PP 228: Steven Masley, CEO, Physician, Nutritionist and Author of The Better Brain Solution

“Somebody who eats one cup of green leafy vegetables a day has a brain that’s 11 years younger than someone who doesn’t.”

Dr. Masley and his team research and study the lifestyle choices which can improve our brain performance and productivity.

We chat about my own struggles with brain fog stemming from thyroid issues and sleep deprivation, as well as about how food, nutrients, activities, stress and toxins affect our performance.

The Better Brain Solution - @stevenmasley & @thekimsutton discuss brain function: http://www.thekimsutton.com/pp228Click To Tweet

Resources Mentioned

Dr. Masley’s Book – The Better Brain Solution
The Brain Symptom Score Quiz — Kim’s score was 30%!!!!

Episode Transcription

KIM: Welcome back to another episode of Positive Productivity. This is your host Kim Sutton. And I’m thrilled today to introduce you to Dr. Steven Masley. Dr. Masley is a CEO, Physician, Nutritionist, and Author. And is the author of The Better Brain Solution: How to Start Now–at Any Age– to Reverse and Prevent Insulin Resistance of the Brain, Sharpen Cognitive Function, and Avoid Memory Loss. Dr. Masley, thank you so much for joining us today. I’m thrilled to have this conversation with you.

STEVEN: Hey, Kim I’m really happy to be here with you today.

KIM: Dr. Masley, how did you get into doing what you do today, and being a doctor actually. Could you take us back to the beginning?

STEVEN: Yeah. I had a different – start to be a doctor than most folks. My dad was a surgeon and he was at the hospital all the time. So as a kid, I went to see my dad. I would, I couldn’t drive a car yet, and so I could ride my bike. So I’d ride my bike to the hospital. He was either usually in surgery, or the ICU. And if he was in surgery I have to put on scrubs, I had to scrub up, put on my, you know, blue outfit with a mask, and hat, and go in and use it. And I end up doing a stitch or something. I’m the patient. And then I could talk to my dad. Or if he was in the ICU Intensive Care Unit, I would end up having to do something there with the patient. I mean, so it was, unfortunately today, that’s totally illegal. Nobody would allow children to run around in a hospital anymore.

KIM: Oh my God!

STEVEN: But in the 60’s –

KIM:  You had me thinking about my kids in there. I was thinking: “No no”.

STEVEN: No. I would hope not. But in the 1960’s, if your dad was like the head of the hospital anything went. So I grew up thinking people went to the hospital, I mean, this is a child’s perspective, put it that way. I thought people went to a hospital to be tortured. I mean, people, you know, they revered my father ‘coz he was a lifesaver. But I thought of what we did to people in the hospital is pretty gruesome in terms of operating on them, and the recovery from that, and everything else. So I grew up wishing I could be a doctor that kept people out of the hospital. And that’s really been my life’s mission. And fortunately, I now work in a clinic where we really focus on aging, and how do you improve your health and your productivity, how do we assess how you’re aging, and how to do a better job. So it’s really a total transformation from the old style health care we knew in the past.

KIM: So that leads me to think, how with the exception of removing my five children and my eight cats from my life to slow down the aging process?

STEVEN: I think you could have all those children and the cats and not have – that’s not going to accelerate the aging process.

KIM: What would you recommend for entrepreneurs, especially on how to be mentally sharper and age healthier and be better versions of ourselves mentally and physically.

STEVEN: Well, that’s really what I do in my clinics. I have run an Optimal Health Center in St. Petersburg Florida. And we see patients from all over the country. And we assess, how are people aging. We do about 100 markers of age. And we look at that, with their nutritional intake, and the food they eat, and their fitness, and activity, and their stress management strategies. And we’ve actually published on this quite a bit.

So we measure people’s cognitive performance brain function with computerized cognitive testing. And we can see how people’s brain processing speed and memory function. And we’ve actually published studies on what predicts if you’re getting sharper, quicker – more productive, or if you’re feeling sluggish and have brain fog. So we know what kind of lifestyle choices can make your brain better and which make it worse. And really that’s gonna – I have a five step program that really helps people transform their lives to, not just feel better but literally to turn back the clock on aging improve many aspects of their health.

KIM: I’m sorry I don’t mean to joke, but if that could take away gray hairs too, that would be so awesome.

STEVEN: No. Yeah. I don’t. So I don’t know how to get rid of gray hair.

KIM: Okay. So just leave it to dye or just let it be.

STEVEN: Yeah. Some natural non toxic hair dye would be a way to go.

