The Nutritional Prescription: Enhancing Immunity with Dr. Rod Mulgan
Transcribed using AI transcription; errors may occur. Contact Mikki for clarification
Welcome, hi, I'm Mikki and this is Mikkipedia, where I sit down and chat to doctors, professors, athletes, practitioners and experts in their fields related to health, nutrition, fitness and wellbeing and I'm delighted that you're here.
Hey everyone, it's Mikki here. You're listening to Mikkipedia, and this week on the podcast, I speak to Dr. Roderick Mulgan. In fact, he's more than a doctor. He is also a lawyer and an author. And we discuss all about preventative medicine. So we talk about the modern diet. It's devoid of nutrients that help support immunity. And this was the basis of Dr. Mulgan's most recent book.
We also discussed the term hidden hunger, how this relates to topsoil and the nutritional content of our foods. We delve into gut related health, another area of interest for Dr. Mulgan, and we talk about so much more. Such a good conversation. And I came across Dr. Roderick Mulgan in the Kia Ora Magazine actually, when I was flying down to Dunedin. And I was fascinated by his story.
because he is a lawyer that then went back to medical school to train as a medical doctor. So he is an aged care doctor and he's had a long held interest in preventative medicine with a research focus on inflammation, longevity, immunity and the role of functional foods. He has been a doctor for over a quarter of a century and is a fellow of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners. And over the last decade,
Dr Mulgan has developed a multi-doctor practice that services aged care facilities. His aged care work led to an interest in the effect of lifestyle choices on wellbeing and in particular, which is unusual amongst mainstream doctors, the evidence that novel foods and supplements promote long-term health. This led him to consider how the major debilitating diseases of middle and later years evolve and what can be done about them.
He is the author of three books related to these topics. His most recent one is Build Your Immunity for Life, and that examines the role of lifestyle and diet in boosting immunity and protecting against infection. And he's also the author of The Internal Flame, New Insights into Silent Inflammation, and Eat Yourself Healthy. In addition to all of this, Dr. Mulgan is a practicing lawyer at Rubicon Chambers, and we do talk about how he
juggles these two demanding careers. So I think anyone that has an interest in preventative medicine is really going to love this interview. And I have got links to where you can find Dr Morgan in the show notes, his LinkedIn profile and also links to two of his books. Just before we crack on into the interview though, I'd just like to remind you that the best way to support the podcast is to hit subscribe.
on your favorite podcast listening platform because that increases the visibility of micropedia out there and amongst the thousands of other podcasts that anyone can choose to listen to. So the more that you subscribe and even leave a five star review, the more visible micropedia is out there and the more that other people get to learn from the guests I have on the show like Dr. Roderick Mogan. Alright team, please enjoy this interview.
Thank you so much for your time this afternoon to sit down and chat to me about topics which I'm super interested in and obviously you are too. And I have to say when I saw your books and some articles and then read your bio background, it was really interesting to me because you're a doctor and a lawyer and I was just really interested to.
understand how you got to where you are now in your sort of career path and how that looked. So can you sort of kick us off with a little bit of your background please? Oh yeah, I don't really have a career path per se. I'm sort of career all over the place. So I studied medicine and I joined the college general practitioners and I never really settled to something. I was an addiction doctor for a while and I was an overnight emergency clinic doctor for a while. And for the last decade I've settled into aged care.
that's the thing that seems to suit me. I like the complexities and the challenges of that and all the palliative medicine and that sort of thing. And at the same time, I've developed an interest in preventive medicine, which is really what we're about to talk about and diet and that sort of thing. But I've always had a deep enthusiasm for the law. So about 2004, I think it was, I went to law school.
got qualified in that direction. And since then, I've divided my working week between the two. And while my law is criminal, I'm a barrister, not a solicitor. I don't do wills and contracts and things. I have a little niche in the Clean Slate Act. I got the first ever discretionary order under the Clean Slate Act for historic offending. And now that's my thing, and people come to me with that. And general criminal stuff, and quite a bit of...
traffic stuff. I do the drink drives and the people who knock over the motorcyclists and that sort of thing. So I wondered actually whether there was some sort of integration between the two for you and I thought of the Natural Therapeutics Act or Bill or whether you had any interest or... Look there's lots of ways that the law overlaps with medicine and I could get asked about them. So for instance an issue that often arises in aged care is capacity.
you know, do people have the ability to sell their house, make their will, that sort of thing? And so, I've also developed a little niche with that and I've lectured on that because neither lawyers nor doctors get core training in that. And the situation requires lawyers and doctors to collaborate. So, what tends to happen is each assumes the other one knows what the hell they're doing. And the doctor does something or other that seems about right and the lawyer assumes the doctor would know.
things aren't done very well at all. I mean, when they come to be litigated, there's a problem. So that is a clear crossover point between the two. Yeah, for sure. And it's interesting, actually, because doctors are, as you were talking, I was thinking about all of the things that doctors are assumed, people assume doctors know, but actually they get very little training in. And yet they have a voice of authority. And of course, nutrition is a big role in that. And it's not necessarily that doctors
themselves think that they are a voice of authority of nutrition, but a lot of people go to them thinking that they know more than potentially what they would know because it would take that sort of outside learning and education outside of the medical degree to actually develop that interest and get some knowledge around it. When I was at medical school, we've got exactly no lectures at all on nutrition. There was sort of a mention in there somewhere that you don't eat fat.
