The Brain Doctor and The Wisdom of Crowds

      67 Comments on The Brain Doctor and The Wisdom of Crowds

Chareva’s parents, Alan and Nancy Smiley, sold their Chicago-area home last month and have moved in with us temporarily, along with her brother and sister-in-law. They’re looking around Franklin now for a new home. For those of you who asked in comments, yes, Alan is the one who built a train line around his property some years ago. That’s one of the things I always liked about the man: his go-go-go, get-things-done drive. That drive is the reason he was able to buy a luxury home in the same neighborhood as mobsters and movie directors at an age when most young husbands are saving for a starter home.

Unfortunately, Alan had a significant stroke in April. As a result, he can no longer move his left arm. He can walk, but has to shuffle along with a cane because he can barely lift his left leg. He’s been plagued by insomnia since the stroke and has occasional hand tremors. The doctors who treated him in Chicago said he might have Parkinson’s.

I’d hate to see this happen to anyone. I especially hate to see it happen to the bundle-of-energy guy who barely left the dance floor at our wedding reception and exhausted several dance partners who were considerably younger.  Some people are happy to retire to an easy chair.  Alan would have preferred to retire to a workshop and a string of projects that require expertise with tools.

Alan’s cousin, a neurologist with more than 30 years in the field, offered to drive down from Kentucky last weekend for a visit and a consultation. I was upstairs working on a programming project when Chareva’s mom told me the conversation was turning to nutrition, and Alan thought I might want to listen in. Nutrition? Well, of course I wanted to listen in.

On my way downstairs, I hoped I wasn’t going to hear the standard-issue advice about avoiding fat and eating those hearthealthywholegrains. I promised I’d bite my tongue if need be. After all, Dr. Mike Mayron, the neurologist, made the trip from Kentucky out of the goodness of his heart.

Imagine my relief when Dr. Mayron began by telling Alan that sugars and grains are bad for the brain. We weren’t programmed by evolution to deal with the high levels of glucose those foods produce, he said. We’re programmed to thrive on a diet in which fat is our primary fuel. The best diet to help heal your brain and give it the fuel it needs is a ketogenic diet.

Dr. Mayron explained that he prescribes a ketogenic diet as part of the therapy for a number of brain conditions, then added, “There’s a book I want you to read. I recommend it to all the patients I put on a ketogenic diet, because it was written by a layman and it’s easy to understand. It’s called—“

Holy @#$%, I bet he’s about to say “Keto Clarity.”

“—Keto Clarity, by Jimmy Moore.”

“I’ve got a copy upstairs, Doctor.”

“Oh, good!”

“Actually, Jimmy and I good friends.”

“You’re friends with Jimmy Moore? Seriously?”

“Yeah, in fact he and his wife will be visiting us for Thanksgiving. They were here last Thanksgiving too.”

“Wow. Well, be sure tell him I said thank-you for writing a book that’s helped a lot of people.”

“I will. Actually, hang on, I have a better idea. You can tell him.”

I went and grabbed my iPhone, dialing up Jimmy on FaceTime as I returned to the room. When Jimmy’s face appeared onscreen, I told him I was with a neurologist who wanted to thank him for his work. I handed the phone to Dr. Mayron, and the two of them had a nice chat.

Jimmy then mentioned that he was in Australia to give a speech, and it was 1:00 AM. He should probably try to go back to sleep. Oops. Sorry, Jimmy. It’s a credit to your character that you answered the call cheerfully instead of denigrating my manhood and/or place in the food chain.

After the call with Jimmy, Dr. Mayron continued explaining the many reasons Alan should be on a ketogenic diet, both as a stroke survivor and a type II diabetic. He explained that it normally takes a few weeks to make the adjustment, but there are drink mixes available now that help boost ketones right away. One of them, this one, was originally developed for Navy Seals. Apparently the military figured out Seals have more endurance and focus during long missions if they’re in ketosis.

I was, of course, delighted that Alan was hearing all this from a neurologist. I want him to control his diabetes and be as healthy as he can for as long as he can. After all, he just moved to the same town as the daughter and granddaughters who love him.  We’d all like for him to stick around for awhile.

