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Podcast47 min listen

Phytochemicals & Food as Medicine

Published by Science Editorial Staff
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Live Long and Master Aging

Podcast

Live Long and Master Aging: Navindra Seeram: The rejuvenating power of plants

Live Long and Master Aging

Podcast

Live Long and Master Aging: Navindra Seeram: The rejuvenating power of plants

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“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” The quote, attributed to the Greek physician, Hippocrates, encapsulates the importance of nutrition and the extraordinary ability of certain foods to enhance our wellbeing.

In this episode of the LLAMA podcast , we explore the rich array of benefits to be gained from plant foods and natural products and discover why foods rich in compounds known as phytochemicals are hugely beneficial in preventing some chronic conditions. Dr. Navindra Seeram is a professor at the University of Rhode Island, College of Pharmacy.

A leading researcher in the science of plant foods, Dr. Seeram explains how, growing up in South America, with a tradition of using food as medicine, he first became aware of the potent power of plants. We delve into the unique components of pomegranate and other fruits, which can be used by the body to boost mitochondrial health.

Transcript

Speaker 1
I want to live to see my kids and my kids, kids and my kids, kids, kids, and I want to see my descendants and enjoy them and live a full life where I can can interact with them and be, you know, cognitively sharp.
Speaker 2
Hello and welcome to the Live Long and Most Raging podcast. I'm Peter Bowes. This is where we explore the science and stories behind human longevity. This episode is brought to you in association with Amazon to a Swiss life science company that's pioneering, cutting edge, clinically validated cellular nutrition under its timeline brand. Now let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. The quote attributed to Hypocritic is the Greek physician sometimes described as the founder of Western medicine. That quote is often associated with the health benefits of a balanced diet and the rejuvenating power of food.
Speaker 2
We're going to delve into that subject during this episode and find out more about chemical compounds known as phytochemicals, where we get them from and why they help us to stay healthy. I'm joined by Dr. Noninterest Serum, one of the world's leading experts in the science of plant foods and natural products. We're going to discuss why foods rich in certain compounds are hugely beneficial in preventing some chronic conditions and explain the concept of using plants as a first line of defence against harmful diseases.
Speaker 2
Dr Graham is a professor at the College of Pharmacy at the University of Rhode Island here in the United States. Welcome to the Live Long and Master Ageing podcast.
Speaker 1
Hey Peter, thank you for having me.
Speaker 2
It's great to talk to you. Difficult times that were going through at the moment. I know everyone is working extremely hard, just getting used to a new way of working because of the coronavirus. So I do appreciate you making time.
Speaker 1
Absolutely. Peter, we have to adapt, right.
Speaker 2
This isn't going to be over quickly, is it? So we've got to find that new way of of working. And you and I are talking obviously remotely at the moment. And it is amazing to me, isn't it, what we can do if we set our minds to it?
Speaker 1
Hey, just like plants, you know, we adapt, we evolve. We figure out ways to to make things work. Necessity is the mother of invention, after all, Peter.
Speaker 2
Yeah, I quite agree. Before we delve into the science, I mentioned in the introduction that this episode is produced in association with Amazon artists. And I wanted to give you an opportunity for the purposes of full disclosure for both of us to talk about your involvement with the company and the work that they're doing.
Speaker 1
Yes. Peter, thank you for clarifying that. As you mentioned, I'm a professor at the University of Rhode Island. I'm also the department chair for the Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences Department. But I also serve on this scientific advisory board independently from the University for Amazon Artists.
Speaker 2
Maybe let's talk a little bit about your background. First of all, I'm curious how you became interested in this area of science to start with.
Speaker 1
So, Peter, I'm a third generation is Indian. I was born and I grew up in the South American country, known then as British Guyana, now known as Guyana. I am a third generation East Indian. So my ancestors were brought from India to work into sugar plantations after slavery was abolished as indentured servants. So growing up in a very poor Third World country such as Guyana, we had to resort to what mom and grandma would tell us to use as sources of medicines.
Speaker 1
You know, pharmacies and physicians was wasn't that health care is not as accessible in Ghana as it is here in the United States. So as a very young kid growing up, a young child growing up, I was very piqued by their by their traditional systems of medicine that was practised, you know, in India by the natives in Guyana and therefore, you know, digitalisation of plants for preventing toothaches and tummy aches and so on. Yeah, I was actually just going to ask you if you can think of some examples maybe from your childhood as to where plants would come in and it almost became second nature to to turn to a plant if you had a toothache or if you had a bruise on your hand or little things that you might have instinctively used as medications.
Speaker 1
Exactly. In fact, you know, even toothbrushes, we didn't have toothbrushes at one point. And, you know, we'll take a black sage and, you know, we'll take that and rub it on your teeth and your gums. So there was a lot of different plants that mom and grandma would say to use. And, you know, in fact, Peter, you probably know this for the WHL, you know, estimates that over 80 percent of the world's population still use plants as sources of medicines in all parts of the world.
