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#17 – Biohack Fails, Unusual Heart Drug Side Effects, The Impact of Diet on LDL-C, and the Latest in Nutrigenetic Testing with Dr. Aaron Gardner

Pharmaceutical drugs, especially statins, tend to get a bad rap, but the world of heart drugs goes well beyond statins. In fact, one of the best known heart drugs called Zetia, is used as a therapy for people who hyper absorb cholesterol as well as plant sterol. At Gene Food we are interested in both cholesterol and sterol absorption as the tendency to hyper absorb is tied heavily to genetics. In this episode of the podcast, John shares his experience taking Zetia as a “bio-hack” experiment to see what the drug would do to his lipid numbers. As we see in the episode, the experiment didn’t quite go as planned. Later in the episode both John and Dr. Aaron discuss how different diets have impacted their blood work, specifically C reactive protein, a marker of inflammation in the body, and LDL-C.

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This Episode Covers:

  • Sleep genes, adenosine and the new genes we cover in our test kits [5:45];
  • John’s decision to take Zetia [13:00];
  • What is a good LDL-C? [16:30];
  • How common are sterol absorption SNPs? [22:30];
  • The bio-hack fail [26:30];
  • Aaron’s bloodwork on a junk food diet including C-reactive protein [29:45];
  • John’s mezcal and pizza blood work experiment including VLDL numbers and lean mass hyper responder discussion [37:00]:
  • EPA / DHA supplements and mood [47:00]


Dr. Aaron: I mean, one of the really cool things with your scores will be how quickly you get back into that green zone. It’d be really cool to almost watch it in, like, real-time. Is it a day? Is it a week? Is it a month? How long does it take you to get back into that and that’d be really cool to see.

John: A lot of this stuff with people’s blood work is almost like Bitcoin charts, like, “Oh, Bitcoin is worth this. Oh, Bitcoin is worth that.” Well, it’s like, “Okay, well, Bitcoin changes very quickly based on a lot of different factors.” So somebody that goes gets their blood work done once a year and they see, “Oh, I’m great.” I just feel like at the end of the day, if you have the opportunity and you have the resources, you have to get your blood work done a lot.

Dr. Aaron: Yeah.

John: Welcome to the Gene Food Podcast. I’m your host, John O’Connor. Hey guys, today we have Dr. Aaron Gardner, our Head of Research and Lead Geneticist at Gene Food in New York for an in-person podcast. We’re discussing all things lipids. We’re talking about his lipid numbers, my lipid numbers, what I’m doing diet-wise to change my LDL cholesterol, what Aaron has done diet-wise to change his LDL cholesterol and some inflammatory markers like C reactive protein. We’re basically do a deep dive into our personal blood work and what we’re doing with diet. And in my case, a pharmaceutical drug that I tried to move the needle on my blood work as a biohack that went, you could say kind of embarrassingly wrong. So hopefully you’ll enjoy that story. It put me in a very, very interesting position at a dinner party, one that I don’t hope to experience again, but you’re gonna have the benefit of hearing all about my failed biohack in this episode. I would ask also to our audience, if you’re enjoying these shows and you’re finding value in our content, we would really appreciate if you could head on over to iTunes and leave a review, preferably five-star review, that’s what we’re obviously looking out for as the creators of the show, but we will read each and every review, so if you have feedback on the show, that’s the place to share it. So iTunes reviews are very important for the growth of the show and to help us get our message out to greater audience. So any and all reviews, we really appreciate. So without further ado, here is Dr. Aaron.
Welcome to the United States, Aaron. It’s good to have you here, man.

Dr. Aaron: It’s good to be here eventually.

John: Yeah. So you had a harrowing journey last night. Apparently, you had a difficult time making it into the States, but they almost didn’t allow you in or something. Is that right?

Dr. Aaron: Not quite that bad. They let me in in Ireland and then they decided they didn’t want me so they made me sit there around for a while. I eventually got here just via Boston.

John: Chatting paleo diets with the customers…

Dr. Aaron: With the customers.

John: The customer’s agents.

Dr. Aaron: Yeah, it was the easiest way through customs I’ve ever had. He was more interested in talking to me than I was to him, so it worked quite well.

John: People do love to talk diet, that’s for sure. So, we’re gonna get into a lot of things today including why my voice is messed up. I’m gonna tell a story of failed biohacking, biohacking gone wrong to the audience. But before we do, you’re doing a good old American road trip from Nashville. Are you gonna stop in Indi?

Dr. Aaron: Yep, because I really wanna go see the speedway, which probably my wife really doesn’t wanna go see, but it’s something I want to do, and then we’re gonna stop off… I know you suggested a couple of places as well, and we’re gonna try and take our time to get up to Chicago and then fly back from Chicago.

John: Well, my alma mater is Indiana University, so I’m kind of partial towards Bloomington just because it’s such a pretty, it’s… Bloomington is a beautiful city. It’s made… There’s a lot of limestone in the region, so all the buildings are made with just natural limestone, just such a striking place. I think a lot of people don’t realize just how nice of a campus IU is. And it’s a cool town too. I think actually, supposedly in the past, Bloomington was the second-largest home to the Free Tibet movement outside of Dharamsala, India. Well known fact.

Dr. Aaron: Okay. That’s a good fact. That’s good claim to fame. I mean, it’ll be more relaxing than being in New York, because I was… It’s been a hectic couple of days, well, not even a couple of days, hectic couple of hours in the city, so it’d be nice to chill out somewhere else.

John: Yeah. You said when you came in, you could feel the uptick and energy just through your bones right away.

Dr. Aaron: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. I mean, I was walking around last night just to get some fresh air and stretch my legs and it was probably past midnight and the city was just heaving still whereas back home everyone would be in bed by now. And even Sunday morning feels like, you know, there’s just a lot going on all the time.

John: Yeah. It’s so funny. It’s just what you’re used to. We were talking before the show, I was out in San Diego and hanging out there and it’s incredible the difference in energy between that part of the world and then when you come back to the city you can just instantly feel it. It just puts you in a different mindset. It’s pretty incredible.

Dr. Aaron: Well, if you guys ever come to the UK, you can tell me how the energy levels in Newcastle feel.

John: I will. We’ll have to do a home and home. We’ll do a podcast in Newcastle, so I’m definitely gonna come see you, for sure. And I’m also looking at our test kits that we have now. We’ve partnered with a lab in San Diego. I filmed a video in the lab, and I put a video, for those of you that follow are kind of shoddy Instagram that we have are sort of… You know, our Instagram is not as good as it could be, but I posted a story and left it up on our Instagram page of the lab so people can see the inside. It’s pretty cool. And we, in offering these test kits, have essentially doubled the number of genetic markers that we’re looking at. And I think some of the big ones that we probably wanna talk a little bit about here before we get into lipids and all that is like we added some sleep stuff, we added alcohol metabolism, we even did cannabis metabolism. Does the sleep stuff all just come down to adenosine metabolism or how does that work?

