Charles Spender

Distributed by Smashwords
8th Edition, 10 June 2024
ISBN: 9781310901027
Copyright © 2010 Charles Spender

Table of Contents

How to read this book

Cautionary statement

Twelve things this book can help you achieve

CHAPTER 1: Mental clarity

CHAPTER 2: Sleep management

CHAPTER 3: Attention control, or the ability to concentrate

CHAPTER 4: Emotional intelligence

CHAPTER 5: Reading and writing performance

CHAPTER 6: Social intelligence

CHAPTER 7: Six things you shouldn’t do with your money



Cited literature

List of tables

How to read this book

The latest version of this ebook (10 June 2024 or later) can be downloaded in a high-quality EPUB format here, here, or here. A shorter, less technical version of this book, “Become Smarter,” is available. Please do not read the present ebook straight through from start to finish. It’s a good idea to first read the summaries of chapters and all key points and then glance through the appendices and endnotes. After that, you can read chapters that you find interesting and you don’t have to read the whole book from cover to cover. There are a lot of links in this text (to endnotes, literary references, and cross-references) and you can ignore all links if you find them distracting. I update the text regularly, but not all of it at the same time (some 190 thousand words in total); therefore, in rare cases, some statements may contradict others. You can attribute these rare contradictions to frequent changes in the lifestyle, which this book advocates.

Cautionary statement

Many claims in this book are based on the author’s personal experience (a healthy subject). About half of the proposed methods are supported by scientific studies. Nursing mothers, pregnant women, and people who are taking medication or have a chronic medical condition should consult their physician or a qualified health care professional before trying any of the lifestyle changes described in this book.

Twelve things this book can help you achieve

  1. Increase your score on general aptitude or intelligence tests (cognitive enhancement).

  2. Understand and learn complex reading material that is uninteresting to you (but necessary for your job or school).

  3. Concentrate on job- or school-related reading and writing tasks for hours at a time.

  4. Reduce procrastination and overcome writer’s block.

  5. Experience euphoria without drugs and come up with new ideas, when necessary.

  6. Cope with extended periods of solitude, such as those related to academic studies or big writing projects.

  7. Prevent yourself from making rash, impulsive decisions.

  8. Prevent fits of anger and reduce feelings of hostility.

  9. Sharpen your wit, become more talkative, and entertain people.

  10. Depending on circumstances, use different regimens that improve one or another mental function.

  11. Get along with people and reduce the amount of arguments and conflicts.

  12. Self-manage a severe mental illness such as schizophrenia without drugs.

CHAPTER 1: Mental clarity


Biological components and knowledge components of intelligence

Interpreting evidence from studies on human subjects

Can mental and physical exercise make you smarter?

The natural nutrition theory of intelligence and its limitations

Artificial ingredients in the diet and their effects on mental performance

Chemicals formed during the cooking of food and their effects on the brain

Several safe diets that can improve mental abilities

Saturated fat: friend or foe?

A diet that can worsen mental abilities quickly

The “no-diet approach,” or food restriction without adhering to any strict diet

Potential adverse effects

Summary of Chapter One

Biological components and knowledge components of intelligence

Before we begin, just a reminder: you don’t need to read this book straight through from start to finish. It is best to first read the summaries of chapters and all key points. After that, you can read chapters that caught your interest and you don’t have to read the whole book.

It is prudent at the outset to define a few basic concepts, some of which might be familiar. Different sources, however, may offer different definitions, and defining these concepts now will avoid ambiguity later. Many definitions used throughout this book are from a recent review article by John Mayer and colleagues [23]. A mental ability is “a person’s capacity to perform a psychological task, such as solving a problem, so as to meet a specified criterion such as correctness, novelty, or speed” [23]. This book discusses such mental abilities as attention control, impulse control, and information processing speed, among others. Usually researchers measure many different mental abilities collectively in order to determine a person’s intelligence. Therefore, we can define intelligence as “a set of mental abilities that permit the recognition, learning, memory for, and capacity to reason about a particular form of information, such as verbal information.” John Mayer and colleagues define intelligence as “a mental ability or a set of mental abilities.…” In this book, however, the word “intelligence” always means a set of mental abilities.

For most lay readers the word “intelligence” is associated with the intelligence quotient (IQ), widely used as a measure of mental abilities for clinical, and sometimes, occupational purposes. The type of intelligence measured by IQ is called “academic intelligence” in psychological literature in order to distinguish it from other types of intelligence, such as emotional intelligence and social intelligence. Measurements of academic intelligence include assessment of the ability to process and manipulate verbal information (words) in one’s mind and the ability to process numerical information and carry out calculations. Academic intelligence also includes the ability to comprehend information about spatial organization and geometrical structure of objects. Scientists use the scores obtained by measuring the relevant mental abilities on intelligence tests to calculate a single value, g, or general intelligence. This measure of academic intelligence is not constant for any given person. It can change throughout a person’s lifespan. On average, general intelligence increases with age until the late 30s and then declines slowly. Due to the well-established age-related changes in general intelligence (g), calculation of the final IQ score includes adjusting g for the person’s age.

Most IQ tests produce a numerical value around 100, which is the average intelligence quotient of the human population. Values of IQ exceeding 100 mean higher than average intelligence. For example, only about 0.1% of the population has an IQ over 149. Conversely, IQ scores below 100 mean lower than average intelligence and a score lower than 70 suggests mental retardation. To sum up, IQ is the age-adjusted general intelligence factor (g) calculated by measuring various mental abilities related to the processing of verbal, numerical, and geometrical information. All of this is within the realm of academic intelligence, often called “intelligence.”

Research about intelligence is not without controversy. For example, there are opposing views on the validity of using a single factor (general intelligence, g) to measure a collection of different mental abilities. The research on differences in intelligence among different groups of population is another controversial area and is outside the scope of this book. Measurements of IQ can vary for the same person because of fatigue, general state of health, and repeat testing. Repeated taking of IQ tests can contribute to learning certain test-taking skills, resulting in an IQ score several points higher than the first-time IQ score [499]. These examples point to potential difficulties in interpreting IQ scores.

As to the practical usefulness of IQ testing, studies have identified correlations of IQ scores with academic performance and with job performance in a variety of occupations. A high score can predict better job performance [955, 956]. There is also some correlation of IQ with social status and income level, but this correlation is in the weak to moderate range. Equally or perhaps more important in attaining social status and high income are personality traits, social status of parents, and luck. Moderately high IQ scores correlate (moderately) with a higher social status and income. Yet statistical studies show that huge IQ scores provide little further benefit for social status and income (there is no correlation) [24, 25]. Self-employment does not correlate with intelligence either [519].

Research in the last several decades has identified types of intelligence other than academic. These deal with mental abilities different from those measured by academic intelligence (IQ) tests. Emotional intelligence deals with mental abilities related to identification and processing of emotions in the self and other people. Social intelligence measures abilities related to intelligent behavior in social situations. Studies show that academic intelligence exhibits little if any correlation with emotional intelligence. These two concepts deal with independent and unrelated sets of mental abilities. We will discuss emotional and social intelligence in Chapters Four and Six.

Two other dimensions of intelligence are important here. “Crystallized intelligence” deals with acquired knowledge and skills. “Fluid intelligence” relates to how well the human brain works, regardless of knowledge and skills. “Crystallized intelligence” measures such abilities as vocabulary, general knowledge, and the like, whereas “fluid intelligence” assesses the ability to understand and solve novel problems. The formal definition of fluid intelligence is “on-the-spot reasoning and novel problem-solving ability” [26]. For example, suppose two people have roughly the same amount of knowledge, but one of them can better understand complex problems. The latter person will attain a higher score on an intelligence test. In simple terms, fluid intelligence assesses how well the brain works; that is, it assesses the biological properties of the brain. It does not measure information processing speed and short-term memory, although all three measurements indicate how well the brain works and studies show that all three correlate [27]. Some parts of IQ tests mostly assess crystallized intelligence, such as questions intended to measure vocabulary or general knowledge. Other parts of IQ tests mostly assess fluid intelligence, such as questions that require complex calculations. Still other test items may measure both fluid and crystallized intelligence to the same extent. It is possible to assess fluid and crystallized dimensions of intelligence separately, in addition to the final IQ score.

All three types of intelligence—academic, emotional, and social—have both crystallized and fluid dimensions. For example, recent studies of social intelligence identified two components: crystallized social intelligence and fluid social intelligence [28]. The former deals with acquired social skills and knowledge, whereas the latter deals with the ability to understand and predict social situations and to solve problems related to social situations. Thus, there may be six major subtypes of intelligence: crystallized academic, fluid academic, crystallized emotional, fluid emotional, crystallized social, and fluid social intelligence. Some studies suggest that different areas of the brain are responsible for different types of intelligence. One brain region may be primarily responsible for academic intelligence and another area for carrying out mental processes related to emotional intelligence. It is unclear if the same is true for the crystallized and fluid dimensions of each type of intelligence. Further research is needed.

To explain the meaning of techniques proposed in this book, it will be convenient to subdivide the six subtypes of intelligence into “knowledge components” and “biological components.” The knowledge components are crystallized academic, crystallized emotional, and crystallized social intelligence. The biological components are fluid social, fluid academic, and fluid emotional intelligence. The biological components are the main focus of this book because they deal with how well the brain functions and they are largely independent of knowledge and acquired skills. Put another way, this book focuses on improving the functioning of the human brain, and one can assess this improvement by measuring fluid intelligence. Crystallized intelligence (knowledge and skills) will not change, at least in the short term, with approaches aimed at improving brain function.

This book defines the sum of all three biological components (fluid social, fluid academic, and fluid emotional intelligence) as “mental clarity.” This is a measure of how well the brain functions with respect to all kinds of mental tasks: those related to emotions and social situations as well as academic tasks and problems. Scientific validity of the concept of mental clarity is unknown. It is unclear whether this is a single factor that correlates with its three component parts, or whether mental clarity is just a sum of three independent, unrelated factors. Nevertheless, the concept of mental clarity will be useful in this book. This concept attempts to separate the biological components of intelligence from the knowledge components. Measurements of mental clarity will assess how well the brain is functioning in general.

Ideally, to measure mental clarity we should use well-established tests of academic, emotional, and social intelligence [2931]. We need to calculate fluid dimensions from each result and add up the three values using some mathematical formula. This approach will be accurate and scientifically valid. Yet the existing tests are expensive, require qualified personnel to administer them, and may not be available in all languages. At present, validated tests of emotional intelligence cannot assess its fluid component. I designed a brief self-rating questionnaire (Appendix IV) that attempts to assess fluid components of academic, emotional, and social intelligence. One of the drawbacks of this instrument is that self-rating questionnaires do not represent an accurate assessment of mental abilities [23]. This is because self-rating often reflects a person’s perception and doesn’t measure mental abilities as do proctored tests. For this reason, the mental clarity questionnaire is not an accurate measure of intelligence. Nevertheless, it does avoid direct questions about mental abilities and asks only questions that can assess such abilities indirectly and thus more objectively. For example, many respondents will answer affirmatively the question “Do you think that you are very smart?” even those who don’t have above-average IQ scores. On the other hand, the question “Is your life easy?” will receive a more objective answer and will paint a more accurate picture of the respondent’s intelligence. Highly intelligent people usually have no difficulty solving life’s problems. The “ease of life” is not a perfect measure of intelligence and there are many exceptions; that is why the mental clarity questionnaire contains twenty questions. Another potential problem with self-rating questionnaires is the honesty of responses, especially when the outcome of the testing has real-life consequences, such as a promotion or being hired for a job. For us this problem is a minor one because the purpose of testing is to see whether the self-help approaches described in this book are effective or not. The book’s readers have little or no incentive to be dishonest with themselves. This type of assessment of mental abilities is not perfect, but the advantages are ease of use and low cost. Nevertheless, the most accurate way to assess the usefulness of my advice is to take a proctored IQ test (not an internet IQ test) before and after one of the proposed lifestyle changes. You can then calculate the fluid component of academic intelligence and discover any improvement. If you are a student, you can assess improvement in your mental abilities, if any, by the change in your grade point average after you try some of the proposed techniques.

There is a possibility that your mental clarity score will be low, according to the proposed questionnaire (Appendix IV). This situation does not mean that you must drop everything and do your best to try to improve your score. Your low score can mean that your mental abilities are fine and the questionnaire is imperfect. So far, nobody has validated this questionnaire scientifically and you are under no obligation to do anything to improve your score.

Key points

Interpreting evidence from studies on human subjects

Any discussion of experimental evidence that supports this book’s theories would be difficult without defining some basic terminology and explaining how to determine the strength of evidence produced by scientific experiments. This section explains the meaning of randomization, blinding, statistical significance, clinical change, and some other relevant concepts that researchers use in scientific experiments, such as clinical trials. (Readers can skip the detailed discussion of this topic and jump to the key points: press this link.) Most often, a clinical trial consists of two groups of patients: an experimental group (who receive active treatment) and a so-called control group. The control group receives a placebo, no treatment, or a specially designed “control treatment.” Researchers determine the effectiveness of a drug or another type of treatment by comparing symptoms in the experimental group to those in the control group(s). Studies unrelated to medical treatments that scientists perform on healthy human subjects are sometimes called clinical trials, but the more correct term is “a volunteer study.” Both clinical trials and volunteer studies require the informed consent of test subjects. The study protocol must receive approval of an ethics committee at the research institution where the study is taking place.

The word “randomized” in the phrase “randomized controlled trial” means that researchers have assigned the test subjects to either the experimental or control group randomly, using a special “randomization procedure.” This is in contrast to a situation where an investigator assigns test subjects to the groups however he or she wants. For example, he may distribute them in a way that will produce a desirable outcome. Random and unbiased distribution of test subjects among the control and experimental groups ensures that there is no influence from irrelevant variables (such as age, sex, or personality traits) on the results. In other words, randomization ensures that the study’s outcome depends only on the variables being tested in the experiment. For instance, a study is going to investigate the effect of food additives on attention function. In a nonrandomized controlled trial an investigator may inadvertently assign the most inattentive test subjects to the experimental group, who will receive food additives. This method causes the test subjects with the best attention function to end up in the control group, who will receive a diet free of food additives. Without a randomization procedure, preexisting differences of attention function between the two groups will influence the results of this study. If this nonrandomized study finds that food additives in the diet worsen attention function, the validity of this finding will be questionable. If, however, we assign the test subjects to the groups randomly, then roughly equal numbers of inattentive and attentive subjects will be present in each group (experiment and control). In this case the results of the study will be more dependent on the presence or absence of food additives in the diet (if such a relationship exists) and less dependent on irrelevant variables. Randomized controlled trials provide stronger evidence of the effectiveness of a drug (or other medical treatment) than clinical trials that are not randomized.

Another way of ensuring the integrity of clinical studies is to blind the test subjects to the type of treatment they receive: placebo or active treatment. This is a blinded clinical trial. A placebo is a treatment that produces no biological effect on the medical condition in question. For example, a sugar pill can serve as a placebo in a clinical trial of an antianxiety drug. Blinding means that the test subjects will not know whether they are in the experimental or in the control group. Often, clinical studies employ an additional level of blinding: blinding the investigators who conduct measurements to the type of treatment test subjects receive. This is a double-blind trial. Blinding test subjects allows investigators to assess the placebo effect of a treatment. For example, if 30% of patients in the placebo group show clinical improvement, this means that self-suggestion without any real treatment can improve symptoms of 30% of patients with the disorder in question. Alternatively, this means that 30% of patients with the disorder will improve spontaneously without any intervention, either placebo or treatment, as a result of the natural progression of the disease [32, 33, 904]. If only 30% of patients who receive the active drug show clinical improvement, then the drug in question is no better than a placebo. The drug has no biological effect on patients. If this study were not blinded, then an investigator could incorrectly interpret the 30% response to the drug as a beneficial effect of the experimental drug. Blinding of investigators ensures that investigators’ biases do not influence the results. Suppose an investigator is interested in demonstrating a beneficial effect of an experimental drug (to renew his research grants or get a job promotion). He may inadvertently record results or conduct measurements in such a way as to produce the desired outcome. This is the “observer bias.” On the other hand, if the investigator does not know whether the patients receive a placebo or active treatment, the observer bias will be minimal. At the end of the double-blind trial the investigators will decipher the status of the patients (placebo or active treatment) and will be able to see unbiased results. The results of double-blind randomized controlled trials primarily reflect the effects of the treatment in question. These results are virtually unaffected by biases and irrelevant variables. So, this sort of study is much more trustworthy than clinical trials that are not randomized and not double blinded. Most scientists consider double-blind randomized controlled trials “the golden standard” of clinical trials.

Note that a placebo control can be problematic if the disease in question causes significant suffering to patients. If an effective treatment exists, it is unethical to leave this medical condition untreated. It is also impossible to design a placebo control group for diet studies. A diet change always has some biological effects and therefore cannot serve as a placebo control. A control diet must be either a specially designed diet or no diet, in which case the participants follow their customary nutritional regimen. The former is not a placebo diet because it is different from the customary diet of a test subject and will produce some biological effects from the change of nutrition. The latter (no diet) is not a placebo diet because the test subjects are complying with no particular diet (receive no treatment) and know about it. A placebo is a treatment that produces no biological effect on the medical condition under study. Thus, the participants who receive no treatment are not a placebo control group: they are a no-treatment control group. Despite the absence of a placebo diet, it is still possible to organize a blinded trial of a diet. Scientists can design a control diet and not tell test subjects which of the two diets will produce beneficial effects. These two diets (experimental and control) should be similarly difficult to adhere to. Results of a blinded trial will be more trustworthy than those of an open trial, where participants know whether they are in the experimental or control group. A double-blind trial of a diet is also possible if the investigators who assess clinical change are blinded to the type of diet the patients consume. Researchers can avoid most of the complexities associated with control diets. They can use an open trial and compare the experimental diet to a drug known to be better than a placebo.

Two definitions would be useful here. A response rate of a medical treatment is the percentage of patients who show improvement after receiving this treatment. For instance, if a drug reduces symptoms of a disease in 70% of patients, this means that this drug has a response rate of 70%. A placebo rate of a disease is the percentage of patients in the placebo group who show improvement during a clinical trial.

Even if a placebo control is unfeasible, it is often possible to tell whether the observed benefits of a treatment are due to the placebo effect. A scientist can do this by comparing the response rate to the placebo rate from previous studies with the same disease. In clinical trials with patients with anxiety disorders, placebo rates can be as high as 50%. Therefore, antianxiety treatments that produce improvement in 50% of patients are likely to be no better than a placebo. Some studies have questioned the validity of the placebo effect itself. They show that much of the effect is the natural course of the disease, or spontaneous improvement without any intervention [32, 33, 904, 931]. Comparison of placebo control to no-treatment control in anxiety shows that the difference is insignificant. In patients with anxiety (or depression) an authentic placebo effect is either nonexistent or miniscule, being a result of biases and imperfections of measurement [931]. These data suggest that what people commonly mistake for a placebo effect in patients with anxiety or depression is the irregular course of these diseases. The latter involves numerous and spontaneous improvements and relapses.

Statistical significance is the third important criterion to consider when evaluating strength of evidence. In lay language, the meaning of the term statistically significant is “a result that could not occur by chance” or “not a fluke.” Conversely, statistically insignificant means “likely to be a fluke” or “the result may have occurred by chance.” If a clinical trial shows that the effect of some treatment is statistically insignificant, the evidence of its effectiveness is weak. Statistical significance is not a complicated concept and an example will illustrate how it works. Suppose we have two groups of test subjects and each consists of 10 depressed patients. One group will serve as control and the other as an experimental group in a clinical trial of a novel antidepressant drug. Psychiatrists measure severity of depression using special questionnaires that allow for expressing symptom severity as a numeric value. Let’s assume that the rating of symptoms for most patients in the two groups is a number between 10 (mild depression) and 30 (severe depression). We will also assume that this number is different for each patient in a group. In order to describe how widely the symptoms vary among the patients, we will use a measure called standard deviation. The greater the standard deviation, the wider the range of symptoms in a group. On the other hand, if standard deviation were zero, there would be no variability and all patients would have the same value of the rating of symptoms. Without going into detail about the calculation of standard deviation, let us assume that the variability of symptoms (standard deviation) equals five in each group of patients. Another useful measure that we will need is the average rating of symptoms of depression in each group of patients. This average (also known as “the mean”) equals the sum of the ratings of every patient divided by the number of patients in a group. Let’s say the average rating of symptoms is 20 in each group; this rating means “moderate depression.” A good rule of thumb regarding standard deviation and the average value is the following. Ninety five percent of items in a group are usually within two standard deviations (5 × 2) of the average value (20). In other words, let’s say the average value (the mean) is 20 and the standard deviation is 5. This situation means that 95% of people in this group will have symptoms between 10 and 30 and the remaining 5% of the group are outside this range.

After the clinical trial finishes, we find that treatment with the novel antidepressant drug lowered the average rating of symptoms from 20 to 18 in the experimental group (10 patients). The average rating stayed the same (20) in the control group (another 10 patients), who received a placebo pill. For simplicity’s sake, we will assume that the variability of symptoms among patients stayed the same in both groups after treatment (standard deviation is still 5). We now have everything we need for assessing the statistical significance of the observed beneficial effect of the antidepressant drug. We know the number of patients in each group (10) and the average rating of symptoms after treatment in the control (20) and the experimental group (18). We also know the standard deviation of symptoms in each group after treatment (both are 5). You don’t really need to know the complicated formula used for calculating statistical significance. You can tell if the effect of treatment is statistically significant by eyeballing the above numbers. (Curious readers can find free calculators on the Internet that will determine statistical significance of a study based on the above variables; look for a t-test for two samples.) The beneficial effect of the drug is not statistically significant in our example (the calculator will produce p value greater than 0.05). This result means that the change of symptoms may have occurred by chance. In other words, the evidence of effectiveness of this novel antidepressant drug is weak.

There are two simple reasons for this lack of statistical significance. One is the small size of the effect of treatment compared to the variability of depressive symptoms among the patients. The average rating of symptoms differs by a measly 2 between the treatment group and the placebo group (18 versus 20), whereas variability of symptoms (standard deviation) is a whopping 5 in both groups. The clinical change produced by the drug is less than one half of the standard deviation, which makes this result unimpressive. The other reason for the lack of statistical significance is the small number of participants in the study. We have fewer than 20 subjects in each group: a small number. If, however, exactly the same results transpired with 100 patients in each group, the result would be statistically significant (p value is less than 0.05). In a study that includes a large number of test subjects, random factors are less likely to influence the results. All else being equal, the results will be more statistically significant. Results of a clinical trial are likely to be statistically insignificant when two conditions are true:

The effect of treatment will be statistically significant if the study includes a large number of test subjects and the effect of treatment is greater than a half of the standard deviation of symptoms. If a result is not statistically significant, this does not necessarily mean that it’s a fluke. It can be a valid result, but there is uncertainty whether it’s a fluke or not. A more rigorous (statistically significant) study is necessary to either confirm or refute the validity of the result.

The fourth factor to consider when interpreting evidence from a study on human subjects is the size of the effect of a treatment. Although statistical significance helps us to answer the question “How likely is it that the change observed in patients after treatment occurred by chance?” it does not address the question “How much did the treatment improve the symptoms in the patients?” A result can be statistically significant, but the actual change of symptoms can be tiny, to the point of being imperceptible to the patients. For a treatment to be effective it should produce a change in symptoms that will be noticeable to the patients. A measure known as “clinical change” is useful in this regard. In the example about the novel antidepressant, the drug lowered the average rating of symptoms from 20 (moderate depression) to 18 (also around moderate depression). Let’s say that we repeated the clinical trial of this drug with several hundred patients each in the control and in the experimental group. The results of the trial turned out the same. Now the drop of 2 points in the average symptoms in the experimental group (from 20 to 18) is statistically significant, but it is not clinically significant. Both ratings, 18 and 20, are in the range of moderate depression and the change will go unnoticed by most patients. If, on the other hand, the treatment had resulted in the average rating of 10 (mild depression), then this effect would have been clinically significant. This result means that the treatment would have produced a change noticeable to patients. A useful measure of clinical significance is clinical change. This measure shows how far a given treatment moved the patient along the path from disease to health. Scientists express this measure in percentage points. One hundred percent clinical change means full remission (disappearance of all signs and symptoms of a given disorder) and 0% clinical change means no change in symptoms.

Let’s say we decided to test an older, widely prescribed antidepressant. When tested under the same conditions as above, treatment with the older drug resulted in an average rating of depressive symptoms that equals 10 (mild depression) in the experimental group. In the placebo group, the rating of symptoms equals 20 (moderate depression, unchanged), and the results of the trial are statistically significant. Let’s also assume that the rating of 5 corresponds to mental health, or the absence of depressive symptoms. There are 15 points between the rating of 20 (moderate depression) and 5 (health). The average rating of 10 (mild depression) in the experimental group means that the older antidepressant moved the patients 10 points closer to health (20 minus 10). We will assume that the maximum possible clinical change is 100%, which is equivalent to a change of 15 points from 20 (moderate depression) to 5 (health). We can calculate the clinical change after treatment with the older antidepressant as 10 divided by 15 and multiplied by 100%, which equals 67%. This is a big clinical change. In comparison, the clinical change produced by the novel antidepressant that we talked about earlier is 2 divided by 15 and multiplied by 100%, which equals 13%. This is a tiny clinical change, which will be almost unnoticeable to the patients. Thus, the evidence of effectiveness is strong for the older antidepressant and weak for the newer one.

What about healthy human subjects? How do scientists measure the size of the effect of treatment in studies on healthy volunteers? Usually they use standard deviation. Remember that standard deviation describes how widely a measure (such as IQ) varies within a group of test subjects. Let’s say that the average IQ in a group of 200 volunteers is 100 and the standard deviation is 15 points. According to the formula of standard deviation, this usually means that 95% of people in this group have an IQ within 2 standard deviations (15 × 2) of the mean or average value (100). Put another way, if the average IQ in a group is 100 and standard deviation is 15, then 95% of people in the group have an IQ between 70 and 130. The remaining 5% of the group are outside this range. If some hypothetical treatment can increase the average IQ by 15 points in this group of 200 volunteers, this is a large effect. A change that equals the value of one standard deviation (even 80% of standard deviation) or greater is considered large. A change by one half of a standard deviation is a moderate size of the effect. One-fourth of standard deviation or less corresponds to a small effect size. In summary, we can express the size of the effect of treatment using either standard deviation or clinical change. A small effect size means that evidence of the effectiveness of the treatment in question is weak. The evidence is weak even if the results of the study are statistically significant.

The fifth criterion useful in assessing strength of evidence is publication of the results of the experiment. If researchers publish the results in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, these results are likely to be trustworthy (you can find a good database of scientific biomedical literature at Each article submitted to a scientific journal undergoes a thorough review by one or more independent experts in the field. Based on this expert opinion, the journal reaches a decision about either publication or rejection of the manuscript. This process is called peer review. The reviewers find fault with every word in the scientific article. Publication of fraudulent results, if an investigation proves this to be the case, has serious consequences for the authors. The journal will report the fraudulent activities to the authors’ employer and research funding agencies. This action may result in the authors’ dismissal, demotion, or loss of research funding. The journal retracts the article containing fraud and has its record deleted from databases of scientific literature (indexing services such as PubMed).

Research results presented in media or publications other than scientific journals are less trustworthy. When researchers present unpublished results at a scientific conference, you have to be skeptical. If a scientist reports biomedical findings in a book or on a personal or commercial website, the data are less trustworthy still. When people publish research data in a book or on a website, nobody performs critical review of the data. Sometimes a publishing house does some review but it is always superficial, and there are no penalties for fraud. There are rare exceptions, such as academic textbooks: numerous experts review them thoroughly and these books do not contain any original unpublished research. Most academic textbooks are a trustworthy source of information. The problem with textbooks is that they become outdated quickly, especially in the biological and health sciences. This state of affairs is due to the lengthy writing, review, and publication process associated with academic textbooks.

Wikipedia is a popular and comprehensive source of information, although authors and editors of the articles are often not experts. These people can feel strongly about an issue and are willing to devote the time to making their opinion count in an article. In my view, Wikipedia is an acceptable source of basic information on topics that are not controversial. The main advantages of Wikipedia over review articles published in scientific journals are the following: {a} Wikipedia articles are available free of charge (there are some freely available scientific articles, too); {b} they usually cover all possible aspects of a topic; and {c} they are written in lay language. The main disadvantages of Wikipedia compared to review articles published in scientific journals are {1} Wikipedia articles on controversial topics (or topics that involve strongly interested parties) are untrustworthy [1062] and {2} quality of sources is often poor: an article may cite some key facts from a book, website, or another non–peer-reviewed source. When you look at a Wikipedia article, think of a group of people or organization that may strongly want to censor or steer the content of the article in a certain direction. Experiments with the Wikiscanner software have confirmed that strongly interested parties indeed secretly edit Wikipedia [1097, 1162, 1303]. In my experience, most reviewers of scientific articles do not allow authors to cite Wikipedia as a source of information. Authors can cite only studies published in peer-reviewed journals for a scientific article’s essential information (definitions, argumentation in favor of a theory, and rationale for a study). This principle raises another important issue. If an author reports research data in a book and a whole study is based on information from other books and similar non–peer-reviewed sources, you can disregard this information as untrustworthy. Citing peer-reviewed sources is one of the main criteria for considering scientific information reliable.

The sixth factor is the track record of the author or authors of the experiment. You need to be skeptical of authors with a proven history of fraud. Authors who have no scientific publications and do not have academic degrees are unlikely to produce valid research data (or they may invent a good method but come up with a bad explanation). QuackWatch is a website that claims to provide information on quackery and health fraud and to help consumers make intelligent decisions regarding various unconventional and conventional medical treatments. In my opinion, the website contains some useful information and a lot of bad information or disinformation. For example, the website used to list the late Robert Atkins as a quack, despite several studies having shown that his diet causes the fastest weight loss among many diets. The website criticizes only alternative medicine and does not address numerous fraudulent activities of pharmaceutical companies and medical device makers. As explained below, readers need to be skeptical of both alternative and conventional medicine, because for the most part, neither is proven scientifically to be effective. There is plenty of deception and self-serving behavior on both sides.

Finally, credibility of a scientific study’s results is higher when the authors do not have financial conflicts of interest (also known as competing financial interests) associated with publication of the study. Let’s say a research article demonstrates beneficial effects of a drug, and the authors are employees of the pharmaceutical company that makes the drug. This article will be less credible than a similar one published by academic researchers with no financial ties to the drug company. Research shows that studies funded by the pharmaceutical industry are more likely to report beneficial effects of a drug produced by the sponsor and to underreport adverse effects [34]. For example, a research article is comparing the effectiveness of drugs A and B. The article is likely to show that drug A is better than drug B if the funding for the study comes from drug A’s manufacturer. Another group of investigators, whose research received funding from the manufacturer of drug B, publishes a similar study. But this paper will report that drug B is superior to drug A. Both articles can use rigorous statistics and methodology, pass peer review, and be accepted for publication in respectable journals. There are real-life examples of this kind of biased research [35], known as the “funding bias.” Even double-blind randomized controlled trials are not always immune from this bias. In 2007, a research division of pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly & Co. published a promising study of a novel antipsychotic drug in a prestigious scientific journal [935]. This double-blind randomized controlled trial included 196 schizophrenic patients and the results were both clinically and statistically significant. Many in the scientific community viewed this study as revolutionary because it reported a new class of antipsychotic drugs, based on a mechanism different from all previous classes of these drugs. Sometime later, in April 2009, Eli Lilly announced that the second trial of this drug in schizophrenia failed to show better than placebo benefits. Thus, either the results of the first clinical trial were a rare coincidence or the funding bias had crept into that first trial. We can conclude that several independent groups of investigators should repeat an experiment and reproduce the findings in order to prove the validity of any type of scientific results. Note that the presence of competing financial interests does not necessarily mean that the reported results are always biased; only that there is a chance that the funding bias is present.

An author’s royalties from a book, for example, by themselves do not constitute a competing financial interest. Authors of scientific articles do not receive royalties from their sale by the publisher, but these authors, nonetheless, have clear economic rewards from publishing. For someone working in academia her amount of published work determines job promotions, access to research funding, and size of salary. Health care authorities do not consider these economic motives conflicts of interest. On the other hand, if a research paper or book presents in a favorable light some product the author sells—this is a competing financial interest. So is promotion of a product made by a company where the author is a shareholder.

To summarize, an experiment will produce strong evidence of a beneficial effect of a treatment (a drug, diet, or medical procedure) if

According to these criteria, most of the evidence from my self-experimentation presented in this book is weak. Let’s say a single participant reports using the mental clarity questionnaire twice: before embarking on the modified high-protein diet and after 3 weeks of the diet. This study has a control group: the subject serves as his own control when tested without treatment, or before the diet. The study, however, is not randomized and not blinded, which is a minus. Even though a placebo control is not always possible in nonpharmacological studies, the author could still conduct a blinded study with a well-designed control diet. The author didn’t do this. He is reporting the results in a book, not in a scientific journal; this is a minus. The book is not directing readers to buy any goods or services from the author and all proposed techniques are nonproprietary (not protected by patents): a plus. The author has some background in biomedical sciences: a plus. The number of test subjects is small (one), and therefore the results are statistically insignificant. But the author claims that if he repeats the experiment 10 times or more, it produces the same result. This approach is somewhat (but not exactly) similar to testing the diet once on 10 different test subjects. These results are more convincing than a single trial on a single person, but the evidence is still weak.

It would be relevant to mention epidemiological studies, a different category of study on human subjects. A detailed discussion of epidemiology is outside the scope of this book (and I am not an expert either). In brief, an epidemiological study conducts no actual experiment but explores in various ways existing statistics about some segments of the population. The goal is to identify correlations (associations) among some factors; for example, between smoking and life expectancy or between consumption of red meat and cancer. Only a tiny minority of these studies can show that one factor is likely to cause the other—the studies that satisfy many or all of the so-called Bradford–Hill criteria [36]. Most show a correlation, not causation. (Reference [37] contains a list of epidemiology-based lifestyle recommendations that scientists refuted by randomized controlled trials.) The mass media occasionally report epidemiological studies in misleading ways. A journalist can report a statistical correlation as a causal relationship, even though the authors of the research paper make no such conclusion. For example, a study may show a correlation between some personal habit and some disease; that is, people who have some habit are more likely to have some disease. Your evening TV news program may report this as “so-and-so habit can cause such-and-such disease” or “such-and-such habit increases the risk of so-and-so disease.” In actuality, if the research article does not prove that the habit is likely to cause the disease, then the reported correlation does not necessarily imply causation. The habit and the disease may have no causal relationship whatsoever between them. A third, unidentified factor can be the real cause of both of them. Alternatively, the disease may have symptoms that make the patients more likely to adopt this habit. In other words, it is the disease that causes the habit, not the other way around. Tobacco smoking and schizophrenia are a good example. Up to 80 to 90% of schizophrenic patients are smokers, but to date, it remains unclear which causes which. Some studies suggest that smoking is a form of self-medication with nicotine by the patients, and thus it is possible that schizophrenia leads patients to smoking.

Keep in mind that a statistical correlation between a habit and a disease is necessary, but not sufficient for the existence of a causal relationship between them. If there is no statistical association between a habit and a disease, then there is a 99% chance that the habit does not cause the disease. On the other hand, if the statistical correlation does exist, then the habit may cause the disease. A randomized controlled trial will be necessary to either prove or refute this hypothesis. We can conclude that one should exercise caution when interpreting results of epidemiological studies.

OK, what you saw above is an idealized or sanitized version of science. In conclusion, I will describe what is really going on, according to my ~12 years in academic science (biomedical research, not on human subjects). I published 13 scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals, most of these publications as a first author. I spent about an equal amount of time at Russian and American academic institutions (6 years). From what I have seen, scientific fraud is widespread both in Russia and in the United States. Younger researchers, such as grad students and postdocs, falsify research data because they have to “publish or perish.” Grad students do not have to publish so much as they have to show valid results and defend the doctoral thesis. Professors or heads of laboratories commit fraud because they have to renew their research grants, namely, because the results they publish should match the hypothesis stated in the original grant proposal. If the results do not confirm that hypothesis, then the research funding will not be renewed or will be much more difficult to renew. We are talking about a half a million to a million dollars of research funds lost. Consequently, the grantee’s status at the academic institution will diminish, and he or she may lose lab space and not receive a promotion or tenure.

Among my own publications, I suspect (but cannot prove) that one published paper contains fraudulent results, which were doctored by my lab supervisor in Russia. This is because I had a risky project and ended up with negative results in the lab up to the end of my Master’s program and had nothing to graduate with. My supervisor told me to let him conduct one key measurement alone, which took place in another building. He came back with positive results. After that, I graduated and went to the States where I was already accepted to a PhD program. The other twelve of my publications do not contain fraud as far as I know, but while in the U.S., I asked one journal to retract one paper, which was related to the topic of my PhD thesis and listed me as a coauthor without my permission. The chief editor of this American journal was a friend of the person who doctored the results; this American professor inserted my name into the list of authors without my permission (the fraudulent paper contained some of my results, not fraudulent). The chief editor started asking me questions why I want the paper retracted, but at this moment, the professor in question intervened, and all of a sudden, the chief editor of the journal offered me a deal: to remove my name from the paper (instead of the questions). Not willing to get caught up in an unpleasant and lengthy fraud investigation, I agreed to simply remove my name. About a year later, I changed my mind and submitted a formal complaint about scientific fraud to the same chief editor, requesting retraction of that fraudulent paper. I accused the professor and his postdoc of falsifying the results. The chief editor (to his credit) offered to recuse himself from the investigation, but I let him do it himself. He conducted a laughable investigation and presented me with a ridiculous rebuttal (which made no sense) from the accused professor. The chief editor ruled that my accusations are demonstrably false and the case is closed. The fraudulent paper with bad results is still available for everyone to read, without my name on it. The next step for me was to submit a fraud complaint to the NIH, which provided funding to the accused professor. I dawdled for several months, weighing my options. Then this professor’s daughter committed suicide by jumping in front of a subway train (she had a bipolar disorder for many years; I was introduced to her at his house a few years before). At this point, I decided that he was punished enough; it seemed to me that one more fraudulent paper in the sea of bad science was not going to make much difference anyway. So I dropped this case.

This particular fraud was possible because the professor in question prefers to hire mostly foreigners. My guess is that this approach is convenient because foreigners are totally dependent on the employer for the visa and later immigration procedures and are willing to take a lot of abuse. They cannot quit their job or report fraud without losing the visa and destroying their chances for a green card. Even after the non-American postdoc or grad student leaves the lab and goes to work somewhere else, he or she is still dependent on the American professor for many years later because the professor will be writing various recommendation letters to the immigration authorities, until the foreigner gets a green card. Such a professor hires foreigners and then promotes and rewards those who produce copious results that support the hypothesis of the grant proposal (two or three publications per year is good productivity for a postdoc). Conversely, this professor ousts employees or grad students who produce the results that contradict the funded research projects and thus interfere with renewal of the grants (these negative results are never published). A good half or more of the articles published by such “productive and successful” professors are fraudulent results, which waste the time and efforts of the scientists who will read these papers, not to mention that such “self-renewing” research grants are a total waste of tax-payers’ money. This bad science serves two purposes: (i) to publish as many articles as possible and as quickly as possible for advancement of a researcher’s academic career and to get research funding; (ii) to renew the research grants of this person. On the basis of what I have seen in the places where I worked and in other labs, I would say that 60–80% of research articles contain bad results either because of fraud (~30% of articles) or because of bad methodology (another 30–40% of articles). Note that this figure is still much better than the 99.9% of bad information that you will get from non–peer-reviewed literature, such as nonfiction books and web pages.

My estimates are supported by some recent studies showing that the results of only about 10–30% of scientific studies are reproducible, depending on the field [10281031]. This means that the other 70–90% of published research is fraudulent, flawed, or both. David Healy, Peter Gøtzsche, and other researchers have exposed various shenanigans of the pharmaceutical industry that distort research results: ghostwriting of scientific articles, permanent inaccessibility of original raw data, selective publication of clinical trials (not publishing trials that yield negative results), miscoding and mislocation of data, the use of statistics to obscure the lack of access to data, misrepresenting adverse effects of drugs as symptoms of the disease, misrepresenting withdrawal effects as a relapse, changing of endpoints after registration of a trial (forbidden for obtaining approval of the FDA but allowed for publication in a scientific journal), incorrect selection of patients for the trial, incorrect duration of a clinical trial, misrepresenting statistical significance as clinical significance when the effect size is too small, analyzing only the patients that completed the trial, analyzing subsets of patients with certain characteristics (more than 20 research articles from a single trial on average: salami slicing), during publication of a multicenter trial: inclusion of data from a site that was disallowed by the FDA, misleading direct-to-consumer advertising, and other methods [35, 457, 1045, 10491052, 1055, 1057, 1058, 1060, 1067, 1068, 11011119, 1132, 1139]. Because of these numerous loopholes, double-blind randomized controlled trials (the gold standard of evidence-based medicine) can no longer be considered reliable evidence. An argument can be made that randomized controlled trials do not prove anything because there are too many legal ways to distort their results; so far, I have found 30. For more details, please see the appendix "40 ways to distort the results of a clinical trial and cancer statistics" in my other ebook: Fight Cancer. That book also describes a type of clinical trial that does not require statistical methods. Studies that analyze combined evidence from many randomized controlled trials (so-called meta-analyses) cannot yield valid results if the underlying clinical trials show distorted results. For a long time, meta-analyses have not taken into account conflicts of interest of the authors of clinical trials. Clinical trials that show a small effect size with authors having conflicts of interest should be regarded as bad evidence; this is not the case for the vast majority of meta-analyses. In addition, placebo and double blinding do not work as expected. Patients can often guess that they receive an active drug because of the adverse effects. Patients who were on a similar drug before the trial will experience adverse withdrawal effects if they are suddenly placed in a placebo group; this situation will make the active drug in the treated group look much better than it actually is. Blinding of investigators is not airtight or verifiable because the original raw data are often concealed. The hiding of original raw data makes the evidence from clinical trials untrustworthy, no matter how sophisticated. As a poster (user name “researcher”) on the website put it, “Depression drugs are tested by the companies that make them. This is like Pepsi testing if Pepsi is better than Coca Cola or a mobster being judged with only family members in the jury…” To be precise, a pharmaceutical company typically outsources clinical trials to one or more CROs [contract research organizations] but still owns all the original raw data and often keeps them secret, while publishing only processed and embellished results. CROs are not impartial entities, they have major conflicts of interest because they try to please the client. Besides, pharmaceutical companies are openly trying to influence key opinion leaders in various fields of academic medicine and in clinical fields.

The most serious problem is that government regulators are not interested in what pharmaceutical companies and medical device makers publish in peer-reviewed scientific journals directly or through ghost writers. This activity is not monitored and not regulated [1101, 1121, 1122]. For a private company, there is no punishment for publishing fraudulent results (either directly or through ghost writers) in a scientific journal. The worst that can happen is retraction of an article, which is a nonpunishment for a corporation. Scientific journals enjoy advertising revenue from (and large purchases of reprints by) pharmaceutical companies and device makers [1104], and members of the editorial boards of prestigious biomedical journals receive huge payments from the pharma industry and device makers [1108, 1123]. This is a major conflict of interest for scientific journals. We are not dealing with little abuses here and there [1119, 1120]. The whole system is broken, and there are likely to be gigantic distortions of medical science on the order of geocentric universe [1126, 1154, 1155, 1156]. Fake science and disinformation are intended not only to convince you that ineffective and dangerous treatments are safe and effective. Many fake studies are sponsored to "prove" that centuries-tested, effective, dirt-cheap, and safe remedies are "useless" for the obvious reason of eliminating competition [1141, 1142]. Official science is controlled from the top down, not from the bottom up. Prestigious scientific journals can no longer be trusted. Any falsehood declared by high science officials will be accepted by most scientists without question. Just like average people, most scientists believe that the government consists of honest uncontrollable persons and that government secrecy is impossible. In reality, any modern national government is essentially a conspiracy of the ruling elite against the populace and is based on mass deception. The ruling elite only pretends to serve the people, but in actuality, the elite deceives and uses the gullible masses for its selfish purposes. Checks and balances between branches of the government do not work and have never worked; all money and power inevitably accumulate in the ruling elite's faction that is allowed to use force covertly. Thanks to modern technologies, this faction can frame for a crime or physically eliminate anyone anywhere with impunity, without raising any suspicions. Besides, the ruling elite can fabricate or if necessary destroy any proof; consequently, the only tool that can help us to detect deception and propaganda is rules of logic. For more information on this topic, see the end of the section "Several safe diets that can improve mental abilities," point # 5 in section "Social skills versus innate intelligence" (Chapter Six), the end of Appendix VIII, the section "Safe investments" (Chapter Seven), footnote # 13 in Appendix VII, and references therein.

I will briefly describe how the US FDA approves drugs and medical devices. For approval of a drug (or a biologic agent, such as an antibody), the manufacturer has to present two clinical trials showing a statistically significant (p < 0.05) positive result. There can be any number of trials with negative results, i.e., trials showing that the drug does nothing for the patients. If there are 20 negative trials and two positive trials, the drug can be approved, not always. The official requirements do not mention the effect size, i.e., the drug may offer only a miniscule benefit. If you conduct a clinical trial on thousands of patients, then you can achieve statistical significance with minimal effectiveness. All artificial chemicals, that do not occur in nature and which can be patented, have a long list of adverse effects [1131]. When the testing is conducted or controlled by those who sell the drug (which is usually the case), the benefits of the drug are usually exaggerated, whereas its adverse effects are either concealed or downplayed [1049, 1050, 1139]. It should be noted that the FDA panel that reviews the drug application will look at the effectiveness (effect size) and will see all the clinical trials that have been conducted and may not approve the drug if its effectiveness is too low and/or if there are too many serious adverse events. Evaluation of these data is at the discretion of the FDA panel, there are no official requirements regarding effect size. Approval of medical devices is even less strict. Only one clinical trial with a statistically significant result is required (with any number of trials with negative results). In most cases, this premarket approval procedure is not necessary; it is acceptable to demonstrate that the new device is equivalent to an already approved device on the market: the so-called rule 510(k). An unsafe medical device can be easily approved, but removing it from the market will be a difficult struggle of many years for activist patients' groups [1143]. Is this system designed for patient safety of for maximal profits of the healthcare industry? Does this system give conventional medicine the tools that are usually ineffective and dangerous? You be the judge. I will give you an example of an extremely effective, safe, and cheap remedy: valerian root as a sedative. If you don’t believe me, try it yourself. It cannot be patented because it’s a natural substance. The active ingredient is unknown and probably does not exist because this herb works as the whole package. Therefore, there is no economic incentive to conduct large clinical trials trying to prove valerian’s effectiveness. If you prove the effectiveness of valerian in expensive clinical trials, then you won’t have a competitive advantage in the market without a patent. Your investment in clinical trials will be wasted. On the contrary, for pharmaceutical corporations, there is every economic incentive to conduct (i.e., to sponsor) clinical trials “proving” that valerian root does not work in order to eliminate this powerful competitor of patented insomnia drugs. This is exactly what’s been happening [1141]. As a result, the FDA considers the valerian root safe as a dietary supplement but does not allow you to advertise it as a sedative (evidence from clinical trials is “inconclusive”). Thus, we have dangerous, ineffective, and expensive patented drugs officially approved as treatments of insomnia, but a cheap, effective, safe, and centuries-proven (but unpatented) herb is banned. Some readers might say: you’re talking nonsense, this is impossible because we live in a democracy, and the government serves the people, not corporations. I am sorry to disappoint those readers who believe that 1) the world is governed by the forces of good, 2) you can definitely believe mass media, 3) there are no conspiracies in the government, and 4) the government serves the people: all four statements are incorrect.

Unfortunately, you can no longer trust big clinical trials because organizations or people who have enough money to fund these trials have many incentives and opportunities to falsify the results with impunity. The bigger and more expensive clinical trials are more likely to be fake science, especially those that “prove” an expensive patented treatment or “disprove” a cheap and safe unpatented treatment. There are two good examples: antidepressant drugs have been increasingly prescribed in the past decades, but the rates of depression and depression-related disability did not decrease, in fact they increased [1080]. The same is true of statin drugs and cardiovascular diseases. All this despite the megatrials “rigorously proving” the effectiveness of these drugs [1144, 1145].

To filter out fake studies, the following strategy might be useful: If a treatment is safe, cheap, unpatentable, has been used medically for many centuries, and some modern clinical trials (albeit small ones) show that it is effective, then these studies can be trusted because there are no special interests powerful enough to secretly sponsor fake studies on the scale sufficient to shift the scientific consensus. Better yet, don’t wait for scientific proof, try this safe and cheap treatment yourself: this is the best safeguard against fake science. Conversely, studies proving that this treatment does not work are suspicious because there are large incentives for megacorporations to secretly sponsor such studies to eliminate competition. Note that you can disregard the conflict of interest information declared in scientific articles because this information can be falsified by corporations with impunity.

Two large studies have revealed that 75–87% of treatment methods offered by conventional medicine are not proven to be effective, whereas approximately 10% of these methods are likely to cause more harm than good [1063, 1064]. In particular, almost none of the existing surgical methods have ever been rigorously proven to be effective; this is because a placebo and double blinding are difficult to implement in nonpharmacological studies [1066]. The 13–25% of therapeutic methods proven to be effective according to the gold standard of evidence (see above) in actuality are questionable too because this standard is now known to be untrustworthy. Besides, modern medicine overall is among the leading causes of death (adverse effects of prescription drugs, medical errors, unnecessary surgical procedures, etc.) [1050, 1065, 1127]. Therefore, at present, you cannot say that conventional medicine is safer and more trustworthy than alternative medicine. In particular, you can ignore such labels as “quackery” and “health fraud” because only self-serving people throw such terms around without critically examining their own field of medicine (let alone that ad hominem attacks and loaded terminology have no place in a logical debate; let’s not forget about the possibility of astroturfing [1062, 10931097]).

By my estimates, most methods of conventional medicine cause more harm than good, and you need to be skeptical about both conventional medicine and alternative medicine. There are plenty of unscientific theories and charlatans in both fields. The modern official medicine has advantages in such areas as emergency medicine, dentistry (endnote D1), ophthalmology, physical traumas, and infectious diseases (treatment of viral infections is not effective usually). Remember that lifestyle changes (Appendix VII), vitamin-rich foods, herbs, and herbal extracts are the safest therapeutic methods; next we have natural chemicals (which occur in nature such as vitamins and curcumin), which are less safe for your health; and the last place belongs to invented chemicals (do not occur in nature, e.g., most of patented pharmaceutical drugs), which pose the greatest risks for health [1131], as do surgical methods and many other modalities of conventional medicine. You need to do your own research about every medical treatment that comes your way, for example, you need to find out how long it’s been used, how it’s been tested, and read critical reviews and critical scientific studies.

When choosing a medical procedure, you need to ask yourself 1) Does the author of the procedure or healthcare provider want my money? Can I perform the treatment myself without paying a penny to this healthcare professional or to the inventor? 2) Does the procedure make sense or address the real ultimate cause of the illness that I can understand and verify myself? 3) Will this practitioner turn me into a permanent client of the healthcare industry because the procedure will temporarily relieve the symptoms, while causing new health problems? 4) Is the procedure dangerous: will it do more harm than good? 5) Is it likely that the scientific evidence was corrupted by those trying to sell this method? 6) Do I really have a disease that needs to be treated? 7) Is it possible that I am healthy but the health problem was invented to sell various healthcare products? 8) If the method in question is often called “quackery,” is it possible that it works but is being trashed by powerful competitors?

As you may have guessed, disinterested medicine proposed above is more trustworthy, and seems to be more fraud-proof than the so-called evidence-based medicine, which is inevitably corrupted by the monetary motive. The proposed do-it-yourself approach obviously is not applicable to all known health problems. Here are some examples. Say, you are depressed and you go to see a psychiatrist. One psychiatrist tells you to start a program of physical exercise and make your nutrition healthier and shows you scientific papers proving that this method works [1044, 1056, 1047, 1048]. This psychiatrist tells you that the cause of your depression is most likely your unhealthy lifestyle. The proposed treatment is free (or almost free) and do-it-yourself, and the psychiatrist does not stand to gain financially from the treatment. This psychiatrist shows you how you can get rid of him/her and never see another psychiatrist for the rest of your life. In contrast, another psychiatrist prescribes a brand-new widely advertised antidepressant, with a sizeable price tag. You take it for several months and it doesn’t help, but you developed insomnia, and now this psychiatrist prescribes a different antidepressant instead plus a sleeping pill. After that, you develop several strange adverse effects from this combination: your genitals went numb and you periodically start to experience fits of rage and daily twitching of muscles. You are still depressed. Realizing that the drugs made your health worse not better, you try to stop taking them, but withdrawal symptoms hit you like a ton of bricks, and you are forced to see the psychiatrist again and again, while he prescribes various other drugs. Now you are hooked on the system for many years, generating a steady stream of income for the psychiatrist and for the pharmaceutical industry. Similar realistic examples can be given about hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and other health problems.

Because my PhD specialty is cancer research, I can’t help but give you a relevant example of disinterested i.e. lifestyle-based medicine. It should be noted that distortions of published research in the field of oncology are not as rampant as they are in psychiatric drug trials. Nevertheless, the participants (pharmaceutical companies) are mostly the same. It’s entirely up to you to trust the known cheaters or not. Suppose you have brain cancer. One oncologist schedules a surgical operation (even though there is no scientific proof that benefits outweigh the harm [1066]) and tells you to prepare later for several cycles of cytotoxic chemotherapy. He/she honestly tells you that you will feel like you are dying during chemotherapy. Never mind that you cannot trust research articles published or sponsored by pharmaceutical companies. In the majority of cancers, cytotoxic chemotherapy offers only a modest benefit [10831091], which is clinically insignificant [1092] and probably not real anyway due to various biases (a small number of types of cancer is an exception). In addition, cytotoxic chemotherapy does not make biological sense because it undermines the immune system, and such drugs are often carcinogens themselves. Thus, the cost of the combined treatment regimen is astronomical, potential benefits are unclear, whereas the harm to health will be substantial and 100% certain. Not being entirely selfless, this oncologist tells you that if you refuse chemotherapy, then you are more likely to die of cancer (he forgets to mention that your risk of death will increase by a few percentage points, for example, from 80% to 82%). You are really scared, and you decide to spend all your savings on the proposed treatment. On the other hand, another oncologist tells you that there is no reliable evidence that surgical resection will improve the outcome [1066], and there is hardly any unbiased evidence that cytotoxic chemotherapy is effective against your type of brain cancer (there are peer-reviewed articles showing a small [1092] benefit of chemotherapy, but most of the authors of each article have conflicts of interest). This oncologist tells you that your cancer is a result of a suboptimal lifestyle (not necessarily an unhealthy one), likely with some genetic predisposition, and you can try several lifestyle changes to enhance your immune system and normalize your metabolism. These changes should either eliminate the tumor or make it innocuous. He prescribes cardio exercise once a day, a raw food diet based on safe raw animal foods (lasting 3 weeks, to be repeated every 2 months), an adapted cold shower twice a day, and a lifestyle that includes various types of hormesis. (For details see Appendix VII and my free ebook “Fight Cancer”). You do not have to pay this oncologist anything for these treatments, except for the consultation and initial tests. This oncologist tells you that if this approach does not help, you can try radiotherapy and/or targeted chemotherapy later. Turns out that you feel better immediately and you decide to not go for any tests or procedures afterwards. You never see this oncologist again. The tumor may still be there or perhaps it disappeared, but it does not bother you anymore.

If you wish to find out whether any particular study offers valid results, you can search the website, which offers reviews of scientific articles after they were published: so-called postpublication peer review. You can post an anonymous review yourself if you want. now also allows for commenting on articles. To see the latest news about scientific fraud, visit

It is worth mentioning that I endorse the scientific method, but I do not automatically agree with every theory or guideline handed down by the scientific and medical establishment. Money, politics, and the way science is currently organized sometimes lead to big distortions and adoption of false theories by the establishment (a good example is the currently rejected theory that dietary cholesterol causes heart disease). Because peer review is not very effective at filtering out flawed studies [1034, 1311], corporations and the government can institute “widely accepted” (but false) theories by funding some types of biased research. Throughout history, there have been numerous false theories widely accepted by scientists and endorsed by the scientific establishment: the caloric theory, miasma theory of disease, geocentric universe, and many others. Now it’s different? No, it’s not. The notion that there are no false theories that are prevailing in science right now is implausible. Wikipedia is a bad source of information [1062], but some articles on noncontroversial topics are useful (see the article “Superseded scientific theories”). Richard Horton, the Editor-in-Chief of a top medical journal, The Lancet, said “The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue.” Thus, the best you can do is keep an open mind and do your own research (carefully read each study yourself).

In conclusion, the list below ranks various types of evidence by reliability from the most reliable at #1 (least likely to involve deception; there is rigorous review of evidence and a mechanism of punishment for deception) to the least reliable, at #7 (very likely to contain lies and inaccurate information; there is no punishment for deception):

  1. primary evidence in a criminal investigation (with the chain of custody) such as fingerprints, DNA evidence, or eyewitness testimony; sworn testimony in court or before Congress; classified information or documents that are not declassified officially (instead revealed via whistleblowers or accidental exposure)

  2. a research article in a high-impact peer-reviewed academic journal (“high-impact” means a high impact factor: a measure of prestige, how often the journal is cited on average), a court decision, an officially declassified document or information, a news story (newspaper, TV news) about local or domestic events, a health-related peer-reviewed government website

  3. a government report (a report of some commission, official inflation or unemployment numbers, and the like)

  4. a research article in a low-impact peer-reviewed academic journal (especially a young journal not listed in a popular database in its field of study)

  5. a Wikipedia article, a peer-reviewed academic book (including textbooks, they become outdated quickly)

  6. a nonfiction book published by a big corporate publisher, advertising claims about some product or service

  7. a web page, a self-published nonfiction book or the one published by a small publisher, an interview in news media, a news story (by a domestic news organization) about events in a foreign country, a news story citing an anonymous source

Please keep in mind that evidence in category #1 is not absolute: sometimes, it can be false. Conversely, the evidence in category #7 can be truthful and accurate, but in general, there is high probability that such information is false or inaccurate. There are also some basic rules about the relation between a source and information:

It is also useful to familiarize yourself with popular fallacies: ad hominem, appeal to authority, argumentum ad populum, appeal to ridicule, false analogy, begging the question, false dilemma, hasty generalization, correlation proves causation, cherry picking, moral high ground, and thought-terminating cliché (see the Wikipedia article “List of fallacies”).

