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episode #165

Interview with Dr. Tommy Wood: Optimizing Brain Health, Muscle’s Role in Brain Function and Preventing Cognitive Decline As You Age!

July 23, 2022 in Podcast


This week I interviewed Dr. Tommy Wood! He specializes in studying brain trauma in newborns and his passion is translating that research into lessons we can all use to help us protect our brains as we age. We discussed: - Beneficial Stress for the Brain - How Muscle Mass Relates to Brain Function - Connections between Nutrient Deficiency and Cognitive Decline - Ways You Can Challenge the Brain and his one tip to get your brain and body back to what it once was!

0 (1s): Coming up on the get lean, eat clean podcast, 1 (4s): Musicians have younger looking brains relative to how old they are, chronologic fee, you know, the age in years. And this effect is greater in amateur musicians. With the theory being the it's harder for amateur musicians to play an instrument, right? It's no longer this sort of automatic process, right? So there's a heart, there's a greatest stimulus there. Similar things are seen and people who are bilingual for life, they have this sort of protection and, and great connection and volumes in certain areas of the brain that might be associated with cognitive decline. So as you kind of tie all these things together, it really seems like the environment that your brain develops in and the amount that you stimulate or challenge it is really the thing. 1 (46s): That's probably the easiest in to, to modulate in terms of protecting long-term cognitive function. 0 (53s): Hello, and welcome to the get clean, eat clean podcast. I'm Brian grin, and I'm here to give you actionable tips to get your body back to what it, once was five, 10, even 15 years ago each week. I'll give you an in-depth interview with a health expert from around the world to cut through the fluff and get you long-term sustainable results. This week I interviewed Dr. Tommy wood. He specializes in studying brain trauma, newborns, and his passion is translating that research into lessons. We can all use to help us protect our brains. As we age, we discussed beneficial stressors for the brain, how muscle mass relates to brain function, connections between nutrient deficiency and cognitive decline ways you can challenge your brain and is one tip to get your brain and body back to what it once was. 0 (1m 44s): I really enjoyed my interview with Dr. Tommy wood. This is an area of interest I've always been interested in, and I think you will too. Thanks so much for listening and enjoy the show. All right. Welcome to the get, eat clean podcast. My name is Brian grin, and I have Dr. Tommy wood on the show. Welcome to the show. 1 (2m 4s): Hey Brian, thanks for having me. 0 (2m 6s): Yeah. Thanks for coming on. You're associate professor of pediatrics in neuroscience in the university of Washington. Is that correct? 1 (2m 15s): Yeah, that's right. 0 (2m 17s): And I guess before we get into, we're going to talk a ton about brain health and optimizing it as we get older, perhaps maybe give the audience a little bit of background on how you got into sort of specializing in studying. I know you studied brain trauma and newborns and sort of what led you down this path. 1 (2m 33s): Yeah, sure. So I spent more than a decade, I guess, and education after leaving high school. So I did biochemistry mainly as an undergrad. Then I went to medical school. I worked as a doctor for a couple of years before doing my PhD in physiology and neuroscience. And like you mentioned, that focused mainly on injury or brain injury and newborn babies. And there are a couple of different scenarios where that happens very commonly. And that's something that we, we model in the lab and try and look at ways to treat that. But at the same time throughout that entire period, I spent a lot of time sort of interested, particularly in, in performance around athletes myself. 1 (3m 17s): And then I will say I coached athletes in, in a number of sports, primarily rubbing when I was at med school. And then later on worked through various companies with a wide variety of, of athletes in different sports and really focusing on overall health, but increasingly thinking about how do we maximize the resilience and performance of the brain, particularly over a long period of time. So I have this view right from the beginning of life, like what, what happens early in life? How does that affect brain development and sort of brain resilience, performance trajectory as well as then what happens later in life? And how can we sort of maximize those things over time? 1 (4m 1s): So kind of bringing together those different worlds of early life, brain development, and then also performance metrics, and then longevity later in life, the sort of where my various interests collide. 0 (4m 15s): Yeah. And I love that. Cause I was telling you before we went on, I haven't had like a, a quote unquote brain expert on the show yet. So I, this is actually a topic I've always been intrigued in probably a more in my later life. I think when you're like a child or even, you know, like middle-aged or like 15, 16, 17, your, your parents will like force you to go to like piano lessons and, and, and do these, you know, these different activities. And then like, I've heard you talk on some podcasts as you get older, like you sort of lose that, right? You lose that. Like, you know, you don't see too many people go for adult lessons, piano lessons. I mean, this is something that I've sort of kept up, partly because it's just something different and interesting. 