Dr. William Li on Using Your Diet To Boost Metabolism and Burn More Fat

Content By: Ari Whitten and William Li, MD

In this episode, I am speaking with Harvard researcher William Li, MD about ways to eat to fight cancer and the new science on the specific foods to enhance fat loss by speeding up your metabolism.

Table of Contents

In this podcast, Dr. Li and I discuss:

  • The research on dietary strategies to help starve cancer into remission by cutting off its blood supply
  • How certain foods can not only nullify cancer but also prevent vision loss in diabetes
  • One of the most powerful foods research has shown to be a very potent anti-cancer food (yet. it has been widely demonized, causing people to fear it)
  • Dr. Li’s take on the real cause of fat gain (and the best ways to reverse stubborn weight gain as we age)
  • Simple methods to activate your metabolism and burn more fat
  • Brown fat – a powerful ally in weight loss

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 Ari: In this podcast, I’m speaking with Dr. William Li who is an internationally renowned physician, scientist, and author of The New York Times Bestseller Eat to Beat Disease: The New Science of How Your Body Can Heal Itself. His groundbreaking work has led to the development of more than 30 new medical treatments and impacts care for more than 70 diseases including cancer, diabetes, blindness, heart disease, and obesity. His TED Talk which I watched more than a decade ago and shared with my family because I was so impressed with it was called Can We Eat to Starve Cancer? It’s garnered more than 11 million views since it came out. He’s appeared on Good Morning America, CNN, CNBC, Rachel Ray, Live with Kelly and Ryan, and a long list of other TV and radio appearances. He’s been featured in USA Today, Time Magazine, The Atlantic, and O Magazine. He’s president and medical director of the Angiogenesis Foundation and has also been conducting research on COVID-19 in recent years.

His newest book, which is the subject of our podcast and our conversation today, is called Eat to Beat Your Diet: Burn Fat, Heal Your Metabolism, and Live Longer. That book is coming out on March 21st. This is a wide-ranging conversation. At first, we talk about his previous work and the subject of his TED talk around eating to beat your diet, can we eat to starve cancer, and we talk about some of the specifics of that work, and including some widespread myths and pervasive misinformation that’s been around for many years that I think you’ll find very insightful. Then, we get into his new book which is coming out in March, Eat to Beat Your Diet, which is really focused on optimizing your metabolic health and losing body fat. Enjoy this conversation with the brilliant Dr. William Li. Welcome to the show, Dr. Li.

Dr. Li: Thank you very much. Thanks for having me.

Dr. Li’s TED talk and what science has found since

Ari: Yes, it’s a pleasure to have you. I watched your TED Talk many years ago on food nutrients and cancer and I was fascinated with it. I remember sharing it with my parents very excited to share this information with them many years ago. How many years ago was that you did that talk?

Dr. Li: That was a 2010 TED Talk.

Ari: Yes, that seems like a long time ago.

Dr. Li: There’s been so much more research been done so far. It’s actually had some long legs. People are still watching it for the first time, and I’m getting a lot of feedback on it.

Ari: Yes. I’m obviously interested in talking to you about your new book, but since you just mentioned that there’s some new research in that area, would you mind if we delve into that topic a bit before we get into-

Dr. Li: Sure.

Ari: – the new book? Okay. First of all, if people haven’t seen that Ted Talk, can you give people an overview of what you talked about? Then, I’d like to maybe layer on the new piece that you’re referring to.

Dr. Li: Well, look, I’m a physician internal medicine and I’m also a vascular biologist, so I’m a scientist trained in the lab and I study blood vessels. One of the things that we have been long setting out to do is to figure out is there a better way, a powerful way that we could help to control cancer and even prevent cancer by cutting off its blood supply, so you’re choking a cancer, starving a cancer. I was involved with a research lab at Harvard in Boston that chased this idea for decades. Finally, in 2023, the first treatments that were based on preventing tumors from growing a blood supply, so therefore, there was no nutrients and no oxygen getting to the tumor, actually was proven to be successful for colorectal cancer. That exploded into this renaissance in biotechnology looking at ways to control blood vessel growth. That’s the process called angiogenesis.

I run the Angiogenesis Foundation. We’ve been involved with every single medicine that’s been developed in this field. Over a dozen new treatments stop blood vessels from causing blindness in diabetes and in aging. We’ve been involved with that. There’s a brand new treatment that is extremely powerful in a beneficial way to say vision that just came out last year that we’ve been involved with. Then, to grow blood vessels where you want them so that your critical organs and tissues have enough blood flow when they don’t have enough, whether it’s a heart, a brain, spinal cord, or in the case of diabetes, a wound that doesn’t heal. I was invited to give a TED Talk about this whole idea of disease common denominators. I think that was probably the idea that really tickled their fancy, that instead of looking at all at everything that is different about diseases, which is what medical research does, my approach has been to so-called drain the Pacific Ocean so you can see how the islands are connected, and blood vessels is the connection.

I talked about how the revolution in cancer research was really to recognize the seminal role of blood vessels or angiogenesis and that the successful realization that you can cut off the blood supply to tumors led to not only human cancer treatments but to animal cancer treatments, pet dogs as well, so it literally spread across species. Then, I showed some of our really wild experimental work like it’s the same process as feeding cancers in dogs, what about other animals? Then, because drugs actually work, we asked the question, what about food? Maybe foods can do the same thing. We used the same system for drug development to test food as medicine. What I discovered that I talked about in my TED Talk was all these foods, more than 300 foods that actually can actually do this. I presented all the data. It was very exciting. It kind of I think validated people’s hunch that foods could be really quite powerful and here’s a biological way that it actually works.

It fits with the drug model, except that foods are inexpensive and they don’t have the side effects and it’s a more equitable solution. Foods taste great as well. I’m somebody that really likes to cook, and I have a huge amount of respect for food culture. I wrote a book called Eat to Beat Disease that really talked about the latest groundbreaking work to show that you could eat foods that would not only be helpful to starve cancer but also could prevent vision loss, could grow blood vessels to heal your wounds, so this idea of dietary angiogenesis control to prevent disease, to treat disease, to facilitate recovery has really taken off. We’ve discovered more recently in a TED Talk that dark chocolate actually is very powerful for anti-angiogenesis. In fact, we actually found which kinds of dark chocolate are actually even more powerful. We began looking at varietals, which cup of wine, which chocolate, what kind of pears? We really just broke it down.

