Are the world's most common illnesses caused by insulin resistance? In this episode, Dr Benjamin Bikman joins us to discuss his best-selling book “Why We Get Sick”. He argues that insulin resistance is at the heart of the world's most prevalent diseases and that poor economic incentives have caused scientists to neglect this phenomenon to pursue unproductive avenues of research. Dr Bikman explains how insulin resistance impacts conditions ranging from diabetes to Alzheimer’s and offers practical advice for listeners looking to improve their health. He also shares his views on broader issues such as the health impact of seed oils and sun exposure.
Enjoyed this episode? You can take part in podcast seminars, access Saifedean’s courses – including his ongoing course ECO22: The Fiat Standard – and read chapters of his forthcoming books by becoming a Saifedean.com member. Find out more here.
Visit saifedean.com/meat to find out more about Saifedean’s experience following the carnivore diet.
Saifedean Ammous: [00:02:51] Hello, welcome to another episode of The Bitcoin Standard Podcast! Today’s seminar guest is Dr. Benjamin Bikman. Dr. Benjamin Bikman is a bestselling author and Professor at Brigham Young University. He specializes in the role that insulin and nutrient metabolism play in regulating obesity, diabetes, and dementia.
He earned his PhD in bioenergetics and was a post-doctoral fellow in metabolic disorders at Duke National University of Singapore. And he joins us today for a discussion on the topic of Why We Get Sick. Which is also the title of his best selling book, which has been translated to what is it now, 20, I think, languages?
Benjamin Bikman: No, not quite. About halfway there. Yeah, but some relevant ones.
Saifedean Ammous: Yes, so thank you for joining us Ben!
Benjamin Bikman: Oh, my pleasure Saifedean. Thanks so much to you and the team for getting me on.
Saifedean Ammous: It’s great to be chatting to you! I think your perspective on [00:03:51] disease and your book is a very interesting and very refreshing one.
What I like about it is that it gets to the heart of the matter in a very practical way, in a sense of, how can you actually not get sick? Rather than getting lost in academic debates and academic missing contests, which can be too often the case in academia. So it’s good to keep your eye on the prize on what matters.
And I think this is what your book does. So let’s get right to it. Why do we get sick?
Benjamin Bikman: Yeah. Thanks again. I actually liked the way you framed this. Because we both, you and I think share a common disdain for academia. And it’s ironic a little, maybe for me, I don’t mean for it to sound ungrateful because I am a professor at a university currently, and I am so mindful of the nonsense that happens at universities.
And so it was very much an interest of mine to take [00:04:51] the knowledge that we scientists are gaining, and go break through the barrier of, the traditional model for us would be that we publish a paper in a peer reviewed journal, and no one ever reads it except a handful of other scientists. And thus is largely irrelevant to actually improving someone’s life.
I really wanted to circumvent that futile cycle of academia and take relevant information to people. So the question, why do we get sick? I naturally was looking at this question through my lens and my training is in metabolic biochemistry and physiology and I couldn’t help but see there was one common foundation to virtually every non-communicable chronic disease.
So the chronic diseases that you get with that have nothing to do with infection. This is like cancers and heart disease Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, kidney disease, et cetera. And of course, each of these [00:05:51] problems have unique inputs. I would want everyone to know that each of these problems do have unique origins, but they all have one common origin, and that is insulin resistance.
It is this disorder that people, the reason I didn’t call my book What Is Insulin Resistance and Why Does It Matter is cause they knew no one to buy it. They would look at the title and they would say I’m not a diabetic. I don’t need to read that.
They just see insulin and they think diabetes, but insulin is an absolute life giving hormone, it is essential. You have to have it. And if you don’t, like untreated type 1 diabetes, you will die in short order. So this is an essential hormone that literally impacts every cell of the body. There’s no exception to this.
I don’t use the term literally too liberaly like the kids do these days. It literally affects every cell in the body, and it dictates, the theme of what insulin does is it tells a cell what to do with the energy that it has. So whatever the [00:06:51] nutrient or the caloric energy is that’s in the system, that’s coming in the system or it’s already stored, insulin will tell the cell what to do with it. And thus it’s pretty essential. Every cell needs energy.
Nevertheless, insulin resistance is a disorder to define it now, explicitly. It’s really a coin with two sides or a disorder with two facets that must come together. You cannot have one side of the coin without the other. The first part of this definition of what insulin resistance is that insulin as a hormone isn’t working as well as it used to. That evokes the kind of resistance part of it. That some cells aren’t responding very well.
But then the second part of it is very often overlooked, but equally essential to understand why it’s so pathogenic, why insulin resistance is such a problem. And that is that insulin levels are chronically elevated. A condition called hyper insulinemia. So you have the two of these together, insulin isn’t working correctly and blood insulin levels are elevated.
And both of [00:07:51] those together constitute the background for so many of these chronic disorders or diseases. For example, and then I can finish the answer cause I’m getting long winded, but let’s take the two most common forms of infertility. In women, the most common form of infertility is a disorder called polycystic ovary syndrome, PCOS.
And this is a disorder of too much insulin, and that is why if a woman has PCOS, she absolutely has insulin resistance. But not because the insulin isn’t working well, but because it’s too high. And when insulin levels get too high in a woman, it actually inhibits the ovaries ability to create normal balances of sex hormones.
She can’t make estrogens as well as she could before. And she fails to ovulate. And now she has polycystic ovary syndrome. But in a man, the most common infertility is erectile dysfunction. And that’s a problem of the insulin not working well, not the elevated insulin per se, but again, you still have both of those [00:08:51] things always happening together. But in his case, for normal erectile function you have to have a significant vasodilation or the blood vessels have to dilate and alter blood flow accordingly.
But when the blood vessels become resistant to insulin’s effect, insulin, which normally is providing that dilation effect, can’t induce dilatation as well, and the blood vessels stay constricted, and the constricted blood vessels means erectile dysfunction. So that’s such a, it’s an interesting dichotomy looking at the two forms of infertility in women and men where each of them is caused by a different aspect of insulin resistance.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah. And it’s just something that continues to come up with all kinds of medical conditions. It’s astonishing. Even as a non doctor, I would say probably especially as a non doctor, it just keeps coming up. You hear about a certain condition or you know somebody who gets sick with something and you read more about it, you hear them talk about it.[00:09:51]
And this always comes up. There’s always this mention of blood sugar levels, insulin levels, insulin resistance, it’s implicated in so many things. But I find fascinating, and I’d like to switch back and forth between the academic topic itself, and the way that academics study it, because that’s another focus of my work, which I discussed in The Fiat Standard, of just how academia is essentially massively compromised and a giant attack on your own ability to understand the world and reason properly. It’s not just that they’re doing innocuous nonsense that nobody cares about, it’s that they’re actively preventing people from understanding what the problem is. Because even as a non-specialist you see this thing come up everywhere.
And then if you do one day in your life try and say, Hey, let me just take a look at this. Let me see if I can bring my blood sugars down for a while and see what I can do [00:10:51] and see what effect it has on me. And then all these different kinds of health problems that you thought were just a normal part of growing up disappear.
And you’re back to being healthy and powerful and strong in many ways. And so you would imagine, they you’d imagine doctors would be out there shouting this from the rooftops, telling everybody to, Hey, focus on this little thing called insulin, your blood sugar, try and keep that down. If you are overweight, if you’re diabetic, if you have all these problems, dementia, you likely benefit from this.
And yet, instead, what we see is just like with economics, we see these nerds that parrot out complicated words, that obfuscate things, and then ultimately lead to you continuing to eat the garbage, confused, and not knowing what’s going on.
And I think the really sad thing is, how many people will, in academia, if you look at debates online you have all these great Instagram and [00:11:51] Twitter social media fitness influencers, who’ve been out there training clients for years, and know what works and know what doesn’t work, and know that if you’re overweight and you wanna get in shape – lay off the junk, do this, do that.
And they know what works, and they’re out there arguing with these overweight, usually, university professors who are out there telling them, No, you guys are not authorities. You don’t understand. You’re focusing on blood sugar. That’s been debunked. Here’s some obscure paper from PubMed about how actually it’s not blood sugar that matters.
It’s all these other genetics/hormones
Benjamin Bikman: They’ll say saturated fat.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah. Or some other thing or the other, just whatever you do, just make sure you don’t try to cut down on your sugar intake and you don’t lower your insulin levels. But the evidence for it, everybody who tries it, basically I don’t know anybody who’s tried reducing their blood sugar levels and their insulin levels and reducing the [00:12:51] level of inflammation that they’ve done, and didn’t feel better from it. And yet academia continues to ignore this. So why do you think this is the case?
Benjamin Bikman: Yeah I think there’s competing interests without a doubt.
And I very much appreciate the audience that I have here, which is I, if I may define this group in such a way, at least one attribute would be a hearty skepticism. And that’s one that I share. Indeed, all scientists by their very nature should share that skepticism. The job of a scientist is to try to prove a theory false.
And now we have this flipping of science into a religion where people are proud to just proclaim, I believe in science! And as a scientist, I think that is a terribly unscientific way to view science. If you’re a scientist, everyone should think like a scientist in a way, if I may say it like that without sounding smug, which is we should all be trying to understand truth by challenging what we think we know.
And now it is just this person said something I [00:13:51] like, and so I believe in science, oh, but you’re a scientist, who’s saying something different, you’re gonna be ostracized and removed from polite society. But you brought up a lot of relevant points that I just have to elaborate on briefly.
Part of the problem with conventional kind of biomedical care or clinical care is that we have based an enormous amount of our view of metabolic health purely on blood glucose. And I’m not saying blood glucose doesn’t matter, but the problem with that view, this glucose centric view of metabolic health is that we have overlooked insulin completely.
And I’ve given talks to clinicians, physicians and nurses and physician assistants. And I will say, we are too obsessed with glucose. We need to look at insulin and it becomes almost a circular discussion where they will say, we don’t need to look at insulin because we’re measuring glucose and it’s the same.
And I have to teach them that they’re not the same, that you can have someone who’s coming in every year for their annual checkup, and the [00:14:51] glucose levels are staying normal, but what’s happening behind the scenes is insulin is going higher and higher in order to try to keep the blood sugar in check.
And that is this exact paradigm of normal glucose levels, but elevated insulin several times higher than what it should be is insulin resistance. And then it’s only once the body has become so resistant to insulin, one of whose jobs it is to help lower glucose, that the glucose levels start to climb. And now it gets on the clinical radar.
But the problem doesn’t end there. So the first problem is by failing to look at insulin, we fail to detect the problem as soon as we could detect it, but the next problem is just as bad, which is our obsession was lowering glucose, the moment the glucose does start to climb a conventional clinician, conventional thinking scientist and clinician will be to say, let’s just give you insulin. And like to a person who’s insulin resistant. And they’ll say, let’s [00:15:51] just push the insulin up. And yeah, that will lower the glucose. But the more we know, this is amply published, reviewed data for whatever that’s worth, cuz we all gotta be skeptical even of published data nowadays.
But we know that the more you push insulin up in an insulin resistant type two diabetic, in order to control the glucose, they may have normal or ideal glucose levels. And yet we’re killing them. They’re three times more likely to die from heart disease and twice as likely to die from Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.
So we are killing when we give an insulin resistant type 2 diabetic more insulin, it’s like we’re giving an alcoholic another glass of wine, hoping it will solve the problem. When in reality we’re giving them more of the very thing that’s causing the problem! Too much. Insulin is a primary driver of insulin resistance.
So why on earth would be give them more insulin to try to correct the glucose? We make sure, in so doing, that the person gets fatter and sicker and they die faster. But [00:16:51] so much of the problem is that the clinician, especially if these are in the U.S. like Medicare patients, this extends, I think the NHS and the UK has the same kind of target Canada, I know it does.
And Saif I very much appreciated your criticism on social media of Canadian healthcare. I was born and raised in Canada, and me and all of my eight siblings, all nine of us got out of Canada as quickly as we could because of in part the ridiculous healthcare. But nevertheless the clinical model is based on the clinician will have targets with their patient.
And it will say you need to lower their glucose by 1% of hemoglobin A1C or lower their glucose by 20 points to try to get it into a normal range. And if they don’t do it, the clinician gets punished. They do get docked on the amount of money they can bill for that patient’s visits. And so the clinician has this perverse incentive to say I just need to push up your insulin anyway I can, and if it’s making [00:17:51] you fatter and sicker and putting you on more drugs, at least it’s lower your glucose, and that’s one of the clinical markers I’m going to get graded on.
But at the end of it all, underlying all of this, and my kind of concluding thought for this rant is that while we’re giving people all these clever expensive drugs to try to lower their glucose levels, the one little rational person on the side, and I’m one of them, and I get ostracized for it.
I’ve been criticized and I’ve been threatened with my position here, where you will just say you’re giving the patient all these drugs to lower their glucose, why not just have them eat less glucose? Oh no, you can’t. You can’t say that! You’re accused of heresy. Truly, I’ve been accused of teaching principles that are against science, even though I strictly rely on published human clinical trials to defend my views.
And yet it’s just too heretical.
Saifedean Ammous: Are you suggesting that people can live without Doritos and Pringles every day? What kind of insane, cruel doctor are you? [00:18:51] Do you have no regard for human needs? I know, how could people not eat Twinkies every day? How could you not make that the center of your worldview?
And this is what it really comes down to, because you keep, as you explain, it’s just insane that you would wanna raise their insulin levels rather than reduce the sugar levels. I think one metaphor that I’ve come up with to try and explain this to people is that it’s the equivalent of you have a dirty apartment, and you’re trying to get somebody to clean up your apartment and you keep hiring people to clean up the apartment, and you are getting you’re somehow ignoring the fact that every day your son comes into the apartment and takes a big giant jug of Pepsi and just turns it in, spills it in the middle of the room, and then the cleaning person has to spend all of their time just cleaning that up.
