Improving your Mood and Decision Making Abilities for Pennies a Day; and the Truth about Vitamins, Minerals, and Organic Food – an Afternoon with Bruce Ames, PhD
Written by Travis Christofferson
This episode features the iconic nutrition scientist Dr. Bruce Ames. Dr. Ames is a unique hybrid, a melding of biochemist and geneticist. Somehow the combination adds up to more than just the sum of the parts. In this episode we bob and weave through the minefields of nutrition science, dispel commonly held assumptions and provide nutritional guidelines based on rock-solid evidence.
In this episode you will learn:
- That you can thank Dr. Ames for your kid's mutagen-free urine [12:00]
- You may not have to give yourself an ulcer worrying about eating non-organic food [14:26]
- How to avoid breaking your chromosomes [20:00]
- The body prioritizes where the deficient vitamins and minerals go in order to meet the needs of short term survival at the expense of silent, insidious, long-term damage and acceleration of aging (this process Dr. Ames named the triage theory) [22:15]
- The widely publicized studies concluding that multivitamins are a waste of money are wrong [26:47]
- Why so many nutrition studies are disastrously flawed [26:47]
- Just how terribly deficient most Americans are in vitamins and minerals [32:00]
- A multivitamin and mineral might be the cheapest insurance you’ll ever purchase [32:00]&[38:14]
- Why supplementing with minerals is a little more tricky [39:00]
- How vitamin D and omega 3 fatty acids act synergistically in the brain preventing depression, anxiety, impulsive behavior, and promoting a sense of well-being [40:20]
- Why I threw out my 16 year old son’s branch chain amino acids [47:20]
- And much more
- A great article about Dr. Ames
- Dr. Rhonda Patrick's blog -- Found My Fitness
- More info about the CHORI Bar
We think that the research and message Dr. Ames has for us is so important that we added some notes to help clarify or expand on the information in the interview. From the start we quickly veer deep into the trees, but there are extremely important take home messages sprinkled throughout the hour long conversation. Your body and brain and wallet hope you take the time to read and then listen :-)
THE AMES TEST
The Ames test we talk about is able to detect substances that mutate DNA. These substances are often carcinogenic, meaning they can cause cancer. Dr. Ames has refined the test over the years and you’ll hear him say that they added rat liver extract to the test. This was done in an attempt to mimic the natural metabolism that chemicals go through within the body. Often as chemicals are metabolized in the liver they can be converted to other compounds that are carcinogenic. The addition of rat liver extract gives a better approximation of what is actually happening within the body.
DR. AMES TRIAGE THEORY
Let’s walk through an example of the triage theory Dr. Ames talks about: suppose you’re deficient in vitamin K. There are 16 enzymes in the body that require vitamin K to function. Five of those enzymes catalyst blood coagulation, also known as clotting. And the remaining enzymes requiring vitamin K help to repair DNA damage, facilitate bone formation, and prevent atherosclerosis. Predictably, short term survival depends much more on blood clotting than the other functions and so the vitamin K that is present in a deficient concentration gets rationed to the clotting enzymes first, allowing silent but insidious damage to occur. The result is slow, pernicious damage that increases the probability of bone fragility after estrogen loss (osteocalcin) and arterial calcification linked to cardiovascular disease, cancer, and ageing later in life. A trade off of short term survival at the expense of overall life and health span. Now think about this: Dr. Ames said the government has estimated Magnesium deficiency to be 45% of the U.S. population. Magnesium is required in over 300 enzymes for them to function. Even a mild deficiency will siphon magnesium away from a frightening number of enzymes, eroding optimal functionality and long term health.
THE PROOF IS IN THE PUDDING (or in this case, the CHORI-bar)
The CHORI-bar is a fruit bar supplemented with 30 essential vitamins, minerals, fiber and polyphenols for gut health designed to fill in the gaps of a poor American diet. By simply supplying what is missing from poor diets without requiring any other dietary modifications, healthy metabolic processes can be “restarted”. This is a completely original idea. The conventional approach, advocated by nutritionists, official government agencies, and employed in all weight management programs (of which we are aware), is based on the assumption that metabolic improvement follows weight loss, and that weight loss requires calorie reduction and wholesale dietary modifications. The fact that broad-spectrum improvements, both metabolic (increased HDL-c, and reduced LDL-c, triglycerides, insulin resistance, inflammation, oxidative stress) and anthropometric (weight loss, waist circumference loss, reduced blood pressure, reduced heart rate) are observed after only 2-months of twice-daily consumption of the CHORI-bar, without requiring that participants make any change in their existing diets, strongly supports this novel idea (the triage theory), and suggests that it is not necessary to impose severe changes in diet and lifestyle patterns to begin to effect positive changes in people eating poor diets.
VITAMIN D, OMEGA 3 FATTY ACIDS, AND SEROTONIN
The relationship that Dr. Ames explained is a little complicated and worth going over, because it is so important. Vitamin D acts on certain regions of your DNA called vitamin D response elements (VDRE’s) thus influencing the expression of the genes with VDRE’s. The amino acid tryptophan is converted to serotonin by an enzyme called tryptophan hydroxylase (TPH) and TPH has a VDRE so its expression (expression refers to the degree that a gene gets “transcribed” into the protein product – TPH is an enzyme and all enzymes are proteins) is controlled by vitamin D. But here’s the caveat. You have two different forms of TPH, one that predominantly exists in your gut and skin (TPH1), and the other that mostly exists in your brain (TPH2). Vitamin D effects them differently; it increases the amount of TPH2 in your brain and decreases the amount of TPH1 in your gut and skin. So predictably, a person with an inadequate amount of vitamin D careening though their blood stream will convert most of the tryptophan they consume into serotonin within their gut, before it can diffuse into the brain. Inversely, a person with an optimal vitamin D level will convert much less tryptophan into serotonin within their gut because the gut version of TPH has been suppressed, allowing more tryptophan to diffuse into the brain and be converted to serotonin by the increased amount of TPH within the brain. The omega 3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA potentiate the effect of serotonin by facilitating its release into neural synapses and by improving the fluidity of neural membranes, thus increasing the probability serotonin receptors will bind serotonin. The result: less aggression directed toward self and others, better decision making, better learning, the ability to delay gratification, and more altruistic behavior – Voilà!