Now I actually co-chair a food is medicine working group at the Tufts University. What I’m excited about is seeing that it’s not just the idea of food is medicine appealing to a bunch of researchers or people selling supplements on the internet, but literally there is a frontier that’s opening up for innovation because that’s what I’m always about. How do we use science to be a path breaker to help our fellow mankind with something as simple as food? There’s so many discoveries in that realm that I think that one of the very, very exciting areas is going to be looking at neuro-degeneration, how do we actually live longer and age better and support blood flow in our brain? It’s not just about starving cancers, it’s also about how do we nurture our organs as we age.

The benefits of soy for breast cancer

Ari: I have a couple of detailed questions on this topic if you don’t mind indulging me. One,-

Dr. Li: Sure.

Ari: – if I remember correctly, and this is 13 years ago, but I remember I think Genistein, one of the the phytochemicals that is in soy, as being one of the most powerful anti-angiogenic factors that you discovered. Is that correct? Am I misremembering?

Dr. Li: Yes. That’s right. In fact, the entire idea of dietary angiogenesis intervention actually came from studying the urine of Japanese farmers who lived outside of Kyoto and looking for bioactivity, looking for some signal that there was something that might be in their urine that could interfere with the blood supply of cancers. It turns out all these farmers were vegetarians in Japan. When you picked out the spike in their urine, the chemical signal that it’s a spike that in a lab you could pick out and identify that spike, it was Genistein, which is a phytoestrogen. Quite the opposite to the idea that phytoestrogens in foods like soy could be harmful or dangerous for women who want to avoid breast cancer. Turns out the complete opposite is true.

Ari: That’s what I was going to ask you, is that there’s so much culture that has been built up for the last, I don’t know, 20 years or so of people who have demonized soy and taught that soy is bad, soy is going to increase your chance of cancer, soy is, for men, going to make you more estrogenic and be feminizing and is generally an unhealthy food that should be avoided. What would you say to people who are under that impression?

Dr. Li: Yes, well, look, first of all, it’s an urban legend, and the science says the complete opposite. If you’re a woman and you eat more soy, the studies show that your risk of breast cancer is decreased. The same thing as for men, you don’t actually have decreased virility because of soy. There’s a reason why, and I think the reason why is what people need to know. First of all, like many popular beliefs about food and health, especially when it comes to demonization, I always say well-intentioned person make some understandable connections. Let’s look at this, like soy. Soy has a phytoestrogen plant estrogen. Some human breast cancers are fueled by human estrogen. Wouldn’t it make sense that eating soy would be dangerous because the phytoestrogen could actually mimic human estrogen and cause a problem? To a lay person, a well-intentioned lay person, that would be a logical conclusion.

However, as a scientist, which is what I am, we dive really deep into this, so I like to explain why this is actually an urban legend. Number one is that when you look at the chemical structure of phytoestrogen for Genistein in soy, like chemical structure, it looks nothing like human estrogen, which you can look at the chemical structure. On the basis of science, you can look at these chemical structure and see they look nothing like the same. [inaudible 00:12:13] [crosstalk]–

Ari: Meaning, for people who are not familiar with physiology, the implication being that it’s not likely to interact with our estrogen receptors and promote the same functions.

Dr. Li: That’s correct. In fact, not only does it not mimic and cause the same function, the plant estrogen as human estrogen, in fact, the plant estrogen from soy, Genistein, blocks human estrogen. It’s mother nature’s Tamoxifen, which is a drug that oncologists actually give women to treat breast cancer. Plus, Genistein is cancer starving, it’s antiandrogenic. Plus, if you take a look at the large-scale human studies, so there was a study if 5,000 women called the Shanghai Women’s Breast Cancer Study that studied the women who are at the highest risk of breast cancer from soy, they would be, which is women already with breast cancer. It turned out that when they actually studied soy consumption in women with breast cancer, those women who drank or cconsumed he highest amount of soy, which is about 10 grams per day– How much is in 10 grams per day? It’s about the amount of soy protein, including phytoestrogen, that you would get in a tall glass of soy milk.

10 grams of soy protein decreased the risk of death from breast cancer by 30%. Then, if you had surgery or you were in remission, it actually decreased the chances of actually a recurrence of breast cancer by about 30% as well. That’s a large study, 3,000 people. If you go to Asia, women there also are diagnosed with breast cancer, unlike here in the West, where this urban legend has actually been widely circulating, as you point out, I mean, in Asia, women with breast cancer are not told to eat less soy, they’re told to eat more soy.

Ari: Oh wow.

Dr. Li: Again, there’s this cultural relativism. One thing that would have been logical to do 20 years ago when this rumor came out is like, well, so in Asia, when women develop breast cancer, do they tell them not to eat soy? Those that do eat soy, do they develop a worse outcome? The answer to both those questions is no.

Ari: Very interesting. I have one more question about angiogenesis. We’ll move on to your new book.

Dr. Li: Sure.

Ari: This might be a complex one, so feel free to oversimplify just for the sake of brevity. There is this desire to use compounds that have this anti-angiogenic function to block the formation of new blood vessels because the cancer tumor is basically creating a local– it’s secreting compounds that stimulate the production of more blood vessels for it to feed itself as it’s growing. You’re using these nutrients that are to some extent blocking that. Yet, there are other things, I think most notably exercise, that create a pro-angiogenic effect and yet don’t stimulate cancer growth, and in fact, are anti-cancer. How do we make sense of that seeming paradox?

Dr. Li: Yes, it’s a great question. The answer lies into understanding your own angiogenesis system. Blood vessels in our body are perfectly natural, perfectly healthy, and we need to have them. In fact, they’re one of our body’s health defense systems, which is what I wrote about in my first book, Eat To Be Disease. It turns out that our body manages this health defense system to make sure that all of our organs and cells have enough blood flow at all times. If there are areas that don’t have enough blood flow, it will grow blood vessels right in that little spot in order to be able to make sure that our tissues are adequately nourished. At the same time, it is on guard for excess blood vessels like a tumorite want to actually grow.

Think about it, on one hand, a gardener that is able to throw some seed down when there needs new grass in the turf. On the other hand, the same gardener, which is our angiogenesis health defense system, has a lawn mower. When the lawn grows too tall, basically, it’s mowed down back to that perfect level. Our system is in a state of balance at all times where you there’s some fluctuation from day to day, week to week, month to month, but at the end of the day, there’s never too many and there’s never too few. There’s always just the right amount. It’s called the Goldilocks Zone, like the three bears and Goldilocks. Not too hot, not too cold, just right. Just right is a bandwidth. Another way to think about it is like the volume in your car radio or your air pods. You know when the volume is too low, you want to turn it up, and you could tolerate it, turn it up a little bit further and you’re okay, but you go beyond that threshold you can’t stand it.