People should be told to lose weight. And then after that, let's talk about drugs. And so we get launched on the world without any ability to really guide patients about diet. Doesn't tend to be addressed by doctors. And most doctors would be hard pressed to say anything useful about diet beyond the well-known obvious things, eat your vegetables, go easy on processed food, don't drink too much alcohol.
And now why don't we talk about some drugs? Yeah. Yeah. I was a tutor for med students back in like 2000, I think. And I think we did like four, four lectures on nutrition in their second or third year, I can't recall which. Oh, well, that's a dramatic, that's a 400% improvement of the number of lectures that I got. That is true. That is so true. So how did you become interested in preventative medicine and nutrition then?
I don't know. You just sort of are interested in things and I've always been enthused about diet and food and stuff and I never really probed it much because I thought that the rules were obvious. But one way or another, I did start to probe it in detail and came up with a view that there's actually quite a lot of complexity in it.
that goes well beyond the well-known stuff. I mean, science doesn't stay still. We've spent decades working out things like eat your vegetables. But we now know a lot more about nutraceuticals and fiber and diversity and the perils of ultra-processed food and how you regulate body weight is enormously complicated. So there's lots of stuff in there. So it's nutraceuticals that I was particularly interested
So this is the idea that there's more to food than nutrition. So we know that a diverse range of lightly processed plant food is the foundation of good eating and every diet that works says that. That doesn't necessarily mean only plant food, I'm not talking about vegetarianism, but every single diet that works is some variation on that. And people, including doctors, assume, well, that's because they're full of nutrition.
lots of vitamin A, lots of fiber, lots of iron, and that's why it's good for you. But the problem with that explanation is that the dose response curve for nutrition is flat. So there isn't a cumulative benefit in eating more and more. So if you eat enough iron, there's no utility in eating twice as much. Yeah. And in fact, the opposite is true.
of plant food is good for us. The answer is that plants are full of things that have a drug-like effect on our metabolism, but they're not nutrition. They lower our blood pressure, they make platelets less sticky, they damp down inflammation, they antagonise the metabolism of fats within our blood vessels, all sorts of things that we actually have drugs to do. Now food does that. And that's not widely understood.
But when we eat the right stuff, we medicate ourselves. And that's the point. And that insight is really something that could be built on. We can add things like turmeric into our regular intake, not because we like nutrition, but because it massages our metabolisms in all sorts of useful ways. And it was such a light bulb moment when I finally got my head around that. So...
That's really the next step. We know what the principles of nutrition are, but we need to add into our diet the principles of pharmacology, what drugs medicate us. And they don't mean medication in the sense of treating a disease, I don't mean herbalism, but I mean that the right food does useful things to our metabolisms. And understanding that better and applying
difference if it became widely understood. So Dr Morgan, are you talking, when you say the right diet, or the diets we know work, are you talking about the, for example, the Mediterranean diets often sort of thrown out there as, as, as an eating diet. Yeah. In the, in the, like the Okinawian, et cetera, the, the blue zones, those kinds of diets. Yeah. So Mediterranean is the best known. But.
those Blue Zone ones, they're all variations on the same theme, that what you eat is very lightly processed. So it doesn't pass through a factory, it can pass through a frying pan, but it doesn't pass through a factory. It's diverse, and it's mainly plants. Now it doesn't mean exclusively plants, there is nothing wrong with eating meat, but it should be a little bit of your diet sometimes, not a large part of your diet.
all the time. Meat is good stuff. But when people say it's deleterious, what they're referring to are the quantities that the Western world tends to eat. So every diet that works is based on lightly processed plants. And if we all ate lightly processed plants, we would be dramatically healthier than we are. Do you think as well it's the way with which, I mean, when we think, when people say in a red meat
causes inflammation and it's related to or correlated to cancer. And in fact, people say it causes cancer because they're not aware of that cause correlation, you know, sort of issue. It's a dietary pattern with which meat is eaten. And with the epidemiology, you look at the people who eat a lot of meat, who are questioned once every, I don't know, eight years or something within a 20 year period, and they tend to smoke more, drink more.
less physical activity, they have less fruit and vegetables as well. And the meat they eat is stuck between a burger with like fries and soda on the side. That's often missed in the headlines that tell you that meat, you know, causes cancer and the rest of it, or type 2 diabetes or whatever. Yeah. So what you're referring to there are obviously the confounding factors. It's a huge issue with all sorts of dietary research that dietary patterns cluster.
So exactly as you just said, the big meat eaters are more likely to have a beer on the side and a fag. And this research that purports to show that small amounts of red wine are good for you. Well, small amounts of red wine is a drinking pattern followed by middle class people. So they're the same people that go to the gym, get their blood pressure done, get their cervical spina done, take some exercise on the golf course. In other words, it's a marker of a pattern of behavior. So yeah, you're quite right.
