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Episode 717
The Doctor's Farmacy

The Science Of Eating For Longevity

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Like all life on this planet, humans are a reflection of our environments and what we consume. When it comes to extending our health span—the number of healthy years we exist on this planet—it is critical to pay attention to what we consume, and that means paying attention to what our food consumes.  

Our diets have drastically changed in the last 100 years. In America, our agricultural system has shifted from heirloom high-nutrient plants to subsidized production of highly modified corn and wheat. In fact, in our modern-day diets, rice, wheat, and corn account for 40% of our calories. Of course, we now know that the quality of our food is so much more than just calories. It’s a direct reflection of the health and quality of the conditions under which our food was raised.  

I’m excited to sit down with my good friend, Dr. Jeff Bland, to discuss some exciting new research from his recent clinical trial on the impact of phytochemicals on immune system aging and how to utilize the power of nature’s anti-aging wisdom through food.  

We’ve only recently started to uncover the mysteries of human aging. We’re now learning that harnessing the wisdom of nature may provide some important insights for longer, healthier lives. Dr. Bland and I discuss what we have learned about human longevity from plant genetics and how scientists are evaluating immune system aging. 

Dr. Bland and I talk about what causes the immune system to become dysfunctional as we age, what causes the acceleration of inflammation, and how it connects to the aging of our whole body. 

We also talk about the incredible world of phytochemicals, which science is just starting to crack open, and how these plant compounds are the key to avoiding and reversing chronic disease. Dr. Bland’s research in this field led him to what he considers one of the most immune-active, nutrient-dense foods in the world: Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat. This super-powered seed has the ability to rejuvenate the immune response, helping immune cells clean up their old and tired mitochondria to revitalize energy production and immune balance. 

Dr. Bland and I discuss the fascinating research from his recent clinical trial, where they saw a five-to-seven year reversal of biological age in just three months using compounds from Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat.

This episode is full of so much groundbreaking information that will change the way you think about the immune system. I hope you’ll tune in.

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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:

  1. Learnings about human longevity from plant genetics
  2. The role of phytochemicals in human health
  3. The hormetic effects of eating plants
  4. How Dr. Bland discovered the benefits of Himalayan tartary buckwheat
  5. The immune system and the aging process
  6. Inflammation and the aging process
  7. Rejuvenating our immune system to reverse aging
  8. Top foods to eat for longevity


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.

Dr. Jeff Bland

Dr. Jeff Bland is the founder of Big Bold Health, a company on a mission to transform the way people think about one of nature’s greatest innovations—the immune system. Through Big Bold Health, Dr. Bland is advocating for the power of Immuno-Rejuvenation to enhance immunity at a global level, often through the rediscovery of ancient food crops and superfoods. To get there, he is building a network of small farms and suppliers throughout the US that take a clear stance on regenerative agriculture, environmental stewardship, and planetary health. 

Dr. Bland’s career in health spans more than 40 years. A nutritional biochemist by training, he began in academia as a university professor. He then spent three decades in the natural products industry, working alongside other pioneers. A lifelong educator, Dr. Bland has traveled the world many times over in his role as the “father of functional medicine.” In 1991, he and his wife, Susan, founded The Institute for Functional Medicine. In 2012, he founded another educational nonprofit called the Personalized Lifestyle Medicine Institute. Dr. Bland is the author of The Disease Delusion: Conquering the Causes of Chronic Illness for a Healthier, Longer, and Happier Life, as well as countless additional books and research papers.

Show Notes

  1. Learn more about the Integrative Healthcare Symposium
  2. Gain access to Integrative Practitioner, the only online interdisciplinary resource and community for integrative healthcare providers, by becoming a Gold member today. Use the code FARMACY10 at checkout for a $10 discount off your annual membership.

Transcript Note: Please forgive any typos or errors in the following transcript. It was generated by a third party and has not been subsequently reviewed by our team.

Introduction: Coming up on this episode of The Doctor’s Farmacy …

Dr. Jeff Bland: There’s a stewardship that occurs that is transmitted into the food product for which people who consume it then benefit because they’re part of more than just the molecules of which the food is made up of.

Lauren: Hi, this is Lauren, one of the producers of the Doctor’s Farmacy podcast. Today’s episode was recorded live at the Integrative Healthcare Symposium, an evidence-based multidisciplinary conference designed to educate, inspire and connect integrative practitioners through clinically relevant sessions about alternative and complimentary approaches to health care. Please excuse any background noise and enjoy the conversation.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Welcome to Doctor’s Pharmacy. I’m Dr. Mark Hyman and that’s farmacy with an F, a place for conversations that matter. And if you care about your immune system, which we all should, and if you care about aging well, then this is the podcast you should listen to because it’s with the man who determined the course of my life truly through his genius of uncovering the way our bodies were truly designed.
And mapped out a world of understanding about functional medicine that has been the foundation of my career that has helped me personally through my health journey and I know has helped many of you. And without him, I wouldn’t be here. So, Jeff, I’m so happy to have you here. For those of you listening, don’t know who Dr. Bland is, he is-

Dr. Jeff Bland: Then don’t worry about it.

Dr. Mark Hyman: He is probably the biggest unsung hero of medicine and should’ve been awarded many Nobel Prizes. And hopefully he will be before it’s all over. But he basically has been having his finger on the pulse of the emerging science over the last let’s say 60 maybe years.

Dr. Jeff Bland: Fifty-five.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Fifty-five years. And has seen things that were way ahead of its time. He described the role of inflammation in health, talked about the microbiome before there was even a word for the microbiome. He helped us understand the importance of mitochondria and the importance of insulin resistance and things that were really not part of our medical training but turned out to be the most fundamental concepts in health care today.
He also recently, because he didn’t really do enough in his life, founded a new company called Big Bold Health which is on a mission to transform the way people think about one of nature’s greatest innovations, the immune system. Through Big Bold Health, he’s advocating the power of something called immuno-rejuvenation to enhance immunity at a global level through the rediscovery of ancient food crops and superfoods which you’re going to hear about today.
They’re doing this through incredible network of small farms or building and suppliers throughout the country that are creating a model of regenerative agriculture and environmental stewardship and planetary health that is not only creating goodness for our own health and immune system, for basically the health of the planet.
His career spans 55 years. I don’t know, maybe more. He is a nutritional biochemist who’s a student of Linus Pauling. He started his career as a university professor and has been probably the guy who’s traveled around the world talking about functional medicine and teaching so many of us for so many decades more than anybody else and has probably more frequent flyer miles than any human on the planet.
He founded the Institute for Functional Medicine with his wife Susan in 1991. And also in 2012, he founded an incredible nonprofit called the Personalized Lifestyle Medicine Institute. He’s the author of Disease Illusion: Conquering the Causes of Chronic Illness for a Healthier, Longer and Happier Life and countless additional books and research papers. Welcome, Jeff.

Dr. Jeff Bland: Mark, thank you. That was very kind. It’s probably more news to use than anyone wanted, but thank you. That was really great.