And then everything else in the house falls apart and gets dirty because every day we have this [00:19:51] giant mass of sludgy sugar everywhere that needs to be cleaned out. And if you think the answer is hiring more cleaning people, you’re not gonna make it because there’s no limit to how much you can spill in a house.
Like it takes one second to spill an amount of liquid sludge that’s gonna take three hours to clean. It just goes everywhere and it requires a lot of cleaning. So it’s insane that medicine takes the path of just hire more cleaning staff, and don’t worry about the cause of the disintegration.
Benjamin Bikman: Yeah, the paradigm ought to be let’s bring less garbage in and see what that does. Rather than continuing to bring more and more garbage in and hiring more and more cleaners to try to keep up for it, let’s just start putting less garbage in the apartment.
Saifedean Ammous: This is the amazing thing.
And this is the thing that none of the, it’s [00:20:51] exactly like with economics, like with the economists there’s just never going to be a mainstream economist who has a PhD at an important university, and at the FED, do any of that stuff, who’s going to come out and say, you know what, maybe we should just try hard money. We should try not inflating. We should try not doing all of that stuff.
No, here’s how my magic formula for managing the money supply is actually going to allow us to magically have government spending at no cost. Here’s how I am going to defy the rules of physics and nature and allow us to eat our seed corn and still plant the same seed corn that we eat.
This is essentially how it works in politics and in economics, and it’s what works in nutrition. It’s just the mentality of indulgence. No, we can’t sacrifice the sugar retreats and we must find a way to manage it. It’s how do we fix laptops that get destroyed by hammers by their owners?[00:21:51]
There’s just never going to be a successful science of fixing laptops destroyed by hammers because hammers can always destroy a laptop beyond being able to fix it. The best method is just not destroy it.
Benjamin Bikman: Yeah, no it’s absolutely, I believe there are sufficient competing interests that we are able to prop up so many economies or that might not be the word to use in a, in an audience like this, we were able to prop up so many entities by telling people to eat whatever you want, and then we have drugs and healthcare that will help you deal with the consequences. And it’s just a way of spending more money on things that we could go back to that first principle of eat better.
Alright, but then the drug companies aren’t gonna be able to sell as much drugs, then the hospitals aren’t gonna be able to have as many sick patients, and so we have these sick based economies that will suffer. Of course we shouldn’t care about that, we wanna be live long and healthy.
But there are all these competing [00:22:51] interests that, there was just recently a report published by the nutrition center at Harvard University and this deserves all of our disdain, and again it makes me ashamed of academia and my fellow ‘scientists’ where they ranked Mini-Wheats cereal higher than eggs and steak on the scale of nutrition. In other words, Mini-Wheats was better by a wide margin. They said that Frosted Mini-Wheats, the cereal, is better for someone than eggs and better for someone than steak.
I don’t know on what planet that could be stated other than their sufficient competing interest. Take for example the American Dietetics Association, which promotes a lot of these things, look at who funds them. It is not the American Ranchers Association. They wish they could fund them.
But the American Dietetics Association is so opposed to animal based products, much to the detriment of every human on the planet. But it’s [00:23:51] just who’s paying the bills. It’s a very cynical view, and it requires, it’s not been comfortable for me because it has made it difficult for me to stay in good standing with say for example the American Diabetes Association, where the conventional advice, even to a type 2 diabetic who has plenty of insulin in their body, it is literally eat whatever you want, but cover it with your insulin. Just give yourself more insulin.
Yeah. It’s a wonderful way to sell insulin. It’s a wonderful way to make sure these patients are going to the hospital very often, cuz they’re very sick. We could just say eat a little better. By that we mean eat less glucose. If you’re insulin resistant as most people are worldwide, this is not an American unique to the west.
This is a very much a problem in Southeast Asia. It’s very much a problem in the middle east. The most diabetic countries on the planet are in the middle east, numbers one through nine, and this is a global situation. We just have to tell the people eat less processed [00:24:51] sugars and processed grains.
If that is just the simplest step. That’s number one, for me that is first principle number one, control carbohydrates, because it’s refined carbohydrates that are gonna spike insulin the most and keep it elevated. And the sooner we lower insulin, the sooner all these metabolic issues, including Alzheimer’s disease, including certain cancers start to get better.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah. If you have an internet connection and you’re even marginally curious about the topic of, how not to be fat, how not to be sick, how not to be diabetic, and you just search the internet with a little bit of an open mind, you won’t be able to miss the fact that there are literally millions of people around the world who have improved their health healths immeasurably, by cutting down on eating processed foods, sugary food foods that are high in glucose.
And there are thousands of different ways you can do it. Thousands of different diets, [00:25:51] some people call it low carb high fats, some people do low carb low fat, some people do keto, some people do paleo, but all of these things, they have one thing in common. You get far fewer glucose spikes and hence fewer insulin spikes.
And whichever way you take to do that, my personal way to do that is just, I eat only red meat and I drink only water, and it’s perfect.
Benjamin Bikman: It’s a dynamite way. Really Saif it’s so funny to me, everyone raves these days about, oh, eat this berry, it’s a super food, or this kale green, it’s a super food.
And it’s so silly to me. It is so silly. Because if you wanna talk, to me I would say a super food is a food that literally gives you every nutrient you need in order to survive. That is any ruminant meat. So beef. If someone eats beef or really any ruminant animal, they’re gonna literally get every nutrient they need to survive.
And that is why, like you’d mentioned a human can literally eat nothing but beef and survive [00:26:51] and thrive. That’s right. Not just survive. They will thrive. The strongest leanest, healthiest people I know are the people who are just pure carnivore.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, absolutely. And I’ve tried it myself.
I started doing it, I think by the end of this month it’ll be seven years. And it’s really been seven years and there’s no going back. Once you’ve tried being Superman, you never want to eat kryptonite again. You always wanna be Superman.
And but I understand, not everybody wants to go this far, but still, if you are going to want to make a difference in your health, you have to reduce the amount of insulin spikes that you get. Yep. And it’s such a simple idea and it’s so easy. There are so many low hanging fruits that you could take out of your diet.
I remember when I first became curious about this, it’s just simply being aware about not eating the bread before the lunch that they put there at the restaurant, reducing the amount of bread in the sandwich, cutting out the excess soda that I was drinking, just drinking a little bit of soda.
Just [00:27:51] these low hanging fruits that now sound completely undesirable to me, but just these tiny little changes that weren’t even a big issue immediately made a huge difference in my health. And everybody, I know who’s done this has has witnessed this. Now for me, I just kept on removing more things and just feeling better and better.
But I see it with so many people that, it’s amazing for me that so many people don’t notice just think from this perspective of just pick the low hanging fruit and that’s a far better use of your time than arguing with academics on Twitter.
This is the thing why, I honestly, there is absolutely nothing that you could ever show me that is written in PubMed that will matter to me more than what I know from what my body feels.
Benjamin Bikman: Yeah, your n of 1.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, my n of 1, which is me, my own body. I’ve tried. Because this is the thing, the scientific thing, people [00:28:51] talk about science, they think science is you just go and read on PubMed what some proctor and gamble sponsored scientists had to write in order to keep his job. And you think that’s science? No, that’s not science. That’s appeal to authority. It’s the exact opposite of science. Science is experimentation. So actually try and remove this from your food. See how you feel.
Look at your blood sugar levels. Look at your insulin levels. Look at all these health problems that you have. You’ll be able to tell if they’re improving or they’re getting worse. There’s no escaping it, it’s your body, you’ll be able to tell. And most people just completely ignore that and won’t want to look at it.
And this is why the term fiat science is accurate in many ways. It’s not just that it’s financed by fiat, but it’s also that it intends to enforce this fiat scientific reality by fiat. By rule. It’s not just by fiat money, it’s also by government rule. Like the no, your body can handle a diet consisting of Twinkies and Doritos and there’s nothing wrong with it because here’s a bunch of [00:29:51] garbage and PubMed that proves it.
Benjamin Bikman: In fact, they would go further. They would go, they would literally say you’re better for it. Eat these sugary cereals and it is better for you. Not only you can handle it, they will literally rank it and give it a green good score. All it does is encourage indulgence, promoting sickness, promoting propping up industries and entities that have no business surviving.
Saifedean Ammous: And the truly criminal thing about it is not just that you’re promoting something, you’re promoting something that’s highly addictive. That’s designed to be highly addicted.
It’s designed by food scientists have spent decades figuring out the exact best combinations to trigger the reward centers in your brain to make you a slave to that Oreo cookie or to that Snickers bar, whatever it is. These people know what they’re doing.
So there’s the notion that Harvard has popularized, this idea that everything is good in moderation is extremely pernicious. It’s extremely pernicious.
Benjamin Bikman: Oh, I agree. I [00:30:51] rail against that view. The moderation in all things is a popular dietician’s bannering like rallying cry. And all it is, is a justification for indulgence.
And it totally ignores the fact that most people can’t moderate.
Saifedean Ammous: They can’t moderate highly addictive junk
Benjamin Bikman: That’s my point. And so there was this beautiful quote by Saint Augustine who said: “Abstinence is easier than perfect moderation.” And so they would say just have one small bowl.
I come back to cereal, it’s because that’s my addiction that I’m aware of. They will say just eat one little bowl of cereal. And sure, if you could only eat one little bowl of cereal, a half cup or whatever the serving size is, all right, you could get away with that for a long time, but you don’t. You never stop there.
And so it is easier for the person to look at that ice cream or that bread or whatever, and just [00:31:51] say, I know that once I start eating it, I won’t stop until I’ve eaten half the loaf or I won’t stop until I’ve eaten that whole pint of ice cream, and so I’m just not going to start.
So moderation in all things ignores human tendency, as most people do, to engage in addictive self destructive behaviors, especially with foods that are literally, as you said, designed to be addictive. And they always consist of refined starches and sugars. Saif, nobody is sitting around on a Friday night, the kids are in bed, the house is clean.
They turn on a show with their significant other, and they say, oh man, I sure could use a plate of scrambled eggs. No one is sitting there craving scrambled eggs. What they crave is something sweet and gooey or salty and crunchy. It’s going to be a refined carbohydrate. And that is why my rule number one control carbs.
And the easiest way to do that is if it comes in a bag or a box with a barcode, avoid it. Don’t even open [00:32:51] it. It’s not gonna work. If you’re gonna have a carbohydrate, keep it in as unadulterated form as possible, a whole fruit or a whole vegetable. But then don’t just think, what I would worry is that in this conversation so far, people are only hearing this kind of denial, avoid this, but in order for it to be sustaining, you need to replace it.
So replace it with protein and fat, which have little to no insulin effect. Those are for me, rules number two and three, one control carbs, two prioritize protein from animal sources and three don’t fear fat.
Every animal protein on the planet, which are the best proteins for humans to eat well, every organism to eat that can every animal protein comes with fat.
There is literally no exception to that. Don’t be afraid of the fat that comes with that protein. You will digest it better. You will digest the protein better, and it will help blunt the insulin, even modest insulin response to the protein. Steak, the best protein, it has fat. Eggs, egg [00:33:51] whites, the best protein, it has the yolk. And there’s no exception.
So protein and fat come together. That’s how we should eat it. Don’t try to avoid all that fat. It is nutritious. It is in fact essential. We need to have it. But those are these three rules of an insulin controlling, life promoting diet.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah. My personal advice that I give to people who do this.
And again, I’m of course I’m not a doctor be sure to check with your obese doctor.
Benjamin Bikman: Yeah. Yeah. Neither of us are giving clinical advice, but we would give it better than…
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah. But what I tell people is the best way to avoid carbohydrates is you don’t wanna fight a defensive war. Where you’re hungry and you’re trying to restrict yourself. That doesn’t work.
It can work, but it requires an enormous amount of willpower. But you don’t have to do that. That’s really punishing yourself. You’re playing a soccer game blindfold. If you’re trying to do it with the with that, there’s no reason to do that to yourself.
The [00:34:51] best way to do it is to fill yourself up with protein and fat first thing in the morning, every day. Think of that as almost like your job, you wake up and the first thing you do is you focus on getting at least a pound of fatty, red meat in you. And then you’ve already won 90% of the battle against these carbohydrates because the cravings are gonna be very different.
If you’ve had a pound of beef and you see a point of ice cream, it’s very different if you’ve had a pound of beef and if you haven’t had a pound of beef. It’s completely different. So I say, I personally don’t usually have breakfast. I usually have two meals a day. But I think in the transition period, if you are used to eating sugary food and you want to cut down on sugar, I would recommend starting the day with fatty meat and just filling up on it.
And then that’s going to reduce, without you even putting in any effort, you’re just gonna end up eating less sugar than you usually do.
Benjamin Bikman: 100%. I agree with [00:35:51] this perspective completely and indeed Saif, I would say there is significant human evidence to defend this. So as much as I also criticize the published body of literature, the tragedy is there are all of these valid gems that have been published and just completely overlooked because it doesn’t fit the popular, that fiat narrative, which is we have to promote something in order to generate these, this kind of artificial wealth through drug companies and medicine.
But if a person can follow the adage of breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner or supper like a popper, this idea of this kind of scaling down throughout the day, if you can, so I also don’t eat breakfast, so I will eat a big hearty filling lunch. I eat lunch and it’s fat and protein almost exclusively.
And then when I go home several hours later to have dinner with my family, which is sacrosanct for me. I wanna have dinner with my [00:36:51] family. And then I will eat a very modest dinner, cause I’m still full from lunch. And then in the evening, no snacking.
Once a person has had dinner, stop eating. You do not wanna go to bed on a full stomach and you do not wanna go to bed having just spiked your insulin and glucose. That is in my view, the primary reason why people sleep poorly. If you go to bed with spiked glucose, you will have an activation of your heart rate.