Dr. Aaron: So, you know, there’s several factors that play into sleep, but adenosine is probably the big one. So if you think of adenosine it’s kind of like the byproduct of the cell’s energy currency, so disease molecule it’s called ATP, adenosine triphosphate. And that’s where all of our cells derive their energy from. And when our cells get the energy from these they produce adenosine as a byproduct. So in the brain, which uses absolutely loads of energy all the time during the day, your ATP stores get worn down, you produce more adenosine, this adenosine binds to receptors in the brain, adenosine receptors, and this is what promotes a sleepy sort of feeling. And then once you fall asleep, your brain powers down in effect and your ATP stores are regenerated from that very same adenosine. So the perfect situation is you generate a large amount of adenosine during the day, you fall fast asleep really easily, you, clears overnight and you wake up in the morning feeling fresh, you know, up and out because you’ve got no adenosine left in the system. But obviously, that doesn’t happen for everyone or probably even the majority of people. People have difficulty falling asleep, people have difficulty waking up. And so there’s a few different snips that we’ve got now which we think should really help us and form which type of person you might be, what your sleep cycle is gonna look like and how you can deal with things like caffeine and how that can influence it.

John: Right, because caffeine blocks the adenosine receptor.

Dr. Aaron: Yep.

John: Which is interesting. So the longer the half-life of caffeine is in the body, the more that’s gonna have an impact, it’s going to keep your adenosine chained up for longer. Another thing that you added to the algorithm which is really cool is chronotype, because for a lot of people that… I’m sure some of the people that listen to this podcast have also heard a Matthew Walker be interviewed by some of the, on the podcast Circuit. He’s this PhD at Cal Berkeley who’s become, just, he’s written some books on sleep and he’s kind of like the Crusader for better sleep. Fellow Englishman, fellow UK citizen. And he’s talked a lot about chronotype and how there’s actually pretty good science out there, genetically, that gives you a window into when your ideal bedtime is, when you’re likely to be at your most productive. So we’ve added that now to the panels as well.

Dr. Aaron: Yes. So that’s one of the really cool things that we’ve got through this new kit. So I’m actually just looking at one of our reports where I’ve plugged in someone’s data from 23andMe, and our Chronotype section is almost empty. Whereas with our new kits, we can basically pull every single snip we’re interested in. So it allows us to actually offer more material of people.

John: Which is cool. We also have greater histamine coverage too.

Dr. Aaron: Yeah.

John: For the histamine score, we’ve talked about this in previous podcasts. The histamine score that Aaron put together is a medley of different genes and some of them in different versions of 23andMe. You can still get a histamine score, but it’s not as complete. So with the new test kits, you’re gonna have a much more complete histamine score, which is gonna be interesting too because this subject, just dietary histamine that we’ve kind of zeroed in on I think more than some other companies.

Dr. Aaron: Because you’re on a V4 template for 23andMe whereas I had my snips done a little bit later. I’m on V5 and I’m basically missing about five or six snips compared to you. So I can still pull out my score, but it’s just not gonna be as accurate as yours.

John: Yeah.

Dr. Aaron: So being able to cover that completely is really cool.

John: Right. And, I mean, you’re still getting… You’re still getting a ton of coverage on the 23andMe and Ancestry accounts, but this just gives you those extra markers that are nice to know about.

Dr. Aaron: Yeah.

John: Carbohydrate metabolism changed a teeny little bit too based on some new research, because I was on that fence of California Coastal versus Mediterranean. Those are two similar diets in the matrix. Mediterranean is more liberal with carbohydrate,and California Coastal is a little more tightly regulating blood sugar. And it’ll be interesting when we get into our… We’re gonna talk about our lab work here in a sec, but… And so that that carb scoring was modified a little bit too.

Dr. Aaron: Yeah. So, I mean, if you read our site, we’ve got the bit that explains about science score. And if you go into…have a read through that, it kind of explains the rationale about how we score all of our snips. And one of the things that we do is we keep looking at new research. It’s not like we’ve just taken a snapshot and this is what’s gonna be forever. We keep looking at these snips seeing if new stuff comes out. And if something looks stronger or weaker, then we can adjust our scoring in our matrix and that slightly adjusts where people may fall. It shouldn’t have big impacts. I mean, to like John alluded to, he’s kind of, he was right on the borderline, so he was able to be shifted over there. He was sitting mid, slap bang in the middle of a category. It’s not gonna shift you out of that category, but being on that borderline you might see a little bit of movement.

John: Yeah. So I don’t know if these mince pies that I have in front of me… In my old diet type, like my Mediterranean diet type I probably could have handled these mince pies, but now that I’m in California Coastal, I’m gonna have to be a little more… I’m gonna have to rein this in a little bit, even though…

Dr. Aaron: I mean, they’re small. They’re small mince pies.

John: That’s true. That’s true. There’s a, on the… There are these really beautiful mince pies Aaron brought as gifts from the UK, and their tagline for this particular brand is “A mouthful of magnificence.”

Dr. Aaron: Yeah. I mean, they’re a Christmas treat normally.

John: So that’s pretty cool.

Dr. Aaron: They’re a little bit ahead of season because I guess you guys have got Thanksgiving first, but we’re in the run-up to Christmas now in the UK so they’re out on sale. And it just seemed like a nice British snack to bring, because a lot of British food, like I was saying, is a bit trashy. So these are hopefully quite nice.

John: Well, you’re gonna see quite a bit of trashy American food on your drive from…

Dr. Aaron: Yeah, definitely.

John: …Nashville to Chicago, so it’s all good. We’re even. It’s okay. We all have food that we’re not proud of. And, you know, that’s one thing just on that “Game Changers” issue that we talked about last week. I do want to say because we were one of the chorus of commentators who said that we liked the movie, but we don’t think that the science that’s portrayed has any kind of conclusive value to it in terms of what’s a diet that’s going to work for any one given individual. Not to say that we’re opposed to plant-based diets, because we both eat directionally that way. But the whole factory farming issue is one where if you are wanting to avoid factory-farmed meat, then you’re gonna, by definition, be eating a diet that’s lower in some of these animal foods, anyway. It’s a little cleanup from last episode, that we didn’t say. But with that said, we’re gonna dive into our lipids today. This is a lipid show. We have our results and both of our results on different diets. I shared. If the people that are listening that are wondering why my voice sounds maybe a little bit kind of raspy or a little bit off because, you know, it’s a little, probably does sound that way. Well, there’s a good failed biohacking story that I guess I can lead off with that we can get into talking about some of our individual biomarkers. And what I did is I took a… There’s a drug out there called Zetia. It’s also called Ezetimibe. And I started experimenting with 5 and 10-milligram doses of Ezetimibe because I wanted to see what it would do to my lipids. I’ve published blogs in the past about all sorts of different data on my lipids, including my Lipoprotein A levels and basic lipid markers, some more advanced lipid markers, insulin, things like that. And one of the things I’ve learned in doing a lot of blood work is, is I would have elevated levels of sitosterol in my blood, which is a lab test that most people don’t have access to. And it basically is used as a proxy marker for absorbing cholesterol. So in Boston Heart diagnostics panels, you can get your sterol panel done and the sitosterol and desmosterol and some of these other sterols are used as synthesis and then absorption of cholesterol.