Dr. Mark Hyman: He’s also very humble. So, let me just start by talking about why this topic is so important. Why food? Why the immune system? Why now? And like all life on the planet, humans are basically a reflection of their environments and what they eat and consume.
And when it comes to extending our health span, the number of healthy years we’re on this planet, it’s critical to pay attention to what we consume. And that means also paying attention to what our food consumes, what we’re eating eats essentially, what the plants eat in the soil and what our animals eat. And our diets have dramatically changed over the last hundred years.
In America, agricultural system has moved from heirloom high-nutrient dense plants to a subsidized production of highly commodified crops, modified corn, wheat, rice and soy that are now the staples of our diet that account for probably 40 to 60% of our calories in the form of ultra-processed food.
And then, the calories are not really the issue as much as the quality of the food we’re eating and the information in food as Jeff has taught us, it’s a direct reflection of the health and the quality of the conditions under which the food was grown. And if we don’t have food grown the right way, the nutrients don’t end up in the food and then they don’t end up in us.
So, I’m really excited to be here with you, Jeff, to discuss some of your really exciting new research on clinical trials that you’ve done on the impact of phytochemicals to the immune system, how that affects the immune system’s aging and how to use the nature’s power of phytochemicals to enhance our health and longevity through what we eat.
We’re also going to assess my new book, Young Forever, which I have documented many of the things that you’re talking about and I’ve learned from you and the practices and principles I’ve used as a doctor and have experienced as a patient over the last 30 years. I’m going to keep wanting to do what I’m doing for a long time and what brings me joy.
And then, basically now at 63 years old, I feel like I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been. I feel healthier than it was when I was 40. I’m chronologically 63 but biologically 43. And then, what I’ve learned over the last few decades is pretty revolutionary in helping me get biologically younger while I grow chronologically older. And I really want all of you to learn how to do that, too.
So, Jeff, let’s start by talking about how we’re really for the first time pulling the veil back on what it means to age and what the mechanisms of aging are, and how we need to reframe what we thought about aging as we see it which is pretty much a phenomena of disease and frailty and decline. And now, we have learned from nature that there are remarkable molecules that help us to address some of the phenomena that occur as we get older. And that we’ve learned a lot.
But the question I pose to you now is what really have we learned about human longevity from plant genetics?

Dr. Jeff Bland: Well, thank you. Let me if I can do first a male call-up. And I don’t think I’ve ever told you this story, Mark. This is an honest stuff so you’ve got to keep this secret among us that in 1976, I was involved with the start of Omega Institute with Stephan Rechtschaffen in Rhinebeck, New York.
And in my first course there, it was a week-long course on nutrition. There were a lot of very enthusiastic students in this course starting on the Saturday morning. And I was very … I spoke really quickly back in those days as contrasted to today where I speak much more slowly. But I was just rattling off stuff so fast. Nervous, anxiety. Came to the first break.
And this attendee in the course came up to me and he said, “So, I signed up this course to hear about nutrition.” And I said, “Well, that’s what I’ve been talking about this morning.” And he goes, “No, you haven’t been talking about nutrition. You’ve been talking about dead foods. I came here to learn about live foods.” Well, in my pedagogical naivete, I had the audacity to say, “Well, I’m not sure there is any difference between live and dead foods. And therefore, I guess if that is how you’re kind of interpreting what I’m saying, then probably this is not the course for you.”
Well, it turns out he was right and I was wrong. At 77 years of age, I’ve come to learn since 1976 that there is such a thing as live foods. That live foods carry extraordinary energy in them that you don’t get from ultra-processed foods. They go way beyond calories. It’s both the enzymatic activity of the plant itself in its non-denatured form, but it’s also the psychological energy that comes along with that plant that’s been grown by stewardship of a survivable planet, that we carry a legacy up as a record of the intention that went into the production of that food.
It took me a lot of years to kind of finally grok that and understand it because I came from a very materialistic kind of scientific background that molecules are molecules and action is action and mechanisms are mechanisms. But I’ve come to recognize now in this latter portion of my career working with organic farmers in Upstate New York that are part of our cooperative that there’s a stewardship that occurs that is transmitted into the food product for which people who consume it then benefit because they’re part of more than just the molecules of which the food is made up of.
And it’s been part of my path of learning I have to say. And I’ve had individual who are here in this audience today, I would give them a big apology for my demeaning what was in principle that he was trying to get across. Now, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t molecular processes going on within food that influence our bodies. Certainly that’s become kind of my resident expertise. But we’re in a constant learning mode, all of us.
And so, what I’ve learned as I’ve now celebrating coming up next month my 77th birthday, and I hope double sevens is a good number, is that there is A, always new things to learn but B, we’re part of the process. We each have our own zone of influence. Some people have larger zones of influence than others, but every person has a zone of influence. And we all speak to the world on our behavior, what our intention is and how we want to present ourselves and our beliefs to the world.
And in a time where we are watching demographic transitions in the development countries of the world, people are getting older and people are then getting the legacy of whatever they were thinking and acting over the course of their younger years, the outcome of this uncontrolled study called aging isn’t that glamorous. We know this with the psychological problems, the metabolic problems, the behavioral problems, the issues of dementia that we’re seeing in an aging population.
Not that we could completely eradicate those because age does happen, the clock does turn, it is irreversible, call time. But the way that time plays out chronologically on our body is highly variable. And that concept of healthy aging which starts probably pre-conceptually now is what we’re learning, that the preparation for the sperm meeting the egg, that biological magic event, then creates the pluripotentiality of life that gives rise to all outcome that we would never anticipated, the magic of a human being.
That aging process is already set in motion partially in the preparation of that sperm to meet that egg. And it then follows all the way through a field development into infancy and throughout the remainder of our life. And that’s that epigenetic process that we’re now learning much about. And in school, I was told that epigenetic stops the moment that fetal development stops and then we are kind of fixed in stone from then on. Whatever the genes are, that’s what you’re going to get. If you got the bad luck of the draw, what was you. If you happen to get a good hand dealt to you, good luck.
But now, we’re recognizing actually this epigenetic remodeling occurs throughout all of our life on what we bathe over our genes in terms of experience, our thoughts, our attitudes, our beliefs, how we eat, how we act, who we enact with. And that directly relates to our biological aging. Your years and birthdays stay the same, but the way your body performs at those age is variable. So, that’s my learning of 77 years.

Dr. Mark Hyman: That’s pretty good, Jeff. I want come back to the insight which is that the food that we eat is information. And particularly, the phytochemicals in food are massive bioregulators. The question is, are these phytochemicals more than just antioxidants or anti-inflammatories? And what role does the genetics have in our health? And what’s going on with this sort of world of phytochemistry that we didn’t really understand before that we’re now beginning to understand and how it regulates our biological health and our biological age?
And I think I’m just going to sort of highlight what you said to me earlier before we started when we’re chit-chatting that in clinical trials that you’ve just completed, you saw a five- to seven-year reversal of biological age in three months of using a phytochemical cocktail that we’re going to talk about soon from an ancient plant. So, that just seems really remarkable to me. When everything else is the same, you can have that much of an impact.

Dr. Jeff Bland: Yeah. So, let’s talk just a second about these phytochemicals. That’s P-H-Y, phyto.