Your heart will be beating faster and harder and your body temperature will be higher. And you’ll be thinking I can’t sleep because I have such anxiety. No that’s an artificial anxiety activated by your nervous system in response to what you just did metabolically. But tragically, that is when most people indulge the most, it’s in the evening.
That’s when they eat all of these sugar, insulin spiking foods, it’s the literally the worst time to be eating it. So I agree wholeheartedly, eat the bulk of your calories in the earlier part of the [00:37:51] day so that you can taper off as you go into the afternoon and evening.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah. And generally, it’s a great rule to not snack.
I think of it this way. If you have the desire to snack less than 12 hours after your last meal did not contain enough red meat
Benjamin Bikman: Well said, that’s a good rule.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah. This is how you know, have I eaten enough red meat? There’s no magic number of pounds of beef that you need to eat every day that applies for every person.
It depends on your body, your size, the amount of effort that you put in every day. But a good rule of thumb is you should definitely not be craving anything in the next 12 hours. If you ate enough, then the next 12 hours food doesn’t even cross your mind. This is the right way to go about it.
And initially it’s going to be more difficult because you’re still sugar addict and there’s an adjustment. But the easiest way to handle that adjustment is to just douse it with fatty beef!
Benjamin Bikman: In fact, to speak on that point of adjusting, the [00:38:51] body is energetic hybrid. Where at any moment, the body has two primary metabolic fuels that it’s relying on, which is blood sugar or fat.
Those are the two fuels. At any moment, the body is primarily sugar burning or it’s primarily fat burning. And that is entirely 100% dictated by insulin. When insulin is elevated, it shifts the metabolic engine to sugar burning. When insulin’s down the metabolic engine, if you will, shifts to fat burning. The more a person is stuck in sugar burning, the harder it’s going to be to fast and not snack because the body has a very finite amount of sugar stored in it.
And so if we’re always burning that sugar, that’s an engine that we need to be topping up. That’s a tank, a fuel tank that the person would need to feel like they have to top up frequently. But if they can get through this initial adjustment stage, as you noted, then insulin starts to come down.
Then the body starts to shift and rely on the other fuel tank, namely fats, and even a lean person has [00:39:51] well over 100,000 calories stored on them as fat. It’s like we have all of these energy bars and energy drinks strapped onto our bodies that we just can’t use because we’re constantly filling up that little tank.
So it’s almost like, let me use the analogy of a big fuel tanker, like a big semi truck with a big tank of fuel that it’s hauling on the back. And then every four or five hours, this truck, or six hours, it needs to stop and fill up and it needs to fill up because it’s relying on this small little tank under the engine, in the cab of the truck.
And yet the irony is so much of its effort is hauling around all of this other fuel. That’s strapped to the back of this big fuel tanker. And imagine if this engine was such that it could take the fuel lines from the engine and start tapping into all of the calories, all the energy that it’s hauling around, but isn’t using. Well then that truck could go for days.
The analogy then comparing it to the human [00:40:51] body is that we have these two energy stores. We have about 2000 calories stored as sugar and maybe 200,000 calories stored as fat. And we keep using just that sugar, using it up, filling it up, using it up, filling it up. And any excess that we fill into that tank spills into this other tank of fat that we’re never tapping into because we’re constantly filling that sugar tank.
So the moment we let the sugar tank run dry, and it’ll be a little uncomfortable. There is that adjustment, but give it a couple days. Insulin will have come down. We’ve basically re plumbed the fuel lines to have that engine tapping in, the metabolic engine tapping into stored fat. And now when we go on a hike, it’s here in the mountains of the mountain west in Utah, my family, we go on hikes all the time. And I will see very overweight people and they will have these little kind of fanny packs of energy bars.
And you have my family, we’re all lean and fit and strong and healthy. We don’t have nothing but water [00:41:51] it’s because we have any enough fuel on our bodies. We’re all lean, but we still have enough fuel that we could go run 50 miles, 100 miles and not run out of fuel if we were so inclined. And these people can’t even hike five miles, they start to get hangry and uncomfortable.
It’s because they’re stuck in sugar burning mode and the more you eat sugar, the more you’re dependent on it. And so you just have to break that. You have to just say, I’m not gonna get my carbs from bags and boxes with barcodes, and I’m just gonna focus on fats and proteins. It’ll be a little uncomfortable, give it a few days and it’ll be right as rain.
And that person will have shifted to becoming a fat burner.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah this is really, it’s almost like running two different kinds of operating systems in the human body. There’s it’s like there’s Windows and Mac and Linux. There’s fat burners and sugar burners. Yeah. And I’ve tried being a fat burner and I’ve tried being a sugar burner.
And if you’ve not [00:42:51] tried both, I think, people like to experiment with all kinds of things, people like to enjoy all kinds of experiences like watching TV shows and traveling to places and consuming all kinds of things, I think you might wanna consider this kind of experience. Try what it would be like to be a fat burner.
Ever wonder what you would look like if you could put on a Superman suit? That’s what it is.
Benjamin Bikman: And there’s another perk, in addition to the ability to not be so dependent on eating every two hours, when a person is in a state of fat burning, that gets to the order of about 16 to 20 hours.
It’s that acute, if insulin is low, the body starts burning so much fat but with low insulin and it can’t stop. And so it’s burned enough fat that it’s met it’s energetic demand. Every cell is properly fueled, but because insulin is low, it can’t stop burning fat. And so you start burning more [00:43:51] fat than you literally need to meet your energetic needs.
And that excess of fat burning turns into these molecules called ketones and everyone’s heard of ketones or keto. And unfortunately it’s a four letter word. It’s disparaged. It’s reviled. It’s just because it’s so misunderstood, but ketones, speaking of feeling better, we just published a paper last year, looking at humans, we had post mortem brain samples of the hippocampus, which is the kind of memory learning center.
That’s the part of the brain that gets compromised with Alzheimer’s disease. And in these post mortem samples we looked at the metabolic genes related to glucose burning and ketone burning because the brain relies on those two fuels. The brain does not burn fat. It uses fat for structure. Doesn’t burn fat for fuel.
Unlike the rest of the body, the burn, the brain will burn sugar like glucose or ketones. But what we found in Alzheimer’s disease is that the sugar burning becomes compromised, [00:44:51] it can’t burn sugar as well because it’s become insulin resistant. But it has a perfect ability to burn ketones. And this is reflected in human case studies, case reports where you have someone with full blown Alzheimer’s disease, either put them into a ketogenic diet or give them a Keone drink to boost up their keytones.
And in real time you detect improvements in cognition. You’ve not cured the disease. It’s not that dramatic. Unfortunately it is irreversible to a degree, but whereas someone was so had such dementia that they couldn’t get themselves dressed, now they can. They had such dementia that they couldn’t draw the face of an analog clock, and now they can.
These are true improvements that you see all by shifting the fuel. But the tragedy of the average individual is that with Alzheimer’s disease, especially, which is something we’re all afraid of to some degree or another, cuz it’s such a horrifying disorder to be tracked within your own [00:45:51] brain.
But we look at the progression of this disease and insulin resistance has a higher statistically significant correlation to Alzheimer’s than age does even. And this is how powerfully predictive insulin resistance is. But as the brain becomes progressively insulin resistant, you have two tragedies that occur concurrently one, the insulin resistance of the brain means that it can’t get as much glucose.
And so the brain starts to go hungry. Ironically, the body is swimming in a sea of glucose and yet the brain just can’t get it. But then second, because the person is insulin resistant. They have high insulin levels and high insulin levels inhibit any production of keytones because it shuts off fat burning.
And so the brain is starving for a lack of glucose and it’s crying out for keytones that the body simply will not give it because the elevated insulin won’t allow it to happen. And so the brain literally starts to starve. And you start to have dementia. And [00:46:51] it’s not only that scenario that I just described is not only relevant to Alzheimer’s disease, but several other neurological disorders. Like migraine headaches, we have known since 1928, there are published reports from 1928 that people who frequently suffer from migraines, if you put them into a ketonic state, through a ketogenic diet or fasting, they will have no more migraines. They will literally stop and be maintained. And this was repeated in studies published in 1930. With epilepsy, we’ve known with epilepsy for decades that you put that child into a ketotic state, they will have no epilepsy.
The problem with these and other disorders is as much as we knew that ketones are probably most therapeutic to the brain, more than any other tissue in the body, they fell out of favor the moment we started developing drugs. Epilepsy was always treated with a ketogenic diet.
Now we have these epileptic drugs. These anti epileptics that’ll help. They never work as well. Migraines. It was once treated with a ketogenic diet. Now we have these good migraine [00:47:51] medications, so you should just take these instead. And And the same thing happened with even type 1 diabetes used to be treated by like basically carnivore diet.
Because the lower insulin need, lower blood glucose levels helped them survive and feel better in the absence of insulin. And then the moment we mass produced insulin, which on one hand is life saving, so I can’t critique that. It does improve the life of the type 1 diabetic. There’s no arguing that. But now we started to tell them, you can eat just like everybody else. Eat all that cake, .Eat all those cookies and breads, just cover it with your insulin.
That’s the line. And all it does is put the poor type 1 diabetic child on this glycemic roller coaster all day of getting too high and getting too low, as opposed to telling even the type one, certainly the type two diabetic say, control your carbohydrates. And now they basically just have a flat line of glucose all day and their insulin needs go down to a 10th of what it would’ve been otherwise.[00:48:51]
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, the truly astonishing thing here is that absolutely nothing by any stretch of the imagination, absolutely nothing compares to cutting down on eating sugary food in terms of cost to reward. It’s just insane. When you look at all these other things yeah, let’s give them anti epileptic drugs, like you think decades later now we start to see all the side effects of those drugs and all of the problems that they cause and all of the complications that then require more drugs, which then cause even more problems.
So you have that as an option so that you sign up for a lifetime drug addiction, essentially that doesn’t work as well. And it costs a lot of money and it ruins your health. Or, you just stop eating garbage and it works much better, whether it’s epilepsy, whether it’s diabetes, whether it’s Alzheimer’s, whether it’s all of these health issues, you see the same thing.
Like it’s out there, as you said, in the literature it’s already been demonstrated. It’s [00:49:51] also out there demonstrated in the real world of literally thousands and thousands of people all over the world who started their own blogs and have their own businesses built around this.
Thankfully the internet has allowed people to essentially be doctors outside of the medical establishment. That’s what a lot of these influencers on social media really are. And I thoroughly respect them because they are doing science.
They’ve worked with actual clients. They’ve trained them, they’ve taken their measurements. They’ve looked at their blood work over time. They’ve seen what works, they’ve seen what doesn’t work, they’ve read literature. And everybody comes up with the same conclusion. Like this stuff works for all kinds of different things. And it’s it’s an enormous amount of mental gymnastics you have to do to avoid that very obvious, very low cost, very high return in the intervention and think of other things.
And really this is, I think if you are in the medical field and if you’re in [00:50:51] the scientific research field and you’re listening to this, of course there’s a little bit of defensiveness of, oh how do you know? You’re not a PhD in biology and how do I talk about,
Benjamin Bikman: well, and neither of us are MDs, right?
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah. Neither of us are MDs, and how do I know? And of course all of these people will claim expertise, but really if you, if your expertise has resulted in you not being able to notice that the, by far, the most effective intervention that could possibly be done is reducing the level of insulin resistance in a patient through dietary control, then I’m sorry, but your entire degree and all of your education, if it is in any sense related to this, and you’ve missed this lowest hanging fruit, this absolute elephant of a fruit that is low hanging right there for you to pick, and you’ve managed to miss that, but instead you studied all this extremely sophisticated arcane academic discussion about all these cells and genetics and all these [00:51:51] other arcane things that
Benjamin Bikman: Drug mechanisms, yep.
Saifedean Ammous: Drug mechanisms and all these acronyms and names. And all these people that are just are so expert in all those things, really, if you’ve managed to miss that, Hey, cut down on Doritos first. And you’re talking about all these extreme, sophisticated, scientific concepts that you think you’re better than normal people, because you understand them and normal people don’t understand them.
I am sorry, but you’ve been scammed. You’ve been scammed. Your education is a big, giant stupid scam. And you have been conned into wasting your life into joining a giant criminal enterprise. You’re helping a bunch of criminals profit from people getting sick.
That’s what it comes down to.
Benjamin Bikman: Yeah. You’ve been credentialed to become a legal drug dealer. Part of this dissonance that I develop. I think my first loss of innocence, just to really put a fine point in what we’re describing, in addition to I’ll add that humans are great self deceivers.
We fool ourselves. During the course of my PhD in North Carolina, [00:52:51] I would go from our little home and I would bike. I biked all the time. We only had one car and my wife was home with our new baby. I would bike to the medical school where I took most of my PhD courses, the biochemistry, the bioenergetics, the physiology, et cetera.
I would have to bike, even though it was less convenient for me, I would bike on the opposite side of the road of where the med school was. Cuz I had to go to the far side of the medical school because the sidewalk of the medical school block was filled with nurses and doctors who were technically off the property of the hospital to go to the sidewalk in order to smoke. They would go to the sidewalk so they could smoke.
And so there were so many that would be aligned there along there of all the time that I have to bike on the other side of the road. And I would look at these healthcare professionals and just wonder at the hypocrisy or the ignorance or the self delusion, where you could imagine a physician who would be out there smoking a cigarette, go back in for a clinical appointment, with a patient who has lung failure and [00:53:51] heart disease.
And he would look at the patient’s chart and say, ah, it looks like you smoke half a pack or a pack of cigarettes a day. You really gotta stop smoking. And yet the stench of his own cigarette smoke comes into the clinical appointment with him. This is, and another something I see as a parent, you’ll see, I’ve literally seen this happen.
