Book Review – The Bulletproof Diet by Dave Asprey

Written by Carol Petersen, RPh, CNP – Women’s International Pharmacy

In “computerese,” to hack means to devise or modify a computer program, usually skillfully. Dave Asprey challenges us to use the concept of “biohacking” in his 2014 book, The Bulletproof Diet.

Dave Asprey is an early Silicon Valley computer engineer who made millions with Internet hacking. He describes hacking as needing to make complex systems work even when all the pieces of the puzzle are not available. In that respect, he came to understand that the human body is very much like a complex computer program, with some data that is missing or misunderstood. He speculated that it would be possible to use “biohacking” to solve his own health problems.

At the start of his quest, Dave Asprey writes, he was in miserable shape. He weighed 300 pounds and was unable to lose the extra weight, even though he followed various diets and a strenuous exercise program. Other health issues included chronic sinus infections, strep throat, foggy brain and difficulty maintaining focus. He was always tired and overwhelmed with the stress in his life.

Asprey came to look at his body as a complex system. He engaged in what he calls “biohacking,” or “the art of using technology to change the environment inside and outside of your body to take control and make it what you want.” His endpoints of success would be measures such as how he felt, how he performed, the success of his relationships with others, and overall happiness. Just as programmers look to find potential flaws, he took to “troubleshooting” his environment, evaluating what was working and what was not in a scientific manner.

In the end, he concluded that inflammation, toxins, hormones, neurotransmitters, gut bacteria and more play huge roles in the efforts to nourish our bodies and our brains. He asserts that the strongest variable in achieving top performance is—far and away—our diet.

In his “biohacking” journey, Asprey discovered that he had thyroid (Hashimoto’s), adrenal, testosterone and estrogen problems. Realizing that saturated fats and cholesterol are the building blocks for the sex and adrenal hormones, he deviated from the low-fat philosophy being promulgated and started eating butter from the milk of cows who had been raised eating grass. Magic happened as his focus increased, while his weight and inflammatory markers decreased.

Asprey discovered the importance of a molecule called vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP) which, when depleted, disturbs our master glands (pituitary and hypothalamus). This leads to problems with insulin and glucose regulation, causing a craving for sweets. Paying attention to the proper functioning of VIP is one of the cornerstone ideas in The Bulletproof Diet.

Because our medical system prefers to use techniques such as double blind, crossover studies (which tend to limit the variables as much as possible), we are prevented from understanding our human functioning as a system. What usually evolves is something like the conventional treatment for hypothyroidism. Practitioners are taught to test for thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). If the TSH gets too high because of the effort to stimulate more thyroid hormone production from the thyroid gland, a single thyroid hormone, l-thyroxine (T4), is prescribed. When the TSH level comes down because of the presence of T4, the treatment is considered a success. In truth, for vast numbers of people, the low thyroid symptoms are not relieved. Their practitioners are unable to shift from their linear thinking to a systems analysis, which requires “biohacking” until the other variables are revealed.

It has taken the efforts of an individual who is systems-minded (and who is trained to collect and evaluate data points in a scientific manner) to open our minds to a new approach to optimal health. Practitioners who have embraced using bioidentical hormones in a symphony of hormones have broken away from their linear thinking and learned to “biohack” for their patients. It’s revolutionary and exciting. Dave Asprey presents much more in his book, inviting us all to learn how to “biohack” our way to greater energy, focus and well-being.

  • Asprey D. The Bulletproof Diet: Lose up to a Pound a Day, Reclaim Energy and Focus, Upgrade Your Life. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Books; 2014.