Episode 1: Better than drinking from the fountain of youth
Dec. 1, 2022 | 37 minutes
Join our host Brent Bishop as he chats with Adam Weinmann, a registered dietician and nutrition coach from Toronto Ontario. They will discuss nutrition and if it is better than drinking from the fountain of youth.
This is a podcast entitled “Beyond Age,” a Manulife exclusive podcast where experts uncover the truth about holistic health and aging to help people live healthier for longer, no matter their age. In this episode, we are joined by Adam Weinmann, from Toronto, Ontario. He is a Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Coach, and a graduate of Ryerson’s Nutrition Communication Program.
The Manulife logo appears on a white background and shortly transitions to a green background with the text “Beyond Age” and “A Manulife Exclusive Podcast” slides from below.
Brent: Hi and welcome to Beyond Age, a Manulife exclusive podcast…
The current scene shrinks to the top right while clips of Brent Bishop and Adam Weinman slides down from the top left and bottom of the screen. A medium shot of Brent, slides from the bottom left, followed by a medium shot of Adam from the top right.
Brent: we chat with experts to uncover the truth about holistic health and aging to help keep you living healthier for longer, no matter your age. I'm your host, Brent Bishop, and today I'm joined with Adam Weinmann from Toronto, Ontario. He's a registered dietitian and nutrition coach, and he's also a graduate of the Ryerson’s Nutrition Communication Program.
The scene “Beyond Age: A Manulife Exclusive Podcast” scales up on the screen. The scene fades in with a medium shot of Brent speaking to Adam while wearing headphones and sitting in front of a microphone in a nice area with plants placed in the background.
Brent: You want to learn more about Adam? Visit brainpowerednutrition.com. So today, we’ll be discussing nutrition and is it better than drinking from the fountain of youth?
The scene cuts to a medium shot of Adam, wearing headphones and sitting in front of a microphone, speaking to Brent. For the rest of the podcast, the camera alternates shots between Brent and Adam.
Brent: Welcome, Adam.
Adam: It’s great to be here.
Brent: Thank you so much for coming.
Adam: It’s a pleasure, yeah!
Brent: Well, listen, I think the best thing to start out is just to get to know a little bit more about you, why you got into this industry to begin with.
Adam: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I started out my adult life as a professional classical musician.
Adam: So totally different worlds, totally different life. I moved to Toronto. I had done my studies in Los Angeles and moved to Toronto to start a career playing with different orchestras. That was a very competitive career. It was a very high-pressure career. And not surprisingly, I started to develop some anxiety, and the anxiety got worse and worse and worse.
I was nauseous all the time, I felt terrible, I was cranky, I was depressed, and I started to have to really take a serious look at my life, my health, and I tried all kinds of things. I tried taking medication, I tried meditating, I tried therapy. I even tried neurofeedback. But what really made the difference for me was when I changed my diet, and I discovered this whole world of eating for mental health and cognitive performance.
And that was so interesting for me that I started to read all these books about nutrition and mental health, and I wasn't really paying that much attention to classical music anymore. So, I decided the logical next step would be to study nutrition and work as a nutritionist and dietician full time.
Brent: That's amazing. And I think a lot of people wouldn't necessarily always put, you know, nutrition in mental health, nutrition to better your mental health together.
Brent: But my understanding, and I'm sure we'll learn more about it from you today, is that it's actually a very important factor.
Adam: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.
Brent: So, we've read that your biggest area of interest is in nutrition and the brain, which I find a very interesting link as well. What kind of scientific evidence have you found when it comes to how diet can dramatically influence things like our mood, focus and mental energy?
Adam: Well, it's huge. So, our brain is only a couple of pounds. It represents maybe 2% of our body mass in total, but it uses between 20 and 25% of all the energy that we get from food in terms of calories. That's remarkable. If you think about the fact that our brain is not moving, it's not a muscle that's moving. The rest of our body, our heart is pumping, our smooth muscles and our digestive system, they're moving all the time, or our limbs are moving, we're breathing. But still, somehow our brain that's just sitting there is taking up nearly a quarter of the energy that we need.
So, first of all, from a very basic standpoint, that's one of the reasons that nutrition is the most critical for our brain. But there are so many other ways in which the food that we eat impacts our brain, and we're learning more and more about those.
