Calories & Your Brain: The Hard Truth

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

The subject of part 11 in the Memory Rescue series is diabesity. Studies have shown that as your weight goes up, the size and function of your brain goes down. Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen tell you how to check your BMI and blood sugar levels, and how you can lose weight and feel great without the feelings of deprivation.


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Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.

Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. Here we teach you how to win the fight for your brain, to defeat anxiety, depression, memory loss, ADHD, and addictions.

Dr. Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we've transformed lives for three decades, using brain SPECT imaging to better target treatment, and natural ways to heal the brain. For more information, visit amenclinics dot com.

Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the hightest quality nutraceutical products to support the health of your brain and body. For more information, visit brainmdhealth dot com.

Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way podcast.

We are back, with BRIGHT MINDS for Memory Rescue. We have gone through all of BRIGHT. We are on MINDS, and in fact we are on D for diabesity. So why don't you introduce what we have, or review what we have talked about, and then we'll go into diabesity.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Well thank you so much for staying with us in our Memory Rescue series, and as you talked about, in order to keep your brain healthy, or get it back if it's headed for trouble, you have to attack all of the risk factors that steal your mind.

And we have grouped them into 11 categories and developed the mnemonic BRIGHT MINDS: B is for blood flow, R retirement and aging, I is for inflammation, G is for genetics, H is for head trauma, T is for toxins, M is mental health, the second I is immunity and infections; we just finished with N, which is neurohormone deficiencies, and D is a big deal.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: D is for diabesity.

Tana Amen: So that's like this combination of diabetes and obesity, both of which are just devastating for brain function.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And rampant.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Brand new article just out this morning, a scientific article that said 40 percent of cancer is associated to excessive weight on your body.

Tana Amen: And it feels like every year, the percentage of Americans that are obese goes up. I feel like it was just a couple years ago it was 30 percent, and now it's higher, isn't it?

Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, overweight or obese is 70 percent.

Tana Amen: That's insane!

Dr. Daniel Amen: And for females, obesity is about 40 percent.

Tana Amen: Okay that's just insane.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And so, how do you know if you're overweight or obese? There's something called BMI, or body mass index. And you know, there are pros and cons with that, but that's what most people use. And between 18.5 and 25 is healthy, so being super skinny is not good for your brain.

Tana Amen: No, in fact you die earlier if you're too skinny, because you're frail and then you-

Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, especially as you age.

Tana Amen: And it disrupts your hormones.

Dr. Daniel Amen: But being super skinny at any age is not good for your brain.

But being between 25 and 30 is overweight, and you have a smaller brain. So Cyrus Raji is a friend of ours; he's a superstar scientist at University of California San Francisco, and he published the first study that showed as your weight goes up, the actual physical size and function of your brain goes down, which we always say, should scare the fat off anyone, and in fact did me, when I read that study. I lost about 30 pounds, because there's no way I'm gonna be a dinosaur. You know, big body, little brain. You're gonna become extinct. And so if you're overweight, 25 to 30, you have 4 percent less brain volume.

Tana Amen: That's crazy.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And A, your brain looks eight years older than people who are at a healthy weight. If you're obese, your BMI is over 30, you have 8 percent less volume and your brain looks sixteen years older than the general population, or people who are the healthy ... wait, not the general population, because the general population, 70 percent, are overweight; they're not healthy.

Tana Amen: Well, and I want to address something here because every time we talk about this, we hurt somebody's feelings. This is not a judgment, but we have to look at why this is happening and that's why we called it diabesity; we wrap that into one, because yes, we need to do better as a society of being more aware, being more conscious, being as we would say, a Warrior for your health, but there's the other side of it. There are things like what we call obesogens, in the environment, in our food, things that disrupt hormones, that cause your body to not process and they-

Dr. Daniel Amen: So this problem is not just-

Tana Amen: It's not just your fault.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Caused by excessive calories.