Same deal with angiogenesis. Our body is able to grow just the right amount and also mow away, mow down, naturally suppress excess blood vessels. When we actually eat foods that starve cancer of blood supply, all it can do is to mow the lawn. All it does is it prunes off that extra level of blood vessels. Foods are not drugs. They’re not powerful enough to punch through our defenses. You can never cause somebody a heart attack by getting rid of their blood vessels when you’re treating cancer using the dietary approach. Same deal. When you actually want to grow blood vessels in order to nurture your body, you can eat foods with them, and exercise will also do the same thing, by the way, but it will never overgrow because guess what? The dude with the lawn mower is always waiting to mow down anything extra. That’s how the system works. It’s like maintaining a golf course. It always looks great.

Ari: In a way, the goal is to support the body’s natural regulatory system for both angiogenic and anti-angiogenic functions. Is that correct?

Dr. Li: That’s right. Exactly. Really, what you’re doing is supporting the underlying engine for this health defense together. A little bit of this, a little bit of that, it all works together to make your health defense system so much stronger.

Eat to beat your diet book

Ari: Wonderful. Okay, let’s switch gears to your new book. Your last book was Eat to Beat Disease. The new book is Eat to Beat Your Diet. Tell me what prompted this. What is the book about?

Dr. Li: This is a direct sequel to my first book, Eat to Beat Disease, in which I talk about your body’s health defenses like angiogenesis, stem cells, your microbiome, gut health, your DNA repair mechanisms, and epigenetics, as well as your immune systems. There’s five health defense systems, and all the foods, more than 300 foods that can actually activate them so you really shields raised against disease. By working on your body– never about deprivation, it’s really about how to activation. This is a sequel that describes where do you go from here? How do you get to that next level of health? It turns out that once you have actually figured out how to overall eat generally healthier to raise your shields, your immune system, your telomeres, protect them from cellular aging, and your better gut health, foster regeneration in your body, and make sure all your tissues have good blood flow, the next frontier that matters to everyone is to improve and optimize your metabolism.

It turns out all five health defense systems, including angiogenesis, are tied to your metabolism. Most people think they understand metabolism, but as it turns out, even scientists until about two years ago had largely the wrong idea. Within the last couple of years, and this is what I write about in my book, what is the new science of the metabolism? How does that connect with something that we usually attach to metabolism which is body fat, body weight? We know that there’s food you shouldn’t be eating if you don’t want to gain weight, but are there foods that you should be eating to be able to help fight body fat and also to improve your metabolism? This book delivers on all that, and it gives it to you in a really practical plan, but it takes you on this journey, including a tour through the supermarket that I write about. It’s like yyou’re itting in my shopping cart and I wheel you around the entire supermarket telling you what to put in the cart that can actually boost your metabolism.

Ari: Wonderful. Let’s do this. First of all, let’s define what is meant by metabolism because the actual definition is basically the totality of all the biochemical reactions occurring in our body. Yet, as you pointed out, most people associate this word to mean resting metabolic rate, which is a function of essentially how much energy, how many calories our body is burning per day at rest. What do you mean by metabolism? How do you define it?

Dr. Li: Well, look, I don’t define it as a scientist any differently than you described it, but I do explain it differently because the new science that helps us understand metabolism and body fat can be understood in a way that’s much easier. Most people are not comfortable. It doesn’t register like, “Well, what does the sum of chemical reactions actually mean in the body?” Here, I’ll tell you a simple way for your viewers and listeners to understand metabolism. Our metabolism is how our body uses energy to fuel up and drive around our needs as we go through the day, whether we’re listening to a podcast, whether racing to the airport, or whether we’re sleeping at night. That’s what metabolism is. It’s how our body uses energy. Very similar to we sit in a car and we’re driving our car, our car uses fuel, energy, to run its engine so we can get from point A to point B. We don’t think too much about that process.

People who are mechanics know a lot about it, car geeks know a lot about it, but most people just get in the car and they drive and take it for granted that there’s a system in place to actually make sure there’s enough energy to run the engine. Now, what do we do in the car driving a car? We take a look at our fuel gauge every now and then. When our fuel gauge runs low, what do we do? We pull over to the filling station. We know we got to take the nozzle out, put it into the gas tank, press it, and fill it up, and then when it’s filled up, it’ll click, and then we put it back and we drive off and we’re good. Well, actually, our metabolism runs the engine of our body in very similar ways. Our brain can register when our fuel tank is low. When I say fuel to run the body’s energy, our fuel comes from food, food that we eat gives us the fuel, that fuel gives us the energy. Now, people call the fuel and the energy units calories, but I don’t want people to focus on calories in, calories out, and counting calories.

I think that’s become really confusing and a little bit more of a cult-like fixation for a lot of people. Actually, it’s not a healthy way to think about it. I prefer people to think about, look, your body knows when your fuel is running low. What do you do, you don’t pull over to the filling station. When your fuel is low, you pull over to the dinner table or to the refrigerator or to a restaurant so you can eat some food and load up on your fuel. Now, here’s where metabolism connects up with body fat. Most people think, “Oh, if I’m eating, I’m going to get fat. I’m going to gain weight. That’s how I get fat.” Not so fast [unintelligible 00:24:26]. There’s actually a connection to this you need to understand how this normally works in a healthy way. Our body fat’s incredibly healthy. I’m going to bring us back to when you were still in your mom’s womb. When your mom’s egg met your dad’s sperm and they turned into a ball of cells that would be the future you, one of the first tissues that form is your circulation, angiogenesis.

That’s because every organ in your body will ultimately need to have a blood flow, blood supply. The second tissue that forms are nerves.

The role of fat cells in your body

That’s because every organ needs instructions to be sent through this electrical cable that actually tells them what to do. The third tissue that forms is body fat in the womb. Tiny little fat cells form as a third tissue in your body, and they form around your blood vessels. It’s like bubble wrap wrapped around your blood vessel. Now, why is that? It’s because fat cells, the cells that make up fatty tissue, actually are fuel tanks. Go back to the fuel analogy. What happens is that when fuel through food is in your bloodstream, your body packs the fuel from the bloodstream right into the fuel tank, just like you put the nozzle from the filling station into your gas tank. That’s simple. That’s why tthere’s lot of blood vessels.

You had body fat even before you had a face you could stuff with food. Fast forward nine months. When you see a healthy baby, what is a healthy baby? It’s a fat chubby baby with chubby cheeks, chubby arms, and legs. Their arms look like they were the circus poodles, circus animals twisted by a clown. That’s healthy. We know that fat is associated with health, it makes us feel good, and we know a healthy baby is chubby. In fact, if you saw a baby that looked like a fashion model on a runway, chiseled cheekbones, long, thin arms, long, thin thighs, legs, you would be freaked out. You’d say there’s something seriously wrong with this baby, and you’d be right. This idea that we associate body fat with something terrible and undesirable is completely wrong. Our body fat is our fuel tank.

