Articles

Understanding the Behaviour of Mitochondria – Martin Picard #565

August 31, 2019


(electronic world music) – [Announcer] Bulletproof Radio, a state of high performance. – [Dave] You’re listening to Bulletproof Radio with Dave Asprey. Today’s cool fact of the
day is that it turns out that it’s not just your mom who passes along mitochondrial DNA. If you read my book Head
Strong about mitochondria and how to turn on your
brain, you learned what we all commonly believe, that
mitochondria comes from mom. Well, in some cases, you might
have your dad’s mitochondria. They’re just not that common. So leave it to dads to break
the rules in textbooks. Turns out, fathers in
three unrelated families have been documented to
pass their mitochondria, those tiny little things we
like to call energy factories found in cells, onto their
children, and if you’re familiar with lots of the stuff I talk about, mitochondria do a lot
more than make energy. They’re actually the front-line
environmental sensors, and as you’re gonna hear
about in today’s interview, they do more than that when it comes to
interacting with your brain. But scientists have long
thought that kids just always got mitochondria exclusively from mothers, because mitochondria
in sperm get destroyed during the fertilization of the egg. And this happened because a
mitochondrial disease researcher said wait, how is this
possible that we could have paternal DNA in a woman? And after they did a bunch of work on this stuff, they figured
out that that woman’s cells had some mitochondria from
her mom and some from her dad. And they looked at the woman’s brother, who also had that thing, and
they said, this can’t be, so they asked a bunch
of other researchers, and they found 17 people
within three families who had 24 to 76% of their
mitochondria from their father. And the net net of all
this for you is that if you wanted to blame
everything on your mother, you can’t anymore until you’ve done your mitochondrial DNA testing. On that news, speaking of
blaming things on your mother, you should check out Game
Changers, my new book, if you haven’t already. It just passed 100
five-stars reviews on Amazon, hit the USA Today bestseller list, and people on social
media are really talking about those 46 laws for people
who wanna perform better. Some of which are mitochondrial laws, but many of which have
to do with how you think, your stress, and how you respond
to the way you were raised. Basically, it’s the rule book based on what hundreds of
game changers have done, how they prioritized things,
so that you prioritize what you work on first in the right way. What you’re gonna learn in
today’s interview is awesome because you’re gonna find
out that your mitochondria have a much heavier role to
play in a lot of the things that you think are about
the thoughts in your head, the voice in your head. My supposition has always
been that the mitochondria are the evil little puppet
masters behind your ego, and I think we’re getting
a little bit closer to saying maybe that theory is true. We’ll find out in today’s interview, which is going to be amazing. It’s gonna be amazing because
I’m a mitochondrial nerd. You might call me a mitochondriac. We had T-shirts like that at the Bulletproof
Conference a few years ago. Today’s expert who’s on
the show is actually a guy I’ve wanted to interview for a long time, because he’s written some
papers that I read on PubMed that got me really, really
excited, and yeah, you don’t hear that a lot from people
who aren’t total nerds. But, his name is Martin Picard. I already asked him, he’s
no relation to Jean-Luc, and he’s an assistant professor
of behavioral medicine in psychiatry and neurology
at Columbia University. And for the last 10 years,
he’s been studying mitochondria and worked with leading experts, I mean, the godfathers of mitochondria. Godmothers, do you call them? Anyway, of mitochondria research, and in 2015, at Columbia, he established the Mitochondrial Signaling Laboratory and they’re figuring out how
mind-body interactions work including these unusual, novel principles that underlie your mitochondrial
response to stress, how you maintain your health,
and how subtle mitochondrial defects can affect your
cells and even your aging. So if you wanna know exactly
what’s going on inside that biology of yours so that you
have better control of it, you better by paying
attention to mitochondria and here’s a guy who’s paid more attention to those little bastards
that anyone else I know. Martin, welcome to the show. (Martin laughs) – [Martin] Thank you, Dave. It’s really a pleasure to be here. – [Dave] All right, I’ve gotta ask you, has anyone ever called mitochondria little bastards in your experience before? – [Martin] No, I don’t think so. I think that’s the first time I hear that. (both laughing) – [Dave] All right, I wanna know, Martin, how the heck did you get so
interested in mitochondria, of all the things you could have done? – [Martin] I was an undergrad
student in physiology at McGill University
University in Montreal, and I really was hoping
to understand, you know, why is it that some
people just stay healthy for a very long time,
and some other people just tend to get sick all the time? And I do I guess maybe
from personal experience, my mom is a nurse, it seemed
to matter how people felt, and that would influence their health and some physiological functions. We all have experience
about feeling not so good and being more vulnerable
to getting a cold, and there’s actually really
good research on that. – [Dave] So when you
feel stressed or anxious, you’re more likely to get sick. – [Martin] Correct. – [Dave] Okay, good deal. And you wanted to figure out what the heck is going on there, why? – [Martin] Yes. So as I was a physiology
student, I thought, you know, surely I’m gonna
learn about these things, psychoneuroendocrinology and
how the psychological factors affect the hormones
and affect the body and as I was a student, the
fashion at that time was cellular physiology. So I learned all about the molecules and about different parts
of the cells and genes. And there was nothing about
the psycho part of it, you know, the psychology. So I thought that was
a little disappointing and then towards the end of my degree I was looking for ways to
learn about these things. I studied integrative medicine and then eventually
landed on this professor in graduate school who was
a mitochondrial expert. She had just been recruited
to McGill University. Her name is Tanja Taivassalo and she studied mitochondrial disease. And then she said no why
don’t you come work with me and I was always attracted
to mitochondria because, you know, you heard of them
as the power house of the cell and I kinda felt like
there might be more to it and it’d be a useful track to follow. So I was attracted to
mitochondria initially kind of with a visceral feeling and then there was this
opportunity to work with an expert. – [Dave] Don’t visceral
feeling come from mitochondria? (Martin laughs) – [Martin] They might, they might. I don’t think we know that
for sure but they might, yes. – [Dave] Well I’m gonna argue
that we do know that for sure just based on reductive
