Diet & Mental Health – Interview Highlights with Max Lugavere

Diet & Mental Health – Interview Highlights with Max Lugavere

November 7, 2019 4 By William Morgan


Max Lugavere, can you tell us a little
bit about your background and where you
spend your time? -Yeah so my background is
as a filmmaker and journalist. I was
pre-med in college and I ended up double
majoring in film and psychology and I
made a film as an undergraduate
exploring my passions at the time but my
passions really have always been health,
nutrition, fitness. When I left Current TV
to sort of you know explore where I
wanted to go with my career it was
around that time that my mother started
to display early signs of memory loss
and I didn’t really know what I was
seeing at the time. I had no prior family
history of dementia or any kind of
neurodegenerative disease and certainly
my mom was not old at the time she was
58. She was a vibrant spirited blonde
from New York you know. Seeing and
hearing my mom complain about brain fog
and you know problems with her memory
caught me in my family completely
off-guard. But it was at the Cleveland
Clinic in Ohio where my mom for the
first time was diagnosed with a
neurodegenerative disease and that’s
when she was prescribed you know the
chemical band-aids that they that they
often prescribed people with
neurodegenerative diseases like
Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s. And I
knew where to find good quality research
and that was the first place you know
those those websites, PubMed. My theory
was that because my mom was young and
because I had no prior family history of
dementia there had to be something
environmental triggering my mom’s
illness and I thought that to some
degree diet was probably implicated and
I began looking into diet and
Alzheimer’s disease. My mom wasn’t, hadn’t
been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease
but Alzheimer’s disease is the most
common form of dementia. -So as a
journalist as someone who is a
professional communicator and the kind
of training that you had you also had
access probably to a lot of other people
that that the average individual who’s
looking up PubMed and is passionate
about the subject you had access in
different ways. -Yeah, between doing
all of my own research and having
conversations with these researchers and
then broadening out to clinicians who
are the you know
the point of care providers that are
actually translating what is discovered
in science. I became an expert you know
in my in my own right, you know. -If this
was a diagnosis that had no family
history how does it relate to you in
your own health. -I became interested in
learning about the foods that actually
do improve health and I realized that 9%
of Americans consume the required amount
of vegetables per day according to the
CDC and I was very likely in that
category you know the truth is
vegetables are among the most
nutrient-dense kinds of food there are
you know you take kale or spinach. Take
spinach, for example. Spinach it’s one of
the top sources if not the top source of
you know magnesium in the diet which is
an incredibly important nutrient which
is required for hundreds of enzymatic
processes in the body. It’s a top source
of dietary folate, it’s an incredible
source of fiber. You know, it’s uh, these
are the kinds of things that we need
that actually improve health right. -Lutein it’s incredible for lutein and we
need as much lutein as possible for
cognitive health as well as they impact
from blue light all right I mean spinach
is like a rock star but you’d have to
eat almost two cups of spinach every day
to get the kind of lutein that we need.
Well spinach is not the only source.
I mean you can eat spinach you can eat kale
you can eat you know eggs. Egg yolks are
an incredible source of lutein and
zeaxanthin which boost eye health it
boosts you know these are carotenoids at
boost brain health not grains. Grains are
mostly starch ok so mostly just chains
of glucose which is sugar and a little
bit of insoluble fiber which basically
acts like sort of sandpaper to your
insides and a tiny tiny amount of
vitamins. So why do we need that? There’s
no mechanism by which we need grains I
mean certainly enjoy grains if you want
they’re not toxic but the notion that we
need to eat them for health is just
absurd. So spinach, kale, nuts, you know
like the healthy fats found in nuts.
Extra virgin olive oil incredibly
healthy. I’m a big believer in eating you
know a moderate amount of grass-fed beef
which i think is a health food.
You know grass-fed beef is you know
packed with again carotenoids, lutein,
zeaxanthin, which is found in the fat
because cows that eat grass which are
packed with carotenoids then those
carotenoids embed themselves in their
meat so when you eat you know grass-fed
beef you’re getting these brain and eye
health boosting carotenoids ,you’re
getting you know a biologically
appropriate ratio of omega-3 to omega-6
fatty acids and you know researchers
speculate that it’s access to meat and
in fact cooked meat that catalyzes the
growth of our brains because it’s such a
nutrient and energy dense food and so
you know I eat a couple servings of
grass-fed beef per week, fatty fish is
incredibly important obviously. Fatty
fish is, you know, packed with DHA which
actually helps build your brain cells.
This is really important because you
know for a long time it was thought that
adult neurogenesis was impossible. That
you know our brains would have reached
their sort of maximum size and power in
our mid-20s only to begin sort of a long
gradual decline until the end of life.
But now we know that adults can grow new
brain cells particularly in the
vulnerable memory center of the brain
the hippocampus up until the point at
which we die. So the fact that we’re able
to continue growing brain cells means
that we need to supply our brains with
the appropriate building blocks to do so.
Grains don’t boost health you know and
especially if you’re one of the you know
50% of the US population that’s either
diabetic or pre-diabetic and you’ve
essentially become glucose intolerant.
Adding grains into that equation
is a recipe for disaster. -So even for you
when you transformed your own health and
you started to eat these you know these
fatty foods these fish the grass-fed
meats and tons of vegetables what
happened to your energy? How did your
experience of the day, even let’s just
take the day, change? -Once I started
adopting this higher fat low carb you
know high vegetable diet I definitely
noticed that my own focus and my own
attention and my own ability to convey
ideas improved, you know. I’m a
professional communicator so I as a for
a living I go on TV and I communicate
these relatively heavy ideas in a way
that you know people can understand
so I’m very attuned to whether or not
I’m on or I’m off and I noticed that
once I started you know once I adopted
this diet I was much more frequently on
and way more infrequently off. -Thank you
so much for sharing your insights and
guidance and curiosity into areas of our
health and well-being that we can all
benefit from. -Thank you so much for
having me.