Being Vegan Doesn’t Mean Healthy! with Dr. Neal Barnard

Dr. Barnard is president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a faculty member of the George Washington University School of Medicine, and a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology. His federally funded diabetes research revolutionized the nutritional approaches to type 2 diabetes, and he now aims to empower readers with life-changing information on hormones and health.

Neal Barnard, MD, FACC, is an Adjunct Professor of Medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, DC, and President of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

Dr. Barnard has led numerous research studies investigating the effects of diet on diabetes, body weight, and chronic pain, including a groundbreaking study of dietary interventions in type 2 diabetes, funded by the National Institutes of Health, that paved the way for viewing type 2 diabetes as a potentially reversible condition for many patients. Dr. Barnard has authored more than 90 scientific publications and 20 books for medical and lay readers, and is the editor in chief of the Nutrition Guide for Clinicians, a textbook made available to all U.S. medical students.

“Dr. Barnard walks us through the most common and troublesome ailments which so many of us struggle with: hormone fluctuations, thyroid conditions, and mood disorders—with an eye towards research and solutions based in foods commonly available to us,” says Mayim Bialik, neuroscientist and actor.

As president of the Physicians Committee, Dr. Barnard leads programs advocating for preventive medicine, good nutrition, and higher ethical standards in research. His research contributed to the acceptance of plant-based diets in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. In 2015, he was named a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology. In 2016, he founded the Barnard Medical Center in Washington, DC, as a model for making nutrition a routine part of all medical care.

Working with the Medical Society of the District of Columbia and the American Medical Association, Dr. Barnard has authored key resolutions, now part of AMA policy, calling for a new focus on prevention and nutrition in federal policies and in medical practice. In 2018, he received the Medical Society of the District of Columbia’s Distinguished Service Award. He has hosted four PBS television programs on nutrition and health.

Dr. Barnard has written 19 books on nutrition and health including his new book Your Body in Balance: The New Science of Food, Hormones, and Health.

This nationally bestselling book explains the shocking new science of how hormones are wreaking havoc on the body, and the delicious solution that improves health, reduces pain, and even helps to shed weight.

Hidden in everyday foods are the causes of a surprising range of health problems: infertility, menstrual cramps, weight gain, hair loss, breast and prostate cancer, hot flashes, and much more. All of these conditions have one thing in common: they are fueled by hormones that are hiding in foods or are influenced by the foods we eat.

Your Body in Balance provides step-by-step guidance for understanding what’s at the root of your suffering-and what you can do to feel better fast. Few people realize that a simple food prescription can help you tackle all these and more by gently restoring your hormone balance, with benefits rivaling medications. Neal Barnard, MD, a leading authority on nutrition and health, offers insight into how dietary changes can alleviate years of stress, pain, and illness. What’s more, he also provides delicious and easy-to-make hormone-balancing recipes, including:

  • Cauliflower Buffalo Chowder
  • Kung Pao Lettuce Wraps
  • Butternut Breakfast Tacos
  • Mediterranean Croquettes
  • Apple Pie Nachos
  • Brownie Batter Hummus

Your Body in Balance gives new hope for people struggling with health issues. Thousands of people have already reclaimed their lives and their health through the strategic dietary changes described in this book. Whether you’re looking to treat a specific ailment or are in search of better overall health, Dr. Neal Barnard provides an easy pathway toward pain relief, weight control, and a lifetime of good health.

“Dr. Barnard walks us through the most common and troublesome ailments which so many of us struggle with: hormone fluctuations, thyroid conditions, and mood disorders—with an eye towards research and solutions based in foods commonly available to us,” says Mayim Bialik, neuroscientist and actor.

Boosting fiber in the diet is one strategy that Dr. Barnard recommends for creating healthy hormone balance. A study highlighted in the book illustrates that a higher-fiber, lower-fat diet brings a woman’s hormones to a healthier level, which can bring a reduction in breast cancer risk and help women struggling with other hormone-related issues. Researchers found that women who changed the fat and fiber content of their meals under controlled conditions trimmed estradiol levels by 10 to 25 percent. Estrone was tamed to about the same degree, and testosterone was reduced, too.

The book provides step-by-step guidance for understanding what’s at the root of many health issues as well as practical tips and 65 hormone-balancing recipes developed by cookbook author Lindsay Nixon.

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Follow Along with the Transcript – Episode 072

Dr. Neal Barnard 0:00
Huggable muscle, which is meat is made this meat is designed to move a cow's leg or move a chicken's wings. And so it doesn't have any fiber doesn't have any complex carbohydrate. It doesn't have any vitamin C, it doesn't have the things you need.

Alex Ferrari 0:23
Like to welcome the show, Dr. Neil Barnard, how you doing, Dr. Neal?

Dr. Neal Barnard 0:26
Fine, good to see you.

Alex Ferrari 0:28
Good to see you, too, my friend. Thank you so much. I've followed your work for many years from the many documentaries you've been in. And I've, I've, you know, a lot of a lot of the things you've talked about helped me change my diet over the years, I've been plant based for 11 years now. And haven't gone back ever since. So it's been it's been wonderful. And I love bringing guests like yourself on the show to to kind of just really, you know, explore what a plant based diet is, and what health benefits are there because I know a lot of people are just interested in being healthy, feeling less pain, all those kinds of things. But a lot of people say the word vegan or hear the word plant based, and they're like, Oh, my God, I have to go out and eat grass all day out in the yard. And that's what I tell people I eat when they asked me where do you get your protein? Like, I just go in the backyard and I don't have to mow my lawn? It's fantastic. But so I'm gonna ask you the very first question I'm sure so many people have asked you before, why is meat particularly bad if we've been eating it for 1000s of years and helped us get off the, you know, off the the savannas and started to, you know, cultivate, cultivate society? You know, a lot of people say cooked meat is the reason you did that. And there might be some, some bet some logic to that. But I'd love to hear your point of view of why is meat bad for us, particularly at this point in in in time?

