Podcast #72 from http://www.bengreenfieldfitness.com/2009/12/podcast-
Introduction: In this podcast episode: barefoot running, essential fatty
acids, more on amino acids, ankle injuries and the genotype
Ben: That‟s right, podcast listeners. Today‟s episode is a double
interview super special. My first featured topic is going to be
on barefoot running with a fellow named Tellman Knudsen
who I mentioned last week is currently running barefoot
across the country. And I called him up and interviewed him
live while he was running through Ohio. You‟re going to get
to listen to that. We also have an interview with Dr. Cohen
from Bioletics. This will be Dr. Cohen‟s third appearance on
the show and he‟s going to be talking about the powerful
potential of essential fatty acids and how you can actually get
those tested, what to do if you‟re deficient and much more.
So you‟re not going to want to miss those featured topics. We
have just a few brief special announcements today and we
also have a Listener Q and A. But before we go on to any of
that, I do need to make you aware of a few small changes to
the podcast over the next five to six weeks. Basically, I am
putting together for any of you triathlon listeners out there a
huge side project that‟s going to bring you a bunch of free
teleseminars, phone conferences with triathlon coaches,
triathlon pros, with authors – not just conferences where you
sit there and twiddle your thumbs and listen but live Q and A
where you‟re going to be asking questions. A huge amount of
interaction there. It‟s going to be over at a website called
www.rockstartriathlete.com. I‟ll put a link to that in the
Shownotes but I want to warn you listeners, that based off
the amount of energy that I‟m having to put into bringing
those audios to you, this podcast is going to be limited – just
for the next few weeks to primarily Q and A – to answering
your questions on fitness, fat loss, nutrition or human
performance. So make sure that you follow that link in the
Shownotes to see why the podcast is going to be changing so
much over the next six weeks. I thank you all for the support
that you give, for the rankings in iTunes and for you just
listening in. I promise that this podcast is not going
anywhere. Don‟t worry. It‟s just going to be a little bit shorter
over the next few weeks. So with that being said, let‟s go
ahead and move on to this week‟s special announcements.
So this week‟s first question comes to me from Listener Joe,
and Joe says… this is a funny question.
Joe asks: One question that I have not been able to get a straight
answer on is what exactly do bodybuilders do and how
exactly do their diet and workout change to get that paper
thin skin? I would like to at least one time in my life
experience walking around the earth tan and in high
definition. Will you please help me with this?
Ben answers: Well Joe, I did bodybuilding for a couple of years and that
was actually one thing that I was really concerned about –
was that paper think skin, or lines or wrinkles or age spots –
because as most of you are probably aware, body builders
have to spend a lot of time in tanning booths and that causes
a premature aging in the skin. It literally speeds up the aging
process in your skin. So it not only causes your skin to dry
out but it makes your skin lack moisture. You start to flake,
you peel, you wrinkle a lot more. Even little things like you
start to see more wrinkles around your eyes when you smile.
The skin loses a lot of its collagen and kind of becomes loser
whereas those of us who are hydrated and not really dried
out all the time – you‟re going to notice a more moist,
supple… not a stretched out, but a non-wrinkled appearance
to the skin. So tanning beds – long periods of time spent in
the sun – all of that will do that to your skin. Now Joe, I‟ve
been backstage at bodybuilding shows and when you get
close up to these people, it‟s just horrible. Tiny, tiny little
collagen damage wrinkles everywhere. Okay? And it‟s
because of the amount of tanning. Now, some bodybuilders,
and I tried to do this when I was bodybuilding used just a
heavy, heavy amount of tanning lotion. A lot of times there
are little gold flakes in that so the light shimmers off you and
makes you look even more muscular when you get under the
lights or on to stage. But do not crave that paper thin skin.
When you get close, it‟s just – it‟s like a thin, thin ice full of
wrinkles and you don‟t want that on your skin. I would
recommend – if anything, if you want to get that look and
just see what it looks like – go pick yourself up some
bodybuilding tanning lotion and put it on your body and
you‟ll see how easy it is to actually achieve that same look
with a little bit of a topical application. So, we‟re going to
move on to a question from Listener Scott.
Scott asks: After watching the video you posted on the Master Amino
Pattern, I‟m wondering how sold you were on the product.
There‟s a mention of over 40 tests or clinical trials yet no
links to the information on their website. I would think if
there‟s scientific evidence of effectiveness it would be
plastered on there. if you do believe in it, would you
recommend substituting MAP for whey protein or even your
recipes that include Mt. Capra protein powder?
Ben answers: That‟s a great question, Scott. And as far as the scientific
effectiveness or the research studies, there are links over
there on their website and I also put some links in the
Shownotes to podcast number 71 on the studies that were
done in terms of the nitrogen utilization rate of this MAP.
And for those of you who didn‟t hear that podcast last week,
it‟s a capsule that‟s full of all the essential amino acids that
you need. Now, in terms of substituting MAP for something
like whey protein or protein powder, Scott, what you need to
understand is that this is amino acids, okay? It‟s not calories.
It‟s not sustenance so to speak that‟s going to stick to your
ribs or give you energy to work out. Consider it more along
the lines of like an essential fatty acid or another type of
supplement that you would take, but not as food. So whey
protein, I would consider food. The Mt. Capra protein
powder that you mentioned, I would consider food. This is a
supplement. So, for example when I finish a workout, I‟ll
take 10 of these and an apple so the apple is giving me the
carbohydrate and this is giving me the amino acids that
aren‟t in the apple. But continue to use regular recipes. You
can eat whole food and real food. I‟m not endorsing
switching to capsules or supplements for all your intake. This
just ensures that your body is getting everything that it needs
because if you have a bowl of rice or if you have an apple or if
you have anything that doesn‟t have that complete amino
acid profile in it, you‟re going to miss out on the amino acids
and then also every single food on the face of the planet has a
lower nitrogen utilization rate than this stuff. So it gets
absorbed a lot better and it‟s just kind of that extra secret
weapon that you can have for recovery, for muscle building
or for enhancing sports performance or decreasing soreness.
