A few days ago, I was listening to a podcast not affiliated with our Optimal Living Daily family of podcasts.
It was an interview that featured a retired professional American football player. The interviewer asked the former footballer about his current routine now that he’s retired. He responded that he uses some “biohacking” products to stay feeling young and energetic.
What is Biohacking?
The interview responded, “Now, biohacking: that’s something I’ve heard about before… what is that?”
You know what happened? The former football player couldn’t even answer the question.
He stumbled a bit, gave some examples, like using an infrared sauna and taking supplements, but couldn’t really define what biohacking actually is.
That may be because there’s no strict definition, but it basically refers to “do-it-yourself biology.” Meaning, you try out different products and lifestyle approaches with the aim of helping you feel your best. The belief is that by biohacking, your changing your DNA. And, hopefully, these DNA changes provide health benefits.
Are biohacking products good?
If we were to completely “biohack” our lives, we would end up spending quite a bit of money on these products.
Reporter Spencer Michels of the Public Broadcasting System News Hour interviewed a computer analyst who claims to use biohacking to improve his cognition, his body weight, and his overall health. The article states that the biohacker uses supplements (they didn’t specify which ones) and “applies electricity to his brain and muscles to improve his body and mind.” Oh, and they didn’t say how or which device was used to apply this electricity.
Now, let’s be clear: if something like, say a supplement, or a piece of technology, or even a behavior can do more good than harm, then I’m usually for it. If it’s unlikely to hurt you in some way, and may provide benefits, then it might be worth a try. My issue with some of these biohacking products is that they may cause more harm than good — even if it’s just harm to your pocketbook. In order to determine whether something is likely to help or harm, we have to look at the science.
What does the data say? Going back to the example of the computer analyst, the interviewer mentions that tho biohacking techniques he uses like applying electricity to his brain and muscles have not been evaluated, replicated by scientists, or published in scientific journals. And, that’s the problem. In order to understand whether something is more likely to promote health instead of harm, it needs to be studied.
What are some examples of biohacking products?
I will address biohacking products that have been studied. Starting with:
MCT stands for medium-chain triglyceride. You probably already know about saturated and trans fats. You may have also heard about unsaturated fats, like omega-3s and omega-6s. Well, when we dig a bit deeper into the chemistry of dietary fats and if we were to look at them under a high-powered microscope, we’d find that some of them are larger than others.
Imagine a train on a railroad track — now, imagine one of those super-long cargo trains with hundreds of train cars linked together. Some fats are like those super-long cargo trains – they have lots of cars or chains linking it all together. These are long-chain fatty acids. But, there are other fats that are more like passenger trains. These don’t have as many cars chained together, so they’re smaller – these are like medium-chain fatty acids or medium-chain triglycerides. Medium-chain triglycerides often come from processing coconut oil. We’re learning that the body treats these long- and medium-chain fats differently.
The theory right now is that the medium-chain fats are more likely to be used by the body for energy, instead of being stored as body fat. Some also believe these fats may help prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s, which is a severe form of dementia. But, many of these studies are small in size and not long-term, which makes it difficult for us to know whether consuming MCT oils are helpful or harmful.
Switching gears — let’s talk about wireless routers in our homes. In my personal opinion, I think we are often susceptible to making irrational cause-and-effect connections to things that we can’t see, touch, smell, or taste. If it’s not tangible and we think it might be harmful, then somehow it is the root cause of many ailments. There are definitely situations when this happens, but I’m not so sure that this is true when it comes to the radiation emitted from our wireless routers, cell phones, and Bluetooth devices.
In the case of our WiFi routers, we know that they do send out radio waves in the form of low-level radiation. Sometimes these are referred to as low-level electromagnetic fields.
The World Health Organization created a taskforce to look at whether exposure to this form of radiation is harmful to our health. They examined over 25,000 published studies and determined that exposure to low level electromagnetic fields does not appear to harm our health. Exposure to these electromagnetic fields does not appear to increase the risk for cancer or even depression.
If exposure to this type of radiation keeps you up at night, then there’s no harm in finding ways to reduce your exposure. I just wouldn’t advise that you spend tens of thousands of dollars to rewire your house to reduce your exposure, given the evidence I just provided.
As far as some of the other biohacking products and techniques you might come across, we simply don’t know whether they promote optimal health. So, it might be worthwhile to save your money for the time being and stick to the more well-studied behaviors to change your DNA like a diet rich in whole-foods, regular physical activity, adequate sleep, and stress management.