Underappreciated Micronutrients with Dr. Joe Pizzorno: Rational Wellness Podcast 220
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Dr. Joe Pizzorno speaks about Underappreciated Micronutrients with Dr. Ben Weitz.
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6:00 A useful approach to to analyzing new drugs as well as natural interventions is to look at numbers needed to treat for benefit and numbers needed to treat for adverse effects. If the number needed to treat to get a benefit is like 400, then that doesn’t sound so great. and if the number needed to treat to get an adverse event is three or four, then that doesn’t sound like such a good drug. So many of the new drugs seem to have less and less benefit and are more and more expensive.
7:20 Vitamin E. Much of the research on vitamin E started with research on the benefits of wheat germ oil, which had some fairly robust benefits for preventing cardiovascular disease and improving fertility. When nutrition research started about 100 years ago, researchers were limited by our lack of understanding of biochemistry and by our tools, so we concluded that between vitamins, minerals, amino acids and fatty acids that there were 43 molecules in food that were important and all of the other 50,000 molecules in food were unimportant, which means that 99.9% were unimportant. Now we discover interesting molecules in food such as phytonutrients that have lots of benefits, so we extract them and modify them and make them patentable and tout it as the new wonder drug. But these molecules were already in the food supply before we started modifying the food with hybridization and GMOs and chemical farming and they got lost from the food supply. How is that progress? Research on wheat germ oil showed good results, but research on DL-alpha-tocopherol was not that successful. This is partially because gamma tocopherol is much more important for human health than alpha tocopherol and synthetic DL-alpha-tocopherol is even less beneficial. And high dosages of alpha tocopherol will inhibit the more beneficial gamma tocopherol. The same phenomenon can occur with flavonoids, including high levels of beta carotene that can saturate the absorption sites and inhibit other carotenoids that may be more important for health, such as lycopene for men’s prostate health.
18:44 Folic acid. Whereas folic acid is synthetic, natural folates are found in many foods. As we’ve refined our food supply, such as by refining wheat to make breads and cereals, we’ve lost the natural folates, which leads to neural tube defects and elevated homocysteine and other problems and then we add back in synthetic folic acid. But because so many people have MTHFR polymorphisms and can’t utilize synthetic folic acid. This is why natural folates like methyl folate are protective against cancer, but synthetic folic acid when supplemented at high dosages can increase cancer risk. Eat real food.
23:22 Mycorrhizae is the fungi that colonize the roots of plants and it participates in improving the soil and supplying nutrition to the plants. Just like the natural bacteria in our gut, there are also natural fungi that contribute to the health of our microbiome. The soil where we grow our plants and fruits and vegetables contains natural bacteria and fungus, like our microbiome, and some of the chemicals used in agriculture like glyphosate, which is widely used in the food supply as an herbicide that poisons plants through disrupting the shikimate pathway and it also disrupts the fungal and bacterial balance in the soil, so the plants make fewer polyphenols and other important phytonutrients, which has a negative effect on our health. By disrupting the soil we make the plants less healthy and that makes us less healthy. Some of these phytonutrients have antiviral properties, which makes us less susceptible to viral infections. When phytonutrient content in our food goes down, the potential for viral infections in us goes up.
35:31 Our DNA is now more susceptible to damage from arsenic and other heavy metals because of a lower intake of phytonutrients like bioflavonoids that protect us from heavy metals. Arsenic levels have also gone up in our environment. Arsenic is found in the water supply and we see high levels in rice, which are grown in water. We used to put arsenic in the food supply of chickens to make them more resistant to parasites and to plump them up more. Wood climbing toys that kids climb on that are often found in parks often have arsenic in them as wood preservatives. Certain industries are spewing arsenic into the environment.
42:29 Tomatine is another phytonutrient found in tomatoes. Tomatoes are often grown in greenhouses with chemicals and they have found that such tomatoes often maintain enough of those carotenoids and flavonoids that give tomatoes their characteristic color and bit of their natural taste. But by not growing them organically in soil without chemical, they lose many other phytonutrients like tomatine that have not been recognized as important. Tomatine helps to prevent prostate cancer growth. But the answer is not to just take a supplement of tomatine but to understand that we need to eat whole foods and to grow our food in the most natural methods possible.
Dr. Joe Pizzorno is a transformational leader in natural medicine, one of the founding members of the Functional Medicine movement, and the founding president of Bastyr University, which was the first accredited institution in the field of natural medicine. He is a Naturopathic Doctor, researcher, and educator, who has written or co-authored more than 12 books including, The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, which has now sold over two million copies, and The Toxin Solution, and his textbook Clinical Environmental Medicine, his two newest books. Here’s the website to learn more about his The Toxin Solution book: http://www.thetoxinsolution.com/ You can also learn more about Dr. Pizzorno from his website: http://drpizzorno.com/
Dr. Ben Weitz is available for nutrition consultations specializing in Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders like IBS/SIBO and Reflux and also specializing in Cardiometabolic Risk Factors like elevated lipids, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure and also weight loss and also athletic performance, as well as sports chiropractic work by calling his Santa Monica office 310-395-3111. Dr. Weitz is also available for video or phone consultations.
Dr. Weitz: Hey, this is Dr. Ben Weitz, host of the Rational Wellness Podcast. I talk to the leading health and nutrition experts and researchers in the field to bring you the latest in cutting-edge health information. Subscribe to the Rational Wellness Podcast for weekly updates. And to learn more, check out my website doctorweitz.com. Thanks for joining me and let’s jump into the podcast.
Hello, Rational Wellness podcasters. Today we have a very exciting interview with Dr. Joe Pizzorno, one of the founders of the Functional Medicine Movement. Our topic today is the importance of micronutrients, of physiological phytonutrients and specific forms of vitamins and minerals that are often underappreciated. And these are often eliminated by modern agriculture, and not included when synthetic vitamins are simply added back to processed foods. When plants are hybridized to increase levels of certain micronutrients, there is often a decrease in the production of other nutrients. Our modern food supply grown with genetically modified seeds and with many chemicals has lost many phytonutrients. When crops are sprayed with herbicides to control weeds and pesticides to protect from insects, viruses and molds, the plants lose the ability to resist these naturally. This is why many natural phytochemicals may have antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral properties as well as being able to, as well as being anti-insect, anti-herbivore, and anti-oxidant. When foods are refined, the simplification of research on vitamins is often not appreciated. The subtleties of the differences between what’s found in nature, such as the family of nutrients found in wheat germ oil, known as alpha-, beta-, gamma-, delta-tocopherols and alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta-tocotrienols. As opposed to stripping out a synthetic vitamin, alpha-tocopherol, and studying that and ignoring the rest of the family and other phytonutrients that are present in wheat germ oil, including some that have yet to be studied.
