Archive for the “Low-Carb Experts” Category

I was recently a guest on the Body IO FM podcast.  You can listen to that episode here.

The hosts of Body IO FM are John Kiefer and Dr. Rocky Patel.  I became aware of them more than a year ago when they were the guests on an episode of Jimmy Moore’s Ask the Low Carb Experts.  It was a 90-minute Q & A with lots of good information, but their basic message came down to this:  ketosis is great, but most people get better results if they cycle in and out by having a “carb nite” once per week.  You can read an overview of the theory by visiting the CarbNite website.

That’s more or less what I’ve been doing for the past couple of years.  I stay pretty low-carb on most days, but on Saturday nights we usually go out to a nearby Mexican diner we like.  I’ll eat the corn tortillas, rice and beans with that meal.


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Back in June, I wrote a post about Sam Feltham’s n=1 experiment in which he consumed more than 5,000 calories per day of low-carb/high-fat foods for 21 days.  In a post on his Smash The Fat blog introducing that experiment, he spelled out exactly what he would eating:  lots of meats, eggs, greens and nuts.  The macronutrient breakdown on a typical day looked like this:

Calories:  5,794
Protein:  333.2
Fat:  461.42
Carbohydrates:  85.2g

Feltham estimated his daily calorie expenditure to be around 3,128.  (He’s an active cyclist.)  So according to the simple calories-in/calories-out theory, he should have gained nearly 13 pounds in 21 days.  But he didn’t.  As he reported at the end of the 21 days, he gained less than three pounds – while losing an inch around his waist.  In other words, he gained a bit of lean mass but apparently didn’t get any fatter.

I wouldn’t suggest people who’ve battled a weight problem repeat that experiment, of course.  If you check the pictures on his blog, you’ll see that Feltham looks like a naturally lean guy.  His body probably resists gaining fat.

Ahhh, but what if he consumed more than 5,000 calories per day on a diet high in refined carbohydrates?  Would the hormonal effects of all those excess carbohydrates overcome his natural resistance to getting fatter?

In a word:  Yup.

Feltham recently completed yet another n=1 experiment that lasted 21 days.  This time the diet looked like something Morgan Spurlock would try (assuming he could eat all these foods at McDonald’s while pretending to only consume three meals per day) … cereals, breads, jam, pasta, desserts and sodas.  Here’s the breakdown:

Calories:  5,793
Protein:  188.65
Fat:  140.8
Carbohydrates:  892.7

Wow.  My glucose is rising just looking at those figures.   Let’s look at Feltham’s results from his blog:

As it was the last day I also weighed myself this evening at 97.3kg, giving me a mean for day 21 at 96.8kg, which is a massive +7.1kg up from the start and +0.1kg above the calorie formula on a 53,872 k/cal surplus.

So he gained almost 16 pounds.  And it wasn’t lean tissue this time, either.  He also gained three inches around his waist.  (He had small waist to begin with, so nobody will be asking him to wear the Santa suit at this year’s holiday party.)

What’s interesting to me is that on the high-carb overeating experiment, the calorie equation held up.  Unlike with his LCHF diet, Feltham did, in fact, gain a fraction more than one pound for every 3,500 extra calories he consumed.

I’d say the same about Morgan Spurlock’s sugar-fest month at McDonald’s.  Spurlock gained 24 pounds in 30 days, which means he was probably overeating by around 2,800 calories per day.  (We of course don’t know for sure, since he won’t show anyone his food log.  But his nutritionist cautioned him twice in Super Size Me that he was eating more than 5,000 calories per day.  And unlike Feltham, who continued his exercise routine during his experiment, Spurlock intentionally moved as little as possible.)

As I mentioned in my post about Feltham’s first experiment, the calorie freaks immediately tried to explain away his inability to gain more than a few pounds on 5,200 daily calories of LCHF foods by insisting he must have a super-fast metabolism.  Funny how that super-fast metabolism didn’t help him when he switched to a diet full of refined carbohydrates.

By the way, Feltham has already gone back to a LCHF diet (which he’s calling his rehab diet) to undo the damage.  He’s 10 days into a diet consisting of meats, greens, butter and nuts.  His average daily intake is 3,622 calories, 313 grams of fat, 170 grams of protein and 34.38 grams of carbohydrates.

