Some Things I Learned in Malaysia


  • Flying from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles to Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur takes a LONG time (32 hours with layovers)
  • You can get a LOT of reading done in 32 hours (about GM Foods and Business)
  • Cathay Pacific is a terrific airline
  • Malaysia is HOT
  • Lots of people (and media) have the misconception that palm fruit oil is “bad” or “unhealthy”
    • Palm fruit oil is about 50% saturated and 50% unsaturated fatty acids – making it beneficial for maintaining “good” HDL cholesterol and “neutral” for “bad” LDL and total cholesterol
    • Lots of people (especially media) have the misconception that palm oil harvesting leads to “deforestation” of the Malaysian jungle and displacement of the indigenous animals (especially orangutans)
      • In reality, no significant clearance of virgin rainforest has occurred in Malaysia since the mid-1950s (quite honestly, it used to be a real mess with uncontrolled clear-cutting of forest areas for timber and agriculture, but those days are largely in the past).
      • I spent several days in the jungle to witness sustainable palm fruit harvesting, including two days with rangers from the Wildlife Rescue Unit and researchers and conservationists from the Danau Girang Field Centre who are working to protect and rehabilitate orangutans, elephants, monkeys, and numerous other of Malaysia’s indigenous animals.
      • Tocotrienols (a unique type of vitamin E) is associated with myriad health benefits including reduced risk for stroke and virtually every form of cancer, including cancers of the breast, prostate, pancreas, colon, and other tissues.
      • Tocotrienols also have profound “neuro-protective” effects – keeping brain neurons operating at peak potential and providing a significant hedge against the aging process in the brain.
      • Carotenoids (the phytonutrients that give vegetables their red/orange color) and Flavonoids (the phytonutrients that give fruits their blue/purple color) are associated with health benefits including protection against cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart attack, Parkinson’s, osteoporosis, and other chronic diseases of modern lifestyle.
      • Proper antioxidant balance (including the entire Antioxidant Network of vitamin E/tocotrienols, vitamin C, thiols, carotenoids, and flavonoids) can positively influence overlapping areas of metabolism (oxidation directly influences inflammation and stress hormone balance) to improve mental and physical performance (vigor).
      • If you leave your cell phone and wallet in the taxi from the airport, your blood pressure and stress hormones will be elevated for the next 2 hours until the taxi driver is contacted (by answering your missing phone), agrees to a payoff in exchange for your phone and your credit cards, and returns to the hotel to swap the phone for a wad of cash.
      • There is more than enough science behind the MonaVie products to fill nearly 5 hours of Sunday afternoon lectures and Q&A about RVL, Essential, Active, M-mun, and Pulse – and hardly anyone fell asleep!
      • I have an amazing family and network of colleagues to support me in (frequently) traveling to the other side of the world to network with and learn from some of the top scientists, traipse thru the rainforest with rangers and conservationists, visit with and learn from the local people, and come back home with my brain bursting with new ideas for health products that can help us all feel better and live a more meaningful life.
      • Flying from Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong to Los Angeles to Salt Lake City takes a LONG time (only 25 hours with layovers – love the tailwind! – which let’s you read tons of magazines and one really meaningful book about living and dying).


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  • The Secret of Vigor – How to Overcome Burnout, Restore Biochemical Balance, and Reclaim Your Natural Energy


  • Killer at Large – Why Obesity is America’s Greatest Threat – an award-winning documentary film exploring the causes and solutions underlying the American obesity epidemic. FREE versions at