Dr. Neal Barnard 1:51
Right. Well, first of all, it's great to be with you. And thanks for asking that really important question. I should perhaps mention that. I grew up in kind of a part of the United States where the meat industry is very, very prominent. I grew up in North Dakota, in a town called Fargo, which people know from the movies, I guess, that's that's where I grew up. And my extended family was all in the cattle business, and they were really good people. But as time went on, it became clear that just as tobacco farmers were good people, but lung cancer was more and more strongly linked to smoking. And at some point, you just got to go with the evidence. The same is true with the health effects, many health effects and meat. Probably the first of these was cardiovascular disease, a disease I've talked about a heart attack, meat has cholesterol, it's got saturated fat in it. And that Saturated fat drives up your cholesterol that clogs your arteries. If you get a plaque that ruptures, you end up with a heart attack and you die, or you have another heart attack some years later, and then you die. That's the final event for about half of us in the United States. Meat is strongly linked to colorectal cancer and other common forms of the disease, as well as being linked to diabetes and all kinds of problems. So you asked a good question is how is it that people have eaten it and done okay? Well, first of all, they don't do okay. We, when I was a kid, we thought that people got heart attacks in their 60s because they were old. And we just sort of didn't connect it. It was like people got lung cancer because of bad luck. And then you realize it's because of tobacco or radon or asbestos or identify factors. And there are reasons why people have heart attacks and, and colorectal cancer. And there are reasons why many people are at very low risk for those things. It's because they don't eat animal products, and they have healthier diets, nothing is perfect. I mean, you can you can follow it perfect diet and still get sick. And you can follow a terrible diet and, and live for a fairly long time, although it's kind of a little bit uncommon. But that's basically where we are. There is no requirement for intermediating we are not carnivores. We're not cats and dogs. You know, we are great apes. And whether we like it or not. We're cousins of chimpanzees and gorillas and great apes are largely herbivores. And fats are a natural diet for us too.

Alex Ferrari 4:12
And also think a lot of people look like Oh, my grandfather ate bacon every single day and ate meat every day. And he lived until he was 85 or 90. And the other big thing I always like to point out too, and I've heard this many times is the meat that our grandparents ate the food that our grandparents ATE is so different than the food that we're eating now. I mean, where that meat was more lack of a better word natural as opposed to what they're doing now with hormones and, and feeding them and stuffing them with corn and then GMOs and all these other things. Is that a fair statement?

Dr. Neal Barnard 4:47
No.

Alex Ferrari 4:48
Okay. I'm glad

Dr. Neal Barnard 4:50
That that is like a person who goes to the drugstore and says Don't give me Marlboros or Winston's I smoke. American spirit. That's the clean I stand outside, they light it up. And I think what I'm sucking into my lungs now is clean. Meat. Meat does not Meat, meat is the muscle of a cow, or a pig, or a chicken. Americans eat a million animals every hour. And despite the atrocities that you have to go through, yes, 100 dead animals on people's plates. And that is, and that is real. And I can say this because I grew up with it. I've driven cattle to slaughter myself, and I've killed animals personally, as a child, and as a teenager, that's what we did. And you can, these are issues, environmental issues are real. But the health issues are, as a doctor, the things that people really need to focus on now. And there's just no question that if you're eating a muscle, a hunk of a muscle, which is what made it this meat is designed to move a cow's leg or move a chickens wings. And so it doesn't have any fiber doesn't have any complex carbohydrate, it doesn't have any vitamin C, it doesn't have the things you need. What it does have is a huge glob of protein and fat, mostly bad fat. And in extremis. You can you can live on that for a while, but you're not going to do so well. And anybody who says my grandfather lived to a ripe old age, well, maybe my grandfather on my mother's side died at about age 60 or 62. My grandfather on my father's side lived longer, but he was demented for the last 10 years of his life, and it was not an enviable existence. And we thought that was caused by old age and to a degree it is. But back in 2003, the Chicago Health and Aging project said it's not just heart attacks that are linked to a high saturated fat diet. It's a bad fat diet. It's a meaty, cheesy diet. It's also Alzheimer's disease. And they looked right in the bullseye of meat eating in America in Chicago, those people who ate relatively little saturated fat people even in the past, instead of the meat, they cut their risk of Alzheimer's by more than half. Now, these are associations, but they have been consistently found in other studies, suggesting that we're not going to live forever. But if we build our diets, from vegetables and fruits, and whole grains and beans, and all the delightful foods that that they become, that we can live longer, live better, lives slimmer, perform better athletically sexually in other ways, and that's the life that we want.

Alex Ferrari 7:24
Now, you mentioned that meat has a bad cholesterol, bad saturated fat. What is the difference between the cholesterol that plants have and the saturated fat the plants have versus the meat their meat counterparts?

Dr. Neal Barnard 7:39
Okay, great question. And thanks for letting me be clear about that. When we're talking about fat in in foods, the bad fats are saturated fat, that's dairy is the main source. That's what if you have a glass of whole milk, it's kind of creamy and thick. That saturated fat is what does that. And that's bad because it raises your cholesterol. Meat is the second biggest source of it. And there aren't really very many planets sources of it, there are a couple coconut oil and palm oil. And I would encourage people to avoid meat, avoid dairy and avoid the coconut and palm oil because they're all they will all raise your cholesterol level. So people talk about good fats, and there are only two. One is alpha linolenic acid, and the other is linoleic acid. Those are the only fats that you actually need to get from died because you can't make you can make all the others that you need. And those are primarily found in plants. Cholesterol is not found in plants to any substantial degree. It's found in animal products. And so if you eat a diet of plants, which can be delicious, I have to say I go if I go into my office, there's a Mexican restaurant, which will make a beautiful veggie fajita they got to be burrito and being tacos and next to it is a Chinese restaurant with rice dishes and vegetable dishes and tofu dishes. Across the street. There's an Indian place. Yes, spinach curries and chickpea curries and lentil soup and all these really exotic flavors and the Italian restaurant down the block also will make an angel hair pasta topped with an arrabiata sauce which is Italian for angry meaning spicy, but it's an all these things are vegan choices. So this delicious food. But when you eat these foods, you're getting virtually no saturated fat. In other words, that's no bad fat, and you're getting no cholesterol at all. And so your blood cholesterol level stays low. But you're also not getting any of the breakdown products of meat, which are associated with colorectal cancer, which you don't want. You're not getting the dairy which is associated with prostate cancer, which you definitely don't want.

