
Now back to this week’s episode.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
This is a really functional medicine, right? Food is inflammation, it’s not just calories. When you eat, and it’s different than if you burn a calorie in the lab. If you burn a calorie in a lab, 500 calories of soda and 500 calories of broccoli are exactly the same. They both release the same amount of energy. And that’s defined as how much energy it takes to raise one liter of water, one degree centigrade, that’s a calorie. And it’s fine. When you eat them, it’s very different because when you’re eating these foods, they’re going through all different mechanisms that change what happens. So they alter your microbiome, which changes your weight. You literally can swap out bugs from a thin mouse to a fat mouse, and that fat mouse will lose weight because of the thin making microbiome, right?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
You’re feeding the microbiome, you’re driving inflammation or cooling it off, which drives weight gain. You’re regulating hormones like insulin, testosterone, estrogen, by what you eat. You’re regulating your mitochondria, which really about how much energy you burn. You’re regulating all these various factors that are so critical for weight regulation, your brain chemistry, your hormones, and you write all about this in Eat Smarter, which is why it’s such a smarter book, because you actually address these scientific issues that still are staggering to me that most traditional doctors, nutritionists, academicians, and nutrition societies, and the government all don’t buy into.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And it’s really, honestly, I hate to say this, but a lot of it has to do with the fact that the food industry wins by all calories being the same, because then you can have a 100 calorie soda or a 100 calorie, bunch of blueberries, and there’s no difference. But that’s just absurd, even at fifth grader or a kindergarten kid would understand that 500 calories of soda and 500 calories of blueberries are pretty different when you eat them.

Shawn Stevenson:
And it’s your fault. It’s your fault.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah, it’s your fault you’re overweight, right? Because if you just ate less and exercise more, everything would be great.

Shawn Stevenson:
Manage those calories and you’ll lose weight, and the entire paradigm is really skewed. I got to reiterate this because when you just mentioned the research in mice, for example, now we have paralleled research in humans. This is cutting edge data that is getting out to the world right now.

Shawn Stevenson:
One of the fascinating studies this was published in cell, they looked at what’s happening in mice depending upon their microbiome cascade. And they found that the specific, I’m sorry, specific, I’m so excited, specific bacteria that’s found in mice that actually reduced the amount of calories that they were absorbing from the food that they were eating.

Shawn Stevenson:
Now you take that piece of data and marry that with the human data that we have now, and this was conducted at the Weizmann Institute of Science, and what they did was they were taking, and this is well known right now guys, but I want everybody to get it today, that when folks, once our body start to venture into being overweight and obese, our microbiome changes massively. And now we know that there’s a bacteria cascade that is associated with being overweight, right?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Shawn Stevenson:
It’s like a fingerprint, and it’s a very unique kind of dynamic thing, all of our metabolism, but there is a very specific spectrum that you see when folks start to become obese. And what they did was, they took these human fat bacteria associated with obesity and put them into lean mice. And then the mice inherently gained weight. Their insulin sensitivity went down and they gained body fat, versus taking the bacteria from a healthy human subject and putting into the mice and the mice continue to stay lean. Changing the bacteria in our bodies has a massive impact.

Shawn Stevenson:
And one of the other studies took a set of twins, all right. And all they did was they had them on the same calorie reduced diet, but one of them had a microbiome associated with obesity, and one had a microbiome associated with leanness, on the same diet, and they’re twins, on the same diet. The one with the microbiome associated with obesity continued to gain weight while the other one didn’t. So this is real stuff.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s incredible.

Shawn Stevenson:
So what do we do to fix this is where we really got to put our focus.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I agree. And I think, I just want to summarize a few key elements here that are worth underscoring. And then I want to talk about the three major things that cause problems when you want to try to lose fat. So if you eat ultra processed food, by the way, it’s 60% of our calories, it’s most of what Americans eat, all the starch, sugar, processed food, anything that’s made in a factory, that’s not from real ingredients.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
One, if you’re eating it, even if it’s the identical same calories as whole food, your metabolism’s slower, that’s what you just said. Two, in another study, they found that if you let people eat ultra processed food, compared to regular whole foods, they’ll eat 500 calories more a day. So they’ll eat more and they’ll be hungrier. And three, it changes your microbiome in ways that increase bad bacteria that cause weight gain.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And of course there’s a lot of other things that drive inflammation, hormone and appetite issues, which are really the things that really you talk about that are the three major things when it comes to fat loss. Let’s dig into those three things, inflammation, hormone dysfunction, and appetite problems, which is … I had a doctor call me about one of his patients for advice, and he was just, “This guy really exercise a lot of time, really focused on eating healthy, but he’s just hungry all the time. And I’m like, “Well, it’s probably because of what he’s eating that’s driving his brain chemistry and his immune system and all the mechanisms that drive hunger, so we have to change that.” And it’s not that hard to do. So tell us about those three things.