Tana Amen: Being lazy. Right. It's complex.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Although, excessive calories are one of the causes, but as you were referring to, when you and I interviewed Joe Pizzorno for our podcast, the Toxin Solution ... his book The Toxin Solution, he actually has graphs in that, showing the obesity epidemic actually correlates really well with the increase in toxins, in our food, in our personal products.

Tana Amen: Well, and that's a fact, because if you look at the Mississippi River, okay, where they have historically dumped, lots of companies and industry have dumped a lot of toxic materials into the river, people who live along the river, all through different states where it goes through, they have much higher rates, not only of obesity, diabetes, and other diseases.

Dr. Daniel Amen: So like Mississippi, Louisiana.

Tana Amen: Yes. Yes.

Dr. Daniel Amen: States that are considered part of the Bible Belt.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And we often say the Bible Belt is widening, that there's a higher incidence of obesity in the South.

Tana Amen: But here's what's interesting. They did studies where they tested their blood. They tested the water, they tested their blood. They found those same chemicals in the blood of the people they tested.

Dr. Daniel Amen: So if you're struggling with your weight, understanding toxins is really important and supporting the organs of detoxification, as we talked about in the Toxin chapter or section of this course. It's avoid anything that's toxic and support the organs of detoxification.

Diabetes is a problem, even pre-diabetes. There are studies that show as your blood sugar goes up, blood flow to the brain goes down.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: That the hippocampus actually starts to shrink. It gets smaller with higher blood sugar levels, and most of the-

Tana Amen: Apparently your brain likes healthy fat. We keep hearing it, over and over and over.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Most of the anti-aging doctors really want your fasting blood sugar around 85, not 90, 95 or 100. So it can actually be considered normal, but clearly not optimal.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And so, getting your blood sugar and your weight under control is absolutely essential. And how you do that is you measure your BMI. You can't lie to yourself. Now, if you're an athlete, BMI's not as good, because you have a lot of muscle on your body, and then what we use is the waist-to-height ratio. So your waist should be half your height-

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Or less.

Tana Amen: And that's actually an easier way to check and be more accurate.

Dr. Daniel Amen: It's really, but you can go to, and I want to tell this story because I just had lunch with Mark, my friend.

So four years ago, I was speaking at the American Association of Christian Counselors. It's a great conference, there are 8,000 people in Nashville every year, and four years ago, I was having dinner with Mark. I've loved Mark for a long time. He's one of my friends, and he's had Type I diabetes for a very long time. And I saw him inject himself with insulin at the table. And I didn't think much about it until I then saw him order chicken-fried steak, mashed potatoes with gravy, cornbread, and a souffle for dessert. And internally, I am screaming at him, "What is the matter with you?"

Tana Amen: I think some of it actually got out.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, let me tell the story. Let me tell the story.

Tana Amen: You may not reveal what I said.

Dr. Daniel Amen: So I was truly very cool. And I just looked at him and I say, "Hey Mark, how tall are you?" He said, "Six feet." I said, "How much do you weigh?" He said, "Two hundred and forty-four pounds." And on my phone, I calculated his BMI.

So we have a BMI calculator on Brain Fit Life, you can also just google BMI calculator.

So I calculated his BMI and it was 33, which is obese. And I looked at him and I said, "Dude, you're obese." And I showed him my phone. And he said, "Daniel, you're so cold." And I said, "Not nearly as cold as you're gonna be when you're six feet under." So the words six feet under and obese really got his attention, and the next month, he told me he lost 10 pounds. I was so proud. He didn't eat anything at the dinner that night.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: But then two years later, I met him at the same conference, and he didn't even look like the same person.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: He had dropped 53 pounds, had cut his insulin dosage in half and he's there with his wife Debbie, who we also love, and they're talking about their sex life.

Tana Amen: I know, so that's always the double-edged sword with this stuff, knowing us. It's people tell you, it's like TMI. TMI is just-

Dr. Daniel Amen: But it's not. For me, it's not-

Tana Amen: I know. I know.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Because he just said that his erections were better.

Tana Amen: Okay.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And their sex life, in their mid-sixties, was phenomenal.