Palm Oil Nutrition Week – Day 3

This 3rd day of scientific presentations at Palm Oil Nutrition Week is really bringing all of the most recent information together related to fatty acid balance for health. For example, what types of fat – and how much – and in what ratios – are best for our health?
An amazing lineup of researchers has dissected this issue from every conceivable viewpoint – here is a list of the presenters:
Dr. Tilakavati Karupaiah – Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia – Palm Oil Influence on Lipemic Risk
Dr. Mahinda Abeywardena – CSIRO Australia – Evaluation of Heart Effects of Oils/Fats
Dr. Tom Clandinin – University of Alberta (Canada) – Lipid/Glucose Effects of Fatty Acids
Dr. Pramod Khosla – Wayne State University, USA – Health Effects of Palm Oil – The Role of Saturated Fatty Acids Revisited (Again)
Dr. Felicia Stoler – Author, Living Skinny in Fat Genes – The Healthy Way to Lose Weight and Feel Great – USA
Dr. Kalyana Sundram – Malaysian Palm Oil Council – Global Palm Oil Consumption Trends: Evidence for Nutritional Effects
Overall, from these presentations, it is pretty clear that there is a widespread misconception that because palm oil contains saturated fatty acids, it must be “bad” for the heart and other tissues. Palm fruit actually provides two very different types of oils. The first is from the fruit (the mesocarp) and the second is from the kernel (the seed). Palm kernel oil is similar to coconut oil in that both are high in lauric and myristic acids, while palm fruit oil is high in palmitic acid. These are all “saturated” fats, but they have very different metabolic fates in the body and thus have widely different health effects. 
Palm fruit oil is actually a 49/51% balanced blend of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids with 44% palmitic and 5% stearic acids (both saturated), 40% oleic acid (the primary monounsaturated fatty acid found in olive oil), 11% linoleic/alpha-linolenic acids (both polyunsaturated).
Like all other vegetable oils, palm fruit oil is cholesterol-free, but unlike other vegetable oils, palm fruit oil has been shown to improve cholesterol ratios in the blood (higher “good” HDL and lower “bad” LDL and “very bad” lipoprotein (a). 
Refined (yellow) palm fruit oil is also a rich source of neuro-protective, anti-cancer, and liver-protective tocotrienols, and unrefined (red) palm fruit oil is a rich sources of antioxidant carotenoids. When used in foods, or as a cooking oil, palm fruit oil can withstand high temperatures without oxidizing like other vegetable oils (soybean, corn, sunflower, and canola).
Overall, the latest scientific results are showing us that not all saturated fats are created equal. We certainly want to avoid trans-fats (hydrogenated oils) because they undoubtedly raise bad cholesterol, reduce good cholesterol, and have a generally detrimental effect on blood vessels, heart health and brain function. When choosing healthier oils to use in cooking, I like to recommend extra virgin olive olive (bright green) as a COLD oil (salad dressings, dipping oil, and low-temperature cooking such as pesto sauce) and recommend unrefined palm fruit oil (bright orange/red) as a HOT oil (stir-frying, grilling, searing, and other high-temperature cooking).
By using a balance of these healthy oils, we can enjoy great taste, flavor, and functionality while also delivering important health benefits for our hearts, brains, livers, and cancer-risk.
These last 3 days at Palm Oil Nutrition Week have been extremely enlightening in terms of hearing the new research and interacting with some of the top scientists in the world. The next 3 days will be devoted to exploring the Malaysian Jungle to look for new vigor-enhancing nutrients and learning about sustainable harvesting practices.
Please stay tuned for a report from the Malaysian Jungle in a few days!
Thanks for reading…
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My books related to stress, cortisol, vigor, and Feeling Your Best:
·      Vigor Diet – The New Science of Feeling Your Best
  • The Secret of Vigor – How to Overcome Burnout, Restore Biochemical Balance, and Reclaim Your Natural Energy
  • Killer at Large – Why Obesity is America’s Greatest Threat – an award-winning documentary film exploring the causes and solutions underlying the American obesity epidemic. FREE versions at

Malaysian Palm Nutrition Week – Day 2

Another terrific day of phytonutrient science here in Malaysia!

Today, we heard some more about tocotrienols, but also delved into the science and health benefits of carotenoids and flavonoids. I will place some of the interesting highlights below from each of the speakers.

My own presentation was about using phytonutrients to restore biochemical balance in athletes to help them improve mental and physical performance (vigor). Athletes, like all of us, are subjected to different types of psychological and physical stressors – whether from oxidation, inflammation, or plain old chronic stress – which can lead to problems with energy, stiffness, weight gain, and a variety of health problems that can lead to significant disease states if left unchecked.

My presentation can be viewed online HERE – and the slides are HERE (Talbott Athletes PINC2013)

Here are some highlights from the other speakers today:

Dr. Kangarani Selvaduray – Malaysian Palm Oil Board – Anti-Cancer and Immunomodulatory Effects of Tocotrienols

-tocotrienol rich fraction of red plan oil contains 70% tocotrienols & 30% tocopherols which can reduce the growth of tumors and the spread of various types of cancer cells

Dr. Michiaki Murakoshi – Lion Corporation  – Palm Fruit Carotenoids Protect Skin from Oxidation and Carcinogenesis

-benefits in skin protection of carotenoids extend to whole body in preventing cancer in multiple tissues (lung, liver, breast, intestine, bladder, pancreas, prostate)

-benefits seem to be superior for mixed carotenoids compared to “plain” beta-carotene, which makes sense based on the “matrix” benefit where smaller amounts of several antioxidants have been shown in previous studies to have superior protective benefits compared to larger doses of single antioxidants.

