In his new book, “The Genius Life,” author Max Lugavere gives his tips for a lifestyle that will give you not only a healthier life, but a longer life, too. In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Max discusses his top lifestyle tips with Dr. Daniel and Tana Amen, from how to portion protein correctly to strategies for supplements that provide the greatest benefit.
Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And I'm Tana amen. In our podcast we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
Dr Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we have been transforming lives for 30 years, using tools like brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information, visit amenclinics.com.
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is also brought to you by Brain MD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to brainmd.com.
Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome back. We are here with Max Lugavere and having a great time. We're grateful for his time to share his knowledge on the Brain Warrior's Way podcast. Max is a film maker, a TV personality, a journalist, a brain food expert. His New York Times bestselling book, Genius Foods has just done phenomenal and helped so many people. You know Max, I have to tell you, our nutritionists at Amen Clinics have the best testimonials.
Tana Amen: Yes, they do.
Dr Daniel Amen: So it's generally not the medications we put you on, it's get your food right and your brain will follow. But you have a new book coming out March 17th called The Genius Life. Talk to us about how that's different from Genius Foods and how do people have a genius life because who the heck wouldn't want that.
Tana Amen: Right.
Max Lugavere: Yeah, it's such a good question. I wrote The Genius Life to really be an all-in-one diet and lifestyle guide that's going to give you the best shot at averting, not just Alzheimer's disease and dementia in accordance with the best available evidence, but other conditions like heart disease and even certain types of cancer. It's really a book about longevity and health span. A lot of people today, they spend many, many, many years sick. They don't live a long time and whatever precious years we do have to our lives, much of it is dedicated to the management of chronic disease.
Tana Amen: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So true.
Max Lugavere: I certainly saw that in my own life. And so this is a book about extending your lifespan and making sure that those years are spent healthy and viral and with vigor. And so I do make nutritional recommendations in the book that are a little bit different than The Genius Life. They're really calibrated more towards helping readers achieve the best possible body composition, so being relatively lean and strong in body and mind. And so in The Genius Life, what I do is I placed an emphasis on certain macronutrients like protein, which... I think a lot of people are confused about the value of protein. On the one hand people are told that we're eating too much protein as it is, but on the other hand, how many people are struggling with sarcopenia as they get older and frailty?
Tana Amen: True. True.
Max Lugavere: I mean my mother was definitely one of those people. Also, I mean not to mention you look at the obesity statistics. I think that protein is a very, very powerful tool for people. This is something that is known in the fitness industry where it's a little bit siloed off, but I like to expose the value of protein in The Genius Life. It's the most satiating macronutrient. So protein is going to kill your hunger better than anything else, carbs or fat. While I don't advocate for a very high protein diet... It's actually very difficult to consume what one might consider a very high protein diet because protein is so satiating.
Max Lugavere: In my book I advise readers to prioritize protein, whether that is grass-fed beef, or fatty fish, or poultry, or if you're on a plant-based diet, plant-based foods that are high in protein because it's going to fill you up essentially. Then there's this idea that people who under consume protein actually consume more carbs and fat. Carbs and fat are essentially energy today and people are inundated with energy. People are packing energy around their waistlines, on their thighs, and so protein I think is important for building, maintaining muscle, for losing weight. Also, there is an association, people who consume higher amounts of protein, and this is an observational study that I cite in the book, but people who consume higher levels of protein in their diet actually have less amyloid beta in their brains and in their cerebral spinal fluid. Now, whether that's a function of the fact that they're consuming more protein or they're just consuming less, potentially, pro-inflammatory foods, because if you look at all of the ultra processed foods in the supermarket, they're all low protein foods. They're all saturated in carbs and fat. I think it's a really powerful recommendation.