Key points

Can mental and physical exercise make you smarter?

Don’t get me wrong, I am not against physical exercise, in fact, I exercise for ~40 minutes four times a week, and there is plenty of evidence that physical exercise is good for health, in particular, it can be used to treat depression and anxiety [1047, 1048]. There are a lot of books claiming that physical exercise and brain training (mental exercises) will improve brain function and make you smarter. These claims are based on statistical or correlational studies ([957, 958] and Table 2 in [959]) and other circumstantial evidence, which cannot prove the point one way or the other. Direct experiments, on the other hand, show that physical exercise programs do not produce consistent benefits in academic performance and intelligence. Physical exercise programs have no effect on IQ scores of people suffering from mental retardation [960, 961]. Numerous studies on healthy children and adults have yielded inconclusive results ([962964] and Table 1 in [959]). If we are talking about becoming smarter, fluid intelligence is the most relevant mental ability. Exercise programs do not improve (academic) fluid intelligence or the improvement is tiny and statistically insignificant [960964]. In the study by Mohamed Elsayed and colleagues [963] the total difference in fluid intelligence before and after an exercise program was not statistically significant (36 test subjects total) and the size of the improvement was miniscule. One component of fluid intelligence out of four remained unchanged, one decreased, and two increased slightly. In the study by A.K. Brown and colleagues [962] an exercise program, which included 82 test subjects, did not produce a statistically significant change in any components of fluid intelligence. According to Table 1 of the article [962], there was a slight increase in two components and a minor decrease in two other components of fluid intelligence in the exercise group. We can conclude from these studies that the cognitive benefits of physical exercise either do not exist or they are too small. Physical exercise will not make you smarter.

There may be some exceptions or qualifications to the above conclusion. Sometimes mental abilities are impaired as a result of a physical illness or a physical disability. In this case, physical exercise may help to restore the cognitive abilities to some extent [896, 965, 966]. This restoration may happen as the result of the improvement of the general state of health (this is recovery from an impairment, not enhancement of the norm). Other studies show that physical exercise has transient effects on some mental abilities, such as information processing speed and attention control [967969]. These effects disappear within one to two hours after a bout of exercise. A recent article shows that an exercise program can improve memory in healthy older people, but the size of the effect is small [970]. Still other studies have demonstrated that professional athletes perform certain tasks (related to their type of sports) more effectively than average people [971975]. Yet the studies listed in this paragraph do not show that physical exercise will increase intelligence of a healthy person.

As for mental exercises or “brain training,” the conclusions are similar. Two large studies in adults have concluded that mental exercises do not improve general mental abilities such as fluid intelligence, short-term memory, attention control and so on [917, 918, 1023]. The benefit is either miniscule or nonexistent. Mental exercises do improve the skills related to the type of exercise that a person performs. In other words, with time and practice, people tend to learn how to perform various mental tasks better and more quickly. Nonetheless, there is no improvement in the general mental abilities and in the performance of mental tasks unrelated to the mental exercises.

There are some exceptions too, which, however, do not change the overall conclusion. One recent study has found that half of children may improve their short-term memory and fluid intelligence as a result of a special type of mental exercises [976]. This benefit was almost undetectable in the other 50% of children and the average improvement in fluid intelligence (all children combined) was small. That mental exercises can improve brain function in some children is an interesting and important finding. Nonetheless, to prove the validity of this finding, one or more independent groups of researchers have to confirm it. In academic science, when a group of researchers reports an exciting finding, other laboratories often show that the results are false. Similarly, Helga and Tony Noice published a research article showing that theater training can improve mental abilities in older adults living in retirement homes [977]. Only a single group of researchers has done this experiment so far, and the study deals with recovery from an impairment, not enhancement of the norm. Numerous other studies fail to show a significant benefit from mental exercises [917, 918, 1023], and we can conclude that mental exercises do not enhance mental abilities in the majority of people.

An analogy with a desktop computer can illustrate this point. Mental exercises are similar to loading more software on the computer and making the computer work harder and longer. This approach cannot improve computer hardware: processor speed, memory, and the size of the hard drive—the characteristics that are “mental abilities” of the computer. Note that certain types of daily mental tasks do produce subtle changes in the brain structure of humans [972, 978]. Yet these alterations are a “change” or “adaptation,” not an “upgrade,” because they do not improve brain function in general. (To continue the computer analogy, if you make the computer work harder, the fan cooling the processor and the indicator of hard drive activity will be constantly on. These changes do not mean that you have upgraded the computer by means of the excessive work load.)

My own experience with physical exercise and brain training leads me to the same negative conclusions. Whereas physical health benefits of physical exercise are indisputable, this approach is unlikely to have any significant effect on intelligence, in the vast majority of cases.

Key points

The natural nutrition theory of intelligence and its limitations

We reviewed some introductory information in the previous sections and now it’s time to introduce the first theory of several presented in this book. First, I would like to refresh your memory on the basics of the theory of evolution. This aside is necessary because the “natural nutrition theory of intelligence” is based on evolution. (Readers can skip the refresher by pressing this link.)

Each form of life (a living organism) inherits traits (features) from its parents and this process involves genes. A mutation in a gene can cause an old trait to disappear or a new one to appear in the offspring. Evolution is the gradual change in living organisms over generations, a process mediated by genetic changes. Life forms of the same species often coexist as a group called a population, which occupies a certain geographic location or an ecological niche. Natural selection is a process of accumulation of those traits within a population that are useful for survival and reproduction of an organism. Natural selection also involves a process of gradual disappearance of the traits that impede successful reproduction and survival. Genetic changes (mutated genes) that provide an advantage to an organism become more widespread within the population because organisms carrying those mutations are more likely to survive and to procreate. The process of natural selection makes a population genetically adapted to its environment. Put another way, most of the individual plants or animals (or other life forms) within the population become well adapted to the environment that the population inhabits. Individuals become more adept at evading predators, at obtaining food, and at digesting the types of food that are present in a given environment. Separate populations of the same species of plants or animals can develop into new species if there is no genetic exchange (crossbreeding) between these populations, or if the genetic exchange is limited. For example, populations can become isolated geographically for an extended period of time that covers hundreds or thousands of generations. This change can form new species (a process called speciation). Charles Darwin was the founder of the evolutionary theory. His seminal work, “On the Origin of Species” (1859), laid the foundation of modern evolutionary biology and the related biological sciences. Later developments in genetics, archaeology, and other sciences led to the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis, which is the modern understanding of the process of evolution.

The rate of evolution (the speed of change) varies over time. The current mainstream view is that the rate of evolution is not constant. Evolutionary changes occur by leaps and bounds. Certain periods of time (tens of thousands of years) involve rapid changes, and then follow long periods when little or no change takes place (hundreds of thousands of years). Thus, short periods of rapid change alternate with longer periods of slow change. Nonetheless, evolutionary changes are gradual and take many generations (hundreds or more), even during periods of rapid change. Numerous studies have proven the evolutionary theory, and evolution by natural selection is an accepted fact among professional biologists [38].

Now we can get started on the natural intelligence theory (this is an abbreviation of the “natural nutrition theory of intelligence”). There are two notable differences between the diet of primates (and other animals) in the wild and a typical human diet. The first difference is that a typical human diet in industrialized countries is chockfull of various artificial ingredients that animals do not consume. These include food additives (salt, sugar, vinegar, nitrates, nitrites, monosodium glutamate, and others) and dietary supplements (artificial vitamins, minerals). The second difference is that animals living in the wild consume food that is raw (uncooked), whereas humans consume a predominantly cooked diet. In other words, modern primates [3941] and evolutionary predecessors of humans consume(d) a 100% raw diet that is free of any artificial chemicals [4245]. It seems logical to hypothesize that this sort of diet, or a similar diet, is more “natural” for the human brain than the typical modern diet. The food additives have been present in the human diet for less than several centuries [43], whereas the cooking of food has been with us for about 300,000 years [42, 46, 1022]. From the standpoint of evolution, this amount of time is not sufficient for full genetic adaptation to this novel mode of nutrition. In other words, it is possible that a raw diet that is free of artificial ingredients will improve mental abilities of modern humans. For convenience, we will refer to this diet as the “ancestral diet” throughout the book.

At this point, I should say that a 100% raw food diet containing meat and fish is not safe for modern humans, but there are 100% raw diets that include animal foods and are safe (see Appendix VIII).A According to conventional medicine, raw meat, raw fish, and raw milk carry a risk of infectious diseases (Table 1 below), but you need to be skeptical about conventional medicine as explained in a previous book section. In my view, the health risks of raw animal foods are exaggerated by the medical establishment; with some precautions, you can safely eat some raw animal foods (see Appendix VIII). In general, health risks posed by bacteria and viruses are also exaggerated by conventional medicine (see footnote # 13 in Appendix VII and links therein).

Table 1. Pathogens that can occur in raw animal products, according to conventional medicine. (To skip the table, press this link.)

Pathogen: Campylobacter jejuni (bacterium)

Source: raw beef, poultry, and dairy

Symptoms of infection: abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting

Pathogen: Clostridium botulinum (bacterium)

Source: seafood (such as improperly canned goods; smoked or salted fish)

Symptoms of infection: double vision, inability to swallow, difficulty speaking, and inability to breathe; can be fatal

Pathogen:Clostridium perfringens (bacterium)

Source: raw meats

Symptoms of infection: abdominal cramps and diarrhea

Pathogen: Cryptosporidium parvum (single-celled parasite)

Source: raw dairy

Symptoms of infection: without symptoms or watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, upset stomach, and slight fever

Pathogen: Escherichia coli, strain O157H7 (bacterium)

Source: raw beef and pork

Symptoms of infection: abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting

Pathogen:Giardia duodenalis (single-celled parasite)

Source: raw dairy

Symptoms of infection: without symptoms or diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and nausea

Pathogen: Listeria monocytogenes (bacterium)

Source: raw pork, poultry, dairy, and seafood

Symptoms of infection: abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting

Pathogen: Norovirus (Norwalklike virus)

Source: raw oysters, shellfish

Symptoms of infection: diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, headache, and fever

Pathogen: Norwalk virus

Source: raw seafood

Symptoms of infection: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain; headache and low-grade fever may occur

Pathogen: Opisthorchis felineus and Opisthorchis viverrini (flatworms)

Source: raw fresh-water fish

Symptoms of infection: fever, nausea, pain on the right side of the abdomen; possible obstruction of the bile duct

Pathogen: Salmonella (bacterium)

Source: raw beef, pork, poultry, eggs, dairy, and seafood

Symptoms of infection: abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting

Pathogen: Shigella (bacterium)

Source: raw dairy products

Symptoms of infection: nausea, vomiting, fever, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea

Pathogen: Staphylococcus aureus (bacterium)

Source: raw dairy products, beef

Symptoms of infection: nausea, vomiting, fever, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea

Pathogen: Taenia saginata (tapeworm)

Source: raw beef

Symptoms of infection: without symptoms or abdominal pain, weight loss, digestive disturbances, and possible intestinal obstruction; irritation of perianal area

Pathogen: Taenia solium (tapeworm)

Source: raw pork

Symptoms of infection: without symptoms or abdominal pain, weight loss, digestive disturbances, and possible intestinal obstruction; irritation of perianal area; infection of some tissues (other than intestines) with larvae is possible and can be fatal if involves central nervous system or heart

Pathogen: Toxoplasma gondii (single-celled parasite)

Source: raw pork, lamb, and wild game

Symptoms of infection: without symptoms or flulike symptoms such as swollen lymph nodes or muscle aches; immunocompromised patients can develop severe toxoplasmosis damage to the eyes or brain

Pathogen: Trichinella spiralis (intestinal roundworm, larvae can form cysts in muscle tissue)

Source: raw pork, wild boar, bear, bobcat, cougar, fox, wolf, dog, horse, seal, and walrus

Symptoms of infection: nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal pain, followed by headaches, eye swelling, aching joints and muscles, weakness, and itchy skin; severe cases difficulty with coordination, heart and breathing problems, can be fatal

Pathogen: Vibrio cholerae (bacterium)

Source: raw seafood

Symptoms of infection: without symptoms or symptoms of cholera severe diarrhea, vomiting, and leg cramps; severe dehydration and death can occur without treatment

Pathogen: Vibrio parahaemolyticus (bacterium)

Source: raw shellfish, other seafood

Symptoms of infection: chills, fever, and collapse

Pathogen: Vibrio vulnificus (bacterium)

Source: raw shellfish, other seafood

Symptoms of infection: chills, fever, and collapse

Pathogen: Yersinia enterocolitica (bacterium)

Source: raw meats and seafood

Symptoms of infection: bloody diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting

Going back to the natural diets of animals in the wild, the first primates appeared 60 to 70 million years ago. Humans belong to the order of primates, although we appeared much later in the course of evolution. All known mammals living in the wild today including primates consume a raw diet consisting of plants, animals, or both. For a brief period after birth they consume mother’s milk. They do not consume artificial ingredients (pure chemicals such as food additives and dietary supplements) aside from those that enter their diet by accident through environmental pollution. Early hominids or “great apes” appeared approximately 15 million years ago and were the evolutionary predecessors of Homo sapiens. Great apes most likely consumed a diet that resembles the natural diet of modern chimpanzees: raw plants, raw meat and fish and no dairy at the adult age [3941]. These early hominids most likely did not consume any artificial ingredients because they did not know how to manufacture those chemicals. Homo species did not know cooked food until predecessors of Homo sapiens mastered cooking with fire about 300,000 years ago [42, 46, 1022]. These immediate predecessors as well as the first Homo sapiens (who appeared approximately 100,000 years ago) started consuming cooked food, but there is no evidence that they consumed any artificial ingredients. (I should say that some evidence suggests that there was an intervention into human evolution [1159, 1160].) Domestication of cattle and cultivation of wheat 10,000 to 11,000 years ago led to consumption of dairy by humans at adult age and widespread consumption of cereal grains [43]. Humans started consuming salt, one of the first pure chemicals in the diet, approximately 6000 B.C. [47]. A small number of chemicals, such as potassium nitrate (a preservative), entered the Western diet during the Middle Ages. A large influx of various artificial ingredients into the human diet (several hundred food additives, at last count) occurred during the Industrial Revolution in the last several centuries. During this period, the manufacture of sophisticated chemicals came into its own. In summary, cooked food entered the diet of humans approximately 300,000 years ago, whereas most of the artificial ingredients entered the Western diet during the last several centuries. By “Western diet” or “modern diet” I mean the diet recommended by official food pyramids, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate.

To sum up, Homo sapiens (appearing approximately 100,000 years ago) had evolved from hominids or great apes (appearing approximately 15 million years ago). During this process, these primates stayed on a diet that was 100% raw and free of artificial ingredients (the “ancestral diet”). Cooked food appeared earlier than the first Homo sapiens did (300,000 years ago versus 100,000 years ago). Nonetheless, the fact remains that it took roughly 15 million years for the Homo sapiens species to evolve from the earliest hominids. Most of that evolutionary time, these primates lived off a raw diet free of any artificial chemicals.

Evolution by natural selection ensures that a species becomes well adapted to its environment, including the food available in that environment. Homo sapiens must be well adapted genetically to the type of nutrition that was characteristic of the hominids during the past 15 million years. Therefore, it seems logical to theorize that the human brain will function optimally on the ancestral diet. Conversely, it is conceivable that the human brain is not well adapted to nutrition that includes cooked food and artificial ingredients. This is because cooking and artificial chemicals are recent innovations from the standpoint of evolution. It may take several million years of natural selection for humans to adapt genetically to this new mode of nutrition. Right now, the process of natural selection is ongoing. Unnatural nutrition is similar to putting the wrong kind of fuel in the gas tank of a car [48]. According to this theory, if we compare two random diets, the human brain will function worse on a diet that is more cooked (i.e., the percentage of cooked food in the diet is higher). The brain will be worse off if the cooking involves higher temperatures or if the diet contains greater amounts of artificial chemicals. In a concrete and testable form, the most basic assumption of the natural intelligence theory is the following.

The ancestral diet (for example, a 100% raw diet that consists of fruits, vegetables, nuts, safe raw animal foods, and excludes any artificial ingredients such as food additives and dietary supplements), when used for 4 to 7 days, will improve fluid intelligence.

A safe version of the ancestral diet is described in Appendix VIII. Endnote B describes possible approaches (such as pascalization) that will make any raw animal foods safe in the near future. As you will see in later sections, I tested the above statement on myself repeatedly and it appears to be true. I developed several “smart diets” that are safe and as effective or even more effective than the ancestral diet at different types of tasks. We will talk about these diets in detail in a later section of this chapter. There is an implication of the natural intelligence theory:

The more similar a diet is to the ancestral diet, the greater the improvement of intelligence that this diet will provide.

A lower percentage of cooked food in the diet, a lower temperature of cooking, and the exclusion of artificial ingredients will all make a diet more similar to the ancestral diet.

One piece of evidence that supports the natural intelligence theory is the research on the nutrition of infants. One study shows that infants who received “unnatural food” (i.e., baby formula) have an IQ when they grow up that is about 5 points lower compared to infants who consumed “natural food” (i.e., the mother’s milk) [49]. Another statistical study shows that infants who eat a healthy diet tend to have higher IQ scores at age 4 compared to infants consuming an average mixed diet [846]. There are other studies supporting the natural intelligence theory [826, 837, 838, 858, 863, 866, 908, 943]; we will discuss them later in this chapter.

I developed the natural intelligence theory independently. After some research, I found that it has some similarities to the theory behind the Paleolithic diet developed by brilliant researchers S. Boyd Eaton, Melvin Konner, and Loren Cordain [50, 51]. Both theories involve the concept of an ancestral diet that humans had adapted to in the course of evolution. Both theories imply that humans did not have sufficient evolutionary time to adapt to the modern diet, which is different from the ancestral diet. According to its authors, the Paleolithic diet (or Paleo diet) is the diet of humans during the Stone Age, or more than 11,000 years ago. It excludes foods that entered the human diet with the widespread adoption of agriculture: dairy, grains, legumes, and most food additives as well. The theory behind the Paleolithic diet suggests that the ancestral diet of humans consisted of cooked meat and fish, raw and cooked fruits and vegetables, and nuts. Note that documented fossil evidence of meat consumption by hominids dates back 3.4 million years [922]. Some evidence emerged recently that humans consumed cereal grains during the Stone Age, approximately 30,000 years ago [923]. For a critical overview of the Paleo diet, see the presentation by Christine Warinner:

There are several differences between the Paleolithic diet theory and the natural intelligence theory. None of the statements below represent criticism or a desire to demonstrate that “my theory is better.” First, the natural intelligence theory deals with mental abilities and ignores physical health implications of the diet. Second, the natural intelligence theory does not prescribe any specific proportions of macronutrients (fat, protein, and carbohydrates) in the diet. On the other hand, the authors of the Paleolithic diet believe that the ancestral diet contained well-defined proportions of macronutrients that a person should comply with in order to achieve optimal health. The latest proportions published by these authors are the following (by calories): 35% fats, 35% carbohydrates, and 30% protein. As you will see in later chapters of this book, the natural intelligence theory allows for wide variations in the proportions of macronutrients. These proportions can range from protein-free and low-fat to high-protein and high-fat diets, depending on a task in question. Third, the Paleolithic diet ignores the implications of cooking. This position is justified because the switch from an all-raw diet to a partially cooked diet (about 300,000 years ago) occurred well before the adoption of agriculture (11,000 years ago). Fourth, the authors of the Paleolithic diet assume that saturated fat is bad for health and therefore lean animal products are preferable. The natural intelligence theory takes no position on saturated fat. As you will see in a later section of this chapter, there is plenty of evidence that saturated fat has no adverse effects on health. Thus, either exclusion or inclusion of foods that contain lots of saturated fat is optional, according to the natural intelligence theory. Fifth, the theory behind the Paleolithic diet suggests that dairy products and cereal grains are unnatural for humans because they appeared in the human diet recently (in the last 10,000 years, the agricultural era). The natural intelligence theory, on the other hand, suggests that a person can include novel foods of natural origin (plants, animals, mushrooms, milk, and so on) in the diet if one or more of the following conditions are true.

  1. These novel foods do not contain substances toxic to humans in the raw form and are free of artificial ingredients.

  2. Cooking at a moderate temperature (at 100°C or below) or pasteurization does not result in formation of undesirable chemicals. (There is evidence that this is true of fruits, vegetables, and dairy.)

  3. Practical testing shows that these novel foods do not worsen psychological well-being or mental performance in the short term.

In most cases, one can verify the latter condition by following a monodiet for 3 days or longer (Appendix III). My personal experience suggests that raw extract of wheat and raw milk (and raw dairy) are nutritious and do not have negative effects on mental abilities. Yet these foods do not fit the strict definition of ancestral food. As explained later, boiled grains are useful for some mental tasks. Yet boiled grains contain undesirable chemicals and do not fit the criteria of either the natural intelligence theory or the Paleolithic diet.

The seeming simplicity of the natural intelligence theory is attractive, but careful examination reveals that it has a number of important limitations. (Readers can skip the detailed discussion of the limitations and read about them in the key points later: press this link to jump to the end of this section.)

  1. Humans may have adapted to cooked food, at least partially, through natural selection during the last 300,000 years (corresponding to the use of fire for cooking) [46, 1022]. Humans most likely did not have sufficient evolutionary time to adapt to the numerous artificial chemicals that entered the human diet a few centuries ago [43]. Put another way, cooked food may be “somewhat natural” to modern humans, while food additives are still “unnatural.” There are genetic differences among individual human beings, and some people can function well on the modern “unnatural” diet. It is also impossible to determine with any degree of certainty what a “natural diet” of Homo sapiens is. Studies suggest that contemporary primitive diets vary in their composition, even when free of artificial ingredients. Examples include diets that consist mostly of plant foods and diets that consist almost exclusively of animal products (for example, the diet of Eskimos) [1161]. These observations suggest that humans are adapted to diets that vary widely both in their content of plant or animal food and in their proportions of macronutrients. There are segments of the world population consuming high-fat and low-fat, high-protein and low-protein, all-flesh, and 99%-plant diets (some African tribes) [1161]. For the sake of convenience, “natural nutrition” in the context of this book means a diet that is raw or almost raw and free of all artificial ingredients. Keep in mind, however, that many different diets can fit the criteria of “natural nutrition” as just defined. Some people can function well on the modern conventional diet, as if it were a “natural diet” for them. Therefore, it is difficult to say exactly what a “natural diet” for humans is.

  2. Raw animal products carry a risk of infectious diseases [5254] (Table 1). During the last 300,000 years (the cooking era), the human immune system may have grown unaccustomed to the pathogens that occur in raw animal foods such as meat and fish. Therefore, the immune system cannot always provide adequate defense against such pathogens, but this problem is easy to solve with some precautions (see Appendix VIII). As I mentioned above, conventional medicine grossly exaggerates the health risks of raw animal foods. Northern peoples such as Chukchas and Inuit consume raw animal foods on a daily basis and do well on this sort of diet [5558]. Another obstacle for the raw diet is that many, but not all, raw animal foods are socially unacceptable in most cultures. This state of affairs will change when all raw animal foods become safe in the near future. Endnote B describes possible technological developments (such as pascalization) that will ensure the safety of all uncooked animal products. Some raw animal foods are socially acceptable today: raw tail fat, scallops, oysters, eggs, raw milk, and others (see Appendix VIII).

  3. At first glance, prescription drugs are “artificial ingredients” in the diet because most drugs are pure chemicals. The fourth limitation of the natural intelligence theory is that people with chronic illnesses who take medication will not always improve their mental abilities if they discontinue the medication abruptly. Some drugs have to be tapered off for a long period. Illness (such as withdrawal effects) usually causes a drop in IQ scores. There is enough evidence that that the vast majority of prescription drugs are unnecessary, and their use is based on false theories [1050, 1145] (also see Appendix I in my other ebook, "Fight Cancer"). A number of physicians and biomedical researchers have expressed concern over how pharmaceutical companies are developing and marketing drugs. In many cases, the benefits of pharmaceutical drugs are exaggerated, whereas adverse effects are not fully and honestly reported by their makers. This is especially true for psychiatric drugs [35, 457, 1045, 1046, 10491055, 1057, 1058, 1060, 1067, 1068, 10801082, 1088, 1098, 1101, 1109, 11111118, 1128, 1130]. For this reason, prescription drugs should have a much smaller place in health care than they do today. It should be noted that I also do not recommend many alternative or natural therapies (see a chapter on this topic in my other ebook, "Fight Cancer").

  4. The natural intelligence theory implies that there are “natural” and “unnatural” types of food. One can argue that humans and everything they produce are a part and product of nature (according to the evolutionary theory). Therefore, all types of modern human food are “natural,” including junk food. For simplicity’s sake, “unnatural food” in this book means food that contains food additives, has gone through complex chemical processing, or has undergone cooking at temperatures above 100°C (212°F). This distinction is arbitrary and a convenience in the context of this book. Nonetheless, this definition of “unnatural food” is based on evidence presented in the next two sections of this chapter.

  5. This book’s diets contain some food products that may appear to be “unnatural.” For example, adult animals in the wild do not consume dairy, but some of the proposed diets include milk. You could also say that buttermilk and kefir are “unnatural” because they are processed foods (cultured with special bacteria). Water extract of grains, vegetable oil, and cheese are “processed foods,” and thus may also appear to be “unnatural.” In my defense, I consider these food products “natural” because they are animal- or plant-source foods (natural origin) that did not undergo complex chemical processing. Culturing of milk with special bacteria (kefir and buttermilk) is “natural” because it can occur in dairy products without human intervention. Removal of insoluble indigestible components (for example, juicing; water extract of wheat lacks insoluble fiber) does not affect chemical composition of nutrients. Therefore, this method also belongs in the “natural” category.

  6. Nutrition is a social activity in most cultures, and numerous conventions and implicit rules govern this activity. A diet, however attractive it may be in theory, can cause problems in social relations of the dieter if this diet violates acceptable norms of behavior in a given social context. The natural intelligence theory is consistent with the idea that a person does not have to follow a strict diet on a permanent basis. This is because even a temporary improvement of mental abilities can have long-term benefits. For example, a person may decide to follow a strict diet for several days or weeks and can come up with a detailed plan for the upcoming several months. Although good mental clarity is necessary for the planning phase, it is not as crucial for execution of the plan. Based on my experience, you can achieve sufficient improvements in mental abilities if you follow a strict diet for several days a week or 1-2 weeks per month. Most of the time, you can follow some conventional dietary regimen, such as Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate [61]. A diet should not create more problems than it is supposed to solve. I should say that it is easy to adhere to a strict diet for many months if you live alone or with a person(s) who follows a similar diet. You may consider renting a separate apartment for 1 or 2 months to improve mental clarity and to solve some problem.

  7. Some types of raw food (for example, potatoes and mushrooms) contain toxic substances, which the cooking destroys. Thus, “raw” does not always mean “better.”

  8. Food that is free of artificial ingredients and is raw or cooked at moderate temperatures is not the most delicious food. (For somebody who is accustomed to this sort of nutrition, the taste can be pleasant.) With some resourcefulness and the right recipes (Appendix I), you can make this “smart food” delicious. In other words, food can have both a pleasant taste and a beneficial effect on mental abilities—it does not have to be either–or. Despite their negative effects on mental abilities, food additives and sophisticated cooking methods can make food pleasurable. Enjoyment of tasty food is often a “social ritual” and is one of the important sources of pleasure in life. The key is keeping appetite under control when consuming tasty food and keeping the proportion of junk food in the diet under 2%. The last section of this chapter describes some techniques for controlling appetite and restricting consumption of food.

  9. Dietary fiber supplements are a special category of nutritional supplements that are indigestible by humans. Therefore, people can use these supplements without any fear that they may adversely affect mental state. These include microcrystal cellulose, psyllium husks, and other indigestible types of dietary fiber (be careful with digestible types of fiber, such as apple pectin). In your alimentary tract, the action of indigestible fiber is purely mechanical (propulsion and lubrication). Fiber supplements are useful in the context of high-protein diets, as we will see in subsequent chapters. You could say that fiber supplements such as psyllium husks and water extract of raw wheat are “natural” rather than artificial components of the diet. This is because people prepare them by means of a simple mechanical process.

  10. The natural intelligence theory does not address the stuff applied to the body externally, such as balms, cosmetics, antiperspirants, and the like. These substances are absorbed through the skin and affect physical and mental health. For instance, sunblock is bad for health, and instead, you should cover your skin with clothes or stay in the shade to avoid excessive sun exposure (moderate sun exposure is good for health). My point is that artificial substances should not be applied to the skin or should be taken into account when the natural intelligence theory is tested.

The natural intelligence theory has several implications. First, complete exclusion of all artificial ingredients from the diet (with some of the above exceptions) is safe and feasible and will improve intelligence, according to this theory. Second, food that is cooked at moderate temperatures (e.g., by boiling or steaming) will be more beneficial for mental abilities than food cooked at high temperatures (for example, by frying, baking, or grilling). This is because the high temperature treatments cause greater changes in the chemical composition of food, making it less “natural,” as it were.

If the natural intelligence theory has any validity, there should be evidence that cooking of food and the presence of artificial ingredients in the diet can worsen mental abilities. The next two sections review this evidence.

Key points

Artificial ingredients in the diet and their effects on mental performance

Let me clarify the meaning of the term “artificial ingredients.” The word “artificial” means in this context that humans used a sophisticated chemical process to create these ingredients. For example, sugar beets may be a man’s doing, but they do not undergo a sophisticated chemical process. Therefore, sugar beets are not an artificial ingredient. On the other hand, refined sugar is an artificial ingredient. Many of these artificial ingredients are pure chemicals and can be called “food additives.” This book uses the terms “artificial ingredients” and “food additives” interchangeably. Dietary supplements such as artificial vitamins and minerals are also in the category of artificial ingredients. Vitamins and minerals are often called “micronutrients” in order to distinguish them from macronutrients (carbohydrates, fat, and protein).

There is a long list of food additives (several hundred) that the health authorities have approved as safe to add to food in small amounts. This list includes categories of chemicals such as acidity regulators, anticaking agents, antifoaming agents, antioxidants, color retention agents, emulsifiers, firming agents, flavor enhancers, flour treatment agents, food acids, food coloring, gelling agents, glazing agents, humectants, improving agents, mineral salts, preservatives, propellants, seasonings, sequestrants, stabilizers, sweeteners, thickeners, and vegetable gums. The additives that are most familiar are refined sugar (sucrose) and table salt (sodium chloride). Wikipedia is a bad source of information [1062], but some articles on noncontroversial topics are useful (see the article entitled “List of food additives.”)

Food additives do not have adverse effects on physical health at doses present in food products that you find in a grocery store. For this reason, regulatory agencies, such as the United States Food and Drug Administration, have approved these chemicals as safe for use in food products. Nonetheless, many food additives can have subtle effects on the functioning of the central nervous systemG in laboratory animals and in humans, as discussed below. (Readers can skip the detailed discussion of this topic and jump to the key points: press this link.)

Before discussing the effects of food additives on mental abilities, I should say that readers need to view the results of the studies below with caution for two reasons. The first reason is that the dose of a given food additive in animal studies is not always equivalent to the dose that an average human receives with food. The second reason is that the physiology of laboratory animals, most often rodents, is not identical to human physiology. Therefore, research findings of adverse effects of a given chemical in rats are not always applicable to humans, although, usually, they are applicable to humans. It is not my purpose here to scare the reader into adhering to some diets by fearmongering and exaggerating undesirable effects of food additives. Rather, this text is trying to make a point that a temporary elimination of food additives from the diet should improve mental abilities. But if you choose not to follow my advice and continue to consume food additives as usual, you are not going to become stupid or mentally ill. The research into the effects of food additives on mental state remains controversial, and you need to be careful when interpreting the results of such studies.

One of the pioneers of the research into the effects of food additives on human behavior was Dr. Benjamin Feingold, whose main area of expertise was allergies in children. In his clinical practice in the 1960s, he noticed that elimination of some food additives from the diet of children can not only reduce allergic reactions but also improve the behavior of some children. His initial studies were promising and he advanced the “Feingold hypothesis.” This theory suggests that some food additives such as food coloring agents, artificial flavors, some preservatives (BHA, BHT, TBHQ), and aspartame can cause hyperactivity in children. This hyperactivity is known today as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, ADHD. Subsequent studies by others, who tried to reproduce the findings of Dr. Feingold’s research team, failed to support the hypothesis. (The Feingold diet did show some improvements in other components of child behavior.) The Feingold diet showed benefits in open experiments, where the participants or those recording the results knew whether a patient received the active treatment or the control treatment. This diet, however, provided little or no benefit to children with ADHD in blinded clinical trials. In those studies, the participants or those recording the results did not know whether a patient received the active or the placebo treatment. Put another way, we can attribute most of the initially reported benefits of the Feingold diet to the placebo effect and the observer bias. Studies of children on the Feingold diet, where scientists added one of the food additives back to the diet, failed to show negative behavioral changes in response to the suspected chemicals. Nevertheless, more recent studies, where researchers added a cocktail of several food additives to the diet, did show that food additives can contribute to hyperactive behavior in children [62, 63]. These were rigorous studies known as randomized controlled trials, and many of them were double-blind randomized controlled trials. The latter are “the golden standard” of clinical research.

For example, one study shows that a cocktail of several food additives, when ingested at realistic doses, contributes to inattentive/hyperactive behavior in children [63]. They tested two different cocktails: one contained approximately 70 mg daily of the mixture of sunset yellow, carmoisine, tartrazine, ponceau 4R, and sodium benzoate. The second cocktail contained approximately 110 mg daily of the mixture of sunset yellow, carmoisine, quinoline yellow, allura red AC, and sodium benzoate. The amounts of each cocktail were smaller for 3-year-olds. This experiment was a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial that included approximately 270 children total. The authors concluded that a mixture of food additives commonly present in food can increase symptoms of inattention/hyperactivity in children. The finding was statistically significant, but the magnitude of the negative effect of food additives was modest. The observed modest effect cannot account for the large difference in symptoms between healthy children and children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder [63]. An earlier study by the same group of researchers reached similar conclusions [62]. In 2004, a review of studies of the effects of food additives on hyperactivity in children identified 8 high-quality, well-designed clinical trials. That review reached the same conclusions: a) food additives have a noticeable, statistically significant effect in that they increase hyperactivity/inattention in children; b) the magnitude of the effect is small and cannot explain the symptoms of children with ADHD [64].

Recent studies of “elimination diets” or “a few foods diet” show that these diets can work as a treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder [6567]. These diets exclude all food additives and consist of a small number of food products that rarely cause food allergies. (The Feingold diet eliminates some but not all food additives and imposes fewer restrictions on food products.) One study investigated effects of an elimination diet consisting of rice, turkey, lamb, vegetables, fruits, margarine, vegetable oil, tea, pear juice, and water [67]. Seventy percent of children with ADHD showed significant improvements on this diet. This magnitude of effectiveness is comparable to the effectiveness of ADHD drugs. The control group did not follow any particular diet and thus was a no-treatment control.

This and earlier similar clinical trials were “open” studies, where test subjects and people assessing the symptoms (parents and teachers) knew which children were in the control and the experimental groups. Therefore, there is a chance that the results of this study contain a bias. For example, if some parents or teachers opposed the widespread pharmacological treatment of ADHD, they could inadvertently make the effects of the elimination diet look better than they were. As we saw in an earlier section of this chapter, it is possible to eliminate this bias. One option is to design a control diet and to conduct a blinded clinical trial where participants do not know which diet is supposed to have therapeutic effects. Another option is to compare the elimination diet with a drug known to be better than a placebo in ADHD patients. Open trials of diets that Benjamin Feingold conducted four decades earlier showed promising results, but later, blinded clinical trials by other investigators failed to confirm those results. Nonetheless, in principle, the results from clinical trials of elimination diets are in agreement with the recent rigorous studies of mixtures of food additives that we reviewed in the previous paragraph.

There are some studies that investigated possible benefits of elimination diets in autism, a brain disorder in the category of pervasive developmental disorders. The main symptom of autism is impaired social interaction, among other problems. A review of these reports concluded that the quality of these clinical trials was inadequate and further research is needed to obtain conclusive results [68].

Still other studies have investigated the effects of individual food additives on healthy humans and laboratory animals. Many of these chemicals are different from the additives that were the focus of Benjamin Feingold’s research. These other studies show that some food additives can impair learning, memory, alertness, or activity level. The list of the artificial ingredients that may have undesirable effects on mental state includes erythrosine, iron, leucine, magnesium sulfate, monosodium glutamate, nitrates, nitrites, propionic acid, propylene glycol, refined sugar (sucrose), and stannous chloride. Some of the studies below used the amounts of food additives that are comparable to the amounts that modern humans ingest with food. In this case, the evidence suggests that those additives can have undesirable effects on humans. Most of the studies discussed below used the amounts of a given food additive that far exceed the dose that a modern human being normally ingests with food. These studies fail to prove that food products containing those additives have undesirable effects on mental health. Yet these studies do show that, in principle, pure chemicals (artificial ingredients) can cause detrimental consequences when ingested in large amounts. In other words, this research shows that “unnatural” or unusual types of food, such as large amounts of a pure chemical, can have negative effects on functioning of the brain. (Note that many species of plants and mushrooms are poisonous to humans and thus also represent “unnatural” food.)

One study investigated the effects of erythrosine, a cherry-pink synthetic food coloring, on the behavior of rats [69]. Erythrosine affects metabolism of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, which regulate attention, motivation, and activity level among other things. The study showed that erythrosine had no detectable effect on behavior of the rats at the (low) doses comparable to human intake of this dye with food. High doses of erythrosine did produce changes in the behavior of the rats. These changes resembled the effects of drugs that exacerbate symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The authors concluded that erythrosine may affect metabolism of several neurotransmitters in the brain. Another conclusion was that relevant (low) doses of erythrosine have no detectable effect on the activity level or other components of behavior relevant to ADHD.

Other studies investigated the effects of iron, which food companies often add to breakfast cereals or bread in order to “fortify” them. To be precise, iron is not a food additive but a nutritional supplement. In one experiment scientists injected adult rats daily with 2.5 mg/kg and higher doses of iron. The scientists then subjected the rats to a battery of tests assessing learning and memory [70]. All doses showed impaired learning starting on day 3 of the experiment. The lowest dose in this study exceeded the recommended daily allowance of iron by about 10-fold. It is unclear whether the results of the experiment are applicable to food products fortified with small amounts of iron. Note that a finding of an adverse effect at a large dose does not necessarily mean that a lower dose will have a similar effect of smaller magnitude. In biological systems, a smaller dose can have no effect at all, or it may have a different, even beneficial effect [71, 72]. Two other studies on rats investigated the effects of large doses of iron, about 40 times the recommended daily allowance for humans. The results showed that iron can impair some components of memory function, such as novel object recognition [73, 74].

Leucine is an amino acid used by the food industry as a flavor enhancer. Bodybuilders use it as a food supplement. One study showed that injection of large amounts of leucine can impair learning in young rats [75]. This negative effect is unlikely to be relevant to the amounts of leucine that can be present in food. Yet this effect is relevant to some bodybuilders who gorge on leucine.

Magnesium sulfate is an acidity regulator and firming agent. The food industry also uses it as a coagulant to make tofu cheese. Large amounts of magnesium sulfate can act as a laxative and may cause diarrhea, and can also temporarily impair attention and working memory in humans [76]. A study on rats showed that large doses can impair learning [77]. These findings are unlikely to be relevant to the small amounts of this substance present in human food. As mentioned above, a finding of an adverse effect at a large dose does not necessarily mean that a lower dose will have a similar negative effect of smaller magnitude. The lower dose may have no effect or a different kind of effect. The readers who are interested in unusual effects of low doses can do some research on the term “hormesis” [71, 72].

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a flavor enhancer used by the food industry. Research shows that large doses of MSG (2,000 to 4,000 mg/kg) reduce activity level in mice [78] and can impair learning in young rats [79, 80]. These findings may not be relevant to the small amounts of MSG (well below 100 mg/kg) that humans can ingest with food.

To meat products the food industry often adds nitrates, such as sodium nitrate or potassium nitrate, as preservatives and color fixatives. Large doses of nitrates, which can serve as a treatment of angina pectoris, can cause headaches in susceptible people [81]. This observation is not in the category of effects on mental state, but it is worth mentioning. This negative effect may not be applicable to the small doses of nitrates present in food products. Sodium nitrite is a related food additive that the food industry uses as a preservative and color fixative. A large dose of sodium nitrite (55 mg/kg), which is unattainable with the amounts present in human food, can reduce activity level of rats [82]. A smaller dose of this substance (11 mg/kg) can impair learning in rabbits [83]. The latter dose is achievable in humans with daily consumption of large amounts of processed meats. Propionic acid is another preservative, and large doses of this substance impair mental performance in rats [84]. This negative effect may not be applicable to the doses normally present in food products.

Propylene glycol is a humectant and a solvent for other food additives and drugs. One clinical case report described a patient who had a history of recurrent treatment-resistant epileptic seizures [85]. After analyzing the blood work and other laboratory data, the authors concluded that the seizures were the result of propylene glycol poisoning from the patient’s favorite fruit drink. After the patient stopped consuming the suspected fruit drink, seizures never occurred again. This single observation in no way constitutes rigorous proof that small amounts of propylene glycol can cause seizures. The above patient most likely consumed excessive amounts of this substance, enough to change the concentration of total protein in blood. The authors stated that the shift in blood protein concentration in all likelihood was the main cause of seizures. There is an additional possible explanation. One study shows that propylene glycol can enhance the release of a brain chemical called dopamine from neurons [86]. At high doses, dopamine-releasing drugs such as amphetamine can cause seizures [87]. Thus, increased release of dopamine in the brain of that patient could also be responsible for the seizures.

Stannous chloride is a color retention agent and antioxidant. Large doses of this chemical can either stimulate or depress the central nervous system in laboratory animals, depending on the context [88]. It is unknown if the small doses of stannous chloride present in human food can have any psychotropic effects on humans.

Refined sugar (sucrose) is a famous and controversial food additive. Early studies suggested that consumption of sucrose can contribute to “inappropriate behavior” in children [89, 90]. Some other studies even suggested that elimination of refined sugar from the diet of prisoners (replacement with fruit) can improve their behavior [91]. On the other hand, later studies showed that ingestion of large amounts of sucrose has no effect on the behavior of children and convicts [89, 92, 93].

Nevertheless, the role of refined sugar in the current epidemic of obesity is widely accepted and the scientific evidence is compelling. Experiments on laboratory animals show that sucrose can cause weight gain, increase the blood cholesterol level, and negatively affect learning and memory [94, 95]. For example, one study on rats shows that consumption of a sucrose solution can increase distractibility and impair the ability to get accustomed to repeated stimuli [96]. Another study shows that obesity-causing doses of sucrose can impair learning in rats [95]. One report shows that, in humans, a sucrose solution can cause sleepiness 30 to 60 minutes after ingestion without any other noticeable effects on mental abilities [97]. Another study on humans shows that a single dose of refined sugar has no effect on mood or attention but can improve some components of memory [98]. This beneficial effect disappears with repeated administration of sucrose. A recent review of high-quality studies concluded that refined sugar is unlikely to play a role in inappropriate or delinquent behavior of children [89]. Based on the available literature, we can conclude that the negative effects of sucrose for the most part affect physical health and the effects on mental abilities are small.

Table salt (sodium chloride) is another familiar food additive. To the best of my knowledge, there is no evidence that it has any detrimental effects on mental performance. Many of the diets described in this book allow adding small amounts of sea salt or Himalayan salt for taste. Nonetheless, salt has adverse effects on the cardiovascular system and studies suggest that cutting consumption of salt by half can reduce incidence of cardiovascular disease in the population.

Dietary supplements that consist of micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals are a special category of artificial ingredients that differs from food additives. The food industry adds food additives to food and this carries negative connotations in the minds of consumers: “MSG causes you to overeat,” or “sugar-sweetened soft drinks contribute to obesity.” In contrast, the vendors of dietary supplements sell them separately from food and advertise them as something that can improve your health and well-being. In the United States, there is a lot of misleading advertising associated with dietary supplements. They are not prescription drugs and the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate them as strictly. Regardless of the advertised beneficial effects on health, all dietary supplements must carry a disclaimer on the package that “This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.” On the QuackWatch website, readers can find an overview of the deceptive tactics often employed by the vendors of dietary supplements.

Vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) are naturally present in sufficient amounts in many healthy types of food such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. In theory, vitamin and mineral supplements should be beneficial for people who subsist on a deficient, unbalanced diet. Health benefits of micronutrient supplementation are less clear for people who consume a balanced healthy diet. Long-term studies of the effects of multivitamin supplements in the U.S. failed to show benefits for health [99103]. These data suggest that people who consume a balanced diet do not need to take vitamin supplements. At least, these people cannot expect multivitamin pills to prevent cancer and cardiovascular disease [99]. Some studies even show that vitamin supplementation may have negative effects on health. Two studies show that beta-carotene supplementation correlates with more frequent occurrence of lung cancer. Another study shows that folic acid supplementation is associated with an elevated risk of precancerous polyps [99, 104]. Other studies have identified higher mortality rates among users of antioxidant supplements compared to control groups [105, 992, 993].

According to the natural intelligence theory, artificial vitamins and minerals are “unnatural” ingredients that will worsen mental abilities.G I do not consume micronutrient supplements, and when I tried them in the past they did not have noticeable effects on mental state or mental performance. Contrary to my theory, however, some studies have shown that micronutrient supplementation can have beneficial effects on mental abilities and behavior of some segments of the population. There is an excellent review of this topic by David Benton [106].

In defense of my theory, I can say that these studies show that micronutrient supplementation is most effective for people who consume a deficient unbalanced diet. The benefits are less obvious for people who consume a balanced diet [106, 107, 938]. Even in the context of a balanced diet, thermal treatment of food (i.e., cooking) results in partial degradation of some vitamins (by 10 to 30%). Therefore, adding artificial vitamin supplements to a cooked diet may produce benefits. If, however, a person is on a raw balanced diet that is free of pathogens, then supplementation with vitamins will not provide any further benefit and may worsen mental abilities. This is because, in the context of the ancestral diet, all the necessary vitamins and minerals will be present, and supplementation with artificial micronutrients will be unnecessary and “unnatural.” To date there is no experimental evidence to either confirm or refute these suppositions and further studies are needed. Regarding more realistic lifestyles, not all studies of micronutrients show that they improve brain function. For example, a recent randomized controlled trial shows that micronutrient supplementation (vitamins and minerals) does not improve mental development and mental abilities of infants in Zambia [983]. Thus, we can conclude that micronutrient supplementation produces small or even undetectable improvement in mental abilities.

Most of the above studies examined effects of individual artificial ingredients or, in some cases, a mixture of a small number of artificial ingredients. A great number of different artificial ingredients are present simultaneously in a typical modern diet. Therefore, these ingredients may also produce novel unexpected effects on health because of interactions among the effects of individual food additives. In other words, just as prescription drugs can have adverse interactions when taken simultaneously, artificial chemicals in the diet may also produce adverse interactions. Studies of individual artificial ingredients cannot identify these additional effects of interaction. A good tool for studying the collective effects of all artificial ingredients is an elimination diet, or a so-called few foods diet [67]. Elimination diets consist of several essential types of food and exclude all food additives and dietary supplements. Therefore, an elimination diet can eliminate both individual effects of each food additive and interaction effects; this action will produce detectable changes in mental state or mental abilities. Another useful research tool is the use of cocktails consisting of many food additives [63].

To sum up, artificial ingredients in the diet, such as food additives and dietary supplements, can have negative effects on health and mental abilities. Yet when scientists test a single food additive, the negative effects are small and often undetectable. Collective negative effects (interaction) of all artificial ingredients in the diet may be more significant. Further studies of elimination diets will shed light on this issue.

Key points

Chemicals formed during the cooking of food and their effects on the brain

That cooking degrades vitamins to some extent is a well-known fact, and we will not discuss this topic at length. For many vitamins, degradation with cooking does not exceed 10–30% [108, 109]. Although this alteration may have negative effects on health in theory (by causing a slight vitamin deficiency), in real life, people who consume a balanced, mostly cooked diet do not have vitamin deficiencies. As mentioned above, vitamin supplements do not provide long-term health benefits to people who consume a balanced diet [99], at least in industrialized countries. Some short-term studies show that micronutrient supplementation (vitamins and minerals) can slightly improve mental abilities in people who consume a balanced diet [106, 107]. Therefore, one can interpret these findings as showing that cooking reduces nutritional value of food and worsens mental abilities to some extent, and we can correct this by vitamin supplementation. Put another way, you could say that vitamin supplementation of a balanced (cooked) diet can restore the amount of vitamins to the level characteristic of an equivalent raw diet. This approach is supposed to restore mental performance to its “natural level.” Note that the reported beneficial effects of vitamin supplementation are tiny and often nonexistent. It is more interesting to explore the other side of the coin: cooking creates novel chemicals that are absent in raw food.

I did some literature research on chemical changes that occur in different types of food during thermal cooking. With respect to the effects on mental state, I was able to find data on some problematic chemicals. These chemicals form in muscle meats (such as beef or fish) and in cereal grains (such as wheat and barley) during cooking. Despite my best efforts, I was unable to find any such problematic chemicals that are formed in pasteurized milk or in fruits and vegetables cooked at moderate temperatures. One can interpret these data in two ways.

  1. Pasteurization of dairy products and cooking of fruits and vegetables do not produce chemicals that have negative effects on mental abilities. Judging by the effects on mental abilities and mental state, it makes no difference whether you consume these products raw or pasteurized/cooked.

  2. Alternatively, the existing knowledge base (scientific literature) concerning chemical differences between raw and cooked foods is limited at present. Therefore, intelligence-worsening chemicals may be present in pasteurized dairy and in cooked fruits and vegetables. We do not yet know about the existence of these chemicals.

My personal experience suggests that the first interpretation is likely to be correct. Namely, pasteurization of dairy and cooking of fruits and vegetables at moderate temperatures have no effect on mental state or mental abilities.

On the other hand, my self-experimentation with raw meat and raw grains suggests that cooking these products causes noticeable changes in mental abilities, compared to a 100% raw diet. In other words, if we replace cooked meat and cooked grains with the corresponding raw products, both the subjective mental state and mental abilities should improve. The difference is detectable (subjectively) even after a single meal. You should not experiment with raw meat and fish because they pose risks to health (see Table 1). It is possible to improve mental abilities without resorting to such dangerous measures (and to achieve similar or even better results). All types of raw animal foods will become safe for the general population in the near future when the government approves new food sterilization technologies (such as pascalization).B

With respect to cooked animal products, some studies have shown that, in humans, high-protein diets can lower mood [110, 111] and cause bad breath [112], fatigue [111, 113], and emotional tension [110, 114]. Some high-protein diets, when combined with a regimen of physical exercise, can worsen mood [110, 111]. There are studies suggesting that vegetarians tend to have better subjective ratings of mood than people consuming a mixed diet [115, 116]. Even a single high-protein meal consisting of cooked chicken and eggs can lower mood [117]. There is a report of a healthy person with a history of anxiety who had a relapse of panic attacks and anxiety symptoms after switching to a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet [118]. Most people tolerate high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets well for extended periods of time [119], but these diets may still cause halitosis and fatigue [111113]. Consumption of foods that contain protein of highest quality, such as red meat, correlates with an elevated risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease [120123] according to epidemiological studies. The process of cooking forms some chemicals that are either absent or present at very low levels in raw animal products. These chemicals include heterocyclic aromatic amines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, nitropyrenes, cholesterol oxidation products, and creatinine [124137]. It is possible that these chemicals are the cause of some of the above-mentioned adverse effects on health. (Readers can skip the detailed discussion of this topic and jump to the key points: press this link.) On the other hand, a recent study shows that a high-protein meat diet (3 weeks) does not cause deterioration of mental abilities [933]. This diet can improve reaction time [933].

As mentioned above, high-protein diets (which often include substantial amounts of red meat) can have adverse effects on health. These negative effects of animal products may in part be responsible for the popularity of vegetarian diets [115, 116]. If animal products (such as red meat) can have adverse effects on health, then the question arises whether humans by nature are vegetarians. Is human physiology incompatible with consumption of muscle meats? The answer is “no” because studies show that some species of primates in the wild are vegetarians (frugivores) but others are omnivores. The omnivorous primates often kill invertebrate and vertebrate species of animals for food [3941, 44]. The closest genetic relatives of humans, chimpanzees [138], consume meat, including red meat [3941]. The gastrointestinal tract of humans has a structure intermediate between that of carnivorous and vegetarian mammals. These data suggest that humans have adapted to consuming both plant and animal food [44, 45]. The notable difference between humans and primates living in the wild is that the former consume animal products that are predominantly cooked whereas the latter consume animal products that are raw [45].

Cooking with fire reduces the risk of infectious disease because it kills most bacteria and some viruses [139]. It also introduces significant chemical modifications into food by denaturing proteins [140, 141], causing degradation of vitamins and lipids [142145], and creating novel chemical compounds [124137, 146, 147]. Studies show that cooking fish and meat at both high and moderate temperatures leads to the formation of a number of chemicals with mutagenic and carcinogenic properties [148150]. A number of studies have reported the presence of a mutagenic activity in cooked meat and fish [127, 129, 131137, 146, 151]. This mutagenic activity is undetectable in raw meat and fish [136, 146, 152, 153]. The mutagenic activity exists in cooked muscle meats only and is undetectable in cooked organ meats and in cooked plant and dairy products [152, 154]. The mutagenic chemicals are absent or below detection level in raw animal products but are present in cooked meat and fish. These compounds include heterocyclic aromatic amines [128, 129, 133, 134, 137, 146, 151, 152, 155159], polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons [125, 131, 160162], and nitropyrenes [132, 135]. (Small amounts of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons may be present in raw products as a result of environmental pollution [163, 164].) Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons form in animal products during cooking on an open flame (e.g., barbequing). The amount of mutagenic compounds increases with the temperature and duration of cooking [136, 146, 165]. Animal products cooked at moderate temperatures (for example, by boiling or steaming) do contain mutagenic compounds [133, 136, 148, 157, 166, 167]. Yet the concentration of mutagens is much lower, sometimes undetectable, compared to high-temperature cooking procedures such as grilling or frying [146, 152]. Some of the mutagens detectable in cooked meat and fish have carcinogenic properties in laboratory animals [128, 134, 156, 160, 168]. Among other chemical changes during cooking, the concentration of cholesterol oxidation products can increase 5- to 10-fold [124, 126, 169]. The amount of creatinine can increase over 30-fold in cooked meat compared to uncooked meat [130].

In addition to the possible mutagenic/carcinogenic effects, some of the aforementioned chemical compounds may have other negative effects, such as effects on mental state. First, we will review direct causal effects and, later, some association studies that cannot prove a causal link. For example, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, such as pyrene and benzo[a]pyrene, form in animal products cooked at high temperatures (e.g., grilling and frying). These chemicals can induce behavioral depression in experimental animals at doses that exceed those found in human food [170173]. This effect may be due to changes in the level or metabolism of neurotransmitters in various regions of the brain [174, 175]. Benzo[a]pyrene has also impaired short-term memory and learning in rats in experiments where doses of this chemical exceed those that are present in human food [176, 177].

Elevated blood levels of cholesterol oxidation products (oxysterols) play a role in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis [178, 179]. The latter is a pathological process leading to the clogging of blood vessels that underlies many cardiovascular diseases. In test tube experiments, which do not reflect what happens after consumption of cooked animal products, oxysterols can induce death of some types of cells in the central nervous system [180]. This observation should not be a cause for alarm because oxysterols are present at low levels in the circulation of healthy people and serve several biological functions.

Research shows that a heterocyclic amine called norharman [155] reduces activity level in laboratory mice and causes pathological changes in the brain characteristic of neurodegenerative diseases [181]. The dose of norharman in this experiment was higher than what humans can receive with food. Another chemical from the same class, harman [129], which can also be present in cooked animal products, is toxic to some types of nerve cells [182]. Again, these findings should not be a cause for alarm because both harman and norharman are present at low levels in the circulation of healthy people and serve several biological functions [183].

Other studies are less conclusive. Some of these studies have shown that chemicals formed by cooking may have something to do with abnormal mental functioning. But there is no proof that these compounds can cause such problems. For example, the blood level of creatinine increases after ingestion of cooked meat [130, 184] but remains unchanged after ingestion of uncooked meat [130]. Elevated blood levels of creatinine and poor clearance of creatinine by the kidneys correlate with fatigue [185187] and depressive symptoms in various groups of patients [188191]. It is unknown if this relationship is coincidental or causal.

Elevated blood levels of creatinine and oxysterols correlate with cognitive impairment in various groups of patients [192195]. Creatinine serves as an indicator of kidney dysfunction. Consequently, elevated blood levels of this chemical may point to accumulation of waste in blood because of insufficient kidney function. Thus, the reported cognitive impairment may be the result of kidney problems [196] rather than the elevated level of creatinine. Heterocyclic aromatic amines called harman and norharman [129] can cause toxicity for kidney cells [197, 198], and the former can also be toxic to nerve cells [182, 199, 200]. The blood level of harman correlates with symptoms of anxiety and depression in alcoholics [183]. It is not known if this relationship is coincidental or causal.

To summarize, there is evidence that cooked meat can lower mood but no evidence that it can impair mental abilities. It is possible that the effects on mood are due to heterocyclic amines, but hard evidence is lacking. The above studies suggest that, from the standpoint of metabolism, humans should tolerate uncooked animal products better than cooked ones. The major obstacle is various pathogens that can be present in raw animal foods (Table 1). Endnote B describes possible technical approaches (such as pascalization) that will ensure the safety of such foods in the near future.

