Episode 137 – Dr. Steven Masley
What’s up everybody? It’s me, Drew from the Fit2Fat2Fit Experience Podcast. Thank you for tuning in today. I really appreciate it. A quick little update. I just recently got back from Hawaii, where I had the chance to run my second ever Triathlon. I ran the Lava Man, which is an Olympic distance. It is 1.5k swim, 40k bike ride and 10k run. You do all of that back to back to back, which is what a Triathlon is, right? I’m definitely not a Tri-Athlete, but I wanted to challenge myself this year to see how I did. I actually trained for it. Last year with 2 weeks of training, I finished at 3:18. This year, I beat my time by 13 minutes, which is good. I was hoping to get under 3 hours. I finished in 3:05. So I definitely had some improvement there. We’ll see if I do it again next year though. I’ve had a lot of people ask me about it. Here is the thing, I wanted …. the reason I do these types of events, even though I suck at it, is because it forces me to get out of my comfort zone. It challenges me to do something different. Now do I want to become a professional triathlete? No, not at all. But, doing something like this once a year, helps me to stay motivated throughout the year. It has me looking forward to something that I know I have to train for. I can’t just show up on race day. You have to put money down to do it. So, what I recommend for people, is doing something like this once a year that challenges you. So, whether it’s a 5k or a Tough Mud, something along those lines, that you’ve go to put money down for. It’s on a certain date. You have ‘X’ amount of time to train for it and it forces you to stick to your training on days when you’re just not wanting to work out at all. And if you are just working out just to look good, other than if you are doing like a physique competition, it’s easy to get burnt out doing the same thing. I get it. It happens to me. So, I challenge you to find something that gets you out of your comfort zone from a physical fitness perspective, so that you can stay motivated throughout the year. And that’s my two cents about that.
This weeks episode is with Dr. Masley. Now Dr. Masley is a brain expert and he came on the Podcast to talk about his book, “Better Brain Health” and the 5 tips to help people have optimum brain function. We talk about certain foods to eat, certain foods to avoid. Certain activities and hacks you can do to improve your brain health. All the links to his book and his website, and all the free content he has given away, will be in the show notes. Make sure you check that out
Drew: Alright, Dr. Masley, welcome to the show. How are you doing today?
Dr Masley: I’m delighted to be with you today. I’m doing great.
Drew: Thank you so much. I really appreciate you coming on the Podcast and sharing your wealth of knowledge with us. I’d like to start from the beginning. For you, what were your passions growing up as a kid that you see led you down this path where you are today?
Dr. Masley: Wow. Well as a kid, my dad was a surgeon and he was gone most of the time. To see him, I would ride my bike to the hospital and I would find him in surgery or in the intensive care unit. I would have to put on scrubs, to get in …. *chuckles* …. to chat with my dad while he was doing surgery or something. It wasn’t normal. I thought what we did to people, as little kids …. you have to realize, this is a child’s perspective, I thought what we did to people in a hospital was awful. I thought we took them there to torture them, beat them up in the intensive care unit. *laughing*
Dr. Masley: You know they went home in bandages. I thought, ‘Oh my god, I never want to see my dad in the hospital as a patient.’ *chuckles* I literally grew up wanting to be a doctor who kept people out of the hospital and keep people from getting sick, which is a totally different perspective than everyone I went to medical school with.
Drew: That’s funny. *chuckles* So you knew from a very young age …. well, that sounds like it would have scared you off from going into the medical field. *laughing*
Dr. Masley: *laughing* It surely did but I felt …. I thought most of it was unnecessary. You know, when I would listen to what they talked about, it always seemed like what was leading to people’s problems, was that they didn’t take care of themselves. I thought, well what if we could get people to take really good care of themselves and they would feel better and they would have more energy. They would be sharper. They wouldn’t have all these health issues, they could prevent it all and feel fantastic. That was really pretty much my goal going into medical school.
Drew: Cool. Did you know what field you wanted to study when you went in?
Dr. Masley: No, I didn’t and I was even interested in being in a third world international health care, like malaria and leprosy and tuberculosis. No, but somehow I fell into this prevention, optimizing health pattern. Functional medicine is really what I am focusing on and I love it. It didn’t really exist as a specialty when I started medical school, but it certainly does now. I think it’s taking the nation by storm and more and more people are interested in improving their function, instead of waiting until they have some disease that needs treatment.
Drew: I love that, because I am a huge fan of functional medicine. How did you transition into it? What was it that led you down that path? It sounds like it wasn’t really an option to study that, so how did you transition into it?
Dr. Masley: I was pretty frustrated my first ten years as a physician. I was doing studies and trying to treat diabetes and heart disease and memory function. I was one of the first doctors in the county to offer lifestyle in a group study. I would see twenty people at a time and we would go through food and supplements and exercise and stress management. And how it could maybe prevent or reverse their condition. I mean we had many people with advanced diabetes and we got them totally off their meds and diabetic free. I think doing those group visits is what transformed my career early on.