Dr Daniel Amen: Although there is a movement on putting the number of grams of protein on the packages, but I really want people to read the label. Read the labels over and over again I say. You know about this study from the Mayo Clinic where they showed people who had basically a fat-based diet had 42% less risk of Alzheimer's disease. They went on to say people who had primarily a protein-based diet, had 21% less risk of Alzheimer's disease. Those who consumed basically a carbohydrate-based diet; bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, fruit juice, sugar, had a 400% increase risk of Alzheimer's disease.
Tana Amen: Crazy.
Dr Daniel Amen: It's the food. And so having enough protein is... We have to actually think of that as the body's reserve. We have a friend who was buff, and really took the Brain Warrior's Way lifestyle seriously. Then he went to Hawaii, and he was a little crazy. He jumped into a pool-
Tana Amen: He was diving.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... and ended up with leptospirosis, which is a bacterial infection that attacked his body and his brain.
Tana Amen: Could have killed him within a week.
Dr Daniel Amen: He ended up in a coma and I thought, when I left him at the hospital that night, I was getting a call in the middle of the night that he had died. But it was really only because of the muscle on his body, which was his protein reserve, that he ended up surviving and becoming himself again.
Tana Amen: So true. As a nurse, I was a trauma nurse, and what I noticed is, and there are studies actually supporting this, what would kill the elderly people that would come into our unit versus the younger people, it was frailty. Frailty killed them. It wasn't necessarily the broken hip, or anything like that, it was they didn't have enough muscle reserve to survive through it, to actually be able to breathe and get up and do the things they needed to do. They didn't have enough muscle on their body, that's sarcopenia like you talked about. In reverse, there were people that survived accidents you would not imagine. We never thought they would survive or should survive, but they did because of the reserve they had going in. And so if you were young and you were healthy and you had muscle on your body, you could sustain three months in an ICU, where you couldn't do that if you were frail going in.
Max Lugavere: Yeah. Yeah.
Dr Daniel Amen: That's the biggest killer. What else in The Genius Life is important to you?
Max Lugavere: Yeah, it's a lifestyle guide, so I go deep into the value of getting good light in through your eyes every single day. Basically at a 30,000 foot level, the book is about all the little things that you could do every single day in your lifestyle that are going to have big wins in terms of how you feel in the moment, but then also as far as your health down the road as well. Nutrition is a strong part of the story. Yeah, it's-
Tana Amen: So this is the practical tips in how do I do this now?
Dr Daniel Amen: Now that you said that, I just have to say this is brand new for us.
Max Lugavere: Sure.
Dr Daniel Amen: We have a Bright Minds Therapy Lamp half an hour in the morning and we have both white and blue light that has been shown to improve your circadian rhythm. So for-
Tana Amen: Sleep.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... shift workers, but also seasonal affective disorder, head to head against Prozac was found to be more effective, helps with energy and so on. Light is so important.
Tana Amen: You're talking about light therapy as well right, Max?
Max Lugavere: I'm talking about light therapy as well.
Tana Amen: Yeah.
Max Lugavere: This is a crucial point to bring up that... What the latest research is suggesting is that it takes about a half an hour every morning of fairly bright light, about a thousand lux of light, which is... If you just go outside, even on an overcast day, you're easily achieving that. The problem is 93% of our time today is spent indoors, where our houselights never are able to reach that level of intensity. But it takes about a half an hour to anchor your body's circadian clock, which is going to help you be more alert, more focused, and even happier throughout the day, and it's going to help your sleep at the other end of the day. But the caveat that I would add is that for these light-sensing proteins in our eyes to be activated so that we can have a healthy circadian rhythm, we need to spend that time in the sun. The amount of time that we need might actually increase as we get older. As we age there's a yellowing of the lens that tends to occur and that can actually make us less sensitive to bright light.
Dr Daniel Amen: Oh, how interesting.
Tana Amen: Oh, yeah, that's interesting.
Max Lugavere: So my mall walking days should be limited.
Tana Amen: Well, so you only do that when it's raining. Yeah, I'm not supporting the mall walking thing unless it's raining.
