Ep. 248 Eat Smarter: The Impact of Ultra-Processed Foods on Your Gut, Brain and Metabolic Health with Shawn Stevenson

Your trusted source for nutrition, wellness, and mindset for thriving health.

I am delighted to connect with Shawn Stevenson for the first show of 2023! Shawn is the host of the prolific Model Health Show. He is also a Nutritional Scientist, an author, and a father.

Shawn was a top-tier athlete when he was in high school. At fifteen, his hip broke while running a 200-meter time trial. He had some standard of care, but nobody ever asked how an apparently healthy kid broke his hip while running. Two years later, he went to college. Soon after that, he got diagnosed with degenerative disc disease.   

In this episode, we get into how his background influenced his career path. We discuss fast food economies, ultra-processed food, the impact of subsidized food on our health, the gut microbiome, and the danger of seed oils. We dive into metabolic switching, the vagus nerve, and how it impacts food absorption and leaky gut. We talk about brain health and how the brain gets influenced by the food we eat, the interrelationship between the brain and metabolic health, insulin sensitivity, and the impact of inflammation on the brain. We also speak about the importance of hydration and electrolytes, and more.

“Your brain can tell your gut to increase the absorption of calories from the food you eat. Or it can tell your gut to decrease the assimilation and absorption of calories from the food you eat.”

-Shawn Stevenson


  • How Shawn developed his passion for talking about nutrition and synthesizing research and got to where he is today.
  • How changing his thinking changed his life.
  • What are ultra-processed foods?
  • How ultra-processed foods impact the health of the average American citizen.
  • Why so many Americans are obese today.
  • Why we need to understand the connection between the brain and the gut.
  • What is the relationship between our immune system and our gut microbiome?
  • An unusual benefit of extra-virgin olive oil.
  • What can you do to have a healthier brain?
  • The critical importance of high-quality sodium for cognitive function.
  • Why Omega-3s are vital for our brains.


Shawn Stevenson is the author of the USA Today National bestseller Eat Smarter, and the international bestselling book Sleep Smarter. He’s also the creator of The Model Health Show, featured as the number #1 health podcast in the U.S. with millions of listener downloads each year. A graduate of the University of Missouri–St. Louis, Shawn studied business, biology, and nutritional science and became the cofounder of Advanced Integrative Health Alliance. Shawn has been featured in Forbes, Fast Company, The New York Times, Muscle & Fitness, ABC News, ESPN, and many other major media outlets.

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Cynthia Thurlow: Welcome to Everyday Wellness Podcast. I’m your host, Nurse Practitioner Cynthia Thurlow. This podcast is designed to educate, empower, and inspire you to achieve your health and wellness goals. My goal and intent are to provide you with the best content and conversations from leaders in the health and wellness industry each week and impact over a million lives.


This is the first episode of Everyday Wellness Podcast for 2023. Today, I have a treat for you. I connected with Shawn Stevenson, who is the prolific Model Health Show host, nutritional scientist, author, father, and today we spoke at great length about his background and how it impacted his trajectory into the nutritional health space. We spoke about fast food economies, the role of ultra-processed food, the impact of subsidized food on our health, the gut microbiome, the danger of seed oils, metabolic switching, the vagus nerve and its impact on food absorption, intake, and leaky gut. We also spoke about brain health and that our brain is highly influenced by the food we eat. Also, the interrelationship with metabolic health and insulin sensitivity. How inflammation in our body impacts our brain as well, the importance of hydration and electrolytes, and so much more. I hope you will enjoy this conversation as much as I did recording it. 


Shawn, it’s such a pleasure to connect with you today. I know this is a busy time of the year. I’m really very grateful that were able to connect. I know we met a couple of months ago in your studio on your turf in the warm state of California, as opposed to the cold, wintry Central Virginia area that I’m in.

Shawn Stevenson: [chuckles] I’m from the Midwest as you know and so I could definitely understand. However, I am not upset [Cynthia laughs] about the fact that I have warm weather for the holidays and moving into the new year. It’s a nice little bonus for sure, but my wife likes to say that she misses the snow and the cold weather, but she would never go outside. When we lived in Missouri, she would never go outside. She likes to look at it, but she definitely didn’t want to be in it. She’s from Kenya, so she really doesn’t play with cold weather. So, I’m really grateful for sure.

Cynthia Thurlow: Yeah, of course. Well, for listeners that aren’t familiar with you and your platform, which would be a very small percentage of them. Can you share with listeners, how you became so passionate talking about nutrition, synthesizing research, and getting to the point where you are today? Obviously, when I was out in LA in September, an opportunity to connect with you and record for your podcast and I just think your journey is one that is particularly relevant given there are so many people listening that may be in a point in their lives, where they’re ready to make some changes. And can see how you went from being a college student, having some chronic pain issues, and having a completely different trajectory.

Shawn Stevenson: Yeah. Well, my venture into health, this was definitely not planned. I wasn’t a kid that just like, I want to work in fitness, I want to be a physician when I grew up, all these things. My connective tissue is through performance, through sports and I was a top tier athlete. My big kind of ticket to make it to the next level was through athletics. I really didn’t know anybody in my environment who again, went on to get a college degree. I was actually the first person in my family to graduate from college. I saw that as really my ticket into better circumstances and everything was going great. I was the fastest kid in school, all the things, and I was at a really good high school. It was that track practice when I was 15 years old where I had my first kind of glimpse into future problems. I was doing a 200-meter time trial, and as I’m doing the time trial. So, 200 meters half the track and as I’m coming off the curve of the track into the straight away, my hip broke. The top of my hip, my iliac crest broke. I didn’t know at the time. I just kind of came up limping. I kept coming to practice for a couple more days, actually, because I didn’t know, I’d never been injured before. Eventually my coach was like, you need to go get looked at. And got x-ray done, sure enough there’s my hipbone was kind of floating off in space. The physician, he had me do some physical therapy, some ultrasound treatment, some NSAIDs, getting crutches. And that was that standard of care. This is called standard of care. Nobody asked how did a kid break his hip from running?

There was no trauma. I didn’t fall. I appeared very physically fit. Why did my hip break? Fast forward, I did get back on the track, on the football field. My junior year, which was the following year, I played three games, had five touchdowns, one, my final touchdown, I fell into the end zone. I was like limping into the end zone because I tore my hamstring as I was running into the end zone. That was the end of my year pretty much. I came back a little bit the last game of the year, but I couldn’t stay healthy. I had about half a dozen more injuries happen over the next couple of years. Now I go to college hoping to red shirt as a freshman. This is where everything really the wheels just kind of fall off.