The mere mention of raw animal products and food in the same sentence may seem unusual and unpleasant. Yet consumption of uncooked animal products is not as exotic as it appears at first glance [201, 202]. Some types of sausage (such as salami and teewurst) are uncooked, that is, they undergo no thermal treatment [201, 203]. There are also national/regional dishes that consist of raw animal foods, such as sushi (Japan), hollandse nieuwe (Netherlands), and carne all’albese (Piemonte, Italy). Consumption of raw ground beef is not uncommon in Belgium and some other European countries [202]. An even more vivid example is the traditional diet of indigenous ethnic groups of the Arctic region (for example, North American Eskimos). These peoples consume a large proportion of fish and meat (caribou, seal, walrus, polar bear, and whale) raw, frozen or thawed [5558]. Meat and fish can constitute close to 100% of the Eskimo diet during the winter [58]. Nevertheless, at least in the United States and Russia, government regulators have not approved any raw animal products as safe for human consumption. Government regulators have neither banned nor approved foods such as sushi [52], whereas other food products such as raw dairy are either banned or face numerous restrictions on transportation and sales [204].

Going back to the effects of diets on metabolism, people should tolerate uncooked animal foods well if these foods are free of pathogens. This is because the raw diet is very old and pervasive in nature [45]. For example, animals in the wild do not cook their food [45]. Evolutionary predecessors as well as some early humans in all likelihood consumed a 100% raw food diet, prior to the mastery of cooking with fire approximately 300,000 years ago [42, 1022]. Some reports of successful control of fire, but not cooking, date as far back as 1.0 to 1.6 million years [205, 206, 1004]. Cooking with fire reduces the risk of infectious disease because it kills most pathogens [139], but it also produces chemical modifications in food, as we already discussed above. It is possible that during the last 300,000 years, the human immune system (at least in those living outside the Arctic region) has grown unaccustomed to the pathogens that occur in raw animal foods (Table 1). For this reason, these foods are not safe for human consumption. In addition, given humankind’s long history with cooking, Homo sapiens may have adapted to cooked food genetically through natural selection. Therefore, it is possible that humans need a certain percentage of cooked food in their diet for normal functioning.

Cooking has other benefits in addition to disinfection of food. For instance, cooked meat requires less energy to digest it than uncooked meat [207]. Cooking can also reduce the concentration of organic pollutants in animal products [208210]. Finally, the negative effects of cooked high-protein diets [110114] do not manifest themselves in people on cooked protein-normal diets. These data suggest that the liver detoxification system can neutralize the small amounts of novel chemicals that form in animal products during cooking.

It is now time to discuss chemicals formed by cooking of grains. These chemicals are absent in raw cereal grains. The chemical reaction between certain amino acids (components of proteins) and some types of sugars (components of carbohydrates, such as starch), when you mix and heat them, is called the Maillard reaction. Novel chemicals that form in the Maillard reaction are called Maillard reaction products. Cereal grains (e.g., wheat and rice) contain significant amounts of both protein and carbohydrates. Thus, cooking of grains leads to the formation of a number of different Maillard reaction products. The amount of Maillard reaction products increases with the temperature and duration of cooking. This observation means that boiled grains (moderate cooking temperature) contain smaller amounts of Maillard reaction products compared to bread (high cooking temperature) [211215].

Some of the Maillard reaction products that science identified in cooked cereal grains are the following: acrylamide, carboxymethyllysine, carboxyethyllysine, and fructosyllysine [216219]. Of these four, acrylamide is the only chemical with published evidence of direct negative effects on mental abilities [220]. With the other three, all studies are correlational, where a direct causal link is possible but not proven [221223].

A number of studies have shown that acrylamide, which is also a well-known industrial pollutant, is toxic to neurons. It can have several adverse neuropsychiatric effects in humans and laboratory animals. This chemical received a lot of attention several years ago. Swedish researchers announced that crispbread and French fries contain the levels of acrylamide that exceed 500-fold the maximal level allowed in drinking water by the World Health Organization [224, 225]. In contrast to bread, which undergoes cooking at high temperatures (300–400 degrees Celsius or 570–750°F), boiled grains contain undetectable levels of acrylamide [215, 225]. Boiled grains may contain Maillard reaction products other than acrylamide [212214]. Table 2 below summarizes the acrylamide content of various types of cereal grains. It is worth mentioning that nobody has proven the hypothetical carcinogenic effects of acrylamide in humans [220].

Table 2. Acrylamide content of various types of grains [211, 215, 225, 235]. “Undetectable” means below detection level of available analytical methods. N/A means data are not available. The neurotoxic dose of acrylamide is 200–500 micrograms per kilogram of body weight per day [220, 227].

Soaked raw grains or water extract of raw whole-grain flour

Acrylamide content: undetectable (< 5 mcg/kg)

Can this food deliver a neurotoxic dose? No

Effects* on mental abilities: increased alertness

Boiled whole grains

Acrylamide content: undetectable (< 5 mcg/kg)

Can this food deliver a neurotoxic dose? No

Effects* on mental abilities: slowing; reduced impulsivity

Breakfast cereals

Acrylamide content: ~60 mcg/kg

Can this food deliver a neurotoxic dose? No

Effects* on mental abilities: N/A

Whole-grain bread

Acrylamide content: ~50 mcg/kg

Can this food deliver a neurotoxic dose? No

Effects* on mental abilities: increased amount of errors, slowing, reduced impulsivity**

Toasted bread

Acrylamide content: ~200 mcg/kg

Can this food deliver a neurotoxic dose? No

Effects* on mental abilities: N/A


Acrylamide content: 1000–2000 mcg/kg

Can this food deliver a neurotoxic dose? No

Effects* on mental abilities: N/A

* based on my personal observations; rigorous scientific proof is not available.
**after one week of a bread-and-water diet, I have not observed any negative effects on physical health, although one study on rats showed that addition of 5% to 25% of bread crust to the diet can cause weight gain and kidney damage [236].
***potato chips and French fries also contain large amounts of acrylamide; raw and boiled potatoes do not contain detectable levels of acrylamide [215, 225].

In people who work in chemical manufacturing, symptoms of acrylamide poisoning can manifest themselves within several months to several years. The typical symptoms include numbness or tingling in the hands and feet, increased sweating of hands and feet, fatigue, muscle weakness, clumsiness of the hands, unsteady gait, dizziness, stumbling, and falling [226, 227]. These problems correspond to a dose in the range 500 to 2,000 micrograms per kilogram of body weight per day [226228]. The effects of huge doses of acrylamide, 10,000 mcg/(kg b.w. × day), administered over several days are loss of motor coordination, tremor, drowsiness, and mental confusion [229, 230]. The “no observable adverse effects level” (NOAEL) for neurotoxic effects of acrylamide is around 200 to 500 micrograms/(kg b.w. × day) [220, 227]. High doses of acrylamide, 20,000 to 30,000 micrograms/(kg b.w. × d), impair cognitive functions in pigeons [231]. These high doses can also reduce activity level and cause a state of lethargy in rats [232, 233]. Long-term exposure to unsafe levels of acrylamide can damage peripheral nerves and can cause fertility problems in males [227, 234].

The key, of course, is the dose, and most of the studies above involve doses that far exceed the amounts of acrylamide that can be present in food (Table 2). Some types of food, such as crispbread, potato chips, and French fries, contain high levels of acrylamide. Yet these amounts cannot produce a dose higher than NOAEL for neurotoxic effects of this chemical. We can conclude that the presence of acrylamide in some foods should not be a cause for concern. It is unknown if the low doses of acrylamide present in food can affect mental abilities such as fluid intelligence. Neurophysiological effects of Maillard reaction products other than acrylamide, which are present in cooked grains, are unknown. Therefore, at present, there is no evidence that cooked grains can worsen mental abilities.

My personal experience, which does not count as rigorous scientific evidence, suggests that cooked grains can cause a noticeable slowing and have a mild sedative effect (Table 2). This is not the case with raw grains. Cooked grains can cause a small weight gain, whereas raw grains do not. Whether this is due to the presence of Maillard reaction products in cooked grains or to something else is unknown. Regular whole-grain bread contains a safe concentration of acrylamide, according to the occupational safety standards (Table 2). Nonetheless, I avoid bread and any type of baked or fried food (but I never say “never” when it comes to any food). My self-experimentation suggests that bread is the most typical “dumb food.” It quickly impairs mental abilities when I eat it in large amounts daily; we will discuss this in detail in a later section of this chapter. Boiled grains have a mild sedative effect, but they do not impair mental abilities.

There are some other differences between raw grains and cooked grains. For example, raw wheat bran can accelerate the passage of food through the digestive tract, whereas cooked wheat bran does not have this effect [237]. One study showed that bread crust can cause a weight gain and kidney damage in rats. These negative effects were absent in control animals who ate equivalent amounts of raw wheat flour [236]. Some studies have shown that it is more difficult to digest the protein in cooked grains than in raw grains [238, 239]. The Maillard reaction damages proteins, and this change may reduce their nutritional value [240]. Heating can cause curdling of some soluble proteins (albumins) that are present in cereal grains, making these proteins insoluble and less accessible to digestion. On the other hand, some studies show that cooking has no effect on digestibility of nutrients from grains, or may even improve it [241, 242]. Based on my experience, raw grains are not an appetizing food. Some of them you can soak in water, and this procedure makes them edible (wheat, oats), but they are still not tasty and can cause a lot of gas. I found that water extract of some grains has a pleasant taste and is more edible than soaked raw grains. We will talk about this in later sections. Some grains, such as sorghum, may not be safe to consume raw because they contain some toxic substances. Be careful with raw grains not mentioned above. Raw grains are safer than raw animal products. In rare cases raw grains may contain bacteria, yeast, or yeast toxins [242244], and you need to verify the safety of a product in question with the manufacturer. The same is true of any raw food, including raw fruits and vegetables, which may contain pathogenic bacteria. Therefore, you should always wash fruits and vegetables before consumption.

In conclusion, this section shows that some types of cooking of cereal grains and of animal products produce chemicals that have adverse effects on health and on mental abilities. The amounts, however, of these undesirable chemicals are negligible in foods cooked at moderate temperatures (for example, boiling or steaming). Therefore, these types of foods are safe to consume and you should not worry about possible negative health effects. As mentioned earlier, biological systems such as the human body are complex and exhibit complex responses to different doses of the same chemical. The response to low doses of a chemical known to be toxic at high doses is difficult to predict. Paradoxically, research shows that low doses of toxic chemicals can often have beneficial effects on laboratory animals, the phenomenon known as hormesis (not the same as homeopathy) [71, 72]. Therefore, you shouldn’t be scared of the words “mutagen,” “carcinogen,” and “neurotoxic chemical” that came up in the discussion above. Animal products and grains cooked at moderate temperatures contain tiny amounts of these compounds, and at this dose, these chemicals may be beneficial for health, according to hormesis research.

On the other hand, it is best to avoid meat and grains cooked at high temperatures (frying, grilling, barbequing, microwaving, baking, and broiling). This is because the former contains significant amounts of carcinogens whereas the latter contain significant amounts of acrylamide and other Maillard reaction products. The small (safe) amounts of these chemicals in foods cooked at moderate temperatures may be responsible for the sedative effect of boiled grains and for the mood-lowering effect of cooked meat. These effects should not be a cause for alarm and are often useful, as you will see in Chapters Four and Five.

Key points

Several safe diets that can improve mental abilities

This section describes several useful diets. Raw milk and pasteurized milk have similar effects on mental state and mental abilities, according to my experience. There is no hard evidence that pasteurization causes undesirable chemical changes in dairy products, but Weston Price has discovered that raw dairy is highly beneficial for dental health. If you can find a good source of raw dairy, then you will have access to socially acceptable raw animal foods. If not, then pasteurized dairy is an acceptable food if you are not allergic. As described in Appendix VIII, the best raw animal foods are eggs, scallops, tail fat, oysters, and small amounts of mild-cured fish. All of these are socially acceptable, but certain precautions are necessary (Appendix VIII). A raw diet based on these foods, plus fruits, honey, and veggies, is an example of a smart diet.

Raw nuts are also rich in protein, but they are a difficult type of food. They tend to lower mood or cause nausea if I eat them in large amounts, consistently with some studies [252254]. The mechanism of this negative effect of nuts is unknown. Although large amounts of nuts can make you feel bad, I would still add small amounts of nuts to the diet. They have a beneficial effect on attention control as described in Chapter Three.

Now that you are familiar with good sources of raw protein, we can discuss the “smart diets” proper. You may recall that this book defined the ancestral diet as follows: a 100% raw diet that consists of fruits, vegetables, nuts, safe raw animal foods, and excludes all artificial ingredients. My experiments with the ancestral diet suggest that it can improve mental abilities.D Originally, I tested a diet based on raw meat and fish, but later devised a safer and socially acceptable raw diet based on tail fat, scallops, and eggs.

I have developed several safe diets that have intelligence-improving effects that are similar to the effects of the ancestral diet. How did I measure the improvement of mental abilities? One approach was Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) tests because some versions of the GRE General test correlate well with valid IQ tests [2022]. Another approach was internet IQ tests. These are not as valid as proctored IQ tests, but may serve as a rough approximation. Improvement in academic grades can also serve as evidence of improved intelligence (see the end of Appendix VI). I also used a subjective measure called “ease of learning complex material.” I developed the mental clarity questionnaire recently and in the past I used the four aforementioned methods in order to assess changes in intelligence.

To give an example, if I use a regular modern diet for several weeks, then I find it difficult to understand some college level lectures and textbooks. The same is true of graduate-level courses (it would be relevant to mention here that I have a Ph.D. degree and an equivalent of a Master’s degree). When I am on the regular modern diet, my intelligence is average or perhaps somewhat below average, judging by my academic performance in high school (1988–1990) and my first time in college (1990–1992). I had mediocre grades in high school, and they booted me out of college for poor academic performance (see the end of Appendix VI). Although I experimented with vegetarian and vegan diets in high school, they did not improve my academic performance.

The “smart diets” described below increase the ease of learning complex material, just like the ancestral diet. When I use one of these diets for several days, I find it easy to understand any lectures and any textbooks, such as those offered in college or in graduate school. After I started experimenting with the “smart diets” around 1993, my academic performance improved. I graduated with honors from Novosibirsk State University (NSU), Russia in 1999, where my grade point average was 4.88 out of 5.00. After that, I was a straight A student at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where I attended graduate school (see the end of Appendix VI). In fact, my academic credentials, including GRE scores were so good upon graduation from NSU, that the admissions office at GWU awarded me with a Presidential Merit Fellowship in Biomedical Sciences. In summary, “smart diets” can improve intelligence, judging by general aptitude tests and academic grades.

Without further ado, another “smart diet” on our list is what I call the “antidepressant diet” (Chapter Four). It has the following composition (percentages represent proportions by weight):

I recommend raw dairy if you can find it. People who are lactose intolerant or allergic to cow milk may consider using special lactose-free dairy or milk from other species, such as goat milk. If whole milk does not cause problems with constipation, then you can drink it instead of low-fat milk. You can cook up to 90% of fruits and vegetables by boiling or steaming if this diet contains significant amounts of the raw wheat extract. Nuts, cooked grains, and legumes are not allowed. This diet also does not allow spices, salad dressings, seasonings, and any artificial ingredients (except indigestible fiber supplements).

Just like the ancestral diet, the antidepressant diet improves internal mood, when it is depressed (we will talk about this in more detail in Chapter Four). Understanding of lectures and textbooks is excellent, but attention control is somewhat worse than with the ancestral diet. There is a tendency for procrastination. Nonetheless, the attention function is sufficient for concentrating on lectures or audiobooks and on moderate amounts of reading. The antidepressant diet and the other “smart diets” have another beneficial effect in that they reduce the amount of personal problems. As a result of that change, life seems simpler and easier than usual. The antidepressant diet cannot elevate internal mood directly (when it is normal) but may do so indirectly by increasing the amount of positive life events. This diet does not increase activity level. As for scientific evidence, there are several studies showing that increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, or dairy correlates with better cognitive abilities [838, 876, 892, 899, 901, 940], including one randomized controlled trial [887].

This diet may have the following undesirable effects: procrastination with respect to school- or work-related writing tasks; slightly increased physical fatigue; if you consume milk incorrectly in the context of this diet, this situation may cause upset stomach (more details in Chapter Four); the person may look and feel happy but may laugh less than usual. (I attribute this to the development of a more refined sense of humor. This effect is characteristic of all smart diets, and we will discuss this in more detail in the “Potential adverse effects” section of this chapter.) Rare side effects include symptoms of hypomania: internal mood may become persistently elevated and this effect may reduce motivation for work; overexcitement may cause insomnia and disorganization of sleep. Readers should not stay on this diet longer than one to two weeks.

We can modify the antidepressant diet in order to enhance attention function. If you add cooked meat and fish and raw nuts to this diet, then what we have is the “modified high-protein diet.” We will talk about this attention-enhancing diet in more detail in Chapter Three. If all of the following conditions are true, then this diet will not lower mood and will not cause apathy:

  1. you cook meat and fish at moderate temperatures (by steaming or boiling);

  2. meat contains sufficient amounts of fat (at least 10%; 15–25% is best);

  3. the amount of low-fat milk (or unsalted unprocessed cheese, kefir, or buttermilk) is at least the same as the amount of the cooked meats by weight.

I do not have a good explanation for why addition of dairy to cooked meat reduces the negative effects of the latter. This result may be due to possible changes in how the liver processes mutagens from cooked meat.E It is best to grind nuts using a manual or electric meat grinder because they are tough on the teeth. The composition of the diet is as follows (proportions by weight):

Cooking temperature does not exceed the boiling point of water and the diet does not allow any artificial ingredients (food additives and dietary supplements). The recommended ratio of poultry to red meat is 1:1. You can eat fish from time to time or you can exclude it from the diet altogether.

Just like the ancestral diet, the modified high-protein diet improves the ability to understand and concentrate on complex texts. The modified high-protein diet is most useful when you have to perform large amounts of reading, for example if you are studying in college. Understanding of lectures (or audiobooks) is also excellent. The modified high-protein diet provides a slightly lower information processing speed than the ancestral diet, but the same or better speed compared to a typical mixed diet. The modified high-protein diet has no effect on mood or activity level. Some studies support the beneficial effects of this diet. In addition to the studies of fruits, vegetables, and dairy cited above, there are reports suggesting that addition of meat and fish to the diet can improve cognitive abilities or academic performance [822, 841, 851, 881, 890, 900], including randomized controlled trials [839, 887, 888].

People with kidney diseases should not use the modified high-protein diet (because it is a high-protein diet). In general, the diet may have the following undesirable effects: it may increase physical fatigue (you can reduce this problem using cold hydrotherapy as described in Chapter Two). Rare side effects include insomnia or other changes in the sleep pattern (Chapter Three) and symptoms of hypomania.

What about the Paleolithic diet, can it improve mental abilities? The Paleo diet consists of

According to its inventors, the Paleo diet is the diet of our ancestors prior to the advent of agriculture, that is, more than 11,000 years ago. In my experience, the Paleo diet improves mental clarity. Nonetheless, this diet may lower mood and make me feel bad if I follow this diet for several weeks to several months. On a temporary basis, the Paleo diet is an excellent choice if you need to concentrate on reading for 2–3 days a week. The effects of the Paleo diet are similar to those of the modified high-protein diet, except that the Paleo diet tends to worsen mood and reduce information processing speed, based on my personal experience. (My experience suggests that diets containing large amounts of cooked meat reduce information processing speed. A recent study, however, shows that a high-protein meat diet improves reaction time [933]. It is possible that reaction time and processing speed are related but different parameters.)

I find it difficult to perform writing tasks (e.g., writing of scientific papers) on diets that exclude grains. The best diet for writing seems to be the depressant diet, which consists of cooked red meat, boiled whole grains, nuts, and fruits and vegetables. Because this diet does not improve problem solving, it is not a “smart diet.” We will discuss the depressant diet in detail later, in Chapters Four and Five.

The absence of grains is one of the problems that I have with the Paleolithic diet; complete exclusion of cereal grains from your diet is likely to cause problems with anger and impulsivity; various sedative measures will be necessary. Another minor point on which I disagree with the Paleo diet is that the authors of this diet recommend lean meat. In my experience, small amounts of lean meat are OK, but consumption of large amounts of lean meat on a daily basis is an unbalanced and unhealthy approach. Ethnic groups who live on all-flesh diets consume fatty meat, i.e., they do not remove fat from meat. The northern fauna, such as whale, seal, and polar bear, are fatty types of meat. Chimps in the wild consume whole meat including muscle, fat, and organs. It is doubtful that carnivorous species of animals exist who consume muscle only and throw away the fat. The famous explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson reported that large amounts of lean meat can cause nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea within 1 or 2 days [251]. Addition of animal fat to the diet quickly alleviated these symptoms. Robert Atkins also does not recommend high-protein diets that are low in fat. In my personal experience, large amounts of lean meat (less than 7% fat) trigger a headache within one or two days. The headache goes away as soon as I add animal fat back to the diet.

Finally, there is another diet that can improve some mental abilities but worsens others. This is the fruit-and-vegetable diet (Chapters Three, Four, and Six). The key feature of this diet is that it contains a tiny amount of protein and fat. The fruit-and-vegetable diet does not allow protein-rich plant foods, such as nuts, grains, and legumes. This diet is similar to natural diets of some vegetarian primate species who are frugivores [44, 45] (the closest genetic relatives of humans among primates are not vegetarians, but omnivores [3941]). You can cook up to 90% of the contents of this diet at moderate temperatures; this makes little or no difference. This diet appears to result in the highest information processing speed among any other diets that I know of. This high speed is useful when entertaining people and for tests that contain short questions and require speed. Because this diet worsens attention control, it is not appropriate for tasks that involve a lot of reading. Just like the other “smart diets,” the fruit-and-vegetable diet can clarify the mind. You will start seeing solutions to many (but not all) of the life’s problems that previously seemed insurmountable. Life will seem simpler and easier. Some studies suggest that increased consumption of fruits and vegetables correlates with better mental abilities [876, 892, 901]. There are no published studies examining a diet consisting of fruits and vegetables only.

The fruit-and-vegetable diet reduces work capacity and will make you unable to perform most types of difficult work. Despite the large amounts of food that you will be consuming, the satiety level is going to be low. This diet also increases impulsivity (reduces self-control) and can cause hyperactivity. Another undesirable effect is that this diet reduces psychological resilience. In other words, any verbal abuse and high-stress situations that you may encounter will seem painful—this is the opposite of “thick skin.” It is best to avoid pungent vegetables while on the fruit-and-vegetable diet (as we will see at the end of Chapter Four). In addition, high-carbohydrate diets such as this one can be problematic for patients with diabetes. Four or more days of the fruit-and-vegetable diet can result in a loss of interest in most activities. On the positive side, there is theoretical evidence that this diet may be useful as a nonsedating neuroleptic treatment.F In brief, this possible neuroleptic effect may be due to the reduced activity of neurons that use a chemical called dopamine to communicate with other neurons in the brain.

How strong is the scientific evidence that adherence to certain diets can improve your mental abilities? There are quite a few studies showing that people who consume a healthier diet tend to have better mental abilities [49, 826, 837, 838, 846, 858, 863, 866, 908, 943]. Most of those are epidemiological studies, which demonstrate a statistical correlation but not causation. Several statistical studies also show that a healthier diet of students correlates with better academic performance [843, 845, 868, 871, 876, 913, 940] (academic performance correlates with intelligence). Experimental studies such as [839, 887, 888, 928, 933] are needed to prove that a healthier diet can indeed improve intelligence in healthy people. One possible problem with this type of research is that the notion of what constitutes a “healthy diet” differs among different authors. In addition, some studies show that weight loss dieting can worsen some cognitive abilities [847, 872].

Going back to the smart diets, one hundred percent compliance with any of the above diets is going to be problematic if you try to follow a strict diet for a week or longer. It is advisable but not necessary to follow strict diets for extended periods of time because even a temporary improvement of mental abilities can have long-term benefits. When I have to make an important decision or if I face some difficult problems, I go on one of the above-mentioned strict diets for several days or weeks with 100% compliance. Once I have a clear plan in my head or on paper, I can reduce compliance with the diet to 99%. I prefer staying on a strict diet as long as possible, but I can follow the conventional dietary guidelines (official food pyramids) and live without strict diets for extended periods. Diets are a means to an end; they are not the purpose or a meaning of life. As you will see later, diets are not the only way to improve mental abilities. I devised a food pyramid, which I try to follow. It has four parts:

I named it the “Natural Food Pyramid” (Table 3 below) because most of it is based on the evidence for what is “natural” and what is “unnatural food” for humans. We reviewed this evidence in an earlier section of this chapter. The “good food” constitutes the base of the pyramid, “sedative food” the middle, and “problem food” with “horrible food” form the top of the natural food pyramid.

Table 3. The natural food pyramid.

Horrible food (avoid; contains carcinogens): any food containing meat or fish cooked at high temperatures (above the boiling point of water) such as grilled, broiled, fried, baked, microwaved, or barbecued meat; any smoked foods.

Problem food

(avoid or consume it sparingly; it can impair mental abilities or cause other health problems): food containing food additives (white sugar, brown sugar, vinegar, nitrates, nitrites, monosodium glutamate, and others), dietary supplements (artificial vitamins, minerals), baked grains (bread),3 roasted nuts, processed cheese, all kinds of junk food (candy, cake, ice cream, pastry, hot dogs, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, pizza, cookies, chocolate, pancakes, sandwiches, pasta, ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, salad dressings, other seasonings; potato chips, soft drinks, chewing gum, and so on); large amounts of lean meat can cause problems; pungent vegetables may contribute to feelings of anger or hostility: this observation may also be true of some spices.

Sedative food

(can lower mood or cause slowing, without impairing judgment): minced meat (15% fat or higher) cooked by boiling or steaming, boiled or steamed fish, boiled eggs, whole grains cooked by boiling or steaming (for example, shredded wheat cereal, steamed brown rice); honey4; raw nuts2; natural junk food (free of artificial ingredients; can be found in a health food store).

Good food (does not cause sedation and does not impair mental abilities): raw fruits1 and vegetables; boiled or steamed vegetables, including boiled potatoes; pasteurized juices (free of additives); pasteurized or raw milk6, kefir, or buttermilk (free of dietary supplements), unsalted unprocessed cheese; raw or pasteurized cream and butter6,8; minced meat (15% fat or higher) cooked by boiling or steaming when you eat it (not in the same meal) with an equal or greater amount of the above dairy products; beef fat and tail fat (raw or boiled in water)7; raw water extract of certain grains (optional) such as wheat, buckwheat, and oats; unrefined vegetable oils2; raw or boiled eggs; pascalized meat.5

1)Acid-rich fruits such as oranges and apples are bad for teeth; it is best to replace them with juices and to limit the amount of fruit juices to 0.5 liters (a pint) a day (because they are easy to overdose).
2)Be careful with plant oils. I do not tolerate them well and avoid them completely. Nuts contain a lot of plant oil and I consider them the heaviest type of food. Contrary to what statistical studies show (“nuts are associated with good cardiovascular health”), I develop chest pains and/or liver pain when I eat nuts as much as I like. In the long run, limit your nut consumption to a teaspoon to tablespoon of pulverized nuts per day and exclude them from your diet on days off or on vacation.
3)According to Weston Price's research, virtually any store-bought bread is bad for health because the flour was stored before baking, and most vitamins got oxidized during this storage. For this reason, you need to find the bread that was prepared immediately after grain milling or make your own. Any whole-grain bread worsens mental clarity (performance on intelligence tests) and tends to increase body weight but is an effective sedative. Because there are many other effective sedative foods, herbs, and procedures, you can safely exclude bread from your diet.
4)Avoid melted supermarket honey. It is heated for automatic packaging. It is best to consume unheated (raw) honey, which you can buy at a farmer's market, and choose a hypoallergenic variety such as acacia honey. If you start consuming honey daily, you may experience some strange but temporary aberrations of metabolism. Furthermore, dilute honey well with water (a glass of water per level tablespoon) to prevent possible discomfort in the digestive tract. Honey is a good sedative.
5)Raw meat processed by means of ultrahigh pressure is available in some countries, such as Spain, Japan, and the U.S., and is very similar to raw meat but is as safe as boiled meat because pascalization kills virtually all relevant pathogens. There are some other methods of cold sterilization; see Appendix VIII “The raw diet.”
6)Avoid supermarket-bought dairy products because they have been powdered/rehydrated, pasteurized, and/or supplemented with various chemicals. Ideally, buy raw dairy in a farmer's market.
7)This animal fat calms the nerves in case of anxiety and will slow you down if you are hyperactive, but it does not cause sedation in a normal mental state. If you want to eat raw tail fat, then buy it in a halal or kosher store and keep it frozen at minus 20 degrees Celsius for 4 days (for safety).
8)Dairy fat, such as butter and whole milk, tends to promote constipation according to some studies [1006, 1007]. These data deal with pasteurized dairy; my own experience suggests that raw dairy fat also promotes constipation. It is easy to solve this problem if you add 1-2 tablespoons of castor oil (not for pregnant women) or flaxseed oil to your diet daily (good remedies for constipation). For more details, see section “Potential adverse effects of high-protein diets” in Chapter Three.

The horrible food should constitute 0% to 1% of your diet. The problem food is not as bad and can constitute up to 5% of the diet. In fact, nothing bad will happen to you (except for a weight gain) if you go on a diet consisting of problem food for a few days. But if you want to achieve the best mental clarity, you would need to completely exclude both horrible and problem foods from your diet for a few days or weeks. I prefer staying on a strict diet as long as possible, for months and years. If you can't stay on a strict diet permanently, it’s OK to treat yourself occasionally if problem food constitutes 1–5% of your nutrition; it is easy to prevent binging or overeating junk food if you use the chewing methods described at the end of this chapter. In brief, you need to chew junk food slowly and thoroughly at least two hundred times; to make this rule work, you would have to avoid mixing food with drinks while chewing. You can chew healthy food in the normal fashion. This method helped me to cut my consumption of junk food by about fivefold in the long run.

Some placements of food products within this pyramid may seem contradictory, and they are based on my personal experience rather than on any convincing theory. I can explain some of these contradictions as follows. Buttermilk and water extract of wheat can be considered “unnatural” because they are a processed type of food. Yet they are located at the base of the pyramid, with foods that one should consume in abundance. Earlier in this chapter, limitations of the natural intelligence theory explained this particular choice. At first glance, grinding and juicing may appear to be “unnatural.” But they do not change chemical composition of digestible nutrients. Juicing removes components that are virtually indigestible by humans. Therefore, juicing and grinding will not pose a problem. In my view, chewing of acid-rich (sour) types of fruit can be harmful for the teethB1 (for instance, citrus fruits, apples, cranberries, strawberries, other berries). Using a blender or consumption of fruit juices is less taxing on the teeth. One potential problem with fruit juices is a sugar overload if a person drinks large amounts of juices.

Every now and then researchers call into question scientific validity of official food pyramids, and the government responds by revising them. For example, government experts used to say that all dietary fat is bad for health. Nowadays, some food pyramids state that trans-fat and saturated fat are bad fats, whereas unsaturated fat is good for you. The official position of health authorities on dietary fat may change again in the future.

As discovered by dentist Weston A. Price, there is no single "healthy diet" suitable for everybody. He traveled the globe and studied about a dozen uncivilized populations in the 1930s; Dr. Price found that humans can thrive on diverse diets with widely varying proportions of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates as long as they obtain key vitamins from one of these three sources: organ meats of land animals, raw dairy from pasturing cows that eat rapidly growing grass, or animal sea foods. For details about Weston Price's research, see the end of Endnote D1. His research is consistent with ayurveda and the healing system invented by dentist William Donald Kelley, which suggest that people have different types of metabolism and require different diets for optimal health. Actually, the idea that people and animals (within one species) have different types of the autonomic nervous system (and hence metabolism) has been proposed and tested by a number of scientists or physicians: famous biologist Ivan Pavlov, physician-scientist Francis Pottenger, Sr, oncologist Emanuel Revici, biologist Ernst Gellhorn, psychiatrist Daniel Funkenstein, and physician-scientist Nicholas Gonzalez. According to their research, approximately 10% of the population are characterized by predominance of the sympathetic nervous system and therefore have metabolism that is too rapid. In another ~10% of the population, the parasympathetic nervous system is dominant, and their metabolism is too slow. Most people have a balanced autonomic nervous system and average metabolism. Sympathetic-dominant people do well on a vegetarian diet, whereas parasympathetic-dominant people function optimally on a diet that excludes fruits and contains plenty of fatty meat. For details, see footnote #1 in Appendix VII. There is also a certain percentage of the population who do not tolerate polyunsaturated fatty acids; these people do well by following the nutrition style recommended by biologist Ray Peat.

Finally, it is worth mentioning "orthorexia," a fake disease and nonexistent problem, probably invented by the healthcare industry, so that people do not utilize diets to get rid of diseases and instead use pharmaceutical drugs and surgical treatments (which do not cure anything, with rare exceptions). Below, I will address the major talking points of junk food promoters. Among the more ridiculous promoters of junk food is Matt Stone, who recommends eating junk food as much as you want and claims that after an initial weight gain, your weight will stabilize, your junk food consumption will "normalize," your health will improve, and you may even lose weight. First of all, it should be noted that Matt Stone sells courses and advice on how to start an online business; as explained in Chapter Seven, you should be skeptical of anything this sort of people claim. Don't fall for this old scam: "give me a little money, and I will show you how to start a business." Second, there is no trustworthy evidence that this "stuff-your-face-with-fast-food" approach helps to lose weight. If it works for one person in a thousand, is it worth your time and risk? It is extremely unlikely that obese people can lose weight by following this advice; junk food is how they got fat in the first place. Now, let's tackle the typical nonsense propagated by critics of strict diets (i.e., promoters of the "orthorexia" label).

  1. "If you live on a strict diet, then your social interactions are severely impaired, and you are doomed to lifelong loneliness." Not true. If your strict diet is sufficiently filling and balanced (for example, see the starchless diet in endnote C1), then you are not hungry all the time and can attend various social events and interact with eating people without a fear of binging. If your diet is not too weird, then you can tell your friends and relatives about it, and they will understand and try to accommodate your dieting when they can.

  2. "All diets fail, don't try any dietary restrictions." Nonsense. It is very easy to live on a strict diet for years if you live either alone or with a person(s) also following a strict diet. It is true that a strict diet will fail quickly if disallowed foods are constantly present in your kitchen and refrigerator.

  3. "Thin people are not healthy and not sexy." False. There is nothing sexy about a puffy face and flabby abdomen.

  4. "A strict diet is a disorder, it is abnormal." Not true. All animals in the wild live on a strict diet and are "suffering" from orthorexia. As demonstrated by Weston A. Price and Edward & May Mellanby, a strict diet is the only way to prevent tooth decay. There is strong scientific evidence that strict diets can cure cancer (see [1186, 1187] and my other ebook, Fight Cancer, Appendix I). I would say that a strict diet is the only way to reduce the number of errors at work. You are brainwashed to think the other way around about this issue: actually, it is not dieters who are kooks, it is the "eat everything" crowd who are misled into eating garbage by the food industry with the help of government guidelines. If most of the population started eating various Weston Price diets depending on circumstances, then the healthcare industry would go bankrupt because it would lose most of its clients.

  5. "If you have no dietary restrictions, then your social interactions are happy and problem free." Nonsense. In actuality, if you are eating the typical horrible food, then your brain cannot think clearly and you are making tons of errors. Accordingly, your interactions with other people are anything but trouble-free. Conversely, you can make your interactions with people easy and trouble-free by adhering to a strict diet and thereby improving your brain function.

  6. "If you follow a strict diet, then you will develop a deficiency in some nutrients." Not true. Not all strict diets are alike, and a strict diet can include a wide variety of diet foods (see the Natural Food Pyramid). You can follow a strict diet and at the same time make sure that you receive all vitamins and minerals through foods.

  7. "If you follow a strict diet, then you are constantly hungry and craving disallowed foods." False. Not all strict diets are alike. See above.

  8. "In the long run, it is impossible to lose weight by dieting." Incorrect. Dieting is the only way to lose weight permanently (I do not regard bariatric surgery as a weight loss method because it is highly dangerous and destroys health). Dieting does not necessarily mean a restriction of calories: the Paleo diet and Atkins diet contain plenty of calories and are scientifically proven to reduce body weight. But several conditions should be met for long-term success of a strict diet: you can afford to live alone at least initially, your diet does not reduce work capacity, the diet is filling, food variety is sufficient, you consume plenty of foods that reduce weight, and you can counteract the changes in mental health that will result from dieting (see endnote C1). Junk food and other highly processed foods are the cause of obesity and countless diseases.

  9. "While on a strict diet, people feel miserable, but when they start eating everything, especially junk food, they start feeling great." Nonsense. Another self-serving guru, named Matt Stone, is leading you off a cliff. In reality, most people on a strict diet notice that they think more clearly and their numerous personal problems go away (some inconveniences associated with dieting will increase, that is a small price to pay). I agree that overconsumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids can make one feel bad, but it's a straw man, the absolute majority of dieters do not overconsume them. Vegans for example, typically avoid nuts because this food makes them feel awful. Overconsumption of fried and grilled meat can also make you feel awful, but the vast majority of dieters do not fit this pattern. Most dieters will honestly tell you that they feel well while on a strict diet but feel awful both physically and psychologically when they go back to eating everything. If you go back to junk food, you will be gaining weight steadily, and your brain will stop working, thus all your personal problems and stupid mistakes will come back. As proven by Weston A. Price, humans can live all their life on a strict diet and enjoy good health, in particular, excellent dental health. You can solve the deficiencies and problems associated with a strict diet by adapting it to your body and your lifestyle and by increasing the variety of diet foods. Eating everything permanently is not a solution, it's a disaster.

  10. "The longest-lived people do not adhere to diets; therefore, you shouldn't try to live on a strict diet." I can see several levels of deception here. First, it is unlikely that the powers that be would pass up the opportunity to deceive you about the longest-lived people [1137, 1138, 1152]. Official statistics and what you see in mass media is usually some sort of propaganda. Second, you can ignore everything about so-called "Blue Zones" (geographic areas where people allegedly live longer than usual) because the average difference is too small: approximately 10%. This is comparable to variance and not worth to bother investigating. If people in Blue Zones lived 6-fold longer than elsewhere, then they would get my attention. There is plenty of evidence casting doubt on the validity of the reported data on blue zones [1212]. Third, it is pointless to make longevity your meaning of life because too many factors (unrelated to health) can end your life abruptly and unexpectedly. It makes sense to make your life and health as wonderful as possible here and today and not to worry about what will happen in 60 years.

The invention of the new label—orthorexia—is a classic example of disease mongering. If you believe the propagandists, then you are allowed to engage in nutritional changes "only slightly," but if you completely cut out fast food from your diet, then this is "a mental disorder." It hasn't occurred to the inventors of labels that you can obtain a benefit or lose weight from dietary changes only if these changes are "excessive"? The definition of orthorexia is so ambiguous and arbitrary that you can attach this label to any person who undertakes dietary restrictions, even tiny ones.

Selfish motives of those who attach the new label are easily discernible [1214, 1215]: the healthcare industry and physicians need new clients, whereas mass media derive huge income from the advertising of the food industry’s products. If you don't stuff your face with GMO-laden, pesticide-rich, high-carcinogen garbage that they advertise and sell as food, this means that "you are abnormal"? According to the propaganda, diseases appear out of the blue and have nothing to do with the unnatural modern nutrition. If you question this poppycock, then you are crazy. Marginalizing the truth and health is an old and well-tested method of mind control. These disinfo agents have fabricated numerous unverifiable stories of people "suffering" from a healthy lifestyle. In actuality, strict diets can cure many diseases, for example, cancer and many disorders related to obesity and inflammation, while the healthcare industry loses clients and income. Then it is not surprising that many doctors claim that orthorexia is a mental disorder even though this "disorder" is not listed in the official classification of diseases. Even if it were listed there, you shouldn't believe official claims blindly.

The whole concept of "eating disorders" by itself is profoundly fallacious because it turns nutritional problems on their head: the unnatural modern human nutrition, which emerged only several centuries ago with the development of chemical manufacturing, is proclaimed to be the "norm." Meanwhile, officially approved garbage eating shortens the lifespan (that's right, modern medicine has shortened, not extended, the human lifespan), causes obesity in a large percentage of the population, tooth decay in everyone, and numerous other health problems. The widely accepted official diagnoses—bulimia and anorexia—in actuality, should be regarded as complications of the modern unnatural nutrition, and the latter should be labeled "pathological omnivorousness," which is characterized by blind faith in advertising and in the powers that be, indifference to one's deteriorating health, and the inability to see obvious causation.

Conventional medicine is imposed on the populace by the powers that be, serves the ruling elite, not the populace, and worsens instead of curing most diseases. The techniques of so-called evidence-based medicine do exactly the opposite of what they are supposed to do by proving that a treatment that causes nothing but harm "alleviates a disease" (see the second section of Chapter One). The elite has long been planning on reducing the world's population, especially the number of retirees. The elite itself carefully avoids the officially approved treatments.

In the meantime, the ruling elite is brainwashing the population with ridiculous zero-conspiracy theories by means of mass media: "a conspiracy in the highest echelons of power does not exist and is impossible," "the powers that be have no secrets from the population," "the ruling elite consists of good people," "the government is incapable of secretly subjugating mass media," "the government never deceives the people," "the ruling elite serves the people," and so on. Curiously, in its own relations with other governments and own population, any ruling elite always dismisses the naive fantasy about the absence of a collusion and always assumes that there is a conspiracy (look at how paranoid counterintelligence agencies are and at the millions of citizens accused by prosecutors of criminal conspiracy without any proof). It should be obvious to a thinking person that the fairy tale term "conspiracy theory" exists only in the parallel universe created for you by propagandists. In reality, if there is a motive and opportunity, then you can be 100% certain that a conspiracy exists (although details are often unknown), and the nonsensical zero-conspiracy theory should be rejected. The ruling elite deceives the people with total impunity and saturates all information channels with its lies, including government-approved education. A person who considers himself normal and proudly does not believe in "conspiracy theories" is actually a sucker who believes habitual liars. A normal smart person will demand proof that there is no conspiracy and will assume that there is some kind of conspiracy if such proof is not presented. If there is a motive and opportunity for a conspiracy, then proving its absence is extremely difficult: you need to know what potential conspirators did every second of the day and night for the last several years.

Key points

Saturated fat: friend or foe?

The main source of saturated fat in the human diet is animal products such as meat, butter, and whole milk. As an exception, saturated fat is also present in large amounts in some plant foods such as coconut and coconut oil. Traditionally, health care authorities have said that saturated fat is bad for health. Nonetheless, a number of recent epidemiological studies and dietary experiments have found that the amount of saturated fat in the diet does not have any effect on body weight and the blood cholesterol level [255259]. Saturated fat has no effect on the composition of blood lipids, such as the level of “bad” cholesterol. One study shows that consumption of foods rich in saturated fat (red meat, butter, high-fat dairy) correlates inversely with the amount of body fat several years later [260]. By the way, dietary cholesterol has nothing to do with the blood level of cholesterol. It is the liver that synthesizes most of the cholesterol in your blood [61]. The most recent official dietary guidelines (MyPlate) dropped the outdated recommendation to limit cholesterol-rich foods in your diet.

Scientists have experimented on mice and rats to obtain most of the research data regarding the presumed deleterious effects of saturated fat. Rodents, however, have the digestive tract and physiology that are different from those of humans. For example, a classic high-fat diet, the ketogenic diet, causes a weight gain in rodents but a weight loss in humans [119, 261]. Many of these experiments on laboratory animals employ unrealistic, preposterous amounts of saturated fat, such as diets containing 80% fat by calories. Therefore, if an experiment on rodents shows that a diet containing elevated amounts of saturated fat causes some health problems, this does not necessarily mean that saturated fat is bad for human health.

Some epidemiological studies found that increased consumption of saturated fat correlates with certain cardiovascular diseases, but others found no such association [256]. Note that we are talking about a statistical association or correlation, not causation. Few epidemiological studies can offer proof of causation [36]; most of them show an association. Only randomized controlled trials can prove causation beyond a doubt. (In references [37, 99], readers can find a list of epidemiology-based lifestyle recommendations that scientists later refuted by randomized controlled trials.) The association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease in some epidemiological studies, if it is real, can have a number of alternative explanations. For example, a gene may increase dietary preference for saturated fat and at the same time make a person more susceptible to cardiovascular problems through a mechanism unrelated to dietary fats. Alternatively, saturated fat may prevent cancer and this effect will make the person more likely to die of the other major cause of death: cardiovascular disease. Another possible explanation is that people who have complied with the decades-old recommendation to avoid dietary fat are fundamentally different from those who ignored this recommendation. The compliant people may have engaged in various behaviors that are beneficial to their cardiovascular health. Those behaviors, not the avoidance of saturated fat, have contributed to the better health outcomes. There are other possible explanations. Yet when someone reports that consumption of saturated fat is associated with some unfavorable health outcome, people often jump to the conclusion that it is the saturated fat that causes the bad outcome. In actuality, saturated fat may have nothing to do with the health problem.

My guess is that one can find anything that they want to find in statistical data, with enough time and effort. It is likely that one can find disease associations with any types of food, even the holiest of holies of food pyramids: whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Even with physical exercise [262]. (As an aside, one experiment on laboratory rats, which is not an epidemiological study, shows that bread crust can cause weight gain and damage to kidneys [236].) If some skilled epidemiologists can show that increased consumption of whole grains, fruits, or vegetables correlates with some unfavorable outcomes, this finding will demonstrate the shortcomings of epidemiology-based dietary recommendations. After this book came out, I have been able to find several studies of this sort [873, 880, 895, 897, 905, 909]. As we saw earlier, this statistical association does not imply that whole grains (or fruits and vegetables) indeed cause health problems.

Animals in the wild never remove saturated fat from their food (muscle meat and whole milk). The same is true of ethnic groups who consume a lot of animal products, such Eskimos. They consume animal food as is and do not try to “improve” it by making it low fat. Calves drink whole milk from a mother cow and predators eat all flesh including fat, muscle, and organs. Some primates consume meat and they too consume whole meat, including fat. Human milk is fattier than whole milk from a cow. How come we do not remove fat from the milk of nursing mothers if saturated fat is such a bad thing for health? Some readers can say that saturated fat is good in infancy and bad for health after infancy. Well, a number of studies have shown that increased consumption of saturated fat by adults does not correlate with any negative effects on health [119, 255, 257, 258, 263, 264]. In addition, saturated fat serves several important functions in the human body [265]. Thus, the jury is still out regarding the presumed negative effects of saturated fat.

The kind of fat that may have adverse effects on health is fat that underwent cooking at high temperatures, 200–400°C (390–750°F). Some studies have shown that cooking of meat at high temperatures (by frying or grilling) increases the amount of cholesterol oxidation products 5- to 10-fold [124, 266]. Cholesterol oxidation products play a role in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis, which can lead to a number of cardiovascular problems [178, 267]. Steaming of meat for extended periods (for example, for 30 min) can also increase the amount of cholesterol oxides in cooked meat [124, 266]. At the same time, boiling does not increase the level of cholesterol oxides [268]. Therefore, it is possible that there is “good animal fat” and “bad animal fat.” The “bad animal fat” is present in animal products such as grilled meat or fried butter, whereas “good animal fat” is present in boiled meat and pasteurized (or raw) dairy products. It would be interesting to conduct epidemiological studies on the association of bad and good animal fat with cardiovascular diseases. If an epidemiological study uncovers an association, it will be a good hypothesis to test in randomized controlled trials. One randomized controlled trial shows that food cooked at high temperatures causes pathological changes consistent with the development of diabetes and cardiovascular problems, whereas food cooked at moderate temperatures does not [830].

Another common fallacy regarding animal fat and dietary fat in general is as follows. Because low-fat diets can cause weight loss and improve cardiovascular risk factors (they can lower “bad cholesterol” in blood), then it seems logical to make some assumptions about high-fat diets. As the fallacy goes, high-fat diets should have the opposite effects: they should cause a weight gain and worsen cardiovascular risk factors. In actuality, high-fat low-carbohydrate diets (such as Atkins) cause an even faster weight loss and also improve blood cholesterol composition [119, 269275]. As mentioned above, people who consume more animal fat than usual are not overweight, on average [255]. These people also do not have an elevated blood cholesterol level.

Experiments on laboratory animals show that addition of sucrose (refined sugar) to the diet of rats increases their blood cholesterol level and body weight [94]. These data suggest that “unnatural food” rather than dietary fat is responsible for obesity and cardiovascular problems. On the other hand, natural fats of plant and animal origin do not pose any danger to the health of humans. Health authorities should stop demonizing animal fat.

As for my own weight and physical health, I am somewhat overweight according to the body mass index (BMI) [337]. My BMI fluctuates between 28 and 29 depending on the diet I am consuming. Women tell me that I look fine and I am happy with my appearance. Despite being overweight, I haven’t had health complaints in a long time and received a clean bill of health recently.K My view is that if a person gains a little weight on healthy food such as boiled potatoes and whole grains, this is “healthy weight.” Epidemiological studies suggest that excess body weight correlates with a shorter lifespan and with some diseases on average. But these studies lump together all overweight people, regardless of how they gained weight. There are many healthy people who are overweight. Winston Churchill lived to be 90 despite being overweight. It is possible to put on a little weight on healthy foods, such as boiled potatoes and whole grains. There is no reason to believe that with this weight gain you will have the same undesirable effects on health as a person who puts on weight on junk food. A recent study shows that the current health of people who are overweight is not different from that of people with normal weight [741]. In contrast, obese people (BMI greater than 30) tend to have worse health [741].

There is also some research showing that animal fat can have beneficial effects on mental state or mental performance. Just to remind you, animal fat contains a high percentage of saturated fat and cholesterol, whereas plant-source oils contain little or no cholesterol and little saturated fat. A study out of Switzerland compared the effects of a single high-protein, high-fat, or high-carbohydrate meal on healthy volunteers [117]. The high-fat meal that consisted of equal parts of plant fat (palm and soybean oil) and animal fat (double cream) resulted in the best mental performance, during the 3 hours after the meal. The high-protein meal produced an intermediate result (it consisted of fried chicken and eggs), and the high-carbohydrate meal (glucose, maltodextrin, and rice starch) overall produced the worst mental performance three hours after the meal. The study examined the following mental abilities: simple reaction time, choice reaction time, average muscle activity and its variation, accuracy in short-term memory, accuracy in peripheral attention, central and peripheral efficiency. Another line of evidence in support of beneficial effects of animal fat comes from studies on laboratory animals. This research shows that high-cholesterol diets can improve spatial memory [276]. (Animal fat is the primary source of dietary cholesterol.)

A high-fat diet known as the “ketogenic diet” is an effective therapy for treatment-resistant epilepsy. This diet is based on saturated fat such as cream and butter. A variation of the ketogenic diet, the Atkins diet, which contains large amounts of animal fat, produces the fastest weight loss compared to other diets [119, 269275]. It can also improve indicators of cardiovascular health and some measurements of psychological well-being in obese people [277279]. My personal view is that the Atkins diet would be less controversial and more acceptable to healthcare authorities if it excluded fried meat and fried fat. The latter contain high levels of carcinogens and cholesterol oxidation products. I tolerate the Atkins diet much better if

The latter procedure can reduce possible side effects of this diet such as fatigue, low mood, and headache. Dietary fiber supplements are useful in the Atkins diet because they are effective against another side effect, constipation.

In the state of ketosis (dietary carbohydrates are severely limited), high-calorie diets, such as the Atkins, cause a weight loss. On the other hand, during a normal metabolic state (there is a sufficient amount of dietary carbohydrates), high-calorie diets containing increased amounts of fat tend to cause a weight gain. Thus, the relationship of dietary calories and body weight is not a simple one. To give another example, raw fooders, most of whom subsist on a vegan diet, eat a lot of raw fruit, which is a high-calorie food [920]. Yet raw fooders tend to be underweight [919], despite consuming plenty of calories. This observation further complicates the relationship of calories and weight. I developed my own weight loss diet, the “starchless diet,” which is not a low-calorie diet. It is not a low-carb diet either. In 2012, I lost 31 pounds (14 kilograms) on that diet, and I believe that it works because it excludes “fattening calories.” The description of the starchless diet is found in endnote C1.

Genetics also plays an important role and one person can become obese while another underweight when consuming an almost identical diet [947]. Different people also respond differently to weight loss diets: for example, many people lose weight quickly on the Atkins diet, whereas some people do not. The majority of people regain weight when they stop dieting and long-term compliance with weight loss diets is low [274, 954, 1001]. Surgical interventions such as gastric bypass surgery and liposuction are an option for those who can afford them. Gastric bypass surgery is the most effective treatment of obesity, with significant long-term weight loss and maintenance in more than 86% of obese people [946, 951]. As any major surgical intervention, this approach is also the most dangerous (life-threatening). Dieting is less effective in the long run (2–20% success rate, depending the source and definitions [274, 952, 991]). Exercise alone is the least effective weight loss strategy for obese people [949, 950]. Recent Consumer Reports (2011) analyzed a number of different diet plans and concluded that the Jenny Craig diet is the most effective program judging by long-term adherence and long-term weight loss. Yet the results of this diet plan are satisfactory for overweight, but not obese people: the dieters achieved an average weight loss of 7.4 kg (~16 lbs.) and maintained it for about 2 years [953, 954]. Note that there is a significant minority of obese people who are in good health. Some academic researchers who study obesity admit that the healthy obese will be better off if they do not try to lose weight. This is because their chances of losing a significant amount of weight and keeping it off by means of diets and exercise are about 10%. Weight loss strategies carry substantial costs from the standpoint of time, job productivity, and money (often futile costs). Some weight loss techniques carry health risks (for example, surgical methods and prolonged fasting).

Going back to the cognitive effects of fat, some studies show that low-fat diets correlate with increased feelings of hostility [280], suggesting that dietary fat may play an important role in mental health. Studies on laboratory animals show that high-fat diets have antidepressant and antianxiety effects [261, 281]. In humans, one statistical study shows an inverse relationship between consumption of animal fat and psychological distress [852].

In summary, the possible relationship between saturated fat in the diet and cardiovascular diseases remains controversial and many studies show that this relationship is either weak or nonexistent. On the other hand, evidence exists that animal fat can have beneficial effects on mental functions. I must qualify the beneficial effects of animal by my personal observation and some published evidence [1006, 1007] that dairy fat (cream, butter, whole milk, and sour cream) tends to promote constipation. It is easy to solve this problem if you add 1-2 tablespoons of castor oil (not for pregnant women) or flaxseed oil to your diet daily (good remedies for constipation). Based on the above evidence, we can make some practical recommendations for healthy people:

  1. Excluding animal fat from your diet is unnecessary because there is no proof that animal fat causes health problems in humans. The amount of animal fat in the diet does not correlate with either body weight or blood cholesterol level. Epidemiological studies do not constitute rigorous proof that saturated fat causes cardiovascular diseases.

  2. You need to avoid fried, grilled, or broiled animal fat because it contains high levels of cholesterol oxidation products, which participate in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular diseases. It is best to cook fat at moderate temperatures (for example, boiled meat). This fat contains the same low amount of cholesterol oxidation products as raw fat, and therefore it should not have adverse effects on health. Additionally, fried, grilled, and broiled meats contain detectable amounts of carcinogens, which are almost undetectable in boiled or steamed meat [146, 152].

  3. If you are still afraid of animal fat, you can continue consuming lean meat and low-fat milk. You can try using high-protein diets that are based on those low-fat products. If you notice, however, that you feel bad on high-protein low-fat diets (headache, depressed mood, abdominal pain, or diarrhea), you may consider fatty animal products. For instance, you can eat animal foods that contain a natural amount of fat: regular fish and regular meat (15–25% fat).

  4. This book does not advocate one permanent diet that you should adhere to for the rest of your life. Even if you are unconvinced by the above evidence of safety of animal fat, you may still consider using high-protein high-fat diets on a temporary basis. You can go on these diets when performing difficult mental tasks. At all other times, you can follow either conventional dietary recommendations or low-fat diets.

Key points

A diet that can worsen mental abilities quickly

If one has to prove that dietary changes can improve mental abilities, then it will also be necessary to demonstrate that some other dietary changes can worsen mental abilities. In my view, a good example of a “dumb diet” is the diet that consists of whole-grain bread and water solution of sucrose. This diet embodies the opposite of what the natural intelligence theory suggests a person should do in order to improve mental abilities. The bread-and-sugar diet, in addition to impairing mental abilities, causes an abnormal mental state as described below. I tested this diet on myself for 4 days once and for 2 days on another occasion, and I also tested similar control diets for several days each. The bread-and-sugar diet includes the most typical food additive (refined sugar) as well as grains cooked at high temperatures (bread). Bread contains acrylamide, a substance toxic to nerve cells at high doses (see Table 2). Boiled grains contain undetectable levels of acrylamide, and the composition of Maillard reaction products may be different from that in bread.

Some readers might say that the possible negative effects of the bread-and-sugar diet are the result of the unbalanced nature of this diet, that is, the lack of some vitamins and high-quality protein. This is not the case because the control diets, one consisting of boiled whole grains and the other consisting of raw soaked grains, do not have the negative effects characteristic of the bread-and-sugar diet.

The following is a description of my personal experience with the above diets. (Readers can skip the detailed description of these data and jump to the end of this section: press this link.) We will start with the diet that has almost no negative effects on mental abilities (raw soaked grains only). At the end, we will take a look at the diet that has the worst negative effects (the bread-and-sugar diet).

I tested the diet consisting of raw grains only (oats and shredded wheat soaked in water for 12 hours or longer) in the summer of 1995. The longest experiment was two and a half days. This diet has no noticeable adverse effects, except that the ability to concentrate on reading tasks is insufficient, but the capacity for manual work is good.

