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December 17th, 2010
02:28 PM ET

(More than) 3 questions with the 'Healthiest Man Alive'

Author A.J. Jacobs’ books include “The Know-it-All,” “My Life as an Experiment” and “The Year of Living Biblically.” For the last, he spent a year trying to follow every rule and guideline in the Bible – more than 700 of them. In his current project, he’s trying to follow every piece of verified health advice that he can find, testing everything from barefoot running to calorie restriction diets. He sat down with me to talk about his goal of being “The Healthiest Person Alive.” And our chat extended to more than three questions.

CNN: What was the first thing you did? How do you go about becoming the healthiest person alive?

A.J. Jacobs: Well I got a board of advisers – doctors and scientists and researchers and trainers and then I just changed every part of my day. So I changed my diet and my exer – that's one of the shocking things is how much I have to do to be the healthiest person alive. I mean my day is packed because you got to do aerobic exercise, anaerobic exercise, you got to meditate, you got to go out into nature, because nature is healthier, you got to pet a dog because there are studies that show that helps lower your blood pressure, it's just never ending

CNN: One of the things that frustrates people about health advice and medical news is that it's just one thing today, another thing tomorrow, there's a flood of it. How do you decide what I'm going to do, which ones you're going to follow?

Jacobs: Right. Well one of the big challenges is that there is just a tsunami of health advice. There's are so many conflicting pieces of advice… Like just to give you one example, like the fight between the vitamin D advocates and the dermatologists, it's like a feud, it's like the Crips and the Bloods because the dermatologists say cover up everything, everything on your body. Don't let an ounce of sunshine touch you. And the vitamin D people say you’ve got to get 10 to 15 minutes of sun, three times a week.

CNN: What do you do? Do you cover up?

Jacobs: What I do is I cover up my face, but I left some of my arms, I do try to get sun on my arms.

CNN: Cell phone? Do you use a cell phone?

Jacobs: I do use a cell phone. I know there's a question of whether its safe, whether there's a link to cancer, I don't think the evidence is there yet, but to be extra safe, I use an earphone.

CNN: Your advisers are split?

Jacobs: My advisers are split on the cell phone question.

CNN: Who is your competition?

Jacobs: For the healthiest person alive? Sometimes I feel like I'm doing the opposite of what Morgan Spurlock did in Super Size Me. I've actually become friends with Morgan and we're working on a TV project together. So it's kind of a battle between the healthiest and least healthy person alive. We'll do a cage match.

To see more of A.J. Jacobs, watch “Sanjay Gupta MD”  Saturday and Sunday, 7:30 a.m. ET.


soundoff (70 Responses)
  1. N

    for dessert we had a Tic Tac.

    December 18, 2010 at 09:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • dj

      you made me smile

      December 18, 2010 at 11:08 | Report abuse |
    • hook

      to be healthiest man alive you must 1. own your own company and hire board of directors and retire OR 2. quit your job live like a hermit in the woods

      December 18, 2010 at 13:06 | Report abuse |
    • Andy

      This guy should be the ugliest man on the planet also? How about some fried chicken?

      December 18, 2010 at 13:45 | Report abuse |
    • emtz

      mmmmm! 🙂 lol!

      December 18, 2010 at 15:21 | Report abuse |
  2. Thomas Hollowell

    This author has some very interesting ideas for his books. Great interview and I would love to talk with him more about his barefoot running experiences. In are running barefoot site, we discuss the many health trends surrounding the movement. It is great to see that running or walking without shoes made his list for healthy practices. This book will be as entertaining as his last I am sure.

    December 18, 2010 at 09:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • arthurr

      oh my god- this article was so lame!!!! i thoght i would earn something but what i learned was DUMB!!!!!

      December 18, 2010 at 13:10 | Report abuse |
  3. jayman419

    "So it's kind of a battle between the healthiest and least healthy person alive. We'll do a cage match." ... Run away Jacobs! That battle has been held, and the results are comedy fodder still today.

    Jim Fixx spent the 60s and 70s getting healthy and advocating jogging. Keith Richards spent those years doing drugs, having wild flings, and sleeping as little as physically possible.

    Of course, science, as usual, wants "data" or "reasonable proof"... what's more reasonable than results based on a single example?

    December 18, 2010 at 10:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jamoss23

      Fixx had a congenitally enlarged heart, that's why he took up running. I too would prefer to have the genetic resiliency of Keith Richards despite that he looks like warmed-over death.

      December 18, 2010 at 10:46 | Report abuse |
    • jenn

      exactly

      December 18, 2010 at 10:48 | Report abuse |
    • charles s

      Jimmy Fixx died at the age of 52. His father died at the age of 43. So Jimmy Fixx outlived his father by about 20%. Since his family has a genetic predisposition to early death, I would say that he did pretty good with the genetic background that he had and the bad health habits he had until he was 37 years old.