But I was also delighted to see another example of how more and more doctors are catching on. I didn’t know Dr. Mayron before this weekend. He didn’t know I produced a movie called Fat Head. In fact, as he was assuring Alan that a ketogenic diet doesn’t have to be boring, he said he makes a low-carb pizza crust that taste just like real pizza crust. As he described the ingredients, I asked, “When you found that recipe online, was it by any chance called Fat Head Pizza?”

“As a matter of fact, yes, I’m pretty sure it was.”

“I’m Fat Head.”

I tried not to sound like Michael Keaton saying “I’m Batman.” I also felt obligated to explain that people call it Fat Head Pizza even though all I did was post a recipe my nephew found elsewhere online.

Anyway, my point (and I do have one) is that once again, I saw the Wisdom of Crowds effect at work. I can guarantee you that when Dr. Mayron was in medical school, he wasn’t taught about ketogenic diets as a therapy for brain issues. But thanks to the internet and the astounding ability we all have to acquire and share information, he’s quite familiar with the benefits of a ketogenic diet now. (He lost a lot of weight after going ketogenic himself.) The information gatekeepers don’t control the gates anymore, because the gates are gone. The overlords at the USDA have lost their grip on the conversation about diet and health.

Now when a neurologist wants to educate patients about a good-for-the-brain diet, he recommends a book by a blogger named Jimmy Moore.

And I believe there’s a good chance you’ll hear from Dr. Mayron on a future episode of Jimmy’s podcast show.  Let’s keep that Wisdom of Crowds effect growing.


67 thoughts on “The Brain Doctor and The Wisdom of Crowds

  1. Jeff

    Love it! Small world and all.

    I worry that some day “The Anointed” will try to censor the internet because they “know what’s best”. It’s not hard to imagine.

  2. Mike

    That is an awesome story.

    It looks to me like we’ve reached the tipping point. When my local news is covering the NY Times article about the sugar industry payoffs, it’s well on the way to mainstream.

    So do you have positive thoughts about those ketone booster drinks? I was under the impression that since they can’t magically make you fat adapted, filling your system with ketones was of limited utility.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I haven’t tried them. Dr. Mayron suggested the drinks because as a stroke victim, Alan could use the extra fuel for his brain. He said the drinks also help people make the transition to a ketogenic diet without feeling lethargic … in other words, they help avoid what some people call “the Atkins flu.”

      1. Mike

        Interesting, maybe there is more there than I realized.

        A big contributor to Keto flu is frequently insufficient electrolytes: sodium, potassium, magnesium, but usually sodium. The keto crowd at redit has some suggestions:

        See the electrolyte section at

        Quite a few people there report starting keto, feeling like crap, and then having some broth and feeling much better in fairly short order.

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          Good point. Dr. Mayron recommended magnesium and plenty of salt when he was explaining the diet to Alan.

  3. Sandy

    Most encouraging thing I’ve read for a while! My younger brother had a stroke about 12 years ago now, when he was 44, after a lengthy recovery was put on statins and ‘heart-healthy whole grains’. He recovered somewhat, though you can definitely still see today that he had a stroke.
    He has been off the statins now for over a year…and I think I had something to do with that (I nagged his wife incessantly lol). But here’s the thing – when he told the doctor who originally prescribed the statins 12 years ago that he was going to stop taking the statins, the doctor said ‘good for you for taking the initiative’ WTF WTF???
    I can’t help but wonder how much of his ongoing muscle pain, and stiffness, is from the stroke, and could it have been avoided without the statins? We’ll never know (and the anointed will always say that it was the stroke) but maybe we can help those coming after us? Or are we just voices in the wilderness? Usually I’m optimistic…but sometimes I just can’t help but wonder…
    Anyway, thank you for being one of those voices in the wilderness. I hate to say I live for your posts…but honestly, I live for your posts 🙂

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I was livid when I saw that Alan was put on 80 mg of Lipitor. Here’s a guy who’s a type II diabetic with brain damage and muscle damage from a stroke … and a doctor puts him on a drug that makes diabetes worse, messes with cognition and damages mitochondria? It makes zero sense.