Drew: Awesome. And how long have you been in this field?
Dr. Masley: Thirty years.
Drew: *chuckles* So you know your stuff.
Dr. Masley: I’ve been around. *chuckles* I’m a fellow with three medical organizations. I’ve got an appointment at a University Academics Center. I do research. I publish articles and I’ve written six books. So, yeah, I think I have been around. And I realize we can really make a difference in people’s lives.
Drew: Yeah. Let’s talk about your latest book and what led you to write that.
Dr. Masley: At our clinic, we do assessments on how people age. We’ll look at your brain speed and performance, how productive can you be? We’ll look at are you growing plaque or is your artery plaque shrinking? We look at fitness, but we look at it in terms of health issues and physiological function. We look at the food you eat, the nutrients you consume, how active and fit you are. Your stress management and the toxins you should be avoiding. We have been able to publish several studies showing that we can predict certain foods and things that will accelerate brain decline or improvement. At the same time, we’ve done a randomized clinical trial, using our five steps and we’ve shown that our average patient improves their brain speed, basically productivity by 25-30%, if they follow our program.
Drew: Let’s talk about those five steps. What are the five steps?
Dr. Masley: So number one is food. Foods to add and foods to avoid. Foods to avoid is simple, so I will start with that. The number one cause for accelerated brain loss today is sugar and flour. I mean people are eating way too much sugar and flour. Its disrupting and it’s literally turning our brain function off. It’s slowing our brain speed down and it’s hurting our productivity. I think a lot of people think when they eat sugar, they get a pick me up. Not really. They might transitionally have more energy, but they …. when your blood sugar levels go up, surprisingly you actually turn your brain cells off and you get brain fog. If that persists and it’s not just a short term choice, your brain cells start to become dysfunctional and they will die and then your brain shrinks. I mean the number one health problem today is memory loss. It’s going to double in the next 12 years and sugar is the number one cause. So we want that out. Let me switch to foods we should be adding.
Dr. Masley: I would put high on that list plant pigments, things like green leafy vegetables, berries, dark chocolate, green tea. These pigments really seem to protect our brain. They help slow the decline and they improve our brain function. Not surprisingly since our brain is mostly fat, we also need smart fats, not bad fats but olive oil, nuts, wild seafood, like wild salmon. Those are also really important for our brain. So are spices and herbs. Like Italian herb seasoning, French herbs and curry spices, especially turmeric. There are specific foods, if we add them, it protects our brain. It slows cognitive decline and we function better. It’s good for every aspect of our health.
Drew: That’s awesome. Those are all foods that I personally love and that I preach a lot to my audience. I was just recently at a concert and listened to a lot of doctors. It seems like there are lots of foods that do so much good for us. For example, you talking about optimizing brain health and these foods. I was just listening to a doctor talk about oxalate and how that can be detrimental if you have too much high oxalate food, like leafy greens, certain ones like spinach and chocolate as well. What about someone that might have kidney stones or has to reduce the oxalates in their diet or are there ways to get around it?
Dr. Masley: Well, you are right though. There are only a few of them, like deep greens and spinach is high in oxalate. So, they do like the old block count, a good example is, all green leafys have calcium and they are a good source of calcium. One of the best ways to get calcium in your diet is to eat green leafys. So if you’re eating kale or broccoli, you get to count them. But if you are eating spinach, you don’t because the oxalates block the calcium absorption. I don’t really feel like oxalates are that toxic though, they just block some nutrient intake. The spinach is still really good for you in many other ways. You won’t absorb the calcium from spinach, but all that green pigment is awesome for your health. So, I’m not anti-spinach. I mean if you get oxalate kidney stones, the number one thing you need to do is hydrate. Hydrate prevents you from forming crystals. So, if you’re dehydrated and you have a tendency to make oxalate kidney stones, then yeah, obviously avoid oxalates. But if you really hydrate well, I actually don’t even think that’s an issue.
Drew: Ok, cool. I appreciate you giving me that. When I first heard this, I’m like, ok so what do I do? Do I just not eat those foods? But your telling me this is great for brain health, which I agree with 100% and I still eat those foods.
Dr. Masley: If you hydrate, you don’t even have to worry about the kidney stones.
Drew: Gotcha. I also heard you adding in things like dairy or other high calcium foods, the calcium kind of absorbs the oxalates, preventing them from causing damage in the body. I’m not sure where I heard that but, anyways. Let’s go back to brain health. We’re talking about the first step and that’s to take out certain foods, that’s sugar and flour. The interesting thing about that to me is, it’s so hard to convince people to get off of those foods because we’ve been told for so long by the food industry, by the media that we need to have 7-11 servings of grains per day. We were just all consuming these low fat, low cholesterol foods for a couple of decades and now we are trying to get people off of those foods, telling people that they are not that healthy for you. Do you, yourself, have a hard time convincing people to stay away from those foods?
