Benefits of Broccoli Sprouts, Sulforaphane and the NRF2 pathway

Disclaimer – do not take the content of this blog as medical advise.  It is for information purposes only.

In this blog, I’m going to talk about the benefits of broccoli sprouts, sulforaphane, the NRF2 pathway and their association to reduced cancer risk.  From all the research I’ve done over the years, it’s my opinion that broccoli sprouts are one of the most powerful, potentially the most powerful supers food on the planet.  And the great news is that we can easily grow them at home, and they are very cheap to make!

Broccoli sprouts obviously grow to become the mature broccoli we buy in the supermarket, and broccoli is part of the cruciferous  vegetable family which also includes spinach, kale, brussel sprouts and cauliflower among many others.  The special thing about the cruciferous family is that when eaten, they all contain compounds known as isothiocyanates which are well known for their health benefits. However, the reason I’m focusing on broccoli and broccoli sprouts is because they contain an isothiocyanate called sulforaphane which is especially powerful in terms of its anticancer properties and as such a lot of scientific research has been done around it.  So sulforaphane found in broccoli is the key focus of this blog and I really think of it as a miracle compound when it comes to health and longevity.

One of the reasons that sulforaphane is so special is that it’s the most potent naturally occurring dietary activator of a genetic pathway in body called NRF2.  NRF2 is an amazing pathway that controls over 200 genes in the body, many of which slow cellular aging.

Here are some of the things the NRF2 pathway is believed to do –

1)  Protects from cancer by reducing the DNA damage we get from carcinogens (which are known to cause cancer) both by reducing the production of of them in the body, and also increasing the excretion of them from the body.

2) It deactivates inflammatory genes.  Reducing inflammation is probably the most powerful way to prevent disease across the board.

3) It activates antioxidant genes which protect DNA from damage

4) it lowers the damage that accumulates in our cells overtime which can eventually cause them to be non functional.

In short, NRF2 is a pretty bad ass pathway in the body and sulforaphane from broccoli will increase the activation of this gene.  So personally, I want to hammer my NRF2 pathway!  

So now I want to talk about some studies that show that cruciferous vegetables that contain isothiocyanates like sulforaphane, may actually reduce the risk of cancer.

So bladder cancer.  One study showed that men who ate two or more half cup servings of broccoli a week had a 44% reduction of bladder cancer compared to men who had less than one serving per week.  Another showed that men who already had bladder cancer, had a 57% reduction of mortality by eating just 4 servings of broccoli per month, compared to those who had one serving per month.

Next, breast cancer.  Multiple studies have shown that women who ate at least one serving of cruciferous vegetables a day, had between a 17% to 50% reduction in breast cancer compared to those who ate it once a week

Lung cancer.  A study showed that smokers, who ate at least four and half servings of raw cruciferous vegetables a month, had a 55% reduction in lung cancer risk, compared to those who ate less than two and half servings per month.

Prostate cancer. Men who ate between three to five servings of cruciferous vegetables a week, had a 41% decrease in prostate cancer risk, compared to those who ate less than one serving per week.  

Another study showed that men who already had prostate cancer were given 60 mg of sulforaphane a day (140g for fresh broccoli sprouts) resulting in the slowing of the doubling rate of the biomarker for prostate cancer called prostate specific antigen (or PSA) by 86% compared to placebo or those who didn’t have any sulforaphane.  

Another study showed that 35mg of sulforaphane (instead of the 60mg) was given to men with prostate cancer every day, and that slowed the doubling rate of the PSA by 57%.  So there seems to be a dose dependent effect meaning the more we take the more benefit we’ll get.

So those are some pretty strong associations and make a good case for cruciferous veggies contain isothiocyanates, especially sulforaphane.  

So the title of this blog benefits of broccoli sprouts, so why sprouts and not broccoli?  To answer that, let’s talk about how the sulforaphane is made in broccoli.  It’s actually made from a precursor molecule called glucoraphanin (found in the broccoli).  Glucoraphanin is converted into sulforaphane by an enzyme also found in the broccoli called myrosinase.  This process happens when the broccoli is chopped, crushed or chewed.  It’s a actually a defence mechanism to ward of bugs looking to eat the broccoli or the seed.  If a bug starts chewing on the broccoli, the cell in broken causing the myrosinase enzyme to react with the precursor glucoraphanin to make sulforaphane, the sulporahane has a slightly bitter taste which causing the bug to go ‘bleh’ and leave the broccoli alone.

The reason we want to eat broccoli sprouts over broccoli, is that it contains up to one hundred times more glucorhapanine (which converts to sulforaphane) than broccoli.  So we get much more bang for our buck.  Now,  brocolli seed contains even more glucoraphanin than sprouts but it’s very, very bitter.  I went about two weeks of grinding the seed and drinking down with water, but eventually I had to give up because it was just too bitter.  

As I say, sulforaphane is made when you chop, chew or crush the broccoli.  So the best way to prepare it is to blend it in a smoothy.  You really do need to eat it raw as excessive heating can actually deactivate the enzyme that converts glucoraphanin into sulforaphane, so you won’t get the benefits if you boil it.  However, light steaming has been shown to increase the sulforaphane, and also freezing it and then blending from frozen also been shown to increase the sulforaphane.  

Now, you can make broccoli sprouts from home very easily.  All you need is the seed, and I recommend you buy organic and you should be able to find it at your local health food store.  And you need a jar to sprout it in, and something to be able to drain the water with.  If you’d like to learn how to make them, I will be doing a video on how, and when it’s available I’ll put the link here!