He’s lost just over nine pounds as a result.  A good chunk of that is likely water weight, but I suspect he’ll be back to his original weight and body-fat percentage soon enough.


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When Jimmy Moore was here last month, the girls announced that they’d like to interview him for an episode of Fat Head Kids’ Club.  I told them good interviewers prepare their questions ahead of time and choose a topic, so if they wrote up a list of questions, we’d tape the interview.  They decided to ask Jimmy what it’s like to be a fat kid and what advice he’d offer to kids who are fat or want to avoid becoming fat.  Here’s the interview, edited together.


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Last January I reviewed Jonathan Bailor’s excellent book The Smarter Science of Slim, which is very well written and packed with references to research. Bailor will also be a speaker on this year’s low-carb cruise, so I’ll be meeting him in person … after roasting him, of course.

In the meantime, he’s launched a non-profit organization dedicated to providing the public with information about diet and health.  Rather than try to summarize their activities myself, I’ll quote Bailor:

Wanted to drop you a quick note as we were fortunate enough to receive VC funding to start up a non-profit ancestral nutrition educational organization we’re calling Slim is Simple. SIS is working to provide compelling multimedia resources—free of charge—that the entire good nutritional science community can leverage to help share the simple lifestyle adjustments that have helped us all help so many people live so much better. We’re working to get this “curriculum” into schools, churches, and etc.

Here’s one of their first videos:

You can visit the organization’s website here and follow them on Twitter at #SlimIsSimple.


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Now and then I receive emails from new readers or viewers with a question that goes something like this:

I’m interested in trying a low-carb/paleo lifestyle, but I’m not sure how to get started.  You have a lot of interesting books listed on your Recommended Reading page, but I don’t have time to read them all.  If I wanted to start with just one book, which one would you recommend?

I always give the same answer:  If you’re only going to read one book, it should be The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson.  There are some excellent how-to books for starting a low-carb diet (A New Atkins for a New You fits that bill nicely), there are some excellent examinations of the science (Good Calories, Bad Calories would top that list), but of all the books I’ve read, The Primal Blueprint still does the best job of providing an easy-to-read explanation of both how and why a primal lifestyle can give you back your health.

To summarize the book in one paragraph:  Millions of years of evolution shaped our genetics.  When we eat and move as Nature designed us to eat and move, we express the genes for health.  When we don’t … well, look around and you can see the results. Here’s how you need to eat, here’s how you need to move, and here’s the science to back it up.

Sisson’s latest book is titled The Primal Connection, and perhaps the best one-sentence summary would be the line made famous by radio icon Paul Harvey:  And now, for the rest of the story …

Sisson realized there was more to the story when he heard from readers who told him how much their health had improved since they began eating and moving like Grok, his mascot for our Paleolithic past … but while they felt better, they still didn’t feel good.  They still didn’t feel fully alive and content and happy.  Something was still missing.  As Sisson explains in the book’s introduction:

That diet and exercise are ways in which we can harness gene expression to rebuild, renew, and regenerate ourselves every moment is obvious to me.  But in a short time, I came to believe that there was much more to uncover.  Maybe we are wired for happiness and contentment just as we are for fitness and health.

… Moving away from the trappings of and stresses of modern life is one of, if not the, key goal in the Primal Blueprint approach.  However, when our relationship with our primal ancestors gets distilled into just how we diet and exercise, we lose sight of that ultimate goal.  Considering that our more advanced natures have been evolving over some two millions years, what else might our genes expect from our environment?  Specific sleep conditions?  Certain models of socialization?  Interaction with nature?  Play?  Beyond these questions of what, there’s the question of how these inclinations unfold in modern humans in a modern world.  Are we meeting them?  How do our innate expectations conflict with our contemporary lifestyles?

Grok didn’t just eat differently and move differently than we do.  His life was different from ours in many ways.  He was connected to his neighbors – they were, after all, his tribe.  He was connected to his surroundings.  He was connected to the plants and animals that fed him.  His daily activities were connected to the rising and setting of the sun.

In modern society we’re digitally connected to the entire world, yet disconnected from much of what made us human in the first place.  We can’t sell our houses, cash in our 401ks, and go live in small bands in the woods, but we can, to a large degree, reconnect with the rhythms, habits, and experiences that were part of our primal ancestors’ daily lives.  That’s what The Primal Connection is about.

