September 24, 2013


My 10 favorite TED talks

Finding inspiration in the stories of other people.

by Peter Attia

Read Time 7 minutes

You may be thinking, “What does this have to do with nutrition? Or exercise? Or ketosis? Or the other things Peter obsesses over?”  Well, technically, nothing. But since this is a personal blog, I figure every once in a while I can write something for my friends or family members who have zero interest in nutrition or ketosis or VO2 maxes or FTP or RQ or LDL-P… (this list of folks is actually quite long!).

I remember the first time I ever watched a TED talk in the summer of 2007.  My first thought was, “Hey this is great.  How have I never heard of these, especially since this conference has been going on since 1984?”  Well, back in the 80’s and 90’s, and really up until about 2005 or 2006, I don’t think the talks were posted online, so perhaps I can be forgiven.

If you’re so inclined, I’d invite you to watch these talks over the next few weeks. (Or, if you’re OCD like me, you may just watch them all in one sitting.)  I hope they speak to you in the way they have spoken to me.  And I hope you’ll share your favorites back with me.  I’m always up for a great TED talk.

Ok, so on to my list. First of all, this was very difficult to narrow down.  If there is a nine-way tie for 2nd place, below, there is a 20-way tie for 3rd place (not shown).  Also, picking a favorite talk is like picking a favorite food or drink. It sort of depends on what you’re craving.  Each of these talks means something different to me.  Depending on my “need” at the moment, I guess my appetite for each one varies over time.

My favorite TED talk

If you read the post I wrote after the TEDMED conference this year, you’ll recall that I specifically called out my all-time favorite TED talk, that of Ric Elias.  Any time and every time I feel like I’m losing sight of things, I fire up Ric’s talk (or just call Ric for a pep-talk – he’s that gracious with his time).  Ric has become a friend and real mentor, especially as I navigate my way through fatherhood.

Ric Elias: 3 things I learned while my plane crashed

Nine-way tie for my second favorite TED talk (in no particular order)

I’m not sure how I stumbled onto this talk. I actually saw it shortly after it was posted, and it has now been seen by millions.  Like others, I became completely transfixed by David’s story.  We share a few traits, such as self-experimentation and “extreme” activity.  But, I think it goes far beyond that.  In fact, I know it does.  What moves me when watching this talk is the passion and vulnerability he showed.  I’ve never met David, but hope to do so one day.

David Blaine: How I held my breath for 17 min


Imagine a world with 1,000 Dean Kamen’s in it? When you’re done watching this, you’ll get what I mean.  As an engineer I can relate to the restless desire to fix things, but Dean’s humanity and compassion for the men and women he wants to heal is actually palpable in this talk.  Dean is on the Board of the Salk Institute, located here in San Diego, so I secretly hope to “run into” him one day when he’s here. It may never happen, but I’ll keep dreaming.

Dean Kamen: The emotion behind invention


About a year ago someone sent me this talk and said, “Peter, watch this…I bet it completely explains how you feel.”  I couldn’t believe it.  Susan Cain so eloquently explains what it feels like to be an introvert in a world that, at times, feels like it’s designed for extroverts.  Susan does such a great job explaining the distinction between introversion and shyness (anyone who knows me knows I’m far from shy, but still very introverted…this is a seemingly awkward combination for people to engage with).  Watching this talk (and reading the book she wrote on the same topic) have validated many of the insecurities I have about my introversion.

Susan Cain: The power of introverts


Perhaps I would not find this talk so amazing if not for the fact that my job is running a non-profit.  I must admit, I had always held to the typical beliefs of “overhead is bad!” in the non-profit world.  Dan makes a very compelling case for why this anachronistic view may be impeding progress in the non-profit space.   Dan is also on the list of folks I hope to meet one day.

Dan Pallotta: The way we think about charity is dead wrong


A couple of weeks before I was to give my talk at TEDMED this year, my sister emailed me this talk with the question, “Hey Pete, have you ever heard of TED? You should definitely check this out.  You’ll love this talk,” to which I responded, “Yea, I *think* I’ve heard of TED…oh, yea, I have. Thanks for sending.” (I didn’t have the heart to be that much of a wise guy and say I was obsessed with TED and was giving a talk a few weeks later.)  But coming from my sister, I knew I would like it. I simply couldn’t take my eyes off the screen as Shane mixed poetry and rage in emotional appeal. I’d give anything to meet Shane one day, and I hope every kid in high school watches this.

Shane Koyczan: “To This Day” … for the bullied and beautiful


I came across this talk pretty recently, shortly after it was posted in April of this year. Some have said that a truly great TED talk engages some part of your intellect and some part of your emotion, and ideally a bit of both.  The talk definitely engages my intellect.  The style and rhythm of Lawrence’s presentation is just amazing, and it really brings to light what I think most of us realize is a broken system in this country. He is simply a remarkable orator.

Lawrence Lessig: We the People, and the Republic we must reclaim


I saw this talk for the first time in mid-2006, I think. I had certainly heard of Tony Robbins, even back in the late-1980’s, though I had never actually heard him speak.  I’m not sure why, because presentations by ‘professionals’ don’t typically appeal to me, but I find this talk really insightful.  The story at the end is particularly moving.

Tony Robbins: Why we do what we do


I don’t know how I came across Joshua’s talk.  I think I was just scrolling through recently released talks earlier this year.  From the first moment, though, I was hooked.  Can you imagine what he felt as he went along this journey?

Joshua Prager: In search of the man who broke my neck


Steve Levitt is a close friend, and so perhaps I’m biased in my appreciation for his work, which goes well beyond this talk or his other (equally provocative, but funnier) talk on the economics of being a crack cocaine dealer.  Perhaps because I find myself among a group of people challenging conventional wisdom, I find it so enjoyable to spend time and share ideas with a guy like Steve. He sure makes a lot of enemies daring to suggest the evidence supporting the use of car seats is not as cut and dry as the “establishment” would have us believe.  Sound familiar?

