The Melanie Avalon Biohacking Podcast Episode #163 - Ben Azadi
In 2008, Ben Azadi went through a personal health transformation of shredding 80 pounds of pure fat. Ever since, Ben Azadi, FDN-P, has been on a mission to help 1 billion people live a healthier lifestyle.
Ben is the author of four best-selling books, Keto Flex, The Perfect Health Booklet, The Intermittent Fasting Cheat Sheet, and The Power of Sleep. Ben has been the go-to source for intermittent fasting and the ketogenic diet.
He is known as 'The Health Detective' because he investigates dysfunction, and he educates, not medicates, to bring the body back to normal function. Ben is the founder of Keto Kamp; a global brand bringing awareness to ancient healing strategies such as the keto diet and fasting.
Ben is the host of a top 15 podcast, The Keto Kamp Podcast which one Keto Podcast of The Year (2022) by The Metabolic Health Summit. Ben has the fast growing Keto Kamp YouTube channel with over 150,000 subscribers, and TikTok channel with over 200,000 subscribers and over 30 million video downloads.
Ben is a keynote speaker who most recently delivered a keynote lecture for Ketocon 2022, and he's been featured in Forbes, LA Weekly, Disrupt Magazine, NY Times Mag, LA Entertainment Weekly and other publications.
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12:00 - Ben's Story
19:40 - Health at every size
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26:10 - backlash for weightloss
29:10 - mindset and implementing dietary change
32:20 - the placebo effect
35:50 - creating Keto Flex
38:40 - mitogenesis
42:30 - energy efficiency with fat burning
45:30 - mitochondrial uncoupling
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51:40 - insulin spikes and thyroid hormone
52:35 - keto phases
55:35 - measuring breath ketones
57:40 - chasing ketones
1:00:50 - getting into keto flex
1:04:05 - energy toxicity
1:05:20 - fat terminology
1:07:50 - bad dietary fats aka Seed Oils
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The Melanie Avalon Biohacking Podcast Episode #38 - Connie Zack
The Science Of Sauna: Heat Shock Proteins, Heart Health, Chronic Pain, Detox, Weight Loss, Immunity, Traditional Vs. Infrared, And More!
1:22:00 - obesogens
1:31:00 - glyphosate
1:34:00 - what has ben had to unlearn?
Melanie Avalon: Hi, friends. Welcome back to the show. I am so incredibly excited about the conversation that I am about to have. And it's sort of a funny backstory. On today's conversation, I'm here with the incredible legendary Ben Azadi, who is just doing all the things in the biohacking, and keto, and fasting world, and he's very well known. I've been familiar with his content for quite a while. He's also good friends with my cohost, Cynthia Thurlow on the Intermittent Fasting Podcast. What's really funny or I think it's funny, it had been on my to-do list to reach out and connect with Ben. And then when I got a new publicist last year, right when I got them, they didn't know much about me yet. And so, I think they blindly pitched me to you, which was funny. So, that's how we ended up connecting, like, third-party connection. It was so wonderful.
Ben actually had me on his podcast, which is the Keto Kamp Podcast, which actually won Keto Podcast of the Year in 2022 by the Metabolic Health Summit, which is super cool. And so, now we're having Ben on my podcast. So, there are so many things that we can talk about. Like I said, Ben is a legend in this sphere. He has four bestselling books. So, they are Keto Flex, The Perfect Health Booklet, The Intermittent Fasting Cheat Sheet, and The Power of Sleep. Keto Flex is his most recent book and you can get it on Audible, which I love as well and Ben narrates it. But yeah, I feel like I'm rambling all over the place. But Ben, it's just such an honor to have you here and I'm really looking forward to today's conversation.
Ben Azadi: Melanie, the honor is mine. I love what you're doing. I've been following your work for many, many years. We have Cynthia Thurlow in common, who we both love and adore. She's incredible. So, it was a pleasure having you on my podcast recently. We had just a great, deep conversation and I'm looking forward to having another one with you today. So, thank you so much for having me.
Melanie Avalon: I know, likewise. I was telling you just before we started recording that when I was prepping for you, I was like, "He literally talks about all the things I'm obsessed with." So, we could probably talk about-- There's so much we could talk about. But to start things off, I'm sure a large portion of my audience is familiar with you. But for those who are not, could you tell us a little bit about your personal story? Super curious how you got to where you got today, doing the podcast, and Keto Kamp, and all the things. What happened?
Ben Azadi: Absolutely. Like so many people out there, it came from pain. The purpose spawned from pain. So, for me growing up here in America, born and raised in Miami Beach, Florida, when I grew up here as a kid, I was pretty much left to my own devices. My parents were divorced. My mom worked three jobs. Two of those jobs my mom worked was actually at Kentucky Fried Chicken. So, she would bring me home Kentucky Fried Chicken. And I loved that as a kid. But I was hanging out with the wrong crowd and I developed terrible behaviors, because you become your environment. My environment was really bad and toxic, so my behaviors became such.
I ended up being really unhealthy. I was obese growing up. I was physically obese, but also mentally obese with depression, low self-esteem, low confidence. I had really bad addictions. Addictions to video games, addictions to food, sugar, drugs, the wrong people. This showed up as my health declined year after year. Barely graduated high school, I graduated late, finished with night school, ended up going to college. But something happened when I was in college. I was about 23 years old-- Actually, right after college, I dropped out of college. 23 years old, back in 2007, I found myself a 250-pound man classified as obese with 34% body fat, who was ready to give up on life at the age of 23 years old. The reason I was ready to give up is, because I was tired of being sick and tired. I know a lot of people listening could relate to that. So, for me, it was rock bottom.
I was going through a really bad breakup with my ex-girlfriend at that time. Never understood health and nutrition or fitness, never understood self-development and the inner work. So, I was devastated. I was crying every day, I was hurting every day, I was in pain every day, and I was ready to just give up. So much so that I explored suicide on the internet. Many, many times, I was looking up ways to end my life. But every time I explored suicide, the first thought that immediately came into my mind was, "What about your mom? What about the devastation your mom and your family would have to deal with?" I did not want to do that to my mother. She was always a superhero to me and she is to this day. So, I didn't want to hurt her. So, it stopped me. Thank God. But it was a vicious cycle, Melanie. I was looking for ways to end my life, thinking about my mom, stopping myself.
This happened day after day, week after week, month after month, until I was 24 years old now. About a year later, a friend of mine handed me a book, and he and his wife now, they're married now. They weren't married back then. They said, "I think you should read this book. I know you're going through a lot. Give it a shot. See if it helps you." It wasn't really that this is the number one book that changed my life, but it was the fact that the book opened up the door for a 2nd book, a 5th book, a 10th book, a 20th book, and I just became obsessed with reading authors like Dr. Wayne Dyer, Lisa Nichols, Bob Proctor, Earl Nightingale, Tony Robbins, and these incredible authors who all had their own pain to purpose journey.
These books opened up a whole new world to me. It did a lot for me. But the number one thing the books did for me to this day was help me take ownership and responsibility. Up until that point, I didn't even know what that word meant, responsibility. Now I know it. It is my ability to respond to life. My ability to respond to life up until that point was really poor. I was blaming my genetics, I was blaming my enabling family members, my slow metabolism. But here's the thing about taking ownership and responsibility. All that goes out the window and you take action once you take responsibility. So, when I took responsibility, I stopped being the victim of my history and I started to become the victor of my destiny. That's where I started to eat better, move my body, cut people out of my life, stop playing video games.
In nine months since that moment of taking ownership, I lost 80 pounds I went from 250 pounds down to 170 pounds. I went from 34% body fat down to 6% body fat. I went from size 38 waist to size 30. I finally achieved a physical six pack, which for me was a lifelong dream. But the most important thing that I achieved was more than a physical six pack, it was a mental six pack, and what it did for my mental health. I started to understand the value of your thoughts, the value of doing the inner work.
That was where it all started for me. 14 years ago, ever since then, I've been probably studying on average for 14 years. Studying on average every day, 3 hours a day for 14 years. I don't say that to impress. I say it to impress upon people that I love this stuff. Just like you, Melanie, I am a student of health and nutrition and biohacking, and I have unlearned a lot of things that I've learned in the past, and I continue to do so, but it has evolved in the last 14 years, right? I discovered keto in 2013 and intermittent fasting in 2013. I was a vegan for a year and a half. I was strict keto. Now I believe in Keto Flexing. So, there're a lot of things I've learned along the way. But I can tell you now, fast forward to what I'm doing now with Keto Kamp, I love it. I am so inspired every single day.