Dr. Pizzorno referred to these as unimportant molecules found in our food at a presentation that he gave at the Institute of Functional Medicine annual meeting this year, which was a great meeting. Furthermore, the loss of these micronutrients from our food is associated with chronic diseases and diseases resulting from genetic variations referred to as single-nucleotide polymorphisms. Therefore, it makes sense to increase our consumption of these important “unimportant molecules” by eating organically grown plants and taking the right nutritional supplements.
Our special guest today is Dr. Joe Pizzorno, who will be talking about this very important topic. Dr. Pizzorno is one of the most important Naturopathic doctors, educators, researchers, and one of the founding members of the Functional Medicine movement. Dr. Pizzorno has written or co-authored more than 12 books including, The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, which has now sold over two million copies, the Textbook of Natural Medicine, Natural Medicine for the Prevention and Treatment of Cancer, The Toxin Solution, and co-author of Clinical Environmental Medicine. He’s also the editor of the Integrative Medicine Journal. Dr. Pizzorno, thank you so much for joining us today.
Dr. Pizzorno: Well, Dr. Ben, thank you for your very kind introduction and excellent overview of my presentation.
Dr. Weitz: Good. So before we get into the topic for today, since you’re one of the founders of the Functional Medicine Movement, where do you think Functional Medicine is right now?
Dr. Pizzorno: Well, and thank you, I’m happy to have contributed to the evolution of this body of knowledge. So, I think Functional Medicine is doing very, very well right now. We’ve developed very good educational programs. We’re now starting to do some research evaluation of what we’re doing and worldwide interest in Functional Medicine is just exploding. And it’s not surprising because as you know, we now suffer the highest burden of chronic disease in every age group ever in human history. So not only the public is arising, there’s a need to think differently, but so are doctors.
Dr. Weitz: Yes, yes. I think just look at what’s happened in the last month where almost simultaneously we have a new drug for Alzheimer’s gets approved, which actually does nothing to reverse the condition at all. It doesn’t cure anybody. Maybe it slows down the progression in a percentage of people. Unfortunately, 30 to 40% of them end up with swelling or inflammation or bleeding in their brain. And almost at the exact same time, a Functional Medicine study is published by Dr. Dale Bredesen showing that using a Functional Medicine approach of diet, lifestyle, exercise, targeted nutraceuticals that we can actually reverse, cure people with Alzheimer’s. So, I think we’re reaching a point where some of these drugs are just not really adequate responses to the chronic conditions of today and Functional Medicine is starting to show itself to be a much more effective solution.
Dr. Pizzorno: And well said. Something I’ve started to realize is a kind of a useful approach to think about these new drugs as well as new natural interventions is numbers needed to treat for benefit and numbers needed to treat for adverse effects. And so many of these drugs, when it’s all this latest, greatest thing, you look at, well, how many people have to be treated to get benefit? And it’s like 400 people before somebody gets a benefit. Well, that doesn’t sound great. Well, I mean, need to be treated before we get an adverse event? Three, four. Okay, so your adverse events are more likely than clinical benefit. Now, I want to be clear, I’m not anti-drug, but I’m anti-drugs, which have more damage than benefit. And so, many of the new drugs, there’s so little benefit left for the drug approach, that the returns are becoming less and less and more and more expensive.
Dr. Weitz: Yeah. That new drug for Alzheimer’s [aducanumab] is just only $56,000 a year.
Dr. Pizzorno: Works great for the drug companies, but-
Dr. Weitz: [crosstalk 00:07:02], right?
Dr. Pizzorno: And really desperate people might give it a try, but we already know how to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. And we even know some things about how to actually start reversal of that. So, the drug approach is great in some areas, but not so good for everyday health.
Dr. Weitz: So, let’s start with vitamin E, which really started in a lot of ways with the research on the benefits of wheat germ oil…
Dr. Pizzorno: Correct.
Dr. Weitz: … which was fairly robust in its benefits for preventing cardiovascular disease and fertility and other things.
Dr. Pizzorno: So, let me step back and kind of contextualize this a bit. So, remember that our research on nutrition is only about 100 years old. I mean, you could find some examples earlier like vitamin C in British sailors, things like this. But in terms of really good quality laboratory diving into this, we didn’t have the tools until about 100 years ago to actually start looking at, “Well, what in food is important?” So, the researchers were limited one, by our lack of understanding of Biochemistry, but also by the tools that were available. And they pretty much had to look at food and determine, “Well, what things in food are necessary for animals to continue to live?” So, it’s all about what’s necessary. So, we call them vitamins, life, okay? What vitamins are required for living? What minerals required for living? What amino acids are required for life? And we came up with, well, it turns out 43 molecules as being important molecules and minerals. Okay. And so, that was defined as what’s important in food. And so, we decided that everything else in food was not important. That’s why my facetious’ name unimportant molecules. So, you might say, “Okay, well, fine, so there’s 43 molecules in food.” Let’s say 50, okay, for round numbers. “How many other molecules are there in food that we decided were unimportant?” Well, it turns out there’s about 50,000 molecules in food, so we decided 99.9% was unimportant. Now, we start seeing this research, which didn’t come out last 20 years or so, of these, well, look at these interesting molecules that are in food and given all these fancy names, like phytonutrients. You take this phytonutrient and look all these benefits. Ignoring the fact that they were in the food supply until we start modifying the food supply with hybridizations and GMOs and chemical farming and such, and they got lost from the food supply. Now, give it back to people, so we damaged the food supply causing disease. And we extract out and come back and say, “Oh, well, let’s look at this particular molecule. Let’s modify it a little bit and make it patentable. Give it back to people as a new wonder drug?” Well, it was in the food begin with. How’s that progress?
