Episode 85

Published on:

9th Nov 2023

Andrew Huberman and Peter Attia: Self-enhancement, supplements & doughnuts?

In a kind of meta cross-over with our Decoding Academia series, we're going to decode a journal club discussion between two well-known health optimisers: Dr. Peter Attia and Dr. Andrew Huberman. So you get to listen to two academics talk about two other academics talk about academic papers... we know...

We've already been introduced to the bulging biceps and morning sun-drenched routines of Huberman elsewhere but this is our first introduction to Peter Attia, MD. Attia is a former ultra-endurance athlete and a physician in the field of longevity and performance, a podcaster (who isn't amirite?!?) and author of "Outlive: The Science And Art Of Longevity".

Attia introduces us to a paper that casts doubt on the supposed general life-extending properties of a diabetes drug called Metformin. This is a drug that is apparently very well known in the biohacker/life extension communities and one that Attia administered to himself for a number of years despite the rather preliminary evidence. This is the first of many indicators that both gentlemen are certainly on the bleeding edge of self-medicating experimentation, doggedly pursuing the elusive goals of huge pectoral muscles, minds that laugh at the concept of cognitive decline, and bodies that will live... well for a lot longer than Matt and Chris!

We get to hear about week-long starvation regimes, medications that take the edge of pizza and doughnut binges, dealing with month-long nausea from self-dosing experimental treatments, and frequent prick-blood tests all for the sake of optimising, optimising, optimising...

Huberman's paper (a preprint, actually) falls more into the "big, if true" category - although he seems fairly confident himself. Does *believing* you are getting a treatment generate the relevant physiological and neurological effects in the body that could mean we can bypass the need for certain pharmacological substances entirely, including some vaccines?!? Based on the results of a small-N, fMRI study that reports mixed results, Huberman muses... maybe! Or how about those other small-N studies, with p-values hovering suspiciously close to 0.05 that report other counterintuitive findings? We will leave it to Huberman to explain.

But the bad stuff aside, Huberman and Attia (especially Attia) actually do a pretty decent job talking about how to approach research papers and some of the pros and cons of different approaches. Chris and Matt thus have ample opportunities to give credit where credit's due and demonstrate that they are the fair-minded souls everyone knows them to be!

In any case, it's an interesting peak into an alternative health optimiser world. It seems to be a rather "serious" hobby a bit like body modification or tattoos. But who are we to judge? Matt likes cultivating succulent plants and Chris is into eating sushi in lush forests. So biohacking, self-experimentation for longevity? Well, at least it's an ethos.

Also featuring, an introduction that covers Irish history, the most humble guru in the gurusphere, and our very own theory of guru cringeosity!


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About the Podcast

Decoding the Gurus
A psychologist and an anthropologist try to make sense of the world's greatest self-declared Gurus.
An exiled Northern Irish anthropologist and a hitchhiking Australian psychologist take a close look at the contemporary crop of 'secular gurus', iconoclasts, and other exiles from the mainstream, offering their own brands of unique takes and special insights.

Leveraging two of the most diverse accents in modern podcasting, Chris and Matt dig deep into the claims, peek behind the psychological curtains, and try to figure out once and for all... What's it all About?

Join us, as we try to puzzle our way through and talk some smart-sounding smack about the intellectual giants of our age, from Jordan Peterson to Robin DiAngelo. Are they revolutionary thinkers or just grifters with delusions of grandeur?

Join us and let's find out!
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About your hosts

Christopher Kavanagh

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A Northern Irish cognitive anthropologist who occasionally moonlights as a social psychologist. Chris has long standing interests in the psychology of conspiracy theorists and pseudoscience. His academic research focuses on the Cognitive Science of Religion and ritual psychology. He lives happily in Japan with his family.

Matthew Browne

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An Australian psychologist and numbers-guy. He does research on all kinds of stuff, but particularly enjoys looking into why people believe the things they do: religion, conspiracy theories, alternative medicine and stuff. He's into social media in the same way people slow down for car accidents.