Dr. Mark Hyman: I mean, what are they? And what-

Dr. Jeff Bland: Plant direct chemicals.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah. Why should we care?

Dr. Jeff Bland: So, I think back and I’ve got enough years of experience now where there are many moments where I was in debates or discussion at different meetings often with people that were not of the same mindset as I. They would always put me on the program as the alien fugitive just to get a different opinion. So, I was your social determinant for alternative opinions often in these meetings.
And the construct was that nutrition was calories. And within calories, you had the three principle calorie contributors; protein, carbohydrate and fat. And then you had some accessory factors that were helpful to support metabolism to use those calories that we call vitamins and minerals. And these were the kind of fabulous 35 essential nutrients. That was nutrition.
But then when you start asking questions, if you analyze the chemical composition of food, is that all that you’ll find in food, then people would say, “Well, no, that other stuff is kind of Flotsam and Jetsam. We can take it out of there and we can throw it away. Maybe put it in pet food to make spry pets, but it’s not important for humans.”
And of those other things that we take out particularly in the processing of plants, they fall in this family called phytochemicals or phytonutrients. And if you went to a traditional nutrition textbook that generations of nutrition experts were trained in and asked how many pages in their textbooks that they studied from, that they had to take tests from to get certified, were discussing phytochemicals, it would be like a few pages. Because they were considered non-essential because you didn’t have-

Dr. Mark Hyman: Secondary compounds.

Dr. Jeff Bland: Yeah. They were just kind of there. Now, the most exciting singular geekism that I have learned over the last 10 years is that these compounds, these literally thousands and thousands of different plant-derived secondary metabolites that the genes of plants make for us or for them actually and then we eat them are purposeful. They weren’t just because the plant didn’t have anything better to do with its time that they decided, “I’m going to make glucosinolates. Today sounds like a glucosinolate day. And then tomorrow, I’m going to make catechin gallate because I like green tea.”
No. The plant does those because it gave a selective advantage to the plant based upon their immune systems. And these compounds that are found in plants, these secondary metabolites are signaled transductions agents that regulate the expression of genes at the executive center of function. And you might ask the question, “What’s most important? The genes you have or the way they’re expressed?” Well, that’s a difficult question to answer because they’re both pretty important. But if you don’t express your genes in the right way, you’re a mess.
I mean, remember that every cell in your body contains your same book of life of 23 pairs of chromosomes that has the message for every other cell type of which there are hundreds of different cell types in the body. So, how does that happen? How does a liver cell stay a liver cell when it has a message for the brain cell and the skin cell and vice versa? It does so by regulatory elements, transcription factors and regulatory elements that epigenetically mark that are directly tied to your phytochemicals in your diet as to how they actually function.
They’re signal transduction agents. They’re regulators. They’re not just antioxidants or anti-inflammatories. That’s a simple-minded thought that goes way 10 years ago. Now, we recognize that they actually have purposeful action at specific cell types in specific cell activities to regulate their function so that that cell will do something in response to a signal. And that signal could be a stress. It could be exposure to zenith antibiotic, chemical, a foreign chemical.
So if you have a diet that’s rich in glucosinolates like indole-3-carbonyl and sulforaphane and so forth, then your liver cells pick up the message. And what does it do? It activates and upregulates the gene expression of various cytochromes and various secondary enzymes involved with Phase 2 conjugation. So, your liver’s more capable of getting readily with foreign chemicals. It plays an intimate role in protecting the body against agents that might create dysfunction.
So, the construct that we all learned in school about phytochemicals if you ever studied it at all is a relic. It’s wrong. Now, that’s the beauty of science. We like to think that the human body of knowledge is advancing to answer questions that previously we just glossed over and say, “Well, that wasn’t important. We’ll just take them out of food and make white. White is close to godliness so we’ll make all white foods that have no flavor and no color so we can put sugar and salt and fat in them and make them palatable and high profit for the processed food industry.” Because we don’t need all those other things, no one’s ever proven they’re useful.
Now, we say no, that is where the business is for anti-aging is in those products.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Well, I mean, the thing that we really know is that these molecules interact with our receptors, our cells, our hormones, our brain chemistry, our microbiome, our immune system in so many different ways. But there’s a conversation going on that these compounds are the plants’ defense mechanisms. They’re the plants’ deterrence to pests. They’re the plants’ immune system to fight off bad things. That if we consume them, they’re little poisons that we’re putting in our body that could potentially harm us.
And I think it’s an interesting conversation particularly in the carnivore field where there’s a lot of anti-nutrients in plants and plants are bad for us. There’s phytates and there’s oxalates. And there’s all sorts of things that we may not want to be consuming.
And in a way, I think it misses the fundamental point of what’s going on that these plants are hormetic agents. Hormesis is essentially the idea of something that doesn’t kill you but it makes you stronger like exercise or fasting. And that yes, these are compounds that are a little bit irritating to the body. But that irritation, just like exercise or fasting or hot or cold therapy, will actually trigger a response to create a benefit.
So, when I heard you talk about the broccoli compounds, the glucosinolates, they basically are a signal to upregulate your body’s own enzymes for detoxification. Is that right?

Dr. Jeff Bland: I think you hit something, Mark, that’s extraordinarily important. This concept of hormesis, we have to differentiate I think the mechanism of treating a disease with a bioactive new to nature molecule called a drug from eating foods that have bioactivity ingredients in them.
Foods have undergone the largest scientific study in the history of any living species called natural selection. Think about it. If you want to talk about a study that has a long history, plants have smoothed their composition over millions of years. That’s the clinical trial.
They have survived in their environments as a consequence of that process of natural selection to hermetically contain substances that allow them to have an immune system to defend against some of the most hostile environments. How do you like to be a corn plant sitting out in Iowa and have to be out there every day with your arm stretched to the sky with no umbrellas?
I mean, that’s like instant sunburn, just to think about that. So, how do plants protect themselves? They develop these xanthophylls and carotenoids that are SPF compounds that prevent them from oxidative injury from ultraviolet light. And so, they have these substances that are the right level in those plants to provide the optimal protection against the environment which they have been living in the case of wild plants for hundreds of thousands or millions of years.
That’s why when I talked to Mary Ann Lila who was originally at the University of Illinois but she’s now at the Kannapolis Center at University of South Carolina. She’s been studying indigenous plants in hostile environments for 30 years. That’s been her research. She’s published hundreds of papers. We had her as a presenter at our meeting last fall at our PLMI meeting.
And she was talking about the fact that when you get stressed, plants that have had to survive in these hostile environments, bad soil, bad weather, bad sun, frost, heat, all these things, bugs, that they have had to develop by a natural evolution hormetic compounds that are their immune system to help defend us. And it turns out, it turns out that when we eat those plants that contain those hormetic substances that are defensive immune active substances in those plants, that it transfers that immune principles to humans. This is now an extraordinary chapter in our web of life.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Wait, wait, wait. Did you just say that if we eat plants that have had to build their immune system up because of tough conditions, that those compounds in those plants strengthen our immune system?