Dr. Weitz: And it shouldn’t be surprising that we end up with all these disappointing trials on DL-alpha-tocopherol.
Dr. Pizzorno: Yes, yes. So now let’s go back to the next one. So, there’s a really interesting, but I think, now, is your audience primary consumers or doctors or healthcare professionals?
Dr. Weitz: It leans more towards practitioners, but there are certainly educated consumers, who listen as well.
Dr. Pizzorno: Great. Okay, I love talking to this particular group, okay. So, there’s a book by Bicknell and Prescott published 50 years ago, where they compiled a lot of the research in nutrition that was available at that time. And it’s fascinating when you read through this book. It’s not always true in every factor, but what you tend to see as when the research was being done on a food concentrate, like wheat germ oil, they got all these really good results. Then they decided, “Now, it’s only this particular component that’s important.” Then all the research went from there. And you see the clinical results dropped dramatically. So, then they say, “Oh, well, the DL-alpha-tocopherol,” which is a synthetic form of just one of the eight vitamin E versions, “well, it didn’t work. Therefore, vitamins don’t work.” Wait a minute, wait a minute. You only tested one synthetic version, which are not actually found in nature and used that to then describe the whole field of vitamins. So, what happened with the wheat germ oil is they got benefit, synthesized out one particular aspect. Didn’t get benefit and throughout the whole field. But in reality, we look back at the whole food extract, which is concentrating the family of foods, that’s where you get the benefit. And so much of our modern food supply has been losing these other molecules. They’re so critical. Because you said, “Well, they weren’t important.” So, when you’ve changed the food supply to lose these molecules, well, since they weren’t important, it doesn’t matter. What happens? All this disease.
Dr. Weitz: Exactly.
Dr. Pizzorno: These molecules were necessary for health, not for life.
Dr. Weitz: So, what should we get out of this wheat germ oil/vitamin E story? What should we think about as the most important ways to get the vitamin E family into our body or should we? There’s actually been some interesting research on tocotrienols. And then, perhaps using tocopherols with more of a gamma heavy focus or using tocotrienols, or using them at different times of day, or going back to wheat germ oil. What do you think is, where are we with all that?
Dr. Pizzorno: So, great. So, let’s start with a quote from, how about, Hippocrates, “Let your food be your medicine and your medicine your food.” Great concept, but it has to be real food. And what do I mean by that? I mean, real food is heirloom-type seeds, so they had not been hybridized too much. Grown organically, so that they have all these important molecules and of course, in stored properly, so you don’t contaminate them with chemicals leaching from plastics into the food supply.
Dr. Weitz: You mean like Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes?
Dr. Pizzorno: Yeah. So, you remember, when Kellogg’s started, it was whole grains. Now, look at what you’ve got, all this synthetic stuff with lots of chemicals.
Dr. Weitz: And then where you throw back some synthetic folic acid and a few others, they’re vitamins.
Dr. Pizzorno: Right. So anyway, so when we’re looking at all these food molecules, there’s no substitute for real food. Now, having said that, there’s plenty of roles for vitamins. So, going back to the vitamin E. So, when you look at the clinical research, so it turns out that when you look at animals, well, alpha-tocopherol was most important based on the field of reabsorption assay. So, what this was. So, they took pregnant rats, they put them on a vitamin E deficient diet and the rats absorbed their fetuses. When they then gave them various kinds of vitamin E, they found that alpha-tocopherol prevented the resourcing of the fetus. So therefore, they decided that was the only important vitamin E. But you look at human research, it turns out that the gamma-tocopherol is way more important than the alpha-tocopherol. Now, I want to be clear. All the tocopherol is important, but gamma-tocopherol is more important. So, we started doing research using large amounts of DL-alpha-tocopherol or more healthier, the alpha-tocopherol. We give high doses of one vitamin E, you decrease the absorption of the other vitamin Es. So, what happens is you start getting studies that show not only no benefit, but sometimes even detriment from using high doses of a single version of a vitamin.
Dr. Weitz: So, taking a vitamin, a multivitamin, for example, that has alpha-tocopherol could potentially if it’s in high enough dosages decrease absorption of gamma-tocopherol, which is probably more important.
Dr. Pizzorno: Yes, yeah. And same thing happens with the flavonoids for example, so you get people on carotenoids, too, so we look at, give people high dose of beta-carotene. Well, beta-carotene is only one of hundreds of carotenes in the food supply. And we give people high levels of beta carotene, you saturate the absorption sites, you get lower low levels of the other carotenoids and many of which are more important. So for example, for men, well, the lycopene is really important. When you give people a high dose of beta-carotene, you make it harder to absorb the lycopene that men need for the prostate. There’s just so many examples.
Dr. Weitz: Interesting. What do you think about their latest research on the tocotrienols, which is part of the vitamin E family?
Dr. Pizzorno: Well, of course. It’s part of the food supply. We evolved expecting those molecules to be in the food supply. You think about the food supply and give it back to people and say, “Oh, wow. Isn’t this wonderful?” It should have been there to begin with. Okay? Now, I’m not saying don’t do it, but look back at your food. Eat real food. I can’t emphasize this enough and I’ve-
Dr. Weitz: It’s hard to get a real food. Where do you get heirloom fruit-grown from heirloom seeds?
Dr. Pizzorno: Right. So, something that I’ve noticed where my wife and I have decided to make the investment in growing more and more of our own food. So, I actually spent a significant amount of time, my time now growing our own food. So many times, we’ve compared chemically grown foods. That’s what I’m calling it. It’s not commercially grown foods. I call them chemically grown foods, okay? Because I want conventionally grown to be organic. You compare it, for example, tomato. I like that, because it’s such a great example. And we like the cherry tomatoes. So, just do it yourself. Go to the store. Buy a chemically-grown cherry tomato, buy an organically-grown cherry tomato, and grow a cherry tomato of your own and compare them. There’s no comparison. So yes, the organically-grown tomato is way better than the chemically-grown tomato, but I’ll tell you my home-grown, organically-grown tomatoes are way better than store bought organically-grown tomatoes. Why is that? So, when I say it tastes better, what’s that mean? Well, taste means we’re sensing more molecules. And we look at these other molecules, these more diverse molecules to have all these beneficial effects in our bodies.