Dr. Masley: Well I don’t know if anyone thinks they need to eat more sugar, so …. *laughing*
Dr. Masley: They might have cravings and they might not be able to control themselves, but everybody knows they shouldn’t be eating sugar. When you actually look at the fact, if you were to eat a bowl of sugar, a bowl of white flour or a bowl of whole wheat flour, they have the exact same impact on your blood sugar. So once you take a grain and you grind it into flour, you processed it and you dramatically altered its form. So the food industry wants to sell grain products, that’s one of the things they make the greatest profit on. They cost almost nothing, you process them into a packaged food that lasts for years. It’s like a perfect marketing opportunity, right?
Dr. Masley: We should not be eating ground up flour. I mean, maybe if your a farmer and your exercising six or seven hours a day, then you need those extra calories. But for those of us who are struggling to get 3, 4, 5 or 7 hours a week, we definitely do not need the flour. I find it’s pretty easy for me to get that message across to my patients. I mean, what is there, bread, chips, crackers, cakes, cookies? I mean there is nothing redeeming about any of those.
Drew: Yeah. Ok, let’s go to number two.
Dr. Masley: Two would be nutrients. There are some key nutrients, even if we eat really well, we are still going to probably be deficient in. Things like Vitamin D, doesn’t come from food. For a hundred thousand years, we got it from sunlight, but nobody seems to be running around in a bikini anymore for hours a day in the sun. I mean, we are too busy and we get skin cancer if we did. We are much better off getting a supplement and taking it. The minimum is like 2000 a day to get a decent level. Many people might need 3000 or 4000 international units a day, so Vitamin D is one. B12, we get a tiny bit in food but as we get older, or if we have heartburn and we take stomach acid medications, it really drops our absorption down. We usually need extra B12. We are not going to get it otherwise. We need Fish Oil, unless most people are eating wild salmon three times a week, but your brain is 40% fish oil by weight. Long chain omega 3 fats, as in Fish Oil, or if your vegetarian, you could take a seaweed supplement, a DHA seaweed supplement as well. And here is another nutrient, magnesium. That’s critical for the connection between brain cells and for helping our processing speed. Yet more than 70% of Americans are grossly deficient in magnesium. Most people, when I hear them say here’s foods with magnesium, they can’t consistently eat all those foods on a daily basis. Those are just some examples of nutrients that are really focused on a better brain solution. I am looking for the slam dunk. One of the things that are clearly shown to be important for our brain, that are easy to find and we absolutely shouldn’t miss. My patients are wasting money on supplements. They are taking way too many things and I would rather them focus on the key nutrients you need. If you want to talk about some of the possible maybe helpful ones, we can do that as well. But I am really trying to make this practical and easy for people to follow and that’s a big part of the better brain solution.
Drew: Ok. And what form of magnesium is best absorbed? There is all different ….
Dr. Masley: That’s a really good question, because a lot of them are not alike. The most common is Magnesium Oxide. It’s a GI irritant, it’s not well absorbed, so I much prefer Magnesium Glycinate, Magnesium Malate, some chelated protein about it. The key is, you ideally like all your minerals to be protein bound because they don’t bother your stomach and you get double the absorption.
Dr. Masley: There is a new form out that has one study. It’s been in one study and got a lot of popularity. Magnesium L-Threonate, which has better absorption, not just across your gut but the blood brain barrier. You get higher levels into your brain. For people who have early cognitive decline, that may be even another protein bound form of Magnesium, Magnesium L-Threonate, they should also consider.
Drew: How did you say the first one? How do you spell that?
Dr. Masley: Magnesium L-Threonate. ‘T-h-r-e-o-n-a-t-e’
Drew: Ok, gotcha. Yeah, I’ve never heard of that one before. There’s products out there, I just googled it.
Dr. Masley: There’s nothing convincing that a healthy person needs to take that form, but definitely use the glycinate, that’s one of the most common protein forms. It would be really a great choice.
Drew: Ok and is there a certain amount that people should shoot for on a daily basis?
Dr. Masley: Well, we are supposed to get a minimum of 400 a day and most people are getting about 100-200 from their diet, so they are missing half. And it helps you sleep, for people with insomnia. It helps get rid of migraines, constipation, muscle cramps. It helps your blood pressure, your blood sugar and it’s good for your brain. I mean there are so many reasons to get your magnesium. So I am looking at about 150-250 milligrams and take it at bedtime, because it helps you sleep.