Dr. Sebastiano Banni – University of Cagliari (Italy) – Influence of Fatty Acids on Endocannabinoid System (bioactive lipids derived from membrane arachidonic acid)

-involved in hunger and motivation to eat (signals in the brain)

-dietary fatty acids, such as omega-3s (EPA/DHA) and omega-9s (oleic acid), can modulate the endocannabinoid system (by reducing omega-6s and arachidonic acid) and thus may also modulate appetite and reduce abdominal obesity (and also reduce fat accumulation in the heart and liver)

Dr. Mahinda Abeywardena, CSIRO, Australia – Palm Phenolics as a Bioactive Ingredient in Promoting Cardiovascular Health

-several sources of polyphenols (red wine, grape juice, green tea, acai, etc) reduce vascular inflammation, improve vascular remodeling, reduce oxidation/inflammation, stimulate nitric oxide production leading to blood vessel dilation and lowered blood pressure.

More scientific presentations tomorrow (Day 3) and then off to the jungle to search for unique bioactives for controlling oxidation, balancing inflammation, and reducing stress!

Thanks for reading,



Shawn M. Talbott, Ph.D.

Nutritional Biochemist and Author


NEW BOOK: The Secret of Vigor – How to Overcome Burnout, Restore Biochemical Balance, and Reclaim Your Natural Energy

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Killer at Large – Why Obesity is America’s Greatest Threat – an award-winning documentary film exploring the causes and solutions underlying the American obesity epidemic  (

The Cortisol Connection – Why Stress Makes You Fat and Ruins Your Health (Hunter House) –

The Cortisol Connection Diet – The Breakthrough Program to Control Stress and Lose Weight (Hunter House) –

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Natural Solutions for Pain-Free Living – Lasting Relief for Flexible Joints, Strong Bones and Ache-Free Muscles (Chronicle Publishers – Currant Books) –

The Immune Miracle – The All-Natural Approach for Better Health, Increased Energy and Improved Mood (GLH Nutrition, 2012) –

The Health Professionals Guide to Dietary Supplements (Lippincott, Williams & Wilkens) –

A Guide to Understanding Dietary Supplements – an Outstanding Academic Text of 2004 (Haworth Press) –

Malaysian Palm Oil Nutrition Week – Day 1

I’m excited to be attending and speaking at the Palm Oil Nutrition Week scientific conference in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia this week. The first few days will be devoted to scientific presentations about the health benefits of phytonutrients from red palm fruit, including tocotrienols, carotenoids, and flavonoids. I will be delivering a presentation tomorrow about the role of these phytonutrients in the diets of athletes and the relationship between phytonutrients and mental/physical performance.


During the last few days of my trip, I will be visiting the Malaysian jungle to view some of the sustainable farming and harvesting practices that the Malaysian government has instituted to protect the supply and quality of the red palm fruit as a source of healthy phytonutrients.


Here are some of the highlights from a few of the scientific presentations today (Day 1 of the 3-day scientific program):


Just listened to Dr. Chandan Sen from Ohio State University, who talked about how palm tocotrienols are protective against stroke – and generally neuroprotective at very low levels (when given either before or after challenges). The tocotrienols seem to work by several different mechanisms (at least 5 different mechanisms including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects such as 12-lipooxygenase) – and are also protective for the liver in end-stage liver disease.

I thought it was interesting that palm tocotrienols might even be better for secondary prevention of stroke compared to aspirin because of all of the side effects of aspirin (stomach problems, excessive bleeding, etc).