Tana Amen: But how many of our friends do this with us? I'm like ... okay.

Dr. Daniel Amen: So I asked him if getting healthy was hard, and he said, "The erections are hard; getting healthy was easy.

Tana Amen: Really? We had to go there?

Dr. Daniel Amen: But we had to, because there's a very specific point with this, is what did we talk about?

Tana Amen: Yes, I'm well aware there's a very specific point, yes.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Blood flow is the number one brain imaging predictor of Alzheimer's disease.

Tana Amen: Okay, we're so far off track.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And when you reverse this trend, even in your mid-sixties ... if you've had diabetes for a long time, and you get healthy, it increases blood flow.

Tana Amen: Blood flow is also the number one ... Okay, let's get back on track.

Dr. Daniel Amen: So, what is your motivation to get well? And when I read this study that said 40 percent of 40 year olds have erectile dysfunction, 70 percent of 70 year olds have ... I'm like not okay with this. It's not good for your marriage and it's not good for your mind.

So, know your BMI, your waist-to-height ratio, get your fasting blood sugar checked, along with your fasting insulin level. We just talked about hormones and how important they are. But there's one test that's a really good test called hemoglobin A1C. It's a measure of blood sugar levels over about three months.

Tana Amen: Right. It's actually more accurate. It's better because ... I mean, you want to know the fasting blood sugar, because if you're ... there are some people who have a really high fasting blood sugar but their blood sugar's more normal throughout the day, and that can be a sign of stress. So you want to know that for sure.

But the hemoglobin A1C is a better indicator of what's going on, and you can't fool your doctor then, because some people will eat okay for a couple days and they just want their fasting blood sugar done and you can kind of fool your doctor. You cannot fool anybody when you get a hemoglobin A1C, because they can see a three month snapshot.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Right. All right. So the interventions: how you attack diabesity is ... I just have a masterful food table in this. Tana has a great book, The Brain Warrior's Way Cookbook-

Tana Amen: Of all my books, cookbooks I've written, that is the easiest and the best.

Dr. Daniel Amen: that's very special. And so, some simple rules: don't drink your calories.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: 1980, people drank about 225 calories a day. Today it's more like 450 calories a day.

Tana Amen: Crazy.

Dr. Daniel Amen: That extra just 225 calories a day, over a year puts 23 pounds of fat on your body.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: So, just don't drink your calories.

We're sort of fans of losing weight slowly, if you're overweight, so that you can develop lifelong habits. You have to eat often enough to not let your blood sugar go really low, so we like 12 hour fasts, because that helps with a process called autophagy, where your brain consumes the trash.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: So if you eat at six or seven at night, don't eat again until six or seven in the morning; that will help with your weight. And then, high quality food. It's the game Chloe and I played since she was two: Is this good for my brain or bad for it?

Tana Amen: So I have two things I want to add to that. You really do have to be a Warrior, because you are being bombarded by these messages all day long. You sit down to watch even the news or a sports event on television, and all of a sudden the commercials. You have to be paying attention. If you are just sort of tuning out, they're tuning in. So you have to be aware.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, and they're going after you.

Tana Amen: Hold on. Most people don't even know this ... there are laws against putting out messages to people against those commercials, because they say ... our government actually puts out laws against bashing those commercials and those companies, because they say, "Well, people should be smart enough to be able to know to eat healthy or not eat healthy, and make a choice." But that's not true. We've got little kids watching this, or socio-economic issues. So you have to be a Warrior and an advocate for your own health. That's one.

And the other one is we talked about those obesogens that are in food, they're in water, they're in certain areas in the environment, those toxins. So tell them what blood tests they can get or what type of tests they can have done to see what toxins might be in their body, so they can detoxify? I know we run them here, Dr. Filidei does them.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Right. So we'll do hair sample tests, to look for heavy metal screens. There are other tests you can do to look at the level of PCBs, or-

Tana Amen: Right. And we can actually help you detox.

Dr. Daniel Amen: BPAs in your body. But you and I have helped thousands of people lose weight and get their blood sugars under control. And we have done it primarily through better decision-making.

