Physicians Tro & Lenzkes Push Back Against Decades of Bad Dietary Advice, Changing Lives in the Process
Dr. Brian Lenzkes and Dr. Tro Kalayjian hit a major milestone Monday, with the release of the 100th episode of their popular Low Carb MD podcast. It seemed fitting that the Episode 100 featured an interview with low-carb legend Professor Tim Noakes. The Low Carb MD podcast has been downloaded more than 1.6 million times in less than a year and a half.
As we pass this important milestone, it seemed fitting to sit down with the two doctors and find out how this podcast got started, what were some of their most memorable episodes, and how the podcast has impacted their lives as well as the lives of others in the low carb community.
Shortly after physician Brian Lenzkes started using the ketogenic diet in February 2017 to improve his own health and lose weight, he started sharing what he had learned with patients. It wasn’t long before he started taking patients off medications, and helping them reverse the effects of metabolic disease and lose weight.
“I started to feel the need to share this information with a wider audience,” he said. “I was going to give a talk at the Foothills Church in San Diego in early 2018, and I decided to reach out to the 2 Keto Dudes podcast to see if I could get on their show to get the word out about what I was doing.”
Lenzkes was featured on Episode 99 of the 2 Keto Dudes podcast, and when the taping was finished, co-host Carl Franklin suggested that he consider doing a podcast of his own. “I’m not really a podcast type of guy,” he recalled thinking, “I didn’t know anything about podcasting—I had no idea of how to start one.”
But he started to realize what an effective tool podcasting could be for reaching people who might benefit from lifestyle medicine and the low-carb way of eating.
“I realized I didn’t want to do it on my own,” he said, “but how do I find a co-host, I wondered.”
“Most docs have my personality, but having two docs that are more reserved is not a very good formula for a podcast. I thought we needed someone who was a little different.”
Lenzkes saw Tro’s Twitter feed, and although he saw it was at times unvarnished, the knowledge and intelligence of the author was unmistakable. Scrolling through Tro’s Twitter feed he saw an empathetic doctor who once weighed 350 pounds, who was doing intense gym workouts and running sub-six-minute miles. Tro had lost 150 pounds after adopting a low-carb diet in 2015.
“That was the guy I wanted,” Lenzkes thought. “I want someone who understands what it’s like, because we’ve all had our struggles. I think in medicine, a lot of the doctors, RNs, NPs, and dietitians who haven’t struggled with weight just don’t understand. I knew Tro had insight that would reach people, and obviously that was correct.”
Tro recalls being skeptical when Lenzkes first reached out to him in the summer of 2018. “I remember thinking, what is this guy trying to do? Does he want to come out with a supplement line? Is he trying to sell some ketone meters and ketones? And then I find out what a great guy he is.”
Lenzkes had already established a friendship with Jason Fung, who offered to lend his name to the podcast, along with his business partner Megan Ramos.
Fung was clear about one point. The podcast should not accept any outside funding, so as to avoid any conflicts of interest.
“We had to keep our integrity,” Brian said. “That was something we agreed upon before we decided to move forward. Their first two episodes were published on October 31, 2018.
At the time the Lenzkes and Tro were launching the podcast, low-carb legend Noakes had just recently prevailed in four-year legal battle over a tweet he made suggesting breastfed babies could be weaned onto a low carb, high fat diet. The Health Professionals Council of South Africa (HSPCA) had accused him of “unprofessional conduct” for giving “unconventional” advice to a breastfeeding mother. Noakes concluded his legal battles just a few months before Low Carb MD officially launched.
In September of that same year, Australian orthopedic surgeon Gary Fettke prevailed in a similar case, which began when he was sanctioned in 2016 by the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency for recommending a low-carb lifestyle to patients.
“After seeing what Noakes and Fettke went through, we knew it what we were doing was kind of risky, but we also knew we had this knowledge… this valuable information that we wanted to share. So we thought the benefit outweighed the risk. I told Tro that he had to understand we were going to have targets on our backs.”
Initially, the two had plans to call the podcast “Keto Quacks,” but the level-headed Fung advised them to choose a more serious name.
The list of guests who have appeared on Low Carb MD includes most of the biggest names in low carb and keto, but there have also been many incredible guests with jaw-dropping low-carb personal success stories.