Alex Ferrari 9:41
Now, there's been so much talk of inflammation in our bodies, and it's one of the main causes of disease and pains and as we get older, you start feeling it more and more when you're in your 20s you can go eat Taco Bell at three o'clock in the morning and survive. But now as you get older you start feeling these more and more. Is that Is that a fair statement that inflammation is, is is linked to a lot of those chronic diseases, chronic chronic pains? And if so what can we do to limit or bring down the inflammation in our body?

Dr. Neal Barnard 10:14
Yeah, what you said is exactly right. And it's an interesting thing, it's been kind of an emerging area of science over the past one or two decades. And for people who were a little bit mixed up about what this term really means, your body will make antibodies to attack viruses that might stumble in, you inhale a virus, or a bacterium gets into your body, and your white blood cells make antibodies to knock them out. And sometimes those antibodies will attack you. And one of the mechanisms that that they use is the release of inflammatory compounds, which are there to try to promote healing and to destroy bacteria, that kind of thing. So if an insect bites you, you can see inflammation right on the spot, that your skin swells up, and all that and it gets red. And that's because it's not the mosquito that did it, your body opened up those blood vessels to allow the antibodies to come in and knock out the germs. And so inflammation is sort of a crude response, but it's the best your body could come up with, to deal with an attack. Here's the problem. Inflammation gets triggered all the time. And it gets triggered sometimes by foods. Needy diet, what are you reading, you're eating cow proteins, or chicken proteins or protein, throw up fish that would never get inside the body of a great eight normally, and those appear to be able to trigger inflammation to you can measure it the most, the best known test is called CRP or C reactive protein. And a person comes into our Research Center, and they're they, they're 60 pounds overweight, and they got diabetes and high cholesterol. And so we'll put them on a completely vegan diet for those reasons. And they lose weight and their blood sugar's get dramatically better and things improve. But you can also measure CRP. And what you'll discover is that the inflammation in their body drops significantly and quickly. And that's because they're not, we believe that's because it's not eating these inflammatory foods anymore. But there's one new kind of cool payoff to this, in addition to all the other benefits that we mentioned. And that's for how people feel mentally. It turns out that depression, I'm talking about, can't sleep, no appetite, feeling miserable all the time. There's a there's an inflammatory component to that. Which is, was surprising to people to find her researchers to find, until they just reasoned that when your body is releasing inflammatory compounds to attack, something in your body, those compounds also circulate up to the brain. And they can affect how you feel mentally. And so we have found and others have found that when people follow this healthy plant based diet, inflammation doesn't just diminish, but also mood seems to get better. Now, don't get me wrong, your mood will not be perfect all the time. Because when you let people know that you're vegan, they will hit you with questions like where do you get your protein? And isn't that expensive? And I bet you like folk music and you won't get a big headache. As a result. Life will not be perfect for you. You get the idea.

Alex Ferrari 13:35
The main question. I always get as in where do you get your protein? And I just like, oh my god, it's just like it. That's such a ridiculous ignorant question. Because protein is everywhere. And and I always love asking, like, have you ever seen anybody with a protein deficiency? Anywhere? Have you ever seen someone wheeled into the emergency room like, Oh, this guy is really low on protein?

Dr. Neal Barnard 13:57
But you know, it's it's a funny thing, because when I was a kid growing up, you know, my mother was very well meaning and so she had been taught this kind of 1950s idea of nutrition, which was the protein is the meat. And then the vegetables are the vitamins, and then the starch like a potato or bread. That was the the calories and the energy. And so if the meat was gone, people couldn't figure out where there was protein. And then of course, it just as you said this exactly right. There's protein in grains is protein and vegetables. There's protein and a little bit of fruit, there's a lot of protein and beans. And protein is a little bit like oxygen. You know, when you breathe, most of what you're breathing is nitrogen in the air, but there's some oxygen and you could be an athlete, you know, you're rounding the band after you know completing your marathon. And nobody ever says where do you get your oxygen? It's just mixed in to the air and your body has the ability to breathe it in and pull the oxygen out and and if you're an athlete, you breathe faster and so you get more oxygen as a result of that. Your body was Designed voted that way a long time ago, to identify the protein in beans and vegetables and fruits in grains, pull it out and use it. And it is more than enough for your needs, assuming you're getting a normal very diet and aren't in a war zone where you're really restrictive, getting almost nothing. But on any kind of normal dairy diet, you're gonna get all the protein you need with no problem whatsoever. Your body was designed to do that a long time ago.

Alex Ferrari 15:26
Now, in your experience working with so many patients over the years, you know, there are overweight vegans, there are vegans who are plant based people who are not able to lose weight or maintain weight loss, but still are eating plant based diets. And yes, you can eat Oreo cookies, you can eat processed foods, but let's say for just for sake of argument that they're eating very minimal protein, very minimal processed foods, very minimal, mostly heavy in beans, lentils, rice, tofu, those kinds of those kinds of foods, generally eating around 1800 calories a day. 2000 calories a day. No drinks, no sodas, no juices. What do you think? What Why are there the fat vegan? And why are they not if they're not eating, it's not using oils and things like that. Just having you're just you're going,