Speaker 2
My recollection from my childhood is when I grew up in northeast England and in a rural environment. And if I was. Stung by a nettle, I would immediately reach for a dandelion leaf to to rabon that's not swelling on my hand and the pain would go away instantly.
Speaker 1
And it's also interesting, you know, Peter, that, you know, it's not only the things which you don't think about in terms of plants, stuff that are not edible, but there's so much in our medicine in terms of our over spice cabinets, you know, garlic and chives and Kumin and oregano and basil. And and there was tons of stuff that mom and grandma would say, boil this drink this drink. Is it a tea or as a tincture or use it topically.
Speaker 1
So very, very fascinating when you think about plants and how they produce these phytochemicals, as you mentioned, it is fascinating. So you were obviously hooked as a child in terms of your interest in this area. How did that evolve in terms of your education?
Speaker 1
Right, Peter. So the University of Guyana, which is the only university that we have in terms of tertiary education, I went there and I got my my bachelors in chemistry. And at that point, I realised that for me to pursue, you know, further discovery of natural products from plants that I had to go to grad school. And it turns out that in the beautiful island of Jamaica, in Kingston, Jamaica, there is the University of the West Indies, and they have and still do one of the best programmes, Ph.D. programmes in natural product chemistry.
Speaker 1
So I learnt I was a young I think just finished college, 20, 21 years old, went over to Jamaica, taught in a high school for a couple of years, and then went to grad school and continued on my my graduate studies. And it might be there in Jamaica and eventually found your way to Michigan State University.
Speaker 1
I did, Peter. But one important point, I think, you know, sometimes here I don't know, your career chooses you or you choose your career. I don't know which which comes first is a chicken and the egg. But during my time finishing up my Ph.D., I work in forensic sciences in Jamaica. And it's interesting, when you work in forensics, it's not only looking at drugs and arson cases, but also toxicology cases of of poisons or drug overdoses in humans.
Speaker 1
And therefore, my interest as a not for product chemist was not only about what's in the plants, but because of my, you know, exposure to forensic science kind of started wondering, you know, what happens when these phytochemicals get into the body just like toxins or poisons would do or dietary phytochemicals. What happens? And I think, as you mentioned, by the time I hit Michigan for my Michigan State University for my postdoc and then went on after that, that kind of, I don't know, the convergence or the, you know, the coming together of the different ideas and curiosities that you have kind of moulds you in your career as you move forward.
Speaker 2
That's interesting because I thought that is what science is all about, isn't it? It isn't just one thing. It's how different aspects of our lives, the natural world, converge with each other.
Speaker 1
Correct, Peter? And it's so interdisciplinary right now, as you know, you know, science, you know, there is no chemist or biochemist anymore. We all kind of converge and we cross, cross, fertilise. And I think, you know, for me personally, you know, my my my background, you know, my ethnicity, my West Indian, East Indian kind of mix, my my moving to the United States to be exposed to cutting edge instrumentation kind of shaped my career and still continues, you know, in the future, I'd say as I move along this pathway and I was interested in Michigan, you studied the properties of tart cherries.
Speaker 1
And a lot of people today will swear on the use of cherries for many, many reasons, including getting a good night's sleep.
Speaker 1
Correct. So I did my postdoc with a very esteemed natural product chemist and Leanyer Professor Neya. And at that time, I still think still up to today, Michigan, the state of Michigan, is the largest producer and grower of tart cherries in the United States. So my my postdoc project was, you know, working on the anthocyanins or the pigments which make cherries red and blueberries blue or strawberries red and pomegranates red and and the anthocyanins, it turns out then tart cherries are very effective on inflammatory agents and and tart cherries are widely used for gotten arthritis and inflammation.
Speaker 1
And it just kind of made sense that it was the pigments and tart cherries. They're actually partially responsible for some of those effects.
Speaker 2
You mentioned just going off a little tangent here, which is something I often do, but you mentioned the colour of different fruits. Why? And we hear so much, of course, these days about having a colourful salad as being beneficial to us. Why is the colour of a fruit or a vegetable so important?
Speaker 1
Important now that I'm going to go off to a tangent, Peter, if you just indulge me. So it turns out, and I don't quote me on this, but it turns out that humans and birds, we're able to distinguish tri chromatic. We're able to see a colourful berry against a dark leaf green background. And, you know, when I come to you, ah, I actually did a very cool collaboration with a fantastic scientist here from Natural Resources, Scott MacWilliams.
Speaker 1
We look at migratory birds that would fly, you know, when they're moving off, you know, coming from north, going south to Block Island, which is a small island off the coast of of of the New England area. And it turns out that birds, just like humans, would stop on Block Island and they were able to at this time of the year, there's not much insects for them to eat. So they would they would consume large quantities of berries and they're able to distinguish and choose and select the more colourful ones.