So, for example, the biggest thing right now is exploring the role of inflammation in our mood and in our, you know, risk of depression or anxiety or even things like bipolar disorder. So, we know from very good information research that was done right here in Toronto that people who have depression have greater levels of inflammation in their brain.
Adam: So, the question is, where is that inflammation coming from? And we can have either an anti-inflammatory diet that's rich in lots of…
Brent: Which is very popular now or becoming a lot more popular. Yeah. Yeah.
Adam: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, we always have there's always, you know, changing diets, Paleo, Keto, whatever. Now, anti-inflammatory is kind of the buzzword. And of course, inflammation is important for our, you know, for our health. It's a part of the process of our immune system being able to fight infection or even help us heal from an injury.
But if that inflammation gets out of control, it continues on too long. We know that that can now lead to two problems with mental health, with mood, with focus.
Brent: So, it's more the chronic inflammation.
Adam: It’s the chronic inflammation that's the issue. And there's now ongoing research looking at the results of COVID. People who have had COVID, some of them will have ongoing inflammation. And we're seeing now a surge in mental health. New mental health diagnosis and psychiatric and neurological diagnoses following COVID infection. And that's thought to be because of that increased level of inflammation.
Brent: Oh, interesting.
Adam: Yeah. Yeah.
Brent: I mean, just like just like your physical body inflammation in your joints chronically obviously causes issues, too.
Adam: Yeah, yeah.
Brent: So, I'd say it's definitely an important thing to address and nutrition and can do that. That’s a good thing. That’s a good first step.
Adam: Absolutely, yeah.
Brent: What are some key factors to look at when it comes to the intersection of mental, physical and emotional wellbeing?
Adam: Yeah, that's a great question. Again, I think really the emotional health side of things I think is wrapped up in our social health and our you know, we've had in the last couple of years, we've had a challenge in the sense that we've been staying home, we've been isolating more than usual.
And when we tend to eat in social settings, we tend to eat more, we tend to eat better. We're not comfort eating; we're not eating as much so-called sort of junk food or food that is highly processed. So I think the social setting is a really big one. And certainly social engagement is fantastic for our mental health. But then looking at the role of inflammation and looking at the role of powering our brain. One of the biggest things, I think, is regulating our blood sugar. And with the sort of standard American diet…
Adam: that we have right now, most of the foods that we would see on a regular basis that are sort of former staple foods are foods that spike our blood sugar. They have a lot of added sugars or processed, refined carbohydrates that will spike our blood sugar. Then we have a crash afterwards.
Adam: And that's really hard on our brain. It also creates inflammation to have chronically high blood sugar. So the sort of the role of managing our blood sugar is really critical. In fact, when it comes to aging, there is now this sort of term being used to describe Alzheimer's disease as type three diabetes because.
Brent: I've heard that.
Adam: Yeah. Yeah. The cells in our brain are it turns out they are really, really sensitive to changes in our blood sugar or the management of our blood sugar. So, that's probably the best thing that we can do for our health. The health of our brain and the longevity of our brain is to keep our blood sugar very stable, very managed.
Brent: And this would be done more through a balanced approach to your eating whole foods and making sure you have your protein and your meals and that sort of thing too.
Adam: Yeah, For me, protein and fiber are critical because both of these sort of slow down digestion and when you slow down digestion, that might sound like a bad thing, but it actually means that we are absorbing the energy from our food more slowly. So we get this slow drip of energy into our bloodstream rather than if we eat, you know, a piece of white bread.
Brent: We open the floodgates.
Adam: You open the floodgates; you're just pouring that sugar into your bloodstream. And then your body really doesn't know how to deal with that. There's never been a time in our history as human beings where we've had this kind of access to immediate fast calories, right.
Where our bodies are made for a hunter gatherer lifestyle, where we would be having you know, we would hunt, we'd have high protein foods, we would gather, we'd have very high fiber foods, maybe root vegetables, that we would dig up leafy greens that we would forage. And maybe the sweetest thing might be some seasonal berries.
Brent: Berries, yeah.
Adam: Yeah, seasonal fruit. So, now we're in a in a setting where we have all of this process, sugar, and refined grains, again, that really create these blood sugar spikes.
Brent: And some of these foods are hard for people to resist as well.
Adam: They are engineered that way.
Brent: You know, quote unquote sweet tooth, right?
Adam: They're specifically made to activate these pathways in our brain that make us crave them more, right?