Ari: Sorry, just when you say completely wrong, so would you object to the idea that my impression is quite well established among metabolic health researchers that when you have too much body fat, it becomes extremely deleterious to health and drives insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome and overall metabolic dysfunction?

Dr. Li: That is completely correct, and I’m in complete agreement with that. What I’m saying about our idea that we only think about fat in reference to when it’s in excess and therefore, it must be something that you want to get rid of, that is actually overlooking, and therefore, wrong, overlooking what its natural normal function is, which is a fuel tank. It loads up on the fuel that our body needs to drive our carcasses around to be able to do the things that we enjoy to make our life meaningful. What’s really interesting when you think about metabolism is that process. Now, I’m going to go right to what you talked about, excess body fat. Why do some people develop excess body fat? Well, think about it. If you actually were in your car at the filling station filling up the gas, what happens when your gas tank is full? It fills up and there’s a clicker on the nozzle that will automatically shut off the gas so no more gas goes in your car when it’s full.

Now, our human body doesn’t have a clicker like that. We can sit down to a meal and load up on fuel, ie calories, and keep on eating it. Now, here’s what happens from a metabolic perspective. I’m trying to explain this in ways that I think are functional and not too scientific because although I’m a scientist, I like to communicate about these new discoveries in a way that I think makes sense to people who are wondering, how does that apply to me? You’re eating food, your body is using some of that energy right away. When you eat food, your pancreas secretes a hormone called insulin. Insulin helps draw in energy so your cells have the power to do what it wants to do. It’s like your running onboard motor so you can keep on going on idle to do [unintelligible 00:28:48]. Anything else, basically, your body takes and stores that extra anything that is not immediately needed into fat, into those little fat cells.

Remember, I told you these little fat cells started forming when you were in the womb around blood vessels. That’s where they start forming. Now, the energy that is the fuel that’s stored in them, which is fat, fat as fuel, expands the fat cells. They start tiny, but they can expand 100 times their size as they’re filling up with fuel, like a water balloon. Because we don’t have a clicker, if we keep on overflowing, overloading our body with too much fuel, what happens in a car if the clicker didn’t work? The gas tank would fill up, the gas would quickly overflow, run down the side of the car, right down around the wheels, pool around your feet, and start turning into this dangerous, toxic, flammable mess. Now, in our body, the extra fuel that we might overeat can’t evaporate. Our body has to stuff it into fat cells.

Imagine the normal fat cells get stuffed with fuel. They get bigger and bigger and bigger, 100 times bigger, and they stop. “Oops, you’ve got still some more fuel because you’ve overeaten? Okay, let’s make some more fat cells.” It makes more fat cells. Then, the body stuffs it up, blows it up 100 times in size, “Oops, still want some more fuel? Let’s make another fat cell.” Blows it up, and you can see over and over, you do do this, you wind up developing a bigger, bigger fat mass. Now, fat normally has absolutely critical functions in the body. Besides being a cushion, it’s actually a space heater. It can actually burn down fuel when we want it to. Fat can actually burn down fat when it’s called into action. We’ll talk about that. The other thing that fat does is it’s an organ. It’s an organ like your heart, your lungs, your spleen.

That’s an amazing thing because it’s not just any organ, it’s an endocrine organ, which means that it secretes hormones, more than 15 different hormones that fat has been discovered to secrete. These hormones that normal healthy fat secretes are critical to run your metabolism so you have enough energy at all times. I’ll just name three of them. One of them people may have heard of called leptin, L-E-P-T-I-N. Leptin is sometimes referred to as a satiety hormone. People who don’t know what satiety is, it’s when you feel full. Some people think it’s like a switch off and on. I’d like people to think about this normal fat hormone made by your healthy fat actually as a volume control for your appetite. You have less leptin, volume controls goes up, now you have more appetite. You have more leptin, your appetite turns down. It just tunes it up and down. That’s most hormones. It’s an up and down switch, not an on and off switch.

The adiponectin hormone

Another hormone that’s really important, have you heard of a hormone called adiponectin?

Ari: Yes.

Dr. Li: Okay. Adiponectin turns out if I were to draw a vial of your blood as a doctor and send it to a hospital lab and say, “Hey, you know what? Hospital lab, please measure all the hormones in Ari Whitten’s blood sample and tell me what they are.” They’d find adiponectin, but your levels of adiponectin would be 1,000 times higher than every other hormone in your body, higher than testosterone, higher than thyroid hormone, higher than anything else. You know why? Because this fat hormone made by your normal healthy levels of fat that formed when you were in a womb that’s connected to your metabolism, adiponectin partners with insulin to make your energy extraction from your bloodstream more efficient. When you’re adiponectin goes up, your insulin works better. That’s an important gas pedal to allow our metabolism to use our energy.

A third hormone and then I’ll stop is resistin. If adiponectin is a gas pedal so you absorb more energy more efficiently, resistin is the brake. If adiponectin goes, “Let’s go get some more energy,” the resistin goes, “Whoa, not so fast. Let’s back off a little bit.” Again, balance, harmony, control, it’s a spectrum. It’s like a volume switch on and off or gas pedal-brake deal going on here. That’s normal fat. Remember I told you, if you overeat and your body has to stuff up more and more and more and more fat, it just fills up the gas tank and makes more tanks, what happens is that as that fat mass expands, it outstrips its blood supply, it outstrips and has to start angiogenesis blood vessels, we started talking about it at the very beginning, but the fat can grow much faster than blood vessels can grow to feed it. What happens, like a tumor, expanding mass, like a tumor, starts to rot in the middle. It’s called hypoxia. It doesn’t have enough oxygen. Without enough oxygen, what happens? This thing becomes highly inflammatory.

Overeating grows your fat mass, causes your fat to be inflammatory, and especially when it’s visceral fat, the kind of fat around your gut packed inside the tube of your body, that inflammation leaked out everywhere into your body. Now you become in a pro-inflammatory state, which we know sets up for chronic disease.

How metabolism works

Ari: Okay. Everything you said just now is very compelling. However, we need to speak to let’s call them the skeptics. There are some people in the evidence-based, I would say self-proclaimed evidence-based fitness and nutrition circles who strongly object to any discussion of “boosting one’s metabolism”. There is a general consensus in these groups that metabolism as defined by resting metabolic rate is generally not very malleable. Meaning dietary tweaks don’t boost one’s resting metabolic rate. There’s also a lot of debunking of the notion that one’s resting metabolic rate declines dramatically during periods of caloric restriction. All this kind of stuff. There’s another parallel area of research around metabolic adaptation that occurs during periods of underfeeding caloric restriction and how the body does make adaptations usually that are not focused on one’s resting metabolic rate but things like how the nervous system innovates muscle tissue and will learn to be more efficient with accomplishing the same amount of activity and burn fewer calories to accomplish that activity or to restrict the amount of fast twitch muscle fiber activation to restrict energy output or to modulate non-exercise activity thermogenesis, the amount of energy that we expend at rest just moving around in our chairs, fidgeting our feet, and which amounts to hundreds of calories a day.

