In this episode, Dr. Bubbs sits down with expert neuroscientist and obesity researcher Dr. Stephan Guyenet PhD to talk about his new book The Hungry Brain: Outsmarting the Instincts that Make Us Overeat. Dr. Guyenet discusses the fundamental role of the brain in controlling "body-fatness" and how our brains are hard-wired to seek out calorically dense foods. He also explains how the neurotransmitter dopamine plays a fundamental role in our "food experience" and ultimately the evolutionary mismatch between how our brains are hard-wired to seek out calories and our modern environment of calorie-dense, nutrient-poor processed foods. Stephan does a brilliant job of making incredibly complex topics digestible and provides terrific anecdotes to highlight his findings in clinical research.
Appetite Neuro-regulation "Lay-Ups" In This Episode (simple, easy, actionable takeaways)
1) Your brain spikes dopamine in response to ALL the sensory cues that occur when you eat: the smell, appearance, the people you're with, the name of restaurant, etc. These cues turn into "motivational triggers" the next time you see a specific food or sit on your couch after a long day. Re-program your brain with new behaviours to reboot your brain (i.e. light stretching and herbal tea at night instead of ice cream on the couch).
2) Avoid the middle aisles at the grocery store (the "Supermarket Diet"!). Processed HUMAN food is the absolute best way to fatten up and develop obesity in rodents in clinical studies. (Hmmm... perhaps a lesson for humans as well).
3) The greater the variety of foods you eat; the greater the likelihood you'll eat more calories (especially if it's junk food!). Keep your diet simple to support greater weight loss (i.e. plain meats, vegetables, complex carbs, fruits, etc.)
"Performance Hacks" In This Episode
1) The brain controls body-fatness via the "lipostat". Just like the thermostat in your house, the lipostat raises or lowers the drive to maintain your body-fat levels based on your diet, activity, lifestyle, etc. A lean person will "defend" a lower body-fat set point (good news) while an overweight person will defend a higher set point (bad news). The take home message; take it slow with weight loss and develop habits so the brain has time to appropriately adjust lipostat.
2) Today, we're surrounded by the MOST concentrated possible forms of "reward factors" that are un-naturally stimulating to the human brain: crystaline white sugar, crystaline salt, glutamate (i.e MSG) isolated fats (refined seed oils), corn and potato starch. Limiting these foods (which are still included in "healthy" processed snacks and bars) is extremely important.
3) Your brain is hard-wired to seek out calorically-dense foods (to maintain bodyweight, and thus ability to produce offspring). Thus, it's not an inherent personal flaw that leads to people's cravings, but rather a "normal" human response. (What's "abnormal" is today's modern environment where calories are easily available, in overwhelming excess and incredibly inexpensive.)
Stephan’s caffeine "sweet spot" – a weak black tea to give him just a little morning “kick”.
About Dr. Stephan Guyenet
Dr. Guyenet earned his Bachelor of Science in biochemistry at the University of Virginia, then pursued a PhD in neuroscience at the University of Washington where he continued doing research as a postdoctoral fellow. He’s spent a total of 12 years in the neuroscience research world studying neurodegenerative disease and the neuroscience of eating behavior and obesity. His publications in scientific journals have been cited over 1,400 times by his peers. Today, he continues his mission to advance science as a writer, speaker, and science consultant. His new book, The Hungry Brain, was released in February, 2017.
Stephan’s current consulting clients include the Open Philanthropy Project and Examine.com Research Digest and he’s the co-designer of a web-based fat loss program called the Ideal Weight Program. Stephan lives in the Seattle area, where he grows much of his own food and brew a mean hard cider.
Follow Dr. Guyenet on Twitter @whsource.