I am delighted to have Dr. Gil Blander, an internationally recognized anti-aging researcher, joining me on the show today! Gil has a background in the basic biology of aging and translating his discoveries into new ways of detecting and preventing age-related conditions. He received a Ph.D. in biology from the Weizmann Institute of Science and completed his postdoctoral fellowship at MIT. He has been featured In CNN Money, The New York Times, Forbes, The Financial Times, and The Boston Globe.
There are many connections between Gil’s childhood in Israel and his quest for longevity. One of his relatives passed away when he was twelve years old. When that happened, Gil realized that he would not live forever. It worried him, and that concern stimulated his interest in longevity and aging and prompted him to study biology, do a Ph.D. at the Weizmann Institute of Science, spend five years at MIT in the best lab to study aging, and found InsideTracker. Listen in today to find out all you need to know about the lifestyle choices that will promote anti-aging and longevity.
“My goal is to have an impact on seven or eight billion people in the world.”
Dr. Gil Blander
IN THIS EPISODE YOU WILL LEARN:
- Gil shares his background.
- What prompted Gil to leave the lab at MIT to go into the private sector.
- How and why caloric restriction extends our lifespan.
- How Gil transitioned from academia into the private sector.
- Gil explains what happens in the body when calories are restricted.
- How Gil managed to find the best blood biomarkers for longevity, performance, and wellness.
- How Gil found the interventions to optimize anti-aging blood biomarkers.
- How nutrition and lifestyle changes can aid longevity.
- How the InsideTracker process works, and why it utilizes blood rather than saliva or urine for the testing.
- Gill talks about bio-individuality and clarifies some of the confusion often associated with epigenetic testing.
- Foods that promote or prevent longevity.
- The lifestyle choices that are essential for anti-aging and longevity.
- Gil talks about supplements.
Connect with Gil Blander (InsideTracker)
On the website – Save 25% on Inside Tracker by using this referral link!
Lifespan: Why We Age―and Why We Don’t Have To by Dr. David Sinclair
Connect with Cynthia Thurlow
- Follow on Twitter, Instagram & LinkedIn
- Check out Cynthia’s website
- Check Out Dry Farm Wines: www.dryfarmwines.com/cynthiathurlow
About Everyday Wellness Podcast
Welcome to the Everyday Wellness podcast with Cynthia Thurlow! Cynthia is a mom of 2 boys, wife, nurse practitioner, and intermittent fasting and nutrition expert. She has over 20 years experience in emergency medicine and cardiology, but pivoted to focus on food as medicine. She loves to share science-backed practical information to improve your overall well being and is grateful to be interviewing leaders in the health and wellness field. Her goal with Everyday Wellness is to help her listeners make simple changes to their everyday lives that will result in improved overall wellness and long term health.
Presenter: This is Everyday Wellness, a podcast dedicated to helping you achieve your health and wellness goals, and provide practical strategies that you can use in your real life. And now, here’s your host, Nurse Practitioner Cynthia Thurlow.
Cynthia: Well, today, I’m delighted and excited to have Dr. Gil Blander. He’s an internationally recognized antiaging researcher. He has a background in basic biology of aging and translating his discoveries into new ways of detecting and preventing age-related conditions. He received a PhD in biology from the Weizmann Institute of Science, and completed his postdoctoral fellowship at MIT. He’s been featured in CNN Money, The New York Times, Forbes, The Financial Times, and The Boston Globe. Welcome, Gil. It’s great to have you back.
Gil: Thank you, Cynthia. I really excited to be here.
Cynthia: Yeah. One of the things that I think is so interesting, obviously, everyone’s background interests impact our interests later in life. Was there anything about growing up in Israel or anything about your childhood that got you curious about the science related to aging? I would imagine there probably is a great backstory, but I always think it’s such a wonderful place to start from in our conversation.
Gil: Yeah, that’s a great question. Actually, when I was 12, a relative of mine passed away. Instead of being sad about her, I was worried about myself because I realized that I won’t live forever. That actually started to fascinate my interest in a longevity and aging. That’s why I decided to study biology, that’s why I’ve done my PhD at Weizmann Institute of Science, that’s why I came to MIT, and joined the best lab that studied aging and spent five years there. And that’s why I founded the InsideTracker. So definitely, there are a lot of connections between my childhood in Israel and my quest for longevity.
Cynthia: I think now– and I don’t think it’s just a coincidence that now that I’m technically middle aged, I take a much more profound interest in all things related to longevity and anti-aging largely, because in many ways, and I’m sure this is something that you share is as well as many of the listeners, I may chronologically be one age, but feel much, much younger. Let’s start to unpack. So, you were in this incredible lab at MIT, and you left to go into the private sector. What was the impetus for that? Did you feel you can make a larger impact not being constrained by being in academia? I think for people that aren’t familiar, I trained at a big research hospital myself. I think people on the outside may not realize what academia is really like. So, I’d love for you to touch on that, because that I’m sure had a huge impact on your decision to go into the private sector.
