Nina Teicholz: The Big Fat Surprise and Debunking the Traditional Diet [OPP 171]

In this episode of the Optimal Performance Podcast, Nina Teicholz stops by to dish on her brand new book, The Big Fat Surprise.  For the past 60 years dietary fats were thought to be the single greatest cause of a multitude of health conditions. We now know fat--saturated fat especially--isn't the culprit we once believe. Nina joins us today to talk about where things went wrong and how nutrition policy finally updated the conventional wisdom we all took at face value.

We've included 2 of the studies that Nina Teicholz mentions including the Paddon-Jones review (first laid out the meal distribution argument) and the PROT-AGE study group (the paper that "protein folks" always use to begin our arguments that the RDA is not adequate for older adults).

In this episode you'll learn how and why the world finally accepted that fat isn't the enemy it once was. So grab a cup of coffee and dive right in; this one moves quickly and I think you're really going to enjoy it. 

P.S. First time purchasers from Natural Stacks can get 15% off their order by using the code MAC15 at checkout.  Check out our Mood Stack if you agree that feeling good means keeping your body healthy and your mind at peace.

Episode Outline

  • Intro [1:30]
  • Nina Teicholz's Stack [3:00]
  • Debunking Dietary Myths and The Big Fat Surprise [6:00]
  • Undoing the Traditional Diet and Today's Issues [10:15]
  • Are our people being kept sick? [14:30]
  • What is it going to take to reprogram our diets? [18:15]
  • What are you faced with since writing your book? [23:30]
  • What are some examples of good rigerous science? [28:40]
  • What drew you to this line of work? [31:20]
  • Finding Your Own True Dietary Bliss [35:00]
  • Who is getting nutrition right? [39:00]
  • The difference in changes between men and women. [41:45]
  • What's up next for Nina Teicholz? [45:15]
  • Outro [48:00]

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Official Podcast Transcript

Sean McCormack: You're listening to the Optimal Performance Podcast. The OPP is brought to you by Natural Stacks, makers of 100% natural and open source supplements designed to help you live optimal. For more information on how to build optimal mental and physical performance into your life, go to As I customarily do I'm going to jump into a couple of natural statics products that I dig and how I use them and what I notice. And today it's the mood stack, which has four products in it the serotonin brain food, GABA brain food, vitamin d3, and curcumin. And you may not know this, but the serotonin brain food, and the GABA brain food are just like all natural stacks products made to work together, and these two are really complimentary. Serotonin is about positive mood and social ability and GABA is about relaxation and calmness and the vitamin B3 as you probably already know supports immune function, it also supports a general health and well-being especially if you live in northern latitudes where you don't very get much sunshine.

And then the curcumin and I've been taking curcumin every single day for years and years and my body stays healthy, normal and healthy joint function. It sustains a metabolic function it's anti-inflammatory, it's killer, it's made with organic coconut oil. These are awesome products that I dig and if you use the code Mac 15, NAC 15, you get 15% off your first online pager purchase. And if you're sort of a stressed-out hard-working person that's got a lot going on and this might be the right stack for you. On today's episode of the Optimal Performance podcast we dig in with Nina Tyscholes and Nina Tyscholes wrote a book called The Big Fat Surprise, and this basically goes over this book took 10 years to write because Nina got into so many different studies around how it was that saturated fats were bad for you. Tells the story about why it is the way that it is now, why the food pyramid is set up the way that it is, and it's a really fascinating conversation. A lot of this information we already know why butter meat and cheese belong at a healthy diet like that's not that off the wall for most of the listeners I assume, but she gets into really the policy around it, the politics around it. It's a really cool conversation it moves quickly, and I think you're gonna enjoy it.

You're listening to the optimal performance podcast, and I'm your host Sean McCormack, it's the OPP. I'm a performance coach, a wellness entrepreneur, a blogger, a speaker of biohacker, and it's my privilege to bring to you the leading experts in the field of performance so let's dig right in. Nina, thanks for joining us today.

Nina: It's great to be here thanks for having me.

Sean McCormack: So I like to start every podcast with the same question for all of our guests, which is what is in your body today, what have you taken, what sort of supplements, what food like what's what's in Nina right now?

Nina: Oh that's a good way to start off a show nothing is the answer except for coffee, so I do intermittent fasting, and I do not have anything to eat normally before noon, so that's it that's an easy answer.