I tested the diet consisting of boiled whole grains only on several occasions in the past. The most recent experiment (boiled shredded wheat and boiled buckwheat only) lasted for 3.5 days (from August 18 to August 20, 2009). Compared to the diet of raw grains, this diet produces a significant slowing. The slowing can manifest itself as reduced activity or a feeling of boredom. In social situations, there is a tendency for taciturnity, inability to keep up with conversation, and a lack of initiative. The diet had no effect on either mood or fatigue, and I felt good both physically and mentally. On the fourth day of this diet, August 21, I developed a strong sugar craving and started consuming honey, about 6 tablespoons per day. On the same day, I developed a mild headache, which increased in intensity on the next day. I decided that the headache may be due to honey in the context of the vegan diet, and replaced honey with fruit juices (canned grape and pineapple juices, free of additives) on August 23. I did not use any other treatments for headache. The headache cleared up in the afternoon of August 23, and I continued the boiled grains diet with some fruit juices, the whole day August 24. I discontinued this diet in the morning of August 25. I was unable to force myself to write anything starting from August 19 (I was working on this book at the time) until the grains-only diet ended on August 25. I felt well both physically and mentally at the end of this experiment. This experiment suggests that honey may cause headache in the context of a vegan diet. Previous experiments with a diet that consists of boiled grains only were shorter, about two days (on several occasions in 1995–1997). Boiled grains do not increase the amount of errors at work (such as laboratory work at a research institute), but they cause a noticeable slowing in social interactions.

I tested the diet consisting of whole-grain bread and water for 2 days in February of 2009 and for 7 days in November 2009. I worked as a laboratory scientist during the test on February 11–12. There was a noticeable increase in clumsiness and errors in laboratory work on the second day of the diet. There is a substantial slowing in social interactions and there is a feeling that you are sedated and can’t keep up with what’s going on around you. I was working at home on this book during the most recent experiment from October 29 to November 5, 2009. I was unable to insert references in the book as planned, but was able to read the text and make some edits. Sleep was normal and there was no change in mood or anxiety level. Contrary to my expectations, I did not observe any negative physical symptoms.

The bread-and-water diet did not cause sugar cravings that I had after several days of the diet that consisted of boiled grains (see above). The bread-and-water diet does not have direct effects on mood or anxiety level under conditions when the person does not have to work or interact with other people. Nonetheless, it is possible that this diet may worsen mood or increase anxiety indirectly, via increased clumsiness and errors at work and difficulty with social interactions. At the end of the seven days of this diet, I attended a family event; I was slow, quiet, and taciturn as though I was sedated. Nonetheless, I felt well physically at the end of this experiment.

The bread-and-sugar diet consists of whole-grain bread and water solution of sucrose, approximately 2.5 grams of sucrose per kilogram of body weight per day. I tested this diet for 2 days in March 2009 and, most recently, for 4 days (July 27–31, 2009). This was the maximum dose of sucrose that I could force myself to consume. During the 2-day test on March 12 and 13, I was working as a laboratory scientist. Work productivity and activity level declined, social interactions were awkward, and there was a general tendency toward taciturnity. There was an increase in clumsiness on day 2 (increased number of errors in manual laboratory work). Later, during the 4-day test in July, I was working on this book and spent most of the time in solitude. There were no noticeable adverse effects during the first 24 hours except that I was unable to write anything until the end of this 4-day test. On day 2, there was moderate chest pain in the area of the heart and sleep pattern started to shift later into the night. On day 3, there was mild headache and moderate heartburn as well as insomnia; I slept about 4 hours on night 3. On night 4, I slept about 2 hours in the morning, and the insomnia was uncomfortable. The next day, I did not feel sleepy and felt well physically, but there was a weird feeling that the world around me was unreal (derealization). This feeling persisted throughout the day and was uncomfortable, although mood was normal and there was no anxiety. My abdomen increased in size, possibly because of slower than usual passage of food through the digestive tract. I decided to abort the bread-and-sugar diet after about 96 hours in the evening of July 31. All symptoms disappeared within one or two days after I switched to the modified high-protein diet. Because I was unable to get any work done during those 4 days, I spent most of the time chatting on the Internet, watching DVDs of my favorite TV shows with occasional walking outdoors. I can conclude that the bread-and-sugar diet impairs mental abilities. In addition, this diet may induce some psychotic symptoms (derealization). Some statistical studies show that schizophrenic patients tend to have poor dietary habits and are more likely to eat a diet that consists of junk food compared to the general population [282, 945, 990, 1125].

The above experiments suggest that sucrose and bread can worsen mental abilities without causing noticeable problems with physical health. This impairment can manifest itself as increased clumsiness and increased amount of errors in job- or school-related tasks. (A recent statistical study shows a correlation between consumption of junk food and an increased amount of errors and injuries [998].) My experiments also suggest that raw and boiled grains are healthy foods that do not impair mental abilities, although boiled grains appear to have a mild sedative effect. The summary of the findings is as follows. The diet of baked grains (bread) has metabolic effects that are different from those of a boiled grain diet. The bread-and-water diet will increase errors, cause substantial sedation, and will not cause sugar cravings. The boiled grain diet will not increase errors, but will cause sugar cravings and milder sedation. Addition of sucrose to the bread-and-water diet causes sleep disturbances [985] and further impairment of thinking, such as psychotic symptoms. None of these diets has direct biological effects on mood or anxiety level.

It is possible that the observed deterioration of intelligence on the bread-and-sugar diet is due to the “nocebo effect,” i.e., negative self-suggestion. On the other hand, I expected this diet to worsen mood or increase anxiety. This negative effect did not happen under the conditions when the person does not have to work or interact with other people. (The depressant diet described in Chapter Four lowers mood and increases emotional tension under these conditions.) I also expected the bread-and-water diet to cause some physical symptoms, yet I observed no negative effects on physical health after seven days of this diet. These observations suggest that the negative effects on mental abilities are real and not the result of the nocebo effect.

Those readers who wish to test my claims in volunteer studies may consider testing the following diets in parallel (for seven days or longer):

  1. bread-and-sugar diet;

  2. bread and fruit juice diet;

  3. the diet of boiled whole grains and fruit juice;

  4. modified high-protein diet (Chapter Three).

The cognitive tests should involve complex questions and calculations in order to detect differences in the amount of errors. These should be tests of fluid intelligence that do not require advanced knowledge (crystallized intelligence). Simple mental tasks will not be suitable for this purpose. Interested researchers can also test the above diets on people whose occupation requires unusual precision and motor coordination, such as golf or baseball players.

Key points

The “no-diet approach,” or food restriction without adhering to any strict diet

Caloric restriction or food restriction is a sustained reduction of the food intake by about 15 to 30% in laboratory animals, compared to their usual food consumption to full satiety. A typical caloric restriction regimen provides normal amounts of protein and vitamins but reduces the amount of calories at the expense of dietary carbohydrates and fat. Numerous experiments have shown that caloric restriction has a number of beneficial effects on health of laboratory animals. For example, caloric restriction can extend lifespan, prevent or delay cancer and neurodegenerative diseases, and enhance the immune system. It is not known if caloric restriction has similar beneficial effects on humans, although it is likely to prevent or reduce obesity. In a recent study, researchers subjected monkeys to 30% caloric restriction for most of their adult lifespan. The study showed that the incidence of diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and brain atrophy decreased, compared to the control group of animals [283]. Twenty years after the onset of the caloric restriction regimen, 80% of the food-restricted monkeys survived. Only 50% of control monkeys (normal feeding) were still alive at that time point. These data suggest that caloric restriction can extend the lifespan of primates and possibly humans as well. On the other hand, the most recent study of caloric restriction in monkeys shows that this regimen does not extend their lifespan [1005]. The diet in the latest study was healthier than the diet in the earlier study. Thus, it is possible that a healthy diet extends the lifespan of monkeys and caloric restriction provides little or no further benefit.

Researchers in the field of caloric restriction believe that caloric restriction is difficult to achieve in a sustained manner in free-living humans [284]. This is because in free-living humans, a period of self-imposed dietary restrictions leads to a period of overeating, in most cases. There is some evidence from laboratory animals and from human studies that individuals who undergo 20–30% caloric restriction feel hungry most of the time. These problems prompted some investigators to search for pharmacological agents or other physiological treatments that mimic caloric restriction in free-living humans [284]. There is an organization, the Calorie Restriction Society, that conducts research on the effects of long-term caloric restriction in humans and it is recruiting volunteers. The readers who are interested in this topic can find more information on their website.

This section describes some techniques that are useful for controlling appetite. You can use these techniques for restricting the amount of calories or for reducing the amount of junk food in your diet. For example, overly tasty food causes overeating and weight gain in laboratory animals [285]. Tasty junk food in all likelihood causes overconsumption of calories in humans as well. The techniques presented below can prevent overeating of palatable food. I don’t know whether these methods can help to lose weight; however, it is conceivable that they can maintain weight loss that you have achieved by other means.

Some studies show that it is possible to reduce the amount of food necessary to achieve satiety by prolonging the chewing process [286, 986]. These observations led me to do some experimentation and I found that the following principles may reduce the total food intake, perhaps, by 10 to 20% (unpublished personal observations):

a) Extend chewing of solid and semisolid food (60 to 70 times for each bite). It is possible to extend the chewing time further, but if you overdo it, the long chewing time may soon become inconvenient and therefore unsustainable, leading to cycles of restriction and binging. The key is consistency, with the chewing time being not too long and not too short. This approach will increase the duration or frequency of meals, which is a drawback of this method.
b) Chewing should not be hasty; the speed of chewing should be slow to average. Slow down and relax when you sit down to eat. Make it a habit to never chew hastily.
c) Do not mix any type of solid food with drinks during chewing (people tend to swallow moist food without chewing). This principle will make it easier for you to chew solid food thoroughly. You can consume drinks after you have chewed and swallowed the solid food. For example, if you are used to eating cookies with milk or hamburgers with soft drinks, try separating consumption of solid foods and consumption of drinks. You will see that instead of wolfing down two hamburgers at one sitting, you will eat only one hamburger and feel full. You also will enjoy the meal for the same duration of time.
d) Always make normal-sized bites of any solid or semisolid food and avoid stuffing your mouth. Stuffing the mouth results in violation of principle “c,” which leads to violation of principle “a.”

The precise magnitude of the food restriction that you can achieve with this approach is unknown and further research is needed. You can use this food restriction method with any diet and when you are not dieting. You need to apply the four principles outlined above to all types of food.

There is another variation of this approach, where you chew healthy food in your usual manner, but you apply the extended chewing to unhealthy food (junk food). In this case, you can extend the chewing of junk food to >200 times each bite. You can apply the latter alternative approach to official food pyramids, and it can help you to reduce consumption of foods at the top of the pyramid (which you should avoid or consume sparingly). This method helped me to cut my consumption of junk food by about fivefold in the long run and is useful during holidays when there is plenty of palatable food. Gluttony seems inevitable for most people during holidays, especially for those who are on some kind of a diet most of the time. The above-mentioned four principles can allow you to eat everything and adhere to a healthy diet at the same time. You will be able to enjoy small amounts of junk food occasionally, keep your appetite under control, and not feel guilty about your transgressions.

Some Eastern health systems, such as yoga, contain similar principles. People with eating disorders also employ a similar approach, which consists of chewing and spitting out large amounts of food without swallowing. Readers need to familiarize themselves with common eating disorders (type “eating disorder” into your search engine) and be careful not to fall into this trap. If you suspect that you may have an eating disorder, it is best to seek professional help immediately.

When you are restricting your food intake using the proposed approach, it is best to follow a conventional food pyramid, such as Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate, without strict dieting. Self-experimentation suggests that the subjective benefits of the proposed food restriction regimen are the following:

There is another food restriction approach that seems to facilitate social interaction but may worsen reading and writing performance. Skipping breakfast daily or every other day can make you more sociable and talkative, in other words, a less boring person. It may also improve your understanding of lectures in the morning, if you are a student. In my experience, listening to lectures and taking notes during lectures do not require significant mental concentration. But skipping breakfast will reduce your work capacity if you have to perform heavy manual labor or some reading or writing tasks in the morning. Some studies showed that skipping breakfast can impair performance of school-related tasks in children [287]. Other studies demonstrated that skipping breakfast can have beneficial effects on some mental abilities (reviewed in [872, 999]). In my view, a good alternative to skipping breakfast is breakfast that consists of fruits and vegetables (a protein-free and fat-free breakfast). This method has similar effects, in my experience. Keep in mind that you can use the above-mentioned chewing techniques to prevent compensatory overeating at lunch and at dinner.

I sometimes have high-protein breakfast and skip lunch at work, the habit that I developed since I started experimenting with various “strange diets” many years ago. This approach can be useful when you need 100% compliance with a diet and the food available for lunch at work does not meet the criteria of your diet. Skipping lunch is not necessary with most of the “smart diets” because you can bring normal-looking meals from home to work and eat them in the company of other people.

Skipping breakfast and occasional skipping of both breakfast and lunch can be beneficial (it may reduce fatigue and apathy and improve mental clarity). Yet fasting for longer periods, greater than 36–48 hours, has negative effects on health. Caloric restriction without fasting has beneficial effects on health, but fasting longer than a couple of days has several adverse effects. In particular, it leads to a loss of productivity, suppresses the immune system [288], and can accelerate growth of tumors [289]. Intermittent fasting (eating every other day) has almost the same beneficial effects on physical health as caloric restriction [290]. Yet intermittent fasting has negative effects on mental health: test subjects reported being irritable or cranky on fasting days [291]. On the other hand, two days of caloric restriction did not have detectable effects on mental abilities and mental state according to one study [292]. Another study reported improvement of memory in elderly people as a result of caloric restriction [293].

In conclusion, skipping breakfast and moderate food restriction without malnutrition [287] can have beneficial effects on some mental abilities, but may reduce the capacity for some types of work. The weight of available scientific evidence suggests that prolonged fasting has negative effects on health.

Key points

Potential adverse effects

In addition to the possible adverse effects listed in the description of each diet above, there are some undesirable effects that are common to most of the diets described in this chapter. (Readers can skip the detailed discussion of this topic and jump to the key points: press this link.) First, some of these diets can be considered “strange diets” and strict compliance with these dietary changes for an extend period of time may cause some problems in your relations with other people. These diets can affect your relations with your family, friends, or with colleagues at work. The modified high-protein diet and the depressant diet are an exception because they include meals that look “normal” and socially acceptable in most situations. For example, a meal can consist of cooked vegetables with cooked meat and fruit juice mixed with wheat extract (Appendix I). Of course, what is “normal” varies among different cultures. You will do well to behave within the acceptable norms in a given social context.

Second, many of the diets proposed in this chapter lack culinary finesse and some people may find this food bland. In actuality, the taste may seem unusual at first try, but after several days, it can become enjoyable, especially if you observe beneficial effects on your mental abilities. For example, the antidepressant diet consists of low-fat milk, unprocessed unsalted cheese, water extract of wheat and fruits with vegetables without any seasonings. Although these foods are not gourmet fare, they have a pleasant taste and it is feasible to spend several days on this diet. In the case of the modified high-protein diet, a great variety of delicious recipes are possible, and you can copy many of them from the Paleolithic diet or the Atkins diet with some modifications. You can find some recipes in Appendix I. If you decide to give these diets a try, the expected change is from “overly tasty” to “just tasty,” rather than from tasty to bland.

Third, radical dietary changes can cause character changes, based on my personal experience. Some of the character changes are positive, but other changes may appear to be undesirable. In particular, the person may become less talkative in some situations and more talkative in others. My advice is to ignore these changes and act naturally; you should not feel compelled to keep talking in any situation, except when your job requires it. The change that is common to all of the above diets is reduced emotionality. By emotionality here I mean what psychologists call “trait neuroticism.” The person may become less prone to vivid displays of both positive and negative emotions. This change does not mean that the person will experience fewer emotions; it means that the person will be less likely to display strong emotions. The outward manifestations of some emotions may become subtler. With respect to internal feelings, the strength and amount of negative emotions such as anger, sadness, resentment, and hostility will decrease. Regarding positive emotions, some may increase, but others may decrease. For example, the amount of laughter may decrease. The person may feel happy but laugh less than usual. Some people may interpret the reduced manifestation of positive emotions as being “less happy.” Yet the reduced amount of personal problems and improvement of internal mood will result in “more happiness,” not less. Another positive change characteristic of the “smart diets” is that it becomes easy for you to crack jokes and make people laugh. These diets, especially the fruit-and-vegetable diet, can sharpen your wit. On the other hand, it will become much harder for other people to make you laugh. It is possible that increased mental clarity leads to a more refined sense of humor, such that most types of comedy will seem silly and unfunny.

People with a history of bipolar disorder should be careful with the antidepressant diet and the modified high-protein diet because these diets carry a small risk of hypomania. Please note that I am the only test subject who tested the antidepressant diet and I have never had a diagnosis of a mood disorder. Therefore, it is unknown if the antidepressant diet is effective in depressed patients.

Another possible change that may seem undesirable is a loss of interest in some activities that you previously enjoyed. There is a simultaneous gain of interest in other activities. Put another way, the interests and priorities can change, and this switch may be a good thing. In any case, you need to know what to expect. In addition, the antidepressant diet and the fruit-and-vegetable diet may increase sweating. All of the “smart diets” presented here are elimination diets because they allow a small number of food products. In patients with food allergies, elimination diets can result in the development of hypersensitivity to offending food products. Finally, high-protein diets can cause constipation or hard stool, especially at the extremes of age (more details in Chapter Three). It also bears repeating that people who have a chronic medical condition or are taking medication should consult a qualified healthcare professional before attempting any of the lifestyle changes described in this book.

Key points

Summary of Chapter One

In addition to the intelligence measured by IQ, also known as academic intelligence, there are two other major types of intelligence: emotional intelligence and social intelligence. Each of these three types of intelligence consists of two components: fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence. Fluid intelligence reflects how well the brain works regardless of knowledge, whereas crystallized intelligence is a measure of accumulated knowledge and skills. An alternative definition of fluid intelligence is the ability to understand and solve novel problems. A related concept, mental clarity is a measure of how well the brain performs various kinds of tasks, regardless of knowledge. This text defines “mental clarity” as the sum of fluid dimensions of academic, emotional, and social intelligence.

A number of studies have shown that consumption of artificial ingredients, such as various food additives (refined sugar, food coloring, nitrites, nitrates, and others), in high doses can have negative effects on mental abilities. Other studies have shown that cooking of animal products (meat and fish) at high temperatures leads to the formation of mutagenic chemicals. These chemicals can have adverse effects on physical and mental health, when taken in high doses. The same is true of chemicals formed by cooking of some plant products (grains) at high temperatures. Some of the above chemicals can have noticeable negative effects at doses present in food. In theory, a “natural diet,” which consists of raw food only and is free of any artificial ingredients, should have none of these negative effects. Some researchers have shown that children who consumed their mother’s milk (natural food) during infancy have an IQ about 5 points higher than children who subsisted on a baby formula (unnatural food).

Based on these observations, this book proposes the natural nutrition theory of intelligence (abbreviated as “natural intelligence theory”). This theory suggests that a raw diet, which is free of any artificial chemicals, will improve mental clarity. One implication of the theory is that a similar but safe diet should also improve intelligence. This is because those diets are similar to the diet of primates in the wild or to the diet of evolutionary predecessors of humans (the ancestral diet). Free-living primates do not consume any food additives and do not cook their food. This was also the case for evolutionary predecessors of humans before the mastery of cooking with fire approximately 300,000 years ago. The modern diet of humans for the most part consists of cooked and processed food supplemented with numerous chemicals. The natural intelligence theory suggests that the modern human diet has negative effects on mental abilities. This is because humans did not have sufficient evolutionary time to adapt to this diet through natural selection.

There are several limitations to the natural intelligence theory. Humans may have adapted to cooked food, at least partially, during the last 300,000 years of evolution. It is impossible to determine precisely what a natural diet for modern humans is. On the other hand, numerous synthetic chemicals (food additives) entered the human diet only a few centuries ago. Therefore, the additive-laden diet may still be “unnatural” for the majority of the population. Another limitation of the theory is that raw meat and fish can contain pathogens that cause infectious diseases, but there are safe and socially acceptable raw animal foods, such as eggs, tail fat, scallops, and dairy.

Nonetheless, it is possible to design balanced diets that are both safe and similar to the ancestral diet. One example is a diet that excludes all artificial ingredients and consists of fruits, vegetables, water extract of grains, low-fat milk, and unprocessed unsalted cheese. For convenience, I call it the “antidepressant diet.” Practical testing suggests that this diet improves intelligence in much the same way as the ancestral diet consisting of raw fruits, vegetables, meat, and fish. Cooking of fruits and vegetables at moderate temperatures (by boiling or steaming) does not make any appreciable difference, and neither does pasteurization of dairy products. Addition of meat and fish cooked at moderate temperatures and nuts to the antidepressant diet will not worsen mental abilities on one condition. The amount of cooked flesh should not exceed the amount of dairy by weight. It is also possible to improve mental clarity by restricting the amount of food you consume, without adhering to a strict diet.

The proposed dietary changes can have side effects, such as character changes.
[Next Chapter Summary]

CHAPTER 2: Sleep management


Sedative and sleep-promoting effects of heat

Warm environment and moderately hot baths or showers

The mild sedative properties of cooked grains

Stimulant and wakefulness-promoting effects of brief moderate cooling

Adapted cold showers

Can a cold shower cause a cold or the flu?

Potential adverse effects

Summary of Chapter Two

Sedative and sleep-promoting effects of heat

This chapter describes several nonpharmacological treatments that can help a student or a knowledge worker to manage their sleep pattern. Please note that you shouldn’t skip a night’s sleep to cram for an exam or meet a report deadline. Chapter Five discusses procrastination and ways to reduce it to avoid such situations. Occasionally, however, shift work or unexpected circumstances may force you to stay up all night. Thus, you may need some techniques for staying awake and then for restoring a normal sleep pattern. Besides, if somebody promised to help improve your mental abilities, their advice would be useless if you couldn’t control sleep and wakefulness. In this chapter, we will talk about sedative (sleep-promoting) treatments first, and then about approaches to improving wakefulness.

One simple way to improve sleep is moderate heating of the body. One study on patients with dementia showed that immersion in hot water at 40°C (104°F) for 30 minutes starting 2 hours before bedtime improved their sleep [341]. In this experiment they immersed themselves in water to midchest level, but another study showed that heating of feet alone can facilitate falling asleep [342]. Healthy women used three conditions: a hot bath, a hot footbath, and no treatment (control). The hot bath consisted of immersion to midchest level in hot water at 40°C (104°F) for 20 minutes, starting at 10:10 PM. The hot footbath involved immersing the legs to the knees in hot water (42°C) for 30 minutes, starting at 10:10 PM. The test subjects in both experimental groups fell asleep faster and reported better quality of sleep the next morning compared to the control group of women. Additionally, studies show that placing animals in a warm environment for several weeks increases the amount of time they spend sleeping [343]. Even brief exposure of laboratory animals to heat can promote sleep [344346]. Excessive heat, however, has the opposite effect [347]. Sleep disturbances in humans correlate with hot weather (heat waves). A research team in the Netherlands has conducted a lot of studies on the effects on sleep of various ways of heating and cooling the body [348]. Continuous warming of the skin throughout the night by about 0.5°C (~1°F) using a special thermosuit was effective in facilitating falling asleep and improving various characteristics of sleep [349, 350]. The researchers observed this effect both in healthy subjects and in patients with insomnia [351]. Mild warming of the skin that excluded the head, hands, and feet had the most pronounced sleep-promoting effect.

If moderate heating of the body promotes sleep, then it should slow down mental processes. One study investigated the effects on mental abilities of a brief exposure to heat (in a hot environment). This treatment slowed reflexes, impaired performance of some mental tasks, and increased fatigue temporarily [352]. These data are in line with the results of another group of investigators who have shown that heat reduces information processing speed in soccer players [924]. All of the above studies suggest that moderate heating of the body shares some physiological effects with sedative drugs such as benzodiazepines (Valium®): they can improve sleep and slow down mental processes. One study shows that during a heat wave, doctors see fewer patients with complaints of anxiety [353]. Several other studies report that heating or warming of the body reduces anxiety [817, 818, 894]. The possible mechanism of the sedative effect of heat may involve increased levels of two sedative chemicals, serotonin and GABA, in the brain.M These biological effects suggest that this treatment should be beneficial in some anxiety disorders,M although nobody has tested this idea in clinical trials, as far as I know. Because of the effects on brain serotonin, repeated daily heating of the body in hot baths or showers may also be beneficial in some depressive disorders.M Immersion in hot water raises the blood level of prolactin [354], a hormone that can serve as an indicator of serotonin activity in the brain [355]. One report indeed showed that repeated heating reduced depressive symptoms in a group of cancer patients [356].

In conclusion, significant heating of the body that raises core body temperature by several degrees Centigrade (the condition known as hyperthermia) is not necessary for improvement of sleep. Moderate surface heating will do the job. Moderate heating is also much safer than treatments that cause hyperthermia.

Key points

Warm environment and moderately hot baths or showers

Warning: Heating the body can adversely interact with some medications and can have adverse effects in some medical conditions, including but not limited to headache, hypotension, inflammatory conditions, and fever. Heat should not be combined with the following medications or substances: alcohol, alpha-andrenergics, amphetamines, anticholinergics, antihistamines, benzodiazepines, beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, cocaine, diuretics, laxatives, neuroleptics, phenothiazines, thyroid agonists, and tricyclic antidepressants. If you are taking any medication or have a chronic medical condition, you need to consult with your doctor before using hot hydrotherapy. Do not drive or operate machinery after heat-based treatments because they can increase fatigue and slow down mental processes.

Heating the body may be useful for students or knowledge workers who have trouble falling asleep after a disruption, such as jetlag or cramming all night before an exam. There are three convenient ways of heating the body: a warm environment, moderately hot baths, and hot showers that exclude the head. You can use one of these procedures before going to bed (at night). If you use hot hydrotherapy in the morning or in the afternoon, it can disrupt your usual sleep pattern. For example, it can make you sleepy in the afternoon, and if you take an afternoon nap, you may not be able to fall asleep at your usual time at night.

If you have your own room, you can create a warm or moderately hot environment by means of a heater with a built-in fan, or you can use a heater and a separate fan. Depending on the output of your heater, you can increase the air temperature in your room by one to three degrees Centigrade (2 to 6°F) within 20 or 30 minutes. You can start heating the room about 2 hours before going to bed. If you stay in this warm environment during this time, you will start feeling sleepy, and this effect will help you fall asleep. You can either turn off the heater and fan when you go to bed or turn down the output and go to sleep with the heater on. You may need to experiment with different parameters of the above procedure to find the conditions that work best for you. The most effective temperature for me is 29°C (84°F) and I can have this air temperature the whole night, although it’s not necessary. I do not use sleep-promoting treatments on a regular basis. But when I have trouble falling asleep, I use one of the warming approaches proposed in this section. An additional layer of clothing (sweater and warm pants) improves heating of the body. Changing the way you dress (or the thickness of your blanket) when you go to sleep is trickier. If you dress too warmly, you may wake up in the middle of the night because you are too hot. An uncomfortably hot environment disrupts sleep, whereas a moderately hot or warm environment tends to promote it. Another effect of a hot environment is the lowering of mood [352, 651]. You may start feeling fatigued, apathetic, and pessimistic under these conditions, especially if you put on an extra layer of clothing. This approach may serve as an antimanic (mood-stabilizing) treatment, and clinical research is needed in this area.

If you can afford a hot tub with automatic regulation of temperature, this is the easiest type of hydrotherapy to help you relax and fall asleep. In a hot tub you can set water temperature to 38–39 degrees Celsius (100.5 to 102°F), turn on the bubbles or jet streams, and sit for 10 to 30 minutes. If you do not have a jacuzzi or hot tub, you can fill your bathtub with hot water at the above temperature. You need a thermometer designed for measuring temperature of liquids (not an air thermometer). Immerse yourself in the hot water up to the neck or midchest level and relax for 10 to 15 minutes. You can turn on the radio or put on some relaxing music to make the procedure less boring. The water temperature will drop by about one to two degrees Celsius (2 to 4°F) in 15 minutes. If you want to enjoy the hot bath longer, drain about one-fourth of the volume of water and refill with hot water. Stir the water and make sure the temperature is around 38 to 39 degrees Celsius (100.5 to 102°F). You can then use the hot bath for another 10 to 15 minutes.

If you do not have a jacuzzi and your bathtub is small and shallow, try a moderately hot shower. Set the temperature of water as above and take a shower without wetting your head. Heating the head is not safe and is, in fact, unpleasant. The duration of the hot shower can be 5 to 20 minutes. Again, turn on the radio or put on music if you like. If water pressure in your plumbing varies (you can sense fluctuations in water temperature during the shower), then either avoid hot showers or exercise caution. If water temperature jumps, you can scald yourself. In general, I do not recommend hot showers on a regular basis because they tend to promote swelling of veins in the legs (which probably may lead to varicose veins). Use a hot bath instead, where your body is in an almost horizontal position.

Any one of the following signs can serve as a signal that the session of hot hydrotherapy has sedated you and you can stop it:

Your core body temperature should not increase by more than 0.5°C (1°F) as a result of the warming procedures described above. If you overheat yourself and your core body temperature rises above 38°C (100.4°F), this change may disrupt sleep. The recommended time of day to start a hot hydrotherapy session is 30 to 60 minutes before going to bed. It is important that the air temperature in your home be comfortable or neutral because an uncomfortable hot environment will disrupt sleep. After a session of hot hydrotherapy you will need a comfortable, thermoneutral environment so your body can cool. Unlike the hot environment approach, which lowers mood, hot showers and hot baths tend to cause pleasant feelings or mild euphoria during the first few minutes of the procedure. After that, the mood gets back to normal and may decline further if core body temperature rises above 38°C (100.5°F). In addition, hot hydrotherapy can reduce physical pain [412], although cold hydrotherapy (described later in this chapter) is a more effective pain-reducing treatment. This is because heat tends to promote inflammation, which is a common underlying cause of pain. Both hot hydrotherapy and a hot environment reduce appetite. Another useful effect of body heating is normalization of blood pressure. Hot showers and sauna reduce blood pressure when it is elevated [979981], but do not change normal blood pressure [982]. Even simple immersion in tepid water up to the neck reduces blood pressure [730] because of the so-called diving reflex.

Keep in mind that hot hydrotherapy can produce a psychostimulant effect 3 to 4 hours after the procedure. During the first one to two hours after the procedure, you will feel tired, relaxed, or sleepy. When these effects wear off, you may swing in the opposite direction: elevated mood, increased wakefulness, or increased activity. So, it’s a good idea to use hot hydrotherapy before bed. The warm environment approach does not cause swings in activity level. If I take a hot bath and follow this by the hot environment approach, the rebound of the activity level does not occur either. This combined method causes lethargy and works as a strong sedative [820]. Therefore, you should avoid this combination or use it as a treatment of last resort. You are not letting your body cool off after hot hydrotherapy and this increases the risk of heat-related illnesses [654, 655]. In my experience, combination of a warming procedure at night with a sedative diet is more effective at normalizing sleep than either treatment alone. The next section introduces a sedative diet.

Key points

The mild sedative properties of cooked grains

Before we talk about cereal grains, you should know that there is a well-known, cheap, safe, and effective herbal remedy for insomnia: the valerian root. I find it highly effective and reliable as do hundreds of millions of people. Try it first. Don't believe anyone who tells you that valerian does not work or is unproven as a sedative because these are probably pharmaceutical shills. Studies that show that valerian "does not work" are a classic example of fake science. You will need to find a dose that is effective for you. It is recommended to take valerian three or four times a day, you can safely increase the recommended dose up to fivefold [1146], and you can combine it with other sedative herbs (motherwort, lavender, hops, oregano, and peppermint). In my experience, the most potent sedative remedy is Sedative Mix No. 10 from a company called Travy Kavkaza (Травы Кавказа, Russia). If you wish to prepare it yourself, here is the recipe: oregano (Origanum vulgare) grass, thyme (Thymus serpylium) grass, motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) grass, lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) grass, Jacob's ladder (Polemonium coeruleum) root, peppermint (Mentha piperita) leaves, hops (Humulus lupulus) cones, hawthorn (Crataegus oxyacantha) flowers, guelder rose (Viburnum opulus) fruits, chicory (Cichorium intybus) root, meadowsweet (Spiraea filipendula) grass, aralia (Aralia racemosa) root, valerian (Valeriana officinalis) root, and geranium (Geranium sylvaticum) grass. I turn this dry mixture into powder in a blender and take it raw (by adding to a smoothie) at a dose of 80 mg twice a day. This is an average dose for daily use (160 mg) for a person weighing 75 kg (my height is 183 cm if you must know), whereas 120 mg × 2 times a day is a strong dose, which can be increased if necessary. A less potent herbal mixture at the same doses is oregano (Origanum vulgare) grass, motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) grass, peppermint (Mentha piperita) leaves, hops (Humulus lupulus) cones, valerian (Valeriana officinalis) root, and lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) flowers; the everyday dose for me is 120 mg twice a day (240 mg total per day). At higher doses, I don't feel well. Note that there are no herbs that will sedate or put you to sleep right away. The sedative effect will manifest itself after several days of daily dosing several times a day. Keep in mind that if you have chronic sleep problems, this means that there is something wrong with your lifestyle, and you need to comprehensively revise it (see Appendix VII).

Increased consumption of cooked whole grains also can promote sleep. Some studies show that high-carbohydrate meals have sedative effects (reviewed in [872]). My self-experimentation suggests that a diet consisting only of boiled whole grains can cause a noticeable slowing of behavior and improve sleep. In other words, consumption of significant amounts of boiled grains can serve as a sleeping aid. Even a single large meal of boiled whole grains can help me fall asleep. At present, there is not a good explanation of the biological mechanism of this effect. I tested many different high-carbohydrate foods, and cooked grains are one of the few that work as an effective sedative. Fruits and boiled potatoes, for example, have no sedative properties. Boiled grains contain small amounts of Maillard reaction products [212214], which are chemicals formed by a chemical reaction between proteins and carbohydrates at high temperatures. We talked about this stuff in detail in Chapter One. Some Maillard reaction products, such as acrylamide, share several biological effects with sedative drugs (e.g., benzodiazepines). Acrylamide can reduce activity levels and cause temporary impairment of learning and memory in experimental animals [231233], effects that are characteristic of benzodiazepines, such as Valium® or Xanax®. These effects manifest themselves at high doses of acrylamide (more than 10 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day), whereas this chemical is undetectable in boiled grains [215, 225]. Other Maillard reaction products may be present in boiled grains at detectable levels [212214, 217219], but their effects on the central nervous system are unknown. Thus, there is not a good explanation of the observed sedative effect of boiled grains.

In my experience, raw grains, such as soaked oats or a raw water extract of wheat, do not have this sedative effect and may have the opposite, wakefulness-promoting effect. These observations suggest that cooking grains leads to the formation of certain chemicals with sedative–hypnotic effects. Acrylamide is one possible candidate, but there may be others (my best efforts at searching biomedical literature have yielded only acrylamide so far). But the amounts of acrylamide present in grains cooked at moderate temperatures (for example, by boiling) are undetectable and do not pose a risk to health. In contrast, bread, which bakeries make by baking dough at high temperatures, contains significant but safe amounts of acrylamide (Chapter One, Table 2). Just like boiled grains, bread improves sleep. But it also can cause a subtle impairment of mental abilities, such as increased clumsiness and an increased amount of errors at work (based on my personal experience). It may also have negative effects on physical health according to some experiments on laboratory animals. Adding bread crusts in amounts that make up 5 to 25% of the diet of laboratory rats can cause kidney damage and weight gain [236].

My longest experiment with a bread-and-water diet was seven days, as described in Chapter One. Compared to the diet of boiled grains, the bread-and-water diet causes heavier sedation and impairs some mental abilities, although this diet also improves sleep. If boiled grains can’t help you fall asleep, you can eat whole-grain bread, which is a stronger sedative. Read the label with ingredients carefully. Bread should not contain vegetable oil or milk. Healthy whole-grain bread contains only salt, grains, yeast, and grain components, such as flour or bran.

In summary, if you have trouble falling asleep after disrupting your sleep pattern with work-related activities, you may consider switching to a diet consisting of boiled or steamed whole grains (for example, shredded wheat, brown rice, oats, buckwheat, and others). This diet should not contain any artificial ingredients (food additives, dietary supplements, and seasonings). A stronger version is the diet consisting of whole-grain bread and water only. If you are taking medication for any chronic medical condition, do not stop taking the medication. You can also try the depressant diet (Chapter Four), which can improve sleep as well. Use one of these diets for several days until sleep becomes normal.

I had sleep problems in the distant past, but at the time I was unaware of the approaches proposed in this chapter. Nowadays I sometimes have insomnia resulting from travel or daily cold showers. In these situations the proposed sleep-promoting treatments—a sedative diet and hot hydrotherapy—are effective. You do not need to use any of these treatments in the absence of sleep problems.

In conclusion, there are at least seven sedative nonpharmacological methods that you can use simultaneously to normalize your sleep, and the combination should be more effective than each treatment alone: 1) a sedative diet for several days [whole-grain bread and water or a depressant diet: three types are described in this book, see Chapter Four], 2) a moderately hot environment, 3) a hot bath or shower, 4) breath-holding exercises every evening, 5) excessive physical exercise 6 days a week, 6) complete colon cleansing followed by a course a good multi-probiotic, and 7) avoid coffee, tea, and caffeinated soft drinks. Note that many other products contain caffeine, for example, anything containing cacao (the main ingredient of chocolate). If you consume these foods in the evening, then it's no surprise that you have difficulty falling asleep. You can also try cognitive-behavioral therapy online. Points ## 4–6 are described in detail below.

Breath-holding exercise. Two to three breath-holds (30–60 seconds) with an interval of about 5 minutes. These sessions can be repeated once a day, when sedation is needed (once a week otherwise). This is an exercise for the brain and is known to have strong effects on the brain, for example, this method can cause a panic attack in patients with a diagnosis of anxiety. This treatment seems to have a sedative effect and if I do it every day, then I start feeling depressed.

Excessive amounts of physical exercise: they will keep you fatigued and sedated. (Small or moderate amounts of exercise will have the opposite effect.) A stationary bicycle in your home is the easiest form of exercise. You can do a 30- to 60-minute workout 6 days a week as follows: Turn on a TV or a radio or put on some music. Do 10 minutes of normal-intensity cycling followed by (optional) 15 seconds of maximal-speed cycling. Next, do 20–30 sit-ups. Then do 10 minutes of normal-intensity cycling and another 20–30 sit-ups. Add another one or two repetitions if necessary. Take a shower. All done.

Complete colon cleansing has a nice effect on sleep: I do not have a good explanation but I have observed this effect after each procedure (and I have approximately 20 years of personal experience on this subject; interval: 2–12 months). The sleep is unusually restful and refreshing on the night after this procedure, even though the procedure itself has no immediate sedative effect. For details, see the end of Endnote B and Appendix VII (footnote 8). The multi-probiotic is necessary because colon cleansing will shift the composition of the intestinal microbiota, not necessarily in the right direction. I use Bio-Kult (called Bakset in Russia), one capsule with each meal for several days (the most effective approach is to dissolve the multiprobiotic in the water that is used for colon cleansing). In general, you can use complete colon cleansing once or twice a year.

The most effective and safest sedative measures that can be used daily is the ratio of muscle meat to animal fat (for example, tail fat or beef fat) 1:3, high consumption of eggs (boiled or raw), elevated air temperature, warmer clothes, and a horizontal position of your body. All other sedative methods are not recommended for daily use, you can add them when necessary. And of course it is very important to avoid all foods/methods that stimulate the central nervous system. See the table in Appendix VII (you can ignore weak effects).

Key points

Stimulant and wakefulness-promoting effects of brief moderate cooling

The two previous sections discussed treatments that can normalize a sleep pattern by inducing sleep when needed. A less obvious approach is to try to reduce sleepiness in the morning and afternoon. This method can swing the pendulum of the sleep–wake cycle in the direction of alertness when the time is right. Consequently, the pendulum will move in the direction of sleep by itself at the appropriate time. Exercise and coffee in the morning may serve this function, but another treatment may be more effective and convenient: moderate cooling of the body. One of the first reports about the effects of cooling on the mental state belongs to Scottish physician James Currie, who two centuries ago used immersion in cold water to treat fever. He noticed that cooling of the body can act as a central nervous system stimulant [357]. Stimulants, or, to be precise, psychostimulant drugs, increase activity and alertness and disrupt sleep. Psychostimulants have the effects that are opposite to those of sedative drugs, which reduce activity and promote sleep. Some psychostimulants, such as caffeine and modafinil, have little or no effect on mood, whereas others can cause euphoria. Most psychostimulant drugs are controlled substances and their use without prescription is illegal in most countries. Coffee, which contains caffeine, is a mild and legal stimulant that you can use to improve your mental abilities. For example, some studies show that caffeine can improve sustained attention in healthy people [358], and readers know that caffeine increases alertness, or reduces drowsiness. In contrast to amphetaminelike stimulants, caffeine is not effective as a treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder [359]. Coffee carries a low but real risk of addiction. Large doses, when taken daily, can cause symptoms of anxiety, sleep disturbances and, in rare cases, psychotic symptoms [360]. Therefore, you need to exercise caution and moderation with this popular drink. (My advice is to exclude coffee from your day-to-day diet and to drink it only on rare occasions, when necessary, in small doses.) Another “legal stimulant” is not a drug but a procedure that involves brief and moderate cooling of the body.

Cooling shares many physiological effects with psychostimulant drugs:

Most of these effects are temporary and disappear after you stop the cooling procedure. But the effect on alertness persists for several hours after the cooling, in my experience. There are some differences between cooling and psychostimulant drugs. Brief cooling does not change appetite, whereas many psychostimulants suppress appetite. There are no data in literature showing that cooling can cause addiction and psychotic symptoms. But psychostimulants can have these side effects when people use them without prescription and without a physician’s supervision. There are also differences in the effects that these treatments have on the brain.O Evidence exists to support the beneficial effects of moderate cooling on alertness, fatigue, and mood.

ALERTNESS. Several studies demonstrate a wakefulness-promoting effect. In one experiment [343] researchers placed rats in a cool environment, at an air temperature of 18°C (64°F), for four weeks. Researchers measured their total sleep time compared to control rats, who lived at 24°C (75°F). The total time the cooled rats spent sleeping decreased by one-third during the first two weeks of the experiment. The sleep time returned to normal by the end of the third week [343]. Although this study did not measure activity, other studies report that rats exhibit increased activity when placed in a cold environment [368]. These data suggest that cooling has a psychostimulant effect. In another experiment, eight patients with multiple sclerosis tested the effects of a special cooling suit on their quality of life. Among other improvements, all eight patients reported increased alertness [361]. In another study, a group of Canadian researchers investigated the effects of both moderate and significant cooling on various mental abilities of healthy test subjects [362]. The moderate cooling consisted of immersion in cold water at 8°C (46°F) up to the neck for a few minutes. Under these conditions, core body temperature does not change significantly, but skin temperature drops. The scientists achieved the significant cooling by extending the immersion period to 55–80 minutes. In this case, core body temperature dropped below 35°C (95°F): a medical condition known as hypothermia. The healthy test subjects reported increased alertness with moderate cooling, but not with hypothermia. Furthermore, moderate cooling did not affect performance of simple mental tasks but did improve performance of complex mental tasks compared to the control condition (no treatment) [362]. Hypothermia worsened performance of complex mental tasks.

Scientists in the Netherlands have reported that mild continuous cooling of the hands and feet by about 0.5°C (1°F) can reduce sleepiness in patients with narcolepsy [379]. Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness. In that experiment, such cooling of the largest area of the skin excluding the head, hands, and feet, was not effective at reducing abnormal sleepiness in the patients. A slight increase of core body temperature of the narcoleptic patients by means of hot food and drinks was effective at improving vigilance during repetitive tasks [379]. In the rats living in a cool environment in the above experiment, core body and brain temperature increased slightly [343]. Cold showers and immersion in cold water at 20°C can also increase core body temperature [378] by about 0.1 to 0.2°C (0.2 to 0.4°F), when the body temperature is normal. Wakefulness-promoting drugs also tend to cause a small increase in core body temperature [332]. To summarize these studies, surface cooling of the body can increase wakefulness. (Endnote P describes possible physiological mechanisms.)

FATIGUE. Some of the first studies of the effects of body cooling on fatigue appeared in the 1960s [363, 364]. One showed that exposure to cold air can reduce mental fatigue in children with or without physical exercise [363]. Another study, which assessed the effects of abdominal cold packs and cold showers on adults, concluded that these interventions can reduce fatigue [364]. A series of more recent studies, which included both healthy subjects and patients, revisited the effects of cooling on fatigue [361, 365, 366]. The observation that in some disorders (for example, multiple sclerosis) fatigue can increase in a warm environment [367] served as an impetus for some of these studies. These data led to the development of a cooling suit [380]. Two studies using a small number of multiple sclerosis patients (8 and 10 participants) showed that the cooling suit can reduce fatigue both in a warm and in a thermoneutral environment [361, 380]. The authors concluded that this treatment can improve quality of life of multiple sclerosis patients [361]. Several other studies investigated physiological effects of winter swimming, a practice widespread in Finland [365, 374, 375]. Winter swimming involves immersion in ice-cold water, 1–10°C (34 to 50°F), for several minutes. After participants in two Finnish studies reported reduced tiredness [374, 375], the authors set out to investigate the effects of winter swimming on general well-being, including fatigue [365]. In that report, a mixed group of volunteers, which consisted of healthy subjects and some patients with physical illnesses, used winter swimming 4 times a week for a total of 4 months. The study showed that winter swimming caused a significant reduction of fatigue compared to the control group (no treatment) [365]. The winter swimming group included patients with fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis, disorders often associated with chronic fatigue. Although this study did not report adverse effects of winter swimming among participants, you need to be extremely careful with this procedure. It can cause hypothermia and its associated adverse effects on health (detailed in the section “Potential adverse effects” below).

Several reports show that body cooling during exercise or between exercise bouts can improve athletic performance [366, 381383]. Moderate cooling of the body shares a number of biological effects with psychostimulant drugs. Therefore, it is no surprise that moderate cooling reduces fatigue because most psychostimulants do. (Endnote R discusses possible physiological mechanisms.)

MOOD. Some stimulants elevate mood in healthy people and this is also the case with moderate cooling. Several studies have demonstrated that brief cooling of the body improves mood in healthy people and in some groups of patients [365, 371376, 385, 387, 1124]. A study in 1983 showed that swimming in a pool can improve mood [371]. The temperature of water in a public swimming pool (27 to 29°C or 81 to 84°F [384]) is lower than normal body temperature. Thus, the modest cooling effect may have been responsible for the improvement of mood in swimmers. The authors concluded that the physical exercise associated with swimming (50 minutes per session) is responsible for the mood change [371]. A recent clinical trial in Iran showed that swimming in a pool has a weak-to-moderate antidepressant effect [385]. Several studies of winter swimmers [365] support this finding. Winter swimming does not involve significant amounts of physical exercise. It does, however, involve substantial cooling of the body because immersion in water colder than 16°C (61°F) can cause hypothermia (core body temperature of 35°C {95°F} or lower) in human subjects [386]. Two initial studies of winter swimmers in Finland focused on physiological changes caused by this practice and participants often reported improvement of mood and self-esteem after immersion in cold water [374, 375]. These observations prompted the authors to investigate the effects of winter swimming on mood. Their study showed that the participants’ scores on the “Profile of Mood States” questionnaire improved after four months of winter swimming four times a week [365]. The participants consisted of healthy subjects and some patients with physical illnesses (asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, hypertension, hypothyroidism, Parkinson’s disease, and fibromyalgia) and did not include patients with a diagnosis of depression [365]. Another study investigated the effect of a cooling suit on fatigue and quality of life in multiple sclerosis patients. The authors reported that 5 patients out of 8 experienced “feelings of well-being and happiness” after cooling and the other 3 participants had less irritation caused by fatigue [361]. A study at the National Institute of Mental Health investigated the effects of environmental temperature on the symptoms of several patients with summer seasonal depression [387]. These patients developed symptoms of depression every summer. One female patient, who tested cold showers several times a day during the summer, showed a dramatic improvement of depressive symptoms after 5 days of this regimen. After that, she discontinued cold showers for 9 days and had a complete relapse of depression [387].

To date there have been no statistically significant trials of cold-water treatments as a single therapy for depression. Nonetheless, a recent research paper out of Poland showed that the addition of cryotherapy to pharmacological treatments reduced depressive symptoms in a group of 26 patients with depressive and anxiety disorders [376]. Cryotherapy is brief cooling of the body by means of extremely cold air (minus 110–160°C or minus 170–250°F) in a special chamber [376]. Originally, researchers developed it for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis: cryotherapy reduces pain and inflammation in this disorder [376, 388]. A group of Polish researchers observed in the late 1990s that, after several minutes in a cryogenic chamber, in addition to having less pain, patients often experienced improved mood and euphoria [373]. This observation led the group to hypothesize that cryotherapy has antidepressant properties and resulted in the above study of cryotherapy as an adjunctive (supplementary) treatment of depression [376].

Some of the above studies reported that body cooling can elevate normal mood. This is a euphoriant effect and it is not the same as the antidepressant effect, which means normalization of depressed mood. Most antidepressant drugs do not have euphoriant properties [8, 389]. On the other hand, psychostimulant drugs that have euphoriant properties are not effective or are marginally effective as antidepressants [390]. The one notable exception is a drug called tianeptine (brand names Coaxil®, Stablon®), which has both euphoriant and antidepressant effects [391, 392]. The FDA has not yet approved this drug as a treatment of depression in the United States, although government regulators approved it a long time ago in many non–English-speaking countries.

In summary, these studies suggest that brief cooling of the body improves mood in healthy people and that the addition of this treatment to pharmacotherapy benefits patients with depression. Further clinical studies are warranted because, in addition to the above data, theoretical evidenceS suggests that this approach shares some physiological mechanisms with existing antidepressant treatments. Therefore, cooling may be effective as a stand-alone treatment of depression [372, 376]. Cooling of the body lowers the level of serotonin in the brain [679, 680], and this effect is the mode of action of the above-mentioned drug tianeptine. Cooling also can increase the level of the chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine in some regions of the brain [472, 659, 686, 687]. This effect is similarS to the mode of action of another antidepressant drug, bupropion (brand name Wellbutrin®). Because many classes of antidepressant drugs exhibit antianxiety properties, it is possible that moderate repeated cooling such as adapted cold showers (described later) may also be beneficial in some anxiety disorders.S The aforementioned Polish study showed that cryotherapy is beneficial for patients with anxiety. In my own experience, combining the cooling treatments with the “antidepressant diet” (Chapter Four) is more effective against symptoms of depression and anxiety than water therapy alone.

* * *

In conclusion, research shows that moderate cooling has psychostimulant effects and therefore can increase alertness. You can use this approach to normalize the sleep pattern by reducing sleepiness in the morning and afternoon.

Key points

Adapted cold showers

There are many different ways of cooling the body. I developed a convenient procedure called “adapted cold shower.” You can use this technique to reduce sleepiness when you feel drowsy because of jetlag or all-night studies. (Endnote T describes the technical rationale for this cooling procedure.) It has several advantages over coffee but in rare cases can have undesirable effects, as you will see at the end of this chapter. The adapted cold shower is effective at improving alertness and information processing speed (the speed of thinking [924]). At the same time, this procedure is safe and easy to do, unlike the regular “sudden” cold shower.

You can use the method as follows: start with a tepid shower, 34–36°C (93–97°F), for one to three minutes. Get out of the shower and set the water temperature to about 20°C (68°F). Then get back in the shower and start gradually and slowly expanding the area of contact with the cold water from the feet up. This gradual adaptation phase should take another 3 to 5 minutes. After that, take the whole-body cold shower for 2 to 5 minutes. Be sure to place a special rubber mat inside the bathtub and another mat near the bathtub so that you do not slip and fall. If you are feeling tired and sleepy, the adapted cold shower will make you alert and energetic within minutes. I recommend 5 minutes of high-intensity exercise immediately after the adapted cold shower for stronger and longer enhancement of alertness. In my opinion, a stationary bicycle requires the least time and will power.

The adapted cold shower has other effects as well: elevated internal mood, increased activity, reduced pain,U reduced fatigue, relief of fever [357, 1073], temporary constriction of blood vessels throughout the body, and a brief increase in blood pressure. Cold showers also reduce nausea and loss of appetite, if these symptoms are present,V but this procedure does not seem to increase normal appetite. Repeated cooling can also stimulate cellular immunity (reviewed in [393]). In most cases adapted cold showers increase capacity for work, especially heavy manual work. You may get a strong urge to go for a walk or do some physical exercise after a cold shower. Yet adapted cold showers may reduce motivation for work if your mood is elevated. They can also increase distractibility if you are feeling overactive. The last section of this chapter describes possible adverse effects in more detail.

Avoid sudden cold showers because they are difficult to do and can cause confusion and slow you down. They are too shocking for the central nervous system and work like a Taser blast. Sudden cold showers can increase anxiety, based on my experience. Adapted cold showers, on the other hand, do not have these negative effects and are not stressful at all. In one study the brief cooling of the body improved performance of complex mental tasks [362]. In my experience this is true of the adapted cold shower.

Moderate cooling is safe for healthy people [394399]. Under certain circumstances, however, it is best to avoid it:

Coffee can also increase alertness. Thus, it may seem that using such a complicated procedure is unnecessary when you can have one or two cups of strong coffee. If caffeine works well for you, keep using it carefully, in small doses. It’s a legal stimulant but may not be effective for everyone. It isn’t for me. It cannot keep me up all night, even at large doses, and I have a horrible hangover for the next two days after a large dose. If my mood is low or apathetic or if I feel bad physically, coffee makes matters worse. This is not the case with cold showers. In my experience, coffee has little or no effect on mood and large doses increase nervousness [400]. Adapted cold showers, on the other hand, have a strong mood-lifting effect and do not increase, and may reduce, nervousness [376]. In my opinion, coffee is a poison that is easy to overdose. If you want to enjoy good health, then my advice is to exclude coffee and caffeinated drinks from your everyday diet and to drink them only on rare occasions, in small doses.

I had been using adapted cold showers regularly for about three and a half years when I discovered that they can interfere with writing (Chapter Five) and are not conducive to work in general. I stopped using them so often and now take one if I feel bad physically. To fight sleepiness during work, nowadays I use natural stimulants (green tea, ginseng extract, Rhodiola extract, or Schisandra extract) combined with cardio exercise (see below). My advice is to use no more than four doses of these stimulants per day (for example, one dose of green tea, two doses of ginseng, and one dose of Rhodiola, not four doses of each), and these should be normal one-time doses and separated by at least 3 hours. Brief cardio exercise can be done every 3 to 4 hours, simultaneously with one of the stimulants. To sum up, if you are healthy and need to stay alert because of work, then use cardio exercise combined with the above-mentioned natural stimulants. On the other hand, if you are not healthy and having sleep problems, then try adapted cold showers. Because adapted cold showers reduce self-control in healthy people, my advice is to use this procedure less often than once a month if you are healthy and/or to take various sedative measures (see Appendix VII). On the rare occasions when I have a fever, I use cold showers two or three times a day. If I have a headache, which can happen several times a year, I use the head shower (discussed in the next section) every two hours and adapted cold showers less often.

For the first one and a half years starting in August 2005, I was able to use cold showers twice a day, in the morning and in the afternoon, without noticeable problems. Later I had to reduce the frequency 2- to 4-fold because of insomnia and symptoms of hypomania. Nowadays if I take adapted cold showers once a day in the morning, I get insomnia. It is possible that the long-term use of cold showers increased my sensitivity to this procedure. If some event has disrupted your sleep pattern and you feel sleepy in the morning, you may consider using adapted cold showers until your sleep pattern normalizes. If you wish, you can combine this approach with a sedative diet. In my personal experience combining cold hydrotherapy in the morning with hot hydrotherapy at night is not effective against insomnia and can cause sleep problems when there are none. In the absence of sleep problems you do not need to use cold showers daily. I take warm showers daily but I do not use either cold or hot showers more than once a month, with rare exceptions.

Now let's discuss cardio exercise. I devised a regimen called brief cardio exercise, which takes only 15 seconds once a day. Intensive physical exercise may be harmful for people with some health problems, and in my opinion, brief cardio exercise should be avoided during a manic or hypomanic episode. For the elderly and people with cardiovascular diseases, it's a good idea to have a defibrillator nearby and to not exercise without supervision. People for whom cardio exercise poses a risk should start very carefully, with 2 seconds of mild cardio, and gradually increase the duration and intensity over 1 month. Excessive amounts of exercise (30–60 min daily or 6 days a week with sweating) induce fatigue and have a sedative effect. Ideally, your physical exercise regimen should take up little time and require as little will power as possible. The reason is that self-control is a limited resource; if you spend most of it on forcing yourself to exercise, then you have little left to maintain a healthy diet. In my view, the type of exercise that requires the least time and effort is a stationary bicycle in your home, for example, the following regimen: 1 minute of average-speed cycling followed by 15 seconds of maximal-speed cycling once a day, 6 days a week. One day per week you do not exercise. Your pulse must accelerate at least twofold during each session. You can alternate different types of cardio exercise. The next day, you do several minutes of some other cardio exercise, for example, sit-ups (or lifting your legs while you are hanging from a horizontal bar), and the day after that, several minutes of cardio exercise with your arms. For this purpose, you need two dumbbells, not too heavy (mine are 3 kg each), with which you can do the following quick movements using your arms while standing up: at the neck level, move your hands horizontally simultaneously to the side (until each arm is fully stretched horizontally) and back. (Brief stretching for your arms is recommended before this exercise.) When you no longer can do these movements, wait several seconds and try again. During this first set, to avoid pulling a muscle, don't apply the maximal speed. Take a break for several minutes and do these arm exercises again at maximal speed. (Boxing movements with dumbbells are also a good cardio exercise, but they put too much strain on the spine; I don't recommend this exercise.) Three sets will give you good acceleration of heart rate. You will notice that your pulse and breathing accelerate almost as much as they do when you cycle with your legs, except your legs and knee joints are getting some rest. You need to take good care of your knee joints and give them plenty of time to recover from this strenuous activity. Alternate these three types of cardio exercise. To minimize intracranial pressure, instead of sit-ups, lift your knees rapidly while hanging from a horizontal bar (three sets of 30 repeats with a 1- to 2-minute break). Another version: your body is hanging in a vertical position while you are holding parallel bars (hands at the hip level); now lift your knees rapidly, three sets of 70-80 repeats. Avoid the types of exercise that strongly increase intracranial pressure, for example, pushups, because they can damage blood vessels in your head. Obviously, physical exercise is forbidden after a surgical procedure; you will have to wait until your surgical wounds heal properly. If you had a hemorrhagic stroke recently or are at a risk of hemorrhage, strenuous exercise is not for you either. There may be other contraindications; talk to a healthcare professional. I should say that brief cardio exercise reduces (not increases) fatigue, improves mood, enhances attention function, improves work capacity, does not increase impulsivity, does not require much time, and is easy to do. The most amazing effect is that I can complete as much work as usual throughout the day while consuming half as much food. I don’t want to eat more either, the need for food declines!