Speaker 1
And I think our hypothesis and still investigating it is that the potentially beneficial compounds from the berries that the birds would get and we do get kind of protects them. You know, they're their muscle and the inflammation that they're enduring as they fly, you know, they're superathletes. So for humans, I think, you know, as I just mentioned, you know, we coevolved plants and maybe plants elected us to eat their colourful berries so that we could cultivate them.
Speaker 1
And we selected plants to grow them for their colourful berries so we could derive those beneficial compounds that they produce. I don't know, it's a chicken and the egg again. But it's very fascinating when you think when you think about that really close relationship we have with plants.
Speaker 2
Well, it is it is fascinating in a sense to see how we have evolved and how birds have evolved to have that almost that sixth sense to appreciate that different colours are beneficial for us.
Speaker 1
Correct? Fascinating.
Speaker 2
So let's let's talk about phytochemicals. We've mentioned phytochemicals already, but let's delve into the science a little bit more. What exactly are they?
Speaker 1
So phyto means plant. It's a Latin word, meaning plant. So phytochemicals are plant chemicals. Now, people don't like chemicals. They think chemicals are synthetic and bad for you. So there is a term that's coined phyto nutrients and it's used alternatively to to refer to phytochemicals. But these compounds that plants produce are non nutrients. In other words, plants, plants, produce. And we know plant diet is very healthy for us because it's good fibre and vitamins.
Speaker 1
Are there some minerals? Are there maybe some good fats? Are there. But the compounds, these phytochemicals are secondary metabolites that the plants produce and they vary within the plant kingdom. Certain plants within a certain Genoese or certain types like the cruciferous, the cabbage family, they produce a similar type of compounds are the berries that produce a similar type of phytochemicals. So the the thought is that these phytochemicals are produced by the plant to give the plant a competitive advantage.
Speaker 1
So maybe I'm colourful. It's me dispersive. My seeds are cultivate me or I'm toxic. Stay away from me. Right. Stay away. Do not eat my good. Eat my leaves. Herbivores, are you going to die because you know I need my leave so we don't know why the plants produce them. But for for sure, you know the edible ones, the edible phytochemicals are the so-called quote unquote fida nutrients we know are potentially beneficial for us.
Speaker 2
So just to be clear and just to pass out the signs that you've just been discussing there, when we say that they are secondary metabolites, in other words, they are not macronutrients like fat, protein, fibre, vitamins that people are very familiar with, yet they are still hugely important.
Speaker 1
Correct. So they are not my macronutrients or micronutrients, as you just clarified, these are not fats and carbohydrates and proteins and fibre or or vitamins and minerals. They were actually secondary metabolites. So they're not primary metabolites. They are produced, again, by plants in certain cases to potentially give the plants a biological competitive advantage. And humans potentially by eating these compounds, can get a beneficial health beneficial effect also.
Speaker 2
So when we talk about deriving essentially deriving drugs from natural sources like plants, what kind of medicinal compounds are maybe historically what kind of medicinal compounds are we talking about that have beneficial to us?
Speaker 1
Yeah, you know, it's interesting. So Feydeau Pharmaceuticals are those drugs which were obtained from plants. And as you know, I work I teach in the College of pharmacy. There is a discipline called Farmakonisi. And if you have not heard that word before from. CongressI is the, quote unquote, mother of pharmacy. It is where pharmacies started, where humans were learning how to take extracts from plants, their leaves, grind them up and actually use these for medicinal purposes.
Speaker 1
And as far as Eastern medicine and Western medicine kind of moved over time in the Renaissance period. And that's hypocritic, as you mentioned. And many other great scholars, humans started to figure out that by isolating individual compounds from plants that this could be developed into drugs. Very good examples, aspirin. You know, that little pill that's been around for 100 years. It's actually a derivative of salicylic acid which is found in the bark of the willow and in mediaeval in mediaeval England when they you know, they would chew on the bark of the willow and pain would go away, inflammation would go away.
Speaker 1
And it was later that scientist at Merck, isolated, salicylic acid derivative, used it and then aspirin was born. Similarly, there are other drugs like the jocks in the cardiac ecocide from from the digitalis plant. There's caffeine from coffee or tea. There is cancer drugs. When Christine and blastin from the Madagascar periwinkle nicotine, artemisinin for antimalaria quinine and the list continues. Tobacco, nicotine right from the tobacco plant. So tons of tons of medicinal compounds.
Speaker 1
Of course, toxic wants to I should clarify stimulants, hallucinogenic compounds, psychedelic compounds. The list just it's just mind boggling.
Speaker 2
We are literally talking about thousands, aren't we?
Speaker 1
Thousands and thousands. And we're still discovering more. And, you know, it's interesting that the compounds exist naturally within the matrix of the plant. And sometimes when we cook the plant or our derivatives are like in a beverage or extract it, we actually modify and change some of these compounds do. So it's not only what's in the plant naturally itself, it's also what we modify when we crush a garlic clove, for example. And so it's also how we consume them.