KIM: I am no stranger to brain fog Dr. Masley. I’ve had hypothyroidism since birth, so I know what it’s like to not take my medication. I’ve been through that a couple of times.

STEVEN: Wow. Yeah. There, that’s one of the causes right there that’s something we should never miss.

KIM: Right.

STEVEN: Is the abnormal thyroid function.

KIM: And then, I’ve also gone through two very distinct periods in my life where I didn’t really sleep. My sleep would be limited to two to four hours at night, for way too long periods of time. And by way too long periods of time, I mean, both times that I did this to myself. I was doing it to myself for about two years. So combined with the hypothyroidism, I wasn’t sleeping. So, as you can imagine, brain fog during both of those periods of my life was ridiculously present. I mean, it would have been, no school for the day had it been the actual, you know, weather occurrence here in Ohio. What other factors you see leading to brain fog?

STEVEN: Well, sleep is definitely one of them. Thyroid function is another. So you’ve mentioned those two but the food you eat has a huge impact. You can choose foods that – worsen your blood sugar control and that’s really adversely impacting cognitive brain performance. So that would be one.

Number two would be, Nutrients. There’s specific nutrients to help your brain function. And when you’re deficient, it makes you more sluggish. So, it’s just kind of like, ridiculous silly to be grossly nutritional efficient when you could easily avoid that. Three is physical activity. Both and you mentioned, I think, earlier on mental activity. So, both physical and mental activities improve our brain processing speed. Four would be stress management. That if you’re stressed out, and frazzled, not sleeping enough. Then your cortisol levels go up, you’ll literally make your brain shrink. I mean, structurally your brain will shrink if you don’t take steps to proactively manage your stress.

I don’t expect people to get rid of their stress. I mean, most of my patients are like Presidents, company CEO’s, CFO’s. They’re stressed. I mean, they travel a lot. They’ve got a lot of responsibility but they can do take things that make them more productive that don’t take that much time. Like 10 minutes a day. And really make a difference with meditation or using an app like Heart Math. Getting enough sleep would be really important. And then the fifth one is, there are toxins that impact the brain, that are pretty easy to avoid and that also. So there’s five steps you can take that clearly improve your brain health.

KIM: I am really intrigued by the toxins and by the diet. Because, well, I’m curious about what the toxins are. And I’m curious about what some of the diet changes are, that we could be making right now that would improve brain function.

STEVEN: So, starting with toxins. I’d probably put one of the more common ones, Mercury first. About a third of my patients have elevated mercuries. In about 10% of people have their mercury high enough, it actually really adverses the effect their brain performance in their brain processing speed and their memory.

KIM: Where does that come from?

STEVEN: So, when we think about mercury. Think about big mouth fish like, tuna, grouper, snapper, bass, swordfish. If you’re eating those, more than three or four times a month, there’s probably a 30% chance you have elevated mercury. So one, you can eat them less often, or two, you could check your mercury and see if it’s up. And if it’s up, then do something about it. Like cut them out. So, mercury is really common. And ,you know, a lot of people eat a lot of tuna. And tuna is one of the probably the biggest sources. So that’s – something that’s consider.

KIM: Wow, I never knew that about tuna.

STEVEN: So another one would be it brain toxin is nitrosamines. And that’s what’s in sandwich meats like, sausage, and pepperoni, or bacon, and ham. They sprinkle these nitrates on the food to extend their shelf life and they last a lot longer that way. And then they make more profit for the company selling them. The problem is we’ve – one, we’ve known that nitrosamines increase cancer risk for some time. That’s actually pretty well established. But more recently, we’ve discovered that they adversely affect blood sugar control and they are neurotoxic, so, you know, like eating bacon. If it’s sprinkled on nitrosamines that’s probably most bacon – really could be harmful to your brain. So if someone wanted to eat something like that, like a hot dog, or bratwurst, or bacon. They should be buying organic pasture raised nitrosamine free bacon and it’s readily out there. You can go buy this stuff. You just, you know, a lot more specific. So, you know, in the better brained solution, my book, we talk a lot about those talks. And so, like mercury and nitrosamines are just examples of common toxins that can adversely affect your brain. And actually, are pretty easy to avoid.

KIM: You got me mind blown. No pun intended here. By having all my kids, you know, especially the little ones who, we didn’t know any better. We raised them on mac and cheese and hot dogs. Right? I didn’t realize that the hot dogs could be impacting their brains and my brain. Wow.