But if you have really high levels, I think in most cases having some sitosterol circulating the blood according to the people that comment, it’s probably not really that big of a deal. But if you have it at elevated levels and starts getting in the red, that is thought to be something that can be atherogenic. So, because I’ve seen that in past lab tests, I thought to myself, “Okay. I wanna see what my blood work looks like if I take this drug called Zetia which blocks the absorption of sterol and cholesterol.” And when Aaron looked at my genetic panels, he noticed that I had a couple of mutations in like these ABCG8 pathways, which are the genes responsible for keeping these sterols out of the blood, because normally they’re not absorbed through the gut, they’re absorbed temporarily. They compete for absorption and cholesterol, then they’re kicked back out, but I was absorbing a lot of it. And that’s something that we look at on our sterol panels. And so I was like, “Okay. Well, I’ll take this drug and see what happens to my labs,” because I was wondering, “Well, I wonder what my LDL cholesterol would look like.” And instead, I have these horrifying side effects that I wrote about on the blog which were just insane. Anything on the sterol stuff, to start off, Aaron, before I get into the story of this kind of failed biohacking?

Dr. Aaron: I mean, you’ve kind of covered it there. So, you’ve covered the gene. So it’s ABCG5 and ABCG8 are the two genes that we’re particularly interested in. And then like you said, there’s a couple of snips that mark out whether you’re gonna be a hyper-absorber or just like a normal absorber. And like you said, you flagged up as being someone who’s gonna absorb more cholesterol and also more sterol together, and then that might impact on your lipids, which we’ll sort of talk about later in the podcast, why your lipid score might look in a particular way. Even though you eat what would be considered by most people like a very healthy diet, your lipids are still quite high, and that might be the cause.

John: Well, I don’t think my lipids are quite high right now. You mean, my particle count?

Dr. Aaron: I’m not saying that they’re dangerously high, but with the type of diet that you eat, they’re probably towards the higher end of what you might expect from someone who is following that type of diet, because you’re probably following one of the healthiest diets out there and you would expect maybe it to be right at the lower end whereas yours are… Am I looking at the wrong lipids here?

John: My particle count is like 1,300, but my lipids, actually, my, every single lipid marker that I send you is in the green except for the…

Dr. Aaron: See, LDL is 96.

John: Right. Which is in the green by Boston Heart.

Dr. Aaron: Just the…

John: Yeah.

Dr. Aaron: Just… Whereas, you know, with the type of diet that you’re eating, I would say you’d may be expecting to be like down in the 80s. So I…

John: Yeah. And that’s something where it could be sterol.

Dr. Aaron: Yeah, definitely.

John: Because of the fact that if you’re hyper… Because if you’re hyper-absorbing sterol… I mean, first of all, LDL cholesterol of 96 is… I mean, you have like… You have a JAMA study, basically, that’s out there that we’ve talked about, which is you have 280,000 people that are put on this study that are… It’s a meta-analysis of studies, and these are people that have all been statanized, and they’re looking at over the course of, you know, period of years what the all-cause mortality outlook looked like for people that had LDL cholesterol of 160, 130 and then less than 100. And in these cases, people that drop their LDL cholesterol with a statin from 160 to 130 saw benefits and all-cause mortality, and then people that dropped their LDL cholesterol further from 130 to 100 saw benefits in all-cause mortality. And people that dropped their LDL cholesterol when it was already at 100 and they dropped it beneath it didn’t show any benefit. So it’s tough to say what the ideal LDL cholesterol number is. I certainly don’t agree with somebody like Dave Feldman, who is out there, who’s advancing this idea that people that are lean mass hyper responders should be safe walking around with LDL cholesterol of 130, 140, 150, 160 and up from there. But I don’t necessarily think putting it at zero is where you want it either.

Dr. Aaron: No. Yeah. I mean, so I’m not… Because like you said, yours is 96, so you’re in the safe category. I was more getting to the point that because… I mean, what would you say your saturated fat intake is on a weekly, like, percentage color is? We kind of talked and…

John: Well, I mean, I would say that I eat a diet that’s about 90% vegan by calories. So I still eat wild fish, I still eat, you know, some pastured poultry here and there, some eggs here and there, but not a lot. And you’re right. I think that’s a good point, and that’s… And so, they kind of threw me off saying that the numbers were high because I don’t really see them that way, but I know what you mean. I see what you’re saying.

Dr. Aaron: Yeah.

John: And so the whole idea is if you do think of them as being high, one of the things that goes into the LDL cholesterol number, it’s not just the massive cholesterol, it’s also the sterol. So like when you’re looking at like the weight of cholesterol like in LDL particles and you’re measuring LDL cholesterol, people think that’s all cholesterol. It’s not. One of the things I learned from following and studying Tom Dayspring, I’ll give him credit for this, who’s a world-renowned lipid expert, is talking about when the lab is measuring the mass of cholesterol, it’s also measuring the mass of sterol. So to Aaron’s point, if you are gonna bring down your LDL cholesterol further and your hyper-absorbing sterol, you could literally have the situation where the almond butter that you’re eating, and the avocado that you’re eating, and the nuts and seeds that you’re eating are all going into that LDL cholesterol number and it’s also going into your particle count.

Dr. Aaron: Yep. So, I mean, we’ve probably never seen anyone going… If you’re going on to that way of avoiding meat and going into a really sort of plant-based diet, your LDL cholesterol is probably never gonna get into the really dangerous territories, but we’ve seen people who, where the value doesn’t drop as much as we have expected or maybe it just stays around at sort of a mid-level value. And I think it’s definitely the sterols in that case are a major, major player in that. And then the downside of that, though, is it’s difficult to know what to advise because if you look at these big studies, first of all, cause mortality and diet type, they push towards a mainly plant-based diet with like, you’ve sort of alluded to, a little bit of meat and fish and things like that. And so, you know, that’s kind of the best general advice for everyone, but at these people will have these sterol snips and they’re gonna be hyper-absorbers, it’s still a little bit muddy what we need to…what’s the best way to deal with that because you could say go entirely plant-based, but your LDL score might go up. Is that gonna be bad or do the positive side to being mainly plant-based outweigh that risk?

John: Yeah. And so to unpack that, you have… I don’t want to… For somebody that’s listening at home that’s getting really confused, I still think probably in most cases, if you are dealing with something where you’re dyslipidemic to the cholesterol side where your LDL cholesterol is really high, then you’re not gonna necessarily wanna load up on a whole bunch of saturated fat.