      1. Walter Bushell

        I think perhaps you’re not “Following the Money” above.

        Big Pharma follows doctor’s prescription practices, if you prescribe a lot, you get extra benefits like free symposiums in beautiful places or even the chance to get paid to speak at them.

        It’s possible the doctor’s don’t consciously realize they’ve been bought. People tend to reciprocate when they are favored. Doctors can change their attitude towards Pharma companies with trivia such a pen or a note pad, much less free lunch for them and the staff.

        Money talks; truth walks.

      1. Galina L.

        Congratulations on finding a like-minded member of your extended family. It is truly a great news! It surprised me that Chareva’s parents still considered using statines. At least now your father-in law is saved from taking it. It looks like the wisdom of crowd slowly went up from a ground level to the layer of medical professionals. May be another term should be invented now for that phenomena.

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          I have of course expressed my opinion of statins. But when a 74-year-old man has a stroke that could have killed him and his doctor tells him to take a statin, he’s more likely to listen to the doctor than the son-in-law. So I was delighted when Dr. Mayron dumped the high-dose Lipitor from Alan’s list of prescriptions.

          He did prescribe 10 mg instead, and told me there’s evidence that a very low-dose statin might prevent a second stroke. I’m okay with that. Even Duane “SpaceDoc” Graveline wrote that low-dose statins may help in some circumstances.

          1. Galina L.

            In a such situation it is not for you, of course, to decide how your father-in-law should be treated. It caught my attention that Alan’s pre-statin cholesterol was unusually low for a person his age. I remember reading that in groups of people with low cholesterol strokes were more prevalent, and a healing less efficient. My computer disc crashed several days before, and I have no access to my bookmarks at the moment. I am just share my thoughts now. I would do the same in the situation like yours. However, if it was my mother or me, I would stay away from statines anyway. May I ask you what would you do if it were you having a stroke?

            1. Tom Naughton Post author

              I wouldn’t take a statin, period.

              I had the same thought when I saw Alan’s lipid panel. People with cholesterol below 150 (his was 151) are more prone to strokes. Another reason beating his cholesterol down with a high dose of Lipitor simply makes no sense.

            2. BobM

              And cancer, as there is almost a linear relationship between total cholesterol and cancer: higher TC = lower chance of getting cancer.

  4. Linda Riddle

    This post made me sooo happy! When you first mentioned that Chareva’s dad had had the stroke, I didn’t comment, but I was hoping that you could get him on a good diet since he was moving in!

    To hear that a neurologist is recommending ketogenic diets is outstanding! I have recently gone ketogenic due to reading Jimmy’s book, and feel better than ever!

    Thanks for this wonderful update!

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Alan is already making the adjustment. He’s also off the high-dose statin a doctor in Chicago insisted he take. Dr. Mayron looked at Alan’s lipid panel — which was taken BEFORE the statin — and saw total cholesterol of 151, LDL of 98. He then declared the prescription for 80 mg of Lipitor to be … uh … a word that means “male cow poop.”

  5. Jeanne

    Thank God.
    I belong to a Toastmasters group in which a man in his 30’s has been giving informational presentations about dementia (his mother was just put in a memory care unit) and he states there is no prevention for dementia. This young man himself is obese and diabetic, and he has a seven year old daughter who is also obese, not overweight, OBESE.
    I now have some outstanding resources to refer him to, but he has expressed no interest in any of this.
    I just don’t get it.

    1. Michael B

      Lots of people are of the school “Don’t bother me with the facts! My mind’s already made up!” My sister’s a family practice doctor and most of the patients she talks to about lifestyle and diet changes can’t be bothered: they want a pill to fix ’em.

    2. Bob Niland

      re: I now have some outstanding resources to refer him to, but he has expressed no interest in any of this.

      Some people are perfectly content to suffer their optional ailments, as long as they have willing listeners to complain to.

      Resist being one.