Sean McCormack: Do you put anything in your coffee or is it you just drink black coffee.

Nina: I just drink black coffee.

Sean McCormack: Yeah, that's the same answer we get from everybody.

Nina: I learned something I've been reading ... I've talking recently into a very famous scientist who studies protein, and one of his papers actually had noted something that was a little alarming to me that I wanted to learn more about, which is that for people as you get older you cannot make your own [inaudible 00:04:15] for restore your muscles [inaudible 00:04:19]. And so for adults like he [inaudible 00:04:22] are like people past a certain age as you get older you need to more regularly eat protein particularly protein because your body cannot synthesize it, so now I am considering actually having say like an egg at breakfast because I am of an age when I'm probably not synthesizing my own protein.

Sean McCormack: Interesting, was a based on a study on some research that just showed that our ability to make protein or to synthesize protein or a process protein just declines?

Nina: Apparently, this is just well established in the literature. I mean one of the things ... and the scientist is named Don Layman, he's a professor emeritus at the University of Illinois. And we can put in the show notes if you like I can post some of these papers for people to read if they're interested. Apparently it is well established so eating protein becomes more important as you get older.

Sean McCormack: It makes sense, right, I mean the protein that we eat is it helps us keep lean muscle, make lean muscle, and so makes it makes sense that as we age our ability to do that effectively declines, yeah it makes sense.

Nina: But otherwise I believe in intermittent fasting, and it has definitely worked for me, and it seems like fasting is such an incredibly easy way to manage your weight, there's just no thought, like what is the advice, don't eat that's it, you just all you have to do is not eat for a while. And I just read an article about how there are all these Silicon Valley startups that are trying to make millions of dollars off of this fasting concept because intermittent fasting has gained in popularity so much. And I was thinking how do you propose to make money off of that concept, really here's the secret, don't eat.

Sean McCormack: Don't consume, how do we monetize that? Well it's perfect for a conversation today because demystifying myths or rather going against conventional wisdom is something that you have now made a career of debunking and digging deep into what because telling somebody not to eat, even a heavy person is sort of controversial like telling someone hey you should eat less even that statement alone for a lot of people is like sort of a red flag. And the people are like, whoa what no, no, no, I'm supposed to have three square meals a day. I'm supposed to start my day with a bowl of grain. I'm supposed to have a mid-morning snack, and so even saying that is probably like not for our audience or myself, who I also don't eat until two o'clock every day and intermittent fast and eat ketogenicly, even that statement alone is a little bit controversial.

Nina: Right well we were told that you're supposed to eat small portions throughout the day in order to keep your metabolism up, if that was supposed to be a boost for your metabolism. And actually we were taught not just three square meals a day, but to have five or six smaller meals, that was always considered better, that was the way you boosted your metabolism. It was absolutely based on no good science at all, and one of the explanations for the obesity epidemic is that we became a snacking culture. The whole snack food industry promoted this idea that you needed to have lots of snacks throughout the day. And now we know that what does your body really need your body needs a rest from the circulating glucose in your blood stream in order to repair itself and order not have circulating insulin, right? Anytime you have glucose in your bloodstream you've triggered the release of insulin and that prevents you from accessing your fat stores, right? So any anybody who's on a ketogenic or low-carb diet knows that, but that's clearly not the advice that Americans have been told, myth busted, you're ready.

Sean McCormack: Right, myth busting for sure. Well I know that the book was published in 2014, right?

Nina: Yes, my book, The Big Fat Surprise.

Sean McCormack: The Big Fat Surprise, can you give our listeners who are going to be shaking their head as they're listening to this driving in their car like, yes of course, naturally. Can you tell us a little bit of the thrust of the book and what you found that based on all of your research just like sort of what is the bottom line?

Nina: The main argument of the book is around saturated fat, the fats that are found in animal foods, but also coconut and palm oil. And we have fought for decades that those fats cause heart disease, so the main argument of my book is that those fats do not have any impact on your cardiovascular health. In fact, they're probably good for your cardiovascular health, and that was a very controversial argument still. I think the larger story of my book is it really tells the story of how we went down this path of having wrong nutrition guidelines. How do we come to believe that fat and cholesterol and especially saturated that fat and cholesterol and especially saturated fat are bad for health. What is this story and of course is a story much more of politics than of science, right? I mean it's really an amazing story about science really being suppressed and about how scientists can be just as political as politicians. And it's a really rip-roaring story, one of my favorite descriptions of the book is by The Economist magazine, which wrote a really nice review of it.

