Al Gore on the Microbiome and Why He Became a Vegan

; Al Gore

| Disclosures | March 07, 2014
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Editor's Note:
Medscape Editor-in-Chief Eric Topol, MD, recently sat down with former Vice President Al Gore for a One-on-One interview. In this segment, Mr. Gore discusses his vegan diet and why he thinks the microbiome represents an amazing new dimension in medicine.

Eric J. Topol, MD: Hello. I'm Eric Topol, Editor-in-Chief of Medscape, here for a One-on-One with former Vice President Al Gore. We're going to be talking about the microbiome and what it's like to be a vegan.

Let’s start with the microbiome, and then we'll talk about your vegan kick. Have you had your gut microbiome assessed?

Al Gore: I have not. Do you recommend it?

Dr. Topol: Well, some people are starting to do it. Obviously, it's having a bigger impact on medicine than we ever had anticipated. It's kind of interesting to think about whether that's going to become the norm in healthcare. In addition to having one's genome sequenced, will people with various conditions start to look at their microbiome?

Mr. Gore: Over a year ago I changed my diet to a vegan diet, really just to experiment to see what it was like. And I felt better, so I continued with it. For many people, that choice is connected to environmental ethics, health issues, and all of that stuff, but I just wanted to try it to see what it was like. In a visceral way, I felt better, so I've continued with it and I'm likely to continue it for the rest of my life.

Dr. Topol: If we had done your gut microbiome sample before and after, I bet it would be drastically different. It's really interesting.

Mr. Gore: Probably so. A friend of mine is now having his microbiome assessed all the time. But the thing that interests me most about this, and what's most startling to me, is that the number of cells that make up the microbiome, represented by bacteria mainly, but also to a smaller degree by viruses, yeast, and amoebas -- they are 10 times that of human cells. When people first encounter that statistic they think, "What? That's incredible."

The fact that part of the gut flora is an active extension of the acquired immune system in humans, and that we are actually a cooperative life community -- only part of a life community -- is yet another humbling realization in line with those caused by Darwin and others along the way. Copernicus, even. We are part of the web of life and are more intricately interwoven with it than we have allowed ourselves to realize. If those cells are 10 times ours, we obviously need to spend a lot of time understanding what that relationship is and how we affect it. And, of course, there are lots of examples already where doctors are discovering that this is an amazing new dimension in medicine.

Dr. Topol: No question about it, and we're still in the early stages of it. This has been a fantastic interview. We've had the chance to get some unique perspectives from former Vice President Al Gore, and we look forward to other interesting interviews in subsequent Medscape One-on-Ones.

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Authors and Disclosures


Eric J. Topol, MD

Director, Scripps Translational Science Institute; Chief Academic Officer, Scripps Health; Professor of Genomics, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape

Disclosure: Eric J. Topol, MD, has disclosed the following relevant financial relationships:
Serve(d) as a director, officer, partner, employee, advisor, consultant, or trustee for: AltheaDX; AT&T; Biological Dynamics; Cypher Genomics (Co-founder); Dexcom; GenapSys; Gilead Sciences, Inc.; Illumina, Inc.; Portola Pharmaceuticals; Quest Diagnostics; Sotera Wireless; Volcano; Walgreen Company
Received research grant from: National Institutes of Health; Qualcomm Foundation

Al Gore

Former Vice President Al Gore is co-founder and chairman of Generation Investment Management. He is a senior partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and a member of Apple, Inc.'s board of directors. Gore spends the majority of his time as chairman of The Climate Reality Project, a nonprofit organization he founded that is focused on solutions for the global climate crisis.

Gore was elected to the US House of Representatives in 1976, 1978, 1980, and 1982 and the US Senate in 1984 and 1990. He was inaugurated as the forty-fifth Vice President of the United States on January 20, 1993, and served 8 years.

He is the author of the bestsellers Earth in the Balance, An Inconvenient Truth, The Assault on Reason, Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis, and most recently, The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change. He is the subject of an Oscar-winning documentary and is the co-recipient, with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for "informing the world of the dangers posed by climate change."

Former Vice President Gore was born on March 31, 1948, and resides in Nashville, Tennessee.

Disclosure: Former Vice President Al Gore has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

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