The book is divided into six major chapters.  Here the titles of those chapters and my (extremely brief) summaries:

The Inner Dialogue Connection.  Grok couldn’t survive by spending half his day listening to negative “monkey chatter” coming from his own brain.  You need your internal dialogue to work for you, not against you.

The Body Connection.  Nature designed us to be active, to touch each other, and to walk barefoot.

The Nature Connection.  Concrete jungles don’t provide the sights, sounds, smells and experiences your genes expect.  Nature does … and getting down and dirty is actually good for your health.

The Daily Rhythm Connection.  Grok didn’t check his friends’ Twitter feeds at midnight and then watch TV for an hour before going to bed.  We were designed to wake with the sun and live by its daily rhythms.

The Social Connection.  For most of human history, we lived in relatively small, close-knit groups.  Having a thousand friends on Facebook won’t do as much for your health as honoring your relationships with the people you actually know.

The Play Connection.  All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.  Grok understood that energetic play was good for his body and his brain.

The Primal Connection is full of good ideas for living a more fulfilling life by finding ways to reconnect with your primal nature.  It’s also a pleasure to read.  If you’ve read The Primal Blueprint or Mark’s Daily Apple, you already know Sisson is a gifted writer who can take complex ideas and translate them into clear, easy-to-follow prose.  I never find myself re-reading one of his sentences to try to figure out what the heck he was trying to say.

For much of the advice Sisson offers in the book, I don’t have to wonder if it actually works.  I know it works.  I’ve already adopted many of the habits and practices he suggests — partly because I’ve read books by some of the authors he references, and partly because in 54 years of trial-and-error living, you learn a few things.

My favorite chapter is The Inner Dialog Connection, in which Sisson spells out what he calls The 10 Habits of Highly Successful Hunter-Gatherers:

  • Take responsibility
  • Be selfish
  • Build a tribe
  • Be present
  • Be curious
  • Trust your gut
  • Pick your battles
  • Get over it
  • Sharpen your spear
  • Be affluent

If you read self-improvement books – financial, spiritual, relationships, artistic development, etc. – you’ll see essentially that same advice over and over.  (Being selfish doesn’t mean living a me-first life, by the way; it means finding time for yourself and not letting other people dominate your life or walk all over you.)  I try to follow that advice because it works.  It didn’t really occur to me until I read The Primal Connection that it works largely because it fits our primal template.

I can’t claim that I’ve perfected all 10 habits, but I can tell you that the more I’ve adopted them, the happier I’ve become.  To me, a tribe is what author Chellie Campbell refers to as Your People in her book The Wealthy Spirit.  If you want to be happy and successful, you need to hang out with Your People.  You need to do business with Your People.  As much as possible, you need to avoid getting tangled up with people who are definitely Not Your People.

Putting that advice into a primal perspective, you could think of Your People as Your Tribe.  If you don’t already have one, Sisson explains how and why you should build one.  I couldn’t agree more … and I’d add the suggestion that if you’re in a tribe that doesn’t feel right for you, get out.  Get out now.  When we lived in Los Angeles, I remember complaining up one side and down another about all the whiny, self-centered, scheming, lying, me-first types I was trying to work with in Hollywood.  After listening politely for awhile, Chareva finally said, “Honey, these aren’t Your People.”  She was right.  That’s partly why we don’t live there anymore.  I needed a different tribe.

I learned about trusting my gut the hard way.  I once took a job as a software contractor even though I got a bad vibe from the owner of the company.  I couldn’t figure out what exactly about the guy bugged me, and the terms were right.  So I took the job.  Months later I found myself threatening legal action if he didn’t pay me the thousands he owed me.  Then, and only then, he admitted he was going bankrupt and couldn’t pay me.

At least I haven’t repeated the mistake.  The couple of times since then that I’ve picked up a bad vibe when meeting with a potential client for some software work, I’ve simply turned down the job, even when I didn’t have another one in the works.

In one of his lectures, Tony Robbins asks a question along the lines of “Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a battle, and after awhile you can’t even remember what you’re fighting for, but you keep right on fighting because you just know you have to win?”

