Magic Mushrooms Cure Major-Depression in Study

In my book The Awakened Ape I described my life-changing encounter with magic mushrooms as a teenager in college.  Now scientists have begun looking at the therapeutic effects of taking mushrooms.

In a fascinating new study, 19 patients with treatment-resistant major depression were given a dose of 25mg of psilocybin, which is approximately the equivalent amount of psilocybin that you would find in 2.5 grams of dried shrooms, or 25 grams of wet shrooms.  This amount is in between the range that previous research has found for a positive fun experience (20mg) and the dose that study participants will claim as the most profound spiritual experience of their lives (30mg).

The shrooms had a profound effect. All of the patients had a positive response. A follow up study five weeks later showed that half the patients were no longer depressed. Incredible. These were people for whom all other treatments from therapy to anti-depressant medication hadn’t worked. Give them one dose of psilocybin and boom, depression is gone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fun Conversation on the Vivo Training Systems Podcast

I had a great time talking with Mike De Vivo of the Vivo Training Systems Podcasts. He’s a personal trainer with a natural lifestyle bent. We talk about my background, how I came to eating Paleo, visiting an Amazon tribe and tips on meditation and living naturally. Check out the conversation here..

Listen to “The Awakened Ape: Jevan Pradas” on Spreaker.
 

 

Were Cavemen Sexist? Not According to Researchers

If you believe that the feminists of the 1900’s introduced sexual equality you are not alone. You would also – according to several scientists – be mistaken.  Anthropologists claim that women and men were treated equally in hunter-gatherer societies, and it wasn’t until the neo-lithic period and the dawn of agriculture, that society became sexist.  If this is true, then men and women were considered equal for most of the history of mankind.

Much of the research into sexual equality was done by observing modern-day hunter-gatherers.  Anthropologists Mark Dyble and Andrea Migliano added some computer modeling and genealogical data to prove a very clever hypothesis.  The inspiration for their research seems to have sprung from the main-stay of stand-up comedians  –   in-law jokes.   

Did the anthropologists imagine the following conversations?

Him – “I think we should live with my family.”

Her – “Are you kidding? Your mother always criticizes the way I cook.  We should live with my family.”

Him – “Hah!  Your brother has a really annoying laugh.  He even laughs when he eats and his food sprays out of his mouth. It’s disgusting.”

Her – “Better than your stone-faced sister. She has no sense of humor t all.”

Him – “Well, your sister….”  And on and on, until finally one of them says,

Her – “Okay, fine. We won’t live with either of our families. We’ll live with people who aren’t related to us.”

Perhaps, perhaps not. But they did work on the assumption based on the research, that individuals want to live with their own families and not with their in-laws. In male-dominated societies, people tend to live with their male relatives and vice versa in matriarchal ones. They found that when both partners had the same influence in making decisions, the groups consisted of more unrelated people than when only one partner was responsible for making decisions. Based on this finding, the anthropologists extrapolated that since hunter-gatherer groups live with mostly un-related individuals their societies were egalitarian in regard to gender and both men and woman had input when deciding with whom they would live.

According to Dylbe and Migliano this ‘no-win’ result led to cooperating with others, less inbreeding, and fostered wide-ranging social networks.  Then, when agriculture came along, men starting saving resources, and eventually the egalitarian hunter-gatherer society broke-down, along with sexual equality.

Funny Buddha Discourses: The Wilderness Dweller

Have you ever wondered whether you have what it takes to go on retreat in the wilderness? Well the Buddha has some advice for you, which description do you match?

“Endowed with (any of) four qualities, a monk isn’t fit to stay in isolated forest and wilderness lodgings. Which four? He is endowed with thoughts of sensuality, with thoughts of ill will, with thoughts of harmfulness, and he is a person of weak discernment, dull, a drooling idiot. Endowed with any of these four qualities, a monk isn’t fit to stay in isolated forest and wilderness dwellings.”

“Endowed with (any of) four qualities, a monk is fit to stay in isolated forest and wilderness lodgings. Which four? He is endowed with thoughts of renunciation, with thoughts of non-ill will, with thoughts of harmlessness, and he is a discerning person, not dull, not a drooling idiot. Endowed with any of these four qualities, a monk is fit to stay in isolated forest and wilderness dwellings.”

Do Parasites Protect Against Alzheimer’s?

