Brain Health,
Smart Drugs,

#001: Dr. Ward Dean on Life Extension and Brain Maximization

November 28, 2012

In the first-ever podcast episode, Jesse interviews Dr. Ward Dean, the author of “Smart Drugs and Nutrients: How to Improve and Increase Your Intelligence Through Neuroscience.”  [Amazon link]  Dr. Dean discusses drugs, diet and supplements that effect aging, disease and diabetes and new smart drugs that increase productivity.  Below are some highlights:

Preserving Cognitive Function

Dr. Dean explains how his groundbreaking book evolved from a technical manual for his patients into a widely-known book to improve brain performance.  “We were really focusing more on improving cognitive abilities of normal people who realized they weren’t quite as sharp as they used to be – or could be,” says Dr. Dean of his work.  “I’ve found that a lot of the readily available nutrients and drugs from overseas are much more effective and obtained at less cost [versus the few expensive drugs touted by pharmaceuticals today.]”

Insulin and Aging

“As we get older, we become insulin resistant, and essentially we are all turning into diabetics,” Dean says.  He details how a natural substance originating from lilacs can be used to regulate the body’s insulin production and thus blood sugar levels.  Sugar is a pro-aging factor, according to the doctor, and this lilac-derivative can treat diabetes, burn fat, stimulate brain cell growth and extend overall lifespan.

Diet & A Longer Life

“[You] should get as low on the food chain as you can,” says Dean. The advice of famed nutritionist Jack LaLanne rings true for the doctor.  He eats food with minimal processing, avoiding both refined and complex carbohydrates.  All carbohydrates, he reminds us, turn into sugar inside the body and increase insulin, which is an aging factor.

What about natural fruit sugars?  Dean advises keeping overall sugar intake down, but stresses that natural fruit sugar is a far lesser sin than the alternatives.  Speaking of fruit, red grapes (and red wine) contain a chemical which can be used to lower cholesterol, regulate blood sugar, and increase lifespan.  Another key nutritional nutrient Dr. Dean is a fan of?  DMAE (Dimethylethanolamine), a substance offering short-term gains in increased alertness, combating ADHD, and extending lifespan and overall health.

Does caloric restriction really extend life expectancy? The doctor explains recent studies and their surprising results, conflicting several earlier studies.

Looking Ahead

What is the future of neuroscience?  The newer class of alertness-promoting unscheduled pharmaceuticals (Modafinil, etc.), will be the next substances to likely gain widespread use. Expect an update on a revision of Dr. Dean’s original book on smart drugs and additional articles on life-extension and more on his website:

Bonus Topic: The Secret History of the “Date Rape Drug”

Dr. Dean gives a pharmacological history of the drug GHB (gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid) also known as “The Date Rape Drug.” He talks of its original uses, the many benefits of GHB and why it was demonized and essentially removed from the market.

This Week in Neuroscience:  High Blood Pressure Ages The Brain

UC Davis researchers have found a link between high blood pressure and brain function. Test subjects with hypertension or pre-hypertension at age 40 were found to have the brain of someone approximately 7.2 years older – a definitive early warning sign for Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.  [Full Article]

Key Terms Mentioned


  1. Daman says:

    Great podcast, heard of you via Dan & Ian over at the LBP. Thanks for doing this!

  2. Taki says:

    Hey Jesse, awesome podcast man, really like your style and approach to it all. Just on the start of my journey on learning about how to optimise the brain and body 🙂 i have learnt a lot going through the backlog of shows. Keep up the great work!

    1. Jesse Lawler says:

      Thanks Taki. As a relatively new podcaster, it’s great to learn that the older shows are still getting listened to. I guess that’s one advantage of publishing in this format versus, say, magazines or even most blog articles. Glad you digging it!

  3. Jeanette Pieri says:

    Hi just discovered these podcasts, love listening to them, it’s s whole new world for me! Delivered in an entertaining way, with just the right amount of nerdiness vs informality! Now have decided to start at the beginning, glad I’ve got loads to listen to!

    However, just listening to Dr Dean talk about going low on the food chain and more importantly something about only eating natural products. Now as an anti woo-ist, I take issue with the myth that all natural is good and that man made is bad. As we know, this isn’t true What are your thoughts on this? For example, take a man made vit C, vs a natural vitamin C of the exact same structure; there would no difference in the effects whatsoever. Also arsenic, belladonna etc. I’m surprised at a doctor perpetuating this myth!

    Thank Jeanette, UK.

    1. Jesse Lawler says:

      Hi there Jeanette! Super pleased when I hear about people finding the podcast and being into it enough to go back in the archives. I must admit, it’s been a long while since I re-listened to Episode #1, but my guess/hope is that Dr. Dean was implying more about natural foods like “cauliflower/steak” vs. unnatural like “cheese puffs/Red Vines licorice.” You’re certainly right that not everything natural is good, and not everything good is natural. (The highly unnatural laptop I’m writing to you on being an unavoidable example.) Hope you enjoy traversing the episodes! Would love to hear any standout favorites you happen across.

      1. Jeanette Pieri says:

        Phew, thank goodness, thought you’d gone all woo on me! Certainly will, enjoyed the racetams and that weird breathing thing so far (lol)!

  4. Alice Ihde says:

    I love this podcast. I am slowly trying to listen to all that’s available, but primarily interested in neuroscience, antiaging and life extension. I like that it’s short, sweet and succinct. He mentions need for B12, which was also mentioned by Dave Asprey. I tried metformin, but I would get ravenously hungry and I gained weight! As a type II diabetic, this was disastrous, because as my weight increased, so did my A1C. I wonder if there’s something new on the horizon that would address this issue, which 2 of my daughters also experienced.

    1. Jesse Lawler says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Alice. That’s interesting about Metformin + increased appetite. I hadn’t heard (or personally noticed) that… I’ve actually been taking Metformin based on the advice that “everyone over 30 should” — also because I love fruit, so I do get a lot of sugar in my diet, even though it’s not “Skittles sugar.” I’m hoping to do a Metformin-specific issue soon; I’ll bring your comment up with our expert.

  5. ben says:

    Great show! Really enjoyed the enthusiasm by Dr. Dean… however, the more I listened the more skeptical I became.. the model of ‘carb diets leading to elevated insulin and therefore heart disease’ is not that simple, or even accurate.

    Also, as a trouble sleeper, I was excited to hear about GHB and its precursor GBL, but unfortunately, looks like there’s many more side effects that Dr. Dean admits.

    1. Jesse Lawler says:

      Thanks Ben! For more on GHB, check out this episode where we go a lot deeper on that specific topic.

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