If somebody were to hypothetically give me $100 million, so I could be financially free, I would still be doing what I'm doing today. I would be on this conversation with you, Melanie. I would be recording the podcast. That's how you know you're living on purpose with your purpose. The reason it is my purpose and I know this is a big reason for you, Melanie, as well, is that so many people are suffering unnecessarily. We are essentially committing slow death. It's not being classified as a suicide because it's happening so slowly, but so many people are just tiptoeing their way through life hoping to land safely on death's door. I want to wake them up. I want to let them know that you are a masterpiece, because you are a piece of the master and your body is self-healing. Let's just figure out what's blocking the innate intelligence and go to work. So, that in a nutshell is my backstory and why I do what I do.
Melanie Avalon: I love that so much. I really, really love the personal responsibility piece. I could go on, like, a major soapbox about it, but I feel like it's so important, especially in today's culture where I feel like we move a lot towards victimhood, and being offended, and wanting to just blame our woes on the world and other people. I just really, really love that concept. Interestingly, growing up, my mom has a lot of autoimmune conditions and she would always say, "It's just genetics." I would always hear that. "It's just genetics." And so, I've always bristled a little bit about that because once I started learning more about health and wellness, I was like, "Epigenetics, it's not just genetics. We can take charge of our health." And so, I love that you're doing that.
That actually ties into a big question I have for you. It's something that you talk about in Keto Flex that I don't know if I've read any other book that actually discussed it, but it's something I think about a lot and it ties into everything you just said, and it's a little bit of a controversial question, but I'm super curious your thoughts today on the Health at Every Size movement. Because I find it so interesting because hearing your story about your background with obesity and-- You said that you felt mentally obese, which I'm curious when you say that, what does that mean exactly? I find it really interesting that today there's this Health at Every Size movement. So, there's this idea that people of very, very high body weights are healthy. I just would like to know your thoughts on this. Is that empowering to people? Should we reframe that a little bit? What are your thoughts on that?
Ben Azadi: Yeah, it's a great question. It's a slippery slope, right? I believe if somebody's healthy, and happy, and they've got some extra weight, then who cares about the extra weight. Good job, I love that, be happy, be healthy, who cares if you're whatever size? But here's the thing. Being overweight and being obese, we'll call it, those are symptoms of being unhealthy. It's not synonymous. Meaning, if you're obese, you're not healthy. It's not to say, cut calories, eat less. That's not what I'm talking about. What I'm talking about is, "Okay, let's get the body healthy and then you'll get to a natural weight." Now with that being said, somebody is overweight and obese and they're really happy with it. They're going to be much better off than somebody who's overweight and obese and really depressed about it. But are they going to take action to actually get their body into a healthy state? Because we're not designed to be 50 pounds, 100 pounds, 200 pounds overweight.
There is that messaging out there that we should accept all sizes and I agree we should accept every single human being. I love every single human being. But being obese and being healthy are not the same thing. Yeah, you might be mentally healthy, but carrying that extra weight will wear you down. The reason the extra weight is there is because something is blocking your body. Something is blocking the hormones. There's inflammation. So, it is a side effect of actually being unhealthy. So, those are my thoughts on it respectfully. What are your thoughts on it, Melanie?
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. No, like I said, it's really controversial and it is a slippery slope. I just wish it was called Love Yourself at Every Size or Accept Yourself at Every Size. I wonder if it actually traps people a little bit more because especially just hearing your story about how you felt when you were obese, it sounds like you we're really suffering, and you had pain, and you felt trapped. I feel like it would be confusing to feel like you need to accept that as healthy in that state, when maybe you could be healthier at a different weight and changing your lifestyle, and that would actually be more empowering. I just wonder if it actually encourages people not taking personal agency and making change. I don't know if it has the intended effect, is my point.
Ben Azadi: I think you're right. I think in some cases, it gives them an excuse to not take responsibility. I don't think that's the case all the time, but the way that I look at that and the way that I look at life in general is to have a healthy dissatisfaction. Meaning, I am so grateful, I am so blessed, I am so happy, but I'm healthily and happily unsatisfied. Meaning, we should always be progressing to want to achieve more, and at the same time be grateful for what we have and all the blessings that we have. So, that's the way I see life. I think that's the way they should see it as well. Like, if you're 100 pounds overweight, but you're happy, amazing. But that shouldn't stop you from taking responsibility and getting your body healthy. Because the truth is, if you're healthy, you wouldn't be 100 pounds overweight.
I say that with total respect. I have a lot of students who are 200 pounds overweight, 300 pounds, and we love them no matter what. But if it's causing you to omit and not take responsibility because of this movement, that's where it is a problem. So, I wouldn't say that's the case all the time, but if it's causing you to not take responsibility and just accept this movement for whatever it is and not actually getting healthy, then it is a problem in my book.
Melanie Avalon: I'm curious on the flipside because you lost a lot of weight really fast relatively speaking. Did you experience backlash on the flipside for losing that weight, like, the opposite, instead of fat shaming, like, losing weight too fast shaming or even thin shaming?
Ben Azadi: So, it was interesting because yes, the answer is yes. But in the beginning, it was more about close friends and family members who are making remarks to me. I think that's important to share because here's the truth and I'm sure you've seen this too. When you start to make changes and embark on the goals, and you start to make changes in your life, you become a threat to people in your life who are not making changes. It's not because they want harm to you at all, at least not most of the time. It's just because it's pointing a mirror to them, and they're not changing and how you're getting on a different frequency than them. It's easier for them to bring you back down to their frequency than it is for them to change their frequency. I'm not saying I'm better or vice versa. I'm just saying it's a different frequency, different goal.
So, when I started to make these changes, I would get remarked, especially from my mom. She would cook for me all the foods. I used to eat and she used to bring me home fried chicken and all that. I stopped eating that and she would make remarks and say, "She loves me just the way I am" and I'm like, "I know, but I don't love me the way I am back then." Then going to parties and hanging out with close friends who were used to me drinking and eating processed foods, I would say no and they would make fun of me. So, that was part of the journey. But what got me through it and what I believe will get people through those remarks is, number one, being so convicted in your goals and what you want to accomplish that it outweighs the comments, because the comments can sting and it probably will sting. But if your conviction and your why is very, very strong, then the how becomes easier. So, I kept keeping my eyes on the prize. Here's why I want to get healthy, here's why I want to lose weight. So, I just kept reframing myself, reframing myself.
Then when I lost the weight, then I would get comments from people that I didn't really know just on social media. I'm sure you've gotten these comments like, "Oh, my God, you're so skinny. You look like you're not eating enough. Eat some more food. You were healthier when you were overweight." So, I would get comments like that. But again, when you're so convicted in your message and who you are as a person, those comments just come with the territory. So, I did get the opposite of the fat shaming. I got the kind of the skinny shaming in the beginning.
Melanie Avalon: This actually recently happened to me for some reason, like, really intensely one post. I don't know why it was that one post and not other posts, but I've just been contemplating how much we as a society throw our thoughts and opinions about other people and insert ourselves into their lives. What's at the root of that? I'm just very fascinated by all of it. But empowering what you said about your why, and why are you doing it, and the conviction for you, and I think that's super, super important. So, another question, actually related to all this as well, because you are so big on mindset surrounding all of this, which I love, love, love.
So, when it comes to actual losing weight or implementing a new dietary change, we'll use keto, since that's your thing. How much do you think--? Okay, this is a little bit of a nuanced question because I could say, how much do you think mindset, and motivation, and all of that affects how well you do on the diet or your success? But I think that's kind of an obvious, because it affects whether or not you stick to it. If all things are equal-- Well, let's say people sign up for Keto Kamp and they're going to do the diet that you discuss in your book and maybe we can talk about that, the four pillars and everything. If they actually just do it to the letter, how much do you think mindset beyond that affects their results? Kind of like looking at a metabolically controlled ward study. Do you think those patients, their mindset affects their results at all?
Ben Azadi: [chuckles] I love the question. Yes, I would say 95% of success, in general, not just health, but in life, is mindset, 5% strategy. Let me unpack that because that's a pretty high percentage. But the reason I say that is because, number one, your beliefs create your thoughts, your thoughts create your actions, your actions create your results. So, if you have a belief that your body is not capable of healing itself, and that you need to chase symptoms and look for shortcuts, which is pretty much 97% of the population, then you're not going to stick with it long enough to put your body in a healing state. But if you believe your body, and I believe in God, but you could substitute that word. So, if you believe God, love, the universe, higher power created your body to be self-healing, then you better believe you're going to manifest self-healing. Belief is very important.
I remember this. Many, many years ago, I had a lack of belief. I had stinking thinking I call it. I had a lot of negative thoughts. I had a great friend. He's still in my life. I'm actually going to see him tonight for dinner and he turned out to be like a mentor to me. He believed in me. He believed in the things that I could create. He saw greatness in me and sometimes I didn't see it in myself. He told me, "Sometimes, you don't have to have the belief that you could do things, that you could heal your body or accomplish that goal. But if you have somebody in your life who has that belief in you, why don't you just lean into their belief until you develop that belief?" I thought, "Wow, that's a great advice." That is terrific advice. So, I leaned into his belief until I believed it. But now, I completely believe the body is capable of healing itself.