 

The Tsimane tribe of Bolivia seem to make a habit of confounding scientists.  First, as reported in a previous blog, they have the healthiest hearts ever – despite living in a constant state of infection-induced inflammation. For years, scientists have been telling us that inflammation is bad for our hearts. Apparently not for the Tsimane.  Now scientists find they experience a much lower rate of Alzheimer’s. Scientists also tell us that those of us who have a copy of the Alzheimer’s gene, ApoE4, have a higher risk of getting Alzheimer’s. Two copies increase the risk by 10%. For us, maybe, but not the Tsimane.

For the Tsimane, the ApoE4 gene seems to be helpful and tribe members rarely have dementia. Dr. Trumble of the Tsimane Project, showed that members of the Tsimane tribe who had either one or two copies of ApoE4, actually performed better on cognitive tests than those that did not have the gene.

Puzzled by this conundrum, Trumble, who knew that most tribe members had suffered from parasitic infections wondered if somehow these infections helped.  The result — for those tribe members who had the ApoE4 gene, but never had an infection, the gene correlated to lower mental fitness.  Studies of ancient bones show that the ApoE4 gene was nearly ubiquitous in our ancestors, and probably helped protect them from parasitic infections. But with no parasites to be found, the gene could be causing the brain to attack itself.  

It seems that our extreme cleanliness habits have led not only to an increase in asthma and allergies, but Alzheimer’s too.

Researchers are hoping that the Tsimane may hold the key to the cure for Alzheimer’s. But they need to be quick – before our industrialized civilization destroys their way of life.

Obese Man Fasted For More Than A Year

In the 1960’s an obese man named Angus Barbieri had enough of his 456 pound frame and decided to do something about it. So under doctor supervision he undertook an endeavor I had no idea was physically possible. Angus didn’t eat food for 382 days. Nothing. He just stopped eating. And after some months, stopped pooping as well.

Angus just went about his life as normal, getting check ups regularly from his doctors and taking some vitamins. Over a year after his fast began, Angus had lost 276 pounds. Here are the before and after photos.

 

Is this Crazy?

Yes, a little. There have been reports of people who have gone on long fasting diets and have died. This is definitely something that needs to be done only under the supervision of a medical professional. But Angus isn’t the only one who has gone on very long fasts and seen amazing benefits. A reddit user claimed to have gone on a 77 day fast and lost 114 pounds. A quick search on YouTube brings up videos of people fasting for a month. Neither Angus nor the Reddit user gained the weight back either ( a common problem for dieters once they finish the diet). One can imagine that voluntarily completing a fast of some length will rid that person of any addiction they have towards food.

 

Fasting and Loose Skin

Many obese people who lose a lot of weight are left with an unattractive side effect. Loose skin. The fat is gone, but the skin has remained. Anecdotal reports of people who have fasted for a long time say that they have no problems with loose skin. Why does this happen? Dr. Jason Fung, who runs an obesity clinic, says that fasting catabolizes all that extra skin. Personally, I would love to see more data and a peer-reviewed study on this.

 

Should You Do It?

Obviously, a long-term fast is a serious undertaking and doctor supervision is absolutely necessary. It also requires great mental fortitude and willpower, although apparently it’s not as tough as you would imagine based on the reports of  those who have done it. They say that after 3-4 days you become used to it and there is a bit of a “hunter’s high”. A sense of focus that one could imagine is a result of our biology saying “hey we need to be super aware and functional now so that we can find food.”

If you are obese it may be worthwhile to do intermittent fasting. That is, to not eat for periods of 24-36 hours quite regularly. Once you conquer that challenge, try for 3 days or more. Good luck, and let me know how it goes!

Russell Westbrook’s Paleo Diet

Russell Westbrook is having an historic NBA season.  The Oklahoma City point guard is averaging 31.8 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists per game. That’s right, he is averaging a triple-double. A stat line that was thought to be impossible in the modern NBA. The high flying guard also eats a clean diet that is almost completely paleo. His only vice..cheese. But hey, if you can handle dairy, full fat cheese is one of the most nutritious foods out there. Here is Russell’s daily diet, which was outlined here.

 

Breakfast:

  • Omelette, full fat cheese and spinach and kale

Snacks:

  • Almonds and cashews or kale chips

Lunch and Dinner

  • Lean meat
  • Wild-caught fish
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Fruit

 

And here are some highlights from the most athletic point guard to every play in the NBA.