logic because, well, where do the electrons that
drive the feelings come from? They’re produced by mitochondria, right? – [Martin] Correct. – [Dave] So if you go down
to the electron itself those visceral feelings had
to come from mitochondria. (Martin laughs) – [Martin] Yes I mean that’s
going deep very quickly but indeed. You know, you can argue
the reason we are alive and the reason we breathe is because of energy flow in the body, right? – [Dave] Yes. – [Martin] If you think about
the fundamental difference between a living organism, a living, thinking,
feeling, conscience person and a cadaver, a dead body
is the main difference is the flow of information. You know, the molecular components of the body are exactly the same but in the living, feeling,
thinking, conscience person these molecules are animated
by the flow of energy. And a big part of that is
going through mitochondria. And if you want to convince
yourself how important the flow of energy is to consciousness. (Martin laughs) You just block you’re, you know, the carotid arteries in your
neck that go to the brain. If you interrupt oxygen flow
to mitochondria in the brain within, I don’t know, 15
seconds, 10, 15 seconds then you’re out. Consciousness is gone. So I think that tells us,
its kind of a loose argument, but it tells us something
very profound I think about the link between energy
consciousness and our experiences and how we experience the world. – [Dave] What makes sense
now is, you mentioned you studied integrative
medicine or functional medicine as a part of your path and
a lot of times when people are doing more university
focused research and they haven’t studied some of the
holistic side of things, you’re not gonna have
the view that you do. ‘Cause you did a paper with Doctor Epel, who’s been on this show. Elissa Epel, we talked about
stress and telomere lengthening one of the things that makes you old. And so you’ve done work on aging and you’re doing work on
these feeling and emotions and how they come together. And looking at it from a single root cause which is unusual in my
experience with academia. You tend to focus on one stack. But you’re looking at one cause that may be filtering out
into many different things. Did you grow up with
weird parents or something that made you multidisciplinary like that? (Martin laughs) – [Martin] I think my mom
was definitely inclined to think outside the biomedical box. – [Dave] Okay. – [Martin] Having training as a nurse and having direct personal experience with patients and so maybe that was part of it. I tend to credit my
mom for a lot of things and maybe that’s one of them. – [Dave] Including your mitochondria. – [Martin] Yeah exactly. (both laugh) – [Dave] Sorry, just for people listening, I’m gonna keep making
mother mitochondrial jokes all episode long and you’re
just gonna have to deal with it. Alright, okay keep going. – [Martin] What was the question again? – [Dave] I was just wondering
like why do you have this a lab and you’re looking
at aging, you’re looking at stress, you’re looking at emotions, and you’re looking at mitochondria. And this is our of the norm for
the last, I’m gonna call it, 200 years of academia until
you go back to like the natural scientist, natural philosphers, before that where they
had spiritual and emotion and a very, very bad
chemistry all mixed together. But its been separated out
for at least a 100 years. And here you are talking
about emotions and subcellular components
in the same sentence you talk about aging which
hasn’t been done before and that’s actually, dare
I say, game changing. I don’t know what made
you the guy to do that. – [Martin] I’m not sure I
have a good answer for that but I think what we’ve become
really good at as, you know, scientific community and maybe as a population is reductionism. And we’ve developed
all sorts of, you know, disciplines and all
sorts of scientific tools and machines in the lab which basically aim to break
down very complex things into very small pieces that
we can understand and grasp and make ourselves believe that
we understand how they work. So that’s the beauty of reductionism. We can take really complex
things and then think yes this is how it works. This little piece a leads to piece b and then that leads to c and then that leads to d and then somehow that’s part of this bigger complex experience. So I think we’re really
good at reductionism and it has severed us really well if you look at the engineering
feets that are happening now and we, you know, can go to space and we can make electric cars and we’re maybe on the verge of becoming a lot more
sustainable as a society. Those are all, I think, products and all of the medical advances and treatments that are available. Their products in large part
of our reductionist approach to science. – [Dave] Yeah no doubt that works and anyone who says
reductionism isn’t useful, is not paying attention. – [Martin] Correct. – [Dave] But it does take something out, that’s what reduction is. – [Martin] Yes, exactly. – [Dave] So you’re
adding something back in which is unusual. – [Martin] Yes well I think
what my lab focuses on and what I see, you know, I
think everyone in this world can make a contribution in some way. I hope that what may be
our labs contribution can be as to integrate
things back together. So we still use the tools of reductionism to understand different
parts of the mitochondria. You know, how they use
the food that we eat, the oxygen we breathe in and
transform that into energy and then generate specific signals. But we try to see this in the
context of the whole person. So that’s what we try to do and I think having trained
in integrative medicine might’ve helped and during my undergrad I was
also part of a systems biology training program. Computational, you know,
systems biology integrative mathematical approaches. And then at the same time I
was part of a training program in psychoscocial oncology
to try to understand a psychological and a
social aspect of cancer. So I guess all of these things together, its like when you’re raised in sensitive periods of development things can have a big influence and maybe all of these
things had an influence and now have convinced
me that really where things are at is integration. So we tried to integrate the subcellular organelle, you know, mitochondria
being organelle level with cellular level. And then you know the whole person and then the person within the
environment and its context. So I think its really a
movement toward integration. The driving force. – [Dave] You’re one of the leading voices; you and Elissa and Doug Wallas
and other major researcher who I think you studied with. If you’re listening to the show, you’ve probably never heard
of any of these people unless… We have a good number
of academic researchers and medical professionals
who listen to the show who might have heard of them but these are the people
who are breaking beliefs left and right. Where we just didn’t
understand how important this one part of the cell was. In my own life, having
weighed 300 pounds, having had no ability to measure my
mitochondrial function when I was 16 when I had
arthritis in my knees and all this obesity and all. Other than just to look and say
