Today I’m sharing six actionable takeaways from two of my all-time favorite health educators, Dr. Rhonda Patrick and Dr. Andrew Huberman.
The takeaways are pulled from a recent three-hour podcast the two hosted on the topics of nutrition and neuroscience.
If you have three hours, you can listen here, but if you don’t keep reading 😄.
Here’s a quick high-level preview of a few of the topics we’ll be covering:
• The miracle nutrient that could be just as effective for treating depression as antidepressants.
• The best type of magnesium to take to help address anxiety and brain fog.
• A bio-hack that can help reset and rejuvenate your mitochondria, and burn fat.
Alright, let’s get into the first takeaway…
1. EPA and DHA Are Critical for Brain Health
Our brain is made up of 60 percent fat, and half of that fat is omega-3 fatty acids. These fats are critical for memory, cognition, learning, mood, and behavior. So, you can imagine what happens when our brain doesn’t get enough of them—it takes a major toll on our mental health and cognitive function. Omega-3s also serve the super-crucial purpose of reducing inflammation, which is why higher blood levels are associated with a lower risk of heart attack, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease. I talked about the benefits of omega-3 fats for brain health in a previous Try This newsletter, so when Dr. Patrick included omega-3 fats on her list of key nutrients for brain health, I was super excited.
She and Dr. Huberman discuss the link between omega-3s and mental health and that our Standard American Diet could be to blame. Most Westerners don’t get enough omega-3s in their diet, which means their brains are starving for this essential nutrient. She and Dr. Huberman share research that shows supplementing with EPA and DHA (the two primary omega-3 fats) could be just as effective for treating depression as antidepressants. We need both because each serves a unique function in the brain that contributes to our mental health. EPA boosts serotonin and regulates mood, while DHA makes up the cell membrane of neurotransmitters and enhances the expression of dopamine receptors.
Note: Dr. Patrick recommends supplementing with two-to-four grams of EPA and DHA daily. Fish oil stays freshest for longest when stored in the fridge. Exposure to high temperatures can cause fish oil supplements to go rancid, so be sure to store yours away from heat and light.
2. Low Vitamin D Levels Affect 70 Percent of People: Why Supplementation Is Crucial
Did you know that vitamin D regulates over 1,000 different genes? What other vitamins do you know that can do that? Vitamin D is so much more than a vitamin—it actually acts more like a hormone! Nearly every cell inside our bodies has vitamin D receptors. These receptors bind to vitamin D and pull it into our cells. Once inside our cells, vitamin D binds to sites on our DNA that upregulate or downregulate our genes and regulate countless biological functions. The function of our immune system, the strength of our bones, hormone and neurotransmitter production, and even cancer prevention depend on having enough vitamin D.
So, with all of the many functions of vitamin D, how is it that 70 percent of the population is deficient? What type of challenges is this creating for people’s health? How many healthcare dollars are wasted treating diseases that can be traced back to vitamin D deficiency? Those are the important questions Patrick and Huberman bring up in their conversation. They emphasize achieving optimal vitamin D levels (50–70 ng/ml) as a critical piece for chronic disease prevention and share that exposing your skin to sunshine is the most effective way to boost your vitamin D levels. If you live somewhere that doesn’t get a lot of sunshine, they recommend supplementing with 5,000–10,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily. (They both take 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily to maintain optimal levels.) Everyone is different, though, so it’s important to have your levels checked by a practitioner and have them adjust the dose if necessary.Do you struggle with insomnia, chronic fatigue, anxiety, depression, headaches, brain fog, muscle aches, or high blood pressure? If so, you could be running low on magnesium.
Magnesium is an essential nutrient, but it’s nearly impossible to get enough of it from food alone—even if you eat a whole-foods diet. Supplementation is critical for optimal health, but most magnesium supplements contain only one form that’s not absorbed very well by the body.
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Click Here to Redeem This Offer3. Magnesium Deficiency Can Cause Insidious Damage
Magnesium is responsible for over 600 different enzymatic reactions in the body. That means there are 600+ things your body can’t do well when it’s magnesium deficient. Magnesium is involved in so many biological processes that signs of deficiency can show up just about anywhere. And with 40 percent of the population not getting enough magnesium in their diet, it’s no wonder so many people struggle with signs of deficiency: fatigue, headaches, anxiety, depression, brain fog, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, insomnia, and so much more. These symptoms have been “normalized” in our society, but they are anything but normal.
The symptoms of magnesium deficiency may be subtle, but it can cause insidious damage over time. Since it is a challenge to get enough magnesium from food alone, supplementation is necessary to prevent deficiency and maintain optimal levels. There are many different forms of magnesium, each serving a unique function in the body. In the podcast, Dr. Huberman and Dr. Patrick share some of their favorite forms of magnesium and their specific benefits. Here are a few of the ones they mention:
- Magnesium glycinate: this form is best for correcting overall magnesium deficiency and can be used to help reduce anxiety and boost relaxation and sleep.