Steven Levitt on child carseats


The night I gave my talk at TEDMED I remember getting back to my hotel after a reception. I wasn’t very happy with how my talk went and was a bit disappointed in my inability to control my emotion, which I felt may have got in the way of the message I wanted to deliver. One of the folks on the editorial staff of TEDMED called me to say ‘hi,’ and when I shared my disappointment with her, she suggested I watch this talk.  I was amazed that I had missed it previously.

Brené Brown: The power of vulnerability


Bonus talk

(Since I saw this talk live, at 2013 TEDMED, unlike the other 10 which I only saw on video, I think it gets its own category.)

What is so categorically brilliant about Andrew’s talk is that is starts in a familiar place.  You think you know where he’s going and what the talk is going to be about, but he takes you on a journey that will move you to tears, especially if you’re a parent.  I recall telling my wife upon my return to San Diego, “Wait till you see this talk when it comes out…best talk of the 2013 conference.”  She said, “Oh Peter, I’m sure it’s good, but your talk will always be my favorite of 2013.”  Then I made her watch it a month later.  She stood corrected!  She said, “Ok, I see what you mean.  This was simply breathtaking.  And better than yours by a mile.”

Andrew Solomon: Love, no matter what

I think there is another reason I find Andrew’s talk and, to some extent, each of these talks insightful and resonant. The experience of standing up there and giving one of these talks is not ‘normal’ for most of us, especially if talking about something personal as Andrew did.  It’s really the height of vulnerability, and I could not have appreciated this without going through it.  I give talks all the time and never get nervous. Once, as a surgical resident I won an award and had to present my research to an auditorium of experts numbering over 1,000. It didn’t really faze me.  It was a technical talk about CD25+CD4+ T-cells and tumor regression.  What’s not to be comfortable about?  But a talk like this was very different and, for me at least, much more difficult.

I think the world is a better place when folks can get up and share a story that may be out of their comfort zone…to share vulnerability, but doing this comes at a cost.  As you know, we live in a world where anybody can hide behind their anonymous name and cartoon avatar and spew as much venom as they want at you. You bear your soul. They ambush you. And truth be told, it actually hurts.

A few weeks after my talk went up on the TED site, I found myself getting frustrated at some of the really negative comments – not just people disagreeing with my hypothesis – but outright personal attacks. I’m all for debate, but it’s clear many folks can’t do it respectfully on the internet where all social norms vanish. Ironically, it was clear most of these comments were written by folks who had actually missed the entire point of my talk entirely.

When I read some of the comments under Andrew’s talk, it really hit home that I was far from alone in experiencing this.  I was blown away at how many completely moronic, even homophobic, comments were posted in response to his talk.  It was, again, so apparent that they had missed the entire point of his message.  So, if a few hundred people can bastardize the message of people I respect and look up to, surely I can’t be too upset when they do the same to me.

Parting shot

I’ve read a number of criticisms of TED over the past few years. But I think most of these criticisms miss the point of TED. I recall what Jay Walker said to me last year, “Peter, TED talks are not about showing the audience how smart you are.  They’re about trying to give people a gift…something they will remember, even if they don’t necessarily agree.  You want to challenge how the audience thinks, and share a different point of view.”  I agree with that, and I think there’s even a bit more.  Life is hard enough sometimes.  Once in a while it feels nice to forget about whatever it is we worry about and be inspired by the stories of others.

I hope you find some inspiration in these talks.

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

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  • paul

    Peter, Have you seen the Swedish physician, pubic health guy and stats guru. He does done more than one, including the Washing Machine one and another energy and global development and climate change. Both are worth seeing.
    Cheers, Paul

  • Per Wikholm

    OT, but yesterday was really an historical day here in Sweden. For the first time a government autority on health, the Swedish Council on Health Technology Assessment declared that:

    1. Low carb diets are in the short run (6 months) the most effective dietary treatment of obesity (and they assume that the reason for why about different diets tends to give similar results in longer running studies is because of lower adherence to diets meaning that a low carb diet might be more successful if adhered to)

    2. There is no scientific evidence for low carb (high fat) diets causing harm (i e cardiovascular disease), on the countrary, they are associated with favourable changes in bloodsugar, HDL and triglycerides, the commity concludes.

    read more about this great news in English at:

    The reason I bring this up is NuSI. Your first trial will be a reletively short in ward trial… but I guess as you move on you’ll have to do longer running studies on free living people. I suggested to You before that Sweden might be a good alternative for such studies since a low carb, high fat diet is more socially accepted here. Opinions polls shows that about 5 % of Swedes are strictly sticking to the LCHF diet and another 20 % are partially sticking to it. Yesterdays news is another game changer here. It will be a lot easier from now on to get approval from an ethical commity to conduct studies with diets very low in carbs and very high in fats (including saturated fats).

    • This is my personal blog. I try not to discuss NuSI here, but thanks for sharing.

  • Hannah

    My favorite TED talk:

    Ken Robinson has a lot of really meaningful things to say about educational paradigms.

  • Martin

    This has a lot to do with nutrition. If this idea was carried out, it would solve basically every problem the human race has:

    • Thank you!

    • paul

      I second the Allan Savory talk, if his work pans out it is a big deal (and probably increase the availability of grass-fed meat, speaking self-centeredly). Savory gets some criticism because there isn’t research, afaik, backing up his claims, though this apparently this could be due that research to aggregates the data for his land management systems and others (authors of a recent USDA study admitted as much). It will be interesting to see better constructed research.

  • Pierre Legrand

    Remarkable…sent the number one talk to my friends and staff. It is good to keep your perspective in life…try not to wait until something forces you to remember what is important like I did.

    Hey Peter off topic but what do you think of this article?

