The Real Skinny on Fat – Interview Highlights, Dr. Joseph Maroon


Dr. Joseph Maroon, thank you so much for being
with us today. Can you tell me a little bit about your background? It’s a pleasure to be here with you, Naomi,
as always. I’m a neurosurgeon at the University of Pittsburgh. I’ve been there forever it seems. I’m also Professor of Neurosurgery, I’m a
scholar in neuroscience, I have the honor of being the team neurosurgeron for the Pittsburgh
Steelers and also the medical director for World Wrestling Entertainment. And you’re an iron man. I’ve been competing in triathalons for about
25, 30 years and have done eight Iron Man distance triathalons. And, so, as an athlete, the Steelers team
doctor for all these years, as a neurosurgeon, when you look at the different types of fuels
that we can put into our body what do you use? I use, basically, a high fat, low carbohydrate,
half a gram to a gram of protein per lean body mass. And how much do you exercise on average? I do at least an hour a day. I swim, bike, run, lift, stretch. When I’m preparing for a triathalon, particularly
an Iron Man Distance Race, it’s a minimum of 2 hours a
day. And then on weekends, each weekend I’ll increase
the time and the distance and the endurance. And I know that exercise can produce more
free radicals. How does the fuel work with the free radicals
and the extra pressure you’re putting on your body? With the ketogenic diet, there’s much less
inflammation that’s created as a result of burning a cleaner fuel. The exhaust is cleaner, you might say. But, so, what happens is you get more energy
and clearly it increases focus. It increases concentration. Interesting. Evolutionarily, as a hunter and a gatherer,
you’re much more a-tuned to your environment. So the focus, the concentration, the intensity
are all much heightened. And with the ketogenic diet the ketone bodies
actually provide better fuel for the brain. Mhm. For three million years we’ve been on a ketogenic
diet. What’s happened in the last sixty years that
has resulted in two-thirds of the United States population being overweight, overcommitted,
obese, and our kids. And kids! It’s horrible. Babies, infants. What are infants given when they’re very early,
sucking, they’re given various juices. They’re really not juices it’s virtually pure
sugar. Ancel Keys was a very well-meaning nutritionist
from the University of Minnesota who was curious about the question: why is there such an increase
in cardiovascular disease in certain populations. Heart attacks. Around the world? Around the world. He had a pre-conceived idea that probably
was related, he thought, to eating too much fat. so he selected several countries that had
a high-fat diet and had a high cardiovascular disease and didn’t select a few others that
might have balanced it. And concluded there was an association between
a high fat diet and cardiovascular disease. He also, in Naples, Italy, he saw that they
had a mediterranean diet. So he postulated that the Mediterranean diet
may be better than a saturated fat diet. There was an association he found between
those countries and those people with a high fat diet and heart attacks and cardiovascular
disease. And based on that observation the food industry,
the government, began emphasizing a high-carbohydrate very low-fat diet. So “diet foods” became available. Low fat, no fat, marketed incredibly well
but what happened was the things that were low-fat they started to add glucose and sugar
to it. Yogurt, today, you go into your store, you
pick up some of the yogurt. It can have up to six teaspoons of sugar in
a little thing like that of yogurt. So when you’re eating all of these excessive
carbohydrates, what happens? Well, the sugar gets absorbed and it increases
your insulin level first to drive more sugar into your cells so you become insulin resistant. And with the insulin resistance you develop…you
put in, you deposit more fat with the carbohydrates that aren’t burned. Going back millions of years to deposit fat
which becomes inflammatory. And then you become hungry all the time because
you’re never satisfying. The leptin gets out of wack, as well. Our satiety approach so that we feel hungry
even though we’re eating a lot and it’s more carbs, more carbs. So we have two-thirds of our population obese
or overweight. So many people I talk to, ‘I’m tired, I’m
fatigued, I don’t have energy, I’m irritable, I’m depressed.” Yeah. All of these complaints are related in major
part to diet. To break that cycle takes two to four weeks
but once you feel better, you think better, you work better, you exercise stronger. Life becomes much more worth living. So, lets talk about Parkinson’s or let’s talk
about MS and how so many people are influenced by these and how a ketogenic diet or good
fats can influence. Well, when you think of neurodegenerative
diseases, Alzheimer’s , Parkinson’s, ALS, they’re all diseases the cause of which we
are not a hundred percent sure by any means and the cure of which we don’t have any at
this time. However, going back to the basic principles
of bioenergetics which is what we’re really talking about, supplying fuel. It just makes sense that the cleaner fuel,
the more ketones can have a meteorating effect on these diseases. And this is being intensely studied now throughout
the world, actually. And then, separately, what about MS? MS, again, that’s a huge subject in terms
of various areas of the world that individuals develop MS. Often times it’s in those with the least sunlight. So, MS patients frequently are very deficient
in vitamin D. There’s a relationship possibly between sunlight and MS. Again, it’s an inflammatory disease that causes
the myelin which is the insulation around neurofibers to die, shrink up, and cause plaques. So called…MS…plaques which are like beta
amyloid plaques but they’re, they’re different constituents that again lead to further degeneration. So it’s like a small brush fire in a dry forest. Ah. So once these things gets started it’s a cascading
effect that occurs. MS is an immunological problem in which the
body fights against itself or destroys itself. There’s an excitotoxic meaning there are chemicals,
one of which is called glutamate which is released particularly in head trauma as well