Dr. Aaron: Oh, yeah. We just…

John: And the plant-based message is probably still… If that’s the metric that you’re targeting, then you’re probably gonna want to be in that camp. But there are researchers out there who… There’s a researcher who I tried to get on the podcast previously, and I’m still working on, who has said that if you have LDL cholesterol of 190 or more, that’s a prima facie case that you have Sitosterolemia , which is the super, super, super-advanced absorption of sterol. You looked at my panel and you said, “You don’t have set of Sitosterolemia.”

Dr. Aaron: You have snips that, you know, are pointing in that direction but you don’t have the clinical-grade, so that’s right.

John: Right. The full-blown thing. But the message to people at home is your LDL cholesterol is also a function, in some cases, of the plant foods that you’re eating. It’s not just a function of the animal foods that you’re eating.

Dr. Aaron: Yeah. So it’s kinda… And John’s right. We’re really at the margins here, you know. From almost everyone, I would recommend going for a highly plant-based diet. It’s just those very small margins of maybe, you know, is it a 5% or 10% saturated fat intake? And that’s the sort of the margins that you’re talking about. I’m not saying go out and eat 50% red meat or 100% red meat because you might have these Sitosterolemia snips. Don’t do that. We’re always pushing towards a plant-based diet. It’s just kind of, you know, trying to modulate at those very fine margins at the edge.

John: I think what we’re saying, though, is that this is chess not checkers. And that when you listen to people who are so smug about the science and they just tell everybody that they need to go out and do this one diet because of epidemiology that shows increased risk in many cases that’s very modest compared to, like, you know, cigarette studies or some of the epidemiology that’s really just blown people away with increased risk, and they’re telling everybody that they need to use specifically and they’re being so smug about it that… I mean, what percentage of people out there, I mean, these ABCG8 and 5 snips are not that uncommon, are they? I mean, these…

Dr. Aaron: No. You’re looking in the sort of 30%, 40% for some of them.

John: Right. So you might…

Dr. Aaron: And then if they add up over time.. Even not add up over time, but if you have multiple snips, then you can get into quite a big effect.

John: Yeah. So I mean, I just think of… And then this ties into the plant-based Cheeto conversations too, but I always think of this in terms of Michigan Stadium. So I grew up going to Michigan football games even though I absolutely loathe and abhor Michigan football and I randomly out of nowhere root for Ohio State, Ohio State is my team. And I just am not a Michigan football fan. I swore an oath of… I don’t even want to say hatred, but I swore a kind of like an oath of, like, I just don’t like Michigan football. But I think of Michigan Stadium, it’s got 100,000 people. It’s this huge stadium. And you have… It’s a one bowl of 100,000 people, actually, 110,000, 115,000 people sitting in the stadium. And I think, “Okay. In that group, 115,000 people, you might have 7,000 people, you might have 6,500 people, you might have 8,500 people who have issues like this. It’s not like, you know, somebody who has said is Sitosterolemia, what they say about say about Sitosterolemia is that it’s underdiagnosed. And, you know, for people that have listened to previous episodes of the podcast, you look at somebody… We’ve talked… I’ve had on Amber O’Hearn who is the founder of the Carnivore Diet, and you have on somebody like her and you talk about why are some people having such success on the Carnivore Diet. Somebody like Mikhaila Peterson who is a famous kind of a dieter. And her LDL particle count on a Carnivore Diet is in the 600s, which is…it’s really low. And I wonder with somebody like that, if she’s… What’s the one thing that all these plants have in common? They have in common, is they have sterol.

Dr. Aaron: Yeah.

John: And so, you know, I’d love to know. I actually submitted a proposal to speak at the Carnivore Diet conference in May in Boulder because I wanna talk about this very issue, I wanna do a presentation on this issue.

Dr. Aaron: It’s brave of you.

John: I’ll be there. If Amber O’Hearn… If Amber O’Hearn will have me I’ll be there and I’m gonna give a presentation on this very issue at the Carnivore Diet conference.

Dr. Aaron: I think you’re setting yourself up to be heckled by vegans, carnivores, everyone. You’re kind of the man in the middle getting heckled by everyone.

John: Yeah. I did Shark Tank. I can handle…

Dr. Aaron: You can handle it.

John: I think I can handle the Carnivore Diet conference, plus, I was also a litigator. And if you’ve been in federal court and you’ve dealt with a judge that doesn’t like you, I don’t think the Carnivore Diet conference is gonna be that big of a deal. But back to this whole thing of like, okay, so you have this issue and it’s like the best thing to do… What do you do? Because if you are somebody that’s absorbing sterol and sterol is going into your LDL cholesterol count and sterol could be a reason why you’re a little bit dyslipidemic, then that’s an issue where it does turn to Zetia. Although I will say that on some of my best blood tests where I’ve still had LDL cholesterol in the green, which, where it is now for me, I think is like low 90s, was when my sitosterol was probably the most elevated I’ve seen it. But I’m not getting it tested every time because not everybody tests for it. But if you do have that, the thing that you do is you do this drug…you take Zetia. That’s what you do. And it’s not a statin, it doesn’t stop the synthesis of cholesterol in the body. It’s supposed to just help you basically repel absorption of these sterols and of cholesterol, and I really wanted to see what my blood would look like if I did that. The problem is, I’m walking to a dinner party at a friend’s house that I’ve been really looking forward to and I’m literally thinking to myself as I’m going there that I am not sure when I arrive with people that I have never met before in my life that I’m gonna be able to effectively swallow my food, because it comes back to this throat issue. This is why some of these pharmaceutical drugs are so freaking, can be so bad because I couldn’t believe it. I took this drug probably, I don’t know, for a couple of weeks. And I should have known when I first started taking is when I first started taking it felt like a bomb had gone off of my stomach. I was at dinner with somebody and I couldn’t fathom how uncomfortable my stomach was, but I’d had a scotch at that time and I thought… I saw some stuff about this drug, I was like, “Okay. Well, maybe these are side effects that are induced by this alcohol.” But as it turned out, it just has really, really bad side effects for some people. For me, it was this thing called dysphagia where a couple of times you’d be trying to eat and your throat irritated that it felt like you almost couldn’t swallow. And so I had this experience where I was going to this dinner party, thank God it’s left my… A couple of weeks later and my throat is still a little bit raspy. But it’s luckily retreating every day and getting better. But I just was like having this experience, I’m thinking, you know, Ben Greenfield Fitness does these biohacks. He’s like, “Yeah, I took an extra… Like, I ate extra bacon and like an extra rib and now my bench press went from like, 400 pounds to 550 pounds,” and I’m thinking, “My biohack here is this failed biohack of like, I took Zetia like a low dose and now I’m going to a dinner party like thinking that I’m not gonna be able to actually eat or swallow food. So…

Dr. Aaron: Yeah. I mean, the side effects on some of these things are crazy. It’s something that I’m gonna touch on a little bit wit, when I talk about my lipids and some of the other biomarkers. So I used to have quite, not quite bad, reasonably bad psoriasis. And one of the treatments for that is steroid cream, which is fine, it works. And then they have a systemic one. But then you start looking at the side effects on it and it’s like 1 in 1,000 people might have chronic liver failure.