That’s a case of not picking your battles.  If you’re going to get into a fight, there should be a good reason for it.

Now and then some fan will alert me to a hit-piece about Fat Head or me personally that someone posted on the internet, along with a call-to-arms of “You’ve got to respond to this!”

Respond?  Not a chance.  To respond, I’d first have to waste some of my valuable time reading the hit-piece, thus dumping someone else’s garbage into my brain.  (Good way to start a round of monkey-chatter.)  Then I’d have to waste more of my valuable time writing a response.  And in the end, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.  The people who’ve already decided they don’t like you or don’t agree with you aren’t going to be persuaded, no matter what you write.  I still receive the occasional hate-mail in my inbox, and as soon as I realize what it is, I delete it without reading it.  There’s no need to do battle.  I don’t care if some goofball who happened to get my email address doesn’t like me.

Or as I put it to my daughter Sara a couple of years ago when she came home all upset because some dumb jock-type was making fun of her, “Sara, you’re a smart girl.  Smart people don’t waste time worrying about what stupid people think of them.  If he says you’re ugly, or weird, or whatever, just say, ‘Yeah, I know’ and walk away.  Trust me, it’ll frustrate him so much, he’ll give up.”  (He did, by the way.)

I don’t spend much time going barefoot and I’ve been a night-owl for as long as I can remember, so I’m not good at following Sisson’s advice on those fronts.  (Perhaps even in paleo days, there were people like me who stayed up late, tending the fire and watching for predators.)  What I have managed to do is arrange my life so I’m not waking up with an alarm clock.  The company where I work as a software contractor encourages flextime.  So I go to bed when I’m ready, wake up when my body decides it’s had enough sleep, then go to work.  If that means working until 6:30 PM, I’m fine with it.

But since moving to our little farm in Tennessee, I have spent much more time following Sisson’s advice of getting dirty, enjoying natural surroundings, and engaging in energetic play.  I’m definitely happier now than we lived in Los Angeles, but I figured that was simply the result of leaving an area I grew to loathe.

That’s probably part of it, but as Sisson explains, happiness is (like health) often a matter of gene expression.  Sunlight, grass, soil, and the sights and sounds of nature trigger specific biological reactions that enhance our health and our moods.  Perhaps those chickens are providing me with more than just high-quality eggs.  Perhaps those weekend rounds of disc golf in the front pastures are giving me more than just some fresh air and exercise – and if they aren’t, I’ll pretend they are.  “Chareva, I need to go play another 18 holes.  My happiness genes need expressing.”

The chapter on social connections ought to be required reading for the wired-in generation.  It annoys me when I’m in a restaurant and see four young people sitting at a table, with three of them texting or checking their Facebook pages while the fourth sits staring off into space, ignored.  To get in on the conversation, the ignored friend would have to go outside and send a text.  A buddy of mine (a wise father) doesn’t let his teenage daughters take their iPhones into restaurants or social gatherings.  As he tells them, “You’re going to talk to the people you’re with, not people you know on Facebook.”

I’m a blogger and I enjoy the ongoing conversation with people from all over the world.  (So does Sisson, obviously.)  I also like being able to catch up with friends across the country.  But sometimes we need to pull away from our electronic tethers and connect with people who aren’t currently in a different zip code.  I mean seriously, has anything you’ve ever experienced online even come close to the happiness you feel after a lively dinner conversation with a small group of good friends?   Have you noticed that no matter how much you enjoy watching a performer on TV, it never quite matches the experience of actually being there?

Being there was something Grok understood because it was just part of his life.  Being with friends, being with family, being with nature, being in the moment, and being with himself, comfortable in his own skin.

The Primal Connection doesn’t urge you to throw away your iPad or move to the country and raise chickens.  But it does encourage you to be more like Grok.  We don’t know for sure if Grok was content and happy, but I bet his vocabulary didn’t include a word for “angst.”


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Here’s part two of my interview with Rocky Angelucci , author of Don’t Die Early.

Fat Head: It’s clear to me after reading your book that you jumped head-first into a lot of heavy-duty medical and biological science while educating yourself about health. Was that intimidating, or did you find the science fairly easy to grasp?

Angelucci: I think my interest in science started when I first discovered Star Trek at age five! I was a science fiction geek most of my young life, and my passion for sci-fi spawned an interest in real-world science and medicine. In retrospect, it’s not surprising that I migrated in the direction of science, academically and professionally.