Some people, such as myself, cannot do brief cardio every day because there is a risk of hypomania and loss of self-control. Instead, you can walk outdoors for 1 hour. This procedure takes some time but does not require will power. See footnote # 39 in Appendix VII. Another type of easy exercise is to spend most of the day on your feet. You do not need to spend any extra time or apply any will power; all you have to do is modify your habits. See footnote # 39 in Appendix VII.

If you need excessive amounts of exercise for sedation, you can do a 30- to 60-minute workout 6 days a week as follows: Turn on a TV or a radio or put on some music. Do 10 minutes of normal-intensity cycling followed by 15 seconds of maximal-speed cycling. Next, do 20–30 sit-ups. Then do 10 minutes of normal-intensity cycling and another 20–30 sit-ups. Add another one or two repetitions if necessary. Take a shower. All done.

Key points

Can a cold shower cause a cold or the flu?

Many people believe that a cold shower will make them ill; in particular, it “can cause” a cold or the flu. There was a study on ~3000 people in 2016 in the Netherlands [1059], where three-fourths of the participants took cold showers every day for 30 days, while one-fourth of the participants (~750 people) took usual warm showers. People in the first group used a “sudden” cold shower, and the temperature of water was about 10-12 degrees Centigrade (50–54°F). The authors of that study did not detect adverse effects on health in the cold-shower group. The number of sick days was not significantly different between the two groups, but the number of days of absence from work owing to sickness was ~30% lower in the cold-shower group. Although numerous studies of moderate cooling show that it does not cause respiratory illnesses [394399], the popular notion about the dangers of cooling persists in the populace. This belief is in part correct in that severe cooling, which lowers core body temperature below 35°C (95°F), the state known as hypothermia, can indeed have adverse health effects. Hypothermia can happen as a result of immersion in ice-cold water or administration of certain drugs. Using special “water blankets,” researchers can achieve mild hypothermia that lasts for several hours or several days. This treatment suppresses the immune system and predisposes the person to bacterial and viral infections. Severe hypothermia (core body temperature below 28°C or 82°F) can cause pulmonary edema (swelling of the lungs) within minutes [401403]. In the vast majority of people, cold showers at 20°C (68°F) cannot lower core body temperature below 37°C (98.6°F) and therefore will not have the aforementioned adverse effects [378].

Epidemiologists know that upper respiratory tract infections occur predominantly, though not exclusively, during the cold time of the year. The mechanism underlying this phenomenon is unknown [404, 405], although two recent studies provide a possible explanation. The first shows that inhalation of cold air by horses during exercise suppresses immunity in the mucous membrane of the respiratory tract [406]. This immunosuppressive effect of cold air can predispose a person to the flu or a cold. The other study shows that cold, dry air improves transmission and survival of influenza virus [407]. Cold air contains much less moisture than warm air. Transmission and survival of influenza virus in moist, warm air are much lower. The folk wisdom of keeping a boiling kettle in the house to prevent the spread of influenza among family members should be effective. Therefore, it is possible that the predominant occurrence of flu epidemics during the colder seasons is the result of

  1. immunosuppression resulting from inhaling cold air;

  2. improved transmission and survival of the influenza virus in cold air.

Cold showers in the atmosphere of room temperature air will not predispose a person to influenza. (Incidentally, there is no scientific proof that influenza is caused by a virus and that influenza can be transmitted between humans, see Appendix VII, footnote 13. Do not take any tests for any viruses.) In contrast, ice-cold food can cause a respiratory illness. Personal experience shows that if I eat cold food and drinks (out of the fridge, 4°C or 39°F) for 2 or 3 days, there is about a 30% chance that I will contract a cold. I have not documented those experiments and I couldn’t find similar studies in scientific literature. Another cooling procedure that can cause a respiratory illness is a lengthy air bath, whereby you are almost naked (only underwear) at an air temperature of 21°C or lower for 15 minutes or longer, if you do it daily without gradual training. I cannot explain this effect because there is no significant cooling of the throat and there is no hypothermia. Perhaps the immune system is unaccustomed to this procedure and malfunctions as a result. Air baths are discussed at length in footnote 55 of Appendix VII.

Personal experience suggests that moderately cold showers cannot cause respiratory infections, but if a cough is present, cold showers may aggravate this symptom. The same is true of laryngitis (not to be confused with a sore throat): the pain in the area of the Adam’s apple may become unbearable. If you modify the cold shower procedure to avoid cooling the neck (as described below), then the above problems do not happen. I use cold showers several times a day when I have a fever, and they make me feel better: the most noticeable benefit is instant relief from fatigue, pain,U and fever.W If the specific diagnosis is known (for example, if you have influenza), antiviral drugs will not be helpful [1162, 1168, 11711180, 1182, 1185, 1188, 1189, 11991206, 1232, 12981301, 1347]. As of this writing, Tamiflu is the only well-tested drug in this category, but the manufacturer has hidden all the raw original data of clinical trials; therefore, their published results and conclusions cannot be trusted. (Recently, the manufacturer did release the raw data from Tamiflu clinical trials, and it became obvious that this drug offers no clinically significant benefits.)

Do not agree to surgical removal of tonsils and adenoids either in yourself or in your children. Inflammation of these glands can be easily cured by anti-inflammatory measures (warming of the neck, adapted cold showers, turmeric, etc.) and by a healthy lifestyle (Appendix VII). The removal of these glands will worsen immune defenses of the upper respiratory tract for life.

Reducing or eliminating fever appears to be desirable during influenza illness because fever does not provide any known therapeutic benefit in viral infections. In bacterial infections fever can be beneficial [408, 409]. Studies show that fever-reducing treatments such as acetaminophen have no effect on the development of an immune response [410]. I used to get a flu shot every year in the fall until I looked at the evidence. I was appalled to find that virtually all studies about the effectiveness of influenza vaccines present the results in a deceptive relative way, by showing a relative risk reduction instead of absolute numbers. The absolute risk reduction is ridiculously small: an approximately 2% incidence of influenza is reduced to a 1% incidence [1158]. To be precise, 71 people should get a flu shot to prevent one case of influenza, assuming that the presented data are 100% truthful (unrealistic assumption). You should also keep in mind that dozens of other viruses are thought to cause influenza-like illnesses against which this vaccine cannot work. Furthermore, these effectiveness studies show that flu vaccines have failed to provide any benefit in some seasons and do not help some segments of the population. All the while, mass media are extolling flu shots and bashing anti-vaxxers.

Self-experimentation suggests that when body temperature is normal, a 20°C (68°F) cold shower will not lower core body temperature even if the shower lasts 30 minutes. Paradoxically, normal core body temperature increases by about 0.1 to 0.2 degrees Centigrade (0.2 to 0.4°F) during a cold shower, consistent with some published studies [343, 378]. The body increases heat production to defend normal core body temperature upon exposure to cold. On the other hand, if fever is present, core body temperature declines during the 20°C cold shower by about 0.2°C (0.4°F) every 5 minutes. The core body temperature declines by an additional 0.5°C (1°F) within an hour after you stop the procedure. This effect must be the result of the anti-inflammatory properties of moderate cooling.W Yet the cold shower eliminates the feeling of being feverish, even though core body temperature is still elevated. On the other hand, adapted cold showers are extremely uncomfortable and impossible to use during chills, even if body temperature is above normal.

So far, nobody has tested the safety of the above approach in clinical trials, aside from studies two centuries ago [357, 571]. I used this approach successfully with every fever that I have had since August 2005 (about once a year), except for the upper respiratory tract infection in March 2009. During that episode, cold showers eliminated most symptoms (fever, pain, and weakness), but coughing persisted (the specific diagnosis is unknown). The problem went away as soon as I changed the procedure to avoid cooling the neck.

If you have a cough or laryngitis, you need to modify this procedure as described below. The modified cold shower procedure does not worsen coughing and laryngitis, but it is more complicated. You skip the preliminary tepid shower, and when you start the gradual adaptation phase, you stop expanding the area of contact with cold water when you reach the neck. You can apply the cold shower to the shoulders, avoiding splashing water on the neck. Now bend down so that your torso is horizontal and shower your scalp and face avoiding the neck and ears. After you dry yourself off, wrap a dry scarf around your neck and keep it on for 10 minutes after the shower. To prevent your body temperature from creeping up, remove as many other clothes as possible. The scarf is optional if you do not have a cough or laryngitis. During the flu and during the recovery period, it helps to warm your neck with a scarf twice a day for 20 min. This procedure alleviates coughing. Drink lemon juice (Appendix VII, footnote #20) several times a day because it reduces inflammation and invigorates (reduces general weakness). A single dose is 60 ml of the juice diluted 10-fold with distilled water.

If you have a fever, then you will experience an unpleasant inflow of blood and mucus to your head in the horizontal position. For this reason, you should sleep in an almost sitting position during the flu. Cover yourself at night with only a sheet not with a warm blanket to prevent the fever from increasing.

The head shower is effective against headache; several studies support this observation [411414]. You can use it more frequently than cold showers (up to once an hour) and the combination with the aforementioned analgesic foods is more effective against headache than either treatment alone. As a side note, there is some evidence that “natural diets” may be effective against recurrent headaches, as explained at the end of endnote X.

The modified cold shower procedure has beneficial effects similar to those of the adapted cold shower, without worsening a cough. Keep in mind that cold food and drinks as well as going outdoors in cold weather will worsen coughing. If you have a cough or sore throat, it is also beneficial to chew black cumin seeds in tiny portions (1-2 grams in one sitting), every day, once or twice a day. Also, I find that brief cardio exercise (once a day) helps to recover from a febrile illness (see the previous section in this chapter). To sum up, the best protocol for treating a cold or the flu is as follows: 1) modified cold showers several times a day; 2) lemon juice several times a day; 3) black cumin seeds once or twice a day; 4) brief cardio exercise once a day; 5) sleep in an almost sitting position; 6) rinse your throat with hot water once or twice a day. Optional procedures: coffee enemas (detoxification) and breath-holding exercises (nose decongestion). When you completely recover from the flu but your voice is still altered, you need to stop taking adapted cold showers for 3–4 days to let your voice box recover. Do not take any chemical drugs and avoid any vaccines. Some alternative health practitioners recommend ivеrmесtin or hydrоxych1оrоqиin during a flu-like illness. It's a bad idea because these drugs have many adverse effects, and I find that the above-mentioned protocol is far more effective. Other alternative doctors recommend zinc and vitamin D supplements against the flu; this is not a bad idea, but it is better to eat foods containing these substances (cod liver oil and zinc-containing foods).

If you find it unthinkable that the flu is treated with a cold shower, you can take a 25°C (77°F) shower instead; it is not cold, more like neutral, but it will reduce fever and make you feel better instantly. The drawback is that the analgesic effect is weaker. To measure the temperature, you will need a special thermometer for liquids; place it in a deep plate or pot and fill it with the water from your showerhead. You can also treat your children (who have the flu) with the 25°C shower and the analgesic foods, and nobody will be able to accuse you of child abuse. If bacterial pneumonia is suspected, don't take chemical antibiotics; contrary to a popular belief, they are not essential and safe drugs. There are much safer natural antibiotics: raw honey, garlic, and onions.

Regarding the cause of influenza and colds, I am now convinced that they are metabolic disorders caused by cooked food and unnatural substances that we ingest. The acute illness is triggered by cooling of the respiratory tract or by changes in sun activity or in Earth's magnetic field. As of this writing, I have stayed on a 100% raw diet for more than 2 years (Appendix VIII) and I hadn't had a cold or the flu for more than 3 years (I did have a mild influenza episode recently, in February 2024). Unfortunately, a raw diet is not for everyone, and most people will not be able to stay on a raw diet for long, for a variety of reasons.

Another trick during an upper respiratory tract infection (which I no longer recommend) is the washing of the nasal cavity with saline (you can skip this paragraph). You can use a kit called “SinuCleanse.” (Saline is a 0.9% solution of table salt, 0.9 grams per 100 milliliters.) This method removes all the mucus that accumulates in the nose during this kind of illness and reduces discomfort. But first you need to decongest the nose. You can achieve this using a decongestant spray or by holding the breath. Exhale maximally in a standing position, pinch your nose, start pacing the room, and hold your breath as long as you can (you will give up after 10-15 seconds). The nose will be unblocked for 10–20 seconds. Then wait 2 or 3 minutes and repeat the procedure one or two more times. The mechanism of this effect of breath holding is unknown. To prevent damage to capillaries in the head, always do breath-holding exercises in the upright position, never lying down. If the above procedure causes pain or discomfort in the abdomen, then do not use complete exhalation (exhale normally) and do not move during the breath-holds. Patients with anxiety disorders should be careful because breath-holding can trigger a panic attack in this group of patients [415]. I did not invent breath holding; similar breathing exercises are a part of yoga. You can use nasal washing while the nose is unblocked. When pouring saline into your nostril, tilt your head back in order to fill the nasal cavity with saline completely. When blowing your nose after a nasal washing, NEVER strain forcefully because this action can cause discomfort or pain in the ears. Blow your nose gently out of both nostrils simultaneously to minimize pressure on the ear canal. Never blow your nose if the nose is congested because you may force virus-loaded mucus into your eye sockets and ear canal, with consequent complications. You can also use dry Q-Tips (carefully) to remove mucus from the nasal cavity. Use moderately hot saline for nasal washings because heating will promote decongestion of the nose. The nasal cavity is a peculiar part of the body in that cooling causes dilation of the blood vessels (vasodilatation), whereas heating causes constriction of the blood vessels (vasoconstriction) in the nose. This is the opposite of what will happen to any other body part. After the head shower and after a cold shower that includes the head, nasal congestion may worsen temporarily—this should not be a cause for concern. If you take a cold shower excluding the head, this procedure will reduce nasal congestion. I find head showers and adapted cold showers useful during respiratory infections, even though they can worsen nasal congestion temporarily. When the symptom of runny nose (rhinorrhea) is present, you can do nasal washings once or twice a day.

In conclusion, cold showers at 20°C (68°F) will not cause a respiratory illness, and in fact will help you recover from such an illness.

Key points

Potential adverse effects

This section discusses the potential negative effects of cooling and heating in detail. The general advice is to avoid using either hot or cold showers daily, unless needed for occasional sleep problems. As they say, “don’t fix it if it ain’t broke.” (Readers can skip the detailed discussion of this topic and jump to the key points: press this link.) My own experience suggests that each of these treatments can cause symptoms of hypomania when a healthy person uses them daily for many weeks or months. Daily use of hot showers can also cause physical health problems, including but not limited to back pain, muscle pain, skin irritation, and increased fatigue, based on my self-experimentation. On the other hand, once a week is fine and should not cause problems. If you feel nervous or depressed, you can use cold and hot showers, or the combination, as often as you like, up to 3 times a day. Don’t use adapted cold showers after 7 p.m. and if you use hot hydrotherapy before 9 p.m., you need to follow it with an adapted cold shower, in order to prevent changes in your sleep pattern.

A recent publication reviewed negative effects of exposure to acute cold [393] (an open access article). The article concluded that a body cooling procedure should have few or no adverse effects on health if it does not involve hypothermia, psychological stress, and inhalation of cold air [393]. Winter swimming does not satisfy these criteria. Note that Raynaud’s syndrome, or excessive sensitivity to cold, is considered a contraindication for (moderate) cold-water treatments [416], but I know a person with this diagnosis who uses cold showers regularly and says that this procedure does not worsen this medical problem.

  1. Water colder than 14°C (56°F) can cause pain in the skin [417, 418].

  2. Be sure to place a special rubber mat inside the bathtub and another mat near the bathtub so that you will not slip and fall.

  3. Exposure to acute cold for extended periods can cause a significant drop of core body temperature (hypothermia). This situation can have adverse effects on health, such as ataxia, hypovolemia, atrial dysrhythmias, and mental confusion [419, 420]. Immersion in cold water in the range of 16 to 23°C (60 to 74°F) will not cause hypothermia (core body temperature of 35°C {95°F} or lower) in healthy human subjects [378]. Hypothermia will not happen even if such immersion lasts for several hours. During this procedure, core body temperature stays virtually unchanged during the first hour [378] because of the unusual efficiency of the human thermoregulatory system [421]. Some elderly and people with certain metabolic disorders may develop hypothermia under these conditions; therefore, someone should monitor their body temperature if they use cold hydrotherapy [419, 420].

  4. The coldest months of the year show a higher incidence of acute heart failure and stroke (these problems are also more frequent during hot months) [422424]. In the experiment by Holloszy and Smith, where rats stood in cold water 4 hours per day, the incidence of cardiovascular problems increased according to postmortem examination. The average lifespan, however, also increased, by about 5%, and the incidence of tumors declined [395]. It is not known whether daily brief exposure to moderately cold water (20°C, under 15 minutes), with gradual adaptation, has similar cardiovascular effects in the long term. Studies also show that sudden immersion in cold water can cause transient arrhythmias in some patients with heart problems [425427]. But short-term cardiovascular effects of cold-water immersion are benign in normal test subjects [397].

  5. In humans, swimming in ice-cold water can cause transient pulmonary edema (swelling of the lungs) [401403], which may be due to severe hypothermia, among other things [420].

  6. Some studies show that sudden immersion in ice-cold water increases permeability of the blood–brain barrier in mice [428, 429]. When repeated daily it can also increase mortality of neurovirulent infections (for example, West Nile virus and Sindbis virus). This effect is due to propagation of the infection to the brains of the mice [430, 431]. The increased permeability of the blood–brain barrier in these studies can be due to the psychological stress associated with a dive into ice-cold water. This is because a different treatment that also causes distress to the animals, isolation, has similar adverse effects [429]. In addition, immersion in ice-cold water rapidly causes severe hypothermia in mice [432]. Hypothermia increases permeability of the blood–brain barrier in healthy animals [433]. The proposed adapted cold shower procedure at 20°C (68°F) will not compromise the blood–brain barrier because it is not stressful (it contains a gradual adaptation phase) and is brief. Therefore, core body temperature will remain in the normal range.

  7. If coughing or laryngitis is present, cold showers can worsen these symptoms (the procedure has to be modified to prevent cooling of the neck).

  8. Because adapted cold showers promote wakefulness [343, 361, 362], you shouldn’t use them at night or they may cause insomnia.

  9. Because brief moderate cooling has psychostimulant effects, patients with bipolar disorder should be careful with adapted cold showers. Stimulant drugs can trigger mania in susceptible people (stimulant-induced mania). Bipolar patients should avoid cold showers during manic and hypomanic episodes. Personal experience suggests that if overactivity or elevated mood are present, adapted cold showers will further elevate activity and mood. (I have never had a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.) I also know several people who went crazy and ended up in a mental institution after they started using cold water treatments daily. Therefore, it is probably best to take cold showers not more frequently than once a month when you are healthy physically. If you are taking them daily, then you need to discontinue this procedure as soon as you experience symptoms of hypomania. People with slow metabolism are least likely to experience these adverse effects of cold showers and can take them frequently. By contrast, people with rapid metabolism (approximately 5% of the population, choleric temperament) are most likely to experience mania and/or psychosis after this procedure and should avoid it or use it rarely (only when physically sick).

  10. Most contraindications of stimulant drugs may be applicable to adapted cold showers. In theory, this treatment may increase frequency of epileptic seizures in susceptible people, just like stimulants such as caffeine or amphetamine [87].

  11. Adapted cold showers can increase optimism and impulsivity. If you are trying not to make a rash decision, you need to avoid cold showers. Cold showers also seem to enhance anger and argumentativeness if these symptoms are present (whereas hot showers reduce these problems).

  12. In theory, repeated cooling can be harmful for patients with some leukemias or lymphomas and for patients that undergo an immunosuppression therapy (cooling enhances proliferation and activity of some cells of the immune system, such as T lymphocytes [393]).

  13. A cold shower should not be used during the first week after a hemorrhagic stroke or a surgical operation, and neither should physical exercise (except for walking when possible). In such cases, an increase in blood pressure, even a small one, will increase the risk of bleeding.

  14. The list of contraindications is probably incomplete and readers who are taking medication or have a chronic medical condition need to consult with their physician regarding the safety of adapted cold showers.

According to numerous studies, moderate and brief cooling of the body is safe and does not have either short-term or long-term adverse effects on healthy subjects [394399]. In the Holloszy and Smith experiment [395], scientists immersed rats in 23°C (74°F) water (up to the collar bone) for 4 hours 5 days a week. The experiment showed that the long-term repeated moderate cooling did not have visible negative effects on health. It extended the average lifespan of the rats by a statistically insignificant 5% compared to control rats [395]. According to another study [394], daily immersion in water at 20°C (68°F) for 1 hour for 5 weeks did not have adverse effects on healthy volunteers. On the other hand, the evidence presented above suggests that the practice of winter swimming (sudden immersion in ice-cold water) is unsafe and can have adverse health effects. Nonetheless, in a 4-month study of winter swimmers, who used this type of cold hydrotherapy 4 times a week, participants did not report adverse effects on health [365]. Adapted cold showers at 20°C (68°F) are safer and less stressful than swimming in ice-cold water and I recommend moderately cold showers instead of winter swimming.

Heat-based treatments are not appropriate for people who are taking the following medications or substances: alcohol, alpha-andrenergics, amphetamines, anticholinergics, antihistamines, benzodiazepines, beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, cocaine, diuretics, laxatives, neuroleptics, phenothiazines, thyroid agonists, and tricyclic antidepressants [654, 655].

Prolonged exposure to heat, for several hours to several days, can cause heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat exhaustion can happen at core body temperature between 37°C and 40°C (98.6°F to 104°F). It has the following symptoms: dizziness, confusion, headache, malaise or weakness, loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting, and vision disturbances. Heat stroke is a more serious condition. It can happen when core body temperature stays above 40°C (104°F) for several hours or longer. In addition to the above symptoms, heat stroke can result in a coma, seizures, loss of motor coordination, or internal organ failure.

Heating of the body affects the regulation of blood pressure and people with hypotension should be careful because there is a risk of fainting. As a rule of thumb, abort a hot shower or hot bath if you experience dizziness, changes of vision, malaise, nausea, or other unusual symptoms. Hot showers can trigger seizures in some patients with epilepsy and headache in some patients with migraine or other headache disorders. Both local and whole-body heating can worsen inflammatory conditions. Heat can cause severe fatigue in patients with multiple sclerosis. The list of contraindications above is by no means complete. Unless you are a healthy person who is not taking any medication, you need to consult your doctor before using hot hydrotherapy or a hot environment in your home.

Key points

Summary of Chapter Two

Students and knowledge workers often disrupt their normal sleep pattern when studying or writing keeps them up all night. Boiled grains appear to be mild sedatives, perhaps because they contain small amounts of Maillard reaction products. These are chemicals that form in a chemical reaction of proteins with carbohydrates at high temperatures. Several days of eating a diet of boiled grains only can aid sleep. Moderate heating of the body increases fatigue and shares many biological effects with sedative drugs: similar chemical changes in the brain and slowing of mental processes. Therefore, a warm environment or moderately hot baths or showers should also help to fall asleep. There are other simple sedative approaches: raw honey, sedative herbs, animal fat, and breath-holding exercises.

In contrast, brief moderate cooling of the body shares many biological effects with psychostimulant drugs, including increased blood pressure (a small and temporary increase), constriction of blood vessels, slightly increased heat production, reduced fatigue, increased activity, increased alertness, and elevation of mood. Adapted cold showers at 20 degrees Celsius (68°F), which include 3- to 5-minute gradual adaptation, promote wakefulness in the morning. Either these showers in the morning or hot hydrotherapy at night can restore a normal sleep pattern if some work-related activities have disrupted it.

Inhalation of cold air may predispose a person to a respiratory infection, whereas cold showers in the atmosphere of room temperature air will not. The proposed method of cold hydrotherapy is safe for most people. Readers need to exercise caution with hot hydrotherapy, especially people taking certain prescription drugs and people with low blood pressure, headache, or inflammatory conditions.
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CHAPTER 3: Attention control, or the ability to concentrate


Food additives and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Similarities between effects of low-protein diets and pathophysiology of ADHD

Why increased protein intake can be beneficial for attention function

The low-protein diet that causes distractibility, impulsivity, and hyperactivity

Known beneficial effects of high-protein and high-fat diets

Improving attention by means of protein supplementation

Potential adverse effects of high-protein diets

Ways of reducing the adverse effects of the proposed high-protein diet

The modified protein supplement and modified high-protein diet

A possible relationship of attention with memorization and understanding

Summary of Chapter Three

Food additives and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often comes up in any discussion of attention function in scientific literature. It would be worthwhile to touch on the basics of this complex disorder. Patients with ADHD often have difficulty concentrating on routine day-to-day tasks, the symptom that psychiatrists define as inattention or distractibility [294, 295]. ADHD is a heterogeneous disorder with the core symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity (depending on the subtype of ADHD). These symptoms can cause discomfort and distress to the patient and have a negative effect on his/her school or work performance [294, 295]. The current classification subdivides ADHD into three subtypes: primarily inattentive, primarily hyperactive/impulsive, and the mixed type.

ADHD has a strong genetic link, in particular, such genes as DAT1 and DRD4 play a role in ADHD according to genetic studies [294, 296, 297]. The common treatments are amphetaminelike stimulants methylphenidate (brand names Ritalin® and Concerta®) and d-amphetamine (brand names such as Adderall® and Dexedrine®). These drugs have a rapid beneficial effect on such ADHD symptoms as inattention and impulsivity (within 30–60 minutes) [294, 298]. These psychostimulant drugs show beneficial effects in up to 75% of ADHD patients and can reduce symptoms and help patients become more organized and focused [294, 296, 298].

There is some controversy that surrounds ADHD. Some people in the mass media and among the general public have stated that ADHD is more of a cultural phenomenon than a true medical problem. They believe that ADHD is an artificial, made-up disease. These people think that ADHD does not pose any discomfort or danger to the patients, who are often just overly active young children. The percentage of children with the diagnosis of ADHD is higher in wealthy nations than in developing countries. Nonetheless, several recent studies have shown that ADHD is not a cultural phenomenon of wealthy nations and represents a valid medical problem [299].

We already discussed in Chapter One how American physician Benjamin Feingold proposed a hypothesis that certain food additives in the diet of children can contribute to the symptoms of hyperactivity and inattention. This theory became known as the Feingold hypothesis. The subject of the influence of food additives (artificial ingredients in human diet such as refined sugar, food coloring agents, monosodium glutamate, aspartame, and others) on mental health is a controversial one. There are a number of studies that support opposing points of view. The effects of any one food additive are often modest and difficult to detect against the background of numerous other food additives in the diet. On the other hand, elimination of several or all food additives from the diet should have more significant effects on mental performance or mental health. Several recent reviews analyzed existing studies of the role of food additives in the development of symptoms of ADHD. These reviews concluded that food additives have a small but significant effect on mental health of children [64]. In particular, food additives can make children somewhat more active and less attentive. Yet the size of this undesirable effect is too small to explain the significant difference between healthy children and children with ADHD [63, 64, 929].

An elimination diet excludes all food additives and includes only the most basic foods. A recent randomized controlled trial of an elimination diet showed that this diet has a beneficial effect on children with ADHD [67]. The diet caused a statistically significant reduction of symptoms as judged by questionnaires filled out by teachers and parents. The elimination diet in this study consisted of rice, turkey, lamb, vegetables, fruits, margarine, vegetable oil, tea, pear juice, and water. One possible shortcoming of this study is that it did not include a control diet because of the difficulty of designing a “placebo diet.” Another drawback is that the study was not blinded because parents and teachers had to supervise the diet of the children. The study included a randomly chosen control group of ADHD children who did not follow the elimination diet. As we will see later, the beneficial effects observed in this study may have been due to an increased amount of protein in the elimination diet. Therefore, further research is needed to confirm these results. After this book came out, the authors of the above-mentioned clinical trial have conducted a new, more rigorous study, with extensive controls. This later study shows that food additives are responsible for ADHD symptoms in a subset but not all of the patients [944].

Another study [63] investigated the effects of a mixture of benzoate and several common food colorings on young children (3-year-olds and 8- to 9-year-olds). The scientists put children on a diet free of all food additives and then added the aforementioned cocktail of food additives to the diet of some children. Controls received a placebo cocktail. This experiment was a double-blind randomized controlled trial. The authors concluded that one of the mixtures of food additives promotes hyperactivity and inattention.

Several studies that investigated the effects of addition or withdrawal of a single food additive failed to detect any significant changes in behavior or mental performance. For example, a study on the influence of refined sugar on preschool children did not detect any effects on mental abilities [93]. The authors of that study reached similar conclusions about aspartame. Similarly, two other studies showed that aspartame has no effect on behavior of children [300, 301].

As to the possible physiological mechanisms via which food additives can affect the workings of the brain, this remains unknownG (Chapter One). One possible explanation is that most of the artificial ingredients have entered the human diet recently, during the last several centuries. This is when chemical manufacturing developed into an industry that represents a significant portion of the world economy. From the standpoint of human evolution, several centuries are a miniscule amount of time. Humans could not fully adapt to this change in the diet through natural selection. Therefore, food additives are unusual and “unnatural” components of the diet and thus may cause subtle negative changes in the functioning of the brain.G

We can conclude that further studies are necessary to confirm the beneficial effects of elimination diets on mental performance and mental health. On the other hand, investigation of the effects of individual food additives at realistic doses is unlikely to yield significant results. Simultaneous administration of many food additives may be easier to study. In summary, existing evidence suggests that food additives alone are not responsible for the symptoms of ADHD [63, 64, 929, 1000].

Key points

Similarities between effects of low-protein diets and pathophysiology of ADHD

A number of studies have attempted to identify abnormal physiological changes in ADHD patients (the study of pathophysiology). These data can help to identify possible causes and lead to new treatments. These studies have produced a lot of useful information about ADHD, but this chapter discusses only the findings related to nutrition. Some of these studies have uncovered abnormalities that are similar to the changes that can result from low-protein diets. In particular, a study on ADHD patients in Taiwan revealed lowered concentration of protein in blood [302]. Two other studies, from North America, showed that ADHD patients, on average, have a lower than normal concentration of the amino acids phenylalanine and tyrosine in blood [303, 304]. (Amino acids are building blocks of proteins and are the byproducts of digestion of proteins in your stomach.) Low-protein diets cause a drop of the level of phenylalanine and tyrosine in the blood. High-protein diets have the opposite effect; that is, they increase the blood levels of these amino acids [305, 306].

Studies on laboratory monkeys have shown that if young monkeys consume a low-protein diet, this causes retardation of growth of the brain [307]. Several studies of ADHD children have shown that these kids have a somewhat smaller brain volume compared to their healthy peers [308310]. The brain size of ADHD children catches up to the normal size when the kids grow up [311]. These findings also suggest that protein malnutrition may be linked to ADHD.

Another relevant finding is that dietary iron deficiency (low level of iron in blood) is more frequent among ADHD patients compared to the general population [312, 313]. Iron supplementation of the diet can be beneficial for ADHD patients, according to some studies [314, 315]. On the other hand, research suggests that the blood level of iron correlates with consumption of meat [316]. Meat is a protein-rich food product and low consumption of meat may be responsible for both protein malnutrition and iron deficiency. In light of the above observations, it is reasonable to suppose that the more frequent occurrence of iron deficiency among ADHD patients may be the result of low consumption or impaired digestion of meat. On the other hand, the aforementioned Taiwanese study [302] showed a higher blood iron level in ADHD patients compared to healthy controls. Another recent study showed that the iron status of ADHD patients is not different from that of healthy controls [879]. Further research is necessary to resolve these discrepancies.

To summarize, the above studies point to one of these possible causes of ADHD:

  1. low consumption of protein by ADHD patients;

  2. low quality of dietary protein;

  3. alternatively, ADHD patients may have deficiencies in the digestion of protein-rich foods.

These pathological changes can be responsible for lower protein levels in blood, lowered blood levels of tyrosine and phenylalanine, and slightly smaller brain size in ADHD. The potential flaw in the above “protein malnutrition theory” of ADHD is that ADHD drugs (psychostimulants) suppress appetite and thereby can reduce intake of dietary protein. If this is the case, then the low quality of dietary protein is not the cause of ADHD but a consequence of pharmacological treatment. In actuality, this possible flaw most likely is not valid. Many of the above studies deal with unmedicated ADHD patients separately from medicated patients and controls. Many of these studies found the signs of dietary protein deficiency in unmedicated patients. The studies of blood levels of phenylalanine and tyrosine included unmedicated patients only [303, 304]. The brain imaging studies used separate groups of medicated and unmedicated ADHD patients [308]. The above studies found somewhat smaller brain volumes and lowered blood levels of phenylalanine and tyrosine in unmedicated ADHD patients compared to healthy controls. Another recent study [317] compared body measurements among three groups: medicated ADHD children, unmedicated ADHD children, and age-matched controls from the general population. Both medicated and unmedicated children with ADHD have shorter height and somewhat smaller head circumference compared to age-matched controls. Head circumference correlates with brain volume. The only statistically significant difference between medicated and unmedicated ADHD children is the amount of body fat and thigh circumference. Both are smaller in medicated children. Parents often blame stunted growth of ADHD children on stimulant drugs, yet the above studies suggest that this problem is unrelated to ADHD medication.

The aforementioned Taiwanese study by Dr. Jiun-Rong Chen and colleagues [302] found that ADHD patients consume the same amount of protein compared to healthy controls. Yet these patients have a lower total blood concentration of protein. This observation suggests that ADHD patients either consume lower quality protein (e.g., plant rather than animal protein [318]) or protein assimilation is impaired in these patients, or both. A recent report out of Australia showed that, on average, ADHD patients consume 50% less meat, fish, and eggs compared to the general population [889]. These data support the hypothesis of low quality of dietary protein in ADHD patients.

We can conclude that

  1. the adverse effects of stimulant medication are smaller than what many people assume;

  2. stimulant medication is not the cause of the hypothetical protein malnutrition in ADHD children;

  3. the hypothetical protein malnutrition in ADHD may be the result of low quality of dietary protein, insufficient assimilation of dietary protein, or both.

These observations suggest that increased consumption of high-quality protein such as meat [120, 318, 319, 835, 836, 853, 912] should be beneficial for ADHD patients, as we will see in the next section.

Key points

Why increased protein intake can be beneficial for attention function

An introduction to some basics of neuroscience will be helpful at this point, in order to make the discussion in this section more comprehensible to lay readers. (Readers can skip the technical details by pressing this link.) The readers curious about fine details of how neurons communicate with each other can read articles “neuron” and “chemical synapse” on Most people know that brain cells are called neurons. There are roughly a hundred billion neurons in the brain and they form numerous and complex connections among each other. A single neuron can send electrical signals to tens and hundreds of other neurons via its long and branched “sprouts” called axons. Each neuron can also receive signals from many other neurons via its shorter “sprouts” called dendrites. There are many different types of neurons. The type of neural cells relevant in this context is the neurons that use a chemical called dopamine to send signals to other neurons. The ends (terminals) of an axon of such a neuron can release dopamine. This event causes propagation of an electrical signal from this neuron to its target neuron (from the axon of the signaling neuron to the dendrite of the target neuron). This is because the receiving end (dendrite) of the target neuron is responsive to dopamine. The connection point between two neurons, i.e., the junction between an axon and a dendrite, is called a synapse. The signaling neuron releases dopamine into the synapse, and the recipient neuron detects the presence of dopamine in the synapse. Dopamine and other chemicals, such as serotonin, that neurons use to communicate with other neurons are called neurotransmitters. Neurons are not the only type of cells in the brain. There are numerous supporting cells called glia, which in most cases do not conduct electrical signals and do not participate in the neural networks of the brain. The so-called interstitial fluid fills the spaces between neurons and glial cells. Local concentration of neurotransmitters in the interstitial fluid can change when neurons are sending and receiving signals within a given region of the brain. This is because neurotransmitters can leak out of synapses (connections between neurons) into the interstitial fluid and vice versa.

Neurons that send signals to other neurons by means of the neurotransmitter dopamine are called dopaminergic neurons. The dopaminergic neurons are concentrated in several discrete regions of the brain. Because axons can be long, up to one meter (about three feet) and longer, dopaminergic neurons can send signals to target neurons in a distant area of the brain. Dopaminergic neurons send signals to neurons that are responsive to dopamine. Whether a neuron is responsive to dopamine depends on the properties of the dendrites or “receiving terminals” of these target neurons.

Suppose the concentration of dopamine increases or decreases in an area of the brain where the neurons are responsive to dopamine. These changes will affect the firing activity of those neurons. This alteration in turn can have subjective and objective effects on a person’s mood, motivation, and attentional performance. Drugs that psychiatrists prescribe for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), such as Adderall®, increase the level of the chemical dopamine in several brain regions that participate in attention control. In particular, these drugs can increase the level of dopamine in the frontal part of the brain (called prefrontal cortex). They also increase the concentration of dopamine in a central region of the brain called the striatum (translated from Latin as “a striped body”) [294, 297, 320]. Research shows that these changes are essential for the attention-enhancing effects of psychostimulant drugs such as Ritalin® and Adderall® [294, 297, 320].

These same drugs can improve attention control and attention span in healthy people as well [321328]. People whose attention function is average or below average benefit most from these drugs. The minority of people who have excellent or optimal attention function do not benefit from psychostimulant drugs and their attentional performance can deteriorate with these drugs [294]. Healthy people, such as college students and some professors, increasingly use psychostimulant drugs without prescription (illegally) as a study aid or vocational aid. This practice carries a risk of abuse and addiction [918]. This risk is small when patients use prescription stimulants at therapeutic doses under a physician’s supervision.

Going back to the effects of diets, several studies on laboratory animals have shown that a high-protein diet increases the level of dopamine in some regions of the brain. These are the same brain regions where psychostimulant drugs increase the dopamine level—the frontal cortex and the striatum [329, 330]. One of those studies has also shown that a low-protein diet has the opposite effect: it lowers the level of dopamine in these brain regions [329]. These data suggest that a low-protein diet may worsen attentional performance because it has an effect that is opposite to that of attention-enhancing drugs.

High-protein diets increase the level of dopamine less than psychostimulant drugs do [329, 331]. It is still intriguing that a dietary change produces effects that are similar to those of ADHD medication. Why do high-protein diets increase the level of dopamine in some brain regions? The likely reason is that brain cells make dopamine from the amino acids tyrosine and phenylalanine. Those are byproducts of digestion of dietary protein.H It is likely that foods containing high-quality protein rich in essential amino acids, such as red meat, are more effective at improving attention function [120, 318, 319, 835, 836, 853, 912]. Food products containing lower quality protein, such as plant products, should be less effective.

Some studies have shown that high-protein diets or even a single high-protein meal can produce subjective changes that are similar to the effects of stimulants. For example, one study shows that in obese patients, a high-protein diet increases self-esteem, which is unrelated to weight loss [278]. Another study showed that a high-protein meal makes a person feel “warmer”; that is, it increases production of heat in the body. The researchers did not see this effect with high-carbohydrate and high-fat meals [117]. The participants of the study also felt more alert and energetic after the high-protein meal compared to the high-fat or high-carbohydrate meal [117]. Finally, one study of the Atkins diet, which is a high-protein, high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet, has shown that this diet contributes to insomnia during the first month of this regimen [277]. Increased self-esteem, increased production of heat by the body, and increased wakefulness are common effects of amphetaminelike stimulants [332]. In summary, high-protein diets share several biological effects with attention-enhancing drugs, and therefore should have beneficial effects on attention function of healthy people.

So far, nobody has tested the effects of high-protein diets in clinical trials with ADHD patients. Therefore, the patients who are reading this book need to seek professional psychiatric treatment instead of experimenting with diets. My personal view is that the combination of a high-protein diet with pharmacotherapy should be more effective than either approach alone, especially in severe cases of ADHD. Further research is needed in this area.

Key points

The low-protein diet that causes distractibility, impulsivity, and hyperactivity

From the discussion in the previous sections it follows that low quality of dietary protein, impaired digestion of dietary protein, or both may be the cause of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The validity of this hypothesis depends on whether a low-protein diet can reproduce symptoms of ADHD in healthy people. My personal experience suggests that the fruit-and-vegetable diet is a good experimental model of ADHD because it reproduces many symptoms: distractibility, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. I have not conducted statistically significant volunteer studies with the fruit-and-vegetable diet and have data for only one experimental subject (yours truly). Anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder that involves severe protein malnutrition, correlates with hyperactivity and poor attention [915, 916]. A recent study shows that protein malnutrition causes hyperactivity and impulsivity in young rats [1002].

To be precise, the fruit-and-vegetable diet is not a low-protein diet but an almost protein-free and fat-free diet. The amount of protein in this diet is tiny and quality of the protein is also low. This diet consists of fruits, vegetables, and juices only and excludes protein-rich plant foods (grains, nuts, and legumes) and all food additives, seasonings, pungent vegetables, and spices. The duration of the diet is 3 to 5 days. Participants in this study can eat any amounts of fruits and vegetables (raw and cooked) and a sample menu is shown below.

Breakfast: 1–2 glasses of carrot juice, a salad made of cucumbers, dill, tomatoes, and boiled potatoes; 1–2 apples.

Lunch: vegetable soup, a glass of orange juice, a salad, several dates.

Dinner: 1–2 glasses of tomato juice, a salad, some fruit for dessert.

You can find some relevant recipes in Appendix I. Because this is a high-carbohydrate diet, it is not safe for diabetic patients. My experience suggests that this diet can cause muscle cramps, in which case, reducing consumption of fruit is helpful. This diet has several unusual effects: it reduces fatigue but at the same time causes reluctance to perform most types of work especially heavy manual and intellectual work. Due to poor attention control and distractibility, it is impossible to perform any work- or school-related reading or writing tasks on this diet. Hyperactivity manifests itself as unusual talkativeness and inability to sit still. The amounts of food consumed will increase 2-fold or more, compared to the mixed diet [505]. The person on the fruit-and-vegetable diet may still feel that the stomach is empty most of the time (but will not feel hungry). Because fruits and vegetables are not a filling type of food, following this diet is difficult in the presence of temptations, i.e., in the presence of disallowed types of food. It is possible to comply with this diet for a week or two but beyond that, periodic binging on disallowed food is inevitable. Other possible adverse effects include loss of work capacity, reduced stress resistance, and increased sweating.

Adding fat to this diet will not reduce distractibility and impulsivity but may reduce hyperactivity. If you continue the fruit-and-vegetable diet beyond 3–5 days, the symptom of hyperactivity seems to disappear, but impulsivity (low self-control) and poor attention control will persist. Further continuation of this diet results in a loss of interest in many activitiesF and inability to perform most types of work, with a few exceptions. It is possible to extend the hypothetical experimental model of ADHD beyond 3–5 days. Add a glass of milk and half a glass of wheat extract (Appendix I) to each meal, starting on day 4. Reintroduction of normal amounts of good-quality protein (such as beef, fish, cheese, and nuts) into the diet reverses the symptoms of distractibility, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.

A diet consisting of boiled grains plus fruits and vegetables is a low-protein diet. The quality of protein in this diet is low too. This diet appears to cause attention deficit without hyperactivity. I am unable to concentrate on any type of work-related reading or writing while on this diet. The activity level is low to normal with this diet most likely because cooked grains have sedative properties, as we saw in Chapter Two.

Key points

Known beneficial effects of high-protein and high-fat diets

Several studies on healthy human subjects and on laboratory animals have shown that high-protein diets and high-fat diets can have beneficial effects on mental health. Note that there are many variables that can differ among studies that investigate “a high-protein diet.” For example, the composition of a high-protein diet and the segments of population under study can be different between different research projects. Therefore, it is often difficult to draw a direct comparison or an easy conclusion. With these limitations in mind, we can take a look at some of the existing data from literature.

For instance, both high-protein and high-fat diets (separately) reduce anxiety in laboratory rats [281, 333]. A high-fat diet reduces anxiety in human subjects [280]. Some studies suggest that meals consisting of fat only have a mild sedative effect on humans (reviewed in [872]). The above study on rats used a high-protein diet containing large amounts of a milk protein called casein. This diet is different from what most people consider a high-protein diet: a diet that contains lots of meat, fish, eggs, and cheese. In another report [261], a high-fat diet had an antidepressant effect in laboratory rats; this study used plant-derived oils as a main component of the high-fat diet.

We are discussing high-fat diets here because, as explained later, a high-protein diet that contains large amounts of lean meat can cause severe adverse effects. It seems necessary to use fatty meat in high-protein diets. This book’s high-protein diets contain large amounts of fatty meat and have few side effects. Strictly speaking, these diets should be called high-protein, high-fat diets. On the other hand, if you feel well on high-protein low-fat diets, then you can ignore my recommendations regarding fat content of meat.

On the subject of dietary fat, a study by Dr. Karina Fischer and colleagues in Switzerland [117] compared the effects of a single high-protein, high-fat, or high-carbohydrate meal. Overall, the high-fat meal, which consisted of equal parts of plant and animal fat, resulted in the best mental performance during the 3 hours after the meal.i The high-protein meal resulted in better attention and efficiency, whereas the high-carbohydrate meal improved working memory and accuracy during the 3 hours after the meal. On the other hand, an earlier study in the United Kingdom found that a single high-fat meal resulted in worse cognitive performance compared to a single balanced meal [334].

Another study led by Dr. Fischer compared the effects of a single high-protein and high-carbohydrate meal on various measures of attentional performance [335]. Overall, the high-protein meal resulted in better attentional performance during the 3 hours after the meal compared to the high-carbohydrate meal.

Earlier, during the discussion of the effects of food additives on attention, we talked about a study of a “few foods diet” on ADHD children [67]. That study shows that the diet consisting of rice, turkey, lamb, vegetables, fruits, margarine, vegetable oil, tea, pear juice, and water can improve ADHD symptoms of the patients. The main source of protein in this diet is turkey and lamb, which are the source of highest quality protein rich in essential amino acids [120, 318, 319, 835, 836, 853, 912]. The authors attributed the beneficial effects of the diet to elimination of all food additives. Yet it is possible that the benefits were in part due to the improved quality or amount of dietary protein compared to the patients’ regular diet.

A report out of the Netherlands [336] has shown that a high-protein meal in the evening improves attentional performance in the morning. The high-protein meal in that study included a tryptophan-rich protein called alpha-lactalbumin. These results lend further support to the idea that increased consumption of protein-rich foods has a beneficial effect on attention. The beneficial effects of high-protein diets on attention are likely to be the result of biochemical changes in several relevant regions of the brain.H, J

Finally, anthropological studies suggest that animal-source foods, which are rich in protein, have played a crucial role in the evolution of the human brain over the last several million years [42, 44, 46]. Therefore, these foods must be necessary for optimal mental performance, including good attention function.

Key points

Improving attention by means of protein supplementation

The studies that we reviewed in the previous sections suggest that two different approaches should improve attention control: 1) increased consumption of high-quality protein, 2) reduction or elimination of food additives from the diet.

There is a great number of ways of increasing protein content of the diet, not the least because there is a great variety of protein-rich foods of plant and animal origin. My personal experience (self-experimentation) since the early 1990s suggests that the following composition of the protein supplement is effective at improving attention:

Why is this combination most effective? There is not a good explanation. I developed this protein supplementation approach through trial and error, without any coherent theory in mind. Nonetheless, I found possible theoretical argumentation sometime later: we discussed it in the previous sections of this chapter. Red meat must be effective because it contains the highest quality protein [120, 318, 319]. It is possible that nuts are effective because they contain both protein and certain polyunsaturated fatty acids. The Taiwanese study of ADHD patients showed that they have some abnormalities in the metabolism of fatty acids [302]. Therefore, some fatty acids must be important for attention function. (It is also possible that the abnormalities of fatty acid metabolism and poor attention merely correlate and the former does not cause the latter.) It is possible that nuts contain certain fats that are important for attention function and this constituent may be responsible their unusual attention-enhancing properties.

I consider nuts the most difficult and least healthy type of food. They can make me feel awful if I consume them in large amounts every day. (For comparison, this adverse effect will not happen with such foods as bread or refined sugar, as we saw in the section “A diet that can worsen mental abilities quickly” in Chapter One.) You need to be careful with plant oils in general. I tend to develop a strange back pain or a pain in the area of the liver if I consume them in large amounts (3–4 tablespoons a day).

As for the practical aspects of protein supplementation, the best cooking method for animal products is steaming or boiling because the cooking temperature is moderate (100°C or 212°F). At this temperature the formation of mutagens and carcinogens in cooked animal products is miniscule or undetectable [146, 152]. If I cook beef and fish by steaming or boiling, then these foods have almost no adverse effects, even if I eat them in large amounts every day for weeks and months. If you fry, roast, grill or microwave these animal products (high cooking temperature), then beef and fish can make you feel bad within a few days. This effect may be due to the formation of significant amounts of mutagens and carcinogens in meat and fish at high cooking temperatures [129, 152, 158]. In order to simplify cooking, you can vary the animal products day to day rather than meal to meal. For example, you can have ground beef one day, ground turkey the next, and fish on the third day. I often mix ground beef and ground chicken in equal amounts and cook them together.

In my experience, simple addition of large amounts of the above protein supplement (200–250 grams or 7–9 ounces) to each meal improves attention control. This is what I call the “protein supplementation diet.” This regimen does not forbid any types of food and adds large amounts of protein-rich foods to each meal. The aforementioned amounts of protein supplement are for a person whose energy needs are around 3000 calories per day. You may need to prorate the amounts according to your energy needs using this convenient calculator: [337]. The beneficial effects will kick in one to six hours after you start this high-protein regimen. You may find that distractibility decreases and the ability to concentrate on reading and writing tasks improves. Normally, you shouldn’t eat more than 200–250 grams (7–9 ounces) of cooked meat per meal. You will facilitate digestion of this food if you break up your daily dose of cooked meat into five parts and eat the meat five times a day. (This is inconvenient for many people.)

Fat content of red meat should be no less than 10%, better if it’s 20–25%. Fat content of poultry should be no less than 7%. If you feel well when you consume large amounts of lean meat daily, then you can ignore my recommendations regarding fat content of meat. I feel awful on diets that contain large amounts of lean meat. Fat content of fish does not matter. The nuts should be raw and it is best to grind them because most nuts are a hard food that can damage your teeth. In my personal experience, consumption of roasted nuts on a regular basis can lead to headache; this observation may or may not be true for everybody.

The protein supplementation diet is effective at improving attention control, based on my personal experience since the early 1990s. A high-protein meal allows me to concentrate on reading for 2 to 3 hours and to concentrate on writing for one to two hours. When my mind starts wandering, I take a short break, then eat a high-protein meal and start reading or writing again.

I recommended this approach to an acquaintance of mine, Natasha R. (I changed the name per her request.) She is a biomedical researcher and has to read a lot of scientific articles at her day job. For those of you who have never read a scientific article, this sort of literature is difficult to understand and boring to people who are not experts in the subject matter of the article. After testing the aforementioned protein supplement, Natasha told me that with this approach she can keep her attention in an article and can read for several hours at a time without distractions. This is in contrast to her previous experience with reading, when she was not able to keep her attention in a text longer than an hour or so, in one sitting. Neither Natasha nor I have a history of ADHD.K Therefore, these data support the notion that high-protein diets should improve attention in healthy people.

Although protein supplementation alone is beneficial for attention, you will achieve even better attentional performance with a high-protein diet that excludes all artificial ingredients (food additives, junk food, and dietary supplements). Food additives include sugar, salt, nitrites, vinegar, seasonings, and others. You can find the list of all known food additives on Wikipedia, the article titled “List of food additives.”

The more complicated approach, which is the high-protein diet free of artificial ingredients, is the next step. This is the “balanced high-protein diet” and it consists of fruits, vegetables, “clean” juices (free of salt, sugar, and other additives), meat, fish, and nuts. This diet has the word “balanced” in its name because it contains sufficient amounts of carbohydrates. This diet is similar to the Paleolithic diet. You can drink water in any amounts that you wish. You can also use vegetable oils, if needed (not for frying). This diet does not allow any junk food, food additives, spices, seasonings, and artificial ingredients, such as dietary supplements. The same rules apply to the fat content of meat and fish as we talked about earlier. The balanced high-protein diet does not allow any food cooked at temperatures higher than the boiling point of water. It excludes all fried, broiled, grilled, and baked food. Smoked food is not allowed either. The unseasoned food in this diet may seem bland at first, but you can get used to it and discover that it has its own rich flavor. You can find some relevant recipes in Appendix I. The complete absence of all food additives and seasonings is unacceptable to most people. As a compromise, you can add small amounts of sea salt or Himalayan salt to various dishes because this does not affect mental abilities, in my experience. Another thing that makes this “bland” food tolerable is that this diet is temporary. You don’t have to use any special diets on days when you are not performing any demanding mental tasks.

A sample menu is shown below. The menu below lists essential ingredients of each meal and does not provide any recipes. You can prepare a great variety of dishes using various combinations of vegetables and animal products (meat or fish), such as stews and soups, to name just a few (Appendix I). You can also use eggs in recipes, but they have a modest effect on attention. Therefore, they are an optional component of the balanced high-protein diet. The amounts of food listed below are for a person whose energy needs are about 3000 calories per day. You may need to prorate these amounts according to your energy needs using this calculator: [337].

Breakfast: A salad or vegetable juice, or cooked vegetables; 200–250 grams (7–9 ounces) of boiled or steamed ground beef; 10–15 grams (~0.5 ounce) of pulverized nuts (for example, walnuts);

Lunch: Fruit or fruit salad or a glass of fruit juice; 200–250 grams (7–9 ounces) of boiled or steamed chicken or ground chicken; 10–15 grams (~0.5 ounce) of pulverized nuts;

Dinner: A vegetable salad or juice, or cooked vegetables; 300–350 grams (10 to 12 ounces) of boiled or steamed fish (e.g., salmon); 10–15 grams (~0.5 ounce) of pulverized nuts (for example, pecans).

It is best to eat cooked meat in smaller amounts 3–5 times a day rather than large amounts once or twice a day (Appendix III). You can replace any one of your meals with your usual food if you don’t have to perform any important mental tasks during the 3–4 hours after the meal.

I recommended the balanced high-protein diet to an acquaintance of mine, Anatoly C. (I changed the name per his request.) He was a graduate student and had to perform a lot of reading and writing tasks. Anatoly used to be a vegetarian and used to think that meat was bad for health and for mental work. Following my advice, he decided to test the balanced high-protein diet and meat cooked at moderate temperatures. He was amazed to discover that meat does not make him feel bad and on the contrary, it serves as an excellent fuel for the brain. He now considers fried meat and processed meats a poison that gives a bad name to meat. Anatoly told me that the balanced high-protein diet can increase mental clarity same as any diet that is free of junk food and artificial ingredients. In his opinion, only diets that contain sufficient amounts of meat and fish can improve capacity for work and mental concentration.

These two approaches, the protein supplementation and the balanced high-protein diet, can have adverse effects on health as described in the next section. For those readers who wish to test these treatments in a clinical trial with ADHD patients, the modified protein supplement and the modified high-protein diet are a better option.L These two have fewer side effects and we will discuss them in a later section of this chapter.

Psychiatrist Daniel G. Amen also believes that ADHD patients will benefit from a high-protein diet, but he offers different argumentation. He categorizes ADHD patients into six subtypes and states that one of these subtypes will not benefit from a high-protein diet and may require sedative interventions. Real life is even more complicated because many patients have several psychiatric diagnoses. In his private practice, "on average, the first 2,500 patients had: 4.2 diagnoses (such as a combination of ADD, depression, anxiety, and addictions), failed with 3.3 medical or mental health providers before coming to us, and tried 6 different medications" [1157].

Key points

Potential adverse effects of high-protein diets

The above-mentioned high-protein diets improve attention control and reduce distractibility but they can also have several undesirable side effects even in healthy people. (Readers can skip the detailed discussion of this topic and jump to the key points: press this link.) Patients with kidney disease should be careful with high-protein diets and must consult with a doctor before attempting this lifestyle change.

Some studies have reported that high-protein diets (containing substantial amounts of cooked red meat) can have adverse effects. For example, they can lower mood and cause emotional tension, fatigue, and bad breath [110114]. Most people tolerate well a low-carb high-protein diet, such as the Atkins diet, for extended periods of time. But this diet may have some negative effects on health during the initial period (the induction phase).

Bodybuilders use high-protein normal-carbohydrate diets on a daily basis and tolerate these diets well in the long run [338, 339]. There are, however, several differences between high-protein diets proposed in this book and typical bodybuilding diets:

  1. bodybuilding diets contain negligible amounts of red meat (they use poultry and fish instead) [338, 339];

  2. bodybuilding diets exist in combination with large amounts of strenuous exercise;

  3. the diets proposed in this book contain significant amounts of pulverized nuts, which may cause low mood and malaise when consumed in large amounts daily [252254].