Dr. Weitz: Yeah, it’s not easy, though, to grow a lot of fruits and vegetables on your own without using any chemicals. I gave up. Every time I would get these tomatoes, I’d have these great green tomatoes and I’d want to leave them on until they turn red and by the time they turn red, they got eaten by something.
Dr. Pizzorno: Right, right. Yes, it’s not…yes, you have to… it’s not easy.
Dr. Weitz: It takes a lot of work.
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Dr. Weitz: Whereas folic acid is synthetic, natural folates are found in many foods. Maybe you can talk about this family or you can talk about this family of B vitamins.
Dr. Pizzorno: So, let me just make a complimentary comment. I work really hard producing these lectures and it is so gratifying to see someone like yourself, dive into them and understand what I’m saying. I mean, it’s just so good to hear. Okay?
Dr. Weitz: Well, you know what? [crosstalk 00:19:14]…
Dr. Pizzorno: Because I know-
Dr. Weitz: … I thought, “Wow, this is really amazing.” And then I thought, “What is he really talking about? Unimportant.” So, I had to go through the slides several times in the morning. I went through it, it was more like going through a Shakespearean play where I was, “Oh, there’s another layer here.” And so, that’s why I thought it was important to read the intro and get people to start thinking about this and dive into it.
Dr. Pizzorno: Thank you. Well, well said. So folic acid is a great example of how off track we got. So, when you look at food, there’s no folic acid in food. All you have are folates, and typically methylated folates. Okay. So, as we’ve refined our food supply, we have lost the natural folates from the food supply. For example, look at wheat, you remember that slide. So, here’s how much natural folates are in wheat. Well, then you grow the wheat synthetically and then you process it into bread and they let it sit on the shelf for a while. And by the time the wheat actually gets to people, there’s almost no folates left in it. So that results in things like neural tube defects and all kinds of other elevated homocysteine, which cause Alzheimer’s and everything else.
So, what do we do? We give people folic acid. Okay, well, the good news is folic acid definitely decreased this side of, the adverse events of our having decreased the amount of folates in the food supply. But there’s a big problem here. And that is folic acid is not actually used by the body, it has to be methylated. And next we have these MTHFR polymorphisms. A substantial portion of the population, one-quarter, one-third don’t do that very well.
Dr. Weitz: All right, [crosstalk 00:20:51].
Dr. Pizzorno: So, the-
Dr. Weitz: Yeah, I’m thinking more than 50% actually.
Dr. Pizzorno: Yeah, it may be that high. I’m trying to be a little conservative here, okay? Anyway, so they don’t make the conversion, so or they make the conversion poorly, so now we’re getting too much, too high levels of folic acid in the body, that’s not normally there and it itself becomes problematic. Then let’s go back to food supply. The food supply has natural methylated folates in it, so they don’t have to be converted through MTHFR and you don’t have to worry about the polymorphisms. So, this whole polymorphism problem came about because we so distorted the food supply and lost the natural folates in the food supply.
Dr. Weitz: And in fact, while somebody researched on just folic acid, once again, just like vitamin E, where it was supposed to be this super protective vitamin and it would prevent cancer, and in some of the studies showed that it increased cancer. And so, all of a sudden, everybody was like, “Oh, my God, what do we do?” And the reality is, is while synthetic folic acid, which often is unmetabolized and builds up, may increase cancer risk. Natural folate is actually protective against cancer.
Dr. Pizzorno: Yes, that, when I found that study, well, there are several studies now, I was really intrigued. Because they’re showing that indeed, the natural folates, there’s an inverse correlation between levels of natural folates in the blood and many kinds of cancers. But there’s unfortunately in some cancers, particularly like colon cancer, a positive correlation between folic acid levels in the blood and the cancer. So, I want to be real clear. People listening to this might become fearful of vitamins. No, that’s not the issue. So, the issue number one is “Eat real food” and number two is we take in vitamins and make sure they’re the natural forms of the vitamins, not the synthetic forms of the vitamins. Now, sometimes synthetic should be the same as natural and that’s just fine, but so many times, the synthetic forms of the vitamins are different molecules and that’s where we run into trouble.
Dr. Weitz: Right, so on folic acid, you want your supplement to contain natural folates?
Dr. Pizzorno: Yes.
Dr. Weitz: It should say methyl folate or a natural folate, right?
Dr. Pizzorno: Yes, exactly.
Dr. Weitz: Rather than folic acid.
Dr. Pizzorno: Exactly. You don’t want folic acid.
Dr. Weitz: Right. So, another topic you mentioned is Mycorrhizae, which is, most people don’t realize this, but the soil where food is grown, actually has this network of a fungus that runs through it that gives integrity and importance to that soil. Perhaps you can talk about this.
Dr. Pizzorno: Yeah, that’s also fascinating. And my wife, who also is involved in Medicine, made an interesting comment. She said, “We’re all now very aware of how disruption to the natural bacteria in our gut result in disease. Well, what happens if you have disruption in natural bacteria and fungus and you drive something such in the soil, won’t that affect the health of the plant?” And the answer turns out to be yes. So, let’s look at glyphosate as a good example. So, glyphosate is now fairly widely spread, widespread use in the food supply. And the reason so why it’s-
Dr. Weitz: But we both know it’s the main ingredient in Roundup, which is an herbicide used to grow many foods. People use it on their lawns to kill weeds.
Dr. Pizzorno: Yes, exactly so, and it’s not safe for humans because it poisons something called the shikimate pathway, which is only found in plants. It’s not found in humans, so therefore, it’s not a dangerous chemical for humans. Okay, well, that’s a matter of debate, but let’s ignore that for a second. And by the way, if you guys are not aware of it, Roundup is only 50% glyphosate. It’s 50% undisclosed ingredients, which are typically way more toxic than the glyphosate. Okay. But we won’t get to that right now.