      December 18, 2010 at 13:17 | Report abuse |
  4. Francois De La Concorde III

    Unlike two of the last three comments, I am not pitching some half-baked website or ponzi scheme!

    December 18, 2010 at 10:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. motzaballs

    Uh, yeah. Until he develops a disease that cannot be controlled by "being healthy." I'd rather enjoy the years I have, than extend them 5 more.

    December 18, 2010 at 10:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • MedStudent

      5 more? try 25 more

      eat like morgan spurlock you likely won't make it past your 50's

      life expectancy is around 78-82

      December 18, 2010 at 13:07 | Report abuse |
  6. Allen

    I want my click back...

    December 18, 2010 at 10:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Delicio

    The guy even doesn't look healthy. Do not put people on a forum that makes little sense. If I chew 20x above avarege I want to look 20x above average. BAD reporting.

    December 18, 2010 at 10:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Gunga Dinn

      What makes this guy look any less healthy than 80% of people out there?

      December 18, 2010 at 11:00 | Report abuse |
    • A

      I don't think healthiest person alive is meant to be taken literally....it's just a name for his one-year experiment

      December 18, 2010 at 14:06 | Report abuse |
  8. Eric

    Who the heck wrote this article? My 9 years old has less mistakes in her writing. These people get paid to write this mess?

    December 18, 2010 at 11:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Joyce

      ...fewer mistakes

      December 18, 2010 at 12:57 | Report abuse |
    • MedStudent

      @Joyce LOL!
      @Eric Irony pwn

      December 18, 2010 at 13:09 | Report abuse |
    • Greg

      As mistakes is plural, you should say fewer, not less.

      December 18, 2010 at 13:36 | Report abuse |
    • Grammar Police

      Additionally, as it is written, the age of the daughter be "9 year old" instead of "9 years old."

      "My 9 year old daughter is smart."
      "My daughter is 9 years old."

      December 20, 2010 at 15:28 | Report abuse |
    • Grammar Police

      + "should"

      December 20, 2010 at 15:28 | Report abuse |
  9. walker

    Jim Fixx died at 52 you knucklehead, from a freiking heart attack, just like this guy will probably do, healthiest person alive? Me thinks not, his skin color is not good.

    December 18, 2010 at 11:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Gunga Dinn

      Nice one, racist

      December 18, 2010 at 11:13 | Report abuse |
    • aviekins

      totally going out on a limb here (dangerous on these forums!), but am guessing that OP was referring to this guy's *pallor* rather than his race/ethnicity... the photo shown makes him look pretty pale and pasty and generally not that healthy.

      i didn't bother watching the video, but from a nurse's point of view – i think a dose of sun and a little less stressing over what he's eating, when, and with who, might do him some good...

      December 18, 2010 at 18:03 | Report abuse |
    • hawaiikaos

      I agree, he looks a little gray, but I wouldn't trust the photo or the lighting conditions. Healthy looking skin on a caucasian should look a little pink or peachy if they haven't had sun lately, and a deeper peach to olive tan if they have. There's a lot of variation though, but you shouldn't be yellowy (jaundiced) or gray. Mottling is also usually bad, and so is deep pink, but sometimes that's just rosacea, which I believe is just cosmetic and not a symptom of a more serious underlying condition.

      December 18, 2010 at 18:45 | Report abuse |
  10. B

    Oh my God, I want to punch this manchild in the face so hard.

    December 18, 2010 at 11:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • A

      If it keeps your blood pressure low then go for it! For you health! Isn't what this guy tells us to do?

      December 18, 2010 at 12:19 | Report abuse |
  11. Joe, LA, CA

    and tomorrow.. he'll drop dead..

    December 18, 2010 at 11:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. dan

    haha he wears a veil, what a db

    December 18, 2010 at 11:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. A

    The "healthiest man" has problem with his brain... essentially all this is marketing compaign to promote various types of food products labeled "healthy", books, and other krap. He even pets a dog to keep blood pressure lower (his, not dog's), how nice!

    December 18, 2010 at 12:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. leephoenixriser

    the healthiest people alive are the amish in pennsy nice try aj

    December 18, 2010 at 12:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. goatonastick

    jacobs: "So I'm attempting to be the healthiest person aliv-"

    cnn: "So you're the healthiest person alive?!?!? great news!!!"

    Also, lol at how "stressful" it is to be the healthiest person!

    December 18, 2010 at 12:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Unknownian

    He should be called the Cleverest man alive. We all know this is Publicity Bull Dinky for a book he plans on writing. It's all about his money and not his health. Also proving he is clever is the fact that he got someone at CNN to print this BS and worse than that....we are reading it.

    December 18, 2010 at 12:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Me

    This whole scheme of doing something silly for a year while blogging about it in order to score a book deal is getting reeeaallllyyy old. ZZZZZZZZZ.