Fat Head: One of the reasons I recommend the book is that you explain the science clearly to a lay audience. Does that come naturally to you? Did your background prepare you to interpret science for non-scientists?

Angelucci: I’ve always enjoyed learning a complex subject and then conveying it to others. My background is as a technical writer in various fields, including biotech, medical devices, nanotechnology, and software. I studied the life sciences at the University of Maryland in my younger days and more recently have been studying mathematics at the University of Texas.

Fat Head: Don’t Die Early is about more about health than weight loss, although you cover weight loss in one chapter. At 20% body fat before you changed your diet, you weren’t exactly a fat guy. Were you motivated to lose weight after the heart-arrhythmia incident, or was the weight loss more of a side-benefit of becoming healthy?

Angelucci: I certainly wasn’t trying to lose weight. The weight loss was purely a positive by-product of a healthier lifestyle. That’s part of the message I convey in Don’t Die Early: don’t fixate on weight—just adopt a healthier lifestyle and eat the proper foods and your body will achieve a consistent weight.

Fat Head: You fly from Texas to Milwaukee once per year so Dr. William Davis, the author of Wheat Belly, can be your cardiologist. That’s quite a trip. Why is it worth the travel to see him specifically?

Angelucci: I first found Dr. Davis through his blog, then got to know his attitudes better through my interactions with him on the Track Your Plaque forum. After realizing that my cardiologist in Dallas seemed uninterested in taking an investigative, detailed approach to cardiac care, it was an easy decision to make the trip. Dr. Davis, more than any other cardiologist I’ve encountered, focuses on root cause and prevention. Most of my visit with Dr. Davis entails spreading a year’s worth of lab tests and self-collected data across the exam table while we look for patterns, anomalies, and opportunities for further improving my cardiac health. It’s worth far more than the price of a plane ticket and a day’s vacation to know that I’m seeing such an engaged, prevention-minded cardiologist. Not to mention that I get a perverse thrill out of having a cardiologist who advises me to eat more fat!

Fat Head: You recount in the book how your health markers have dramatically improved since you changed your lifestyle. That’s great, of course, but how about the benefits we don’t measure? How do you feel? What improvements have you seen in your life besides lower triglycerides, reduced coronary plaque, etc.?

Angelucci: The less tangible benefits were plentiful. Eliminating wheat from my diet caused my decade-old acid reflux disease to disappear in a matter of weeks. That was remarkable. Gone, too, was my frequent congestion and malaise, leaving me with more energy during the day.

Perhaps the most amazing change is my relationship with food. Previously, if something delayed lunch or dinner for an hour or two, I was miserable, focusing only on my gnawing painful hunger and wondering when I could finally break away and eat something. That has all changed now. Food is no longer the demanding taskmaster that it once was because skipping a meal, or even multiple meals, is a trivial inconvenience. Most importantly, I now enjoy eating for the pleasure that delicious, real food brings. I’ve become more of a foodie than I ever was before.

Fat Head: I’ve had the experience of friends and acquaintances basically deciding that since I’m not a doctor and their doctors are still telling them to eat low-fat meals with plenty of whole grains, I must be wrong. Have you had the same experience?

Angelucci: Absolutely. I’m constantly reminded of the “Marcus Welby” halo effect that causes so many people to follow medical advice unquestioningly, while so quickly rejecting even the most well argued opinions from people like us who are not “experts.” If our health improves on this unsafe, low-carb diet it’s because we’re an anomaly. Thousands upon thousands of us reporting better health absolutely must be an anomaly because, dammit, grains are good for us!

Even in the face of considerable contrary evidence, I think it’s human nature to believe that our physicians have the correct information and know exactly how to do what’s best for us. Unfortunately, a trivial amount of research reveals many examples from present day back through history where an accepted medical opinion was blatantly wrong, caused untold deaths, and took a decade or more to change. Recognizing the fallibility of the medical system, and the individuals within it, is an important part of being a thoughtful and critical advocate of one’s own healthcare.

Fat Head: How do you deal with it?