Now Scott goes on, he‟s got a second part to his question. He
Scott asks: I recently injured my calf just above the ankle. I believe it‟s a
muscle injury since it feels like a charley horse type of
discomfort or spasm that occurs when I walk on or with
plantar flexion. (And for those of you who hear that term,
that‟s pointing the toes.) I bought an ankle Ace wrap which
made the spasm sensation go away and felt like it allowed my
ankle to relax. I was able to perform an sprint interval
session on the treadmill with minimum discomfort. When
the ankle began hurting, ensuring I was using proper form
seemed to alleviate the pain. I‟d like to be able to continue
exercising but do not want to injure my ankle further. Do you
have any recommendations?
Ben answers: It‟s kind of tough to say, Scott. Ankle sprains go in three
different grades and grade 1 is just kind of that slight amount
of tearing or damage to the tendon or ligament. Grade 2 and
3 are more serious. Sounds like if you were able to run on the
treadmill, this is just kind of a slight amount of inflammation
and if that is the case, just control your inflammation with
one of nature‟s best anti-inflammatories and that‟s ice. I
highly encourage you to stay away from ibuprofen and what
are called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that can
cause kidney damage, GI bleeding, and they actually end up
limiting the amount of healing that occurs because they
affect inflammation in a different way than something like
ice does. So I‟d recommend ice. I‟d also recommend that you
go to www.bengreenfieldfitness.com and do a search for
“wolverine.” I wrote an article a few months back called How
To Make Your Body Heal Like Wolverine From X-Men.
Rather than going through that on the podcast, I‟d like you to
go just do a search for “wolverine” at the Ben Greenfield
Fitness website and that will give you even more
Dave asks: After listening to John Kenny‟s high stroke rate per minute
in your swimming podcast, I realized I have a very poor
stroke rate per minute in comparison. I think my low SPM
(which stands for stroke rate per minute) correlates to my
slow Ironman swim times. My stroke is a stroke and glide
routine. I‟m beginning to realize that I‟m using momentum
with each glide resulting in a slow swim, particularly in open
water. My question is what would be a good course of action
in order to train and develop a faster arm turnover in
Ben answers: That‟s a great question Dave. And it is true that a higher arm
turnover is necessary to go faster in the open water. You can
get away with gliding in a pool but once you start to glide in
the open water, a lot of the turbulent flow slows down that
glide a lot more than what you‟re experiencing in the pool.
Now, developing quicker arm turnover is based on training
your neuromuscular system. Meaning your nerve endings
right there in the muscle to actually fire faster. So it‟s not
about getting stronger. It‟s not about making yourself more
tired. It‟s about getting your mind muscle connection to
actually think faster. So a few different ways you can do that.
One, and this is something I have, it‟s called a Wetronome.
There‟s also something called a swimming metronome. You
could Google “wetronome” or you could go to
www.swimsmooth.com. And the guys over at
www.swimsmooth.com do have that Wetronome. You put it
in your swim cap and it makes a little beeping noise. You can
set it for a turnover and it actually has a chart that shows you
the optimum rate of arm turnover based on how fast of a
swimmer you are. So the Wetronome is a good way to keep
yourself honest and that beep drives you to naturally
improve your turnover. You‟re going to have to practice with
it for a while though. It takes a little while to get used to, to
going with that beep and getting that rhythm and regularity.
The next thing I would recommend is a bungee cord, a
swimming bungee cord, and the way that you use these is
you‟ll tie one end to the diving block on one end of the pool
and then you‟ll swim away from it and it‟s pretty hard. You‟re
going to be really working force and strength in the water
when you swim away from it. But as soon as it starts to pull
you back, you actually have to have a very fast arm turnover
going back the other way. Now to get your hands on one of
those, if you go to my website on the right side of the page
there‟s a link to www.swimoutlet.com. And if you click on
that link, it‟ll take you to Swim Outlet and you can find
bungee cords under the training aids option over there. And
then the final recommendation in addition to the
Wetronome and swimming resistant cord would be actual
spring 50, 75, even 25 meter repeats. Put it into your
program on a weekly basis. I know a lot of Ironman and
distance triathletes get real stuck on the 200s and the 300s
and the 500s and maybe swimming for a half hour during
lunch without stopping. The very fast sprint style repeats are
not only going to give you better bang for your buck in terms
of the time that you spend in the water, but they‟ll also teach
you how to turn over more quickly. So I highly recommend
doing that as well. Hopefully that helps Dave, and great
Matt asks: I saw a naturopathic doc yesterday and the recommended
that I start the genotype diet as it may help my stomach
issues. I‟m not sure about this and know nothing about it. I
was curious if you came across it. It is by the same guy who
started the blood type diet.
Ben answers: The genotype diet – and I went over to the website because I
actually wasn‟t familiar with this diet – but what it does is it‟s
based off the fact that America is one big genetic melting pot
and what works well for one person might not work well for
the other person so what it does is the book teaches you
things like how to take your thumb print, your blood type,
your torso length, your leg length and all these help you build
kind of an idea of what your genetic code is and then there
are diets on that book based on your genetic code. So
anything that‟s customized like that is probably going to give
you a meal plan that maybe causes a little bit less GI distress
if you‟re a person who has food sensitivities or food allergies.
And it can work quite well. The problem with a diet like this
is that – and this is something I run into a lot as a nutritional
consultant – you sometimes end up eating a diet that is so
strange or so different than anyone else around you, it gets
tough especially on family and especially on social situations
to actually eat the way that your genotype is supposed to eat.
I mean imagine if you had a bunch of your friends over for
dinner and you know, your Japanese friend, they just had to
have sushi and your friend who was of Norwegian descent
just had to have fish and the Pacific Islander insisted that
you use a coconut oil for your cooking – you just have to be
careful if you start on a diet like this to realize that it could
limit you quite a bit socially or if you‟re married sometimes
your wife doesn‟t want to eat because her genetic type is
different than your genetic type. I would say for medical
management, it could be something that you could look into,
but just from a social perspective, you have to be careful with
these kinds of diets. I like a diet and use a diet for my clients
that tends to be a little bit more flexible than something like
this. But great question, Matt.