Gil: Yeah. I think that there are people in academia looking at everyone that leaving the academia as a traitor or someone that is not good enough. So, it’s not an easy decision to make. I can tell you that my mom wasn’t happy. She already dreamt having a son that is a professor at the Weizmann Institute of Science, and I came to her and I said, “No, I won’t be. I will start my own company.” They said, “No, it’s not good. Why won’t you to do that?” Definitely, I felt a lot of pressure to be a professor in academia. But I feel that the impact that you will have in the world is much higher if you start your own company, and express or expose what you’re doing to a much bigger audience, because I always like to say that in the academia, you publish one or two papers that may be 5 or 10, but maybe if it’s a very interesting paper, 50 people will read. Here, I already have impact on the tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of a human being, and my goal is to have impact of all the 7 or 8 billion people in the world. So, definitely, the impact that you have is much higher when you are starting the company because the sky’s the limit.
Also, I think that there is a problem with academia that most of what happens in academia stay in the academia, and it’s very hard for the average consumer to understand and know what is happening now. I think that part of the mission of InsideTracker is to translate all the interesting and exciting research in academia and bring it to a tangible and actionable recommendation for the users. So, I think that in a way, I’m stealing academia, I’m reading papers almost every day, and I have a lot of scientists that I’m working with, and we have a great relationship with the scientific community. But yeah, I think that it was a hard decision, but I’m really excited and liked the decision that I made.
Cynthia: Oh, I share with you that my parents, when I decided to leave clinical medicine and start my own business and become an entrepreneur, were completely appalled. They didn’t understand why in the world, I would ever do something that was so risky. And yet, much to your point about wanting to make a larger impact, I do know now, retrospectively, looking back on the last five years, that we both have had an ability to connect with far more people than we would have if you had been in academics, and I’d still been working for a large cardiology practice in the Washington DC area. So, bravo to us, and I’m sure our parents, their concerns are certainly assuaged, and they’re even probably more proud than if we had stayed– I don’t want to use the term ‘small,’ because I’m not suggesting that but I think it’s much easier to stay in what we know than it is to leap into the unknown.
When we’re talking about antiaging and longevity research, obviously, intermittent fasting is a large part of this. I would love for you to touch on how caloric restriction actually extends our lifespan. Because I think a lot of people come to intermittent fasting out of curiosity, many of them want to change their body composition, but there’s so much more to it. Certainly, hearing from a scientist and not just me, but hearing from a leading researcher in this space, I think it would be helpful for listeners to understand a little bit more of the science behind the why.
Gil: Yeah, I think that that’s maybe the $1 billion question.
Gil: I want to start by saying that not all is known, but it’s definitely known, and I’m sure that your listeners know that there is data about caloric restriction for the last, maybe century. Starting from the 1930 with a study in rodents, moving to mice, and now fish, and monkeys, and even in human, there is some evidence for that, that caloric restriction can extend lifespan. It’s very hard to show it in humans because we are living too long, and an experiment like that will be, I assume, very expensive, and I’m not sure that the scientists that will start the experiment will finish it, would need to transfer to his, I don’t know, sibling or something like that. But definitely there is a lot of data in the peer-reviewed scientific publication that showed that caloric restriction extends the lifespan of a model organism. The question is why and how.
I think that they is a lot of evidence that it’s working via different pathways. Some of them, I assume that they are known to your listeners such as the Sir2 pathway, which is a well-known deacetylase that activated by NAD, which is basically the part of the energy currency that we’re using in our body. mTOR pathway. It can be via the insulin pathways. So, there are a lot of pathways that have been shown that they’re actually helping the body to extend the lifespan. In humans, the data that we have so far show a lot of the effect that you discussed. You definitely can lose weight. But also, you can optimize a biomarker that related to longevity. So, your glucose and your LDL, the other lipids, and inflammation. A lot of those can be optimized when you do caloric restriction.
I think that it’s no doubt for me and I assume that for the scientific community, that caloric restriction is a great intervention. But still, we need to research it more to understand how it’s doing it. When I started InsideTracker, the most interesting small molecule was resveratrol, which actually David Sinclair, who is a scientist at Harvard and right now, I assume that is well known, and he published a book, and he is now all over in the podcast world. He showed that resveratrol is activator for sirtuin. Because of that, it often can extend lifespan or improve the health span.
But today, there are a lot of other candidates like all the NAD derivatives, and a lot of others of those. So, definitely, there is a lot of progress. But in my opinion, it’s not 100% clear why caloric restriction extends the lifespan.
Cynthia: I think it’s helpful when we’re touching on the concept of– we’re always looking for the why, we’re always looking for more information, and that’s really what people in the scientific community, there are people in academia and in private labs that are looking for answers to the age-old question, how can I reverse aging? I love that you touched on some of the testing piece and obviously, because my background is in traditional westernized allopathic medicine, I also have functional training, the testing piece always has a huge interest to me. You mentioned specific several labs like inflammatory markers, markers of metabolic flexibility. So, let’s talk about how you transition from academia into this private sector, and what was the initial impetus? I would imagine you wanted to translate some of the deep scientific information, apply it to conventional labs, and then, twist it a little bit, so, that you’ve got your own unique flair with InsideTracker.