John: Right.

Dr. Aaron: One in 200 people might have severe respiratory infections. And I think that is one of actually the major drivers that made me start looking into diet as a way of trying to… Because I noticed that it was… I have seasonal issues with it and I have… Definitely, I have dietary issues with my psoriasis. And so I was looking at those side effects on that drug that made me be like, “Yeah, I could do that. I don’t really wanna risk it. I’m gonna go try modulating my diet, see if that has any effect.” And luckily, it has. It’s had quite a huge effect on the sort of symptoms I have with that. Bthat’s something that I’ll go into.

John: Well, what did you do specifically for diet to help with that?

Dr. Aaron: So, I mean, what I’m talking about is like, I used my problems when I was a student, an undergraduate. And so I when I finished being an undergraduate and I got my first job and I was still eating the same food even though I didn’t actually have to because I had a job, I had a proper salary now. So I thought at this point, I’m going to get my lipids done because, you know, I was like, “That’s what you’ve got to look at. You’ve got to see what your sort of blood biomarkers are and I’m gonna make a change in my diet and then I’m gonna see what happens with my symptoms of psoriasis, and then things like my mood, and then also the effect on my blood lipid markers.” So, basically, as a student, probably typical to you guys in the U.S., it was carb-heavy, lots of pasta, lots of bread, noodles, things like that. And if there’s any meat, it was really processed cheap meat. The veg, I did eat a reasonable amount of vegetables, but it was a very samey diet we’re talking about, like maybe tomatoes, potatoes, nothing…not a lot of variety, and then just a bit of fruit. And my total cholesterol at that point was 170, which is actually for that type of diet, it’s not that bad. And then my LDL count was 86. So, again, not that bad. But the one thing that stood out to me, and because I’m a sort of a biologist, geneticist, was my CRP scores. So CRP is a marker, it’s almost like a marker for systemic inflammation. So my markers were 1.3 at that point which is in an elevated category. And looking at that made me think, “Well, you know, the type of food that I’m eating, although my blood lipids look okay, is it promoting like an inflammatory environment in my body and could this be linked to my psoriasis?”
So, at that point, I said, “All right. I’m going to cut out all these carbs, all of these sort of rubbishy crappy carbs.” I still eat pasta and stuff. Just I go for the whole meal variety and I’ve dropped the amount. I eat a lot of meat, much better quality meat. So, we’re talking organic meat, but also reducing the quantity dramatically. And then just massively increasing the variety of fruit and vegetables that I eat to try and get as many micronutrients, as many different things as possible. And doing that my lipids changed a little bit. So, my total cholesterol went down from 178 to 154 and my LDL went from 86 to 74. And so at that point, I was like, “Well, okay, this isn’t really a great change, but at least it’s kind of going in the right direction.” And it’s only later that I’ve been able to actually when I’ve been looking at my genetics, I’ve maybe found out the reason that why I don’t really…my lipids seem to be reasonable, whatever kind of diet I have. But the really cool one was that my CRP dropped. It basically halved by cutting out all of those carbs, cutting out all that processed meat. And at the same time, I’ve really noticed a dramatic change in my psoriasis, so all the issues kind of went away. I still have some seasonal issues when it gets cold, it kind of comes back a little bit, but during the summer I don’t have any issues with it at all. And I put that right on to my diet with the reduction in systemic inflammation.

John: What did your CRP go to? You said it went from 1.3…

Dr. Aaron: I said it went to 1.3 down to 0.7. And 0.7… So I think 1 is about the…is the threshold for what people would consider… Anything below 1 would be considered healthy.

John: That’s in the green on Cleveland Heart and also Boston Heart, yeah.

Dr. Aaron: Yeah. So I think… Because yours are really low, aren’t they? I remember looking at yours. Yours were like 0.2?

John: Yeah. My CRP is 0.2.

Dr. Aaron: Yeah. So, I mean, even… We probably, nowadays you and I probably eat similar diet type.

John: Yeah.

Dr. Aaron: Mine is still having…now even reduced the amount of meat, mine is still elevated at about 0.6. So, it seems that I’m gonna have some genetic markers or possibly because there are small changes in my diet. That mean that I have just a more systemic inflammatory state in my body because of my diet and that can manifest as a few different symptoms. But the flip side of that is that my lipid scores always look really good. My LDL is always well under 100. My HDL, although, you know, the debate about whether HDL is actually a good marker or not is still kind of… Well, actually it’s not kind of out there. It’s just coming out there that now whether you should be aiming to elevate your HDL. But my LDL and total cholesterol are both really, really good. And even when I was eating a not very good diet, they were in that really good ballpark. And then when we got to talking and we set up this nutrition plan for the first time, I’m one of the lucky few that comes out as a sort of mosaic diet type.

John: A rarified.

Dr. Aaron: Yeah. I mean, how…

John: A special…

Dr. Aaron: Do we know how many there are?

John: We get some mosaics.

Dr. Aaron: It’s not the rarest, is it?

John: it’s not the rarest, but we actually get it. I’m not saying there’s a lot of them, but there’s definitely… We definitely see mosaic. I couldn’t tell you right now exactly the number, but there’s definitely people out there that are mosaics and it’s not that uncommon.

Dr. Aaron: So what the mosaic diet is just… The joke is that you can basically eat whatever you want. It’s not quite that flexible. You really shouldn’t go out and eat trashy food just because you can, but I can have a relatively flexible carb intake, I can have a relatively flexible fat intake, you know, I don’t have to avoid saturated fat or anything like that. And my lipid scores, basically respect that. I can change my diet quite significantly and they don’t really fluctuate. They’re always in the green. But then there’s other markers out there like the CRP markers which do change. That’s something that I’d really love to investigate more on our diet plan, but the snips for things like inflammatory systemic inflammation aren’t really out there, but it could be a byproduct of some other nutritional effects going on there. It’s something that I’d be really keen to dig into because from personal level, I also think that’d be really interesting from the diet plan. And it might actually tie in with these histamine snips. So my V5 panels for 23andMe is… I got a good histamine score, but it’s not entirely complete. It’d be really cool to see on this new panel where I get much better coverage. Maybe I actually do have issues with my histamine that could be driving this and maybe then I actually do need to… That maybe shift me out of the mosaic category and says, “Okay. Yeah, you don’t have to worry about your fats, but maybe you have to worry about your histamine and shifts me into another dietary category.”

John: I think that if you shifted out of Mosaic, you’d be in California Keto territory or… I’d have to look that up. I’m not sure. That’s super interesting. So, I mean, your lipids went up. What genetic markers do you think are… Because you’ve said that you carry one APOE e4 copy, right?

Dr. Aaron: Yep.

John: And so you’re still keeping your lipids in very good range, which means that you must have some other markers that are really robust in terms of fat metabolism.