wow that’s guys mitochondria seems to be making an
awful lot of inflammation which means they’re not
making an awful lot of energy. That’s called muffin top,
in case you were wondering. (Martin laughs) I looked that way, right? And I can even draw causation
from environmental toxins that lower mitochondrial
function and things like that. But I don’t have data ’cause
no one had data back then. However, everything that I’ve ever done that made me kick more
ass at everything I do basically makes my mitochondria either stronger or more efficient. And that’s the body of
work most of biohacking is around making those
little bastards happier and faster which makes
you happier and faster. And that’s why in my model of
the world there’s a very clear line between mitochondria and the way you show up for your
kids or your next meeting. And that why I’m excited
both for this interview and just to share what
on Bulletproof Radio. This is the stuff that
changes your life fastest. Alright ill get off my soapbox and ask you an actual question. – [Martin] Dave you actually
mentioned Doug Wallace and I’d like to take a moment
to just say how important Doug was in for the field. You know, in my development
but mainly for the field. I remember when I was a grad student and I was starting to learn
about mitochondria and mitochondrial DNA, right, because its the only other
part of the cell other than the nucleus to have its own DNA. And we can talk about
evolution and, you know, where mitochondria come
from and how they’ve made us complex multicellular life possible, you know, for a long time. But Doug was really a
pioneer in first, identifying the maternal inheritance
of mitochondrial DNA and you kind of address something the onset that contradicts
this but for the most part… – [Dave] He’s still right. The fact that there’s
a few corner cases, no they come from your mom. Let’s just be really clear,
Doug figured that out. – [Martin] Yes and he did
so much for the field. I remember as grad student
I was reading this… I was on PubMed looking for
articles that were relevant to what I was doing and then I see this paper from Doug Wallace. It was Mitochondria as Chi. Chi in this Eastern… – [Dave] He’s right. – [Martin] Traditional
Chinese medicine concept and I was like wow yes, you know? This is it. I need to do my post doctoral
training with this person. So that’s actually what made me write an email to Doug Wallace and
say can I train with you? He’s a visionary. – [Dave] How have you changed
your life in the last 10 years because you know more than
the average human magnitude about mitochondria? So given that you know more than I do, do you wake up every morning
and do a mitochondrial meditation? Do you drink a mitochondrial soup? I mean like what is changed
for you given what you know? ‘Cause I know for you what
you can publish in academia ’cause you know. But I wanna know you’re gonna
lay the odds for yourself. I wanna know what you’re doing
that you haven’t published that’s for you. (Martin laughs) – [Martin] I definitely, you
know, from the stuff we’ve discovered in the lab, you know, it makes a
really big impression to me to see mitochondria ’cause
they’re so beautiful. And we do a lot of microscopy
work so you actually see them move about in the cell. If you ask Google what do
mitochondria look like? Google images get these
pictures of bean shaped little things or peanut shaped
or you know whatever. But if you actually look in a living cell, they’re so beautiful and they move about and they can actually
fuse with one another. Its called mitochondrial fusion. And the long ones can actually
fragment into small pieces. Its called mitochondrial fission. And seeing this and also just
the insight of mitochondria on the electron microscope. Its just something I love and
it makes an impression on me. It reminds me how beautiful biology is but that, you know, these are
important little creatures to nourish. And we’re finding out, you
know, how do we nourish them and I think you know
quite a bit about that. We know moving, being physically active is probably the best thing you
can do for your mitochondria. And being inactive for a very
long time is not so good. So I try to live by that and be active. Eating too much is probably
the second worst thing you can do for your mitochondria. If you have the choice to
be hungry or to be overfed, you should aim on the hungrier side. A lot of studies have shown this. – [Dave] So do you do
intermittent fasting? – [Martin] I have tried it, yes. – [Dave] Okay. – [Martin] And I don’t
do it as a regular thing. I’m very mindful of not
overeating because it saturates the mitochondria and for some reason it makes them fragment and probably not talk
to each other so much. – [Dave] It probably also
matters what you’re overeating. A bowl of french fries
versus a bowl of salad is probably going to have a different affect of fragmentation
but no one knows yet. (Martin laughs) – [Martin] We know a
lot of sugar is probably the worst thing, you know,
that affects the mitochondria. – [Dave] How about alcohol? What does that do to mitochondria? – [Martin] That’s a great question. I don’t know. Actually there’s some work
being done by Yuri Sykulev at Thomas Jefferson on this topic. It definitely affects them
but I don’t know in what way. – [Dave] ‘Cause we know
they can burn alcohol. In fact, they’ll preferentially
burn it to help get it out of the system as a fuel source, right? Before they’ll even burn sugar but it doesn’t mean it does
good things to them when they burn it. And we know the aldehyde
spike and the rest of the body and the liver and the gut
is pretty bad for you. I don’t know the research either so i’ll have to follow up on that. Maybe that’s another interview I can do. (Martin laughs) Alright so sugar is bad. So for you, you don’t overeat,
you make sure you move. By the way, I also agree
with you on the movement and I’ve got the couple papers
20 minutes a day of walking is kinda necessary but
I’m lazy so I stand on a whole body vibration platform
called the bulletproof vibe. It vibrates 30 times a
second which is a frequency that they know causes regeneration. They use these for astronauts to recover. So if I stand on that for five minutes maybe 10 sometimes while I’m
on the phone or something. I kinda like to look at
when you’re culturing cells and you have those little things that are keeping the cells moving. I’m like I’m just gonna shake
all my mitochondria a lot really fast and kinda
get it done for the day. I have know idea if that
actually works for mitochondria but I feel better and I look better and I have less muffin top when I’m done. (Martin laughs) So movement, food. Those two are obvious,
what else are you doing? – [Martin] Well something
we’ve beginning to find is that how you feel might
influence your mitochondria. And you know, that taps into
this area that’s developing called mitochondrial psycho biology that’s connecting the
psychological part of who we are. We do feel things, we
do think about things, that affects us. And then the biology; those
biological, molecular, cellular processes that are happening
in the cellular level. What we don’t know a lot