Gil: Yeah, I think that the answer is a bit more complex than that, because I knew that I wanted to do something with longevity. I knew that I know nothing about the private sector. So, I knew that I needed to learn about it. When I left MIT, I decided to join a company that done the system biology, computational biology, basically looking at all the changes genome wise or protein wise and RNA wise. I found that that’s a great step for me to try to understand what is happening in the system wise, not only a specific protein. Like, when I worked at the MIT, I worked on sirtuin. It’s one protein. I wanted to do it in more systematic way. When I joined, I was lucky enough that actually by coincidence, David’s company named Sirtris done a project with that company. Because of my background in longevity, the company was very excited to recruit me. I worked on that project. But also, at my time at MIT, I was lucky enough that Estée Lauder, the cosmetic company funded my research, because I done some research in the skin aging and skin differentiation, and apparently it’s very exciting for them. So, they funded me.
When I left, I had to publish another paper. I submitted it, and I’m sure that, when you submit the paper most likely to be rejected. So, it got rejected. I said, “Okay, let’s use the technology of that company to improve the paper.” I used the technology, and the paper was published, and then, I felt that suddenly I have a bit more time because I wasn’t in academia. I worked more or less 9 to 5 work in the industry, and I said, “What next?” As [unintelligible [00:12:06] in caloric restriction, I had the [unintelligible [00:12:10], and I still have it. I said, “Let’s take all the publicly available data on caloric restriction and try to push it into the platform that we build [unintelligible [00:12:20] and see what is going on. Let’s understand what’s happening under the hood. Why caloric restriction is extending lifespan?”
Luckily, there was a lot of data for the model organism. Mice, rat, different organs, brain, and muscle, and the liver, whatever you want. A lot of data. I pushed it into this platform and built a network analysis. Basically, I tried to see, what’s happening when you do caloric restriction, what gene are activated, what proteins are activated? As a good scientist, I hope that I’m a good scientist, I also included some controls. One control was young versus old mice. Basically, I said, “Okay, let’s see what is different between them in young and old mice.” Also, at that time, David’s company, Sirtris, published a paper about the effect of resveratrol on longevity, and they’d also done their microarray, which is a changing of the mRNA. I took this data as well, and I tried to build the network.
What I found, there are around 20 different pathways that are changing caloric restriction. I mentioned a few, sirtuin pathway, insulin pathway, TOR pathway and others. And then, I tried to compare it to young versus old, and the resveratrol which at that time was the best caloric restriction mimetic that was known. What I found for my surprise is that the overlap was very small. There are around 20 pathways that were changing in the caloric restricted versus not mice. When I looked at resveratrol, I found only two of those that were overlapping with those [unintelligible [00:13:59]. So, basically, only 10% of the pathways were overlapping. The same was happening with aging.
Basically, caloric restriction is not exactly aging. There is something more about it. It’s not mimicking the effect of delayed aging. There are the other things that it’s doing. But those pathway of young versus old, even overlap with the resveratrol and there was only a small overlap between the young versus old versus the caloric restriction and the resveratrol versus the caloric restriction. I think that was the whoa moment for me, because my way of thinking was like that. Let’s say that 10% of the effect of caloric restriction is mimicked by resveratrol. I said, “If we need some more molecules, we need a lot of them because resveratrol is the best one. So, the second best will cover only 5%, and the next one only 2%, and then–” you need a lot of them. I estimated a few tenths of small molecules. Then, also, if you look at young versus old, it’s not exactly the same. Caloric restriction is, I assume, giving us more benefit than just longevity. I said, why– or we said, because I had a couple of other scientists that I worked with, we said, “Why should we use more molecules? Why can we use food as a drug of choice? Why can we move the drug cabinet from the bathroom to the refrigerator? Let’s try to do that.”
But again, to do that, we need to understand what’s happening inside the whole body. It’s very hard to take every human being in the line, the microarray analysis, because it’s a lot of work, and it’s not something that is routinely done. We said, “Let’s take blood.” Because blood is a subject that everyone is doing anyway, and it’s routinely done in the last century or so. So, there is a lot of data from the peer-reviewed scientific publication. Let’s try to find how can we find what’s happening inside your body based on the blood? We looked into Quest Diagnostic catalog, and for my surprise, I didn’t know but they have 5000 different blood biomarkers. If you think about it, first, it will be very expensive to run all of them, and second, you might not have enough blood in your veins to do all of them. We had to find a way to pinpoint what are the best blood biomarkers. For us, basically, longevity, and their performance, and wellness.