Angelucci: At first I wanted to stand on a soapbox with a megaphone and just start shouting, “Eureka! I’ve found the answer! The experts are wrong! We don’t have to be unhealthy any more.” But I quickly realized that would just scare people, get me arrested, and cause me to miss a bunch of work. After a period of frustration, I realized that there are enough people in the world who are receptive that I’d rather focus on them and not spend time shouting at the rest.

Fat Head: One of the sections in Don’t Die Early is titled Prepare To Be An Outcast. How much of an outcast are you in your social group?

Angelucci: Two years ago I would have said I was a complete outcast. After Don’t Die Early was released and I guilted my friends into buying it, 75% of my closest friends have now adopted a healthier lifestyle and are raving fans. At work, however, where I’m compelled to be far more restrained, I’m still largely an outcast, surrounded primarily by two groups: the “healthy” low-fat, whole grain crowd and the younger ones who still think they’re immortal and don’t even think about preventive health yet.

Fat Head: Don’t at least a few people see how much better you look and feel and think, “Maybe this guy’s onto something”?

Angelucci: Some have approached me after seeing the “strange” way that I eat or after hearing through the grapevine that I’ve written a book on preventive health. I think that no matter what evidence is available, each person needs to reach a personal tipping point where he or she is compelled to change. Until a person realizes that there’s a better path for them and truly wants to change, it’s little more than interesting conversation.

Fat Head: Don’t Die Early focuses a great deal on testing, assessing for heart disease, and reducing inflammation. It seems to me it’s mostly we middle-aged types who care about those issues. Why would, say, a 25-year-old want to read this book?

Angelucci: Don’t Die Early has something for everyone, whether they’re 40-something and wanting to understand or prevent diseases or a 20-something who is interested in knowing why a certain lifestyle makes the most sense for optimum future health. By focusing on the science of a healthy lifestyle, instead of just preaching my opinion of what’s healthful and what’s not, I give the reader the tools to refute the hype and chart a personally tailored path towards optimal health. Even if you’re 18 years old, eating Paleo, and on your way to a 110-year lifespan, you can still buy the book for your parents, who have probably been following well meaning, but misguided, advice for the past 30 years.

Fat Head: Suppose you meet someone in a social setting who’s interested in becoming healthier, but you’ve only got a couple of minutes to give advice. What would you tell that person?

Angelucci: One look at today’s rapidly advancing healthcare costs and at the skyrocketing rates of modern disease and it’s obvious that we are not spending our way into becoming a healthier nation. More than ever, busy physicians, pressured by frugal insurance companies, are focusing on treating symptoms, not on prevention. If you want make sense of the confusing, conflicting medical and nutrition advice that bombards us daily, and truly understand what being healthier means, read my book. Don’t Die Early will help you understand how a loved one can be facing a heart attack or a stent, even though the checkups and stress tests were normal. Don’t Die Early will help you understand why more of us are diabetic than ever before, yet the tools to predict and prevent diabetes are cheap and easy to use. If you want to assess your health and optimize your lifestyle using objective tests and real data instead of generalizations and hyperbole, read my book.

And while you’re waiting for the book to arrive, watch Fat Head. It’s by far the best overview of what has gone wrong with nutritional advice over the past 50 years.

Fat Head: What kind of response is the book receiving? Is the word getting out?

Angelucci: It’s early in the book’s life but I’m thrilled at the response so far. The Amazon reviews are very positive and the direct feedback I’m receiving from readers is that the book conveys a lot of information in an easy to understand, enjoyable way.

Fat Head: One of the real joys for me after releasing Fat Head was receiving emails from people who told me that the film changed their lives. Have you heard from people whose lives were changed after reading your book?

Angelucci: I have and it’s immensely rewarding. To see that x number of people have bought my book is nice, but when I receive an email saying that someone used my book to change his or her life, that’s priceless and the ultimate motivation for writing the book.

Fat Head: So what’s next? Any plans for a follow-up book or another related project?

Angelucci: I’m working on a more interactive version for the iPad but my primary focus right now is spreading the word about Don’t Die Early!

Fat Head: Thanks for taking the time for the interview, Rocky. Don’t Die Early is an excellent read, and I hope you sell a million copies.

Angelucci: Thank you, Tom, for being such an incredible beacon of sanity in the crazy world of nutrition advice and for your support of Don’t Die Early.


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