Okay, let’s do a quick recap.  So there have been a lot of studies that show eating cruciferous vertetbales (that include broccoli, kale and spinach) many reduce the risk of many forms of cancer, which are likely due to the health benefits of the isothiocyanates that they contain.  However, we believe broccoli may be especially powerful because it contains the isothiocyanate sulforaphane which is the most potent activate of the NRF2 pathway that we know of from food.  Remember the NRF2 pathway controls over 200 genes, some of which protect from cancer, deactivate inflammatory genes, activate antioxidant genes and help to reduce the accumulation of damage to our cells.  Sulforaphane is made from glucoraphanin, and broccoli sprouts contain 100 more than mature broccoli.  We want to eat it raw because cooking it will deactivate the enzyme myrosinase, which is responsible for converting the glucoraphanin into sulforaphane.

 

How to burn fat while you sleep

In this blog I’m going to talk about how we can burn fat while we sleep.

So why do we want to burn fat in the first place?  We’ll I think the obvious reason is that it’s important to prevent obesity or being overweight, or if we are already obese, then it’s even more important to burn fat to get back to normal weight levels.  Obesity has been shown to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, but it also doubles the risk of many different types of cancer and neurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer’s.  Studies have shown that being obese is associated with taking 7 years of the lifespan, and in extreme cases of morbid obesity it’s as much as 14 years.  So if we can burn off our excess fat and keep our weight to a healthy range, not only do we look much better and have higher self esteem but we also reduce our risk of disease.  

Now most of associate pain to losing weight, we pictures hours grinding away on the treadmill and eating salad.  However, the good news is that there is super power that we all have but most of us have never used, and that is a metabolic switch in the body that allows us to burn fat all the time, even while we sleep.  When we activate this switch and burn fat all the time, we are in a metabolic state called ‘ketosis’.

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So how do we flip this magic switch in the body?  Well to understand that we need to take a look at the food we are eating for fuel.  There are two primary food sources or macronutrients that we use for fuel, and those are sugar and fat.  Now our bodies can burn both of these for fuel, and they can store both of these as fuel.  We store sugar in the form of glycogen in the liver or muscle cells, and can only store it in a very limited amount.  Fat on the other hand, we can store in pretty much unlimited amounts and that’s why we get fat.

Now it’s important to understand that if we have sugar stored in the liver, then the body will always use this fuel source over fat.  It’s only when we use up all the sugar in our liver that we’ll really start burning fat.  So imagine that our bodies are like a hybrid car that can either run on petrol or you can run in electric mode.  Now imagine that you could never run the car in electric mode until you had first used all the petrol.  Well if we then keep topping up the petrol tank before it gets to empty, we’ll never be able to flip to electric mode.

And that’s what the majority of the population is doing with sugar, in that we never actually deplete the sugar stores in our liver and go to fat burning mode because we are constantly topping it up with more food that’s rich in sugar and carbohydrate.  We eat a lot in the West, we eat three meals a day, we snack between meals and we eat and drink pretty much up to the point we go to bed so we never deplete our sugar stores. In fact,  most of us haven’t gone a single day of our lives without food.  

Our genome or biological blueprint just hasn’t evolved to eat this much food.  Our ancestors on the other hand didn’t have access to food like we do, and they would go through periods of feast and famine.  And when they went through periods of famine, they would deplete the stores of sugar in the liver, and they would flip this metabolic switch and start burning their fat reserves, and remember, that is called being in ketosis.  So we have evolved to be able to burn fat as our primary fuel source, it’s a completely natural state, but most of us have never really used it.

So, how do we get into ketosis and burn fat all the time.  We need to first deplete our sugar reserves in the liver, and we don’t want to replenish them!  So how do we do that? Well we do it by changing our diet, and the diet we want to follow is called the ketogenic diet.  And the ketogenic diet doesn’t involve restricting your calories, but it involves changing the ratio of nutrients.

A ketogenic diet stipulates an ideal ration of proteins, carbs and fats, our key macronutrients, that will allow the body to get into and stay in ketosis.  The ketogenic diet is very low in carbohydrates, it has medium protein and high fat.  Now if you’ve never heard of this diet before then I know it can be hard to get your head around the idea that to burn fat you need to eat a high amounts of fat but it really works! I know fat has been demonised over the years but it’s completely safe and healthy, just make sure you avoid Trans fats and you’ll be fine.

So a ketogenic diet is low in carbs, moderate in protein and high in fat.  But what are the ratios?  We’ll these vary from person to person, but the guideline is about 65% fat, 30% protein and 5% carbohydrates.  Now, it’s important to note that although fibre is a carb, we don’t count it when calculating the our carb intake.  That’s because fibre doesn’t give us a spike in blood sugar, so it won’t kick us out of ketosis.  

So if we stick to these ratios, we’ll eventually get into ketosis and start burning fat 24/7, even while we sleep.  The problem is it can take a long time to get into ketosis using a ketogenic diet, it can takes weeks or even months for some people.  And you have to be strict because if you cheat and eat a big bowl of ice cream, you’ll be kicked out of ketosis.  The good news is that when you are in ketosis your sugar cravings will eventually disappear and it then becomes much easier.

Now if you don’t want to wait weeks or months to get into this fat burning state, you can fast track it.  Remember, before we can start using fat as our primary fuel, we need to deplete our sugar reserves in the liver.  So the quickest way to deplete our liver stores of sugar is to simply to not eat anything.  So if we do a 24-48 fast, we’ll deplete our sugar reserves and flip into ketosis.  Then we can just maintain it with a ketogenic diet.

