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Some Paleo thoughts on Daniel G. Amen, M.D.?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created December 08, 2011 at 1:55 AM

I've been reading the book "Change Your Brain Change Your Body" by Daniel G. Amen. He is a clinical neuroscientist, psychiatrist, and a brain imaging expert. This particular book talks about the different ways you can have a healthy brain, because he believes you must have a healthy brain in order to have a healthy body. A lot of the instructions he provides are no brainers (no pun intended): Eat a healthy balanced diet, exercise frequently, 7+ hours of sleep, plenty of water, manage your stress, put your hormones in check, take a multivitamin and fish oil, plenty of sex, don't watch too much TV, etc etc. These basic guidelines are pretty Paleo, yet his actual food advice misses the mark quite a bit. He mentions some of the bad fats being: steak, butter, bacon, lamb chops. He considered the following as good fats: soybeans, peanut oil, low-fat cheeses, and canola oil. He also encourages eating low-fat yogurt, kidney beans, low-fat milk, spaghetti, and oatmeal as they have low ratings in the Glycemic Index. Yeeeeeah...

I started to read this book because I'm suffering from an excessive amount of stress and anxiety, especially from not losing weight on Paleo. I haven't read any information on solutions to my stress from a Paleo background. Obviously something is missing for me and I don't think it is diet or exercise. His chapter on hormones was informative and I'm looking forward to his chapter on coping with stress and negative thinking when it comes to our bodies.

I was wondering what other people thought of him? Agree or Disagree with his books? Also, should I watch out for anything else he says, since his nutrition chapter was off the mark (based off of a non-lacto Paleo diet) or are is he otherwise sound?

And of course, a link to his website: http://www.amenclinics.com/ (No, not religious haha)

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on February 08, 2012
at 05:25 PM

Hmmm...I don't think he meant it in that sense. I believe he was getting at the idea that thoughts can create hormone cascades that will have an impact on every cell (including your knee cells). Let's say you are caught in a stressed out negative feedback loop and happen to fall down and scrape your knee. It will take longer for that wound to heal than it otherwise would because you are flooded with stress hormones that are distracting your system from dealing with the injury.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on February 08, 2012
at 03:03 AM

I really like his PBS specials, but I usually fast-forward the parts about specific nutritional suggestions when I re-watch them. I'd love to see a "Your Brain On Paleo" brain scan series. I like the idea of starting the journey to improved health via brain health, at least that is where I have to start because if I am having trouble thinking, I have a heck of a hard time making good decisions for the rest of my body. I think the ANT concept, and how to deal with it is really cool, and a great place to start any behavior modification program.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on December 08, 2011
at 07:50 PM

I definitely agree with that! Even when I disagree with a comment it makes me think differently.

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19413)

on December 08, 2011
at 07:35 PM

IMHO, there's a lot more useful info right here on paleohacks than in any single book by either of those two docs.

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19413)

on December 08, 2011
at 07:33 PM

good point! :)

Dfada6fe4982ab3b7557172f20632da8

(5332)

on December 08, 2011
at 11:55 AM

and don't forget to balance with potassium

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4 Answers

4
Dfada6fe4982ab3b7557172f20632da8

(5332)

on December 08, 2011
at 02:45 AM

I'm halfway through, and had noticed the same things. I just disregard his CW throwaway lines on nutrition - which is a lot easier to do than with Cordain's books. Personally I think it's natural from his viewpoint to view everything through the brain, but I prefer a more holistic approach. Still, I believe he knows what he's talking about with his own research and experience in how the brain functions, and so there's something to be learnt from that. But the problem with CW is that everyone repeats is. No-one can afford to do their own research and check every bit of advice they give on every subject, so it's no surprise that just because a neuroscientist identifies a link between brain health and good nutrition it doesn't mean he knows what good nutrition is.

As for your stress issues, I think you'll get a better response asking a specific question on it. I also expect the first few answers will ask for details on your diet and exercise, as there's almost certainly something you could try there that might make a difference. But fundamentally if you're getting stressed then although there will be lots of suggestions that can be made, it may be that it's the stress causing you to not lose weight, which is causing the stress and you may just need to learn to accept yourself, gain perspective and enjoy life. Trite I know, but like I said if you want more then ask that question, and give us more details ;)

3
96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19413)

on December 08, 2011
at 11:42 AM

He strikes me in the same vein as Dr. Nicholas Perricone. Many years ago, I found a PBS special he did, and he mentioned a lot of interesting things. He goes in to various supplements such as CoQ10, Alpha Lipoic Acid (and now R-Lipoic Acid) Carnosine, etc. All of these things were supplements that were mentioned by other paleo folks later on as helpful supplements. He also mentioned eating colorful greens, vegetables, berries, and grassfed meats.

But of course he throws in stuff like soy, whole grains, etc. So both these guys have the same conclusions, but both haven't kicked the CW "grains and legumes are good saw."

He's a skin doc, however, he mentioned that the same cells that make up our nervous system are the the ones that formed our skin as they became differentiated, so what's bad for your skin is bad for your brain. So you can use your skin as an indicator of how your brain is doing. Amen is neuro, so they kind of say the same things.

Certainly both their diets are light years ahead of eating crap in a box.

IMHO, you can learn useful things from everyone, even from those that advocate some things that you know are wrong, (not everyone is going to be an expert in everything) and you learn from your n=1 experiments as to what works for you.

So take what's useful from what Amen says, and from what Perricone says, but so with a lot of salt.

Dfada6fe4982ab3b7557172f20632da8

(5332)

on December 08, 2011
at 11:55 AM

and don't forget to balance with potassium

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19413)

on December 08, 2011
at 07:33 PM

good point! :)

2
96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on December 08, 2011
at 07:27 PM

The connection between skin and brain health is interesting. Of course, other tissue types may do the same thing but we can't see them.

I must say there were a few times in previous decades when I managed to feel terrific and have high energy while using grapeseed oil, eating moderate fat (but I never gave up all animal fat like many) and eating whole wheat. I wonder if the latter is why I am now so sensitized to wheat and can't tolerate even small amounts.

My reaction to these books is that my only access to affecting the health of my brain/body--and I don't think you can separate them--is via diet, exercise, sleep, taking/not-taking supplements and medications. If the books don't offer anything that seems to offer new information in the areas I can control I lose interest.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on December 08, 2011
at 07:50 PM

I definitely agree with that! Even when I disagree with a comment it makes me think differently.

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19413)

on December 08, 2011
at 07:35 PM

IMHO, there's a lot more useful info right here on paleohacks than in any single book by either of those two docs.

1
4035cac7f1b0a65512addddf2dd5af65

on February 08, 2012
at 02:38 AM

Dr.Amen, wrote thoughts affect every cell.I disagree thoughts do affect some cells but not every single human cell.If someone was thinking of the moon those thoughts would not affect ones knee bone cells.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on February 08, 2012
at 05:25 PM

Hmmm...I don't think he meant it in that sense. I believe he was getting at the idea that thoughts can create hormone cascades that will have an impact on every cell (including your knee cells). Let's say you are caught in a stressed out negative feedback loop and happen to fall down and scrape your knee. It will take longer for that wound to heal than it otherwise would because you are flooded with stress hormones that are distracting your system from dealing with the injury.

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