Adam: When we consume sugar, like a dessert, something that's really sweet. Our brain releases a surge of dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that helps to reinforce a behavior.
Adam: So, it's sort of like a reward. It gives us that impetus to keep seeking out that same behavior. So, when we eat a chocolate bar, for example, our brain is telling us, do that again, do that again.
Adam: You know, thousands of years ago, that might have been a really good instruction when you have
nutrition, you have food, you have energy, get it while it while it's there. But now, we have it all the time.
Brent: So, it's so accessible. Yeah.
Adam: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely interesting.
Brent: Very interesting. I know good diet can often probably lead to good mental health, but is the reverse also true?
Adam: Yeah, well, certainly I think on many levels. First of all, when we have poor mental health, when we're stressed out in particular, we tend to seek out high carbohydrate foods. So, we think about comfort foods that are like mac and cheese or like, you know, dessert type foods or, you know, somebody who's just been dumped, they have a tub of ice cream, right.
Brent: Right, right.
Adam: There is there is a science behind that. There's sort of like a brain chemistry behind that the sugars in those foods help us get more serotonin into our brain. They help us use the amino acid tryptophan, which is the sort of the raw material that we need to produce the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin kind of keeps us feeling calmer, keeps us feeling happier.
And so, it's no surprise that we would crave those kinds of foods. When we're feeling stressed, when we're feeling lonely, when we're feeling sad. We know a lot of sort of addiction or dependent behaviors boils down to loneliness, you know? But then again, when you're depressed, when you're anxious, it's harder to cook a good meal. You don’t have the energy.
Brent: Sometimes I come home, you know, after work. I don't feel like cooking anything.
Adam: You’re tired, right? Yeah.
Brent: I tend not to have things that are, you know, bad in my house that are readily available that I can just grab. Because that, you know, letting me go down the wrong path.
Adam: Absolutely, yeah.
Brent: Yeah, interesting points. As a registered dietitian, what kind of advice can you give to our audience about shaping your eating habits as you age?
Adam: I think really the most important things are protein, fiber and establishing a routine. I have a family friend, Molly, who is now 99 years old, still lives alone. She emailed me out of the blue at 92 saying, you know, my doctor is saying my eyesight is bad, I'm not able to drive anymore. So, she stopped driving at 92 and decided to take advantage of that opportunity to get on the Internet.
So, the first time in her life she got a computer, she got an email address, she's on Facebook, she comments on my posts all the time.
Brent: That’s great.
Adam: And when I look at the way that she eats, it is very regimented. It's, you know, breakfast at the same time every day, lunch at the same time every day. Not running around, you know, with a hectic schedule. And I know that we…
Brent: Sometimes hard not to.
Adam: It’s hard to do that. And we glorify that hectic schedule, we glorify putting our work or our, you know, our lives ahead of our health care, you know, our self-care.
Brent: Which it should be the reverse.
Adam: It should be the reverse, you know. And Molly, incidentally, is a retired nurse who nursed in the Second World War. So, this is somebody who is very knowledgeable about caring for other people, but it's always taking care of yourself first. And I think having established those habits of, you know, breakfast is at this time in the day or lunches at this time, that's one element of it.
The other thing that she does that I try to do now is she used to have a huge vegetable garden, so tons and tons of fresh salads, greens, parsley, different kinds of herbs. And she would make soups for herself. You know, like homemade from scratch, high fiber things like lentils, beans, chickpeas.
Adam: All of those foods that are high in protein, high in fiber. So avoiding those blood sugar spikes. And this is somebody who at 99 years of age is completely mentally like cognitively sharp as a tack.
Brent: That’s great.
Adam: I like to look at, you know, you can't argue with results. So, I like to look at the people that are doing it right.
Brent: Right. Right. And you know, in my field of, you know, fitness and exercise, I love to see the same thing when somebody who's elderly takes care of themselves, and still work out and you notice a difference on posture, on, of course, exercise and mental health is also a big link there.
Brent: I agree with you there. And having a ten-year-old son, I know that routine in many ways, not just when you're eating, but it's very important. Because that's where a lot of things are established.
Brent: So, I do try to be pretty strict. With going to bed, when we get up when we eat breakfast. And it helps and it becomes second nature.
Adam: It's funny because we would do that as a parent of a child.
Brent: Yeah. Yeah.