    December 18, 2010 at 13:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Le tired

    A common comment on CNN forums: let's bash the article for poor/biased/lack-of-depth/obviously-promotional reporting by making a poor/biased/lack-of-depth/obviously-misinformed comment about it. Rather than judge the work for yourself, you'll take the word of said reporting and either a.) state how it's indicative of everything you already know; or b.) state how everything you already know (even if it doesn't relate or has nothing to do with the context...ahem, commenter A) indicates how preposterous it is.
    To top off this obnoxious sundae, the author is a satirist. I hope his next work involves an in-depth analysis of the relative stupidity of those who have comments for everything and mistake that for being well-informed. Now that!... that's something I'd be willing to leave a non-relating/judgemental/mis-informed comment about!

    December 18, 2010 at 13:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • le pooped....

      even more tired is the comment bashing the bashers for the bashing....le pooped....

      December 18, 2010 at 14:16 | Report abuse |
  19. MedStudent

    I love how all the obese heart attacks waiting to happen get on and start ripping on the guy for being healthy

    eating like a pig and letting yourself become a fat slob is all well and fine

    but don't complain about healthcare premiums rising and healthcare systems being overflooded if you do because you are the reason why that is happening

    obesity is responsible for a huge portion of the insurance premium increases because people are draining the system. Obesity leads to diabetes, heart disease, cancer, all very very expensive to treat. More people with more disease = more expensive insurance.

    If you want to live like a fat glutton then do it but don't mock the people who actually value life enough to say "hey I'd like to live past 50 maybe I should eat healthy and exercise so I can live to see my grandkids"

    December 18, 2010 at 13:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Paul

    Damn it!!! I went and had 2 blueberries this morning followed by an Almond an hour later....yea you guessed it. I"m having a fat day.

    December 18, 2010 at 13:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. young95014

    He is unlikely to be the "healthiest person alive". Staying healthy is a life-long commitment and he must have strayed pretty far if he finds the changes shocking. It also does not speak well if his advisors are so ignorant of science that they failed to say clearly that cell phone use is a health hazard through accidents caused by distraction but poses no cancer risk. Besides publicity, what is the point of his exercise? And why is CNN part of a publicity stunt?

    December 18, 2010 at 13:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Unknownian

    To: le tired and Med Student:
    I'm in my 60's amd weigh what I did in High School. I spent my life in marketing. I am certainly not adverse to good health habits. In fact... I may be the heathiest man alive. All the medical info that this Clever man is sampling, has already been proven to enhance our health. With a little more life experience, you will learn that: " If it looks like a Duck....sounds like a Duck....walks like a Duck.....It's a DUCK! Grow Up!

    December 18, 2010 at 13:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Rick

    It's pretty much predetermined in your genes when you die. Living healthy may just help you live a little longer, or not. Nobody can really prove anything. I'll stick with my excess beer like a true Wisconsinite and not care what this guy has to say.

    December 18, 2010 at 13:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Jon

    Ok so if you do everything right you live 25 years longer. 25 years as a very old person. Last I checked, very old persons are not so happy. They're often secluded or sedentary. Yes, this goes for people who're 90-110. They're not running marathons or living life to its fullest. I think living a full life is more important than living to 100. You can live a full live in years. YOu don't have to live a century to live a full life!

    December 18, 2010 at 14:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Jon

    Maybe my last comment was harsh. My grandpa died at 100. I've seen old people a lot. Maybe I'm being too hard on people who try to stay healthy. But let me say something. My grandpa never tried to be healthy. He was overweight at the age of 60, was a borderline alcoholic, and chewed tobacco for a couple decades. He just lived. He lived hard. Worked hard. He was cutting down trees up to 90 on his property and taking them back to his shop and even stacking them. I survived on microwave food for probably 15 years. But to be honest, the extra 20 or 25 years he had on other people was not much more than you would imagine for someone who is between 80-100. LIfe gets harder and harder the older you get. Older people have a greater resiliency for it and psychologically I think they can handle it. But if you think you're going to be having a full-time job and vacationing all around the world and living life to its fullest at that age then you're going to be disappointed.

    I think being practical and trying to stay healthy are good. But don't overdo it. Sometimes you just have to LIVE.

    December 18, 2010 at 14:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Jon

    Excuse me, he ate mostly microwaved food for 15 years or so. He loved his microwave.

    December 18, 2010 at 14:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Geeshgirl

    Next challenge: Try doing it in Haiti.

    December 18, 2010 at 14:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Jon

    His sister died at 97. So I think it's genetic or something related to how they lived when they were younger. She's just like anyone else. Nothing special about her. Personally, I think there're too many factors that contribute to it. The average person can't account for all this. It's just luck. Yes, there're good things and bad things you can do to yourself. But some people are biased in one direction or another for a variety of reasons. It just feels pointless to me that people obsessively try to be healthy when there're many examples of people who lived a long life but never cared much about being healthy. They just lived and ate what they liked to eat. They did what felt right for them. They didn't run down a list of do's and dont's.

