Dr. Mercola – Helping Millions…Literally
Jonathan:Hey, everyone, Jonathan Bailor back with another bonus Smarter Science of Slim podcast. I’m uniquely excited about today’s show. We have literally the internet’s leader in nutrition information, and that’s saying a lot because there are a heck of a lot of people out there putting information on the internet. You’ve all heard of him; you’ve all hopefully very much enjoyed his work as much as I have.
He is a New York Times bestselling author; was also voted in 2009 as the Ultimate Wellness Game Changer by the Huffington Post. You’ve seen him in Time Magazine, The L.A. Times, Chicago Magazine, on CNN, Fox News, and ABC News, The Today Show, CBS. He has provided over 300,000 online articles. He does not accept any sponsorship from third parties or from pharmaceutical interests. He is out there trying to help us live better on a massive scale. Dr. Mercola, welcome to the show, and thank you.
Dr. Mercola: Pleasure to be here, Jonathan. Thank you for such a tremendous introduction. That’s probably one of the best introductions I’ve ever had, so thanks.
Jonathan:Well, thank you for what you do, Dr. Mercola. I know you’re obviously a fountain of information about nutrition and exercise and all things health-related, but to do what you’ve done in terms of just influence… I wanted to rewind a little bit, and I know you’ve been a physician for over 25 years; how did you go from little Dr. Mercola to building the infrastructure and helping so many people like you’re doing today?
Dr. Mercola: I’ve actually been a physician 30 years, which provided the foundation for the information that I have, because I started out practicing traditional medicine. I had a job as a pharmacy apprentice before I went to med school and was really brainwashed into the whole drug-using paradigm. Even though I understood the importance of exercise and nutrition, I didn’t realize it was the answer. So it took me a while to come to that conclusion after practicing.
In about the early ‘90s, I started developing expertise in natural medicine. One of my passions all along has been technology. I took my first computer class in the late ‘60s, so it’s always been an interest of mine. Then the internet came — or actually the web. The internet was developed in ’68, but the web browsers came around in the mid ‘90s.
I jumped on the web shortly around that time and started a website. I just realized that people would enjoy the information that I was learning and providing to the patients that was seeing, because I had seen tens of thousands of patients who had used these principles to help them get better. It just seemed a tragedy that more people weren’t aware of them, so I just shared them freely and provided the best information I knew, which actually built up my practice quite a bit. I had people coming from all over the world; pretty much every day, we had somebody coming in from a different country.
Interestingly, it was surprising to me that most of the time, it wasn’t any different than what I was telling them to do on my website; but they felt the need to come and see me and get the specifics for them. Almost all the time the trip was unnecessary because they could have easily applied what I was saying on the internet and used it to treat their condition.
Jonathan:Dr. Mercola, having that classical training as a physician, how did you come out the other end? You’re on the leading edge of the modern science of food and exercise being used as medicine, much of which flies in the face of what I am informed is still taught in medical schools, and you’ve stood your ground. What made you turn out so differently, let’s say?
Dr. Mercola: I’m not the only person out there doing this. There are many, many physicians, there are thousands of physicians who understand at a very deep level. Fortunately, I was able to connect with a large number of them in the early ‘90s and they kind of mentored me in this process, and it catalyzed my own learning experience. I remember very clearly on the first day of medical school, the very first day, they said, The vast majority, maybe even up to 90%, of what we are going to teach you here in the next four years will be outdated by the time you graduate; and the goal is to teach you how to learn.
Thank God we had the internet and all these journals. With these resources that we have, everyone has… Just on your smart phone alone, you can basically become almost an expert if you carefully research this information on the internet. It’s just a matter of knowing how to learn and research the topic. I was fortunate enough to understand communication skills, and I studied communications for about seven years. I attempted to communicate and translate the medical jargon into language that one could readily understand and apply.
It is very difficult to read a medical study; I’m sure you’ve tackled some of them before, and it’s really complex language that doesn’t have to be complex but that’s the way the system set up. I basically served as an interpreter which is, I think, one of the fields of information I was writing. I understood it from a firsthand basis, but then also was able to communicate it in a way that people understood.