A mom is at a playground with her child. And the mom has a little bag of candies and the baby, the little child comes up to mom. Hey, can I have some candy? And the mom will give the little kid a small little handful. Here’s some little gummy candies. Now don’t ask for anymore. You’ve had enough.
This isn’t good for you to have too much. And then the moment that little child ran away, I saw them, what did the mom start doing? It’s just hand over fist, shoving those gummy candies into her sick body, her sick, overweight body. And I thought these moments of hypocrisy one, I took it to heart and analyzed my own behavior.
Thinking where [00:54:51] am I hypocritical, where I will tell my child, okay, you’ve watched TV for an hour, that’s enough, no more. And then I will go and watch it for four hours. Just as an example, it made me analyze my own behavior more to be mindful of my own hypocrisy, but then it just was such a, such an obvious display of the hypocrisy that just pervades human nature, including those who, especially because it is such blatant hypocrisy, those who know better.
We know that if you are insulin resistant, you’re a type two diabetic or type one, literally your disease could be defined as you have a hard time metabolizing sugar in your blood. That’s why your sugar is climbing. Why on this good green Earth, would we then tell the person which entities do American dietetics, American diabetes, American heart.
They will say eat a low fat, high carbohydrate diet. That is literally the dietary advice that these entities promote. It [00:55:51] is criminal. And yet there, there must be such cognitive dissonance because they know the blood sugar levels are getting too high. Then as I already said, and I hate that I’m repeating myself, just put less sugar in the system and it will lower the sugar.
It will lower the insulin than the insulin resistance, which is the heart of all metabolic problems. And then all of the issues that are derivative of that, everything starts to get better. Rather than trimming this sick little tree at the branches by giving here a medication or there a medication.
We just chop the damn thing down. And now we don’t have to worry about pruning it anymore.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah. One of the, one of the absolutely most heartbreaking things that happen when you start learning about how this whole insulin mechanism works and you see the difference in you, is you try and tell your family and friends.
And one of the worst thing is when you have a family member, who’s clearly suffering from serious health problems and clearly could benefit enormously from them. And they [00:56:51] might even be willing to listen, except that their doctor told them no, you don’t have to worry about any of that stuff. Focus on taking your medication and be sure to come to my office once every two weeks so that we could check your, whatever it is, but don’t listen to your nephew or a grandkid or all of these people that are reading weird things on the internet.
I have a degree. This is, think about things that make you go really read really angry. This
Benjamin Bikman: And you can’t, say one of the dirty secrets especially of medical practice. I saw this firsthand, I was a group of I think there were four of us PhD students taking classes, not to let PhDs off the hook.
We know that it is plenty corrupted, but we were taking classes with the MD medical students, like the physiology and the biochemistry and stuff, some of them. And then we had our own other coursework. I was amazed that if we PhD students got anything less than a B, we were on academic probation and then we had to repeat the [00:57:51] class.
And if we got less than a B again, Thankfully never happened with me, but then you get kicked outta the program. So our PhD program went from four to three within the first year. I knew multiple MD students who they don’t have to just get, they could get a C and they can take that again. As many times as they need.
I knew a guy whose his graduation from his medical degree was delayed about a year and a half or so because he kept failing a class. And yet it’s just, once you’re in the system, they move heaven and earth all the more now. Standards just keep getting lower and lower as we have all these outcomes that are based more on ensuring, I need to be careful, ensuring just that everyone can have a chance and everyone gets a degree. They’re just handing them out. And so there’s no question that the quality is getting less and less, but also tragically as the quality is declining, it seems like there’s a growing resistance to [00:58:51] acknowledging when you don’t know something.
It is the great tragedy of all terminal degrees. A PhD in an MD are obvious examples. The more we have earned letters after our name, the more we refuse to acknowledge someone could know something that we don’t know. And that, to me, it’s the death of science. It is, it truly is. And science is just a mature, true science, which is the pursuit of truth, that my PhD mentor, who was a wonderful gentleman, just a wonderful man, he would always say, Ben, we’re seeking truth. We’re seeking truth. And we, that means you have to be prepared to dump all of your theories. The moment data that conflict it, that challenge it. It should make you challenge what you thought you knew and readdress it, reassess.
But no. Now, like I said, at the outset of the conversation, everyone, they have lawn signs and they say, we believe in science and all it is the declaration of faith at that point. It is no longer a rigorous objective analysis of what we think we know. And this is all, [00:59:51] COVID was the death of, yeah.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, no I definitely agree with that. I think the the really astonishing bait and switch here is that, the whole supposed marketing material of science was built on the idea that, no more priests, no more authority. Yep. No more listen to what the priests say.
No, you need to read for yourself. Everybody uses the scientific method. You think scientifically, and it’s a, it’s really just an explicit statement of what all humans do at all times. You know what, when you wake up in the morning, let’s say your bed has a wall on one side and it doesn’t have a wall on the other side, it’s the scientific method.
One day you wake up, you hit the wall and then you’ve experimented. And then for the rest of your life, you’re gonna wake up on the right side of the bed. That’s science. That’s what the scientific method is. You have a hypothesis that if I could wake up on the left side, you test it out, you smash your head in the [01:00:51] wall.
And then you figure out the conclusion that you should try the other side. So thinking scientifically is what humans naturally do when they try and understand how things work. And the scientific process is a great way of thinking about it, formulating it to make it systematic so that it’s not just going by a hunch.
So you formulate a hypothesis, you test it and you write it down, it helps you structure your thinking in a much better way. But with that we’ve successfully been conned into all right, we’re doing experiments, but actually what we’re going to be doing is that you are not doing experiments. You just go to trust priests who claim to do experiments, but these are better than the other priests that who trusted because the other priests told you they spoke to God, these guys don’t speak to God, they speak to an experiment, so you can feel okay, trusting them.
But really it’s the same thing. It [01:01:51] is a religion.
Like at this point we just have priests and we trust them. And we excommunicate people who don’t believe in that.
Benjamin Bikman: Well said. In fact, I used to take great pride in being what is commonly called a hard scientist. The hard sciences were these areas of science where you could literally conduct an experiment, run the analysis and see was this a significant finding or was it not?
Did something happen that we predicted or did it not? I would take great pride that I was not a soft science guy. Where you add the word science in your degree and it helps you believe, it’s political science, social science,
Saifedean Ammous: Run a bunch of observationary data.
Benjamin Bikman: Yeah. It’s almost a rule where if a degree has the word science in it, it’s probably not a science. Like I am in cell biology, that’s my department. My other colleagues are in molecular biology. We don’t say molecular biology science, but it’s social science, political science.
And I would take such pride [01:02:51] that I could know something I could say, this is truth, what we saw. This happened. I treated the cells with this, with insulin, and this is literally what happened. So now I can state it with an absolute authority because it is truth. It is reality. And unlike the social sciences, the softer sciences, which I don’t mean to totally disparage, but they could not make those same claims.
They could not do it. But now, even in the hard sciences, you have people making claims that are not justified. I’ve never been more ashamed of my credential than I have been the last few years where it has been, you have people making the most unscientific, ridiculous statements across a whole spectrum of social issues.
Right now it’s not just disease, but it is, human development. These things are being criticized in a way that I look at with such wonder and I’m left thinking [01:03:51] I’m in a clown world now.
Saifedean Ammous: Not the only one.
Benjamin Bikman: No, I know, but it’s funny for me to say this because I happen to be a professor at a private religious university.
And what’s amazing to me is to see that it’s these private religious universities that still allow the teaching of traditional kind of liberal education. By that I don’t mean, when I say liberal, I mean like a classic liberal education. Which trains you in the arts and the sciences and the letters. And I can know that my institution will defend me when I make statements about reality and truth in science.
And I don’t teach anything religious whatsoever, but it’s these state sponsored schools who are so dependent on money from the national institutes of health or from the state or federal agencies, unlike my institution, where they have to follow the party line. To your point about fiat science being based on fiat money, [01:04:51] that is literally the case with traditional state schools.
And it’s only universities that aren’t dependent. Like my university, for example, when the federal government was handing out COVID relief funds, my university was one of, we literally declined the money. It was offered these tens of millions of dollars, and my university said, no, we aren’t going to take it. Because we know the moment you start doing that things that comes with obligations and demands.
And so it’s a weird thing to say that it’s these private, generally religious universities, and there are very few of them that actually teach the reality, the binary nature of just science. Something is real, or it isn’t. Now that’s not to say there’s no silliness.
College campuses, unfortunately, it’s their very nature nowadays to have some somewhat crazy ideology in some disciplines. It would be increasingly difficult for me to be in academia if I felt like I had to [01:05:51] state the, something that I believed to be utterly false.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah. Better get some Bitcoin because I think the inquisitors are coming and you’re going to have to recant on all of your heresies. You’re gonna have to denounce your previous work and say that insulin is not a problem anymore.
Benjamin Bikman: Oh, i know. But the nice thing for me, I’ve never gotten an NIH grant and that’s actually, I’m not ashamed of that. That’s a point of pride.
I have been able to fund my lab through individual donors that are sufficiently enamored or convinced, have a sufficient conviction of my view of health and disease that I’ve not had to become an employee of the government and say what they want me to say.
Saifedean Ammous: Congratulations. That’s really, for me [01:06:51] this is the goal. And this was always the goal, write and be read. And have a method of communicating with the leadership without having to be part of the state run educational system, because ultimately the entire fields, they’re all related to the academic journals.
And I discussed this in detail in The Fiat Standard. The way that this academic fiat Ponzi works is all run through the academic journals. The basically the better way to understand is that the university system and the university professors and the university administrators have effectively been conned into becoming the slave labor for the academic publication industry.
There are few large publishers that control thousands, literally thousands upon thousands of academic journals. 99.99% of everything written in all those academic journals is unreadable garbage. Nobody ever reads it. None of these papers are read by anybody.
Benjamin Bikman: Even if you have access to it.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah. Even if you had access to it, nobody would read it. The only people who read it are people who read it because they want to [01:07:51] respond to it or build upon it so that they can get into the same journals and get promoted. But nobody outside of the journal circle jerk feeds these papers.
Benjamin Bikman: No, in fact I joke it’s incestuous.
I say that all the time. You go to conventional meetings, I go give a talk at a conventional science meeting, it’s the same handful of scientists listening to the same handful of scientists, everyone citing each other’s work, and that’s why when at the very beginning of our conversation, I noted that I began more and more to rail against this system where I’d publish a paper, like this paper about the postmortem biopsies we did on studying the hippocampus from humans.
This was relevant, cool stuff, and we pay $5,000 to get it published in a journal that no one will read except a handful of people and conventional academia would say all that matters, like at the end of every year, you get reviewed in part based on how many people cited your published work.
That’s part of the game of academia. And yet I looked at this like about six years ago, this was the [01:08:51] beginning of me saying I need to (1) get involved in social media, and (2) I need to write a book. Because I thought if the rest of my career is publishing papers that 20 other scientists read and it never actually impacts a human’s life, then I will have ended my career either I was delusional thinking I made a difference or I will acknowledge and be humbled by the fact that I never made a lick of difference in every discovery I made, as cool as I might have thought it was, totally irrelevant in the real world. And that to me was intolerable.
The idea of just sitting in the ivory tower of academia, spouting ideas, and then wondering if they had ever influence someone. I said, no, I have to circumvent that whole system. Yes. I have to play that game. I do. I play it, but I also know that I’m playing the game and then I go right to the people. I directly share publications that are relevant to human health through social media. And it’s never pictures of me doing anything silly.
It’s literally just, I’m teaching a little lesson right now about how [01:09:51] testosterone affects fat cell function, for example. Or I’m writing a book that is directly me going around, Saif if you had to convey all of your ideas in the two books that I’ve read of yours, The, Bitcoin Standard and The Fiat Standard, if you had to only rely on those ideas being conveyed in a classroom, you’d never, or your own papers being published, no, good luck.
A fraction of the number of people would know it. So those of us who know ideas, and that’s not relegated to those with PhDs, not at all. But those who have valuable ideas, it behooves us to test those ideas in an open market. Are these ideas as valid as I think they are? And then how can I help convey them? If they are in the market will tell you if they’re valuable or not.
Saifedean Ammous: Exactly. Which is what I really love about Twitter. Twitter in particular I think is the most is the most vigorous, intellectual and scientific debate that you find.
Benjamin Bikman: May it always stay that way. May it stay that way.
Saifedean Ammous: Oh, obviously, of course it has all of its problems with censorship and so on, but yet even in spite of all of that, I think it still manages to [01:10:51] be the most effective platform because it’s extremely powerful as a way of communication where you need to get things down to 280 characters.
So that means you can’t waffle around and you can’t waste people’s time. People just immediately tune you out, get straight to the point. You can link to papers, you can link to articles, you can include the video and audio, but you need to get to the punch in 280 points, which forces the brain to focus and allows you to really expose things.
And then that’s where academics really, their tricks are
Benjamin Bikman: Academics don’t like brevity. Academics don’t like brevity, they like to be superfluous in everything they describe.
Saifedean Ammous: Exactly. Because a lot of it is just honestly performative art. I’ve been to those conferences and I know that a lot of it is just, you need to sit there and talk about your paper.
Nobody’s read your paper. Nobody wants to read your paper, but they have to attend the conference. You have to speak at the conference. And so it’s just performance. You just stand there and, you feign being wise and you talk slowly and then you finish your time and then you get on with your life.
And nobody learns anything. And most of [01:11:51] it is just really performative. Social media on the other hand is real world, people are gonna listen to your ideas and they’re gonna try them. And they’re gonna come back and tell you, Hey, I tried to do what you said and look it’s worked and here are the pictures And that’s the validation that you need. I remember, it was something very similar that I felt during my grad school, when I stopped believing in the stuff that they teach us in the grad school, and I just developed this alternative perspective.