Adam: But then, we’re not always the best at doing that for ourselves, right?
Brent: Yeah. Funny how that happens. I know in my field of exercise and fitness there are myths or things that we've perhaps believe 30 years ago. But it's changed with research and it's different. It's not true anymore. Are there any dietary aging myths that you could mention that we could leave behind?
Adam: You know, I don't know if I can think of a specific one, but I can definitely tell you that the idea of macronutrients, I think this is something that people worry a lot about. How many carbs, how much fat, how much protein. Protein is one thing. It's certainly important that we're getting a certain amount of protein, but we have in the past we villainized fat and that was based on a lot of sketchy research.
And in fact, there was an exposé written in the Journal of the American Medical Association in, I believe, 2016, 2017, that exposed the fact that when there were Harvard researchers looking at the role of diet in heart disease, and they were actually paid off by the sugar industry to shift the role of the blame from sugar to fat. So, then what followed was decades of dietitians and doctors and health experts telling people to reduce their fat and reduce their fat, reduce their fat. So, we all eat low fat.
Adam: And we didn't see a decrease in heart disease, and we saw an increase in obesity and diabetes because when you get rid of fat from a food, you have to replace it with something to make it tasty. So…
Brent: More sugar.
Adam: More sugar.
Brent: Yeah. Which is what they kind of want.
Adam: Which is what they kind of wanted, right? So, the sugar industry won out real big.
Adam: And then now we're looking at sugar as being the demon. And following low carb diets and keto diets and paleo diets. And I actually think some of those diets can be really great. Part of my practical training was at SickKids Hospital and I did a rotation in the ketogenic diet department there, which was amazing.
However, for most of us, carbohydrates are critical sources of important B vitamins, things like magnesium and, you know, really important nutrients that we can miss out on if we are cutting out carbs altogether.
Adam: So, I think the idea that we have to either eat low fat or low carb, I think that to me is a myth.
Brent: There's got to be a happy medium or has to be moderate within there.
Adam: Yeah, I think some people do really well on one or the other and I'm very big on personalized nutrition. If you follow it, you try following a ketogenic diet or paleo diet and you feel great, fantastic. There are people out there who swear by an all-carnivore diet, right?
I think you can't argue with results if you're feeling better, if you're better able to engage in the activities of your life, that's success to me. If you have more energy, you have more focus, you have better mood.
Great. That’s success in my books. But I think the idea that we all have to avoid carbs, or we all have to avoid fat, I think that's kind of a myth.
Brent: Yeah. That the whole cookie cutter approach in many areas of life doesn't really work.
Brent: Yeah, I agree with you. Can your diet at let's say in your thirties or your 30-year-old self, influence or impact your 80-year-old self?
Adam: It certainly can. But I think there's always a chance, a last chance at redemption when it comes to diet. So, we have our genes, which are a set in stone essentially. We can’t change our genes. But I always think of genes as being like a recipe book. It contains many, many recipes. Being a dietitian, that's an analogy that works well for me. So, just because that recipe book contains a specific recipe doesn't mean that that recipe is going to get made, right?
Brent: Right, so the expression of a gene.
Adam: The expression of the gene is like tearing that page out of the book and then putting it down the kitchen counter and assembling all those ingredients and making that particular meal.
Brent: It’s a good analogy.
Adam: Yeah. And what determines whether or not the recipe gets made? It's the external factors that we have.
Adam: And so that's that field is now referred to as epigenetics, which is the study of how we turn genes on or off and how do we express those genes. And essentially, it's never too late to make those changes that are going to turn on or turn off the right genes.
Brent: Right. Right.
Adam: But if you are living a really, really crazy lifestyle when you're 30, there's a chance that…
Brent: Could be a negative.
Adam: And there are going to be some negative impacts down the line. Yeah.
Brent: But never too late to start.
Adam: Never too late to start. Yeah, absolutely.
Brent: What would you say? Is there a way for somebody to get a better understanding of what they should be
eating? like it could be any sort of test for deficiencies or anything like that you’d recommend?
Adam: I think at this point it's very difficult. Most of us are not deficient in particular vitamins or minerals. I will leave the vitamin D out of that because vitamin D is really important. One that I think a lot of us would be deficient in, or we run the risk of being deficient. But for the rest of the sort of micronutrients that are out there. If we have a good balanced diet, then we're not likely to be deficient.