Dr. Weitz: Well-
Dr. Pizzorno: Let’s just stick with glyphosate. So, the glyphosate disrupts the microbial balance in the soil and when you disrupt the microbial balance in the soil, the plant start making fewer of these unimportant molecules. And addition, many of these flavonoids that are so important for our health are made through the shikimate pathway. These polyphenols and such, so the plants are making less of these unimportant molecules. And those unimportant molecules when they go down in our body, the amount of disease goes up. So, by disrupting, making the plants less healthy, we’re making ourselves less healthy.
Dr. Weitz: Dressing, and-
Dr. Pizzorno: And let me go further with that. You may bring it up again, but this is a good point, I’ll bring it up. So, I’ve been really fascinated by the increase and worried by the increasing incidence of epidemics and pandemics in our society. It directly correlates with growing foods chemically, because we grow foods chemically.
Dr. Weitz: I mean, who’s ever heard of a pandemic?
Dr. Pizzorno: Right, right. So, we grow foods chemically, they have less of these bioflavonoids. Now, why is bioflavonoids being produced by the plants? Because they’re antiviral. So, plants are producing the bioflavonoids to protect themselves from viruses, so when we eat them, we’re protected from viruses as well. But what happens when they’re not there anymore? Also, we’re more susceptible to viral infections. Gee, could it be that we made our population so susceptible to infection that we’re going to be seeing more and more of these? And I want to say, well, vaccines have their place, Isn’t it better to not get the disease to begin with rather than wait for somebody to develop a vaccination with unknown long-term adverse effects?
Dr. Weitz: And develop and strengthen your immune system? So, if you do come into contact with the virus, your body will be able to fight it off.
Dr. Pizzorno: Yes, exactly. And think about the person eating organically grown food, particularly rich and plant molecules, and plant-based diet, they have a lot of these antiviral molecules in the blood. So, guess what? When the virus tries to get in, now you’ll have our mucous membranes to protect us, now you’ll have the innate and antibody-based immune systems to protect us. We all have these antiviral molecules as well. You think about the advantage for immune system if the antiviral levels block or slow down the replication the virus, say for a day or a couple of days? Well, look at that head start our immune system gets.
Dr. Weitz: Yeah. It’s interesting. We’re talking about fungus and the importance of fungus, and we’re talking about soil. And I think it’s an interesting analogy to think about the microbiome, which is a soil in our guts where all these beneficial microorganisms grow. And there’s been a lot of talk, as you know, about the bacteria and which are the best bacteria to grow there. And there’s just been a ton of research, but we really haven’t delved that much into the importance of the fungi that are there.
Dr. Pizzorno: Yes.
Dr. Weitz: And we talk a lot about there being too high levels of fungi, too high levels of Candida, et cetera, and that can certainly be a problem, but there could be a problem not having enough fungi. And not only is there a microbiome here, there’s a micro fungi. And at some point, we realize that there are viruses that are probably an important part of our microbiome as well as parasites.
Dr. Pizzorno: Yes, yes. And well said. As we evolved as a species, our guts are colonized by a wide range of organisms and we developed these relationships with them, okay? And the ones that causes disease, we got rid of and the ones that were commensal and helped us be healthy, we stuck with. But then we screwed things up by giving people antibiotics, which are nonspecific and by giving animals these antibiotics. And now, we’re starting to develop these new groups of organisms, which we did not evolve with and had a lot of negative effects in our body.
Dr. Weitz: And the pesticides that we spray on the plant also kill the bacteria and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories that damage our guts, on and on and on.
Dr. Pizzorno: Yes.
Dr. Weitz: So, you mentioned organic heirloom plants?
Dr. Pizzorno: Yes.
Dr. Weitz: Can you explain what heirloom plants and where can we get these?
Dr. Pizzorno: It’s a very good question. It’s not only the heirloom plants or foods we eat, but also heirloom herbal medicines. Okay. That’s another interesting topic. So, looking at the heirloom seeds, so just think about this kind of logically. If you take a plant’s seed and you then, well, let’s ignore GMOs, things like that. Let’s just say, we as farmers, well, farmers tend to pick the seeds that will produce the biggest crop, crop with the most protein in it, the crop with one, where a particular characteristic you want more of. And so, you hybridize and hybridize and hybridized, you get more and more of the characteristics that you want. Well, remember, plants have limited physiological function and if you start forcing one pathway of physiological functions, necessarily, the plants can have less energy to produce those other pathways, the other molecules that we decided were not important. So, the further we can go back in our gathering of seeds, the less likely we’ve hybridized them to the point where we’ve lost too many of these unimportant molecules. I facetiously call them unimportant molecules. I wonder if I need to come up with a better name because while it grabs attention, it also kind of gives that wrong orientation. But the reality is that we’re losing these other molecules, because of hybridization.
So, where do you get these heirloom seeds? The good news is that there are a number of resources for doing that. There’s a place here in Washington State called Uprising Seeds, I get my seeds from them. But then, once I get the original seeds for them, if I have a successful crop and we’d like the food, we then harvest it seeds. So, now these seeds are a little more wild, okay? Because they’ve interacted with nature. And so, we now, we started ourselves kind of going back a little bit to get a little more and more diverse seeds, you might say.
Dr. Weitz: And that’s really super important and that’s something that farmers did for thousands years until we started getting genetically modified seeds. And one of the things built into genetically modified seeds is that those seeds, those plants from the genetically modified seeds will not produce seeds that can be replanted. So, you have to continue to buy genetically modified seeds from the company that you bought them from originally.
Dr. Pizzorno: Yes. It’s a vicious cycle.
Dr. Weitz: Yeah. And so, what this means is you’re getting plants that are more and more further away from nature and are going to probably have less and less of those phytonutrients.
Dr. Pizzorno: Yep, exactly.
Dr. Weitz: And then it’s subsistence farmers in places like Africa and other parts of the world end up in a bad cycle where now, they can’t harvest their own seeds and they’re forced to continue to buy seeds from these companies that are selling them, these genetically modified seeds.
Dr. Pizzorno: Yes. It’s not good for the world. It’s just, I mean, and the ones that say, well, look, we were able to grow with the GMOs food in areas that had inadequate water or whatever the case may be. Well, you can see some of those strategies are a good idea, but stop pretending there’s no a price associated with them, and start making these seeds that require now people to keep buying them because they can no longer reproduce themselves. That you had good reasons for it, but then what they actually do is it’s actually pretty bad.