Dr. Jeff Bland: 100% correct. 100% correct. And in fact, this is what got me into Himalayan tartary buckwheat. It was just like the weirdest thing. If someone would say, “Jeff, you’re going to be the advocate of bringing Himalayan tartary buckwheat, this 4,000-year-old ancient food back to the United States,” I would say, “You got to be kidding me. This is the twilight years of my career. I’m not going to be in organic farming.”
But I couldn’t resist once I learned about this crop, this 4,000-year-old domesticated crop as it relates to its immune-potentiating activity that is some 50 times, 50 times not percent higher-

Dr. Mark Hyman: Five, zero.

Dr. Jeff Bland: … in immune-potentiating nutrients in common buckwheat, 50 times higher than common buckwheat. It’s infinitely larger than wheat or other grasses and other grains. It’s infinitely larger.
And why does it have that extraordinary power? Because it grew on the slopes of the Himalayas in extraordinarily bad soils, high in aluminum. It has an aluminum-detoxifying gene. It’s frost-resistant. It’s drought-resistant. It’s-bug resistant. Bugs don’t even like it because it’s got so many phytochemicals. And it doesn’t require irrigation. You just throw it on the ground, put it there with good stewardship of organic soil and boom, up you get a crop of Himalaya tartary buckwheat.
And it’s been lost in America for 200 years because it has a taste. Because when you put secondary phytochemicals in plants, they’re not like white flour and sugar. They have a taste. So now, we have a food lab to make recipes and make it more palatable and to reintroduce it.

Dr. Mark Hyman: I think it tastes good.

Dr. Jeff Bland: So, there we go. And this is my expert. This is the Dr. Mark Hyman, Himalayan tartary buckwheat pancake expert.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Yes, I do have a pancake recipe that’s very good in the vegan diet, chai pancakes that I’ve made for Jeff many times. So, let’s dig in a little more. The phenomenon of aging and as we’ve learned from you over the years is really an inflammatory process.

Dr. Jeff Bland: Yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman: So, let’s start with what causes the immune system to become dysfunctional as we age? What causes the acceleration of inflammation as we age? And how did that connect to the aging of our whole body? And then, we’ll loop back to how to use plants to affect that and what you found in your research.

Dr. Jeff Bland: Yeah. So, you said this beautifully in your book. Mark, as you know, if you read his books, and I’m sure everybody here has read one or more of his books, is a brilliant narrator. He tells a story better than anyone. The first time I read anything he wrote, I said, “This man’s on the path because he can make very complicated topics very engaging and understandable.”

Dr. Mark Hyman: Because I have logorrhea which is the diarrhea of words.

Dr. Jeff Bland: No, you do not need to diminish your genius. You’re very, very good at this. So, one of the things that I’ve learned that Mark picked up beautifully and he’s done elegantly in Young Forever is a discussion about how our body responds to the experience of life and how that’s associated with biological aging.
So, my father used to say to me, “You know, Jeff, life is what happens in between your plans.” So, we got this whole thing about a planned life. I remember my daughter-in-law when she had her pregnancy plan with her first child. And I said, “No woman can live by this plan.” “Oh yes, Jeff, I am very disciplined. I’m living by this plan.” Then of course stuff happened during her pregnancy. She said, “Oh, my plan went to hell. I’m not able to do my plan.” Well, that’s life. Stuff comes up. It happens and we have to be resilient.
So, what is resilience? Resilience in our body is manifest through principally three different cell types, three different tissues that are constantly sampling the outside world. 24/7, 365. They’re the only parts of our body that are constantly sampling the outside world. And what are they? They are our nervous system. They are our mucosal tissues in our respiratory tract, in our gastrointestinal tract. And they’re our immune system. And they’re all cross-talking all the time, one to the other.
And so when we start talking then about what happens with the experience of life as it relates to aging is that this system, this information system picks up bad news because everybody’s life has trauma along the road. Now, the question is how do you deal with the trauma? Does it stick and stay there irreversibly? And if it does, you just accumulate road tire over life, which then depreciates the function of those cells that are taking the message from this reporter system, this communication system. Some people call these immune scars.
We’ve just had a big episode of immune scars called … Sorry, it’s COVID-2, haven’t we? And they’re now people … Well, not some people, probably the majority of people are carrying some legacy of what that virus left on their immune system. These are epigenetic marks of an immune system that’s altered from that experience.
Now, is that a one-way street? And that’s where Mark’s book I think is so beautiful because it describes, no, nothing in life is a one-way street. Even loss of neuronal reserve, we’re now finding there is neuronal plasticity and neurons can be regenerated, maybe not as quickly as skin cells but they can be regenerated. So, there is this other street that goes back the other direction. If there is damage, there is repair.
So, that’s what I call rejuvenation. And our body is capable of rejuvenating. And fortunately, what we’re starting to learn is that these marks that we carry that are associated then with the principles of aging or the hallmarks of aging that Mark has summarized so beautifully. These are kind of scientific geekisms, these hallmarks of aging, but you’ve made them accessible in your book.
They can be modulated by a reversible set of principles that is in our physiology if we give it the right thing to work from. If we don’t give it the right thing to work from, it doesn’t have the ability to power up that rejuvenation system and we just take the luck of the draw and we get worse as we grow older.
By the way, when I say worse, it’s not just physiologically or metabolically worse. It can be behaviorally worse. It can be feeling like we’re not loved, we’re not appreciated, we have no attribution. It’s socially deprived. It’s a form of deficiency. It’s not a vitamin deficiency. It’s a social support deficiency. Those leave marks.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Vitamin L deficiency.

Dr. Jeff Bland: Yes, Vitamin L deficiency. Exactly right.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Love.

Dr. Jeff Bland: So, all of these things work together to create who we are and how we see our aging process manifest in our body.

Dr. Mark Hyman: So, Jeff, take us down into the rabbit hole, a little bit of the science of what’s happening to our immune system as we get older that causes it to generate more of this chronic sterile inflammation that is at the root of what we call inflammaging. And then, I want to dive deep into how do we combat that and how do we change that, reverse that process?

Dr. Jeff Bland: Yeah. So, I’m just reviewing now what Mark has already said in his book. So, I’m kind of the speaking book for his book. But in his book, he talks about these cell types that are associated with biological aging that are called SASP cells. That stands for senescent-associated secretory phenotypes. And what does that mean in English?
What it means is that these cells-

Dr. Mark Hyman: They’re called zombie cells in English.

Dr. Jeff Bland: Yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman: They don’t die and they run around spewing out inflammation, right?

Dr. Jeff Bland: Yup, exactly. So, the genes of these cells are the same but they’re communicating a different message because they’ve been modulated by epigenetic experiences to be shifted into an alarm state. And that alarm state, the body’s inflammatory pathways coming from a damaged immune system, are there for a purpose to recycle dead tissue to help defend us against foreign invaders.
Inflammation is not like a bad thing. It’s a good process. It’s what is uncontrolled simmering like a burning or like a boiling pot on the stove all the time that’s associated with the development of these senescent-associated secretory phenotype type cells. These-

Dr. Mark Hyman: Zombie cells.

