An Interesting Interview with a Near-Centenarian

  • by Nils Osmar. September 4, 2023
  • This post is not intended as, and should not be taken as, medical advice. 
  • See full Medical Disclaimer

Nutrition professor John Scharffenberg, who was 99 in U.S. years (100 in Chinese years) at the time of this interview, talks in this video about diet, exercise, lifestyle, medical interventions, and longevity.

What struck me first when listening to him was how clear and lucid he is, and how sharp his mind and memory are. After that I started listening closely to the specifics.

I don’t agree with all of his recommendations; for example, I find more value in eating meat than he does; but he’s certainly done well following his belief system. His recommendations are also an interesting window into his culture and religion, which he refers to many times during the interview.

His beliefs and recommendations

  • No surprise: He recommends eating a whole foods diet – no processed foods.
  • He’s does not eat meat, but is also not a vegan. His opposition to meat is based primarily on his religion, which he mentions several times in the interview.
  • Under questioning, he describes himself as a “real” vegetarian, which he defines as a lacto-ovo-vegetarian: he eats milk and other dairy products, eggs, and plants-based foods. He supplements with B12 and vitamin D, which he says tend to run low in his bloodwork.
  • He prefers (low glycemic) fruits to vegetables, but avoids higher glycemic fruit. He does, though, eat mangoes. He also eats green salads. He was born in Shanghai and likes Chinese wok cooking.
  • It’s worth noting that his dietary approach is based on his being a 7th Day Adventist; in other interviews he has made it clear that his dietary choices are based on his religion. Since many people follow the Adventist religion and do tend to be long-lived, it’s interesting from that point of view.
  • He was asked about the slogan of people following the carnivore diet, “Plants are trying to kill you,” but was not familiar with it.

When questioned about cholesterol, he points out that:

  1. If we want to lower it, we can do so with diet and exercise alone. Most people, in his opinion, do not need statins, which in his opinion are wildly overprescribed.
  2. Men and women (according to him) respond very differently to statins. When men are studied, some appear to live longer when taking statins, but women’s death rates actually increase when they are put on statins.
  3. He believes that the recommendation that cholesterol should be around 100 ug/dL was pushed on the medical industry by the drug companies, and that 125 or 130 ug/dL is a healthier number.
  4. When people pass 75 years of age, they start living longer with higher LDL and higher cholesterol than people with low LDL and low cholesterol.

On exercise and intermittent fasting

  • He’s a big fan of exercise, and views it as vital to healthy longevity and avoiding Alzheimer’s and dementia. He worked hard outdoors during much of his life; these days, he exercises by walking (though he says he doesn’t get as much exercise in as he needs).
  • He brought up his children on 2 meals a day, and eats that way himself. So he and his family were fasting for decades before it became popular.
  • He gets up at 4 a.m.; breakfast at 6:30 pm; lunch at 4 pm; then only water till he goes to bed. “When you get hungry, have a glass of water.”

Not medical advice

This article is not intended as, and should not be taken as, medical advice. I’m not advising that people eat any particular diet or take any particular supplement(s), just reporting on what I’m doing. Supplements, like medications and other interventions, can have side effects; I would encourage people to research both possible benefits and side effects before starting on any supplementation regimen, and consult with a medical professional about any issues which might have a medical component.  See full Medical Disclaimer

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