Within about a year, I get diagnosed with degenerative disk disease. My spine has this kind of advanced arthritic condition and same thing. I went in to see the physician. I was having leg pain and tightness and he told me to get a scan of my spine and I was just like, “But my leg is bothering me. Why would I do that?” I was so disconnected from how all this stuff works. Once he got the scan back, he put it up for me to see, and I was just, like, ready to go. Like my coaches, my physical therapists in the past, just tell me what to do so we can get better. He kind of looked at me with this look I’ll never forget. He looked at me with kind of pity, when I was like, “Okay, so what do we do? What do we do to fix this?” And he said, “I’m sorry son there’s nothing that we can do to fix this. This is incurable.” You have degenerative disk disease. I asked him, like, does this have anything to do with what I’m eating? Should I change the way I’m exercising? I had no context, really for asking him that question. I’ll come back to that. He said, these are the exact words. He says, “This has nothing to do with what you’re eating.” This is something that just happened and I’m sorry that it happened to you. He said, I will get you some medication to help you manage this. I’m sorry son and that was that. 


At the time, there were two hot NSAIDs nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, Vioxx was one and Celebrex was the other. And I was a prescription pad away. He wrote me a prescription for Celebrex. Vioxx ended up now, today, we know killing about 40,000 Americans via cardiovascular events and injured many many more. And many young people included, by the way. So, again, I could have easily been in that number because I did whatever he told me to do. I had no context for what was happening in my body. To fast forward the story a little bit over the next year and a half, I was just in an immense amount– I went from a nuisance of a pain to chronic debilitating pain, to where it’s a scale of 1 to 10.


My wife, I always have to reference a strong woman to validate this, but I have a very high pain tolerance and my wife knows this, but the pain would be a 10 but it would be for a split second whenever I would stand up. This electric feeling, like this jolt would go down my leg and would make me physically jerk. To avoid feeling that pain, I would just sit and lay down as much as possible. With that being said, I was also eating my college diet still, typical university food, fast food pretty much every day and not moving now, which was my one kind of low hanging fruit that I still had when I still had fitness now that’s gone. Now I’m just gaining weight like crazy and over the course of this year and a half, two years, I did get another opinion, which I implore people to do.


Whenever they get a life-altering diagnosis. Please take a moment. If it is not like dire straits, absolute emergency, get a second opinion. If you can, from somebody who has a different perspective, not the same train of thinking. Einstein’s quote relating to insanity, doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result, or going to the same train of thinking, expecting a different result. That’s just not very logical and so I did that, but it was still the same thing. “It is incurable, I’m sorry, here’s some more drugs.” To put the kind of icing on the cake of the story, everything changed. It took two years, but everything changed when I saw the last physician, I got his opinion same thing. Got some scans done. “This is incurable. Here’re some drugs.”


It really hit me that I’ve been going to folks asking for somebody to try to fix me and they keep telling me that I’m not fixable. I had a choice to make because at no point along this line prior, I think there is some nature versus nurture stuff here for sure. Prior to this, I’d been very analytical in my thinking, very curious. I have this tendency to question things and to question perceived authority as well. I muted all that and I think I muted that because of my life circumstances. I come from a place where again I’m inundated with violence and poor food and drugs and gangs and all these things. And now somebody’s telling me, I don’t have to fight anymore, I don’t have to fight anymore.


You have this incurable condition just sit on the sideline. There’s something in my spirit that just never really sat right with me, fortunately. I asked the question that night instead of this habitual question in my mind the last two years. I was like, “Why me? Why did this happen to me? Why won’t somebody help me? Why me? Why me?” It was just like this broken record. I asked, “What can I do to get healthy?” Like, I changed the question in the instant, as soon as I did that, it was like The Matrix. Things started to change in my mind. I started to like, “Well, I can go do this tomorrow.” I can go to the gym and walk around the track or get on the exercise bike or just do something. I could lose weight, because it just seemed logical my spine is compressed. I’m having this pain at two herniated disks. How about I get some of this weight off my frame?


Now because I didn’t have access or I didn’t know that I had access to information. First thing I did was I went to the gym the next day and I started on SlimFast. All right, shake for breakfast, shake for lunch, sensible dinner. That’s what the market has said, but the shakes were disgusting. They were so nasty [Cynthia, laughs] and I lost a couple of pounds, but it really wasn’t sustainable. But by me changing my thinking and what can I do to get well? What can I do to feel better? People that were in my life, like there was a woman that I was talking to for the past few years, and she was in chiropractic school and I just thought she was super weird. Her and her chiropractic friends, all this stuff and doing adjustments and all this.

She took me to Wild Oats, which has since been bought up by Whole Foods, which there’s one in St. Louis, and there’s one Whole Foods in St. Louis. In St. Louis is a big city, and they existed this whole time, but I just wasn’t attuned to them because of my question. I was just isolating myself in my thinking. I go into this store and I’m seeing all this stuff that I’d never seen before and books I’d never seen before. There was a reference book that had all of these scientific references for “Natural treatments for things.” My bone density was low, and I was having this back pain and degenerative disk diagnosis. There were some peer-reviewed studies in here.


Again, I’m in college, I’m aware of this level of thinking but I didn’t know that this would relate to my body. I was in biology. I had nutritional science class, actually. When I saw this, I’m like, “Oh, my God.” I didn’t know that omega-3s mattered for my bone density. I might literally have not gotten any omega-3s at all for long stints of time and this is not exaggeration. I ate fast food every day unless I didn’t have $2 because it was cheap, it was accessible. More importantly, even when I ate something at home, it was ultra-processed food. A box of macaroni and cheese would be a meal, which I just watched this series Hawkeye on Disney Plus, which I recommend for any family, this is great family holiday thing. There was a scene where this assassin makes one of the main characters a pot of macaroni and cheese, the Kraft macaroni and cheese and I was like, I still get that and ate it as a meal. I might do that or a family can of SpaghettiOs or something. I’m not kidding. My body was just made of really low-quality materials. 


Now I realize I need these key nutrients to run processes in my body, to run my mitochondria, for assimilation, for digestion, all these things. And so, I started to number one, I became a natural pill popper. All right, I’m just going to confess to you guys. When I found out about these nutrients, I just started buying all these supplements, and I didn’t really have money like that, being a college student, the whole thing. But then just by me asking questions and moving forward, it all struck me because I remembered something in my nutritional science class my first year at the university, which I took it because I thought nutrition meant fitness. I didn’t know that it meant health and neither did my teacher, and he was teetering into obesity himself.


