Episode 70: Dr. Rhonda Patrick: Micronutrients for Health & Longevity | Huberman Lab

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Key Takeaways

  • Intermittent challenges or stressors to your system are good – humans are evolved for challenges, but today’s lifestyle has taken away most of the common struggles we experienced before
  • Three key nutrients for the brain and body: (1) sulforaphane; (2) omega-3; (3) vitamin D
  • Food sources of sulforaphane: broccoli (barely cooked), broccoli sprouts, moringa powder
  • “I personally think [omega-3 fish oil] is one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory things, dietary lifestyle things we can get easily that is going to powerfully modulate the way you think, the way you feel, and the way you age.” – Dr. Rhonda Patrick
  • Vitamin D is not just a vitamin! 70% of the US population is deficient – it’s worth measuring & supplementing to optimal bone health, immunity, hormone conversion, and more
  • There’s a strong dose-dependent nature of sauna use: people who use sauna 4-7x/week have a lower risk (60% reduction) of dementia and Alzheimer’s; people who use sauna 2-3x/week have a 20% reduction in risk
  • Heat stress mimics moderate cardiovascular exercise effect – this could be a great onramp for people who are otherwise unable to exercise due to disability or whatever reason
  • The cardiorespiratory system is improved in people who do both sauna and exercise compared to doing either alone
  • Stress & memory: if you’re too relaxed you won’t remember things as well; at peak levels of stress, you remember things better until you reach too high a level of panic               


Dr. Rhonda Patrick (@foundmyfitness) has a Ph.D. in biomedical science and is an expert on nutritional health. She has dedicated her research career to finding proactive and preventive solutions to aging and longevity. Check out her podcast,  Found My Fitness, and visit her website for tons of research articles and interviews.

Andrew Huberman and Rhonda Patrick discuss the four major categories of micronutrients that regulate cellular and organ stress and antioxidants, inflammation, hormone regulation, immune system, and longevity. They review actionable protocols for obtaining key micronutrients from food and/or supplements as well as protocols for deliberate heat and cold exposure.

Host: Andrew Huberman (@hubermanlab)

Note: For full access to publications that are behind a paywall, check out Sci Hub.

Hormesis: Our Bodies Want Some Stress

  • Intermittent challenges or stressors to your system are good – humans are evolved for challenges, but today’s lifestyle has taken away most of the common struggles we experienced before (i.e., food, hunting, a distance of travel)
  • Hormesis: stressors activate pathways for maximum autophagy, adaptation, and hormone optimization
  • Our bodies are supposed to be getting some stress to activate certain pathways that clear out bad things in the bodies
  • Molecular hormetics are exogenous molecules that have side effects since they’re foreign to the body
  • Plant foods are full of molecular hormetics
  • There are plants that are toxic in small quantities, but you aren’t going to get poisoned by eating broccoli with dinner

What Is Sulforaphane?

  • Sulforaphane is an anticarcinogenic isothiocyanate associated with cruciferous vegetables
  • Sulforaphane is a chemical end-product of myrosinases and glucoraphanin
  • Bacterial myrosinases found in the human gut convert unhydrolyzed glucoraphanin to sulforaphane
  • There are two ways of hydrolyzing glucoraphanin: (1) chew cruciferous vegetable/sprout/seed, (2) microbiome
  • Clinical studies have linked the benefits of sulforaphane to a variety of chronic diseases such as autism, aflatoxin toxicity, cancer, air pollution toxicity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes – and much more

Sources And Dosing Of Sulforaphane

  • There’s no way to know whether you are a good converter of sulforaphane
  • There’s no way to test how much sulforaphane or glucoraphanin is in broccoli or broccoli sprouts
  • Clinical studies point to 50-100 μmol sulforaphane per day
  • Sources of sulforaphane: broccoli, broccoli sprouts, brussel sprouts, cauliflower
  • Interestingly, broccoli rabe does not have a significant amount of glucoraphanin or sulforaphane
  • All cruciferous vegetables are isothiocyanates but not all contain sulforaphane
  • 100g of broccoli would yield about 0.5mg -18mg of sulforaphane
  • 100g of broccoli sprouts would yield about 5-16mg sulforaphane
  • Studies show about 60g of broccoli sprouts give you as much glucoraphanin as ¼ – ½ pound of broccoli 
  • You get the highest levels of glucoraphanin from broccoli seeds – but they don’t taste very good so it’s more palatable to eat the sprouts 
  • Gut microbiome variations in individuals lead to varying yield of sulforaphane per serving
  • Not all broccoli is treated equally from sourcing to the sale so some will have a higher yield of sulforaphane than others
  • Cooking destroys myrosinase – if you are cooking broccoli or broccoli sprouts, you are solely counting on myrosinase in the gut
  • If you need to cook broccoli, microwaving until it’s just tender is the best method to reduce bioavailability loss
  • Ground mustard & exogenous sources of myrosinase increase the bioavailability of sulforaphane in cooked broccoli
  • Good sources of myrosinase: ground mustard, mustard seed, horseradish, wasabi
  • Quality broccoli seed vendors: Johnny’s Selected Seeds
  • Potential traumatic brain injury (TBI) help: glutathione increased in the brain after ingestion of sulforaphane