Dr. Neal Barnard 16:29
The case you described is pretty rare. In our experience, both in our research studies, and here at the Barnard Medical Center, which is a primary care clinic, where we do live patient visits and lots of telehealth around the country. For people come in, and they have access Wait, I mean, which is true of the majority of American adults and people. And so we will encourage them to do is not to count their calories. And not to limit carbohydrate, which which freaks them out because they're so used to hearing that somehow rice is going to make you fat or whatever. Despite the fact that of course people in Japan are this is people on the planet eating lots of rice. But anyway, so we encourage them to sit the animal products aside, and to keep oily foods really low. So that's oils, it's nuts, it's guacamole, that kind of stuff. And what you see is that virtually everybody loses weight, a lot of weight, and they lose it quickly. Now the rate is different for different people. But roughly, or maybe half a pound to a pound a week for the pretty expectable bit of weight. And a person might say, gee, if I'm only losing a pound a week, that's kind of slow. Well, there's 52 weeks in a year, and you didn't put it on that fast, you put it on, you know a couple of pounds per year, year after year after year. So we encourage people to take it up gradually. But that's what happens. Now, there will be cases where people get stuck. And they're they're not losing weight, or they were at for awhile, and now they're not losing weight anymore. So what we always do is we say okay, let's let's write down everything we're eating for a day or two days. And then we look through it. And what you'll usually see is either some cooking oil, or nuts, or avocados or something like that. And the reason that those show up is that fats have nine calories and every gram carbohydrates have only four. And so if a person is eating carbohydrates, the carbohydrate and grains and beans and so forth, it's very hard to maintain excess body weight, if that's what you're eating. But it's really easy to make an excess body weight, maintain excess body weight if you're eating a lot of fat. So where this will come in, as somebody will say, I got this bottle of extra virgin olive oil cost me 45 bucks, but it's worth it. It's so tasty. And it's all healthy, isn't it? And it is I mean, it's held much healthier than butter, no question about it. Much better than chicken fat, no question. But it will slow down your your weight loss just like any other fat. So that's that's where we usually are. And the reason that I want to emphasize that, is there some people who will blame themselves they'll say, Well, I'm not doing it right or, or I need to exercise more or something like that. And that's really not the issue. Exercise is great, but it's a pretty tough way to burn up serious amounts of weight. Unless you're making a really good diet change.

Alex Ferrari 19:25
Yeah, I mean, you're gonna have to be burning 2000 calories, you really got to be burning a lot and really abusing the body in order to make that to make that stick.

Dr. Neal Barnard 19:36
It's you know, you can go to the gym and get on one of those treadmills. It's got the little calorie burner number dialer. So you run you know, run flat out for a mile and then push a little button it says 100 calories. You think that's less than half a Dr Pepper. So okay, you know, you run some more and you run some more tomorrow. And what happens is every athlete whether you're a well trained athlete So we'll try and you discover that you will lose a little bit of weight. But in a typical case, but people typically, because they're burning calories, they also eat more in response, and it ends up becoming an equilibrium. Don't get me wrong I love running anyway is a great thing. It's good for your brain. Researchers have shown that exercise is associated with a reduced risk of, of Alzheimer's. I believe that's probably true, although we need more research. But my only point is that a person should not hope that with exercise, they can burn off the calories in their cheese pizza is better. It's better to not take it

Alex Ferrari 20:37
Better not to eat the cheese pizza, this is going to take you a long time to burn off that that slice or that whole class

Dr. Neal Barnard 20:43
And get on a plane and go straight to Rome, and go into any pizzeria in the city. And I promise you, every single pizzeria in Rome and everywhere else in Italy has one or two pizzas that happen to be became the no cheese on them at all Americans ever heard of that. We thought pizzas not pizza unless it's drowning in an inch of cheese on the original pizzas, some of them have cheese. Some of them don't. Cheese is kind of like a Northern European thing that has drifted to the rest of the world in the past. Over the past 20 years or so we figured it was one of life's great staples. But frankly, cheese is almost as bad as Vaseline.

Alex Ferrari 21:24
So wheat products, a lot of people talk about we product breads in our lives, talk about lectins and how they're hitting you in the gut and all these kinds of things. Should you avoid bread because it's not a natural quote unquote, natural occurring food that is created manmade created food. Or like because you're saying pastas and things like that. That's all based on gluten and wheat. Generally speaking, Jimmy, there are other versions of it. But is that something we should avoid?

Dr. Neal Barnard 21:53
I don't think so. I think they're fine. And people have been healthy slim. And at very low risk of chronic diseases, eating wheat and other grains Different. Different cultures have different grains. In a in most Asian countries, it's rice. In Latin America, it's corn. And in some European countries, it's wheat, and our there might be millet. And there are all different kinds of grains that are used, it's good to explore them all. But the gluten containing grains are wheat, and barley and rye. And I would say 80% of people eating them do great. They love them. And they have no problem with that whatsoever. About 1% of people are a little bit less than 1% has celiac disease. And if you eat wheat is going to kill you. You can't. It's like if you're if you get anaphylaxis from a strawberry, it doesn't matter if a strawberry is healthy for everybody else, you can't have it. And so if you have celiac disease, you just can't have wheat, barley or rye or anything else it's got, it's got gluten in it. And then the other 10 or 20% of people roughly will try a gluten free diet. And sometimes they feel better when they do it. And when I say feel better, I mean mentally or digestive wise, that's about it, nothing else is better. But if and if they do, that's fine. So you can go to Whole Foods and get a vegan pizza that's made with a rice crust, which has no gluten in it at all. And if you feel better you can you can avoid gluten. But if if you discover most people who go gluten free discover it doesn't make a difference. But there's no nothing wrong with going gluten free. The only concern that I have is that for whatever reason. People like to avoid the obvious issue. I've never quite known why they're eating a steak. They're overweight, they got a high cholesterol. And they want to focus on everything other than the obvious thing is that they're eating an animal carcass. They want to focus on gluten free or foods organic or not, or this or that. And the other thing is the GMO. And what they need to do is to just get the mountains off their plate as John one. And once we've done that, we can start talking about some of these other issues, but they are they are really minor issues compared to what it means. If you take go to go to Gumby and take a chimpanzee who's number one favorite food is fruit. They eat lots of it all the time. And then he leaves and shoots he said, No, I want you to get a taste for ice cream. And cheese and sour cream. And the chimpanzee would probably think you know this came from a cow. Why would a cow ever contributed product for for a human a human being or anybody else? It's just because we're creative. We come up with these funny foods that Nature never had mind for us. And you can make a chimpanzee just as sick as a person as a human being. I'm not suggesting you do this. But my point is that we somehow think that it's normal for us to eat meat and eat dairy. And the only reason we think it's normal is that anything we grew up with and that our parents gave us that we had in schools were things that we just didn't really think of. So we accept a their values and their foods and their habits and all these, their holidays, and all this kind of stuff. But if you stand back and look at what really goes into your body, you come to very different conclusions. Now our job here is to put these things to the test. So the reason I can speak confidently about it is that we have done tests of all different kinds of diets in many, many people. And the results are clear and consistent.