Me and my team spent a few years looking one by one, and trying to understand which one are the best ones. We came up with a few criteria. The first one, they should be a biomarker of
and not of disease. For example, we are not looking at marker of cancer, but we are looking at marker of metabolism, of performance, of stress and so on. The second, those markers should be moderated by food supplements, exercise, and lifestyle changes. For example, thyroid is a very important, there is a lot of issues with thyroid metabolism with a lot of people, especially, women. But there is not a lot of intervention that I can give you to moderate your thyroid, other than iodine or something like that, you need a prescription from your physician. Because of that, we don’t have this marker. Then, the last one is that at least 1% of the population will have a marker out of the normal age, because we said, I don’t want to test something that happened in one in a million, because I’m not giving value to the majority of the people. That’s how we came with the current InsideTracker panel that we have around 40 blood biomarkers that fit all of those criteria.
Then, we said, “Okay, what are we going to do when we know that, for example, your glucose is high, your vitamin D is low. We need to find intervention for it.” Again, we looked at a peer-reviewed scientific publication and the USDA catalog of foods, and we started to collect intervention that we know. If you are a male and your testosterone low, those are the intervention that will work for you, If you are male, and your testosterone is low, but also your cholesterol is high, those are the interventions that work for you. So, we started to basically look holistically on your body and tried to find all the permutation that you have, and then based on that, giving you the best recommendation, all of them based on the peer-reviewed scientific publication. Actually, we are not giving recommendation if it’s only one paper. We are trying to find at least two, and we’re also looking at all the ecosystem. Meaning, you can find almost everywhere that you’re looking on, whether one intervention will change assumption. But it’s very hard to find it twice, and a lot of time you find that one researcher says that it’s increasing, another says that is decreasing.
We are looking at all of it, and then our scientists weigh all of it together, and for you, Cynthia, I’m sure that it’s known that something like meta-analysis, basically, look at all the environment and then decide whether we strongly believe that this intervention will help you to optimize this biomarker. So, we spend a lot of time doing that, because it’s a very hard and detailed work. Our science team is still working on that every day. As of today, we have thousands of different recommendations that fit to a person based on the issues that he had with his blood biomarkers, with his DNA, and even with these physiological markers such as the resting heart rate, and deep sleep, and REM sleep.
Cynthia: Well, I’m so grateful that you got this concept and really have executed it so beautifully. A couple things I want to just mention to listeners. Number one, Gil is using some terminology that some of you may not have ever heard of before, and I’ll make sure that when this episode airs that we’ll go in and explain a little bit more about sirtuins and NAD, because these are concepts that once you understand them, will really allow you to understand some of these key antiaging benefits.
Number two, if you have not read Dr. David Sinclair’s book, Lifespan, it is a must read. It is a little bit more high-level book, but it’s one that myself and several of us in this space really think highly of, reference is often, and what an amazing gift that you are both working together on so many of these projects that you’re doing.
Number three, the ability to take and synthesize a lot of existing research and make it user friendly. Because one of the things that I appreciate and enjoy about your website is, I can refer my clients and patients, and say, “This is a great article. Go check this out,” is really a gift because it’s very easy for those of us in a technical environment, whether it’s medicine, or research, or scientific community to use the language that we’ve been trained with, but then not translated into something that’s lay person public but it is really critically important if you want people to understand and be able to take those principles.
Lastly, I love that you marry the scientific research with the nutritional piece, because I fervently believe that it all starts with nutrition. Like all of these lifestyle choices, we unfortunately conditioned a lot of people in Westernized countries, and especially the United States, that a symptom that we experience requires a medication, when more often than not, unless it’s emergent or urgent, it really requires a lifestyle change, and really starting with nutrition is one of the most important changes you can make.
Gil: Thank you. All is very true, and I like that you said it.
Cynthia: Yeah. Let’s talk about how InsideTracker works. Obviously, they can get a referral and come to your website, but how does the process work, and why do you utilize blood as opposed to saliva, or urine, or some of the other modalities that other types of testing will work with?
Gil: Yeah, maybe I will start from that. Blood in our opinion is a liquid gold. It’s a gold standard. A physician like you are using it to diagnose diseases, and to treat them, and to help them, to make decision. We showed that if we are starting with the best-in-class diagnostic, then we have a better chance to help people to live a longer, better life. I’m sure that you heard the term, garbage in, garbage out. So, if you start with something that is not as high quality, it will be hard to be very precise.
Now, if you ask me about saliva and urine, I think that there is a lot of advancement right now with saliva and urine, and I think that in the future, we might be able to use them. Again, the advantage of blood, you have more than a century of research and knowledge about blood biomarkers, which you have much less about it from saliva and urine. So, that’s another a limitation of a saliva and urine. But I’m not saying that saliva and urine are bad. It all depends on what you’re looking at it. Some markers like cortisol, for example, saliva test is considered very accurate for that.