0 (4m 60s): But also because I just know that like with the brain, it's like, you know, like you say, if you don't use it, you'll just lose it. And perhaps maybe connect the dots for people as far as like, you know, you know, your study with newborns and how that can prove to, you know, run true for adults as well, as far as helping to prevent some cognitive decline as we get older, 1 (5m 24s): Show us, let's see how she gave me some, some like traumatic flashbacks learning the piano when I was a kid. And actually what I really hated about learning an instrument was having other people hear me be bad at it, which is the exact reason why people don't learn stuff later in life, because like nobody wants to be bad at something, but there's this huge body of data that tells us that since she cognitive stimulus both early in life for initial development and later cognitive performance, but then also for preventing cognitive decline, cognitive stimulus is probably the most single most important and protective thing for the brain and where some of that comes from is so the populations that I work with sort of from a more clinical standpoint in research, these are babies who have some kind of brain injury early in life. 1 (6m 13s): And what we see is that the injury that you have that you're treated for in the hospital, it can have a very different effects later in life, depending on the environment you go home to. In fact, the environment you go home to is probably way more important than what is done with you in the hospital and the drugs that you give and all the other treatments and things they do to protect your brain. And there are different proxies of there. So it's often based on socioeconomic status. And so, which is a proxy for a whole bunch of things in terms of what they have access to and resources, but you might see things like parents who are more likely to read to their kids, their kids have better cognitive development outcomes. And obviously there are a lot of things that determine a parent's ability and time to be able to, you know, read to that to their kid will have even books to read to their kid, but these things affect trajectory early on in life and can be very protective. 1 (7m 2s): So even if you had a significant brain injury in a sort of first, when you were born, if you have a very supportive, nurturing environment later in life, that actually negates almost all of the brain injury that you had in your life. When we look later and sort of people at risk of cognitive decline or dementia, two important things stand out. So the first is how much education did you get early in life? So, and again, that's a proxy for, for many things, but everybody gets the opportunity to go to finish high school or finish a college or get a graduate degree. But the degree to which you get education early in life, that sort of is protective later in life. So there's that kind of cognitive stimulus aspects. 1 (7m 44s): But equally, if you do things that stimulate the brain later in life that protects you against cognitive decline. So one example of evidence of that is that the minute you retire, your cognitive function decreases rapidly. That's the time when adult cognitive function begins to decline. And that's because in the modern environment, most of our cognitive stimulus comes through our work. And there are, they've done this in multiple different populations around the world. And that really sort of like this moment of retirement, you get less cognitive stimulus and then that's associated with cognitive decline, but there are other things other sort of signals in there, like you mentioned music. So when they've looked at how old somebody's brain looks on an MRI scan, there's a machine learning algorithm called brain age. 1 (8m 29s): You just take a picture, an MRI scan of this brain. How old is this brain? Look, musicians have younger looking brains relative to how old they are chronologically, you know, their age in years. And this effect is greater in amateur musicians with the theory being the it's harder for amateur musicians to play an instrument, right? It's no longer this sort of automatic process, right? So there's a heart, there's a greatest stimulus there. Similar things are seen and people who are bilingual for life, they have this sort of protection and, and great connection and, and volumes in certain areas of the brain that might be associated with cognitive decline. So as you kind of tie all these things together, it really seems like the environment that your brain develops in and the amount that you stimulate or challenge it is really the thing. 1 (9m 15s): That's probably the easiest in to modulate in terms of protecting long-term cognitive function. 0 (9m 22s): Yeah. I'm glad you mentioned that about learning an instrument and you are right. Like I play it by myself. I think my dogs listen, you know, I know, I know you have two dogs, my dog sit there and listen. I don't think they enjoy it very much, but they're like my audience. But I do notice, like if I went to get a Le, if I go to get a lesson, you know, my performance is not as good as when I'm by myself. There are performing by myself in the basement. I actually played at my wedding, which was like a year and a half ago. And talk about, you know, having some nerves there, but either way, it, it, it's, it's interesting that, you know, you talk about learning a language, playing piano or an instrument. 0 (10m 5s): Are there advantages, like, let's just say there are advantages to doing certain things over others. Like, like just let's say reading a book or doing a crossword puzzle. Like, do they sort of rank in a certain, I guess, fashion as far as helping the brain, I guess grow. 1 (10m 24s): Yeah. Th that's a, that's a good question. And it will probably. So in general, I think any adult learning, any new skill through a process that requires them to be bad at something and develop over time is going to be great. So like setting the bar super low, I think is really important because this is something that anybody can do and they can do something that they enjoy and they're probably going to see benefit from it. So that's where I'd start. However, there are some things that, that may be going to be, you know, sort of like guiding principles. So in general, a skill that translates that's useful in some other scenario, right? 1 (11m 5s): So you might think they're doing like Sudoku or some kind of abstract thing. Like it may not generally translate as well to being out there in the world, interacting with other people, right. It doesn't mean it's not beneficial, but there's, there's maybe not as much that translates. There's some, like there were, there were some data on people who memorize huge amounts of data and that's associated with, with an increase in volume of the hippocampus, which is an area of the brain associates memory and has also affected in various dementias. And they sort of, they become really good at memorizing stuff, but maybe at, you know, maybe they become less good other things because they've just like spent so much time specializing in memorizing. 