Eat to Beat Disease with Dr. William Li

hi folks welcome I'm Rena host of healthcare podcast founder health boot camps and today you're in for a treat because we have the very legendary renowned scientist MD author Ted maestro dr. William Lee he's written a new book called eat to beat disease and you might know dr. Lee front has very famous TED talk on can we eat to start cancer or perhaps you've seen him on the dr. Oz Show CNN MSNBC the Time magazine Oh magazine dr. Lee is a true bona fide celebrity and of course he has served on the Harvard Medical School faculty and presented recently at the vatican's unite to cure conference I'm so excited to have you here with us today dr. Lee welcome why did you write the book need to beat disease I'm a medical doctor I'm an internal medicine specialist by training and a research scientist and for the last 25 years I've been doing what I was trained to do which is diagnose disease and then write prescriptions to try to treat those diseases really chasing the horse after has come out of the bar and about ten years ago a bigger opportunity for for me to pursue which is prevention and when you're talking about prevention you really can't talk about medicines and you need to talk about something like food and so what I started to do was to really look at what is the science that underlies how food can influence our health and while many other people are looking at how what foods you need to cut out of your life I became much more interested using your research in figuring out how foods can be added to your life in order to be able to enhance your health and when you here's what I discovered that led me to write this book that when it comes to food in health it's actually not just about the food it's about how our body responds to what we put inside it and that's what led me to discover that in fact our health is not simply the absence of disease but it's actually the result of a number of our body's hardwired natural defense systems that are within us that protect our health from the time were born to our very last breath and foods can activate those health defenses you created the revolutionary concept or you reveal the revolutionary concept of angiogenesis which of course is as you say at the heart of sort of these processes explain to our viewers and our listeners what is angiogenesis and then we dive into the actual foods themselves so angiogenesis is one of our body's health defense systems there's five of them and I write about all five in the book but angiogenesis one of them is how our body grows blood vessels this is our circulation which brings oxygen and nutrients to every cell in our body powerful defense and in fact when we have just the right amount of circulation we are completely healthy but we have too much circulation it can feed diseases and is often accompanied by inflammation and we don't have enough blood vessel enough circulation you wind up actually having tissues and cells and organs that actually have trouble surviving and so they can actually die so the way that angiogenesis protect us is really maintaining exactly the right amount of circulation and foods can influence that okay so in addition to angiogenesis another really remarkable defense system is our regenerative medicine or a regenerative system our stem cells when we were kids we all were taught by our teachers that starfish and salamanders can regenerate now turn that upside down on his head because we now know that people do regenerate we regenerate slowly from the inside out using our stem cells and guess what foods can actually help influence that and boost that regenerative process as well a third defense system would be our microbiome which everybody's hearing about now that healthy gut bacteria and bacteria and other places of our body 39 trillion bacteria in our body so in fact we're all infected but not sick it's really quite a remarkable system it's part of our ecosystem that protects our health and then there's DNA which we always think about as our genetic blueprint but it's a lot more than that our DNA turns out to protect us from the environment so for example if you wind up going to the beach and you have a lot of sunshine coming on you're ultraviolet radiation DNA damage if you're actually breathing secondhand smoke someplace that will cause DNA damage and if you're filling up your car at the filling station if you stand up whether you stand upwind or downwind if you're downwind and you can smell the fuel the petrol that can cause DNA damage and our DNA system can protect us again against that damage by fixing itself and then finally our immune system which everybody knows defends us against infection turns out to be more powerful than we ever imagined in fact we now know that our immune system can defend us against even cancer and you're arguing that these defense systems can be strengthened and bolstered by diet is that correct that's right so while biotech and pharmaceutical companies are working furiously on new treatment are targeting these defense systems every single one that I mentioned blood vessel stem cells microbiome DNA this is a real bona fide scientific effort it turns out that in parallel there has been a sea of research conducted by myself and other people that are interested in this field that can show that these same processes that biotech companies are going after can be boosted enhanced by our food and this is done a study using the same rigorous serious scientific methodologies that biotech companies are using so we can finally start taking our foods seriously using the same systems that we study medicines and what do you thoughts about foods as a supplement because there's all these new supplements that are out right like 84 foods and you know freeze-dried and we've got the essence out of that a little pill versus actual food not really what have you found what is better right well I don't think we know the answer to that except that what we do know is that whole plant-based foods in general are the basis for not only a healthier diet a really a more fulfilling life I mean you know basically everybody feels better when they're actually cutting out the processed foods and excessive meat and and eating a more plant-based diet that's that's been shown