Meat is not bad for you, but the issue is the amount of meat. There's a principle in pharmacology that's got wide application across all sorts of areas of life, that there's no such thing as a drug or a poison. It's the size of the dose. So anything at all can be okay if the dose is small enough, and anything at all can be toxic.
if the dose is large enough. So it's not an inherent property of anything. No, and I also think about those other diets, which are associated with health, you know, cardiovascular health and just overall mortality outcomes. And the lifestyle is so different too. You know, the features of their lifestyle, where they're eating their plant rich diet. I mean, there's like long lunches and there's social connection with the people around them and they are more active in general. You know,
quite a different lifestyle to how most of us here in New Zealand, particularly now, are able to sort of live. And I think that that, and I understand you, you must, you might have a similar viewpoint that lifestyle plays a big role in how your body responds to the inputs as well. Yeah, even mainstream research is now coming onto this. Things like being lonely is bad
having dinners around the table with the TV switched off is healthy. Things like that are now intruding into mainstream research. Practicing a religion is good for you. That probably refers to the idea of being embedded in a supportive group of people. It's probably the social connection rather than the religion per se.
But these things aren't nice to have. These things make a difference to how healthy we are and how long we live. Dr. Morgan, when you think about the modern diet then, what you might see your patients eat or maybe even your clients in other contexts, do you despair at all? Like with the, and on a range of levels, maybe what they have the ability to eat because of what they can afford or just even the quality of their food. Like,
I often do, basically. There's an awful lot of people who don't know how to eat well. And I don't accept it's an income thing. It's a skill thing. Carrots and cabbages are not expensive, but they're also not sexy, they're not interesting. So we have the ability to eat well. There's sort of two things going on in the modern world.
We have access to a dramatically more diverse range of food than at any other time in human history. We are the first cohort of human beings that have abolished the tyranny of seasons. So Abner, relatively recently, you ate some apples in autumn and not the rest of the time. You ate vegetables sometimes, but generally not most of the year. Most of the year you had small amounts of cereal-based food and that's what kept you alive.
And for the very first time in history, you can eat fresh fruit and vegetables all the time and they can literally grow on the other side of the world and they arrive here on an airplane. So on the one hand, we've got the ability to eat far better than has ever been the case in history. But at the same time, we have another thing which is brand new in human history, which is factory food. So we have a huge industry.
that makes mush that we like, and it's loaded with salt and sugar because we like it. And it's convenient and it's tasty because it's manipulated to titillate our taste buds. And an awful lot of people live on it. So there are two paths you can go down in the modern world. Capitalism has given us untold riches, and it's also given us untold rubbish. And people have to choose.
Yet of course, the cheapest foods are the hot bakery shops on the side of the, on the corner of the road. You can, you know, you can go to Costco and feed your family for $3. Well a kick for $3. On absolute rubbish, you know, and I don't know, I just, I wonder how, I wonder whether we'll ever get back to, or even have the ability to get to.
eat in a way that is really health promoting given that of course the availability of nutrients in the foods that we are able to grow might not even be optimal for what we'd need them to be as well. Now this is the hidden hunger issue. Yes, now talk to me about hidden hunger. So we do have dramatically more and better food than we've used to have.
But we also have an issue that even the good food is of dramatically less nutritional robustness than it used to be. So all our food, apart from seafood, all our food comes out of the ground because meat comes from grass or cereal and everything else we eat the plant. So all the cabbages and carrots and rolled oats and legumes and anything at all that we eat, we
comes out of topsoil. Now the basic physiology of it is reasonably straightforward. The substance of a plant is carbon, that comes from the air, no problem with carbon dioxide, we've actually got quite a lot of that. But all the other micronutrient stuff, the iron, the copper and such like, that comes from the soil. Now there's only so much.
and we take crops out of the same soil every year, and in the Northern Hemisphere, the same fields have been tilled for centuries. And each time a crop comes out, there's less micronutrients than there used to be. And this has been measured. I talk about this in my latest book. In the 1920s, they did some experiments on basic vegetables in terms of what they contained. And this includes vital things that we don't talk about very much like zinc.
hop and selenium. And then they replicated it in the 1990s. And absolutely everything had experienced dramatic reductions in these necessary nutrients. So a head of broccoli in the 1920s and a head of broccoli in the 1990s are very, very different things. So even though we're eating well, we're not eating as well as our grandparents did.
So when you hear people, and I hear this quite a lot, say that you can get all of your nutrients from food, how do you respond to that? You get all your nutrients from food, yes, but you have to plan it and think about it. You have to be aware that even good food isn't as good as it used to be. And you have to work at it. If you just have a sandwich for lunch and a steak for dinner, you are going to stay alive.
but you're not going to experience optimal health, and you're not going to maximise your longevity. So if you want to get into your system, the most useful things, then that means going to some trouble to have some grains, some legumes, a range of vegetables, a range of fruit. You know, you should have seven, eight, nine, ten different plant-based things a day. It's quite useful to bear in mind where we came from.
So they have been anatomically normal, modern human beings for over 100,000 years. And we've had agriculture for 10,000 years, and we've had civilization for 6,000 years. So right up to the agriculture point, human beings were relatively small in number, and they were hunter-gatherers. And so they would walk around all day, and they would eat a range of seeds and fruits and tubers, and occasionally an animal.
Now guess what? Modern scientists have worked out that the best thing for a human being is to eat a range of seeds, nuts, tubers, leafy greens, occasional meat, and to walk around all day to get it. So all that we are discovering is what formed humans in the first place. That's the way we look. So this ability to sit in one place and eat processed grain all day long is something that we've invented very recently.