Now, how InsideTracker is working, it’s pretty easy. You just need to come to insidetracker.com, select the plan that you want to do. And then, if you do blood, you can either buy the blood test from us, and we will send you to 1 of the 1500 clinics in the US of Quest Diagnostics, and you can get tested. If you’re too busy or too scared to go to Quest Diagnostics because of COVID or any other reason, we can send a phlebotomist to your home or office. If you still don’t like to leave your office or home, we can send you a home kit to your home or office, and then you prick your finger, a few drops of blood, and you can get tested. If you have data from your physician, you can upload the data. We have a platform called OCR. Basically, you just need to take a picture of the PDF of the blood result, and our software will take it into our platform, and we have an operator that review it to be sure that it’s 100% accurate. So, that’s another option. If you want to start with DNA, you can buy the DNA kit from us. But if you have data from 23andMe or Ancestry, you can upload the data from there. So, again, we are not a bloody analysis company or DNA analysis. If you have the data, we’ll use the data that you have. If you don’t have, we will help you.
Recently, we connected to wearables. We have a connection with Fitbit, and Garmin, and now we are working on connection with Apple Watch. Very soon, we will have a nice coverage of the activity trackers. I think that marriage of four of them together, that’s most important because then you have a super high-definition view of your body because you have the DNA, which is a once in a lifetime, and basically show you the risks that you have. For example, you have high risk, high cholesterol. Then, the blood is showing to you what’s happening inside your body right now. You have high cholesterol, or you don’t have high cholesterol. Then, the activity tracker showing to you basically every millisecond, what’s happening in your body, the quality of the activity tracker data is much lower, but the frequency is so frequent that it’s allowing you to correct yourself all the time. Your REM sleep was low last night. Don’t worry, InsideTracker will send you a tip and explain to you what you do for the next night in order for your REM sleep to be better later. So, I think that the mix of the three of them together is the key, and based on that, you can understand your body and hopefully live longer, better life.
Cynthia: Well, and I think it’s so interesting that you’re so proactively synthesizing all of these different modalities. I had the opportunity to do my labs earlier this year, which was really interesting. It was very convenient. I did the top level one because I’m always a nerd, and I want to know all of this stuff. What I found really interesting was that it correlated nicely with things that I already knew about myself. What’s interesting for me is we have a strong family history of high cholesterol. I eat predominantly a carnivore-ish type diet. So, quite a bit of meat.
The thing that made me giggle, and I was reviewing the labs last evening with my boys, I have teenagers, and I was explaining that we were connecting today, and they were laughing. They said a lot of the dietary recommendations for me was a lot of very bean focused. So, they thought that was funny, because I tend not to eat a lot of beans. I don’t eat a lot of beans. But I told him I said, here’s the important piece is that for each one of us, there are always things we can be doing differently to improve upon our health, and I think for so many people that don’t see that correlation with our nutritional choices and how we live our lifestyle overlap with genetics. There are things we can change the things we can, obviously. We can’t change after we’re born, who our parents are the genetic composition. But I think it’s important that people understand, you can have a propensity for a particular illness or disorder, but it doesn’t mean that you will develop that. It’s that epigenetics, does the gene turn on or off based on what we’re exposed to our environment, what our lifestyle choices are? Can you touch on that for a second? Because I think that’s important, there are a lot of people that come to they’re a little fearful of doing any genetic testing, thinking that means, if you have a particular gene, that means you will definitively have X or Y.
Gil: Yeah, I think that’s a very important point and the point of confusion with the population. In some instance like a cancer, the connection between the gene and the fact that you will have cancer or not is very strong. For example, breast [unintelligible [00:27:52] cancer and BRC, sometimes, there is even a surgical operation just based on the genetics in order to prevent it in the future. What we call the lifestyle or let’s say metabolism, the connection, there is a connection, and it might increase your chance by 10% or 20%, but still you have the other 80% that is under your control. So, in your example that you discussed, high risk for high cholesterol, that means that you need to be maybe more careful, but it doesn’t mean that you will have the high cholesterol. It’s all in your hands. I think that’s very important because of that to know that and to know it as early as possible, and then intervene because if you won’t to do that, yeah, the 10% will become 20%, 50% and at the end it will be 100%. But if you know and intervene, you have a very good chance to live to 100 and don’t have an issue with the high cholesterol or with the diabetes if you have risk of high glucose.
That’s why I think that the genetics is important but that’s not the end of the story. It just the beginning. It’s your potential. If you will monitor your genetics and then monitor your blood and be sure, “Hey, my glucose starting to inch up. I need to be more careful,” and there are so many different interventions to optimize the glucose. You mentioned beans. It’s good for glucose and for cholesterol. I’m exactly like you, I really hated beans before. Now, I’m eating beans, because I know that it’s my superfood. It’s not like if you will read the men’s journal or women journal, kale is the superfood, but it’s not superfood for all of us. It’s superfood because one dietitian decided that is superfood. But it might not be good for me. So, what is important is to understand what are the issue that you have, and then, what are the best interventions for you nutrition wise in order to optimize your health and wellness.