We learned about the food pyramid and the whole thing, but he would tell people to tell patients and/or if you end up working in the field to take a multivitamin, to get their vitamins and minerals. There was a gap because there wasn’t just one form of vitamin C. There are multiple forms of vitamin C, there are multiple forms of B12. There are multiple forms of magnesium. The list goes on and on. Which form do I need? That’s when it hit me that food has all of it. It has an array of these things and cofactors that tend to make these things more recognizable by our bodies. I’ve got a bunch of studies, maybe we can get into some of that stuff today.


Last part here, after employing this stuff, changing my nutrition, changing my movement practices, and also sleeping better because what I was doing during the day helped me to sleep better, once I started sleeping at night. That was my biggest struggle those two years. I could barely sleep because of the pain. I got better so fast. When I got a scan done nine months later, my degeneration had resolved. I could see the light shining through my disk and my two herniated disks had retracted. I was pain free. I was incredibly fit and people at my university, my professors, faculty, fellow students, they all became my clients when I graduated and open my clinical practice in nutrition and consulting, and started writing books and the show. And here I am with you today.

Cynthia Thurlow: What an incredible story? All stemming from a reframe, starting to think about what I can do about my circumstances, learning the value and the importance of nutrition being proinflammatory or anti-inflammatory. You touched on something that we haven’t talked a lot about on this podcast, but I want to at least touch on before we dive into other topics. When we’re talking about hyperpalatable, highly processed foods, you speak in the book about fast food economies and these are essentially poor-quality foods that are affordable. Let’s talk little bit about subsidized foods, the impact of subsidized foods. Let’s talk little bit about, what is most subsidized in the United States because with the understanding that the federal government and I’m going to provide a quote. Between 1995 and 2010, the US government spent $170 billion in agricultural subsidies to support major commodity crops and farm foods that largely show up at the drive-through window, aka fast food. Why is this a problem? 

Shawn Stevenson: Wow. So, as you know and this quote has been going around a little bit on the interwebs for people in the health space, but I want to give a reference point to it, which today, the average American is consuming about 60% of their diet is ultra-processed food. That’s coming from meta-analysis in the BMJ. Now, this issue with ultra-processed food consumption is even worse for our children. We’re close to 67% to 70% ultra-processed food making up the average American child’s diet today. It is insanity and I want to provide some context. What is this ultra-processed food? What does that actually mean? Humans have been processing food forever, for a very long time and we still have some processed foods that are very very healthy. If you take an olive and you crush it through a cold press, you get olive oil, extra virgin olive oil. That’s a processing of that food. It’s a very simple process.


This has been done for thousands of years and it’s very health affirmative versus an ultra-processed food where you take, we’ll just say I can’t say a batch of corn, but a very very large amount of corn, and you process it in a certain way, exposing it to high heat, various extraction methods, deodorizing agents, add a bunch of a variety of different types of sugars, whether it’s dextrose, whether it’s maltodextrin, whether it’s cane sugar. The list goes on, on. artificial flavors, artificial color. You take that corn, it eventually becomes lucky charms, all right, that’s an ultra-processed food. It has no resemblance to where it actually comes from. It’s lost any connection to anything real. That is an ultra-processed food and that’s making up the majority of our diet. These are things that have never existed before throughout human evolution. 


Now this is the main thing. It’s the ingredients that make up our bodies and it’s scary. How does this all tie together with our circumstances? Well, as I mentioned, when I was in Missouri, the majority of my adult life I lived in Ferguson, Missouri. Ferguson-Florissant, I moved to a little bit better part after I graduated, and in that area specifically while I was in college. I’m not exaggerating again within a two-mile radius, every fast-food place you can name that is kind of local to St. Louis was there. So, I’d two McDonald’s, Arby’s, Krispy Kremes, Burger King, Wendy’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Lee’s Chicken, Papa John’s, Domino’s, all of this. Like, I could just walk a couple of blocks it was all around me. As soon as I walk out of my apartment complex, there’s a liquor store there, not to mention five other ones in that same two-mile radius. So, I’m just inundated. That’s all I see. I didn’t know whole foods existed. There was no organic section in my grocery store.


This particular exposure, how is that possible? Where we have where we pull up to that fast food window? Because that’s what I did, cost effective and tasty and dependable. It always tastes the same because it’s chemically made to taste the same. I go to McDonald’s and I can get two cheeseburgers for $2 and to get one avocado in my area would have been $2.50 at minimum $2 to $3. Why would an avocado that is not cost intensive, it literally falls off the tree if you think about what goes into making a cheeseburger. All the various ingredients, “the meat,” “the cheese,” the bread, the condiments, the wrapping, then the box that it comes in, the marketing behind it, the list goes on and on and on, and all of the preservatives and all the chemicals that are needed to make this stuff shelf stable. Because if anybody’s ever had this experience where they bump into a French fry or somebody dropped between a couch cushion or in a car or something form McDonald’s, like, you see that later on and it looks the same, that’s not normal.


The question is, how is something so cost intensive to make, that burger shouldn’t cost a lot more than an avocado? It has to do with government subsidies and how our policies have been created to make really low-quality food that are cost intensive, very affordable. And now here’s the thing, I’m not somebody that is leaning towards conspiracies and things like that. Of course, this stuff has happened, conspiracies exist but let’s just be rational about this and try to look for the good in people.


My bias or my belief is that this might have even been started with good intentions, which is to feed families, to make foods more available. But the problem is companies, especially when they get big, they tend to start seeing people as dollar signs and that’s just the way it is. Especially, we have, “Big agriculture, big food.” These companies control so much of not just our economy, but also, they’re so influential in government policy. So, as you mentioned, 1995 to 2010, there’s almost $2 billion doled out in government subsidies primarily to farmers who are growing soy, wheat, and corn, which are primarily going to be showing up through processed foods. Something that was like about potentially feeding American families now is making up what we’re making our tissues out of and what are the ramifications? Because that’s the thing, it sounds bad, but is there any data on any outcomes.


Well, this study was publishing JAMA Internal Medicine, one of our most prestigious medical journals. And they were looking at, is there a connection between our consumption of government subsidized foods and disease, specifically obesity is one of the things that jumped out. So, they did a great meta-analysis. They accounted for socioeconomic diversity, age, sex and other variables as well and compiled all the data. They found that folks who had the highest consumption of government subsidized foods had nearly 40% greater incidence of developing obesity, insulin resistance, and overall what we call today metabolic syndrome? Almost 40% more likely if you’re eating a significant ratio of government subsidized foods. The foods that are cheap, the foods that my family is just inundated with, you’re far more likely to be obese. This is experience where we could see it in my family, we could see it in my community in particular.