So, when somebody goes on keto, intermittent fasting, whatever it is, and they don't have that belief that the body is self-healing, they're going to self-sabotage themselves eventually. Some things are going to happen either consciously or subconsciously. So, belief is important. This is like the placebo effect. You know, Melanie, every really solid study is controlled by a placebo. So, where did the placebo effect even come from? This is very interesting. I'm going to lecture on this at KetoCon this year.
The placebo effect started in World War II when an anesthesiologist named Dr. Henry Beecher, he ran out of morphine. As the US soldiers were getting bombed, soldiers were entering the tent with their limbs blown off, and they were going into shock, and he was giving them morphine. Something happened where he ran out of morphine and the nurse started to freak out. So, the nurse didn't know what to do, so she filled up the needles with salt water, a saline solution, told Dr. Henry Beecher, it was morphine, and Dr. Henry Beecher believed it was morphine. He told the soldiers, "I'm giving you morphine. You're going to feel better in just a matter of seconds." Even though it was just salt water and what happened? They all survived. They didn't go into shock. They believed they were getting morphine, but it was just salt water.
So, after that happened, Harvard Medical School wanted to study what happened after the war. That's where they pioneered these clinical control studies that are controlled by placebo. So, it's like the belief that you can do things. But there's also the nocebo believing you can't do it. The truth is whether you believe you can or believe you can't, you are correct. So, that's why, Melanie, I say 95% is going to be from mindset, 5% strategy.
Melanie Avalon: That's incredible. I'm curious, on your podcast, or have you read the book Healing Ourselves or had Dr. Shamini Jain on your show?
Ben Azadi: No, neither of those. Should I?
Melanie Avalon: Yes. I can introduce you. So, she wrote the book, Healing Ourselves, and it's all about-- The subtitle is Biofield Science and the Future of Health. But it's all about basically the placebo effect and all of this healing. It's amazing. You would love it. It's your cup of tea.
Ben Azadi: Yeah, it sounds fantastic.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, my mind is blown by all of the placebo effect stuff. So, that's incredible. Actually, one thing I learned in your book that I had not read before, you said-- I hope I got this number right in my notes, that we have 37.2 trillion cells and that our RNA can build 4 million different versions of ourselves in theory potentially, which that really blows my mind. All of those potential versions, it sounds like it does, you would say like 95% mindset?
Ben Azadi: Yeah, because if you think about it, the mindset, there're 60,000 thoughts per day, and those thoughts are going to determine the decisions you make, whether you're going to eat that or not eat that or practice fasting and all that. So, it runs the show. It really does. That's why I think it's so important. Unfortunately, a lot of people in our space missed the point here. I love that you focus a lot about that, Melanie, and you bring on guests to talk about that because it's just so important. It's not as sexy as telling people, eat 70% fat from these fats, and this protein, and getting all the macros, but it is essential. It is one of the fundamentals up there with sleep and movement. So, yeah, I would estimate that would be my guess. I would put my money on 95% being mindset, 5% being really solid strategy.
Melanie Avalon: Well, then, on the flipside of the question, especially in the keto world, and similar to you, you said that you started strict keto and then moved towards this Keto Flex approach. I discovered keto through Atkins? Yeah, Atkins, like a lot of people do. When I first started, I was very much like all the fat and you would call it dirty keto. I was still doing a lot of processed foods and probably even like gluten. I didn't discover the Whole Foods paleo paradigm until after doing keto for a while. I'm super curious because there's so much controversy and debate out there about keto, the right approach to keto. Should you do higher fat keto? Should you not go as high fat on the keto? Should you mix it up? So, how did you come to your, shall we use the word, formula of Keto Flex and what does that look like?
Ben Azadi: Yeah, like you, in the beginning, I was doing it wrong. We were exploring and figuring things out. It's all part of the journey. But for me, I was really dogmatic about keto back in 2013, 2014. I got results in the beginning even being so strict. But I shortly realized that, number one, here is my view on keto. It wasn't my view in the beginning, but now, this is my belief about ketosis, that it's not a diet. Technically, keto is not a diet. It's more of a metabolic process that I know for sure. I also know that there's nothing new about keto. It's just nuanced or maybe new to somebody. But the process of ketosis-- And I'll explain, I'll go a little bit into the science here, but the process of ketosis has been around for as long as humans have existed.
All of our ancestors did keto. How do I know that? Well, they didn't have food available to them all the time. They had to fast. They had to go through famines. By default, their body needed to have a backup fuel supply or energy source and that was ketones. When sugar dropped in the brain, in the body, they would use up their glycogen stores, which is great. Then they would tap into their body fat. Those fatty acids were then sent to the liver. The liver would produce ketones, beta-hydroxybutyrate, acetone, acetoacetate, but beta-hydroxybutyrate, the one of the three ketones, that has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and give the brain this fuel source that helped our ancestors stay alert, and focused, and energized, and helped them essentially find their next meal and find their prey.
So, if it wasn't for ketosis, we probably wouldn't even exist today, because the body needs to have this ability to adapt and switch fuel sources. With that being said, I view ketosis as a signal to your body and to your mitochondria that times are tough. It's a stressful environment. There's a famine or there's lack of carbohydrates, there's lack of fruit, whatever it is. It might be the winter back in the day for our ancestors when there wasn't a lot of fruit. This is a good stress, like exercise, like fasting, it's called hormesis. You talk about hormesis, Melanie. So, the principle of hormesis is you apply a stress, your body adapts to that stress, you get stronger. So, stress is only bad if you don't adapt to it.
I view ketosis as a stressful environment, but it's a great thing to do short term because what it does, it stresses your mitochondria to get stronger, mitochondrial fitness and it creates mitogenesis, so more mitochondria. This is important for a couple of reasons. When we look at the way our cells produce energy, the electron transport chain. We take energy, we take food, nutrients, oxygen, etc. That is taken through this electron transport chain. The mitochondria receives the energy supply, the fuel supply, and then it pumps out ATP, adenosine triphosphate. Your audience knows this. The mitochondria is this factory that is producing energy and the energy it produces is ATP, which is the currency. But it's not just that, because when ketones are present in the body, when you are in ketosis in another way to say that, the ketones actually communicate with your mitochondria.
When your body is in a state of ketosis, ketones actually act as a signaling molecule to tell the mitochondria to produce more energy. Get this. If somebody is just burning sugar and they're not in ketosis, they get about 32 to 36 ATP molecules versus somebody who's in ketosis gets around 132 plus ATP molecules. So, you get 400% more energy. How does this happen? Well, you're stressing the mitochondria and it's getting stronger, but it's also creating more mitochondria, the mitogenesis process. You have a situation where ketones are creating more energy. Not only that, the mitochondria are going through this uncoupling process where it's getting rid of these free radicals, reactive oxygen species. So, it's lowering inflammation and increasing energy at the same time all for the sake of survival because your body is in a stressful state, which is great short term. But long term, that hormetic curve actually starts to drop and you start to lose the benefits which we don't want that. That's where Keto Flexing comes into play.
So, when we do ketosis the right way and it's going to be so different depending on a man versus a woman, a woman who has a menstrual cycle versus a postmenopausal woman, or somebody who has insulin resistance and diabetes, there're a lot of different variables. But in general, what we want to do is teach the body to have metabolic flexibility to, yeah, burn sugar sometimes, and burn carbs when we need to, but also burn fat and produce ketones and go back and forth without a hiccup. That is the ultimate goal. Not dogma, not ketosis forever, not keto for life, but metabolic flexibility. When we think about the average American adult, that study came out in 2018 from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, which looked at over 8,000 people to determine how healthy or how unhealthy is the adult American population. They determined that 88% of the American adult population is unhealthy, metabolically challenged. Of course, that was before COVID. It's probably much worse than that.
I lecture sometimes, and I'll give that study, and I'll rewrite it, and I'll say 88% of American adults are in a keto deficiency. So, that's what we want to do. We just want to teach people to burn fat and go back and forth, but we don't want to leave them there because only burning fat and not sugar is another form of metabolic inflexibility. We don't want to do that either. So, that's where the premise of Keto Flexing comes into play.
Melanie Avalon: I love it so much. Yeah, I'm fascinated by the effect of keto on the mitochondria. So, some questions about that whole process. People will often say that when you're a fat burner, you're a more efficient burner. What you just said, it sounds like you're actually just creating and wasting energy in a way. So, in keto, are you creating and wasting energy, or are you more efficient with energy, or what's going on there? Because people will say that all the time like, "You're a more efficient burner if you're fat burning." Is that accurate?