Speaker 1
And then it's also what happens when he gets into the body. Right. As we referred to earlier.
Speaker 2
And as you imply, that it can sometimes be only certain parts of the plant. It isn't necessarily that the whole plant that is going to be beneficial to us. And I guess that's where the science is important, to identify which part of the plant, the seed or the pith or the the skin that is most valuable to us.
Speaker 1
Correct, Peter? The compounds could be tissue specific. So what is in the fruit may not be what is in the leaves or what is in the bark, like a cancer drug called Taxol. Paclitaxel is in the bark of the Pacific. You that's another good example of a fight or pharmaceutical. But yeah, you're right. So a fruit may be edible and the leaf may be toxic. Obviously in plant there could be overlap or they could be entirely distinct in what they in what they contain.
Speaker 2
I imagine that because people talk a lot about Whole Foods and I think there's a great value in talking about Whole Foods being beneficial to us. But we do need to know and understand the science to get the most benefit out of what we're eating, because we could be misguided, I think sometimes perhaps in eating too much of a wrong kind of plant or too much of a certain kind of plant. And I mean, I'll give one little example. I went through a phase in my life because so I thought and I believe still that almonds are very good for you.
Speaker 2
Nuts generally are good for you. If you eat too many almonds, perhaps you might be getting too much of a certain compound that can result in kidney stones. Yeah, you got to be careful. And that's where education is so important, isn't it? Correct.
Speaker 1
Yeah. In fact, almonds contain a company called AMYGDALE Amygdale and is a cyanide containing molecule. It's found in certain other plants like like UCCA or cassava. And in Africa and in South America where I grew up, you know, mom, they would boil cassava and throw away the water before consuming the cassava. So we kind of figured out how to get rid of a non-toxic stuff from foods. Very fascinating. When you think of Farmakonisi and the evolution of traditional systems of medicine like TKM traditional Chinese medicine or Ayurveda, the Indian system of medicine and how we practise Western medicine, you know, with the traditional systems of medicine being very personalised and, you know, with meditation being a part of it and a healthy lifestyle and exercise, it's very holistic.
Speaker 1
You know, it's it's it's the whole food, as well as a holistic approach to health and to your your your show here, Peter Allama, you know you know about the health span and lifespan. And I'm speaking to the expert right now.
Speaker 2
Well, that's very kind of you that. Is exactly what we are all about, living long and Hellespont is the phrase that I use all the time, of course, living as long as possible, just optimising the number of healthy years that we have. That's right, Peter.
Speaker 2
Let's talk about pomegranates. You have written a book about pomegranates. You mentioned them earlier and very, very coincidentally to this interview. I today just ordered three pomegranate trees for my garden, happened to be doing a bit of landscaping because we were hit by a fire a few months ago. A California wildfires are replacing a few trees and pomegranates actually survived very well in southern California. The climate really suits them. So I've got a special interest in pomegranates for maybe more than one reason.
Speaker 2
But you are an expert in terms of the medicinal qualities. What drew you to them as something that you wanted to study?
Speaker 1
Yes, Peter. So as we mentioned, you know, I finished my postdoc at Michigan State. I was working with tart cherries. And then I, I moved to UCLA, University of California, Los Angeles, right in your backyard. I think Peter work with a very famous physician. He's also a David Heber. And at that time, you know, as you just mentioned, you know, pomegranates were really hitting in the United States big time.
Speaker 1
So as we all know, or we may not know, it's really a Mediterranean plant. It's it's from Persia. That's where it was originally grown. And because California has its beautiful Mediterranean temperature, pomegranates grew very well in in the beautiful state of California. And Pom wonderful a company at that time that was producing pomegranate juice, squeezing the whole pomegranate fruit. You know, we're we're very interested, you know, with with our group at that time and kind of understanding, you know, what were the health benefits of of pomegranate juice.
Speaker 1
And so that was where our work really started in terms of understanding the chemistry of of what's present in pomegranate juice, as well as, you know, what happens when the components get into the body.
Speaker 2
And there's a long history, of course, and pomegranates are mentioned in many religions. The records of the use go back centuries. Yes.
Speaker 1
It's mentioned in all of the holy books, in the Bible, in the Koran and the Torah. It's supposedly the apple in the Garden of Eden. You know, it's regarded as a king of fruit. It has a crown on it that you think about. You know, when you look at a pomegranate, it's the only species in its family. So the plant itself, it's the only membranes or whole family. So that's pretty interesting. Also unica.
Speaker 1
And it means like a grenade, a grenade. And if you were to cut a pomegranate open, you will see the juices, sacs of those Arielle's, the edible part of the fleshy coat around the seeds, which if you were to eat those, you'll consume these anthocyanins, which are the compounds we mentioned earlier, found in cherries and berries. But it's also interesting when you look at the chemistry of the pomegranate that the pith. So if you were to cut it open, that white part of the of the fruit as well as its peel or its husk, that leathery rind also contains a large quantity of polyphenols that are known as eladio tannins.