1 (11m 53s): So something that kind of is applicable across a broad range of skills is maybe beneficial. So I think music and language, they, they generally translate across a lot of things that, you know, sort of underpin what it takes to be human. And there's one other area that we haven't talked about, which is movement. And there's definitely benefit in terms of like literary, anything that requires you to move your body like even resistance training. There are studies that show that resistance training improves cognitive function. However, there's this signal from, from the data that movement that requires coordination and balance is even better. So there are multiple studies on dance in older individuals and dance is better than say some resistance training or circuit. 1 (12m 40s): That's kind of matched for the amount of work that you're doing. But the additional balance component seems to provide additional benefit, just like yoga and other things. You could be slacklining skateboarding, right? Anything that requires you to control your body and physical space that seems to provide this additional benefit. And again, that's going to translate really nicely to other things, because particularly as you get older, one of the things that's most Debbie for you is falling over, falling over breaking a hip and doing coordination type movements. Not only can they benefit the brain, but they're gonna be sort of beneficial in terms of protecting these other risks that you have as you get older. So there are some sort of like brain training games. So this brain HQ is, is an online brain training platform. 1 (13m 22s): It's used in a number of studies, cause it sort of easy to quantify and track how people progress at a time, which is maybe harder with things like language and movement, but they do have some papers that show that some of what like, and cause it's like these abstract games you might think, well, how well does that translate? And they have some data that shows that actually it does translate to like real life executive function and, and, and memory and things like that. So there is some translation there from some kind of like online abstract learning to the real world. And that's really what we want. So that kind of allows you to say, well, you know, there are these things that we know are going to be beneficial, but really, you know, there's multiple different options. There, language, even some certain abstract games, if they're well-designed music movement, right. 1 (14m 2s): There's a whole bunch of stuff that, that the people could do based on what, what they, what they enjoy. 0 (14m 6s): Yeah. And it's interesting, you mentioned movement because I do notice I've done like Muay Thai and boxing my whole life. And if I take a break from it for a while I come back, it's just there. You know, you got it. There's a lot of court, there's coordination involved in it. You are, you having, you know, you are using your brain for that. And I never really thought about that. Also a little bit of balance and coordinate obviously, and coordination. And then I know you mentioned slack lining, you know, not many people, especially I'm in the Midwest, just outside Chicago, not many people know what slack lining is here in Chicago. It's I think it's more of like a California west coast. Cause you know, you're in Seattle, but slack lining, let me tell you, I've tried it. 0 (14m 47s): I remember being in Hawaii doing it. And I did it one time in Israel and talk about just like focus and maybe explain, I mean, have you done slacklining before 1 (15m 0s): A little bit? I can't profess to be very good at it, which is probably why I should do more of it. I have a, I have a thing called a slack block that I keep under my desk, which is kind of like slack lining, like light and you can kind of stand on it on one foot and it kind of provides that instability sort of, you have to like focus on your balance. So there, there are like ways which is kind of a nice thing to try, but no, no, I think that's, that's great, but again, not essential, right? Because there's still the similar data. It could be yoga Tai Chi, right? All these things that require some kind of control of, of the body in 3d space. And I think it's because the more you challenge your coordination, right, that's kind of more of a, a threat in a good way, right? 1 (15m 43s): To your, to the brain perceives a right. If you are unstable, the brains perceive that as, as great a threat. And that creates this, this sort of Amelia of neurotransmitters that kind of is associated with plasticity and, and supporting, you know, sort of brain growth or at least homeostasis. So, so I think that's why it's the additional challenges is kind of perceived as by the brain as something that's really important to try and get better at, because if you're unstable, you know, it's again a threat to falling over or some kind of injury or something like that. So, so again, it kind of creates this environment that, that, that is associated with plasticity. 0 (16m 20s): Yeah. And perhaps touch on muscle mass. I know you mentioned that has how it relates to brain function. Cause we talk a lot about on this show about resistance training. I'm a big fan. I know that's something you've done for I'm sure. Plenty of years. Maybe what's the research behind that. 1 (16m 38s): Yeah. So that's, that's a great question and something that I'm particularly interested in again, because muscle mass is one of the best predictors of longevity and that's sort of the space that I hang out in a lot is people who want to live longer healthier lives and muscle mass is one of the best predictors of that. And there were a number of ways where it could potentially be beneficial. One being that it's a, it's a big glucose sync. So if we think about insulin resistance pre-diabetes, but you get dysregulation, this is one of the best predictors of having some kind of cognitive decline or dementia, you know, unstable blood sugars or high spikes and blood sugars, or just having a bunch of goes be high all the time. 1 (17m 20s): And doing exercise both sort of pulls glucose out of the system, but it creates this sort of sync for glucose. And the more muscle you have and the more you move it, the, the greater this sink that you have for glucose. So it improves blood sugar regulation at the same time, when you do a resistance type training, particularly, you know, sort of somewhere approaching failure, you get release of these whole bunch of molecules that are associated with, with supporting the brain. So producing things like lactate, there was just a whole new a study that just came out on this new molecule. They found that was increased in, in, in, in intense exercise. That's some metabolite of lactate that, that is associated with appetite, regulation and longevity. 