      Early on in their lament, ask they why they are sharing their story, and whether or not they are actually interested in slowing, arresting or reversing the problem(s), if not also getting free of the primary meds (and the secondary meds that paper over the side effects of the primaries).

      Doing this is a lot less annoying to them than they are to you, but in any case is likely to dial down the whining.

  6. LeeAnn

    “I was livid when I saw that Alan was put on 80 mg of Lipitor. Here’s a guy who’s a type II diabetic with brain damage and muscle damage from a stroke … and a doctor puts him on a drug that makes diabetes worse, messes with cognition and damages mitochondria? It makes zero sense.” I read this and have to tell you my mom’s story; she just had a heart attack, and her cholesterol was normal. She was put on a statin. With her in the room, I said to the cardiologist, “Why are you prescribing a statin? She has normal cholesterol, and has not been proven to be effective in women her age”. The response I got? “Because that is the protocol in these situations.” “But why are you prescribing a cholesterol blocking drug when the brain is mostly cholesterol and all of our cells need it?” The response I got? “That is what we do in these situations.” I was disgusted. Granted, my mother is a raving Italian woman who does what she wants to do (not take them), but the fact that the only response I got was ‘because that is what we do’ just irritated us!

    1. Elenor

      {sigh} Don’t forget, though, that these docs have to protect their livelihoods from their local medical boards! If this guy did the right thing, and his med board found out; they could hound him OUT OF THE PROFESSION!

      I struggle between FURY at these docs not doing the right things, and the fact that I (and, no doubt, they) think their first loyalty is to keep their OWN family in house and board!! To ’tilt at windmills’ — even when it turns out there ARE windmills and they ARE attacking — takes a special kind of nut-job willing to risk his own “life” against the powers that be.

  7. Justin

    I was smiling throughout the entire story. I wish every conversation about nutrition could be this easy! I’ve developed a habit of walking away or putting headphones on (depending on the situation) whenever I hear anything about nutrition come up in a conversation (unless I’m in the conversation, of course), because I don’t want to get angry, but maybe in a few years the ratio of conversations about scientifically-derived information to hearsay dogma will be a bit more even! I applaud your ability to maintain curiosity regardless of how close to certain you are about how the conversation will go!

  8. GrannyMumantoog

    Wow, what a lovely serendipitous visit! What did your FIL think of his SIL after all this? Your talk on the anointed & the wisdom of crowds is one of my all time favorite videos…and I live very near to where you gave the talk too 🙂

  9. Bob Niland

    re: One of them, this one, was originally developed for Navy Seals.

    That’s a late comer to the scene. If one of the [now] consumer products was tested by ONR, my bet would be that it was Patrick Arnold’s KetoForce. But there’s some chance the SEALs are using ketone esters, rather than salts, and esters are only available as research materials presently.

    re: Apparently the military figured out Seals have more endurance and focus during long missions if they’re in ketosis.

    Serendipitous side effects. As I understand it, the original goal was to avoid oxygen toxicity in deep dives without having to be on a full-time ketogenic diet.

    At some point we’ll need a discussion on the benefits and hazards (if any) of exogenous ketones.

    In the meantime, for anyone interested in biohacking with them, Patrick’s KetoCaNa product is probably the most economical in terms of $/gram of actual BHB. The MLM products go to some trouble to not tell you how much isolated BHB you get, although they might admit the BHB salt fraction (and one of their products was reverse-engineered as a result of an IP lawsuit, so it is possible to figure it out with some work).

  10. Good News

    Of all the disciplines, neurology has adopted keto much faster than others. I think this is because of doing research into keto for epilepsy. You can’t read that research without wondering about its health, and then they look at the studies on exactly that, and lo-and-behold, they become converted.

    My wife’s neurologist recommended that she try keto, and even told her that it’s more healthy than a standard diet. He later hired a dietitian at his practice and now runs a side practice for type II diabetics. In fact… I’m pretty sure Jimmy Moore has interviewed him, although not the same doctor you talked about in your comments.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Let’s hear it for the neurologists.

