What a pleasure to sit down with Dr. Jari Laukkanen on this early June 2019 afternoon in Jyväskylä , a city and municipality in Finland in the western part of the Finnish Lakeland, some 130 km north-east from Tampere.
You may not know his name, but as a fellow sauna enthusiast, I guarantee that you know of his work, especially if you have read about the reported sauna health benefits in the New York Times, Time Magazine, Mayo Clinic Proceedings, NPR, and pretty much every area of broadcast media in the past year or so.
Sauna is a centuries old tradition from Finland, where people are known for being humble and quiet and low profile, How fitting is it that the person perhaps most responsible for the sudden explosive interest in sauna is equally humble, quiet and low profile?
This is Dr. Jari Laukkanen. He seems less comfortable with the limelight, but very comfortable channeling his expertise as a Cardiologist towards sauna research, to help qualify and understand what we sauna enthusiasts know to be true:
Sauna is good for you.
As you will hear shortly into our interview, Dr. Laukkanen warmed up to Glenn at Saunatimes, who traveled 5,000 miles for this interview.
Glenn and Dr. Laukkanen had arranged for a phone interview back when the study results were first announced, but both agreed to wait until a more expanded interview, in person, could be arranged.
This Sauna Talk episode is that interview.
Whereas many of the hundreds of journalists who have interviewed Dr. Laukkanen may have been after a couple quotes and sound bites, Glenn wanted Sauna Talk listeners to fully understand the context of what sauna means to Dr. Laukkanen, personally. Also, he wanted listeners to get an accurate context of what the practice of sauna is for the 2,800 people who participated in the study he and his team conducted.
Why? The results of Dr. Jari Laukkanen’s work has, unfortunately, been used by marketers of products and methods different from what we know as AUTHENTIC sauna. It’s not fair. But we have to tread lightly here. This is our opportunity to share what we know to be true.
Authentic sauna is good for you.
In Finland, there is no need to put the word “authentic” in front of the word sauna. Today, here in the United States, and many other parts of the world, unfortunately, we need to. Yet, there is great news on the horizon. Those that have listened to the Sauna Talk interview with Risto Elomaa, International Sauna Association President, know that in Germany, it is illegal to refer to infrared cabins as a sauna. God love the Germans!
For those not able to listen to this episode of Sauna Talk, here is are some excerpts from our time together:
How old were you when you took your first sauna? “A very small child.”
The development of the study. This was a long term study. Base line examination. Clinical. Blood samples, including a long questionnaire to establish baseline.
2,800 people at baseline.
In 2001, women were included within this population.
The main picture
Summary of the sauna study results: Sauna frequency is inversely related to health outcomes. If you use more sauna, you have lower risk of stroke, hypertension, and even cardiovascular death.
You have a lower risk of death of these events if you use sauna regularly.
Three important parts (to living a good life) are:
Now we have something else:
We want more relaxing ways in our lives. Our working lives are so busy nowadays.
Sauna is nice, it is kind, it is funny, and it can be also healthy.
They are linked very closely together in body and mind.
In Finland, sauna is part of our life
Everyone is using sauna. Temperatures: 80 – 90 c.. Water is introduced on the hot rocks which can change the humidity. Very good ventilation in sauna. Most of them cool down outside. This is part of the sauna habits.
Sauna is a complete experience
A study of 100 people, detailed study of before heart rate variably, an indicator of cardiac anomic function and stress level, increased. Your body is relaxing after sauna.
We have focused our research on a typical Finnish sauna. None of the people in the study used infrared cabins.
From the study of 2,800 people, a speculation on how many were using wood sauna vs. electric sauna, Jari estimates 20-30% of the people in the study use the wood fired sauna.
Goals for the future
Heat shock proteins are an interesting area for more study. Same with brown fat We’d like to see more long term studies. Changes: are they long lasting.
We need more studies about sauna. “I appreciate international collaboration. Without funding it is impossible.” Jari is very interested in studies in places where sauna is not popular because we have access to a control group who does not use sauna.
This is important for the health of humanity.
New studies can be done with collaboration. If we want to improve health in general, we need wide collaboration research work.
Now we have protocols of studies.
Different genetic backgrounds are important.
Measure what happens in our mind. Sleep habits, measuring heart rate and heart rate variability. Lower risk of hypertension. Lower blood pressure.
“I am always happy to talk sauna. It is a good thing in our life.”
What is most misunderstood about sauna? “Sauna is a very safe place. Even if you have stable diseases, sauna is good.”
You can keep peace in sauna.
Our lives our quite busy. We have to relax after busy working days.
The Emerging Science of Sauna is upon us.
Thanks to the work of Dr. Jari Laukkanen and his collaborators, we are on the cusp of some impactful and expansive studies and research regarding sauna health benefits. Please read more about Dr. Jari Laukkanen here. This is a just published article, thanks to Sally McGrane, a Berlin based journalist.
As you will hear in this interview, the simple question of “If you could bring a mobile sauna anywhere in the World and sauna” has brought an intention for Jari to collaborate with our team here in Minnesota, USA for an extensive and expansive sauna study, and the birth of the Sauna Research Center.
We have 10,000 euros already secured to “turn the lights on” to start our work. We are in the process of securing more funding to build a new comprehensive study on sauna and health. Perhaps 100,000 euros is a more realistic figure, and yet including detailed biomarker and epigenetic testing, the funding budget will be higher. This will allow us to include a large enough population, provide appropriate sauna protocols, a long enough study duration, and detailed testing before, during, and after the study.
Since the recording of this interview, Dr. Laukkanen and the USA team have been building the budget and protocols, as well as initiating University and private partner collaborations.
The World of sauna studies is on the cusp of becoming an international, intercontinental collaboration!
Interested in helping out with this project? Please email Glenn@saunatimes.com and type in the subject heading: “I am interested in sauna studies.”