Speaker 1
And therefore, if you were to squeeze a pomegranate fruit to extract its juice, you're actually squeezing out, you know, not only that, the signs that give it the beautiful red colour, but also these larger tannins or polyphenols found in the appeal of the fruit.
Speaker 2
So it is a good example of the entire fruit being beneficial to us and different qualities, depending on whether we're talking about the the pith or the the juice, depending on how it's used.
Speaker 1
Correct. And you could imagine one would not eat a pomegranate rind. It's bitter, but, you know, imagine squeezing a whole orange so compounds in there in the peel off that whole orange would also be extracted into orange juice. I think it's a similar analogy here. And whilst we may think the pomegranate peel may not be edible, the Indian system of medicine, Ayurveda, they would use unordinary the spice that was obtained from pomegranate seeds and also its rind.
Speaker 1
And I've also heard anecdotally that if you were to go to certain parts of Turkey and Middle Eastern countries, Persia, they would take the pomegranate fruit and then they would kind of massage it and soften it to a point where they could stick a straw into it and then drink that juice. So, you know, they're consuming what's in the peel into that juice if you kind of soften and roll that fruit around.
Speaker 2
So let's. Just extrapolate a little bit, then, in terms of what happens when we eat pomegranates and why and how it is beneficial to us, because we all respond in different ways, depending on what's going on in our guts. And we were all different as human beings. So how are we benefiting and scientifically what is going on when we eat a pomegranate?
Speaker 1
Correct. So, Peter, as a pharmacy professor, you know, we teach our students, our pharmacists about add me and, you know, pharmaceutical science students about add me a DME, a being, absorption the distribution and metabolism and excretion. And when you think of drugs or zino biotics or foreign substances, it enters the body into your through your mouth as it gets into your stomach. You know, these compounds are actually exposed to high, I should say, low P.H., high acidity.
Speaker 1
And many of the compounds just degrade into and are broken down into smaller molecules, which are then absorbed and gets into circulation and then they're distributed and metabolised by the liver enzymes. So what may end up into the bloodstream may not be what's actually in the fruit itself as well, as you just alluded to, compounds that are then traversing from the stomach and getting into this small and then large intestine. And they would sit in the large intestine for a while and then there further are now metabolised by gut microbiota.
Speaker 1
The gut microflora, I think the last I've heard is over one hundred trillion different types, not species, but a lot of bacteria in your gut and which depends on an individual.
Speaker 2
So that's a mind blowing number, isn't it?
Speaker 1
It is. It is. It is. And as people know, you know, you if your gut is not right, then you're not right. And, you know, with individual variability, not only in genetic polymorphisms, but also in your gut microbiota composition, you could imagine that one could probably probably, you know, break down these compounds differently than not than your twin would, you know, or or your your brother would so fast. And the the the impact on others can be whole body, including the brain.
Speaker 1
Correct. Because once the compounds are metabolised into different sizes of different forms, some of them can actually cross the BBB, the blood brain barrier, which is this thick, waxy layer that protects the brain, you know, from circulation. So some compounds could could get into the brain, they could get into other tissues of the body. You could excrete them and pass them into your urine and faeces. And you could get into this what's called enter hepatic circulation to where from the colon.
Speaker 1
The components are are absorbed into circulation, convert it again by the liver enzymes and then this continuous flux of of compounds circulating. If you're consuming, you know, pomegranate juice, for example, in a regularly or green tea regularly or red wine regularly or eating your nuts and berries regularly.
Speaker 2
So let's get to the heart of the matter with Yooralla, which you've mentioned. But let's delve into that in a little bit more detail. And it's one of the metabolites that we can get from pomegranates and we need the right bacteria to reap the rewards. Can you explain the process?
Speaker 1
Yes. So the dilemma that we had and we still do as a field and our scientists in the field of polyphenol chemistry is sometimes we cannot explain the physiological effects based on levels of compounds you'll find in circulation. So in other words, you know, polyphenols in attendance included are generally regarded as being very poorly bioavailable, meaning that the compounds are not being absorbed into blood in large quantities or physiological level relevant levels to see a biological effect. So the dilemma is, well, if what's in the fruit is not getting into the blood, then what's responsible for the health benefit or the beneficial effects of what is known for the for the fruits.
Speaker 1
And the lessons include a host of of your LITTON'S. One of them is you're in a there's also your left in B, C, D and so on your left in A it's it's the most abundant and and prevalent amongst the euro. LIPPENS But again, you know, if you do not have the microbes which are are able to do that conversion, then you wouldn't be a responder or a producer of your Oliphant's, if that makes sense.
Speaker 2
So we're not all responders, then?
Speaker 1
We're not all responders. So it's interesting. I know I'm a responder because it turns out, you know, in some of our earlier studies, I'm able to detect your lippens, you know, in my year at year end using. Masback methods if I consume pomegranate, but no, we're not all responder's, you have to have that got microbe that the microbes that do the conversion and we don't know what percentage of people are responders and who are not.