And it's not the optimal recipe. It's not what the instruction book for human beings says. We're rediscovering our roots. And Dr. Morgan, you mentioned selenium. And when I was studying at Otago, one of my professors there, Christine Thompson, was doing a lot of research on selenium. And her research showed not only was our soil really low in selenium, but in fact,
people often talk about having three Brazil nuts a day and they've got their selenium covered. Whereas she was like, well, you know what, I've tested a range of different Brazil nuts and the selenium content sort of differs from one nut to another nut to another nut. First though, I mean, your latest book, Build Your Immunity. For life. For life. Talks about selenium as like one of the nutrients of, I'm going to say nutrients of
sort of wrote it, but why is a nutrient like that so important and what's our options if it's not Brazil nuts? So selenium is one of these vital things, particularly for our immunity. We don't tend to talk about it very much, but it's vital and it comes from the top soil and selenium is very patchily distributed around the globe. So there are places in China that have got so much as toxic and there are places like us that just don't have enough.
And if we weren't importing food, we'd have to take selenium pills. So our locally grown food doesn't contain enough, and yet it is vital for us. And Brazil nuts is the sort of thing, it's the advice, as you say, that's routinely given. And the other thing that has exceptional capacity to suck selenium out of the soil are mushrooms.
come with the enormous caveat, did they grow in any? So that's what your lecture was on about. A Brazil nut tree has got this ability to suck selenium out of the soil, stick it into the nut and so there you go. But only if the topsoil had some in the first place. And mushrooms have got this phenomenal ability to suck it up, but only if the growing beads have some and they usually don't because for some reason selenium isn't actually necessary for the mushroom. So to get a healthy crop of mushrooms, it doesn't matter. But...
books say, oh yeah, mushrooms are very good at getting selenium out of the soil. That's true. But generally, they don't grow in beds, growing trays. The beds are horse manure, basically. So you know, you've got to be very careful with this advice that certain food staffs will deliver something to you. It totally depends on where they grow. Yeah. And what other nutrients do you focus on with regards to immunity? And of course,
It's been a hot topic over the last three years. We'll probably continue to be on the top of mind. What other nutrients are ones which we need to consider that we might not get from our everyday, pretty healthy diet? The ones I cover in the book are vitamins A, D, and E, and zinc selenium copper iron. Now, that's not to say other things aren't important, but they're kind of the ones of concern.
that you aren't necessarily getting them. So, vitamin D, for instance, vitamin D is, there's a huge literature in vitamin D. They keep discovering more and more things that it's good for, and certainly immunity is one of them, but good health generally. Most of our vitamin D is manufactured in our skin by the action of sunlight. Now we have a problem here because we were configured...
to get optimal vitamin D where we evolved, which is on the equator. We don't live on the equator. So most of the planet now lives in areas where the sunlight is not enough to deliver enough vitamin D. Now we compound that by living inside. We live, we spend our lives behind glass and concrete. And there are reasons for that. We're a lot warmer and happier and...
more prosperous in other ways because we do that, but we are sacrificing vitamin D by living that way and it's worse for people with darker skins. Because the darker a person's skin, the less vitamin D they make. Now I personally think from what I've read, that we are behind the eight ball with supplements. I feel there's a good argument that a large
should be taking vitamin D. Certainly, I think all non-white people should take vitamin D in this low sunlight part of the world. Elderly people should be taking it. People who live indoors all the time should be taking it. And even when we're outdoors, we've got clothes on. And I'm not saying that's a bad thing. There are all sorts of perfectly good reasons for doing that, but the trade-off is vitamin D. And so it's a big problem.
And yet it's not particularly on the radar of anybody outside, those who have a specialised interest in it. It's not a mainstream concern. So in New Zealand, there is a limit to the amount of vitamin D. And you'll be aware of this, that you can actually put in a supplement before it is considered above.
So it's a thousand IU or what's that 25 milligrams or whatever, which is actually still really low. And I say that because I see time and again, people go to get their blood markers done at the doctors, they pay for their own vitamin D test because it's not publicly funded. And the vitamin D comes back at just on 50 or 40 or I don't know, 55, you know, like pretty low considering where optimal vitamin D might be. If, if yeah.
So what's your take on the, have you ever looked into that Dr Morgan as to why there's such a low limit compared to other countries and the reasons for that? Because I actually am quite interested. I haven't, but there's a general rule of bureaucracy that it's conservative. So the rules of life tend to lag behind where research is up to.
and where insights are up to. You know, we found out in the 1950s that smoking's bad for us, and the bureaucrats leapt into action and started banning it in the 1980s. That's the way things go. So the fact that there's good, strong science about the sort of vitamin D we should have doesn't necessarily mean that the obscure committee somewhere that sets these limits is galvanized into action.
and it's much easier to justify the status quo than to justify changes. This is just bureaucratic culture, it affects all sorts of things. So, I think people who are genuinely interested in this thing shouldn't necessarily rest on what official advice says. There is an issue with taking things in pure form. So, I wouldn't necessarily suggest that people take huge quantities of it in terms of a pill.
But I think the healthy thing is to target it in food and that means things like oily fish and egg yolks and things that are known to have it. And also walk around outside in the sun. For sure, for sure. There's very little in actual food sources though. Yes, yes, yes. And I mean, even when you're eating it well, you've still got to make most of it in your skiff. Yeah, totally. Dr Morgan, talk to me about vitamin A.