 

Tsimane Tribe of Amazon Have World’s Healthiest Hearts

 

The Tsimane tribe, natives of the Bolivian Amazon have the healthiest hearts ever to be extensively examined by researchers, according to a new study published in The Lancet. The Tsimane have lower rates of blood pressure, lower heart rates, lower cholesterol, and lower blood sugar than the rest of the world.

The researchers traveled to Bolivia to study this tribe and found that 85% of them had no arterial plague, and hence, no risk of heart disease.  A further 12% had low risk, and only 3% of the tribe had moderate or high risk. Even those over the age of 75 were mostly risk free. How does that compare to people in the United States? 50% of us are in the moderate to high risk category.

The Tsimane eat a natural diet of whole foods that they hunt and gather themselves with some farming. Their diet consists of rice, manioc, plantains, corn, nuts, fruits and wild fish and game.

The Tsimane are also very physically active. The men are hunters and are physically active for six to seven hours a day, averaging 17,000 steps. Women are physically active for five hours a day and take 16,000 steps.

Eat natural whole foods and exercise!

 

 

UN – World’s Happiest Countries 2017

The United Nations came out with its annual report on the world’s happiest countries. There is a new number one, with Norway upsetting the defending champion Denmark.

 

The rankings are based on survey participants answering a simple question: “Please imagine a ladder, with steps numbered from 0 at the bottom to 10 at the top. The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time?”

The average score around the world is a 5.3, right in the middle of the happiness ladder. Norway is at the top with a 7.5. So what makes these Nordic countries so happy?

The factors the researchers found to influence happiness were GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity, and freedom from corruption. The Nordic countries excel in these qualities, while American happiness has dropped in recent years due to decreased social support and increased corruption.

Within countries, much of the happiness between people can be explained by physical and mental health and social relationships.

 

 

Tantric Buddhism

For the past few weeks I have been visiting a nearby Tibetan Buddhist temple, where I have been getting instructions in the preliminary methods of Vajrayana Buddhism, which is a form of Buddhism practiced in Tibet that uses Tantric techniques. This is the style of Buddhism practiced by the Dalai Lama, although the temple I go to is in a slightly different lineage.

I know what you are thinking: Wait, the Dalai Lama practices Tantra? I thought tantra was some kind of weird sex thing?

Actually Tantra doesn’t have a clear definition, but in the case of Tibetan Buddhism, tantra refers to techniques such as Deity Yoga, complex visualizations, the repeating of mantras, as well as secret practices that must be learned directly from the guru, or else risk harm.

Vajrayana Buddhism is one of the three vehicles of Buddhism. They are called vehicles, because they are the paths to enlightenment. The word ‘yana’ means vehicle. They are the Theravada (School of elder monks), Mahayana (Great Vehicle), and the Vajrayana (Diamond Vehicle).

Theravada Buddhism is commonly practiced in Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, and Burma. It is the oldest school of Buddhism and most closely resembles what the Buddha taught. About 35% of all Buddhists practice Theravada.

Mahayana Buddhism is the most popular form of Buddhism and is practiced in China, Japan, Korea, Indonesia and Vietnam. About 53% of all Buddhists practice Mahayana. The most common form of Mahayana Buddhism is Zen.

Then there is Vajrayana Buddhism, as practiced by 5% of all Buddhists and practiced mostly in Tibet and Bhutan. Vajrayana Buddhists are sometimes thought of as a subsection of the Mahayana, but they add Tantric techniques on top of the Mahayana teachings.

In Tantric Buddhism, there is an underlying philosophical belief that we all already have the ability to be enlightened. That we all have what they call “Buddha-Nature”, we just can’t see it. The goal then of tantric techniques is two-fold. To clear our minds of the misconceptions that don’t allow us to see our Buddha-Nature, and to align ourselves with this Buddha-Nature.

Tantric techniques ask us to imagine Deities (These are imaginary meditation deities that possess desirable qualities) or past Guru’s (past meditation masters that have qualities we want to have) so that we too can take on these qualities. The techniques are called deity and guru yoga, and they involve repeated visualizations such as imagining that we are unifying ourselves with these desirable qualities like enlightenment and compassion.

But before anyone can engage in these complex practices, one first has to learn the preliminary practices, called Ngondro, which are meant to motivate the mind to become Awakened. For without proper motivation, one will not dedicate themselves to the path of enlightenment.  Ngondro will be the subject of my next post.