Dr. Aaron: I mean, so the fat snips is our biggest category. We have, like, a huge coverage that I think it’s 25-plus snips. And I can’t remember off the top of my head, but I think I have no homozygotes for the risk alleles at all.

John: Okay.

Dr. Aaron: And I have a couple of heterozygotes, so where I carry one copy of the risk allele. So I think I have a really low score for macronutrients. Even though I do carry one of the alleles for APOE e4 like you talked about, which in some people we’ve seen can cause quite a big risk, but I think that is being outweighed by the fact that all my other fat snips are so low.

John: Sure. Yeah, I think that seems right. So that’s interesting. So when you get out of balance in terms of cardiovascular labs, you’re seeing an increase in C reactive protein.

Dr. Aaron: Yeah.

John: When I get out of balance on these things, I’m getting dyslipidemic on… I mean, my LDL cholesterol has never been in the red. I mean, the highest I’ve ever seen, it’s like 110, but it basically lives between 90 and 110.

Dr. Aaron: But if you went on to a, let’s call it a trashy student diet for…

John: Well, I did that for the blog and just for my own curiosity. I had some friends in town, you came here, I’m seeing a delicious little bit of mezcal that you have there that people who are here with us in the room are able to sample. Not me because I still have this issue with my throat because of this terrible reaction I had to this pharmaceutical drug that I took. But I tend to get out of range in that way. And then, also this is an interesting things. I drank a ton of mezcal and I ate pizza with friends like for a whole weekend, like, just really going, talk about trashy student diet, like, just went off on the food. And then I was curious, like… Because usually I’m getting my blood test and I’m thinking, like, a couple of days in advance, I’m like, “Okay. I know I’m getting my blood test and I’m gonna kind of dial it in even a little bit more and see how it goes.” And I went and I got it done, and immediately after this, like, immediately after my blood looked terrible. I actually felt really bad that I’d done that to myself. I felt really guilty about it. I was just… I felt I kind of wept for my own body a little bit. I was just like, “Man, I really wish I would have done that.” But what I saw is actually my triglycerides were off the charts high. I mean, I had… I pushed them and I blogged about this. I had them at… They were at, like, in the 277 I have right here. I put them at 277. My particle count was off the charts high. And then I went back on a more reasonable diet and I completely remedied. In terms of being in the green on these labs, you know, I took them all back to the green. So, I brought… The triglycerides went back down to 98, which some, I think low carb people listening would probably consider still to be, you know, higher than they would wanna see.

Dr. Aaron: Based on our “Game Changers” podcasts, what did your blood look like after that?

John: Oh, in terms of like the actual viscosity of the blood?

Dr. Aaron: Was it… Yeah.

John: I don’t even remember seeing. I’m sure it probably looked… It probably didn’t look great. But I also had a huge drop. I don’t know if this is showing here. I’m going to see VLDL, but my VLDL… When my triglycerides were really high, my VLDL was also really high, which makes sense because VLDL are triglyceride-rich and they’re shuttling around all that extra triglyceride and trying to get rid of them. And when I just got things under control and just started eating differently, my VLDL went way down. I think it went… I just… I wish I had it in… I don’t know why I don’t have it in front of me here, but do you have it?

Dr. Aaron: Yeah, yeah.

John: Okay. Cool.

Dr. Aaron: I’ll just turn it around so you can see.

John: Yeah. So the VLDL went from… I was at 10 and then I went to less than 1.5. So I dropped my VLDL by huge multiples.

Dr. Aaron: I might say that ties in really closely with your triglycerides as well.

John: Yeah. And that’s the thing that I think is kind of the Achilles’ heel of the whole lean mass hyper responder argument and that a lot of these low carbon through ZS offer which is VLDL is contributing to upticks based on remnant cholesterol in people that are very insulin-sensitive, and then have gotten their triglycerides under control eating a very low carb diet and the VLDL pathway spinning so quickly that at the end of that pathway sits remnant cholesterol sufficient to drive people to massive upticks in LDL cholesterol. I think that that’s just not correct. But…

Dr. Aaron: I mean, the long term effects of that as well, because I know it’ll be interesting to see what happens in 5 years, 10 years time with these people and what are we gonna get stories coming out of massive… Well, we’ll see. I guess we’ll see.

John: We’ll see. Look, I mean, I think we can all agree, it’s just we were talking about probability maybe. There is this thing of like the healthy user bias. Maybe if you’re just really taking care of yourself and all these other ways. But then you think about it and you talk to somebody like Gerald Holbrook who we had on the podcast, we interviewed, and he was having just all sorts of signs that his body wasn’t really responding well to this diet. He was probably somebody you’d consider a lean mass hyper responder. My understanding is also that even though the VLDL ultimately can become LDL that are cholesterol-carrying LDL particles, not all of the VLDL turned into cholesterol remnant particles.

Dr. Aaron: That’s right, yes.

John: And so if that’s the case, then I just don’t know how you get huge upticks in LDL cholesterol in terms of the actual amount of it from a particle that goes down under the conditions that are being studied by those lean mass hyper responders. So, you can see it in my… I’m probably kind of a lean mass hyper responder. And my VLDL when my triglycerides were high, when I was basically abusing my body with partying and eating pizza, my blood looks terrible and my VLDL super high, and then I get my triglycerides even back just a little bit under control, in the green, and boom, my VLDL is non-existent. So, yeah.

Dr. Aaron: I mean, one of the really cool things with your scores would be how quickly you get back into that green zone. Because I know your tests are quite far apart, but it’d be really cool to almost watch it in like real-time. Is it like… Is it a day? Is it a week? Is it a month? How long does it take you to get back into that? And that’d be really cool to see.

John: Yeah, it would be. And a lot of this stuff with people’s blood work is almost like Bitcoin charts. I mean, you think about it, like, “Oh, Bitcoin is worth this. Oh, Bitcoin is worth that.” Well, it’s like, “Okay. Well, Bitcoin… The value of Bitcoin changes very quickly based on a lot of different factors.” So somebody that goes gets their blood work done once a year and they see, “Oh, I’m great.” But if they’re not getting their blood work done at a time when they were doing something that was their equivalent of the binge. Like for me, I still walk around when I was in college. I was in fraternities. Even when I used to live in New York, I would drink and party all the time. So I was walking around with those markers probably just doing stuff that I thought was harmless like eating pizza and just having some drinks. I mean, look, if you’re listening at home, look, we all do die. It’s not like we’re gonna avoid… It’s not like, “Oh, the control group that didn’t do that is gonna live to be 275, and then the people that are drinking beer and eating pizza are gonna die when they’re 50.” Not quite, but we are talking about quality of life and potential for longevity. And so I just feel like at the end of the day if you have the opportunity and you have the resources you have to get your blood work done a lot.

Dr. Aaron: Yeah.

John: Maybe I should go on like on a super low sterol diet and see what everything looks like because…

Dr. Aaron: I mean, that would be a tough diet to follow.