Because of course, as nutritionists, I know the public health recommendations and what we're, what considered to be good sources of vitamin A, if you like. And plant foods come up time and again as being, you know, high in vitamin A, which they're high in the precursors for, but not necessarily the fat soluble vitamin A, which we really want. So where are we going to get that from?
So there is a relatively narrow range of things and it's basically the red and yellow vegetables that have it. Yeah. And as you say, they contain the precursors and they're dramatically less effective than the animal forms of it. And you know, some people don't eat animal food for various reasons, cultural reasons, environmental reasons, that sort of thing. Those people really do need to bear in mind that they might be running themselves light on vitamin A.
and make a real point of ensuring that they're eating retinol and things a lot. And you also need a little bit of fat with it. So salad dressing isn't just for mouthfeel. Good quality olive oil helps you absorb these things. It is one of the most widespread vitamin deficiencies for the human race. And most of that is the third world.
So several hundred kids in the third world go blind every year because they don't have enough vitamin A because they have cereal-based diets. So giving up vitamin A in pill form is now quite common in undeveloped countries. But that sort of thing walks among us. There's lots of people who sustain themselves on bread and chips. And they will not be getting vitamin A. And because they're not sort of falling over
don't notice this, but such people are more likely to get infections. They are more likely to suffer ill health early in life and to sort of run themselves short. Yeah, and I think that's a good point you raise is that with some of these things where they're not on the radar, and yet possibly quite common. I spoke to a researcher last
blood biomarkers of both Western nations and developing nations. And he discovered that even in Western nations, you've got women who are, women in the UK of reproductive age, 50% of them are low in two micronutrients like iron. The numbers are horrendous. It is. The numbers are horrendous in the Western world for a range of vital micronutrients. That significant cohort of the population is short of at least one.
I think I've got a figure here somewhere. If we just go on vitamin A for a minute, the other thing that needs to be mentioned here is the richest possible source of vitamin A is liver. Now we eat animals and we eat the shanks and we eat the steak and we eat the ribs. We don't eat the kidneys and the livers to anything like the extent that we used to. It used to be a regular part of the diet and it isn't. It's not sexy. It's not full of fat.
doesn't have the mouth feel and most of our liver goes for pet food and liver is on a number of parameters, fat soluble vitamins, iron, zinc, by far the richest thing you can eat. Yeah. So if there's one message that would make a difference, it is that if we should be eating liver again, and the other way we used to eat it once a month, once every two weeks. Yeah. That was going to be my question to you, Mr. Yor.
recommendation around that because people hear that and you know, they may, you know, people can take a message and run with it to the detriment of for another reason, like too much, for example. So you're thinking once a week, once a fortnight. Look, from time to time, if you're meat eater, I accept many people aren't and I accept the good reasons for that. So I'm not trying to twist the arm of people who have good reasons not to eat meat. But if you eat meat, some of it should be awful meat. Yeah.
Yeah, for sure. And Dr. Morgan, when it comes to copper, this is another nutrient that we don't often, don't even, it's not even on the radar of probably nutritionists, you know, and although you can get it measured in the blood, I don't know to what extent that represents sort of copper stores or, or, you know, anything like that. So can we...
Just shine a light on that. Yeah, now we've got a problem here because most of these things that we're talking about don't have reliable straightforward measures because what blood tests measure is what's in your blood. And your blood is not the reservoir of most things. So you can measure the calcium in your blood that tells you nothing in your body because it's all in your bones. You can measure the iron in your blood.
waste of time, your iron is in your muscles and your liver. And in fact, what doctors measure is a thing called ferritin, which is a marker molecule. So the actual amount of iron in your blood is irrelevant. And zinc and copper are the same. So zinc and copper in your blood represents something like one or two percent of your total body stores. And they don't maintain a reliable ratio.
your whole body stores. So it's just a tiny sample. So most of your zinc is in your muscles. And this is another complicating feature. And I've got a theory that the real reason that zinc and copper and selenium and such like are not on our radars, we don't talk about them, doctors don't learn about them, is there isn't a test. And doctors like what they can measure. Now, we can mean iron, but we talk about iron.
Now, iron is not necessarily the most important thing to one of them, but it's the only one that we tend to talk about. It's the only one the general public tend to have heard of. That's because there's a test for it. If there was a test for zinc, we'd be talking about that all the time and we'd be ignoring iron. So I think this absence of convenient testing is affecting the whole culture and we're just not aware of it for that reason. So it's interesting with the testing. Of course, you've got the zinc. You can get...
tested through the blood, but as you're saying, that's not the best, doesn't really tell you much that's the issue. It's hopeless. Hopeless. Yeah, okay. And it's the same with like the zinc taste test as I understand it. That is very variable as to how that relates. It's not scientifically robust. It is favored by the fringes and it's a bit of fun, but you wouldn't base any decisions on it. Really the problem here is that you can't really find out if you are one of those people who are deficient. And you have to bear in mind.
what the things are that you might be deficient in and plan your diet around that. And that's really the thrust of my book. These are the things that we are at risk of not getting enough of. And this is what you might do about it. These are the particular foods like liver. Liver crops up again and again, because it's also the reservoir of the fat soluble vitamins and AD and E are fat soluble vitamins. Yeah. And copper. So where would people look for copper, Dr Morgan?