When asked what guest has made the greatest impact on his life, Lenzkes paused for a moment before replying that Dr. Rob Cywes was the first name that came to mind. “He changed my paradigm for me,” said Lenzkes. “He changed my perspective on food addiction and carbohydrate addiction. That was the first time I heard some of the things he said. His wisdom and his approach impacted me a lot.”
Cywes specializes in weight management and bariatric surgery for adults and adolescents, having performed over 8000 surgeries in the past 18 years, but he also lectures on the behavioral aspects of carbohydrate addiction as the cause of obesity.
Cywes was featured in Episode 10 (Released 1/14/19) and made an encore appearance in Episode 65 (11/04/19). Episode 10 has been downloaded more than any other episode, and more than a year after its release it is still being downloaded more than a thousand times per month. Episode 65 is currently the eighth most downloaded episode, and was downloaded more than 1,600 times in the month of March.
When Tro was asked which guest had the greatest impact on him, the first name that came to mind was Dr. David Unwin, a general practitioner in the U.K. Dr. Unwin was featured in Episode 19 (3/04/19).
“Dr. Unwin left a major impact on me because of his longitudinal approach to medicine,” said Tro. “He’s a doctor who has seen years and years of disease progression. One day he said ‘wait a minute, it wasn’t always this way.’ He found low carb later in his career and for the past 10 years he’s been changing so many lives. He’s doing amazing work, and that episode really made an impact on me.”
Lenzkes agreed with Tro’s assessment of Unwin, referencing the doctor’s “heart and compassion, and his integrity.”
Tro went on to speak about how much he enjoys Fung’s appearances on the show. “I love it every time Jason comes on. He takes something so complicated, like the biophysiology, the medicine, the pathophysiology—and he makes it simple and easy to understand. He just cuts through the BS in a way nobody else can.”
“Jason Fung is going to go down in history,” Lenzkes added. “He talked about fasting and everyone thought he was nuts, including myself. I thought he was crazy, that fasting would shut the metabolism down. It turns out the data doesn’t support that. The more we look, the more we realize maybe we were wrong about some of these things.”
Fung has appeared in numerous episodes, including Episode 96 (3/23/20 ), Episode 87 (2/10/20), Episode 70 (11/25/19), Episode 50 (8/19/19), Episode 43 (7/8/19), Episode 20 (3/11/19), Episode 6 (12/17/18), and Episode 2 (10/30/18).
Another guest who had had a major impact, according to Tro, was Evelyne Bourda-Roy. Like Noakes and Fettke, Bourda-Roy was forced to defend herself from a governing body for her practice of lifestyle medicine. She had to endure a lengthy ordeal and was forced to appear before the medical board in Canada, where she ultimately prevailed.
“The struggles she went through taught me to anticipate that there will be people looking to take us down,” said Tro. “She made me realize that I just have to be smarter, more researched than anybody who comes at me. I have to be on top of my game, because if I show any intellectual weakness it will be pounced on.”
Lenzkes said he was reassured by the fact that both Noakes and Fettke reached out to Bourda-Roy and offered their support as she was going through her ordeal. “Hearing that gave me a lot of comfort as a doc, knowing that these big guns had her back. They knew from personal experience what it was like and they stood up for her.”
Bourda-Roy appeared in Episode 48 (8/05/19).
Both Tro and Lenzkes acknowledged that they have been influenced in some way by every doctor and medical provider who has appeared on the Low CarbMD podcast. The most downloaded episodes to date are listed below:
15 Most Downloaded Low Carb MD Episodes
- Episode 10 (1/14/18) Dr. Cywes Lays it Down
- Episode 50 (8/19/19) Dr. Jason Fung Discusses Several New Studies
- Episode 6 (12/17/18) Dr. Jason Fung
- Episode 1 (10/25/18) Intro to the Low Carb MD Podcast: Part 1
- Episode 87 (2/10/20) Jason Fung Returns
- Episode 15 (2/11/19) Ted Naimon
- Episode 43 (11/04/19) Dr. Jason Fung Returns
- Episode 65 (11/04/19) Dr. Rob Cywes
- Episode 61 (10/16/19) Dr. Nadir Ali, Interventional Cardiologist Brings It
- Episode 86 (2/03/20) Dr. Joan Ifland
- Episode 2 (10/30/18) Intro to the Low Carb MD Podcast: Part 2
- Episode 58 (9/30/18) Ben Bikman, PhD – Combining Research and Clinical Practice
- Episode 82 (1/20/20) Dr. Ted Naiman
- Episode 81 (1/13/20) Dr. Shawn Baker
- Episode 88 (2/17/20) Nina Teicholz
It would be impossible to celebrate the 100th episode of Low Carb MD without looking back at some of the incredible guests who came on the show to discuss their personal experiences, challenges, and incredible successes using low carb diets.