about is how those two things are connected. The hypothesis that we’re exploring with some of our colleagues is that, you know,
mitochondria is that interface between the psyche and the and the soma. The mind and the body. So we’ve had some results, a paper that was published earlier in 2018 showing that how people feel a few days before you take
blood to measure mitochondrial functional capacity or
mitochondrial health is actually correlated. If people feel better, it looks their mitochondria have a greater ability to make
energy the day after. But if mitochondria… Better mitochondrial
function doesn’t predict how people feel, you know, in that study. So it actually is the
first evidence that mood and psychological states
might influence mitochondria, you know, in that direction. Not that the other
direction isn’t happening but that study showed
quite convincingly that there might be a link from
the mind to the mitochondria. So I tried to do things that, you know, that make me feel good. I try to focus on projects and hang out
with people who stimulate, who are stimulating. I don’t know if that really does something to my mitochondria but it keeps me motivated and inspired and I think that’s important. – [Dave] Its funny in Game
Changers, my last book, and yes I’m plugging the book. If you haven’t bought the
book and you’re listening to the show come one its gonna save you a lot of time to read the book. One of the big three things
that hundreds of people like you who’ve done really
big work in their field that is what you just said. They find a way to be happy which causes their performance to improve and rather than the other way around. Oh I achieved therefore I’m happy, I was happy therefore I achieved. And achievement, as we’ve
already established, well its driven by energy that
has to come from somewhere eventually it comes from your mitochondria or maybe from sunlight if you’re a plant. (Martin laughs) – [Martin] Its funny
you mentioned the plant. You know mitochondria do chemically, they do exactly the
opposite as what plants do. So you know, plants take water and they take the CO2, the
carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and then they basically fixate
the carbon an the hydrogen and then they make sugar and make starch. And then that process release oxygen. And what do mitochondria consume? Oxygen and starch. And then what do they release? As part of the Kreb Cycle, this is like the series of biochemical
reactions inside the mitochondria. They generate CO2 and they generate water. – [Dave] So I’m gonna
hopefully blow your mind, which may be hard to do. I referenced either one
or two papers from some researchers in Mexico who
proved pretty convincingly that if you eat enough chlorophyll, in other words you’re eating
lots of green vegetables, that up to five percent of
your energy requirements can be met by your mitochondria
using sunshine, not food. And they actually have some
lab measurements in this. And that’s referencing Headstrong. So I’m wondering if, you know, that old movie called Swamp Thing maybe it was based on
that corner case where yes a little bits possible. Kind of like having some of
your fathers mitochondrial DNA, it doesn’t really happen
very often but its possible. I think there’s another little corner case with mitochondria like that. I like the idea of being a breatharian and living off sunshine. I’m just not gonna do that
’cause I got other stuff to do. (Martin laughs) By the way, if you’re
listening and it works for you and you actually have done it
with cameras and observation and you can show that it works, I would love to see your evidence
because it’d be kinda cool to find a human who could do that. Maybe there’s one in India somewhere who has some good evidence but anyway. I’m getting off track here. So you’ve talked about how you feel. There’s a supplement that I manufacture. Its called KetoPrime and its keto succinic acid. So its the last step of
the Kreb Cycle before you reinitiate with coenzyme A which is basically coming
from carbs that you eat or from ketones. And when people take that,
in two clinical studies they showed that the
compound in KetoPrime, the active ingredient called
that keto succinic acid that it treats the
emotional symptoms of PMS. Now this is an interesting thing where you’re feeling crappy and
angry, you take something that increases your mitochondrias
ability to make energy from food by priming the
pump of the Kreb Cycle and magically your
emotional symptoms subside. That would support your
point that, well, maybe mitochondria are driving this happiness and maybe happiness is
driving the mitochondria. I think there’s something to that ’cause I’m the same way. I know there’s a stack of
mitochondrial enhancers that I take and when I
take them, I’m happier and if I take them when I’m
cranky, I get less cranky. What mitochondrial enhancers do you use? – [Martin] I don’t really
use any mito enhancers other than… – [Dave] You don’t drink coffee? Come on. – [Martin] No I actually
love the smell of coffee but I can’t do the taste, so I don’t. – [Dave] Well if you put
enough sugar in there, oh wait, that would
kinda defeat the purpose, wouldn’t it? – [Martin] Yes it does. (Martin laughs) – [Dave] And so tea? I mean you must use
green tea or something. – [Martin] Yeah I drink tea. – [Dave] Those are
mitochondrial enhancers. You got your polyphenols in there. – [Martin] Yeah that might,
that might very well. – [Dave] Alright if I send you
a stack of the mitochondria enhancers that I use just to try them, I’m not asking you to endorse or ever tell the world you did it, but if you would try
them, ill send them to you because they might even fuel
your research a little bit. – [Martin] Wow. – [Dave] You want me to
send them your way, I will. – [Martin] No you know,
I don’t think I would. (both laugh) I trust in the balance of the organism and, you know, its ability to do things. So I try not the put other
foreign things in my body. Maybe that’s my philosophy. – [Dave] Got it. – [Martin] And you know,
there are situations where these things can be useful and, you know, you’re talking about the
link between mitochondria and how you feel and mood. And there’s good research just
coming out linking metabolism and mitochondrial metabolism
and the depression. – [Dave] Interesting. So they’re finding depressed people have lower mitochondrial function? – [Martin] Yes and there’s a marker of mitochondrial function as specifically the ability of mitochondria to use lipids. So as we eat, you know,
we’re not talking about the trans fats that are in fries but the lipids are very healthy. Perhaps the healthiest kind of lipids are the avocado or the olive oil
and these kinds of things. Mitochondrial love these. And they’re so good at eating lipids and you know burning lipids. Its probably the cleanest
thing that the organism and the mitochondria everywhere
in the body can burn. So what people have found and a lot of that research is
coming out of Bruce McEwen’s lab at the Rockefeller
University in New York City. They’re finding that a specific marker, and its called L acidic
carnitine, or L-car is actually low in people with depression. You can study these kind of processes in animal models and if you