Shawn Stevenson:
Absolutely. And the thing that I really wanted to usher in and bring to the forefront, because it sounds the most like ghostly, it sounds like Casper the Ghost, it’s not even a real thing is inflammation, and how inflammation has an impact on your body composition. And the data exists, it’s just that a lot of folks don’t know about it. And the way that it really manifests when we’re talking about inflammation is that it has this very detrimental impact on our organs that are related to our body’s production and utilization of our fat loss related hormones.

Shawn Stevenson:
So namely let’s take our liver for example. Your liver is incredibly important in regulating your metabolism. When we’re talking about a relationship with how it manages insulin, even the production of fat, takes place in your liver, to the storing of glycogen can take place in your liver. If your body’s overburdened by glucose, your liver can literally convert that into fat right there on the spot.

Shawn Stevenson:
And so if something is damaging your liver, it’s going to inherently damage your endocrine system and your process of metabolism. So inflammation, and I’ve just shared some of the data in the book, damaging your liver. And this is one of the most fast growing issues in our country is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. This is really a chronically inflamed situation taking place in our liver. and also …

Dr. Mark Hyman:
How do we get fatty livers? Because I think people should know. We go to a fancy restaurants and they give you foie gras, which is French for fatty liver. And as, how do they get the ducts to be like that? And how do they get us humans to have 90 million Americans with fatty liver?

Shawn Stevenson:
Everybody should know by now, very simple, the fastest way to damage your liver and to create that fatty liver when, by the way, it’s called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, because we associate it with alcohol, but sugar …

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Sugar, absolutely. Sugar, starch, flour. It’s so bad. It’s so bad. Particularly in [crosstalk 00:29:56]

Shawn Stevenson:
Your liver has to take on the brunt of it because your liver is really, even the name, liver, live. It’s responsible for so mu- Every minute it’s filtering your entire blood supply, it’s so important.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s right.

Shawn Stevenson:
But to take this one step further and I’ll just drop this little nuggets, we can move on to the other topics. But also the master regulator often referred to, of course, I’ve even taught this in my conventional university setting, but your hypothalamus, all right?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Shawn Stevenson:
Your hypothalamus is one of the major regulators and communicators with your thyroid, with your liver, with your adrenals. All the organs related to fat loss and fat storage, the governing master gland, is called the master gland is your hypothalamus …

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s in your brain?

Shawn Stevenson:
Right. And now we’ve got data that this new term neuroinflammation, inflammation specifically regarding the function of your hypothalamus can damage what’s happening with your metabolism. But nobody’s talking about that in these cookie cutter diets that you need to address the inflammation in your brain in order for you to lose weight, right? So these are all …

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Absolutely.

Shawn Stevenson:
And the beautiful part is, it’s possible. It’s not just possible, it’s probable when you have the right inflammation, and we avoid the things that create the inflammation. And namely, you just mentioned sugar, but we go through a whole subset of the different things.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah [crosstalk 00:31:23] medicine, and we also look at food sensitivities and environmental toxins and the microbiome and all, there are so many things that drive inflammation. And if you’re overweight, you’re inflamed. And for those listening, think, “Oh, I’m a few pounds overweight, a little extra belly fat. Maybe I need to lose 10, 20 pounds, or maybe you’re more overweight or obese.” You should really pay attention to what Shawn’s saying, because right now during this COVID pandemic, what we’re finding is those people who are overweight or obese or have even a little bit of extra fat, are much more likely to get sick, much more likely to end up in the hospital, the ICU, and to die from COVID-19 because of poor metabolic health.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And what’s so beautiful about the body is that you think, “Oh my God, I’ve taken years and years to get here.” Within a couple of weeks, you can change all of that. You might not lose all the weight in a couple of weeks, but you can change your inflammation markers, your hormones, your brain chemistry, literally in a couple of weeks of changing your diet and following the principles that are in Eat Smarter, which is Shawn’s new book, which you should all get a copy of.

Shawn Stevenson:
Thank you, Mark. And just to reiterate what you just said is so important. The CDC’s recent report found that about 94% of the folks who lost their lives had an average of 2.6 chronic diseases or comorbidities, and we’ve got to get our citizens healthier. And the big thing in the beginning of this was, well, we can’t get people healthier overnight. When? When are we going to start? And truly it’s up to us and conversations like this. I just want to share that, but also leaning into this topic and just, you mentioned environmental toxins, but I’m going to share something that’s a little bit controversial.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s all right.