Alex Ferrari 25:21
You were mentioning before about a fog that happens, I remember when I used to eat meat, long time ago, there was this meat fog that I didn't know I was under until I juiced for seven days, I did a juice fast for seven days. And that's kind of what restarted my whole tastebuds in my system and everything. And then I just lost the taste for me. And after that, but I remember the second I stopped eating meat, my mind became so sharp, things became so much clearer. And it was literally like a haze and lifted off. And it's very weird. And it's very difficult to explain that feeling. But that is a thing, isn't it?

Dr. Neal Barnard 25:58
Yeah, and I think I think there's a pretty clear explanation for it. You see it, I think this is the Thanksgiving afternoon syndrome. People have this big dinner, and then they want to watch the football game. But by about 230, they're all asleep on the couch, and they've got no energy and they can't get on can't do anything. And they they've come up with all kinds of mythological explanations like it must have been the tryptophan or whatever, it has nothing to do with it in the gravy, and in the cheese tray. And in the meat is a lot of fat, especially the saturated fat. When you eat it, those fat molecules go into your blood, and they make your blood more viscous, more thick, it's more like grease less like water. And so you can't oxygenate your brain very well, because your blood is not flowing. And you can, by the way can measure this. It affects your blood pressure, and it affects the tissue oxygenation. And so people feel it just really slow. Now, there are lots of other reasons why people can be in fog. But I think that's number one. And that's the big reason why mediators very often have an afternoon slowdown. That, you know, they got to take a nap, which after they're vegan for a while they realize, gee, that's anymore. I'm getting by and asleep. I think it's really just blood disconsolate. And by the way, this is also probably why athletes do so well on vegan diets. It started off with a really ultra long distance runners, but then the tennis players like Novak Djokovic, and Serena and Venus Williams and many others football players. Oh, yeah, yeah, exactly. You know, it started with the runners and the tennis players and then even the power sports, like football, they think, you know, I want to be big, but I don't want to be flabby. You know, it's nice to have mostly muscle and to be able to be quick and agile and alert and and then you see it in other sports like Formula One, you know, with Lewis Hamilton, and others but, but the blood viscosity, I mean, it doesn't help you. It's like your car, if you pick you know, guys all know this, they they go to the store, you gotta get the right viscosity for your car. If you get the wrong one your card isn't gonna perform very well and your muscles and your brain don't perform if you've got Vaseline going through your blood. And that's it comes from gravy and meat and cheese.

Alex Ferrari 28:08
Now, another thing that there's a billion dollar industry wrapped around his vitamins and supplements. So many people think that you have to take vitamins every day, I take a bold tea every day just to be on the safe side a couple of things as a vegan like vitamin D, we're all kind of lacking. So I you know, I've been told by nutritionists and doctors taking vitamin D, the omegas. I take a plant based omega omega three and six. And I think that's an appropriate appropriate and post biotics. Why do we need vitamin supplements? Do we need a multi do we need 1000 different supplements that you have to take to be super healthy?

Dr. Neal Barnard 28:50
Wow, what a fabulous question. There's one that you really do need and that's vitamin B 12. And you need it for healthy nerves and healthy blood. And it's in the multi that you're getting. But people don't really need the multi because everything else in it you're getting from plants, from vegetables and so on and so forth. So if you if you wanted to throw away your multiple multiple vitamin and just get B 12 You could the amount you need is 2.4 micrograms and because the funny thing it's not made by animals isn't made by plants it's made by bacteria. And so a lot of people speculate that before the the era of modern hygiene, the bacteria in the soil and our hands on our vegetables and whatever we give us the traces we need to I don't know if that's really true. In a cow was intestinal tract there's B 12 made by bacteria and so it gets into the meat and your intestinal tract is the same bacteria in it but it doesn't look like the absorption is so hot from from the bacterial sources in for us. So anyway don't play around with it do take a bit of supplements. Why not take a multi? The only reason against the multi is that most of them have not only the vitamins which are are harmless for you. But they have iron ore, they have copper. And that's not harmless. iron and copper are associated with Alzheimer's disease. And you need traces of iron and traces of copper, which you're already getting from the other foods you're eating. And if you add more, your, we need more evidence on this. But our best evidence now suggests that your risk of brain deterioration later in life was higher if you have more copper and more iron. And in fact, like the Centrum company, they learned a long time ago that that people over 50 should stop taking iron supplements. And so Centrum silver doesn't have iron in it at all for that reason, but they're way behind on science. So they still pack copper in there because they just have to update to do so I suggest B 12. And not a multi. But you know there are Multis that are called vitamins only. That's what their brand is cold, they're fine. Because they don't have the iron on the copper. Vitamin D is normally in nature wouldn't be required at all. Because it comes from the sunlight hitting your skin. The UV rays make vitamin D and that's that's what your body's designed to do. However, if it's February and you live in Maine, or if it's if you're in Miami, and you use a sunscreen, you're not making vitamin D. So since we are not living in nature anymore, to take vitamin D does make sense and and most doctors would suggest maybe 2000 views a day. Omega threes are are really controversial. Nobody knows the answer to I am persuaded that if people have somehow managed to run low in omega three that they might be at higher risk for dementia later in life. The brain needs some DHA. But I'm also persuaded that when people take fish oil capsules, they don't see evidence of benefit is really new. And the evidence of harm has come in, in a peculiar direction is that that a higher intake of omega threes is linked to prostate cancer. And at first we thought that was a complete fluke, whatsoever it what's the relationship between omega threes and prostate cancer and to this day, we don't know. But you see it in study after study after study after study, the guys are taking the high, you know high amounts of Omega three in the end of prostate cancer. So if a person wants to, here's my advice, which I may have to revise if we get more data. But as of this moment in time, what you can do is you can measure your Omega three level in your blood. There are companies like Omega quant and others you go on their website, they'll send you a little card you put a drop of blood on and they'll say here's your EPA level. Here's your DHA. If you are low, and you decide I want to pump it up, don't eat fish. I mean, because you're not loving Mercury, DDT and all the other stuff isn't a fish. I mean, the fish doesn't want you to eat them anyway. So what you can do is go online and you can buy DHA and EPA the very same stuff that's in fish oil, but you get it without the fish. There is vegan DHA, which is what I take. Yeah, yeah is V, and they're fine V and DHA, EPA, and you take it for six months, and get tested again and see where you are. So that's probably where we are.

Alex Ferrari 33:14
So what's the difference between omega three and six and DHA, DHA and EPA?