      No, Jimmy hasn’t interviewed Dr. Mayron before, but I floated the idea to Jimmy, who said sure, give him my contact info.

    2. Galina L.

      I started low-carbing as the last resort thing to deal with too frequent migraines after the anty-seizure drug which was prescribed for me in a small dose after several months started to affect me in a negative way instead of doing its job. The diet normalised everything else. It had one side effect – it turned me into a LC zealot, it was impossible to stay calm and balanced about that cure-for-all exept turning everyone into a very thin person. Epilepcy is not so wide-spread as other not rare conditions which are routinely trated with anty-seizure pharma products, so it is easy to see how neurologists may become first to get involved.

  11. Lynda

    Wow!!!! I was cheering you on as I read that post. Yes, it really is the wisdom of the crowds at work and I see this more and more every day. Here I am way over in New Zealand and even I’ve met Jimmy Moore. Through him I kind of feel that I’ve met you – two degrees of separation and all that 🙂

    Fantastic post Tom, that must have been such fun!!

  12. JillOz

    I wish my relative who has been afflicted by stroke/diabetes could do this, but she wouldn’t go for it unless it came from her existing doctors. 🙁

    It seems that a very limited application of a ketogenic diet is practiced here in Melb:

    I don’t understand how resources are so limited they can only do one kid at a time but it’s encouraging it’s there at all, I suppose.

    1. Stephen T

      Jill, they’re not exactly selling it are they? They say:

      “The ketogenic diet is not a “natural therapy”. Less is known about the beneficial and adverse effects of the ketogenic diet than other treatment options for epilepsy such as antiepileptic medications, surgery and the vagal nerve stimulator.”

      A dietary solution isn’t ‘natural’ and they know less about it than they do about drugs. I thought the ketogenic diet had been used since the 1920s? And fasting for at least 2,000 years.

  13. Bonnie

    “The information gatekeepers don’t control the gates anymore, because the gates are gone. The overlords at the USDA have lost their grip on the conversation about diet and health.”

    This reminded me of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The pictures of ordinary people attacking the wall are always with me. We – the ordinary people – just need to keep hammering away at the wall of “we know best” that the medical profession has put up.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I was a journalism major in college. The role of information gatekeepers was one of the topics we studied. I’m guessing that course has been updated since the ’80s.

    2. Firebird7478

      Funny you talk about the Berlin Wall. I just binge watched “Deutchland 83” which was all about East Germany vs. West Germany. Spy thriller. I highly recommend it.

  14. Elenor

    I gotta say… er… write… Tom, as I read your blog entry, I was gettin’ all teary! I know you always humbly disclaim the depth and breadth and spread of your earth-shaking effects on people’s health, but “I’m Fat Head.” just made me cry! I am so so so glad to see you getting the ‘payback’ you have always deserved (and SO much better when it comes from out in left field!)( and, god knows, you’ve got the fields for it!) (And the same for Jimmy Moore!

    Completely deserved!

  15. Desmond

    Just shared this with a friend whose father had a stroke last week. Thanks.

    The most encouraging news is about the Navy. When more people learn they can go low carb to kick @$$ like a Seal, it will spread to new audiences!

  16. pam

    wonderful, keep us updated.

    (i dont’k now if you have read it:
    The Brain That Changes Itself by Dr. Norman Doige
    has some discussion on stroke patients.

    the Brain’s Way of Healing is also interesting

  17. Mikko

    That’s very interesting, my neurosurgeon also recommended a ketogenic diet in the first meeting I had with him after having been diagnosed with a brain tumour. Not exactly the diet I was expecting to hear from him, given that this happened in the UK where the official guidelines are full of hearthealthywholegrains etc.

  18. LauraB

    Just FYI – a knitter/designer had a stroke and wrote very eloquently about her experiences across 4-5 years. I found it very enlightening to read what and how she was feeling, and her recovery battles. You can search for the tags for stroke on her site if interested. I hope I need never take her words into my own battle but I think they really can aid those coping with someone who has had a stroke.

    Also, too – thanks for the pizza recipe!! Not as vital, perhaps, but certainly makes life worth living.


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