Every month we put out Bulletproof Bullet Points, a list of the latest and greatest biohacking research going on around the globe. This month’s edition features rebuilding the neurons of braindead patients, an empathy-sapping drug that 23% of Americans take weekly, the EPA’s new perspective on a major pesticide, and more evidence that your gut health links to your brain health. Enjoy.
Stem cell therapy to revive dead brains
Bioquark, Inc., a biotech company interested in cell regeneration, just got approval for a wild new clinical study. They’re going to use stem cells and lasers to try to revive the neurons of brain-dead patients.
Stem cells are little packets of potential. They’re undeveloped, which means they can turn into just about anything – skin, bone marrow, or, in this case, neurons. Lasers can speed up cell growth, and the combination of the two could mean bringing comatose patients with severe brain injury back to the land of the living.
And if this sci-fi-esque experiment works, it could pave the way to using stem cells for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, or to replace aging mitochondria. Whatever happens, the study marks a bold step forward for science. It’s due to finish in 2017; let’s hope the results are good.
Tylenol makes you less empathetic
Acetaminophen (Tylenol), one of the most popular over-the-counter painkillers in the U.S., blunts your pain response…but it also blunts your empathy to other people’s pain, according to a new study.
When you see someone in pain, the pain centers of your own brain light up – you quite literally feel other people’s discomfort. That’s why it’s difficult to watch someone who’s hurting.
College students on either acetaminophen or placebo read excerpts describing people in pain. They then rated how much pain they thought they thought the person in the scenario was experiencing on a scale of 1 to 5.
The students on acetaminophen thought the people were experiencing less pain, even when the scenarios were quite painful – getting stabbed and cut to the bone by a knife, for example. Did you wince at that? Good. It means you’re empathetic (and probably not on Tylenol right now).
Acetaminophen may make you less aware of people’s emotional pain, too. When students on acetaminophen watched someone being socially excluded, they didn’t think the exclusion was as bad as people on placebo did. So next time you have an emotional conversation coming up, you may want to skip the painkillers.
Atrazine: another reason to go organic
The Environmental Protection Agency published a huge report last month discussing health concerns about atrazine, a common herbicide in the U.S. The report has since been taken down; you can still find a copy of it here. Take a look at a few main points:
- The EPA found atrazine up to 198 times more concentrated than the level the government deems safe for mammals.
- Atrazine and its metabolites disrupt sex hormones and neurohormones. Atrazine is also carcinogenic, breaks down muscle, and can cause retinal damage.
- Atrazine-polluted runoff from crops has been killing native plants and reversing the sexes of several amphibian species, most notably frogs. A male frog will turn female when exposed to atrazine at the levels in drinking water, and rats exposed to “acceptable” levels of atrazine lost weight and their organs shrank.
Europe banned atrazine 12 years ago, but in the U.S. it’s the second most common herbicide for commercial farming. The biggest atrazine crops are corn, wheat, and, unfortunately, pasture grasses. That’s one reason why it’s so important buy *organic* grass-fed beef.
Activated charcoal binds to atrazine, which is another compelling reason to take charcoal regularly (away from food and supplements! It grabs the good stuff too). You can bind up most of the atrazine in your drinking water with an activated charcoal filter like a Brita.
A new connection between your gut and brain
Last year, scientists discovered that your gut bacteria inform your risk of depression. Now, another study has found a correlation between Candida, a yeast-like fungus in your gut, and two other mental illnesses: bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
Candida is part of a balanced gut biome. Everyone has it. The trouble comes when Candida grows out of control. Candida overgrowth is a form of yeast infection that can affect your mouth, gut, and genitals. After hearing anecdotes about people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder who get a lot of yeast infections, researchers began testing people with the two disorders for Candida antibodies.
The researchers discovered that schizophrenic and bipolar people had many more yeast infections and produced more Candida antibodies than healthy controls, and that the people with the most Candida antibodies had significant deficits in memory.
To be clear, this study is correlational. It doesn’t mean yeast infections cause bipolar disorder, or vice versa. It just shows that the two seem to be related. Candida thrives on sugar, so one of the most effective ways to protect yourself from yeast infections is to eat a low-carb, high-fat diet like the Bulletproof Diet. If you want some extra insurance or you’re prone to yeast infections, try adding in extra Brain Octane and coconut oil. They both kill yeast. You can also talk to your doctor about getting nystatin, a prescription antifungal that’s very powerful against Candida and has few to no side effects.
All these studies on the gut-brain connection make you wonder: are we controlling our bodies, or are the billions of microorganisms in our guts secretly running us?
On that note – have a great week! And subscribe below for more thought-provoking content.