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So how do we know when we’re in ketosis?  Well, the easiest way is to use ketone strips which are relatively cheap and you can buy them on amazon.  And these strips will measure something called ketone bodies in the blood.  And ketones are what our bodies start to produce from our fat when we’re in ketosis, and it’s these ketone bodies that are the real fuel we’re using for energy when we’re in a fat burning state.  So all you need to do, is pee on a strip, and if your in ketosis, the ketones in your pee will react to it and cause it to change colour.  So if it changes colour you know you are in ketosis.  

How to improve the immune system with gut health and fibre

How to improve your immune system

In this blog I’m going to share with you how you can improve your immune system with gut health. Gut health is so important for our immune but why do we want a strong immune system in the first place?

Having a strong immune system is a cornerstone of health and longevity.  Not only does it mean we are less likely to get colds and stomach bugs etc but its also critical to help us fight infection, disease like cancer. 

If we have a weak immune system then it’s likely that we’ll get frequent colds and feel run down all the time, but it also leaves us much more exposed to infection and disease. 

The immune system and gut health

So it turns out that the immune system an our gut health our very closely linked.  80% of our immune cells are actually found in the gut!  So if we want a strong and healthy immune system, we need a strong and healthy gut.

How do we have a healthy gut?

Our guts are actually full of bacteria. We have literally trillions of bacteria, some of it is bad bacteria but most of it is actually good bacteria.  The community of bacteria we have in the gut is called the microbiome.

So if we want a healthy gut, we want to take care of our micro biome, we want to make sure the population of good bacteria is healthy and thriving but also ensure we have a diverse range of good bacteria.  You want your microbiome to be like a rainforest, teeming with different species.  That way if one group of species dies off, it won’t impact the overall system too badly.  If you have a microbiome like a lawn of grass (i.e. one species), if something happens to the grass then they whole system is wiped out.

So if we look after our microbiome, take care of our good bacteria and ensure we have a diverse range, we’ll have a healthy gut and therefore a strong immune system.

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How does a healthy gut improve your immune system?

Our micro biomes have a complex relationship with our immune system and they are in constant conversation.  How does this communication take place?   Well we need to understand that our bacteria are alive, they need to eat to survive, and they also need to poop! And its the poop of our bacteria, which are called shorted chained fatty acids, that actually talk to the immune system, they act as signalling molecules.

It’s these signalling molecules that help regulate the immune system, they keep it healthy and keep it in check and ensure its not too active or oversensitive.  So basically we want our bacteria to poo so it can regulate that immune system.  How do we do that?  We need to feed it! 

So what do our bacteria like k to eat?  They like to eat fibre, infact, they love it!

Eating fibre is probably one of the most powerful things you can do to look after your good bacteria, have a healthy gut and health immune system.

Why fibre?

The majority of the our gut bacteria resides in the lower gastrointestinal (GI) track.  This is important  because the typical Western diet consists of high amounts of simple carbs and proteins.  These simple carbs and proteins are absorbed in the upper GI track, so that these food sources never make it to the majority of the bacteria that reside in the lower GI track. So if we just eat simple carbs and protein we are starving our good bacteria and they are not pooing much.

But it gets worse..

If we starve our bacteria they get desperate.  Remember they are alive and they want to survive, so they look to get food from other sources. They start to eat the carbs that are present in the mucous of our gut barrier and that is a recipe for disaster as our immune systems starts to over react to our bacteria because they have got to close to our human cells.

So we don’t want to starve our bacteria and that’s why fibre is important.  It turns out the human genome is not very good at digesting complex carbohydrates (i.e fibre) so these carbs make it down all they way to the lower GI track and provide all the nourishment our bacteria need.

What are good sources of fibre?

A great source of fibre are of course fruits and vegetables.  Especially stringy vegetables like leeks and asparagus.  A great supplement to increase your fibre intake psyllium husk which is a massive 88% fibre, compared to most veggies which are about 3-4% fibre.  Remember though, we want a diverse range of good bacteria, therefore we need a diverse range of fibre, and not just one source. 

How much fibre should we eat?  The typical western diet contains about 10g – 15g fibre a day.  We should be aiming for at least 30g fibre.  It’s believed out ancestors ate between 100g -150g of day, so if we want a super healthy gut we want plenty of fibre! 

How to stay young with sauna use and heat shock proteins

In this blog, I’m going to explain how we can stay young with sauna use.  Unfortunately, as we get older, we get more susceptible to disease.  Disease is the number 1 cause of death in the world, so if we want to stay young and healthy, we want to stave off disease for as long as possible or even completely. We want to be active and healthy well into our old age with all our cognitive abilities in tact!

Fortunately, using the sauna can help us do this.  There are several types of sauna we can use today – dry saunas, wet saunas, even infrared saunas. It doesn’t matter what kind of sauna we use, the goals of going into a sauna is the same: that is to get very, very hot and sweat!

What kind of diseases can we use a sauna to help prevent?  Well, here are some of them;

  • Heart disease
  • Heart failure
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Cardiomyopathy (a group of diseases affecting the heart, increasing risk of heart attacks)

Sauna use can also help us to prevent neurodegenerative disease, including Alzheimers and Parkinson’s disease.  Of all the diseases I’ve mentioned here, I fear Alzheimers the most.  Losing your mind is absolutely tragic, not just for you but also your friends and family.  So anything I can do to help prevent it, I’m going to do!

What actually causes these diseases to begin with?  Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear cut answer to this question.  However, it has been shown that something called ‘protein aggregation’ is a key player, especially in the case of the neurodegenerative diseases.

What is ‘protein aggregation?’  First, let’s talk about what proteins are.

Proteins are large, complex molecules that play a raft of critical roles in our body. They are responsible for doing most of the work in our cells.  Proteins are required for the function, structure and regulation of our body tissues and organs.