“I love them all,” said Tro. “Every one of those guests was courageous, coming on the podcast to share their experiences with our audience, with the goal of helping others.”
Tro said Episode 39 (6/17/19) with Paolo was one of the most memorable for him. Paolo is a former professional basketball player, who became morbidly obese and suffered with chronic pain. The suffering was exacerbated because his medical team did not know how to help him. Paolo lost over 100 pounds on a liquid diet, only to gain it all back in six months after stopping the program. He then found Dr. Tro, went low carb and his life changed.
“Paolo’s story is both amazing and inspiring,” said Tro. “You can hear it in his voice just how much he suffered.”
Lenzkes recalls Tro calling him after taping the episode with Paolo, and saying they couldn’t publish it because it sounded too much like an infomercial. “I made him reconsider,” Lenzkes said. “He loves you. You saved his life.”
“We’ve had so many great success stories,” Tro continued. “Amy Eiges and Brian Wiley, who have both become health coaches in my practice, they were both great guests… We had Robert, another patient who changed his own life and the life of his family through low carb…”
“You know what makes a great guest?,” Tro asked. “It’s someone we can relate to. These people have faced many of the same challenges so many of us have faced. We were all given the wrong advice. We were told the wrong things. They have all had an impact on me, and on so many of our listeners.”
Lenzkes said an unforgettable interview for him was Episode 26 (4/03/19), featuring a woman who goes by the nickname of Seizure Salad, who used a ketogenic diet to control her recurring epileptic seizures.
“The medical system failed her miserably,” Lenzkes said. “They told her they wanted to perform surgery to cut out part of her brain, but that it was too dangerous for her to go on a ketogenic diet. She took matters into her own hands, and achieved incredible results. If she hadn’t taken the initiative to do her own research, she would have had part of her brain cut out, and risked dying on the table.”
Lenzkes also highlighted Episode 13 (1/30/19) with “Matthew”, as a defining moment for the show.
Matthew talked with the doctors about his lifelong struggles with addiction to food, alcohol and pornography, and how changing his lifestyle may have contributed to his recovery.
“I felt a strong passion for this subject,” said Lenzkes. “I felt we had to get this story out, but we also knew it was controversial. At the time, we got a great deal of criticism for even acknowledging the possibility that something like diet could be connected to addiction. Over the past year, we’ve heard from experts such as Dr. Joan Ifland and Dr. Cywes, who support this view.”
More Success Stories – Here are some other patient success story episodes that have recorded high numbers of downloads to date:
- Episode 8 (12/28/18) – Jill Rieder – a Success Story
- Episode 52 (8/28/19) – David Conquers Mental Illness With Diet
- Episode 29 (4/22/19)) – Brian Wiley (with Megan Ramos)
- Episode 80(1/06/20) – Taline
- Episode13 (1/30/19) – Matthew (“Adults Only” Episode on Addiction)
- Episode 76 (12/16/19) – Robert – A Whole Family Changed
- Episode 84 (1/27/20) – Amy Eiges
- Episode 46 (7/22/19) – Vic, the Amazing Armenian, Rocks It!
- Episode 90 (2/26/20) – Brett Lloyd
One thing Tro and Lenzkes did not have planned out when they started the podcast was a way to fund production. They have kept true to Fung’s advice not to take advertising or sponsorships from commercial sources, but they didn’t want the program to become a financial drain.
“If people weren’t interested, I didn’t want to keep throwing money out,” said Lenzkes. “I knew I didn’t want to self fund it for 100 episodes.”
They decided to set up a Patreon account, and invite interested listeners to become monthly sponsors to support the program. Subscribers receive episodes a few days early and are eligible for other benefits. Low Carb MD now has 196 subscribers, and enough monthly revenue to offset the costs of production and marketing.