Ben Azadi: Yeah, it's a great question. It's kind of both, because number one, you are wasting more energy because you're creating more energy and you're going through the uncoupling process. But at the same time, it can be a cleaner source versus glucose because of the uncoupling process. So, it's like both. Another benefit to this is when you have the mitochondria producing more energy, it raises your basal metabolic rate, which just helps you burn more calories, which is one of the many ways ketosis helps somebody lose weight. But to your point, Melanie, you are wasting energy, especially long term, because you're forcing and stressing the mitochondria to create more energy and waste energy and go through the uncoupling process. Now, short term, amazing, you get the hermetic benefits of that. But long term, that's where it could be problematic.
So, what I've seen from a clinical standpoint, I work with a group of about 45 doctors and practitioners. Dr. Mindy Pelz is in there. Dr. Daniel Pompa, my mentor is in there and about 40 other doctors and practitioners. Every Tuesday, we meet on Zoom. We go over case studies. We go over different things. What we have seen with those who have done keto for too long or even excessive fasting is a few things. Number one, the thyroid tends to slow down. That happens because when you think about insulin, insulin is not bad unless insulin is called all the time. Thank God for Insulin. Otherwise, we would wither away like a type 1 diabetic.
So, when somebody is doing keto, for the most part, the 88% of the population in America, they have high insulin levels and they need to lower insulin. Keto is great for doing that, obviously. So, it's fasting. But then it gets to a point where, okay, your insulin has been low for three months, six months, some people have been doing keto for years. Then it's a new problem. Chronically, low levels of insulin are not good for you because insulin actually helps the thyroid. T4, the inactive version of thyroid needs to be activated to T3 as you know. T3 is a very important hormone, not just for fat burning and energy production, but it's so important that every cell has a receptor site for the T3 hormone. That is how important it is.
What helps convert inactive thyroid hormone T4 to active thyroid hormone T3 is actually insulin. So, when you see chronically low levels of insulin, you're going to see chronically low levels of this conversion. People end up having lower T3 levels, free T3, higher TSH, and higher reverse T3 levels, which shows that the body's in this stressful state. That's not good. So, having a flex day, making those hormonal conversions are very important. There're other things that we see we could talk about if you want. But to answer your question, it was a long-winded answer. Kind of both, it's efficient to burn fat because you're going through the uncoupling process, but it's also inefficient to do it long term because you're wasting a lot of energy.
Melanie Avalon: So that uncoupling process, because you mentioned burning cleanly, which is something also that people talk about the fats "burn more cleanly." So, that process of uncoupling, because the way it sounds like to me just, what's the word, making it like, to put it very casually, it sounds like creating a lot of heat and waste, which sounds like that would actually be damaging. What are the byproducts of that process versus burning glucose, for example?
Ben Azadi: Yeah. So, when you think about the analogy that I'm going to give for the uncoupling is the analogy that I got from Dr. Gundry. Have you interviewed Steven Gundry yet?
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, I was going to say, listeners should check out that interview. Yeah, his book about it was it The Energy Paradox, all about this, I think?
Ben Azadi: Unlocking the Keto Code.
Melanie Avalon: Oh, Unlocking the Keto Code. Yes, yes, that one. All right, he came on first for that other book and then Unlocking the Keto Code. That's the mitochondria book.
Ben Azadi: So, that would be a great book to explain what's happening. But I'm going to give analogy that makes sense. He talks about this pressure cooker. When you're using a pressure cooker to cook food, you get all this steam built up, but then it has these release valves to get rid of any excess steam. That's what's happening with the mitochondria. Now, your question was, it sounds like a bad thing to be forcing the mitochondria to produce all this heat, and waste energy, and go through this uncoupling process. The answer is, you're right, unless it's short term. When it's short term, the body will adapt to it. But when it's long term, then it is too much of a stressor. So. Short term stress is terrific. Too much stress, not good. So, it depends on how the body adapts to it. Of course, it depends on how healthy your mitochondria are to begin with, because we know that the mitochondria are not just these mindless energy factories. The mitochondria also have an intelligence and they move around the cells. There's an intelligence that acts like a surveillance system.
Mitochondria are always doing this surveillance where it's identifying cellular threats, stressors. If there's too much stress and threats, it goes into the cell danger response, where actually it lowers energy production, all for the sake of survival. There's a great researcher out there named Dr. Robert Naviaux that talks all about the cell danger response. This is exactly what's happening when somebody gets sick with COVID for a week or two, and they get really sick, and they don't really recover. They lose their sense of taste and smell. They still have brain fog a year later, six months later. Their cells, their mitochondria got stuck in the CDR response, because their stress bucket was already so high. So, same thing with keto. If your stress bucket is already so high and the mitochondria already so damaged, then you probably need shorter times of ketosis versus somebody who could do it for a couple of months or so. So, it's so variable. But the right dose of ketosis can be really powerful as well.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. For listeners, I'll put a link to the interview I did with Gundry all about this. He uses a metaphor comparing it to a club. It's a very elaborate metaphor.
Ben Azadi: Yes, the mito club. [chuckles]
Melanie Avalon: Yes. So, I actually do have some more questions about your approach specifically, but before that, quick insulin question. I don't know if you would know the answer to this, but talking about its role in the conversion of the thyroid hormone, since we always have a baseline state of insulin, is it when we get those spikes insulin that there's a lot of conversion that happens in that moment, even though we need our thyroid hormone 24/7? Or, does it stock up on insulin and make the conversion? I'm just curious about the timeline of insulin and spikes and how that practically affects the thyroid hormones.
Ben Azadi: Yeah, I think, and I'm not 100% sure, because it's a really good question. But I think it's the spike that will help with those hormonal conversions from time to time. I know that, of course, we always have thyroid hormone flowing through the body, but I think it's the spike just like very similar to spiking glucose and insulin for progesterone conversions prior to a menstrual cycle. It's the spikes that really, I believe, help with those conversions. That's a guess. We'd probably have to verify that, but I do think it's the spikes that's going to help.
Melanie Avalon: Okay, gotcha. The timeline of all of this and you mentioned that it is individual and unique and there're a lot of factors, but just stepping back just generally, are we talking timeline wise for that period of keto being beneficial and adaptive, then to when it becomes too chronic in long term? Are we talking days, are we talking like a month? I know you have your four pillars and the lengths of those different phases. So, maybe we can talk a little bit about that as well, just what does this actually practically look like for people?
Ben Azadi: Yeah. In general, Melanie, it's going to be two to three months of ketosis and then we start flexing, and the flexing approach is going to be different depending on many, many different circumstances. But most people, 88% plus, really need to learn how to burn fat efficiently. The reason it's not just two to three days or two to three weeks, but it's two to three months is because there's a difference between being fat adapted and being keto adapted. I'll unpack that real quick. Fat adaptation, simply put means you're burning fat instead of sugar and that could take 7 to 14 days. I could take most people, I could take a thousand people, and 995 out of 1000 people, I could get them fat adapted in about 14 days. That could be verified by checking your blood ketones 0.5 or higher, essentially being there for seven days or so, I would consider you fat adapted. That's different though than being keto adapted.
Keto adaptation takes a little bit longer. That's when your mitochondria are now very efficient at using ketones as an energy source. So, if somebody checks their ketones, their blood ketones, as soon as they start keto, and they're fat adapted, and then they check it throughout as they get keto adapted, they're actually going to see lower ketones on their meter. That's a good thing because it means your cells are actually using those ketones more efficiently. So, at this time is where a lot of people say, "Oh, my gosh, my brain fog is finally gone." Or, "Oh, my gosh, I just feel like my results have gotten to a new level." That's typically the keto adaptation period. That's where I want to get most people and that typically takes two to three months, and then we start flexing. That approach for flexing will look different depending on the person.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. There are so many questions out there about the ketones and the different types and measuring. Well, first, just personal questions. So, when you first started keto, how long did you stay deep in keto? Like, how long?
Ben Azadi: I think I was in there for six or seven months strict. I owned a CrossFit gym at that time. So, I was doing-- [laughs] You better believe I was bunking and I was losing electrolyte. So, I did it too long. That's for sure.
Melanie Avalon: Did you switch completely or did you ease out of it? What did you do?
Ben Azadi: I had some days where I call them flex days now. But flex days are strategically eating healthy carbs to flex out. But back then, it was more like cheat days. I'm not a fan of that word or that terminology, but that's what it was for me. So, having a weekend of binging on pizza and then going back to ketosis on Monday or trying to, it's how I did in the past. But I wouldn't do that now or recommend that.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, it's definitely such a thing. So, I'm just like having all these flashbacks. The ketones, back to those-- Oh, are you of the opinion--? I've had Dom D'Agostino on the show. He talks about how he believes that acetone, so the breath ketones are probably more indicative of actual body fat burning versus dietary fat. Do you have thoughts on that?