take animals, rats or mice that are depressed, they tend
to have lower levels of this. And if you supplement them
with acetyl-l-carnitine then it actual relieves the depression and the depressive symptoms. And there are actually
quite a few clinical trials now underway to look at this which is kind of supplementing something that is naturally in the body and that is deficient
in states of depression and maybe that reflects something at the level of mitochondria. Mitochondrial disfunction
and their inability to efficiently use lipids. And if you can restore
this maybe you can restore the ability of people
to perceive the world in a positive way. So that connects mitochondria
to how we see the world. – [Dave] Its funny acetyl-l-carnitine
or l-acetyl-carnitine, either way different ways
of saying the same thing is very common in well
known antiaging compound going back at least 30 years so we started supplementing that. People are looking to live longer. Before we knew what it was
doing for mitochondria. ‘Cause you can see it
was doing something good but we didn’t understand
all the pathways we know now and now we’re understanding it increases cells ability to burn fat which is why it made people
who are going to be in ketosis nutritionally the way I talk
about in the bulletproof diet maybe going in and going out. You might want to make sure
you have enough l-carnitine which comes from eating red
meat or from supplementing. So having that steak might not
be such a bad idea, at least, if its grass fed and
doesn’t contain antibiotics that also inhibit mitochondrial function. Let’s go there for a minute. Mitochondria, ancient bacteria. Antibiotics kill bacteria. What’s your take on
mitochondria and antibiotics? – [Martin] There’s a lot of
good data that antibiotics can damage mitochondria. So I think we overuse
antibiotics in different ways. You know, in medical practice. We’re really good at
drugging a lot of things and sometimes maybe it’s not necessary. So definitely mitochondria are sensitive, nimbly little organelles and they’re clearly
sensitive to antibiotics. So there’s clearly a connection there. – [Dave] One of the
things that I went through as I was writing my book
Headstrong about mitochondria in the brain was let’s
find a list of the things that are documented in
medical or biological studies to inhibit mitochondrial function and what would happen if
we just did those less? And not avoid them with
perfection and be afraid of them but just if you have a choice, you know, don’t eat the trans fats that
screw up your mitochondria. Don’t eat tons of sugar but also things like antidepressants. A lot of antidepressants really wreck mitochondrial function. And so I’m saying if you’re
going to build a lifestyle around supporting the
mitochondria on the supposition that they’ll support you
back, you should do that. Have you looked at
antidepressants or any other pharmaceuticals that might
have negative affects on mitochondria and thus unforeseen but predictable affects
on moods or energy levels? – [Martin] We haven’t, you
know, directly in our research but other people have. And there’s some people
who believe that a lot of the side affects that antidepressants and other
medication have could be because they’re altering
mitochondria in some way. And people have discovered that there are different receptors on the mitochondria. Receptors for neurotransmitters
like serotonin and receptors for all
sorts of different hormones on the mitochondria including
the cannabinoid receptor. That’s a receptor for
cannabinoids and THC. So we know they’re
sensitive to a lot of things and there’s very little known
relatively speaking about the affect of drugs and
medication on the mitochondria. So there’s definitely a need
to know more about that. – [Dave] You talked about
mitochondrial signaling and as I was digging through
the research, in a way, different and nowhere near
as in depth as you do, it looks like there’s
certainly chemical signaling between mitochondria. There’s actual fusion
where they stick together and swap some stuff. And then fission that
you talked about before. There’s also potentially some… They’re responsive to
electromagnetic fields and they’re also responsive to
light and the generate light. Do you believe that mitochondria
are using anything besides chemical signaling and fusion and fission to do quorum sensing or
any of the other things that mitochondria do to work
as a distributed network of a quadrillion nodes? – [Martin] That’s likely. I’m not aware of any good data. The biochemical community as in general tends to focus on the chemical stuff. You know, the stuff we can
see or measure directly. You know, the biophotons are photons emitted from living
things, living organisms. – [Dave] Those are real though,
in that biophotons do exist. – [Martin] I do believe they exist, yes. They’re really hard to see. – [Dave] Yeah I’ve never
seen a hardcore physicist detecting them like with
real equipment and real labs that aren’t run by
people in tin foil hats. So I’m pretty sure they’re
real but if you said Dave there’s absolutely
no evidence those people are crack smokers, I would reconsider. So you think its likely, alright. – [Martin] I think biophotons
are definitely real. The research on it has
been a little, you know, put to the side because
people have a hard time one, measuring them and two, fitting that into to traditional concept. You know, whatever paradigm
a scientist is raised in is a really powerful thing just like the environment we’re
raised in as a child. And how and why mitochondria
would generate light signals is a little hard to fit into
the traditional paradigm. So that makes these kind of things hard to study and push forward. So there’s not a lot of
research about this compared to chemical signals that
mitochondria generate. Same thing for electromagnetic fields. There’s pretty good data
that electromagnetic fields generated from different sources, biological and nonbiological can affect cells and
probably mitochondria. But, again, there’s very
little known about this which means probably we
should study this more because that would be transformational. – [Dave] Yeah I’ve seen
enough data in each of those that I know somethings going on there but I would be the first
to say I don’t know what. And my background is
computer science and I did a lot of work on cloud computing like the very first cloud
computing early internet stuff. I taught at the University of California so I would consider myself
well grounded in that net work affects and network behavior. And I look at mitochondria as
a giant network in the body. They all have to communicate. There’s algorithms we’re using in crypto that are very similar to what
I believe are mitochondria using for quorum sensing. Quorum sensing is the idea. How do we know what we’re
gonna do as a group here? Its like coding, right? So if you look at aliens who’d be studying the US in the late 1800s. They send signals via the pony express. So all you have to do is just
intercept the stage coach, use your extra aids to
read all the letters and, you know, everything about these weird creatures on the planet. So they get obsessed with snail mail and then the telegraph comes out and then there’s this one