Well, the standout copper food is also liver, but legumes, mushrooms and nuts, otherwise. And again, we're back to this problem of what the hell did we grow in here. There is copper in chocolate, or you can justify chocolate from time to time. And sometimes we drink it because pipes in old houses are copper. So a little bit of copper will arrive in your drinking water if you're in an older house, but if you're in a modern house, they will be plastic.
But look, it's liver and kidneys, and if it's not liver and kidneys, it's mushrooms, legumes, and nuts. There's quite a bit of research that a handful of nuts every day is one simple thing that we could all do to make a dramatic difference to our overall nutrition-based health. Yeah, I've seen that. And the other one is olive oil, like X number, I can't remember
cardiovascular biomarkers I think they were looking at. Olive Oyl is wonderful stuff. So Dr Morgan, your book, Build Your Immunity for Life, is one of three books that you've got, one of them being a series of essays as you and I sort of discussed. And obviously, so your other one was, or is, The Internal Flame, New Insights into Silent
The stuff that we're talking about here, obviously, you know, food has varied roles in the body or nutrients have varied roles in the body, is what we're discussing here also helpful with regards to inflammation, which people have described and I often say is sort of like the underlying precursor to many of these modern health issues that we're dealing with. Yeah, that's another key insight that isn't.
sort of widely appreciated, but we have an immune system to fend off disease. So if a bacteria gets in, we kill it. And this causes an inflammatory response. That's what happens to you, the thorn in your finger, it goes red and some pus comes out and that's inflammation. But as you get older, the mechanisms that cause inflammation get slowly switched on on all your tissues and you don't feel unwell, but there's a sort of quiet background inflammation going on.
And this is actually the source of vascular disease and vascular disease means heart attacks and strokes and cancer and some forms of dementia. So with regard to vascular disease, for instance, it's widely appreciated that you get these little bubbles of cholesterol in the wall of a blood vessel and this is why cholesterol gets all this bad press. And eventually one day that will burst. And then it...
blocks a blood vessel and that's what a heart attack and or a stroke is, this very abrupt loss of blood supply to a crucial organ. Now, that's not really all there is to it. If it was just cholesterol sitting there, nothing much would happen. The point is it grows and it boosts. Now, what's really going on is that cholesterol gets inside the wall of the
a molecule of oxygen, and that means it's a different molecule. Now cholesterol all by itself is absolutely not dangerous because all our cell walls are made of cholesterol. We are cholesterol. It's oxidized cholesterol that's dangerous because your body thinks it's a foreign molecule. Your body thinks it's a wooden splinter, that sort of thing. We need to get rid of it. So it sends in the infantry, the white blood cells, the antibodies, that sort of thing.
an atherosclerotic plaque is not just a little bubble of fat, it's an inflamed bubble of fat. So if you look at it under a microscope, it's full of white blood cells. And that low-grade inflammation goes on for several decades and it's the inflammation that finally wears away the cap over it and causes it to burst. So it's the inflammation that's the point. It's not the cholesterol that's the point.
Okay, so a couple of questions arise in my head from that. So the first one is, how do we measure, how do you as a doctor measure inflammation? And is there a better measure than say, I don't know, CRP or something like that? So there are blood markers for inflammation, but they tend to be relevant to immediate disease.
So if you've got pneumonia, then the white cells in your blood will go up, or one or two other things, as you just said, CRP, that's a particular protein that your liver makes when you're inflamed. Those measures are too crude for what we're talking about. What we're talking about is very small changes in regulatory settings that aren't enough to make you unwell. But at a cellular and at a molecular level, they wear away.
at vital tissues over a long time. And a large part of how long you live and how healthy you are is keeping a lid on inflammation. And many of the things that we know are good for us like regular exercise and eating the right things are good for us because they damp down inflammation. So this is where we started that food has components that have a drug like effect on us.
are molecules that antagonize inflammation. So plants are full of this. So aspirin, for instance, is known to be an actual drug that attacks inflammation. Aspirin comes from willow bark. So the plant world has these things in it. Now, a minute ago, you mentioned olive oil. Olive oil has a molecule in it called olirupin. And olirupin stops this vital step
reacting with oxygen, which is the key thing that needs to happen for those ferrous chlorozoic plaques to develop. Now the evidence for this is so strong that in the European Union, olive oil makers are actually allowed to put that claim on the label on the bottle. Now all around the world, there are very strict laws about what you can say in respect of a therapeutic claim. And generally, you can't make therapeutic claims for food.
and you need a huge amount of data and it really only applies to drugs. But the anti-inflammatory properties of olive oil are so strong that they actually meet the therapeutic claim laws in the European Union. Now it's only the very best olive oil, it's not the average supermarket brand olive oil, which tends to be not very good. But if you go to the trouble of paying for locally produced
you are likely to be ingesting an anti-inflammatory drug. So the supermarket brand, not that good olive oil in New Zealand, is it just that it's not, doesn't have the same quantity of that molecule or is it cut with like another type of oil, which is often... No, it's the process by which they make it. So the traditional image of olive oil is you have the stone press and a donkey that goes around and around.