Now we‟re going to go ahead and move into the featured
topics for today. First interview is going to be with Tellman
Knudsen on barefoot running, and then we‟re going to move
on to a essential fatty acids with Dr. Rick Cohen. And
remember if you have a question, just email
email@example.com or call 8772099439.
Tellman Knudson: This is Tellman.
Ben: Hi Tellman, this is Ben Greenfield calling. Are you running
Tellman Knudson: Hold on. Hold on. One second. Alright, Ben are you there.
Ben: I‟m here Tellman. Where are you running right now?
Tellman Knudson: I‟m in Fly. That‟s FLY. Yep, I said it, I‟m in Fly, Ohio. It‟s
Ben: It‟s snowing and you‟re running in your bare feet right now?
Tellman Knudson: Sure am.
Ben: Wow. Tellman, I get tons of questions from my listeners
about what barefoot running is actually like and you are
probably one of the most knowledgeable guys on what it
actually feels like. So right now, running in the snow, what
do your feet feel like?
Tellman Knudson: Well, let me clarify. I‟m not running in the snow. It‟s snowing
on and off. But there is no accumulation yet. However, how
does it feel? At the moment, one gets worried about the cold
and the reality is that your feet get pretty warm when you
run in shoes anyway. When you run barefoot, you get really
great circulation. And the soles of your feet definitely get
much denser and tougher. So really, when you get cold and
you just start to get a little numb… so it‟s not really
uncomfortable. That‟s kind of how… like when you‟re in the
middle of a snowball fight with bare hands. So you can
totally do it, but it‟s not… most everybody can imagine
themselves reaching down into a pile of snow making a
snowball and throwing it at somebody a few times… so that‟s
kind of what it feels like except because your circulation is so
good and because your feet constantly are coming off the
ground anyway… it doesn‟t really soak up the… it doesn‟t
soak the body heat out of you so you don‟t really get cold.
Ben: In your journey so far Tellman, what‟s the longest you‟ve run
in your bare feet?
Tellman Knudson: So far a full marathon.
Ben: Wow. And in terms of the surfaces are there any particular
surfaces that you think are best for bare feet or that feel most
Tellman Knudson: Well, I mean… if you‟re talking about what I would prefer to
run on if I have the choice, I would say I really like a nice dirt
trail without a lot of rocks. That certainly feels the most
natural. I like a dirt trail where I can see everything on the
trail. You know? There was one that has a lot of leaf
coverage, or something like that. But running across the
country barefoot, you don‟t get the opportunity to run on a
lot of that awesome trails. It‟s mostly all on the white line
and when you‟re running a lot of distance every day, the
white line is a very useful tool. So right now I‟m running the
white line like a freaking (inaudible). I feel like I‟m in Tron
Ben: And are you on a highway right now?
Tellman Knudson: Right now, I‟m on – you can‟t run on interstates legally and
you can‟t run on divided highways. So I‟m on a road that has
two lanes total. One eastbound, one westbound. And you
know, not too much traffic. Kind of just running through
Ben: Have you ever worn, Tellman, the barefoot running shoes or
any type of real minimalist running shoes? Are those
different than running barefoot?
Tellman Knudson: Totally different than running barefoot. I know a lot of
people consider themselves barefoot runners who run in five
fingers and I appreciate that it is much, much better to run in
something like five fingers than in traditional running shoes
and I will applaud anyone who‟s using that footwear because
you have to completely learn how to run all over again.
However, running across the United States of America, while
wearing five fingers would not be nearly as difficult as
running with nothing on your feet. Even five fingers don‟t
wear through like skin does.
Ben: Now what type of injuries have you sustained on your feet
since you began, Tellman?
Tellman Knudson: So far, only one to speak of. And it was an overuse injury
because I scaled up to a marathon a day a little bit faster than
the… (inaudible) heel. So I ended up getting deep heel
contusions. Deep heel contusions basically are…f or me
anyway, they‟re inside my heel. So think about getting
blisters inside of your feet, not on the outside. And those
blisters are just kind of hanging out and getting worse and
worse as they slowly rise to the surface where the closer they
get to the surface, the softer your heel becomes versus
normally when you get a blister, you get it and that‟s when
it‟s the softest. Whereas the ones that I got, because they
were on the inside and they slowly rose to the surface… they
were so bad when they were deep and they got worse as they
moved out further because every time I would hit a rock in
the dead center of my heel, they‟d basically sink into my foot
which was very, very pleasant. So I just came off that. Taking
a few weeks off to let that heal up. The doctor‟s orders. And
now, at the moment I‟m running three miles today because I
have to run three miles every day for a week then I‟m allowed
to ramp it up to four miles and assuming my heels don‟t
break down again, I‟ll be able to begin the ramp up process
again up a little bit higher and hopefully get back up to a
marathon plus everyday here in short order. That‟s what I‟m
Ben: Amazing. Now Tellman, what‟s your top piece of advice to
the listener who wants to start barefoot running?
Tellman Knudson: Start today. Run five minutes barefoot. Just do it as a warm-
up. Slow down to 10 to 12 minute miles even if you could run
faster. Just slow down to 10 to 12 minute miles because –
don‟t do any more than five minutes a day for the first week.
Because first thing is, you‟re going to put a lot more weight
on your lower calf muscles and if you overdo that, it‟ll take
you out of running for a couple of weeks. A lot of people go
out the first time and do 3 to 5 miles because they can and it
puts them out for 2 weeks and then they never want to try it
again. So 5 minutes at a time for the first week. Then bump it
up to about 10 minutes, assuming you‟re feeling good and it‟s
not chewing your feet too bad. Then slowly bump it up to 15
minutes. I did it in about 5 minute increments to build up.
And I was running 5, 6 days a week.
Ben: Wow. Well Tellman, for people who want to learn more, your
website is www.runtellmanrun.com.
Tellman Knudson: Yeah, if you want to learn more about the run across America,
www.runtellmanrun.com. If you want to learn more about
running barefoot, you can go to www.howtorunbarefoot.com.
