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Max Lugavere to Talk About ‘Genius Foods’ re Nutrition and the Brain
Thursday, January 18, 2024


When Max Lugavere’s mother became diagnosed with a rare form of dementia in 2011, the Current TV journalist became consumed with investigating why this might have happened to her. Additionally, he wanted to learn what could be done to prevent himself from getting it.

The quest turned into a New York Times best-selling book “Genius Foods: Become Smarter, Happier and More Productive While Protecting Your Brain for Life.” It lent itself to “The Genius Life” podcast, which airs to an audience of 1.5 million followers twice a week.

And it is about to culminate in a documentary titled Little Empty Boxes” that will be screened at movie theaters in select markets this year before going direct to consumer online.

The movie follows Lugavere’s mother for a decade, giving an intimate look at what dealing with dementia is like from the standpoint of the patient and caregiver. The title comes from his mother’s own words as she tries to explain how she’s feeling internally.

Now, Lugavere will share some of his strategies for healthy living when he speaks at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 20, at The Argyros in a talk that is presented by The Argyros in conjunction with the Sun Valley Culinary Institute. Tickets are $20, available at Lugavere will sign books following his presentation.

VIP tickets that include preferred seating and a signed copy of “Genius Kitchen” are $60.

“I’m trying to help educate people about nutrition and lifestyle as a means of preventing chronic disease, with a particular focus on diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s,” he said. “I love to talk about the role of nutrition in brain health and mental health, and I love to take questions from the audience.”

A fascination with nutrition is nothing new for Lugavere. He developed such a passion for it at 16 years of age that he went to college with the intent of going into medicine. But he ended up in journalism and worked for six years on Al Gore’s Current TV.

When he left to begin his odyssey researching nutrition and the brain, he says he learned that those on vegan diets are depriving themselves of essential nutrients—namely, animal source proteins.

“My mother was a vegetarian and I don’t know that that caused her dementia. But I think that if she had had more balanced diet on a more frequent basis, it would have benefitted her,” he said. “Protein is something that needs to b prioritized, particularly for aging populations. Protein is very important across the age spectrum, but it’s even more important for somebody over 65.”

Well-planned vegan diets can be supplemented, Lugavere says, but nevertheless it is a diet that creates deficiencies.

“It’s well established that Vitamin B12 needs to be supplemented on a vegan diet, but those on such diets also tend to underconsume protein and other nutrients.”

During his talk Lugavere will offer an overview of research concerning how people can modify diets and lifestyles to age more healthily.

“There’s a lot of myths, a lot of fear mongering. I love to be a fact checker for people,” he said.

One of the latest findings he will talk about when it comes to lifestyle is how important resistance training is for brain health and cardiovascular health.

“A lot of people believe resistance training is just for aesthetics, to build bigger muscles. Having strong muscles predicts healthy aging and better brain health, better bone health, better metabolic health. And this work can be done in a gym or outside a gym,” he said.

Strong muscles allow people to move and exercise so they stay more active, more stimulated, Lugavere said. Strong muscles also improve the way body metabolizes energy, keeping blood sugar managed. Having chronically high blood sugar damages the brain and blood cells and is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s Disease, he added.

Having strong muscles serves as a blood sugar disposal organ, utilizing the sugar you consume, he said. Working muscles release compounds called myokines and these are thought to be heavily involved in neurogenesis, protecting brain cells and helping with anti-inflammatory, metabolic and immunological processes.

It also helps with mental health, Lugavere said.

“We live in a time of widespread mental health concerns. A better mood is just a workout away, and that’s incredibly empowering. I love to connect these dots for people in an empowering and actionable way, and I find most people tend to be surprised by these facts.”

Some have criticized Lugavere for his promotion of high-protein diets and for appearing on the TV show of Dr. Oz, who saw his credibility plummet after he was accused of promoting health gimmicks.

Lugavere is nonplussed.

“He’s been incredibly kind to me. He brought a wonderful audience to my work and gave a very glowing review for my first book,” he said. “As my own platform has grown, people have been quick to criticize. The way to not be criticized is not to do anything. Even Disney World has haters. I’m here to support and educate and light a candle for people.”

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