John: Yeah. I mean, not zero sterol. I mean, when I think low sterol, I think of just like the gratuitous sterol, like avocado, almond butter, a ton of nuts and seeds and try to get rid as much vegetable oil as possible. You’re never gonna get rid of sterol and nor do you necessarily need to based on the science. This, what the studies tell you is that when it gets in the red, it’s a problem. Also, if you have LP(a) because there’s that LP(a) study that I’ve talked about a lot where it shows that LP(a) binds preferentially to these oxidize phospholipids, which is an interesting thing, but…

Dr. Aaron: I mean, that’s a really cool blood test, though. It’s cool that you can get that. Unfortunately, I’ve not found anywhere that will do that for me in the UK because it’d be really cool to see that for me as well.

John: The LP(a)?

Dr. Aaron: Yeah, yeah.

John: Yeah. It would. I think it kind of hides out in the LDL cholesterol number until you break it out. So I would assume that if your LDL cholesterol is really low that you probably wouldn’t be somebody that would have that.

Dr. Aaron: Yeah. But it’d be really cool just to see with my CRP numbers just because I feel like there could be a correlation with maybe the inflammation there somehow. But unfortunately, I can’t get them tested so I can’t see. Hopefully, something will come out.

John: Do you carry the snips for LPA, though?

Dr. Aaron: I’ve got off the top of my head. No, no, actually I don’t think. I think maybe that’s one of the ones where I have… I’m heterozygotes for one of the snips, but just for one of them.

John: Did you ever have your particle count?

Dr. Aaron: So I had the particle count for my very last test. I can’t remember what it was, but it was low. So it was fine.

John: Was it in the 800s?

Dr. Aaron: I think it was possibly 850 sounds like it’s ringing a bell. I don’t have it in front of me, but…

John: Right. Yeah, because as I’m looking even at this last blood test of mine, I have LDL cholesterol 96, triglycerides 98. And triglycerides are a bit high there. I think the triglycerides stand out to me maybe even a little bit more than that LDL cholesterol number. Total cholesterol 172, HDL 57. But I have a slight discordance between the particle count and the LDL and triglyceride numbers, meaning, the LDL cholesterol and the triglycerides are in the green and according to these labs. But the LDL particle count is slightly elevated at 1,300. So, I think what’s actually probably in those particle, I… If I had to guess I’d say that those particles are probably pretty triglyceride-rich.

Dr. Aaron: Yeah. I mean, because, like you said, your VLDL tend to trend high as well, so that…

John: When I’m eating, but that was when I was really eating, like, just…

Dr. Aaron: So, even when you’re on your healthy diet. Yeah.

John: I think you’d be hard-pressed to find somebody that didn’t have the elevated VLDL eating the way we’d be eating, because we were just crushing mezcal and pizza for like days straight. So, I think a lot of people’s blood is probably gonna look pretty scary under those circumstances.

Dr. Aaron: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, the particle count’s a really interesting one. It’s kind of what’s it masking? Like you say, with your low LDL and your low total cholesterol, why is your particle count elevated? It’d be really cool if we could sort of dig into those particles and see what each one was. And I’m assuming… I’m hoping blood tests will come along that can actually start to give us that information.

John: Well, this test does not have such sitosterol. And so that’s something that historically has gone high, and so it’s like how much… That’s what the whole Ezetimibe… That’s what the whole Ezetimibe of my experiment was meant to determine was, if you take this sterol absorption piece out, what are you gonna get there? And they, were never gonna know because that’s just not a drug that I can tolerate all that well.

Dr. Aaron: Well, so maybe that’s your task is try your low sterol diet and see…

John: Try low sterol diet…

Dr. Aaron: …and see what happens.

John: Yeah. I mean, I guess that’s the next podcast we’ll have to do the next time people wanna keep listening to our blood work.

Dr. Aaron: Yeah. That’s where… Once you get into it, though, it’s kind of, because I’m waiting for test results because I started supplementing with some omega-3s and I’m kind of interested to see if that has any impact on it. You know, just having that actual hit of omega-3 fats every single day, is that gonna push me in a particular way? Probably not, but you just get interested in it, you just wanna see what these small changes to your diet, what effect they actually have.

John: I think that’s… I’ve noticed a big difference when my EPA to ARA ratio is in line and when my omega-3 fats go up on these tests, I notice that I feel better, for sure.

Dr. Aaron: So, one of the other things is, I’m keeping, like, a mood and focus diet. In fact, I’ve been doing it for quite a while just to sort of…the sort of what happens after a dietary change? And the reason I kind of went into that is all the stuff that we were looking at about mood and EPA and DHA and things like that, and I can definitely feel after taking these supplements that I feel happier and I feel more focused. You know, when I’m at work, I can actually focus on what I’m doing a lot more. And fingers crossed, I haven’t been ill since I’ve started taking them, so I’m hoping that there’s a correlation there, but then maybe I’m just sort of digging into it too much.

John: Well, but it comes back to what we talked about last episode, like, you have these studies as guideposts but your individual experience… None of these… No one’s studied you, Aaron, as in your exact metabolic condition with your exact genetic makeup with all the things you’ve done and lifestyle, things that have come up to this point. I mean, I think it’s perfectly reasonable that you’d feel better. I notice the same thing when I’m making sure that I’m getting adequate omega-3, especially this cod liver oil that I’ve been taking. And then that’s part of the reason why you could theorize why there are these studies out there that do show an increased risk for mental health problems when you go on long-term vegan and vegetarian diets. You know, they’re out there. I mean, we should probably… I don’t think we were prepared to discuss them on today’s podcast, but we’ve talked about them. There’s that “Psychology Today” blog that did a good job of synthesizing all those and…

Dr. Aaron: I mean, the problem with a lot of psychological studies like that is that it’s such a messy area. Once you start getting into, you know, things like mood and depression and things like that, it’s really difficult because there’s all sorts of lifestyle factors that come in. But there is an association with vegan diets and, you know, a likelihood of depression.

John: Right.

Dr. Aaron: And it’s… Yeah, it’s really difficult to dig into them. You kind of almost want to study every single person in the world to be able to understand that and we’re never gonna be able to do that. But there is evidence out there that shows that it pushes that way.

John: Yeah. And then the exact mechanism is always so hard to identify. But when we’re doing these podcasts and we’re talking about a little bit of pushback on the “Game Changers” which has a positive message, I really do feel like for the small corner of the world people listening to our podcasts and just family members or something, if somebody were to come to me and just be like, “I’m going strict vegan, and I’m going strict vegan for the next 5, 10 years or whatever,” I would worry about them.

Dr. Aaron: Yeah.

John: I really would. I would actually really truly worry about their health.

Dr. Aaron: We’ve kind of sourced some omega-3 vegan-friendly supplements, didn’t we? But then they were not the most palatable ones when we found them.

John: I take some, but how many people know about them, though?

Dr. Aaron: Yeah.