Dr. Weitz: Right. And something just came through my mind, I always make these bizarre associations, but I know we’re talking about plants. But let’s just talk about animals for a minute. And in order to make sure people have enough animal protein to eat, leaving aside the debate as to whether or not we need animal protein. They’re now making synthetic meat. There’s no animal involved at all. They’re just growing meat in a lab. And you can imagine, whatever benefits there are in say grass-fed beef, and I think there are many for the right person in the right situation, those are not going to exist in meat grown in a lab.
Dr. Pizzorno: Yes. You come up with all kind of ethical reasons for why it’s good to grow meat in the lab, but it’s not going to be a healthy food. I mean, over the long-term. I mean, in the short term, yeah, fine. But in the long term, it’s not going to have these other molecules. And when I say something, which may offend some of your audience, but when you think about how to farm foods, what do you think about growing foods in incredibly synthetic environment of the grown just in water. You put these screens up. You grow the food on these screens with a very carefully controlled water and you put into water what you think is important. You grow these foods that look nice, but not aware of all these other molecules. So, control, growing food in these really synthetic environments doesn’t seem like such a great idea. That’s called hydroponics. Sounds like a good idea, but is that really the food you want to be eating?
Dr. Weitz: Right. Yeah, the soil is important.
Dr. Pizzorno: Soil is critically important. Important.
Dr. Weitz: Yeah, just like your microbiome. Think of it like that.
Dr. Pizzorno: Yes.
Dr. Weitz: You mentioned in your talk about protecting the DNA from arsenic and other heavy metals. Maybe you can talk about that.
Dr. Pizzorno: You really got my lecture. This is so great. Okay, so I’ve been involved in Medicine now for literally over half a century. Okay, so I’ve learned a lot and over that period of time, you get to see patterns, okay? And one of the things that really grabbed my attention about 10 years ago was the effect of environmental toxins on our health. And I’m now going around the world, literally lecturing that environmental toxins have become the primary drivers of disease, but it’s not just environmental toxins, it’s in the context of the severe distortion of our food supply. So, we’re really smart. We recognized, well, I mean, got smart enough to recognize, well, lead was a problem, so we stopped putting lead into the environment. We recognized DDT was a problem, got rid of that. Recognized PCBs were a problem, decreased those. I mean, these are all good public health ventures. But we haven’t done much about arsenic. And I was kind of surprised, because I was looking at the research. Arsenic is actually the worst toxin we’re being exposed to right now and probably even worse than lead and PCBs and DDTs. So I was thinking, “Well, if arsenic is so bad, why isn’t it getting more attention?”
Then I went for myself, “Could it be that arsenic is now more toxic than it used to be?” And I thought, “Well, all these bioflavonoids I’m noticing are leaving the food supply, these other molecules, could that be part of the reason?” So, I had a researcher from last year, one student come to me and say, “Well, I want to work with you, Dr. Pizzorno.” I said, “Fine, here. I want you to go to research to look at do bioflavonoids have an impact on arsenic toxicity. So, it turns out that bioflavonoids are really important for protecting our DNA from arsenic. So what happens when you have increasing levels of arsenic in the population, which by the way, the data is very clear. Arsenic levels have actually gone up, but you have decreased levels of flavonoids to protect us from the arsenic, so all of a sudden now, you’re seeing arsenic playing a much bigger role in disease than in the past. So, it’s a combination of not only increased exposure to toxins, but decrease in an ability to protect ourselves from those toxins and that’s why we’re getting all this disease.
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Dr. Weitz: So, what are some of the most important phytonutrients that help protect us from arsenic?
Dr. Pizzorno: I’m hesitant to say. Okay, now I’ve got a table which shows the various flavonoids, which ones have left.
Dr. Weitz: Yeah, yeah. The one you listed on your slides. You had a beta carotene, something called Bio-Quinone E, ECGC, naringenin, and floratin.
Dr. Pizzorno: Yes, quite a long list. Okay?
Dr. Weitz: Right.
Dr. Pizzorno: I don’t know what are most important at this point. I think we’re a little early in the research. When I see things like this, as long as there’s balance between get into the details and forgetting the forest for the trees. Okay? So, I’d say, “Well, it’s this particular fibrinoid, okay, well then people say, “Well, I guess I’d better take a vitamin with that.” Well, okay, fine, you can do that, but I’d rather you just get the food that has it in it, and all the other ones because the other ones are important as well.
Dr. Weitz: Right. Now, where is arsenic found most? We’ve heard reports of arsenic in rice. We know that, I don’t know if they still do, but at one time, they were feeding the chickens, fruits feed that had arsenic in it to help them grow faster.
Dr. Pizzorno: Right, so epidemiologically, the research is strongest with arsenic in the water supply. And there’s just, there’s this huge amounts of data on that area. Now, we also get arsenic from rice because if rice is grown in water that has high levels of arsenic, it will absorb it, just really efficiently absorb it, like beans are really efficient at absorbing cadmium, for example. So, you get it in rice if water supply is contaminated. Now up until just recently, putting arsenic into the food supply of chickens with a standard of care, because it made the chickens more resistant to parasites, and it made them plump up more and have more white meat. Okay. But as problems with arsenic became more recognized, it now is no longer the standard of care. It doesn’t mean farmers aren’t doing it anymore and it’s not exactly illegal. But up until recently, it’s been a major source. So, primary sources are water, rice and chicken. But having said that, if you have an old wood climbing toy in your backyard or in your local park, well, those wood preservatives are very high in arsenic. So, a child growing with those things, it’s going to get arsenic contamination. If you’re living near an industry that is leaking arsenic into the environment, well, you’re going to have more arsenic in your body. Okay. But those are the big three, but they’re not the only three, for sure.
Dr. Weitz: Right. And isn’t it the case that farmers in certain states are allowed to dump toxic waste on their farm as fertilizer and use toxic wastewater to fertilize their farms in some cases?
Dr. Pizzorno: I don’t know. I would not be surprised, but I haven’t seen that particular research.