that is toxic to the surrounding cells, so the question and you’re bringing up good points,
this immunoexito toxicity is a common factor in multiple neurodegenerative diseases and
what’s the best way to attack it? I think we’re talking about epigenetic factors. Yes, so for all of the people that know about
epigenetics and for those that don’t. Just, can you give us a quick overview on
what epigenetic factors are? In the last 15 to 20 years it’s a whole new
science of medicine and when you think of our cells each cell has chromosomes and on
the chromosomes are our genes. 2,600 2,300 genes. Genes are like a blueprint. They sit on the table of a construction company
and don’t do anything until they’re acted upon. So, what acts upon genes to tell them what
they do? You know, our genes make up about a hundred
thousand different proteins in the cells. So, what acts upon them are factors epi-above,
above the genes, and it’s very simple. It’s diet, it’s physical activity, it’s various
environmental factors like smoking, drinking, toxins in our air our water, our environment,
and controlling stress. Stress is an incredibly important epigenetic
factor. With prolonged chronic stress various chemicals,
in particular cortisol, get elevated in our body which literally destroys brain cells. You look at MRIs on patients under chronic
stress and their hippocampus, which is the center for memory, is shrunken. If you put them in a therapeutic program,
diet, exercise, control the stress, literally the hippocampus can be seen to enlarge and
get bigger. We used to think that once the brain cells
die, that’s it. That’s not so. We now know we can make new brain cells. The most effective way to do that is with
exercise and also dietary control and obviating toxic stress. So, if we’re eating a high fat diet and our
insulin is much more balanced, what does that do to our stress levels? When we’re eating a high carb diet, you know,
again, it’s the inflammatory process that occurs that results in feeling sluggish, depressed,
tired, weary, irritable, and impulsive, anger control issues. All these things are related to the epigenetic
factor of diet. Eating the appropriate diet, particularly
a high fat, very low carb diet, can mitigate many of these things and we feel better. We think better, we perform better, we exercise
better, we have choices here. It’s not…our genes are not our destiny. And at one point in my life I was way out
of balance. I had major issues with my family, my father
died suddenly, my job…I had to quit neurosurgery for a full year. I was chief of neurosurgery at a university
hospital one day doing brain surgery, my father died, and other things of a nasty nature occurred. I couldn’t handle the stress. I was literally overwhelmed by stress. Pathologically depressed and my father did
not do my mother a favor and bequeathed to her an incredibly dilapidated truck stop in
Wheeling, West Virginia with a very high mortgage. All of this happened at the same time so I,
literally, my wife left, my kids were gone. I moved into a farmhouse in Wheeling, West
Virginia with my mother and worked in a truck stop. I was filling up 18 wheelers and flipping
hamburgers for a year and thinking how did this happen? And it happened because number one I had no
insight into what I was doing with my life. It was all work. I neglected the family. There was no spirituality which is critically
important. And there was no physical. I was 20 pounds overweight. The banker who held the mortgage on the truck
stop called me one day and said, ‘Hey, Joe, would you like to go for a run?’ I think he wanted to see if I’d be around
long enough to pay off the mortgage. So I said, ‘Never’. But I went down and I ran around the track
four times. Took me an hour, I think. And I said never again. But that night was the first night I slept
in fourth months. So a little light bulb went off and I went
down the next day and I went a mile and a quarter then a mile and a half then two miles. And pretty soon my depression started to lift. I started…my diet improved. I needed better fuel and I evolved to this
naturally. Not because I made a decision, ‘I’m going
to do this’. But I found myself…fewer carbs, better fats,
better supplements. And after several months I was able to get
back to the university and really the most productive part of my life. But it was adversity that forced me to either
survive or get better. No matter what the adversity is, the best
treatment for depression is not SSRIs or Prozac it’s physical activity, meditation, and spirituality. And diet. Seventy percent of diseases we get are due
to our choices, our environment. Twenty to thirty percent are genetically determined
where we don’t…it’s gonna happen. Stuff happens. But we have seventy percent. We can control seventy percent of the bad
things that we’re gonna help…that we’re gonna develop or acquire. So, with that, the ketogenic diet and ways
to enhance the ketogenic diet in a palatable way are incredibly important points. Dr. Maroon, thank you so much for sharing
so much information. You are an unbelievable human being. Thank you for sharing. My great pleasure, Naomi.

12 thoughts on “The Real Skinny on Fat – Interview Highlights, Dr. Joseph Maroon”

  1. Wonderful interview to Dr. Maroon! The damage that chronic stress causes to our bodies is most of the time overlooked. I appreciate that Dr. Maroon shared his personal experience, and the changes he made towards a lifestyle of overall well-being. As always Naomi, thank you so much for all your informative videos!

  2. Fantastic interview. Thank you for your hard work Naomi. Love your passion for what you do👌📖👏👏👏🌹

  3. I watched the two hour long videos every day they where released! I had to make sure I was able to have enough time everyday it was hard but I did it. I really like the lady that did nutrition for the Lakers.

  4. Great interview! As always we’ve to strengthen our brain to overcome the issues of life.
    And in this way ketogenic diet has important role on provide the best source of fuel:ketones .

  5. This guy great! Also, if he can sing, he's got a great career in the future singing Frank Sinatra songs! 😜 He's a spittin image and voice is even similar !

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