John: I mean, if you do… Talk about a study. Let’s do a study. Let’s go take 1,000 vegans and see how many of them are taking a DHA supplement because I think it’s very few. Because, a lot of the time in this whole movement towards pushing everybody to go vegan, the vegan physicians want to say, “You get everything you need from plants except for B-12.” So, again, I’ve said it once, I’ve said it again. You take people off the scent, you tell them you don’t even need the EPA, DHA supplements because you’re getting it all from your flax seeds.

Dr. Aaron: Yeah. I mean, I know a couple of friends who are vegan and I’d say maybe one of them is probably doing it right. They’re really into their micronutrients. They’ve got their little sort of paste, basically, that they take every day that hopefully has got everything in them. Whereas the other guy who’s doing it, he’s just gone vegan because he wants to go vegan and he’s really… He just… Yeah, it’s not a great vegan diet, but… And I understand it because for him a lot of it’s about animal welfare. And obviously, that’s really important, but it’s just…you kinda wanna say to him, “You probably really need to look at what you’re actually taking as micronutrients as well and just try and improve that a little bit.”

John: Because it can get… And that’s another… I’m glad you mentioned that, though, because we kind of touched on it a minute ago, but, man, it’s a challenge, though. Because in this country, you know, I don’t know how it is in the UK, but I guess it’s…you’re saying it’s better. But in this country, the way that these animals are treated is an absolute abomination. It’s really wrong and it’s really bad and it really has to stop. And I don’t… Somebody smarter than me can figure it out. I don’t know policy-wise or how to do it. I just know that, you know, part of the reason why I eat 90% vegan meals is because I don’t wanna eat factory-raised meat. And people out there who are like, “Oh, well, I don’t eat factory-raised meat.” Okay. Well, if you don’t, good luck, because you’re gonna have to really pay really close attention where you’re getting your meat from because it’s really hard in this country to source that on a regular basis.

Dr. Aaron: Yeah. I mean, in the UK if you buy…if you go into a shop and buy meat like a steak or mince or something like that, the chances are very high that it’ll be ethically-raised, and if you go organic, then almost certain…not almost certainly, certainly will be as ethically treated as it can be. The problem is, is it’s the stuff that’s in the processed food which might not even be sourced from the UK, you know, it comes in places like Argentina, the U.S. and it probably then is that factory-raised beef and it’s just… Yeah. If you make the effort and basically spend a little bit more money, unfortunately, that’s the downside of it is to get this stuff you have to spend more money. You can avoid it and you can get to the good quality stuff. And for me personally, the taste is better, the quality is better, and I think it basically improves your overall well-being as well because it becomes… For me, part of my diet now when I have meat it’s a treat. I know it’s really good quality and I know I may be only having it once a week, so I make it kind of like a really big deal. I look after it. It’s not like, oh, I just get a steak and stick it on the grill…I stick it in the pan, cook it and just eat it and forget about it. It’s a big deal. I think that’s where we need to get back to with things like meat and seafood is, you know, getting the really good quality stuff which makes us feel better and hopefully it’s better for the environment, animal welfare, but then hopefully also is improving our actual health as well.

John: Yeah. Because meat production doesn’t scale to the levels that we’re seeing now. It’s just not something that scales. I mean, I suppose if you have in the old school a dairy farmer who when their cow becomes pregnant in the organic course of life and then they make dairy products from that, okay, that’s one thing, or you have some cow or some cattle or whatever the case and then you slaughter those animals or you go out into the wilderness Joe Rogan style and you shoot an elk and you eat that food and you have respect for it and it’s a solemn thing and you’re kind of in touch with this lineage of your biology as a predator. Okay, that’s one thing. But, man, the way that pigs are treated, the way that cows are treated in this system, it puts a really big dilemma out there.

Dr. Aaron: I mean, it’s the wastage as well, so I don’t know. It’s veal a big thing in the U.S.? Do you eat…

John: God. It is such an abomination. I mean, I hope people aren’t still eating veal.

Dr. Aaron: But it’s what… So, we talked about dairy there. You have to keep these cows pregnant, basically, but then what do you do with the calves. Unfortunately… And that’s kind of… If you wanna get to that making use of everything, keeping it as ethical as possible, you probably have to actually start thinking about ethical veal. Actually, raising those calves for a reasonable amount of time so that the… I know it’s never gonna fly.

John: I don’t think there’s an ethical veal out there, man. I just…

Dr. Aaron: Yeah, exactly. It’s never gonna fly, but it’s kind of, like, well, it’s unfortunately what happens at the moment is they just get… I guess, it just gets chucked, doesn’t it?

John: Yeah. We were chatting during our walking tour of NYC a little bit ago, and I think where all this is headed as I’ve heard interviews that like the CEO of Impossible Foods has done about, you know, the future of plant-based meat and making it taste better. I just think at the end of the day, you’re gonna have to have synthetic meat. There’s gonna have to be some situation where science progresses where you literally make something that has the nutritional equivalent of animal flesh and you can just buy that. And I think that’s 100 years from now, that’s what… And then it’ll just be like an underground thing where people in the underground will occasionally, you know, like, maybe during a full-moon of, like, a way to access the power of their ancestors or something kill a cow.

Dr. Aaron: I can see that, definitely. I mean, I’m really interested to try one of these Impossible Burgers because they’re not, like I was saying to John, they’re not in the UK yet or at least not widely. So I’m really looking forward to trying one. And I might absolutely hate it, I might love it, but I’m looking forward to giving it a go.

John: You’re gonna do the Impossible Whopper, right?

Dr. Aaron: Impossible Whopper. I didn’t realize they are in Burger King now of all places.

John: Yeah.

Dr. Aaron: It must be crazy.

John: Now you can just go to the drive-through. Yeah, it’s a big thing. And they’re gluten-free now.

Dr. Aaron: Gluten-free…

John: Which is good. When I wrote my scathing review, the Impossible Burger they were not gluten-free, now they are.

Dr. Aaron: Gluten-free. Well, we’ll give it a go and see.

John: See what happens.

Dr. Aaron: Maybe we should go there for lunch.

John: Yeah, I’m gonna pass on there. I don’t… I don’t think that’s what we’re gonna do. But lunchtime is coming up here. This has been a fun tour of the celebration of Aaron coming to the U.S. Glad you were able to brave the flight schedules and stuff to make it here and visit with us. And I guess we’re gonna probably go grab a bite to eat. Not a plant-based burger, but…

Dr. Aaron: Not a plant-based burger and not a Burger King.

John: No, definitely not. All right, man. Well, good to see you as always, Aaron, and we’ll see you in future episodes.

Dr. Aaron: Cool. Talk to you guys soon.

John: All right. The Gene Food Podcast is our attempt to synthesize the latest developments in the fields of genetics, nutrition, and medicine and offer you practical tips and stories you can use in your own unique health journey. If you enjoyed this podcast, you can find more information online at

John O'Connor

John O'Connor is the founder of Gene Food, host of the Gene Food Podcast and a health coach trained at Duke's Integrative Medicine Program. Read his full bio here.

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