In my experience, increased amounts of cooked animal protein in the diet can cause drowsiness, increased fatigue or lowered mood. Even a single high-protein meal consisting of roasted chicken and eggs can lower mood according to one report [117]. It seems that lean meat lowers mood more strongly than fatty meat. Sleepiness or drowsiness can occur with the protein supplementation diet; that is, when a person adds more protein to the diet and there are no restrictions on what the person can eat. Sleepiness does not occur with a high-protein diet that is free of cooked grains and all artificial ingredients (the balanced high-protein diet). According to my self-experimentation and some studies [252254], nuts are probably the most difficult type of food. They can make me feel bad if I consume them in large amounts daily. Large amounts of nuts, i.e., 60 grams (~2 oz.) of pulverized nuts or more per day, can cause apathy, nausea, and headache. At the same time, nuts have a strong beneficial effect on attention and thus are an essential component of an attention-enhancing diet.

If you follow the balanced high-protein diet (from the previous section) for several weeks or months, you may start to feel bad both mentally and physically. The most common side effects that I have observed with myself are sadness, apathy, and physical fatigue. Another effect that you may notice with these dietary changes is various character changes, some of which may appear to be undesirable. The possible character changes include increased confidence and self-esteem; the person may become more reliable (more organized, can keep her word); the person may become less emotional, at least outwardly: manifestations of both positive and negative emotions may become less pronounced. Talkativeness may decrease or remain unchanged within the normal range. The section “Potential adverse effects” in Chapter One explained why the reduced emotionality does not mean that the person will become “less happy.”

Dealing with constipation. Although boiled ground meat (Appendix I) is not a filling food, my advice is to avoid eating large amounts in one sitting (greater than 200–250 grams or 7–9 oz.). This action can cause constipation or hard stool. The latter condition can be painful in the bathroom and can cause small amounts of blood to appear in the stool. Diets containing large amounts of cooked meat and fish promote constipation, and the best way to prevent or reduce this problem seems to be the following:

Popular sources of dietary fiber such as fruits, vegetables, and cooked grains, although somewhat helpful, are not effective. Vegetable puree is somewhat effective, but increases flatulence. Microcrystal cellulose works OK for some people, but I cannot use it because it gives me digestive problems.

Here is a ranking of foods and combinations that contribute to constipation, starting from the strongest:

  1. Dairy plus meat

  2. Dairy fat or full-fat dairy

  3. Cacao or chocolate

  4. Regular dairy

  5. Fatty meat

  6. Goat dairy

  7. Normal-fat meat

  8. Any animal protein in large amounts, e.g. raw eggs

  9. Mutton fat or beef fat does not contribute to constipation if the meal or diet does not contain meat and fish

Patients with a recent history of hemorrhagic stroke should not use high-protein diets, even if these diets contain extra fiber. Straining forcefully while sitting on the toilet can cause these patients to have another stroke, and therefore they need to be extra careful. With respect to low mood, fatigue, and apathy that can result from high-protein diets, my experience suggests that there are several approaches that can reduce or eliminate these problems. This is the subject of the next section.

Key points

Ways of reducing the adverse effects of the proposed high-protein diet

The most effective approach is addition of low-fat milk or related dairy products to the protein supplement (in a separate meal). (Readers can skip the detailed discussion of this topic and jump to the key points: press this link.) For example, if you feel bad on the balanced high-protein diet, you can replace one of the high-protein meals with several glasses of low-fat milk (pasteurized). If this is not effective, you can alternate meals that contain the protein supplement with

  1. meals that consist of low-fat milk or

  2. meals that consist of unsalted unprocessed cheese mixed with low-fat cultured milk.

If you are lactose intolerant, you may consider using special lactose-free dairy products. If you are allergic to cow milk, you may consider using goat milk instead. If I feel apathetic, fatigued or depressed after an extended period on the balanced high-protein diet, addition of dairy makes me feel better right away and reverses most of the above symptoms. If you are drinking six glasses of milk per day or more, you need to avoid milk that contains dietary supplements such as vitamins A, C, D, or calcium. You risk overdosing on those supplements with such large amounts of milk.

You can also increase fat content of meat to 50% or more because fatty meat is tolerated much better than lean meat (which I regard as a poison), or you may replace all meat with beef or mutton fat (not fried fat). These products contain some protein, they are not 100% fat, and they enhance attention almost as effectively as meat does. Additionally, to feel well while eating large amounts of boiled meet and fish, you need to lower air temperature in your home (to 18–20°C), to dress lightly (especially when you sleep), and to take cold air baths daily (see point # 55 in Appendix VII).

This brings us to the modified high-protein diet. This diet is the same as the balanced high-protein diet, but it includes low-fat milk or related dairy products and wheat extract. The modified protein supplement is the same as the protein supplement that we saw in a previous section, except that you replace some high-protein meals with low-fat milk or related dairy products. This supplement can include half a glass of wheat extract per meal as well. The modified high-protein diet has little or no effect on mood, whereas the balanced high-protein diet (similar to the Paleolithic diet) gradually lowers mood and increases apathy. There is a small probability that the modified high-protein diet will cause symptoms of hypomania. In this case, you need to exclude dairy and wheat extract from the diet, for several days. Next time you transition to the modified high-protein diet, you can reduce the amount of dairy 2-fold and see how it works for you.

To sum up, low-fat dairy products and water extract of grains are two additional sources of protein, which have fewer negative effects than meat, fish, and nuts. I devised a diet, which I named the “antidepressant diet” for lack of a better term, that consists of pasteurized dairy products, raw water extract of grains as well as fruits and vegetables. We will discuss this diet in more detail in Chapter Four. The antidepressant diet is another approach that you can use to reduce adverse effects of the meat-based diets. The composition of the antidepressant diet is as follows:

As you can see, this diet contains all types of nutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat and most of the essential vitamins as well. If full-fat dairy does not cause problems with constipation, then you can consume it instead of low-fat dairy. In addition, if it contains sufficient amounts of unprocessed unsalted cheese in each meal, then this diet provides sufficient attention control. The recommended duration of the antidepressant diet is one to three days, but you can extend it up to 7 days if necessary. As soon as the symptoms of apathy, fatigue, or lowered mood disappear, you can resume another type of a high-protein diet. Or you can return to your usual diet if you don’t have to perform any attention-intensive tasks. Official dietary guidelines such as the USDA’s MyPlate or Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate [61] are suitable for everyday life. By the way, in Appendix II, you can find a summary of the effects of various diets described in this book.

As an aside, people who are vegetarians because they believe that meat makes them feel bad can resume consumption of meat if they use these three simple rules:

  1. for every 100 grams (~3 ounces) of meat, add a double amount (200 grams or ~6 ounces) of low-fat milk, cultured milk, unsalted unprocessed cheese, or a mixture thereof to your diet (in a separate meal);

  2. always use high-fat or normal-fat meat and avoid lean meat;

  3. avoid meat cooked at high temperatures (fried, grilled, baked, or broiled) and instead use boiled or steamed meat.

In my experience, this approach can make consumption of meat tolerable and free of such negative effects as lowered mood or apathy. You will also enjoy such benefits of meat consumption as good attention control and good work capacity.

Another way to reduce the negative effects of the proposed protein supplement is to replace red meat (beef, pork, and mutton) with white meat (poultry and fish). In this case, the protein supplement will consist of poultry and fish; this food is similar to the preferred source of protein of bodybuilders. I tolerate this “more vegetarian” protein supplement better, but it is less effective at improving attention. Perhaps because the quality of protein is lower. You can take this approach a step further and exclude poultry and keep fish and nuts. Keep in mind that fish may contain mercury as a pollutant and high consumption of fish is not appropriate for everybody. You can also use an all-vegetarian protein supplement that consists of unsalted unprocessed cheese mixed with cultured milk and pulverized nuts.

How much fat meat contains determines how well people tolerate meat-based diets. My experience and some studies suggest that large amounts of lean meat can have adverse effects, such as upset stomach, diarrhea, and headache. Therefore, in the context of high-protein diets, meat and poultry should contain sufficient amounts of fat: greater than 7% for poultry and greater than 10–15% for red meat. The fat content of fish does not make any difference. This recommendation goes against the traditional official guidelines that you should limit animal fats. We reviewed the subject of animal fat in detail in Chapter One. If you feel well on high-protein diets that are based on lean meat, then you can stick with low-fat diets and ignore my advice regarding animal fat.

My experience and experience of the many followers of the Atkins diet suggest that, in the context of a low-carbohydrate diet, people tolerate large amounts of meat well. Low-carb diets are also known as ketogenic diets. Although people tolerate ketogenic diets well and these diets help to lose weight, in my experience, they are not the best diets for performance of mental tasks, such as reading and writing. Hence my view is that high-protein diets that contain sufficient amounts of carbohydrates are more effective at improving mental performance than ketogenic diets. Recent research supports this opinion [933, 941].

Some people can live on an all-meat diet for extended periods of time; this diet consists of meat only and excludes everything else. Some ethnic groups in the far North can subsist on meat and fish only during the winter [58]. Famous explorer and anthropologist Vilhjalmur Stefansson spent many years studying ethnic groups of the Arctic Circle. In the late 1920s, he invited several prominent doctors to observe him and his assistant as they spent one year eating nothing but meat. The doctors published the results of this experiment in the Journal of Biological Chemistry [251]. The doctors did not find any health problems in these two people after one year of the all-meat diet. In particular, this diet did not even result in vitamin deficiencies.

Key points

Several approaches (listed below in order of usefulness) can reduce negative effects of meat-rich diets such as apathy, fatigue, and low mood:

The modified protein supplement and modified high-protein diet

This section summarizes the most effective dietary approaches to improvement of attention function, based on my experience. The modified protein supplement is the following (percentages by weight):

This is the gist of the modified protein supplementation diet, which does not forbid any types of food, but adds large amounts of the above supplement to each meal. This regimen improves attention control. This protein supplement can even serve as a whole meal because it contains all types of nutrients (fats, protein, and carbohydrates). In contrast to the protein supplement described earlier, the modified protein supplement does not cause apathy and does not lower mood, in my experience. The best way to consume large amounts of meat in my view is to eat small amounts of meat three to five times a day. It is also a good idea to add raw fruits and vegetables to each high-protein meal.

A high-protein diet that excludes all artificial ingredients (junk food, food additives, and dietary supplements) is more effective at improving attention compared to the protein supplementation. If you add low-fat dairy and wheat extract to a high-protein diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, nuts, cooked meat and fish, it will become the modified high-protein diet. A sample menu is shown below. The menu below lists essential ingredients of each meal and does not provide any recipes. You can prepare a number of tasty dishes using various combinations of these foods. You can find some recipes in Appendix I. The amounts of food listed below are for a person whose energy needs are around 3000 calories per day. You may need to prorate these amounts according to your energy needs by means of this calculator: [337].

Breakfast: A vegetable salad; 150–250 grams (5–8 ounces) of boiled or steamed ground beef; 10–15 grams (~0.5 ounce) of pulverized nuts (for example, walnuts).

Lunch: Fruit or fruit salad; 150–250 grams (5–8 ounces) of boiled or steamed chicken or ground chicken; 10–15 grams (~0.5 ounce) of pulverized nuts.

Dinner: A vegetable salad; 150–250 grams of unsalted unprocessed cheese mixed with an equal amount of low-fat cultured milk.

The amounts of food listed above may seem large, but this diet is not filling, probably because all types of food in the diet are easily digestible. If you don’t have to perform any attention-intensive tasks, you can replace any one of the daily meals or all of them (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) with your usual food. The above diet improves performance of reading tasks, but is not the best regimen for writing tasks, such as writing of scientific papers. We will discuss this in more detail in Chapter Five.

In addition to improved attention control and reduced impulsivity, the modified high-protein diet seems to cause some other beneficial changes. These changes include improved self-esteem and self-confidence and a patient and friendly attitude toward people in general. (The latter effect may require exclusion of nuts from this diet. In my experience, large amounts of nuts can increase irritability.)

As for the scientific evidence, there are some studies suggesting that increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, or fish can improve mental abilities [822, 838, 839, 841, 851, 876, 881, 887, 888, 890, 892, 899901]. Exclusion of food additives and other artificial chemicals from the diet can also improve some mental abilities [6267, 929, 1000].

The possible undesirable effects of the modified high-protein diet are the following. The diet may slightly increase physical fatigue, but you can prevent this by means of cold hydrotherapy in the morning as described in Chapter Two. Rare side effects include insomnia and symptoms of hypomania. Symptoms of hypomania can occur if you stay on this diet for many months or after a positive life event. This effect rarely happens, but you need to be aware of this risk. One or more of the following signs and symptoms can serve as a signal that you may be having a hypomanic episode: a persistent feeling of euphoria or excitement; the need for sleep less than 5 hours a day; the activity level increased to unusual levels, so that you are constantly moving about, pacing the room or unable to relax and sit still; argumentativeness and low self-control; flood of ideas or racing thoughts; grandiose ideas or plans (nondelusional); excessive libido; and hyperhedonia, i.e., pleasure from activities that would normally be boring (for example, looking at the same painting or listening to the same song for hours). These criteria are based on my own experience (a healthy subject without a history of bipolar disorder). They are different from the diagnostic criteria for hypomania in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) [340]. The criteria in the DSM-IV-TR serve the purpose of diagnosis of bipolar disorder, whereas the criteria listed above are designed to detect hypomania in a healthy person who is leading an overly stimulating lifestyle. Nonetheless, the DSM-IV-TR criteria may serve the latter purpose too. If you have a history of depression or bipolar disorder, you need to see your doctor if you suspect that you are having a hypomanic episode. If you do not have a history of mood disorders, my advice is to switch to the depressant diet (Chapter Four). Also stop using cold and hot hydrotherapy (Chapter Two). A hot environment (Chapter Two) will help to calm down and will be beneficial, whereas hot hydrotherapy will not be useful. In most cases, the state of hypomania is undesirable because it can lead to foolish business deals, excessive spending, overly optimistic decisions, and activities that have a high potential for painful consequences.

In most cases, the modified high-protein diet does not have any effect on mood, but it may cause overconfidence. This diet can also cause some other character changes; we talked about this in more detail in the section “Potential adverse effects” in Chapter One.

Some researchers reading this book may be interested in testing these two approaches, the modified protein supplement and the modified high-protein diet, in a clinical trial with ADHD patients. They can use the protocol from endnote L. The modified high-protein diet must include boiled grains if a person follows this diet longer than a week. Boiled grains are especially important for ADHD patients because diets excluding cooked grains increase impulsiveness (my personal regrettable experience). Patients with the primarily impulsive/hyperactive subtype of ADHD should benefit from liberal amounts of raw honey and sedative herbs (as explained elsewhere in this book) in the meat-rich diet. The last paragraph of endnote L explains how to measure possible benefits of this approach in knowledge workers. If an ADHD patient prefers avoiding boiled grains, then he/she must take other sedative measures to reduce impulsivity: sedative herbs, higher consumption of animal fat, breath-holding exercises, higher air temperature, and higher consumption of raw honey (instead of fruits). Finally, it bears repeating that unsalted unprocessed cheese and the antidepressant diet, if it contains enough of this food product, are also beneficial for the attention function. They are less effective than the above techniques.

Another way to reduce the apathy and low mood associated with a diet containing lots of cooked meat is a combination of several methods that improve mood: consume vitamin-rich foods (not supplemented with vitamins, e.g., small amounts of a multivegetable juice, see Appendix VII, point # 7 and its footnote), do the brief cardio exercise once a day, use a home solarium for one minute twice a day, tepid (thermoneutral) showers twice a day, and hyperventilation exercise once or twice a week. For details, see Appendix VII.

In conclusion, I recently found that procedures that stimulate the central nervous sytem (adaptogens, such as ginseng, adapted cold shower, lemon juice, and/or brief cardio exercise) also improve attention function but only briefly (half an hour), and then attention worsens owing to hyperactivity.

Key points

A possible relationship of attention with memorization and understanding

This book devotes little attention to the function of memory, and I am not aware of any effective biological methods that can improve memory function in healthy people. (There are some relevant studies [293, 844, 926, 927, 970], but I have not verified the validity of these techniques.) In theory, a diet that is free of artificial ingredients, such as the “smart diets” proposed in this book, may improve memory because of the general improvement of functioning of the brain. If you ask my classmates from college (NSU, 1994–1999), many of them will tell you that I have excellent memory. I cannot say with certainty whether I have good or average memory. My academic performance improved when I started experimenting with smart diets, but this does not prove that these diets improved my memory. These diets may have improved attention or fluid intelligence with no change in memory function.

Improved attention control can allow a person to read the same text more times than an average person can. Reduced distractibility will also allow the person to store more information in memory after reading a text once. This is in contrast to a more distractible person who was not paying attention while reading some portions of the text. Thus, improved attention control will improve memorization by reducing distractibility and by increasing the number of reads. Put another way, increased attention control should improve memorization, independent of the memory function.

Another potential benefit of improved attention control is an increased ability to understand complex texts. If attention control is low, then a person may give up after encountering a few unfamiliar concepts in the text. Thus, poor attention control is an insurmountable obstacle to comprehension of complex texts. On the other hand, if attention function is in good shape, then the person will be able to look up the meaning of every unfamiliar word. Good attention control will also allow this person to read some introductory texts on the topic. Thus, little by little, the person with good attention function is bound to understand any unfamiliar text. People with a high IQ can grasp complex texts that are unintelligible to people with an average IQ, but good attention control may serve as a “great equalizer.” This “equalizer” will ensure that, given enough time, people with average intelligence will be able to understand complex texts.

Key points

Summary of Chapter Three

Studies show that high-protein diets cause some biochemical changes in the brain that are similar to those caused by attention-enhancing drugs, such as Ritalin®. In addition, research shows that a restrictive elimination diet, which is devoid of artificial ingredients, benefits patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Therefore, this chapter proposes a high-protein diet that is free of junk food and food additives as a method of improving attention. One possible diet (I call it the “balanced high-protein diet”) consists of boiled meat, poultry, fish, raw nuts, fruits, and vegetables. Another diet, the “modified high-protein diet,” is similar but also includes substantial amounts of dairy or raw eggs, raw tail fat, and other safe raw animal foods. The latter diet has fewer adverse effects than the former.

Several published studies and personal experience of the author suggest that increased intake of high-quality protein, such as meat, improves the ability to concentrate. You can achieve even better results, in particular better reading comprehension, if you simultaneously increase protein intake and eliminate artificial chemicals and junk food from the diet. A reverse approach, almost complete elimination of protein from the diet (for example, a fruit-and-vegetable diet) reproduces most symptoms of ADHD: distractibility, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. You can reverse these symptoms if you add protein-rich foods back to the diet.

Several studies suggest that ADHD patients exhibit signs of low consumption of dietary protein. These signs include a somewhat smaller brain size in ADHD children compared to their peers and lowered levels of total protein and some amino acids in blood.
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CHAPTER 4: Emotional intelligence


The concept of emotional intelligence

Treatments that may reduce or increase emotional sensitivity

Why high consumption of cooked meat and cooked grains can cause symptoms of depression

The “antidepressant diet,” or why a safe raw high-protein diet can improve mood

Lifestyle changes that reduce anxiety

A lifestyle that can cause hypomania and boost creativity

Is constantly elevated mood desirable?

A possible anger management protocol

Summary of Chapter Four

The concept of emotional intelligence

(This literature review has not been updated since 2010.) As we saw in Chapter One, there are types of intelligence different from academic intelligence, also known as “intelligence” or IQ. Just to remind you, academic intelligence includes mental abilities related to understanding and manipulation of words and numbers as well as geometrical shapes of objects and spatial relationships among them. The other two more or less validated types of intelligence are emotional intelligence and social intelligence. Social intelligence is the ability to understand and behave intelligently in social relationships and we will talk about it in Chapter Six. It is possible that there are additional types of intelligence, for instance, practical intelligence and spatial intelligence. This topic is outside the scope of this book.

According to the researchers who formulated this scientific concept, emotional intelligence is “the ability to carry out accurate reasoning about emotions and the ability to use emotions and emotional knowledge to enhance thought” [23]. These psychologists, John Mayer and Peter Salovey, have devised a model of emotional intelligence that combines abilities from four related areas: (a) accurately perceiving emotion, (b) using emotions to facilitate thought, (c) understanding emotion, and (d) managing emotion. To avoid ambiguity, we will use the following definition of an emotion: “an integrated feeling state involving physiological changes, motor-preparedness, cognitions about action, and inner experiences that emerges from an appraisal of the self or situation” [23]. Both the definition of emotions and the concept of emotional intelligence are not without controversy in the field of psychology. There are different models and definitions, advocated by different authors [434439]. At present, many researchers view the model developed by Mayer and Salovey as the best-validated model of emotional intelligence. The initial enthusiasm and hype related to emotional intelligence in the 1990s have subsided by now. Many preliminary claims and assumptions made by other authors turned out to be incorrect. In particular, later studies have shown that emotional intelligence does not predict academic performance and job performance better than IQ. Some studies have even shown that emotional intelligence does not predict them at all. At this point, it is safe to say that the IQ is still relevant, whereas emotional intelligence has some unresolved issues and needs further validation. For example, there are competing definitions and models of emotional intelligence, and different tests of emotional intelligence show poor correlation among themselves. It is still unclear how one should measure certain components of emotional intelligence [23]. This is not the case with academic intelligence and IQ tests. Readers can find a good critical overview of emotional intelligence research in these sources: [440442].

The MSCEIT (Mayer–Salovey–Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test) is thought to be the best-validated test of emotional intelligence, although it is not perfect. For example, the ability to perceive emotions of other people, as measured by the MSCEIT, does not correlate well with this ability as assessed by other well-designed tests [23, 435, 436]. Here is how the MSCEIT test works [23]: trained technicians administer the test, which consists of a series of multiple-choice questions, some of which contain pictures. The test contains 141 questions distributed among eight tasks. Each task assesses a different component of emotional intelligence: (1) emotional perception in faces and (2) in landscapes; using emotions (3) with objects not normally associated with emotions and (4) in facilitating thought; (5) understanding emotional changes across time and (6) blends; (7) managing emotions in oneself and (8) in relationships. The MSCEIT test produces the score for overall emotional intelligence as well as four subscales: perceiving, facilitating, understanding, and managing emotions.

There are a number of other tests of emotional intelligence. Some of these tests consist of self-rating questionnaires [434, 443]. Research shows that this self-assessment produces results that are different from the results of more objective tests, such as the MSCEIT [444]. If different tests show divergent results, we can assume that many of the existing tests measure something other than emotional intelligence, for example, personality traits or psychological well-being. Consequently, readers need to exercise caution when interpreting findings about possible real-world applications of emotional intelligence testing. Even the best-validated tests still have unresolved issues, as discussed above.

Preliminary findings suggest that there may be a weak to moderate correlation of emotional intelligence scores with the following life outcomes [23]:

Some studies did not find these correlations and further research is needed. Additionally, there may be some overlap between the abilities related to social intelligence and those related to emotional intelligence [31]. In contrast to academic and social intelligence, it seems impossible, at present, to distinguish the crystallized and fluid components of emotional intelligence by means of existing tests. Most tests, including the MSCEIT, assess crystallized emotional intelligence, that is, knowledge and skills related to emotions [445]. Because one can acquire knowledge and skills, it is possible that emotional intelligence will improve as a result of special training [23]. Further research is needed in this area.

In conclusion, the research of emotional intelligence is a growing and promising field. Tests of emotional intelligence await further validation and resolution of inconsistencies. Some self-rating tests are available free of charge [443]. When interpreting the results of self-rating tests please keep in mind the limitations discussed above. The mental clarity questionnaire presented in this book (Appendix IV) is designed to assess some components of emotional intelligence. The number of questions, however, is too small and this test does not provide a separate score of emotional intelligence.

The sections that follow describe techniques that may improve some components of emotional intelligence. We will talk about management of internal mood, suppression of undesirable emotions such as anger and resentment, and regulation of sensitivity to emotions of other people. For the above reasons, this book cannot supply readers with an instrument for measuring improvements in emotional intelligence. Nonetheless, an honest assessment of the effectiveness of my advice is still possible. For example, if you find the creativity regimen to be effective (the section “A lifestyle that can cause hypomania and boost creativity”), this means that you can gain greater control over your emotional state. If the anger management protocol (last section of this chapter) does not prevent fits of anger, you can conclude that this method does nothing for your emotional intelligence.

Key points

Treatments that may reduce or increase emotional sensitivity

One of the components of the emotional intelligence model of Mayer and Salovey is the ability to perceive other people’s emotions accurately. There are several well-designed tests of accuracy of perception of emotions, but they do not correlate well among each other. The reason for this lack of correlation is unknown [23]. There is a similar concept, which is related to perception of emotions, which I call emotional sensitivity. This chapter defines that term as the ability to pay attention to the emotions of other people and willingness to foresee emotional responses of other people to one’s actions. As you can see, emotional sensitivity is related to two components of the Mayer and Salovey model: perception and understanding of emotion. Yet emotional sensitivity as defined above also includes the component of interest in (or indifference to) other people’s emotions. Most people can accurately perceive and understand others’ emotions, but an emotionally sensitive person is also interested in (or unable to ignore) other people’s emotions. An emotionally insensitive person is indifferent to (or able to ignore) others’ emotions. The word “sensitivity” in English has an additional meaning: the propensity to take offense. For simplicity’s sake, we will assume that “emotional sensitivity” only deals with perception of emotions of other people and does not have the additional meaning in the context of this chapter.

On the surface, it may seem that emotional sensitivity is subject to free will,Q i.e., you can become sensitive or insensitive at will whenever you want to. In my view, this notion is incorrect, and emotional sensitivity is difficult to control by a mental effort alone. Although you can change your behavior if you decide to pay more attention to others’ emotions, your intrinsic interest or indifference to the emotions of other people will remain unchanged. For example, a law enforcement officer may find it difficult to subdue and arrest a suspect if the arresting officer is too sensitive to the emotions of the suspect. As you can see from this example, low emotional sensitivity can be useful in some situations and is not a bad thing. Low emotional sensitivity is not the same as rudeness or offensive behavior.

The following techniques, which can increase or decrease emotional sensitivity, most likely change the “interest/indifference” component of emotional sensitivity. These methods are unlikely to increase accuracy of perception and understanding of emotion. At present, the biological mechanism underlying these methods is unknown.

In my experience, the most effective approach to increase emotional sensitivity is the fruit-and-vegetable diet (fifth section of Chapter Three and Appendix II). This diet contains negligible amounts of fat and protein. If other people tell you that you are rude and insensitive, you can try switching to the fruit-and-vegetable diet for several days. You will notice that you have become keenly aware of other people’s emotions. You may catch yourself trying to avoid causing even the slightest inconvenience to another person. Politeness should increase and you will be trying to avoid doing things that others may interpret as impolite. The awareness of other people’s emotions may reach the point of being uncomfortable. This is why emotional sensitivity is not subject to free will. While on this diet, it will be all but impossible for you to ignore other people’s emotions. You will be unable to change this state of affairs by a mental effort alone. On the other hand, you will be able to reduce your emotional sensitivity if you discontinue the fruit-and-vegetable diet. Also keep in mind that this diet will reduce your capacity for work and you shouldn’t stay on this diet longer than 3 to 4 days.

Another diet that can increase emotional sensitivity is the antidepressant diet, which we discussed in Chapter One. It consists of low-fat milk, wheat extract (Appendix I), fruits, vegetables, and unprocessed unsalted cheese. This diet contains significant amounts of protein and fat, but the protein is not of the highest quality. In my experience, this diet can make you more aware of other people’s emotions and more interested in the potential effects that your actions will have on others’ feelings. This diet is not as effective at increasing emotional sensitivity as the fruit-and-vegetable diet. On the positive side, it will not reduce your work capacity (with some exceptions for certain occupations). The antidepressant diet will increase emotional sensitivity to an above average level when the level is low or normal. This elevated level is within the normal range and will not become uncomfortable. If emotional sensitivity is excessive, for example, after an extended period of the fruit-and-vegetable diet, then switching to the antidepressant diet will lower emotional sensitivity to a more normal level.

The approach that can reduce emotional sensitivity is the modified high-protein diet (Chapter Three). It contains large amounts of highest-quality protein and is effective at improving attention control. This diet reduces emotional sensitivity, in that you may become less aware and less interested in emotions of others. Your ability to recognize and understand emotions of others will not change, but rather, you will be paying less attention to them.

This approach will not make you rude or antisocial—it will do the opposite. If you believe that you are rude and can’t help it or if you have difficulty getting along with other people, you can try this diet and it should reduce those problems. The reduced emotional sensitivity will manifest itself as the ability to ignore other people’s emotions and what others think about you. It can also manifest itself as increased bluntness and a tendency to poke fun at other people. This method also makes it easier to observe or witness disgusting, disturbing, or tragic events, which would traumatize sensitive people. For this reason, the modified high-protein diet may be beneficial in occupations that require low emotional sensitivity, such as surgery, law enforcement, and the military.

Some readers may be wondering what the cause of rudeness is if rudeness is unrelated to emotional sensitivity, according to my claims. Many vegetarians that I know believe that consumption of meat makes people rude and aggressive. One can refute this notion by testing an all-meat diet [251]. If meat does not make people rude (according to my claims above), then what does? My view is that the combination of bread with junk food and other “problem foods” listed in the natural food pyramid (Table 3) can contribute to rudeness. I do not have rigorous proof, but if I switch to this kind of dietary regimen, I become rude and heavy-handed in my relations with some people. I can’t help being rude under these conditions. The problem goes away if I exclude bread and junk food from the diet or reduce consumption of these foods significantly. Boiled grains do not cause this problem. These observations lead me to believe that rudeness involves a subtle cognitive impairment, which a person can reverse by a proper diet.

In conclusion, a question may arise: does emotional insensitivity (as defined above) correlate with thick skin, or a low propensity to take offense? In my experience, the correlation exists at the extremes (the fruit-and-vegetable diet and the modified high-protein diet). High emotional sensitivity correlates with thin skin, whereas low emotional sensitivity correlates with thick skin. This correlation does not apply to the antidepressant diet, which produces intermediate effects on emotional sensitivity. This diet makes the skin “somewhat thicker,” but at the same time, improves sensitivity to other people’s emotions.

Key points

Why high consumption of cooked meat and cooked grains can cause symptoms of depression

Warning: The diet described in this section should not be used by patients with a diagnosis of depression or by anyone who suspects that they may be having a depressive episode.

Most high-protein diets contain significant amounts of cooked meat. Research shows that, in humans, high-protein diets can lower mood [110, 111] and cause fatigue [111, 113] and emotional tension [110, 114]. Some high-protein diets, when combined with a regimen of physical exercise, can worsen mood [110, 111]. There are studies suggesting that vegetarians tend to have better subjective ratings of mood compared to people consuming a mixed diet [115, 116, 827]. Even a single high-protein meal consisting of cooked chicken and eggs can lower mood in healthy human subjects [117]. My personal experience is in agreement with these findings. Cooked red meat, such as cooked beef, has the most noticeable mood-lowering effect, especially when I eat large amounts daily for one to two weeks (0.5–1.0 kilograms or 1–2 pounds a day). The mood-lowering effect of cooked meat disappears in the context of a ketogenic diet, that is, in the context of a diet that contains negligible amounts of carbohydrates, such as the Atkins diet. As explained in endnote D, self-experimentation suggests that raw meat does not lower mood in the context of any diet and has the opposite effect. (Warning: Readers should not consume raw meat because it carries a risk of infectious disease, see Table 1; there are safer ways of improving mood, as you will see in the next section.) A recent research article shows that a single raw high-protein meal does not lower mood [942]. The high-protein meal in this study was based on cheese (made from pasteurized milk) and salami (made from uncooked meat). The above observations suggest that cooking of meat changes its effects on mood.

One possible explanation is that the brain of Homo sapiens had evolved on a raw diet and does not work well on the cooked diet. The evolution of the human brain started about 15 million years ago, when the first hominids or great apes appeared. This evolution continued through the time point about 300,000 years ago, when humans adopted fire for cooking. Therefore, it is possible that the human brain did not have enough evolutionary time to adapt fully to cooked meat and cooked grains. To some extent most people may be adapted to consumption of these foods and may experience only mild negative effects. Yet some genetically susceptible people may develop clinical depressionX when they consume a diet that contains large amounts of cooked meat and cooked grains. As a side note, epidemiological studies have shown an association between an unhealthy diet and depressive symptoms [822, 824, 829, 838, 861, 862, 877, 885, 902, 903, 939, 948, 988]. Some reports have shown that a healthy diet correlates with better mental health in general [882, 892, 893, 989]. A recent research article shows that when monkeys switch to the modern human diet, they become more susceptible to depression [934]. The authors of this report are hypothesizing that the negative effects of the modern human diet are due to dietary cholesterol and saturated fat. (Yet another example of bashing of animal fat!) On the other hand, it is possible that the negative effects in the monkeys are due to the switch from a somewhat unnatural diet (laboratory chow) to an unnatural diet. This unnatural diet contains cooked meat, cooked grains, fried fat, and so on. The natural diet of most species of primates in the wild is a raw vegan diet [44, 45]. There are some exceptions, such as chimps, who consume raw meat [3941].

It took me awhile to figure out a possible mechanism of the mood-lowering effect of cooked meat. It turns out that this effect may be due to the small amounts of mutagens that form during cooking of muscle meats. As we saw in Chapter One, cooking of meat can form two major types of mutagens: polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heterocyclic aromatic amines. (Readers can skip the technical details by pressing this link.) The former are formed in significant amounts when you cook meat on an open flame. Benzo[a]pyrene is a well-known polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon. Benzo[a]pyrene has a depressant effect on the central nervous system of laboratory animals, i.e., it makes the animals slower and less active at high doses [172, 173]. It is unclear if the small amounts of this compound present in cooked meat have the same effects on humans. Another mutagen from this group, called pyrene, also has depressant properties in experimental animals at high doses [170].

The other major class of mutagens, heterocyclic aromatic amines, forms in meat during any type of cooking. The amount of these chemicals in meat increases with the duration and temperature of cooking [136, 146, 165]. Two of these chemicals, called harman and norharman, have psychoactive properties in laboratory animals [199, 446, 447].

Unfortunately, these chemicals exhibit antidepressant rather than depressant effects in laboratory animals, and these findings do not support my argument here. Nonetheless, this research shows that, in principle, heterocyclic amines can have psychoactive properties. It is possible that some of the other 15 (or more) heterocyclic amines that science identified in cooked meat [152] can have the opposite, mood-lowering effect. Psychoactive properties of the majority of heterocyclic amines are unknown.

Psychotropic drugs do not always have identical effects in humans and in laboratory rodents. For example, different classes of antidepressant drugs work differently in different animal models of depression [448]. Porsolt swim test, also known as the behavioral despair test, is an established experimental model of depression. It involves placing a rodent in a cylinder filled with water, from which the animal cannot escape, and measuring the time the animal spends without moving. The original Porsolt swim test was sensitive to the effects of older classes of antidepressant drugs such as tricyclics and MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors). But researchers had to modify this test later because it could not detect the antidepressant properties of SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), the newer class of antidepressants [448]. In addition, SSRIs have a rapid antianxiety effect in rat models of anxiety, within hours [449]. In humans, they start to reduce anxiety only after 2 or 3 weeks of daily administration [450]. In summary, the mood-lowering effect of cooked meat may be due to the psychoactive properties of mutagens that form during cooking of muscle meats.

Note that the amount of mutagens in meat cooked at moderate temperatures is negligible, almost undetectable. Therefore, this kind of food does not pose any risks to health, although it may have subtle effects on mental state. We saw in Chapter One that low doses of chemicals often have effects that are different from the effects of high doses, the phenomenon known as hormesis.

Another chemical that may be responsible for the mood-lowering effect of cooked meat is creatinine. It plays a role in normal metabolic processes of the human body and is present at a low level in blood. Research shows that creatinine can be responsible for fatigue and low mood that may result from consumption of large amounts of cooked meat. The level of creatinine in meat increases over 30-fold during cooking [130]. A meal of uncooked meat has no effect on blood level of creatinine in humans [130], whereas a meal consisting of cooked meat raises the blood creatinine for several hours [130, 184]. Elevated levels of creatinine in blood and insufficient elimination of creatinine from circulation by kidneys correlate with fatigue [185187] and symptoms of depression in various groups of patients [188191]. This association does not necessarily mean that creatinine causes fatigue and depression. Elevated blood creatinine is an indicator of kidney dysfunction, and it is possible that kidney dysfunction rather than creatinine itself is responsible for fatigue and symptoms of depression. This is because elimination of all kinds of waste (including creatinine) from circulation is impaired when kidneys are malfunctioning. Further research is needed to determine whether creatinine contributes to fatigue and symptoms of depression or if creatinine merely correlates with these problems. Elevated blood levels of creatinine also correlate with cognitive impairment in various groups of patients [192195], but it is unknown if this relationship is causal or coincidental.

Large amounts of cooked meat do not worsen mood in the context of a low-carbohydrate diet, when the body switches to burning of fat instead of carbohydrates as a main source of energy. This metabolic state is called ketosis, and many low-carb diets are called ketogenic diets because they can induce ketosis [451]. Several studies show positive effects of ketogenic diets, such the Atkins diet, on mood [277], and my personal experience supports these results. In my experience, the Atkins diet (the induction phase) can worsen mood during the first few days but subsequently mood normalizes. Why does the Atkins diet not worsen mood, but a mixed diet that contains large amounts of cooked meat worsens mood? Maybe because during ketosis, the human body processes cooking mutagens in a different way.E

To summarize, creatinine, some polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and heterocyclic amines may be responsible for the negative effects of cooked meat on mood. Yet hard evidence at realistic doses is lacking.

In my experience, another type of food that can lower mood is raw nuts, such as walnuts, filbert, or pecans. Several studies on laboratory animals show that nuts can cause malaise and symptoms of depression [252254]. These findings do not imply that nuts should lower mood in humans, but my personal experience suggests that nuts do lower mood. If I consume them in large amounts daily, nuts can cause apathy, nausea, and headache. I have not been able to find a possible explanation for these effects of nuts. In addition, roasted nuts give me headache even if I consume them in small amounts (on a daily basis).

As for cooked grains, we saw in previous chapters that boiled whole grains have a mild sedative effect: they can slow you down and improve sleep. In contrast, my personal experience suggests that raw grains or raw water extract of grains do not have this sedative effect. We saw in Chapter Two that the sedative effect may be due to the small (safe) amounts of Maillard reaction products, such as acrylamide. These chemicals form during cooking of grains (Table 2). (Readers can skip the technical details by pressing this link.) Acrylamide at high doses reduces the level of activity of laboratory animals and can impair short-term memory and learning [231233]. Sedative drugs such as benzodiazepines and barbiturates have similar effects on the central nervous system. High doses of acrylamide (over 1 milligram per kilogram of body weight per day) are toxic to nerve cells and can cause neurological damage. The average exposure to acrylamide from food is hundreds of times lower [220]. This lower dose of acrylamide does not cause any detectable neurological damage in laboratory animals. These low levels of acrylamide may have subtle effects on mental abilities of humans, but scientists have yet to investigate this area.

Some foods, such as crispbread, potato chips, and French fries, contain significant amounts of acrylamide, but they cannot cause acrylamide poisoning even if consumed in large amounts on a regular basis (Table 2). Whole grains cooked at moderate temperatures contain undetectable levels of acrylamide and should not be a cause for alarm. Bread (high cooking temperature) contains detectable but low levels of acrylamide, and it is unclear if such small amounts can cause negative effects on health in the long term (Table 2). The mild sedative effect of cooked grains may also be due to some other, yet unidentified compounds, which are unrelated to Maillard reaction products. In summary, cooked grains appear to cause a slowing of behavior, that is, a mild sedative effect. This effect may be due to Maillard reaction products or to some other chemicals that form during cooking of cereal grains.

It bears repeating that you should not be scared of the small amounts of mutagens and Maillard reaction products (e.g., acrylamide) that may be present in cooked meat and cooked grains. These low doses cannot cause detectable health problems in humans and laboratory animals. The detoxification system in the human liver can neutralize these small amounts of those chemicals. Don’t be scared of food cooked at moderate temperatures (by boiling or by steaming). Keep in mind that humans must have adapted to cooked food at least partially during the past 300,000 years of evolution. Meat and grains cooked at moderate temperatures are healthy foods and will not cause adverse effects on physical health in the context of a balanced diet. You will see later that the moderate lowering of mood and slowing can serve several useful functions.

The combination of the slowing with lowered mood resembles symptoms of clinical depression. Hence I named the diet that is based on boiled grains, boiled meat, and nuts the “depressant diet.” This diet also includes raw fruits and vegetables, but it excludes all dairy products. We saw in Chapter Three that adding significant amounts of dairy to the diet can reverse the low mood and apathy that result from consumption of large amounts of cooked meat. The mechanism underlying this beneficial effect of dairy is unknown. It is possible that milk may somehow facilitate neutralization of mutagens by the liver detoxification system.E

The detailed composition of the depressant diet is as follows (proportions by weight):

The recommended proportion of red meat (beef, pork, or mutton) is at least one half of all meat; the rest can be poultry such as chicken or turkey. This diet does not allow any dairy products. Most of the fruits and vegetables should be raw. You can drink water in any amounts. If you use this diet for 2–3 days, the most noticeable effects are slight apathy, lowered mood, the feeling of being slowed down, fatigue or drowsiness, and increased emotional tension or mild anxiety. If the diet excludes all artificial ingredients, then it will not worsen mental abilities, i.e., it will not impair judgment. But it will not improve mental abilities either. The composition of the depressant diet as described above cannot cause clinically depressed mood even if you use this diet for a month or longer. But low mood or apathy of tolerable intensity are likely. You may also start feeling stressed out. Sometimes, this diet may elevate mood during the first one or two days, but afterwards it lowers mood, increases sleep, and reduces activity, based on my experience. This diet improves sleep as effectively as the grains-only diet (Chapter Two).

We can modify the depressant diet such that it excludes all grains, while cooked red meat is the only source of animal protein. This version of the diet can cause significantly depressed mood within one or two weeks. This diet, however, has little or no sedative effect. This “harsh” version of the depressant diet consists of

It is important to exclude all dairy from this diet. The amount of fruits and vegetables should be sufficient to prevent ketosis. This harsh version of the depressant diet does not improve sleep and may cause nightmares if you use it long enough. The person may also start feeling stressed. The harsh depressant diet, in my view, may serve as an experimental model of depression, and it is possible to test this diet in controlled studies. If meat contains sufficient amounts of fat and is cooked at moderate temperatures, then the person may feel well physically but will feel bad mentally. On the other hand, if meat is lean and cooked at high temperatures, then the volunteer will feel bad both physically and mentally. This lifestyle will not be a good experimental model of a mental disorder.

Granted, the harsh version of the depressant diet, even when it lasts for several months, may cause only mild (yet clinically significant) depression. Nonetheless, this experimental model seems to predispose a person to severe depression—a negative life event can serve as a trigger. Thus, in order for severe depression to occur, it seems that there are two necessary conditions: biological predisposition and a negative life event. I went through all of this myself in the late 1990s, when I was using this high-protein diet for extended periods of time. At one point, I became suicidal and was able to recover from the severe depression only when I abandoned this deficient diet. This negative experience is what prompted my interest in experiments with raw animal food. (Readers should not follow my bad example in this case.)

Going back to the first version of the depressant diet (the milder one, containing cooked grains), it has some beneficial effects. These effects include a tendency to think things through before doing anything (low impulsivity); an ability to suppress almost any urge or impulse; improved sleep and maybe an increased amount of sleep. We will discuss the ways of reducing impulsivity in more detail at the end of Chapter Six. This diet also reduces procrastination, as you will see in the next chapter. This diet is not a “smart diet” because it causes substantial slowing (for example, in social interactions) and it is not useful for solving complex problems.

Bread is not the healthiest food and tends to promote weight gain. For this reason, I have been searching for a healthier version of the depressant diet. Finally, I have found that unheated honey is a pretty good sedative, especially if you mix it with pulverized nuts. On days when I eat honey (two or three tablespoons), I feel so lazy that I have difficulty forcing myself to do physical exercise. Another excellent remedy that can slow you down to the point of being sleepy is the valerian root, from Valeriana officinalis, which is a well-known sedative herb. Thus, the second version of the depressant diet includes unheated honey and the valerian root (or its mixture with other sedative herbs: motherwort, lavender, hops, oregano, and peppermint) instead of bread and boiled grains. My advice is to replace fruits with honey in the alternative version, to reduce the amount of sugar in this diet. The third type of depressant diet is a raw high-fat low-protein diet described in Appendix IX, point #3, which is a weight loss diet.

In theory, the depressant diet should be beneficial for patients with bipolar disorder during manic and hypomanic episodes. Nobody has tested this idea in clinical trials. (I have never had a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, although I have had undiagnosed episodes of depression and artificial hypomania.) A depressant diet containing large amounts of raw honey and sedative herbs should be more effective during manic episodes. Researchers who wish to test the effectiveness of this diet in bipolar patients can use a study protocol similar to the one described in endnote L. (A hot environment should also be effective in mania, but it is not compatible with sedative and neuroleptic drugs.) Based on my experience, possible side effects of the depressant diet are the following. This diet may cause a feeling of being stressed out; it can increase apathy and boredom; after several months, this diet can cause a small weight gain. On the positive side, the depressant diet does not impair judgment.

In conclusion, the ability to lower one’s mood when necessary may give a person greater control over his/her emotional state and thus may improve emotional intelligence. Sections that follow describe the opposite approach, which lifts internal mood when necessary.

A clarification is necessary at this point as to what “internal mood” means. Internal mood is how a person feels mentally, as opposed to what the person shows to other people. For example, a person can feel miserable (depressed internal mood) and laugh at the same time. Conversely, it is possible to be in a state of euphoria (internal mood is elevated) but appear unemotional outwardly. Based on my self-experimentation, all treatments described in this chapter have reliable effects on internal mood, but they have inconsistent effects on external mood.

Key points

The “antidepressant diet,” or why a safe raw high-protein diet can improve mood

I should say up front that I would categorize myself as a proponent of the reform psychiatry movement, not the antipsychiatry movement. In particular, the notion that mental disorders do not exist is based on several fallacies, as explained in endnote F1.

Scientists have proposed a number of different theories over the last half a century to explain the biological basis of clinical depression. Early experiments with a drug called reserpine, which depletes the stores of norepinephrine within neurons, revealed that this drug can induce symptoms of depression in healthy people. This and other observations led to the formulation of the “monoamine hypothesis of depression.” This theory postulates that depression may be a result of the shortage or insufficient activity of some chemicals in the brain [452, 453].

Pharmaceutical companies have developed a number of drugs based on the monoamine hypothesis. Many of these drugs seemed to be effective antidepressants both in laboratory animals and in clinical trials on patients. Unfortunately, later, it turned out that these clinical trials included various distortions bordering on fraud. Psychiatrists David Healy, Peter Breggin, and other researchers have shown that virtually all clinical trials of antidepressants in the last two decades can be disregarded as unreliable evidence [1045, 1128, 1306, 1307]. After decades of research in this area, David Healy concluded that the adverse effects of antidepressant drugs (including an increased risk of suicide and drug dependence) outweigh the small benefits (if any) of these drugs. He recommends revising your lifestyle in terms of diet and physical exercise and waiting several months because depression typically goes away within this time frame with or without treatment. See his presentation here. Psychiatrist Peter Breggin—who has served as an expert in various lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies and has seen the primary data from clinical trials—is convinced that antidepressants and other psychiatric drugs should be correctly called neurotoxins because they disrupt various biological mechanisms in the brain and cause all kinds of abnormal thinking and behavior [1128]. My own research indicates that there are too many ways to manipulate the results of modern clinical trials, and therefore they do not prove anything (see Appendix I, 40 ways to distort the results of a clinical trial and cancer statistics, in my other ebook "Fight Cancer"). After studying this question for many years, I am convinced that so-called "antidepressant drugs" in actuality worsen depression and make it chronic.

A related issue is that a number of studies have failed to identify a “chemical imbalance” in the brains of depressed patients [1045, 1305]. For example, the brain level of serotonin in depressed patients is not different from that of healthy people [457], although depression is known to be associated with slight aberrations in the blood levels of a stress hormone and inflammation indicators [1099, 1100]. Another question is how antidepressant drugs that act on serotonin can change mood. Among the chemicals affected by various antidepressants in the brain, only dopamine directly participates in the regulation of mood. The brain region called “ventral striatum” is a part of the system that regulates emotions (ventral means “lower–frontal”). Experiments on laboratory animals and on human subjects have shown that dopamine activity in the ventral part of the striatum has rapid effects on mood. Drugs that increase dopamine activity in this area of the brain elevate mood within 30 minutes [458, 459]. Drugs that inhibit dopamine activity (e.g., neuroleptics) can lower mood within hours [460, 461]. In contrast, drugs with specific effects on serotonin (for example, SSRIs) or norepinephrine (NRIs) do not have immediate effects on mood. A rare exception is tianeptine, which is a selective serotonin reuptake enhancer (SSRE), and it can elevate mood in healthy subjects within hours [391, 392, 462]. Note that tianeptine has a mechanism of action opposite to that of SSRIs and has potential for abuse.

The euphoriant effect, i.e., elevation of mood in healthy people, is not the same as the antidepressant effect, which means improvement of mood in depressed patients. Most antidepressants have no euphoriant properties and carry negligible risk of abuse [8, 389]. One possible explanation of the rapid mood-altering effect of tianeptine is that serotonin neurons inhibit activity of the dopamine neurons that regulate mood. Tianeptine suppresses the activity of serotonin neurons and thereby increases the activity of the dopamine neurons, and this change will lift the mood [463].

In summary, there is some questionable supporting evidence but also unresolved questions regarding the monoamine hypothesis of depression. This theory suggests that depressed mood will improve if we increase the amount or activity of serotonin, noradrenaline, or dopamine in the brain.

These three chemicals derive from amino acids, and the natural source of amino acids is dietary protein. It can be hypothesized that insufficient consumption of protein is a possible cause of depression. In other words, if a person increases her consumption of protein-rich foods, this action will facilitate the synthesis of serotonin, noradrenaline, and dopamine in the brain. Conversely, a low-protein diet should worsen the symptoms of depression. One study supports the second part of this argument. In that study, a low-protein diet enhanced depressive symptoms in laboratory rats [466, 1003]. The first part of the argument—the possible antidepressant properties of a high-protein diet—is trickier.

As you may recall, in Chapter Three we talked about experiments on rats where a high-protein diet increased activity of these animals and increased the level of dopamine in a relevant brain region [329, 330]. The high-protein diet in one of those reports contained 50% casein by calories, and just to remind you, casein is a predominant protein in cow milk. Therefore, you could say that this high-casein diet is a raw high-protein diet. The chemical changes in the brains of the laboratory rats in the above studies point to the possible stimulant and euphoriant effects of this type of high-protein diet. The antidepressant effect can sometimes coincide with, but is not the same as the euphoriant and psychostimulant effects.

In the same experiment, a low-protein diet (10% casein by calories) did not change the level of activity of the rats, but it reduced the level of dopamine in a mood-related brain region [329]. This observation points to a possible dysphoric effect (lowering of mood by a low-protein diet). Additionally, there is a growing body of evidence of the important role of dopamine in depression [467, 468]. Electroconvulsive therapy, which damages the brain but may elevate depressed mood at least temporarily, increases the release of dopamine by neurons in the brain [469]. (Peter Breggin is strongly opposed to electroconvulsive therapy, as am I.) The above observations suggest that a low-protein diet may contribute to symptoms of depression. A high-protein diet produces changes that are consistent with an antidepressant effect in laboratory animals.

The $64,000 question is whether a similar high-protein diet can have an antidepressant effect in humans. Existing studies on humans are inconsistent. High-protein diets containing large amounts of cooked meat can worsen mood in healthy subjects [110, 111, 114117], but may improve mood in obese subjects [277]. Nobody studied the effects of the Atkins diet on patients with clinical depression. According to my personal experience, this diet does not have antidepressant properties and may have negative effects on a depressed person. The Atkins diet (a low-carb diet) can lower mood to some extent during the first few days of the induction phase, but afterwards mood becomes normal. In contrast, a diet that contains a normal amount of carbohydrates and large amounts of cooked red meat, in my experience, worsens mood gradually. These are effects on normal mood. If I feel depressed, the Atkins or any other diet containing large amounts of cooked meat tends to make me even more depressed. One study showed that the Atkins-type diet caused a relapse of symptoms of anxiety in a patient who has been in remission [118]. We saw in the previous section that these negative effects on mood may have to do with the small amounts of mutagens that are always present in cooked meat and fish. Therefore, a high-protein diet should contain no muscle meats in order to have antidepressant properties.

Raw and pasteurized dairy contain no mutagens and are a suitable source of protein of good quality (better than plant protein). We saw in the previous section that raw nuts tend to lower mood (the mechanism is unknown), and therefore they cannot serve as a source of protein for a prospective antidepressant diet. Cereal grains, such as wheat, are a good source of protein, but cooked grains contain small amounts of chemicals that may be responsible for the sedative effect of this type of food. Sedative drugs are usually a bad idea for depressed patients. On the other hand, a raw water extract of wheat (or other whole grains) is free from problematic chemicals. Consequently, the wheat extract (Appendix I) can be a good source of protein for the prospective antidepressant diet.

This brings us to the “antidepressant diet,” which we discussed a few times in earlier chapters. It consists of

People allergic to cow milk may consider using goat milk instead, and lactose-intolerant people may consider special lactose-free dairy. The antidepressant diet is safe and belongs to the category of raw high-protein diets. (We saw in Chapter One that chemical differences between raw and pasteurized milk are negligible.) Juices can be pasteurized and fruits and vegetables can be cooked by boiling or steaming (this includes boiled potatoes). The diet does not allow nuts, cooked grains, legumes, and any artificial ingredients (food additives, dietary supplements, seasonings, salad dressings, junk food, etc.).

Low-fat milk or the related dairy products should not contain artificial vitamins or added calcium. You can overdose on these dietary supplements with the amounts of dairy present in this diet. A grown man can drink up to 4 liters (a gallon) of milk or cultured milk per day; the amounts are smaller for women. The staple food in this diet consists of unsalted unprocessed cheese mixed with low-fat cultured milk (buttermilk or kefir) and sweetened with fruit juice if necessary. An antidepressant diet based on milk and excluding cheese is also possible. You can add wheat extract and raw, boiled, or steamed fruits and vegetables to each meal without restrictions. If whole milk does not cause problems with constipation, then you can drink whole milk instead of low-fat milk. It is easy to solve this problem if you add 1-2 tablespoons of castor oil (not for pregnant women) or flaxseed oil to your diet daily (good remedies for constipation).

In the context of this unbalanced diet, (uncultured) milk can cause abdominal pain or discomfort (upset stomach) if you consume it in the same meal with other foods. The best way to consume milk is to drink it on an empty stomach 30 minutes before a meal. In the context of balanced diets (such as the modified high-protein diet and the safe ancestral diet, Appendix VIII) milk does not cause any problems. If you use the antidepressant diet frequently, then you may stop having problems with milk, regardless of how you consume it.

The definition of a high-protein diet is a diet that provides more than 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. The antidepressant diet described above provides the amount of protein around 1.0 g/kg. Increasing the amount of cheese in this diet will increase the amount of dietary protein further. An antidepressant diet based on high-fat dairy also works (if you do not experience problems with constipation). The wheat extract is optional, but it will make the diet more balanced and it seems to prevent mild physical fatigue that may result from high consumption of dairy.

I am a healthy subject who has never had a diagnosis of a mood disorder, although I have had undiagnosed episodes of depression. Nowadays, I can become depressed once or twice a year. These episodes fulfill the diagnostic criteria of a major depressive episode [340], except the duration is always less than one week. An official diagnosis requires the duration of at least two weeks.

First, we will take a look at the effects of this diet during a normal mental state. This diet does not change internal mood or activity level. Physical fatigue may increase slightly. The antidepressant diet based on raw dairy seems to be more effective. When I am on the antidepressant diet, the work capacity is good in general and attention control is good. Social interactions become easier, and solving day-to-day problems also becomes easier. These effects may take 2–4 days to manifest themselves. There is a tendency for procrastination in relation to writing tasks. This diet may increase sweating. One may have to take showers more frequently (warm showers) and change clothes several times a day. Washing under arms with soap several times a day also helps. Antiperspirants can leave stains on clothes but are also an option. Another possible side effect is the feeling of heaviness/fatigue in the legs. You can reduce this problem by means of cold showers for the legs, if you use this procedure several times a day.

Because the antidepressant diet cannot elevate normal mood directly, it carries a low risk of hypomania. Nonetheless, internal mood may become elevated as a result of a significant positive event, in which case you need to discontinue the antidepressant diet. In most cases, hypomania is an undesirable mental state that you need to avoid. One or more of the following signs and symptoms can serve as a signal that you are having a hypomanic episode: a persistent feeling of euphoria or anger; the need for sleep dropped below 5 hours a day; the activity level increased to unusual levels, so that you are constantly moving about, pacing the room or unable to relax and sit still; argumentativeness and low self-control; flood of ideas or racing thoughts; grandiose ideas or plans (nondelusional); excessive libido; and hyperhedonia. These criteria are based on my own experience (a healthy subject without a history of bipolar disorder). They are different from the diagnostic criteria for hypomania in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) [340]. Criteria in the DSM-IV-TR serve the purpose of diagnosis of bipolar disorder, whereas the above criteria are designed to detect hypomania in a healthy person who is leading an overly stimulating lifestyle. Nonetheless, the DSM-IV-TR criteria may serve the latter purpose too. Thus, if you experience hypomania, then you need to take many sedative measures (Appendix VII), including a depressant diet. Also stop using cold and hot hydrotherapy (Chapter Two). A hot environment (Chapter Two) can help to calm down and will be beneficial; hot hydrotherapy will not be helpful. In most cases, the state of hypomania is undesirable because it can lead to foolish business deals, excessive spending, overly optimistic decisions, and activities that have a high potential for painful consequences [340]. In rare situations, this mental state can be beneficial as we will see in the next section.

When I feel depressed, the antidepressant diet has a rapid beneficial effect, in that it can normalize internal mood within 2 to 3 days. Noticeable improvements can materialize already on day one. The combination of the antidepressant diet with cold or hot hydrotherapy (Chapter Two) is even more effective. (In my experience, adapted cold showers are beneficial, whereas sudden cold showers are not effective when mood is depressed.) The following regimen works well: an adapted cold shower in the morning (can include an optional head-out hot shower), the same in the afternoon, and a head-out hot shower at night.