The biggest horror that I had was this idea that hang on, so we are just writing all of this garbage to continue to keep our jobs in this kind of system, and the only purpose of writing this is so that we develop the expertise so that we can get on TV and newspapers and university classroom, and gaslight people into telling them, Hey yep. Inflation’s actually good for you and prices aren’t really rising, and we need more inflation, and the way that we solve the problems of inflation is with more inflation.
That was basically it. And just realizing that you’re sitting there and [01:12:51] you’re writing something that nobody’s going to rereading, it’s it gave me that image of, there’s that movie, the Stanley Kubrick movie, The Shining, where the author and his wife, they go into a resort at an isolated hotel in middle of nowhere and they spend months writing and then his wife looks at all of the hundreds of pages that he wrote. And they’re all just the same sentence all over again.
And this is what it feels like when you’re in academia. Would it even matter if I just filled this with the same sentence over and over, the same exact sentences as in that movie, would anybody even notice? Yeah, the seven people in the journals and the seven people who read the journal might notice, but if them and I, we all agree on doing this as a prank, nobody would notice it.
Benjamin Bikman: That’s been done. But there was this, I can’t remember his name, there was this physicist who had such disdain for the fact. Did you cite this in your book?
Saifedean Ammous: Yes, Alan Sokal.
Benjamin Bikman: Yeah. But I’ve heard it [01:13:51] other times where you have the physicist who writes a report about like just made up like one of them.
I think he might have been the guy who talked about how dogs having sex was a good example of male domination or whatever. But that was one of the things he had made up, but just utter nonsense and getting it published in these soft science journals. Peer review process was just a joke.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah. And I think usually it used to be that a natural scientist would laugh at social scientists, but I think, these are the same universities that publish the same thing.
Benjamin Bikman: Oh no, I know. I know. Yeah. That’s why I said I used to, that’s right. My smugness in being a hard natural scientist is gone now because we’ve also now started compromising truth to fit a narrative, unfortunately.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah. And I think as you said the recent respiratory illness shenanigans were really, the way that the all [01:14:51] entire world scientific community went from having never heard about social distancing and to just suddenly saying yeah this is obviously what we need to do, because that’s the only option. What are you crazy?
Benjamin Bikman: Yeah and to totally overlook, we knew very early on, not to maybe I need to be very careful but very briefly we knew very early on that the single, literally the single most relevant risk factor in determining whether this would be serious infection or a very mild infection was the amount of fat a person had on their body.
And that’s not just a coincidence, any inhaled or virus that gets into the system, it comes in as a viral particle and it needs to hijack a cell and needs to get into a cell, infect a cell for that cell to start producing more of those viral particles to go and infect others. With this particular virus infect fat cells, more than any other cell. There’re a couple that are a little higher, but fat cells are among the most readily infected cell with this particular viral particle. [01:15:51] And then the fat cell becomes an unwitting factory producing more and more of it because it had on the surface of the fat cell, these other proteins that allow the viral particle to get into that cell much more readily.
So literally if you had a fat cell and a muscle cell side by side, and each were exposed to this viral particle, it’s gonna have a very hard time getting into the muscle cell because it doesn’t have the right receptors for that virus to trick. Fat cells are very welcoming hosts. And so a person who has more fat tissue just had more likely infection sites. And this isn’t meant to be an incriminating point about anyone who’s overweight.
No, indeed, truly I’m not. But for us to pretend that wasn’t a relevant variable, in fact arguably the most relevant variable was, it did no one any service.
Saifedean Ammous: No, it’s absolutely insane. I think it’s the most absurd moment of the entire two years was when
Benjamin Bikman: And I’m from Alberta, [01:16:51] I’m from Alberta which means I have a great disdain for any of the Eastern provinces.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, I can understand. And this guy, he’d locked down. Ontario had some of the most strict lockdowns in the world for a very long time. And they destroyed small businesses. Doug Ford got on TV and taught his citizens how to make cheesecake, his mom’s or his grandma’s recipe for cheesecake, which is he made Doug Ford, the enormous unit, which he is today.
So you can imagine how much sugar it has in it. And he went and cooked it as, he was wearing a giant t-shirt that said we are all in this together. And he was teaching people how to cook cheesecake while he locked them at home and prevented them from opening their businesses. It’s absolutely amazing how nobody said
Benjamin Bikman: It was for me. Yep, that was for me, seeing everything that happened over the last few years was a kind of final nail in the coffin. Now, of course, my field itself studying the [01:17:51] origins of metabolic disease had made me already somewhat cynical of traditional views. I’ve mentioned before that the fat cell is at the heart of metabolic problems.
That’s where insulin resistance starts. And yet traditional view would be, then just simply lower calories. And that’s all there is to it. Yes, calories matter, but the prevailing paradigm with obesity is this caloric paradigm totally ignores or totally refutes the fact that insulin could have anything to do with it.
And yet insulin is essential to determining fat storage as well. The whole debacle, the last three years settled it for me. But anyway, here he is.
Saifedean Ammous: Here he is.
Benjamin Bikman: Yeah. Look, look at that Gar. Oh my gosh. Yeah. And so he ought to have been worried about this respiratory illness because he has the most significant risk factor.
Boy, look at [01:18:51] him.
Saifedean Ammous: He’s had the recipe memorized since he was 10 year olds. This is some serious dedication.
Benjamin Bikman: Yeah, it is. It is. There’s the cream, so what he’s mixing here, the mix of sugar and fat is a particularly dangerous one. There’s the cream, a little more.
And in nature, it’s important to note in nature, carbohydrate and fat don’t come together. That doesn’t happen in foods that we eat in nature. It’s either pure carbohydrate in the form of fruit and vegetable generally, or it’s protein. But he’s mixing. Oh gosh, what a clown.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, he got reelected as well. I just,
Benjamin Bikman: Oh, I’m not surprised. I’m not surprised. They reelected Trudeau. It’s so shameful to see what’s happened. And I loved growing up in Canada. I loved my childhood in this little kind of farm town in Alberta. But my dad raised [01:19:51] us all to be very kind of free market capitalist and he would always rail against the federal, the lack of a kind of federalist system.
Now I’m not saying the U.S. is perfect. It’s democracy. It’s Federalist system is built and only can succeed on a moral people as the founding fathers noted and the loss of kinda morality in the U.S., puts it into a difficult spot. In fact, Saif I’ve heard you defend a monarchy before, which I can be very sympathetic to.
I think if you knew, if a population could know that it would always have just king, slam dunk. But the U.S. perspective was we can’t trust that we’ll always have a good king we’ll trust the morality of the people. But now if you ha, if you don’t have a moral people, then it doesn’t work.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, no, I think the argument is not that, if we can get just king every single time, I think the argument is that [01:20:51] this, you hit the nail right on the head that you need to adjust people for a democracy to work. So you need the society to be 51% just, moral and low time preference. I think this is the really key thing.
You need a society to be predominantly thinking about the future, thinking about their children. Because otherwise they will sacrifice the future for the sake of the present.
Benjamin Bikman: Yeah. That’s something you’ve articulated very well before. I love it.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah. And the difficult thing is that if it’s a democracy, Hoppe describes it as We stand all together where everybody’s hand is in everybody’s pocket, and everybody is robbing from everybody else.
And when you have that system, you incentivize people to think short term. And so it’s very difficult to win the lottery then and have 51% of the population manage to do it. But with a king, you just need one guy to teach their son that this is what we do, we keep thinking of the long term, and we don’t sacrifice the long term for the present.
And so then if you just have one [01:21:51] family where you have one father who just needs to teach this to their son, and then they manage to keep it going for a few generations, you are arguably better off sticking to them than
Benjamin Bikman: I agree because then their moral view would be for lack of a better word imposed and the population, it would be better.
I totally agree with that.
Saifedean Ammous: I think it’s not so much that they would be able to impose their moral view. I think it’s just that without a high time preference person in charge of government, people just naturally do what’s best for them, and they naturally develop a long term perspective. Because what you need to destroy that is a an actively destructive government that takes away your property, takes away that your freedom takes away your security.
Then people become essentially animals fighting against each other because they don’t see a common future because they think the future is compromised. So this would be it, but I wanted to get back to Alzheimer’s. You’d mentioned, this is of course very interesting.
[01:22:51] I have my grandfather, unfortunately, who suffers from this illness. And of course, as I mentioned, it’s one of those examples where constantly trying to get them to change their diet and the doctor just says it’s not. And everybody in the family just laughs when I mention it, but it’s recently new research on Alzheimer’s has shown us that apparently fiat science has been naughty and up to it’s usual
Benjamin Bikman: Oh, in fact it is the most perfect example of fiat science. In science at its wor science at its worst or agenda at its best where the prevailing theory of Alzheimer’s disease has been, that it is a disease of plaques forming in the brain. And these little things called amyloid beta peptides, or what we call plaques accumulate in the hippocampus and literally disrupt neuron to neuron connection resulting in the cognitive decline that so typifies Alzheimer’s disease.
But the challenge, why my lab challenged that among other labs, I’m not alone in this, is that [01:23:51] there would be drug after drug would come out that would be shown to reduce the presence of amyloid beta peptides, or plaques in the brain. And yet there would be no subsequent improvement in cognition. In fact, this just happened last year, where the FDA against the request of the special panel that was put together to review this anti Alzheimer’s drug, it was an anti plaque drug.
So there was this special panel put together to review it. They directed the FDA to decline FDA approval of this drug because the efficacy was nill. There was nothing to it. But the FDA approved it anyway. And their justification for it was that they didn’t want to discourage further drug development in the Alzheimer’s realm.
So they explicitly approved a drug they knew had no benefit. And so doctors would start prescribing this to patients, even though there was no known benefit, but all of this is just the cherry on top of the sick foundation which was that the very idea [01:24:51] that Alzheimer’s was a plaque based disease was built on faulty data.
And that’s what you’re referring to. It’s made the headlines. I wouldn’t be surprised if many people have seen this already, but the initial scientific findings published in these glamorous journals of course, it was that when they would block the formation of the plaques and these animal models, then the Alzheimer’s would go away.
When the plaques were there, the dementia, the cognitive decline in the rodents would follow. And yet it was all fabricated. They had made up these data and that’s part of this perverse incentive that so typifies this artificial realm of fiat science, where they need to publish and they need to keep getting funding.
And so you’re willing to compromise, and now we know that, that ideas has been tossed to the wayside, it simply doesn’t have, moreover additional data in postmortem human samples found that you would detect and find plaques in people’s brain who ha who died with no [01:25:51] evidence of cognitive decline.
They were perfectly healthy as sharp and witty as they ever were, and yet their brains had more plaques and died like my own grandma did, and they would have no plaques or very little plaques in the brain. So we’ve known for years that there’s something wrong with this paradigm.
And yet it continued to be propped up. When those of us who’ve been beating the drum, and again I’m not alone, saying that this is not a plaque disease, it is a metabolic disease with significant data to support this never having been refuted yet that I’m aware of in no paper, has it found contrary evidence finding that it is not a disease of metabolism of the brain in the brain.
It’s not been refuted yet. And so this should be the theory that should have been continued to be propped up. In order for it to continually be criticized, I should add, not that it makes it bulletproof, the bigger a theory gets the more it should be able to be to toppled over. [01:26:51] Then every brick that’s being thrown over, thrown at it if it’s not knocking it down, well then it strengthens it. Appropriately. It’s a stronger theory now.
If the brick we’re throwing doesn’t knock the tower down, it is becoming incorporated into the structure, and it’s stronger. That little tower of the plaque based theory of Alzheimer’s has been knocked over so many times.
It just, it fit the narrative that they wanted, whoever they were, it was easier to develop drugs that would address plaques than it has been to just tell people, help your brain become more insulin sensitive and give it some ketones from time to time, and very likely your brain’s going to be just fine.
Saifedean Ammous: You don’t need to invoke some enormous conspiracy of people who consciously came up with those things and deliberately lied about it. I’m sure as you know the way that these things work is just, if you and I both get our PhD and get similar jobs and similar research centers studying this kind of issue, if [01:27:51] I come at it from the perspective of I think there’s this obscured little chemical in the brain that causes Alzheimer, we need to spend 18 million to study how this thing grows, and that’s what causes Alzheimer’s, and we tend to figure out how to get a drug that inhibits this mechanism, so therefore will fix that issue.
This is a highly promising line of research because of the way that the drug patent system works, which is essentially a form of government monopoly, it makes a lot of sense to just find some symptom anywhere, and find some chemical that can be shown in a trial to reduce those symptoms. And it’s just, this is what modern medicine becomes. Because you set up the incentives in a certain way where you have to demonstrate to one monopoly government agency, one mechanism that they choose.
You set these as the goalposts, and so then you have billions of dollars of pharmaceutical companies out there shooting for those goalposts hiring people specifically to shoot [01:28:51] for those goalposts. We need to conduct the trial to find the disease and find the symptoms and then find the chemical that we can patent and make sure that it’s artificial.
It has to be artificial because if it’s not artificial, you can’t patent it. So it has to be an artificial chemical that can cost some significant effect on that symptom. So because if we do that and we spend about a billion dollars in 10 years putting it through trials, and then we get the approval, then that’s a money printing ticket forever. Because then all doctors are required to prescribe it as a standard of care for this condition.
And that’s just going to mean endless yachts and vacation homes for everybody involved with our pharmaceutical company. So instead of having a free market system where ideas and drugs are tested by free agencies that publish their findings, you have a top down system where the government just dictates, all right, this is the standard of care. Everybody needs to take it. Everybody needs to follow it and as a doctor, you could lose your license if you don’t follow [01:29:51] those things.
On the one hand, I’m proposing this kind of theory that would fit into this pattern that could lead to that drug eventually, which could make billions. You on the other hand, you’ve come up with a conclusion that, Hey, maybe I have this novel theory that if we get people to start eating less garbage, we could improve their Alzheimer’s.