Ben: Fantastic. Alright, well I‟ll put a link to both those in the
Shownotes and I‟ll let you get back to your run. Thanks for
joining us today, Tellman.
Tellman Knudson: Thank you guys. I‟ll talk to you soon.
Ben: Alright, bye.
Hey podcast listeners, this is Ben Greenfield and I have back
on the line by popular request Dr. Rick Cohen from Bioletics
and in the past, Dr. Cohen has talked to us about the six key
internal performance factors and we had that initial
interview with him where he went into great detail about
how you could enhance your health and performance using
those factors and I personally ended up going through that
full range of testing with Bioletics for everything from
hormones to vitamin D to minerals. And now I‟ve got Dr.
Cohen back on the line because he has added to his
recommendations for people to actually look at, something
called an EFA test. And so, without further ado, Dr. Cohen,
I‟m going to thank you for coming on the line and just have
you jump right into it and tell me what this EFA test is all
about. What EFAs are and why you‟ve added them to your
recommendations for internal performance factors.
Dr. Richard Cohen: Great. Thanks Ben. Yeah, as essential fats are sort of one of
my favorite subjects perhaps when I was… in the low fat era,
I guess that was in the 90s, low fat?
Ben: Yeah I think. 90s, 80s. Yeah.
Dr. Richard Cohen: Well probably early 90s. It was such a misconstrued idea of
eliminating fats and we‟re really starting to learn how
important fats are to our body and fats in their natural state.
And there are some neat stories which I‟ll share with you
which give you a better understanding of fats and their
structure and how metabolically active they are in your
system. You wonder… how we ever thought fats were
harmful to us. This simple… the upshot is if this is all that
people can take from our chat here is fats are extremely
important for our body. They have a variety of different
metabolic activity. They control hormones, they control our
cellular function. They control our genetic code and it‟s not
the fats in of themselves which are damaging, and just like
(inaudible) it‟s the processing of the fats which have led to
problems. It‟s eating unnatural trans fats. Eating too many
(inaudible) fats which we‟ll discuss as well, and that‟s where
the problem comes in. So, we could talk a little bit about
natural fats and sort of getting back to your first question,
with this other factor initially when we came out with the 6
factor and the Bioletic assessment, there wasn‟t a practical
inexpensive at home collection which has been our gold
standard, is trying to find inexpensive assessments that can
be done and collected at home because we‟re trying to give
power back to the athlete, to take control of your health and
understand how what you‟re eating is affecting you and then
be able to tweak it. So now there is a finger stick test that „s
available similar to the D and the amino acids which red
blood cell determined and use ratios and there are some key
ratios of understanding the types of fats in your body – the
percentage of Omega 3 fats which is a critical component.
And recent research has shown that you really need – it‟s
called an Omega 3 index, and this Omega 3 index was shown
actually in the Framingham study – one of traditional
medicine‟s gold standard of cardiovascular assessment of
risk – when this Omega 3 index, meaning the percentage of
Omega 3 fats in your body is 8 to 10% which is kind of an
ideal, you really probably want to be over 10%, the risk of
cardiovascular disease is less than 90% of what the standard
would be. So this Omega 3 index is probably one of the more
powerful – I probably throw in a vitamin D as well – but
gosh, if you had a normal vitamin D and Omega 3 index of 10,
the risk factors of cardiovascular disease and (inaudible)
disease, which is also something we can touch on is virtually
eliminated. That‟s so powerful.
Ben: So this blood stick test for the listeners, it‟s literally – or the
finger stick test – it‟s literally just a few drops of blood and
that measures the Omega 3 fatty acid level or does it measure
the Omega 6 fatty level?
Dr. Richard Cohen: Actually, how about this. It‟s one drop of blood.
Ben: Oh that‟s nice.
Dr. Richard Cohen: How cool is that? One drop of blood. One drop of blood – it
measures all the essential fats. So it actually measures the
Omega 6 fats, the Omega 3 fats, the mono unsaturated, the
saturated and then you can start looking at some ratios. And
these ratios each have some significance. And how you want
to address that. So I guess you just want to take a couple of
minutes and just discuss Omega 3 and sort of fats for a little
bit. People might like a little primer on that.
Ben: So what are the reasons that someone would actually be
concerned enough about his essential fatty acid levels to
actually want to do a blood stick – give a drop of blood and
find out what their levels are? What function do these fatty
acids serve within the body and why should someone be
concerned about it?
Dr. Richard Cohen: It‟s actually real important for people to understand – one,
the importance and the different types of fat. Because it can
get kind of confusing, and two, to directly answer that
question is how these fats then play a role into essential fats.
Now essential fatty acids as the name implies and as we
spoke together are similar to essential amino acids. These are
fats that our bodies really can‟t produce or they‟re critical for
life and function and generally are needed to be obtained
through the diet. Essential fats… are critical because they
actually control substances in the body called prostaglandins.
Now these prostaglandins I think are best thought of as little
intracellular hormones and what‟s a hormone? A hormone is
just a communicator. The same way we have endorphin
hormones which means that these are communicators
basically from the brain to organ systems – testosterone,
estrogen, progesterone – these prostaglandins actually
control the cellular function and there are a variety of these
prostaglandins. Some people… there is a multitude of them.
In essence, there are good prostaglandins and well actually
let me rephrase that. There are prostaglandins that have
generally positive function and then there are prostaglandins
which would have negative function. Now in the truer sense
of the word, they‟re all beneficial. Just like ying and yang.
Prostaglandins can affect the way the blood clots. They can
affect the vessel tension. They can affect blood pressure.
They can affect immune response. They can affect how your
brain processes information. Neural activity – you get it.
Prostaglandins… basically they control everything within our
body. Now, when I say good and bad – is it bad that your
body clots when you‟re cut? Absolutely not. Is it bad that we
get a fever when we need to kill a virus? Absolutely not. Is it
bad that we have a response to an injury – inflammation –
by sending in all these immune cells to create healing?
Absolutely not. So, the problem with good and bad is –
they‟re all necessary – it‟s a question of balance. When our
system goes out of balance, the so-called “bad”… these
prostaglandins which control repair, restorative or protective
mechanisms begin to dominate or basically they‟ll be on or in
a higher presence so that blood clotting, that inflammation,
the pain begins to take control and be there in a much higher
amount. And that‟s not good. And that‟s why it would be
harmful to the system.