When looking back at the past couple of years, Tro again emphasized the importance of what Noakes and Fettke have meant to the low-carb movement. “First, the vindication of both Gary Fettke and Tim Noakes were monumental,” said Tro. “I don’t know what things would have looked like if they had not been cleared.”
“Another key event occurred when the American Diabetes Association announced it was supporting low carb diets as a medical nutritional therapy,” Tro said. “That was important because it gives many people with diabetes an approved option that can actually work as they attempt to reverse the effects of metabolic disease.”
Lenzkes added that the accepted thinking about issues such as the carnivore diet, eating six small meals a day, and tracking blood glucose levels have all changed somewhat since the launch of the podcast.
He referenced Dr. Shawn Baker, who appeared on the program twice, as a doctor who has influenced thoughts on the carnivore diet. “People thought he was crazy when he said he was going carnivore,” said Lenzkes. “And then he showed a CAC score of zero, and his labs were stellar. Maybe he wasn’t as crazy as people thought.”
Baker was a guest on Episode 81 (1/13/20) and Episode 5 (12/8/18)
Lenzkes also pointed to an interview with Kirsty Woods, who appeared in Episode 54 (9/19/19).
Woods is the lead Exercise Physiologist at Metabolic Health Solutions in Western Australia and has been using LCHF protocols for the past seven years. She uses indirect calorimetry (metabolic rate testing) to adjust the diet and exercise regimens for her clients.
“It was fascinating to speak with someone who is using metabolic data to force us to reassess some of our longstanding beliefs. The data she gathered showed that when a person fasts, the metabolic rate tends to go up. I was telling people the opposite for 16 years.”
So as Tro and Lenzkes prepare to move on to the next 100 episodes, what guests would they most like to have on their show?
“Tim Noakes was life-changing for me,” said Lenzkes. “That’s going to be a tough one to surpass. But as I look forward, I’d love to get Tim Tebow on Low Carb MD. His story is one America really needs to hear.”
Tebow was the winner of the 2007 Heisman Trophy, and he went on to play in the NFL, before pursuing a professional baseball career. A two-time collegiate national champion as quarterback for the University of Florida, Tebow is outspoken about his Christian faith and has talked about following a ketogenic diet.
“Tim Tebow is a man of integrity, and he stands up for what he believes in,” said Lenzkes. “He would be an unbelievable guest.”
Tro said he would love to get guests on the show who were at the beginning of their weight loss and health journey. “I would love to talk to people who were facing a really difficult struggle and follow their journey on the show. I’d love to try to share with others the experience of helping someone who weighed four or five hundred pounds. I hope one day we can figure out a way to make something like that happen.”
The Low Carb MD podcast has certainly provided both doctors with a visibility and recognition in the low carb community that is far greater than when they started the show. “People come up to us at conferences and tell us how much the show has changed their way of thinking, as well as their lives,” said Lenzkes. “It’s a great feeling to think that the podcast is providing them with information that is helping them restore their health and allowing them to feel better about themselves.”
Lenzkes was recently featured prominently in the documentary “Fat Fiction”, a film that questions decades of diet advice insisting that saturated fats are bad for us. “Doug Reynolds at LowCarbUSA talked me into appearing in it, and I’m very pleased I did.”
Tro and Lenzkes have both become fixtures on the low-carb speaking circuit, and they both presented at the LowCarbUSA Conference in Boca this past January.
Just three years ago, Lenzkes was on the other side of the microphone as an attendee at the LowCarbUSA San Diego Conference, where he first started realizing how much he could learn from the incredible roster of speakers featured at such events.
“We have gotten to speak with people who have a massive impact in this field,” said Lenzkes. “How much is that worth? It’s been an absolute honor and our good fortune to be able to sit down and talk with these people.”
Now Tro and Lenzkes are among the doctors who are leading the low carb charge.
When asked if he thinks they will reach 500 episodes, Lenzkes didn’t hesitate before answering. “I think we will,” he said. “We are doing it for the right reasons, and we’ve been a great team.”
Lenzkes recently announced he was leaving the internal medicine group where he’s practiced since 2004 to open direct primary care practice where one of his areas of focus will be helping patients restore their metabolic health through lifestyle medicine. He will open Low Carb MD San Diego with Dr. Kristin Baier in July. Tro opened his own direct primary care practice, Dr. Tro’s Medical Weight Loss & Direct Primary Care, in Tappan, NY, in February 2019.