The building blocks of proteins are called amino acids. There are 20 different amino acids which attach to each other in long chains and when combined, make up a protein. A protein can contain between hundreds or thousands of amino acids.  It’s the sequence of these amino acids that determines each protein’s 3-D structure and specific function.

Proteins have many functions, they can serve as anti-bodies, enzymes, messengers, structural components and transporters.  After a protein has served its purpose, it gets degraded, cleaned away and replaced with a fresh one.

I like to think of proteins as the soldiers of the body, they follow orders and do the doing. Proteins are critical to our health, so want to take care of them!

Now when our cells in our body are stressed, it can cause these proteins to become damaged, their 3D structure becomes damaged.  When this happens, it messes up their ability to function but it also impacts their ability to be degraded and cleared away. When this happens, the protein hangs around and it starts to cause problems. They can start to cluster with other proteins and form plaques.

Plaques are bad news.

This clustering of damaged proteins into plaques is called protein aggregation.  As I mentioned at the start, protein aggregation is strongly linked to a long list of diseases including heart disease and Alzheimers.

The good news is, we are all equipped with something that help us to keep our proteins healthy and functioning correctly.  That ‘something’ is called Heat Shock Proteins or HSPs (yep, more proteins).  They help proteins keep their 3D structure and they repair damage so the proteins don’t have to be degraded.  However, when it is time for a protein to be degraded and cleaned away, the HSPs make sure this happens.

So that’s the good news.  The bade news is that as we get older, we make less and less of these Heat Shock Proteins, so we are more susceptible to protein aggregation and hence disease.

But here’s more good news.

It turns out there is a gene we can activate in the body that increases the production of Heat Shock Proteins. What’s more, we can activate that gene whenever we want to.  And we activate it by (you guessed it) sauna use.  Heat stress activates this gene which increases our production of HSPs.

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When we use the sauna frequently and we’re exposed to this intense heat stress, we become something called ‘heat acclimated’.  We are more used to the heat stress and we learn to sweat fast.  When we’re heat acclimated, our body produces more Heat Shock Proteins under normal temperature conditions. BUT, not only that, we make even more of them under stressful conditions!  Awesome.

The production of Heat Shock Proteins has been linked to longevity (long life span) in general.  People that have gene variations (variations in the sequence of their DNA that alter the function of DNA, called polymorphisms) that cause greater production of Heat Shock Proteins are more likely to be Centenarians, which means they live to be 100 years old or more.

So how often do we need to use the sauna to make more Heat Shock Proteins and help to prevent disease?  A recent study that followed 2000 middle aged men showed that those who used the sauna 2-3 times a week had a 24% reduction in all cause mortality compared to those who used it 1 time a week.  Better still, those that used it 4-7 times a week had a whooping 40% reduction in all cause mortality compared to those who used it 1 time per week.  So there is a dose dependent effect, meaning the more times we use the sauna, the more benefit we’ll get.

How long should we stay in the sauna?  Well the duration I hear a lot is between 20-25 mins.  Now, staying in the sauna for this long can be quite tough.  I’ve been using the sauna for about a 8 months now, and to begin with I did 15 mins and then built up to 30 mins. It doesn’t take long to get to this level, and I built up to 30 mins in a few weeks using the the sauna 4-5 times a week.

I always take an easy-to-read fictional book in the sauna, it takes my mind off the uncomfortableness and makes the time pass quicker.  I know roughly how many pages I need to read to get to 30 mins, so I don’t have to keep looking at the clock.  Also, I always sit in the highest and hottest part of the sauna, to ensure I’m getting as much heat in my 30 mins as possible.

I’ve found going to the sauna to be additive (in a good way!).  Sauna use has many more benefits than producing more Heat Shock Proteins, and I’ll talk about these in future blogs!  Thanks for reading!

 

How to gain muscle faster

In this blog, I’m going to share three tips to build muscle faster by getting the most out of your gym session.

I don’t know about you, but when I put my time into something, when I show up and put in the work I want to make sure I’m getting the maximum return on my investment.  So, if I go to the gym for an hour with the intention of gaining muscle, I want to make sure I’m doing everything I can in that hour to ensure I’m maximizing my opportunity to build muscle faster.

It’s like investing money, if I were to invest £100 of my hard-earned money, I’d want to make sure my ROI or return on investment was as high as it could be.

There are so many things you can do to gain muscle faster but in this blog, I’m going to specifically talk about the things you can do while you’re physically in the gym and lifting weights.

So here are the three tips that can help you build muscle faster by getting the most out of your gym session.

  1. Gain muscle faster by training to failure.

When we go to the gym, it’s very easy for us to get into a routine. Over time, that routine becomes more comfortable.  Doing ten reps is a good, round  and solid number to follow.

However, the real growth happens in the last few reps when we’re really struggling and torturing the muscle.  If you just do your ten reps every set your body will get used to that and you’re not going to experience that pain in the last few reps where the growth happens.

So how many reps do you need to do?

Well, you can’t put a number on it, you need to GO TO FAILURE.  Going to failure means to keep going until you physically can’t lift anymore.  Eight to twelve reps is actually a good guide line, so you can adjust the weight your handling to fail around about eight to twelve reps.  It hurts more, but that’s where the growth happens.

Our muscles don’t like that pain.  When we put our muscles through that kind of stress, they assume they are going to have to go through that again sometime down the line, so they want to ensure they can handle that stress the next time, and that’s why they grow.  If you don’t feel that pain in the last few reps, your muscle growth will be slower.