Ben: If someone‟s low on essential fatty acids, what type of
symptoms would they be experiencing or what type of things
would they actually be concerned about happening to their
Dr. Richard Cohen: Right, ok. So we talked about prostaglandins. And that‟s the
ultimate sort of response for essential fats. So now the
creation of these prostaglandins – and it‟s sort of a fun
pathway from a chemistry point of view. We could spend a
lot of time on this but the essential creation of the pathways
are dependent on these essential fats, okay? And these
essential fats are these Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats and the
Omega 3 fats – basically that‟s just a chemical term that is a
nomenclature based on how long the carbon is and where
that first double bond is within the carbon fat. So Omega 3,
it‟s in the 3 position and Omega 6 is in the 6 position.
Ben: And so for the people who are listening. A fat is just a really
long chain of carbons, right?
Dr. Richard Cohen: Correct. It‟s a long chain of carbons. Exactly. And the chain
of carbons has a particular amount of double bonds. So the
Omega 3 fats has a carbon in the 3 , 6 and 9 position. 3
double bonds. The Omega 6 has it in the 6th carbon and it
has two. 6 and 9. The Omega 3 has an additional one.
Through chemical processes, the Omega 3 is broken down
and added onto actually and becomes a 22 chain carbon and
that‟s EPA and DHA. Those are specifically then converted
into the sort of more beneficial prostaglandins…
Ben: So when you‟re turning over like the label to your fish oil,
your flax oil and you see things like EPA and DHEA, that
Dr. Richard Cohen: DHA.
Ben: Oh I‟m sorry, DHA… that actually indicates the presence of
the Omega 3 fatty acids?
Dr. Richard Cohen: Right, okay. So it‟s all that chemistry. EPA is
Eicosapentaenoic acid. Eicosa means 20. Pentaenoic is…
basically it‟s a 20 chain carbon with five double bonds. That‟s
where that comes from. Pretty straightforward but it‟s got a
nice little branding now. EPA. It sounds good. And DHA.
They‟re just short for the chemical constituents of it. But
these five carbon fats are essential to creating these
beneficial prostaglandins. That‟s why the Omega 3s are so
critical for our health. So getting back to what are the
benefits, as we say you‟re creating these prostaglandins
which promote oxygenation of the tissues that are involved
with a proper immune response. That are involved with
brain function. That are involved in proper blood clotting, etc.
The list goes on and on. Basically every function in your body,
when you‟re looking at a beneficial activity relies on the
direction of the cell – genetic code on these healthier
prostaglandins in its most simplistic terms. Now the Omega
6… which have two double bonds, the problem with the
Omega 6 is they have a split. They‟re sort of like a chemical
funnel and the Omega 6s require conversion to something
called GLA which is gamma-linoleic acid, which is found in
large amounts in primrose, oil and borage oil. That‟s why
people may supplement those. And those too are good with a
healthy prostaglandin. It‟s the prostaglandin 3 series. Not
really majorly important but that there‟s a funnel there and
that conversion doesn‟t occur due to stress, diet, trans fats,
nutritional deficiencies. So we don‟t readily convert these
Omega 6s very well further down the chain. And the other
problem is the Omega 6s will be converted to something
called arachidonic acids. And arachidonic acids are further
down the fatty chain. That goes to the prostaglandin 2 series
which has the negative effect. Again, it‟s all a balance. The
issue is when we throw that balance off or when they‟re
deficiencies or blocks into these enzymes which convert that.
We start running into difficulty.
Ben: So it‟s the Omega 6s aren‟t necessarily bad. You just wouldn‟t
want them in a ratio that was too high compared to the
Omega 3s? Is that what you‟re saying?
Dr. Richard Cohen: Exactly. Omega 3s… that‟s the main point. None of it is bad.
We need arachidonic acid. We need prostaglandin 2 series.
They‟re critical for life. But we don‟t get those now. Or we
don‟t have the balance that our body evolved to exist. So, if
you look at Paleolithic hunter gatherer societies, we ate a
ratio of about 1:1 Omega 6 fats. And if you look at grass,
planktons, algae… they‟re 1:1. 2:1. If you look at grass fed
beef, buffalo, wild range chickens. Although there‟s not a lot
of fat in chicken per se. They‟re always bred out with white
breast. Their ratios are 2:1, somewhere in that range. That‟s
what we need to exist on. That‟s how these complicated
chemical pathways sort of evolved to process fats in that
range. Maybe you know the answer to this, but what do you
think that the ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 is today in
Ben: You mean like in our typical diets?
Dr. Richard Cohen: Typical American diet?
Ben: You know, I think I‟ve heard something like I believe it was
50:1 or 100:1 or something like that.
Dr. Richard Cohen: Not that bad. But it‟s 20 plus to 1. Obviously for some people
it‟s worse. Because if you think about how much Omega 3…
where is Omega 3 found? Omega 3 is in fish, cold water fish.
Omega 3 is found in wild grass fed game. Omega 3… small
amounts in walnut. It‟s a higher amount in Chia seeds. Other
than really eating Chia seeds, I think it‟s growing… people
become aware of Chia seeds, flax seeds, but not in the typical
American diet, right?
Dr. Richard Cohen: Some pumpkin seeds have Omega 3 in a higher percentage.
Walnuts. But that‟s about it. Some soy. Omega 3 prevalence
unless you‟re eating a lot of fish and meat which is where we
predominantly go these and some of these nuts and seeds…
the majority of people don‟t get any. Whereas modern
industrial food, it‟s reliant on grains. We didn‟t have grains.
We‟re getting corn, flour, soy… canola.
Ben: Those would be higher in the Omega 6s then.
Dr. Richard Cohen: They‟re all virtually Omega 6. A smaller percentage in
canolas, a small percentage in soy. But the ratios are
extremely high and that‟s what‟s in all the processed foods.
