Welcome to "Geoff Talk".
It's me, Geoffrey Woo, and I'll be sharing what I've found thought-provoking and useful in the areas of human performance, metabolic health & nutrition, biohacking & technology, and philosophy. These topics will often cover recent news & developments, so use this series as a resource for being in the know and what I honestly think about the latest trends.
In this Geoff Talk, we're going to talk about three topics: Sunscreen, vegan meat replacements like Beyond Meat, and the rising trend of "sober curious".
We're entering summer season. This week, my home in San Francisco has been hitting the high 90's. For those of you that live in the Bay Area, you know this ridiculously hot. SF ain't like the rest of California and most homes don't have air-conditioning. Anyways, when you think summer, you think sun, you think the beach, you think maybe a tropical vacation, and then you probably think sunscreen.
That's very sensible, as UV exposure and risk of skin cancer is very real. However, if you've been following this channel or my instagram, you know that I've been thinking about how humans evolved and lived under full-spectrum, sunlight exposure and how that light exposure's really gone away in today's modern, urban life where we're constantly in doors in our homes or office spaces.
Over 200,000 years of homo sapiens basically lived and worked outdoors and only until the Industrial Revolution with indoor factories did more and more humans start living most of their days outside of the sun. Of course, there's broad swathes of science and evidence behind the value of some sun exposure for Vitamin D, mood, and a number of physical and cognitive indications.
What sparks my specific interest in this topic today is a recent study published last month in May 2019 by FDA scientists showing that popular sunscreen ingredients are being absorbed into the bloodstream at levels much higher than is limited by the FDA.
Specifically, the study from FDA scientists showed that sunscreen ingredients avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, and ecamsule in bloodstream at levels of 1.8 - 4.3 ng/mL. The FDA safety limit for all these chemicals are 0.5 ng/mL. It's important to note that we don't know if the high levels are safe or unsafe, but it definitely does raise eyebrows that much more of these chemicals are being absorbed into bloodstream than we expect. FDA is still taking feedback and comments as they digest the findings.
What do we take away from this ?
Are we overly paranoid on sun exposure now? American Academy of Dermatology has a very conservative opinion on sun exposure. On it's website it claims: "Because ultraviolet rays from the sun and tanning beds can cause skin cancer, the American Academy of Dermatology does not recommend getting vitamin D from sun exposure or indoor tanning."
Other country's dermatologists are much more sanguine on sun.
Cancer Council Australia’s official-position paper (endorsed by the Australasian College of Dermatologists) states, “Ultraviolet radiation from the sun has both beneficial and harmful effects on human health.... A balance is required between excessive sun exposure which increases the risk of skin cancer and enough sun exposure to maintain adequate vitamin D levels.... It should be noted that the benefits of sun exposure may extend beyond the production of vitamin D. Other possible beneficial effects of sun exposure… include reduction in blood pressure, suppression of autoimmune disease, and improvements in mood.”
What do I personally do?
Synthesizing the concerns of not prematurely aging my skin with too much UV / sun exposure while getting enough exposure to get all the benefits. I've been swapping time in the gym for time doing light workouts out in the sun. I try to get about 30 minutes of exercise and stretching on my roof in the sun. I try to take walking meetings and roll up my sleeves. I tend to opt to go outside vs. inside for a coffee or a meeting or a meal.
However, I'm still sensible when I expect long direct sun exposure. I'll put on sunscreen if I expect to be out in direct sun for over 1 hour. So if I'm on the beach or playing tennis. I'll use it. When I do buy sunscreen, I now look for sunscreen that uses titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. These are mineral, inorganic compounds that don't absorb into skin. The downside is that they smear white compared to the other compounds, but I'll take the cosmetic ding for reducing exposure to a chemical with unknown side effects. This all reminds me of a great podcast I did with Andy Hnilo of Alitura Naturals, episode 65 of the H.V.M.N. Podcast, where we chatted all about how topical compounds affect our skin and health.
Vegan replacement meats has been a huge trend in recent months. A lot of media and press around Beyond Meat due to it's massive IPO and stock run up as well as Impossible Burger getting high profile distribution deals with popular fast food chains.
As you probably know, I'm a big meat eater and on this podcast we've talked to some of the biggest advocates in the carnivore community. I've personally experimented with heavily carnivorous diets over the past year or so and have had good results. That said, I very much get the ethical and moral concerns about consuming other living mammals as food. I empathize with the analogy that eating meat is akin to the enslavement of different animal species for their flesh. I think this is a powerful argument against our modern factory farming system.
I also understand the environmental, sustainability questions around meat consumption vs. plant-based consumption. I've seen data and evidence on both sides that makes the debate more complicated than simply stating that meat consumption is way more inefficient than vegetable consumption esp when one considers the externalities of that decision.
I'm not talking about either two topics today. I want to zero in on the fact that popular media and popular sentiment is that these vegan replacement burger patties are healthier than meat patties.
What are these vegan meats exactly ? The top two ingredients are pea protein isolate and canola oil. It's essentially a slurry of pea protein powder and canola oil with some seasoning and other things for texture and preservatives. Let's be clear. I have no problems with people being creative with food innovation (heck we manufacture a ketone ester that doesn't exist in nature), but this is essentially a highly processed pea protein and canola oil patty.
The main concern is that I am increasingly skeptical of highly processed seed oils like canola oil. Canola oil and soybean oil have become a substantial % of daily American calorie because it's relatively cheap. Seed oils tend to have a poor ratio between omega-3 which we want more of, and omega-6 which you want less of.
I think people should look at these vegan meat replacements like people view a chicken mcnugget. Both are highly processed, possibly yummy, convenient snacks. No one's studied this yet, but I'd put a bet that a RCT between a beef burger vs. vegan fake meat burger, the folks eating real beef would have better health biomarker outcomes.
CNN wrote an article last week on June 8th about increasing adoption of a 'sober curious' culture.
I'm personally very happy to see more and more people opt out of the drinking culture. I remember when I first entered business career, as a 22 year old, there was a lot of pressure to go 'network' and 'grab drinks'. It seemed like the adult, professional thing to do. Grab drinks at a cool bar after work to talk about professional business things. As I grew into my own and gained confidence in my career, I quickly realized that the drink or the bar is more of a show or context. It's a convenient social excuse, just like grabbing coffee is for a day meeting. You don't want to spend too long with them, so you don't want to do dinner, so you choose drinks. Is there a better alternative ?
Don't get me wrong. I like a good drink at a good party on occasion. If I'm at a friend's wedding, I'm more often than not going to be toasting the couple with champagne and reminiscing with friends at the whiskey bar. But that's a few times a year.
However, I think most people don't ever think about drinking culture and just default into it. Now, I see a lot of people trained a reflexive instinct to grab a drink to relax or use a drinking context to network and socialize. Taking one step out of drinking culture, simply ask why can't I relax, socialize, network, or catch up with friends or business contacts sober ?
Glad this is a mega trend on changing culture. I've found more and more people realize that the mild boost in fun that alcohol provides is rarely worth the mild tax on sleep and productivity for the next day.
I would love to change culture where there's a better way to socialize in evenings. Coffee houses are the place to go during the day. Bars are the place to go during the night. Can we create a new culture where there's another passive activity to do at night ? What if ketone ester cocktails were the future ? Get some of the cognitive boost and anti-anxiety boost from a strong stiff shot of ketone ester? Should H.V.M.N. make ketone houses for conversations and hang outs?
That wraps up this first episode of Geoff Talk. If you enjoyed this video or have any questions, please let me know by commenting below and hitting that like button! Keep up the self-experimentation, eat real food, and strive to be the best human you can be. Until next time.
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