Mainly the body seems to modulate those dimensions in order to change to try to match calorie output to calorie input. Again, this group challenges the notion that we can do a whole lot to change our resting metabolic rate with the exception of maybe adding more muscle tissue to elevate it. One more layer to this, which is the metabolic ward studies that have generally shown that calories do matter, essentially. That at equivalent levels of calories, regardless of the hormonal milieu with regards to insulin and that sort of thing, low-carb versus high-carb diets, at equivalent levels of calories, we lose the same amount of weight. Given those dimensions and the perspective of that group of people, how would you explain what these physiological mechanisms, the modulation of inflammation and hormones and angiogenic factors and all those kinds of things that you’re talking about, how is it actually linking up with the calories-in calories-out equation to further drive weight loss?

Dr. Li: Right. Okay. First of all, everything you said just now in explaining the perspective of the fitness community has basis in truth and is generally correct. Except that I think that for most people, it’s hard to really put that into terms that they would know, what does that mean for dinner tonight, or how do I think about my day? I think that for the aficionado, the people who are really deep-diving, those are the ones that actually want to know all those nuances. I think that a couple of things, there’s two big things I want to talk about that I think are going to bring maybe a little bit more dimension to the metabolism story that some people have heard of part of it and some people not have heard of the other part. First of all, let’s talk about metabolism as it actually changes during the day.

As I mentioned, when we eat, it’s like pulling over to the filling station. We’re filling up during our waking hours when we’re eating food and insulin goes up and we’re drawing in and storing energy. That energy gets burned with whatever we need at the moment, and it’s stored for later use. In fact, while we’re eating and while insulin is up, our metabolism naturally is focused on storing energy, not burning down energy, even though we need some to operate what we’re doing. Now, when we’re not eating, like when we’re sleeping, our insulin levels are down. Because we’re not eating, insulin level’s down. What our metabolism does is it switches into a different gear where it actually is favoring energy burning. “Let’s go ahead and burn some energy. We’re not loading up anymore.” It’s like you turn your car off at a gas station so you can load up your tank. You’re not burning it down at the same time.

When you’re sleeping, we’re burning down energy, and we’re burning it from the fuel tanks that were stored up during the day and maybe the day before and maybe the weekend before and maybe the holidays, and really sleeping– Let’s say you go to bed at 11 o’clock and let’s say you get up at 7:00, so you’ve got eight hours of sleeping, you’ve got eight hours of not eating. Your body shifts towards that metabolic fat-burning energy, fuel burning state, and then you get up. Then, when you get up and you start eating, you flip the metabolic switch and you’re doing something different. Now you’re back in fuel-storing mode. You can see net-net, basically, if you’re not burning too many calories, you’re not burning fuel, and you’re loading up on fuels, that’s calorie in versus calorie out, you’re going to have an accumulation of fuel, extra fuel in your tank, which will increase the fat mass, which will then become pro-inflammatory, which can then derail all those hormonal functions we’re talking about.

The current trend about intermittent fasting, which can be– A lot of people get confused about intermittent fasting as something that’s new, that’s been engineered to harness the body’s activities. I like to think about it this way, it’s one of the most natural things in the world. When we’re sleeping, we’re not eating. We’re intermittently not eating so we’re intermittently fasting. When we get up in the morning and we eat breakfast, we are breaking our fast. We’re intermittently eating and we’re intermittently fasting, not a big deal, but what happens is that we switch back and forth between fuel burning versus fuel storing mode.

Now, if you actually store more fuel, continuously during the day, or if you don’t actually allow your body to burn as much fuel during the night, like you eat really late at night. It’s not just what you eat and how much you eat, but it’s also when you eat that can give your body more time to burn down fuel. That’s one of the ways that our metabolism naturally starts to work.

Again, rather than think about a performance car, it’s really about cycling up and down, like this harmonious balance of what our body naturally cycles to do. It’s very easy to overeat and very easy to actually grow extra body fat and load up too much fuel. Then you got to pay the price. You’ve got to figure out how you’re going to burn it down or burn it away. I think fasting and eating are natural ways to explain this.

People have heard about intermittent fasting. What they may not have heard about is really the role of actually excess fat affecting your metabolism in this way because just 24 months ago, a major discovery, a landmark discovery was made by a scientist named Herman Pontzer who worked with 90 other researchers from 20 countries, and they did the most ambitious study of human metabolism in history, which is they studied 6,000 people, men and women, different sexes, different ages, different locations, different body types across 20 countries. You’re really covering the gamut.

They studied them exactly the same way for metabolism by giving them a drink of water. Now, the water they did is– Water is H2O, hydrogen is H, O is oxygen. What they did is they tweaked the hydrogen and tweaked the oxygen chemically, and it’s called deuterated water. It’s not radioactive, but you can measure it. When you give these 6,000 people the water to drink, you can measure how the metabolisms changed the H, the hydrogen and the oxygen in their breath, in their blood, and in their urine. What they found– Oh, oh, and by the way, one more thing. The 6,000 people that they studied, they range from two days old, beginning of life, to 94 years old, the very tail end of life.

This study, this is the landmark study. If you haven’t seen it, you should read it. Covers the entire human lifespan. When they measured the metabolism, the initial results that came out, the raw data showed the metabolism of these 6,000 people were, wait for it, all over the map. Not surprising. Just like you’d expect. However, what they did that was the turnkey tricky part, this is the brilliant part, they developed an algorithm that corrected on the basis of every subject’s body size and the effect of excess body fat on the metabolism, and they subtracted that using the algorithm individual, by individual, by individual, by individual 6,000 times.

When they actually removed the effect of the metabolism of excess body fat, it was like uncloaking the statue of David. It turns out that all humans go through the exact same four stages of metabolism over the course of human lifespan. Everyone is born with the same metabolism from the first stages, from age zero to one. Metabolism skyrockets to 50% higher than your adult levels, Stage 1.