Shawn Stevenson:
And this has to do with supplements because there’s been a big shift taking place that, it went from about 7% to 20% of hospitalizations related to liver damage are related to supplements because …

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Really?

Shawn Stevenson:
This is because, Mark, when I was trying to turn my health around, I became a natural pill popper first. I didn’t get it with the food. And so I’m taking, I’ve got my grandma’s pill full of 20, 30 different things that I’m trying to take to get these nutrients. And so not to say that the right supplements aren’t helpful, but it’s a largely unregulated field, on top of that. But also, we need to target and understand that your liver is responsible for metabolism of all these supplements. And it’s also responsible for drug metabolism. And now we’ve got about 70% of the United States population on pharmaceutical drugs right now. And your liver is responsible for that drug metabolism. I just want to throw those things out there. But to shift gears, to go from inflammation, that’s one of the major causative factors behind an inability to lose weight.

Shawn Stevenson:
And the other one is hormone dysfunction. In your hormone response, this is where the real magic happens. This is where the show is going on. Your hormones are like the little chemical messengers that are communicating with all the cells in your body and really communicating a message on what they need to do. And so there are hormones that are specifically related to fat storage and there are hormones specifically related to fat utilization.

Shawn Stevenson:
And just to give a super overarching look at this, insulin. Insulin is our body’s major energy storing hormone. It’s a beautiful thing. Insulin is not a bad guy that is storing energy/fat. It’s helpful. We need it. It’s part of our evolution to have it. Now it’s getting, it’s being hyper utilized and heightened and put to work chronically, and it can get overworked, and it can just be like, “I quit.”

Shawn Stevenson:
So we’ve got insulin, but on the other side, insulin has a brother glucagon. Glucagon really does the opposite, and they’re both produced from their loving mother, Ms. Pancreas. And so they each have opposing roles, but glucagon can’t do its job unless insulin sits down. These two things is a binary process, but insulin literally triggers the cell to open up to use that energy. And there are specific nutrients involved in these communications and these pathways, and nutrients that make these pathway’s suppressed and create hormonal clogs.

Shawn Stevenson:
So a big mission with the book is taking folks through and teaching them about all of these fat loss and fat storage related hormones to give them a really good education, but in a way that’s fun, and it makes sense. We get to the conversation about thyroid hormone, your adrenals, all those things. So hormone dysfunction, regardless of what diet you’re on, we have to find ways to optimize what’s happening with your hormones.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And they play a huge role in regulating your metabolism as you said, and they’re driven in large part by what you eat. People have to understand their testosterone levels and your sex drive is controlled by what you eat if you’re a guy, if you’re a woman, your level of estrogen and fat is determined by what you’re eating. Certain foods increase estrogen like sugar and alcohol. That’s why they give estrogen to male steers to fatten them up, marble their fat before they take them to market. There’s no lack of science about this, we just don’t understand. And then of course, there’s the appetite issue, which is such a big thing for people.

Shawn Stevenson:
Yeah. Mark, and this is so important. This goes back to when I mentioned Dr. Lulu Hunt Peters impressing upon society that hunger is related to weight loss. And unfortunately, millions of people still believe this. And hunger is biofeedback, it’s a biological feedback that something is awry here. All right? And this could be a nutrient deficiency. This could be related to some form of habitual addictions, things like that. But our hunger isn’t the issue, we want to make sure that we’re not hungry because that hunger is associated with overeating, of course. And we can try to battle our biology, but eventually it’s going to win out against our willpower, which is finite. And so with that said, let’s get folks educated on how our appetite works.

Shawn Stevenson:
And now these terms that we’ve been talking about you and I probably for over a decade, at least, but now a lot of folks know about the power of leptin and the power of ghrelin, and these are the major players, but we go deeper than that. And now we know that leptin, for example, leptin is your body’s major satiety hormone, and it’s actually produced by your fat cells. Now here’s the catch. Folks, and this is one of the studies that I put into Eat Smarter as well, and this was published in The New England Journal of Medicine and found that folks who are overweight and obese actually have plenty of leptin that should make them satisfy.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah, or they have leptin resistance.

Shawn Stevenson:
Exactly.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And inflammation causes leptin resistance.