And they said this book you cannot imagine that this would be a page-turner, but it is because you just can't believe how it could go so wrong and stay so wrong for so long. But I also think it's important for me to say that when I started off this book I was a vegetarian, been a vegetarian 25 years, and ended up putting a piece of red meat on the cover of the book because it's so ... it took me a nearly a decade to research, and the end event I realized wow everything I thought about fat and nutrition was just completely 100% wrong.

Sean McCormack: Yeah, when you take into account sort of outside pressures upon the different industries to promote this grain, and corn, and seed oils, and stuff like that. It's enough to make it's enough to make someone really frustrated and to ask questions about how policy works and how politics works because ... I'm from the generation that sort of gen ... I'm gonna tail into the Millennials, I'm sort of the oldest millennial. And my dietary experience growing up and there's sort of dietary reality of my parents is that you need lots of grain, is that you need lots of pasta, you need lots of bread, and in it's taking a while to sort of undo that narrative, right?

Nina: Yeah, well this is what we've been told because we've been told this for three generations now. Your parents grew up believing that I mean I was caught in ... I was growing up in the 1970s, and I can remember the moment in our kitchen when we stopped having my grandmother's meatball and cream sauce for dinner and in came the wok, and the stir fried vegetables, and the more pasta, more grains. And that really caused me to gain weight and not be healthy, but you're so convinced that by what you're being told, and you go to the nutritionist they tell you eat more grains and more, and you're not doing good enough job. And you eat more fruits and vegetables, and really I believed it, I believed 100% I counted every calorie, I counted every fat calorie. I don't know why I never questioned the conventional wisdom it's just always what we're told is that we don't try hard enough.

I used to just exercise all the time and I just could not lose weight. So it's incredibly ... people say when they're reading my book that sometimes I have to put it down because they get so angry like it is a story that it makes you very cynical. I think about how policy works and how science works, and you would assume that scientists and policy makers would respond to the best possible evidence and then try to make the nation healthy, but they don't. And then you see it again, and again, and again, how about if I just tell you a story from today because like this is still going on. So one of the things that has come out of my writing is that I founded a not-for-profit in Washington, DC to say like we need to change our guidelines, our nutrition guidelines because they're making people fat and sick, and they're wrong. And so there's this study recently that probably many of your audience have ever heard about. But it was a ketogenic diet that was given to over 200 diabetic patients, people who had serious diabetes like eight years on average had the disease, so not like easy people the to reverse out of diabetes.

At the end of one year of that ketogenic diet they had reverse diabetes meaning their average blood glucose level was below the diabetic level in 65% of those patients. So just imagine here we have type-2 diabetes, we have an epidemic of this in our country. The project leader of that study, Sarah Hallberg, it was a University of Indiana based University based study. And we went to Congress to say there's a food as medicine group in Congress, and we said why don't you have a briefing on this study, imagine, you could reverse 65% of diabetes maybe in a one year in the United States if you adopted this idea. And she was going to be invited for a briefing and then that briefing was canceled because there are people in Congress who do want to reverse diabetes and who care about the public health. But there are so many forces that are pushing against that, right, there are all the forces that have defended this wrong diet for so many years and all the public health associations and the American Heart Association, they are lobbying against this information coming out.

Sean McCormack: It begs the question, right, and I without maybe you get to this in the book a little bit, but where my mind goes is there a greater sort of nefarious angle to keep people sick, and fat, and dependent on the corn industry and the grain industry. Is there a greater conspiracy to keep people sick?

Nina: It's a complicated answer to that I don't think there's a conspiracy theory. I think there's a set of really strong interests that prevent change. We'll just go through them briefly, the food industry as you say corn, soy, wheat, big vegetable oils, which include companies like Monsanto, ADM, Cargill, Bunge, some of the biggest companies in the world. They want you eating vegetable oils they do not want to lift the cap on saturated fats, they want you eating those unsaturated fats instead. So there's a big interest of the food industry to prevent change, and then secondly there is an interest by every University, and every Public Health Association, and all the professionals who have invested three generations of professionals who've invested their careers in telling Americans to eat a high grain, high carbohydrate diet, right? So how can they say they're wrong, all the scientists at Harvard and Tufts, they would all have to admit they're wrong. The American Heart Association would have to admit that it launched this bad advice in 1961, and it was wrong from the start, I mean how can you do that, it seems almost inconceivable.