Ben Azadi: All three different ketones. So, there's acetone, which you mentioned which is expelled by the breath. There's acetoacetate, which is expelled in the urine. Of course, there's beta-hydroxybutyrate, which is in the blood. There are different meters depending on what you're testing for. Most people are going to test urine strips, because let's face it's the cheapest, most affordable method. But the urine strips looking at acetoacetate might be accurate in the first few days, but after your body is getting familiar with using ketones, it's not going to tend to spill out in the urine and it might just give you a false reading. I'm not a big fan of urine strips. Let's throw that out of the water-- Throw that out of the game plan here. So, we have then blood and then we have breath. Over the years, there have been breath meters looking at acetone that have been hit or miss, but now, there are some good meters. I'm not sure which one Dom D'Agostino recommended, but I like the company called Biosense.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, that's the one he uses, and me.
Ben Azadi: Oh, and you. Okay, cool. So, you're using that as well. Yeah, so, they're terrific. Have you interviewed them as well?
Melanie Avalon: I have. Trey.
Ben Azadi: Awesome. Of course, you have. You're the pro. You've interviewed everybody. [laughs] I like their research. I like their science. It's looking at acetones. It's giving you an ACE score. Yeah, there's an argument, I don't disagree, that says, "It's showing you a byproduct of fat metabolism, fat burning," which is the ACE score. So, I like it as a method but here's the drawback of using the breath. You can't get blood glucose. I like looking at both. So, I like beta-hydroxybutyrate. I use Keto-Mojo. I like using the finger prick for a lot of my students because you could use it for both glucose and for ketones versus just ketones and the breath. But I think it's a valuable tool. I love Biosense. I have their meter as well. Some people don't like to prick their fingers, so it makes it very easy.
Melanie Avalon: People will often chase high ketone levels. Do you have people in your program continue to check their ketone levels or not?
Ben Azadi: I meet them where they're at. So, if I know a student is, like, a tracking freak, meaning, they like looking at numbers, it motivates them, it keeps them on course, then, yeah, I'll recommend let's keep tracking. But if somebody thinks it's more of an additional task and they already feel overwhelmed, then I won't even tell them to track. Maybe in the first couple of weeks to verify they're in ketosis, after that I'll have them stop. But for those who do continue tracking, I have a lot of students who do that. What I tell them is probably what Dom said, we don't really want to chase ketones, we want to chase results. There's a sweet spot. Just like you wouldn't want high glucose numbers, why would you want high ketone numbers? You're not going to really see high ketone numbers if you're really metabolically flexible, unless you're doing a longer fast, two, three plus days, which then for sure, you'll see higher ketone levels. But there's a sweet spot.
My sweet spot and I've asked members as well, like, thousands of members of my academy, where do they think their sweet spots are when they're seeing their ketones. I've come to the conclusion that it's somewhere between 0.8 and 2.8 beta-hydroxybutyrate, that would need to be converted to the ACE score. But 0.8 to 2.8, a lot of people feel really good. The goal is not to go over 3.0 or 4.0, unless you're doing a long fast. So, we do educate them on that. It's not to chase ketones, it's to be in that sweet spot. But just as important as it is to check your ketones, it's very important to check your glucose, postprandial glucose, fasting insulin A1c, because those are very important markers to look at. So, we show them the full spectrum. Here's a great fasting glucose, here's a great one-hour postprandial glucose, two-hour postprandial glucose and if you're still in this ketone range, then it's working for you. But if not, we have some things to move around and experiment with.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. I really wish actually that I had been testing blood ketones or breath ketones back when I was actually doing keto, like high protein, high carb, lower fat now with intermittent fasting. I've been doing that for years. So, I don't really have a good comparison to what it was like when I was doing keto. Do you wear CGMs?
Ben Azadi: I have worn them for many, many months. I imagine you have, too, because you're a biohacker?
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, I have one on right now, actually, which is super fun. I find it so eye opening.
Ben Azadi: Same. I love them. It's such a great tool. That and Oura Ring are probably, like, my two favorite biohacking tools. You would agree?
Melanie Avalon: I love my Oura fingers crossed. They said they're going to send me the rose gold one that they're doing for Valentine's Day. I'm so excited. Yeah. No, I feel like naked, if I don't have it.
Ben Azadi: Me too. Yeah, I'm so used to it. The Oura Ring, right? Yeah.
Melanie Avalon: I was actually really hesitant to get it though, because I thought it was going to make me neurotic. I thought it was going to stress me out about sleep and everything, But I find it really motivating. I find, like, it talks to you very nicely, like the way it phrases things.
Ben Azadi: Like, "Hey, you haven't moved your body in a couple of hours. You're thinking about going for a walk or something?" [laughs]
Melanie Avalon: So, I find it very empowering. I love it. So, quick question about your actual plan. Why did you choose the order that you chose with your pillars? Because in the order, you have this adapt phase, people are adding in some fat to get used to burning some fat, and then they fast, and then there's an intense keto, even carnivore type phase, and then the flex phase. I'm just curious, the ordering, like the fasting versus the carnivore-ish phase. Why did you choose that order?
Ben Azadi: Yeah. The reason I chose that order is because if we're to fast people right away, which we can do, we could definitely get a sugar burner and have them fast. But I've learned it's not the best route, because if you're still burning sugar and you're not metabolically flexible, you haven't taught your body to burn fat yet, and you do too much fasting, then glucose will drop in the brain and the body will panic. The brain will send the body intense signals for, "Sugar, carbs, go get the glucose up, because it doesn't have that ability yet to burn fat and produce ketones." So, for that reason and many other reasons, we want to look at fasting as a muscle that we want to develop. I believe the best way to develop that muscle is to get somebody to burn fat first, because when the glucose drops during a fast, they switch over to fat metabolism and ketones are coming, and it fuels the brain, they feel fine, they can continue going with the fast.
So, the goal with the adapt pillar, which is the first pillar, is to get the person. Like you said, fat adapted. They're burning sugar for 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, let's get them burning fat. We do that by incorporating a whole bunch of healthy fats. We have the 2-2-2-2 rule outlined in there. My mentor Dr. Pompa developed that and I put it in the book, which is just incorporating a whole bunch of healthy fat and sea salt for the first 14 days. It is a high fat diet those first 14 days. We're teaching your body to start utilizing fatty acids as we're slowly dropping your carbs to lower insulin and glucose. By doing that, by increasing healthy fat, and sea salt, and lowering carbs and lowering glucose and insulin, you're able to make that switch in about 7 to 14 days, then you're ready to fast. That's where the second pillar comes into play. There're different strategies for fasting. I'm a big believer. I know Cynthia is as well. Cynthia Thurlow, of always changing up the routine and variety and all that. So, we're always changing it up, alternate day fasting, OMAD, 16:8, no fasting, etc. So, pillar two is all about changing the fasting routine, getting that fasting muscle nice and strong.
Then we enter pillar three, which, like you said, it is more carnivore or a variation of carnivore to eliminate these anti-nutrients, these oxalates, lectins, phytates, etc., for 30 to 60 days, and allow some good gut healing and repairing as we essentially go zero carb and force your body to get into keto adaptation, and really work on that metabolism. And then you have earned the badge to enter pillar four, which is all about flexing, and there's different ways to do that. But that's the thought process, Melanie, is get them from burning sugar to burning fat, build up the fasting muscle, get a little aggressive with the fasting muscle, and then really take it to a more severe level with carnivore and eliminate anti-nutrients and force the mitochondria to choose ketones.
Melanie Avalon: Do you find with that first pillar of adding in the fats? Do some people, especially if they're coming, if they're on a high carb diet, is there any issues with energy toxicity? Is there ever the issue of adding fats making it worse rather than better in that first phase?
Ben Azadi: Yeah, it can be if they don't lower their carbs. So, if they're keeping their carbs up and they're eating all these extra fats, then they're probably not going to feel good. So, we do, on day one, have them lower their carbs. So, if the average American who's consuming 300 grams of carbs per day, they might drop that to 200 grams on day one and then 150 grams day two, 125 grams day three, etc., until they get it to under 50 total grams. So, yes, the answer is it can be an issue if they're not lowering their carbs but we do at the same time. We lower carbs and increase the fats at the same time.
Melanie Avalon: Awesome. I'll put a link in the show notes to the interview I did with Dr. Pompa. He's so wonderful. I love him so much.
Ben Azadi: He is the GOAT.