And even processed foods have added vitamins and stuff. So, I think that's a difficult one to kind of assess. And there are a lot of tests now for food sensitivities that have not yet been properly validated. So, we don't really know that those tests measure what they say they measure affirmatively. But I would recommend if people are having, you know, if they have low mood, I would recommend, you know, getting your doctor to do a series of tests for vitamin B12.
That's one that can be deficient, particularly for people who are vegan or vegetarian. People who are elderly, they have more difficulty absorbing and using the B12 in the food that they get. I would also look at iron if you're if you're tired. And then I would look at vitamin D because in Canada, we live far enough north that we're not able to get sufficient vitamin D from the sun between the months of October and April. The sun is just too low of an angle in the sky.
Brent: Unless you're a snowbird that leaves for four months, five months of the year.
Adam: Then you're probably good. You don't have to worry. But for the rest of us, there's a good chance that at least during the winter months where we're not getting enough vitamin D and yes, dairy is fortified with vitamin D, it has vitamin D added to it. But it's hard to say that to be sure that we're getting enough, it's critical for our immune function. It's critical for the health of our bones. But it's also really important for maintaining a good mood. Vitamin D has a role in regulating the different neurotransmitters. So, the chemicals in our brain…
Adam: That are flying back and forth between our brain cells and keeping us feeling happy, focused, glowing. All those kinds of good feelings. So, Vitamin D is really critical, particularly for people who are of a darker skin color. They're going to have a little bit more difficulty producing vitamin D from the sun to begin with.
Brent: Oh, interesting. I didn’t think of that.
Adam: Yeah, it's protective against sun damage, but then also can lead to less vitamin D, particularly at a northern latitude.
Brent: So that might be something that you would recommend supplementation for.
Adam: That's one of the few times…
Brent: If it’s required.
Adam: Yeah. That's one of the few times that I would recommend taking a supplement.
Brent: I'm going to get me some vitamin D after.
Brent: What are some foods that you can suggest that we should avoid?
Adam: You know, that's a really difficult question to answer as a dietitian. As dietitians, we are as a group, we
are very adverse to telling people to cut anything out of your diet, right? When you go to a birthday party,
you're going to have a slice of cake.
Adam: When you're at the beach and it's a hot day, you're going to get that ice cream cone, right? We're put on this earth for many reasons. But one of the things we do is we enjoy the world around us. And food can be a major sensory experience for us.
Adam: To enjoy. And it seems kind of unfair to say “well, no, it's just it's just about kale and lentils” you know, for the rest of your life. So, I wouldn't say avoid altogether, but I would say those are the types of foods that I would limit. Anything that is processed, anything that you haven't made from scratch. And I can appreciate that a lot of us don't have or most of us don't have time to make everything that we eat from scratch.
Adam: But just adding in a salad that you've thrown together, before a dinner or just taking one Sunday every month or two to make a pot of soup that you're going to have. As opposed to getting something that's canned…
Brent: I see.
Adam: I think just making those small changes to avoid or to limit the amount of processed foods that we have, because those foods have added trans fats, added fats or saturated fats that can be inflammatory. They have added sugars. They're going to be lower in fiber. It can be high in salt. It's common sense, but it's very difficult for a lot of us to do.
Brent: Absolutely. Yeah. So, I know that if you have a poor diet or you make poor choices, you feel bad after.
Brent: And there can be this, people can go through this downward spiral of like eating poorly, feeling poorly, and then eating poorly more and feeling poorly more.
Brent: Would you have any suggestion on how an individual can break that cycle and just get back on the more positive path?
Adam: I think picking one meal of the day. Usually, it's breakfast or the first meal of the day. I have a lot of clients now who are intermittent fasting, and they stay fast, but whatever is that first meal of the day, that is the meal that you take as a kind of a touchstone point where you get back to whatever it is you're doing. So then, if you've had a night previously where you went out, maybe you were drinking or ate something that you didn't want to eat or you shouldn't have eaten.
Adam: You know, very much in quotes, because there's nothing that we shouldn't eat. But if we've sort of strayed from the dietary pattern that we would like to be following, then having that knowledge, like “tomorrow I'm going to wake up, I'm going to have my breakfast and it's going to be my overnight oats that I've prepared or it's going to be eggs and wholegrain toast or whatever is your standard kind of breakfast or your standard first meal of the day.” I think then it can relieve a lot of that anxiety of “oh, God, what happens tomorrow” right?