Also, another thing they noted in that study was significantly higher ratios of inflammation. This was noted by C-reactive proteins, one of the measurements they looked at, so just stacking conditions against our citizens, against our families, our government is funding. When I say that, when I say our government is funding, we’re funding it. That’s coming from our money, our tax dollars are literally feeding disease and obesity. So, again, very little is going to people who are producing fruits and vegetables and high-quality foods like I’m talking, a tiny tiny fraction. $200 billion is a significant amount. This is just one issue of why we’re in the state that we’re in right now where we’re not going to adore if 250 million Americans overweight or obese, it’s not an accident. This is kind of how the system is constructed right now.


Cynthia Thurlow: It’s really interesting because as a clinician, I was able to witness this first hand. I kept saying to colleagues, there’s something we’re missing with our patient population. I worked in ER medicine and cardiology and for me the amount of medications that my patients, every time they came in, we’re increasing their blood pressure medicine. We were telling them to eat low salt. We were encouraging them to eat more heart healthy grains. And I put that in air quotes. We were encouraging them not to eat saturated fat, to avoid animal-based products. My plate and the predecessor to that have really reinforced many clinicians to continue giving out poor quality information that is not at all aligned with metabolic health. And you touched on inflammation and I think maybe that’s the place to start, when we start talking about the net impact of these highly processed, hyperpalatable foods that most Americans are consuming and the net impact on hormonal regulation, our gut microbiome, our liver health, and so many other issues. Not all inflammation is bad, as we both know, but chronic inflammation is problematic. In terms of looking at these foods that we’re consuming and chronic inflammation, what are some of the changes that go on in the gut microbiome, vis-a-vis these hyperpalatable, highly processed foods? 

Shawn Stevenson: [chuckles] It’s chaos. We’ve got so much data on this now, and some of the most distinguished gastroenterologists in the world are my friends now. My friends and colleagues, and just being able to get access to this information. Some of these folks have been talking about this stuff for decades and people thought they were crazy. The microbiome. What? Who cares? Why are you studying poop? [Cynthia, chuckles] Now we understand how again the microbiome is really having a moment right now and how our microbiome and our gut health is impacting our mental health, is impacting our metabolism, our immune system. There’s nothing that this particular field and part of this is where I’m at right now today, is I think there’s going to be a revolution in our thinking because we’ve become so parts oriented.


What I mean is, we’ve continued to isolate and to become specialists in isolating us into sections and we are one whole entity. Our microbiome is definitely affecting our skin. It’s definitely affecting our brain. What’s going on in your toe is affecting what’s happening in your brain. It’s affecting what’s happening in your eyes, it’s all connected. Unfortunately, again, we isolate ourselves into parts and then that parts focus becomes our, again standard of care. We’ve got a thyroid issue, we attack the thyroid, whether we’re providing a particular medication, whether we’re on a supplement route, whether we’re using radiation to eliminate our thyroid. Whatever the case might be and not thinking about the fact that your thyroid is connected to your hypothalamus, it’s connected to your adrenals, it’s connected to your ovaries, and it’s all linked up together as an information superhighway there, the HPA axis but again, we don’t think about, okay, is this something upstream or downstream? We have a very narrow look at things. Even again, in the field of endocrinology. There’s an entire field of psychoneuroendocrinology. They don’t talk to each other. Any of the researchers that are looking at how your thoughts are affecting your hormones, that’s a whole different thing. Even that field in and of itself is very tiny compared to all the endocrinologists we have today, who are, again, looking at hormones and then painting a picture just exclusively on that and negating how complex you are. They’re not looking at what’s happening with your gut, largely not looking at what’s happening with inflammation or your heart health or your nervous system, because those are somebody else’s specialty. They’ll send you to somebody else if they do that. I believe it’s going to be a revolution because we are inherently all of this is existing in the same being, but also all of us are connected as well. 


We are part of the same kind of earthly organism. Sometimes I think of us as like cells in this body and if everything is working in symbiosis, everything’s kind of good. When we get cancerous behaviors, we can start to really mess things up, and our planet can revolt. Again, we see ourselves in isolated parts. We see ourselves isolated from each other and it’s just very unusual because that doesn’t exist. Just even with tenets of physics, we’re all linked up, and there’s causality behind everything. Nothing happens at random that just doesn’t exist. I think there’s going to be a change in our thinking, and when it comes to the microbiome and the implications with inflammation.


Wow. Okay, number one, it’s important to understand the connection between our brain and our gut all right. The vagus nerve is having a moment as well. There’s this information super highway between your brain and your gut, constantly feeding back data, and researchers indicate that the majority of the data is going from the gut to informing your brain. But there’s this powerful feedback loop. By the way, little not so fun fact, really chronic ulcers, peptic ulcers. One of the treatments just a couple of decades ago to deal with these ulcers that were deemed to be really untreatable was to cut the vagus nerve, and the ulcers would go away. I don’t recommend this treatment. This isn’t something we’re doing. However, it was very effective and what does that indicate? How your thoughts are affecting what’s happening in your gut? How stress in particular is affecting what happens in your gut. We know this, but we push that under the table because stress is invisible in essence.


Now, with this being said, researchers at Yale University have affirmed that disconnection between the gut– Actually, I’m going to come back to that. I’m going to say that in a moment. First, I want to share with you this. This is from researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. What they discovered was that this connection between the inflammation in the brain, specifically hypothalamic inflammation and the gut, these researchers uncovered that inflammation in the hypothalamus can essentially cause the creation of excess body fat, inflammation, insulin resistance, and inflammation downstream in the gut. That inflammation downstream, excess body fat, insulin resistance creates more inflammation in the brain. There’s this vicious circle that happens and a lot of us are just like, “Well, how do I know if I have inflammation in my brain?” I don’t have inflammation in my brain. My brain doesn’t hurt. Our brain does not have pain receptors. You would know if your brain was on fire until something catastrophic happens. It’s this cosmic joke I think, your brain that tells you about pain everywhere else, but it can’t tell you about pain itself. 


I think it’s because you’d go insane if your brain had to deal with that. With that being said, researchers at Yale University uncovered that data happening in your hypothalamus in your brain just overall. We just keep it simple because actually I do want to talk about the hypothalamus. What they found was that your brain can inform your gut based on its assessment of what kind of calories you have stored, nutrients you have stored in your tissues. Your brain can tell your gut to increase the absorption of calories from the food that you eat, or it can tell your gut to decrease the assimilation and absorption of calories from the food that you eat and minerals and amino acids. You don’t just put stuff in and just calories in calories–. That’s not how stuff works. That’s so rudimentary. It’s such a very simplistic, almost idiotic way of looking at the human body that is immensely complex. 