Stage 2, from 1-year-old to 20 years old, your metabolism goes down, down, down, down, down to adult levels. That means that during adolescence, when kids are eating two dinners, they’re going crazy with activity and they’re sprouting out like a beanstalk, their metabolism, like parents used to think, isn’t going up. It’s going down. It’s hardwired. This is how we’re hardwired. Then, the big surprise is that from age 20 in Stage 3, 20 to 60. 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, the human metabolism as its hardwires, rock stable. Does not change, does not go down when you reach your 40s, or 50s, or 60s. Does not change because of childbirth, because of menopause, hardwired. It doesn’t change.

Then, at age 60, it goes down to 90, about 17%. What this means is that 60 can be the new 20 if you let your metabolism do what it wants to do. Then, what they did, they showed when you add the effect of body fat back– We used to think that born with a slow metabolism, you’re going to struggle with your weight, you’re going to struggle with your food, you’re going to be gaining weight and gaining body fat. Not so. Our hardwiring is just in those four phases, but if you add the effect of body fat, excess body fat back into the system, at any stage, you crush your metabolism. When you talk about—

Ari: That’s crushing daily energy expenditure?

Dr. Li: Yes, exactly. Your hardwiring of how the fuel actually works. This is done in the experimental design, isn’t like studying an individual over time and finding out when they’re racing, athletes versus people who are sedentary, but this is really characterizing human metabolism over their life. Now, there’s a lot more to be studied, to dive in there, but I can tell you that this discovery, which is published in the Journal of Science in 2021, completely upended the textbooks on human metabolism.

It’s not that the things that you said were incorrect. I acknowledge that actually, they’re all based on, the details are actually all dimensions of how metabolism works, but we now know that it’s not that you’re born with a slow metabolism, which is why you struggle with your weight. It’s actually that excess weight, excess body fat impacts your metabolism to suppress it. This is not the idea of boosting your metabolism, per se. It’s really allowing your innate hardwired metabolism to rise to its own waterline.

Ari: It’s recovering what should be our normal healthy metabolic state.

Dr. Li: Exactly. Remember, just like the angiogenesis story I told you, it’s not like an EKG where you’ve got one level that’s normal, it’s a range. It’s the Goldilocks. Metabolism goes up and down. You fidget a little bit more, it goes up a little bit more. You run to the grocery store, you run to the airport, it’s going to burn a little bit more. It goes up and down. This idea of boosting metabolism, which is a marketing word, honestly, boosting, it’s really allowing your innate hardwired metabolic operating system to actually escalate to a higher level within its normal plane.

We’re not talking about creating Superman versus hitting Superman with kryptonite, we’re talking about actually optimizing within the zone of physiology. How do you optimize your own metabolism? Fighting body fat over the course of our lives, whether it’s a child or in a middle-age or adult, and also the behaviors that might make us gain weight at middle age. Think about it, menopause, depression, you might be less active, you’ve got children, you’re worried about the economy. Life slows down. Life happens. Those factors can influence our decisions, and those decisions can involve not only how much we eat, overeating, overloading the fuel, it’s not so helpful, but what we eat and know that there are choices that actually help our body naturally grow more harmful body fat, that can actually [unintelligible 00:48:40] our metabolism.

There is one caveat though, to talk about boosting metabolism, and that is really, I would say maybe not use the word boost. I would say, activating our metabolism above what it normally does. This is something that also you hear a lot in the fitness world, which is the, what is the role of brown fat. As it turns out, and I wrote about this in my new book, Eat To Beat Your Diet, the first part about this book is really what is the new science of the metabolism, and how do we rethink the role of body fat, and how do we understand what fat does for us when it’s healthy, and what does it do against us when we have too much of it? With that type of knowledge, how is that connected to our health? Then, what can we do to eat foods that will actually alter that? The activation of fat is actually been scientifically studied with this particular kind of fat called brown fat, and I think it’s worth talking about.

Brown Fat – your personal fat burner

Ari: Yes, absolutely. Let’s present that piece of the story in a particular context. If I can briefly summarize what you’ve described so far. It’s a brilliant metaphorical way of explaining how the body works. I think it’s a wonderful way for people to gain insight into what fat is all about, and how it works, and what we’re doing when we’re accumulating excess body fat, and then how that is poisoning the system.

Now, at this point in the story, we’ve arrived at somewhat of a catch-22, somewhat of a– It’s people are in a pickle, so to speak, because the very people who need to lose weight, you’re saying, their metabolic health, their metabolism is being poisoned, essentially, by the fact that they have excess body fat, which is making it harder to lose body fat, right? How do we escape that? Since we have to wrap up soon, maybe you can present this brown fat, activating brown fat piece, and maybe a couple of other practical tools that people can start to use to catalyze shifting their metabolism back into a healthy state.

Dr. Li: Yes. Before we dive into brown fat, let me just get into this by saying that brown fat is like the icing-on-the-cake approach. There are some basic ways you can actually lose, despite extra body fat, start by having less fuel in your body. By avoiding the overconsumption of food, i.e. loading less fuel in your body, you’ll actually start to create less body fat, less fuel tank. That’s one important step. Second important step, it’s very practical, is actually, give your body, your own metabolism more time to burn down fuel. That’s really the time that you are not eating.

That’s the basis of intermittent fasting. Now, people talk about 16 and 8, of 16 fasting and 8 eating. Eight-hour eating window can be pretty hard for many people to do. 16 hours of fasting, I can do it, but not everyone feels comfortable doing it. I’ll tell you, the research even shows that even fasting 12 hours and eating 12 hours, if you don’t overeat, it’s actually reasonable. You can actually lose body fat, fight body fat and lose weight in that very way. You want to extend that time to get 12 hours. Let’s say you sleep for eight hours from 11:00 to 7:00, 11:00 at night to 7:00 in the morning, it’s eight hours. Here’s what you do, after you eat dinner at seven o’clock the night before, let’s say you put your dishes away at eight o’clock, don’t snack, don’t eat late dessert, no noshing. From 8:00 to 11:00, you just gained three extra hours to allow your body to burn down fuel.

When you get up in the morning, don’t do what our mommies told us to do when we were kids, which is roll out of bed, eat breakfast, get on the school bus, and get to school.

Here’s what I do, I get up in the morning, I take a shower, I get dressed, I check my email or I’ll go for a walk or do something else. I don’t eat breakfast right away for an hour, and I’ve given myself an extra hour. Three hours before sleep, 8:00 bedtime. Eight hours is 11 hours of sleep, one extra hour. Now I’ve done 12 hours, right then and there.

That’s a little tip that’s so easy for anyone to actually understand. You want to go for deep cut and you want to actually take a look at, and you got to avoid some of the fat-fueling foods that can poison your microbiome and all that kind of stuff. Eat mostly plant-based foods, eat good, healthy sources of protein. You do want to build your muscle more than build fat, all that kind of stuff. You want a pro tip? You can actually start to activate your brown fat.