Dr. Neal Barnard 33:20
Okay. DHA Omega three, just means that that three molecule three atoms away from the end of the molecule, the Omega end of the molecule, there's a double bond. So they said Omega three, that's a kind of classic molecule. So one of these has 18 carbons on it. One's got 20, one's got 22. And there's a whole bunch of others, but they're all omega threes. So DHA is an Omega three, and EPA is one and your your body makes these out of alpha linoleic acid, which is in lots of lots of vegetables, your average person isn't eating their vegetables or their beans. And so they say I've got to have a fish. But your body is designed to take the plant based omega threes and lengthen. Now that process gets really slow, especially if you're eating lots of other fats that that compete with the with the enzymes that will lengthen it. But bottom line is I have a lot of green leafy vegetables that are a great source of Omega three, don't have a lot of other fats with them, get tested. And if you want to supplement you can but with the caveats I mentioned

Alex Ferrari 34:31
I think thank you for that information because I've there's so much misinformation out there about vitamins and supplements and you should be taking this and should be taking that. Which brings me to another supplement that I take all the time. And this is not just on my own personal questions, but I know a lot of people talk about this is probiotics. And the important now there's a lot of research coming out about the microbiome and how important it is to not only your health but your immune system to the functioning of your brain. It is you know as I forgot the father of medicine said that the health begins in the gut. If Am I right? Or that someone famous in the medical world once said, In ancient times, health starts in the gut? Can you talk about the importance of microbiome, the microbiome and what we can do to help it? And should we taking a probiotic, a prebiotic, a post product? That kind of stuff?

Dr. Neal Barnard 35:23
Okay, wonderful question. You're absolutely right. A lot of people are buying your products that are confused about whether they should be doing that or not. You do need a healthy gut microbiome. And the bank microbiome just means the bacteria and related microorganisms that live inside you. Now, some of them are a little ordinary, and can harm you and some are helpful and make products that are good for health. The ordinary ones, for example, will take your digestive juices and turn them into carcinogens. And you'll end up with colorectal cancer, you don't want that. So what determines whether you have a healthy microbiome, what determines it is not the little pill of probiotics that you bought at the store. Because it's only that big, and the gut population is much, much, much bigger than that. And it's not the cup of yogurt that you bought somewhere. That's a waste of time. It doesn't matter what brand it is, or, you know, what, how many colonies or whatever they can run there. These are really trivial doses. In the end, you don't need them at all, what really matters is everything else you're eating. Because if you're eating a high fiber diet of healthy vegetables, and fruits, whole grains and beans, that allows the healthy bacteria to flourish. And it's a little bit like, let's say I want to grow some wildflowers, I got a pasture outside my house, and I want to grow some wildflowers. And I'm waiting and you know, the winds are blowing in I keep thinking the wildflowers are going to come in and populate but nothing happens. So I go to the gardener, I say what's the matter. And he says well bring me a soil sample. So I bring him with soil. And he says this is all rock. And then if you want to grow cactus, you could do that. But flowers forget. Your gut is like that, if you're eating the kinds of things that that cause the bad bacteria to flourish, that's what's going to happen. You want to grow wildflowers, you put a very different kind of soil out there, which is not going to be necessarily so rocky or whatever it might be. Or if you want to grow roses, you want a certain kind of soil. So to have a healthy gut microbiome, forget the bacteria that you've consumed. Even after having had antibiotics, you cleared out your gut microbiome, you don't need to repopulate it, it will do this on its own very fast. But when you don't need to do is to get away from me cheese, oils, grease, and you treat your intestinal tract to what it's really hoping, which is the vegetables and fruits and heart rates.

Alex Ferrari 37:51
Now, there's also been a lot of talk in regards to intermittent fasting or fasting in general and that there's health benefits and longevity studies stating that if you fast, a little bit more, eat less, you live longer. What's your concept? What do you think about intermittent fasting in general,

Dr. Neal Barnard 38:09
I think it's okay, I think it's perfectly safe. Where we run into troubles are number one, if a person says I don't think I need to go vegan, I just need to eat last I need to do intermittent fasting, you're living in denial, you know, the five days when you're eating normally will create more than of atherosclerotic risk for you. Secondly, after doing it, let's say a person says I read this book and it says I'm going to eat for five days, and then for two days, I'm gonna be much less. And then after about week three, what they discover is they're anticipating eating less. So the day before their two day fast, the more and the day afterwards, they eat a lot more. And then about two weeks after that, they give it all up, and they never think about it again. But if a person really does want to eat less certain days, that's perfectly fine to do, as long as we're not kind of overdoing it on the other days. And I have to say that when people do much more serious fasting, there are medical centers that will do supervised fasting, that and here what I'm talking about is where you're really not eating or the water fasting, and you do it for weeks. But you should never do this on your own. You do this in a facility where they monitor you and they watch your health because because it's it's a big change for the system. But there are a lot of people who have done very, very well, using that kind of fasting and I would encourage people to explore it as long as it's done in a reputable center.

Alex Ferrari 39:34
Now, there's also been talk over the years about the Paleo diet and the keto diet, and all these different kinds of diets. What is your take on these versions, even if they're plant based because I know there's a Keto version that's more plant based has no animal products in it. You can I'm asking the question because there's so many people that get bombarded with all of these diets and everyone's trying to Like I the right way, and this is the right way. Can you explain what your feeling is on it? And is it something that we should even be paying attention to?