Drew: That’s great. I coach a lot of people on the Ketogenic diet and one of the issues people have is they forget about these important nutrients. These minerals like magnesium and sodium potassium and that’s why a lot of people feel the keto flu or they feel cramping and they feel brain fog or lethargic during the transition. I tell people all the time to supplement with these types of supplements to help out with that. That’s good to know that it’s also good for your brain health. I’ve also read that it’s great for sleep as well. So many people, especially in our society today, we are watching TV or on our IPhone and our laptop in front of us, all at the same time.
Dr. Masley: When we, in our clinic looked at what predicts artery plaque, we have had hundreds of our patients shrink their plaque in their arteries, the top number one nutrient for plaque shrinkage was Magnesium.
Drew: Wow. Ok.
Dr. Masley: So, good for your heart too.
Drew: Ok. So let’s keep going then. Those were some of the supplements that people should take.
Dr. Masley: Yeah. There are like a probiotic for your gut. Curcumin is a really good anti-inflammatory that has brain benefits, but those are really the top key most important nutrients to make sure you get everyday.
Drew: Ok, so let’s go to number three.
Dr. Masley: So, number three would be fitness. Actually, when we looked at the data from our clinic on what predicted improvements on brain performance, brain speed, processing speed, how quickly you can process information, fitness is number one. Maybe it won’t be a surprise to you, it was a little surprise to me. I knew aerobic performance would be really good, but strength training was also really powerful. And they are independent, so we want both aerobic activity and strength training. Both of those help improve blood sugar control and both of them are essential in enhancing your brain. In fact, when you work out, you can even increase the size of your brain. Even 80 years old have been shown to increase the size of their brain with a good workout routine.
Drew: I love that advice. First of all, because I have heard first hand from my parents, or people from a previous generation, that grew up their whole life not lifting weights because they don’t want to get bulky or they don’t know how. Or they say there is no training involved, or they weren’t playing a specific sport. Now here they are. all of a sudden 60-70 years old and it’s like, ok, now you need to start doing some lifting and they have no idea where to start. Some of them are like, ‘Oh, it seems too hard, I am sore and it hurts.’ *laughing* But to see how it can improve your brain health, I think is really important for people of that age and that generation to realize that. I think people in my generation, I think they get it because they see a lot of people lifting weights nowadays. I think most of us know that you need to lift heavy weight, not just for big muscles, but also I’ve heard for bone density as well. But what you are saying is really important, because it actually can improve or increase the size of your brain. And like you said, it controlled blood sugar levels. So there are a lot of benefits to exercise, other than just trying to get a six pack.
Dr. Masley: Yeah, it’s more than a six pack. We know it’s good for your heart, our data shows that. We know that it helps your bone mass, that’s pretty clear. Yes, it makes you look sexier, that’s all nice. But I think that it’s really compelling that it keeps your brain from shrinking.
Drew: Yeah. I think that’s real important. Ok, so let’s go to number four.
Dr. Masley: So, you could eat well, meet your nutrients and workout, but be totally stressed out and still really injure your brain. I like stress in my life, it gives me purpose and challenge and I want all my patients to have some stress and purpose in their life. But if you’re feeling stressed all the time and you don’t take steps to manage it, physiologically what happens is you tend to overproduce cortisol. That’s the stress response hormone. The problem is if you make extra cortisol and you don’t manage your stress, your cortisol will cause you to lose muscle mass, you lose bone mass. Your blood sugar goes up, that’s not good and you literally shrink the memory center of your brain, the hippocampus. So, we’ve got to do something to proactively …. it’s hard to get rid of stress. I mean, you can’t get rid of your relatives. *laughing*
Dr. Masley: It’s hard to change jobs and our commute might not be good, but moving might be even harder. We’ve got to come up with ways to proactively manage stress so we don’t unintentionally shrink our brain.
Drew: Gotcha. So, from a medical perspective, how do you coach people? In your book, do you go into some specifics of how to manage stress?
Dr. Masley: Oh, absolutely. I go through a detailed plan on steps you can take to proactively manage your stress. Just in brief, one is get a good workout. When you get that sweat up, your burning away calories, but you are also burning away tension. Two is a good night of sleep. Way too many people are sleep deprived. Better Brain Solution has a whole bunch of ideas on how to improve quality of sleep. Three, I think people need to start scheduling ten minutes a day, I even would have them start with two minutes a day of meditation, some relaxing technique. Something where we can let ourselves get calm, relaxed and we take off that stimulation on the adrenal gland so we stop over producing cortisol. It’s pretty amazing that two minutes a day helps, but ten minutes is really effective.
Drew: Gotcha. I love that you said that. For me, I am a huge fan of meditation and I know it’s a huge stress reliever for me. But from a medical perspective, it sounds kind of ‘woo-woo’ or out there a little bit, but I think it’s taking …. it’s becoming more mainstream in our society, in our western society over here. There are people who are really showing it’s proven benefits, even from a medical perspective of reducing stress levels. It’s becoming more popular. My hope is that it keeps continuing to be mainstream. I love that you touched on that as a doctor, as well.