Dr. Jeff Bland: … zombie cells. So, the question is once you got a zombie cell, does a zombie going to live in your body forever? And the answer is no. We now know that there are processes in the body for which Nobel Prizes have been won for the discovery only recently. Like the process you talk about, autophagy or mitophagy that are processes that activate the rejuvenation of cells to give room for new naive cells to come in and replace them.
Remember that in our body, our bone marrow is producing on the order of several million new white blood cells every few minutes. So, we’re constantly remodeling ourselves. So, the question is those white blood cells that are coming out into our body, are they as good as the ones that were there before? Are they worse or are they better?
And rejuvenation is making them better, not making them worse. That’s the process that we’re really speaking to when we talk about Young Forever. It doesn’t mean that you’ve completely eradicated aging because the clock still ticks, but it’s removing these accelerants of the process of chronic inflammation that’s associated with fibrosis, insulin resistance, cellular proliferation, all the things that we associate with the physiology of aging.
And by the way, it’s very interesting when the investigators, and again Mark talks about this in the book, investigators that are measuring these age clocks like Steve Horvath who is at UCLA is one of the world’s experts in this area. They’re able to actually take photographs of people. And they’re able to match the photographs based upon the physiognomy of whether they look old for their age with their biological age clock of their immune system.
They’re able to show that, yes, there’s that. And so you say, “Oh, hold it. Does that mean the inside of my body, if I could take a picture of the inside organs, they look not so good, too?” Yeah, that’s what it’s saying that you’re altering the physiognomy, the architecture of your body and its function as a consequence of these processes.

Dr. Mark Hyman: So Jeff, we know that these cells accumulate as we get older, these zombie cells and other things that happen to our immune system which is a decrease in our ability to fight infection and our ability to fight cancer. And so at the same time, we have this sort of increasing inflammation on the one end, we have a decrease ability to respond to threats on the other end.
And you have this concept that you coined called immuno-rejuvenation which I find fascinating. And the mechanisms by which it occurs are still a little opaque to me. And in the work you’ve been doing lately around studying the particular unique phytochemicals in Himalayan tartary buckwheat, things that are found nowhere else that we know of yet in any other plant, have this ability to rejuvenate our immune system.
And you really have just completed a very important study which I find shocking, which is that using the compounds from this ancient plant that somehow rejuvenates our immune systems, we can turn back the biological age clock by five to seven years. So, take us through exactly what is happening at a cellular level from these compounds. What are the compounds? What do they do? How do they actually change your biological immune clock and make us younger?

Dr. Jeff Bland: Yeah. So, thank you. So, I want to give attribution to my colleague who is sitting right here in the front row, Dr. Austin Perlmutter. He is the person that’s overseeing this clinical study that we’re very excited about in our little company.
We thought it was a pretty ambitious trial for a small group. But thanks to his acumen and the associate help that he had with some very diligent co-investigators, we were able to take 50 individuals, apparently healthy. Take their blood initially and to evaluate using a gene chip produced by Illumina that has a little over 900,000 what are called CPG sites that are epigenetic marker sites on the genome. And so this chip is able to measure 900-plus thousands of these sites.
And they look for the methylation patterns of the genes. That’s one of the principle process of epigenomics is methylation of the genome. So, we’re able to look at the methylation patterns of individuals at baseline. Then we were able to put them on the Himalayan tartary buckwheat phytochemicals over the course of 90 days at a level that would be considered equivalent to eating something like 100 grams of Himalayam tartary buckwheat flour equivalent today, something in that range.

Dr. Mark Hyman: And how many pancakes is that?

Dr. Jeff Bland: Yeah, that’s a whole other story I can tell you about. I just got through eating a little over 400 pancakes.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah. Are we going to get to that story? I like that story.

Dr. Jeff Bland: Yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman: But …

Dr. Jeff Bland: But anyway, going back to the clinical trial, the outcome then was to then take the blood of the individuals after the four months and it was [inaudible 00:38:15]. So, they were on the same diet. This was an end of one study, control against themselves, their change over the course of three months, and then reanalyzing their methylation patterns through their epigenome of their white blood cells over the course of the three months.
And in using age clock algorithms from these accepted methods, we’re able to deconvolute that data. This is a huge amount of data. It’s well over a terabyte of data. So, there’s a lot of machine learning that has to go on and how to analyze the data.
But we were able to ultimately demonstrate that there is a functional change in the pattern of white blood cells in the body normalizing function. And those individuals who started off with an immune age, it was higher than their chronological age, after three months, there was a trend, a significant trend actually to bring it back into a lower immune age over the course of three months.
So, we feel this is the first study ever under this control. I want to emphasize this is a pilot study. It’s only 50 people. It was only three months. It was not placebo-controlled. But I think it’s the start of a whole new generation of how we interrogate this from a scientific perspective to demonstrate that we have the tools to actually show how you can reverse aging in the immune system with nutritional intervention.
And that these compounds that we’re using, the quercetin, luteolin, rutin … I mean there there’s over 50 different phytochemicals in tartary buckwheat. The plant didn’t make them just because it had nothing better to do. It made this specific composition for the immune defense of the plant.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Well, it’s important you just said that because a lot of aging research and research in general is a reductionist. And in aging circles and longevity research, they’re looking at quercetin as a bioactive molecule that can help regulate immunity and reverse biological age.
And they did a study using that plus a chemo agent, dasatinib. And they found a reversal about a year of biological age. But what you’re talking about is a five to seven-year reversal using a complex set of compounds that are in a whole food.
So, when you try to extract an ingredient, you might not know what you’re leaving behind. And it turns out what you’re leaving behind, some of what we know, some of the compounds in Himalayan tartary buckwheat we know, some of them we might not know yet, right?

Dr. Jeff Bland: Absolutely.

Dr. Mark Hyman: And so that is really fascinating to me that there’s all these flavonoids and other compounds called 2-HOBA which are acting in a way to regular epigenome independent of our lifestyle which is kind of fascinating to me. And when you compound that with lifestyle changes and other strategies and a more sort of 360 view of how do we approach healthy aging, it becomes a really powerful intervention.

Dr. Jeff Bland: Well, thank you, Mark. I think that’s the real secret sauce you just said. I would not say that any one thing is the way we reverse aging. I think it’s a compilation of different things. Better sleeps, hygiene, regular activity, good thoughts and attitudes, being loved, being respected, the concept of a good diet. And we take some kind of a modified Mediterranean low glycemic load, gluten-free, low allergy load type of dietary approach. All these things work together.
But I think that the construct that there are plants that have had to grow up over millennia of their history to form genes that are really capable of being resilient against hostile conditions. That is an interesting construct. And it raised my question such that I had a conversation. You know how life is very fortuitous at times and serendipitous? As I get older, I think that there’s no such thing as serendipity.
I think we work ourselves into situations where this coincidence happens where you run into somebody and say, “Oh, that was such a coincidence.” No, it probably you were traveling in a certain circle of things that we’re likely to meet that person again.
So, that happened to me with regard to this tartary buckwheat story. So, I go to China. I have this magnificent visit. I am up in Harbin, China, the northernmost city up by North Korea and Russia. And my host there is very kind. He says, “Jeff, do you want to go back to Shanghai on the bullet train?” That’s where it says 2,200 miles across all of China, down the middle of China in the bullet train going at 250 miles an hour silently and vibration-free on this electric train. It’s fantastic. And China’s just going by me like a diorama.
So, I turned to him and I said, about halfway across, I said to him, “So, have you ever heard of Himalayan tartary buckwheat?” And it was like the train stopped and we were frozen in motion. He looked at me, he said, “Oh my lord, you got to be kidding me.” I said, “No, why do you say that?” And he said, “Because we have been studying tartary buckwheat. We’ve been very interested. We can’t find anybody in America that’s interested. Are you interested in working with us?”
So then I get back to the United States and I asked my colleague Trish Eury who was working with me for over 25 years. I said, “Trish, when I left to go on this trip, you were going to look in to see if anyone was growing tartary buckwheat in the United States.” And she said, “I can only find one person.” He’s a former Cornell University ag researcher that has retired and his wife was a nurse, have a hobby farm in-