1 (18m 4s): And this happens every few months, like in some fancy journal, like nature or science there's they found a new metabolite that is associated with exercise that improves long-term health and cognitive function. And then they inject it in mice and they live longer, which basically says that we know we have a lot of epidemiological data that says that. So like the more muscle mass you have in general, the more brain mass you have once you adjust for like the size of the skull, because obviously not everybody has the same size skull and muscle mass is a better predictor of cognitive function than it is then fat mass is, or visceral fat is of cognitive functions. And muscle mass really seems to be the critical factor. And then at the same time, the things that you might do to increase your muscle mass seem to be associated with a whole bunch of metabolic processes. 1 (18m 49s): Not all of which we understand yet, but all that seem to sort of be tied to either living a longer time or having a cognitive function for a longer period of time or, or both. So there's like multiple different lines of evidence that suggest that having more muscle mass is better, but in, but it's not, it's, it's not like this linear effect, right? It's not like you need to get as jacked as you possibly can. Does this. There's kind of a cutoff of a threshold that somewhere around being in the top 33 or 40% of the population. So if you, if you went out and you took a whole bunch of people, like you, you just want to be in the top third in terms of muscle mass. 1 (19m 29s): So it's not anything heroic. It's not like you have to be busting out of your shirt, sleeves or anything like that. It's literally, you're probably doing some kind of movement, maybe resistance training once or twice a week. That's probably it, that probably puts you in the top third. So it doesn't need to be a huge amount, but the amount that you can get, you know, seems to have a really incredible benefits. 0 (19m 48s): Oh yeah. So yeah, that, that's a good point to make because I, I think some people think that they need some heroic, like lifting routine that they do weekly. And I know you were on Brad Kearns and he always talks about these micro workouts. And this is something that I've been getting into a little bit more. I mean, I've been lifting for 20 years and then COVID hit, I started doing these smaller workouts, 20, 30 minute workouts, and then I just would have increased the volume throughout the week. Cause it was, it was just easier to get it done, you know? And I, at that point, I'm actually curious, I love talking about routines. I'm curious. What is your routine now when it comes to lifting and just optimizing both, you know, brain health and just, you know, your body. 1 (20m 34s): Yeah. So, I mean, from a movement standpoint, I train for 90 minutes to two hours, six days a week. I have a gym at home. Most days I work from home. It's very easy for me to do that. And I appreciate that for most people that is not the case. Right. However, if you know, if I was gonna, and so I, I compete as an amateur strong man. That's something that I enjoy doing great. If I was only going to work out for, you know, general health benefits, I could probably, you know, winter that down to 45 minutes, two to three times a week, that would be more than enough, right. Four to six sets per muscle group per week is, you know, and then going to close to momentary muscular failure. 1 (21m 19s): That's probably enough in reality. So what I do is absolutely not what you need to do just from a health standpoint, other things I sleep pretty much eight to nine hours every night. That's something that sort of gets prioritized around here. You know, 0 (21m 39s): Sort of you have a sleep routine. Do you have a sleep? 1 (21m 41s): Yes. So I mean, not nothing too severe, but you know, dimming the lights, maybe a couple of hours trying to eat dinner about two or three hours, at least two or three hours before bed. I find, you know, it's harder to sleep on a full stomach. And a lot of people find that to be sort of associated with a higher heart rate, higher basal body temperature, which is associated with poor quality sleep in on average, not everybody finds that if you're in a caloric deficit, then actually you probably, you may sleep worse than eating something close to bedtime. Maybe may be beneficial for sleep. Right. So there's always a, there's always a caveat. So yeah, dinner two or three hours away from bedtime, a couple of hours for bed, you know, dimming, the lights are blue light blocking glasses have like a herbal tea before bed read a book. 1 (22m 26s): So either either a paper book or I have a Kindle that doesn't have any backlighting. So like you're not sort of exposed to bright lights and then, you know, dark cool room definitely helps. I like a white noise machine that helps me sleep. So those are, those are a few things. And like the, the main thing being that I know when I'm going to wake up at 6:00 AM, the dog was going to want to wake up and go out, right? So if I'm going to then sleep for eight hours, I probably need to spend nine hours in bed. That means I need to be in bed by 9:00 PM. So that kind of, when people are trying to figure out how to stop a routine, I usually start with, we probably know roughly when you have to wake up, right. If you have some kind of work or something that's going to have to do and then work back from there and then we're going to go bed to bed at nine, want to stop eating three hours for them. 1 (23m 13s): We have dinner at 6:00 PM. So that's, that's kind of how I set things up. 0 (23m 17s): And, and this sort of leads into my next question regarding like the connection between perhaps nutrient deficiency in cognitive decline. And I know you talked to Dr. Bradshaw a little bit about like, I'll make a threes. And I know there was a study out with that, but w w what, if any, is there any connection between like nutrients and, and brain health? 1 (23m 38s): Yeah, there's a, there's a lot associated between nutrient deficiencies and brain health. And actually, I mean, remember, so when I was working on an elderly care ward in London, you know, and we're talking 10 years ago, even back then, if somebody came onto the eldercare ward with dementia or cognitive decline, the first thing we do was what we called a dementia screen, which included studies for iron status, B12 and vitamin D. Right? So even just those basic things, we were testing in an NHS hospital right. 10 years ago, which kind of tells you that even then people were appreciating nutrient states, this is really important for cognitive function. 