Excellent presentation here at Palm Oil Nutrition Week in Malaysia from Dr. Yuen Kah Hay – Universiti Sains Malaysia – where he talked about the benefits of palm tocotrienols for neuroprotection – some notes:

-tocotrienols have a half-life 2-4 hours in humans (so 2x-daily dosing is recommended)

-tocotrienols completely prevented brain damage (white matter lesions – aka “mini-strokes”) over the course of 2 years (while the placebo group advanced in damage (more lesions and greater brain damage)

-animal studies have previously shown benefits in grey matter – suggesting that palm tocotrienols can help to protect the entire brain

-Bioavailability can be a huge issue to ensure absorption and biological benefits

-Arterial compliance (blood vessel stiffness) – is improved with palm tocotrienols

-new study underway to investigate peripheral neuropathy and cognitive dysfunction in type I and type II diabetics


Update from the scientific sessions at Palm Oil Nutrition Week:


Excellent presentation by Dr. Cameron Rink – Ohio State University

-palm tocotrienol can help to revascularize areas of the brain damaged by stroke by improving collateral circulation in ischemia (blood flow “goes around” the blockage in hemorrhagic stroke) – which helps to reduce the degree of brain damage after stroke

-the brains of those supplemented with tocotrienol show significant arteriogenesis = remodeling of existing collateral blood vessels in the brain (not angiogenesis – or creating of “new” blood vessels) – which results in significant functional benefits in animal models (they move around much more and efficiently)


Very interesting presentation by Dr. Pramod Khosla – Wayne State University – Tocotrienols Improve Lipid Profiles

-chronic kidney disease impairs filtration of toxins (cytokines/free radicals) – which build up and lead to problems (high levels of cellular oxidation and inflammatory tissue damage) – including lower HDL (“good” cholesterol) and higher LDL (“bad” cholesterol)

-tocotrienols are anti-inflammatory across numerous inflammatory markers

-tocotrienol suppresses HMG-CoA reductase (lowers cholesterol synergistically with lovastatin) – meaning that they can help lower cholesterol production in ways that not even statin drugs do…

-significant improvements in total antioxidant power (TAP), reduced triglyceride levels, and elevated HDL cholesterol in subjects supplemented with tocotrienols

-In these patients with chronic kidney disease, tocotrienol supplementation also reduced the number of hospitalized days – suggesting improved general health and wellness


Really interesting presentation at the Palm Oil Nutrition Week Conference from

Dr. Paul Sylvester – University of Louisiana – Tocotrienol Suppression of Breast Cancer.

Dr. Sylvester’s data mostly concerned cell cultures of breast cancer (test tube studies), but there were some amazing results that will eventually have implications for women concerned about breast cancer (which is everyone, right?)

Here are some interesting tidbits from his talk:

-tocotrienols have great potential in the prevention and treatment of cancer because of their multiple mechanisms of action against different types of cancer – such as inhibition of growth factor receptor activation and inhibition of cancer cell replication

-combining tocotrienol with different chemotherapy drugs can show a significant synergy to reduce cancer cell proliferation and inhibit breast cancer tumor growth


Anti-Aging effects of palm tocotrienols – from Palm Oil Nutrition Week in Malaysia:


Dr. Suzana Makpol – University of Kebangsaan (Malaysia) – Tocotrienols in Cellular Aging Prevention

-tocotrienol prevents telomere shortening induced by oxidative stress (telomeres are segments of DNA that can be used as an index of cellular aging – longer telomeres indicate a “younger” and healthier cell)

-tocotrienols delay aging in skin cells (fibroblasts) – especially when the cells are subjected to oxidative stress. In addition, cellular expression of structural skin proteins such as collagen and elastin is upregulated by tocotrienol, suggesting an enhancement of skin “rebuilding” ability…


Dr. Ima Nirwana Soelaiman – University of Kebangsaan (Malaysia) – Tocotrienols in the Prevention of Osteoporosis

-free radicals are involved in the creation and activation of osteoclasts (cells that digest bone) – leading to an increase in bone resorption and bone loss

-tocotrienols are able to reduce bone loss by controlling oxidation (leading to reduced numbers of osteoclasts)

-this bone-preserving effect of tocotrienol is also observed in rats following ovariectomy (removal of ovaries – inducing a surgical menopause) – and this benefit was comparable to supplementing with calcium or administering estrogen – possibly due to an effect of tocotrienols to also increase bone formation at the same time as it reduces bone loss (resorption).

-Bones are also stronger in the tocotrienol groups and can withstand more stress before breaking – this may be due to positive changes in overall bone structure (possibly to changes in collagen metabolism and not just in mineral content) and can be viewed as an anti-osteoporosis benefit of tocotrienol supplements