That‟s what‟s in the grains. So the ratio… sometimes I‟m
surprised that the average person is not supplementing with
fish oil. They‟re not getting any Omega 3s at all. So that
ratio… that just causes these prostaglandins to go out of
control in a negative way. It‟s one of the cores of the illnesses
of today‟s society. So it‟s not… you said in the beginning, it‟s
not the types… it‟s not fat. it‟s the balance of fat and it‟s the
processing of fat. So if we look at where did we go wrong? It‟s
too many –way too many of these Omega 6 oils. That‟s a
problem. The other thing, it‟s the processing of the oils.
Which is sort of my favorite understanding or point to
understand of fats… so we talked, the first point is fats are
converted into these prostaglandins, and the Omega 3,
Omega 6 ratio is critical for a healthy balance in
prostaglandins? Okay? The second thing to understand
about fats is they‟re extremely susceptible to damage,
especially these so called healthier fats. The Omega 3 fats.
Nature evolved to exist that way. In order for these healthier
Omega 3 fats with all these double bonds – why have double
bonds? Well double bonds make fat more flexible. And they
need to be in your cellular membranes. So the more flexible
your membrane is, the better tissues – the better nutrients
you‟re able to get into these cells. Also, in colder climates,
you need a fat that would be liquid or flexible and not solid.
So, the colder the climate, the more unsaturated the fat. So
you find, if you think about food supply, the farther north
cold water fish… salmon, cod… they have lots of Omega 3.
Makes sense. Work your way down the chain. Grasses…
northern… where‟s flax grain? Canada? Lots of Omega 3.
Work your way down grasses, again northern plain lands. It
starts to balance out a little more. And working down into
the southern temperature… corn, peanut, canola. Those are
all southern… they require a little bit of a warmer climate
generally. They start to push more of the Omega 6s. As you
go further down into Mediterranean, you get these
monounsaturated fats. Olive oil. Peanut even has some
monounsaturated. Those monounsaturated… we‟ll talk about
those in a second, and then what types of fat do you find in
the islands? Coconut, palm kernel? They‟re all saturated.
What fats are present in the body in the most part in meat
and animals? Saturated. So, the bodies have evolved that the
higher the temperature, the more fats get saturated. Because
temperature light and oxygen damage fat. And they cause
free radicals. And the body has a way… and animals have a
way of using these saturated fats to actually protect the
unsaturated fats from 98 degrees consistently. If you took a
fat, take fish oil and put it in 98 degrees, in a day it would be
awful. So it‟s the potential damage to fat. That‟s where the
problem occurs. Is not only the Omega 6 but the Omega 6
that are processed in high temperatures. Trans fats are
created from these fats and if you think about Crisco which is
really where this all started… and Crisco stands for
crystallized cotton seed oil. Okay? It was created by… and
here‟s a name we all know. Proctor and Gamble. Proctor and
Gamble in the late 1800s were candle makers. And when
Proctor and Gamble started running into problems, is they
couldn‟t get adequate lard – animal fat, to make the candles.
It was too expensive. So, they hired a German chemist to see
how can we take oil and make it more like lard so we can use
it for candles? It would be cheaper. And they came upon this
process of hydrogenation where you throw an extra
hydrogen into these double bonded fats to make them stable.
So you could burn them and it would be solid again. You
needed a fat which has lots of energy to be solid at room
temperature, so they can have a candle. Well that worked
really well. You took a natural fat – a natural oil, and you sort
of plasticized it and you could burn it. When electricity came
in, people said their market for candles just fell apart. So
they said, wow. Really in essence, what do we have here? It
sort of looks like fat. Why don‟t we sell it as a food. And that‟s
exactly what happened. They took their candle as a food, as
an oil – initially it didn‟t go and it took some really creative
marketing and changing of the colors but in essence Crisco,
which was a candle became a food source. Now initially they
had no idea of the problems. They didn‟t know the molecular
changes that were occurring. Later on it was… they did
understand it but they kept selling it because it was cheap.
That‟s why trans hydrogenated fats are present in all
processed foods. They don‟t go bad and they‟re really, really
cheap. It‟s the trans fats… the oxygenation, the
hydrogenation, the changing of the molecular structure… it is
extremely unnatural and damaging to our body and those are
the two cruxes of the fat problem. It‟s not fat. it‟s not low fat
is good. There‟s no society that exists with low fat. There is in
this month‟s December National Geographic, there‟s an
article about the Hadzas, which are one of the few remaining
hunter gatherer societies in the world at this point. The
journalist went in to live with them for a few weeks and the
delicacy or the thing they strive for are fats. When they kill a
baboon, it‟s the eyes, it‟s the brain… it doesn‟t sound real
great, but that‟s what they needed because that was the
energy source. It was rich, it was natural and there‟s no
carbohydrates and cheap calories. It was all very valuable.
Fat was the energy source. Fat was the thing that drove the
metabolism in the body. So, this whole anti-fat, low fat,
saturated fat it‟s just honestly a bunch of crap. We can edit
that out I guess but it‟s just absolutely wrong and we really
need to understand healthy fats are beneficial to the body
and they provide… there are all sorts of others… there are
short chain fats that have benefits to the immune system and
they‟re critical for the intestinal tract. There are medium
chain fats which are medium chain triglycerides which are
found in coconut which are used for energy very effectively.
So, this understanding of fats being extremely powerful for
the body is really important. You could go from there.
Ben: Yeah, and I completely agree with what you‟re saying. As a
matter of fact, I wouldn‟t edit that part out. As a matter of
fact, I give most of my clients I work with a T-shirt that says
“My personal trainer told me to eat more fat.” And I‟m sure
that people… I‟ve written a few articles on it and there are
multiple articles out there that talk about what you just
touched on and in going to even greater detail about how
one of the issues with health in America and especially
cardiovascular disease and things of that nature is not an
increased consumption of fats, especially like animal based
fats that you were talking about, because that consumption
has actually gone down as cardiovascular disease has gone
up. But the problem is more along the lines of the other stuff
you touched on. The trans fats and the processed fats and
even the sugars and the starches and things of that nature.