Max Lugavere: Mall walking thing?
Tana Amen: Yeah, he's a mall walker. I never thought I was going to be married to a mall walker.
Dr Daniel Amen: Whenever it rains I have to walk, if I don't walk I'm not nearly as happy or energetic. It's one of the things I do for exercise besides playing table tennis. I love going to the beach in the morning. We live in Southern California, like you do.
Max Lugavere: Oh.
Dr Daniel Amen: See, that's why I like being outside.
Tana Amen: This winter's been crazy though.
Dr Daniel Amen: Yeah, this winter has been really cold, and the people in New York are going, "Are you kidding me?"
Tana Amen: "Yeah, we do not feel sorry for you."
Dr Daniel Amen: "48 is not cold."
Tana Amen: Yeah.
Max Lugavere: 48.
Dr Daniel Amen: "Below is cold."
Max Lugavere: I know, yeah. It's crucially important, but the light in the daytime is important for getting good sleep. It's important for feeling focused and energetic. But a lot of older adults, they claim that they don't... that complain to that I'm just not sleeping the way that I used to. Well, it might be a function of the fact that you're not getting enough light. By the age of 45 a person has roughly half of the circadian anchoring light sensitivity as their 10 year old self. That's half. Whereas their 10-year-old self might only require 10 or 20 or 30 minutes in the sun to get that same potent circadian anchoring effect that the sun offers us, you might need double that time as an older adult. If you look at hunter-gatherer communities, or any of the world's blue zones where people are moving along time-
Tana Amen: They're outside.
Max Lugavere: ... and they're robust, they're outside all the time, so it's not an issue. But for us, the fact that we're spending so much of our time indoors, might be particularly deleterious for older adults. And so that's why I really look at all of the many things that you can do over the course of the day across the age spectrum to boost your health. Light, getting good quality light [crosstalk 00:11:48].
Dr Daniel Amen: Is it light through your eyes or is it light through your skin? Because especially in the winter, which is when this is going to air, people aren't taking off their shirt, and many people actually shouldn't take off their shirt.
Tana Amen: You're going to get in trouble.
Dr Daniel Amen: What would you recommend?
Max Lugavere: Yeah, well, light on your skin is crucially important too and I do a deep dive into the value of getting sun on your skin in the book. Primarily because it helps us create vitamin D, which is important for good brain health, reducing levels of inflammation, having healthy levels of blood pressure, so getting sun on your skin is important. In the winter months, obviously that becomes more difficult to do, and that's where eating foods that are rich in vitamin D come in, so egg yolks, fatty fish and things like that. I mean, food is a nontrivial source of vitamin D to hold you over until those summer months when you can get back out into the sun. The problem is many people are not consuming foods that have vitamin D in it. So, they're vitamin D deficient in the summer because they're told by their dermatologists-
Tana Amen: Wear sunscreen.
Max Lugavere: ... to avoid the sun all costs, and then in the winter they're not eating vitamin D rich foods because they're told to avoid animal products, so they're not eating the egg yolks and they're not eating the fatty fish. That's one of the reasons why I think so many of us are struggling with problems related to cardiovascular health-
Tana Amen: Memory.
Max Lugavere: ... to brain health and the like. It's just a systemic problem. But getting the sun on your skin, when you're able to, super important. I mean the UVB rays from the sun help us create vitamin D, which there is a very interesting... It was a small study, it needs to be replicated. But they found that for patients with Alzheimer's disease, actually supplementation with just 800 international units of vitamin D every day was able to seemingly halt the progression of the condition.
Tana Amen: That's a tiny amount.
Max Lugavere: That was an amazing finding that needs to be, I think, replicated with maybe a larger population, multicenter trial would be amazing.
Tana Amen: That's a really small amount. I take seven grams of that.
Dr Daniel Amen: Wnen we come back, we're going to talk about more of these really helpful suggestions in Max's new book, The Genius Life. Stay with us.
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