  1. Gain muscle faster by shocking the body.

This is strategy I learned from Arnold Schwarzenegger. The shocking principle is all about breaking your routine, or even better, not getting into a routine in the first place! Our bodies are very clever, they learn quickly and they adapt quickly.  If we use the same old gym routine workout, do the same exercises and the same number of reps, our bodies will get used to the routine and it won’t be that challenged.

However, if we try and make every workout unique and mix it up, we’re constantly shocking the muscle.  We’re not giving the muscle time to relax and adapt, we’re constantly challenging them so they need to respond to that challenge by growing faster.

There are so many ways that you can mix up your routine.  You can change the physical exercise itself: instead of using a machine, use free weights.  If your using free weights, use a different range of motion.  Do super sets.  Instead of using the same amount of weight for each set, start lower and build up, or start higher and decrease it.  It’s limitless.  There is so much you can do to change things up and shock the muscle.

If you’re just getting started with lifting weights, you don’t have to shock your muscles as often to get the results.  Your muscles are already going to be under a lot of stress because they haven’t been under stress AT ALL, never mind the new routine.  So, if you’re new to lifting weights, you can stick to a routine for a few weeks or even a month before changing it.

People that have been lifting weights for years and who have already gained a lot of muscle mass will find it much harder to increase muscle mass at the same rate.  Their muscles are veterans, they’ve seen it all.  So, they are going to have to pretty much apply the shocking principle in every session to get the results and gain muscle faster.

  1. Gain muscle faster by leveraging negative reps.

Before I learned this principle, when I completed a rep, I would only concentrate on the ‘positive’ motion.  The positive motion is when we push against gravity, or the ‘upward’ motion.  An example is doing a standard bench press. The positive motion is where you push up, and the negative is where you bring the bar bell back down to the start position.

I would put all my energy and focus into the positive motion but when it came to the negative, I would just let gravity do most the work.

It turns out that the negative motion is also really important when it comes to gaining muscle mass.  As such, we don’t want to lose that precious opportunity to gain muscle!

When you do your negative motion, make sure you take your time, don’t just let gravity to the work.  Spend a few seconds resisting gravity and bringing the weights back to the start position and you’ll get more ‘bang for your buck’.

So just to recap on the three ways we can gain muscle faster by leveraging our gym session.

  1. Go to failure.  Don’t stick with your ten reps!
  2. Shock the muscle. Keep changing and switching up you work out.
  3. Leverage the negative. Spend a few seconds on the downward motion

How to kill your pre-cancer cells (if your’e 30+ you’ll have them!) with Ketosis

 

In this blog I’m going to talk about Ketosis and how it can help you fight cancer.  This is important, because even if you don’t have cancer, if you are least 30-40 you almost certainly have tiny pre-cancer cells.  The good news is that our bodies are equipped to deal with these pre-cancer cells, however, if you have an unhealthy lifestyle, these pre-cancer cells can become real cancer cells.

And that’s bad news…obviously..

If you don’t know what ketosis is or if you’ve never heard of it, fear not, you are not alone. I hadn’t really heard of it either until about a year ago and I really wish I’d learned about it sooner.

I’ll get onto the specifics later in the blog, but for now let me describe ketosis as a metabolic state whereby your body will use fat as its primary energy source instead of sugar (or more specifically glucose).

In very simple terms, you are either in ketosis, or you are not in ketosis.

How do we make energy?

Before I can explain the science behind the cancer fighting effects of ketosis, we need to understand what ketosis is.  In order to that, we need to take a look at how the body creates energy.

The energy that we use to do everything is called adenosine triphosphate, commonly called ATP.  This is often referred to as the ‘energy currency’ of the body.  As humans, we can go months without food, days without water, minutes without oxygen but we can only last about 10 seconds without ATP.

In order for our bodies to create energy, our cells undergo something called cellular respiration.  Cellular respiration covers a number of different metabolic pathways that take place in our cells and convert the energy of nutrients into ATP.  There are two primary sources of fuel that we get from food for cellular respiration, these are glucose and fat.  It is natural for our bodies to use both of these fuel sources, as we are metabolically flexible.

Glucose as fuel

Glucose (or sugar) is the product of starches and carbohydrates and proteins in our diet. We can actually store it in our liver and muscles in the form of glycogen – but only a finite amount.

There are various proposals out there for the caloric content of glycogen we can store in our bodies.  However, I think it fair to say we would last about a day or two if this were our only remaining fuel source.

Fat as fuel 

We can also burn fat as fuel.

When we burn or metabolise fat, we produce something called ketone bodies which are in turn used as fuel.  Unlike the relatively limited storage amounts of glucose (in the form of glycogen) we keep in the liver and muscles, we can store fat in much higher amounts. Burning fat has been shown to be more thermodynamically efficient than burning glucose, in that we we produce more ATP per oxygen molecule used.

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Being in ketosis 

When our bodies have depleted our glycogen (i.e. glucose) stores, we adapt and start burning fat as our primary fuel.  As mentioned earlier, when we do this, we produce ketone bodies in the blood.  Being in ketosis is when we have at least 0.5 m/molar of ketones in our blood.  Ketosis is a natural state for humans, however, in the modern western world it has become an unusual state.  This means that the majority of us are not ‘keto adaptive’, meaning it’s not so easy of us to get into ketosis and when we do it for the first time, it may take a while for us to get comfortable with it.

Our ancestors, however, would have been very keto adaptive.  This is because they simply did not have access to food around the clock like we do.  They would have gone through periods of ‘fast or famine’, going long periods of time without food.  In these times without food, they shift to ketosis and burn fat supplies to keep going.  Some even say that ketosis is actually our natural state.

How does being in ketosis fight cancer?