Now, we can communicate in simple language and it reminds me of this quote from Einstein, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t know it well enough.” We can communicate in simple language, but we are not simple, we are not close. We don’t understand hardly anything about us. The little bits that we do know, we turn it into everything. This is kind of mechanistic Newtonian way of looking at humans and here’s the thing. I’m a fan. I’m a fan of all that but look at the results. Is it working out for us, as a species how are we doing looking at us in this mechanistic perspective? something is awry, something is seriously wrong here. Now, to tie all this together with the microbiome so, again, with inflammation kind of happening whether it’s in the brain or in the gut, it’s inherently affecting one another. I think it’s important also to just mention you said this earlier, “Inflammation is not inherently bad. We need inflammation. Inflammation drives processes. It drives healing. It’s a part of being alive. There’s nothing inherently wrong with inflammation.”


However, when inflammation becomes chronic and excessive, it’s the root of the word. We’re looking at the etymology, this is basically to set on fire. There’s this internal blaze happening and one of the biggest kinds of trigger points for that is when we’re gaining excessive body fat. The research is very clear on this. Actually, our fat cells can expand a thousand times their value, we’re great at storing fat. It’s an evolutionary adaptation that got us here as a species. Fat isn’t bad, but when it starts to carry too much of it starts to send out essentially a false distress signal to our immune system that, “Hey, we’re infected.” 

This heightened response, this inflammatory response is just like a ticking time bomb for all manner of things to be worse. This is why obesity is tied to at least nine of the ten leading causes of death in the United States. We’re talking hundreds of thousands of deaths per year with obesity being a comorbidity, including viral infections. Now, most recently, it’s the number one risk factor is obesity, because we’re in this pre-inflamed state.


All right, last point here with the microbiome specifically, when we say the microbiome, we’re talking about a dynamic cascade of thousands of different species of bacteria, trillions of bacteria. I struggle to even say thousands, tens of thousands and this community have their own genes, they have their own reproduction, they eat, they have their waste. These microbes do a lot of intelligent processes. The question is, why do we have them and so many of them? They outnumber our human cells and our genes. Because if we go gene for gene, 99 plus percent of the genes that you carry going gene for gene are microbial and not human.


The best data that we have and I was just talking with Dr. Suzanne Devkota and she runs a lab at Cedars-Sinai studying specifically food and the microbiome that is her jam. She was sharing how essentially our relationship with these microbes evolved as a sort of outsourcing system over time for data. Our human cells don’t have to carry and do certain things because we got these microbes that can do jobs and it can share the load, so the human organism overall can move on and do more, evolve things, kind of again, it’s a symbiotic relationship. We have bacteria that make certain nutrients in us for us we don’t have to make. So, whether that’s B12 or SCFAs, short-chain fatty acids, it’s that relationship.

Now, again, we evolved with this today. However, that relationship has become skewed significantly. Where we look at indigenous culture and take a look at their gut microbiome profile, they might have four times more diversity than we have today. Like we’re losing species, we’re losing diversity, breadth and depth. And when that happens, we’re seeing the rise in pathogenic bacteria kind of taking over our vessel. Even pathogenic, I hate the black and white thinking on that because even H. pylori there’s benefit to be found, but once we find something that might be a problem, we try to kill all of it. Everything has a role, but it needs to be in this proper ratio in perspective. We got into this place where we became very antimicrobial, antibacterial and we’re just attacking this ultra clean. Again, look at what’s happened with our species.


Also, last point here is the relationship between our immune system and our microbiome. They’re the most closely connected relationship as far as our immune system is our microbiome. Because majority of our immune cells are located in our gut. We’re talking about a tiny, tiny, tiny cell layer between the two. It makes sense, evolutionarily speaking, because if you were to eat something that could potentially harm us or kill it, we want the immune system to be right there and/or even if it’s good, is this friend or foe. Are we allowing this to come into the system or are we going to attack it and set up immune system, the adaptive immune system, the innate immune system. We’re going to put labels on things where if this ever comes in, we don’t tolerate it. But inflammation in the gut, in particular via our consumption of ultra-processed foods, it’s like I just saw this guy, social media has some cool stuff from time to time, but it was like Coffee Mate. It is so messed up. If you look at the ingredients on the stuff and he’s pointed out and it’s just so flammable. It’s just like creating these huge fireballs. People are just pouring that into coffee every day. To say that it’s inflammatory, this is not a joke and guess what ultra-processed food, highly refined seed oils are the basis to be a “creamer” in our culture today.


The last piece I’ll say here is, in talking with, she’s one of my favorite people, Dr. Cate Shanahan, and she’s probably the foremost expert on this topic of ultra-processed seed oils, so called vegetable oil and I remember when my mom got it, the vegetable oil, because we’re trying to eat healthier. I implore everybody after this episode, of course, come to The Model Health Show, check me out. [Cynthia, laughs] But go to YouTube and just go on YouTube and type in extra virgin olive oil. How to make extra virgin olive oil or extra virgin olive oil making process? And see it, it’s very simple, stone pressed, it’s been done for a long time. Then type in how is canola oil made? Make sure that you have your socks pulled up nice and tightly so it doesn’t blow your socks off [Cynthia, laughs] in a bad way, okay. Because to make that, to take extract a kernel of corn or soybeans or whatever to get the amount of oil necessary and also being that these oils are very very volatile. Extra virgin olive oil is very volatile as well. It’s not just free of being damaged. This is why it’s typically bottled in dark glass bottles, cold temperature process, because those oils are very delicate and heat sensitive. Taking this oil high heat extraction method, then the first thing they have to do is they have to– I don’t want to give too much of the video away, but they have to wash it with a tremendous amount of chemicals. And again, explosive stuff they’re using as treatment and it smells terrible. So, they use deodorizers and this high heat processing takes a very delicate oil, omega-3s or omega-6s, these omega oils, and it’s creating a high level of rancidity. 


The most important takeaway is free radical activity. So, it’s oxidation of these delicate oils and we’re just consuming a tremendous amount of reactive oxygen species. So, like free radicals, we’re trying to get antioxidants in our diet to stay young and to be healthy, all the things, we’re consuming the opposite. So, Cate Shanahan, she shared with me this particular study when she was the first person to mention it to me. They did a biopsy of some folks at the earlier part towards the 1900s to actually look at what’s the contents of a fat cell for humans, like what fats they’re made of. They found that the average fat cell back then was made of about 2% polyunsaturated fatty acids or PUFAs. These omega-6 fatty acids that are getting very volatile. It’s not that they’re bad, very volatile.