1 (24m 20s): So again, adequate iron status, adequate vitamin vitamin D, and then B vitamins are really important, particularly B12 and folate. And then, you know, riboflavin, B2, B6, they kind of support that process as well. And there was a nice study, a randomized controlled trial performed Oxford, the visor Cox study, which looked at replacing B-vitamins in older adults with mild cognitive impairment, and then looking at brain naturally, they did brain scans and cognitive function over time. And what they saw was that if you could replace these B vitamins, and I think where they saw the greatest benefit were when people had an homocysteine level, which is a pretty simple test, which is kind of a, a marker of methylation status and all these B vitamins, if the homocysteine was above 13, they saw a significant slowing in the rate of decline of cognitive function and brain volume. 1 (25m 13s): With these BV spins in a separate kind of sob study, they found that they saw more benefit in those who were had good and make a three status. And this is probably because in order for mega threes to be incorporated into phospholipids in the brain, which is why you really want them, right, you need all these B vitamins. So you kind of need, at least both, we need all of these things to be functioning, to get this sort of optimal benefit. So that's where in addition to vitamin D iron B vitamins, and then omega is they kind of all sort of intersect, and these are things that usually fairly easy to measure and fairly easy to replace as well as news. 0 (25m 48s): Interesting. So when it comes to diet, what's your stance on that? I mean, I know there's a lot of camps and I don't, I don't know if you're in a certain camp, but it sounds like, you know, if you're talking, B-vitamins obviously animal protein, I would imagine it's probably fairly important. 1 (26m 8s): Yes. That's my opinion. Particularly, as you get, as particularly as you get older, and we know that protein requirements increases, you get older and probably the requirement for a nutrients that are rich in animal foods, like long chain omega-3 is a B vitamins or bioavailable. B-vitamins right. You can get B12 from plants, but it's not at all by available. They may not even have the same biological function as methylcobalamin or, or the B12 that you get from animal products. So I, I believe that the brain requires these nutrients, that logic come from animal products. If you are somebody who doesn't want to eat animal products, whatever reason, that's fine. 1 (26m 50s): And the most sensible people that I know in the sort of promoting plant-based diets, they talk about the need to replace some of these nutrients because they, they appreciate their importance. So it doesn't have to be done from animal foods. It certainly can be done with a quality supplementation and put a reason that that that's fine as well. 0 (27m 10s): Yeah. So the, the, the, excuse me, the vitamins you were testing for vitamin B vitamin D you hear vitamin D come up all the time. Right. And iron, yeah. Was that, was there one more? Am I missing something? Were those the main tests? 1 (27m 27s): This is the mega threes, the iron, and then the bees in general, B6, B2, benign, which the folate and B12, but, you know, a homocysteine level will probably get you most of the way. And then there are other ways you can kind of determine, so need for B12 in particular. And again, this is something that we did in the hospital. If a B12 looked low, you do something called a test for something called methylmalonic acid, which is elevated when you have a functional deficiency and B12 or a certain type of B12. So there are other ways to kind of, you can measure the app, the absolute value of the nutrient, or you can then look at some of these functional markers as well. 1 (28m 9s): So kind of depends on what you have, what you have access to. 0 (28m 12s): I see. And then obviously you told us your training protocol was a six times a week. How do you base your eating routine around that? And do you do any fasting or things like that? 1 (28m 24s): I don't fast, regularly. I think in somebody who's physically active and is U caloric then additional fasting probably doesn't add much in terms of, for health benefits. I do have an eating window. I basically eat between 9:00 AM and 6:00 PM. So a nine hour eating window, and then probably, you know, 14 to 15 hours fostered guy. Again, it made me helps with sleep for me. 0 (28m 51s): Yeah. And you are working out in a, in a facet state or you working out mid day after your first meal? 1 (29m 1s): Yeah, so I work out usually off the two meals, so have breakfast around nine. I have some kind of lunch around 12 or one, and I'll usually work out between like three and 5:00 PM. 0 (29m 9s): Okay. And I'm just curious, you do, I'm assuming you're how you, are you eating low carb or you do do, how do you implement, like you, I'm assuming you prioritize protein or how does that look? 1 (29m 23s): Yeah, I would definitely prioritize protein the entire time. The rest kind of depends on what phase I'm in. Right. So if I'm coming up to a competition and usually I'm well under the weight limit, as in the strong Lancaster, is that I can be in. So for what, like anything goes like I I've been a high quality diet, but basically a mixed diet, plenty of carbs, protein and fat, and that facilitates weight gain as well as performance in the gym after a competition, then I may try and lean out. That's what I'm doing right now. So I eat pretty much a high protein, low carb diet right now 0 (30m 1s): When you're trying to lean out after the gap petition. Yeah. Got it. What, what, what, wait, do you perform it or do you excuse me, compete at yep. 1 (30m 9s): So the way the weight limit for the category I'm in is two, it's usually 231.5 pounds. It's 105 kilos. And I think in my last competition, which is end of may, I was like 2 25. I think I weighed in at 2 28, but I was wearing a couple of pieces of clothing. So somewhere between 2 25 and 2 28. 