    Dangers of Zero-Carb Diets, II: Mucus Deficiency and Gastrointestinal Cancers

    I learned over on Peter’s blog that Optimal Dieters have been dying of gastrointestinal cancers at a disturbing rate. Recently Adam Jany, president of the OSBO (the Polish Optimal Dieters’ association), died of stomach cancer at 64 after 17 years on the Optimal Diet. Earlier Karol Braniek, another leader of the OSBO, died at 68 from duodenal cancer.

    A Polish former Optimal Dieter who has now switched to something closer to the Perfect Health Diet noted that gastrointestinal cancers seem to be common among Optimal Dieters:

    The impression we get is that there’s rather high occurrence of gut cancer, including stomach, duodenum, colon … [source]

    I want to talk about why I think that is, since the danger that the Optimal Dieters are discovering was one of the key factors leading us to formulate and publish the Perfect Health Diet.

    • The evidence for both assertions is not compelling to me.

  • N n

    I love TED talks! I have the podcasts download regularly, and listen while I exercise.

    • N n

      That’s Nan

  • Jim

    One of my favorites is “Trial, error, and the God complex.” Talks about the experimental approach to complex systems as opposed to the “I am alpha ape and I know the answer, just follow me” approach. Great talk for everyone.

    Jim MD PhD

  • Elizabeth

    Several of these are on my top 10 list as well. Will definitely be listening to the ones I’m not familiar with — most likely in one sitting 🙂

    • Ha ha… hope your friends/family don’t hold it against me.

  • Craig

    One if my favorites. Makes you think about where we are headed with technology.

  • Joe B

    Peter, I’m a veteran (30yrs +) triathlete that is considering adopting a ketogenic diet … in particular after hearing about your work with Ben Greenfield. I’ve tried any number of different nutritional strategies over the years and have been “primal” for the last 7 or 8 with more success than failure. After reading your blog, it seems to me that claims of people being “fat adapted” or “fat burners” without being in NK would be just FALSE. My favorite is the female triathlete who has written for Loren Cordain who eats 100% PALEO, but ingests as many as six or eight gels in a day during iron man training and racing. I believe I understand that NK allows you to burn “dual fuel” i.e.: fat and glycogen. But without the ability to burn fat in the first place, aren’t you just a sugar burner?

    • Fat adaptation is a subjective term, but it’s a “continuous variable,” not a “discrete” one. One can increase fat oxidation (over glycogen) at a given work output without being ketotic. But ketosis is the most “extreme” form of this adaptation.

  • Kory

    I’m sure you could have a very interesting conversation with David Blaine – if you ever do, please share! I’m not sure if he’d be open to discussing the details of his methods but it seems like he’s aware of the importance of diet and the downstream effects on metabolism. I’m curious what he’d be willing to disclose. He mentioned that he fasted for many of his events and that he did a 7 day fast going into his first failed attempt. He explained that it was to slow his metabolism, but wonder if he was aware of the influences fasting had to his level of fat adaptation and the influence that would have over his RQ. Interesting stuff.

  • Great list Peter! Thanks! Just for the record your TED talk gave me a gift and I think you for it! I remember it almost word for word and your ‘inability to control [your] emotion’ definitely didn’t get in the way of your message – if anything it make it even more powerful!

  • Hey Peter – Thanks for sharing this with the world! I recently read Brene’s book and watched the talk (on a recommendation from the same person) and have felt the power of her message in my life since.

    And…I know you can’t add your own talk to a fav list, but I can:

    • Courtney, thank you so much. I have not read Brene’s book, but I think I’ll add it to the list.

  • Maryann

    Hi Peter, I believe that if you and any ther people enjoyed Mr. Lessig’s talk they would greatly enjoy the book “The Liberty Ammendments, Restoring the American Republic” by Mark Levin. He also agrees that we have wandered seriously from the Founders’ intentions and offers solutions… that are not Republican versus Democrat…but meant for all Americans. I hope some of your open-minded readers who were engaged by this talk will read the book. One of Mr. Lessig’s points about how money corrupts the process could be because we have career politicians now; as Mr. Levin points out, we were designed to have citizens step forward to serve a brief term, and then return to their homes and businesses. Even the people who wrote Obamacare are now high-paid consultants hired to explain to companies what the law is and how to comply. I didn’t know that the Ted Talks were based around liberal ideas and assumed a liberal audience. He was blatant about that (and at times a bit condescending). I was suprised that he was so exclusionary…

  • Hey Peter,

    Great site! Nobody yet has put up Amy Cuddy’s talk. We all know that our mind affects our body posture, but can the reverse be true? Take a peek:
    (~20 mins)

  • Steph

    Jonathan Haidt’s TED Talk, “Religion, evolution, and the ecstasy of self-transcendence”, is a personal favorite. I particularly liked the idea that we humans evolved to be the uniquely cooperative species that we are.

    This might sound silly, but your TEDMED talk touched me so much that it made me cry. What followed in the weeks immediately after was an obsessive amount of research into nutritional ketosis and ketogenic diets. My mother is a Type I diabetic. My obese father, and his mother are Type II. With my family history, I don’t think it’s a matter of IF I develop insulin resistance, or diabetes; it’s a matter of when. I’ve been in NK for the past month, and for the first time in my adult life I’m winning my battle with obesity. I plan to stay on this path, and hopefully avoid the illnesses that afflict my loved ones.

    Your talk gave me hope, and the tools to live a healthier, happier life. Thank you so much for doing what you do, and please know that your ideas have changed at least one life for the better.

    • Steph, I’m happy that you were able to take something away from my talk. I look forward to watching Jonathan’s talk. Great topic!

  • Amber

    Thanks for sharing! You might enjoy the talk by a fellow Queen’s University alumn on the gift that technology gave him — the ability to read:

    I’m sorry a handful of people missed the message from your talk. I thought your talk was profound — as did the 10+ people I shared it with. Please keep sharing your thoughts so we can help more people understand the message.

    • Thank you, Amber. I did not know of Ron’s talk and was not aware of his story. Thank you for sending it over.

  • Pam B.