    December 18, 2010 at 14:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Jon

    As for me, I'll probably die young because I have some health issues i think and my life generally sucks. But I don't really care because I've seen what being old is like and I"m not sure I want that anyway. I don't want to drain the healthcare system young or old. Wish you all the best.

    December 18, 2010 at 14:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. S. Brown

    The healthiest man alive is Jack LaLanne. 97 years old and still going strong.

    December 18, 2010 at 15:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. abcontador@gmail.com

    As soon as I saw he followed the bible for a year I knew he wasn't the sharpest knife – total marketing ploy

    December 18, 2010 at 15:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Chickenhead

    Nerd Alert!

    December 18, 2010 at 15:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Dee

    His "advice" – eat healthy, take vitamins, exercise, get some sun – wow – thanks for sharing!!!!! Because no one ever though of that before!!!!! What a waste of an article.

    December 18, 2010 at 15:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. meh

    Lighting your flatus improves your health. Putting quarters in your nose helps boost your energy too. Putting watermelons in your bum, however, does not.

    December 18, 2010 at 16:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. George

    Yeah you might be the healthiest man alive but one question:

    Are you happy?

    December 18, 2010 at 16:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. chris

    Oh, crap the way I live, I'm as good as dead. No wait, we all are........

    December 18, 2010 at 16:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. John B

    I read the article until I got to "exer -". I couldn't find the cise so I gave up.

    December 18, 2010 at 16:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. VandyMD

    OK, I clicked on this article because I am professionally interested in heath issues. However, as others have posted, it is all about self-promotion and some very general, very well-known rules for good health. Nothing new and nothing earth shattering. However, I was interested in several of the comments posted. There seems to be a misunderstanding about the ultimate goal of living a healthy life. It is not to lengthen your life as much as it is to enrich it. Following a basically healthy routine (without being overzealous about it) can help you avoid some of the diseases that cripple your ability to enjoy life. I'm speaking of heart disease, mainly, as well as cancer. Those who don't have diabetes live better, fuller lives than those who do. Those who avoid alcohol abuse have less heartache and tragedy in their life than those who abuse alcohol. And the list goes on and on. It is not about trying to make it to 90 or 100. It is about trying to live a healthy existance for whatever time you have on this earth. And it definitely does not have to be the Spartan existance detailed in the article. I, for example, am very healthy, but I also like to go to New Orleans several times a year and kick up my heels and drink and eat badly and have a good time. Because I live a basically healthy lifestyle, don;'t smoke, watch my weight, and exercise (cardio and resistance) four or five times a week, my overall health remains excellent, and having a good time or indulging on occasion isn't going to hurt me. Those who indulge regularly without offsetting those indulgences with otherwise good health habits are the ones who are going to cripple their ability to live the good life.

    December 18, 2010 at 16:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. funky monkey

    stupid.... dumb.... oh, and a waste of time. doing everything does nothing to discern which is beneficial.

    shame on you cnn......

    December 18, 2010 at 16:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Mr. House of New Vegas

    I do not know if longevity is the objective - How will they test his immune system? I think you gather real data if you took an individual like this man, for example, then proceeded to create several doppelgangers and equally inflict each with a separate illness: See what changes. Oh ... and cloning facilities for the husks used to create this study, so that my idea is completely ethical.

    December 18, 2010 at 17:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Blessed Geek

    How do we know that the "healthiest man/woman/half&half" does not actually live in papua new guinea?

    December 18, 2010 at 17:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. grofys

    billions of people in the world and yet cnn has singled this guy as the healthiest on earth. how about some real news?

    December 18, 2010 at 18:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Kate

    Well, I just like the fact that he's trying to have a quality life, and it's inspirational to me. Why hasn't anyone said this already?

    December 18, 2010 at 18:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Jets

    Too bad he ran after the interview to get toothpaste and a toothbrush.

    December 18, 2010 at 18:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Spanish Buzz

    His teeth... and skin... Eww. He's pale and pasty, and his teeth are yellow. Not healthy signs AT ALL.

    December 19, 2010 at 07:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. messej

    Caleb Hellerman......you had an interview with "the healthiest man " and you asked THE Most insignificant questions?

    December 20, 2010 at 17:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. messej

    @jets and spanish buzz....don't you guys know the dangers of fluoride? Look it up
    And VandyMD.....don't you know that a little leaven, leavens the whole body?

    December 20, 2010 at 17:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Bob

    This guy can't close his upper lip and he's telling us what to eat and how to live?

    December 21, 2010 at 00:42 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.