0 (30m 29s): Oh, that's cool. So there's these strong man competitions and they're just, are they just, I mean, I remember watching my TV, these just, these are natural strong men competition. This is different than that are there. It's like natural bodybuilding and then there's bodybuilding, you know, 1 (30m 44s): None of these competitions are tested. So it's very possible that the people, I mean, this is like a small local competition. So I mean, that'd be surprised that people felt the need to supplement in order to perform against like three other random guys from down the road. But, you know, if they do, I don't know if they're doing that, but it's, it's, it's certainly within the rules of the competition, but yeah, so they have them in, they have them in weight classes. So when you compete as a novice, which I did do up until like next, next year, I have to compete in what they call open about. I was as a novice, I was a lightweight. So under 231 pounds is a lightweight, which is nice because there's like this you'll never lightweight, but 230 pounds last year in Stormont. Yeah. 1 (31m 25s): So, so yeah, they, they kind of to kind of level the playing field a bit that they have these weekends for. 0 (31m 30s): Okay. Curious. Yeah. That's cool. I'm curious. Do you do certain things to challenge your brain? I know you mentioned you have that little slack block or what you mentioned, but other than obviously lifting and put on putting on muscle, which obviously is important for the brain, what other things do do? 1 (31m 49s): Yeah. So the main, the main thing that I've done recently is some skill development. And I mainly do that through learning to code. It has the byproduct of being useful for my job, but I've definitely noticed that there's been some benefits there and in other areas. Yeah. So, and again, that's just like learning a language, right. It's just a different type of type of language. I also, I don't get enough opportunities, but I try and speak other languages. So I w I have family in Iceland. I was just in Iceland and the whole time I was there, I tried to force myself to speak. I signed that because I don't do it very often, but I'm increasingly appreciative of, even though I feel uncomfortable because I know, like I don't always get the grammar. 1 (32m 33s): Right. Or I don't always have the vocabulary that I wish that I had in Icelandic. I know that there's benefits both for keeping it as a language in my head, but then also, you know, because it's an additional challenge. So I try, I try and be better at making sure that in scenarios where I can speak a language that I, that I, that I know, I, I, I take that opportunity. 0 (32m 51s): Yeah. It's like, you grow up, you learn another language. I remember learning Spanish. I'd been wanting to get back to learning it again. I mean, I know some of it, but I could see how it could be, you know, completely beneficial. Yeah. I'm also curious, is there a genetic component when it comes to, you know, dementia and, you know, w what can we learn from that? 1 (33m 16s): Yes, that's a good question. And almost certainly there's, there's a genetic component. And, and one way that the people will do that. Well, I guess we should probably start with the one that most people may have heard of, which is your apolipoprotein E or APOE E gene, the type 0 (33m 33s): Of waste. 1 (33m 34s): There are three different common polymorphisms type two, three, and four, and compared to twos and threes, those who have at least one copy of those who have one copy of four, have a slightly increased risk of dementia. And those who have two copies have an even greater risk of dementia. And so that APOE E has probably the, probably contributes about 5% of your overall risk of dementia. And so most people who get dementia don't have apathy and most, and not everybody who has don't most people who get dementia don't have APOE four. Cause it's not that common and most, and not everybody who has APA before gets dementia, right? So it's not deterministic, but it sort of, it contributes. 1 (34m 16s): However, when you look at this, this seems to be mainly true in westernized populations. And so if we look at, there are three studies, I can think of the Bolivian, CMA, who our hunter-gatherer group. There was a study done, I believe in Nigeria. And then there was also a recent study that came out in native Americans. And in those groups, in an environment that is more quote, unquote, ancestral, more like the environment that they involve evolved in <inaudible> is not associated with an increased risk of dementia. So it seems to only be the case in people, in the modern environment, for whatever reason, or at least, you know, there are, there are scenarios where it's not detrimental and in the, in the Bolivian hunter-gatherers, if they have a high parasite burden, which is, which is common, then actually it's protective of cognitive function. 1 (35m 16s): So this, there may be benefits to that, depending on the scenario, the environment you live in, you can also do what the, the, what they call poly genic risk scores. We basically look at these thousands of genes and you look at all your different polymorphisms, and then you can kind of rank people on these, you know, how likely based on the genetics they are to get dementia. And there is, and association that absolutely. However, does that change what we might do to try and prevent cognitive decline? I'm not entirely sure it does an equally, what w what we're, what we've seen from multiple studies now is that if you tell people about their genetic risk, it doesn't change their behavior. 1 (35m 57s): Right? So if I tell you your increased risk, you'll know, more likely to then do something about it. On average, there are certain subsets subsets of people who are like, now, I know I'm going to do something, but that's not most people, but at the same time, you may get a negative effects. I tell you if your increased risk on average, you won't do anything about it, but you will get stressed about the fact that your increased risk and that stress will increase your risk even further. So yes, genetics absolutely play a role, but it's not always clear whether it's useful to know your own genetic risk 0 (36m 29s): Trusting. Is there, is there, is there, what would you say the biggest correlation that you find, and, you know, maybe there's not an answer to this between cognitive decline and perhaps dementia. Is it lifestyle? Is it, you know, diabetic there is, what's the, what would you say is the biggest sort of correlation between the two? 1 (36m 51s): Yes. So I've done some recent analyses using some population data sets to try and answer this question. And because a lot of these things clustered together, right. You know, people who more likely to be diabetic, you know, they may be more likely to be lower socioeconomic status associated with worse nutrient status or a greater exposure to toxins. Like, cause they, for whatever reason are exposed to low quality water, low quality air, right? Because they're