Cynthia: I think that’s really important here, the bio-individuality piece, I say that term quite a bit, but it really is critically important. What may work well for you may not work well for me. I affectionately call kale, killer kale, because it’s high in oxalates, and for a lot of people they want to go overboard with kale smoothies, and spinach smoothies, and celery smoothies or juices. I remind them that may work for a portion of the population. Yes, those are intrinsically healthier foods, but they may not work for everyone. So, I think that’s a really critically important distinction.
Out of curiosity, I was asking my listeners questions that they would have for you. One woman wanted to know what foods promote longevity. Are there foods based on your research, the review of the research that’s already been done on foods that promote longevity?
Gil: Again, it’s hard to say because it’s very hard for us to show it or for the scientific community to show it. But I think that again, if you look at the study about caloric restriction and look at what are the markers that are important for longevity, glucose is in my opinion, one of the most important marker. Any food high with fiber is good for that. You mentioned beans, but ultimately, it is a great one. Berries are a great one. So, if you want to focus on that, you can do that also. What I’m trying to say is, it depends on what is the situation but if you want to go high level, I would say that those are foods that I think that might be good for you. Again, don’t eat too much even those, because the too much is not good. We just discussed the caloric restriction a few times. So, we don’t need to eat too much, because then we won’t be in the caloric restriction status and most likely won’t live longer, even if we’ll eat all of those superfoods.
Cynthia: Yeah, I was sure. I’m curious when you came to the United States to do your postdoc work, did you see a huge distinction or differentiation between the way that Israelis live their lives, eat compared to Americans? I’m going to guess, yes, but I’m curious to hear a little bit about what your experiences were like.
Gil: Yeah, definitely, yes. I think that the Israelis live more on the Mediterranean diet. I remember that I went into one of, I forgot the name of the chain, of a Mexican food, but that the cheapest one. [crosstalk]
Cynthia: Taco Bell? [laughs]
Gil: Taco Bell. Yeah, I went at that time with my wife and I had only one kid. When we went out, I said, Taco Bell for me is a once in a lifetime. I haven’t gone out again. All day, I think that just looking at McDonald’s and the Burger King and all of that, I think that the eating those, what I call empty calories, basically industrial, it’s not good. Some of the Americans love it, because it’s easy to go out and cheap, and they get a lot of calories, but I see our body like a car. If you have a Maserati, you will give it the fuel of Maserati. I hope that all of us think about our body as Maserati. If that’s the case, let’s feed ourselves the right ones. It’s okay to eat in McDonald’s once a while when you’re stuck in the airport or stuck on the road. But even there, you have an option. Don’t take the double cheeseburger, and don’t take a lot of fries. You can even there find the right– Even, I think that Burger King have the Impossible Meat or something like that. So, it’s much better to eat the veggie burger than the real burger. There are a lot of options. Even if you go there, you can always find this– It’s very tempting to eat the double cheeseburger with the fries, but you can eat Beyond Meat with the salad, and then it’s not so bad. Yeah, but definitely there is a big difference.
Cynthia: I think it’s really interesting, obviously, during the course of the pandemic, my family and I haven’t been traveling, but my kids have had the opportunity and the privilege of being outside the United States many times, and they were always, first of all shocked to see that in the EU, for example, there are McDonald’s, and some of these American-franchised restaurants, and they always say, “Well, why would you come to another country and ever choose to eat there?” I said, “Yeah, that’s pretty much how your dad and I think about things.” But it’s also the concept of good, better, best. I think that’s also an important distinction to make sure that we reinforce that when you’re traveling or you aren’t able to eat the way do at home, really making the best of the circumstances, I always tell people, you’re always going to be better off with some vegetables and some protein than if you just really focus on the carbohydrates.
The last thing because the listeners know how strongly I feel about processed foods, recognizing that there’s a reason why processed foods are so irresistible once people start eating them is that they are created to be hyperpalatable, makes it very hard to have one chip, just one French fry, and so, really talking and speaking to the fact that these hyperpalatable foods are designed to be as addictive as possible, they drive the reward system in the brain. When you start adding highly inflammatory seed oils like sunflower, canola, soybean oil, and you marry together these unhealthy fats with carbohydrates, it makes this irresistible concoction. So, I agree with you. Keep it simple if you’re out and you can’t have your normal types of foods, really keep it as simple as possible.
When you’re working with these key kind of DNA, antiaging labs, and really helping to further define the research as it’s currently written, I’m curious for individuals. I would imagine that InsideTracker is designed so that people can continue their relationship with your company, so they can upload labs that they have. Maybe they’ve done labs with InsideTracker than they do labs with their primary care provider, and they can graph and trend a lot of the data. I’m sure that was done purposefully. Have you found that most people are taking advantage of that option?
Gil: We had the limit of — not limit, because we wanted but limit because of the size of the graph that we had on the website that we had the limit of 30 data points. Then, we’ve seen that some of our users say, “Hey, I want to upload more.” So, we’re moving to 35 and 40 and so on. We can definitely see that our users are doing it. I think that that’s a very important point, because one point is one point, two points is a line, three points is a trend. It’s very important for you to know the trend, even if, let’s say your glucose is amazing, you want to see the trend over the years, and suddenly we’ll see the jump, then you know, “Oh, now, I need to be really–” even though it’s not yet in the danger zone.