    I’ve been wanting to let you know how important your TED talk was for me, and since you brought up the subject today, this is the perfect opportunity. I watched your talk a couple of months ago and have been exploring your website since then.

    I am a 52-year-old woman who was diagnosed with diabetes about eight years ago, and, though my condition is not yet as advanced as hers, I can easily imagine myself as the diabetic woman you encountered at the hospital. Hearing your story about your own journey with weight gain and questioning the conventional wisdom about nutrition, and your own heartfelt regret about how you judged her, allowed me to stop judging myself for failing to reverse my diabetes over the past several years, in spite of educating myself about it and “knowing what I needed to do.” What you shared inspired me to let go of a debilitating sense of failure and adopt a new mindset about my body’s inability to process sugar.

    Simultaneously, yet independently, I discovered Mark Sisson’s “Primal Blueprint” and embarked on the “21-Day Challenge.” After only two weeks, I’ve experienced such a dramatic improvement that I do believe there is no going back for me. I’ve lost about 12 pounds and my morning/fasting blood glucose has dropped about 100 points. I feel great and have very little fluctuation in my energy level throughout the day. I’ve no doubt I will improve to the point of being able to give up my nightly dose of insulin, I hope in the near future.

    So, THANK YOU, for your courage and your message and your continuing research in spite of the unfounded criticisms. It has made a big difference in my life. (By the way, on the subject of nasty anonymity on the Internet, Jaron Lanier makes some great points in his book You are Not a Gadget.)

    • Thank you so much, Pam, for sharing this me. I’ve also forwarded your comment to Mark. I know it will make his day.

  • Pam

    The minute I saw the title of this post, I thought, “I wonder if Brene Brown will be on this list” … and there she was! Now, I’m off to watch the rest of them.

    • Excellent. Brene has two, but this is the one I like the most.

  • David

    The best by far that I’ve seen.

    “Jill Bolte Taylor got a research opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: She had a massive stroke, and watched as her brain functions — motion, speech, self-awareness — shut down one by one. An astonishing story.”

    • Wow, David. Had not seen this one. Thank you.

  • Schalk

    I have watched most of your Top 10, I use to travel by train to work and looked forward to catch up on the daily TED talk video. It has been a source of inspiration as well as providing clarity during chaotic times. Sometimes it is entertaining and sometime thought provoking. Videos about how scientist clone and grow organs, give sight and sound back to people or have military veterans be able to feed themselves with bionic limbs always fascinates me.

    My favourite TEDtalks video is without a doubt the commencement speech by David Foster Wallace called This is water. Technically not a TED video, and has been removed from but is still available online if you search and I first learned about it through the TED video podcast subscription. The TED version of the video was just an excerpt from the whole speech and was cleverly animated. But the message and impact of the speech itself changed my life.

    Reading up on what happened to David makes it even more powerful.

    • Wow. This is brilliant. I don’t know how I missed this. About half way through, when he references the person who commits suicide, it’s hard not to be sad at the irony.

    • Hemming

      Is that really irony? I see it more as he actually ‘proves’ what he says. He was depressed for many years and following his logic he was already dead during those years so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he eventually committed suicide.

      Its a great talk in any case and not the last time I’ve listened to it.

      • I’ve already listened to it twice in 2 days…

  • Cari

    I thought the emotion you showed in your TED talk was part of what made it so powerful. My fiance and I watched it together and when it was over we turned to each other and each said, “Wow.”

    I’m so glad I found your blog via that talk. I went to my PCP a few months ago to talk about preventing diabetes, since my mom was recently diagnosed and she is physically active and not overweight. I thought I was being a good proactive patient, but my PCP just told me to stay skinny, missing the point of my question entirely. The kind of information I’m finding here is exactly what I was looking for, and in a lot more detail than what my doctor could have told me in a 7 minute visit! Thank you so much. This is really empowering work that you’re doing.

    • Cari, glad to hear that you’re thinking proactively about this issue. Equally sad to hear that your PCP’s understanding of insulin resistance is as bad as mine was a few years ago. Much work remains to be done.

  • Marcia

    Peter – thanks so much for the posting; as always I look forward to whatever it is you have to offer (and I’ve been wondering a bit where you’d gone . . . not that I’d be able to keep up with all you do. Just sayin’.)

    Thanks again for a perfectly marvelous, laughter and tear-filled afternoon.


    p.s. [Want to point out what is, no doubt, a typo: “It didn’t really phase me.” should be “faze me” — in case you want to fix it.]

    • Thanks Marcia and great catch!

    • Yossi Mandel

      I’m sure the intention was “phasers”…

  • Shaun

    I too am obsessed with TED! Many of the favorites in the post and the comments are mine as well but here is one more to add to the mix. The talk is by Ben Goldacre about publication bias occurring in scientific and medical publications.

  • Joshua

    I love TED talks, but unfortunately I’ve seen a string of bad ones lately. I think the brand has gotten a little bit diluted with the TEDx talks, but 90% of the TED talks I’ve seen have been awesome.

    • I agree, Joshua, and actually think, when you look at all comers, only 10% of talks given under the umbrella of TED (i.e., TED, TEDMED, TED Global, TEDx) are worth watching. Fortunately, that’s still a pretty good number. Hope this list gets your recent streak reversed.

  • N. Lockard

    “disappointed in my inability to control my emotion, which I felt may have got in the way of the message I wanted to deliver.”

    NO — totally made the talk- finally after facts and figures and solid scientific questioning – there was humanity and passion – glad it ended how it did

  • Todd Williams

    Sorry this doesn’t have to do with TED, but I was wondering: What happens to excess fat calories ingested while in ketosis? In other words, is it possible to get fat by overeating fat while in ketosis?

    Thanks! Love your work.

  • Vic

    Unfortunately, TED just agreed with Monsanto to not host any more environmental speakers against GMOs. TED has caved to corporate influences. It’s a shame because TED used to be a great resource for inspiration and information but now it’s censored.