Dr. Masley: Well, it is getting …. I think your right. I mean, we’ve known for blood pressure and heart disease, that meditation would be beneficial. But I think the latest data, is that if you spend even ten minutes a day meditating, your more productive. You get more done. I mean, companies are teaching corporate executives to meditate, not because they are worried about their health, because they want them to be more productive. They want them mentally sharper and to get more work done. They are being paid a lot, so they want to make sure they are squeezing as much juice out of that lemon as they can. *chuckles*
Drew: *laughing* Yeah.
Dr. Masley: So, the fact that companies are training their executives to meditate, shows, wow, ok, this is starting to go mainstream. *laughing* That’s a huge shift, when we realize it makes you get more done in the day if you’ll spend five to ten minutes meditating every day.
Drew: Awesome. The cool thing about it now, is there is technology that helps out with that. We are a huge fan of making it more convenient and accessible and that’s why there are a ton of Apps. When I got started. I used “HeadSpace” and “Calm”, which are free Apps. You can pay for features of it that you want, but there are so many available now that kind of, it’s a Meditation 101 guide. It’s like here is how to get started. I didn’t grow up meditating. My parents didn’t grow up meditating. It wasn’t something that was passed down from generation to generation. But there is now technology that can help our society with learning how to do it from a very basic level.
Dr. Masley: Yeah, HeadSpace is a really nice one. I also use something in my clinic. We do a test on everybody now. We actually use a biofeedback unit and it scores you in how affective you are and that’s called Heart Math. So Heart Math is a way of measuring how calm are you when you are trying to be relaxed. I would say half of my executives in my clinic when I go to measure …. we do a two minute test on all of them, for how calm can you get. Most of them are just agitated the whole two minutes. They are not even close to getting relaxed and they started getting worse towards the end, because they realize they are not getting it. *laughing* So to give them a feedback tool that tells them, ok, think about this or try that if this doesn’t work, and they see it turn from red to green and they realize, I got it. This is what I need to focus on. So, a feedback tool can be really helpful, because a lot of people won’t meditate because they just get frustrated.
Drew: Yeah, exactly. Because they think to do it, your not supposed to think about anything and there’s expectations of you just sitting there in a zen moment and there are no thoughts that come to your brain. *chuckles* I wish it were that easy!
Dr. Masley: Yeah. You know, I know. There are always thoughts, but you just let them go. You don’t have to finish the to do list right now. You just let those thoughts come and go and keep focusing on your breathing, long, slow, deep breaths. It works and it doesn’t take that long. Then you feel really restored when your done.
Drew: Yeah, like you said, even just two minutes a day is beneficial. I love that you talked about that. Let’s go to number five now.
Dr. Masley: There are some toxins out there that can hurt your brain. It’s critical to avoid them. In food packaging, it’s not even the food, it’s the packaging. DPA lining in cans and cartons. Wrapping food in plastic and we get phthalates. You know, both of those increase our risk of diabetes and memory loss and cancer. We got to get smarter about how we buy our food. Ideally you don’t buy canned and packaged food, but if you do, you don’t want it wrapped in plastic. You certainly don’t even want to cook with it in plastic. If you buy cans, they should be BPA free and that’s more and more available. It’s just being aware and making that choice.
Drew: Gotcha. So no microwaving stuff in Tupperware anymore? *laughing*
Dr. Masley: Put it in glass. And actually, I would really like for people to buy glass containers to store in the fridge. It’s fine if they have a plastic lid because it kind of sits on and the vacuum is tight, that’s great. But you don’t want to be cooking, the last thing is like you put a plastic wrap over your food in the microwave, don’t do that. Use a paper towel instead. Otherwise it’s just melting your food and it’s inhibiting your testosterone and blocking your estrogen and causing diabetes. We don’t want that.
Drew: Yeah. Exactly. I had a guy come on who wrote a book called, “Estrogeneration”. It’s about how our generation is obviously …. estrogen levels are through the roof and most men’s testosterone levels are down. A lot of it has to do with these types of plastics, among many other things.
Dr. Masley: And then there are things like mercury in big mouth fish. There’s inorganic copper we can get from plumbing or cheap supplements. And pesticides, there is a whole database showing if your pesticide intake is high, you’re 350% more likely to get dementia than someone who doesn’t have high pesticides. So, pesticides are really important too.
Drew: Gotcha. All really good advice. So those were the five steps to help people that you see. You have said that in your clinic, you guys have helped improve brain function. I am assuming you take some kind of baseline test to access that?