Jonathan:Certainly you hit the nail on the head when you said there is such a wealth of information available to all of us now. The studies can absolutely be confusing. Another thing that I know can be confusing that you can be a great resource for is anyone can go on the internet and find an M.D. who says with absolute certainty and who can provide “studies” showing that fat kills you; and then you have M.D.s on the internet providing studies saying that eating fat is the best way to not die. How do we make heads or tails of this debate?
Dr. Mercola: Well, it’s a great starting point, because I believe that fat is, indeed, one of the most crucial aspects of your diet. I personally believe that the vast majority of your diet should be consumed from healthy fat. By healthy fat I mean mostly the animal fats, et cetera, and certainly some vegetable fats such as avocados and coconut oil and butter and eggs and nuts, specifically macadamia nuts. Personally, I consume about anywhere from 60 to 80% of my diet that’s fat, that’s high quality.
You want to stay away from the traditional fats that were initially promoted as being healthy, such as the vegetable oils because they are full of Omega-6 fats which we have far too much of. And they’re highly processed; most of them are contaminated with GMOs and other things which carry loads of complications by themselves. You focus on the healthy fats, and if you’re having that much fat and have to take something out of your diet, what we’re learning is that cutting back on the protein may be every bit as important as cutting back on the carbohydrate.
A simple version of what I’ve learned over all these years and condensed into few sentences is that it’s best to pretty much have unlimited carbohydrates as long as they’re restricted to vegetables, typically green, leafy vegetables, non-starchy vegetables. If you have a large number of those, you don’t even have to count them, just have as many as you want. And then, have protein that typically is anywhere from 40 grams to 70, maybe 25% more if you’re pregnant or you’re exercising.
That’s the only amount of protein you need. Because if you get more, your body will actually convert that to carbohydrates. We know that restricting carbohydrates and proteins and focusing on healthy fats is really one of the most profoundly beneficial things you can do to reverse most of the degenerative diseases and extend your life span.
Jonathan:Dr. Mercola, this is literally a perfect example of where people’s brains can explode when it comes to nutrition, because with as much confidence, there are well-known physicians saying the exact opposite is true. How do we make heads or tails? There are literally people, bestselling physicians, saying, You should be eating some 10% of your calories from fat because if you don’t, it will kill you. Then there are other physicians saying, You should eat 90-plus, for lack of better terms, percent of your diet from fat because if you don’t, you’re at risk of disease.
Dr. Mercola: Not 90 —
Jonathan:Can they both be true? Well, sure, 80 percent, but you understand my point?
Dr. Mercola: Sure. Ultimately, you can study somewhat and you have faith in people who you trust, and then you can sort of bypass the step of validating things yourself. If you really want to know, then you can just explore the studies and the research. We have got plenty of the materials. When we write studies on our site at Mercola.com, anyone can just go, there’s a search engine box on top of every page; you can type in a topic and you’ll come up with dozens, if not hundreds, of different articles. Each article is referenced to studies that there are links to; so you can go to the original research yourself and check it out, and then may draw conclusions.
Most of this low-fat nonsense came from the ‘50s, from a researcher named Ancel Keys, who essentially established these myths. This is just a failed experiment; because there are only three nutrients you can have: proteins, carbohydrates and fat. If you have low fat, that means you just have to, there are no others, you have to increase your protein and carbs. That experiment has been done. We’ve done it for the last 50, 60 years; it doesn’t work.
We have an obesity epidemic, two out of three people listening to this are overweight. One of the three, and in some cases 40, 45% at some stage are obese. That trend is not reversing, it’s only getting worse; it has been getting worse for the last 20 years or so. This is a failed experiment.
Just open your eyes and use the common sense God gave you. It’s just really obvious. Then try it yourself. Ultimately, maybe it isn’t right for you, but you try the process and see if your body tells you it’s true. Your body is the arbiter of the truth for you, so it will give you feedback and let you know if that’s something that’s useful.
Jonathan:Another key thing that I think someone like you can help us with, Dr. Mercola, just given the breadth of information you cover and that comes across your desk and is provided on your website is, for example, we talk about eating unlimited, non-starchy vegetables. We talk about limiting, if not completely eliminating, refined carbohydrate, and we talk about enjoying a lot in abundance of healthy fats. At the same time, there is all this talk about a bunch of other things like supplements, BPAs, fasting, just any number of topics. Where do you think we should stack-rank? Where do we focus our attention? Should step one be to cut out sugar, and step two… Because it’s so easy to get caught up in the minutiae that people feel paralyzed.