  • Indy M

    I have watched this a few times; it was a big factor in my starting the low Carb. way of eating, leading eventually to Ketotic diet.

    Cynthia Kenyon: Experiments that hint of longer lives

  • Lauren Romeo, MD

    Thank you for the list and the other commenter’s suggestions. I admit I didn’t believe that the emotional ending to your talk was in fact genuine, I apologize and admire your tenacity with your work and contributions in low carb/ ketotic diet and the sequellae of better health overall. I often recommend your site to my patients. The best to you.

    • Thank you, Lauren. That’s very kind of you to say.

  • Kelley

    Love these, Peter. Thanks for posting.

    To further the discussion, I will say that I’m not entirely persuaded by Dan Pallotta’s views on charities. Caveat: this is the first I’ve been exposed to Pallotta’s ideas, and I’m not an all an expert on NPOs. But having done a bit more research on the organizations he ran, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that he’s entirely blaming outside forces for the failure of his NPOs, without taking much, if any, personal responsibility. (Maybe he takes a more nuanced position in his book.) It seems that participants abandoned his events after feeling they were mismanaged. That has to count for something. I do agree with him that NPO administrators should be compensated fairly, even generously, but to imply they should be compensated at the level of private-sector CEOs is extreme. As has been discussed many times elsewhere, corporate CEO compensation in the U.S. is often bloated. I know that’s not the only point he makes. I also think that overhead, for both NPOs and corporations, has to be taken into account. Having said all this, I’m very glad he’s challenging the paradigm.

    On another note, in case commenter Yossi Mandel is still following this thread, I’m pleased to say I’m pals (not close friends) with Brian Malow, science humorist whose (non-TED) talk Yossi recommended. He’ll be pleased to know he’s gained a good reputation!

    • Thanks for providing more insight.

    • Yossi Mandel

      Definitely still following, and definitely let him know. The Schrodinger’s cat joke is my litmus test for fellow laypeople who might have an in science similar to mine.

  • Joe

    Thank you Peter and all for sharing the wonderful talks. Here’s one I find amusing and insightful.

  • Jerry F


    Just watched your Ted Talk. I have to say i agree with you 100%. I’m 63 and have been Type 2 for 15 years and have often faced the issues you spoke about. If I can be of any assistance in your research feel free to ask.
    Thanks for what you are doing.

    • Thank you, Jerry. Hopefully there will be some new info to give you other options.

  • Justin Wisor

    While I’m not 100% anti-GMO, I don’t like this letter written by TED last year, I just saw today. Makes me wonder how rigorously science is being pursued these days…According to TED, it seems they may not want good science, but science with corporate interests. Isn’t any diet protocol an ‘alternative medicine’ ? Sigh

  • LUCA

    hi all. i v slipped out of ketosis after my first week of it a couple of days ago. now i m back in. i woke up with a 3.1 of ketones this mornin but my blood sugar was 63! tested twice. i ate bout 200 grams of lentils for about 10 grams of carbs and immediately felt better. would 10 grams in one meal kick me out of ketosis? and most of all is a 63 fasting BS dangerous? thaanks….

    • LUCA

      Also.. lab just emailed me the latest results.

      Previous test two months earlier under a lowish carb – moderate fats second test last week after one month of very low carb and high fat

      INSULIN: from 5.7 down to 4.2
      Fasting BG: from 87 down to 79 (fasting BG of 98 under my old mediterranean diet)

      CHOL: from 130 up to 179
      HDL: from 45 up to 70 ! (HDL of 35 under my old mediterranean diet)
      LDL: from 75 up to 86
      TRIGL.: from 40 up to 55 (TRIGL. of 150 at age of 29 under my old mediterranean diet)

      Also i have always had borderline low WHITE BLOOD CELLS averaging a 4.2 for the first time ever i have now a value of 6.8. Do you think that might be related to the diet?

      Peter i know u r very busy but whenever possible i d like to know what do you think about my question on the effect of Low carb and ketosis on lipomas and involuntary facial twiching (from my post of the 22nd of september under your “Ketones and Carbohydrates: Can they co-exist?”)

      have a good one. Luca

  • David

    I’m a thin 60 y old with high metabolism, always thin, but still wanting good health and longevity. I was reading yet another experiment on low methionine – As reported before, rodents on a low methionine, ad lib diet have lower blood insulin, glucose, T3 hormone and IGF-1. VLC diets are alleged to offer the same result, especially to “normal” people who otherwise gain weight.

    We all know that rodents aren’t primates. But could lower methionine offer a way forward for people of thin physique? I’ve been on 100-120 g/day for 8 years. VLC diets of <100 g/day don't agree with me but I don't gain or lose weight on any carb. intake. Even on 100-120 g/day I've lost some muscle mass since 2005, muscle mass which I can ill afford to lose.

    I can't help NuSi with obesity but I'd gladly take part in research if you wish to investigate the minority who stay forever thin. Surely we and not the obese people are the oddity? It's rather hard to understand the evolutionary advantages of being thin and it's easier to see the advantages of having a thrifty metabolism, assuming that food is scarce.

    • David, the CR research is heavily confounded, in my opinion, by an inability to distinguish between *which* restriction is actually providing the benefit. Is it just the # of calories, irrespective of what they are? One of the biggest studies ever done on primates (Nature, last year) showed no difference in CR, BUT the CR group was loaded with sugar. This reinforces my belief that it’s not the CR per se, but the specific restriction of sugars and refined carbs that is having the effect, likely through IGF-1 signalling and improved glucose homeostasis.

  • Chris

    Doc, even though you posted something different than the usual, people still comment as the usual 🙂 Anyway, we just love the knowledge you share with us in this world where you are bombarded only with messages promoting the bad carbs as being good stuff.

    I watched several of the videos. Thank you!

    • Yea, I guess that was inevitable. I’m glad some people, like you, got it, though.