Shawn Stevenson:
Exactly. It all starts to go together. They’re still getting the DM, the leptin DM is being sent, but it’s going to spam. It’s just like …

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah, [crosstalk 00:38:16]

Shawn Stevenson:
And so that’s what creates that leptin resistance. That’s just one aspect. And then ghrelin is this glorified, hunger hormone. There are specific things we can do with our nutrition, obviously that encourages leptin sensitivity and really helps to get ghrelin in check. But there are so many other players. Adiponectin is one that you’re going to be hearing a lot more about related to satiety. Adiponectin has been found to help to move more of the troublesome body fat in the visceral fat area, and actually transfer that to the subcutaneous fat area, which makes it a little bit more protected. We still want to address both of these white adipose tissues, but the visceral belly fat is what’s really dangerous, the most dangerous from [crosstalk 00:39:01]

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah, what was fascinating about adiponectin is that when you have high levels of adiponectin, you can’t actually mobilize fat. And what causes high levels of adiponectin is insulin resistance, which is pre-diabetes, which is eating too much sugar, so it all comes down to the starch and sugar.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Your book is just filled with wisdom and information about these key mechanisms, about how different foods and nutrients affect your brain function, about the microbiome, how it affects relationships, how it impacts our communities and stress levels. It’s so full of beautiful things that are far beyond just what to eat. You talk about love languages in the book. It’s just such a fantastic book.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And I just want to close by talking about the research around sitting down for a meal with people you love, and what that does to your health, to your food choices, to your body composition, because we’ve lost that. I think the idea of a family dinner, the idea of cooking together, eating together, being together. I think the average family has dinner together a couple of nights a week, usually all while eating different foods made from different factories, heated up in a microwave, that are eating while watching TV or being on their phone, not exactly conducive to health. Tell us about this research about eating together.

Shawn Stevenson:
Yeah, and this is incredibly powerful because it’s not just what we’re eating, but it’s also how we’re eating, and who we’re eating with has a major impact on our overall health. And I share this story in Eat Smarter that I grew up, it might sound a little far-fetched for some folks. It’s like people aren’t sitting down to eat together. I can count on my hands how many times I sat down and ate a meal with my family growing up. All right?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Wow.

Shawn Stevenson:
This was an incredibly rare occasion. This is usually, if it wasn’t a holiday, by the way. Holiday’s a little bit different, but it’s usually just a free-for-all. We might eat at the same time, but we’re not eating together, and/or we’re eating in front of the television or playing a video game or something like that. And so this is not abnormal by the way. This is really shifting to be the norm.

Shawn Stevenson:
And here are some of the healing factors of this. Researchers at Harvard University uncovered that folks who consistently eat dinner with their families frequently consume more fruits and vegetables and less processed foods and sodas. And one of the most, I think this can get overlooked in the study, they found that folks who consistently eat dinner with their families also had higher intakes of some of the most important nutrients that regulate our fat storing hormones and your fat burning hormones as well. Things like calcium, folate, B vitamins. Also, they found they had a generally a lower intake of dangerous compounds like trans fats and toxicants in our food.

Shawn Stevenson:
This is really powerful, but one other study, and this is the most important for myself personally in this mission. This was published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, and they found very similar results, and now it gets into numbers. They found that folks who eat with their family, and this can be any meal of the day, breakfast, lunch, or dinner, just four times a week, they dramatically increased consumption of fruits and vegetables and reduced consumption of soda and chips.

Shawn Stevenson:
And what was so beautiful about this study is that this was done on folks who would be considered higher risk, which was minority children, minority families. This isn’t just about fixing the environment around the thing, it’s the personal responsibility as well, knowing you have leverage because the simple act of eating together as a family helps to increase, improve the health outcomes for the children and the adults as well.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s so true. My friend, Laurie David, who was involved with the movie Fed Up that I was in years ago, wrote a book called The Family Dinner. She talks about the research on, if you have family dinners where you’re eating food together and you’re making it together, and you’re enjoying real food, that the kids are less likely to have obesity, eating disorders, violence, do better in school, have less drug use, just so many benefits that you wouldn’t even think, better grades just by eating dinner together.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So I think that’s really important. And I think it’s beautiful how you combine the understanding of the deep science around food and how to optimize your metabolism with the science around relationships and love and connection, and that’s really what food’s about. It’s about joy and pleasure and connection, but it’s also about having us live our best lives because the tagline in the book titled Transform Your Life actually is true.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And food has the power to do that, and Eating Smarter will teach you how to do that. So I encourage everybody to get a copy of Eat Smarter: Use The Power of Food to Reboot Your Metabolism, Upgrade Your Brain and Transform Your Life. You can check it out at eatsmarterbook.com. Shawn is the man. I love him. He’s doing the real work, and you should check out his stuff.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
If you loved this podcast, please share with your friends and family on social media. If you know anybody who’s struggling with weight, and that’s probably 90% of Americans, share with them, leave a comment, tell us about what you’ve learned about your body and how food can help you be smarter in Eat Smarter, and subscribe wherever you hear our podcast, and we’ll see you next time on The Doctor’s Farmacy.

If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.

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