But obviously, in the modern world, it comes from a factory. Now, people who really care about a very good quality olive oil will literally just press the olives and the oil comes out. But for most purposes, they want to get most of the oil out. So it tends to be extracted with solvents, and it tends to be extracted with heat. Now, those two processes actually kill.
all the other richness that goes with it. So you still have the oil, you still have the fat, which is what you taste, which is what gives you texture, which is what you cook in. But you don't get these other bioactive molecules that you can get with the very good stuff. Dr Morgan, I haven't seen anything where you've talked about the other types of oils actually, and I'm sure you must have an opinion on cooking oil,
canola oil, you know, the $3, one liter plastic bottles that you find in the supermarket. Do you feel like sharing your opinion on that?
None of them have any standing as vectors for these other bioactive molecules that are ultimately the thing that delivers health. So they will all deliver some fat to your diet, but it's really only the olive oil that matters for the ultimate health that you can get from these things. And they tend to have...
the wrong sorts of fats as well like Omega-6 rather than Omega-3. So for years and years I haven't touched anything other than olive oil. I don't think the others are remotely worth it. The one exception to that is wheat germ oil. I don't know if you've seen it. Cold-pressed wheat germ gives you an oil and it's very, very rich in vitamin E.
And you don't really use it to cook in and stuff, but you can put a few drops on top of things. Okay. And it's a very good way of making sure that your vitamin E content is up to it. And Dr Morgan, what are your thoughts on coconut oil? That's a saturated fat and I'm not aware of where all the hype comes from that it's good for you. It isn't.
The point about fat is that first of all it's full of calories, so you only want a little bit. Potentially, it contributes to the xanthrosclerosis phenomenon if it comes from animals. Also, if it comes from animals or if it's a relatively cheap sort of seed oil or a commercially extracted olive oil, then it's not really delivering anything else to your diet.
olive oil can deliver all these other things to your diet. I believe coconut oil is actually a bit different though. It's quite neutral when it comes to heart health and it has some properties which may be beneficial from a brain perspective. I want to say it's monolaurin but I'm pretty sure it is. Just the impact on the brain using, with those sort of medium chain triglycerides which,
might make up 40% of coconut oil. I think that's where it probably gets its sort of benefits from as I understand it. I guess it depends on what research you read. Yeah, honestly, I'm not particularly happy with coconut oil. It's probably because I haven't commented any further. Yeah, no, no, that's fine. Dr. Morgan, so when it comes to your patients then, and you talk about
We've just sort of discussed the problem with cholesterol, with oxidized cholesterol. I think that's such an important point for people to sort of be able to, or at least understand where the issue is with cholesterol. Like, what are your recommendations around blood tests with cholesterol, certain cutoffs? Like, do you ever sort of discuss that stuff? Well, I'm these days in aged care. And when you're in the last year of your life.
your way outside the timeframe for benefiting from manipulating your lipids. But there is consistent with what we're talking about that inflammation is the key and there is controversy about exactly how important cholesterol is and fat is in general and this idea that it's a terrible thing you should strip out of your diet is widely challenged now. But there's a class of drugs called statins.
that are prescribed to lower cholesterol, and they're the most prescribed drugs in the world. And there's a fascinating insight that they're probably anti-inflammatories. Yes. And whether or not their effect on dropping your cholesterol is responsible for their benefit is distinctly debatable. They undoubtedly make people live longer. But are they making people live longer because they drop your cholesterol?
Or are they making people live longer because they have this general damping effect on the inflammatory processes that are going on in you? So we're far from knowing what we think we know on these important topics. Yeah. And as you say, knowledge doesn't stand still. And if you think you sort of know the large line here of what you need, and then that's probably a good sign that you are, I don't know, need to keep reading or something.
Dr. Morgan, finally. So you are in aged care. I'm curious, you know, like your next book could be asking your clients aspects of their life and then you could put together a book on what keeps people, you know, what the oldest people, I don't know how old your people are, but. Well, I've got a few centenarians. Oh yes, yes. So it'd be really interesting to know whether they have like, you know, a coffee and a fag every morning for breakfast and that's what's kept them.
I've never met a seriously elderly smoker. So I don't think anybody's ever going to challenge the science that smoking is awful. But other things, you know, coffee is actually downright good for you in limited amounts because it also contains these bioactive polyphenols that drug you. Now, 10 cups a day, probably not, but two, three, four a day, there's quite good evidence that there's a net health benefit from drinking that. Yes.
I'm a massive fan of coffee that always warms my heart when I see yet another study come out to sort of confirm my bias that coffee is good for you. So lastly, Dr. Morgan, if there is sort of any, like one or two things which we haven't covered with regards to getting the majority of your diet from plants that have phytochemicals in them, getting adequate amounts of...
animal protein to also support good health. Anything else that we need to touch on? Well, this micro, this nutraceuticals concept does suggest there are things like turmeric that we should be eating regularly. Yeah, yeah. This is, you know, getting into the controversial area. This is supplements. 99% of doctors will say that's complete rubbish, but the bioactive effect of certain things.
like dark chocolate. Yeah. And turmeric, olive leaves as well as olive oil, boswellia. Garlic, are you a fan of garlic? Garlic is wonderful stuff. Yeah. But your question was, you know, could we do more? Garlic you would eat as a food has a seasoning but there are certain things for which the science is strong enough to say you should eat.