by science and clinical study and while there may be a role for dietary supplements you know the idea of supplements came years ago when people were actually undernourished and were missing critical vitamins and so the vitamin industry really sprang up by helping to supplement some of the missing nutrients well fast-forward to today most people actually have an adequate sort of base of nutrition except that you can always get more by eating the whole food so it's not just the vitamins that you can actually get there's the fiber there the bio actives and in fact in many cases even the healthy bacteria that accompanies our food you can't replace that with simply a single supplement there are no magic foods magic pills are magic diets that can actually do it and in fact what's interesting is that each of us is a snowflake in terms of how our body reacts to different foods how we process certain foods I love that example you gave about certain therapies that were done the difference which mean those who succeeded and failed was a particular kind of a bacteria that was in the gut of the patients that survived and thrived and the only way to get that bacteria was to actually eat real food that can you talk about pomegranate as an example so talk a little bit because I think the challenge we face today dr. Lee is that were some of fadh society so keto is in right so now everyone's following the keto diet we seem to follow different fads you know there was a low-fat diet the fat free diet the sugar free diet and everyone seems to want to follow these birds I think a big part of what you're saying is you have to figure out what your imprint is and then see what it is that your body needs talk a little bit about that well what we know from both medicine and nutrition and this is a very modern understanding is that every individual is different and it makes total sense no not only are our genetics unique but we also have our own individual lifestyles and how and you know and life's not perfect everybody lives in their own existence which changes over time and so you know it's a little magical thinking that even the medical community has that a single pill is gonna do the same thing for everybody and by the same token it's also slightly magical thinking that the same food will do the same thing for everybody as well you are absolutely right we tend to live in a fad driven Society but I think in part that's because we have not traditionally had the same amount of knowledge foundation base fact that we have for food as we have had in other areas of medicine or health for example and so without that foundation which we I think we're beginning now to have we're at the beginning of a new era where the science is advanced so we finally know something about how foods actually interact within our body and one of the secrets is actually what Mother Nature has put in these foods these are bio actives these are fibers and in some cases they're actual bacteria that come in our food and when we eat those foods whole food foods those elements wind up interacting with our own cells and causing beneficial effects and in some cases harmful effects as well but what in my book eat to beat disease I'm focusing on the scientific evidence between the helpful effects and what are your thoughts on keto do you think it's the right approach to beating cancer especially since ketogenic yeah on the keto diet especially as it pertains to cancer because I know you've done a ton of work on meeting cancer but diet so what are your thoughts are on the keto diet and especially for those people who argue that hey that's how we live we you know our hunter-gatherer need a lot of meat and so that's kind of the natural way of living what are your thoughts on that first of all ketogenesis is not a new idea it's actually quite an old idea going back more than 200 years where it has to do with metabolism and we all note knew about ketogenesis because in diabetes one of the complications of diabetes is that we actually don't utilize our sugars and properly our insulin malfunctions and then frankly we wind up actually going into a ketogenic state that can be a medical emergency a crisis and it can actually bring people to the hospital we can even kill people however I think in its modern iteration the ketogenic diet has really been about metabolic control of the body using you know an extreme of diet it turns out in cancer research which is where the best research has been done it does turn out for brain tumors and also for types of epilepsy as well and children that going on a ketogenic diet seems to reboot the software within the brain and cancers going with an epileptic brain to be able to help calm things down or slow down the tumor growth it's not a cure it's definitely not a cure-all and it doesn't actually prevent cancer per se there's not enough evidence for that but for brain tumors it seems like there is some benefit for that that said that's different than saying we should expand it to every type of cancer that's known we don't have enough information on that yet and certainly for healthy people you can go on a ketogenic diet you can actually lose some weight I feel a little bit better you're probably cutting out the opportunity to have a lot of good healthy foods you might otherwise want to have or new even need to have but it's really unsustainable in other words it is a fad it is something you can embark on for a short period of time probably is not terrible or really hurts you in a short period for a short period of time but it's almost impossible to sustain for prolonged periods and as you talk about eating to be diseased and keto tends to be very limited in a lot of the plans family being included what are your thoughts with respect to just keto actually then contribute to creating an environment where disease might fly for example because you're not including a lot of the foods that might use community or that Mike stop angiogenesis what are your thoughts on that the things I write about in my book is that you know it's time to really rejoice in the food that we can actually eat for health and because it's not a philosophy of eating that involves exclusion but really using science to figure out what we want to include in our diet I actually