Dr. Weitz: Okay. So, another phytonutrient, you mentioned in your presentation that I was not familiar with is something called tomatine, which is found in tomatoes.
Dr. Pizzorno: Right. Okay, so I use that as an example, that when you’re looking at the various molecules in the food supply, which ones are being preserved. There was a great study, I pointed out there where they looked at tomatoes grown in a greenhouse where half the tomatoes were grown with chemicals, half are grown organically. Okay, so it was really carefully controlled environment. They then looked over the whole year period of time the level of the carotenoids and flavonoids in these foods. And what they found was that the chemically grown foods tended to maintain enough of those carotenoids and flavonoids to give the foods these characteristic color and a bit of its natural taste. Okay? But all the other ones are lost because they weren’t considered important.
Dr. Weitz: Right. And tomatine is especially important for prostate.
Dr. Pizzorno: Yeah, so just that’s one example I gave. So, tomatine important for prostate and there’s research that was done looking at giving people tomatine. For example, cell culture with prostate cancer cells, you put tomatine in there and the cancer cells can’t grow. Just, there’s just so many examples. I’m hesitant to point out single ones like tomatine or quercetin, et cetera. But I can give you a lot of examples where they’re beneficial. But the main thing is it’s all of them, not just one.
Dr. Weitz: Right. And I think what you’re pointing to is it’s very easy to look at some research to show that lycopene is preventative against prostate cancer, which comes from tomatoes, so I’m just going to take lycopene. And then you’re missing out on the tomatine and other phytonutrients…
Dr. Pizzorno: Exactly, exactly.
Dr. Weitz: … present in these natural foods like tomatoes. So, while it’s perhaps not a bad idea to top off your dietary regimen with some concentrated levels of some of these phytonutrients, make sure you’re getting plenty of the natural foods like tomatoes in your diet, because that’s going to have a much more powerful effect than any one particular isolated phytonutrients.
Dr. Pizzorno: Exactly. I’m glad you’re reinforcing that topic. So, let’s say we look at research comparing tomatine to some drug, okay? Well, the drugs are going to be more effective. Maybe the tomatine only helps like 10%, okay? So, we do have issues like that. We isolate out individually factoring, you might say, “Well, yeah, it had some benefit, but not very, very strong and the drug is way better.” But we realize there are hundreds of these things in the food supply. Each adds it’s one or two or 10% benefit., now all together, you have huge benefit without adverse effects. These things are safe. Okay?
Dr. Weitz: But it’s very hard to study that, because usually when they study the benefits or effects of foods, they give people food frequency questionnaires, and they’re going to ask them, “How many times have you eaten tomatoes?” Well, they’re probably going to include ketchup in half on their cheeseburger. And then how do you know if the tomatoes they’re eating would most likely are going to be nonorganic, non-heirloom, are probably not going to have the right levels.
Dr. Pizzorno: But even, despite that, this is interesting. Despite the weakness of the food supply, it’s still better to eat vegetables than not eat vegetables. But having said that, we’re way better eating vegetables that are rich in nutrients and low in toxins.
Dr. Weitz: Now, you’ve mentioned hybrid farming. We’ve been talking about that. I’m not sure everybody knows what hybrid farming is. We’ve all heard about genetically modified crops, and we’re like, “I don’t want GMOs. I don’t want GMOs.” But talk a little more about hybrid farming.
Dr. Pizzorno: Yep. You’ve used the term, “I’m not aware of.” Maybe you better tell me, what is hybrid farming?
Dr. Weitz: Well, you mentioned. Hybrid farming is, as I understand it, you can correct me is how where we’re mixing different versions of plants to get the fruits and vegetables to be sweeter, for the tomatoes to look redder and to, you know?
Dr. Pizzorno: Well, I thought… I see how you use the term now. It wasn’t clear where you were gone. Okay, okay. Yeah, the intent is basically selection, just not a way of saying selection. Selecting food for specific characteristics and losing everything else.
Dr. Weitz: Right. And people don’t realize that this has been going on for a long time. And as you’re pointing out, you may be getting a tomato that sweeter, which may not be all that good for us, because it may have a higher sugar content. But we’re also, losing some of the richness of tomatoes that’s grown naturally.
Dr. Pizzorno: Yes. And there’s another aspect here, which actually is a little surprising, totally different from these factors we’ve been talking about and that is, when farmers are choosing seeds to grow. They’re also choosing seeds that will grow foods that transport better, that are more resistant to break down on the store shelves or things like this. Something I’ve been quite surprised is when we had to buy a store bought versus something, you put it in refrigerator, it lasts for a week or two, it’s fine. When you grow them your own, you put it in the refrigerator, it will only last a few days. So, the foods that you can grow yourself are much less robust, you might say, in terms of storage. But that means they can use their resources to produce all the other molecules that are really good and aren’t in those store-bought versions.
Dr. Weitz: Exactly. Yeah, every once in a while, my wife will go to Costco, and she’ll buy some fruit or vegetable, we usually buy everything we’re getting from the local coop and from Whole Foods and wherever. But, occasionally, she’ll buy some grapes from Costco and she’ll leave them out and they’ll sit there for two weeks and they’re not moldy. And I’m like, “How is that even possible? These things must be, have so many chemicals on them.”
Dr. Pizzorno: Yeah, yeah, exactly or they’ve been just so hybridized that they’re really resistant. Well, you’re paying a price for that. And it’s not, the problem is the price we’re paying for this highly hybridized and chemically-grown foods, it’s not obvious what their price is in terms of long-term health effects. But the research is now there. It’s very, very clear.
Dr. Weitz: Right. I know you don’t want to target these phytonutrients too much, but I want to mention a couple more before we wrap up. I wanted to mention quercetin, which has incredible amount of benefits. And we’ve been hearing a lot about quercetin during this pandemic because among its other benefits, quercetin is a zinc ionophore and it helps get zinc into the cells more as well as helping to protect one tissue. But perhaps you can talk about quercetin for a minute.
Dr. Pizzorno: Well, thanks. So, it was actually the quercetin story that really cemented my interest in unimportant molecules. So, I won’t get into the whole line-
Dr. Weitz: Or by the way, are we supposed to pronounce it quercetin or quercetin?