weird pointy eared alien who’s like but there’s gotta
be something else here, see these electrical bursts. And they’re like shut up,
haven’t you read the letters? Like seriously, the letters are where it’s at. And so they keep studying
letters and to this day they’re probable looking
at all this junk mail going how do they get anything
done with this junk mail? But they haven’t figured out that there’s also another signaling network. And when we build the internet we have the data flows here and there’s
a separate signaling network that controls the
controllers for the data. There’s actually three
or four of them depending on what topology going
through and how urgent it is. Whether everything is about to break. So the body has to work
the same way ’cause that’s how large scale
systems always work. So its those other things
that matter the most that I think we’re missing. Now here’s a questions for ya. Given that crazy alien
world I just painted there, if you, as someone who’s well grounded in what you’ve looked at, if you had to bet on one of
those things we talked about outside of chemistry as
being the most important one, where would you place your bet? (Martin laughs) – [Martin] There has to be some form of nonmolecular signaling. I don’t know how far we are into kind of deciphering the whole
alphabet, the whole system the way we’ve decoded the genome. The actg the letters and how that codes for proteins and so on. So I’d say electromagnetic
field and, you know, light a lot of things… There’s a lot of good
physical reasons why you would want to communicate with photons and with electromagnetic fields. Its faster. – [Dave] You look at
light and DMF together? – [Martin] Yeah in a way,
you know, isn’t light? – [Dave] I agree by the way. – [Martin] Light is a form
of electromagnetic field in the same way that
physical stuff is also to some extent, you know, the materialization of some
electromagnetic fields. You know, denser than the usual stuff. So yeah that’s hard to say. The data is a little skim
to make a good prediction but I think we can
confidently predict that there’s more than what we know. (Martin laughs) – [Dave] That’s a very safe and very truthful way of putting it. The light one is very interesting. Whether the lights that the biophotons that mitochondria generate are sending a signal that’s
received by other ones. I would argue that Mother
Nature wouldn’t waste energy creating biophotons if
they weren’t of use. So they’re either of use in
the body or outside the body. So maybe there’s some kind of insect like a mosquito or something
that reads you biophotons and says you’re going to be delicious. I have no idea. (Martin laughs) But I do that I’ve looked
at all of the research on what different wavelengths of
light do to the mitochondria and the melanopsin sensors in your eyes. And I’ve looked at melanopsin mitochondria with Doctor Satchidananda
Panda at the Salk Institute and on a microscope. And one of my companies
TrueDark makes glasses that filter out all of the types of light that we know affect the melanopsin sensors which are studied with extra mitochondria that control the timing system in the body which also controls mitochondrial energy throughout the body. So you put these glasses on and its like noise canceling
headphones for your eyes and you really, really
want to go to sleep. They solved jet lag for me. And its all based on
mitochondrial light biology with the skim data we have. To the point its a patentable thing. But I know there’s so much more and no ones been able
to insert a light sensor between two mitochondria
just listen for a photon that might come every five seconds. And I don’t know if we’ll
ever be able to do that. There has to be something going on there because how else are
they doing what they do. – [Martin] Following up on that, and I think you made a
really good point about the network behavior of
different elements of a system. You know, if you start really
high up you have humans that organize themselves
into communities and people specialize and do different things. And then through
communication with each other, we can do amazing things. We can build building,
build new companies, universities and so on. And then we just get better
but through the interactions of the units, of the people. The same thing is true if
you look inside a human body. You have different parts. There’s a brain, there’s
a heart, there are lungs by themselves. You know, the brain doesn’t do anything, the heart doesn’t do anything, the liver doesn’t do anything. But put them together, connect them through the circulatory system. You know, blood vessels
and nerves and everything. And then all of a sudden,
you know, there’s beautiful life that emerges from this. And this is all thanks to
the network connectivity between the different parts. And we thing the same thing is happening at the level of mitochondria. And a cool example of that might be some very important hormones in the body that I think everyone has heard about. These are the sex hormones,
testosterone, estrogen. And then the stress
hormones like cortisol. These hormones, all of them, are made inside of mitochondria. – [Dave] That is something that
I wrote about in Headstrong and no one knows. You’re listening to this,
its not just your balls and other various sex organs
making your testosterone. It is subcellular components
distributed throughout your body and you have
more of those in your brain and your heart than anywhere else. So now we know mitochondria
are making sex hormones and energy hormones. I don’t remember. Do they make thyroid hormone too or do they just respond to it? – [Martin] They respond to it. I don’t know that thyroid
is made in the mitochondria. – [Dave] I don’t believe
it is but I could be wrong. And the thyroid controls general
energy levels in the body but what tells the mitochondria make more testosterone versus less? – [Martin] That’s a good question. – [Dave] Nobody knows that I’m aware of but if you can solve that problem, you’re gonna put a lot of drug
companies out of business. (Martin laughs) This is unlocking one of the
basic keys to being human is why do your subcellular
components not do what you want them to do, not do
what’s in your best interest. They’re doing it for a reason. – [Martin] And thinking about it from an evolutionary perspective. Why would you put such an
important process, you know, that regulates sex,
gender, the sex hormones, and the stress hormones that basically can wake you up in the morning. And that’s in part what cortisol does. To place these through evolution. Why would you place these
in the mitochondria? And so there’s a really
deep connection there between those large scale
whole body regulation of energy and physiological
functions in the mitochondria. The mitochondria can
sustain that energy demand that would arise from
developing and being masculine or feminine or responding to stress. You better not secrete those hormones. So there’s gotta be a link there. What’s interesting is that mitochondria in the
adrenal gland, for example, which are little glands