Dr. Mark Hyman: Upstate New York.

Dr. Jeff Bland: … Upstate New York, yeah. And he got these seeds from the USDA that he didn’t know what they were. They just had a number on them and he grew them. He loved them. And now, he’s found out that they’re tartary buckwheat seeds and he has 10 acres. And he’s the only person I can find in the country that’s growing it.
So then I called Mr. Beer up and I said, “Can we come out and visit you on your farm in Angelica, New York?” And so we come out there and we spend a couple days hanging out on the farm and getting our hands in the soil.
Then I come home and I get a call from a good colleague friend of mine, Naji Abumrad at Vanderbilt University. And he says, “Jeff, you’ve been asking about this study that just appeared in the Journal of Clinical Investigation from Vanderbilt. My colleagues who are studying this very unique new substance called 2-hydroxybenzylamine, 2-HOBA. And this study that you were very interested in was lowering blood pressure with 2-HOBA based on its immune effects and the relationship of immune cells to the vascular endothelium, relaxing the endothelium and lowering blood pressure.”
And I said, “Yeah, I’m really interested in that because when I read the paper in the fine print, it said that there’s only one source in nature of that which is Himalayan tartary buckwheat.” And he said, “That’s right.” So now, we have a Vanderbilt group, we have a China group, we’ve got a farmer in Upstate New York, and now I’m in organic farming.
So, this whole thing-

Dr. Mark Hyman: Makes sense.

Dr. Jeff Bland: Yes, it makes total sense. So the construct-

Dr. Mark Hyman: I wonder how all that dirt got under your fingernails.

Dr. Jeff Bland: Precisely. So then, we get a soil scientist, Emily Reese, who is the soil steward who did her PhD at Cornell. And she’s the person who’s stewarding the soil of a 500-acre organic farm.
And so, we asked her if she would take on the responsibility of being our soil scientist so that we could see if re-nourishing the soil with mycorrhiza. If we inoculated the soil to bring back even better health of the soil. If it would send a signal from the mycorrhiza through what they exude which are things like salicylate and other gibberellins, other compounds that influence the root or actually the germination of the seeds that become the plant that then affects the seed of the plant and its phytochemicals.
We said-

Dr. Mark Hyman: Wait. For those non-soil scientists out there listening, what Jeff is just explaining is how the soil is full of mycorrhizal fungi, which is this huge network of fungi underneath the soil that is connecting all the plants to one another that’s helping the plants extract the nutrients from the soil that are living in a symbiotic relationship with the plants and the soil. And in order for the plants to get the nutrients they need, they require these fungi to be there.
And in depleted soils which is most of the soils we have because of pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides I like to say that destroys the microbiome of the soil, we’ve destroyed these mycorrhizal networks. So, this is a really key part of regenerative agriculture that Jeff’s describing. And what he did was take basically the buckwheat seed and kind of jack it up with some extra mycorrhizal fungi and some other bacterial compounds that are in the soil that help the plant get more phytochemicals.

Dr. Jeff Bland: Exactly right. So this to me-

Dr. Mark Hyman: Did I get that right?

Dr. Jeff Bland: Beautiful. Beautiful. And you said it beautifully in your book, too. So they-

Dr. Mark Hyman: Sometimes I have to … I’m like Obama had his anger translator, I’m Jeff Bland’s like geek translator.

Dr. Jeff Bland: And thank you for that years of help, I needed it. So, what happened, we had this field trial. We had strips on the field that were inoculated with different mycorrhizal inoculants. And then at the end of the growing season, obviously we harvested, we took the seeds, we did a phytochemical analysis. And we were very excited to see that one of the plots that we use a certain mycorrhizal inoculant had what appeared to be a strong trend towards increasing the phytochemicals of these compounds in the plants.
So, here is kind of closing the circle for me because now we talk about planetary health, planetary immune system, soil health, root of seed health, plant health and then food product health, and then human immune health. It actually closes for me … I started as a professor in chemistry and environmental science in Earth Year, 1970.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Wow.

Dr. Jeff Bland: I was hired because they wanted an Earth Year chemist in 1970. This has closed that cycle.

Dr. Mark Hyman: He had an afro back then for those of you listening.

Dr. Jeff Bland: Did I ever? Yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman: That was an amazing story that connects the dots between how we grow our food, the medicine and the food and how it impacts us. And so, really you’re talking about the microbiome of the soil and the fungi in the soil that determine the quality of the food we’re eating. And we really stripped that out of most of our agriculture.
And what you’re saying is that we can actually even help plants a little bit more by some of these new technologies that are allowing us to inoculate the seeds and the plants with these extra kind of probiotics and fungi which is essentially the microbiome of the soil and these mycorrhizal fungi network.
So, it’s really kind of mind-blowing in how that determines so much about our health. And the subtext of that is what about all the rest of the food we’re eating that doesn’t grow in that kind of soil? And what is it lacking and why are we also sick? And is it connected to the incredible growth of chronic disease and obesity in this country?

Dr. Jeff Bland: It’s really interesting. If any of you have ever gone to the Sacramento Valley or Coachella or some of the big produce-producing, Salinas Valley in California where they produce a lot of our produce for the whole country particularly during the winter months, and you watch the stewardship of the land, it’s all production-based, isn’t it? It’s all yield-based.
And that’s not to say that these farmers are irresponsible. They’re responsible for making a living and to produce a product that can be sold that looks good to the consumer. And so, if you then were to take that and compare it to the group of these tartary buckwheat cooperative farmers that we’ve enlisted to work with us, they have the same goals. They have to make a living. They have to pay for their farms and so forth.
But their commitment to the stewardship of their soil is extraordinarily motivating and symbolizing of what we need in general about regeneration of our lives, of our health, of our sense of vitality, of our resilience. I mean, it’s not just growing stuff in the soil. There’s a whole metaphor to living about … And I recall actually asking. I’ve never talked to you about this, Mark. But back when I was a young guy and teaching environmental science was one of the courses I taught at the university. It actually turned out to be a very popular course in the 1970s.
And I would ask a question the first day of this class, this was non-scientists would take an elective to get their science credit. So, there’s a lot of people that were just in there to fill a seat, but I’d try to make it attractive enough they’d want to come to class.
So, the first day of class, I’d ask, “How many of you are interested in posterity?” Now remember, these are undergraduate students, 18 to 22 years of age probably. And they would look at me like really strange. No professor ever asked us about posterity. And I would say, “No. I want to know how many of you are interested in posterity.” And there would be some people that would raise their hands yes.
And then I would say, “Okay. Why are you interested in posterity? You’re not going to be around. Why are you interested?” Now, a lot of those students in those classes you’d guess were taking science credit with me for the business school. So, my concept was what is sustainable business? What is sustainable work? What is a sustainable culture? And how do you embody that if you can’t keep the principles to keep life alive, the carbon, hydrogen, sulfur, oxygen and nitrogen cycles healthy? How can you have sustainable anything?
And so, this metaphor that we’re dealing with is a powerful way of thinking about biological aging. Because when we are preventing our own biological aging by implementing what Mark is talking about in his book, we’re making a contribution to survival of the planet. That’s the only way you get there.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah, that’s all connected.