Dr. Masley: Yeah, we do cognitive testing, fitness measurements, strength, nutrient intake, blood levels, imaging. Are you growing plaque in your arteries? We do all those kinds of tests before and after. We track people over time and the results are pretty amazing. Our average patient gets younger pretty much every year. Their brain performance gets better. We have them on less medication. My goal is to get people off most of their medications. Their trimmer and they are fitter. They feel better and they have less risk for memory loss and heart disease. It all comes down to just doing stuff that makes sense. Eat the right foods, meet your key nutrient need, get fit, manage your stress and don’t poison yourself. *chuckles* And it’s not that hard to do. Here is the thing, we used to say ‘Oh my god, you cannot tell people to do three or more things at once, it’s too complicated. They can’t do it.’ So, we’ve always limited ourselves to studies that do one thing at a time. The problem is, one thing at a time is not very effective. Things that impact your memory are complicated, multifold. So if you only did one, but your poisoning yourself, it may not work. Here’s the other amazing thing. In most of the recent studies, when we asked people to add food, activity, stress management all at once, they feel better and they are more likely to stick with it. So, compliance rates actually went up to nearly 70%, when you ask people to do multiple things at once, instead of only asking them to do one thing at a time.
Drew: Really? That’s actually really interesting data. What about people that are more prone to memory loss or any certain specific like genotypes that could cause someone to …. let’s say they are doing all these things but they are still, maybe it’s genetic or something like that?
Dr. Masley: Well, there are people who are high risk. Like, what if you’ve had a concussion? You are 350% more likely. If you’ve had depression, you are 300% more likely. If you have an APOE E4 gene, that’s 20% of the population, they are 300% more likely. So there are some high risk people out there. What that means is, they don’t have that much reserve. Like, if you had a concussion, there is nothing wrong with the brain cells you’ve got, but you injured and lost some. So, you don’t have that much reserve and you should be more careful. That would make the Better Brain Solution more important, because now you are …. look, 300% more likely, that’s really high risk. It’s much more important that those people actively take these 5 steps and take them to heart. Follow them, they will feel better. Their cognitive performance is going to improve and it’s going to help prevent memory loss, because without reserve, here is the sad reality. Most people are following the sad, standard American diet and it’s killing them. Killing them! And we’ve got to stop that. I mean, I really appreciate Podcasts like yours, because I think you are helping get the word out that we’ve got to stop doing this. It’s so important to get out the message for people to take care of themselves. It’s even more important for people that have had a concussion or depression or a family history of memory loss or an APOE E4 genotype.
Drew: Yeah. I love this stuff we are talking about. I have a couple of questions about some things. For example, like nootropics, brain drugs, smart drugs, whatever you want to call them, that are becoming really popular these days. A lot of them out there, you know Tim Ferriss, I think he even formatted his own back in the day. Do you see this as something that could have some potential to help brain optimization?
Dr. Masley: Sadly, none of the medications …. there are 200 drugs approved to help stop memory loss and none of them have been shown to work. That’s pretty depressing.
Dr. Masley: They tried all different mechanisms. None of them slowed the progression of memory loss. I don’t even anticipate …. I mean if you notice, just recently a couple of weeks ago, Pfizer dropped one of their primary drugs on the market. It just wasn’t working. They are out.
Drew: For Alzheimer’s, right?
Dr. Masley: One of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the world has just dropped one of their, what they were hoping was going to be a promising drug, and they dropped it. Nothing is really pending out there. I mean at some point it would be great if we could do something like for an APOE E4 genotype person, those people who have an increased risk for memory loss. Wouldn’t it be nice if with this crisp technology, you could go in there and snip off that gene and insert an APOE E2 or 3 gene and put it in there. That might be coming in 10-20 years. But in the meantime, everyday Americans, their brains are shrinking as we speak. They are literally growing smaller everyday and they are losing cognitive performance. The rate of memory loss is projected to double in the next 10 years. I think we’ve got to do something now to really make a difference. Most people are procrastinating. They are waiting. Here’s the really sad problem. People are waiting to have a problem to fix it before they do anything. But by the time you have memory loss, your brain has already shrunk substantially and there is no guarantee you will get all that back.
Drew: How can we go about preventing this? And how has the healthcare system failed in a way to come up with any kind of cures for this disease?
Dr. Masley: Well let’s start with the second part first. We have approved 200 drugs, more than 200 medications that have been approved by the FDA for treating memory loss and not a single one of those medications has worked. And as you just said, the latest, best, hopeful medication in the pipeline was just pulled off the market because the final study showed it to be ineffective. It’s pretty frustrating to think that there are no medications, no treatment, nothing to stop the progression of memory loss. So, if you are waiting for your doctor to come up with a pill, you’re really in deep trouble.