Dr. Neal Barnard 40:08
I don't think we should be doing either paleo or keto, no matter what, but, but I'll give you maybe some more detail about it. The ketogenic diet started out as the Atkins diet decades ago, and Robert Atkins said, really a mythological thing, that the reason you're fat is because you're eating sugar, and you're eating carbohydrate, you're eating bread. And he was kind of hoping that nobody would ever actually look up the nutrition tables and discover that carbohydrate is only four calories per gram. What matters much more is the butter on the bread and the butter and sour cream and cheese all over your potato. But he said, you know, don't eat the carbs. And so because carbohydrate is 50 or 60%, of what you eat, you take all that away, you lose weight. And also because you're now not eating cookies, you're not only not getting the carbohydrate in the cookie, but you're not getting the butter, that was a cookie. And so people will lose weight for that reason. However, the problem is that in the way that this was done, and still typically is done, you what you're left with is meat, which doesn't have carbohydrates, and you're at a must click on muscle. And that gets old really quickly. But for a lot of people, that means their cholesterol goes up. Not everybody because if you're kind of stuck, semi starving yourself by not eating all the other foods, and your weight really drops, sometimes cholesterol will fall. But for a lot of people doing this, the cholesterol goes up. But the bigger problem is that now you're eating all the foods that are linked to colorectal cancer and to to Alzheimer's disease and other things that you just don't want. And there isn't any advantage to that over just a diet that allows you to get all the carbohydrate you want. As a plant based diet, you know, when we bring in people in our research studies, they eat as much as they want and that will be carbohydrate group. They're eating healthy greens and, and whole grains, legumes and fruits and so forth, without worrying about these things. Now, some people have said, Okay, well I can do a ketogenic diet. And people love the word keto, because it has only four letters. And for some reason that always makes a word more attractive. And sells books better than Atkins, which is two syllables. And so a ketogenic diet sounds trendy, but it's basically the same old blame bred diet with the same lack of benefit really, and same risks. When people said, well, I can do it as vegan, so I'm just gonna eat avocados all day or, you know, whatever. I mean, there aren't that many fatty plant based foods. But if you eat lots and lots of nuts and avocado, you can avoid carbohydrate and see where that takes you. But there's really no reason to be doing that. And, and the risks that of course, are you're not getting the nutrients that were in the fruits that you're afraid of eating an apple or an orange. Well, these are these are vitamin rich foods. With with the Paleo diet. This is basically appealing to men's men's desire to intimidate other men. But I'm kind of a caveman or whatever. And so I'm going to eat meat and other things that make me sound Macho. It's it's a variant of the typical American diet and not at all healthy, obviously.

Alex Ferrari 43:22
Yeah, I saw that movie game changers about vegan athletes and Arnold's coming out there. And he's Arnold Schwarzenegger. You know, one of the most manly men in film history saying, it's not manly to eat meat anymore. I used to eat it before and he explained how the whole concept like you need to eat me to make me feel like a man. And, you know, if you watch that movie, it's it's a fantastic, it's all the big power lifters just eating plants and they're just, you know, breaking records and it's fascinating to watch. Can you there's also there's a demonized vegetable, that I love you to kind of demystify or take the mythbuster about potatoes and starches in general. Is there supposed to be the devil, you know? Now of course, if you deep fry anything, you get deep fried kale and it's you're gonna have some problems, but potatoes and general starches. Can you talk about how that is that it's okay to eat them. It's, it's, I'm gonna get you that

Dr. Neal Barnard 44:27
Your car runs on gasoline, probably. If you have a gas powered car, your brain runs on glucose. Your muscles run on glucose. A marathon runner is carbo loading and today's up to the race because they're trying to get glucose into their body and it's stored in their liver, it's stored in their muscles. Every runner knows this. It's stored as glycogen. And so they want that glucose to power their muscles and power their brain. And if let's say you run out of glucose, you will die. Your brain can't function without it. a state of total hypoglycemia. And a potato is giving you the glucose that's healthy for you. That's what starch is. And so we are naturally drawn to starches, because they give us helpful alpha glucose that powers our body. Now, you want to have your potatoes with other things, because the green leafy vegetables and the fruits that have been with our species for as long as you know, over the entire evolutionary process, they give us other things that aren't in the potato, a lot of additional vitamins and so forth. So it shouldn't be all potatoes, obviously. And the big problem in many countries is what you do to the potato comes out of the oven. And on goes the butter on girls, the sour cream on goes the cheese. And these things are kind of addictive. And we think you know, that's what the potatoes for. Or we slice that potato into French fries or potato chips. And then it soaks up quite a lot of grease and a lot of salt. And so we just find various ways to kind of make it less healthy, but the potato itself is perfectly fine. And I would think about its cousins like sweet potatoes in the end. And enjoy enjoy these sorts of questions.

Alex Ferrari 46:13
Now, I wanted to ask you a question. When I went on my juice cleanse prior to my juice cleanse, over a decade ago, I was pre diabetic. And then I did a week, I think it was a week or two weeks of juice, drinking vegetable juice and an apple apple juice and things like that, that I juiced myself. And I did my blood test afterwards. And it had dropped to like 71 And it was at one in 10 I think it was so counterintuitive, because I'm like I was drinking sugar, juice, you know, with vegetable juice, I was drinking all this this juice. So you would think that the blood sugar would go up, but it dropped dramatically. I just loved it. I've never asked the doctor this what do you think happened?

