Author: Rhiannan Roe

Rhiannan Roe is a writer, editor and unapologetic champion of self-improvement. Combining her passions has led to her helping several start-ups across three continents. In her spare time she travels, collects stories from inspiring people, and fruitlessly endeavors to read every book ever written.

Hey there, Performance Hackers!

Our friends at Quantified Self are putting on an exposition on the San Francisco waterfront on June 20th — and Jesse will be paying them a visit to check out all the newest developments in the self-tracking world.  The expo is for everyone interested in understanding where technology is going and how it’s affecting our lives.

QS’s Press Coordinator Ernesto Ramirez joins us for this micro-edition to give some background on the Quantified Self movement and offer a sneak-peek of what will be happening at the event.  Ernesto covers the most popular ways to self-assess, the crossover between do-it-yourself and personal tracking, and how much time actually goes into recording and analysis of activities.

Come and Say Hi

Join Jesse and the other optimization-fiends interested in how sensors, data, and “very personal computing” can be used to understand ourselves and the world around us.  Try out the new wearable devices and apps that can give you intimate and direct feedback about yourself: from how you sleep, eat, and exercise — to what triggers your fear and joy.

Any Smart Drug Smarts listeners in the San Fransisco area who’d like to attend can register here using the discount code smartpod to get $10 off the regular $20 ticket price.

We hope to see you there!

Where & When

June 20
10am – 4pm
Herbst Pavilion, Fort Mason

The choice to become a superhero is a fairly easy one.

Every day, in the United States alone, about 80 people receive successful organ transplants.

All you have to do is tick a teeny box on your driver’s license and voila – the most valuable parts of your mortal coil (once no longer in use by you) will get passed on to those who can use them – giving you the opportunity to save one, two, even 100 lives.

Pretty good deal, right?

But there’s a hole in this seemingly straightforward system.  A quick scan down the list of organs you could pass on, and you’ll notice a conspicuous absence: your brain.

Now, to be fair, it’s not like we’ve figured out how to do brain transplants (yet…).  But the brain-donation omission poses some problems.

For starters, even for organs that do make the list, donor numbers are still not what they should be. Over 20 people die daily while waiting for procedures that are on hold due to a lack of suitable donated tissue.  Considering the mismatch in supply and demand when the barrier is just a few pen-marks and a signature… you can imagine the disparity for a process that’s slightly more complicated – or, is shrouded in relative obscurity.

And unfortunately, brain donation is both.

The issue of perceived cause-and-effect also comes into play.  Donate your liver – it goes directly to someone whose own liver is failing.

But your brain?  It would go to research – the result of which might take years to see fruition.  The incentive isn’t as immediately obvious.  But consider this: Over 1 billion people worldwide are affected by neurological disorders.  Meaning it’s almost inevitable that someone close to you will eventually draw the proverbial short straw.

To make things even more complicated – somewhat paradoxically – the more information we gather about the brain, the more we need to gather.  An integral part of science is replication – so every time a major breakthrough is made… it has to be tested again, and again, and again.  (This to make absolutely sure it wasn’t a fluke of misunderstanding or bad measurement.)

When it comes to brain science specifically, human tissue donations – both from those with neurological abnormalities, and from healthy control subjects – are among our most powerful assets.  While animals have been extremely useful in neuroscience research, when it comes to understanding the human brain, nothing beats the real thing.

Today marks the beginning of International Brain Awareness Week, and our aim this year is to shed light on brain donation.  While disease advocacy groups do an excellent job educating their respective demographics, their messages don’t always reach the general public.  So this week, we’d like to spread the message to those who might not know that brain donation is even an option – let alone how to opt in, or why it’s important.

Below are some resources for you to educate yourself further, as well as links to “brain banks” worldwide.  If you’d like to do something for the cause, please share this article.  And if you’d like to do two things, become a donor yourself.

Happy Brain Week!

Why Brain Donation?

Where To Donate Your Brain

General Tissue Donation

Brain Awareness Week 2015

What’s This Fasting Business All About?

A couple of months ago, Dr. Thomas Seyfried – the author of Cancer as a Metabolic Disease: On the Origin, Management, and Prevention of Cancer – came on the show to speak to us about metabolic fasting as a means of cancer therapy – and (possibly) prevention.

For the more in-depth explanation of how exactly that works, click here to listen to the episode.

The rest of this post will throw around words like ketosis and just assume, you know what that means – so if you don’t, check out Episode #56!

The short version?  It may be that we have the ability to “starve out” stray (pre-tumorous) cancer cells by simply… not eating.  Cancer cells don’t survive nearly as well as healthy cells in a ketotic internal environment.  And the quickest way into ketosis is, well… starving.

Dr. Seyfried cited “a 7-day water fast, once per year” as his recommendation for a healthy person to remain cancer-free by starving any errant cancer cells before they can get a foothold in the body.

This means that for a comparatively small investment of time (and a larger dollop of willpower), we might be able to significantly extend both our lifespans and our “health-spans.”  Cancer remains a distressingly prevalent killer and misery-bringer – so anything to safely lessen its likelihood is great news, right?

Why Water Fast?

While there are many variations on this theme – slightly different fasting methods promoting slightly different health benefits – research suggests that a water-only fast of at least three days is the most effective method to achieve a ketotic body state in the shortest amount of time.

Why a Week?

Three-to-four days to get firmly “into ketosis,” then the rest of the week to give any loose cancer cells in our bodies time to starve.

A day or two shorter might not be enough time to kill the stray cancer cells.  Any longer might be (pardon the pun) overkill.

The Plan

We plan to do a 7-day water-only fast – and if it goes well, it will likely become an annual ritual.

While we’re very set in the belief that the possible-rewards outweigh any expected unpleasantness, we’re also realistic about this being a pretty big undertaking.  (7 days.  Water.  Only.  Ugh.)

So, in an attempt to make the week infinitely less excruciating, and beneficial to as many people as possible, we’ve decided to arm ourselves with as much information as we can.  And in the company of other like-minded, willpower-imbued longevity-seekers.

And so, Water Fast Week was born.

From February 16th-22nd, everyone participating will be communicating via an online forum, sharing their personal experiences, tips, and helpful information with the group.  We’ll have a few experienced fasters – as well as a medical doctor – in our midst, to chip in where they can as well.

And, almost certainly, we’ll cover the action* in a Smart Drug Smarts episode.


* “Action” might not be the right term; we’re expecting a pretty lethargic week.

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