Max Lugavere Encourages All to Mind Their Diet with Genius Foods
Max Lugavere, a media personality and leading voice in health science, recently published his book with Dr. Paul Grewal called Genius Foods, a cutting-edge and practical guideline to reducing brain fog and optimizing cognitive health and performance now and and decades into the future.
After his mother was suddenly diagnosed with dementia, Max Lugavere put his successful media career on hold to learn everything he could about how the brain works. For many years, he consumed the most up-to-date scientific research, spoke with dozens of scientists and clinicians around the world, and visited the country’s very best neurology departments. Max has condensed his findings into this book.
Max found a way to attract viewers of all ages due to the urgency of this problem as well as the rapid solution present. He was shocked by “the fact that one in seven young people, classified as those between the ages of 18 and 39, complain of memory problems.” This early onset of problems highlights the wide variety of people that must place a higher importance on their diet, which is seen by Max as the leading cause of this issue.
Below is an interview with Max Lugavere himself that provides a context behind why he wrote this book as well as how a simple two-week diet plan can improve your life for years to come. This book is especially pertinent to anyone interested in health sciences, psychiatry, disease, or even just food!
BT (Mark Agostinelli): Did you ever think you would enter the field of health science?
Max Lugavere: You know, not really. I started college pre-med as a biology major, but then I ended up realizing my love of creativity and storytelling. I ended up transitioning to double major in film and psychology, and I thought I had fueled my faith on my career but I ended up going into journalism because I developed an interest in documentary filmmaking. This actually led to my getting a job for Al Gore on his TV network called Current. It happened as soon as I graduated college, so it was a very lucky position before I went to grad school. When I left that, I kind of went back to my original love of science, and that encouraged me to approach journalism n a new way.
BT: In terms of health science specifically, what led you down that path?
ML: I’ve always been interested in nutrition and health from as early as high school, developing a fascination for nutrition and supplementation when I was in high school. My high school senior thesis was actually on a popular sports supplement called Creatine. This was something I always had a passion in, but it really become personal and professional when six years ago my mother developed dementia. I decided to pursue this when I was unable to truly think about anything other than how a person’s lifestyle might attribute to a risk of developing dementia. When my mom started to show symptoms of this neurodegenerative condition, I realized that suddenly I had a risk factor for myself. Beforehand, I was very focused on nutrition, but now I was laser focused on cognitive brain health once my mom got sick. These events brought in awareness that my mom needed more than the limited treatment options that are available, which was a call to action to engage professionally in this topic.
BT: You have mentioned in previous interviews that at no point in the treatment process did doctors recommend alterations to her diet. Why do you think doctors have under valued this research?
ML: Doctors are under trained in nutrition and exercise, especially when you take a field like neurologically where conditions such as dementia arise. All they would essentially do is write a prescription or provide one of these biochemical band aids before they sent us on our way. I really wanted something more: answers. My background as a journalist trained me because journalism and science are more related than you may realize; they both train you to find trends and ask questions in the purest sense. This background was really what I leaned on when dealing with the situation with my mom.
BT: Your ability to interweave an informative scientific journal with a motivational life changing piece that has drawn such raving reviews on amazon and other book selling websites. How did you manage to seamlessly connect these two fields that a lot of people do not see as being the most similar?
ML: I think that my background helped me be creative. I do feel in many ways that Genius Foods relies just as much on artistic expression as it does on science. As a creative person, one of the true parts of creativity is being able to connect dots in different topics and see a pattern where others might not. I guess I credit [this book’s success] to my creative ability which, at its core, helps me to really understand this topic. One of the problems that mainstream medicine suffers from is authentic function reach. I don’t think that dealing with something as complex as the human body, let alone the brain, in this way would be a wise approach. My background as an artist helped me see patterns, and my background as a journalist helped me connect the dots.
BT: Diving deeper into the book, you mentioned it highlights a two week plan. There are lot of different fads and superfoods on the market. How did you manage to create such a successful plan on the market that lasts only two weeks that manages to perpetuate through someone’s life?
ML: A person’s excitement about a current health plan lasts for only a short time, so I really wanted to key in on the excitement that people have and put it all together in a way that readers can really make quick change and feel a major difference. However, it isn't meant to be just a two week diet. It is meant to be a lifestyle.
BT: Another reason for its success is the fact that it encompasses a wide variety of people. How do you tailor your advice towards certain age groups, such as college students who might not always be in a position to choose what they eat in dining halls?
ML: I think that people are so powerful. This might sound cliche but it wasn't that long ago that I was there too. Once you are able to arm yourself with knowledge, it becomes easier to act on that knowledge. I do talk in the book about how access of our intelligence, or executive function, might be more important to a person’s overall success than IQ. We might think we are predestined in terms of our intelligence. However, executive function makes it easier to perform cognitive abilities and planning and decision making. We have a lot to gain; our executive function really allows us to choose what we are eating and the lifestyle we are living so for anybody. Anyone who wants to get better grades fairly easily, I really do think that the research backs itself that proper diet helps forward optimal brain function, which may pay off in many ways.
BT: That really fits into the idea of working smart, not hard, right?
BT: Now, you wrote this book with Dr. Paul Grewal. How did you two meet and decide to work together?
ML: Paul has his own unique health story. He was a classically trained physician and is more certified and went to medical school for many years. However, he still suffered from something that many people still deal with today: obesity. He would tell you he was about 100 lbs overweight and medical school gave him the foresight to see. He was not given any ways to fix his metabolism and weight for good. It opened his eyes that doctors are under trained when it comes to nutrition. I found his story very compelling; he basically had to become a nutrition expert in the same way that I became a nutrition expert. He ended up losing 100 lbs for good! We worked together because I really wanted to provide a clinical perspective in the book that I did not have because I am not a medical doctor. However, when it comes to things such as heart disease and metabolic health, I really wanted to know what some top experts in the world like Dr. Grewal thought. All the neurology concepts are more my wheelhouse, but we worked together because to give the book a sense of aspects that I was not as knowledgeable at so that I was learning from him as well.
One thing I was personally interested about seems to be the new craze with constantly new superfood stores popping up, such as Frutta Bowl and new acai bowls. It has really become a trend of sorts; do you think this is a genuine desire to increase health awareness or is it more of a marketing play?
I think it’s a little bit of both. I like businesses that cater to demand. I myself am a consumer of healthy products. I do think that it comes from people demanding it more and wanting to do better. They are sick of the fact that 1 in 7 young people (18-39) complain of memory problems. People want more, and where there is demand, there is supply. It is important to know that not all of these products are healthy; it may be the juice; lots of stores are adding fruit juice to their smoothies which is not too healthy. For this reason, it really ultimately comes down to the individual arming oneself with the information that they have. Don’t be afraid to ask questions; the only dumb question is the one you don’t ask!
BT: One more question before I let you go: what advice would you give to students in general or those trying to enter the field of writing or the editorial process, specifically?
ML: Be curious. Wear your passion on your sleeve. It is very important to project your interests! Try to stay focused on the topic that you and are passionate about. It’s okay to now know what your passion is but you should do what you can’t not do. Pursue what it is that you can’t not think about. If you’re constantly thinking about health and nutrition, which was the case for me, then you really should focus solely on those topics and consider yourself as a brand. If you look at my social media, which is a powerful social media today, you might think that i’m only passionate about nutrition. I decided to dial everything that I talk about towards my passion!
Credit: Max Lugavere, Health and Science Journalist and New York Times Bestselling Author of Genius Foods