Adam: You know what happens tomorrow. You have that kind of plan in place that, again, it kind of comes back to that idea of having that sort of structure in that routine in your life. It's not that you have to stick with it at every meal and every day.
Brent: That becomes sometimes just too enormous.
Adam: It becomes, yeah, yeah. It was super scary to take on something that's completely, totally different from what you're doing already. And so, when I work with clients and I'm sure you do the same thing when it comes to physical training, You're making small changes at a time.
Adam: Absolutely small, meaningful changes. And if that's just having like one extra serving of vegetables in a day, then so be it. Whatever is manageable is going to be sustainable. If it feels like it's a Herculean effort to do, it's not going to be sustainable. And it it's going to lead to those feelings of guilt whenever you're not able to live up to those expectations. And then, as you mentioned, that guilt leads to that kind of cycle of binge eating or eating poorly and then just feeling…
Brent: Just feeling terrible about it, yeah.
Adam: Yeah. I think instead of feeling bad about it, celebrate it. Say, you know…
Brent: “I’m jumping back on”
Adam: Yeah. “I was out with friends, of course I was going to have the dessert at dinner. But tomorrow’s a different day”, right?
Brent: Anyway, you can take that guilt out of the equation and not have it. Those habits continue. And I really like what you said about have your first meal, a balanced, sort of well-thought-out nutritional meal.
Brent: And kind of set the tone. It probably will set the tone a little bit more for the rest of the day, too.
Adam: Absolutely, yeah.
Brent: It's like just like exercise in the morning. You cannot feel terrible after moving your body.
Brent: And then things just become a little more positive, a little less stressful.
Brent: So, I really like that. That's a great a great suggestion. Are there foods and maybe there are, maybe there aren’t. But I'd like to hear from you that you would suggest that can actually help you live longer.
Adam: Yeah, that's difficult but that's the kind of the million-dollar question. And a lot of times dietitians will say it's about the dietary pattern.
Adam: It's how many leafy greens are you eating? How much fiber you getting? How much quality protein are you getting? How few refined sugars are you eating on a kind of a daily basis?
Adam: But if there are a few foods, I would say are the things that I'm really interested in are dark berries, things like blueberries, strawberries, blackberries…
Brent: These are for antioxidant levels?
Adam: These are for antioxidant levels, yeah. they have these antioxidant polyphenols that give them their dark color and those polyphenols reduce inflammation. And in the case of at least blueberries, there's been studies done that showed that eating blueberries a day, every day, quite a bit mind you, it’s like a cup a day of blueberries.
Brent: Oh, wow.
Adam: That can lead to increases in brain derived neurotrophic factor, which is a hormone in our brain that causes more connections between our neurons. And actually, it can cause the growth of new neurons. So, it's actually kind of helping to keep our brain younger.
Brent: I guess I wasn't thinking of certain foods that could actually increase that. Because I know exercise also does…
Adam: Yes, exercise is the big one. Yeah.
Brent: Yeah, so that’s interesting.
Brent: Do both.
Adam: Have your blueberries after your…
Brent: Blueberry shake.
Adam: Yeah, blueberry shake with some protein. But then the other things, you know, the brassica family of vegetables. So that's kale, cauliflower and broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage. They contain a compound called sulforaphane. And those chemicals help protect our DNA from damage. So, that is, kind of one of the trendy foods right to talk about right now are these sulforaphane containing foods like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, etc.
Brent: That is good knowledge to have.
Adam: Yeah, absolutely.
Brent: Get people to change their diets in a couple ways.
Brent: So, Adam, talk to us a little bit about how deficiencies in certain vitamins can sometimes lead to symptoms that mimic mental health disorders. And in your professional opinion, what methods do you recommend to help correct these deficiencies for your clients?
Adam: I think it makes a lot of sense and for example, we know about vitamins because of experiments, really unfortunate experiments done on prisoners, on children in residential schools here in Canada where foods were restricted, or vitamins were withheld.
And we know that, for example, with vitamin B3 when that's low or with vitamin B1, when that's low, we start to see some kind of psychiatric symptoms as well as a whole host of different physical or physiological symptoms. We also know that a deficiency of vitamin B12 can be associated with neurological issues.