Dr. Masley: Here is the good news. We know that with lifestyle, we can prevent at least 60%, perhaps up to 90% of memory loss. And Alzheimer’s can be prevented with lifestyle changes. We know from the data published in my clinic, not only can we help prevent it, we can actually improve your brain function. We can make you sharper, quicker, more productive and improve your memory. So we know we can improve cognitive function by up to 25% and we can stop or slow the decline. I think everybody deserves to have a better brain and try to prevent memory loss.
Drew: Yeah and I agree with that. I don’t know anyone personally that has been affected by it. But, I know there are a lot of people out there who know somebody. It’s a heart wrenching thing to go through and to see someone you love lose their identity in a way. They are not the same person. It’s really frustrating and really hard. Prevention is always the best thing to do, right?
Dr. Masley: Yeah, Drew. It’s worse in the sense that not only do you lose your identity and you forget the people you love and all that, but it’s even worse. You become a burden on the people you love and nobody wants that. That’s awful. That’s the worst of the worst. None of us want to reach that point. I think what’s really important is, not only can you prevent memory loss, you can improve your brain function. That’s what the Better Brain Solution is all about.
Drew: Love that. How do things like alcohol and marijuana, those types of substances, affect brain health? Are there studies showing good or bad things when it comes to those types of things?
Dr. Masley: When it comes to alcohol, there is only one form of alcohol that has ever shown any mild to moderate benefit, and that would be red wine. That if you have one or two servings per day, like with dinner, there is actually some improvement, probably from the pigment. I don’t think it’s from the alcohol, because hard liquor and beer have never been shown to help your memory. And anybody who drinks more than two or three servings a day, let’s not fool ourselves, if a little bit is good, maybe more is better? That’s not true. You are pickling your brain. So, more than three servings a day of any form of alcohol is clearly bad. If you can drink one or two servings of red wine a day, that’s actually probably good. Here’s the point I want to make, some people can’t drink one serving a day. If they have one, they have three, they have five, they have seven. Well, that’s not just going to ruin their brain health, that’s not just going to ruin their liver. That ruins their family, their job, everything. If people don’t drink, they don’t need to start. They may have a very good reason for not drinking. It should either be in moderation, or not at all.
Drew: Yeah, and what about marijuana? It’s kind of controversial, because it’s becoming legal in some states.
Dr. Masley: Marijuana has clear benefit for people with chronic pain. I think it’s crazy that if someone has cancer and is going through chemo and is miserable, we don’t offer them something like that. The studies show it clearly works. Let’s be realistic though, it doesn’t improve brain function. *chuckles* And yes, it may be used for severe anxiety, chronic pain, other debilitating conditions. So yes, I think marijuana should be legally available and under a doctor’s prescription, just like narcotics, if used properly. I don’t want anyone to think, ok if I go out and use marijuana it’s going to improve my brain, because that’s just not true.
Drew: So, you do the five minutes a day and your play these games that are supposed to improve hand eye coordination.
Dr. Masley: You’re probably talking about Lumosity.
Dr. Masley: Lumosity, it’s actually a really good program. BrainHQ is another excellent one. Lumosity overstated their claims. They were basically looking at young adults who used this game every day. It seemed to improve their productivity, sharpness and factors when they were using it. It was just short term for like 6 weeks. They never showed that it would work long term and they never showed that it worked in older adults, who probably need it the most. They basically said, ‘Hey older folks, if you want to use our program, it will help prevent memory loss and dementia.’ Zing! They got really zapped with a big fine! I think it’s still probably a good program. I think BrainHQ is another one. That’s just an example of what we need, is continuous learning. We need to be learning new things every day. If you learn a new language, you can postpone getting memory loss and Alzheimer’s by 4 to 5 years. I mean, playing a musical instrument, taking college courses. We should spend at least one to two hours every day learning something new. It’s kind of like your biceps, if you don’t use it, it’s going to shrink. Honestly, if you don’t challenge your brain, it will shrink. The worst thing you could do is to retire, just play golf, wait for cocktails at 5 and then go to bed. I mean, that would be the end of your brain. We need purpose and challenge. Even if we are 85, it’s never too late.
Drew: I love that. That’s such a good analogy. I remember hearing about a study of retired firefighters and police officers, who once they retired, their life span is shortened immensely, because that sense of purpose is gone, right? They don’t have that purpose anymore and it’s like, ‘I’ve nothing to do now.’ So if we don’t continue to challenge ourselves, it is similar to a muscle, it gets weaker. That’s a great analogy. Find ways to challenge your brain one or two hours a day, just like exercise. Are there any other hacks, because I know a good friend of mine, Jim Kwik, who works with a lot of celebrities on memorizing names and memorizing scripts for movies, things like that. He talks about standing on one foot while brushing your teeth or brushing your teeth with the opposite hand. Challenging those normal motions you do. Challenging your brain to think differently with little tiny hacks like that.