We need a small amount and that’s what was typical at the time about 2%. Today, taking biopsies of the average person. Now, the average person’s fat cell is made up of 20% to 25% polyunsaturated fatty acids or PUFAs. We’ve literally changed the ingredients that the human is made of. The average person is made of completely different stuff and it’s these very volatile pro-inflammatory omega-6 oils. And please, everybody hear this, there is data showing the opposite. Seed oils are great for you. There are studies on any of this stuff. The benefit of learning from somebody like myself is that I spend hours upon hours upon hours studying this information and looking at all sides of it because I’m aware of my biases and to be a good scientist, you have to look at the opposite of what you believe. I take what is the majority of data say, what is the logic say? What does our history of a species say? And then I make a determination and share that with the world. I don’t just grab something and build my, no. That’s part of the problem, there’s so much infighting about minutiae and silliness.


So, again, there is data affirming. “Hey, there’s no problem with vegetable oil.” What I would want you to do immediately, which is just it’s a logical fallacy, is that an ultra-processed food? For who’s ever promoting that? Is that an ultra-processed food? Yes, it is. Should we be cautious about ultra-processed food? Yeah, of course. All right, whereas check this out. Here’s a little tip for everybody. Walk away for today, researchers at Auburn discovered that oleocanthal-rich, antioxidant-rich extra virgin olive oil is one of the few foods ever discovered that actually helps to reduce brain inflammation. Specifically, they found that and again, we don’t know how it works, but it’s able to reduce inflammation in the brain and help to heal and repair the blood-brain barrier that gets damaged via inflammation, leading to more inflammation in the brain. What is it? I don’t care. I wasn’t a big fan of olive oil, but when I see that data, I’m like, what is it about that food, that’s remarkable? How does it have that intelligence for its association with humans? That’s what we want to lean on. Also, again, we’ve been using it for thousands of years versus “vegetable oil or canola oil” being used for a few decades made by this lab. We’ve got to just use our logic and have healthy conversations and I think that’s going to obviously lead to healthier choices. 

Cynthia Thurlow: Absolutely. I’m glad that you brought up seed oils. Obviously, I encourage everyone to read food labels, be fastidious. I think it was Dr. Ben Bikman that said, “The number one consumed fat in the United States right now is soybean oil.” And I believe it was Dr. Cate Shanahan that indicated that when we consume seed oils, they actually damage our mitochondria and the cellular membrane of our mitochondria for two years. If you have these things at home, we’re going to encourage you to lean into healthier options, whether it’s extra virgin olive oil, whether it’s coconut oil, whether it’s avocado oil, etc. And try to slowly kind of weed these things out of your diet. When you go to restaurants, don’t be afraid to ask what your food is being cooked in. Ironically enough, when I was last in LA, I was talking to a waitress, and she said, “Oh, you’d be surprised how many of the $100 steaks in LA are cooked in seed oils.” I thought to myself, I was like, “Oh, my gosh.” So just ask. There’s nothing wrong with asking because you may not be exposed at home. You may get exposed when you go out to a restaurant or you may feel like you’re encumbering your host or whomever just to kind of have a sense of what’s being served. I would definitely encourage people to go look at how canola oil is created. I promise you, after looking at that, it will change your perspective significantly.


Now, when we’re talking about brain health in particular, obviously this is an area that I’m very vested in in terms of making sure that my brain stays as healthy as possible, especially as a middle-aged person. When you’re looking at helpful things that we are doing in our day-to-day life. Things to me that seem relatively benign, but have a large net impact on brain health. What are some of the common ways that people don’t realize that they’re doing things that are setting themselves up for having brain health issues? Obviously, metabolic health is critically important, but what are some of the other things that people are doing, in your opinion, that are impacting brain health significantly? 

Shawn Stevenson: Yeah. Obviously, our brain, it’s an understatement to say, how important it is. It’s like a governing force over everything about us. Some researchers believe that it’s kind of the seat of where so much of our emotions are coming from, our ability to process data, obviously our perspective. Also, there’s so much regulatory control happening in our brain. The health of our brain really is the health of us. A healthy brain is going to lean much closer to a healthy life and the opposite is true as well. I believe that today the biggest kind of epidemic hidden problem that we’re experiencing is brain inflammation. There’s going to be so much more coming out about this. You’re here to hear first, but with that said, because again inflammation downstream excessive body fat, which has become epidemic, is creating inflammation in our brain, specifically our hypothalamus and the question should be why? What’s going on with the hypothalamus?


The hypothalamus is sometimes pituitary, but depending on who you talk to, it gives the label of being a master gland in the body. And I feel it’s a master gland because there’s an integration point in your hypothalamus for your nervous system and your endocrine system. Your neurotransmitters, your ability to kind of read and understand your environment, internal and external. That’s kind of the big thing if we’re looking at the nervous system. That data is critical because that data is determining how your genes are getting read, so epigenetics. So, we want to have a healthy interaction with our environment, internal and external. Our endocrine system is our hormones. Hormones are really like these chemical messengers that are communicating data between the cells in your body. We want good data, accurate data to be communicated, basically telling your cells what to do. We want to make sure that everybody’s on the same page. 


That integration point is in your hypothalamus to the best of our awareness today. Your hypothalamus is also a governing force of your metabolic rate and kind of internal thermostat. We know that your thyroid is largely identified as like this is where so much of metabolism control is happening, but upstream is that thermostat. Whether it’s literally your body temperature itself and your metabolic rate and metabolism is so much more than just calories or digesting calories. Even your immune cells have metabolism. There’s a whole field of immunometabolism and it’s the metabolic health of your immune cells and how they’re taking in energy processing things. How healthy are they?


Again, we have to stop putting things in these pithy boxes like it’s the end all be all. It’s that thermostat it is so much of what’s going on with your sexual function, with your heart rate. There’s so much going on with your hypothalamus. We want to do what we can to help to reduce inflammation in our brain overall. Because of that vicious circle, it can be pretty complicated. There’re very few people out there saying, “Hey, we should address the inflammation in your brain if we want to get this weight off.” I believe we can do things together. I think here’s the most important points from today’s conversation, which is your brain is literally made from the food that you’re eating, okay. Every single cell, every dendrite, every axon terminal, every neurotransmitter, it’s all made from food. It doesn’t just come out.


This isn’t a damn magic show and Dr. Strange is living in your brain. It’s all made from food all right and so what are you making your brain out of? Like, seriously and we have certain brain cells stick with us for decades. It’s different from the rest of our bodies, but there’s always this repair happening. Also, we have the telomeres and how they’re aging and also how they’re communicating with each other, signal transduction. The cells being fit to take in data and to send data, all of this is determined by food. If you’re making your brain out of low-quality things because your body is going to do the best that it can, your brain is going to struggle, period.


