Dr. Rhonda Patrick on the Health Benefits of Cold Exposure and Sauna

“Our bodies are beautifully designed to handle all types of stress; but our genes have to be working; they have to have the right nutrients.” –Dr. Rhonda Patrick

Dr. Rhonda Patrick with a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences is an expert in nutrition, metabolism and aging. She has done considerable research in all of these fields, including research on cancer and the effects of mineral and vitamin supplementation on metabolism, inflammation and aging. She did her graduate research at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, where she focused on cancer, mitochondrial metabolism and apoptosis. Currently a post-doctoral fellow at UCSF-Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, she is known primarily for her studies of the mechanistic link between vitamin D and serotonin production, research that may have important implications for the understanding of autism and other disorders.

“We’re actually on the verge of serious antibiotic resistance cropping up, and that is scary. It’s absolutely terrifying.”

“There’s a very complex interaction between genes and diet. … Nutrigenomics is a complex interaction between the nutrients, micro-nutrients, macro-nutrients (fat) and certain genes that we have.”

In this video Dr. Patrick explains the how vitamin D affects the way humans age:

At the Biohacker Summit, Dr. Rhonda Patrick will talk about the health benefits of sauna and cold exposure, both dear to the population of Finland, a land of million saunas.

The stress from heat alteration such as extreme exposure to cold is actually good for our health, athletic endurance, preventing muscle atrophy, increasing neurogenesis, improving learning and memory, and improving longevity. Cold showers can even be used to treat depression. Exposure to cold releases norepinephrine into the brain, where it is involved in vigilance, focus, attention and mood. It has also its role in pain, metabolism and inflammation. This response is mediated by the sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight). Norepinephrine can rise 200-300% with cold immersion near 0 celsius for 20 seconds / 3 times a week.

Norepinephrine reduces inflammation through the inhibition of inflammatory cytokines including TNF-alpha (tumor necrosis factor alpha), a molecule involved in almost every human disease from type 2 diabetes to cancer. Inflammatory cytokines also play a role in anxiety and depression, therefore cold exposure may have mood enhancing capabilities.

Cold also activates cold thermogenesis, a way for the body to produce heat. The health benefits of cold thermogenesis are due to the activation of brown adipose tissue (BAT), a form of fat that burns regular fat for heat generation through fat oxidation. This has mitochondrial effects in cranking out more ATP. The more mitochondria there are, the better our aerobic capacity will be. Cold exposure increases the number of mitochondria (mitochondrial biogenesis). The more BAT you have, the better your body becomes in burning fat for energy. Fat loss benefits, anyone?

Cold exposure also releases cold shock proteins such as RNA binding motif 3 (RBM3) that is linked to regeneration of synapses. Similar effects have been observed in so called heat shock proteins that are released under heat stress.

Listen to Dr. Patrick as she goes through the health benefits of sauna, involving mysterious mediators including the so called “heat shock proteins”:

Dr. Patrick has summarized some of the benefits of sauna in her popular article on Tim Ferriss blog titled Are Saunas the Next Big Performance-Enhancing “Drug”?

If you want to learn more, Dr. Rhonda Patrick will be at the Biohacker Summit on 18 November in Helsinki, Finland talking about the health benefits of heat alteration. On top of that, you will be able to try both cold thermogenesis and sauna for yourself.

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