All right. You could make a good Instagram health influencer account out of that. You could run a small business that holds people accountable and helps them and makes meal planning. There are a few small businesses on that. Nothing like the drugs that you could run with my theory, my theory that says a bunch of chem, it’s a chemical imbalance in the brain and we just need to.
And that’s exactly what they did with psychiatry, that other big scam, which which also incidentally is massively affected by insulin re resistance. But also nobody mentions it because again, it’s much more profitable. No, it’s a chemical thing in your brain, and we just add a little pill and then,
Benjamin Bikman: That was all refuted [01:30:51] recently too.
You’re perfect to point that one out, where for so long we’d said it’s a serotonin imbalance. And now this big meta-analysis comes out and says, oh, actually it’s not at all. And that’s never been supported in the science. And it challenges the most common psychiatric medication for these sorts of things is these serotonin regulating drugs that do nothing to benefit the person.
Saifedean Ammous: That’s very true. And the and of course the mechanism I discuss in The Fiat Standard because of the way that financing works is look, mistakes happen everywhere, but fiat money and fiat financing of science makes it so that mistakes can never get corrected because once you identify this kind of mechanism, all right, it’s the chemical imbalance of the brain, or it’s the platelets that cause the Alzheimer’s or it’s saturated fat that is causing the heart disease.
Once you’ve set the mechanism so that getting government funding depends on formulating your hypothesis to be congruent with that starting point. Once that [01:31:51] becomes the everybody knows in the field, once that becomes the thing that everybody mentions in the first page of their scientific paper as a sort of study foundation, then that’s it.
Then that’s never questioned, never tested, never researched.
Benjamin Bikman: It is the lens through which it’s all viewed.
Saifedean Ammous: Exactly. And then there’s the only way that you can get called a scientist is if you use that lens, you don’t use that lens you’re a crank.
Benjamin Bikman: Yep, yep. You’re a hair tick. That’s right.
And I’ve been accused of that myself for challenging conventional views and obesity and disease. It becomes too threatening, unfortunately.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah and I think to go bring everything back to Bitcoin and this podcast is one big giant advertisement for why Bitcoin fixes everything, is I think, again, all of it is because of the fact that it, without a free market bad ideas don’t die. They just continue to get money printing.
You need to wait for the money printer to die for that to get fixed. But Bitcoin is our way out. Bitcoin is a way for people to [01:32:51] fund research that they want. It’s a way for scientists to become financially independent so that they don’t always need all these new extra research grants, because their money’s constantly inflating.
I think the future, michael Saylor talks about this, people will endow foundations with Bitcoin. And then that will be a much more effective way to continue to do their research independent of the fiat monster.
Benjamin Bikman: That has to happen. Yeah. For science to continue to thrive and what has been such a bedrock of The United States having so many advantages, it was this system that encouraged and rewarded academic thinking and these efforts to experiment and find the best ideas, let the best ideas rise to the top.
The more we prop up the worst ideas, because we have money that’s allowing it to be propped up, we don’t allow them to get filtered, it’s it’s it’s the death of science. That sounds almost self-aggrandizing [01:33:51] where it’s scientists, it’s these philosopher Kings and it should be these deep thinkers who are the leaders, no.
No but the more we refuse to allow truth in reality, and even in the reality of letting the market. Show what ideas have value. Then the more we’re artificially propping up bad ideas that lead just to our detriment and destruction.
Saifedean Ammous: Absolutely. And one thing I also wanted to ask you about is statins. What are your thoughts on statins?
Benjamin Bikman: Oh my gosh. So in fact, I would encourage, what a wonderful question. I literally just published a paper with two other scientists on this topic of the efficacy of statins with traditional use. And anyone could just go to, I hate to promote PubMed or Google Scholar, but if you just type in Bickman and look for any pub papers published in 2022, you’ll find it.
I think we paid the extra fee to make it open access, which is something I always do, but [01:34:51] it’s 6,000 bucks, 7,000 bucks for my lab to publish a paper, so it’s not behind a pay wall. That’s how convinced I am that these ideas need to have free access. That people need to get them. Anyway. I think statins are probably the most overprescribed drug.
So everyone knows statins are the most common drug use for heart disease. And we base that it’s use entirely on someone’s LDL cholesterol levels. That a physician will say, a clinician will say, okay, patient, your LDL levels are too high, you need to go on a statin to reduce your LDL levels. And while statins are effective at lowering LDL, they are tremendously ineffective at lowering the risk of heart disease.
Especially if a person, there’s different scenarios, but if a person has never had a heart attack, but they have a high LDL and they’re prescribed a statin it shows [01:35:51] no benefit at preventing that heart attack. If someone has had a heart attack and they’re given a statin, it appears to be that there is a slight reduction in risk, but only in some people, you have to give a statin to 20 people in order for one to get a benefit.
So this is my view on statins, based on all of the best data that I’ve seen, LDL cholesterol doesn’t matter at all. It’s a totally useless marker of heart disease. Indeed, LDL cholesterol is a predictor of longevity. If you wanna live long, we have the Baltimore longitudinal study, the Honolulu aging study, the Shanghai aging study, multiple studies across the world have found that the longest lived people who have the lowest risk of dementia, the lowest risk of cancer have the highest LDL levels.
What a bloody paradox we’ve created by waging war on LDL. LDL is such an essential molecule of life. It’s relevant for hormone production, moving cholesterol [01:36:51] around, it’s relevant for immunity. It literally combined pathogens and remove them from the body through the liver to be cleansed from the blood.
And so that’s why the more we wage war on LDL, the sicker overall a person’s going to get. But what I would say, if anyone listening is curious about statins, and of course I’m not giving any medical advice, per se, just insight, don’t rely on your LDL level. You go and pay 70 bucks or whatever, and get what’s called a coronary artery, calcium scan, a CAC scan.
You lay under a little CT scanner, it zips around you, and it actually measures the calcification in your carotid arteries on your heart. I have to say this because the evidence is so convincing. If someone has a CAC score of, I think above 1000, I think it was or something like that, then it showed a mortality difference in, in taking a statin, regardless of LDL levels had nothing to do with it [01:37:51] high or low, it didn’t matter.
But if someone had really high LDL, but they had a CAC score in the low hundreds I think it was the statin had no benefit whatsoever. And because statins have such significant consequences like lowering sex, hormone production, lowering vitamin D damaging the mitochondria and making your muscles ache.
And these are real consequences that people need to balance. Every drug has a consequence. It’s just is the consequence you want worth the consequences you don’t want. That’s something we always have to ask ourselves as we put these unnatural chemicals in our body. But if someone has a high CAC score, then it appears that there could be a longevity, a mortality benefit to a statin.
But if your LDL is through the roof, but your CAC score is zero. I wouldn’t touch it.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, I think the statins were the most profitable drug in the history of the pharmaceutical industry. They may have been [01:38:51] overtaken recently by an unmentionable, which I will not mention because yeah.
Don’t wanna get canceled from on social media, but it has been enormously profitable to enormous focus and focus on this one little metric and take a pill for it rather than the very blatantly obvious alternative hypothesis, which is that it is the insulin that you should focus on.
Benjamin Bikman: I should just add though, lest it sound like I’m giving a tacit Greek pass to statins.
There are so many different types of statins that people’s genetics will metabolize the statins differently. So even if this were me giving advice to my dad for a loved one, I would say, don’t do anything until you’ve gotten a CAC score. Okay, let’s say he had a very high CAC score, lots of calcification in the crowded arteries.
Then next thing I would do is say, get a, what’s called a pharmacogenomics test. These are typically 200 bucks or so some insurances actually pay [01:39:51] for it here in the U.S., but it is our genes will dictate how we respond to medications. And it’s very possible that the person gets on a statin that.
Metabolized too rapidly and it doesn’t do anything or it has some adverse effect. The third leading cause of death in the United States is adverse drug events for goodness sake. That is the third leading cause of death. It’s heart disease, cancer, and an adverse drug events. And part of this is because you’re prescribed a drug that doesn’t get metabolized well in your body.
People naturally have different genes that are involved in the processes of clearing molecules, particularly in the liver. That’s where most drugs get metabolized and eliminated from the body once they’ve lived their life. But some people either metabolize ’em too quickly, so it doesn’t do any good or they metabolize ’em too slowly in the chemicals sticking around much longer than it should.
So there are a lot of caveats when it comes to statins, are you, should you be using it based on the very limited data [01:40:51] available at all? And then second you need to make sure you metabolize it well, but Saif to your point. Even if someone has known calcification in their arteries, there was a cardiologist by the name of bill William Davis.
He published a book on this and he quantified reversing calcification in the carotid arteries strictly through diet in his patients. So typically they will say. Once an Atheros once a plaque in the blood vessel has calcified, then it’s like a stone and it’s not going anywhere. That is the prevailing idea to this day.
This cardiologist bill Davis, he’s published reports, finding quantifying the reduction in calcification in patients strictly through adopting the dietary changes that we’ve been talking about.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah. All right, Daniel’s got a question for you, Daniel?
Daniel: Yeah. Hey guys. Hey Benjamin, nice to meet you.
Brilliant pod. Thank you. Yeah, it’s just been really interesting. I gotta [01:41:51] represent the Bitcoin plebs and ask you a bit of, you probably see the bro science that gets thrown around in in the Bitcoin Twitter realm, but first of all it’s brilliant that your lab is self-funded.
Do you accept Bitcoin? So if anybody listening to Saifs pod can send you some donations?
Benjamin Bikman: I appreciate that so much. One of the tragedies of being at a private institution is I can’t accept direct donations. Everything I do comes through the university on what’s called a sponsored research agreement.
But you guys, I’ve gotten enough requests for this kind of thing that I’m thinking about creating a nonprofit. I just don’t know how to do that. Something that could accept donation and then just pay for the equipment and pay for the students that are doing my work. So at the moment, I hate to say this, but no, I don’t.
Daniel: Someone listening will have an answer for you. I’m sure someone will.
Benjamin Bikman: Honest to goodness, I would welcome it enormously, because it has gotten a little challenging in that regard. [01:42:51]
Daniel: The bro science questions, there’s a lot of chat on Bitcoin Twitter about seed oils.
Benjamin Bikman: Yeah. No I’m glad you’re bringing that up because that was something we didn’t get around to. So my theory on what is the worst thing, how our diet has changed is that it is now consists of fake carbohydrates or processed carbs and processed oils and the processed carbohydrates Saif and I have, I think really beat that to death really well. Which is, this is what spiking your insulin and chronically elevated insulin drives a resistance to insulin.
But on the other hand, the processed oils like seed oils, they are also problematic particularly at the fat cell and that’s relevant because that’s where I believe insulin resistance begins.
It is the first domino to fall if you will. And when the primary fat, the primary fatty acid in seed oils is a fat called linoleic acid. And anyone who’s been diving into the seed oils already knows that fat. Linoleic acid is [01:43:51] problematic because as it accumulates in the fat. It can become, it gets metabolized through a process called peroxidation into a molecule called four H N E that’s.
Of course the abbreviated form of a much longer name, but for H and E as it accumulates in fat cells, it forces fat cells to grow through a process called hypertrophy where the fat cell itself is being is being expanded and getting fatter and fatter. That is not how all people get fat.
Some people can get fat through a process called hyperplasia, and this was something Peter and I just were chatting very briefly about when safe went to help with this baby at the very beginning. But if a if a person’s physiology allows their fat tissue to grow through hyperplasia, which is when the fat cells stay small, but we multiply them.
That is the person who paradoxic. We can get fat, but stay metabolically healthy. Their blood pressure is okay. They don’t have infertility. They don’t have [01:44:51] in insulin. They don’t have diabetes. Their glucose levels are normal. That is the vast minority of people. Most people get fat through hypertrophy where the fat cell gets really fat, if you will.
And it becomes insulin resistant to try to prevent further growth. And it becomes, pro-inflammatory literally SU. Creating molecules that turn on inflammation throughout the body, all in an effort to try to increase blood flow through all these swollen fat cells. Anyway, to answer the question and bring it full circle, that’s what seed oils contribute to among other things, seed oils do more.
But what I focus on as the metabolic scientist is what they do to the fat cell and seed oils will force hypertrophy of the fat cell, which becomes a very insulin resistant pro-inflammatory fat cell, which starts having that first domino tip into the other in promoting the insulin resistance throughout the body.
So while we didn’t beat that topic to death, I’m thrilled, you brought it up because there’s no question it’s relevant. So I [01:45:51] consider seed oils to be a secondary cause of insulin resistance, because directly they’re not going to do it on the body. They have an insulin resistant effect as it alters the growth of fat cells in a unique way, in a uniquely harmful way.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah. Do you think there’s merit to the idea that you look at traditional populations, a lot of them did eat carbohydrates? Now, obviously it was nowhere near as much carbohydrates as we eat now. Yeah. And it was not as refined and not as refined exactly as that’s right.
What we eat right now. But some people point to that as saying that the issue is not the carbohydrates. The issue is the seed oils.
Benjamin Bikman: I know they do. I know they do. But I don’t know how they can say that. Yeah, because they’re just, they’re creating they’re making up the scenario where, because as we just noted these same, like the Kitavans, they would eat a tubus vegetable, but it was roasted and, or steamed or something, they’re eating that whole thing and absolutely their insulin would’ve come up and come down.
The thing that people don’t [01:46:51] wanna note in those same Kitavans is that their fasting insulin was like two micro units per mil, a fantastically low insulin. And my problem, again, the reason I focus on the carbs not to necessarily overlook the seed oils is that it’s the refined starches consumed so frequently that result in this neverending insulin spike, and so leading to a steady increase, and we know this in people that their fasting insulin levels will get higher. Even fasting, insulin will get higher and higher the more they’re eating processed carbohydrates to the level that we are. So the people who are saying well, these traditional cultures ate tubus vegetables and they didn’t have seed oils.