Dr. Pizzorno: I’ve always pronounced it quercetin, but we’re not linguists, that is right about. But that’s what most and the people I know describe it. So, I don’t want to get too long sorry, but just real quickly. A year ago when I was working with another chiropractor, Sam Yanuck and a naturopathic Dr. Fitzgerald and medical doctor, Helen Messier. We were looking at, well, what’s the natural medicine approach to COVID-19. And I was looking at the research and I found this great study that showed that quercetin binds to the spike proteins in the coronavirus to make them more difficult to enter into the body. That’s what really got me to dive deeply into this whole antiviral aspect of these flavonoids. So, here’s what’s fascinating. I don’t know if you’ve seen or not, but there’s a research colleague of mine by the name Francesco Di Pierro, who has a research lab in Italy, where he has a number of Masters in PhDs working with him looking at the benefits of natural health products. One of the areas he just got accepted for publication was looking at quercetin with four people with COVID-19. He just published two studies, clinical studies. The first study was 152 people with COVID-19, half got quercetin and half got standard of care. Well, all got standard of care, but half also got quercetin. They then looked at hospitalizations. Greater than 50% reduction in hospitalization. And if they got hospitalized, greater than 50% reduction in hospitalization.
Then he had another study just came out, where they actually looked at, took people who had COVID-19 documented. They then measured their viral load and they gave half of them the quercetin. They decrease their viral load 80% faster. So for example, for five days, 80% of the people on the quercetin, their viruses were gone versus only 20% of people who were using the standard of care. So, we’re seeing now that, and again, these early studies, not fully controlled. There’s potential commercial bias because he’s a scientist, scientific consultant for the company that makes the product, but you have to look at these and be aware of those things. But nonetheless, it’s exactly what we expected. Quercetin protects us from infection, so viral infections like SARS-CoV-2.
Dr. Weitz: Yeah, amazing. Let’s just hit on one more phytonutrient, let’s see. Let’s hit on pomegranate, which is a pretty amazing food that has an amazing, seems to have an amazing amount of benefits for prostate, for all kinds of cardiovascular risks.
Dr. Pizzorno: So, the other area of fascination with foods like pomegranate that are so high in these various carotenoids and flavonoids, particularly the flavonoids, is their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory effects. So, as you know, much of the damage from these viral infections, like in SARS-CoV-2, for example, is the ongoing inflammation in the microvasculature. It looks like a lot of these kind of these long hollers because of the inflammation in microvasculature. Well, what protects the microvasculature from inflammation? Carotenoids and flavonoids. So, a lot of these things like pomegranate juice or really high in these molecules that protect the body from these infections. I’m actually right now working on developing a formula, an antiviral formula. And as I’m considering, “Well, should I be putting in some flavonoids that aren’t so antiviral, but really anti-inflammatory?” So, it’s important.
Dr. Weitz: Yeah, when lab test that may be an indicator of some of this microvascular inflammation is myeloperoxidase and pomegranate is an interesting modulator of that.
Dr. Pizzorno: Now, you said something interesting I’m not aware of. So, you’re saying myeloperoxidase is a good measure of microvasculature inflammation?
Dr. Weitz: I think it’s an indicator particularly of it. Unfortunately, we haven’t really studied the microvascular response. We pretty much focused on the large vessels. I mean, that’s where all the research is. But there are a percentage of people, especially women, who end up having heart attacks that are at least partially related to the microvasculature and very little is done to try to look at or measure that. Stenting is all focused on large vessels and the way we image things is all generally based on that.
Dr. Pizzorno: That’s an interesting suggestion. I’m going to look into that because, so we do know that the inflammation of microvasculature is a big issue with the long haul. If we have a good measure like myeloperoxidase is an indicator of that inflammation of small vessels, that’d be really helpful. I’m going to look into that. Thanks. Thanks for the suggestion.
Dr. Weitz: Do you think the clotting and inflammation in the microvasculature is a big, is one of the big factors in the long haul of symptoms?
Dr. Pizzorno: Absolutely, that’s very, very clear. Scripts came out with a study about a month ago and I think, they dove into it pretty well. I think they may have a very convincing case.
Dr. Weitz: Great, excellent. This has been a fascinating discussion. Dr. Pizzorno, thank you so much for your time.
Dr. Pizzorno: Thanks for the invitation.
Dr. Weitz: For listeners and viewers who want to find out about your books and whatever other programs you offer, where should they go to get more information?
Dr. Pizzorno: Well, what I offer these days are mainly the books that I write. So, just go to Amazon, put my name in, and my books will come up. So, if you’re interested Environmental Medicine, for example, I’ve got a consumer book called The Toxin Solution and for doctors, I co-authored a book called Clinical Environmental Medicine, where we show doctors how toxic cause disease, how you diagnose them, how you get them out of the body. It’s very comprehensive. And those who want to apply this body of knowledge to all healthcare problems, my Textbook of Natural Medicine. That was first published in 1985.
Dr. Weitz: It’s-
Dr. Pizzorno: We’re now in our Fifth Edition. It’s sold 100,000 copies.
Dr. Weitz: [crosstalk 00:56:21].
Dr. Pizzorno: Thank you.
Dr. Weitz: [crosstalk 00:56:22] should have a copy of that book.
Dr. Pizzorno: Well, it sold 100,000 copies in four languages, so it’s helped establish a scientific foundation for these whole fields of Naturopathic and Chiropractic and Integrative and Functional Medicine. It showed the research. The research is there, folks. This way of thinking about health. It’s very valid and it’s been substantiated.
Dr. Weitz: On behalf of the Functional Medicine community, Dr. Pizzorno, thank you so much for your lifetime of achievements and contribution to the field.
Dr. Pizzorno: Well, thank you.
Dr. Weitz: Thank you listeners for making it all the way through this episode of the Rational Wellness podcast. Please take… I’d also like to let everybody know that I now have a few openings for new clients for nutritional consultations. If you’re interested, please call my office in Santa Monica at 310-395-3111. That’s 310-395-3111, and take one of the few openings we have now for an individual consultation for nutrition with Dr. Ben Weitz. Thank you, and see you next week.
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