Who I Am
My name is Peter Attia. While I have a background suggesting I should have known something about nutrition, it’s safe to say it wasn’t until early 2010 that I really began to understand how what I ate impacted my health and performance. You can read about my personal journey here. For the past two years I’ve been obsessively reading everything on the science of nutrition and seeing how I could apply it to myself. I am a relentless self-experimenter and my own experiences, coupled with the work many others, have certainly challenged everything I thought I knew about nutrition.
If you are interested in losing weight, reducing your risk of chronic disease (heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and many others), and improving your performance (physically and mentally), I think you’ll find my journey interesting and informative, if not outright provocative.
A solid understanding of experimental science, coupled with a nuanced understanding of individual variation and a willingness to self-experiment can lead to a dramatic improvement in your health and performance. This blog is one part of my attempt to bring these tools to you.
The problem I am trying to fight is dire. Here are some data to put the problem in context:
- 34% of Americans are obese and two thirds are overweight. This represents more than a 200% increase from 1970.
- Over 8% of Americans are diabetic, and if you include those undiagnosed, an additional 26% of Americans are pre-diabetic. This represents more than a 400% increase from 1970.
- Every 7 seconds someone in the world dies from a diabetic complication (this is not a typo).
- Diabetes is also the leading cause of stroke, blindness, kidney failure requiring transplantation, all amputations combined, and many other medical problems.
- According to McKinsey & Company, reducing the U.S. obesity rate to 15% (that of 1970) would save approximately $150 billion per year in Medicare spending alone, and close to $500 billion per year in overall U.S. healthcare spending.
- A recent study in Obesity estimates that by 2030, 50% of Americans will be obese and 79% will be overweight.
- The U.S. spends over $2.7 trillion per year on healthcare – nearly 19% of our GDP, and more than any other country. Even if no other aspect of our spending increases in the next 20 years, the cost of healthcare alone will bankrupt us as a country.
I believe – and I hope to convince you – that the cause of this epidemic is NOT that people don’t care about their health, are too lazy, or eat too much. The root of the problem lies in the fact that people are being given the wrong information by those they look to as authorities.
The bad news: This problem is not going away; in fact, it seems to be getting much worse.
The good news: This problem is entirely solvable.
Bio – Peter Attia
I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. I studied mechanical engineering and applied mathematics as an undergrad at Queen’s University. Shortly before starting my Ph.D. in aerospace engineering, I had a change of heart following a profound personal experience, and I decided I wanted to become a doctor. I taught calculus for a year while taking the prerequisites and enrolled a year later at Stanford Medical School. I entered med school thinking I would be a pediatric oncologist, but by the time I started my clinical rotations I realized surgery was my passion.
I did my residency in general surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland and while there spent two years as a post-doctoral fellow at NIH in the National Cancer Institute as a surgical oncology fellow under the very fortunate mentorship of Dr. Steve Rosenberg working on immune-based treatments for cancer. Much of the passion I bring to this topic is actually inspired by Dr. Rosenberg. I’ve never met (let alone had the privilege to work closely with) someone who better understood the difference between “good” and “bad” science. Dr. Rosenberg always forced me to ask the right questions. Without that, I learned, one could generate all the data in the world – it just wouldn’t have any value.
During the fifth year of my residency I became a bit frustrated with certain aspects of medicine and health care, in general. In particular, I grew tired of the notion that we (doctors) did little to keep patients healthy, and were basically the last line of defense against, well, death, once patients become ill. The concept of “preventative medicine” received some lip service, but didn’t really have any chops as far as I could tell. In addition to this frustration (and others), I really missed quantitative and analytical problem solving.
I left residency to join the consulting firm McKinsey & Company, which was certainly the most stimulating experience of my professional life. During my time at McKinsey I split my time between working on healthcare problems (ranging from problems for health insurance “payers” to those of large hospital systems “providers” to those of medical device companies) and financial system problems (specifically, credit risk modeling and Basel II compliance for large banks).
In 2012, along with science journalist Gary Taubes, I co-founded the Nutrition Science Initiative, or NuSI (pronounced “new-see”). NuSI is a California-based 501(c)(3) dedicated to reducing the individual, social, and economic costs associated with obesity-related diseases (diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease). For more info about NuSI, please visit our site.