Speaker 1
And we don't even know if I'm nonresponder can become a responder if you consume foods over time. So there's a lot of unknowns about your olefins present in humans from the consumption of the larger Italian rich foods.
Speaker 2
And is it black and white? You're either a responder or not or can there be gradients? Can you be a partial responder?
Speaker 1
Yeah, it's it's very it's you could be a responder or not and you can be a responder to some types of your Lathan's, are not I? You know, I think what needs to happen is a really large clinical study that really looks at people with different, you know, consumption and consuming the larger tannins and then really trying to understand how much we produce and what we produce. Who is a responder who is not a lot of unknowns in terms of testing to find out if we are responder.
Speaker 1
What does that involve?
Speaker 1
Well, it would involve, as I just mentioned, you know, collecting some urine samples after you've consumed the large Italian rich food. Right. Or pomegranate in this case. And then and then finding the lithium glucagon related form because it's excreted in your urine. Also, there are some blood samples that there's been people are looking at. I know we'll talk about this later. Amazon is a company, the Swiss biotech company. They have they're developing methods to actually diagnose and find out quickly if you're if you're producing your elephants or not.
Speaker 2
Just to talk a little bit more about the benefits of your health in a it's mitochondrial health that is so crucial. And if mitochondrial health is vital for all of us every day in terms of our energy contracts, that amongst the countries of power powerhouse of the cell and your living is actually an activator of my Tofig said it actually helps the recycling of dead mitochondria and then improves in a cellular function which has been shown, you know, in several studies in worms and nematodes, C.
Speaker 2
elegans and also in in rodents. And there's some emerging human clinical studies to also support the effects of your liver in a in muscle function.
Speaker 2
And that's why it's sometimes gets the label anti ageing. And that's an expression I don't like because I don't believe in anti ageing. I think positive ageing is perhaps a more useful expression or simply ageing well, but nevertheless anti ageing, because we can be 70 years old and have good muscle strength and perhaps feel like we're 50 years old and mitochondria are obviously crucial in that process.
Speaker 1
You're right, Peter. That's correct.
Speaker 2
So let's move on to and you mentioned the work that Amazon is doing and the product Matto Pure, you're olefin A, what is the distinction between a highly pure and proprietary form of your life in a and the way that we've just been talking about?
Speaker 1
Right. So as I mentioned, Amazon, this is a Swiss biotech company. And, you know, when we started talking about more than 10 years ago, you know, they were quite interested in in what were the health benefits of what's in pomegranate. And as they narrowed down and looked at, you were living in a and published, you know, some really good papers on the compound, as I mentioned, in nematodes and in animals, in rodents and also in humans, is that they have developed this myopia, which is a proprietary formulation of your life there, which is highly bioavailable.
Speaker 1
They might pure that's developed by Amazon. This has been shown in clinical studies to be effective, to be bioavailable, to be safe and tolerable in humans. So it's you know, it's well tested. You know, it's it's a it's an effective product and other products. As a scientist, is it something that excites you for the future?
Speaker 1
It is because, you know, at the end of the day, you know, if you want to get the best benefits from your foods and you have so much uncertainties in in what you're eating or how you're processing it or are you able to produce it, are you a responder or a non-responder? And there are so much unknowns because it's such personalised that the best bang for your buck is really to get to the actual compound, which is bioactive. And if there is a way that you could consume a pure and then get the benefits directly of your life in it, regardless, irrespective of if you're a producer or not, or you just don't like pomegranate juice or you don't want to eat berries or you want to supplement and you want to get bioactive levels of the compounds in a sufficient dose, then I think let's cut to the chase and get a.
Speaker 1
Exactly to the bioactive components, that's what Amazon is providing in their mind, pure products.
Speaker 2
Yeah, and I asked that question because I and my views on supplementation have evolved over the years. And I used to be from the school of, well, if we eat a balanced diet with good fruits and vegetables, organic foods, wherever possible, that we are probably getting enough of everything that we need in terms of vitamins and minerals and proteins and fats and carbohydrates, that we're probably going to be OK and that we don't need supplementation. Now, I've evolved to the point, and this conversation helps to explain how complex we are as human beings and how even with that, let's say in quotes, perfect, balanced diet, we may still not be fully benefiting from the natural foods.
Speaker 2
And therefore, as we understand further the science, the supplementation, it's almost like an insurance policy to fill in the gaps of what we're not getting from the natural world.
Speaker 1
That's right. You know, you hit the nail on the head there, Peter. It's like an insurance policy because supplementation, dietary supplementation is meant to supplement, not to replace. And as you just said, indeed, you could be consuming a whole some diet. But if you're not a responder, then you wouldn't be producing your anything. And if you live in is one of the constituents or one of the bioactive compounds that's formed in humans. And we have shown that that has a health benefit, then supplement with it because you may not be getting it from your diet.