Now, this leads to what can we do to have a healthier brain? What is the number one nutritive thing that our brain is made of? It’s made of water. It’s primarily made of water and this cannot be stressed enough. It is so freaking simple to put this in a little bit of context. Actually, let me share this study with you guys. This was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health and revealed that even mild dehydration has a significant negative impact and increases fatigue, impairs your mood, reduces reading speed in their study, mental work capacity and this was for college students, and test taking was all kind of reduced. Their ability to perform was reduced. And here’s the other– this is good news. Within a short amount of time, getting them properly hydrated alleviated all of these symptoms. The very best supplement for your brain is water. There’re so many fancy pants, nootropics out here. I’m a fan. There’s great stuff but if you’re dehydrated, what are you doing? That’s a waste of money. We’re missing the point. Your brain is mostly made of water, needs that exchange, because all of your brain’s trillions of processes that are taking place happen in a water medium. The best data that we have, about a 2% drop in your body’s baseline hydration rate, can lead to all this mental impairment. All right, so number one, water.


The next question usually is, like, how much should I drink? The very best answer is it depends on you. That’s not the answer a lot of people want to hear because we want that dose. We want that recommendation, take two of these and call me in the morning-type thing. We have to take more responsibility. We have to listen to our bodies. I understand that information could be skewed. If we’re not in a good state of health right now. Our body can be informing us that we need to stop by Krispy Kremes. [Cynthia, laughs] It’s my intuition. It’s an intuitive thing, but the intuition, obviously, is very important. But that communication can be coming from a processed food company informing your decision. There is a tenet here, kind of a baseline tenet, which is taking your body weight, dividing that number in half and then targeting that amount of ounces. Person that weighs 150 pounds, divide that in half, you get 75, target 75 ounces of water a day.

It’s a good baseline, but you might need more, you might need less, but it’s a good baseline if you’re somebody who needs numbers. Also, I want to make sure if you’re not drinking enough water, which, if you are or not, to give yourself something to target. Now, the other question is, how do you do it? I’ve just crossed my 20th year in this field, so I’ve heard so much, so many things. Working in the office where I work one on one with people doing these different events, all these corporate wellness programs, all this stuff. I struggled to say the word, but I’ve heard every excuse in the book, but these things aren’t excuses if it’s real to somebody in the moment, but people like, “Why I can’t stop peeing?” Listen, there’s nothing wrong with peeing, but of course, we don’t want to be running to the bathroom every hour or whatever. People exaggerate every 20 minutes I got to go pee. Your body is probably going to go, it’s not just even the water too, which I’m going to get to in a moment.


If you’re dehydrated, your body is going to go through a process. It’s going to try to in with the new, out with the old exchange, it’s an exchange process. Your body is also going to choose a higher order stuff. It’s going to get rid of stuff and it’s a waste channel to get rid of metabolic waste. We’re not talking about drinking so much water that we’re just like diluting our tissues, by the way. We need to have water that has structure and what do I mean by that? You do not find anywhere in nature, by the way, throughout human evolution we set up shop where the springs were. We set up shop where there is a water source because it’s the most important thing. But you don’t find distilled water in nature. I don’t want anybody getting upset if they’re a fan of distilled water but that’s not normal. Not to say we can’t use that to great benefit because things that are not normal haven’t existed can beneficial, we have to be open to that.


However, water in nature, it’s always water is known as the universal solvent. So, it’s water combined with minerals. It’s going to absorb, what’s happening in that process of going through a spring, it’s like the earth’s water filter. It’s amazing. With that said, one of the key things for water and for our brain is sodium, your brain cannot actually retain fluid without sodium, we would die. But when we hear sodium, we think of blood pressure that’s the way that we’ve been programmed. In my book Eat Smarter, I went through, I shared a plethora of studies just dissecting that very rudimentary argument that if you look at– again the vast majority of data, not even included in meta-analysis, no big deal, just from Harvard or someplace like that. Affirming that, not only is this conversation skewed as to it’s such a detrimental thing, but if you’re deficient in sodium, this is one of the big triggers for developing insulin resistance. Like, sodium is critical for so many things, I already mentioned retaining water in your brain.


If we talk about retaining water, that can be the problem with our blood pressure. Over 70% of the sodium in the average American’s diet is from processed foods, ultra-processed foods. That maybe might be the problem and not some high-quality salt in your water or some high-quality intelligently sourced electrolytes or sodium in real food. It’s probably not the problem, so researchers at McGill University found that sodium works as a quote. This is a direct quote, “On off switch for neurotransmitters in the brain.” That, number one, are critical for neuroprotection and also for neuro regeneration and protecting the brain against degenerative diseases like epilepsy, it’s just sodium. Again, we put these things in these pithy boxes. We don’t understand how important it is. Sodium is critical, it’s one of the most important nutrients. It’s an electrolyte, it’s a mineral that carries an electrical charge that enables your cells to talk to each other. All of this is happening here, electrical energy exchange, information exchange. If you’re deficient in sodium, it could be a big problem. And also, again, the quality, there isn’t just one type of sodium. There’s a variety. There isn’t just one type of magnesium. People know more about that now. Sulfate, citrate, there’re so many different types of magnesium. Real food first and then intelligently sourced. We need to question and ask, where are people getting, where is this source coming from when we buy a supplement? Do they actually have good standards on where they’re getting, what they’re getting?


I mentioned water, electrolytes, sodium, potassium, magnesium. Those three are particularly important for cognitive function. Outside of that, one more thing I want to mention because if we take away the water, the dry weight of the human brain is mostly fat. So, a lot of people know this by now, but protein is not that far behind, by the way. Maybe we’ll say if 12% of the brain is fat, like, the water weight plus fat, maybe 7% or 8% is protein. These numbers can vary a little bit and then a little bit of minerals in the mix. Your brain isn’t really storing carbohydrates like that, it’s using it. Researchers at Harvard actually found that your brain will gladly confiscate half of the glucose you take in in any meal. Our brains are hardwired to sop up glucose again through evolution because we never came across it like that. It was not something we had access to, today it’s so much and all of that sugar running its way up to the brain.


Neuroinflammation running its way up to the brain, now we have this dub today, Alzheimer’s, many researchers call it type 3 diabetes. There’s insulin resistance taking place in the brain. And also, some of the research kind of really on the cutting edge of neuroscience. Insulin in the brain isn’t just about opening up the brain cell to give it sugar. Insulin is working as its own kind of signaling molecule and helping to turn processes on and turn processes off beyond just its interaction with glucose. Like, insulin is doing some really interesting things. Now, what if we have insulin resistance in the brain because of all the sugar that’s a problem.


