Discovering the Fountain of Youth Within: Interview with
Dr. Gregory Charlop
By Carin Chea
There are certain things in life we can't control: Weather conditions. Rush-hour traffic. That inexplicable itch that develops when you're sweaty and wearing wool and/or acrylic. Oh, and growing old.
The good news: You don't have to wear wool. Even better news: You actually have the ability to control and even reverse signs of the aging process.
This is not a trend; it is fact according to Dr. Gregory Charlop, the author of Why Doctors Skip Breakfast: Wellness Tips to Reverse Aging, Treat Depression, and Get a Good Night's Sleep.
Backed up by numerous research studies, Why Doctors Skip Breakfast is a gathering of revolutionary and pertinent information that serves to not only give us control over our aging process, but provide us with the confidence to move forward with a more health-conscious and intentional life.
It was eye-opening and extremely life-affirming to be able to chat with Dr. Charlop, who is quickly becoming one of the nation's imminent experts in anti-aging.
You are a renowned much sought-after anesthesiologist. How did you become an expert in wellness and anti-aging?
I joke about this, but when I was nine, some of my friends and I went to this birthday party and I didn't want to eat the birthday cake. My parents couldn't believe it. Since a young age, I thought we needed to be careful about what we eat.
When I was young, I was against artificial sweeteners. I just knew they were bad for us. For a while, I was a vegan, and now I'm a pesca-vegan.
Many of my friends are doctors, and we were talking about breakthroughs in aging. Harvard, MIT, and UCLA studies have found that aging isn't an inevitability.
By aging, we think of growing old and frail, and chronic diseases. We don't have to end up decrepit and in a nursing home. It's exciting science and we've come to better understand what causes aging and how to stop it.
A lot of these diseases of aging (like cancer, wrinkles, cataracts, loss of sexual function, heart disease, fatigue, dementia) they all have common causes. There are a few common things that trigger all this stuff. What we want to do is to nip the causes of these diseases in the bud.
What was the impetus to writing Why Doctors Skip Breakfast?
I've been doing intermittent fasting for about a year. When I was working in northern California, I noticed that a lot of surgeons I worked with would fast. You'd sit around the table in the morning and everyone's drinking coffee but not eating food.
One day I thought: "That's so weird. Why aren't any of them eating?" I asked them why, and almost every single one of them was purposely fasting.
Now, I'm in LA and in Beverly Hills, and I work with a lot of plastic surgeons. People fly in to get work done here by these surgeons. With these surgeons and anesthesiologists, not one of them eats breakfast. Nearly every one of them would fast intermittently.
The idea is that you want to allow a long time to go by where you're not consuming anything with calories. If you think about our ancestors - they weren't nibbling throughout the day. The idea of snacking and breakfast - those are recent things.
Breakfast became a big thing maybe 100 years ago when Kellogg came out with cereal and they actually pitched breakfast in order to promote their product. Now, 100 years later, people think breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
You see, there's a big disconnect between what doctors know and what the public knows.
There have been studies done with animals and diet, and the only diet that has consistently shown to lengthen an animal's life is to fast it. That's it. Even Benjamin Franklin knew this - if you eat up to the point that you're full, it's bad for you.
If you want to make an animal live longer, you give it less food or a shorter amount of time to eat. They can live 40% longer if you restrict them to one meal a day or limit the amount of time you give them to eat.
Part of it is that it keeps your blood sugar low for most of the day. If you're constantly snacking, you're constantly pumping up your blood sugar levels, even if you have a healthy snack like an apple, for example.
If you go 14, 16, 18 hours without eating calories, your blood sugar and insulin levels will be low. Then what happens is your body turns on these starvation genes to help you live longer. You're telling your body: "We need to survive." It tells your body to kick it into its A-game. You're telling your body to get rid of the fat and the excess.
One way is to fast for 16 to 18 hours, and you eat for the rest of the day. Skipping breakfast is the easiest way to do it. Let's say you finish dinner at 8pm, you could eat lunch at noon the next day. If you do that, you're fasting for 16 hours and it's not as hard as it sounds.
When you're fasting, you're allowed to have certain things - water, black tea, herbal tea, sparkling flavored waters - anything without calories.
See, the goal is not so much to live longer. The goal is to have healthier years. That's what people want: They want to be older but with healthier years. They want to be able to play with their great-grandchildren, not live until they're 110 in a facility.
How did your work in the field of anti-aging begin?
I didn't know intermittent fasting was a thing. I didn't know that there was actually anti-aging medicine until I spoke with my best friend who's a radiation oncologist. He was telling me about all this stuff that has been coming out. I started reading about it and I was blown away.
There's an analogy I like. Let's say you have a wooden table outside. With time, the paint will fade because of the sun. You'll get rain on the table so the wood will warp. Maybe termites will find the table. With time, your wooden table will decay and get old. You could try to do individual things like re-painting it, drying it after the rain, spray it with bug spray.
Or, you could just take the table inside. That solves all those other problems. It's true the table won't last forever, but it's not going to grow old or decay.