have more than 200 foods listed across different categories fruits vegetables even dairy product some beverages and a whole lot of other areas legumes nuts and so you can no matter what your philosophy is whether you're keto whole 30 any any kind of philosophy Atkins you can still use this list of foods that are supported by head science to be able to find a solution for you so I can you know in from my book that my point is you can take almost any philosophy any structure of eating and you can pick within those foods and you'll still start getting some of the benefits the key for me is how do you actually embark on a lifetime of sustainable healthy eating at the end of the day something we should all endeavor to try to each kids children and so they have lifelong patterns and if you're an older person you know and you're well established in your ways you know we want something that can actually take us to our golden years and not just something that you know we give up on after a month or two or six months or even after a year we want to have a lifetime of healthy eating where it becomes second nature and that's what we do with health bootcamps right that's why we create these online boot camps because it isn't about a short fix it's not about a band-aid it's about really a lifestyle and that means changing habits and that means doing something ongoing for at least 40 days and so for those of you were interested you check out health food cancer but a lot of great boot camps on creating the good habits for sustainable long life okay ding ding ding ding today moment of revealed what are your top five foods that you recommend of the 200 foods that you've identified as being great for being diseased so many good foods that are good for you I really like to be able to tell your listeners and about a few that actually are surprises and I think the surprises show us how powerful science is in being able to set the record straight on foods where there are confusion so for example for angiogenesis one of the great foods that actually benefit our circulation and can actually prevent cancers from recruiting their own blood supply is soy beans soy now so Lee has actually gotten a scary reputation because many people feel that the plant estrogen found in soy can cause breast cancer and you know many women walk around fearing soy soy protein well we know the human estrogen can actually fuel some types of breast cancer but science tells us that the plant estrogen found in soy is nothing like human estrogen and in fact it counters human estrogen and so can actually intercept and reduce the risk of breast cancer so in my book I write about a study of 5000 women who already had breast cancer these are the most vulnerable people and that study showed that those women ate more soul boy actually had a 30% number 2% reduction in mortality and if their cancer was successfully treated they had almost a 32% reduction in their cancer coming back now we know even what's in the soybean natural chemical called genistein that is a powerful starve er of blood vessels feeding cancer how much do you need that study also shows us that at least for those women that 10 grams of soy protein a day is what they actually calculated from the women who benefited how much is 10 grams of soy protein it's what you get in a cup of soy milk so you don't need to actually have a lot and you can switch off from soy milk to tofu to soy yogurt even there's a lot of choices edamame tempeh there's our knees Oh a lot of different choices and so one of the foods that I like to talk about as an example of how to boost your health defense is soy food and certainly in in Asia when they're in Asian countries where soy is popular women who actually are diagnosed with breast cancer are not told to actually cut out so it so that's just one example for that one defense system give us four more okay yeah okay all right so stem cells growing our stem cells and reaching our bodies regenerate from the inside out favorite food I like to talk about is dark chocolate as if we needed another reason to actually like so first of all chocolate itself is a confection with sugar and milk and all that kind of stuff but what we really want to look for it this is a reason this dark chocolate is it's made with cacao now cacao is a natural bean that actually contains polyphenols the darker it is the more concentrated the polyphenols and it turns out those polyphenols can actually coax out our stem cells after we eat the chocolate so in my book I talk about a study that was conducted in San Francisco that looked at people who already had cardiovascular disease so these are people who you know they're they're not doing that well they've got some clogs in their blood vessels and everything and it turned out that they showed that that they gave those men hot cocoa dark made with dark chocolate so that's hot chocolate they gave it twice a day and say eight fluid ounces not very much twice a day for 30 days when they compared what was in their blood from the start of the experiment from ground zero day zero without with hot chocolate to 30 days it doubled the number of stem cells down stat regenerative stems their bloodstream and then when they loved Flo it doubled the improvement in their blood flow as well so quite remarkable clinical study made with ultra dark chocolate and that's an example of how foods like chocolate can activate our stems all defenses I can talk about it third one microbiome yes so microbiome right now there is a anti carbon out there right so people are really saying you gotta cut out your carbs or got to conclude your carb or cut out your gluten or you know so it's one of those whiplash seesaw movements that are out there to confuse everybody including me yes I really told people you have to go with sites go with where the science is that's like the flashlight in front of you or you know be put your you know your your light you know the flashlight under your phone and you're looking at a head walking outside that's how we steer with with a solidity to know what we're doing okay so it turns out that some breads actually are healthy and I'll just tell it two of them one is actually sourdough bread and the other one is pumpernickel bread right so many people haven't hurt