  • Jason

    Hey Peter,

    Loved your TED Talk and just discovered this blog. I’ve been searching for some guidance on how to check my heart disease risk. I have a strong family history on my dad’s side of heart disease–two uncles, my dad, and my grandmother all had open heart surgery. I’m 41 and my cousin on my dad’s side who’s my age just had a 99% block in his main artery before getting a stint. I am not on a low carb diet, but it makes sense to me and I’m thinking of starting. I just went to a cardiologist who recommended we start with a fasting blood test to check my various cholesterol levels. Would you recommend I start a low carb diet before the blood test, and are there other things aside from cholesterol/lipid profiles I should ask my doctor to test for to gauge my heart disease risk? And blood test or not, how would you recommend someone in my position asses their heart disease risk?

    Thanks For Your Help,


    • Jason, the series I wrote on cholesterol (“The Straight Dope…”) will be what you want to familiarize yourself with. It can be dense at times, but it will answer all of your questions.

    • Colleen

      Jason, I would also recommend a couple of youtube talks by Dr. Tom Dayspring (who I believe was in part a source of information for Dr. Attia). In particular, he did a couple of talks at the end of last year with a gym owner that really lay everything out in a cogent manner much of what you need to know to understand cholesterol issues — and would be a nice complement to Peter’s cholesterol series.

  • Sadie

    I really, really enjoyed your talk on Ted and so happy to have found your blog. I’m a 41 year old married, mother of two that was diagnosed with insulin resistance about two years ago. I’ve always been an out-of-the-box thinker and did a little research on my own regarding how I could fix this issue on my own and what I was doing wrong in my everyday life. I stumbled on Dr. Rob Thompsons book “the low starch diabetes solution”. Everything made so much more sense and he too had first hand experience and used himself as a guinea pig (for lack of a better term) to see why the advice he was giving his own patients for years wasn’t actually doing anything to change the problem of insulin resistance for the better.

    After following his program of reducing all starches and most sugars and power walking about 20 mins a day I was able to lose 20 lbs and physically I felt much better. When I brought this idea about inflammation and starch that I had learned and had results with, she balked at the idea and acted almost offended that I would even question her knowledge. It’s so frustrating to be on the patient side of the table when we are trying to be open minded and doing our best to find causes of what ails us, so that we don’t have to take band-aid prescriptions for everything.

    I just want to say that I’m so glad there are others, like you, in the medical field that are willing to question conventional medical school teachings. The world needs more people like yourself with open minds to challenge old school ideals that just aren’t working and for some diseases, they are reaching epidemic proportions. Thank you.

    • Sadie

      I’m sorry, I meant to say …” When I brought this idea about inflammation and starch that I had learned and had results with, to my doctor, she balked at the idea and acted somewhat offended that I would even question her med school knowledge.” She believed that inflammation was only something that happened on the outside of the body as a result of injury. I couldn’t believe it. Here was a young doctor, in her very early 30s, with such closed minded thinking. Needless to say, I will be looking for a new doctor.

      • Well, I wish I could say I was surprised, or that this must be a very rare event, but unfortunately, I think a lot of doctors are stuck in this mindset. The good news is, little by little, the tide is shifting and more doctors are becoming open to the idea that food can impact systemic inflammation.

    • Sadie, great to hear you’ve taken this into your own hands and figured out what is working and not working for you.

  • Jack

    I wonder if you have had a chance to see this TED talk: The Mathematics of Weight Loss.

  • Terry Walker

    Not sure if its been posted yet (scrolled right to the bottom)

    A surprisingly excellent TED talk!

    • Terry Walker

      I should point out … YOUR talk on TEDMED is on my list of fave’s as well … I refer back to it constantly!

    • Look forward to checking it out.

  • Lukas

    Your statements in your talk, underlinded by your Top 10 choice underlines your lack of credibility. Rupert Sheldrake and Graham Hancock have challenged the relative close mindedness of TED, TED has failed to make a step forward and you don’t mention them. So, in your talk you bring up the question of the TRUE CAUSE. You may still have to go a way, way beyond nutrition and exercise in order to find the true cause of insuline resistance, the true cause of bad eating habits, the true cause of SELF-DESTRUCTION. And once you have gone BEYOND you will see, everything will be transformed. You will even not feel sorry for your past mitakes anymore, you will just be FREE.
    PS: I like to listen to TED talks including yours. Just keep in mind: being chosen by TED for a talk may mean: you are chosen to enforce the basic illness of our society. Just a hypothesis. If you are interested I can go into details about the why though.

  • Roman

    Hi Peter.
    I wasn’t sure where to ask you this. I wanted to know whether it is possible to build muscle in the absence of insulin. My main goal (besides improving my HDL/TG/insulin resistance) is to gain back the muscle I lost after 5 years of not working out. I know of a study that showed that protein and carb consumption PWO did not increase protein synthesis than just protein alone but I also read that insulin stimulates protein synthesis by directing ribosomes to make more protein and that insulin transports amino acids into muscle cells.

    I wonder if a cyclic ketogenic or a slightly higher carb non-ketotic diet will help build more muscle than a strict ketogenic diet that I am on now after I am done losing all the fat I have to lose.

    BTW I lost twice as much weight on a ketogenic diet working out only once a week than I did on a 120 g Carb diet working out 5 times a week, and I felt euphoria on the third day of the keto diet (which I now miss).

    • I’m not sure that’s necessary, as protein alone stimulates sufficient insulin for anabolic purposes.

  • Jeff Johnson


    Fat Doctor Series 3 – Ep7 – Neil Bakewell

    These series of BBC gastric bypass video’s on youtube are quite interesting – and since many people may not ever find them – ——————————————–

  • Laro

    My favorite by far is this one:

    The faults in medicine (or should I say taboo’s?) are extremely interesting… and dr. Goldman explains the taboo on mistakes so incredibly well. The baseball analogy is amazing!

    • This is a phenomenal talk. Might have made my top 10. Everyone should watch this.