And there is the interest of pharmaceutical companies who clearly have an interest in keeping America's sick, right, and who do they support? When I started doing my research I just did not understand like why do food scientists get all this money from Big Pharma, but they do there's a huge amount of big pharma money going into nutrition research because they want to support this basically this diet that keeps Americans sick. And who supports the American Diabetes Association, 100% of device companies pharmaceutical companies, so they in their last two annual meetings have not even had one session on low carbohydrate eating. There's not a single conversation about low carbohydrate eating at their annual meeting, and instead you can get things like, oh like a device that attaches surgically to your stomach so it's like medical bulimia where the food comes out, and I mean you ... so you could eat bad food and then it expels through your stomach that is ... and it's so revolting.

Those are the companies that support the American Diabetes Association's, same with the American Heart Association supported by all kinds of pharmaceutical companies and food companies. So it's very cynical, I hate to have this thought, but it is true that if you tell Americans to just go eat a healthy diet they are no longer taking five, six, seven medications a day, they're no longer on insulin, and that does not benefit pharmaceutical and device companies.

Sean McCormack: Yeah, there's got to be ... I wonder about the like sort of the line, what the suggestions would be because, so myself as an example. I've been eating ketogenicly I usually do 80/20, I have a cheat day. For the most part I eat really high fat, moderate carbohydrates, but they're yams and sweet potatoes and stuff like that. I try to stay away from fried foods and lots of leafy greens, and my cholesterol is in conventional with conventional wisdom just off the charts like really asking for heart disease because my cholesterol is really high and has been really high for a number of years.

Nina: Total cholesterol or LDL?

Sean McCormack: The last time I checked I don't remember actually I'm not sure, which it was, I think they were both high, but for the people who are taking their sort of own nutrition and eating for what feels right and what keeps them less inflamed. What's it gonna take to sort of reprogram common wisdom and knowledge about having high cholesterol and having that not be a health risk?

Nina: So one of the things that I chart in my book is I go through the history of the science on cholesterol markers, right? It starts with total cholesterol and then it was discovered pretty definitively that your total cholesterol is unrelated to your cardiovascular risk, it does not track with cardiovascular risk. And that's why they then shifted over to LDL cholesterol. LDL cholesterol also it turns out in many diet studies, there is no correlation that your LDL cholesterol is your low-density it's the one that's supposed to be bad. But they could not find that with diet ... they could never see that people who change their diets and whether or not they had a heart attack or what outcome like died or had a heart attack, it didn't track it all with LDL, none at all. So you have the things like well why am I worrying about my LDL, and that the reason you're worried about your LDL is that drug companies have figured out a way to lower your LDL, right, that's what statins are.

So they have a huge investment in LDL being the positive most important risk factor. They tried to make a drug to increase HDL which is your good cholesterol, but they couldn't do that. They tried all these trials, and they turned out all their drugs killed people. So they have no financial incentive in HDL, they have a huge incentive in emphasizing your LDL. But again what happens to your LDL and diet has no relationship to your cardiovascular risk. LDL just turns out to be this highly unreliable marker. I mean I don't know if you've talked to your audience about the work of Dave Feldman known as Keto Dave on Twitter. But he has basically figured out a way to completely hack your LDL because, and he just says for people on keto it often happens for people on keto that their LDL raises goes up quite a bit. But it turns down that if you just increase I think it's like 500 calories a day of fat in the three days before you go to get your LDL, your cholesterol tested at your doctor, your LDL plummets.

And that has just to do with what LDL does, it clears the fat from the system, so if you add more fat you're employing all the LDLs and so they're all working really hard. So he solved this problem that people on low-carb diets have, which is they feel great like everything's better, their energy better, and their mood better, everything is better. But then they go to the doctor and doc says your LDL is up, and I'm going to put you on a statin. And then they think, ah maybe I am increasing my cardiovascular risk, but it just turns out your doctor only has pills for LDL, that's why he's focused on it. Your LDL is highly variable depending on what you've eaten for the last three days, and you can completely manipulate the result so that you do not have to tussle with your doctor about taking a statin, which I think really ... my husband came home, and he's like my doctor trying to get me on a statin. And he said like 10 out of 10 cardiologists would recommend a statin for you.