and haven't really thought about either bread for a long time but pumpernickel is made with rye flour and rye flour lowers levels of an unhealthy bacteria in the gut that actually produces a toxin that causes inflammation in the gut so eating pumpernickel bread can lower that bacteria and lower inflammation sourdough bread is actually made with a healthy gut bacteria a bacteria that's normally found in the gut called lactobacillus Rooter I this is a natural healthy gut bacteria that we know from research boosts our immune system helps us heal faster and better and in fact can even signal to the brain to release the social hormone oxytocin which is what we our brains release when we get that hug from somebody we love that feel-good feeling it can bet bacteria can help to release that as well sourdough bread is made with that very same bacteria and even though you bake the sourdough bread and the bacteria will won't survive the heat it turns out the remnants of the bacteria are enough to actually activate all those health defense systems as well you talk about nut so tell our listeners and viewers about the exciting news about nuts and how important they are and are they in your top five foods yeah well nuts are actually really important for a couple of reasons they're probably the best snack that on the planet if you don't have a nut allergy nuts actually contain abundant fiber that fiber is actually a prebiotic that actually feeds our gut bacteria so the foods that we normally eat we're feeding ourselves and we're also feeding our bacteria when we give bacteria the fiber from nuts the bacteria actually are healthy bacteria actually convert that fiber into fragments some of which are biologically active and help our immune system and lower inflammation nuts many tree nuts are also great sources of healthy omega-3 fatty acids as well and whether it's a walnut a pecan an almond a cashew a chest that these are all amazing nuts that you know unless you have an allergy look across different cultures you'll find you know whether you're talking about an Asian culture or a Latin American culture or your peon culture nuts are used in many many different cultures as part of as part of cuisine in part because I think the the ancient wisdom was that there is some health benefits that come from this what's your favorite nut and what's the right way to eat nuts because I know you've talked a lot about also it's not about the food but it's also how you eat the food you took you did a great example of tea how don't have tea with Mel because it sort of takes away the benefits similarly with nuts what's the best way to eat nuts and do they have to be sprouted should they be raw gonna put some chillies on them what's the right way and of course what's your favorite nut well I don't think there's one single right way to do it I yeah you know for me personally I like I like to eat foods very simply with with you know with some flavor on it walnuts are among my favorites I also love pecans as well and cashews are also great I think the key thing is that not to put a lot of artificial ingredients on but if you go out and look for these snack packs oftentimes you find that they're incredibly flavorful but if you look at the ingredients you'll find that there are doctored up and part of the reason they're so tasty is they have a lot of artificial flavorings added to them so you know I like to sort of eat elementally when I can and I just love the taste of like you know plain that's the key is actually you know if you have a cut there was an amazing stated they came out about two years ago from a group of you know very prestigious Medical Center's from Harvard and Duke and you know Oh Cornell and other places like that where they found they were studying patients with colon cancer stage 3 colon cancer under treatment and they actually found that those patients with stage 3 colon cancer who ate a couple of servings of NAS a couple of fistfuls and US a week actually had a 50% reduction in the risk of mortality during their treatment and so you know here's an example that I mean they were getting regular treatment surgery chemotherapy whatever it is but in fact the nuts were the only other intervention that it was presented at ASCO which is one of the major Cancer Research conferences and it became a headliner really in the press releases that came out around that meeting going which goes to show that when there is science and there's evidence that actually shows a benefit to food we can start to bring the medical community along with it because I'm one of those doctors that does believe in regular medicine I've seen the power of regular medicine and what it can actually do for people but food is the missing tool in the toolbox and I think the time is long overdue to be able to introduce the role of food that is supported by real evidence that everybody can use what is more powerful food or medicine and how should someone think about how they prioritize both as an example if I already have cancer what is more important for me to focus on especially given the fact that a lot of doctors say food doesn't matter go home eat your pizza you know have some good high-fat milkshakes where'd you come out on the debate between food versus medicine right well first of all I think that the medical the education of most doctors has been bereft missing information and nutrition for decades and so as a result the medical community often doesn't know what to say about nutrition and so that's why as you recap know did you know like the oncologist the the cancer doctor will often tell their patients as long as you stay nourished you know have something high-fat that's really outdated thinking and it's going to change it's already changing we know that for example what a patient consumes if they are a cancer patient can be incredibly important beyond simply nutrition we know that what we eat can influence our microbiome and in my book as you mentioned I talked about the brick brick through of immune therapies which was which helped many many people remarkably for their immune system to wipe out the cancer but if they're missing research has found that if they're missing a single gut bacteria called a cure masiha Musa nephila and this is only a relatively