So, there are even some case studies where vitamin B12 deficiency mimicked bipolar disorder and disappeared as soon as soon as B12 was given.
Brent: Interesting. So, would you say, I guess in your professional opinion, what methods would you recommend to help correct some of these deficiencies?
Adam: Yeah, I think, again, going back to the whole foods approach is really important. because we can give a supplement of a certain vitamin, but we're not getting it in the context of the rest of the food.
Adam: And we're now finding that research that looks at individual vitamins and their effects on the body, on the brain, it tends to be fairly disappointing. When we see research that looks at dietary patterns and brain health, it tends to be really exciting. So, there was a trial called the Smiles trial, it came out in 2017. It was published in BMC Psychiatry, you know, reputable journal.
And they looked at around 50 people with moderate to severe depression, and they were given either 12 weeks of social intervention or they were given 12 weeks of dietary counseling. And the people that got the dietary counseling had a 33% or 32% of them. So, almost a third of them had complete remission of their depression, which is absolutely remarkable.
Brent: So, is that… I'm asking this also for myself and the audience but is that depression in relation to a higher inflammatory diet like would that be something that would be a factor?
Adam: Yeah. So, usually a dietary intervention to help with depression or anxiety or cognitive decline as well. That would follow something like the Mediterranean diet.
Brent: I see.
Adam: So, lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds and a lot of fatty fish. We haven't talked about the role of omega three fats, but those are really, really critical. And there's actually a lot of research talking about single nutrients. The one single nutrient that seems to show a lot of promise when it comes to mental health is the omega three fats and providing those at very high doses seems to lead to reduction in depressive symptoms. That's quite significant.
So, that kind of Mediterranean dietary pattern would be the thing that would usually be recommended for somebody who is dealing with depression or anxiety.
Brent: And the fact that it can be significantly reduced…
Brent: is very promising.
Adam: Yeah. I certainly wouldn't suggest anyone stop standard treatment for depression.
Adam: And then just rely on nutrition alone. But it certainly speaks to the power of nutrition and of diet. And there's many reasons that we could be depressed, it can be due to our life circumstances. And you can eat all the kale in the world.
Adam: You know, it's not going to help you get over the death a loved one or unemployment or any of the many stressors that we have. But for some of us, it may kind of boil down to we have less than a healthy diet and that's causing that inflammation in the brain.
Brent: That makes complete sense. So, I know we're almost running out of time. I could talk to you for the whole day here, and I'm sure our audience would listen as well. But before we leave, what two key takeaways can you give our audience today?
Adam: I think the importance of, again, of having that consistency in that routine, in your eating habits and having one meal a day, that's your…
Brent: The golden meal.
Adam: Your golden meal, right. I think that and it combined with managing your blood sugar, meaning eat as much fiber as you possibly can, the average North American gets around 15 grams of fiber in a day. We should be having somewhere between 25 and 38.
Adam: Men are supposed to be having more because we are at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. And fiber can reduce cholesterol. But people who are indigenous to societies in the world that have been untouched or relatively untouched by sort of western society.
Adam: You know, a western diet tends to eat orders of magnitude more fiber in a day. And tend to see fewer of these chronic health problems. So, we can definitely be eating more fiber, more vegetables, more legumes, more things like oats, whole grains, root vegetables.
Brent: And with every meal, we should try to accomplish that whenever possible.
Adam: Yeah, absolutely. So, also, we're not getting those spikes in blood sugar. Yeah.
Brent: Very good.
Brent: So, it's routine and it's fiber. You heard it. You heard it from the man himself.
Adam: Exactly, yeah.
Brent: Adam, listen, I really appreciate your time. It's been it's been a pleasure. Just like I said, the wealth of knowledge that you have and very useful points that you made today that I think a lot of our audience will probably start to implement.
Adam: I'm glad to hear that.
Brent: I know I've learned a few things that I'm definitely going to change.
Adam: Good to hear, yeah.
Brent: In a positive way.
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Brent: Well, that’s it, everyone. thank you for tuning in to Beyond Age…
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Brent: an exclusive podcast from Manulife. Tune in to the next episode where we talk to Dr. Mark Boulos…
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Brent: a sleep specialist and associate professor, to find out “Is sleep the key to living a longer life?” Don't forget to visit our website “Manulife.ca/LiveHealthier” for more tips, videos, and content from Manulife, that can help you live healthier for longer, no matter your age.