Melanie Avalon: [laughs] He is amazing. So, another question about fats in general. I loved your discussion in your book about dietary fats. Actually, before that, I'll be curious what would be one of your examples of this. But I think one of the concepts that has done a huge disservice to the whole diet, weight loss, health world is that we use the word dietary fat as the same word as body fat. If we use two different words for those, I think it would have changed, I don't want to say it would have changed everything, but it might have because we wouldn't have associated them as the exact same thing when they're not the same thing.
Ben Azadi: So true. Yeah, you're so right. People still to this day associate it the same way. Dietary fat is going to make you fat, because body fat, dietary fat sounds like the same thing, but as you know, it's totally different. So, unfortunately, we have been brainwashed that way and that's just the way people think. I love this quote from Alvin Toffler. It relates to exactly what we're talking about here. Alvin Toffler said, "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn." So, we need to unlearn and relearn especially the dietary fat concept. That's where it's confusing as well especially in the keto space, because when somebody goes on Dr. Google and they type in, what are the macros for keto, how much fat do I eat on keto? They're going to see a chart; 85% fat, 10% protein, 5% carbs. Yeah, that might work in the beginning.
Here's the thing, the way I teach keto is not a high fat approach because most people have extra body fat. If you're eating all this fat, if you're putting butter in your coffee, I'm not opposed to that, but if you're adding all these fats and all these oils to meet that percentage, your body does need to metabolize the dietary fat before it metabolizes your body fat. So, I actually focus on protein. After they're fat adapted and they're in ketosis, we actually only eat the fat that comes with the protein. We don't eat any added fat unless somebody's struggling to get into ketosis, we'll keep the fats up, but we want to let their body get their calories from their butt, their hips, their thighs. Mark Sisson talks about this all the time. So, that's the goal. Unfortunately, we have labeled dietary fat as the same thing as body fat, but they're very different. So, I do believe and agree with you. If it was named something else, our messaging would be a lot more easier.
Melanie Avalon: I literally think it might have changed everything, because we just wouldn't associate them as the same thing. And so, it's like a parallel universe situation or just to think about how it might go. So, also, within this dietary fat world, you talk about polyunsaturated fats, seed oils, things like that. You talk about a very shocking concept that you make the case and I think it was quoting somebody who did some research, but it was making the case that a certain type of dietary fat could actually be worse than smoking. Why would that be?
Ben Azadi: Yeah. So, I interviewed a gentleman named Brian Peskin, who's an MIT researcher, Professor Peskin. He came down to Miami a few years ago. We had lunch together and we recorded a podcast. Him and probably Dr. Cate Shanahan have probably done the most research on polyunsaturated fatty acids, and fish oil, and different fats. So, I asked him the question. I said, "What do you think is worse, smoking cigarettes or eating these vegetable oils, these polyunsaturated fats?" He said, "Well, according to his research, if somebody smoked two packs of cigarettes every day for 25 years, 28 years or so, the chances of them developing lung cancer within those 25, 28 years is about 16%. Then he said, "If somebody ate these vegetable oils every day for 28 years, the chances of them developing cancer or heart disease is about 86%."
Now, that's one man's research. He threw in one type of cancer with all cancers and heart disease. So, we got to consider that. I get that. But then I asked the same question to Dr. Cate Shanahan, who, as many of your listeners know, she wrote a great book called Deep Nutrition. She's a medical doctor. She was the nutritionist for the Los Angeles Lakers when Kobe Bryant used to play. I recently had a conversation with her and I gave her three scenarios. I said, "Dr. Cate, scenario number one--" Well, actually, I said this first. "Three scenarios, which one causes more disease, which one is more inflammatory?" So, I said, "Scenario number one, somebody smokes cigarettes every day. Scenario number two, somebody eats processed sugar every single day. Scenario number three, somebody eats vegetable oils every single day. Which one is worse, Dr. Cate?" She giggled and she said, "Ben, that's an easy question. It is the vegetable oils."
She said, "If you were to smoke cigarettes, of course, that's not good for you. But the toxicity, the damage is done after your last puff that's not getting stored in your body." Then she said, "Of course, processed sugar is not good for you, but if you ate it in excess or had a piece of cake or whatever it is, you could exercise, you could burn it off. That could store it as regular body fat. You could burn it off." She said, "These seed oils, also called linoleic acid, they stick around for a very long time." She estimates and other researchers estimate the half-life for these inflammatory fats are 680 days. Meaning, if you remove them today, 680 days later, about two years later, half of them will still remain in your body fat creating inflammation, creating cell membrane and receptor site inflammation, inflaming the mitochondrial membrane. That's why she believes they're worse than cigarettes. Brian Peskin believes they're worse than cigarettes. So, the reason is because of the processing.
I want to make this clear for your audience, and I'm not sure where you stand here with this, Melanie. Not all omega-6 fats are bad, okay? It's the adulterated ones that we're talking about here. It's the processing of them. It's the chemical, the ingredients they're putting in there, detergents, the bleaching, the dyeing, the high pressure, the high heat, it makes them very unstable. These fats called polyunsaturated fatty acids. The chemical structure shows that poly means many. These fats have many double bonds. The more double bonds a fat has, the more oxygen it attracts. When you use a lot of high pressure and high heat, it is aggressively attracting oxygen and it is oxidizing during the processing of these oils. So, they're already rancid and toxic before you even consume them. They're everywhere. You go to whole food supermarket--
Yeah, you're going to see the American Heart Association put their stamp of approval on canola oil. You go to the fanciest restaurant in the world, they're going to use maybe olive oil that's cut with a soybean or canola oil. So, I have come up with something really cool. I think it's cool. When I go to restaurants, Melanie, I always ask the server, "Hey, what do you cook your food in? What oils do you use?" And they're going to say, "Canola, or soybean, or olive oil that's cut." They're going to use one of these inflammatory oils. So, I always tell them and it drives my fiancé crazy sometimes, but I always tell them, "Hey, we're allergic to those oils. Can you use coconut oil or olive oil that's not cut?" Or, "Do you have butter or can you grill it or do something else where you're not using the oils?" Most of the time, they say yes, but you got to say you're allergic. But here's the thing, here's the thing that I was talking about that I did that was super cool. I have come to find that even though I've been telling my students and my community to make that request that they're allergic, most of them don't do it. I think they don't do it because they just feel uncomfortable or they might be at a table with people and they might look weird. So, here's the cool thing that I developed.
Melanie Avalon: Oh, I'm excited to hear this.
Ben Azadi: I created a seed oil allergy card. I'm holding it right here in front of me, and your audience can get it for free. But here's what it says. It says, allergy card at the top. "Dear Chef, I have food allergies to vegetable oils. In order for me to avoid an allergic reaction, I must avoid everything marked off below. Canola, corn, grapeseed, sunflower, safflower, cotton seed, rice bran, soybean oil. Please use the following alternatives that are safe. Avocado oil, duck fat, olive oil, beef tallow, coconut oil, lard, ghee, butter. Please make sure the approved alternatives are not cut with the allergic options. Thank you for keeping me safe." So, now it's so easy. Just print this out or put it on your phone and just show the server this, and they're going to make that request. So, your audience could get it over at seedoilcard.com. It's a free download, seedoilcard.com.
Melanie Avalon: That is incredible. We have to go to dinner together because I'm just like you. I typically ask them to just use no oil, like, none. Most of the time they'll do it. Sometimes, they say they have to use like a tiny bit and then I ask for olive oil, but I actually haven't been asking-- It didn't occur to me about the olive oil being cut with other oils, which I know is so common. So, you got me thinking about this. I'm so glad you talked about this. I was actually literally going to talk about this and you started talking about it. But I really want to encourage listeners, because I do think people get really uncomfortable and nervous. They don't want to be a bother and they don't want to be annoying.
But A, I was a fine dining server for like five years. So, I feel like I earned my right. "Just be nice and it's fine. I promise, it is fine." Once you start doing it, you get so used to it, and then it's just like your thing, and then it's so easy and the long-term benefits of doing that consciously at restaurants I think is so important, because people think they can't eat out if they're trying to follow a certain food dietary lifestyle choice, but you really can make a lot of restaurants, the entrees work for you, if you just know how to communicate and talk with the servers. So, I encourage people to do it. So, get that card. We'll put a link in the show notes to that card. That's amazing.
Ben Azadi: Yeah, it makes it easier. You're right, the more you do it's like a muscle, the easier it becomes. Even doing some research beforehand, and maybe calling in and letting them know you have this allergy. We're not lying here. If you're thinking we're lying about the allergy, everybody's going to have some sort of inflammatory response. Two years for half of them to be gone, it's just not worth taking the hit. Sugar? Sure, maybe sometimes you have cake, you go burn it off. But these oils, they stick around for a very long time. To your point, Melanie, just make the request or print out the card or have the card on your phone. It makes it a lot easier for your audience.