kind of forced to live in a certain area where that's the case. So all these things kind of interact, but the things that popped out, at least in the analysis that I did with the, with the single most well there's two, the two single most predictive things are age. 1 (37m 32s): Obviously the older you are, the more likely you are to get dementia. And th and the second one is education level, right? So that kind of goes back to what we were talking about earlier, once you take those out, because they are the two most important things. Having high blood pressure was very predictive, as well as having a high HB A1C. So high average blood sugar level. And of course those two things are correlated as well because people have higher high blood sugar also have high blood pressure, but they were even after you took that into account, both of those were associated worst dementia. And we know that right, getting adequate blood flow and nutrients to the brain is really important. And that's where the sort of vascular blood pressure thing comes in. And then also, you know, having good metabolic health, whether, you know, which is where the blood sugar thing comes in. 1 (38m 16s): So, so those are the two things, and again, a modifiable, but very common. This seems to be associated with, with cognitive decline. At least this was in, in an heightened state set national health and nutrition examination survey, which is this sort of standard population data set that's that's in the U S 0 (38m 33s): Okay. That I, that seems make sense. So the biggest correlation would be higher blood pressure. Once you take age and education out of the mix, higher blood pressure and perhaps higher blood sugar. Yeah. 1 (38m 48s): And then also then the nutrients states of stuff we talked 0 (38m 50s): About, but then yeah. And the nutrient status. Yeah. Got it. Is that, is that something that you measure for yourself for every six months or a year, or do you, you do, you know, vitamin D and vitamin B tests and things like that? 1 (39m 2s): Yeah. I'll do, I'll do blood tests. You usually about every year, I'll do a full blood count. There are certain things you can look up with red blood cell metrics that kind of give you an idea of nutrient status and inflammation. Then like a metabolic panel, which includes liver tests, kidney tests, electrolytes, some B vitamin status stuff, including homocysteine, which I mentioned earlier, then some basic lipids that will kind of give you a good, a good idea of whether there's anything you need to focus on iron status and vitamin D. Yep. 0 (39m 32s): Okay. And then this just came to my mind. Cause I'm a, I'm a big golfer. I know, I know Brad is valley. He does like speed golf. So my question is, and I noticed this even with even just like playing an instrument is how much of the learning is actually when you're not doing it. Like when it's, Hey, I noticed this as an adult. I think as a kid, you don't realize this, but like, I'll, I'll, I'll play an inch, you know, my piano and it's not going great. And then the next day, next morning, I'm like, wow. Like I just learned a lot more and I didn't even do anything. And so I'm sort of, I have this unconscious, you know, subconscious learning while I'm not even doing it. W what does that sort of role play in perhaps instruments or even like in sport? 1 (40m 17s): So these is the way that, that I think about it is that we know that in order to adapt to anything, you need a period of rest and recovery, right? So, so we know that any stressor, if you, you may come back stronger from it, but you need to be able to recover, right. And this could be cold exposure. He exposure, fasting exercise, right. If you did, if you exercise continuously, that's never going to be good for you. Cause you, you're never going to actually be able to recover and adapt from it for skill learning. A lot of that consolidation happens during sleep. So part of it is like consolidates that skill during sleep. There's also based on various studies. We know that if you think about some scale or process development, you can actually enhance learning, just sort of like imagining going through the steps of it. 1 (41m 5s): And so there even studies where they had people do resistance training, and then they had people at the same time, just imagine imagining that they were lifting. Right. So just thinking about lifting, not actually lifting, and they just thought about lifting and they got stronger, right. Not quite as strong as people who did the actual lifting, but they just, they were thinking about this connection. Right. And they got stronger. So there's that, there's that part of it as well. So if you've been playing the piano, you, you may like be going over these patterns in your head, which can sort of like strengthen that connection and consolidate some of that learning. And then equally, or the final bit is to, in order to sort of like maximally stimulate learning. 1 (41m 45s): There's only so much you can do at a time at a time and you need to be doing it a difficulty that gets you to like the point of frustration. Right. So you like get to this point and you, you kinda like knocking on the door, like, there's this bit that you can't quite get this kinda of like pass it on the piano you can't quite get. And it's like creating a little bit of frustration there. Like I said earlier, that kind of stimulates this environment for learning. However, you're also going to get to a point where like, you just keep failing again and again and again, and then you get frustrated and that makes you worse. So there's like, all those things kind of come into play. You can probably only like, really learn sort of like really sort of like push the boundaries in like maybe 20 to 30 minute chunks. And then you just like get to this wall that just becomes frustrating and you're not going to get anywhere. 1 (42m 27s): And then, and then you need to like pull back, rest, recover, consolidate, and then you can go back then. 0 (42m 33s): So would you say like for skill learning, I'm get, I'm thinking just this for golf. Cause like, for me, I'm always working on like trying to improve certain aspects of my swing and I try to just do a little bit every day. What would be like the most efficient I know this might seem, but what's the most efficient way maybe to try to gain and improve that skill because like I can feel it and do it maybe without the ball and with, even without a club. But once I go fast speed full on, then I'll see it on camera. Like I went back to my old way and like, how can I gain that skill to the point where I can do it in full speed? 