I should say that if depression is severe, then cold and hot showers are unbearable and impossible to do, as are any strong external stimuli. When my father died in 2007, I was severely depressed for about one week and could not bring myself to take adapted cold showers or hot baths. I was able to use the antidepressant diet and ancestral diet.

As for the scientific evidence, a recent ground-breaking study [1044] shows that improvement of nutrition quality can alleviate depression in one third of the patients tested. Another recent study revealed that the Mediterranean diet is effective against depression [1056]. Some studies show that dairy products can improve mood [865, 898] and that depressive symptoms correlate with low consumption of dairy [829, 859]. These data support the effectiveness of the antidepressant diet proposed in this book. The beneficial effects of this diet involve both biological and psychological effects. This diet improves mental clarity, and I start seeing solutions to depressing problems. As a result, the mood improves due to psychological factors: the reduced amount of negative life experiences. (There are several studies showing that increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, or dairy correlates with better cognitive abilities [838, 876, 892, 899, 901, 940], including one randomized controlled trial [887].) This diet has a positive effect on internal mood, i.e., how a person feels mentally, but the effects on external mood (observable positive affect) are inconsistent and unpredictable. In particular, this approach may make a person less joyous and less emotional outwardly or less talkative in some situations and more talkative and joyous in others. My personal view is that external mood is irrelevant, whereas internal mood is important for subjective well-being.

Based on my personal experience, the antidepressant diet is effective in mild and moderate depression but may not be effective in severe depression. Another possible problem with a high-dairy diet is constipation. On the other hand, a raw high-protein diet based on raw meat has stronger antidepressant properties and does not cause constipation. It is effective in severe depression, according to my latest experience in May of 2011, as described at the end of endnote D. Recently, I developed and tested a safe and socially acceptable version of the ancestral diet (a raw diet containing animal foods), and I recommend it against depression (see Appendix VIII).

Nobody has proven the effectiveness of the antidepressant diet or ancestral diet in clinical trials (there are clinical trials of the Mediterranean diet). Yet the theory presented above and my preliminary data suggest that this diet should be useful as an antidepressant therapy. Researchers who wish to test this diet in a clinical trial can use a study protocol similar to the one described in endnote L. In this case, it is best to explain to the patients the difference between external and internal mood in order to prevent wrong expectations about this approach. If the reader takes an antidepressant drug or other psychiatric drugs regularly, then my advice is to gradually discontinue such drugs by tapering the dose (see Endnote G1). Numerous studies suggest that antidepressants in particular and psychiatric drugs in general cause more harm than good [35, 457, 1045, 1046, 10491055, 1057, 1058, 1060, 1067, 1068, 1080, 10801082, 1088, 1098, 1101, 1109, 11111118, 1128]. The various lifestyle changes proposed in this book (see Appendices VII and IX) will help to overcome the withdrawal effects of psychiatric drugs.

The major problem with adapted cold showers and the antidepressant diet (and the ancestral diet) is low self-control, i.e., increased impulsivity; therefore, after mood improves and your energy level increases, you need to think about sedative measures (Appendix VII). Alternatively, there are several other nonpharmacological treatments that have a good antidepressant effect without increasing impulsivity: a) skipping a night's sleep, b) physical exercise, c) free online cognitive-behavioral therapy, d) a healthy balanced diet, e) hot hydrotherapy, f) supplementation of your diet with small amounts of vitamin-rich foods (not artificial vitamins; see Appendix VII, point # 7 and its footnote), g) moderate sunbathing and/or daily use of a home solarium in small doses, and h) tepid (thermoneutral) showers twice a day. "A," "b," "c," and "d" are scientifically proven. In addition, i) hyperventilation exercise has a mild stimulant effect and should be beneficial for depressed patients. You can combine methods "a" through "i" to beat depression faster without losing self-control. For details on these interventions, see footnotes in Appendix VII.

It is also important to get rid of dysfunctional beliefs and behaviors in order to overcome depression. You don't have to hire an expensive psychotherapist. There are inexpensive types of online or software psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy. To give an example of a dysfunctional belief, many people believe that laughter is good for you; they also incorrectly assume that if a person does not laugh much or does not laugh, then this person is unhappy or depressed. Nonsense. It is also worthwhile to master the rules of logic and to familiarize yourself with typical logical fallacies. Finally, according to the research from the website Greenmedinfo, the following nontoxic treatments of depression are supported by scientific evidence: vitamin D (abundant in cod liver and fish oil), curcumin (abundant in turmeric), saffron, probiotics, St. John's wort, psilocybin, yoga, acupuncture, meditation, and physical exercise.

Key points

Lifestyle changes that reduce anxiety

Anxiety is the most prevalent mental disorder. Many patients have a combination of psychiatric diagnoses. For example, in his private practice, psychiatrist Daniel G. Amen has encountered patients with four psychiatric diagnoses on average who tried about six medications before coming to his clinic [1157]. Combinations of psychiatric drugs will wreak havoc on your brain, while some cheap, safe, and simple antianxiety treatments exist that most people are not aware of. First and foremost, the valerian root is a centuries-tested and safe sedative with some evidence of antianxiety effects. Kava-kava is another antianxiety herb, which is more strongly supported by scientific evidence. Or you can take a mixture of sedative herbs (see the beginning of the third section in Chapter Two). Try them first. A hot environment and hot baths (Chapter Two) have sedative effects, and several studies show that heating the body reduces anxiety.M Cooling of the body does not have sedative effects, but one study shows that repeated cooling sessions are effective in patients with anxiety disorders [376]. Therefore, it is likely that adapted cold showers (Chapter Two) can serve as an effective antianxiety treatment. In my experience, adapted cold showers reduce anxiety in situations where impulsivity is not a problem. They increase anxiety in situations where low impulsivity is crucial, for example, if you are trying to prevent yourself from doing something rash and stupid. Chapter Six will give some tips on reducing impulsivity. In my experience, sudden cold showers tend to increase anxiety in any situation.

Milk can reduce anxiety according to one study [898]. This effect may be due to the antianxiety properties of some components of milk, such as lactoferrin and casein [333, 865, 884]. The antidepressant diet, which is based on dairy, is effective at reducing anxiety, based on my experience. Studies show that high-fat diets reduce anxiety [280, 281] and high-fat meals have mild sedative properties [872]. Therefore, an antidepressant diet that includes melted beef fat or pork fat (added to vegetable soups or stews) will be more effective.X Large amounts of cooked flesh in the diet can increase emotional tension and cause anxiety according to some studies [110, 114, 117, 118]. Therefore, temporary exclusion of cooked meat and fish from the diet should reduce anxiety.

Large doses of caffeine induce anxiety both in humans and in laboratory animals; therefore, excluding coffee and all caffeinated drinks (many soft drinks contain caffeine) from the diet will reduce anxiety. (On the subject of food, a recent epidemiological study shows that a weak to moderate statistical correlation exists between anxiety disorders and unhealthy nutrition [984].) There are also studies showing that physical exercise alleviates clinical anxiety [1047].

According to website, the following antianxiety treatments are supported by the largest amount of scientific evidence: kava-kava, lavender, yoga, aromatherapy, and acupuncture.

Anxiety is most likely a problem caused by an unhealthy lifestyle and/or stressful job. It may be a side effect of prescription drugs. You need to revise your whole lifestyle to cure anxiety (see Appendix VII). Many patients with anxiety are constantly afraid of screwing something up. In my experience, when I stay on a strict but sufficiently diverse diet for at least several weeks, the number of errors at work drops almost to zero, and general clumsiness and the amount of other errors decrease dramatically too. Therefore, a strict healthy diet (see the Natural food pyramid and the beginning of Endnote C1) can give you peace of mind and help you to get rid of anxiety. Meanwhile, the following sedative measures will help you to calm down when necessary: a mixture of sedative herbs, 1 hour of walking outdoors (preferably in a park or forest), breath-holding exercises, eat more raw honey, animal fat (raw cream, raw butter, raw tail fat [from a halal or kosher shop], beef fat boiled in water, or lard boiled in water), raw nuts, lying horizontally for at least 1 hour (it slows all mental processes), higher air temperature, and additional clothes. Besides, when you need to calm down, you should stop all stimulatory measures: chocolate, cacao, coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks, adaptogens (e.g., ginseng), brief cardio exercise, cold showers, brief sunbathing, and hyperventilation exercises.

The most effective and safest sedative measures that can be used daily is the ratio of muscle meat to animal fat (for example, tail fat or beef fat) 1:3, high consumption of eggs (boiled or raw), elevated air temperature, warmer clothes, and a horizontal position of your body. All other sedative methods are not recommended for daily use, you can add them when necessary. And of course it is very important to avoid all foods/methods that stimulate the central nervous system. See the table in Appendix VII (you can ignore weak effects).

Because anxiety is the most prevalent mental health problem, it is worth mentioning conventional psychiatry. Many outstanding psychiatrists, such as Peter Gotszche, David Healy, Peter Breggin, and Joanna Moncrieff do not recommend seeing a psychiatrist if you have a mental health problem because conventional psychiatry is likely to ruin your career, personal life, mental health, and physical health. For details, see Professor Peter Gotszche's book "Mental Health Survival Kit and Withdrawal from Psychiatric Drugs," which is available for free [1315]. At the beginning of his book, Peter gives some general advice to people who think they have a mental health problem (two precise quotes combined):

Four other useful take-home messages from Peter Gotszche's book:

1. A psychiatric diagnosis (usually a wrong one) is sticky and may persist for life, creating many problems with your job, personal freedoms, personal life, etc.
2. A psychiatric diagnosis is neither specific nor reliable, different psychiatrists will give different diagnoses to the same patient. Many items in a diagnosis checklist cannot be filled out objectively by either the patient or psychiatrist and are not related to mental health. For example, a person without mental health complaints may get a diagnosis of "healthy" or "ADHD," depending on a psychiatrist.
3. A patient typically starts with one diagnosis (often incorrect one) and one psychiatric drug. The drug creates new mental health problems as side effects. For example, an antidepressant drug causes episodes of mania and/or insomnia. Then, the patient receives another false psychiatric diagnosis and another drug, and so on until the patient is taking three or more psychiatric drugs simultaneously.
4. Psychiatric drugs are nonspecific. Each drug changes many different biological processes in the brain and in the body as whole. For example, according to questionable questionnaires that are used in clinical trials of antidepressants, almost anything will "work" as an antidepressant, including psychostimulants, neuroleptics, anxiolytics, sedative-hypnotics, alcohol, etc. These different classes of drugs have overlapping lists of side effects. Only a tiny percentage of patients taking psychiatric drugs do not experience harmful effects on physical health.

Regarding withdrawal from psychiatric drugs, please see Peter's free book and Endnote G1 in my book. Peter also wrote an alternative psychiatry textbook [1318]. I do not agree with everything in Peter's book. For example, his advice to replace neuroleptics with benzodiazepines is not a good recommendation. Both types of drugs can and should be gradually replaced with nontoxic sedative measures described above. Peter often compares psychiatry to internal medicine, suggesting that the latter is morally, scientifically, or logically superior to the former. My view is that both are horrible, are based on psyop-supported fake science, gradually harm health, and are not designed to cure any disease (see footnote 13 in Appendix VII). Peter Gotszche also recommended a lawyer for some situations. I agree that a lawyer is needed sometimes, for example, when you get arrested, but in most cases when people hire a lawyer, they actually don't need a lawyer. Laws are written by lawyers, and they write laws for their selfish purposes, so that you have to pay a lawyer for every trivial task [1169, 1170, 1308, 1309, 1316, 13201322, 13421346]. Many people have illusions about hiring a attorney, thinking that they get a worker who will serve them honestly to the best of his/her ability in a competitive market. Nonsense. When you become a client of a lawyer, you get another boss who will humiliate, control, manipulate, and deceive you, and you have to pay big bucks to this boss! There are exceptions of course, but the vast majority of lawyers is not worth hiring. If you are in a difficult situation, you need to become smarter, not hire a lawyer.

Key points

A lifestyle that can cause hypomania and boost creativity

Although hypomania (means “mild mania”) is generally an undesirable mental state, it may be useful when creativity or active imagination is necessary. If you use caution and moderation, the following regimen can help you to achieve the state of hypomania safely.

In earlier chapters, we talked about experiments on laboratory rats that involved a raw high-protein diet and brief moderate cooling. These studies have shown that those two treatments produce chemical changes in the brain that are consistent with elevated mood [329, 472]. As we saw in Chapter Two, in humans, moderate cooling of the body can elevate normal mood within minutes, in keeping with the aforementioned animal studies. Moderate cooling can also increase the level of activity, thus exhibiting a stimulant effect in addition to the mood-brightening effect. The safe version of a raw high-protein diet that we discussed in the previous section (the antidepressant diet) improves depressed mood, but it cannot elevate normal mood or increase the activity level directly. This diet can lift normal mood indirectly because of improvement of mental abilities and the resulting increase in positive life experiences. Therefore, it is reasonable to hypothesize that a combination of the antidepressant diet with repeated cooling will work as an experimental model of hypomania.

Hypomania is a mental state with persistently elevated mood and an increased level of activity.Y Literature suggests that this mental state correlates with increased creativity and increased life satisfaction [473475]. Hypomania does not impair social functioning of the affected person and patients seldom report it to clinicians as a problem. This is not the case with mania, which can cause numerous problems, including psychotic symptoms, temporary disability, and hospitalization. There are pharmacological models of mania and hypomania, which are based on administration of high doses of certain drugs. On the other hand, it would be interesting to devise a nonpharmacological model of hypomania. As far as I know, nobody has published and validated this type of regimen so far. The importance of this sort of finding is 2-fold: {1} it will give a person greater control over one’s mood; and {2} it will allow the person to activate one’s imagination, when necessary. Both goals are within the realm of emotional intelligence: regulation of emotions and the use of emotion to enhance thought.

The theory and my personal experience suggest that the combination of the antidepressant diet with twice-daily adapted cold showers (Chapter Two) may serve as a good experimental model of hypomania. The raw diet (Appendix VIII) in place of the antidepressant diet works too. I named this combination for convenience the “creativity regimen.” Each of these treatments can elevate mood—one directly, the other one indirectly. The combined effects are reliable and rapid: in my experience, this combination causes symptoms of hypomania within 2 to 4 days. To enhance this effect, you need to add other stimulant treatments (stimulant herbs, lemon juice [Appendix VII, footnote #20], cardio exercise, hyperventilation exercise, and sun-bathing) and to stop sedative treatments (such as sedative herbs, honey, breath-holding exercise, and a moderately hot environment). The antidepressant diet can be replaced with a fruit-and-vegetable diet, a raw diet (Appendix VIII), or the third type of depressant diet (Appendix IX, point #3). I am the only person who tested this regimen. The experimental model of hypomania should work in healthy people with normal mood in a nonstressful work environment. This regimen elevates internal mood and does not have consistent effects on external mood. We reviewed possible side effects of cold hydrotherapy and of the antidepressant diet at the end of Chapters One and Two and at the end of the previous section (also see Appendix II).

I named this combination of physical treatments the “creativity regimen” because it facilitates problem solving and causes a flood of ideas. These changes are consistent with increased creativity, which we can define as generation of new ideas or new associations between preexisting concepts or ideas. There is another variation of the creativity regimen—it consists of the fruit-and-vegetable diet and cold hydrotherapy. It can also activate imagination and enhance generation of ideas. This fruit-and-vegetable version is more likely to cause hyperactivity and racing thoughts. The drawbacks of this version are the following: the activity level can become too high (the person is unable to relax or sit still); there is a substantial loss of work capacity; and, when mood is depressed, the fruit-and-vegetable diet makes it worse. Both versions of the creativity regimen will increase impulsivity and procrastination. Consequently, this regimen is not appropriate for situations that require strong self-control.

Sometimes, the creativity regimen increases the feelings of anger instead of elevating mood (in agreement with the clinical definition of hypomania: increased irritability or elevated mood). You may experience a flood of angry thoughts. I cannot say with certainty why this happens; perhaps, some negative life events are to blame.

It seems that the creativity regimen can cause a persistent state of hypomania, which can last for weeks and longer. I do not know if you can extend this state further because it becomes uncomfortable sooner or later, and I start craving normal mood and a normal pace of thinking. A brief period of hypomania, one to two days, can be fun and you may get an influx of new ideas. Once you get all the ideas that you need, this state becomes an obstacle to creative work. This is because elevated mood reduces motivation for the difficult and boring tasks that are necessary for implementation of the ideas. Another possible inconvenience of this hypomania model is hyperhedonia; that is, when a person derives pleasure from activities that would normally be boring. It can lead to an unproductive waste of time. There are other inconveniences of hypomania, outlined at the end of the previous section. Finally, you shouldn’t make any big, life-changing decisions in this state because your decision may turn out to be too optimistic. At the end of Chapter Six we will talk about making important decisions.

Nevertheless, you can extend this mental state beyond a few days as described below. It is possible that twice-daily adapted cold showers will start to disrupt the normal sleep pattern after a few days. You should not take cold showers after 7 PM. If you get insomnia with twice-daily adapted cold showers, then eliminate the evening cold shower and do them once a day in the morning. You can still take a warm shower in the evening. If you are still unable to fall asleep until wee hours of the morning, then take adapted cold showers every other morning, instead of every morning. If your need for sleep becomes negligible (you can skip a night’s sleep), this is a sign that you have a predisposition to bipolar disorder, and full-blown mania may follow. Many bipolar patients cannot notice the transition from hypomania to mania, and mania can entail delusions, hallucinations, and temporary disability. Therefore, a bipolar patient needs to take preventive measures as soon as he or she becomes hypomanic. Even if you do not have a history of bipolar disorder, my advice is to abort the creativity regimen whenever your amount of sleep drops below 5 hours per night. You also need to abort this regimen if your sleep becomes disorganized (uncoupled from the changes of day and night).

You can adjust the antidepressant diet depending on the state of mood. Once mood becomes elevated, you can add small amounts of cooked meat and 10–15 grams (half an ounce) of nuts per day. The amount of meat should be about one-tenth of the amount of dairy that you are consuming (by weight). For example, if you are drinking two liters (two quarts) of pasteurized milk per day, then you can add 200 grams (7 ounces) of boiled meat to your diet per day. After that, if your mood stays elevated for one or two days, you can add small amounts of any other food. If your mood starts to decline, you need to remove meat, nuts, and other “disallowed” food from the antidepressant diet. It is likely that you will get tired of the constant feeling of excitement after a few days. To abort the creativity regimen, you can stop all cold showers and switch to a diet recommended by official food pyramids or to your usual diet. If this does not help, you may consider using the depressant diet alone or in combination with a hot environment (Chapter Two) for a few days. Several studies show that heat lowers mood [352, 651]; however, hot showers and hot baths do not help to lower mood, based on my experience.

Aside from the possible improvements in creativity, this regimen may be useful as a treatment of depression. This approach should be more effective than either the antidepressant diet or adapted cold showers alone. In all likelihood this method will be safe to use in combination with other treatments, such as psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy. Another possible application is the treatment of addiction to stimulants. The above regimen works as a strong stimulant and may serve as a “drug replacement therapy,” so to speak. The addict may lose the need for drugs if he or she can get high using a less harmful approach. Finally, the creativity regimen may also be useful in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. This disease involves a progressive loss of dopaminergic neurons that project to (send signals to) the striatum (a region at the center of the brain). Both cooling and raw high-protein diets can increase the synthesis of dopamine in the striatum. Cooling can also increase physical mobility. Further research is needed to test these ideas. The theoretical evidenceY and preliminary results are promising.

Key points

Is constantly elevated mood desirable?

Some people believe that elevated mood is a desirable mental state. In my experience, constant euphoria and excitement may be pleasant, especially for someone who has never experienced them for more than a few minutes, but these things can become uncomfortable quickly. Normal mood (euthymia) is a better mental state. We can define “normal mood” as an optimistic worldview and an ability to feel a full range of positive emotions, but without the constant feeling of euphoria and excitement.

In the previous sections, we saw several undesirable consequences of persistently elevated mood. This mental state reduces motivation for work and thereby can reduce productivity. Elevated mood can cause hyperhedonia, according to the effects of the “creativity regimen.” This situation can lead to an unproductive waste of time. Finally, elevated mood is not the best mental state to make important decisions that will have long-term consequences. I make the most realistic and sound decisions when my mood is normal or perhaps slightly lowered.

Speaking philosophically, the universe and nature are neither good nor bad, they are neutral. The same applies to the various laws of nature discovered by science. For example, is it a good thing or a bad thing that E = mc2 ? The answer is it is neither; it is just a formula describing how nature works. People are a part and product of nature and the human body, including the brain, works according to the laws of physics and chemistry. By extension, all life events are also a part and product of nature. Therefore, a more neutral perception of life is more realistic and accurate than either positive (joy) or negative (anger, sadness) representation of life events in your mind. Note that I am not saying that you should be unemotional and try to get rid of all emotions. My point is that normal mood is the best frame of mind to make sound and realistic decisions.

Some studies have investigated the effects of elevated mood or high levels of life satisfaction on some mental abilities and on various life outcomes. Readers can find an excellent review of this topic in the paper by Drs. Shigehiro Oishi, Ed Diener, and Richard E. Lucas [476] entitled “The Optimum Level of Well-Being: Can People Be Too Happy?” Although elevated mood correlates with increased creativity [473475, 477], this mental state can worsen performance of some cognitive tasks in the laboratory. Several reports showed that elevated mood led to worse performance on the following cognitive tests: a syllogism task, a moral reasoning task, an estimation of correlation task, and a person perception task [478481]. Many of the above studies deal with elevated internal mood, according to self-ratings of the test subjects. Other studies assessed the effects of cheerfulness, which is a synonym of “external positive mood” or “observable positive affect.” Internal mood and external mood are not the same thing, as you saw earlier in this chapter. My own view is that internal mood is more relevant to life satisfaction than external mood. Two studies show that children who are more cheerful than average, as rated by parents and teachers, are more likely to drink, smoke, and to engage in risky behaviors later in life. These children also have a higher risk of mortality [482, 483].

Other studies investigated the association of life satisfaction with various life outcomes. Life satisfaction is not the same as mood (internal or external); it is a concept that includes self-assessment of various aspects of life and of oneself. Internal mood is one of the components of life satisfaction. An overview of numerous studies shows that the highest levels of life satisfaction show the best correlation with having a stable long-term relationship and with active participation in volunteer work [476]. (These data represent average numbers, and it would be incorrect to assume that, for example, all single people are unhappy.) These researchers found that the highest level of life satisfaction correlates less strongly with the highest level of income and with the highest level of educational attainment (the highest degree earned). The last two outcomes correlate with a moderately high level of life satisfaction. A recent study shows that Americans feel somewhat happier, on average, when they earn incomes up to $75,000 a year [997]. Americans with incomes higher than $75,000 do not feel any happier, judging by emotional well-being. The same study shows that people with below-average incomes are more likely to be unhappy than groups with better income. Nonetheless, there are many people on low incomes who are happy [476, 997].

As for academic success, college students who rated themselves as “happy” earned the highest grades: average GPA (grade point average) of 4.1 on a 5-point scale. Students who were “very happy” achieved somewhat lower grades, average GPA 3.8, compared to the grades of “moderately happy” and “slightly happy” students (both groups at 3.9 GPA) [476]. Dr. Oishi and colleagues also analyzed several surveys and concluded that people will attain the highest increase of income in the future if they have moderate or even somewhat low level of life satisfaction today [476]. The happiest people do not achieve the biggest increase of income in the future. In summary, it is intriguing that the highest level of life satisfaction correlates with a stable long-term relationship and active volunteer work. The highest income and best academic performance correlate with moderate life satisfaction.

Studies that we reviewed above suggest that constantly elevated internal mood is not desirable because of suboptimal performance on some tasks and, possibly, reduced motivation for work. My personal experience suggests that long periods of elevated internal mood (moderate elevation) are uncomfortable even if work productivity is unaffected. Nonetheless, brief periods of elevated mood, for instance, several days, are beneficial when you need high creativity or generation of novel ideas. It seems that elevated internal mood can increase life satisfaction under unfavorable living conditions. My view is that internal mood does not have to be constantly elevated because even a temporary elevation is sufficient to change one’s outlook and produce lasting improvements in life satisfaction. In other words, if you know that you can lift your mood at any time, this knowledge alone will improve life satisfaction. These observations are based on the “creativity regimen” from the previous section. In conclusion, unlike constantly elevated mood, brief periods of elevated mood are beneficial and will increase creativity and life satisfaction.

Key points

A possible anger management protocol

My personal observations during experiments with the fruit-and-vegetable diet lead me to believe that pungent vegetables, such as onion, garlic, and radish, can cause feelings of hostility and anger and fits of rage. These negative effects take place with both raw and cooked pungent vegetables. The fruit-and-vegetable diet is a convenient way to observe the anger-provoking effects of pungent vegetables because this diet causes hyperactivity, impulsivity, and low self-control in general. A fruit-and-vegetable diet that excludes pungent vegetables has some entertainment value. But if you add pungent vegetables to this diet, and if you are in the company of a psychologically incompatible person, then angry tirades are likely to ensue. My best efforts to identify a possible biological mechanism were unsuccessful. The best I could find is that some Eastern belief systems prohibit consumption of garlic and onion because they cause anger; this notion is in line with my personal observations.

In my view, psychological factors are also important. Incompatible personalities will irritate each other, and if you add pungent vegetables to the mix, then an explosive situation may ensue. Conversely, if two people have compatible personalities, then pungent vegetables may result in angry thoughts or irritated mood. Yet this negative effect will not develop into an argument or a fit of anger because the psychological environment is peaceful and favorable. When I was a college student I used to have loud arguments with my mother on a regular basis. I guess we have incompatible personalities. I remembered that I had read somewhere that onion and garlic can cause anger and I had not taken this notion seriously at first. After some experimentation with the fruit-and-vegetable diet, I noticed that I could get angry and argumentative at times while on this diet. This observation made me think about possible causes and jogged my memory about the anger-provoking effects of pungent vegetables. I must admit that back then, onions were one of my favorite foods, which I ate with almost every meal, both cooked and raw. After I excluded onion, garlic, and all other pungent vegetables from my diet, the anger and irritability subsided and I became much calmer both inwardly and outwardly. Loud arguments and altercations with my mother were no longer occurring. I told my mother and some other people about this approach to anger management, but most of them were (and still are) skeptical. Sometime later a friend of the family told me that my mother had confided in him about this matter. These are her words: “Charlie thinks that he got rid of anger because he stopped consuming onions and garlic. But in actuality, I have been slipping holy water into his meals, so that’s what is really happening!” Well, whatever it was, I haven’t had an outburst of anger ever since. Nowadays, I eat onion and garlic every now and then, but most of the time I avoid them as much as I can. I do have angry thoughts sometimes, but they never escalate into a fit of rage or a loud scene.

Based on the above observations, a possible anger management protocol involves complete elimination of all pungent vegetables from the diet. Exclusion of all spices, food additives, and dietary supplements may also be necessary in order to identify a possible anger-provoking food, if you discover that pungent vegetables do not provoke anger in you. An elimination diet followed by gradual reintroduction of various foods will be useful in this investigation. In my experience, nuts increase irritability and it is best to avoid them when you have strong feelings of anger or hostility. These changes will prevent fits of anger; however, you can reduce preexisting feelings of anger by means of a high-fat diet, according to my experience.

Sedative treatments such as hot hydrotherapy (Chapter Two) and raw honey are beneficial. A hot environment is not useful. Don’t use cold hydrotherapy during fits of anger because it increases impulsivity and enhances the feeling of anger, when it is present. It is important that meat and fish have a high fat content in the context of the anger management protocol. Some studies show that low-fat diets correlate with feelings of hostility [280]. My personal experience suggests that the fruit-and-vegetable diet, which is a low-fat diet, can increase the feelings of hostility toward some people. Reintroduction of high-fat animal products into the diet seems to solve this problem. Another diet that increases anger and hostility is a grain-free diet. As you can see, it seems that a balanced diet with abundance of fatty animal products and honey but free of pungent vegetables and nuts is key to anger management.

The possible “anger management diet” consists of the depressant diet plus dairy products and minus all pungent vegetables, seasonings, and spices. I noticed that honey substantially reduces anger and mellows your personality, even though honey is not a strong sedative. I recommend unheated honey (which was not heated during industrial-scale packaging), and it needs to be diluted in water; otherwise, you may experience intestinal problems (possibly because raw honey is an antibiotic). A heaping tablespoon twice a day is a good dose for anger management. Beef or mutton fat boiled in water (not fried!) is another food that excellently melts away anger, without being a strong sedative. Wet-rendered lard is another option, but it should be free of salt and nitrites. Don't be scared, you won't get fat; everything you know about animal fats is false and based on outdated theories. Add these fats abundantly into meat, soup, and other dishes. (Unfortunately, dairy fat helps but increases body weight in me, even when raw; I consume it only as a dietary supplement.) Animal fat without any meat is more effective. Start with the alternative depressant diet (see a previous section in this chapter) plus dairy, and if it does not help after one or two days, then add various sedative procedures (see Appendix VIII). You can use “anger management diet” for 5–7 days; this duration is sufficient for reducing anger and hostility. You can find some recipes in Appendix I. You can combine this regimen with psychological anger management programs if necessary. For instance, it is useful to avoid contact with the people that irritate you. I also noticed that physical exercise that causes fatigue and sweating and breath-holding exercises reduce anger. All stimulatory treatments should be stopped temporarily (such as cacao [chocolate], coffee, and tea; fasting is forbidden too).

Key points

Summary of Chapter Four

A popular definition of emotional intelligence is the ability to carry out accurate reasoning about emotions and the ability to use emotions and emotional knowledge to enhance thought. One influential model of emotional intelligence combines abilities in four areas: (a) accurately perceiving emotion, (b) using emotions to facilitate thought, (c) understanding emotion, and (d) managing emotion. This chapter describes techniques that improve mental abilities in areas (b) and (d).

My personal experience suggests that a low-protein diet, such as the fruit-and-vegetable diet, improves attentiveness to others’ feelings but also reduces stress resistance. Conversely, certain high-protein diets increase stress tolerance but reduce sensitivity to other people’s emotions. The biological mechanism underlying these effects is unknown.

The ability to regulate one’s emotional state is a component of emotional intelligence. This chapter describes lifestyle changes that can either lift or lower internal mood when needed. My personal experience (a healthy subject) suggests that a “depressant diet” can serve as an experimental model of mild depression. This diet contains large amounts of cooked red meat, cooked grains, and nuts and excludes dairy. The effects of the depressant diet may be due to the chemicals formed in meat and grains during cooking. The depressant diet improves sleep and is useful in some situations that require lowered mood.

One of the implications of an accepted theory of clinical depression is that depression may be caused by a shortage of protein in the diet. Traditional high-protein diets do not have antidepressant properties, possibly because of the presence of chemicals formed by cooking of meat and grains. These chemicals can have depressant effects. The antidepressant diet (low-fat milk, unsalted unprocessed cheese, fruits, and vegetables) is free of this shortcoming. This diet seems to have a rapid antidepressant effect. This diet is a raw high-protein diet because chemical differences between raw and pasteurized dairy are negligible. An ancestral diet based on safe and socially acceptable raw animal foods (e.g., eggs, oysters) is an alternative. If you combine the antidepressant diet or a safe ancestral diet with twice-daily adapted cold showers, this regimen can reproduce symptoms of hypomania within 2–4 days (for example, overactivity, flood of ideas, and elevated internal mood). The latter approach improves creativity. Elevated mood is desirable in some situations, but it reduces motivation for work and worsens some mental abilities.

Pungent vegetables may contribute to feelings of anger and hostility, and the mechanism is unknown. A high-fat diet that includes raw honey and sedative herbs while excluding all pungent vegetables and spices can be beneficial as an anger management protocol.
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CHAPTER 5: Reading and writing performance


Procrastination and its relation to mood and self-control

The depressant diet and other techniques that can reduce procrastination

Prerequisites to good reading comprehension

Dietary and other approaches that can improve reading comprehension

Tips on taking tests, including IQ tests

Tips on learning a foreign language and building your vocabulary quickly

Prerequisites to good writing performance

Lifestyle changes and other approaches to overcoming writer’s block

Summary of Chapter Five

Procrastination and its relation to mood and self-control

People who studied in college must be familiar with procrastination, which often takes the form of chronic postponement of important reading or writing tasks until the last day. The more formal definition of procrastination is “a tendency to delay an intended action or decision.” Academic procrastination leads students to do nothing until the last day and it then forces them to cram all night before an exam. Research shows that 50–75% of college students procrastinate on a regular basis [484]. Many academic scientists who have to submit research grant proposals before a deadline also engage in procrastination. This state of affairs results in overstressed and hectic writing during the last few days before the deadline.

Academic procrastination correlates with low self-control and high impulsivity [485, 486]. (Self-control is the ability to regulate one’s thoughts, emotions, and impulses.) Procrastination also correlates with task aversiveness, also known as “laziness” [487]. Academic procrastination is more likely for tasks whose completion is more distant in the future and for tasks that are more difficult [488]. Studies show that there may be three different types of procrastination [489]. One type is called “decisional procrastination” and it results from an inability to make a decision within a given timeframe. The second type is called “arousal procrastination.” It results from the desire to feel a thrill of hectic work before a deadline as well as a pleasure from completing a lot of work within a short period. The third type is “avoidant procrastination,” which has to do with the fear of evaluation by others and the fear of “screwing up.” Academic procrastination is unpleasant and undesirable for most people who have dealt with it. Researchers are looking for ways of reducing this unproductive behavior.

Several studies have shown that learning the techniques of effective time management can reduce procrastination [490492]. Another approach, which teachers can employ, involves increasing the threat of evaluation: making exams more frequent [493]. The latter approach seems logical because students will learn more by cramming before several smaller exams than by cramming for a single big exam.

Although procrastination involves negative connotations in most studies in the field, some authors have identified a type of procrastination that may have beneficial or at least neutral effects. The so-called active procrastination is the deliberate postponing of a difficult mental task until there is strong enough “pressure” or emotional tension [494]. This approach allows certain people to work more productively. Some studies show that these “active procrastinators,” who prefer to work under pressure, are as productive in academic settings as people who do not procrastinate [494]. This concept is similar to the above-mentioned “arousal procrastination.”

Research shows that mood and self-control are linked with academic procrastination. People with low self-control are more likely to procrastinate. To be more specific, people with elevated impulsivity, including ADHD patients, are more likely to be procrastinators [495]. Research also shows that people who are clinically depressed have a tendency to procrastinate [496], but people who are very happy are also not very productive in academic settings [476]. Several studies have shown that people with elevated mood and students with huge ratings of life satisfaction are less productive than students with normal mood or a moderate to average level of life satisfaction [476]. One report shows that among students an inverse correlation exists between procrastination and anxiety about homework (more anxiety equals less procrastination) [497]. In other words, students who are more fearful of not doing homework are more likely to do it on time, compared to students who have little or no anxiety about homework.

We can conclude from the studies above that you will achieve the lowest level of academic procrastination when

  1. self-control is strong;

  2. mood is neither clinically depressed nor elevated;

  3. emotional tension is substantial.

The next section describes some techniques that will allow a person to build up emotional tension well before a deadline as well as techniques that can improve some components of self-control.

Key points

The depressant diet and other techniques that can reduce procrastination

We discussed three depressant diets in detail in Chapter Four. In my experience, these diets can lower mood and slow down mental processes. Healthy people can stay on the depressant diet for extended periods. You shouldn’t use the first two types of this diet if you have a diagnosis of depression or if you suspect that you are having a major depressive episode.

This diet reduces procrastination. I can get started on any kind of reading task well before a deadline if I use this approach. In my opinion, this procrastination-reducing effect is the result of the emotional tension and lowered mood. This notion is in agreement with some studies which showed that anxiety or a threatening environment can reduce procrastination. As we saw earlier, people with sky-high life satisfaction are less productive than people with average or moderate life satisfaction. Therefore, a regimen that makes you slightly “unhappy” will increase motivation for work and reduce procrastination.

Often the depressant diet is not enough to combat procrastination related to writing tasks. That's why I recommend a combination of sedative treatments, as described below.

As you will see in subsequent sections of this chapter, the depressant diet is not the best diet for effective performance of reading tasks. Therefore, my advice is to use the depressant diet to “force yourself” to start a difficult mental task. Once you get started, you can discontinue the depressant diet. The mild lowering of mood and a slight increase in emotional tension are sufficient for reducing procrastination. You do not need to become clinically depressed or anxious, and you need to abort the depressant diet if your mood becomes significantly depressed. Simple discontinuation of the depressant diet and switching to a conventional balanced diet (for example, Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate), in my experience, can restore mood back to normal. Another approach involves replacing some of your meals with the mixture of unprocessed unsalted cheese with cultured milk. You can read more about custom regulation of mood in the last sections of Chapter Four.

The antiprocrastination approach outlined above should work in healthy people, who have normal mood and no anxiety. The first two types of depressant diet may be counterproductive in patients with anxiety or depression. Clinical depression correlates with increased procrastination. Therefore, reduction of procrastination in depressed patients requires the opposite approach—an antidepressant treatment. It should move the mood from “depressed” to “slightly depressed.”

Going back to healthy people, another antiprocrastination approach is a hot environment (Chapter Two). You can create a hot environment in your room using a heater and a fan. I find the temperature of room air at 29°C (84°F) effective at lowering mood and reducing procrastination. Even more effective is to put on winter clothes indoors (a heavy coat, double pants, and a fur hat). It looks funny but it works; when you feel uncomfortably hot, that's when real self-control kicks in. Once you start working, you can undress a little; for example, take off the winter hat. Moderate heating of the body has sedative effects, i.e., it can improve sleep, slow down mental processes, and can lower mood as well [352, 651]. This approach can allow you to turn up the heat on yourself and to force yourself to start a task that you have been avoiding. Hot hydrotherapy can help in an especially bad case of procrastination; you need to raise your core body temperature to 38°C in a 40°C bath. You shouldn't take a hot bath everyday.

Breath-holding exercise has a sedative effect, and in my experience, helps against procrastination. It is described in Chapter Two, section "Can a cold shower cause a cold or the flue?"

I find another method useful for combating procrastination: set your alarm clock for 15–20 minutes, lie down, relax completely, and try to fall asleep. When the alarm clock wakes you, force yourself to start working immediately.

Thus, it is best to use a combination of sedative treatments. Many people intuitively try to improve their self-control by overeating all kinds of tasty food without restrictions, and this approach works. For this reason, people whose job requires strong self-control tend to be overweight or obese (e.g., bankers and businessmen). I will summarize a healthy anti-procrastination regimen that I find highly effective, and it may help you too if your job requires strong self-control. I would like to emphasize that this regimen will not increase your body weight, and on the contrary, will help you to lose weight. These techniques will work even if you live on a 100% raw diet.

  1. Eat some meat (100-200 grams) every day (20-25% fat content).

  2. Raw nuts pulverized in a blender several times a day every day, preferably soaked and dried beforehand (see Appendix I).

  3. Raw tail fat daily, I recommend pulverizing it in a blender too (the safety of raw animal foods is discussed in Appendix VIII).

  4. Raw honey daily, preferably well-diluted in water or juice. This food is not recommended when you are sleepy and have to work.

  5. A mixture of sedative herbs in the morning. This product is not recommended when you are sleepy and have to work (see Appendix VII, footnote # 21).

  6. Breath-holding exercises daily.

  7. Raise air temperature in your home and dress more warmly.

  8. A brief nap with a timer or meditation in a horizontal position.

  9. (Very important) Adapted cold showers no more than once a week or once a month (depending on your metabolic type, see my other book: "Fight Cancer", chapter "The Gonzalez protocol"). Active people (rapid metabolism) have to take cold showers less frequently in order to preserve self-control. Replace them with air baths (to be taken every four to 12 days).

  10. (Very important) Brief cardio exercise no more than once every 4 days or once a week (depending on your metabolic type). Prolonged exercise resulting in substantial fatigue is OK. Replace daily brief cardio with daily 1-hour walks in a forest or park and the "all day on your feet" regimen (see Appendix VII, footnote # 39).

  11. Other stimulant treatments should be stopped too: tea, coffee, and other stimulant herbs, hyperventilation exercise, and sun-bathing. Brief sunbathing or tanning bed session once a week is OK.

  12. If you follow the above principles, then you can enjoy freedom from procrastination and lose weight simultaneously, by eating a filling, high-calorie, healthy, sufficiently diverse, strict diet (for example, the starchless diet, see Endnote C1).

The most effective and safest sedative measures that can be used daily is the ratio of muscle meat to animal fat (for example, tail fat or beef fat) 1:3, high consumption of eggs (boiled or raw), elevated air temperature, warmer clothes, and a horizontal position of your body. All other sedative methods are not recommended for daily use, you can add them when necessary. And of course it is very important to avoid all foods/methods that stimulate the central nervous system. See the table in Appendix VII (you can ignore weak effects). Raw pulp-free fruit juice is not a sedative, but greatly improves self-control and will help to overcome procrastination (only sweet non-acidic fruits improve self-control). It will also help to lose weight and is a good alternative to raw honey for those people who cannot consume large amounts of honey daily.

In conclusion, research shows that effective time management can also reduce procrastination [490492]. In my experience, calendar and task management software can simplify your life and help to reduce procrastination. It can also help you become more organized. You can set up automatic reminders for various appointments and tasks. I use KOrganizer (on Linux), but there are other programs with similar functionality (e.g., Microsoft Outlook).

Key points

Prerequisites to good reading comprehension

Different mental tasks require different mental abilities or different sets of mental abilities. For example, reading tasks require a set of mental abilities that is different from that necessary for performance of writing tasks. This section focuses on mental abilities that you need to enhance in order to improve reading comprehension, i.e., understanding of printed text. These mental abilities or mental attributes include alertness, fluid intelligence, attention control, and attention span.

The discussion of dyslexia or reading disability is outside the scope of this book. The neurological impairment in dyslexia is unrelated to the aforementioned mental abilities and most likely involves the difficulty associating written characters (letters) with specific sounds of speech. The latter is not the only theory and there are other theories about pathophysiology of dyslexia. The techniques presented in this chapter will improve alertness, fluid intelligence, and attention control, but they are unlikely to correct the underlying neurological cause of dyslexia. Therefore, these techniques should improve reading comprehension in both healthy and dyslexic people, but they will not cure dyslexia.

Going back to the specific mental abilities that are necessary for good reading comprehension, alertness or wakefulness is one such ability. Alertness means the absence or low levels of mental fatigue and sleepiness. Fatigue and sleepiness can worsen performance on many types of tests, including those that require reading comprehension. Hence reducing sleepiness and fatigue, in other words, increasing alertness will be beneficial for performance of reading tasks. There are different degrees of alertness, ranging from passive wakefulness to hyperactive wakefulness. Because hyperactivity often correlates with inattentiveness or distractibility [498], excessive alertness will have a negative effect on reading comprehension. The level of alertness somewhere between passive wakefulness and active wakefulness should be optimal for good reading performance.

Fluid intelligence is another mental ability that is important for understanding of complex texts. Chapter One defined fluid intelligence as an ability to understand and solve novel problems, and it also includes the ability to understand novel concepts. You may recall that fluid intelligence is different from crystallized intelligence, which represents accumulated knowledge and skills. A high level of crystallized intelligence, that is, prior knowledge of the subject matter and good vocabulary will facilitate any type of reading. It is not the focus of the present discussion and we will talk about it later. You could say that fluid intelligence is the same thing as quality of computing hardware, in other words, how well the brain works regardless of knowledge. Note that there is not a strong correlation between the level of fluid intelligence and comprehension of texts of low to moderate complexity [26]. On the other hand, fluid intelligence is most likely crucial for grasping complex concepts in more difficult texts, such as research articles or college level textbooks.

The third relevant mental ability is attention control, which includes the ability to maintain attention on an object or subject for extended periods of time. This ability is also known as sustained attention. Academic reading involves keeping one’s attention in the text for hours at a time. Distractibility, or an inability to maintain the focus of attention on the text, impairs reading comprehension and makes learning problematic. We talked about the attention function at length in Chapter Three. That chapter describes some techniques that improve attention in healthy people and maybe in patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The fourth mental ability is attention span, also known as working memory or short-term memory. This concept describes how much information a person can hold in memory for short-term use: within seconds to minutes. Information held in working memory is quickly lost or forgotten as opposed to long-term memory where the brain can store information for years. Working memory is crucial for many mental tasks, for example for complex calculations, when a person must hold several numeric values in his/her mind simultaneously in order to perform various manipulations with these data. Copious working memory (good attention span) is necessary for understanding of long sentences or grasping a lengthy argument in a text. Studies have identified different types of working memory, which are more or less independent of each other. For example, people have spatial working memory (deals with shapes and orientation of objects) and verbal working memory (deals with language). This book does not discuss working memory at length and it is unknown whether the techniques described here can improve working memory. Psychostimulant drugs improve some components of working memory in healthy people and in patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, although these drugs are controlled substances, illegal without prescription. Some of this book’s methods (high-protein diets and cold hydrotherapy) share many similarities with stimulant drugs and, in theory, should improve some components of working memory. Controlled studies and further research are needed in this area. To summarize, good working memory is useful for reading comprehension, especially when it comes to complex texts.

Finally, knowledge of the language of a text is important for good understanding of the text, as is familiarity with the subject matter. This ability falls under the jurisdiction of crystallized intelligence, which we talked about in Chapter One. A person with a high level of crystallized intelligence will find it easier to read unfamiliar complex texts compared to people with average intelligence. Vocabulary is an important component of crystallized intelligence, and there are several different approaches to building vocabulary, as you will see later in this chapter. We will talk about some other techniques that deal with crystallized intelligence in the next section. The proposed techniques are appropriate for high school students and people with higher levels of education. For techniques that can improve reading comprehension in preschoolers and grade school students, readers can visit government websites such as the website of the National Reading Panel in the United States.

Key points

Dietary and other approaches that can improve reading comprehension

The previous section showed that good reading comprehension requires effective functioning of such mental abilities as alertness, fluid intelligence, and attention control. In my experience, there are nonpharmacological treatments that can improve these parameters and thereby improve reading performance. Note that you do not need to use any of the methods described below if you have no difficulty with reading comprehension. In this case you can follow conventional lifestyle guidelines [61]. Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke. On the other hand, you may consider employing the approaches proposed in this section if you encounter a complex text that you find difficult to understand. Furthermore, if you can transition to a raw food diet (Appendix VIII), then you can skip this whole section.

You can manage alertness as follows. Moderate cooling of the body shares many physiological effects with stimulant drugs, as you saw in Chapter Two. In brief, I developed a procedure called the “adapted cold shower.” It is effective at improving alertness, but at the same time is safe and easy to do (as opposed to the regular “sudden” cold shower; Chapter Two). If you are feeling tired and sleepy, the adapted cold shower will make you alert and energetic and usually will facilitate performance of various reading tasks. In some cases, it will worsen reading performance, as discussed below. The procedure is safe for most people, but you shouldn’t use it at night because it may disrupt your normal sleep pattern. Don’t use adapted cold showers if you are feeling overactive, because in this case, this procedure will increase distractibility. If your mood is elevated, you should not use cold hydrotherapy either. It can elevate mood further and will reduce motivation for work. You can read more about the possible adverse effects in Chapter Two. The adapted cold shower will improve reading comprehension in the following situations: normal or depressed mood, mental fatigue, apathy, “brain fog,” and sleepiness.

Some readers can say that coffee can also increase alertness and therefore it is not necessary to use such a complicated procedure when you can have one or two cups of strong coffee. If caffeine works well for you, then keep using it carefully, in small doses. In my experience, coffee has little or no effect on mood and increases nervousness at large doses (and gives me a horrible hangover after a large dose). The emotional tension is useful for reducing procrastination (more details in the first section of this chapter). Adapted cold showers, on the other hand, do not increase and may reduce nervousness [376]. This effect will worsen procrastination if this problem exists. Therefore, you may have to do a little experimentation in order to find out which of these two legal stimulants works best for you in which situations. My advice is to avoid large doses of coffee. (I believe that coffee is a poison and do not drink it under any circumstances.)

Another mental ability necessary for understanding of complex texts is good fluid intelligence. According to the natural intelligence theory, elimination of all junk food, food additives, and dietary supplements from your diet will improve fluid intelligence. In the natural food pyramid (Table 3), this means eliminating all “problem foods” and “horrible foods” from your diet temporarily: from several days to several weeks. In my experience, this approach can indeed improve mental clarity and improve understanding of academic lectures and complex texts. You can use the following sequence of actions for improvement of fluid intelligence:

a) if you understand the required reading material while on the conventional balanced diet, then you do not have to do anything to improve your fluid intelligence;
b) if you find some concepts and texts difficult to understand, then switch to the balanced high-protein diet or modified high-protein diet (Chapter Three and Appendix II);
c) if step “b” is not effective, then switch to the antidepressant diet (Chapter Four and Appendix II);
d) if step “c” is not effective, then switch to the fruit-and-vegetable diet (fifth section of Chapter Three and Appendix II).

The last step, “d,” will produce the greatest improvement of fluid intelligence. It can also increase laziness and distractibility, either right away or after a few days. Therefore, once you are done with step “d,” my advice is to return to steps “a,” “b,” or “c” to ensure minimal distractibility.

Although listening to lectures does not require enhanced attention function, reading does require good attention control. You need strong attention control for the texts that are not interesting to you but necessary for your job or school. The attention control should improve if you increase the amount of high-quality protein in the diet, based on my experience and according to some studies [117, 335, 336]. The simplest diet that can improve attention within hours is the following (proportions by weight):

With this simple diet, you are likely to notice that your mental clarity is excellent, and you have good control over your attention. Because this food is not filling, it is possible to eat excessive amounts and still feel that your stomach is empty. Normally, you shouldn’t eat more than 200–250 grams (7–9 oz.) of meat in one sitting. It is better to divide your daily meat ration into smaller amounts (100–150 grams or 3–5 oz.) and eat them 3 to 5 times a day (this is not always possible). Try to avoid consuming dairy and meat in the same meal. Don’t use this simple diet longer than one or two days because it can cause constipation.

You can add raw water extract of wheat and fruits and vegetables, in which case, what you have is the modified high-protein diet (Appendix II and Chapter Three). The modified high-protein diet can improve both attention control and fluid intelligence because it contains large amounts of high-quality protein and is free of artificial ingredients. In my experience, this diet is effective at improving reading comprehension and can help to digest large amounts of difficult texts. This is because it allows me to read for 3–8 hours per day for many weeks and months. We discussed possible adverse effects of the modified high-protein diet in Chapter Three.

The antidepressant diet that contains significant amounts of unprocessed unsalted cheese is another high-protein diet that can improve attention control and reading comprehension. It is less effective than the modified high-protein diet.

By the way, the depressant diet (Chapter Four and Appendix II), which is the best remedy against procrastination, is also suitable for reading tasks of low to moderate complexity. The depressant diet does not improve fluid intelligence and is not the best choice for complex reading material. If you understand a text, then you can use the depressant diet. On the other hand, if a text is too difficult to comprehend, then you may consider switching to either the modified high-protein diet or the antidepressant diet. You can try adapted cold showers too. These approaches can boost fluid intelligence and processing speed, but they may also reduce discipline and increase procrastination.

Up to this point, we discussed techniques that improve the biological workings of the brain. In addition, there are psychological approaches that can improve reading comprehension. We will discuss methods that will supply your mind with easy and useful introductory information before you read a complex text. Some of the advice that follows may seem too obvious, but I included it here anyway because I wish someone had given me this simple advice when I was a student.

There are two types of introductory material that you can use to prepare yourself for a journey through a dull or complex text. The first type is free encyclopedias and government or university websites that you can find on the Internet. You can also use reference books that you have in your possession or at a nearby library. First, you have to determine if the subject matter of the complex text is unfamiliar to you. If this is the case, then read a couple of easy and short introductory texts on this subject. Easy and short are the key words here. You can also read a couple of introductory texts that explain the key concepts from the complex text. Now that you are familiar with the subject matter, key concepts, and special vocabulary, your understanding of the complicated text will be good.

The second type of introductory material that facilitates reading of a dull or complex text is the abbreviated information (key points) that you can extract from this text. This technique is especially relevant to large texts, such as textbooks or review articles. First, see if the subject matter is foreign to you. If this is the case, then you can use the method from the previous paragraph as your first step. After that, you can start working on the large text using “the method of increasing detail.” This method consists of several rounds of reading and each subsequent round contains more detailed information from the text.

The first round contains the least detail and consists of reading the summary of the text or if it is not available, reading titles of all parts, chapters, and sections. Titles carry substantial amounts of information and you may get the main points of the text already in this first round of reading. In the second round, you will read the summary of each subdivision of the text. That is, you will read the summary of each part, each chapter, and each section, if the authors were courteous enough to provide them for you. As a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to always use only those textbooks that have informative summaries for each chapter. It is even better if a textbook contains a summary of key points in each section within a chapter. A summary, if it is present, can be located either at the beginning or at the end of a chapter. Many textbooks have these nice features and they will make it easy for you to use the method of increasing detail. Some textbooks contain badly written, uninformative summaries of chapters, which read like an introduction and do not convey key points. It is best to avoid this sort of textbooks.

If your large text does not contain any summaries of subsections, then you can create them yourself in your mind. You can do this by reading either the first or last sentence within each paragraph in a chapter. This technique may take a little practice as you learn to deal with different types of authors. Some authors tend to give you key information in the first sentence of a paragraph. In this case, you can read only the first sentences of all paragraphs in order to extract key points from a chapter. Other authors give you key information in the last sentence of a paragraph. Still other authors are not consistent and you will have to read both first and last sentences of each paragraph in order to obtain a bird’s eye view of the chapter. Even if a summary of each subsection of the text is available, you can still do the selective reading of sentences as part of the second round of reading.

If you try using the method of increasing detail, then after the first two rounds of the method, you will have a good understanding of the key information in the text. Your mind is not cluttered with details and you can explain the key points of the text to another person. If you wish, you can repeat the first two rounds one more time to make sure the key points have sunk in. Now you can read the whole text in a regular fashion, all sentences from start to finish; this is the third round of reading. The third round of the method is the longest and can take 10 times longer than the first two rounds combined. Your reading comprehension of the text is now many-fold better than it would be if you did not use the method of increasing detail.

One last trick is the use of audiobooks and text-to-speech software. Spoken text is easier to comprehend than written text. Put another way, listening is easier than reading; this is why books on audio CD are becoming popular. Latest versions of Adobe Acrobat (and other software) can read a text out loud for you, if you have the electronic document. The mechanical monotonous speech of the computer can be annoying and difficult to understand. If you do not have an electronic document, you can digitize a text using a scanner and optical character recognition (OCR) software. If you do not have the book on tape and the electronic document is not available, you can read the text aloud yourself. One caveat is that if you read out loud in the presence of your friends or family, they may think that you are crazy. Reading aloud or using a computer to read a text out loud for you is useful with a boring text, such as a “Materials and Methods” section of a scientific paper. If the text is in the foreign language that you are studying, then reading out loud will improve your pronunciation. Aside from boring texts and texts written in a foreign language, reading out loud does not offer substantial benefits. You will not need either audiobooks or reading out loud if you can improve your attention control.

Finally, you may consider adding very quiet music to your reading or writing routine, to make a task less boring. Choose music that is free of singing, such as jazz or classical music, because a human voice seems to cause distractions. Set the volume to barely audible. This kind of background music won’t break your concentration and will make a boring or uninteresting task more tolerable.

Key points

Tips on taking tests, including IQ tests

Those readers who are convinced that a person cannot increase his or her IQ scores can review the following references prior to reading the rest of this section: [49, 106, 358, 362, 499, 839, 887, 888, 943]. Some of you may be wondering what kind of regimen is best for test taking. Assuming that you have prepared for the test well in advance and don’t have to cram all night, the best regimen, in my experience, is the following:

  1. get a good night’s sleep;

  2. on the day before the test and on the day of the test you can use the modified high-protein diet;

  3. avoid cooked grains because they may slow you down (one exception is tests that involve writing long essays);

  4. have a high-protein meal before the test;

  5. take an adapted cold shower before the test.

These recommendations can help you stay alert and focused during the test. If you avoid all “problem foods” and “horrible foods” in the natural food pyramid (Table 3 in Chapter One) for 3–4 days before the test and on the day of the test, then your fluid intelligence will improve.

The above recommendations are suitable for tests that require reading large portions of text (such as the verbal section of the Graduate Record Examinations or Scholastic Aptitude Test). This advice will work for tests that do not require extreme speed: the majority of academic (college level) exams, which test knowledge, not speed. Academic exams do not require extraordinary fluid intelligence either, in my experience. GRE and SAT tests do require some speed but focused attention and the ability to read large portions of text are more important. Therefore, my advice is to use the modified high-protein diet for these types of tests. You can also do some experimentation with official practice tests to see which diets work best for you.

On the other hand, IQ tests such as Stanford–Binet Intelligence Scales and Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale do not contain test items that require reading large portions of text. Therefore, focused attention is not critical. Certain parts of these tests require a high processing speed. You will need the best possible fluid intelligence throughout the whole test. Based on data in Table 4 below, the fruit-and-vegetable diet appears to be the most suitable diet for intelligence tests.

Table 4. Characteristics of various diets that are relevant to different types of tests. The data are based on the author’s personal experience. “Speed” means information processing speed. “Fluid intelligence” means the ability to understand and solve complex problems. “Sizeable text items” means performance on test questions that contain large portions of text (for example, a page of text).