Tana Amen: Absolutely.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And it's don't drink your calories-

Tana Amen: But if it doesn't work, you want to look a little deeper.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, but I think the simple thing is let's start with don't drink your calories. I'm actually a fan ... if you're overweight and you're having trouble losing it, you should count your calories. And I think of calories like money-

Tana Amen: But they still need to be high quality calories.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, absolutely.

Tana Amen: I agree but they've got to be high quality calories.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, you have this saying I like, that it's-

Tana Amen: It's like exchange rates with money.

Dr. Daniel Amen: It's like exchange rates with money. Some foods are worth more, nutrient-wise-

Tana Amen: And some are worth zip.

Dr. Daniel Amen: than others. If you go on a Twinkie diet of 800 calories a day, of Twinkies only, you will lose weight.

Tana Amen: Initially.

Dr. Daniel Amen: But you will also get sick as a dog.

Tana Amen: And then your inflammation will go up and then you will begin to reverse and gain weight.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Right. So that's why we're generally not a fan of a lot of the weight loss companies, because you just have to read the labels and there's a lot of things in there that are pro-inflammatory, that are toxic-

Tana Amen: There are chemicals.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And so on.

Tana Amen: You can't pronounce them. Yes, your Majesty.

Dr. Daniel Amen: So, calorie-smart. High-quality protein and healthy fat at every meal. Brand new study that was just published: they looked at people on high-carbohydrate diets, people on high-fat diets, and the people on high-carbohydrate diets ... think bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, sugar ... they died early. I mean, it was a 28 percent increased risk of early death.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: People on the high-fat diet, even if was saturated fat, so from steak or coconuts, they lived longer.

Tana Amen: That's just crazy.

Dr. Daniel Amen: So it really settles this disruption, what should I be eating? High-quality protein, high-quality fat, and carbohydrates that don't raise your blood sugar.

Tana Amen: But we don't want you eating lousy fat, so, please no trans-fat. No processed cheap fats, cheap oils, inflammatory ... eat healthy fat.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Right.

Tana Amen: Avocados, nut seeds.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And then we want you to cook with brain-healthy spices. In Memory Rescue and in the Brain Warrior's Way there are long sections on-

Tana Amen: There's a whole section on describing not only what they help with, but simple ways to incorporate them into your diet.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Right.

So from a supplement standpoint, chromium picolinate has been shown to help blood sugar. Berberine, cinnamon, and alpha lipoic acid.

The foods ... we want you to just get these two terms in your head: low-glycemic. How quickly does a food turn to sugar in your body, and you want to get rid of the high-glycemic foods, so learn about that and learn about glycemic load.

So low-glycemic, high fiber. You want foods with lots of fiber, because fiber is like medicine. Fiber is really pre-biotics that help to feed the bugs in your gut.

Protein and fat at every meal to stabilize your blood sugar and cravings; cinnamon and nutmeg can help as well. Fiber-rich foods: lentils, green peas, winter squash, cabbage, green beans-

Tana Amen: And so, just to help you out, to get you started, on our website, on my website tanaamen dot com, and also the book, the cookbook, The Brain Warrior's Way Cookbook, just hundreds of recipes to get you started, that incorporate all of this.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And on Brain Fit Life.

Tana Amen: Brain Fit Life.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Brainfitlife dot com.

Tana Amen: Yep.

Dr. Daniel Amen: You want to avoid high-glycemic, low-fiber foods. White and wheat bread, pasta, white potatoes, and rice, and kill the sugar, before the sugar kills you.

I had one woman once tell me she'd rather get Alzheimer's disease than give up sugar.

Tana Amen: I know. Crazy.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And subsequently, her mother developed Alzheimer's disease.

Tana Amen: That'll make you think about that.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And she's like, "That was so stupid," which it was.

All right. Diabesity. You can get that better by getting rid of the toxins in your environment and eating in a brain-smart way, which can taste awesome.

Stay with us. We're gonna come back and talk about sleep.

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