In order to explain how ketosis can fight cancer, we need to look at how the cells in our body create energy.  They can do it two ways –

  1. Aerobically (with oxygen)
  2. Anaerobically (without oxygen).

Let’s look at these two separately.

When our cells produce energy aerobically, they do it my using something called mitochondria.  Mitochondria are of paramount importance and I talk about them a lot in my blog posts.  What are mitochondria?  They are organelles (a specialised unit of a cell with a specific function) that take energy from nutrients and create ATP, the energy current of the body I talked about earlier.  Mitochondria are like the power stations of a cell.

When our cells produce energy anaerobically, they do not use mitochondria.  Anaerobic energy production is not as efficient as aerobic, yielding much less ATP.

So what does this have to do with cancer?

Well it turns out that cancer cells produce energy anaerobically, we call it anaerobic fermentation, they do not use their mitochondria.  There is evidence to show that this because there are less mitochondria in a cancel cell, and some of the mitochondria are damaged.  There is also evidence to show that cancer cells can use their mitochondria but just don’t.  Whatever the reason, this principle has staggering therapeutic implications which are being leveraged by many physicians.

Remember, being in ketosis means that we are burning fat and ketone bodies as our primary fuel source.  We can only do this with our mitochondria, we can’t do it without them.  Therefore, when we go into ketosis, we are depriving cancer cells of their only fuel, which is sugar, and at the same time we are nourishing our healthy cells with ketone bodies.

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Cancer cannot use ketones and fat as fuel.  

So you may be wondering how cancer can survive if it doesn’t have any glucose?  Well unfortunately, being in ketosis does not mean we have no glucose in the blood, as we always maintain a base level.  However, ketosis has been shown time and time again to have huge therapeutic effects for cancer.  If you want to learn more about this subject, I highly recommend the book ‘Tripping over the truth’ by Travis Christofferson.

How to get into Ketosis?

There are two key ways we can enter ketosis.  One is through diet, and the other is through fasting.

Using fasting to enter ketosis

When we fast, we use up our bodies store of glycogen in the liver and muscles.  I’ve really struggled to find a definitive number for how long takes, it varies between 8hrs and 48 hrs. Regardless, once our bodies have depleted their glycogen stores, we use fat to get our energy and start producing ketone bodies in the blood.  Once we reach a level of 0.5 mili molar, we are in ketosis.  How long does it take to get into ketosis by fasting?  I think it will vary from person to person, but think it safe to say if you just drink water you’ll be in at least mild ketosis within 48 hours.  Fasting is by far the fastest way to get into ketosis.

Using diet to enter ketosis

If you don’t fancy going without food, you can also enter ketosis through diet alone.  It’s a high fat diet called the ketogenic diet.  Fear not, a high fat diet is not unhealthy, and the stigma that fat has received in our modern day society is completely misguided and a personal bug bear of mine.

The idea that fat is bad for us is a whole other topic which I won’t get into now (but I plan to talk about in a future blog).  However, you do need to eat the right kind of fat, healthy fat.  We find this fat in food like avocado, nuts, olives, coconut oil and dairy products.  You want to say away from trans fats which are very damaging (even the FDA has admitted this now) and fats found in vegetable oils.

Not only is the ketogenic diet high in fat, but it is very low in carbs.  You want to be consuming under 30g of carbs to stay get into and stay in ketosis.  This does not include the carbs found in fiber, fiber doesn’t count.  The typical terminally used for carb counting on a ketogenic diet is ‘net carbs’.  This is the amount of carbs you eat minus the carbs in fiber.

After carbs and fat, the last ‘macro nutrient’ is protein.  The ketogenic diet is typically moderate in protein, and you can actually eat more of it if you eat more fibre. Fibre slows protein digestion, and reduces the insulin spikes that protein causes.  Insulin drives ketosis and sharp spikes in it will soon kick you out of ketosis.

What is the protein, carb and fat ratio of the ketogenic diet?

The classic ketogenic diet has a 3:1 or even 4:1 ratio.  That is, three-parts fat to one-part protein can carbs.  Honestly, it varies for everyone, but you probably want at least 70% of your calories to be coming from fat if you want to get in and stay in ketosis through diet alone.  How much protein you take may take some experimentation, however, if you stick to the 30g of fat you’ll be able to calculate your remaining clarity intake from protein.

It can take between two and six weeks for your body to adapt to the ketogenic diet and enter a constant state of ketosis through diet.  It’s not easy, as it’s so different from the modern day diet which is carb heavy.  Compliance can be a real issue and many people will give up before they see results.

Ketosis through intermittent fasting and diet.

Personally, I get into and stay into ketosis through a combination of diet and intermittent fasting.  What is intermittent fasting?  It’s basically restricting your daily calorie intake to a limited window of time.

To see any benefits, you want this window to be at the most 12 hours, followed by a 12 hour fast.  I like to keep my window between 8-9hrs, with a 14-15hr water fast.  This obviously has the effect of constantly depleting a lot of your glycogen stores, forcing your body to constantly go back to using fat as a fuel.

I combine this with a low net carb (60g), moderate fat (100g) high protein (100g), high fibre (50g-100g) diet.  Doing this keeps me comfortably in ketosis with a blood ketone level fluxing between 1-3 m/molar.  The only reason my protein intake is high is due to my weight training and increased muscle mass goals (which I have been able to achieve in ketosis).

If you decide to have a high protein intake, it’s crucial you eat a lot of fibre to prevent the insulin spike.

How do you know if you are in ketosis?

Knowing if you are in ketosis is thankfully very easy.  You can buy ketone strips from your local pharmacy or even amazon without prescription.  All you need to do it pee on these strips and watch then change color.  After 15 seconds, you match the color of the strip to chart they provide, and you can see your blood ketone level (e.g. 0.5 m/molar, m/molar etc.).