Melanie Avalon: Do you ever order for dessert more meat? I'll order the appetizer, like the shrimp cocktail for dessert or the carpaccio I had for the appetizer for dessert. [giggles]
Ben Azadi: I love the question, do you ever order for dessert more meat? [laughs]
Melanie Avalon: That's what I do. But here's something you have to know, audience, listeners, friends. If you're going to do that and you're eating late, you have to let them know earlier because they shut down that part of the kitchen, because they don't anticipate people ordering that for dessert. So, if you want that for dessert-- I can't tell you how many times I'm like, "Can I have the salmon for dessert?" And they're like, "Sorry, we already shut down that part of the kitchen." [giggles] Have you ever done that?
Ben Azadi: I've never done that. I'm impressed. I usually will ask for some fruit or something, but never more meat for dessert. I love that though.
Melanie Avalon: Oh, I do, I do. I'm all about it. Something really quick that I learned in Cate Shanahan's book that I loved was, she talks about this study and it has stuck with me. She talked about looking at the different dietary fats and how they burned and the amount of energy that they created. She called it, like, burning bright. It was actually the MUFAs, the monounsaturated fats that I think burn the brightest, even compared to saturated fat, which I found really interesting, because I feel like we don't talk about the monounsaturated fats very much.
Ben Azadi: Yeah. They all have their role. The saturated fats help really with the integrity of the cell membrane. Monounsaturated fats also have its role too. That study was interesting. That study that you're referring to that Dr. Cate Shanahan referred to looked at different fatty acids and how the mitochondria used each one. That's the one you're talking about?
Melanie Avalon: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
Ben Azadi: Yeah. It's essentially showed that PUFAs were the worst. There's not really any-- [crosstalk]
Melanie Avalon: They were bad.
Ben Azadi: They were bad. Pretty much cell death, mitochondrial death. But the monosaturated fats and the saturated fats worked really well. So, the mono, of course, would be like more olive oil, avocado oil, and then we would have saturated fats, which is more like coconut oil, butter, etc. I'm a big fan of rotating the fats and having a different variation of saturated and monounsaturated. I change my fats around all the time. I'm a big fan of rotation and variation, but I don't rotate the PUFAs, unless it's an unadulterated one. Like I said in the beginning, I think, where a lot of people-- It's kind of getting popular nowadays, which is cool to bash seed oils. I like that. It's getting more popular. I posted a video a few months ago about seed oils, and it went viral, and then Instagram flagged it, and some sort of CNN writer wrote a report that's now attached to it and it slowed down. Yeah, it's so silly.
So, I think because of that and I see more people talking about seed oils that more people are talking about it, which is good. But here's the problem. They're throwing the baby out with the bathwater. So, if you were to follow somebody like Mercola, who I think is brilliant and a pioneer, and I have so much respect for him, although I don't know him personally, and you look at people like Dr. Paul Saladino, another brilliant guy, and I have a lot of respect for him. I've interviewed him a couple of times. Some other people out there who have really good research on the dangers of seed oils. They believe all linoleic acid is bad for you, all seed oils are bad for you, all omega-6. I don't agree with that. The membrane is actually 28% to 33% omega-6 linoleic acid, but it's the processing of them. There's a difference between adulterated omega-6 and unadulterated.
I think one of the best ways to fix a cell and reduce inflammation and help with that membrane integrity is actually with unadulterated omega-6. But most of the time, it's going to be adulterated. When you go to restaurants, it's adulterated. But I don't think we should put them in the same category. So, I want to make that clear for your audience. There's a big difference between the processing of them. Some companies do it the right way. I'm a big fan of them. So, we shouldn't avoid omega-6 fats and seed oils. We should just make sure if we're going to consume them, it's processed the right way.
Melanie Avalon: I cannot agree more. And I also agree that there's so much debate out there. Then even on the omega-3 side of things, you have people who-- I was very steeped in the Ray Peat community for a while. So, I was consciously doing like a PUFA depletion diet. And the Ray Peat people are like, "Oh, even omega-3s are relatively bad as well." But then you have people like Rhonda Patrick, who's talking about the benefits of fish oil. It's really, really confusing for people. So, I really like your approach that these all have their place and it's the process, adultery deforms that are bad. I try to really focus on the ratio. So, rather than adding a lot of omega-3, how am I just picking foods that naturally favor a ratio that is in favor of the omega-3? That's how I approach it.
Ben Azadi: That's a great approach. If you eat grass-fed beef then it's already taken care of for you.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, exactly. Speaking of things that stick around, when I was on your show, we talked about this, and I love that this is something that you're concerned with because I really don't think people are talking about it enough, and it's the role of obesogens in our personal care products, skincare makeup, things like that. What are your thoughts on that as far as those compounds affecting our fat cells and sticking around in our fat cells and doing things?
Ben Azadi: Yeah, you explained it very well when I interviewed you, and it's part of your story having been mercury poisoned. Both of us have to deal with that. It's a big part of why people don't feel well. I might go out on the limb here and say, "I believe actually the number one cause of cell membrane inflammation is a toxicity issue." It's these environmental toxins. You spoke all about that. There're really three big ones that I believe are causing the most inflammation, cell, hormone disruption, etc. And that's going to be lead, mercury, and glyphosate. So, when you look at the studies out there in regards to just toxins in general, and you've educated about this.
The Environmental Working Group, they have a study where they examined the cord blood of newborns, and they found that these newborns began life exposed to as many as 287 of the 413 toxic chemicals in the study. Out of those 287 chemicals they found, 180 of them were known to cause cancer. We know cancer rates in children have risen. According to the Columbia University School of Public Health, it has risen 67.1% since 1950. So, lead is passed down through utero. It's the number one source of lead is not lead paint, which a lot of houses use lead paint in the 1978 and before. Actually, the number one source of lead exposure is through mom. Mom loses bone as she gives birth to baby. Baby absorbs lead. It's been estimated, you talked about this, that four generations before that's gone out of the bone. So, we know that's a problem we're dealing with.
Then we have mercury. Mercury has affected my health. We get mercury exposure through the number one is silver amalgam fillings, but also, your story, eating a whole bunch of tuna, contact lenses in the 1980s and 1990s, some flu shots and vaccinations have mercury. The unique thing about mercury is that, for example, like silver amalgam fillings. I had eight of them for 20 plus years, eight of them for 20 plus years and I was doing keto great. I was doing intermittent fasting, I was taking $500 worth of supplements each month, and I was focusing on my sleep. I still didn't feel that well. It wasn't until Dr. Pompa woke me up and said, "Hey, dude, you got eight fillings in your mouth. There's mercury in your brain right now. You got to get them out safely."
So, I had all eight fillings removed safely from a biological dentist. So, please, if you have fillings that are silver amalgam, please make sure you get them removed safely from a biological dentist. I would rather you keep the fillings in your mouth then get them removed from a regular-- that actually going to make things worse. But what it does, 55% of every filling contains organic mercury. What's wild is that, when the dentist is about to put the mercury in your mouth on that dental tray where the bottle of mercury is, it has the skull bones, the cross, it says, "This is poisonous, be careful." So, it's not safe on the dental tray. But when it's in your mouth, totally safe. How does that make sense? Their argument is this. It's absurd. Their argument is, "Well, there's no dangers to mercury in your mouth, because we've done blood tests on people with mercury fillings, and there is no mercury in their blood."
Of course, because that's only going to show acute mercury poisoning. When you have silver fillings, it's chronic. It's deep inside your tissues and it's not going to show up on a blood test. So, 55% of that mercury is vaporizing, crossing the blood-brain barrier, and entering your hypothalamus, pituitary, and getting locked in as inorganic mercury. The hypothalamus, pituitary controls your thyroid, your adrenals, your hormones. It is the control tower. So, if you have mercury being dumped into your system every single day, good luck just doing keto and fasting. Good luck doing $100, $500 worth of supplements. It's not going to work. So, I had to detox that mercury out of my body.
It's not just the mercury you might have in your mouth. If you've never had mercury fillings, that's terrific. But you got to ask your mom, if mom had silver fillings when she gave birth to you, because the study came out called the Drasch study, which showed that this is a medical jurist, a professor of toxicology at the University of Munich, and he said, "The amount of mercury in aborted embryos and dead infants corresponds to the number of amalgam fillings present in mom," okay? So, that means the amount of mercury in mom was proportional to the amount of mercury in the baby's brain. It gets passed down.
Hugh Fudenberg, Medical Doctor. Look, this guy, he's now called the quack and people think he's crazy because he came out and said this, but just look at his track record before you jump to conclusions here. He is the world's leading immunologist and the 13th most quoted biologist of our time with nearly 850 papers in peer-reviewed journals. Here's what his study said. "If an individual has had five consecutive flu shots between 1970 and 1980 (the years of the study) his or her chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease is 10 times greater than if they had one, two or no vaccinations." When asked why, he said, "The gradual buildup of mercury and aluminum in the brain." So, we have an environmental toxicity issue.