on top of the kidneys or mitochondria in the testes that would make the
testosterone or mitochondria in the ovaries that
would make the estrogen. So these mitochondria
produce the hormones. And then you have the
mitochondria in the brain that have receptors for these hormones. So you can see the whole
organism as a network of mitochondria communicating
with some mitochondria generating a signal, other
mitochondria being the receiver of those signals. So its a bit of a mitocentric world view. But to some extent I think
that makes a lot of sense biologically and conceptually. – [Dave] Its the only thing I can find that matches everything
I knew about eastern and western practices and also
just as a design engineer. The reason the internets
built the way it is, is so no one can break it. Its a highly distributed system
that has emergent behaviors. So if you cut off part of the internet, the rest of it can live. But if the internet lived
in one big computer, you know, underneath the NSA
or the Pentagon or somewhere, you could blow up that
computer conceivably and then take out all the
internet across the world. DARPA who created the
internet, created it to be a fault tolerant distributed system and I think Mother Nature would follow the similar design algorithm, just saying. What if your body was a
fault tolerant system? And not only that, if you believe as I do that the mitochondria
are the puppet masters. They’re the ones that are
telling your body what to do. They’re the ones reading the environment on a second by second bases. They’re the ones with the
gateways to epigenetics. Well if you’re in charge,
you wouldn’t wanna centralize control outside of
something you can control. So I that they’re doing that
because those little bastards don’t wanna let go. (Martin laughs) Make sense? – [Martin] Yeah I think so. – [Dave] I could also just be
crazy but I don’t think so. When you put on your
futurist hat, you know, you’ve had 10 years of
really digging on these. You work with some of
the best and brightest in the field of mitochondria. What do you think we’re going to discover over the next 10 years? Like where’s the field going? – [Martin] I think our
understanding of biology and the role of energetics bioenergetics is going
to expand such that, you know, we’re forced
to develop new approaches to study these processes. And maybe through integration, we talked about reductionism and reduction versus integration putting
the pieces back together. I think that’s going
to become more common. A more common thing to do in the sciences and then eventually once
we integrate things enough and we have a perspective
that’s inspired by bioenergetic principles, we’ll start to have therapies and approaches that we
can use to sustain health. I think there’s not enough
thinking and research about that. You know, what makes a person healthy and what sustains that? I know you’ve written a lot about that. And so not only to treat disease
when the system has failed, you know, after years of disregulation but really understand those
mechanisms of regulation of health and ways to promote that in nondestructive and noninhibitory way. I think in the biological
sciences, we’ll move more towards integration and that will lead
to new and better approaches to sustain peoples health
and make people age better. Maybe also to promote human development. ‘Cause if people are
healthier and happier, good things tend to happen. You have more energy
to devote to creativity and developing greater things. – [Dave] Can I test out one of my core behavioral theories on you? I want you to poke
holes in it if its wrong ’cause you know a lot more
about this stuff than I do. I like to pretend I’m just a
bacteria floating on the ocean. I do this a lot at night. I don’t really. But if you pretend that that’s it, you don’t have a lot of processing power. You don’t have a lot of memory. So you must repeat basic algorithms that are gonna keep you alive, right? The number one most important algorithm is runaway from, kill, or
hide from scary things because they’re going to eat you right now and game over you lost. So that would have to be
weighted most heavily. The second thing you have
to do is eat everything because if you don’t eat
everything, starvation will take you out within a day or a
month or however long it takes your species to starve. The third thing you’d
have to do is have sex with everything else because
if you don’t reproduce the species, then its game
over in one generation. And this is the algorithm of life whether you’re a tree,
whether you’re a slug, or whether you’re a human. And if you think about it, everything you’ve ever
done that you’re ashamed of is one of those three behaviors, right? (Martin laughs) And they’re all mitochondrial behaviors. Its that ingrained into us. There’s a quadrillion plus
of these little bastards telling us to run that
program over and over and when you repeat this
a quadrillion times. So I think this is where all
the bad stuff we do comes from. But the saving grace,
which you reminded me of with your comment, is that
there’s a fourth f word. If we have fight, feed,
and the other f word. The fourth one is friend. So what do bacteria do? They form biofilms, they
specialize, they create a community they support each other, and they therefore grow better as a species. And that’s the other thing that humans do. We also form communities and friends and we support other people. But if you’re constantly
reacting to stress, you’re starving, and you never get any, you’re probably not gonna be that friendly to the people around you. You’re not gonna make everything nice. What this means though is that we’re wired to be nice to other people
when our basic needs are met. Its built in as our desire
to protect ourselves. So a lot of my work, a lot of
the reasons I do everything I’m doing in the world are
because of that fourth f, right? I actually think that’s our core nature. Do you buy that? – [Martin] I don’t know. You know, there’s this I’m
not sure if its a debate but whether we’re the
most evolved creature on the planet or not. In some way, you know,
we’re very destructive and not so evolved. In another I think
there is something in us that is more developed than in others and I really think this
could not have happened without mitochondria and
without the symbiosis. What makes us truly unique,
I think, is the ability of maybe not the ability. Whatever emerged from bringing
this ancient oxygen consuming bacteria with this other
cell that couldn’t use oxygen and together they really created something that’s entirely different. By themselves, the little
oxygen consuming bacteria and the other cell that
didn’t have mitochondria and couldn’t evolve complexity
and multicellular life. By themselves, I think, they were these first three things that you mentioned. The fight, the feed, and the reproducing. But I think when they
came together, something very new, very different happened. And I’m not sure exactly how
consciousness fit into this but it does probably. And now we have the ability to not just be those three things and be driven by those three things but actually use those things. The image that comes to
mind is the Maslow Pyramid where you have the