These strips are inexpensive (about $15 for a couple of hundred) and easy to use.  Some people also like to use glucometers – pinprick devices to show your blood glucose levels. Personally I don’t bother and just stick with the ketone strips.

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Conclusion

So remember, from the age for thirty-forty, we all get nasty ‘pre-cancer’ cells.  We want to kill them off before they turn into cancer cells.  Cancer cells love glucose, so we want to switch our primary energy source from glucose to fat. We do this by being in ketosis.  We get into ketosis through diet or fasting.  –  Young at 30

 

 

The amazing benefits of meditation

Grow your brain by meditating!

You may not know that mediation does a heck of a lot more than reduce stress and promote spirituality, I sure didn’t.

I’ve just listened to a podcast by the renowned longevity scientist Ronda Patrick about meditation buffering the negative effects of chronic stress and it blew me away.

Ronda Patrick is a very well respected scientist worldwide…and kind of famous now.  In this podcast, she references a recent study that followed a group of participates who went through an eight week ‘mindful meditation’ program where they meditated for forty minutes a day.

The study showed that four regions of the brain increased in volume!  Four regions!  I think that’s pretty amazing after eight weeks.

The brain regions that increased in volume through meditation were –

Hippocampus – associated with learning and memory.

Pons – part of brain stem where many neurotransmitters are made.

Parietal junction – associated with empathy and compassion.

Posterior cingulate – associated to mind wandering and self-relevance.

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Not only this, but the the amygdala, which is associated to our fight or flight response and anxiety and fear, actually decreased in volume.  Not only this, but the decrease is volume was correlated with a reduction in stress hormone levels! Sorry about all the exclamation marks, but I find this very exciting.

Now to me, that’s five very good reasons to meditate.

How to meditate

There are many forms of mediation, transcendental and guided meditation being two of the most well-known.  Regardless of the type of meditation, the underlying goal seems to be the same.  That is, to quiet the mind and stop the ‘chatter’ of the brain or the ‘voice in your head’.

You don’t have to become a monk. You don’t have to sit in yoga position for hours on end. In fact, you can have a very effective mediation session in just five minutes.

A great book I read which really took my level of understanding to a new level was ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle.  It’s pretty hard core and maybe even a little ‘woo woo’, but he really explains how the constant mind chatter we all have is a pretty bad thing, and completely unnecessary.

If you want to get started and think you want help, there is a great app called ‘Head Space’.  It’s a guided mediation program and the first ten sessions are absolutely free.  I like to use this now and then, although I haven’t got to the point where it’s a habit.  However, having just learned the amazing effects it has on the brain, I will definitely be making more of an effort!

A very quick tip before I wrap up.  If you have never meditated before, you will very likely find your mind wandering off in the beginning.  Don’t get frustrated when this happens, it’s completely normal.  Just calmly bring your awareness back to the present moment, and try again. – Young at 30

 

How to burn fat through lifting weights

When most of us think about losing weight, we picture hours of torture on the treadmill or jogging for miles on end.  In truth, exercise is a pretty lousy way to lose weight!  A much more effective strategy is through changes in your diet and for the more hard-core of us – diet and intermittent fasting.

That being said, exercise certainly plays a role in weight loss.  When we talk about weight loss, we really mean FAT loss.  We want to preserve our muscle mass as it’s critical for our overall health – especially as we age.  Once we hit 30-40, we lose 1-2% muscles mass every year (without intervention).

Burning fat is a basic thermodynamic principle.  We need to expend more energy everyday than we consume every day. If we do this, we’ll deplete our primary source of energy (sugar) and start burning our reserve source – fat.

If you are looking to burn fat through exercise, the most efficient ways are interval training (also known as HITT – high intensity interval training) or lifting weights.  In this blog, I’m going to talk about lifting weights to burn fat.

Not only does lifting weights require a tremendous amount of energy, i.e. calories, but the process actually tears our muscles.  Once the muscles have been torn, they are rebuilt over the next few days – this also takes energy.  So by lifting weights, we burn energy as we lift, but we also continually burn energy over the next few days to repair and rebuild our muscles.

But here’s a sneaky trick…

To optimise our lifting session, we want to keep our heart rates high.  Why?  It requires more energy to keep our hearts beating at a high rate, so if we want to burn more energy in our hour of gym, we want to keep our heart rates high.

 How to keep your heart rate high when lifting

Method 1 – Increase your set reps

A typical lifting ‘set’ will be between 8-12 repetitions.  We want to at least DOUBLE this to keep our heart rate to the max. We should be doing between 20-30 reps per set, and we should be going to failure.  Going to failure means you literally fail in the set – you get to the point where you cannot do one more rep.  So make sure your failure point is between 20-30 reps.

Method 2 – Reduce your rest time

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Most people who lift weights will typically rest between 1-2 minutes between sets.  This gives the body time to recover but the tradeoff is that your heart rate will fall.  We want to keep out heart rate HIGH and so we want to keep our set rest to 30-45 seconds.  Personally, I keep it to 30 seconds.  Doing this will keep your heart rate high and ensure your primary organ is working overtime.

Find your own sweet spot

It will take a few workouts to find your sweet spot.  That is, to understand your current limitations in how much weight you can handle before you fail between 20-30 reps, and then manage another set after a short rest.  It’s going to be different for everyone, but the good news is it doesn’t take long understand your body in this context.