  • Dr. Attia, perhaps you should look at this TEDx talk by Dr. Terry Wahls, if you haven’t already. She cured herself of an incurable disease, MS.

  • Adriana Ferrareto

    Olá, acabei de assistir sua palestra no TED sobre resistência a insulina, e fui as lágrimas. Há muito tempo digo que esse julgamento é cruel e pode destruir uma pessoa. Fico muito feliz de ver sua sensibilidade para o tema e disposição de colocar-se para o mundo, como alguém aberto a novas respostas, a questionar as “verdades”. No meu Top list dos 10 melhores TED, vc está incluído, acredite, comigo você já cumpriu sua missão.

    Um forte abraço em você e muita luz em sua jornada.

    Adriana Ferrareto

  • Indy M
    • Yes, great talk and book, separately. The work of Carol Dweck (referenced by Duckworth) is impressive.

    Thanks Peter for what you are doing. I wonder if you consider this study reliable. With admiration from an Italian Mckinsey alumni.

    • Manuele, yes, the work of Fine et al. is credible.

  • Rick Lockridge

    Hi Peter–we love your blog! I wanted to weigh in about Dean Kamen. I’ve had the great good fortune to get to cover Dean as a journalist and then work with him as a videographer/producer for the past 8 years at the annual FIRST Robotics championships (now held in St. Louis). He is on my (very) short list of People I Wish I Could Be Instead. He invited us into his home when I was a correspondent for a now-defunct TV network called TechTV for a day of interviews and let us wander unsupervised into every corner of his home, including his unbelievable workshop and helicopter hangar, and he even let us into his closet to film the all-denim wardrobe he wears every day–literally 20 or so identical outfits! : ) I have seen Dean up close in many situations at FIRST, including dealing with the media scrum accompanying his celebrity pal (which would drive any sane person crazy) and I have never seen him lose his cool or treat those of us who are not as smart as he (which is basically everybody) with the contempt we probably deserve. Dean has done more for humanity than any 10,000 people picked out of a phone book; it’s a humbling experience to be around him… if Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book about philanthropic outliers, Dean would surely be in it. I wish we could come up with a way to get you associated with FIRST; it’s a great org and a thrill for me every year to be in a stadium with the top .0001% of teenagers from around the world. (Surely in that high-IQ cadre, I am the outlier : ) We found you because of our interest in Gary Taubes’s work, and speaking of Taubes, I have said about him that we will come to regard Why We Get Fat as the most important work of medical journalism ever published. It’s taking a bit longer than I’d expected for a very fat nation to realize that he has opened the door to a solution (and we are really glad you’re working with Gary) but I stand by my opinion: in time, Gary’s journalism will be acknowledged as the history-altering work it is. And you are clearly helping make that change possible in your own very substantive way–congratulations and good luck!

    • Rick, wow! I can’t believe you’ve had that kind of experience with Dean. Can’t imagine how special that must have been. Thank you for sharing. (I’ve also passed your kind words along to Gary.)

  • Sandy Phillips

    Dear Dr. Attia,
    I found your website a couple days ago, in my search for a way to finally get to the bottom of the biggest problem of my life – my addiction (or whatever it is!) to sugar and my bottomless pit of hunger. I am turning 50 next month, and I have quickly been headed toward being the fat, sick woman in your TEDMED story. Over the past 30 years, I have yo-yo’d on more than 130 pounds – in my effort to be healthy and avoid diabetes! My older sister died at 55 of diabetic complications, a double-amputee, nearly-blind and 400+ pounds, and I have been on the verge of giving up, thinking I was simply doomed to repeat her desperate failure in my own life.
    You have given me hope in the information you share in your blog and in your TEDMED talk! I am ready to ditch the nutrition information I have received my entire life and start eating the foods that will improve my health and increase my energy. Thank you so much!
    And, by the way, you were perfectly vulnerable and genuine in your TEDMED talk, so ignore those haters. You rocked it! 🙂
    Sandy, Vancouver WA

    • Sandy, very sorry to hear about the suffering your sister endured, but conversely happy to hear that you are now encouraged that your fate is not set. While the genetic hand has been dealt, one way or the other, what you can do will have a greater impact. If you have not done so, I highly recommend the book of Dr. Richard Bernstein.

  • Jim Lewis

    Peter, thank you for your TED talk and for sharing your favorites. Most importantly, thank you for expressing your compassion and wish for forgiveness from your diabetic patient. My wife of 35 years died of diabetic-induced kidney failure, so I have lived with that terrible affliction first-hand.
    I have just watched several of the talks, and just finished the one by Andrew Solomon. Yes, they move me intellectually and emotionally. Even tears of joy in some cases, sadness in others. There will be no peace in the world until each of us has peace in our hearts. What gifts these people have given us by sharing with us their own journeys and learnings! As Stephen Covey said, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
    Warm regards,

  • Bobbi

    I very much enjoyed your talk and I saw it at a time when I was realizing that if I don’t do something and do it soon, I’m going to start having serious health problems associated with my weight. Thank you for your favorite list, they were all wonderful! I very much enjoyed everyone’s recommendations in the comments as well. Through TEDTalks I found Brene Brown and Jonathan Haidt, whose work I found quite enlightening. I think the 10% estimate when it comes to good TEDTalks is much lower than the number I would offer, but to each their own.

    Your talk is definitely on my top list and I think that Brene’s work about shame may offer some insight as to why your emotional state at the end of your talk bothers you. 🙂 I fought it touching and humanizing and authentic, which are never bad things. I look forward to reading your blog and educating myself.

    • Thanks, Bobbi. I appreciate your sentiment.