Turns out, body fat, which is normal and healthy, comes in two colors, white and brown. The white stuff is jiggly. It’s under the arms, under the chin, it’s the muffin top. It’s on your thighs and your butt, stuff that most people don’t want. The white fat is also inside the tube of your body, which is a really dangerous visceral fat. Visceral meaning gut. I would tell people to understand, visceral fat can be in skinny people. Think about this image, it is like a baseball glove made of fat, choking your organs. You need a little bit. When you have too much, it literally becomes inflamed and chokes your organs, which poisons your organs. It’s very dangerous. It disrupts all your metabolic hormonal signals.

Okay, so brown fat is the other kind of color of fat. What is brown fat? Brown fat isn’t wiggly and jiggly. It’s not lumpy bumpy. It is wafer thin, paper thin, and it is not under the skin. You can’t see it. It is layered close to the bone around your neck, under your breastbone, under your chest, under your arms, like a bra strap, a little bit beyond back, a little bit in your belly. It is a space heater. We know it’s a space heater because that’s why it’s brown. It turns out that brown fat has a ton of mitochondria. Mitochondria are like the nuclear fuel cells of your body. They generate heat and they generate energy.

When I was in med school, I used to memorize all kinds of stuff. Mitochondria, I used to call it Mightychondria. Mitochondria because they actually are the fuel cells of our body. It turns out that there are certain foods that you can actually eat that will trigger the mitochondria in brown fat, so they fire up and they generate heat. Brown fat is a space heater in your body. In order to generate that heat, it needs energy, just like your space heater needs a plug, needs power in your wall.

Or, another way of thinking about the brown that and the space heating thing, think about your gas range, your cooking stovetop. What do you do? You turn on the clicker, click, click, click, whoosh. When you have the whoosh where now you’re going to click on the flame, it’s actually burning the flame. It’s got to draw the energy from someplace. In your home, on your stove, it’s going to be your gas tanks, your gas tanks in your house or in your home.

In your body, your brown fat, when it lights up with whoosh through the mitochondria, it draws that energy from your white fat, especially the visceral fat. Brown fat is good fat that can fight the bad fat, the extra bad fat by burning it down. I write about in my book, Eat to Beat Your Diet, more than 150 foods that have human evidence, including the doses of actually foods that can actually light up your brown fat and it burns fuel. Do you want to say it’s boosting metabolism? It’s not like an energy drink. What it’s actually doing, it’s actually firing up your consumption of fuel stored as calories.

What we’re realizing is that in studies of food as medicine, this can actually shrink the [unintelligible 00:56:25] fat. This can actually temporarily improve your metabolism by a few points. Not huge, like we’re not talking about 50%, but just enough to tip the balance where you’re starting to burn fuel. Although sleeping and not eating and fasting are the times when your body is inclined to burn fuel, that fuel-burning mode, the exception is when you’re eating food ingredients that can actually light up your brown fat and shift the energy consumption or up the energy consumption along the way.

The great news is that many of these foods are not– This isn’t about deprivation. The one thing I write about is that the good news is that these foods are the same ingredients that you would find in Mediterranean cuisine or Asian cuisine. Many of them are the– These are the two healthiest cuisines on the planet, and most people could find something delicious to eat in it.

I talk about this idea that we don’t need to fear our food. We shouldn’t fear our food. We shouldn’t get fixated on counting numbers and counting calories. We should really lean into our food and really learn to love our food in order for it to harness and tame our metabolism, our body fat, so that we can not only align the enjoyment of that very human nature of having food for pleasure, along with having better health and better metabolism.

Ari: Just a couple of quick points. You probably learned this, if you didn’t already know it, in the process of writing about brown fat, but it was thought for many years in the scientific community that adult humans did not have brown fat tissue. Were you aware of that?

Dr. Li: Yes. It’s wrong because it’s been discovered to be that adults do have it. In my book, I write about the interesting history of brown fat, which dates back to the 17th century when a naturalist named Conrad Gesner was dissecting the Alpine Marmot, which is the little squirrel-like thing that was hibernating. He found in between the shoulder blades this little brown eraser-like-looking thing, didn’t know what it was. He called it a hibernoma because it was in a hibernating animal and it was an oma, which is a mass. A hibernoma is just a mass that was found in hibernating animals.

Fast forward, and people started finding it in all kinds of other hibernating animals. Fast forward to the mid-1900s, a scientist at UCLA, a physiologist actually at that point had the microscopes that could actually take a deeper look at this fat mass, this brown stuff. What they said, it’s all was that, “Oh, my gosh, this is actually body fat. This is a brown piece of body fat.” When they started to look and it’s found in hibernating animals, it must help them keep warm. That’s when they found the mitochondria and the heat-generating function.

They were wondering if it’s in animals, is it in people? The first place they looked at it in babies. In fact, there is brown fat between the shoulder blades of babies, just like in the mammal, the Alpine Marmot that was dissected in the 17th century. Then it seems to go away. That’s why people are like, “You know what? This is a vestigial thing. It’s like tonsils or your appendix. Don’t worry about it.”

Ari: Exactly.

Dr. Li: Totally wrong. The real story is that it got discovered back in 2009. There was a woman that came into a hospital in Boston with a tumor in her chest. At the time they had PET scans which detect metabolism. It’s like a CT scan or an MRI looks at the structure of the body. PET scan doesn’t give you structure, it gives you metabolism. We use it to measure tumors and hearts to look for how much energy is being generated by it. Tumors are light up.

This woman with a tumor in her chest got a PET scan, and guess what? The thing in her chest lit up like a firework. Then they biopsied it, and they took it out the biopsy, and looked into the microscope. Now, a very sophisticated microscope. Guess what? Not a cancer. It was not a cancer, it was a hibernoma. It was a piece of brown fat that was a tumor. One of the researchers, Ronald Kahn who’s an endocrinologist wondered, I wonder if other PET scans are showing these hibernomas and we just missed them. Maybe the radiologist didn’t just blew it off because it looked like a little thing lighting up someplace but we weren’t looking for them because they weren’t where the cancer was or the heart or whatever.

He went back and looked at 1,000 PET scans from patients that had been studied in the hospital. He found some of them had them and some of them didn’t. Classic scientist dilemma. Is it just BS? Is it just a artifact? What is it? Then he thought about it, and this is the mark of a really brilliant scientist, he said, “Originally brown fat was found in hibernating animals who are cold. We checked the weather forecast and he correlated the temperature, the weather forecast that was taken on the day of these thousand patients who got their PET scan.