basic need at the bottom and only when you have
these set, only when you’re not hungry and you’re sufficiently
housed and all of that, you can develop the higher capacities. So you know, we have those abilities. I tend to put more weight on that and I do agree that this
ability that we have to connect with each other and to work as communities and, you know, that’s true at every level of biological organization. When things work together, they
make bigger things possible. And I think somehow, the
way we evolve and all of the complex life forms evolve arose from this union and this symbiosis of the mitochondria and
the rest of the cells. I see what you mean. I’m not sure I see this as
a driver of human behavior but I do think that there’s more to us and it can become detracted
when the mitochondria are not fed properly. So I would put basic energetic
needs and mitochondrial needs at the bottom of the pyramid. – [Dave] Got it. I like that view. And I’ve got one more
question for you, Martin. I’ve been running an anti aging nonprofit group for 20 years based
on functional medicine and these called orthomolecular
medicine before that and looking at all the things we can do to extend human life. And clearly mitochondrial problems are at least one of the
big five or seven theories of aging, however you look at it. And I have a number. I think its achievable
for me to live that long assuming a truck doesn’t
fall out of the sky on me or something like that. And its much larger than
most peoples number. How long do you think you can
live if you do things right? – [Martin] I’m not sure i’d have the same number for everyone. – [Dave] I mean you. – [Martin] Oh me? (Martin laughs) – [Dave] Yeah its gonna be
different for everyone of course. – [Martin] 100 seems like a good number. – [Dave] 100 seems like a good number? So you don’t aim high? ’cause I mean there are
people who have made 120 that we know of today, 122 at least. Even with all your mitochondria knowledge, your ability to manipulate those things whether its with happiness
or something else and all the other stuff. You’re still sticking to
about what we can do today? What are you? You must be like 35ish or something. – [Martin] 33. – [Dave] 33 okay. So then you got another 65 years, you don’t think any
progress is gonna happen that’s gonna give you at least
five years more than 100? (Martin laughs) – [Martin] Well I guess
the average lifespan now is what 80 something in the US? – [Dave] 87ish. – [Martin] And its actually going down. – [Dave] Right but are you average? I mean you’re not average. Number one you’re on Bulletproof Radio which makes you a game changer. I mean I’m just kidding. But seriously, you’re
probably far from average. You’re an academic and those numbers include people who have no access to health care. People who are at many different levels of the socioeconomic spectrum,
people who are in prison. I mean that is an average average. I would guess that you’re
probably above average unless you do really dumb
things like start smoking. – [Martin] So you know 100
sounds like a good number and maybe the reason I’m
not aiming so high is because well first, I
think its a cool number. (both laugh) You know, I do believe
in the cycle of life and I’m not sure if I can
stick around for 200 years. Even if I knew some
things that were useful. I would tend to think that everything gets recycled. You see leaves on a tree, whole trees they don’t live forever even though they do good things. I hope I can do good things and then pass on good stuff to other people and then leave some
resources for younger crops. – [Dave] Yeah that’s a beautiful answer. So you’ll quit when you’ve
stopped adding value. Me too, by the way. I just hope to be adding value. My numbers 180. – [Martin] 180 okay. – [Dave] And I’m just saying
look we can do 120 today and that’s without any knowledge
of mitochondria biology or any of the other
anti aging technologies. And I just somehow believe
that over the next 100 years, 120 years if we can’t get
another 50% in lifespan over a 120 years. Look what we did 120 years ago. We didn’t have antibiotics, we didn’t even understand
washing our hands before surgery 120 years ago. For gods sake if we
can’t do better than that over the next 120 years
then dammit I’ll be dead. But anyway, that’s why that number is 50% human progress, 50% I’m
gonna do the right things now based on everything we know. At least that I know that we know. Maybe I’m wrong but
I’m happy to die trying and like you said, ill get out of the way
if I stop being useful. (Martin laughs) Martin, thanks for your work thanks for being on the show. I think that you’re
working on one of the most fundamentally important pieces
of what it is to be a human in your lab. It is really important work you’re doing and I just wanna say thanks
for continuing to do the work and asking the really hard questions. I think you’re gonna uncover some things about the human condition
that are not well known, not well understood and
will impact everyone who hears this interview. – [Martin] Well thank you. Its been a real fun and
its a fun journey, its very stimulating and I hope we
learn something useful from it. – [Dave] The odds are high. You’re research is at Picardlab.org. Picardlab.org and I don’t think its a
high volume website with cashing and all so if after the show, your website gets really
slow for a day or two, that’s alright. And if you guys Google
Martin Picard mitochondria, you’ll find all sorts of papers including some of the most seminal
ones in the field. Including one of my favorites which is called something
like stress a mitochondrial or a bioenergetic view of mitochondria. I’m forgetting the name of the study now. – [Martin] An Energetic View of Stress. – [Dave] Thank you. An Energetic View of Stress. I knew you’d know it. And do you wanna look at what stress is at a subcellular level, this guy knows and it blows away the
stuff that we’ve heard about stress from the
other researchers of stress who were looking at it from the top down. This is bottoms up stress. What happens at the foundation of you. So this stuff matters greatly and I’m so happy we go to talk about it and share it with hundreds
of thousands of people. – [Martin] Thank you. – [Dave] If you liked today’s
episode, you know what to do. Go out there and upgrade
your mitochondria. You know, like go for a
walk, take a cold shower. (laughs) And the other things I talked about. Get a little sunshine, stuff
that makes you feel good because if you believe that theory that we talked about on the show today that when you take care
of your mitochondria, you might be wired to be basically a nicer, kinder human being. I think its actually true. And one of the things that
nice, kind human beings do is always leave reviews for
authors like me on Amazon. So if you liked any of my
books, especially Game Changers, go to Amazon and just
take 10 seconds to leave hopefully a 5 star review so other people can find the book. I’m watching those reviews
every day and I read what you type. So if my work has helped you,
helped you change your life, let me know and let others know. Thank you. (intense music)

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