Our bodies grow old the same way; the diseases of aging are all caused by the same things. All you have to do is to stop these things and decay.
There are 3 primary causes of aging. People used to think that aging was a gradual decay over time. But, even sick, older people have cells with perfect, normal DNA. They have parts of their body that work well, even when you're old and sick.
The first thing to know about is telomeres. Your DNA is stored in chromosomes. With chromosomes, every time your cells duplicate (which is all the time) - they have these little caps at the end of them (like the ones you have at the end of your shoelaces to keep them from getting frayed). They're called telomeres. They keep your chromosomes from getting frayed and damaged, just like those caps at the end of your shoelaces.
Over time, these telomeres shorten and that's one of the causes of aging. Once they get too short, the cell becomes old and can't duplicate. One of the goals is to preserve your telomeres.
The second thing is: We have "zombie" cells. They don't do what they're supposed to do; they poison their neighbor cells, and they just won't die. Older people have a lot of these. Your cells have special programming to become zombie cells or to kill themselves if you don't need those certain cells anymore.
For instance: Say you get a CT scan. Some of your cells will get damaged from the radiation. Let's say you have a cell in your liver that was hit by the radiation and becomes a pre-cancer cell. Your cells are designed to kill themselves in order to prevent cancer.
Sometimes, instead of killing itself, it'll become a zombie (senescent) cell. Instead of killing itself, it'll just not reproduce itself. When you accumulate all these abnormal cells that aren't reproducing - they're screaming for help, but nothing's being done to get rid of them. This causes inflammation and your immune system to get revved up. Our goal is to clear them out.
Almost all the cells in your body have the same DNA or genetic code. But, your liver cells are totally different from your skin cells. They make different things. Your liver cells will never turn into a skin cell even though they have the same DNA.
You see, your cells put little tabs on your DNA and can turn certain genes on and off. Your skin puts these tabs on their cells to turn off the things that the liver makes. The problem is that, over time, you start making mistakes and you tag the wrong genes. This is a big cause of aging. This is reversible. It's not permanent damage.
We can actually make it so that these cells can put the tags onto the right genes. We can make it so that we can turn the good genes back on.
Why Doctors Skip Breakfast gives you all the things you need to do to reverse these three causes of aging.
Are we really in control of our aging process?
Yes. That's the whole point of the book. We talk about aging, depression, and sleep in the book. The idea is that you are in control of these things. You don't have to sit there and wait for old age to take you. You don't have to lie there and suffer from terrible nights of sleep.
If you have depression, even if you failed normal anti-depressants, you don't have to sit there and feel depressed. You can take control of things.
One other thing we need to remember: Sleep is really very important for learning and memory. Sleep helps you live longer and prevent cancer and diseases. Most people don't get enough of it. But one thing that's interesting about sleep: Sleep improves your immune system.
Even a night or two of not enough sleep weakens your immune system. So, when people talk about what to do to keep them safe from the coronavirus - they don't talk about what to do in order to strengthen our immune system.
There are been great studies involving sleep and viruses similar to the coronavirus. When you get less than 5 hours of sleep, you're 3 to 4 times likely to get sick from the exact same virus than if you get 7 hours of sleep. If you want to protect yourself, you want to make sure your immune system is strong.
You also emphasize the importance of mental and emotional health. Tell us about the research you've done on combating depression.
Depression is tough. It's a terrible disease and millions in this country have it. People with clinical depression wake up most days feeling hopeless or sad with no obvious cause. You can have abnormal eating or sleeping patterns. It can ruin your quality of life and take away your motivation to do things.
One problem with depression is that there isn't really an obvious test for it. It's not like cancer where you can get a CT scan or a blood test.
People have well-meaning friends who say, "You'll get over it. You just need more sleep" or "You just need a new relationship." It's not that simple.
If you have actual depression, you have to speak a professional. What the professional will do is start you on oral antidepressants like Prozac or Zoloft. The trouble with that is that they don't work that well for most people. For some, it helps just a tiny amount. And for some others, it works very well.
I'm also a fan of cognitive behavioral therapy, and there are no side effects to this.
Even if all those traditional treatments don't work, you don't have to just suffer from depression. The big treatment that we talk about in the book is ketamine. Ketamine is actually an anesthesia drug. What we've found is it has incredible anti-depressant power. You can put an IV in and get it intravenously.
Some people who get this treatment, their depression goes away in just 2 hours. It's a miracle. Some people get better in one treatment, some get better in 3 to 6 treatments, and some people just need a touchup.
Do you have any other books or publications you'd like our readers to know about?
The eBook [Why Doctors Skip Breakfast] will come out April 1. I have another book out, it's about Real Estate: Real Estate at a Crossroads. It's available as an eBook, paperback, and on Audible.
You are amazing. No one has ever explained intermittent fasting as clearly as you just did. I can't wait for the world to receive your book!
To keep up to date on Dr. Charlop's latest works, please visit GregoryCharlopMD.com
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