 Not for the faint hearted…

A word of warning – if you do this properly, it will feel like hell!  You really need to push yourself hard… and it really hurts!  You will feel the burn like you’ve never felt before, but you will be surprised at how far you can take this if you really want to succeed.  After the workout, you will feel exhausted, but at the same time you will feel GREAT.  The pride you feel after pushing yourself to the limit has few rivals.  Moreover, your weight loss results will be much greater than just doing a halfhearted workout.

Keep your gym session to 45-60 mins tops.  If you can go longer, it’s likely that you are not pushing yourself enough!  – Young at 30

Eat probiotics for gut health

Eat Probiotics for good gut health!

You’ve probably heard the term ‘good bacteria’ and how important it is for our tummies. Well, research is showing that this is not just good for our health, but its CRITICAL for our health.

Good gut health promotes a strong immune system, reduced inflammation and improved mood and well being – and there’s science to back all this up.

We all have bacteria in our guts anyway, and the best way to take care of it is to feed it its favourite food; fibre. However, you can also introduce new good bacteria into your micro-biome by taking supplements or eating fermented food.

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The probiotics you eat will only stay in your gut if you keep eating it, nevertheless, doing this serves as an excellent placeholder of bacteria while you gradually strengthen your existing good bacteria by eating fibre.

Fermented foods are easy to find in your local health food store, sauerkraut and kimchi are quite common and excellent sources. Always buy organic and avoid products with preservatives. – Young at 30

Why vegetable oils are HARMFUL to your health

When it comes to cooking-oil, the most ubiquitous sources are vegetable oils.  Examples?  Corn oil, sesame seed oil, sunflower and canola to name a few.  Unsurprisingly, these oils are very cheap to make and aggressively marketed.  When we hear the word ‘vegetable’ we think healthy, right?  Well the problem is vegetable oil does not actually come from vegetables!

Vegetable oil is very high in the omega-6 fatty acid, which in high quantities is extremely harmful, driving inflammation and potentially heart disease.  We don’t just receive vegetable oil from the standalone source of cooking oil. Vegetable oil is in almost all processed foods.  We are getting far too much it!

To really explain this, I need to talk a bit more about omega-6 and also omega-3.  We require both, but the ratio of our intake is critical.

Before the introduction of grains to our diet, it is believed that our ancestor’s ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 was about 1:1.  This is what our bodies have adjusted to over tens of thousands of years.  With the introduction of grains (around 10,000 years ago) the ration went up to 2:1 in favor of omega-6.  However, somewhere in the middle of the 19th century, this ratio went up to 15:1.

What’s worse, it is now believe that with the modern Western diet, some of us have ratios of 30:1!!  Our bodies were not designed to take in this much omega-6!

Advertising will tell you that omega-6 is critical for a healthy heart by promoting products like margarine and vegetable oil.  We are bombarded with the message that omega-6 will reduce the risk of heart disease.

Here’s the interesting thing…

A study published in the British Medical Journal in 2013 sought to ‘evaluate the effectiveness of replacing dietary saturated fats with omega-6 linoleic acid, for the secondary prevention of coronary heart disease and death.’  The study followed 458 men for seven years, who had all recently suffered a coronary event.

The conclusion of the study was that the widely popularised benefits of replacing saturated fats (found in avocado, coconut oil, fish, olive oil and farm eggs) with omega-6 rich vegetable oils actually increases the risk of suffering a heart attack!

Now, those men who consumed more vegetables oil saw levels of their total cholesterol drop (which again, marketing has told us is good), but total cholesterol is a poor biomarker for determining risk of heart disease, which I’ll talk about in a future blog.

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Why is too much omega-6 harmful to us?

You are probably aware that chronic inflammation is bad for us.  It’s the driver for a whole raft of diseases, including heart disease, autoimmune and perhaps even cancer.

Inflammation is actually a perfectly natural response to stress, and good for us in small amounts.  It’s a natural pathway/mechanism in the body.  We start to have a big problem when chronic inflammation occurs, the natural inflammatory pathway in our body is being hammered. It’s chronic inflation that drives disease.

Omega-6 actually triggers our inflammatory pathway!  Remember that we have evolved to optimize a 1:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega 3.  Well think what a ration of 30:1 is doing!

Omega 3, on the other hand attenuates inflammation.

Omega 6 and oxidation

Omega-6 is very unstable, meaning it is very susceptible to oxidation.  You have probably heard somewhere along the line that oxidative damage is bad.  Oxidation can cause havoc in the body, which is why it’s so important to get plenty of anti-oxidants from fruits and vegetables.  Too much Omega-6 harms your cells, making them more and more fragile.  Omega-6 is causing the cholesterol in your body to become oxidised.

We really don’t want that.

If we want to understand our risk of heart disease, a much better bio-marker than total cholesterol (which on its own doesn’t really tell us much) is our level of oxidised LDL cholesterol.  We can now test for this and it’s proving to be a much more reliable predictor of heart disease.

The world renowned health expert, David Gillespie (author of ‘Toxic Oil’) had this to say about LDL oxidation –

‘We can now measure oxidised LDL levels, and what has become abundantly clear in the last five to ten years is that there is a very strong correlation between people’s level of oxidised LDL and their risk of heart disease’.

In summary: We were only designed to consume a small amount of omega-6, which is rich in vegetable oils and the modern Western diet contains far too much of it.  Omega-6 drives our inflammatory pathway, and chronic inflammation is a key driver of many diseases.  Omega-6 is easily oxidised which causes our cholesterol to become oxidised which ultimately causes damage to our cells.  If we want to check our current risk of heart disease, we should get our oxidised LDL levels checked.

Bottom line?  Avoid vegetable oils like the plague and ensure your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is 1:1-1:2. – Young at 30.

 

 

 

 

 

Live Young