Again, that’s something that, let’s call it the western medicine doesn’t pay attention to. The trend is very important, and when you plot it, you know what’s happening with your body and you see what’s happening. For example, I tested once when I’ve been sick, and I’ve seen that my hs-CRP jumped to 10. It’s usually below 1. That’s what’s great to see that I have a reaction. It’s nice to see. Nice to test your goal there. When you don’t have it, how can you know? So, I think that knowing and having all those trends is very important for our users and everyone else to know what is happening when something will happen. If you see the trend, it’s very easy to find the change. If you don’t, how can you know?
Cynthia: Well, and I think people enjoy feeling empowered. I think that is something I’ve seen consistently throughout the 20 plus years that I’ve had the privilege of working in healthcare and allowing individuals to be able to not only purchase labs that they want to have drawn, but have control over tending data so that they can discuss that information with their healthcare provider and make determinations and decisions about how they want to go about making lifestyle changes. The other thing that I really appreciate about the functionality of InsideTracker is that individuals have the ability to make some of these changes on their own. They don’t have to wait until they are in their healthcare provider’s office. They can upfront start making some lifestyle changes. So, it isn’t just about nutrition. What are some of the other pieces to the lifestyle aspect that you feel are also very important? Not just food, you mentioned a couple, physical activity, sleep quality. What are some of the things that you find are absolutely important for individuals to integrate into the antiaging longevity space?
Gil: We tend to divide it into four parts. We have food, we have supplement, exercise, and lifestyle changes. I think what is nice or not nice in the supplement is that it’s very easy to do today. It’s basically an intervention that you need to think about it once a day. Apparently, a lot of us are doing it too much or taking too much. A lot of the time we found that people are oversupplementing. We see it with the vitamin A, B12. We see it with folic acid. We see it sometimes with vitamin D. When you’re oversupplementing, it’s not good. So, I think that what is nice about InsideTracker, that is not only showing to you what you lack but also what you’re doing too much.
Exercise, there are a lot of recommendation or suggestion for exercise. It just depends what person you are. If you are an Olympic athlete, most likely the recommendation will be more of resting and stretching and injury prevention. If you are a normal person that is not exercising at all, you will get a recommendation that is specific for exercise, and it can be [unintelligible [00:39:53], and it can be endurance, and it can be HIIT or high-intensity interval training. It can be yoga. We have a lot of different exercise recommendation. Then, you have the lifestyle. Go outside and expose to the sun if you have low D, do some meditation, or just sleep hygiene. So, we have a few recommendations that are distributed between those four. We are trying to add more and more in each of them and give the user a variety.
Because for example, it might be good for you to swim, but if you live in a place that is very hard for you to find a swimming pool, you cannot do it. So, we are giving a variety of recommendation. And then, you select which one fits your lifestyle and how engaged you are. Because if you are a person that is not very engaged, we will go for supplement because they are easier. Again, they are not as good as food. I will always recommend you to start with food, but food is the hardest. Because in average day, the average American makes more than 200 food decisions. When should I eat? What should I eat? What is the quantity? It’s so many food decisions. So, it’s harder for, let’s say, a newbie to make all of those decisions, much easier with supplement, but the value of food is much higher, because it’s the basic.
Cynthia: No, I have to agree. It all starts with food. I think it’s a really good point that people will purchase supplements, have a garbage diet, and assuming the supplement’s going to outdo all the other things that they’re not ideally doing for their bodies. Curious, though, this is just from my own perspective, are you currently taking any supplements? And if so, which ones?
Gil: Yeah, I’m taking vitamin D supplementation, because I actually tried very early to increase my vitamin D with nutrition. I ate fish for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a few months, and it didn’t move the needle at all.
Gil: Then, I started to increase my vitamin D, and now, I’m taking a leaky high amount, 5,000 IU every other day, and that’s maintained my vitamin D in the right level. I’m currently taking CoQ10 to help me optimize my glucose, which has started to increase. So, I’m testing every quarter or so, and every time I’m trying to adjust and do some experiment on myself. It is exciting. I’m pretty optimized, but always you have a different marker that’s starting to go up. When you find it early, you can take care of it. When you find it late, it might be too late.
Cynthia: Yeah. Oh, absolutely. It’s interesting. I think most if not all of us, unless we live in the southern hemisphere or southern parts of the United States are probably taking vitamin D supplementation. What I think is really interesting is vitamin D isn’t just a vitamin. It’s a hormone, it impacts immune function, it impacts to some degree with insulin sensitivity. So, there’s so much more to it, and I laugh because clinically, obviously, in cardiology, we weren’t drawing a lot of vitamin Ds, but I would see patients’ reports and almost everyone was 20, 30, 40, and really optimized. We want to be much higher than that. So, not surprising that you’re taking that. What I find interesting is, I would say right now for insulin sensitivity, I’m seeing quite a bit of research on berberine and chromium as two other– Have you tried those as well? Are you just starting with the COQ10, first?