And I said 10 out of 10 cardiologists are wrong about so many things, so let's ... and to get on a lifelong drug, which by the way statins have unreported side effects. There's never been public disclosure of the statin data for outsiders to confirm or to really reassess what all the side effects are. I mean that is ... it's an ongoing struggle to try to get public access to that data, so going on a lifelong medication is a very serious thing to do.

Sean McCormack: Follow the money, right, who gains from this like which incentive, and that's really sort of the main key. So since the publish of the book I know that you've you've appeared on tons of podcasts. I saw you on the Joe Rogan podcast, me and seven million other people, what are you grappling with now? It sounds like you're taking it to DC to try to institute organizations that will help push this information out. What's the most common thing that you're up against and what do you have to convince people of, what are you faced with day in day out?

Nina: Well I started this group called the nutrition coalition because although I hadn't written this book and gotten a lot of attention, it just turns out that not the whole world has adopted my point of view, which is not so important except for that I realized over the course of the last couple of years really how important these nutrition guidelines are that come out of our government. You think all of us think, I don't go to .gov website to find out how to eat and who does. But the reality is they shape so much of what we think about how most Americans eat liking our school lunch programs, feeding programs for the elderly, how all our military rations and by the way 14% of our military is obese.

Sean McCormack: Wow, how's that?

Nina: Because they follow the dietary guidelines, and they are told ... this is what they have in these military cafeterias, pasta, food that speeds you up, good energy food, meat, food that slows you down. They literally have like red, yellow, and [inaudible 00:25:30] stickers on the food there's a big red sticker on the meat. So these guys are getting fat and not only aren't 14% obese, but two-thirds up to two thirds are overweight or obese. And at any point in time 10% of our military is unable to serve, so that's pretty amazing, right? So the military schools, feeding programs to the elderly, and even more important I would say is that the dietary guidelines are really downloaded to every doctor's office, every nutritionist office, every dietician, every nurse, their professional associations just download the guidelines and then they go out to every office every hospital, every clinic in the country, also all nutrition education in schools, so every time you go to a health care practitioner you are getting the guidelines.

And everybody's told eat more grains, don't eat fat, ramp up on the fruits and vegetables, avoid red meat, and so I realized that like that's just ... even if all of us and all of your listeners have taken care of their own health, maybe they're able to help their family, but they probably still like they're afraid to go to their doctor and have to explain their crazy diet, or their child at school, or their elderly parent in a nursing home, or somebody goes to the hospital and goes into relapse because they're fed some really like high carb crappy hospital food, all of that is controlled by the guidelines and that's what I realized this has to change. And so that's when I started doing this work in Washington and it's a huge undertaking, but it just has to happen it's like it has to happen because otherwise the trajectories and obesity and diabetes and all these fatty liver disease, Alzheimer's everything, is they just get worse and worse.

And the conversation in Washington is so closed it is really like our dietary guidelines are fine, everything's fine it's just Americans are too lazy and stupid to follow them. And that is why if only we could just get it into their heads how important it is to do a better job and exercise more. So that is just a tragic situation, so it's a big job we have to do something too ... the reason the guidelines are so bad is that the experts in charge have been basically allowed to cherry-pick the science. They just select the science that they want, so one of our jobs is to try to really enact some legislative change that says look the guidelines need to be based on sound science. It's crazy to base our guidelines on this really weak data called epidemiological data. I mean just to give you an example those caps on cholesterol the reason that everybody avoided egg yolks and shellfish for so long that was all based on this weak data. And then they so people for decades don't eat these healthy foods with lots of nutrients in them. And then they and then they said, oops sorry we were wrong about that, well how many millions of Americans have suffered in the mean time also the low-fat diet, that's all based on this weak epidemiological data. So our effort is to just try to say you must use good rigorous science.

Sean McCormack: So what's what's some of the good science what sort of studies are important based on what you've seen?