Moringa: Alternative To Broccoli Sprouts

  • Moringa leaf powder is a great alternative to broccoli sprouts
  • In many assays, the isothiocyanate is better than sulforaphane
  • Moringa has not been as heavily researched in clinical research but has been used safely in areas of tropical climate
  • Blood glucose control is the biggest medical indication for moringa powder  

Sources Of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

  • Wild game has a higher concentration of micronutrients (e.g., zinc) and omega-3 versus conventional
  • Raw fish is higher in mercury than cooked fish – but fish eggs/caviar are a great source of omega-3
  • Grass-fed, grass-finished meat is usually darker, stronger tasting, and less fatty than conventional
  • Before 2017 factory farmers were feeding antibiotics to cows because it made them bigger and was actually inducing antibiotic resistance via the water supply
  • In 2017 FDA shut down the use of antibiotics unless medically prescribed to curb the rise in antibiotic resistance
  • Omega-3s are critical in diet: people with low omega-3 index have higher all cause mortality and lower lifespan
  • People with low omega-3 index have been shown to have earlier all-cause mortality, decreased stroke incidence   
  • Plant-based version of omega-3 that’s reasonable (but not as good): ALA and micro-algae
  • High-quality fish oil supplements will be in triglyceride form with DHA or EPA – like these
  • Therapeutic effects of EPA for cardiovascular disease are only in high doses – can get purified EPA Vascepa prescription if triglyceride levels qualify intervention (but must take with food)
  • Omega-3 dose: 4g EPA per day; 2g per day is a good threshold
  • Studies have shown people on sufficient EPA doses can get away with lower doses of SSRIs or avoid going on them completely
  • “I personally think [omega-3 fish oil] is one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory things, dietary lifestyle things we can get easily that is going to powerfully modulate the way you think, the way you feel, and the way you age.” – Dr. Rhonda Patrick
  • Measuring omega-3 index (not plasma measurement): measures omega-3in red blood cells – check out omega quant

Complexity And Importance Of Vitamin D

  • Vitamin D is so much more than a vitamin
  • Vitamin D gets converted into a steroid that regulates some of the human genome and plays an important role in activating the innate immune system
  • Immune cells have vitamin D receptors
  • 70% of the US population has vitamin D insufficiency and 28% has deficiency
  • Vitamin D supplementation can decrease respiratory tract infection
  • The structure of vitamin D is more similar to that of cortisol and other hormones
  • Standards of vitamin D dosage depend on the indication
  • Part of the complexity with vitamin D is our standard doses are based on bone studies, not immunological data
  • It takes time for vitamin D to be metabolized in the liver; in an acute situation it may be more important to supplement with 25-hydroxyvitamin D – the major circulating metabolite of vitamin D
  • The problem is we don’t have a gland that makes vitamin D – it’s produced through the skin which is why we want sun exposure
  • Even if you are taking vitamin D3, you want to get out in the sun
  • Be choosy with sunscreen! Sunscreen crosses the blood-brain barrier and some are downright dangerous – lean towards sunscreens with minerals
  • Vitamin D supplementation has been shown to reduce epigenetic age, but studies have only been on small sample sizes
  • It’s worth your while to get a vitamin D level test and supplement accordingly
  • Dose of vitamin D: around 1000 IUs per 5 nanogram increase needed for an adequate level
  • About 40% of the population doesn’t get enough magnesium (or through dark leafy greens) – magnesium deficiency makes it difficult to make vitamin D hormone or ATP
  • There are several different versions of magnesium depending on what you’re looking for – magnesium with malate is a good start

Using Deliberate Health & Cold

  • Even 20 seconds of immersion in 49F water can lead to long-lasting increases in neuromodulators and neurochemicals
  • Cold exposure (11 minutes per week, up to the neck) has been shown to increase brown fat which increases metabolism and the ability to feel comfortable in cold temperatures
  • The more you expose yourself to cold, the more you can brown your fat and tolerate cold longer while improving metabolism regulation
  • Beige fat is a more metabolically active version of white fat
  • The endorphin system is activated when we experience short stress
  • Dynorphin system: the struggle of heat exposure ultimately activates pathways that lead to an increase in the baseline level of mood and heightened level of happiness and improved mood
  • Regular use of sauna and other heat exposure can reduce mortality by cardiovascular events, stroke, and all-cause mortality
  • Defining sauna use: temperature between 80C-100C or 176F-212F (depending on how hot it feels to you), 5-20 minutes per session, 2-7 times per week
  • You will become better adapted and better at sweating excess heat with frequent exposure
  • Options if you don’t have access to a sauna: try a hot water bath up to the neck; wear a plastic suit (like fighters trying to drop weight)
  • Hormone effects of heat: decrease in cortisol output
  • Activation of heat shock proteins (HSP): heat changes the way in which proteins are configured at the molecular level – HSP makes sure cells of the brain and body don’t misfold
  • Heat for lifespan: heat upregulates pathways (FOXO3) related to DNA repair and clearing out of senescent cells
  • Heat for metabolic enhancement: recipe seems to be 57 minutes per week (total, spread out across sessions) of heat exposure – cold exposure recipe is 11 minutes per spread out of the uncomfortable but safe cold
  • Brain & mental health benefits of sauna: antidepressant effect as early as first session
  • Getting depressed people to exercise is challenging – a sauna could be a good way to get the benefits of exercise without actually exercising

Exercise Tip

  • Incorporate some high-intensity bursts each week – try a Tabata: 20 seconds hard (all out), 10 seconds off x 8 cycles (4-minute block)


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