What I found intriguing was I didn‟t know you could actually
find out what your essential fatty acid levels were. And that‟s
what I found was really interesting. That you‟ve actually
figured out a way to allow people to test their essential fatty
acid levels. Can you talk about how that works and what
somebody does and then if they‟re found to be… I guess it‟d
be deficient, not necessarily high. I don‟t know if you can
have Omega 3 fatty acid levels that are too high. I guess
that‟s another question for you. But how do you do the test?
And then what do you do once you find out the results of the
test? Can you walk me through the process?
Dr. Richard Cohen: Absolutely. Right, so all this understanding is wonderful but
at the end of the day, how does that affect me and how can I
monitor my fatty acids? It‟s such a critical foundation of
health. And by monitoring these and getting these balanced
and getting it right, you‟re going to do a lot for your
performance as well as your well-being. So the test is a single
one blood finger stick. It just gets – you drop your blood, you
prick it with sort of a spring-loaded lance. You really don‟t
feel it at all and you drop that one drop on a sort of gauze like
card and let it dry for about an hour or so and just pop it in
the mail to the lab. The lab sends back a full report of these
essential fats. Or all fats. All fats that are present within the
body and you can break down those fats into the Omega 3,
the Omega 6, some of these Omega 9 fats and saturated fats.
The key things that we‟re looking at are one, the percent of
Omega 3 that are present in your body. That‟s sort of critical,
at least from a cardiovascular immune perspective. And you
want about 10%. Because that‟s what we‟re looking for.
People, hunter gatherers… the highest protected level. If
that‟s deficient, you need more Omega 3 right off the bat. So
you need to supplement more. We can talk about sources but
the other thing we look at is that Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio.
Typically you want it 2 to 3:1. That‟s sort of again what we‟re
seeing. If that Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio is too high, we need
to look at your diet and say well, too many nuts. Too many
oils. Too many grains. Where are you getting that? I‟ve seen
people who are too high in Omega 6 and they‟re just eating
too many nuts which isn‟t necessarily… I don‟t have a
problem with, but it may not be a balance that their body is
optimal with. So you can gauge that. Maybe shift to a more
seed-based and more Chia and more flax and fish oil and so
forth. So that‟s another critical… that Omega 6, Omega 3
ratio is also a very strong marker of the inflammatory status
of the body. That‟s for probably a whole other talk but
inflammation is probably at the root cause of most illnesses.
And when the Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio is right on, the
likelihood of inflammatory diseases which range from
cardiovascular to diabetes to over frequency of injury all
increase significantly. So that‟s also important. The other key
ratio… you can look at many of them, but this is the third key,
is that arachidonic acid to EPA. While arachidonic acid has
beneficial properties, or you need it, it can flow more to the
inflammatory pathway. So when someone has a high
arachidonic acid, it also suggests that there is an imbalance
in the processing of fats and they may do well with some
primrose or borage oil to bypass that block in the Omega 3 or
the prostaglandin 3 formation. You can actually see the
percent of trans fats. So if someone is high in trans fats,
you‟re busted. You know you‟re eating processed foods, fast
foods at a high amount. There‟s naturally trans fats in dairy.
So if you do eat some yoghurts and dairy products, that will
show up. But if someone‟s running over 1 ½ to 2 percent,
they‟re not doing their body good and you‟re incorporating
too many of these molecularly changed fats into your system.
So, once you get this balance you can start to specifically
make some subtle changes in your diet, or sometimes drastic
changes. You can start adding in more Omega 3 based fats,
reducing Omega 6 based fats and eliminating other fats in
your diet as well. So if we look at – what are the fats… I guess
the corollaries… what are the fats that people really want to
focus on? We talked about grass fed game as much as
possible. The majority. That‟s one other point that‟s sort of
overlooked, is the meats that we eat… meat, game, animal –
the fats in them are not harmful. In fact there‟s a lot of
benefit to them. The commercial fed meat do not have the
natural fatty acid patterns that they always did. What do we
feed cattle? Go watch Food Inc. It‟s corn and grain. So we‟re
fattening up the cattle with insulin producing grain, with
different fats. The fats that we talked about in corn is highly
Omega 6. The fats in grass which cattle were made to – cows
and buffalo, they eat grass. That‟s more of a balance. So grass
fed natural beef has higher Omega 3 and the saturated fats
are different. The commercially farmed cattle or
commercially farmed salmon do not have the healthier fatty
acid pathways. So you start pushing that Omega 6 balance in
the wrong way. So grass fed wild, game type are always going
to be far, far superior. Same thing – wild salmon.
Unfortunately today, with all the chemicals and pollutants,
it‟s not ideal but wild periodically is still probably okay. At
least in my mind. Then what other grain... Omega 3, we
talked Chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp has some Omega 3.
Pumpkin seeds. You make a blender, I‟ll typically grind up
Chia or flax or hemp in the blender and drink. So those are
going to be your best sources of pure Omega 3 fats with
obviously some fish oil supplements. You can get those and
EPA, DHA obviously are beneficial.
Ben: Now I‟m not a big fan of calorie counting and necessarily
trying to quantify everything in your diet, because I think it
can be a little nonconductive to adherence, but when
somebody does something like this test, can you actually –
based on the results of the test – figure out about how much
of the Omega 3 fatty acids or any of these other sources that
you‟re talking about – you would actually need to bring
yourself into a proper balance? Can you quantify it if you
wanted to so you‟re not shooting in the dark?
Dr. Richard Cohen: Not directly. But you can certainly get a baseline of how
much Omega 3s they may need initially. Depending on what
they‟re experiencing. Everyone‟s pathway to produce
prostaglandins are different. Someone has some
inflammatory conditions or injuries or performance issues,
you might push more Omega 3 type fat initially and then cut
back especially if they were deficient. So that‟s sort of the
beauty of it. If they‟re running at 6%, I certainly would say
they might want to take a couple tablespoons of a
pharmaceutical grade fish oil. Off the top of my head, even
generally 800 mgs EPA, 600 mgs DHA per dose. Initially
pushing that pathway and trying to move it in the other
direction. Then you could taper down as time goes. So it‟s a
little bit of science, but it‟s also a little bit of art. If you push
the pathway too much to this prostaglandin 1 series, you
could – too much of a good thing is also a problem. Generally
it‟s starting out a certain way, it‟s adding in things and then
eliminating them… just pay attention to your body with that.