STEVEN: Oh yeah. Yeah. So I would definitely – with children, I mean, I even think their brains are probably more delicate. So I’d be more concerned about making sure they’re getting clean sources. Now, when you’re talking about like, turkey, or chicken, you know. Usually on a regular Turkey there’s nothing there ‘coz it’s not processed, right? Ideally, it would be organically race caged free chicken or turkey. But at least if you just buy regular chicken breasts they’re not sprinkling nitrosamines on them. They only do that with like, the processed meat, sandwich meats, deli meats, bacon. Those kind of things.

KIM: Which is actually something else that we tend to have a lot in our house, especially with the older school age kids taking their lunches to school, or my husband taking, you know, lunch meat sandwiches to work. And he’s a big fan of bacon on the weekends. So, I’m thinking about –

STEVEN: So just make sure you’re buying clean better quality products and then they’d be fine.

KIM: Are there any other dietary suggestions that you would have? Because I know especially for me as a busy mom entrepreneur, diet tends to be, now that I’ve got sleep under control, diet is probably the biggest sacrifice.

STEVEN: Kim, there are foods that we know will improve your brain performance. I mean, green leafy vegetables. This is kind of an amazing little fact, ‘coz somebody who eats one cup of greenleaves a day, their brain on average is 11 years younger than someone who doesn’t. 11 years. I mean, that’s a lot from just a cup of greens. You know, broccoli, green beans, kale, spinach. A cup a day, your brain’s 11 years younger. I mean, that’s kind of amazing that all the colorful vegetables are really good, because plant pigments are really good for your brain. They protected basically from rusting, we can say in a simpler way.

So like, beets, or carrots, you know, everything colorful is really good but especially greenleaves. These berries and cherries actually have been shown to really help protect your brain. And people have better brain performance when they eat them. Dark chocolate and cocoa, not milk chocolate but, you know, a 74% dark. That’s actually been shown to improve brain performance in people on testing. And most people like dark chocolate so that’s not that, you know. Nuts. We know that when people eat more nuts their brain actually improves because you need smart fats for your brain. They did this study and they compared a low fat diet with a smart fat diet, where they gave them either more nuts or more olive oil. And those who got more olive oil or more nuts, their brain cognitive function improved and they had less cognitive decline. Compared to people who were on the low fat diet and had accelerated cognitive decline and their memory got worse.

KIM: Wow.

STEVEN: So smart fats. You don’t want to be in a low fat diet, you want smart fat, so you want avocado. And avocado oil to cook with, an extra virgin olive oil for salads ,and drislane, and nuts, and seafood. We know that when you eat cold water fish like, wild salmon, sardines, herring, sole, mussels, oysters. Those long chain fats in that cold water seafood is really good for your brain. So there’s another food that’s, you know ,brain food.

So definitely there’s foods that you could add that would help improve your brain performance and function. And that’s really a big part of the better brain solution. I wanna make it easy. How can we help people pick? And here’s the goal, pick the foods you like. If you like blueberries, then please eat them. And they can be fresh or frozen, whichever is more convenient for you. Obviously, frozen is a lot cheaper and you put them in smoothies. So that’s just an idea of foods that we could add that are really good for our brain.

KIM: Dr. Masley, you are, I don’t even know how to say it. I think I need to get more green leafy vegetables. I haven’t yet done my grocery shopping for tonight’s dinner. And you have just impacted what we will be eating tonight and for a long time to come. And we’re only 15 minutes-16 minutes into this conversation. So, thank you. I had no idea how much diet could impact, I knew about how it could affect her heart and clogging our arteries and all that. But I didn’t realize how much I had to do with our brain and I have a feeling that a lot of people don’t.

STEVEN: Well, isn’t that amazing ‘coz a lot of people know like, an elevated blood sugar sugar. If they eat sugar, they think: “Okay, this is bad for my heart and it might give me diabetes, right?” So I think that’s pretty well accepted but very few people realize the number one cause for a decrease in cognitive function, cognitive decline, decreased brain processing speed, like productivity, is sugar. I mean, who would have thought of that several years ago. Almost nobody. But now we realize the number one cause for accelerated memory loss, and cognitive decline, and decreased productivity is people eating too much sugar. So either sugar as in table sugar, or processed food, or even something that’s acts just like sugar in your bloodstream, which would be flour. So if you grind up, you know, like grain into flour you get the – so anything with flour or sugar that we consume is probably the worst thing we can do. And that’s the number one cause for cognitive decline today. And that’s part of the reason that we have memory loss right now, is increasing at epidemic proportions. I mean, the rate of Alzheimer’s is supposed to double in the next 13 years. Double. That’s a lot. And it’s because we’re eating so much sugar, more sugar, and more flour than ever before.