The third one, I didn't even mention. Actually, before I get to the third one, I'm going to stop and pause and see if you have any more questions, because I have a couple more things on mercury to share. But I'm going to pause because I've been going along there. So, go ahead, Melanie.
Melanie Avalon: No, just that I agree completely. Just as a really quick sidenote, I am not for government regulation of things, but if there was one thing that should be regulated, I actually find it odd that they can even sell certain swordfish, like really, really high mercury fish at restaurants. I don't even know how that's safe. That's just my comment there. They'll put up signs, like, not safe for women who are pregnant. But if we're talking about food safety, I feel like it just doesn't make sense to me. It makes me really sad, actually, to see it on menus, but yeah, so I agree. So, please carry on.
Ben Azadi: Yeah, it should be banned. I agree. The bigger the fish, the more toxin. So, yeah, it's unfortunate. They should ban that along with seed oils. How would that do to our society? It would improve our health, like, overnight. But mercury, a lot of digestive issues, especially the ones I used to have, is a result of my brain dumping mercury into my gut. You cannot fix a gut if you have an upstream stressor, if you have mercury in your brain. The analogy that I am crediting Dr. Pompa with is this. Let's say you buy a beautiful house, and this house is on a nice beautiful river in Georgia, and you see all these beautiful fish and algae populating the river. But then a few weeks into it, you start to see dead fish pop up, and some toxins on the algae, and the water turns a little brown. So, there's something going on with the water. So, what do you do? You go to the supply store and you buy all this equipment. So, think of that as buying supplements for the gut. You start to throw that into the water, and repopulate the fish, and restore the algae, and it looks nice and beautiful.
And then a month later, you notice the same problem, fish are popping up, algae look contaminated. So, you do the same thing. You buy more equipment, aka, more supplements, and you repopulate, clean out the river, looks a lot better. A month later, same problem. Your buddy, your friend, your neighbor comes over and says, "Don't even bother wasting your time or money, because if you go upstream two miles, there's a factory dumping mercury in the river. It doesn't matter what you downstream. You got to shut off the upstream cost." Same thing with your gut. You could take all the probiotics, and I recommend doing the right probiotics and taking the right supplements. But until you shut down the factory upstream, that's not going to work to the extent that you want it to work. Mercury interferes with the binding of zinc, and zinc helps to create stomach acid, which breaks down nutrients and food. When you have mercury, you don't have enough stomach acid, and it creates gut problems. So, there's a long list of mercury symptoms you could look it up. It's some of the most common symptoms.
The last thing here, because I mentioned three toxins. So, we talked about lead, mercury, now the third biggest one, and I would throw a fourth one in there, mold, but I won't get into that right now. But the third one would be glyphosate. Stephanie Seneff, who is a MIT researcher, she and her partner, Nancy Swanson have made a correlation and I understand. It's a correlation not causation, but it's really interesting. In 1989/1990, when they started to apply glyphosate on our crops, it correlates and I'm looking at the chart here, but it correlates year after year with the amount of deaths from dementia and the amount of glyphosate application. As the application went up to a certain amount, that correlated with the amount of deaths from dementia. Five years later, same amount. It goes hand in hand with it all the way until they concluded in 2009. It was going hand in hand.
She has shown that the glyphosate actually forces these heavy metals deeper into our tissues, into our bones making them harder to get to. That's going to lead to weight loss resistance. How could it not? When the body, the innate intelligence wants to survive, and the reason toxins are stored in fat cells is because of the solution to pollution is dilution. Toxins love fat, the body wants to survive. When toxins enter the body, the body wants to preserve life. So, it's not going to let the toxins kill you right away. So, let's shuttle it to fat cells. Let's create larger fat cells. You talk about this on my podcast, "Let's create more fat cells." So, when you start to lose weight, you dump toxins in your body's like, "Whoa, every time we burn fat and lose weight, we dump toxins and we have to absorb those toxins. Let's stop losing weight." It causes weight loss resistance. So, it's a big problem. It was a big problem for me, and unfortunately, a lot of people missed this or they poo-poo it, but I'm telling you, I believe it's one of the leading causes of cell membrane inflammation.
Melanie Avalon: I do think that as well. I think one of the biggest issues is that we just can't see it, because with the food-- It seems obvious, but with the food, we're literally putting it into our mouth. We see the food. But with these toxins, we don't see it. So, it's hard to take seriously. It's like the sinister invisible threat. Do you do sauna sessions to deal with that?
Ben Azadi: Yeah. So, I have an infrared sauna blanket. I do that on a weekly basis. I would prefer to go to a location, but yes, I do that. That's not going to really get the mercury out of the brain, but it's going to flush out some toxins for sure. So, I do like it as like a downstream detox approach.
Melanie Avalon: I do a nightly infrared sauna session and I just love it.
Ben Azadi: You have your own?
Melanie Avalon: I have a Sunlighten Solo unit. Have you seen that?
Ben Azadi: I have. Yeah, it's awesome.
Melanie Avalon: It's great if you live in an apartment. It's not a full cabin. It's like this thing, for listeners, that you lie inside of. What's really great is your head doesn't go in it. So, I use an arm that holds my phone over my head and I can read books, and prep podcasts, and do work every night. It's amazing. Well, I want to be really respectful of your time. This has been absolutely so incredible. Two just really quick last questions. One, because you touched on this all throughout the show, this idea of how you've changed throughout your history and evolved and learning and unlearning. Just like rapid fire fun fact. What's one or two of the main things in the dietary world that you've had to unlearn or that you've radically changed your mind about? Just what would be one of those?
Ben Azadi: Counting calories and how I believe in the value of calories, meaning, I believe that they matter, but I don't believe they're important. I think they're more of a distraction. What's more important is hormone health and some metabolism.
Melanie Avalon: I could not agree anymore. Then the last question, which I know you'll appreciate, especially since you have your emphasis on vitamin G, which is gratitude. So, the last question that I ask every single guest on this show, and it's because I just think gratitude is so, so, so important. So, what is something that you're grateful for?
Ben Azadi: I love the question. Vitamin G, the most powerful potent supplement in the entire world. Really, Melanie, I'm grateful for you. I'm really impressed with the amount of research you put into this conversation that we had today, which I believe was an incredible conversation. I actually had today a very difficult morning dealing with something personal. This morning, I cried for, like, 30 minutes. I haven't cried in a very long time. So, it was a very challenging morning for me and I'm working through it. I know that challenges are more opportunities for growth. So, I'm waiting for that other side to happen. But you helped me take my mind off of things that I'm dealing with and you came prepared. I really enjoyed the conversation. I had a great time. So, I'm grateful to be able to educate your amazing community. I'm grateful that you showed up so well prepared with amazing questions. I'm grateful that this has the potential to help a lot of people with their health. Not just their physical health, but with their mental health. So, I'm grateful for that.
Melanie Avalon: Well, thank you so much. And I am sending you love and peace with whatever you're going through. The nice thing about the crying, my thoughts on that, emotions and everything, I like to think that I try not to have secondary emotions about the emotions. So, even the stress, and the fear, and sadness, and whatever it may be, I just try to know that that's okay. The good thing about the crying is it releases stress hormones. So, hopefully, you got some of that out.
Thank you so much for everything that you're doing. It's just so wonderful to connect with you. Like I said, you're sharing so much information and knowledge about everything that I personally think is so important. Clearly, I look at all of your content and I'm like, "This is everything that I'm obsessed with."
Then for listeners, just so they know, before the show I was asking Ben if there is anything he specifically wanted touch on and he was talking about how the mindset piece is so important to him. I just really want to thank you for that perspective, because I think it's something that is often lacking. We can really get into the biohacking world, and make it all about the data, and the numbers, and the products, and the supplements, but there's the human behind it, and you are just doing wonderful things for drawing attention to that, and doing so many things for humanity. So, I'm so excited to connect with you. Thank you so much. Hopefully, you can come on the show again sometime in the future and I hope things get better with what you're going through and this has been absolutely amazing.
Ben Azadi: Thank you so much, Melanie, for sure. A lot of collaborations coming our way in the future. We're going to have dinner, we're going to have beef for dessert. So, a lot of great things. I so appreciate those words. Thank you so much. I know that you value your community very much so, and I know that you do your research and diligence before you bring somebody onto your podcast. So, I really appreciate you allowing me to serve your community and this is just the second of many more to come.
Melanie Avalon: Awesome. Well, I will talk to you very soon and enjoy the rest of your day.
Ben Azadi: Thank you, Melanie. You too.
Melanie Avalon: Bye, Ben.
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