Dr. Neal Barnard 46:58
Um, first of all, congratulations on doing that your experience is exactly everybody else's experience. And the reaction is the same as I'm eating these natural sugars, how's that my body could handle them. My body, my body took that sugar out of my foods and it just put it to use in my body, it didn't store it up my blood sugar is lower than it was before. So you were at 110. And now then you go down to 70 Whatever, whatever you do this, here's why. And forgive me if I'm gonna get a little technical for 30 seconds. Sugar normally glucose normally comes from it goes into your blood, and it goes to your brain powers your brain, it goes to your muscles power your it's your muscles in order to eat, but that those glucose molecules that came from starch, it came from juice and fruit and whatever that glucose molecule has to get inside your muscle cell to power it. It can't get into the muscle cell until insulin, which is a hormone maybe your pancreas. Insulin key goes through your blood, it arrives at the surface of the cell, it's just like a little kid opens up the surface of the cell, the glucose goes inside. So and that works for everybody. You know, your insulin lets glucose come inside your blood sugar never built up very high. Except you're born in America. And so we're eating cheese and meat and fried foods and a lot of fat. The fat from our foods goes into the blood and it goes inside the muscle cell. And you were not aware of this. But bit by bit pizza by pizza chicken wing by chicken wing, the fat is building up inside your muscles, I'm not talking about belly fat, I'm not talking about fight that I'm talking about fat, microscopic bits of fat inside your muscle cells. Now the insulin key arrives at the surface of the cells as I'm gonna lay glucose into that cell. But the key doesn't work. The key can't work, it's like it's like if you put your front door key into a lock that somebody had jammed with chewing gum, your key is fine with the gum is messing up the lock. So fatty foods, stop your muscle cells from being able to pull sugar out of them. And then you decide, wait a minute, I'm gonna stop eating for a little while. I'm not gonna need any cheese at all. I'm not gonna eat animal products at all. There's no zero animal fat in your diet. And if you keep oils really low, too, there's not much of any kind of fat in your diet and the fat that's built up inside each muscle cell starts to dissipate starts to go away. And you're not aware that but I can measure it with Mr. Spectroscopy, it's a special I can look inside your muscles. And it's going away if that's going away. So now your insulin is working again and it takes that sugar that you're consuming and it just jams it right into the muscles where you can use it. See what I mean? So if a person has got type two diabetes, and they go to the doctor who is well meaning but completely ill informed and the doctor says well, if I were you I wouldn't eat too much fruit. And I don't think you've seen she ran a race. Those are the healthy sources of glucose. That was never the problem. The problem was his cells are filled with fat that stops the glucose from getting in. So you get the junk out of your diet, get the meat and dairy out of your diet, use a vegan diet, which has no animal products, keep the oils low, his insulin sensitivity will return, his natural insulin will be able to work better, and his blood sugar goes bad. And it happens really fast. If if a person comes in here, and it's let's say today, let's say it's Monday morning, and I see them. By Tuesday, I'm waiting for them to call me. Because the if they're still on insulin, and the insulin is driving their sugar down, and I just gave them the world's most powerful anti diabetes diet of the day, the combination can be so strong, that you got to start bringing them down with their medicines. And they are thrilled because their blood sugar's dropping on its own without their medicines, and is you need less and less medicine sometimes to get off them completely. Sometimes all traces of the diabetes go away, and they say, wait a minute, I'm eating more or carbohydrate than ever before. That never was the problem. The problem was animal products and vegetable oils, jamming fat inside the cell boxing up its ability to get the sugar out of the blood. And we can fix that we can turn that around, I don't care how old you are, I don't care how long you've had diabetes, you could start to turn this around. Now, the sooner I get you, the better your chances of being free to diabetes.

Alex Ferrari 51:25
Now, we've been talking a lot about diet, exercise, how much exercise should or should a person need on a daily basis, truly, to just maintain a healthy diet for longevity, a healthy body for longevity sake, making sure that joints are moving and you have a strong, you know, muscular structure, and so on and so forth. Because there's again, so much misinformation about how much you have to work, you need to work out two hours a day, you need to work out so many hours a week, and you got to do all this or that what how much do we really need as we get older,

Dr. Neal Barnard 51:58
You know, everybody has kind of different goals. And I'll just I'll give you a few different numbers that might apply to different people. And first of all, let me say that all of the benefits that we have documented in our research studies come without using exercise at all, I'm talking about people's diabetes improving or going away, losing very substantial loads of weight and, and the reason that it comes without exercise is because we don't let them change their exercise patterns. Because for research purposes, we are focusing just on diet. So we say don't bring the exercise into it, that's going to confound what we're doing. So the reason I say this is there are people who are not able to do substantial amounts of exercise, either due to disability or to be because they're very, very heavy or something like that. So the diet changes alone are extremely powerful. However, if you're let's assume you're able to exercise then a couple of numbers, there was a surprising study out of the University of Illinois that showed that people who are up in the years and we're having the beginnings of sort of cognitive problems, if they would do just a 40 minute brisk walk three times a week, that was enough to improve cognition, and to even to an extent reverse the hippocampal shrinkage that you see in the brain. So that's not much a 40 minute brisk walk three times a week, most people can do that. If you're new, if you're let's say you're completely new to exercise, what they did in that study was just a 15 minute brisk walk three times a week. And then every week, they added five minutes, like 2022 2025 24 25. Now, a lot of us are not going to be satisfied with this. So you might well say, Well, you know, I'd really like to lace up my sleep sneakers and go running. And if you want to do that, that's great. Some people want to take a day off in between some people like to do it every day. My colleague, Jim Loomis, who was a doctor in game changers and works here at Barnard Medical Center. He'll say man exercise for an hour, do it most days. And of course, he's a triathlete. I mean, that's the way he lives. But um, so you could do, you could do any of these things. Do what you want, do what feels good for you. Do it safely get good shoes, have somebody look after your joints. But for me personally, I have to say I like to run about, you know, 5k or so every other day, something like that to where I feel good. And sometimes it doesn't feel like enough. Sometimes I'd like to a little bit more. But I feel like it kind of as long approaching 70 It's kind of keeping me younger.

Alex Ferrari 54:26
You look at you look fantastic. So for your age. Thank God, I didn't know it was at all.

Dr. Neal Barnard 54:31
Well, I had no idea that that'll leave there but I looked at the calendar is amazing.

Alex Ferrari 54:36
Dr. Neil, where can people find out more about you your books, your work and how they can contact you.

Dr. Neal Barnard 54:41
Thank you for asking. My latest book is called Your body in balance. And I have to say I was really excited about this. I've written others too. But the reason I wrote this is we discovered that we could control our hormones. I'm talking about insulin I mentioned insulin and diabetes. You can control estrogens and testosterone. You can control thyroid hormone Based on what you eat, and in turn, those hormones affect so many things in your body I got all excited about. So that's why I wrote this. This book, and I'm hoping people will look at it's called Your body in balance. Our website here is pcrm.org. It stands for Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine pcrm.org. And our clinic is the Barnard Medical Center, its website is barnardmedical.org. And, and we see people all over, we're in Washington, DC, but we see people in New York and California and everywhere in between, practically by telemedicine. So, anyway, we love to connect with people. And and by the way, let me just say thank you to you. What your wonderful voice for health and for, for really wanting to look carefully at what's good and what's not. What's the evidence that we have, and to help people to keep an open mind. And to weigh the evidence is a great thing. I'm sure you'll never have any idea how many lives you've saved. But it's a lot and my hat's off to you for spreading the message as you do.

Alex Ferrari 55:55
I appreciate that very much, my friend. Thank you for the good work you've done throughout your career. So I appreciate you my friend. Thanks again for coming on the show.

Dr. Neal Barnard 56:02
My pleasure. Thanks a million!

 

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