He found that in warm weather in the summer, we’d hardly pick up anything, but all the brown fat was picked up in the bodies in these PET scans during the winter months. Now, where did they find it? Just what I told you around the neck, and the chest, packed in the belly. I actually, because you need to see this to believe it, I actually got permission from the researchers to put the actual pictures of the brown fat lighting up in my book Eat to Beat Your Diet because I want people to see there’s a lot of brown fat in adults. You got to see it to believe it.

How to activate brown fat

Ari: Now, it atrophies a lot in most unhealthy adults who are not regularly exposing themselves to the cold. Is that correct? What you just described about the summer versus winter months is very interesting and that suggests that there’s a seasonal atrophy and a seasonal regain of that tissue. I guess two quick questions to wrap up. One is, is it possible in somebody who has very atrophied brown fat tissue to stimulate the formation or the synthesis of more brown fat tissue from nutrients alone, or does it require regular cold exposure? Did you find any research to suggest a synergy between using some of these nutrients from food combined with regular cold exposure?

Dr. Li: Yes. The whole idea of cold exposure is that that definitely activates and exercises your brown fat. You have more hypertrophy or more development of brown fat. By the way, they saw this in the Scandinavian outdoor workers, people who are working outdoors at Scandinavia lumberjacks and much more brown fat because they’re outside all the time. By the way, so what is this fat trying to do? Probably try to keep core body temperatures up a little bit. It makes total sense that this would actually exist. As opposed to atrophy, it is true that there is a decline in the amount of brown fat with aging, but it turns out that you can actually bring it back and studies have been done by understanding the mechanisms of this.

I don’t know if we have the time to really go dive into all the details of the mechanism, but we understand that cold temperatures emulates norepinephrine which is kind of a stress hormone. Stress hormone goes down from our brain, released from our brain, goes down the nerves to the brown fat, and it turns on the brown fat, it fires it up. It’s like putting a long matchstick into the gas burner when your clicker’s not working. Whoosh, you get it going. All right.

It turns out, however, cold temperature isn’t the only thing it can trigger the norepinephrine. By the way, that norepinephrine activates the beta-3 adrenergic receptor, which then there’s a domino effect. The beta-3 adrenergic receptor on brown fat goes down to the mitochondria in the cell of the fat cell, which then has something called UCP1, the uncoupling protein 1, that’s basically like a trigger on a pistol. When you press that trigger, boom, you light up that mitochondria, that mitochondria, that nuclear reactor, and you start the brown fat.

What’s interesting is to ask, what else can stimulate this pain? It turns out that there are drugs. In fact, there’s a drug called mirabegron that’s approved for treating bladder spasms, that specifically activates the beta-3 adrenergic receptor and which then activates the uncoupling protein 1, which then activates the mitochondria, which then fires up your brown fat. Clinical studies have been done at the National Institutes of Health showing that mirabegron at much higher doses than you safely give for bladder spasm, actually, will light up all that brown fat.

Number one, we know that pharmaceuticals can actually do it. The future of fat management isn’t going to be like the Wegovys and the Ozempics and stuff like that. Really, it’s probably going to be figuring out how to manipulate these very, very fine-detailed pathways. Until that time, it turns out that foods can also trigger the same pathways. Chili peppers. Turns out, if you have chili flakes, the stuff you put on your pizza, you get that zing or hot sauce, the buffalo wings. The capsaicin in chili peppers is a bioactive, binds to the receptor on your tongue.

Again, not to confuse people, but we know the names of these things, TRPV1. It’s a transient receptor of vanilloid peptide 1. I gave very simple examples earlier about the car and the driver. I want you to know, as a scientist, we can go there and really dig down into the mechanisms, but I think it’s hard for people to understand and keep track of. When you put the hot chili pepper flake on your tongue, it basically is like putting a key into a lock and turning the switch. Your tongue sends a text message as a signal to your brain to release two things. One, endorphins. This resides some people feel-good hormones, which is why some people really love chili peppers, are kind of addicted.

The second thing it triggers your brain to release, norepinephrine. You can feel this in a quiet room. If you were to actually eat something spicy in a room and you turn off the lights so you’re just paying attention to yourself, put yourself in a zen state, you eat that chili peppers, you will literally feel the nerves lighting up in your head down your neck and lighting up your brown fat. It’s really amazing. Try that next time you’re having something spicy. Just close your eyes and pay attention to your body. You’ll feel it lighting up.

Beta-adrenergic receptor activated by the norepinephrine lights up UCP1, turns on the mitochondria, boom, you’ve actually turned on your brown fat. This has been studied specifically. Brown fat lights up, burns fuel, draws it from harmful white fat, and now you’ve elevated your metabolism within the normal range towards the upper level of normal, and you’re starting to consume energy, you consume fuel, and you burn down, and you start to shrink body fat, and you’ll lose weight. You’ll actually shrink your waistline actually, and you’ll improve your other metabolic parameters, like insulin resistance will start to recede, reverse, in some cases, and your fat mass will also decline as well. Chili peppers is just one example of the 149 other foods I actually talk about in my new book.

Ari: Dr. Li, this has been an absolute joy. Thank you so much for coming on the show. Are there any final words you want to leave people with and tell people when and where they should get your new book?

Dr. Li: Yes. First of all, I just want to tell people, maybe you can tell this from the tone of my voice. I’m a scientist and a doctor, but I’m super excited by these new sets of discoveries that really put the power of metabolism back into our hands and where we don’t have to fear our food, we can actually intelligently approach our food in ways that can activate our own natural systems to fight body fat, improve our metabolism, and elevate our health overall.

This is really a sea change from how we used to think and about body fat, and fear it and fear food and think that metabolism is our destiny. It is our destiny in the sense that we’re hardwired with this operating system, but we can actually play with our systems in order to be able to amplify the good parts of it too so we can rise to its own natural level. I think that my overall parting words is that you can love your food, to love your metabolism, to love your health.

My new book comes out on March 21st, available anywhere where books are sold. I love to have people check it out and give me feedback. I love to hear about this. This is a growing area of research. Some of the stuff is so new that the old textbooks on metabolisms are being rewritten, and they haven’t even come out yet. We’re really talking about an inflection point, I think, in terms of thinking about human metabolism

Show Notes

(00:00) Intro
(00:43) Guest intro
(02:48) Dr. Li’s TED talk and what science has found since
(09:39) The benefits of soy for treating and preventing breast cancer
(19:34) Eat to beat your diet book
(22:05) The definition of metabolism
(25:49) The role of fat cells in your body
(32:37) The adiponectin hormone
(35:10) How metabolism works
(50:30) Brown Fat and intermittent fasting – your personal fat burner
(1:03:07) How to activate brown fat
(1:09:30) Outro


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