Speaker 2
I like to just maybe broaden the conversation out a little bit more now and get your thoughts on personalised medicine. In other words, medicine directed at an individual. And as you've explained, we are all supremely different in terms of how our bodies work. And there is a lot of talk these days about personalised medicine. How much do you think that is part of our future?
Speaker 1
I think it has to be because, you know, there's no one size fits all. And as I alluded to earlier, the view of traditional systems of medicine like TKM traditional Chinese medicine or Ayurveda. You know, if you were to see a practitioner, they would actually look at you, Peter, and stick out your tongue and look at your eyes and and give you a diet that includes herbs and and other things and have it's really structured for you.
Speaker 1
It's for Peter Bose. And I think we're finding now that in the field of drugs, at least in cancer, chemotherapeutic drugs, for example, where you may have certain genes, that makes you more, you know, liable or prone to getting a certain predisposition to a certain type of cancer and drugs that may work for certain people. It may not work for other people. And I think you could extend that personalised precision medicine and personalised nutrition to what we're talking about with these phytochemicals, because, again, because of our genetic predisposition or polymorphisms, the stuff that we have in our gut, the gut microbiota, maybe what's good for Peter Bowes is not what's good for novenas serum.
Speaker 1
Maybe I could eat green tea and drink green tea and eat broccoli and eat pomegranates. And I'm responding and I'm producing different things. And Peter Bowes just lacks those microflora and is not able to. And so I think it's very interesting, again, that therefore, with what's happening with drugs may also be the same for for foods and whites. We don't understand everything as yet. Elijah. Italians are not the only compounds which are converted by gut microbiota into further metabolites.
Speaker 1
There are other classes of polyphenols that's been well known, lignin, which are found in flax, flaxseed, even tea compounds in teas. So it's not it's not just enlarger, tannins that go through this conversion by gut microbiota. It's other polyphenols also and other phytochemicals also. So we really are the tip of the iceberg. And there's so much that we do not know what Amazon has done here. Advancing might appear to a point where we can actually consume the product is really forging, I think, pushing the barriers forward faster.
Speaker 1
And I think this is just a trend that's going to have to happen as we understand more about what's really beneficial in the body and what's getting to the tissues and what exactly we need, which may be quite different from what's in the food itself.
Speaker 2
I think one of the challenges ahead is going to be in terms of sharing the value of this science with populations at large, with society is making the benefits. And these supplementation is affordable for a vast number of people because that is one of the, of course, the great ills of our society, that a lot of diseases can be prevented en masse if. Only people could afford the foods and the medicines that can do that. We understand what's needed, we understand the science, but it's the availability to vast numbers of people that's increasingly important.
Speaker 1
Correct. Because if even if you were a responder to get back to our analogy of doing exactly what you said there, Peter, you know, you may not want to drink pomegranate juice because it has sugars and you may have diabetes and you don't want the calories and the sugar. That's that's that's that's that's coming with that food itself. Or if you're eating the fruit and you don't want to eat the rind or maybe someone wants to take a pomegranate extract, you don't know that that extract is standardise.
Speaker 1
You don't know where it's coming from. It's not been clinically tested. So ultimately. Exactly right. How do we get a bioactive compounds to get to most people in a very convenient form, in a form it's calibrated and known to be bioavailable, affordable. And those are some of the things that we have to think of globally.
Speaker 2
And I think one of the other challenges is, is simply education, because we are oftentimes more often than not, indeed, look at television advertising, bombarded with information about what is supposedly good for us, what's not good for us, what is affordable. And people, I think quite rightly, are often so deluged with information that they are confused about what they should be eating. And for us to move forward and to benefit the most number of people, education really does have to be focussed on advising people what they should eat and and why they should eat it.
Speaker 1
Correct, Peter? You know, education starts you know, I'm a professor. I am a teacher first and foremost, as well as a researcher. So it starts in the classroom. It extends into the lab, into my grad students and postdocs. And it also entails me going to scientific meetings and presenting not only to my peers, but also to the layperson to to trade meetings, to dietician meetings, to to meetings, which, you know, we wouldn't be able to get to the masses doing podcasts such as yours right now, Peter.
Speaker 1
So we educating the folks who are listening, listening in. And and I have to admit, we don't have all the answers. We're still learning. But what we know now is more than we know. We know more than we knew yesterday or ten years ago. And what we'll know ten years from now is more that we'll know today. So this is just a building logically on the next steps of what we're learning to ultimately get the bioactive constituents to humans to to have them, you know, have a better health span and lifespan.