Dr. Mercola: Let me give you an example. I just hired about seven or eight weeks ago a person who’s about my age, close to 60 years old, who is helping me with my gardening. That’s one of my next steps in evolutions that we’re doing, is high-performance agriculture. I’m doing some really incredible experiments with microbes and soil nutrients. I love doing it, but I just had no more time. I was trying to get off my computer by 7:00 but I was getting off at 11:00, so it just wasn’t a healthy approach. So I hired her, and she was the mother of a person that I knew well, and lived locally, so I thought I’d to give her a chance.
It worked out well. She is passionate about this. She likes the gardening. But here’s the reason I’m sharing the example, is that she came in and she was drinking PowerAde. You have to replace your water, so she was using that thinking that it was going to give her energy, because she was tired. Not only was she tired, she has arthritis, she has high blood pressure, and she was overweight. This is an answer to your question, so I would recommend it to someone who’s new to this. The very first step is to drink the right fluid.
You have to stop everything but water, and actually we are doing new things with vortexing the water, structuring it, and essentially converting it from H2O to H3O2, which is a whole other area of just enormous interest. Anyway, we put her on structured water, took her off all the PowerAde, all the sugar. When she started doing that, well then she still had arthritis and stuff.
So we stopped the grains, and she was open to that, and the sugars, and just increased the vegetables and healthy fats. Literally, seven weeks later, she had just come back from her doctor yesterday; she had lost 20 pounds, her arthritis was gone, and he is weaning her off all of her medications. This is exactly the miracle that can happen when you give your body what it needs and restrict giving it what it’s not designed to have.
Jonathan:Given that foundational approach, what would be your advice, Dr. Mercola, to someone who is not yet drinking healthy, natural fluids; who’s not yet eating the healthy fats; who’s not yet doing the vegetables; but takes all these supplements? What would be your advice to that person?
Dr. Mercola: I would say go to the internet or a dictionary and look up the word “supplement.” If you do, you will find that the word means in addition to, not in place of. Supplements are not magic pills. Many people still are in the allopathic paradigm. They think that the supplement is going to help them get better and it’s the solution; it’s not. The more powerful, more foundational, more important principle is to eat the right foods and avoid the bad ones. So the very first step, as I said, is to drink healthy water, clean filtered water, and even better would be vortexed water, water that is highly structured, because it just nourishes your body on a far deeper, more profound level.
That’s the first step. You’ve got to get that right first because it makes no — the average person is drinking 56 gallons of soda a year in the United States. Diet soda is worse than regular soda; we’ve noted very clearly that it’s fraudulently advertised. The studies show really clearly it causes you to gain more weight than regular soda. If you’re going to have soda, at least drink the regular sugar, don’t drink the diet stuff.
Jonathan:It certainly seems like maybe worrying about some of those supplement questions is a bit like worrying about a dirty windshield when your car is on fire. It’s kind of like we’ve got to put the fire out first.
Dr. Mercola: You have to put things in proper perspective. Supplements are used; we have plenty of them on our site, but it’s not the whole shot.
Jonathan:Moving now on to exercise, you’ve done a great service in helping to extol the virtues, the more modern science, right? Like back in the ‘60s, it was all about aerobic exercise. I’m not saying that aerobic exercise is bad, but it seems there have been vast developments in that arena. Can you share with us some of the modern science of exercise?
Dr. Mercola: Sure. I started exercising in 1968, so that’s a long time, coming up on 45 years, it is 45 years. I embraced that philosophy wholeheartedly. I read the book Aerobics by Dr. Kenneth Cooper in ‘68 and he is the person who coined that term. He actually invented aerobics, at least as it relates to exercise. I did a lot of long-distance running; in fact, I got relatively proficient at it and ran locally and ran marathons; but I did very little other types of exercise. What we’re finding now is that those exercises, even though they’re probably better than nothing, they can cause lots of problems.