independent of diet, independent of hunger. So two or three squares of dark chocolate regularly is a downright benefit. Turmeric is a downright benefit. Boswellia, grapes. Now, a grape per se is largely sugar, but the skin and the pips can be acquired freeze dried. The skin and the pips are very high in certain things like resveratrol, which is probably the thrust between at least the
behind at least some of the science that small amounts of red wine are a health benefit. It's these polyphenols that are the health benefit. Are they able to be well absorbed in the form that you're, the freeze-dried form that you're talking about? Because I thought resveratrol, I knew there was some sort of thought that it isn't well absorbed in from some of those studies. There's a rabbit hole here. Do we have enough time to go down it? Yes, please.
of all these bioactive constituents of food, which I'm arguing are a large part of why eating them is good for us, a consistent observation is that they don't get absorbed very well from our gut. This allows an awful lot of people of a conservative mindset to say, look, it's all rubbish because you're not really absorbing it anyway.
And this relates to another concept that our bodies are actively keeping these things out because they actually function in our metabolisms as mild poisons. Yes. Now there's a concept called hormesis. And that's the concept that small amounts of toxic stressful things are a net health benefit. So things like cold water bathing.
they tune you up. And exercise, I mean, exercise is awful. Exercise stretches things and sprains things and it floods your blood with toxins, but it's very good for you. And the argument is that the exercise is not good for you. It's the recovery that's good for you. Now, one of the key things about how long you live is how well your cell repair mechanisms work.
We're constantly turning over cells, needing to repair them, needing to clear away the dead ones, keep everything ticking over. Now if you are constantly challenging your cell repair mechanisms, you're keeping them in good working order. So you can do that with temperature extremes like sparse soreness, you can do that with exercise and you can do that with eating poison. Now obviously what I'm talking about.
is very small amounts that create an ongoing stress. Yes. So there is also an argument that that is why there is some science that small amounts of alcohol are good for you. Alcohol is a poison. But if you have just a little bit, sometimes the net effect of that poison is stimulatory and beneficial. Now, many of these plant substances are not necessarily good for us.
in large amounts, but if we eat little bits all the time, they're having this slightly poisonous effect. That is one theory about how it all works. And that is why our metabolisms are trying to keep them out. Yes. So when you say, well, it doesn't get absorbed very well, you can say to the person claiming that, well, that's the point. That's why it's good for you. And even if you don't absorb very much, you absorb some.
And these things only have a benefit if you do it all the time for decades. Cumulative. That's the point. It's exactly, it's a cumulative thing. So if you do a little bit all the time, some of it will get through, and that's enough to give you this overall stimulatory benefit. That is a great explanation for the benefits of things like Resveratrol, which I...
which I wasn't aware of. And I wondered whether it had some sort of gut regulation, something to do with the bacteria in our gut actually, because I understand turmeric. Turmeric is similar to resveratrol, unless you sort of pair it with black pepper or it's sort of formulated. Yeah, there are certain tricks. So turmeric gets us all better with black pepper. But then the other thing that you just touched on is another very important rabbit hole, that the bacteria in our bowels tend to like these things.
and the bacteria in our bowels are increasingly being recognised as a major driver of how healthy we are. So even if it's not absorbed from your bowel, maybe it doesn't have to be. Yeah, because it's acting in a different way. Yeah. Dr Morgan, I could probably talk to you for hours on nutrition and health and we'd... Well, we should do it again then. Yes, we could. I bet you we'd have some...
debates on what we each think on certain things, which always makes for an interesting discussion, right? Yes, and as a lawyer, I'm sure that you can appreciate that. So can you please, and I will put links to your books and to Life and Leisure in our show notes, of course, but can you please tell the listeners where they can find you for further information on what we've been talking about?
parking fine or whatever, where are they going to find you? All right, well I'm attached to Rubicon Chambers in Winnigan for the legal stuff. And for the health stuff, well the books are out, the Bell Your Amendment for Life is in Paper Plus and the Publishers website and the Life and Leisure website. You're going to buy it online. Life and Leisure have got all three of my publications. Perfect, and there was an.
excellent write-up on Build Your Immunity for Life in the latest Kia Ora magazine actually. I believe in August or September. Yeah, it was really good. Thank you so much Dr Morgan for your time this evening and enjoy a bit of res reo torole tonight with your dinner and I will speak to you again. It's been really great. Thank you very much. It's been wonderful.
Well, I mean what an overachiever in the best possible way. It is totally amazing what he manages to do on a day to day basis and to pump out books at the same time, it's pretty phenomenal. Particularly his Build Your Immunity for Life book, highly recommend it.
Next week on the podcast, I speak to Andy Blow, all about hydration. He is the co-founder of Precision Hydration. And I have to say, I bloody loved this conversation and I think you will too. So that is next week, folks. Until then though, if you're listening to this on Wednesday, you've got like three days to sign up to Monday's Matter Shreddery edition, because we kick off Monday 12th of February and
This is just going to be an awesome eight week experience to help continue to progress your 2024 body composition goals. So I'm super stoked for it. I would love for you to join us as well. Hit me up in the DMs about that and anything. Go to my Twitter, Instagram or threads @mikkiwilliden. Head to Facebook @mikkiwillidenNutrition.
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