recently discovered bacteria that the immune therapy is unlikely to work meaning that you could be on the fanciest treatment around medical treatment around if you don't have the right type of microbiome bacteria your defenses aren't going to be functioning and you can't eat that bacteria as the probiotic right now the only way to grow that healthy bacteria is to eat food so it's cranberry juice pomegranate juice can actually do that and actually mangos can also grow help to grow back Romancing the way they do this by the way is that those foods help develop the mucous lining in our gut and that anchorman sia bacteria loves to grow in that mucous lining so food is very complicated our bodies are very complicated treating cancer is very complicated and for years it's only all about the medical treatment but what I'm talking about is all the healthcare that goes on between doctor's office visits I have to ask you about acting charcoal it's another thing that's been in the news constantly and you talked about the gut lining especially the because of wall there's different people that have different thoughts around what charcoal activated charcoal might do and of course then we've got some pretty well known experts talking about drinking it with their lemon water in the morning or having it twice a day where you come out an activated charcoal have you seen any science behind it are there any studies being done all the studies that I know oh and I've used activated charcoal for patients for years it's really in the setting of poison in the emergency room we know that activated charcoal binds a lot of poisons really easily and that's a way to actually save people's lives if they've eaten something ingested something or been exposed to something that is incredibly noxious the idea the modern idea kind of a fad idea of using charcoal is an extension of that to say well you know there's probably toxins in the gut and let's see if we can use charcoal to pull it all out you know it may do some of that but we don't have really enough evidence to know whether or not frankly there's any potential harm or danger of flushing out all those other things I could only guess that activated charcoal might also change the environment of the gut in a way that might not favor a healthy ecosystem of our microbiome you know I think you know we are all growing our own petting-zoo of microorganisms in our gut bacteria you know imagine unleashing a landslide of charcoal you know through your petting zoo you know it might you might have like a pretty big cleanup back to try to put everything back in order so the more we understand about our gut the more we want to take care of it by feeding the gut bacteria the things that are healthy for it and not just simply destroying things I think so too intuitively it just sounds to me wrong to be taking something prophylactically that's used in emergency room just like on poisons to make that into a daily part of your routine just just seems wrong like we're damaging the gut lining instead of actually helping it and grow so the book eat to be diseased why should our readers buy this what is it that makes this book so special what is the message that you want everyone to know well first of all that it's a brand new day when it comes to food and health because finally what I write about is that food has real science behind it and that science that's behind it is not always what somebody's on the soapbox I'm talking about I wrote this book too with as a man on a mission to bring facts to people about food because I have also been tired of being confused by all the see-sawing and whip lashing that's been going on about foods and you don't really know what's actually going on so I wanted to basically put the facts out there number one number two I wanted people to understand that when it comes to food and health again it's really not just about the food which is why there's no magic food it's about how understanding how our body responds and this book for the first time really explains how the body responds and how what is the scientific evidence for the food out there it's different from every other book that's out there then I know of on diet because I don't actually present a diet I present a way of thinking about food that is liberating that's not doesn't involve shame or guilt doesn't involve cutting food out of your life but in fact says hey look there's all these foods I list 200 of them that you can choose from and I prevent present all the evidence and if you can find something you like on that list of 200 foods and I I haven't met anybody who hasn't been able to find something if you start with what you already love you are already ahead of the game when it comes to eating for health and it's never too late to start to eat to beat disease and that's really one of the things that I'm actually encouraging readers to actually really embrace that we can actually love our health by loving our food and it's not always counterpoise you know we're people people like if you want to be healthy you have to your diet if you want to have a if you want to just cheat on your dad you're not gonna you're gonna lose your health what I'm saying is that we can actually align these up and really really enjoy our lives throughout our lives because sustainability is not just about our planet which is of course very important but it's really about how we live our lives in a responsible way and we're responsible for our health and food is something that we can do three to five times a day so why not I loved it and I loved the book with that said dr. League one parting advice for someone out there that that's either suffering from heart disease or cancer or diabetes I'm looking to beat disease what is the first most important thing they should do starting today I would say buy my book book look at the list of 200 foods fine check circle all the ones you already like and then go shopping buy the things that you love that are healthy for you and you'll never regret it I love it thank you so much again for your time today dr. Lee keep up the amazing work that you're doing on helping us all get to a greater stay smiling and I'll see you on another one of these podcasts

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