Dr. Masley: At our clinic, when we did research, we realized there were really five tools you could use to improve your brain. The right foods is one. Giving up sugar, giving up flour and eating the right foods really does improve brain function. Number two, nutrients. There are some specific nutrients you absolutely have to get to support your brain. Three was activity and so it’s both mental activity, like the challenges you’re talking about, right? Continuous learning new things, but there is physical activity, and there is two forms. The two forms that really improve brain function are one, aerobic activity. Get your heartrate up and get a little sweaty. That speeds up your brain. And two, strength training. Some form of elastic bands, yoga, pilates, weight lifting, something that builds your muscle mass. When you build muscle mass, you help improve your blood sugar control and you actually enlarge the size of your brain. And they are independent, it’s not just which one is the best, you really want both. So then number four is stress management. There are some really cool tools you can use to lower cortisone and that helps protect your brain. I think fifth, our data shows there are some toxins out there that are really bad for your brain and it’s essential to avoid them. So, those are the five steps we use to …. that we’ve shown to improve brain function.
Drew: I think those are all great tips. Obviously your book goes into more details of those five things. Correct?
Dr. Masley: Absolutely. There is like a hundred times more information than I shared just there.
Drew: Going back to exercise, I think it’s hard because I see people 60, 70, 80 years old, who have never lifted weights in their life and they think to lift weights, they have to be this body builder. When in reality, you don’t have to look like that. It doesn’t have to look a certain way. Find what works for you. Have you seen any successful programs that have worked for clients who are maybe older?
Dr. Masley: Well, even 80 years old, they have done studies where they like had 80 years old and randomized them in just passive reading groups. They didn’t really have much challenge, they just sat and read. The other half was like in a group where people were getting on a treadmill and they were running and getting their heart rate up and lifting weights twice a week. The 80 year olds who were working out, not only improved their cognitive scores, the size of their brain enlarged too. The people who didn’t have challenge, who were just kind of passive, their brain shrunk. So, it’s never too early, it’s never too late. So if an 80 years old can benefit, most of your listeners could to. I think that’s pretty …. none of these people became bulky. They were just toning up. They were just doing the toning activities for 20-30 minutes twice a week. That’s all it took. None of them were weightlifters. None of them were bodybuilders and it really made a difference in protecting their brain. I thought it was amazing that they could enlarge their brains.
Drew: Yeah, I think that’s awesome data for people. Anyone listening, if you have a parent or grandparent that fits in that category, make sure they listen to this episode. Also make sure they check out Dr. Masley’s book. Where can people go to find your book and then also your social media accounts for people to get ahold of you?
Dr. Masley: The book is available wherever books are sold, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, any ‘ma and pa’ bookstore. It’s available everywhere. But they can learn much more by going to my website, DrMasley.com. I’ve got my free shopping guide up there right now. So, if they click on the website, they will be able to pick up my 12 foods you need to buy and the 12 foods you absolutely should not put in your cart when you go to the store. What are the foods that will protect your brain and what are the foods that would hurt it. There is lots of information and it’s all free. And I’ve got a regular blog at DrMasley.com. I have all sorts of information on how people can be healthier and feel better and improve their brain function.
Drew: Awesome. We will have all of that in the show notes for you guys. Make sure you go check that out afterwards to click on some of these links to check out Dr. Masley’s book. Last question for you, Dr. Masley, what is the next language you are going to learn?
Dr. Masley: Good question! Obviously I am English speaking, you may not know I speak French and Spanish. Yeah, I got a double major in college, one in humanities and foreign languages and the other one was biology. I’ve spent time living in Europe. I’ve spent time working in Latin America, like in hospital settings. I’ve been able to use French and Spanish in the hospital with patients. But next summer, I am planning to go to Italy and sail along the Italian Coast. I am taking a little sabbatical and doing some Mediterranean sailing. I am going to try to not only improve my French and my Spanish, but I’m going to try to get going on my Italian too.
Drew: There you go. I love that. For me, I hope to relearn Portuguese as well as I used to know it. I was fluent in it back in 2001 time frame. I do notice that going to a different country and being forced to speak their language also probably helps your brain as well. It puts you out of your comfort zone and you are forced to speak differently and you have to think differently.
Dr. Masley: Drew, you’re making a really good point, when I said learning another language is good for your brain, it’s really learning and using. You really need to keep using it to get those wires going. Yes, you want to learn and use another language on a regular basis to get the full benefit. Pretty amazing.
Drew: Alright. Well thank you once again, Dr. Masley, for coming on. I really appreciate all you do and all the hard work that you do to impact people’s lives and educating people on the importance of brain health. A lot of people will think health is just the physical body and reducing body fat percentage, that’s just a piece of it. There is so much more to health than just your body fat percentage or your weight. Thank you for what you do.
Dr. Masley: Well thank you so much for inviting me.
Drew: Ok, we’ll have to have you on in the near future.
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