Fruit-and-vegetable diet

Speed: high

Fluid intelligence: excellent

Sizeable text items: so-so

Errors: few

Antidepressant diet

Speed: good

Fluid intelligence: good

Sizeable text items: good

Errors: few

Modified high-protein diet

Speed: good

Fluid intelligence: good

Sizeable text items: excellent

Errors: few

Depressant diet

Speed: low

Fluid intelligence: So-so

Sizeable text items: good

Errors: few

Mixed diet (contains junk food)

Speed: good

Fluid intelligence: So-so

Sizeable text items: good

Errors: many [998]

The fruit-and-vegetable diet increases information processing speed and improves fluid intelligence (mental clarity). To obtain a significant benefit, you need to stay on this diet for 2 days before and on the day of the test. Although I stated in Chapter One that the ancestral diet will improve intelligence after 4–7 days, I chose this length of time in the interest of more rigorous testing of the theory. In practice, the “smart diets” produce noticeable improvements in my thinking after 2 or 3 days. An adapted cold shower every morning and just before an intelligence test will boost fluid intelligence further. I have never taken an official IQ test, although the GRE General test that I took in 1998 correlates strongly with intelligence tests [2022]. My experience with online IQ tests suggests that the approach outlined above is effective. Keep in mind that the fruit-and-vegetable diet is not useful for studying for the tests because attention control is low. If you choose to study and prepare for an intelligence test as described below, you may consider using the modified high-protein diet during the preparation phase. Before and during the test you can use the aforementioned “high-speed diet.”

In my own work, I noticed that processing speed depends on my body’s position: when the position is horizontal (lying down), processing speed is approximately 50% of the norm (i.e., when you are sitting or standing upright). In a reclining position with a tilt angle of ~45°, the processing speed is intermediate: I would say 25% slower than the norm.

With respect to crystallized intelligence, that is, general knowledge and skills, there is no easy way of increasing it quickly. Nonetheless, it is possible to improve special skills related to the test in question within a short period of time. You can achieve this by familiarizing yourself with the contents of past tests and by practicing taking those sample tests. For example, when I was preparing for the GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) General test in 1998, I bought the GRE Big Book. The latter is a huge tome containing lots of real-life tests from past years, with correct answers at the end of the book. GRE General is a test that students have to pass in order to enter graduate school, such as a Ph.D. or a Master’s degree program at a university in the United States. I took a vacation for one month in July 1998 and did nothing but take those tests from dawn till dusk the whole month. I do not remember right now, but I think I made one or two passes through the Big Book. I used the balanced high-protein diet during that month. Because I was going to take a computer-adaptive test in November of 1998, I also practiced taking the computer-based GRE General (using official practice software) for several days just before the test. These specific test-taking skills, along with academic knowledge that I had accumulated over the previous years, helped me to ace the official GRE General test (see Appendix VI).

I got sick before another test, TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), which was coming up on November 26. I practiced for that test too, but my listening comprehension was so-so and I wasn’t feeling well on the day of the test. In the end, I did OK on the TOEFL, but I am convinced that in the reading comprehension section, some multiple-choice questions contained two correct answers instead of one. I had encountered this peculiarity in the practice TOEFL tests from past years. This section of TOEFL was easy for me: it is nothing compared to the verbal section of the GRE General, which tests language skills of native speakers of English. Nonetheless, I had to guess on several of those “trick questions” and achieved a score of 28 on reading comprehension instead of the highest score of 30. To sum up, practicing taking certain types of tests is going to improve your score, even if your level of knowledge and fluid intelligence remain the same.

I have never taken a proctored IQ test, although I did tinker with internet IQ tests. The Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) General test that I took in November of 1998 correlates well with intelligence tests. I got the following scores (see the end of Appendix VI): 99th percentile quantitative section, 99th percentile verbal section, and 98th percentile analytical. These GRE scores correspond to an IQ score above 150 (99.9th percentile) according to some calculations that I found on the Web. There are no recent peer-reviewed studies that compare the GRE General test with IQ tests. One study shows that SAT scores correlate strongly with intelligence [20]. Two other reports show that high SAT scores correlate with high intelligence and predict high GRE scores [21, 22]. If you have to take a proctored IQ test as an occupational requirement, and wish to prepare for the test, my advice is to not put too much credence in internet IQ tests. This is because most of them do not measure IQ accurately and have little in common with official IQ tests. In general, you are not supposed to be preparing for an IQ test because intelligence tests are designed to measure mental abilities that people cannot change easily, such as general knowledge and fluid intelligence. Yet studies show that IQ scores can increase by several points with repeated taking of intelligence tests [499]. Therefore, you may be able to improve your IQ score to some extent by practicing taking the tests. Some readers may consider this approach “cheating.” In my view, practicing before any tests is fair game, except when you take the same test several times and report the score from your last test as your first-time score. This approach will be real cheating. Repeated taking of IQ tests will not improve fluid intelligence and brain function in general. This technique will improve the specific skills related to IQ tests. Recent studies show that mental exercises do not improve brain function [917, 918, 1023]. In particular, they have no effect on working memory, processing speed, attention function, and fluid intelligence, and there is no reason that they should. Expecting mental exercises to improve brain function is similar to trying to improve computer hardware by loading more software on it and by making the computer work harder than usual—a futile exercise.

As for the preparation routine for an IQ test, first, you need to find out, if you can, what kind of intelligence test you will have to take. There are several scientifically validated tests of intelligence, the most common being Stanford–Binet Intelligence Scales and Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale. These two tests are common in English-speaking countries and, in non–English-speaking countries, other types of validated IQ tests may be more common. If you know the name of the test, you can then find a description of the test and find books and websites that contain sample questions from past tests. By working through hundreds and thousands of practice questions, you will improve your test-taking skills and are likely to increase your IQ score.

It is also possible that you will not be able to find out what kind of intelligence test you will receive. In this case, if time allows, you can take any official intelligence test (GRE General or SAT will do too) and then practice various test questions from books about intelligence tests. This practice will improve your test-taking skills and will slightly improve your performance on the upcoming intelligence test. Keep in mind that this approach will not increase your intelligence, but rather, it will increase your IQ score. Therefore, if you want to find out your true level of intelligence, the best way is to take a proctored IQ test unprepared.

Some test items such as testing of short-term memory (working memory) may seem impossible to prepare for. A popular type of working memory tests is the forward and backward digit span task. This task consists of showing a test taker a sequence of single-digit numbers with an interval of one second between the numbers. The number of digits in the sequence increases (from one up to 10) until the participant fails in two consecutive attempts to recall the same digit span length. The test taker should recall the whole sequence of numbers in direct order (forward digit span) or in reverse order (backward digit span). The maximum length of a sequence that a person recalls correctly is the result of the digit span task. On average, healthy people are able to recall the maximum strand of 7 digits in the forward digit span and 5.5 digits in the backward digit span [500]. Based on my experience with practice tests on the Internet, your performance on the digit span task will improve by 1 or 2 points if you use the following technique. Say silently (repeat to yourself) the sequence of numbers as fast as you can. Continue repeating the growing sequence of numbers to yourself until you see the question about the sequence. This technique can improve memorization and can improve performance on tests of short-term memory, such as verbal recall and digit span tasks. Please note that this approach will not improve your working memory; it can only improve your scores on working memory tests.

Learn basics of logic. Over 95% of the population are not familiar with typical logical errors, and you will be head-and-shoulders above most people on IQ scores if you know the basics of logic. Wikipedia is a horrible source of information [1062], but some articles on noncontroversial topics are useful (see the article “List of fallacies”).

Those readers who are skeptical about the effectiveness of my dietary techniques may consider using the following simple approach. It consists of using your usual routine plus taking an adapted cold shower immediately before an intelligence test, along with brief cardio exercise and 0.5 liters of lemon juice diluted 1:10 (see footnote # 20 in Appendix VII). All three procedures are CNS stimulants. This approach is also the easiest to test in a controlled scientific study. The performance on the test should improve due to increased fluid intelligence and processing speed [362, 924]. Moderate cooling shares many similarities with stimulant drugs. Stimulants such as coffee and Ritalin® improve alertness, processing speed, and attention in healthy people [358]. One study shows that brief cooling of the body improves performance of complex (but not simple) mental tasks in healthy volunteers [362]. These data point to the improvement of fluid intelligence as a result of moderate cooling.

If you have never used coffee for boosting your performance on tests and if you dislike cold showers, then you may consider having a cup of coffee before a test (not a big dose). This approach will be an easy and legal way to enhance your cognitive abilities. Coffee may not be beneficial for people whose mental abilities are above average and for people who feel nervous or agitated. Adapted cold showers will be beneficial for people who feel nervous or fearful, but will not be beneficial for someone who feels euphoric or overactive. Don’t use adapted cold showers with coffee as this combination can cause hyperactivity or restlessness. Finally, hot showers or hot baths (or a hot environment) tend to worsen performance on tests because of the following temporary effects: increased fatigue, reduced alertness, and reduced processing speed [352, 651, 924].

Key points

Tips on learning a foreign language and building your vocabulary quickly

At this point, we can discuss some techniques that facilitate learning a foreign language because texts written in a foreign language are in the category of “complex reading material.” A foreign language course is often a part of a curriculum at many educational institutions. Attaining good command of a foreign language requires daily effort and will take several years. This section describes some of my own methods that I developed while learning English. In my experience, you do not need to attend any special classes. You can learn a foreign language independently and cheaply, and the independent approach is, in my view, the most effective one. Although they taught me English at all educational institutions that I had attended since age 10, by age 19, my English vocabulary was no greater than 10 or 20 words. When I decided that I was going to study English in earnest, I learned more by myself within the first 3 months than I did in the previous 9 years. The basic outline of the recommended approach is as follows (I adapted it to the modern technological advances).

First, you have to learn the basic grammar and basic vocabulary by reading some cheap and small introductory textbook. There is no way around this first step and there are no shortcuts here. Taking classes is a much slower and less effective approach. Then, read an intermediate-level textbook. After this first step, you can either read a more advanced textbook or you may get right down to business and start reading real (unadapted) texts that you find interesting. In my view, the most serious obstacle to mastering the foreign language is not the grammar, but vocabulary. Therefore, much of your progress will depend on whether you can expand your vocabulary quickly in some fun and easy way. Reading foreign texts the hard way, by going from the text to a dictionary and back four to five times within each sentence is neither fun nor easy.

What you can do instead is find some good movies or TV shows that have two audio tracks: in your native language and in the foreign language. There should also be subtitles in the foreign language. Now turn on the audio track in your native language and subtitles in the foreign language, and go through the whole movie translating and figuring out each sentence. When you are done, watch the movie again with the other audio track (foreign language) and try to understand the spoken speech while reading the subtitles again. Another, less convenient approach is to listen to each sentence in the foreign language while reading the subtitles, then to rewind and switch to the other audio track try to translate and understand the sentence. Go through the whole movie this way. Yet another technique is to find some articles on the Internet that you find interesting, such as news stories or a biography of your favorite musician, and translate them using Google Translator or another free translator in the following way. Copy one or two sentences, paste them into the Google Translator, and translate them into your mother tongue. Now read the translation and then the original sentence(s) and make sure you grasp the meaning of each word in the foreign text. The automatic translators are not very good today, despite all the advances in information technology, and the translation they produce is usually awkward and funny. Nonetheless, they can facilitate learning the frequently used vocabulary, which is about 5 to 10 thousand words. The inability to learn these first 5–10 thousand words is the glass ceiling that prevents most people from mastering a foreign language. If you can overcome this barrier, further learning of the language will be a breeze. Going back to our foreign language text, if you suspect that the Google software translated some words incorrectly, you can use a paper or internet dictionary to find the correct meaning. Continue copying, pasting, and perusing each sentence until you finish the whole article. You can reread the foreign language copy one more time, reading all sentences in one sitting, to make sure you memorized all the new words. You can also start working on another article in a similar fashion. If you find unadapted texts too difficult and confusing at this point, then read and translate some adapted texts (for students of the foreign language). During this initial vocabulary-building step, you need to use a dictionary that provides definitions in your native language.

The advantage of the above method is that you have to make a trip to the dictionary only once per sentence on average. This situation is better than the 4–5 trips per sentence with the usual paper-based approach. If you are dying to read some foreign text that you have as a hard copy only, you can use optical character recognition (OCR) software and a scanner to digitize the text. After that, you can use the above technique to translate and read it. If you can afford to spend several hours a day on this vocabulary-building method, then you should be able to learn the frequently used vocabulary within 3–6 months. If you can read real-life texts without the translator and encounter one unfamiliar word per sentence or fewer, this means you have mastered the most important vocabulary. Now you can proceed to the next step.

Read an advanced textbook on the foreign language, preferably with some audio or video materials. Now you no longer need Google Translator, and you can read digital or hard-copy texts each day, with the help of a dictionary. Choose texts that you find interesting to make the learning fun. At this point, your vocabulary will be increasing more rapidly if you start using dictionaries that provide all definitions in the language that you are studying (instead of your native language). Most dictionaries are available for free on the Internet, but if you prefer a printed dictionary, that is fine too. If you keep any daily records (e.g., a diary or lab notebook), you can try writing them in the foreign language.

After that, you can further build your vocabulary and improve your listening comprehension by watching movies or TV series with subtitles, without the audio track in your native language. You can stop and rewind as many times as you need to understand each sentence. Now learning the language is both easy and fun because you can combine it with entertainment. Once your listening comprehension improves, studying the language for several hours a day will be a pleasure rather than punishment. You can watch movies in your spare time and you can listen to live radio on the Internet (or with regular antenna reception) while doing household chores. If you use only dictionaries with foreign language definitions, your vocabulary will be increasing exponentially. Up-to-date slang dictionaries are available in a foreign language only, and this state of affairs should not be a problem for you at this stage.

The next step is learning to speak the language. Even if you have an enormous vocabulary and can read faster than native speakers, if you do not learn how to speak, your speech will be halting, painful, and slow. Before I came to America in 1999, I was under the impression that my command of English was excellent because I passed the language tests with flying colors in the previous year. It turned out that my speech was slow and unintelligible, and I had to repeat myself three times before anybody could understand what I was saying. My spoken English became more or less fluent and intelligible after I spent about a year in the States. In my experience, an easy way to improve fluency and pronunciation is to read out loud for 20–30 minutes a day. This approach can make your speech fluent within 2 or 3 months. At this point, you should have a good idea how the language sounds and how each word is pronounced. Your vocabulary is large enough so that you don’t have to use a dictionary often. In addition, you can improve fluency by chatting with native speakers on the Internet and by posting on internet message boards. Both methods are easy and fun, but make sure that you choose clean and safe websites. Beware of swindlers, sexual predators, and other seedy elements on the Internet (this advice is especially relevant to minors). Even though you are not speaking while chatting or posting on internet forums, you are learning to use the language, and this process will improve both writing and speech. Optionally, you can also socialize with native speakers in real life if you have an opportunity, but this method may not always be easy or accessible. If you live in the foreign country whose language you are studying, you can also practice the language by socializing with foreigners from countries other than your native country. To minimize your foreign accent, record yourself reading some text for a minute. Now listen to yourself, make note of problems with pronunciation, and record yourself again; repeat as needed.

In conclusion, the method outlined above is cheap and effective but will require daily work. I should also say that if you are thinking about moving to another country, you need to consider the following factors: Unless you immigrate with your parents before the age of 7 or 10, you will always have a foreign accent, albeit a mild one. Most of born citizens will look down on you, and you will feel like a second-rate person in interpersonal relations all your life. This is not a serious problem if you are obscenely rich or know that you will be your own boss in the new country. If you will be working for hire, then you will have to face the above inconvenience. Although your income in the new country may be higher, your status in society will probably be lower in comparison with your home country. Believe me, you will feel more comfortable having an above-average income in your home country than an average income in the new country. All governments engage in propaganda, i.e., false advertising, in the most ingenious ways. Most likely, what you will see in the new country will not match your expectations. Your reasons for moving may be invalid in the first place if they are based on what you see in the mass media, movies, or TV shows (and you don’t realize that this stuff is mostly propaganda). If you will be staying on a work, marriage, or student visa in the new country, your legal rights and various personal freedoms will be limited for many years in the new country. You will be not only a second-rate person (in interpersonal relations) but also a second-rate citizen. You are opening yourself up to various abuses. (Side note: When I just came to the U.S., in late August 1999, I rented a room in Washington, DC, and had a housemate named Liam K. Healy, who bullied me [physical threats of violence] and subjected me to various other kinds of psychological abuse. Amazingly, this guy passed the bar exam in the fall of 1999 and currently practices law in Michigan. I moved out of that house as soon as I could, in December 1999.) In contrast, you are a 100% rightful citizen in your home country and enjoy maximal freedoms in all respects. In particular, if you are thinking about starting your own business, you have a much better chance in your home country. Here are some invalid reasons for moving to another country: {1} a better climate (nonsense; dress to the weather and install better heating or air-conditioning in your home); {2} better economic opportunities (see above regarding propaganda; there are rare exceptions, so rare that they are not worth mentioning); {3} better political freedoms (nonsense; in this field, the definitions and claims are so vague and so soaked in propaganda that it’s a waste of time arguing about this stuff; 99% or more of the population is not affected or does not care about political differences among various countries; when somebody claims that they moved for political reasons, the actual reasons are most likely different).

Key points

Prerequisites to good writing performance

Writing is the most difficult type of work that I know of. Research suggests that most students perceive writing assignments as difficult. Some types of writing, those that are unrelated to one’s school or job, are easy, for example, e-mail and text messaging. Writing e-mails is easy and pleasant even when it is job related. In this section we will talk about the writing tasks that your job or school requires. This is the kind of writing that you have to do, not the kind of writing that you want to do for fun.

Writing tasks involve active creation of information or documents by typing or by writing with a pen/pencil. Some job- or school-related tasks may involve both reading and writing. For the sake of simplicity, those tasks where writing constitutes 25% or more of the total time spent belong to the category of writing tasks (this is an arbitrary cutoff). The following are some examples of writing tasks: writing of term papers, scientific articles, or research grant proposals, writing of software, performance of certain types of calculations, and preparation of slides for a presentation. Writing a book is not related to a person’s job in most cases, but it is very difficult—you will have to take my word for it. A writer of a book expects to make a living off of the sales of the book; therefore, writing of books is a job-related task. Please keep in mind that most of the discussion below deals with such writing tasks as writing of scientific papers, term papers or writing of a book. I know nothing about writing of music and poetry, and these endeavors may require a different approach. Now that we defined what a writing task is, we can consider prerequisites to productive writing.

Most of what I know about writing came from my personal experience rather than from hard scientific data on the subject of writing. I am not aware of any formal scientific discipline that studies productive writing. There are books and college courses that explain the rules of academic writing, but educational institutions do not teach students how to become a more productive writer, as far as I know. This is because no one has ever tested and validated this sort of techniques scientifically. In the absence of reliable evidence of effectiveness, no accredited institution is going to teach its students some sort of voodoo material. The techniques described below have helped me a lot, but rigorous scientific proof of their effectiveness is lacking. The kind of mental abilities and the mental state that are optimal for productive writing may surprise some readers. In particular, reading and writing tasks require different sets of mental abilities.

Based on my experience, the list of mental abilities necessary for productive writing is the following: strong self-control and good attention control. That’s it. Writing does not require alertness, fluid intelligence, or good working memory, in the sense that these abilities can be average or below average and this situation will not interfere with productive writing. Writing does not require creativity either, at least during the phase when you are typing or writing up the text. As you will see later, creativity is useful during the planning phase, when you are looking for ideas and trying to come up with an outline of your future creation. Yet the most difficult phase is the typing and it does not require creativity. The mood state that is optimal for writing, in my experience, is slightly depressed mood and increased emotional tension. We will review each of these requirements in more detail below.

Good self-control is the most important attribute of a productive writer. Self-control is necessary in order to “force oneself” to sit down and write even though you may be reluctant to do so. I am always reluctant to do any writing. In my experience, school- or job-related writing tasks are never easy and peaceful, even if your self-control is up to par. My self-control is good according to self-assessment questionnaires, yet writing tasks always involve a struggle against myself. I am probably a productive writer according to my track record (Appendix VI), but I cannot say that writing is easy for me. I know some bright and creative people who lack in the self-control department. These people cannot become productive scientists because they are unable to force themselves to write when necessary. Advice offered below can make writing easier and more feasible for you, but it will not make writing easy. If you have been unable to write anything useful before reading this book, you should be able to write something after you read it. If you were an unproductive writer, you may become a more productive writer. Yet writing is never going to become easy, at least with the advice that this book can offer. Good self-control is also necessary for adhering to the writing schedule that you will draw up for yourself. Adhering to the writing schedule involves both preventing oneself from doing irrelevant things and forcing oneself to do the writing during the allotted time.

It should be obvious that good attention control is necessary for writing. A writer must keep his or her attention on a computer screen or on a typewriter for many hours every day. We discussed attention control in detail in Chapter Three, and the same principles apply to writing.

Knowledge of the subject matter of the text you are going to write is also important. It is possible to write a lot of text without much knowledge of the topics you are writing about. You can do this only if you don’t need to write a text useful to others and if you don’t care if the experts in the field will like your creation. Typing skills are also in this “prior knowledge” category. Most Americans learn how to type with all fingers, without looking at the keyboard, in high school. This is not the case in other countries. For instance, in Russia, most high school and college graduates do not know how to type correctly, i.e., they type with two fingers while looking at the keyboard. When I came to the United States in 1999, I did not know how to type properly even though I had an equivalent of a Master’s degree. The speed and ease of typing increase 3- to 4-fold after you learn how to type with all fingers using the proper technique. Learning how to type may take 1–3 weeks, but it is well worth it and I recommend it to everyone, especially to those who wish to become productive writers.

Finally, the mental state most conducive to productive writing is slightly depressed mood and moderately increased emotional tension. To be precise, this mental state is crucial for good self-control, which is important for productive writing. The emotional tension is synonymous with a mild worry or mild anxiety. This somewhat “unhappy” state is bearable and does not cause significant suffering; therefore, it is not the same as clinical anxiety and depression. It is possible to write with the normal state of mood, but in my experience, the aforementioned mental state is most conducive to writing. It is unknown if this observation is applicable to all people, and there is not a good explanation of the possible mechanism at work here. The converse is also true: a happy and carefree state of mind is least conducive to school- or job-related writing. We already saw in an earlier section that elevated mood and low anxiety can contribute to procrastination, and this mental state also interferes with writing. To be precise, even if I am able to get started on my writing, I am not able to write a lot in this state of mind. In contrast, reading can be productive when mood is normal or slightly elevated. One possible explanation is that writing is difficult, lonely, and boring work. Therefore, a person in a happy state of mind will see no reason why he or she should subject oneself to this unpleasant experience. In other words, elevated carefree mood may contribute to a lack of motivation for a difficult type of work such as writing. Conversely, if mood is lowered and the fear of the future (anxiety) is increased, then the motivation for difficult work will be sufficient.

Key points

Lifestyle changes and other approaches to overcoming writer’s block

We saw in the previous section that successful writing requires several mental abilities: strong self-control, attention control, and good knowledge of the topic in question. If you do not know what you are going to write about, creativity is necessary during the planning phase, before you start typing. Pages that follow outline sequential steps of a writing project, how I do it. At the end of this section, we will discuss how to deal with writer’s block.

Let’s say they assigned you a sizable writing task, 20 pages single spaced, but you have to choose the topic yourself. A typical writing project includes four steps:

  1. brainstorming/planning;

  2. reading up on the subject;

  3. adjustment of plans and setting up a schedule;

  4. typing up the text according to the plan and schedule.

1) PLANNING. The brainstorming/planning step requires active imagination (creativity) and nothing else. The creativity regimen from Chapter Four can serve this purpose well. This regimen activates thinking and behavior. You may experience a flood of ideas and elevated internal mood if you were a healthy person with normal mood before starting this regimen. You can also try using the fruit-and-vegetable diet (fifth section of Chapter Three and Appendix II) with adapted cold showers. The latter approach will make you unable to perform most types of work and it does not have the antidepressant effect, but it produces a sharper wit (Chapter Six). Once you come up with the ideas for your writing project, don’t forget to jot them down. Even if you had a good idea what your writing was going to be about, the above method can improve and enrich your preexisting ideas. Because this regimen improves mental clarity, you may start seeing shortcuts that you can take in your previous plan. These shortcuts will save you time and effort during later steps of your writing project. The duration of this brainstorming step is from one to three days. After completing Step One, you will have a brief outline of your future text, which may be in the form of an abbreviated table of contents or a summary of key points.

2) RESEARCH. Now you have to do some research and reading on the subject matter in question. You can read the latest review articles or encyclopedia articles on this topic or you can read abstracts of academic articles or do other types of research. If you want to produce a high-quality text, you need to have good knowledge of all aspects of the topic that you will be writing about. Research involves a lot of reading. In order to make the reading easy and productive, you can avail yourself of the techniques from the section on reading comprehension above.

3) ADJUSTMENT OF PLANS. If you worked on Step 2 in good conscience, you now know a lot more about the subject matter than you did during Step 1. In light of your new knowledge, you will want to make changes to the previous plan or outline of your text. You can repeat Step 1, which will take another 1–3 days. Now, in addition to the outline of your text, you need to draw up a schedule for the writing proper. You can create a to-do list that describes the sequence of your writing activities. This list can include such items as “write up key points of each subsection,” “write section X,” “rewrite section Z,” “insert all references,” and so on. You need to decide on the amount of writing that you will do every day and to enter some benchmarks into your calendar.

4) TYPING. This writing step is the most difficult part and you should try your best to comply with your plan/schedule. The typing phase does not require intellectual brilliance. All it requires is the brute force of self-control and the ability to maintain attention on writing for several hours a day. This step involves nothing but typing on your computer or typewriter many hours a day. The following is a list of tips that can make this step easier.

A) We saw in the previous section that the writing phase requires strong self-control, attention control, and lowered mood with increased emotional tension. You can try the sedative regimen that was proposed to combat procrastination in Chapter Five. If it still does not help, you can try adding junk food temporarily into your diet. Nowadays, I never have to resort to junk food for this purpose because I have perfected the antiprocrastination regimen, and it works well. In fact, I can do everything described in this section by varying a raw diet (more fat less meat or less fat more meat; Appendix VIII). It is very useful to put on winter clothes indoors (a heavy coat, double pants, and a fur hat). It looks funny but it works; when you feel uncomfortably hot, that's when real self-control kicks in.

B) Try to avoid cold hydrotherapy during the writing phase because it can elevate mood. The only exception is when you feel sleepy, and in this case, an adapted cold shower will wake you up and will not interfere with writing. Feeling somewhat sleepy or tired does not interfere with productive writing.

C) To reduce boredom, you can play some quiet music in the background while you are typing away.

D) You can use the method of increasing detail in your writing plan. We have already seen how this method applies to reading tasks and, with respect to writing, the approach is similar. First, you write the title of the text and titles of all subsections within your text. Second, you write a brief summary of your text (300–500 words) that contains all important ideas and key points that you want to drive home. Third, you write up a list of key points for each subsection. Fourth, you will start expanding and elaborating on the key points in each subsection, one by one. Before you know it, you will have the complete text written up. You can then delete the summary and lists of key points from the text if they are optional in your writing project. The method of increasing detail is useful for both reading and writing tasks.

E) Some people prefer writing the text using a pen and paper first and then they type it into the computer. These people do not know how to type using all fingers, and therefore typing is a slow and difficult task for them. You need to learn how to type with all fingers. This method will increase the speed and ease of typing by 3- to 4-fold, and you will never need to write anything on paper anymore.

F) The latest version of Microsoft Word and Windows (and there are other relevant software packages as well) have a speech recognition feature. It can allow you to create your text by speaking instead of typing. I tried using the speech recognition a number of times, but I find typing more convenient, at least when it comes to academic writing. Speaking a text into the computer requires the same amount of self-control and struggle against oneself as typing, if we are talking about writing tasks necessary for your job or coursework. Even if you create most of your text using speech recognition software, you will still have to edit the text by typing. If you have learned the proper typing technique, typing should be as easy for you as speaking. Your thoughts will be flowing onto the computer screen, and you will be unaware of what your fingers are doing on the keyboard.

If you are able to do typing for two hours per day, this is low to moderate productivity of writing. If you can type for 3–4 hours a day consistently, this is good productivity. Judging by the amount of text, if you can produce three pages of single-spaced text consistently every day, this productivity may be considered good. You can also use the Reading/Writing Productivity Questionnaire for self-assessment (Appendix V).

This final, fourth step of a writing project can take several days to several months depending on the intended size of your text. When the raw draft is ready, you will have to check grammar and spelling by means of software first and then by proofreading the text yourself. There is no software that can detect all typos and errors in a text. You need to proofread your text slowly at least twice in order to correct the majority of errors and typos. After that, you can run the computer spellcheck again. While rereading the text, you will make corrections and deletions from the text. When your final version is ready, it’s a good idea to give it to a friend or a colleague for critical evaluation, if time allows you to do so. Alternatively, you can let it sit on the shelf for one or two weeks, during which time you can forget about the manuscript and do something else. Afterwards, with a fresh mind, you will make additional corrections and modifications.

This concludes the four steps of a writing project. It is possible that the size of your writing task is small (1–2 pages) and you cannot choose the topic of the text, i.e., you received a concrete assignment. In this case you can omit Steps 1 and 3.

Now that we are done with all steps of a writing project, it is time to discuss writer’s block. We can define writer’s block as an inability to produce a single line of text for several days, several weeks or longer, even though it is important that you write at least something. In my experience, there are two types of writer’s block. The first type is the result of a lack of ideas or stale imagination. If you run into this problem, Step One of a writing project described above can increase your creativity and help you resolve this issue. Although not mentioned in the creativity regimen, physical exercise also helps to come up with writing ideas, despite the fatigue.

The second type of writer’s block is the result of a lack of will power (inability to force oneself to start writing), even though you know what to write. We can diagnose this as procrastination. See Chapter Five. The method of increasing detail can also help you overcome procrastination because it allows you to start with the easiest things. The difficulty of tasks builds up as you become more involved in your writing project. Getting started on typing is the most difficult part of a writing project. It is only logical that you should make this step as easy as possible by starting with the easiest tasks.

In conclusion, you can take a look at my own writing achievements (Appendix VI), as evidence that the above method is effective. I started experimenting with high-protein diets and other “smart diets” around 1993. Since 1997, when I started full-time academic research, I have contributed to a total of 16 scientific publications (13 PubMed citations and 3 book chapters). Of these 16, I did most of the writing in 7 publications and all of the writing in another 7. It is difficult to say if this performance is above or below average. The amount of data per publication and average frequency of publications vary among different scientific fields [501]. Writing performance is not the only factor that determines the amount of scientific publications. I also wrote several ebooks, a doctoral dissertation (earned a Ph.D. degree in cancer research), and several articles not related to science.

Key points

Summary of Chapter Five

Reading and writing tasks require different mental abilities. Yet the common obstacle is procrastination: postponing the reading or writing tasks until the last day. Several studies suggest that procrastination correlates with impulsivity and low self-control. Procrastination also inversely correlates with anxiety about a task. People with elevated mood are less productive than people with normal or somewhat low mood; this effect may be due to the correlation of procrastination with positive mood. The depressant diet from Chapter Four lowers mood and increases emotional tension and is effective at reducing academic procrastination.

Both reading and writing tasks require low procrastination and good mental concentration (attention control). But reading tasks also require good mental clarity, or the ability to understand complex concepts. Chapter One explained why elimination of junk food and food additives from the diet can improve brain function—in particular, fluid intelligence. The modified high-protein diet from Chapter Three improves mental clarity and reading comprehension.

The typing process does not require intellectual brilliance. But job- or school-related writing tasks are among the most difficult types of work according to polls. Based on my experience, the most productive writing happens when mood is slightly anxious or lowered and attention control is at a good level. The depressant diet is conducive to this mental state. A hot environment is also useful. Coming up with writing ideas requires a different approach. The creativity regimen from Chapter Four is helpful.

The method of increasing detail is helpful for both reading and writing tasks. In the case of a reading task, you read the main title and all titles of the chapters within the text. After that, you read the main summary, then the summary of each chapter, and the whole text from start to finish. If summaries are unavailable, reading either the first or last sentence in each paragraph is useful. With writing tasks, you can employ a similar approach, which consists of advancing from easy to more difficult parts of a project.
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CHAPTER 6: Social intelligence


An overview of social intelligence

Social skills versus innate intelligence

The natural intelligence theory revisited

How to overcome the fear of solitude

How to sharpen your wit and become more talkative

Tips on reducing impulsivity before making an important decision

Choosing among different lifestyles, depending on circumstances

Summary of Chapter Six

An overview of social intelligence

(This literature review has not been updated since 2010.) In 1920, psychologist Edward Thorndike hypothesized the existence of a separate type of intelligence responsible for interpersonal interactions. He defined social intelligence as “the ability to understand and manage men and women, boys and girls, to act wisely in human relations.” Social intelligence is different from the personality trait of extraversion. For example, it is possible to be sociable but unwise in relations with other people. On the other hand, a person can be an introvert and have no difficulty managing and interacting with people.

Although the theoretical concept has existed for almost a century, practical evidence of social intelligence is only beginning to emerge. Initial attempts to measure and validate the existence of social intelligence were unsuccessful and different tests of social intelligence did not correlate well among each other. Many of these tests were based on self-rated questionnaires, other-rated questionnaires, or performance tests. The latter are the type of a test that assesses mental abilities objectively. In the case of social intelligence research, performance tests consisted of written questions describing various social situations and questions about a series of cartoons. The numerical scores resulting from the above tests correlated with personality traits and components of academic intelligence. These data led the researchers to conclude that social intelligence did not exist as an independent and unique set of mental abilities. Until recently, many researchers believed that social intelligence is a manifestation of certain personality traits and known mental abilities from academic intelligence.

Research in the past decade showed that so-called multitrait multimethod tests may be able to identify an independent construct of social intelligence. Multitrait multimethod tests consist of tasks or questions that are designed to assess several components of social intelligence. Researchers assess each component using several different methods, such as multiple-choice questions, cartoons, and questions about video scenes.

German researchers Susanne Weis and Heinz-Martin Suess have designed the best-validated test of social intelligence to date [31]. Their test combines several different preexisting tests of relevant mental abilities and assesses three major components of social intelligence: social understanding, social memory, and social knowledge. The researchers assess each of these domains using verbal (written questions), pictorial (questions about cartoons), and video-based measures in accordance with the multitrait multimethod design of the test. According to these investigators, social understanding comprises mental abilities that enable a person to understand social situations and intentions of people using both verbal and nonverbal information. They define social memory as the ability to remember social information, such as personal characteristics of people. Their definition of social knowledge is tacit knowledge and skills related to social situations, i.e., information that is difficult to recall or explain. The brain stores this type of information in the so-called procedural memory. (For example, if you learn how to ride a bike, the brain will store your skills in the procedural memory. In contrast, if you learn several new foreign words, this information will end up in the other type of memory, the so-called declarative memory. You can recall and explain this information.)

Drs. Weis and Suess investigated the properties of their social intelligence test on 118 participants, who were first-year psychology students and high school students [31]. Their data show that the results of the test do not correlate with academic intelligence and personality traits. Statistical analysis revealed that the three hypothetical domains of social intelligence—social understanding, social knowledge, and social memory—correlated well among themselves. These data support the existence of a general factor of social intelligence (similar to g, the general factor of academic intelligence). This notion means that social intelligence may be a valid, separate type of intelligence. Some components of the test—the social understanding–pictorial test—did not fit well with the general factor of social intelligence. This observation suggests that there may be some overlap or relationship between social and emotional intelligence, which deserves further research.

Studies by other researchers, who also used the multitrait multimethod approach, pointed to the existence of the crystallized and fluid dimensions of social intelligence. Dr. Jong-Eun Lee and colleagues have shown that the crystallized and fluid components of social intelligence are related (there is a statistical correlation). These data lend support to the existence of the general factor of social intelligence [28]. Jong-Eun Lee’s statistical analysis showed that the crystallized domains of social and academic intelligence were not well related to each other. The same was true of the fluid domains of social and academic intelligence, which were also unrelated. These data suggest that a higher-order type of “fluid intelligence” does not exist. You may recall that in Chapter One we defined “mental clarity” as a combination of fluid components of academic, emotional, and social intelligence. The above data suggest that the concept of mental clarity is an artificial construct that does not describe an independent type of intelligence. In other words, mental clarity is a combination of unrelated components.

In conclusion, several studies point to the existence of a separate type of intelligence, social intelligence. It consists of several related sets of mental abilities that are different from personality traits and from mental functions related to IQ. Now that research has demonstrated the existence of social intelligence, we can expect to see studies that will explore the relevance of this concept to life outcomes. Possible areas of interest include the influence of social intelligence on future job performance and on success in social relations. An interesting question is whether a person can improve his or her social intelligence, or at least the crystallized component, that is, knowledge and skills. Sections that follow review the evidence.

Key points

Social skills versus innate intelligence

As we saw in the previous section, social intelligence includes two dimensions: crystallized social intelligence, i.e., social knowledge and skills, and fluid social intelligence. The latter is the ability to understand and solve problems related to social situations. Fluid intelligence means how well the brain works regardless of knowledge. Improving either the crystallized component or the fluid component, or both, will increase social intelligence. There is no rigorous proof that a person can improve his or her fluid social intelligence (discussed in the next section). Yet there are plenty of studies showing that people can improve their social and communication skills by means of special training.

For example, studies have shown that special exercises designed to improve social skills of autistic children can be effective [502]. Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder characterized by impaired social interaction among other problems. The weight of evidence suggests that this impairment involves some kind of malfunction of the brain of autistic children. Therefore, in all likelihood, autism impairs fluid social intelligence. Nonetheless, special training aimed at improving social and communication skills of autistic children may improve quality of life of these children and can reduce severity of symptoms. This kind of training may include pictures with various gestures and facial expressions of people, with instructors explaining to the children what they mean. Some investigators have questioned the scientific rigor of these studies, and further research is needed to confirm the above findings [503]. Similar studies on schizophrenic patients, who also exhibit significant deficiencies in social interaction, suggest that this type of training can improve social functioning in this group of patients [504].

In theory, healthy people too may benefit from training in “people skills,” although rigorous scientific proof is lacking. I have developed (or found) some useful social skills. The text below explains these principles, and I believe that they can make your social interactions smoother and less unpleasant. Granted, there are much better pop psychologists out there than yours truly. Some of the principles will seem obvious to some readers, but I included this information anyway because it is not obvious to everyone, based on my observations.

  1. In an argument that you cannot avoid (for example, when your supervisor confronts you), it is best to phrase all your objections in the form of a question instead of a statement. This approach will defuse the situation.

  2. Act naturally in social situations and don’t be afraid of being silent or unemotional for some time. There is nothing more misguided than the notion that you must talk and laugh all the time in order to be happy. In fact, it is possible to feel happy without laughing or talking to anyone (Chapter Four). If you try to implement this principle, you are not going to become more boring or less sociable. You may find, however, that you have fewer enemies because you are not gossiping and making fun of other people as much as you did before.

  3. To the usual list of taboo topics that one should not discuss at work, such as politics, religion, and sex, I would add the topic of excess body weight as well.

  4. If your supervisor is not nice to you, you should never take offense and, instead, you should consider this behavior normal. Put another way, you need to forgive your boss for the lack of politeness and never try to respond in kind. This principle may seem like an illogical and unpleasant rule to live by. Keep in mind that there is a 99% chance that your boss has to put up with the same kind of treatment from his or her boss. Therefore, this bigger boss is taking revenge on your boss for you, and you don’t have to do it yourself. Many people, including your immediate superiors are living by the following principle: “Do unto your subordinates as your boss has done unto you.” This pattern of behavior is silly and petty, but it is widespread. My advice, if you have subordinates of your own, is to “do unto your subordinates as you want your boss to do unto you,” not “as your boss has done unto you.” Some readers who are the subordinates may ask, “OK, how rude is too rude, when should I consider quitting?” My answer is if you think that your boss is too rude and abusive, you may want to ask somebody’s advice on this matter, and in rare situations your quitting will be justified. Note that bosses are seldom nice; this is a reality of life that you will do well to accept. Even polite bosses will sometimes make you do things that you hate. Keep in mind that your boss has to take a lot of crap from his or her boss and thereby pays the price for not being nice to you. This notion will put your mind at ease and will help you to ignore this little inconvenience.

  5. Fictional character Doctor Gregory House liked to say “Everybody lies.” Most readers would probably nod in agreement but will continue to believe mass media, pronouncements of government agencies, and knowledge obtained at government-approved educational institutions. When all the wisdom of these two short words fully sinks in, your whole worldview and interactions with other people will change dramatically. The latter will become easier and less painful, while the former will become much worse (and more realistic). In almost any interaction with other humans, it is more advantageous for the other party to lie to you than to tell you the truth. The rare exceptions are your parents and your best friends. Even when people are not lying to you, chances are they are repeating somebody else’s lies or perhaps these people drew incorrect conclusions because of fallacious thinking. Wikipedia is a bad source of information [1062], but some articles on noncontroversial topics are useful (see the article “List of fallacies”). On economically and politically important topics, your favorite search engine hides truthful information and presents official propaganda at the top of search results. In the elite's toolbox, this is one of the key methods for brainwashing (link, link, link). We live in the world of bad information, where finding the truth and good-quality information takes a lot of time and effort. If this view seems a bit extreme to you, at the very least, you need to accept that when somebody tries to sell you something, there is a 99% chance they are lying and 100% chance that they are not telling you the whole truth. You should never trust various “customer reviews” and “testimonials” because they can be easily manipulated and faked. Furthermore, some confused people write honest positive reviews of such products because they liked the salesman or the sales pitch. If you read such reviews carefully, you will see that they do not tell you anything useful about whether the product/service works. There are two good quotes from Nietzsche: “Everything the State says is a lie, and everything it has it has stolen.” “All things are subject to interpretation, whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.” [My comment: in the first quote, I would replace “everything” with “most of what”]. Another smart person said that the truth is not for everyone, but only for those seek it. Also, it’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they’ve been fooled. In my opinion, this planet is ruled by pathological liars who are also mass murderers; democracy does not exist and has never existed anywhere. A ruling elite does not obey the laws that it imposes on the population, i.e., the rule of law is a myth. Any national ruling elite is deeply criminal because people who head law enforcement agencies and people above them are above the law, literally. Secrecy works 100%, until the end of times: better than in mafia. It is not difficult to determine whether you are brainwashed. If you agree with any one of the first four statements below or disagree with the fifth statement, this means that the ruling elite has successfully filled your head with false knowledge, and your understanding of how the government works is profoundly incorrect:
    1) Conspiracies in the ruling elite of my country are impossible and do not exist. The absence of a conspiracy is a fact not a theory.
    2) Free, independent mass media are possible and do exist, for example, major media in democratic countries or opposition mass media in my country or other countries.
    3) Government secrecy is impossible. All secrets are revealed sooner or later.
    4) It is impossible to keep under tight control what a person says and does publicly. There are honest uncontrolled people in the ruling elite.
    5) The world is ruled by evil, which has brainwashed most people into believing that the world is governed by the forces of good.
    Try to prove your existing beliefs without resorting to logical fallacies. You will discover that most of your deeply held beliefs on the above topics have been programmed into your brain via daily repetition rather than through logical and/or convincing proof. If you start questioning authority, be advised that the powers that be like to attach insulting labels to people who don't believe official sources (i.e., who are resistant to brain-washing). Because most people cannot think clearly and are brainwashed from birth, they will never be able to grasp this simple truth: the ruling elite uses and deceives the population while pretending to do the opposite. Mass media serve the ruling elite while pretending to be independent. The best minds are working for the elite day and night trying to devise better ways to use and deceive the masses. The average person is programmed to experience a brain freeze when it comes to conspiracies in the government. The silly and weak hypothesis that there is no conspiracy in the ruling elite seems like the highest absolute truth to an average citizen. People often tell me, "I don't know who I should believe." I recommend studying the rules of logic and popular logical fallacies; they will help you detect lies and propaganda. I am also convinced that the longer you live on a raw diet, the better bullshit detector you will become.

  6. In any type of face-to-face confrontation, let the other person win and feel superior to you. This principle means yielding in an argument or a dispute and looking down when someone (e.g., a bully) is giving you a hard stare. This rule also means being polite with rude people. This advice is especially relevant to teenage boys. Machismo is common among adolescent males and is considered model behavior, although this life strategy can lead to delinquency and other troubles. Nothing boosts your authority and bullying potential among teenagers like crime. The most “macho” dudes from my middle school in Novosibirsk have served one or two criminal sentences by the time of this writing. Therefore, if you want to stay out of trouble and enjoy the good life, it is best to avoid displaying macho behavior and to let the other person feel superior in a confrontation. At the same time, you can demonstrate your superiority in other ways: by cracking the funniest jokes, by earning better grades, or by making more money than the rude people. Does this advice mean that you should be a “pushover” and a “coward”? Not at all. My advice is to let the other person win in face-to-face confrontations, which are the most trifling and inconsequential types of conflict, in most cases. On the other hand, it is often desirable to try to win a fight for a bigger cause, in confrontations that are not “face-to-face.” Some examples: filing a lawsuit or pursuing the truth wherever it may lead you. Note that there are some rare exceptions to this rule when you should not let the other person win in a face-to-face confrontation. For example, the above rule will be problematic for someone who works in law enforcement. Another example: it is possible that somebody you know will start abusing your agreeableness. This person, who is not your boss, may start giving you orders or assignments or start bugging you with daily requests. If this happens, of course, you need to decline politely, or not so politely if this person persists. Note that this exception to the rule applies only to people you know. In general, if you are engaged in a conflict with a close relative, a friend, or a coworker, you will find it easier to resolve the issue if you do the following. Sit down with a clean sheet of paper (the opponent does not have to be present) and write down all the things that the other party may dislike about you or your actions. Don’t be afraid to use your imagination and to recall things from the distant past. The more reasons you come up with, the easier it will be for you to understand the actions of your opponent as reasonable rather than “evil.”

  7. There is a saying “The best revenge is living well.” I agree and can follow this principle in most cases. If you can’t file a lawsuit, taking the justice into your own hands is a bad idea. Nonetheless, in some situations, you can modify this principle as follows: “The best revenge is ignoring well.” I consider myself thick-skinned in general, and it is difficult to get me offended. As a rule of thumb, I ignore and forget about most misunderstandings, insensitive statements, and unintentional insults, as if they never happened. In most cases, I also forgive the first unpleasant statement or deed when it is intentional. This is because I will assume that the person did it in response to something that I did to this person unintentionally. If this comes from a close friend or a relative, I may ask them if I did something wrong. Nonetheless, occasionally, somebody does something extremely unpleasant to me and, in this case, I employ “the best revenge is ignoring well” principle. When you start ignoring someone, you are not taking revenge on the offender, but rather you shift the relations from positive to neutral. And you will feel satisfied as if you have taken revenge, even though you have done nothing bad to this person. Ignoring a person well is both an art and science and you can do it politely. The following are some possible techniques. It is not necessary to snub someone when they say hello to you, it is sufficient to never say hello first, or you can switch to light greetings (for instance, smiling instead of saying hello). You can also insert a pause before saying hello to this person. This change will get that person thinking whether he or she did something wrong to you; at the same time, your behavior will not arouse resentment. Another form of ignoring relates to digital communications: you can configure your e-mail filters to delete all messages from the person who you want to ignore. You can also stop picking up the phone when this person calls you if you install “caller ID” service on your landline phone (cell phones have it by default). You can configure many brands of modern cell phones to ring silently (neither ring nor vibrate) when you receive calls from certain groups of callers. This feature will help you to ignore their phone calls and text messages. Blocking incoming calls from the person you are ignoring (some phone companies provide this service) is too obvious and is more like revenge, and therefore you shouldn’t do that. Voicemail messages are trickier, and depending on a situation, you have two options: a) not return phone messages; b) return phone messages with a significant delay, 3 or 4 days. Ignoring somebody well, in my experience, requires good self-control, that is, low impulsivity. If you do it politely, you can prevent escalation of hostilities. In rare situations, you may have to sever relations with some people completely and irrevocably. Keep in mind that you don’t have to be friends with everyone. You can cut all relations with anyone, even with a close relative. (If you have dependents, this is a more complicated matter.) In my experience, some people will never get along no matter what, and the only peaceful solution is complete absence of contact.

In conclusion, research shows that people can learn social and communication skills, and therefore it is possible that you can improve your social intelligence by training. Regarding psychological help in general, I recommend looking into cognitive behavioral therapy. This method is scientifically proven to be effective against many psychological and mild psychiatric problems. The generic form of cognitive behavioral therapy is now available in the video game format (for adolescents) and as software; thus, the face-to-face contact with a licensed psychotherapist may not be necessary. There is also a free online version of cognitive behavioral therapy for depression:

and some free online self-help resources including cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety and some other mental disorders:

Key points

The natural intelligence theory revisited

The previous section discusses evidence that you can improve crystallized social intelligence by acquiring special knowledge and skills. As for fluid social intelligence, my personal experience suggests that a healthy person can enhance it by biological treatments. According to the natural intelligence theory (Chapter One), a “natural” diet or the one similar to the ancestral diet of humans will improve functioning of the brain. This improvement, among other things, includes enhancement of fluid social intelligence. The latter change, if it is real, should be detectable by multitrait multimethod tests and by self-rating questionnaires. Subjectively, an improvement of social intelligence should facilitate social interactions. Suppose a person cannot get along with certain people or finds it difficult to operate in some social situations. A treatment that is supposed to improve fluid social intelligence should reduce or eliminate those difficulties.

My self-experimentation suggests that the natural intelligence theory is applicable to social intelligence. You may recall that we defined the ancestral diet as a 100% raw diet that consists of safe raw animal foods, nuts, fruits, and vegetables and does not allow any artificial ingredients (Appendix VIII). This diet is similar to the diet of the Homo species who lived more than 300,000 years ago. I have tested the ancestral diet with various modifications and for various periods in the last two decades. This diet facilitates interactions with other people, but some types of ancestral diet are not socially acceptable (a safe and socially acceptable version is described in Appendix VIII). Thus, in principle, the ancestral diet should improve social intelligence and similar diets should be beneficial as well. Improvements in food sterilization technologies (such as pascalization) will make all raw animal foods safe in the near future.B

Chapter One describes how I developed some “smart diets” based on the above-mentioned ancestral diet. For example, just like the ancestral diet, the antidepressant diet (Chapter Four and Appendix II) contains raw protein-rich foods and excludes all artificial ingredients. Boiling of fruits and vegetables and pasteurization of dairy are allowed because there is no evidence that these methods produce any harmful chemicals (but I recommend raw dairy for best results). The modified high-protein diet (Chapter Three and Appendix II) is the next step: it adds nuts and certain amounts of meat (high-quality protein) to the antidepressant diet. This diet still excludes all artificial ingredients. Practical testing suggests that the effects of the modified high-protein diet are similar to the effects of the ancestral diet, except there may be a slight increase in physical fatigue. You can reduce fatigue by means of cold hydrotherapy (Chapter Two). Another smart diet, the fruit-and-vegetable diet (fifth section of Chapter Three and Appendix II), resembles the low-protein vegan diet of some primate species who are frugivores (humans are omnivores).

These four diets are socially acceptable and do not carry a risk of infectious disease if you follow the precautions in Appendix VIII. The fruit-and-vegetable diet offers a higher information processing speed than the ancestral diet. (The higher speed can manifest itself as less boredom and higher activity in social situations.) The antidepressant diet has almost the same antidepressant properties as the ancestral diet and provides a similar improvement of fluid intelligence. The modified high-protein diet improves attention control and fluid intelligence in the same way as the ancestral diet and offers almost the same information processing speed. The first type of depressant diet (Chapter Four and Appendix II), though not a “smart diet,” provides better self-control than the ancestral diet. The second and third version of the depressant diet can be considered smart diets. Somewhat unexpectedly, all three types of the depressant diet also facilitate social interactions. The unexpected beneficial effect of the depressant diet on social intelligence may be due to the absence of all artificial ingredients and foods cooked at high temperatures.

I would like to stress the important role of boiled whole grains in mental health and peaceful relations with other people. In my experience, prolonged exclusion of grains from the diet tends to promote irritability, argumentativeness, and conflicts. If you choose to exclude bread and/or boiled grains from your diet for a long period, you must take several sedative measures to stay calm and prevent irritability (see Endnote C "Starchless diet" and Appendix VII).

Some of the noticeable social benefits of the smart diets are the following: low shyness and high confidence (all smart diets), a good ability to maintain conversation with anybody (all smart diets); increased sharpness of the wit and an ability to crack jokes and make other people laugh (fruit-and-vegetable diet); “thick skin” or low propensity to take offense (modified high-protein diet and high-fat ancestral diet, Appendix VIII); general ease of socializing and the absence of awkward or unpleasant situations (all smart diets); an ability to get along with almost anyone (all smart diets, although prolonged exclusion of cereal grains from the diet may increase irritability and conflicts; sedative measures are needed); an ability to ignore anyone (modified high-protein diet and high-fat ancestral diet; except you won’t be able to ignore your boss at work); and a friendly and patient attitude toward people in general (modified high-protein diet and high-fat ancestral diet). These benefits can manifest themselves within one to three days, and many of them disappear or diminish when I return to the conventional mixed diet. We reviewed the possible adverse effects of the smart diets in the corresponding sections of the book.

100% compliance with the “smart diets” is recommended but not necessary to enjoy the benefits. You can achieve similar results using some period of a strict diet followed by maintenance on a diet that is 99% compliant. Social situations often involve eating and strict diets can be inconvenient. With partial compliance, it is possible to eat everything in small amounts. You can reduce consumption of “disallowed” food using techniques from the section about food restriction in Chapter One, and keep in mind that you should not go to social events on an empty stomach.

As proof of principle, the opposite approach—worsening of social intelligence by means of a “dumb diet”—also works. The bread-and-sugar diet that we discussed in Chapter One increases the amount of interpersonal problems and makes social interactions more difficult, awkward, and unpleasant. It also increases clumsiness and the number of errors at work.

In conclusion, several safe diets can improve social intelligence, according to my experience, and these data support the natural intelligence theory.

Key points

How to overcome the fear of solitude

The previous sections dealt with improvement of social interactions and now it’s time to talk about methods that make it easy to spend some time alone. One of the prerequisites to effective performance of some mental tasks, such as studying, is temporary solitude, lasting from several hours to several days. We can define solitude as a state of social isolation or a lack of contact with other people. Solitude is different from loneliness in that loneliness is a negative mental state often associated with solitude or with a lack of a close relationship. It is possible to feel lonely even in the company of other people. In contrast, solitude means social isolation and it can be voluntary and free of negative feelings. Temporary solitude may result from a move to another city, a divorce, or a breakup of a close relationship and, in this case, it can cause feelings of loneliness. Solitude is not uncommon and about one quarter of households in the United States consists of a single person living alone. In this case, solitude is often present at home but not at work.

This section describes some techniques that make temporary solitude comfortable, even for extended periods of time, up to several months. If you try to apply these techniques, the desire for social interaction will not disappear, but rather, social interaction will no longer be a painful need. In other words, these methods will help you to overcome the fear of solitude and allow you to spend some time alone when necessary, without feeling lonely. There are several benefits of temporary and comfortable solitude. First, it will help you to concentrate on mental tasks, such as writing a research article or a book. Second, it will help you to cope with inevitable periods of social isolation that can happen in life, for instance, solitude resulting from moving to another geographic area. Third, it can help you to become more selective in social contacts and relationships. The fear of solitude may drive a person to fall in with a bad crowd or to have abusive friends. On the other hand, comfortable solitude will allow the person to have only good-quality social contacts and to wait for a psychologically compatible relationship.

Without further ado, the following is a list of these approaches, which I have tested and find helpful. We will start with the most effective techniques:

  1. The creativity regimen from Chapter Four is by far the most effective way to stop the feelings of loneliness and boredom, but the drawback is increased impulsivity, i.e., low self-control. For this reason, I recommend other methods described below.

  2. I prefer the following regimen to get rid of feelings of loneliness because it does not worsen self-control. This is a combination of several methods: consume vitamin-rich foods (not supplemented with vitamins, e.g., small amounts of cod liver, see Appendix VII, point # 7 and its footnote), do the brief cardio exercise once a day, use a home solarium for one minute twice a day, tepid (thermoneutral) showers twice a day, and hyperventilation exercise once or twice a week. For details, see Appendix VII. Additionally, stay on a balanced diet, such as a conventional food pyramid or the natural food pyramid.

  3. Occasional hot baths (Chapter Two) are also beneficial during social isolation, even if you do not make any other changes in your lifestyle.

  4. Another effective approach is to watch your favorite movies or TV series and to interact with other people by telephone and on the Internet. These techniques can allow you to feel that you are in the company of people, even though you are alone physically. Watching your favorite sitcoms on DVD is the most effective approach within this category. Other favorite TV series on DVD and plain random watching of television are also useful. I have watched “Seinfeld” and “3rd Rock from the Sun” many times, all seasons from start to finish. I also love “The X-files.” My point is, television is not a bad way to pass time, and it is not going to make you dumb. If you watch television, this does not necessarily mean that you don’t have a life. If you feel lonely, you can also use internet chat and post on various message boards. (Underage readers should beware of internet predators and unsafe websites.) Internet chat such as Yahoo! Chat can help you to kill time and will cheer you up. Several hours will fly by like a minute. There are chat rooms and message boards devoted to any imaginable topic and these electronic means of communication can help you to not feel lonely. Chatting with your friends and relatives on the phone is another helpful approach.

  5. Avoid silence. When you are feeling lonely, try to always play your favorite music or radio stations in the background while you are doing household chores. Try to avoid even a few minutes of silence. You can also listen to music or radio at work using headphones. At work you will usually be around people, i.e., not alone. Therefore, you will need the music or radio at work only when you are performing some task in social isolation. If you are not feeling lonely, music can be a distraction and interfere with your work. My former coworkers will recall that I was always bugging them to turn down their radios in the lab. Nonetheless, I always play some quiet music in the background when I write something; I am listening to Madonna as I am writing these lines.

  6. Another approach is participating in some social activities with your friends or family every now and then. This approach can clear your head and give you a fresh perspective on whatever mental work that you are performing.

  7. Finally, writing in a diary is useful. It can put your thoughts in order and make you feel less lonely and less unhappy. It will also help you to make thought-out decisions and to plan your life. Make sure that you have absolute privacy and can write any private thoughts in the diary. You can achieve this by means of encryption software, and my favorite is BestCrypt from Jetico, Inc. Keep in mind that skillful people can remove passwords from d