KIM: Just last week my husband came home with this big two pound bag of my favorite candy. Sour watermelons, in case you’re wondering. But I think based upon – I also love avocados. And it’s coincidentally at my grocery, the bulk candy section is right next to the fresh produce, so from now on I’m gonna have to share this episode with him, definitely. He can bypass the sour watermelons and go over and get me, you know, a half dozen avocados which I understand will cost more.

STEVEN: Yeah. Well, I actually like sour watermelon candy too, but I don’t eat it. I mean, but we’re primed to like that. You know, for 100000 years, we were always fighting against famine. And we are primed to like sugar to give us a boost of extra calories, so we could store them away when that next famine hit. But the reality is, we don’t have famine in US anymore, or in Canada, or in Western Europe, or in Australia either. And without famine, this extra sugar becomes toxic. And I don’t think most people realize that eating an extra sugar and flour was the number one cause for the – Alzheimer’s epidemic we’re experiencing today.

KIM: I actually had gestational diabetes to my last two pregnancies with my twins and also with my four year old daughter. And what I’ve noticed since then is that when I eat carbs too late in the day, my feet get really hot and I become very agitated. And I’ve never, I’ve never find a correlation between my feet getting hot.

STEVEN: Okay. Well, but you just gave me, if you had gestational diabetes then you’re much more likely to get diabetes than the average person. You’re much more likely to be insulin resistance and you’re far more likely when you have sugar to decrease your brain performance. If I can explain this, just, this is I think to me fascinating, that when we eat too much sugar like, say you’ve got that pound of candy and you were just munching down throughout the day, several days in a row. Your insulin is the hormone, that’s the storage hormone, it’s gonna push all of that sugar into your cells to store its energy protecting you from the next famine, right?

KIM: Right.

STEVEN: And when your cells are full because you filled the mop, your cells become insulin resistant. But here’s the irony, at the point, you’re insulin resistant in your blood sugars going up and your gaining body fat. At that point, your brain cells are completely – they become unable to use the sugar as energy in your bloodstream so at that point, your brain is sugar loaded. And you’re growing fat is the point, that your brain shuts down. It’s like, when we do a functional MRI, we scan someone’s brain and we measure their glucose, a PET scan, you know, one of these. 2 or $3000 expensive scans. And we look at brain activity, how much sugar in the brain cells utilize in kinda measuring your miles per hour burn on in brain terms. And then you compare it and it would light up like a Christmas tree in a normal person. It would be bright because you’re burning all that energy when you’re problem solving. But when you have insulin resistance, you’ve saturated all your tissues with sugar. You’re now, your insulin resistant to that message. Your brain looks totally quiet. It looks like a dark hole in the sky because no activity is going off in brain cells. Or not just dysfunctional causing brain fog but they’re also shrinking. And over time gradually dying.

So it’s pretty amazing to think, the same thing that makes us fat and as we’re stuffing ourselves, shuts our brain down and cuts off our productivity and function at the same time.

KIM:  I am so sorry. I’m not trying to make a joke out of this but my son, my 12 year old and I have been watching The Walking Dead. And in a recent episode , they were showing the brain scan of one of the zombies and it sounds literally like I could be making myself a zombie by eating the sugar.

STEVEN:  The wrong food. So, yeah, instead of those green leafy’s, the dark chocolate, and the berries, and cherries, and salmon, and, you know, all those nuts and olive oil. And, you know, instead of all those wonderful things and avocado. Yeah, that would make your brain light up like a Christmas tree, increase your productivity, you’d get more done, you feel better, your health is better. We all know it’s good for our heart, and our arteries, and good for preventing diabetes. But who thought, I mean, until recently no one really thought that it would impact your brain, and your ability to work, and think, and function on a daily basis.

KIM: Wow.

STEVEN: It’s pretty startling.

KIM: Okay. That section, here I comes. Same with you green leafy vegetables. My kids, it’s gonna be a revolt in my house tonight. Neighbors will want to steer clear but, yeah. I am so excited, I’m actually really excited. And I have to give one more confession to you Dr. Masley which I’ve already shared with some listeners. Is that, I actually got a Nutri Ninja last summer because I was planning on juicing.

STEVEN: Oh cool.

KIM: However lately my 12 year old son has been using it to make iced coffee complete with sugar and cream for me. He’s been using it as a shake.

STEVEN: But, you know, some of those you can come out like, fruit in and you get like a smoothie out of them.