So it’s not the carbs that are the problem. Clearly it’s the seed oils. I say you’ve created this false protection around the carbohydrates when my idea is that it’s what’s spiking the insulin too much. And if we were all just eating a boiled potato once a day, similar to the Kitavans, we would have no [01:47:51] problem.
So the seed oil. I think in some instances have become, I think they’ve gone too far. Now they would say screw you Ben, you’re ignoring the seed oil data. I’m not. In fact, I literally do experiments with linoleic acid in my lab. I’m just thinking we have to make sure we’re talking about the whole story here.
And if someone only eliminated seed oils, but they continued to eat sugar all day long in the form of gummy bears and things. There’s no question too much, insulin causes insulin resistance. That’s been well documented. I would say there’s more evidence, there’s absolutely more evidence over the past decades showing that elevated insulin causes insulin resistance then there is showing that seed oils cause insulin resistance. So I have to, I just can’t ignore that. Now I’m not ignoring the data on seed oils in linoleic acid. It is absolutely there.
And so I give it, I wanna give it its proper do, but those who [01:48:51] espouse that idea have gone, I think they’ve gone too far.
Saifedean Ammous: No I agree with you. I think the examples that are mentioned and sometimes they’ll say Irish people ate a lot of potatoes during, and they weren’t overweight.
And I think of course there, there is some truth to that. If you’re not getting fat if you’re not eating a lot of dietary fat, then yeah, you can get away with more carbohydrates. But also the carbohydrates before the 20th century are just a completely.
Benjamin Bikman: They are completely different.
That’s right. And but even still my main rule that first principle was control carbohydrates. Don’t get them from a bag or a box with a barcode. And so whole fruits and vegetables, they generally have such a modest insulin effect, especially vegetables compared to the tropical fruits, like bananas, pineapples, mangoes.
But like you said, say we’ve changed those over the past hundred years. Apples, for example, around the world, apples used to be small and bitter little things, and we’ve bred [01:49:51] them to become these big sugar bombs. And so even, this is happening around the world. So it becomes an easy critique of the kind of carbohydrate insulin based view of insulin resistance.
I find it somewhat galling just because these, now we’ve just been criticizing science, but I literally create insulin resistance in cells in my lab across the hallway, and linoleic acid can do this based on its effects on the fat cell. But insulin, elevated insulin does as well.
And that happens through chronic consumption of refined starches.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah. And I think in The Fiat standard I cite this book called Bright Line Eating by an author called Susan Thompson. She does a very interesting comparison looking at sugar and flour in particular. And she says if you look at what has happened with sugar and flour in the 20th century, thanks to industrialization.
It’s very similar to what has happened with cocaine and heroin. Basically opium, [01:50:51] and the coca leaves are things that had existed among the human society for thousands of years. And in Peru and Bolivia, in many of those places, it’s a common cultural thing that, particularly if you have work.
So like a worker who wants to put in a whole day of work and they want energy, you chew some coca leaves, you get a little bit of energy until you use it. So this is what it was, and for hundreds and thousands of years, this is what it was like. And then you get to the 20th century where you get to modern technology, modern hydrocarbon energy allows us to process things so much more efficiently and powerfully and cheaply.
And then you start taking these coca leaves, essentially you would take what it would take the average worker maybe a week to chew through, and then you process it and you condense it into a tiny little refined white substance that people can snort very quickly, so you can consume, and the same is true with heroin and opium.
So you, because of modern processing, you’re able to get it in a highly [01:51:51] palatable form. You don’t have to spend time chewing in order to get to the essence of it, you get the essence straight away and that’s what makes it so enormously addictive and destructive.
And she says, that’s exactly the same thing that has happened with sugar and flour. It used to be extremely expensive and difficult to process sugar and flour, and to be able to consume them, it’s difficult to grow plants that have sugar because they get eaten by pests and other plants. And even if you do manage to grow them, you grow a little bit, then there’s there’s a limit to how much sugar you can get.
You need to chew through a lot of apple and swallow a lot of indigestible matter in order to get a tiny little bit of a sugar hit, but then the 20th century comes along and now we’ve got white sugar being sold for practically nothing at a supermarket.
Benjamin Bikman: Or we have pure apple juice, where we’ve removed all the chewable stuff.
And now it’s just pure fructose and water it’s toxic. [01:52:51] We didn’t talk about juice, but as a parent, I consider that to be one of the great travesties of what parents are unwittingly doing to their children. Children should be drinking nothing but whole milk and water.
No juice. Fruit juice is a horrific, just sugar, it’s like you’re giving them soda.
Saifedean Ammous: No. Absolutely. It’s terrible. And it’s and I see this a lot in the health influence circles. Obviously there’s a lot I think, you want to color you wanna have a little bit of skepticism about one kind of financial interest that exists in this industry.
Obviously it’s nowhere near as corrupt and bankrupt as the scientific establishment. But within the, within the within the bro science circles, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. It’s not all perfect. There is, of course the slight bias wherein you get to be more popular as an influencer.
If you tell people they can [01:53:51] consume more things,
Benjamin Bikman: Indulge. It’s human nature to wanna be, to want validation in a destructive behavior.
Saifedean Ammous: Yes. And also, if you tell people that no, you can have this sugar and you can have that treat and you can have that, and you’ll be fine.
Obviously it’s going to sell better than the, the party pooper. Who’s just gonna tell you, no, you shouldn’t have any of that stuff. And I, okay, fine I sympathize with people, people are addicted, everybody has their addictions, but like realistically, you see how this colors people’s analysis.
So something like that, like you eliminate seed oils and then carbs stop being a problem. And so you see a lot of this kind of people who are just sugar junkies and looking to justify the sugar junkies saying, oh, just take out the seed oils, and then you can keep eating all the sugar that you want.
No, it doesn’t work that way. No, you can, obviously you can, I’m not your mom. You can do whatever you want.
Benjamin Bikman: Yeah. Yeah. But don’t expect it to yield these great reward returns.
Saifedean Ammous: And [01:54:51] it’s obviously much better than eating garbage, but realistically it’s not as good as just not eating any of the sugar at all.
Benjamin Bikman: Yep.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, alright. Peter has a couple questions too.
Daniel: Sorry Peter. Before I move, I had one more bro science question. And it’s entirely up to you if you’ll leave this into your podcast.
Ben, I heard you talk briefly about testosterone earlier in the show.
There’s a big movement in the Bitcoin space where the plebs like to sun their balls. What’s your take?
Benjamin Bikman: Are you serious? Is this a euphemism or you mean like actually get out there and hang your sack in the sun?
Daniel: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Oh, there’s even special poses for it. This is a real thing.
And the idea behind the bro science is that it stimulates the the testosterone in your body. I dunno if you’ve experimented this in the [01:55:51] lab.
Benjamin Bikman: That’d be hard to get IRB approval for .
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah. So that’s what Bitcoin research is for. Let’s fund it with bitcoin.
Benjamin Bikman: I know!
Saifedean Ammous: There’s no IRB in Bitcoin. If you get the coins, you can spend them as you want.
Benjamin Bikman: Oh, that’s how it used to be you guys. That’s how it used to be. I look at the work of what scientists did in the field of starvation and feeding about 80 years ago before the era of IACUC and IRBs, that limit what you can do.
Oh my gosh. They were able to get away with so much glorious work. Anyway, Daniel I have never seen any paper published on this. Now to truly think through the system I can’t help but wonder how that mechanism, so I’m thinking through the mechanism, and maybe someone would say, so cholesterol is honestly I can’t fathom what the mechanism would be.
Saifedean Ammous: The mechanism is that sunshine is obviously great for your skin. Try and hides from the Sun for six months. That’s going to [01:56:51] be bad for the skin.
Benjamin Bikman: I did that. So sunlight, sometimes
Saifedean Ammous: Sometimes scientists can over complicate things Ben.
Benjamin Bikman: I know know. But let me mechanism back even. So sunlight does convert cholesterol into vitamin D. So like I’m thinking, what is the process where by cholesterol, which is the basis of all sex hormones, all sex hormones come from cholesterol, which is why when you wage war on cholesterol, like through a statin, libido plummets in men. Because you’re destroying their sex hormone production, cuz you’re getting rid of the building block.
So if sunlight converts cholesterol to vitamin D I’m unaware of any effect where sunlight converts cholesterol to sex hormones. But so I challenge that a little bit and I’m very familiar with that biochemical pathway. I teach lectures on this topic, but I also think evolutionarily if we needed sunlight to have our testes promote more vitamin D they’d be on the top of our head.
Not literally tucked in the darkest spot on our body, [01:57:51] if we were walking around naked. Now that sounds silly, but I hope we can all see that there’s some wisdom to that.
Saifedean Ammous: Counterpoint Ben! If they didn’t need sunshine, they would be inside your body.
Benjamin Bikman: No that’s temperature but that’s a good counter, but that’s a temperature phenomenon where sperm, if it gets produced at a higher body temperature it’s dead. Basically it has to be a little cooler. But I think that if our creation story were such that we needed sun exposure on our gonads, on our testies to get enough vitamin D they would be on our back or on our shoulder.
They wouldn’t be tucked in the darkest part of the body. So I don’t believe that it makes any difference.
Daniel: All right. Just to finish up my question, then, if you do manage to get that funding, I think this is gonna be the thing that people want to fund you to look at.
Benjamin Bikman: You know what though you guys if there is any truth to this and honestly it would be very easy to make these experiments, I would say that will give birth to a little device that has [01:58:51] a UV lamp, and you just simply tuck it between your drawers.
They do? Oh my God.
Saifedean Ammous: No not portable devices.
Daniel: Yeah, exactly. No, but the
Saifedean Ammous: It’s regular tanning devices.
Benjamin Bikman: That would be the way to do it. You just have a small little device and you just crook it in your crotch and then you’re producing testosterone like gangbusters but you guys in all sincerity are there reports of people who have only done this independent of any other therapy, like they didn’t go low carb and go carnivore, which can increase testosterone?
They didn’t start working out more, which can also increase testosterone? Are you guys familiar? Is there anything that has removed all the confounding variables and said, I literally did nothing, but. Put my sack in the sun and I had higher testosterone levels.
Saifedean Ammous: I believe the respected Bitcoin Twitter scientific authority that is fartface2000 has conducted such an experiment.
Fartface2000 is one of my really paragons of truth and [01:59:51] Bitcoin.
Benjamin Bikman: Okay. You’re not joking. This is real.
Saifedean Ammous: I’m not joking. I’ve met him. I’ve met him before. He’s been to a couple of my dinners.
Benjamin Bikman: Guys, what have I gotten? What have I gotten involved with?
Saifedean Ammous: He’s a great guy. He works in I forget his exact job.
He’s he works in construction. I think he’s got a really successful job somewhere in New Jersey. Like just a hard working very smart guy who’s just gotten into Bitcoin at some point. And he’s like
Benjamin Bikman: challenging dogma.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah. And he’ll just take anything and follow it and do it. And he was posting all of his stuff.
He’s like in his fifties, I think. And he was you guys doing this stuff
and he got lamp and I think he puts great results.
Benjamin Bikman: I’ll look him up. But you guys in all one very relevant variable here, as much as we fellas who wanna be veil and strong and tough focus on testosterone, the levels of testosterone in a man can vary widely and it has no predictive power with his lean mass or his muscle mass.
What is a more [02:00:51] predictive variable is the concentration of testosterone receptors on muscle and bone. So it’s not just how much testosterone you have, but how well it’s working where you want it to work. And that is something that is very affected by exercise. You go out and exercise and you will increase androgen receptor levels on muscle, almost immediately and it’ll stay up.
So as much as we focus on testosterone levels and they matter to some degree, a normal group of men will have levels that can vary almost by 10 times. And it will have nothing to do with how muscled or, ripped and veer out they are. So I just, that’s a little bit of a counter to this idea.
But it’s certainly compelling.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah. This is I’ll just add one small thing, which is my intuition is to just follow the fartfaces of the world rather than worry about the mechanism, [02:01:51] because the way that science advances is that people try things and then they work and then they discover the mechanism.
Benjamin Bikman: Yeah. Yeah. But even still let’s say he’s exposing himself to the sun. I can’t help, but say he’s just making more vitamin D. And vitamin D is immune boosting, it was bone mass protecting. I would say there’s a confounding variable here that you just can’t eliminate that.
Saifedean Ammous: Think what you would wanna do is get the same amount of sun exposure, but only difference being that you would cover that area between two groups of people. Shouldn’t be too difficult to organize this voluntarily on Twitter.
Benjamin Bikman: It sounds like there’s a whole group of people who are lining up to be volunteers I never would have imagined.
Saifedean Ammous: I know. I think we should do the control group and yeah. All right, Peter has a question.
Peter Young: I was happy to give that very important point of order on (?). So my question was about [02:02:51] the reversibility of insulin resistance. So we’ve talked a lot about all the things that can cause it in terms of lifestyle, but if someone has already entered, say the pre-diabetes stage , are they able to reverse through lifestyle changes?
Could they reverse their insulin levels down to say the levels that you’re talking about in the Kitavans or are they beyond the point of no return at some point?
Benjamin Bikman: Yeah. Oh, absolutely. Absolutely they can turn it around. In fact, the reversal of insulin resistance by adopting, this has been well documented, there are multiple case studies published on this, so I can speak to it with confidence.
You have people who are so insulin resistant that they’re on multiple medications. Like insulin, taking insulin, taking Metformin and other antidiabetic drugs, all you can do is start having them engage in fasting and low carb diet. And within just weeks, they have to get off all of their medications because they’ve [02:03:51] corrected the problems so quickly.