Nina: Well in general in science there is this weak epidemiological data that comes from people writing down food frequency questionnaires. I don't know if you thought your listeners about that, but that's when people say like how many peaches did you eat in the last six months, and how many pears did you eat in the last six months, it's really unreliable data and they take that data and they put it in a computer and then they see who 10 years later dies or suffers from disease. And most of these studies they only ask you once about your diet as if nothing ever changes, but in any case even if they ask you every six months like I don't even remember what I yesterday much less for the last, so that data is really unreliable. The only data that really can show cause and effect and nutrition are what's called randomized controlled clinical trials like that study on type 2 diabetics I told you about. That was a random, controlled clinical trial. We separate people into two groups, you give half the you give one group you give say a diet high in saturated fats, the other group you give a diet low in saturated fats, actually this experiment that I'm describing was done in the 1960s and 70s in huge experiments were done.

They could never find that the people eating less saturated fats and replacing them with vegetable oils so like margarine instead of butter and soy filled milk and soy filled cheese, and yeah. They never could show that those people had any benefits, there wasn't no but and in fact in one of the most famous study called the Minnesota coronary survey, the men who lowered their cholesterol more actually had higher rates of cardiovascular death. And the people eating any more vegetable oils this was found in numerous trials died at higher rates of cancer, so this is the amazing thing of what happened to all those studies, why do we not know about them, why did our ... and the answer is really that sort of part of the incredible cover-up story like these studies weren't published, sat in basements results never saw the light of day, never included in review papers. It's just is this really good rigorous evidence that was paid for by our government therefore by US taxpayers was just never used it was ignored, and that's because it came out contrary to like what the dominant hypothesis was and nobody could accept it or believe it.

Sean McCormack: What drew you to this line of work and I know that you were vegetarian for a long time and you ate the way that you were told the way that you were suggested to be healthy. I experienced a similar thing. I was a vegetarian for two years in college as I was trying to lose weight and stay fit and I could not eat enough food. I was never satiated so then that means way more cheese, way more bread, and it's College so way more beer, and I was bloated, and I was heavy, and I was tired, and I had bad skin, and I had sore joints trying to play college soccer as a vegetarian I just couldn't get enough food. Was that a catalyst for you're sort of own dietary journey, was that a catalyst to jump into 10 years of study to tell the story?

Nina: No, is the answer, no, I was not as smart of you. I got into this because I was doing a series of investigative stories for a magazine called Gourmet, which is just a food magazine that wanted to understand more about the food industry. And then I was assigned this article on trans fats, well this is the early 2000s a nobody really knew much about trans fats so that really plunged me into this world of fat, good fat, bad fat, and all these fats. And sorry let me just go back so I got assigned to do this story about trans fats and when I started researching that story I started talking to scientists who told me stories that just seemed unbelievable like somebody had tried to yank their article from a journal or a scientist sounding the alarm about trans fats, which are found in like in margarine. The margarine executives visiting her in her office and trying to get her to stop doing her research and threatening her, and people ... I mean just crazy stories I couldn't [inaudible 00:33:29] the science happening.

So I started writing my book about trans fats, but once I got involved in this area I realized that there was a much bigger story here about all fats, good fat, bad fat, nonfat, all this that what dietary recommendations have obsessed about most, which is a fat content, it just seemed we had gotten it all upside down and backwards. And so it became a super obsessive, we discovered the degree to which I'm really a compulsive obsessive person. You want to read every single piece of science [inaudible 00:34:15] I did, and then you start to realize like oh this is so controversial what I'm finding and I'm it's really important that I be right like I have to read and track down every single possible argument to the contrary. I have to try to prove myself wrong. I have to be sure that I'm right and that just took so many years to get through so much research and so much of it actually never got published like I have 15,000 words on fish oils [inaudible 00:34:48]. But it just became really obsessive and it really for me it wasn't about my own nutrition.

I think my as I discovered things my diet had changed, but it was that's not why I went into it. But then as I discovered this the new science on low-carb and on meat and all ... I just like so many people who discovered it's such a reward and you feel so much better.

Sean McCormack: Yeah, so you follow though ... you were given a task, you were doing a job and you followed the rabbit down the hole and you kept going, and you kept going, and you kept going, and you kept going in, and one study led to another. Well I think it's admirable, it's obviously not it's not a popular stance to take and it goes against conventional wisdom and it goes against politics, and policy, and really does sort of myth bust. But I really respect and appreciate your willingness to make sure that you're right, to synthesize all of these studies, to tell the story because I think most of us and our listeners ... they're gonna be shaking their head through this entire like, yes of course, yes of course, yes of course. But the greater population I think that they probably know how they feel when they eat poor food, and even calling it vegetable oil is sort of a misnomer, right, because what is a canola anyway like what is that, who knows, I know what an olive is, I know what avocado is, using that oil makes sense, but why canola, right? What's in Pam like what ... these sorts of these sorts of manufactured fake foods.