Dr. Jeff Bland: You have to swim upstream to be there because if you’re swimming downstream with what’s common and fashionable, you’re an anti-evolutionist.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah.

Dr. Jeff Bland: That’s what’s going on. You’re an anti-evolutionist if you’re following the stream.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah.

Dr. Jeff Bland: You’ve got to swim upstream. And that’s what your book really says so beautifully.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Well, I think the company that you started, Big Bold Health, which I’m helping whether I’m an advisor for or an investor in, is unique because it’s taking these ancient food products and turning them into medicines that actually work better than most drugs. I mean, quercetin for example works as a senolytic killing zombie cells. It also works to activate AMPK which we know is one of the longevity switches and part of the hallmarks of aging that are in the nutrient-sensing pathways.
And yet the effect of just that one molecule may not speak to the power of a more complex diet. So, when you think about a longevity diet, what are the foods that you want to make a top priority if we’re going to focus on rejuvenating our immune system and reversing the hallmarks of aging and reversing our biological age through food? So what are the top foods we should be thinking about?

Dr. Jeff Bland: Okay. Well, I’m going to now spout Mark Hyman because you’ve taught me how to say this simply. And number one, I’m going to choose low glycemic minimally processed foods that grew on the Earth and look like they once were alive.

Dr. Mark Hyman: That’s good.

Dr. Jeff Bland: That’s going to be number one. Number two, I’m going to eat the rainbow and it’s not going to come from synthetic food dyes. Number three, I’m going to remember that things that are not digestible might be very advantageous to my microbiomes and only eat prebiotic-rich foods that have an array of non-digestible carbohydrates of different forms and textures because different bacteria have different personalities regarding their diets.
How am I doing so far?

Dr. Mark Hyman: You’re doing good. You’re doing good. What I want you to do is dive into the rainbow a little bit because we’ve been focusing on one particular plant, Himalayan tartary buckwheat, but there’s a lot of others that hold a lot of promise and work in the same ways as phytohormetic agents to activate our longevity pathways.

Dr. Jeff Bland: Yes.

Dr. Mark Hyman: So, can you speak to some of those?

Dr. Jeff Bland: Okay. So, this is an interesting question. I haven’t heard a lot of people talk about this because a lot of super foods that are really rich in these hormetic compounds, you can’t eat those alone and survive. You can’t live on berries by itself.
So, there are different kinds of foods. There are those kinds of foods that provide maximum benefit because they provide protein, carbohydrate, fat and all the vitamins and minerals that you could live off if you were on a survival diet somewhere. By the way, Himalayan tartary buckwheat is one of those, very high in protein, very balanced in amino acids. But then there are others that you would like to include in your diet that you wouldn’t consume as your major food stuff. They would be … You wouldn’t live on cruciferous vegetables, probably.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Probably not.

Dr. Jeff Bland: But I would consider cruciferous vegetables to be a very important part of the cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprout family, a very important part of a complete diet. I would say that nuts and seeds because they carry the germ seed of the germinating plant. It’s like an egg. So, they’ve got a lot of good stuff in them.

Dr. Mark Hyman: So, they’re like the plants’ eggs.

Dr. Jeff Bland: Precisely. So, you’ve got all the stuff that’s needed to make life. When I think of seeds … I mean, I really become an appreciator of these seeds because when I look at our buckwheat seeds, they look like little armadillos. You could run a Sherman tank over them and it wouldn’t crush them. But somehow you give them moisture and life generates out of them and they form this beautiful crop that in the spring is gorgeous to look at. And there’s life in those seeds. So, seeds contain all the stuff necessary to make life. Nuts, similarly as well.
Now, you can say, “Well, it’s peanut and nut.” No peanut is a legume so that would not be in that family. Then you would say, “Well, but then there’s some controversial foods that might be included like soy.” And I’m not talking about GMO soy. I’m talking about non-GMO soy. Soy has a whole remarkable portfolio of interesting phytochemicals. And soy’s got a pretty bad reputation I think because of the whole nature of genetic hybridization and all that kind of stuff.
But soy in its natural state and particularly cultured soy, tempeh and other kind of cultured soy products are still really-

Dr. Mark Hyman: Miso, yeah, natto.

Dr. Jeff Bland: Yeah, excellent foods. So, I think when I look at the foods on the list, it would be some foods that are central that I could live on that produce good calories with high vitamin and mineral density and then other foods that provide high hormetic phytochemicals and it’s the balance of those. That’s why I think eating by the rainbow because you’re going to get a whole different array of carotenoids and flavonoids and polyphenols.

Dr. Mark Hyman: So, you don’t buy the whole argument that these things in plants are anti-nutrients and harmful compounds and we should be avoiding them and eating only meat?

Dr. Jeff Bland: I think that’s gibberish. I think that’s an absolute gibberish argument. I mean, there’s-

Dr. Mark Hyman: There’s a number of really interesting physicians out there that are promoting this and showing all sorts of health benefits and improving people’s health. But I-

Dr. Jeff Bland: Okay. There are plants, certainly plants with solanaceous alkaloids like potatoes with green ears. You don’t want to eat them, right? They’re toxic. But it’s knowing what plant to eat at what time in its ripening cycle, at what level, that’s the knowledge of human species going back thousands of years that’s been studied. And this concept where we’re eating toxicological substances, yes, if you’re eating boatloads of something. You can be killed on water if you over-ingest it.

Dr. Mark Hyman: I think the key is the phytohormesis concept because I think it really speaks to the way in which phytochemicals work by triggering our bodies to respond to them with a healing response.

Dr. Jeff Bland: That’s right.

Dr. Mark Hyman: And that’s something that I only come recently understand. And I think that that is a very important concept that helps sort of define why we need to be consuming these compounds and why they’re so important. And how we need also to be careful because what happens if you take a super high dose, it might not be good. It’s a little stress in the right dose to activate your healing response, but not too much.