Speaker 2
And this is why science and the funding of science is so important.
Speaker 1
It is. And, you know, without the funding, you know, where do you get the money from to do these clinical studies? And I know I I'm actually excited and happy that in a company, a biotech company like Amazon, this can really push the boundaries faster and further than if we were to try to rely on just federal sources of funding. You know, however we get to that point, you know, if it's pharmaceutical companies, if it's biotech companies, if it's a dietary supplement, companies, if it's food companies.
Speaker 1
But, you know, the science is good. The science is peer reviewed and it's been published and vetted. And therefore, it's good science, good science, it's good science. It doesn't matter where the funding comes from.
Speaker 2
And in the meantime, we we move forward with the knowledge that we have. And one of the rules of thumb that I often use when I don't fully understand the implications of eating a a certain diet is to keep it simple. And I'm one of those people who have a really simple diet and I don't eat much meat, but I eat a lot of vegetables. And if in doubt, leave it Out is generally my motto when it comes to food.
Speaker 2
I'm just curious as to what you do in terms of your own.
Speaker 1
Yeah. Peter, you said at the very start, you know, you are what you eat. You know, let food be like medicine and medicine be my food. I I'm a I'm a big proponent of a high plant based diet. I integrate a lot of fruit and vegetables in my diet. My wife, she's ethnic Indian, like me with West Indian. She grew up in Jamaica. So there's a lot of spices in our foods and curries and and hot pepper.
Speaker 1
Capsaicin. I drink a lot of coffee and red wine moderately, of course. But yes, you know, I try to educate my kids in their palates in what they were exposed to when they were kids so they can kind of learn to enjoy the taste of good foods. You know, I came to you are right. You know, about eleven years ago, I started working in Maple, you know, and trying to understand what's different with maple syrup.
Speaker 1
It's not a conversation for another day versus in a pancake syrup. So the natural foods versus this, you know, these are processed foods. So, you know, you can never get it right. But as you just said, Peter, we try to keep it simple, you know, and do the best we.
Speaker 2
And how much do you think about your own health span? I often ask that question to experts in the field of longevity science, and it's always interesting to me the answer in terms of how people like you apply the science that you yourself are working on to your own life, perhaps with 30 or 40 years in the future in mind.
Speaker 1
But I'll tell you this, Peter, thank you for asking that. It's a very personal question. As you know, I'm in my early 50s. I just outlived my dad, you know, and and, you know, for for for males in my family growing up in a poor Third World country, their lifespan is not much there. And there's no dental care, health care, exercising the diets that we know now. You know, it's not what they were used to.
Speaker 1
And so for me, you know, living longer than my dad has lived, you know, I want to I want to live to see my kids and my kids, kids and my kids, kids, kids. And I want to see my descendants and enjoy them and live a full life where I can can interact with them and be, you know, cognitively sharp. It's OK if I don't remember where my car keys are, but to have those beautiful memories.
Speaker 1
And for me, you know, that's what's important because I, I think that everything that I can do right now to give me an extra day to spend with my family is worth it.
Speaker 2
And I think that's a wonderful way to end this kind of interest. Thank you very much. Really fascinating conversation.
Speaker 1
Peter, thank you for having me. It was really a pleasure talking to you, too.
Speaker 2
And if you'd like to read more about Dr. Serum's work, I'll put the details in the show notes of this episode. You'll find them at the Live Long and Mosta Ageing website. We use the acronym Llama Llama podcast dot com bubble l am a podcast dot com. This episode of the podcast was brought to you in association with Amazon. This is with lifescience company pioneering, cutting edge, clinically validated cellular nutrition under its timeline brand. And if you enjoy what we do, you can write and reviewers at Apple podcasts.
Speaker 2
You can follow us on social media at Longmate podcast and you can direct message me at each post. Many thanks for listening.

About the Speakers

Dr. Navindra Seeram, PhD

Scientist

Navindra P. Seeram, Ph.D, Professor in the College of Pharmacy at the University of Rhode Island. He is an expert in plants and products derived from them that can be used for medicinal purposes in humans. Navindra Seeram is a scientific advisor to Amazentis.

Peter Bowes

Journalist Podcaster

Peter Bowes is a news correspondent for the BBC and host of Live Long and Master Aging (LLAMA) - a podcast that explores the science and stories behind human longevity.

He is trained as a biologist and worked in medical research, early in his career, in London. For more than three decades, as a reporter, he has covered news and current affairs for television, radio, and digital outlets, including the BBC. He has also made documentaries, specializing in human longevity and wellbeing. Based in Los Angeles, Peter is interested in science-based regimes that promote healthy aging. The Live Long and Master Aging podcast, launched in 2017, explores issues, including dietary interventions, related to healthspan or the number of years that we enjoy optimum health. In 2020 he founded HealthSpan Media LLC to produce media content focusing on the biology of aging, food, movement, and mindfulness. Peter, an avid exerciser, enjoys hiking, swimming, and weightlifting, as part of a constantly moving lifestyle.

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