I think when people eat these sorts of foods they know that they feel lousy, but they trust their doctors and they listen to the conventional wisdom, and it's gonna be a long road. It's gonna be a long road to educate to the greater population about they've been duped and they for a long time.

Nina: Yeah and I think probably your listeners have this experience where they know it works for them. They have multiple frustrating conversations with their doctor or even people in their family. I mean I can't tell you how long it took me to just get my mom to stop having low fat, high sugar yogurt for breakfast every morning. She's like, well I'll ask my doctor about that sweetie. Okay, that's fine your doctor he's had one day of nutrition education over the course of their entire career. But the reality is like there are people I think like your listeners who are willing to buck conventional wisdom, they're Mavericks, there are people who are open minded and who don't necessarily trust establishment thinking on a lot of things. And they feel well [inaudible 00:38:00] going against conventional wisdom, but I think that and [inaudible 00:38:06] many people for whom that is not true like my mom. She is not one of those people, she will just do what her doctor tells her and she does not feel comfortable bucking convention, and there are many people probably the majority of Americans for whom that is true.

And so that's again why I just come back to this idea we need the top-down advice to be. You need to for that sick person who goes there doctor to get the right advice, because they are gonna ... even you, you're worried about your cholesterol, that's because most people are worried if their doctor tells them something and that they might risk greater harm, or disease, or heart attack down the line, it's very hard to turn your ears off of that, right? So that's it has to be right at the top, or people no advice like blow up the Dietary Guidelines, but this they have to be right.

Sean McCormack: So who's getting it right, which sort of influencers in the space, is it Mark Sisson with primal, is it Rob wolf with paleo? Who in your estimation and I know that you're not a dietitian, but like I know sort of what an optimal way to eat is like what in your mind, who's getting it right, what sort of narrative is in line with what you've learned to be beneficial to people?

Nina: Well I think that anybody who is on ... we're told to eat a diet that's over half of our calories from carbohydrates, right? So anybody who is advising people to eat fewer than less than that is doing a better job. There are a lot of different people in this space now and different things work for different people, right? I think it's interesting the paleo community is becoming more keto now. I noticed that Rob wolf and Mark Sisson it's just a rebranding of Atkins frankly. I mean anything low carb high fat or I even there's Diet Dr has a good website. I mean there's a lot of ways into this diet and the way I at almost think of it like a car dealership. When you go in to buy a car they have like six different kinds of sales rep and they type you like are you the suburban mom, are you the cool dude who wants the ... and they send out the right person for you. I feel like the same way getting into low-carb like are you gonna respond to mark Sisson do you want to be a spear throwing paleo dude, or do you want to get into it through like the-

Sean McCormack: Tim Ferriss low-carb.

Nina: [inaudible 00:41:01] who's more women for women. I mean everybody's just got a brand that works for them that suits them, and it somebody one way or another. So I don't think you can ... a lot of women go to Atkins and they still have a huge and vibrant community in sight, so I think any of those probably give pretty good advice. And it really is something that people have to sort of do, biohack for themselves, right, like this is what I did for a while. I used those ketone strips to figure out like how do I respond to those protein bars, actually not that well, turned out that fruit was a lot worse for me than I thought. It also depends how sick you are, how overweight are you, how sick are you? I'm a little more lenient now because I just lost 10 pounds, and some I'm like, well I'm gonna go ahead and try and have some more ice cream every once in a while. It's a very individual for people.

Sean McCormack: Yeah, I think that's right, and I think that it takes work, it's not easy, right? It's not easy for an individual who's been told to eat cereal for breakfast their entire life. It's not easy to change that, and you do have to reprogram your palate a little bit, you do have to reprogram your metabolism and give it a reboot through fasting or eating keto for a little bit. And it can be like the sugar Hank like the cutting out sugar, the sugar detox is miserable. I mean it sucks have you done have you gone through like a strict no sugar period ever?

Nina: Yes, I have.

Sean McCormack: It sucks.