KIM: Oh! Absolutely and that’s what we should have been using it for.But it’s like been –

STEVEN: Yeah and like, you can throw in frozen blueberries, and frozen cherries and put it with almond milk. I mean, you can even, once you do like, you know, protein and blueberries and cherries, you could even throw in some greens and nobody would even be able to taste them. So if you really, I mean, there are people out there who told me I can’t stand greens. Are you kidding? But they wouldn’t even know you added, if you put it in a smoothie with blueberries and cherries.

KIM: Oh no! My kids absolutely loved it. And it’s just been seriously a lazy excuse. I have to walk right next to the produce section to get to any section in the store. And so many groceries are just like this, where we have to walk through the good healthy foods to get to, pardon my mouth, but the crap that we’re feeding ourselves and it’s time to change that if they haven’t –

STEVEN: Well, that’s the whole point a better brain solution. How do you make it easy for people to improve their brain? I mean, who doesn’t want a sharper, quicker, less forgetful, more productive brain. Doesn’t matter what your age. We all should want that and should be doing more to achieve it.

KIM: Oh definitely. Listeners by the way, for show notes and a transcripted and links to where you can find Dr. Masley PP 2 2 8. And you’ll be able to find all the links right there. Dr. Masley, you’ve just, I’ve already said it three or four times and it’s not due to lack of forgetfulness but I can see now that in a few years if I continue on the way that I’m going right now, it could definitely – you’ve blown my mind. So I just want to thank you and I know listeners are probably feeling the same way. On that note, where – actually I’d love for you, before I ask you where listeners can find you. Can you talk a little bit more about the Better Brain Solution and where listeners will be able to find it?

STEVEN: Well, it comes out on January 2nd. So where at, and wherever books are sold on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million. Anywhere that you’ve got books you can find a Better Brain Solution. And if they want more information from me. They can always welcome to come to my Website at Drmasley.com D-R M-A-S-L-E-Y . Just one word. And I’ve got some for your listeners, I’ve got followers, I’ve got a couple free gifts. They can take my brain quiz and say: “Hey, how’s your brain doing?” Try it. It only takes like 90 sec. 60-90 seconds. And you can answer these 10 quick questions and get an idea of how’s your brain performing. And when you get the results, I have an extra bonus when you get the results. And that’s my Better Brain shopping guide. What are the true foods you should eat every day. And what are the 12 foods you should absolutely avoid. So you get that as a bonus to go through with taking the quiz Drmasley.com

KIM: Listeners, just because I’m curious and I actually haven’t taken this quiz yet, I’m going to take the quiz as soon as we’re finished recording here and I will post my results, so you can see that I’ve actually done it in the show notes. Because I’m very intrigued and I want you to be too. So again that’s it Drmasley.com. I’ll have a link to that in the show notes which again, you can find at TheKimSutton.com/PP228. Dr. Masley, this has been absolutely amazing. I know we can reach you at Drmasley.com. Is there anywhere else online that we can connect with you?

STEVEN: On Facebook, Dr. Masley.

KIM: Great.

STEVEN: So Dr. Masley on Facebook. We post regularly or on our Website, we do a weekly blog. I tried to do a weekly blog and send out some really good content in a variety of topics. How do you improve your health and get younger trimmer fitter, mentally sharper, prevent memory loss, prevent heart disease and feel fantastic, even enhance your romantic life. So all possible with the right program.

KIM: That will be the way to get my husband to convert his diet.

STEVEN: There you go. For women and men. Both women and men. Clearly, we’ve known and we’ve shown this that when you improve your circulation through a program like mine, not only is it good for your heart it’s clearly good for your romantic function for both men and women. Seems more intuitive with guys, but women also get very similar benefits. So – yes, I have no scruples, whatever it’ll take to motivate someone to a healthier life. I want to help them get there.

KIM: Oh yeah. Definitely. Again Dr. Masley, thank you so much for joining us today. This has been absolutely fantastic. Do you have a parting piece of advice or a golden nugget that you can offer to listeners.

STEVEN: Thank you so much for inviting me. I really appreciate it. And my parting advice would be not to wait. Human nature, I think we procrastinate till something happens. With your brain that’s a really bad idea because by the time you have symptoms of memory loss, that means your brain has already shrunk.

You don’t want your brain to shrink. Instead of having a shrunken brain. I would rather you have an expanding brain. The brain that’s getting sharper, and quicker, and lighting up more like a Christmas with full 110% activity. So take the five steps to having a better brain, all the better brain solution, so that you can feel fantastic. And thank you so much for your time with me today.