Getting rid of the processed fats, dramatically reducing or
eliminating some of the Omega 6 oils. You do need some,
but you can get all you need from nuts and natural grains. All
the other… anything else added in is just throwing you in the
wrong direction in essence, because you‟re just not going to
avoid it at all. In a realistic sense. Don‟t count. You‟re going
to go crazy. That‟s not a realistic way to live and what we
also… and I‟m sure you do… is if people need more calories,
especially if they‟re trying to eliminate calories, you summon
the more neutral fats. Some of the saturated fats such as the
coconut are really a wonderful addition to add in or to cook
in – coconut or ghee, hat‟s the other sort of real life
component, what‟s good to cook with? Actually saturated fats
are better to cook with because they‟re not going to become
damaged and clarified butter or ghee, which has been around
for thousands of years is probably one of the more resilient
types of fats because it doesn‟t have as many of the proteins
that become denatured and it‟s very resilient to heat damage.
So coconut, butter, ghee, olive oil is obviously wonderful to
cook in. Not at a high temperature because it still has some
polyunsaturated in it, but that‟s really it. You don‟t want to
cook in anything else. Because otherwise you‟re just
Ben: Interesting. Well in the limited amount of time that we have
available, because we‟re actually running a little bit short on
time for the interview, as far as people doing this test – is all
the information about it on your website? If I were going to
put that link in the Shownotes? Can people go there and find
out more about the EFA test?
Dr. Richard Cohen: Yeah, we‟ve added that on. We‟ll be adding more specific
information, but you can order that test either individually or
as part of the performance profile. We‟re going to be doing
some shifting. Actually I can talk to you some more
specifically. Sort of breaking down some of the tests and
making them available in some different ways as well. But
that is available in of itself and along with – I probably put
that and amino acids and vitamin D as your three most
critical as a baseline.
Ben: The essential fatty acids, the amino acids and the vitamin D?
Dr. Richard Cohen: Absolutely. The reason they weren‟t in the profile initially is
twofold. It runs a little more… it‟s a bit more expensive test
than D (inaudible) which actually sort of mentioned it‟s now
available by finger stick. So you can check your iron stores by
finger stick, not by going to a lab. That‟s the first time it‟s
available anywhere in this country commercially. So we‟re
excited to have that one. But with regards to amino acids and
essential fats, the majority of people are either deficient in
some amino acids or not at balance with essential fats.
Generally, if you look at someone – I‟m sure you see, Ben, in
consulting with people if you look at the diet off the bat,
you‟re almost 98% sure they‟re not going to be right on. So
generally what we‟ll sometimes do is have people make the
shift first and then okay, I‟ve made my changes. I‟m adding
more essential fats. I‟m getting rid of the processed fats and
I‟m not eating as many of the Omega 6 oils. Now we‟ll check
it to see what fine tuning I need. Unless someone really
needs the information, it‟s certainly great to know and it‟s a
motivation for a lot of people. When you really sit down and
look at someone‟s diet, even a 3,4,5 day general survey – it‟s
pretty clear that unless they‟re supplementing, unless they‟re
very cognizant of these things that we‟ve talked about – it‟s
unlikely to be in balance to begin with.
Ben: Yeah, absolutely. So you‟re saying get it dialed in and then
look at getting a test to find out really if you‟re going to need
to make even more changes.
Dr. Richard Cohen: Right. So you could go two ways. If you think you‟re dialing…
that‟s the other thing. A lot of people may be listening and
have a lot of this information, then okay, let me see where I
am and how do I fine-tune it? Versus if you‟re way out of
whack, it‟s pretty clear you know. Make the changes first.
And then re-test it. There‟s no major benefit other than just
giving you motivation. Seeing the number. A lot of people go
whoa. 5% Omega 3 index. That‟s not good. And so that would
be… you‟d be at extreme risk for inflammation. Your
performance is going to suffer. We haven‟t specifically
spoken about that. But these prostaglandins stimulate
hormone production, oxygenation, recovery, reduce
inflammation. So you‟re going to have these balances
corrected, you‟re just going to recover quicker. You‟re going
to have a better hormonal response.
Ben: Interesting. Alright, well what I‟ll do is I‟ll put a link to that
in the Shownotes where people can go find out more about
the test and as far as some of the things that you went over, I
know there‟s a lot of resources out there but are there any
books that you‟re aware of that really go into it? If people
wanted to find out more about the issue with fat especially in
our typical western diet, and the fact that we‟ve a lot of times
got the wrong perspective on it? Are there any books you‟d
point people to, or resources?
Dr. Richard Cohen: Gosh. There are so many. Artemis Simopolous I think has
written a lot on essential fatty acids. Dan Eads writes on
protein powder, a lot on essential fats and – if someone was
concerned about some of the cardiovascular risk, he‟s right
on and he has a wonderful blog and just insightfulness of
Ben: Yeah, I‟ve heard of that book, Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill.
That‟s one I know.
Dr. Richard Cohen: Right, Udo Erasmus is another. Donald Rubin. These are
some of the classic educators with fats. Michael Horavin,
Barry Sears. The whole… The Zone was based on this 30,
40… the ratio doesn‟t exactly – is not perfect. But the whole
principle behind The Zone was this dietary manipulation of
essential fatty acid pathways. Again, that 30, 40, 30 is not
exactly right on – the philosophy and the idea and what
using diets to balance these prostaglandins was the whole
concept behind The Zone.
Ben: Interesting. Well, if you‟re listening here in the audience and
you have other books or resources that you‟d recommend,
definitely leave a comment in the Shownotes to this podcast.
Dr. Cohen, thank you for coming on today and for giving us
more useful information as usual.
Dr. Richard Cohen: My pleasure. Fats are fun.
Ben: Fats are fun. Alright, maybe that will be the title of this
Dr. Richard Cohen: Fats are fun. Yeah.
Ben: Alright, I‟ll talk to you later.
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