Nina: Yeah, it does suck, yeah. And I'm gonna mention one of the things for your listeners because it's something that is not frequently discussed but for women, so first of all women and men have different responses to low carb. And for women of a certain age your hormones become super important, so if you are having a block as a middle-aged woman you should have your hormones checked because that turned out to be very important for me, it's not something that's discussed all that widely. I don't know what your audience to gender split of your audience is, but it just turned out that that was really important for me. I was getting more sleep, I was doing everything right but then the moment I dealt with my hormones like everything fell into place.

Sean McCormack: And how did you do that, was it process of supplementation, or changing diet, or adding certain things, did it have anything to do with your gut microbiome like what was the process?

Nina: I got my hormones checked and because I'm middle-aged [inaudible 00:43:39] so my hormones were dropping and now I take supplements to restore them and that has been fantastic. It improved my sleep and it helped me like really effortlessly drop weight where I had been struggling a little bit, so hormones ... look insulin is a hormone, right?

Sean McCormack: I think people forget that.

Nina: Yeah, it's a fat deposition hormone, right, so it's the most powerful one but all your hormones have an influence on fat deposition, right? So that's why people gain weight, they control your weight deposition changes when you go from being a kid to a man or woman, right? That's hormones, controlling that, and so it's no surprise that other hormones have an impact on it. Cortisol, your stress hormone is another one that has your impact, and all these hormones they have ... they draw upon precursors the same precursors. So if you're using you're highly stressed and your cortisol, but the precursors used to make cortisol are depleting your other hormones, which might need the same precursors but they're all being used to create cortisol instead. So that's an important part of the equation for people to do it.

Sean McCormack: Right yeah, I think if you're high cortisol, high inflammation, and you're eating grain, and you're doing chronic cardio or no cardio, not moving at all like you're already creating that environment in your body to become more stressed, more inflamed, and that means that there's less serotonin and there's less melatonin for you to sleep. Yeah, it's all a balance, so what's next ... where you headed now, I mean the nutrition coalition is a very big step to try to affect the top down. Is there another is there another 10 decade long researched book coming our way or what are you passionate about right now, what should people be reading or knowing?

Nina: My work is mainly right now with this not-for-profit the nutrition coalition, if people want to learn more about that or make a donation it's at But I want to get back to doing more writing, and I do want to do another book probably it will be in the same space, more about the politics of food, which I just think it's like you just ... there's so much that has not yet been written about. I mean the whole that how vegetarianism came to be a dominant idea in our country is really a fascinating story that involves the seventh-day Adventist Church promoting it so it really comes from like a religious organization that has been co-opted all these leaders. Anyway I can't even get into it now, but I mean it's so interesting, and I do feel compelled to write about that [inaudible 00:46:46] time.

Sean McCormack: Wait a minute so the seventh-day Adventist Church is involved in vegetarianism?

Nina: It's part of their religious belief that [inaudible 00:46:57] should avoid, yes, and they are the ones who have ... they do some of the most influential studies showing that their vegetarian diet is the best for health. But they promoted as a religious belief and they have all kinds of connections with healthcare organizations across the United States and they have influenced some of our leading researchers in the field. And I want to make sure I'm getting this right, but I think it's the founder of the American Dietetics Association was a Seventh day Adventist. So there are all these religious currents going through, it's really this bizarre thing that this ideology has ... it really is this faith based ideology that has captured all of our nation's elite into thinking that this is the best possible diet. Anyway for next podcast, right?

Sean McCormack: Yeah, wow what a nice little nugget of wisdom that is interesting. Well you got to write the book now because everybody's gonna hear this and go oh my god what and then they're gonna do their own research and they're just gonna ... they're gonna follow the rabbit down the hole of themselves. Well thank you very much for joining us I know that you got to run. This has been a really interesting conversation and I know that there's lots to do. We'll make sure that we've got show notes set up, and good luck with the nutrition coalition. Everyone that hears this is gonna say, yes absolutely we need to blow up the food pyramid, we need to change all the guidelines, so I know that you'll have a lot of supporters with our audience.

Nina: Great well thank you so much for having me it's great to talk to you, you're really fun.

Sean McCormack: Yeah you bet, Nina, have a good day.

Nina: You do too, bye. For additional insights and practical lessons based on this show go to, the optimal performance podcast is a natural stacks original. Our executive producers are Dennis Buckley and myself, Sean McCormack. Our producer is Christian Randall, OPP intro music by Odyssey additional music provided by that new Jam, a [inaudible 00:49:12] production.

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