They can cause metabolic disorders, cardiomyopathies, electrical disturbances in your system; so it’s not the ideal form of exercise. What we know is that performing high-intensity exercises that we coin peak fitness, where you’re essentially warming up, going all out at a full intensity for 30 seconds or so, and then recovering for 90 seconds and repeating that cycle about six to eight times, and doing that for a total of 20 minutes of exercise, including warm-up and cool down, doing that a few times a week will provide you with probably more benefits than working out four, five, six hours or more aerobically. You need some high-intensity training, some stretching, some weight training I think is useful, flexibility.
The other thing that is even emerging – I don’t know if you’ve read this on my site yet – but I started to become concerned about a year or two ago when there were some studies emerging showing that even highly-fit, trained professional athletes, if they sat all day long, they were going to die prematurely, which is absolutely counterintuitive. I was fortunate enough to connect with a researcher from NASA, one of the scientists responsible for the astronauts’ health and who was doing it for 30 years, Dr. Joan Vernikos.
Her research paralleled with exactly what was going on in this area. Because when you sit, it’s almost the same as microgravity, and you get the same degenerative changes as occur when you go into space. Thankfully, there’s a simple solution. All you have to do is a non-exercise activity, which could be as simple as standing up every 10 minutes and you can counteract the side effects from sitting down all day.
Jonathan:Dr. Mercola, when it comes to those short bursts of high-intensity training, what have you found, if someone is morbidly overweight, which is the fastest-growing percentage of our population when it comes to the overweight problem, how can someone who is 300-plus pounds start exercising in this way?
Dr. Mercola: It’s actually even easier for them. Because when I say do it all out at fullest intensity, it is based on your specific metabolic needs, so essentially getting your heart rate up to about 220 minus your age. For someone who weighs 300 pounds, just walking is going to be a big thing. High-intensity exercise for them may be brisk walking, at least initially. That’s all they have to do, is go as hard and fast as they can. They are not going to run, there’s no way they’re going to run, at least initially. But then as they become more fit over a few weeks and months, then they just increase the intensity, and they can continue increasing it until they reach their equilibrium.
Jonathan:Dr. Mercola, certainly there’s a lot of things in our society that are not optimal from a food and exercise perspective, and I think we’re all aware of that. Is there a glimmer of hope, though? Do you see any trends that make you excited for the future, that make you think we can turn the tide against this epidemic?
Dr. Mercola: I’m sure the internet is one of them, which is what helped to bring my site to prominence, and the information that I have. As more and more people understand it and the truth gets out… Because it’s hard to suppress the truth when you try these things and it changes your life, and you know it, and more and more people start doing it. People aren’t stupid, and when they know that’s the case when something works and they tell their friends and their family…
Jonathan:How did we get so far off? Both from an eating and an exercise perspective, it seems like the standard message that folks who haven’t visited your site believe is they just need to cut calories. It really doesn’t matter where they get it from, they just need to eat less and they just need to go do more aerobic exercise. They need to eat less and exercise more; whereas it seems or the science is actually showing that you need to eat more of the right foods and do less, but of higher-intensity exercise.
Dr. Mercola: It’s a matter of static process. It’s dynamic. We are always learning new information, which is one of the reasons I put the site together. I was always reluctant to write a book; I’ve written a few. When you write a book, it’s fixed, and it’s going to be outdated usually before you even publish it. When you have a website, you can update it in realtime as the studies are published, and you can respond to them; it’s a lot more current.
We know that a calorie is not a calorie, but for many people who want to lose weight, one of the most profoundly powerful interventions I have found is not necessarily cutting your calories that significantly, but restricting the time that you’re eating them. Essentially, not eating for three hours before you go to bed, and then gradually extend the time that you have breakfast and eventually skipping it, so just restricting the time that you’re eating to about six or eight hours. When you do that, you help shift your body’s enzymes, because there’s only two fuels you can burn, and that’s sugar and fat.
Most everyone listening to this, especially if you’re overweight – it’s 100% if you’re overweight, is that your body has adapted to burning sugar as your primary fuel. That’s why if you don’t eat regularly, you get real tired and fatigued, because you just run out of fuel. I mean, you crave the sugars and breads and pastas.
Once you shift over by restricting your calories, which is what our ancestors did… Think about it; do you think our ancestors had access to grocery stores 24/7, or a refrigerator? No. They went for times where they didn’t eat regularly. So adapting an eating tenor similar to our ancestors is probably going to stimulate what our own genes and biochemistry is optimized for.