I’m just going to share this really quickly omega-3s, obviously, is super important here. When we hear that the brain is mostly fat that we can have this tendency, and I know that I did early on in my clinical practice. We just need to eat all the fats, get all the fats. Even your brain’s diet is a little different from the body, but it’s all good, it’s all connected. So just be clear, but when it comes to saturated fats, for example, when we’re babies, which is dramatic, growth and development of our brains, mother’s milk has a substantial amount of cholesterol, the dirty word cholesterol, [Cynthia, laughs] and saturated fat, it’s incredibly high ratio of saturated fat. Why would that be? Is nature just stupid? Did nature not read this book on saturated fat? No, again, it’s so ignorant because if you look at just the natural design of things, saturated fat isn’t bad. There is a place where this can be problematic. There is a place where water can be problematic. When everything is put in a proper perspective, we need saturated fat absolutely.


Our gates for absorbing saturated fat decline as we get older, so that might be an indicator that we don’t need as much later on in life. Because your brain will actually make its own cholesterol, for example. It makes it itself because it’s important. Do we need to target it dietarily, not necessarily. Same thing with saturated fat, your brain is already pretty established once you get past maybe 25. Your need or your assimilation to go to your brain is going to get tempered down some. So, with that said, the type of fat that we do know for a fat that we need for a lifetime, what I’m going to share with you is a game changer is omega-3 fatty acids.


Probably everybody has heard about omega-3s and we need to get omega-3s in. I’m going to give you the ultimate reason why? This particular study, the researchers used MRIs to actually look at the brain and see what the person’s intake of omega-3s, what’s the impact that it has on the brain. This study was published in the Journal Neurology, top tier, high impact journal in this field. What they did was, when they were looking at the test subject’s brain, they found that the people who consumed the lowest amount of omega-3s, EPA and DHA, had the highest rate of brain shrinkage. Their brains were shrinking prematurely versus their counterparts who were consuming ample amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. The researchers noted that lack of EPA and DHA in the diet was particularly harmful to the memory center of the brain aka the hippocampus, which lost neurons at a rate equivalent to two additional years of abnormal aging by not getting in enough omega-3s.


People who ate less than 4 g of DHA per day showed the highest rates of brain shrinkage than those who were eating 6 g or more who had the healthiest shrink-proof brains. When I’m talking about what is your brain made of, your brain volume itself, because the omega-3s aren’t just coming and making new brain cells. They’re helping to support and to reaffirm the structural integrity of our brain cells. That’s what they’re doing and they’re also enabling signal transduction. When I mentioned particularly the memory center of the brain, listen to this. This particular study was looking at the memory and the impact with omega-3s. This was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. They found that simply by increasing the intake of DHA into test subject’s diet, they were able to improve both memory and reaction time. They found that essentially DHA is a critical part of memory formation itself. 


We could forget about making memories without it. That’s a little bar there, you see there’s a little poetry, we can forget about you see that. [Cynthia, chuckles] But are we doing it, now the question is, where do we get it? By the way, DHA and EPA, when I was working, this is probably about 10 years ago, I had this revelation maybe nine years ago. But everybody was coming into my office, I had them taking chia seed oil and hemp seed oil and flaxseed oil. I got to get these omega-3s. I had the data on omega-3s, but because I had my belief system, my bias, I thought that they were all created equal. It’s just omega-3s, omega- 3s or omega-3s. That was ALA. That is the plant form of omega-3s and it is not what is feeding your brain and supporting your brain.


ALA is going to be used more as a kind of energy source. It’s not for the structural integrity of your cells. It does not work like that and our bodies can convert a tiny amount of ALA into DHA and EPA but depending on you, your unique metabolic fingerprint, health of your microbiome, your age, your other genetic factors, so many things go into computing this. You can lose upwards of 95% in the conversion process, it’s not efficient at all. If we’re on a vegan or vegetarian protocol, this is a must. You absolutely have to find a source of DHA and EPA. The vast majority, 99% of studies are done using fish oil. krill oil. K-R-I-L-L has some clinical trials that have been done and found efficacy there for omega-3s. Actually, it has additional benefit, which is astaxanthin, which is this very powerful antioxidant and it’s red by the way, and it really has been found to improve the assimilation of the omega-3s.


Now, Krill is a microscopic shrimp, somebody’s ethical belief might not allow for that. At minimum, please get yourself an algae oil. The rub is we don’t have clinical trials affirming its efficacy. We know that the omega-3s are there, so I don’t want you to have to wait around because you need them. So, get yourself an algae oil at minimum but food first. Even though I’m going right to the supplements, food first. Even in the Journal of Neurology, they found that people who eat at least one seafood meal per week do in fact perform better on cognitive skills tests. In particular, two to three is ideal, top notch, and so that’s number one. Besides seafood, which everybody pretty much knows, a fatty fish in particular, then we have grassfed beef, we have eggs. There’re a variety of places that you could find DHA and EPA in our diet. Regardless, we have to make sure that we make this a mandate, because we’re talking about literally losing your brain volume if you’re not getting in enough omega-3 fats. 

Cynthia Thurlow: Wow. I am just absorbing all this goodness. I know this is going to be an incredible first podcast for 2023. I could speak to you for hours, but obviously I want to be respectful of your time. Please let listeners know how to connect with you on social media, how to listen to your amazing podcast, which I’ve been honored to have been a guest, how to get your books, and how to connect with you outside of the podcast. 

Shawn Stevenson: Awesome. Thank you. It was so fun having you in the studio with me. And people can find me, my show is called The Model Health Show, and you could find this wherever you listen to this amazing podcast, you could find The Model Health Show. I’m very grateful to say, with podcast charts, it’s kind of a billboard charts, hits come out. It moves from time to time. We’ve been number one health podcast in the country many many times over the years. I think it just speaks to our quality of care. I just care a lot and we want to make sure that folks feel empowered and making learning fun. So, yeah, people can find me on The Model Health Show and YouTube as well. We do some stuff there and on social, I’m @shawnmodel and most active on Instagram and on Twitter. So, I’m always posting cool stuff there. Yeah, so the books, anywhere books are sold, Barnes & Noble, Target, Amazon, all that good stuff. you can find Eat Smarter is my latest book. It’s a national bestseller. Sleep Smarter is my first book, is international bestseller. Yeah, it’s just going to add a lot of empowerment and not just years to your life, but life to your years, having those resources. So that’s where you could find me. 

Cynthia Thurlow: Thank you. Thank you for all the work that you do to help us stay healthier and more educated and knowledgeable.

Shawn Stevenson: Thank you. I received that. Thank you for doing what you do because it’s truly a gift, your experience and just how you share your life and your heart, we all need it more than ever. So, I just really appreciate you. 

Cynthia Thurlow: Thank you. Likewise. If you love this podcast episode, please leave a rating and review, subscribe and tell a friend.