Gil: Yeah, I tried a lot of them. I think that I had if I recall, I’d done berberine in a few years ago. I had some side effect of that. Sometimes, some people are not reacting well to berberine. So, I decided to stop it. But yeah, berberine have a lot of data from the peer-reviewed scientific publication that they show an effect on several different markers. We have around, I would say, maybe 40 or 50 different supplements that we are recommending to people depending on the level of the blood biomarkers. We definitely have a battery of them. Again, I think that because it’s a very easy intervention to do, our client and I think everyone in the world will like to use it.
When I started the company, I remember that day, one of my cofounders came to me and said, “You cannot do supplements because supplements are evil.” I said, “Let’s test and ask our customers or prospects what do they think about it?” We ran a survey, and I was surprised. 98% of our survey’s responders said that, “Yeah, we will take supplements if they’re good for me.” Then, I came to him and said, “I’m sorry. The crowd likes supplements.” Again, supplement, you need to be careful, but I think that it’s pretty easy if you have an issue. Sometimes, like vitamin D, it’s really hard to get enough of it without supplementation.
Cynthia: Absolutely. Well, you and I are certainly living examples of that. I always say, summertime is when I catch up with my vitamin D exposure, because it’s really pretty warm here and so, if I’m outside walking with my dogs, I’m getting quite a bit of sun exposure. And even with that, that’s usually I get about four or five months out of the year, my vitamin D is completely optimized. And then, it gets colder again, and then, I start with supplementation all over again. Now, I want to be mindful of our time today. I would love for you to share with listeners how to connect with you? How to find InsideTracker? Obviously, we’ll have all of your links, but what’s the best way to connect with you outside of this podcast?
Gil: Yeah, first, we can come to insidetracker.com and find more information about us. You can find me on Twitter, on LinkedIn, on Instagram, and I will be more than happy to talk with you. Actually, I really like to talk with our users or prospects, because I’m learning a lot about their needs. We are a lot of time giving a free consultation with our team, either a nutritionist or a scientist. The reason for that is, yeah, definitely I want to help our customers, but I want to learn and understand the real challenge, because our goal is to make this platform completely automated and let people like you, Cynthia, to deal with it your way, clients, or for us. For me, talking with a client allows me to understand what are the challenges and allow me to make the product better. So, we really like to talk with clients and every client that comes to us and say, “Something is not clear,” or, “I need some advice,” we are doing it without any payment.
Cynthia: One of the things I think– and I meant to mention this earlier, but I want to make sure I mention this before we end today. One of my intermittent fasting coaches came to me last week, and she obviously took advantage of the InsideTracker and said, “I never would have known that my iron levels were so high.” She’s a menopausal woman, she mentioned that her levels were high enough that she’s now doing a huge iron workup. They believe she has hemochromatosis, which is a genetic propensity for very high iron levels. She wanted me to personally thank you for creating InsideTracker, because she said, “I might have gone completely unaware that I had such pathologically high iron levels,” and she said– it’s one of those things where she was curious, when she did the testing, thinking, maybe, I’ll just get validation that I’m doing all the right things. But she said, she and her primary care provider were really impressed.
I want to give a plug and just say that, even the healthy women that are part of my coaching team, even some of them were like, “Wow.” There were some things that they had to follow up on. So, thank you again for your time today, and I wanted to make sure I passed that along. We’ll obviously have some discount codes and links to all of the things that Gil has shared with us today. I’m even going to put in a little bit of an FAQ of some of the terms that we use today in case you’re unfamiliar with them. But thank you so much, Gil. It’s been a pleasure. I’d like to actually bring you back and maybe dive into a little bit of the research on gender differences with longevity and antiaging as well.
Gil: Thank you so much, Cynthia. It was a pleasure. The story that you mentioned, we hear it a lot, because when you go to the primary care physician, not because they are bad, but because they’re busy, and they don’t have time, and it’s expensive, and they need to have the approval of the insurance company for the test, they don’t have as big panel as what we are testing. Because of that, we are finding issues of high iron, and a lot of low iron actually that women doesn’t know. A lot of testosterone, suddenly, you see the testosterone is jumping to the roof and without any intention, you find that you have other issues. So, I think that getting tested is great. Sometimes, people come to me say, “Hey, because of you, I found that, and that, and that.” The first week, they are not happy, but after two weeks, they come back and say, “Hey, thank you.”
Gil: Yeah, knowledge is power and it’s better to know than to ignore. So, I completely agree with you. There are a lot of things that you find just because you’re testing.
Cynthia: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I’m grateful for the opportunity to connect with you outside of the testing itself, and we’ll definitely bring you back, and dive into some other topics.
Gil: Okay, thank you so much.
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