And so everyone who is either on the earliest stages where they just notice they’re a little chubby and they have high blood pressure, or they’re full on type two diabetic, which is like the most obvious form of insulin resistance going down the road that can be turned around literally in weeks and a person can start to lower their insulin in just the same day that they decide I’m going to fast for the next 24 hours and just drink water and have maybe some salt.
To help my fast be a little easier. Their insulin levels will come down by several not orders, it’ll go half and third and then a quarter of it’ll come down very quickly. And like I said, within just months, weeks to months, there is insulin sensitive as a marathon runner. So yes, very reversible.
It is the good news. The gospel of metabolic research is that if you use diet to cure the problem, then you’ve cured it. But the food we eat is the culprit or the [02:04:51] cure. And when we acknowledge the relevance of food as the cause, then we acknowledge that it also can be the cure. Okay. So just one follow up question then.
Peter Young: So in terms of the damage to limb resistance does, if you’re saying that it can be totally reversed then how is the damage done? Is the damage done cumulatively over time? And then when you get to a certain point, you can’t reverse the Alzheimer’s, you can’t reverse the condition you’ve generated.
Benjamin Bikman: Yeah. What a great question. Unfortunately, I can’t give a universal answer to that because it would be tissue specific. Let’s take for example the muscle. When muscle becomes insulin resistant insulin can’t defend muscle protein as well. And you start to have a higher rate of what’s called catabolism, or just the breakdown of the muscle protein, which increases a situation called sarcopenia, a person who says muscles that are getting wasted away. That’s part of insulin resistance. You can correct that. The moment the muscle becomes insulin sensitive, then muscle protein gets defended and you’ve corrected the muscle wasting. The [02:05:51] same would go at the liver.
Fatty liver disease is the most common liver problem in, in, in the world. And it is largely a result at least partly of chronically elevated insulin, stimulating fat production in the liver while you start to lower the insulin and the fat starts to clear itself out. So those are totally reversible.
The brain appears to be somewhat unique where it’s its pathology towards dementia is such that I cannot say that insulin resistance is the only relevant variable, because as you start to correct insulin resistance in the body of someone with Alzheimer’s yes, it does improve the Alzheimer’s, but it does not fully reverse it.
So that either means there is a point of no return with the insulin resistance that maybe a part of the brain has starved enough that it’s now dead and cannot be resurrected, or it suggests that there is another variable that we just haven’t identified yet. We know it’s not plaques cause that appears to have nothing to do with it, but it does suggest that there’s [02:06:51] some, it could be a difference.
One of the other theories of Alzheimer’s or contributors is iron metabolism and it could in fact Saif, I know you had oh, what’s his name? (?) yeah. He’s a big iron guy, for example. So he’s a good one I could refer people to, but we know, although he doesn’t, I don’t think he talks about iron in Alzheimer’s, but we know that iron can accumulate and disrupt the what’s called a redox balance, an oxidative stress in the brain.
So that’s an additional input that might not get addressed in some people. And that’s somewhat of a genetic component as well as, eating supplemented foods with iron which we all do. If it’s comes in a bag or a box with a barcode, it’s got some kind of iron supplemented into it rather than the hem iron that you get from say beef.
But anyway, yeah, so some problems, which aren’t entirely a result of insulin resistance, and Alzheimer’s might be that, aren’t going to be totally reversible. That’s maybe the safest way of saying it.
Saifedean Ammous: Who else has got [02:07:51] questions? Handre.
Handre: Yeah. I just thought that on the discussion we had previously, if it could be possible that the skin on your body that has not been ex exposed to the sun at all, maybe it can absorb more vitamin D and more sun.
Benjamin Bikman: Yeah, absolutely. Darker the complexion, the harder it is to have the UV light convert the cholesterol into vitamin D, which is why in general, the fairer the complexion, I’m a pasty white guy, I would make a lot more vitamin D, Saif you have a darker complexion in me, middle Eastern complexion.
You would need more sun, like the vitamin D that I’d make in five minutes, you would need maybe 20. So Handre, absolutely. But that is again, a confounding variable to this study that would make it difficult. Is it, are they feeling better just because there’s more testosterone, but again, testosterone level is only part of the variable it’s testosterone receptor concentration, but yeah, it could be that you’re making more [02:08:51] vitamin D because that’s such a fairly complected skin.
By fair I mean like lighter complected that you can just make more vitamin D with a given UV exposure per time.
Dorian: Hi, this was a very great conversation. So my question is about sunscreen. Shall we use it? Or is it better to go naturally?
Benjamin Bikman: Yeah. Yeah. So I’m uniquely qualified to answer that question because I sunburn so readily. You ask that question to someone else and they say, I never need sunscreen, and they don’t, they literally don’t get burned.
I burn. Now I know a lot of people say just don’t eat seed oils and you won’t sunburn anymore. That is just not true. That is just not true. Some skin complexions just burn. So I would rather get a sunburn than put sunscreen on my body. No question. I don’t even have to think about it. But I don’t like to get sunburn, so I will just dose my sun exposure if I’m out [02:09:51] at a beach or at a pool or whatever, with the kids, I will absolutely strip down to just my swim shorts.
And I will get some sun for a good chunk of time. Then when I feel like I’m reaching a limit, I’ll put on a shirt and just put on a hat and continue to enjoy the sun. I will not put sunscreen on. There are so many chemicals in that that get readily absorbed into the bloodstream. I would rather get a sunburn than have sunscreen on my body.
Now, if you’re putting on like a zinc oxide, but then you look all pasty white and weird, but even still, I want some sun exposure, especially on the trunk of my body. I want to make vitamin D, I wanna set my circadian rhythms, such that my melatonin knows when to be suppressed and it knows when to turn on.
There’s so many benefits to sun exposure that the more you’re blocking this sun effect, the more you’re undoing a really health boost. And unfortunately, because we live under fake light in, in buildings [02:10:51] all day long with UV protection on our windows, we never are getting sunlight. So I think people ought to make a point, even if you’re justifying the sun exposure by saying that your testies need some sunlight, then whatever. Sunlight is just a good thing. But I’m very opposed to sunscreen.
Dorian: Can I just follow up also about the Sun, because there’s a lot of attacks on the Sun.
Would you comment that sunlight makes you older that if you are avoiding sun, that you’ll look younger in the older age? And also if you sunburn more, will you have a higher risk of cancer?
Benjamin Bikman: Yeah, yeah. Good question. So everybody know, please I’m answering these questions with a little bit of speculation. I’m a metabolic mitochondria guy. These are topics that I’m familiar with, but I’m not an authority on them, but I have enough familiarity to have an opinion. So with Sun it does appear that the more someone [02:11:51] is getting blistering sunburns, the more they will develop skin cancer.
Yeah. Now getting a little pink. No, I don’t see that there’s any, there’s never been correlation, but these are all correlational studies, which I have a great deal of disdain for. And I’m sure this is a group who appreciates causal studies compared to correlational studies. All of this is correlational where they just happen to see people who are getting blistering sunburns will tend to have more skin cancer, but there are a lot of different types of skin cancer.
And you can have people with very dark complexions who don’t get any sunburns ever, and yet they can still get skin cancer. It’s because there’s just so many different types. And then Dorian, what was the other question? Sunburn and cancer, and then what was the first one?
Dorian: Yeah. So the people who are attacking the sunlight.
Benjamin Bikman: Oh, aging!. No I don’t know. I don’t buy that really. What I do know is that the higher someone’s glucose levels are, allow me to hijack [02:12:51] that question and bring it back to something I do know whether sun can cause wrinkles, I don’t know, I’ve never seen a study on that. But I do know that high levels of glucose will create what’s called we call it a maillard reaction that can happen on the skin.
You guys know a maillard reaction is what happens when you char something like when we like Saif wants some beef, he puts it in his sous vide machine and then no one wants to eat the meat right out of the sous vide, you go sear it. That kind of crisp seared that’s what’s called a maillard reaction. And a part of that is what’s happening, it happens less on the meat, but it can happen on vegetables from taking glucose molecules and then converting them due to the heat or in this case due to the sun exposure. So when someone is getting a lot of maillard reactions, that can in fact cause wrinkled skin. And I would say it’s less sun and it would be more, what are your glucose levels?
Dorian: Thank you.
Saifedean Ammous: [02:13:51] Yeah, my personal experience is that you will burn if you’re not exposed to sunlight a lot. So if you’ve spent the winter in North America and you fly to Mexico in March and then spend a week in the sun, you will burn and it could get ugly. It could it could be very bad. But if you gradually introduce yourself to sunlight, if you make sure that even during the winter, you get exposed to as much sun as you can.
And then you’re, if you don’t up the dose of sunlight at once, then your body will just grow into it and it’ll be able to handle more and more sun. I could spend hours in the sunlight and I don’t but again, who knows I could be wrong. It could be harmful in certain ways.
So who knows. All right. Anybody else have any more questions we’ve gone for, it’s been two hours and 15 minutes almost, but anyone have any more questions?
Cowlbeck: Yea, I’ve just got a quick one [02:14:51] Ben, on your take, back to the insulin management, an old supplement that’s been around forever called Berberine,
Benjamin Bikman: I did a I hate to push anyone to Instagram. I found, I initially was on Twitter, I also started doing more kind of little lessons on Instagram and I did one about Berberine just cause there’s so many, there’s so much curiosity about it. Berberine absolutely works.
There’s abundant, peer-reviewed, placebo controlled, double blinded clinical studies, which is the best we can get, assuming that everyone’s honest with it, that absolutely show that burberine does improve insulin sensitivity and it does so by activating this little enzyme called AMPK, which the moment AMPK’s activated, which Berberine turns on, it’ll stimulate glyco it’ll stimulate sugar burning.
So lowering sugar, blood sugars, lowering insulin, overall improving insulin sensitivity. So if someone were to go to their physician and the physician said, ah, you have [02:15:51] prediabetes, I wanna put you on a drug called Metformin. Metformin actually works through a very similar mechanism to Berberine.
I would say not that I’m giving anyone clinical advice, of course. I would say, you know what? Maybe try the Berberine first cuz it, yes, it will have a more modest effect than Metformin will, but it also doesn’t have the kind of gut wrenching side effects that Metformin has.
Cowlbeck: I gave up sugar about six months ago, which was kinda painful, but opted to start taking five milligrams of Berberine. At the beginning it was kind of tricky, know as far as you kinda this lethargic kinda, yeah, I dunno, you described it earlier and as you’re trying to get away from the sugars and just just burning your fats, if you will. But now it’s just normalized. And, if you’re gonna go out and a heavy like wood cutting day, which I do a lot of, maybe I don’t take Berberine that day.
Benjamin Bikman: You know what also you should try. If you are monitoring your blood sugars at all, everyone [02:16:51] could do this. It works remarkably well, add a little bit of raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar into your club soda, or a cup of water. It’s remarkable
Cowlbeck: I am actually doing that for the past 6 months. All together, I just was curious on what, you’re really in depth with a lot of the stuff and, I’m just more or less triangulating what I’ve picked up in other places. I think a big proponent is David Sinclair, edgy guide. Has really guided down that line.
Benjamin Bikman: Yeah. So David Sinclair is more of a biohacker than I’m comfortable with. He loves to promote a certain number of supplements.
Saifedean Ammous: He’s also from Harvard. So he’s out there to sell a lot of supply stuff.
Benjamin Bikman: He is he’s a bit of a shill. Yep. So I’ve really started to lose respect for him. Anyone like him who tells people to take these drugs, like Metformin is a drug he tells people to take.
And I think what an asinine piece of advice to, to suppose that this [02:17:51] foreign manmade substance is somehow going to help you live longer. When and we know in humans, Metformin works by damaging mitochondria. Albeit slightly. But this is why you show that people who undergo aerobic exercise, which I never do, I only do resistance training for best bang for the buck, but people who undergo aerobic exercise will have bigger, stronger mitochondria. But when they take Metformin, it undoes all of the mitochondrial adaptations to that exercise. It puts you back to baseline. And I don’t know how someone could justify taking a drug that where we all say everyone would agree.
Exercise is a key to living a longer, healthier life. Oh. But also take this drug, the fact that it will undo the benefits of exercise. That’s just an inconvenient truth. I wanna be popular. And so if I promote all these clever biohacking substances, people are gonna adore me for it. I think he’s just gone too far.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah. And also it’s all of the same climate hysteria nonsense, and you shouldn’t eat [02:18:51] meat and you should eat this magic little grape that if you have three grapes in the morning then,
Benjamin Bikman: Yep. That’s right. That’s why I said the thing about super foods. Everyone says all these super foods, just this molecule and grapes and no, it’s so silly.
It’s just so silly to think that humans, it’s ridiculous, evolved to need these kinds of silly little things when our ancestors would’ve never eaten grapes, they ate meat.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah. And even the vast majority of humans have had zero exposure to the vast majority of plants for all their lives. Like the vast majority of things.
That’s right. That you see in your supermarket were only ever available to your ancestors.
Benjamin Bikman: We had to breed them. We had to breed them in a way to reduce the toxins and enhance what can be digestible and give us energy. We have in our clever technological era, have created plants from plants that would’ve been inedible in a previous generation.
Saifedean Ammous: Thank you so much for all of this. This has been absolutely amazing. I really enjoyed it. Thank you so much. Thank you so much for all your work! Thank you for [02:19:51] really just focusing the flashlight of truth on the thing that matters. Like just stop eating garbage, you get healthy.
And then, let the fiat people argue about their papers forever and their mechanisms and all these weird acronyms, but most important thing people need to know is just don’t eat garbage.
Benjamin Bikman: Yeah. While they’re struggling getting papers peer reviewed, I’ll be out sharing truth.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah. I’ll be out eating steak and sharing truth, and thriving basically, yeah. So thank you so much, Ben!
Benjamin Bikman: My pleasure! Thanks, this was great guys. Thanks so much.
Saifedean Ammous: Cheers.