  • janet the NP

    Dear Peter,

    You just gave me great and eternal hope for the future of medicine and optimal health. You eloquently explained in your TED talk about “what if we are wrong about obesity” that you erred when you thought the obese diabetic was responsible for her illness(and losing a toe) but the young pancreatic cancer newlywed was not responsible. YOUR TED TALK is one of the ten best!!!!! Please reach out and educate nurses/NPs/PAs/diabetic educators–BYPASS for now the Teflon MD s and Pharma and other stubborn groups. WE in the trenches. with the patients. at the bedside and in the exam rooms. WE can get the word out. I promise. SHOUT it from the mountaintops. We are ready to learn and spread the word.

    • Thank you, Janet. Keep spreading the word.

  • Rob

    I put ‘fasting TED talk’ in Google 2 hours ago, and your blog was in 8th place.

    After reading your thoughts (quickly), I have gotten a lot of value from your TED recommendations (and watched more than several). I seem to remember you questioning how your own TED talk went over (written relatively soon after you gave it). Curiously, I watched it. I thought it was great. And, to me, the part you questioned (in your blog) regarding your emotional effect, made your presentation WAY more powerful than it would have been without it. (My eyes got wet too.)

    Thanks for your contributions.

  • Tracy

    Thank you so much for your TedMed talk on diabetes. I can’t tell you how much it meant to me. I am not a Type 2 diabetic – I have had Type 1 diabetes for almost all my life (30 years) – but I have often had poor treatment by doctors even as a Type 1. I have also been questioning the insulin resistance obesity link for some time although for most of my life I was not kind to Type 2 diabetics (who would want to get clumped in with that group and how horribly they are treated?!). In my two pregnancies, I got insulin resistance on top of my already Type 1 self. I noticed how I gained weight so easily even though I had even cut down on carbs and continued to exercise as I did prior to pregnancy. I began questioning why I was gaining so much weight (besides normal baby weight). Your talk made me see that others are questioning the same things. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated your honesty and information. Thank you so much and I hope to hear more about what you are doing in the near future. It would be great if you could speak at the World Diabetes Conference. I would love for more diabetes specialists to hear what you have to say. Many thanks!!

    • Thanks for your feedback, Tracy, and I hope you find helpful medical professionals.

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  • Laura Babbitt


    This TEDx talk isn’t about medicine, but is is about life, and it’s one of my favorites:

    When I shared your own talk with my mom, she became an instant fan. This post has become my favorite way to introduce your blog to friends: your passion and humanity ring clear, just like in your talk.

    Thanks for the inspiration.


    • Thank you, Laura. Will check this out when I have time.

  • Dougie Boxell

    Hi Peter,

    Just watched Andrew’s talk. If you ever meet him, tell him I said “thankyou”. Hit me very deep. “Meaningful” is an understatement.

    I think I better share my story (I don’t know if I’ve told you). If Ben Greenfield has mentioned anything about me to you (which I highly doubt, but if so, I’d be more than flattered), then you probably already know. If not:
    I’m aspiring to be an elite AFL footballer, despite having been the typical “fat” kid for most of my life. I stopped being that kid about 5 years ago, lost ~40kg of weight, and currently have a vo2max of 52 (elite, for my chosen sport). I am still very slow and nowhere near an acceptable level of fitness. As for my skill level, I’m playing a relatively high standard (under 19s, EFL in Victoria, one of the best local level leauges in the state), but I’d be lucky to be in the top 20 players in my team.
    So, I’m pretty much trying to achieve the impossible. At least, many others would/do view this as impossible. I don’t.
    This is the number one reason why I’m studying exercise and sports science at university.
    Everything I do in life is to make me a better footballer. Whilst I’m not trying to say footy is more important than love, family, friends or happiness, I’m trying to highlight my motivation for my dream.
    As things stand, I’m at 25% body fat (according to DEXA). Been trying a ketogenic diet for the past 6 months. Haven’t quantified things (I have no idea how to work my ketonix ketone breath analyser), and I reckon I’ve implemented it pretty badly.
    I’ve had a serious in-depth conversation with an ex-footballer, who’s also a motivational speaker, and I still remember his words “you will not play AFL………..this is not realistic……” etc etc. Suffice to say, nothing is going to deter me from attempting to achieve my goal. I’ve thought long and hard about this, amongst other things.
    In contrast, I’ve also had people give me the impression they believe in me more than anyone (Ben Greenfield and Dr. Micheal Smith are 2 people who come to mind, and my closest friend James Dickie as well).
    I really wanna highlight how difficult my goal will be to achieve, but how positive my attitude is towards it, and that I’m aware some folks think I’m setting myself up for failure. Those folks are irrelevant to my life.

    So, that’s my story. I think you can continue to have a great influence in it, Peter, and I hope it continues to be a positive one.

    Here’s some videos that I think are pretty cool. Not all TEDtalks, but all inspiring and/or intriguing

    the last one is by another person I happen to respect as much as you. I sometimes think it’s sad that so many people know Jim Carey for his comedy and not for the other sides of him.

    I too have a list of people I’d like to meet (before I die):
    – Ben Greenfield
    – Ben Goldacre
    – Jim Carey
    – Peter Attia
    – Kirsten Drysdale
    – Paul Harrison
    – James Hird
    – Matt Bellamy (and MUSE)

    I find myself adding to this list a lot.

    Sorry for the length of this one. I hope you can relate to tl;dr situations haha

    Thankyou so much for this list of talks, and I hate to make it seem like I’m pissing in your pocket (excuse my Australian 😉 ), but I rate your TEDtalk as one of the best. The emotion definitely enhanced the talk, for mine. Have heard different, but I liked it all the more. Thankyou.

  • Dougie Boxell

    I don’t remember seeing this one in the comments section, and definitely not my previous comment (i just saw it for the first time).

    Apollo Robbins – The Art of Misdirection

  • Peter Zimmer

    Peter- For what it’s worth, I didn’t think your emotion during your TED talk got in the way of its effect at all. I mean, obviously since you shared Brene Brown’s talk you’ve probably now come to that conclusion as well- but personally, it moves me A TON when I observe someone sense their own vocational gravity. I’ve been very grateful for the work you’ve produced and shared. Thanks.



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