Dr. Jeff Bland: I think I’ve been around in this field long enough. Maybe I’m cynical. Maybe I’m jaded. But I’ve seen umpteen multiple moments where we had the answers about nutrition and it was the topic du jour. And everybody was on that program if they wanted to be in their peer group keeping up. And I could start naming things but won’t point fingers.
All I can say is now having been in this field 50 years, most of those things came and went. The only things that have stayed are the things that are real. And that’s eating a complex diet that’s unadulterated, that is rich in plants, that has animal products that are also unadulterated.
At one time, I was the scientific head of Coleman Natural Meats, the only company at the time that raised animals naturally that we fought with the USDA to get a natural beef designation. That was 10 years of tireless work to finally get the Cattlemen’s Association to allow that designation because they pretty much own the USDA as it relates to what was going on.
But the beef that was produced by the Coleman Ranch was a free-range form of animal that didn’t go into feed lots, didn’t eat … If it ever had to be medicated, it was called out of the herd and it was a veterinary-treated animal. It didn’t get into the production. And those are the kind of things that we know are sensible. My father would call it rules of reasonableness. The way that we’ve been eating recently is really following rules of unreasonableness.

Dr. Mark Hyman: That’s right. Yeah. So Jeff, in the work you’re doing now in Big Bold Health which everybody should check out to learn more about the science and the work you’re doing, what are you most excited about that’s coming down the pike? What are the things that you’re seeing that are going to be the most impactful and helping us to reimagine our approach to health and aging?

Dr. Jeff Bland: I think there are three things happening right now, Mark. And then you and I have talked about this that are notes of optimism for me. This is in no necessary order of priority, just what I’ve been seeing. First of all is the rising advocacy of the body politic of our country to be disgusted with the way that their health has been treated.
And we’re starting to see consumer advocacy groups rise up, particularly now with post-COVID with long haul, where you’re starting to see people group together and saying, “This is unacceptable the way that we’re being treated and we want to find solutions.” And these advocacy groups are composed of very intelligent people that are disabled because of infection and they are putting their energies into creating a new way of thinking about health, a new way of approaching it.
Secondly is the meeting that you participated in the White House Conference on hunger, food and health which I think was an extraordinary moment. I was at the McGovern Committee hearings back in the ’60s. It took 40 years to get the government to have a national conference. And what happened with the McGovern Committee? How did that translated into consumer outcome? It got translated into high-sugar foods.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Dietary guidelines.

Dr. Jeff Bland: Yes, the dietary guidelines cut out fat and added sugar. And then we never saw metabolic syndrome until the guidelines were commercialized by the food processing industry. And now, we have epidemic proportions of metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance.
So this particular round, now what we see is, and I couldn’t believe it when it came out as a mandate for future exploration, food as medicine. Now, those of us in this field, Jim Gordon and this group who have been talking about this for long periods of time, food as medicine when it’s appropriately applied. And this construct that the government will be even thinking about reimbursing people for prescriptions for produce. I mean, if that’s not a revolutionary concept. So that’s number two.
And number three then is here I am. I know I’m a techno-geek but I’ve got at least two or three wearables that I’m wearing. And these wearables are becoming more and more sophisticated so we’re getting 24/7 information about the intimacy of our body that we never had access before.
We don’t need a physician. It goes to the cloud. It gets now processed by AI algorithms that are much more sophisticated than the single mind can ever come up with. And it’s feeding back to us real time information about how to live a life that is going to be consistent with our biological opportunity.
Those things when we put them together are frame shifting. They’re culturally seismic. They change the whole way that we think about health and disease. And I’m really optimistic because this organization has been advocating this for the 40 years that I’ve been involved.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah.

Dr. Jeff Bland: It’s very exciting.

Dr. Mark Hyman: That’s exciting, Jeff. That’s really exciting. I agree with all those. A little update, I think the current Congress has the potential to pass a medically tailored meals bill to study the effective food as a treatment for chronic disease. And it’s a $500 million bill.
I’m working with the chairman of the Health Subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee to help move this forward. He’s in charge of the trillion dollar budget of Medicare. So, we’re seeing movement. The Rockefeller Foundation is also independently funding a $250 million study on food as medicine.
So, this is really starting to happen in a place where I remember when you even suggested food as medicine, you’d be ridiculed and laughed out of any medical conversation. But now, it’s really central to understanding what we’re doing.

Dr. Jeff Bland: So, let me give you one other note to what you just said. And by the way, thank you for your extraordinary advocacy in this area. So, we are a little company. Yeah, if that deserves some applause. Yeah, absolutely.
So, our little company, Big Bold Health, went out and wanted to get some venture money to guide us. But I was very concerned about … Because money comes, what is money? Money is potential energy. And potential energy can do good or it can do bad. So, it can go either way.
So, I was looking for strategic investors that really saw the mission that we’re trying to develop. And I was very fortunate or we were very fortunate, we found such an organization. They have over 60 companies that have invested in all in sustainable and I guess if we would call it new age food tech and ag tech related to sustainability across oceans and land.
So, this company came and joined us as a partner. At the White House Conference, they were instrumental in working together with several other venture capital organizations that are now raising a fund of $2 billion to fund technology and ag development and development of technologies that will in fact produce sustainable food supplies that are meeting the food as medicine mandate.
So, this is coming from the private sector. And where there is money, there will be business. Where there is business, there will be jobs. Where there are jobs, there will be smart young women and men coming into the field. And we will transform this from a pathology-focused to a health-focused culture through this kind of advocacy.

Dr. Mark Hyman: It’s definitely happening. Thank you, Jeff. And I’m sure maybe you’re aware but the IRA bill, the Inflation Reduction Act, had $20 billion in it for performing agriculture and moving it more to regenerative agriculture that we were involved in advocating for as part of our Food Fix Campaign. So, it’s really exciting to see these things starting to move forward.
And Jeff, I thank you for your tireless work doing a startup at 75 years old.

Dr. Jeff Bland: Gracias.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Usually when you’re 25, you do that. But I’m very impressed.

Dr. Jeff Bland: Yeah, you don’t know what you don’t need to know, what you do at 75 then you recognize how stupid it is.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Oh. So, thank you for your stewardship of all of us over the decades, for your inspiration, for helping us understand there’s a new way to think about health and disease that can relieve suffering for millions of people. And it already has.
I bow down to you, Jeff. I thank you for your decades of contribution. And thank you so much for being on the podcast.

Dr. Jeff Bland: Mark, thank you. What you do to change the lives of many for the better, it’s a privilege to have you as a friend and colleague. Thank you so much.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Thank you. And if those of you listening love this podcast, please share it with your friends and family everywhere you can. Leave a comment about how food has helped you and affected your health and aging. And we’ll see you next time on The Doctor’s Farmacy.

Closing: Hi, everyone. I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode. Just a reminder that this podcast is for educational purposes only. This podcast is not a substitute for professional care by a doctor or other qualified medical professional. This podcast is provided on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services.
If you’re looking for help in your journey, seek out a qualified medical practitioner. If you’re looking for a functional medicine practitioner, you can visit and search their find a practitioner database. It’s important that you have someone in your corner who’s trained, who’s a licensed health care practitioner and can help you make changes especially when it comes to your health.

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