0 (43m 16s): And so that's like a frustration I know with a lot of golfers. I'm just curious. 1 (43m 22s): Yeah. I understand that. I think there's maybe two, two parts of it at once. There's one is like the initial skill development and I think that happens best in these sort of 20 to 30 minute chunks with like, you know, where you're just sort of, again, like pushing the boundaries right. On the edge of your current skill. And then, and then sort of pulling back in and getting, maybe you do that maybe just once a day, but then there's also right. Once you've developed that skill, there's like, there's a repetition muscle memory component of it. And you know, they say that not practice makes perfect, but practice makes permanent. Right. So maybe once you've developed a skill, then actually you have a period of time where you sort of do that again and again, and again, to kind of really ingrain it so that when you're under a time or cognitive stress, then that's the pattern that you, you resort to. 1 (44m 12s): So I think there's two components. One is the initial skill learning. And then there's also like the continuous passing to make it, that sort of like the, the, the, the default. 0 (44m 22s): Yeah. Cause, cause the thing is, I could, I could do it and I can exaggerated. I'll try to exaggerate it and do it like really slow. But if you think about golf, golf is you swinging under a second or whatever it is. Right. So it's like, how can I get it? So get it to the point where it's slow and you know, when I'm doing these repetitions and feeling it to the point where I can just it's instinctual and I just swing and it looks that same way. 1 (44m 49s): So I don't know, I don't know much about golf itself, but I wonder about scenarios where, I mean, if you learn it, when it's slow, is that actually transferrable to the scenario that you actually want to learn it. And I, and I'm not sure it would be like, if we're thinking about something like learning certain lifts in the gym, which I can relate to better often it needs to be heavy enough for you to actually get the pattern. Because if you don't, if it's not heavy enough, right, you can cheat or use a different technique without suffering. Whereas, you know, then that same movement pattern doesn't translate to when it is actually heavy. So I wonder if there's a similar thing, you know, in golf, we're actually learning it slow. 1 (45m 32s): Maybe you don't actually learn the pattern that you really need when you're doing it fast. Okay. 0 (45m 38s): Yeah. Interesting. It'll it's, it's like the common thing with golfer. So I was just curious your thoughts on that. Well, this is great. I feel like we can, I could talk to you about all this stuff for a long time, but we're coming up on it. I just wanted to ask you one question. I asked all my guests and you, and you might've answered it already. Is what would you, what advice would you give? Most of my audience I'd say is middle-aged 40 years and older, you know, look, male middle-aged men looking to get their bodies back and their minds back to what it once was maybe in their twenties and thirties. So what, what one tip would you give that individual? 1 (46m 19s): Well, I think if I had seen one tip and it's for brain and body 0 (46m 24s): Yeah. Through the brain and they're just, 1 (46m 26s): Yeah. All right. So, so, so if we, if we're going to include the brain, then, then I think like do something every day. The, about that's going to be my one tip because people don't like to do this stuff about it. And was there like an old basil lemon song where he sent that? He said like do something every day that no, he just said do something everyday. That scares you. Right. So like, which is kind of similar. Right. So do something every day that you're about at, and then preferably have it be something in the gym because then you get the body aspects as well, but it doesn't have to be, it could be learning a language. 0 (47m 0s): I like that. And when you talk about do something you're bad at, because you hear people that are in the gym and I'm like, well, let's work a little bit on balance. They're like, well, I'm bad at that. Well, 1 (47m 9s): Exactly. Yeah. They, okay. So like when, I mean do something about it, I don't mean like really heavy deadlifts. Right? I mean, something like, you know, jump rope or balance or, you know, something like that, but that'd be great yoga. 0 (47m 24s): Right, right. That makes sense. Yeah. All right, Tommy, I appreciate you coming on. This was great. Tons of great tips. Where's, where's the best place for people to learn about, you know, your work and your studies and things like that. 1 (47m 39s): So most of what I do, it's intimate and that probably goes on Instagram. So I'm Dr. Tommy bird on Instagram. They'll usually be stuff, you know, often the stuff in my stories, but it's usually either pictures of the dogs, pictures of what's happening in the gym. Maybe I'll post about a paper I published, which could be really relevant to the stuff we talked about today. Or it could be about like rat models of neonatal brain injury, which is why I spend most of my time doing so, you know, intimately interesting to different sets of people. But if you're, if you want any of that, then Instagram is the place to 0 (48m 10s): Instagram. Okay. Perfect. Well, thank you again for coming on. I appreciate it and drop it a ton of knowledge on us. So have a great rest of the week and thanks for coming on 1 (48m 21s): You too. Thanks so much for having me. 0 (48m 24s): Thanks for listening to the get lean, eat clean podcast. I understand there are millions of other podcasts out there and you've chosen to listen to mine. And I appreciate that. Check out the show notes@briangrin.com for everything that was mentioned in this episode, feel free to subscribe to the podcast and share it with a friend or family member. That's looking to get their body back to what it once was. Thanks again, and have a great day.

This week I interviewed Dr. Tommy Wood! He specializes in studying brain trauma in newborns and his passion is translating that research into lessons we can all use to help us protect our brains as we age. We discussed: - Beneficial Stress for the Brain - How Muscle Mass Relates to Brain Function - Connections between Nutrient Deficiency and Cognitive Decline - Ways You Can Challenge the Brain and his one tip to get your brain and body back to what it once was!


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