- Magnesium threonate: this form crosses the blood-brain barrier, which makes it great for relieving anxiety and stress, enhancing focus, clearing brain fog, and supporting a good night’s sleep.
- Magnesium malate: this form is best for post-workout recovery and supports gut health. Malate is a short-chain fatty acid that helps strengthen our gut barrier and protects against leaky gut.
There are many different forms of magnesium besides these three. Check out my magnesium cheat sheet to find which one is best suited for you and your needs.
4. Cold Exposure Significantly Improves Mitochondrial Health
Cold therapy is all the rage these days, thanks to folks like “The Iceman” Wim Hoff who have been drawing attention to its long list of anti-aging, stress-relieving, and anti-inflammatory benefits. But even though so many people have heard about its amazing benefits, not many people are aware of the mechanism behind why deliberate cold exposure is so good for us, and more importantly, how we can activate the healing pathways that cold therapy provides without having to buy expensive cold-plunge equipment.
Dr. Huberman is known for digging into biological mechanisms to explain the reason behind why certain protocols work. He and Dr. Patrick both seized this opportunity to talk about mechanisms together and focused on cold therapy being an activator of mitochondrial uncoupling. We’ve talked about mitochondrial uncoupling in previous newsletters and why it is a beneficial process we want to activate. In short, it is a more efficient way for our bodies to generate heat than shivering. It stimulates the production of new mitochondria, which increases our metabolic rate. Mitochondrial uncoupling also activates cold shock proteins, which helps lower inflammation and support the immune system. It can even help improve muscle mass and endurance.
You can get the benefits of cold therapy without a cold plunge or ice bath by taking a cold shower. Better yet, do a polar-bear plunge, run into the ocean, or jump into a chilly pool and swim around for a few minutes to get the same benefits for your mitochondria.
Here’s a fun Instagram post from Dr. Huberman that summarizes his cold exposure protocol:
5. Intentional Heat Exposure Is Good for Your Brain and Heart
Just like cold exposure is an amazing practice that activates anti-aging pathways, boosts metabolism, supports the immune system, and helps to lower inflammation, heat exposure has similar benefits via slightly different mechanisms. The benefits of deliberate heat exposure are far reaching, and Dr. Patrick and Dr. Huberman dig into the fascinating science behind why it works for promoting cardiovascular health and how you can do it without a sauna.
One of the reasons heat exposure is so beneficial for heart health is that it mimics the effects of aerobic exercise. It can enhance circulation, lower blood pressure, resting heart rate, and inflammation, and ease anxiety and stress. On top of that, heat therapy activates pathways thatkill disease-causing zombie cellsand stimulates the production of heat shock proteins. Heat shock proteins correct misfolded proteins, which helps prevent plaque buildup that can lead to strokes and Alzheimer’s disease. A 20-minute sauna session four-to-seven times per week (at 174℉) reduces dementia and Alzheimer’s risk by over 60 percent, but you don’t need a sauna to get these benefits. Try taking a hot bath instead and submerging your body under hot water for 15–20 minutes.
6. Sulforaphane From Broccoli Is One of the Most Powerful Superfoods
Dr. Patrick played a huge part in putting the research around sulforaphane on the map. By interviewing and highlighting the work of researchers like Dr. Jed Fahey, she helped place broccoli sprouts on the list of health-promoting superfoods for their abundant sulforaphane-producing potential. It’s not just broccoli sprouts, though—all cruciferous vegetables contain the precursor to sulforaphane called glucoraphanin. Broccoli sprouts just so happen to have the most, followed by regular broccoli. But what is it that makes sulforaphane such a highly sought-after phytochemical we want in our diet? Sulforaphane has the power to upregulate our antioxidant genes, lower inflammation, and fight cancer as well as other chronic diseases. It has a long list of medicinal benefits, but boosting glutathione (the mother of all antioxidants) definitely tops the list.
You can boost the sulforaphane (and glutathione) in cooked broccoli by eating it with mustard seed extract (or just regular mustard if that’s easier). I know that seems totally random, but listen to this: Dr. Patrick explains that glucoraphanin can only be converted to sulforaphane with help from an enzyme called myrosinase. Myrosinase is activated when we chew, chop, or crush broccoli. However, myrosinase is deactivated when we cook broccoli, which washes out any potential for sulforaphane to do its thing. Dr. Patrick recommends adding one gram of mustard seed extract to cooked broccoli to provide an external source of myrosinase. This can increase sulforaphane bioavailability by up to fourfold.
Loved today’s content? Be sure to follow Dr. Rhonda Patrick and Dr. Andrew Huberman.
Also, if you missed my past interviews with Dr. Andrew Huberman you can listen to Part 1 here and Part 2 here.
Here’s to your health,