When you do that, over time your body shifts to burn fat as its primary fuel. Then, when you’re overweight, you can start using that fat instead of it just sitting there causing serious complications. It’s pushing your body towards burning fuel, fat is your primary fuel, is a really powerful thing. Then the weight comes off like melted butter. Interestingly, the most profound observation that I’ve noticed personally with friends and relatives is that there’s no hunger. There’s no craving. The desire for those foods just disappears. It’s not like you have to have iron willpower and discipline to do it. It’s just not there, because you’re burning fat, because you have another fuel source instead of sugar.
Jonathan:During that wonderful overview of what a lot of people are calling intermittent fasting, if I’m correct, you mentioned that eating in this way approximates more of what many of our ancestors may have faced. You also made an excellent point before along the lines of the rate of change and how if you publish a book, it is already out of date.
Certainly, there are updated papers coming out time and time again. Are we also seeing that it’s almost like old is new? I mean, the whole ancestral movement, the whole just eat whole foods. Papers keep coming out, but are they just saying just eat stuff you find in nature, directly in nature, and if you do that you’re all right. It’s like it’s really complicated but it’s also really simple at the same time; and it’s really new but it’s also really old.
Dr. Mercola: Absolutely correct. I’ve been studying this for nearly 40 years, it has been my passion. The more you know, the more simple it becomes, the more basic. That is usually one of the principles that I apply to new innovations or approaches, is does it sit with what’s basic, simple, and natural. It’s really exotic and bizarre, and sometimes there’s a need for those, like you get extraordinary conditions. Just like if you get in an accident, you’re going to need conventional care to recover in the intensive care unit.
Thank God we have that, but most of the time that’s not what we struggle with, that’s not what we die from. It’s these more common challenges that we have. That’s the case. There is still a need for this emerging science, because who would know that sitting down for long periods of time, even though you were incredibly fit, maybe in the upper one tenth of one percent of fitness in your age group, that you still expose yourself to premature death? That’s stuff doesn’t come out unless you are engaged in those types of studies. And there’s a simple solution for it, stand up every 10 minutes. It’s just massively simple, which is another confirmation of what your statement was, is that the simple things are usually what you need.
Jonathan:Dr. Mercola, certainly you’re pushing 300,000 articles on the web, you’re a very, very busy man. Folks have undoubtedly checked out your website; if they haven’t, please go do so, Mercola.com. What’s next for you?
Dr. Mercola: As I mentioned earlier, I hired a person to help me with the gardening. The next area of interest is high-performance agriculture. I’m looking at it as my third career. My first career was a physician, second was an internet educator, and now third is going to be high-performance agriculture. That is getting back to the basics; interestingly, it’s the soil health and the bacteria especially. Optimizing our gut flora is essentially crucial. That’s one of the things that restricted sugar does, it helps grow the good bacteria.
But with the soil, too, if you get the good microbes in there, and minerals, you can get plant growth that is just shocking. You’re talking like blueberries the size of grapes or cherries, radishes the size of baseballs. It’s just shocking, plant leaves that are growing 400% bigger because they’re optimizing their genetic potential.
It’s just fascinating. We need this type of application in our environment if we are going to be able to achieve the optimum nutrition from the plants that we’re growing. I’m very excited about this and I think it’s my next career, is understanding and educating people about high performance in agriculture.
Jonathan:That certainly excites me, and I’m sure excites the listeners, because we’ve seen from experience that when you set your mind and your passion towards something, that the sky is the limit. So we’re all going to have blueberries the size of grapefruits in a couple of years. I’m really looking forward to that.
Dr. Mercola: Well, not grapefruits, grapes, grapes. Not grapefruits.
Jonathan:I think you’re underselling yourself. I think when you put your mind to it, it will be a grapefruit. Dr. Mercola, it has been an absolute pleasure. Thank you so much.
Dr. Mercola: All right. Well, thank you for having me, Jonathan. I appreciate it.
Jonathan:Listeners, I hope you enjoyed today’s show as much as I did. Please remember, this week, and every week after, eat smarter, exercise smarter, and live better. Chat with you soon.