Bulletproof Bullet Points: October’s Biohacking News
What a month! The 2015 Bulletproof Conference just ended, and it was a sight to see. Before this month’s bullet points, here’s an upgraded thank you to the more than 1200 attendees, the volunteers who served thousands of cups of Bulletproof Coffee, and the world-class speakers who talked about hacking everything from testosterone to happiness. Thank you also to the readers and listeners who didn’t attend – your support means the world. Bulletproof wouldn’t be possible without you all.
The first round of Bulletproof Coach Training also started this month, and the trainees’ growth in the first two days is awe-inspiring. If you wanted to join but the spots filled up too quickly, don’t despair! Round two is coming in February, and you can sign up here.
This month’s biohacking news includes new research about red meat, a link between fungus and dementia, and a computerized brain. Enjoy!
Red meat causes cancer. Or does it?
This report – wait, hold on – no, this report from the World Health Organization (WHO), released October 26th, states that eating processed meat increases your risk of getting cancer, and that unprocessed red meat is “probably carcinogenic” as well.
Before you banish meat, consider a few things. First off, “processed meat” refers to hot dogs, sausages, and other prepackaged meat products, many of which are stuffed with fillers like gluten and soy, as well as questionable preservatives. Second, most studies of red meat and disease look at people who eat conventional, factory-farmed meat. Factory-farmed meat (FFM) is a far cry from organic grass-fed meat:
- FFM often contains antibiotics and synthetic growth hormones.
- FFM is usually from animals intentionally fed moldy feed. Mold spore counts may underestimate the mycotoxins in feed, and even “safe” levels of mycotoxins may become unsafe when they accumulate in the animals.
- FFM looks discolored and turns gray quickly (probably because it’s lower in antioxidants than high-quality meat is), so distributors spray it with carbon monoxide to keep it bright red and looking fresh, even as it starts to go bad. The practice is illegal in Japan and parts of Europe, but congress held a hearing and approved carbon monoxide treatment a few years ago.
If you eat FFM then the antibiotics, growth hormones, mycotoxins, and carbon monoxide in FFM end up in your body eventually. Mycotoxins are strongly carcinogenic, and estrogen and progestogen (which farmers give to cattle to increase meat production) are both weakly linked to breast cancer. Carbon monoxide isn’t carcinogenic, but it is very toxic, and it makes a point: not all meat is created equal.
Conventional meat and organic grass-fed meat are not the same. High-quality grass-fed meat is free of the junk plaguing grain-fed, irresponsibly produced meat, plus it’s much higher in conjugated linoleic acid – which actually suppresses cancer – and protective antioxidants like vitamin E. It would be interesting to see a study looking at cancer risk and consumption of organic grass-fed meat, but until then, the WHO’s report doesn’t seem too relevant to the kind of meat that’s Bulletproof.
One last point: the WHO mentions that how you cook your meat determines how carcinogenic it becomes. Higher-heat cooking and exposure to direct flame (think barbecuing, grilling, and searing) forms more carcinogens, especially in meats cured with nitrate and nitrite like bacon, but low, slow cooking mitigates cancer risk. Stick to Bulletproof cooking methods to keep carcinogens as low as possible.
Fat is back!
Start hoarding that grass-fed butter! Fat consumption is on the rise. According to a recent report published by the Credit Suisse Research Institute, many forms of fat are growing in popularity in the U.S., including butter (up 20% in the last 15 months), whole milk (11% this year), and organic eggs (21% this year). Skim milk and other low-fat staples are on the decline. The fat trend is happening in Europe, too – especially in the UK.
The report’s authors think that the falling popularity of low fat foods is because people are starting to view whole foods as better than processed ones. That’s great news!
…As long as there’s still enough butter to go around.
What do heavy metals, boxing, and yeast have in common?
They all link to dementia. A groundbreaking new study looked at 10 different Alzheimer’s disease (AD) brains and found that fungi had infected every single one of them. Healthy brains from similarly aged people, on the other hand, showed no sign of fungal infection. To top it off, AD patients had fungi in their bloodstreams too, suggesting a serious infection.
One of the fungi was Candida albicans, the same yeast that feeds on sugar in your gut and causes all manners of problems if it grows out of hand. The scientists found several other species of fungus as well.
Two more interesting points:
- A main symptom of AD is too much amyloid-beta (pictured above), a brain protein that goes out of control and destroys healthy neurons. Amyloid beta is good at destroying Candida, and the study’s authors think people with AD may start overproducing it to fight off fungi in the brain.
- The authors note that two patients in the past have shown long-time symptoms of AD that went away entirely after they took antifungals. The doctors assumed they had made a mistake diagnosing the patients with AD, but maybe their diagnoses were right.
Could a simple antifungal reverse Alzheimer’s for some patients? It’s too early to say, but the study marks a huge step forward in AD research.
We’ve created a working rat brain…on a computer
It’s been a big month for neuroscience. After a decade of research and $1 billion, 82 researchers have come together to create a working digital model of part of a rat brain. If you’re not a world-class neuroscientist willing to read one of the longest scientific reports ever published, opt for this friendly recap from the New York Times instead.
The digital brain model maps 30,000 neurons that all interact with one another on a computer, the way an actual rat brain would function. The people who created it hope to do the same thing with a human brain, though they’re a long way away – your brain has about 85 billion cells.
Nonetheless, a 30,000-cell model is a powerful start. As it grows, researchers can begin doing studies without working on actual animals, and if the project goes well, we’ll have a working human brain on a computer sometime in the next 50 years. That’s when the machines will start to take over…
That’s it for this month! Any other cool stuff you’ve read about? Leave it in the comments. Happy Halloween, and thanks for reading!