Vegan? Carnivore? Paleo? Pescatarian? Can Eating a Particular Diet Help Us to Live Past 120?

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by Nils Osmar. May 31, 2023 Medical Disclaimer

This post is not intended as, and should not be taken as, medical advice. See full Medical Disclaimer

Can “the right diet” get us past the supposed maximum human lifespan (around 120-125 years old? The answer is that no one knows.

  • In the anti-aging world, we have Dr. Valter Longo claiming that we should all be eating extremely low protein, mostly plant-based diets, and that fasting is damaging; Dr. David Sinclair claiming that we should eat mostly plant-based but not restrict protein, and that fasting is good (Sinclair only eats one meal a day; Longo claims it can be deadly to skip breakfast.)
  • We have Dr. Michael Greger claiming that all animal foods are toxic and we should all be eating vegan; Dr. Anthony Chaffee claiming that that all plant-based foods are toxic and we should all eat only meat from ruminant animals; and Dr. Paul Saladino claiming that animal foods plus fruit is the ideal human diet.
  • We have Dr. Rhonda Patrick and Dr. Peter Attia claiming that we should eat an omnivorous diet “balanced” between foods from both plant and animal sources; Professor Don Layman, Dr. Gabrielle Lyon, and several others claiming that omnivorous high protein diets are the best approach for both health and longevity.
  • We fall into pointing out the problems with other approaches, and discounting studies suggesting health problems associated with own approaches, i.e. –

 “Carnivore diets are best because there are no plant toxins in animal foods.” “Yeah, but animal foods can be high in saturated fat and cholesterol! Vegan diets are better because they don’t contain cholesterol.” “Cholesterol’s been unfairly demonized! Vegan diets are high in phytates, oxalates, lectins and goitrigens, which wreak havoc on the body.” “Stop demonizing phytates, lectins, oxalates and goitrogens! They can all be used medicinally!” “Keto diets are the answer, they keep blood sugar low and prevent diabetes.” “Really? I’ve heard they cause metabolic inflexibility!” “Paleo diets are the natural way to eat.” “Not true, paleo diets assume things we don’t know to be true about how our ancestors ate!” “We should all eat organically grown vegetables.” “Why? Organic vegetables contain thousands of natural internal pesticides that plants evolved to protect themselves against the insects and animals eating them.” – and so on.

  • I have my own ideas about an ideal human diet, but I won’t go into them here. (If you’re curious about my anti-aging protocol, see this page.) (For more info about my current diet, see this one.)
  • My main point is that the arguments can be a bit circular. It would be great if there was solid proof that one diet was better than another, but there really isn’t. Appeals to authority don’t work when the authorities disagree vigorously with each other. 

One diet does reverse epigenetic age

  • At least one diet has been shown to reverse epigenetic age, which does suggest that it “works” in an anti-aging sense. But reversing aging doesn’t necessarily imply a longer lifespan. And the fact that one diet “works” doesn’t at all prove that the other diets, which have not been tested, don’t. It could be that if some totally different diets were tested, they would work even better.

“What do the authorities say?”

  • I was in a “longevity” Facebook group recently in which another group member took issue with my saying that older people might benefit from eating more protein. They insisted that I would die young if I added more protein to my diet. Their “proof” was that Dr. Valter Longo said so, and he was a professor conducting anti-aging research, so he must be right. When I pointed out that other anti-aging researchers, including some professors also conducting anti-aging researchers, had come to different conclusions, they insisted that those authorities “must” be wrong “because” Longo was right. 
  • The truth is that, as Matt Kaeberlein and some others have pointed out, there’s no solid evidence that eating any diet will result in our living to a 125 year or longer lifespan.
  • People eating  have all said that they’re happy with the results of how they’re eating, and that they believe their diets may be the best ones for longevity.
  • So what to do? In my opinion, it makes sense to read of the evidence, whether or not it supports our POV; listen to all the researchers; listen to the proponents of the various approaches, with an eye on their state of health and fitness; then try any approaches that we’re curious about and see how they work for us. I’ve tried vegan, carnivore, keto, paleo/ancestral, Mediterranean, Pescatarian, and other approaches. I paid attention to my body’s responses, and ended up sorting out (for the moment) what’s working best for me. 
  • I would add that if, after giving it a few weeks or months, your diet clearly isn’t working for you, you’re under no obligation to keep following it. Try something different. Whether you’re following a vegan, carnivore, ketogenic, or any other diet, you don’t owe the diet you’re on anything, and it’s not up to you to keep trying to “make it work”.

My gut tells me…

… that diet can help us to live, long healthy lives – to a point.

A great diet (i.e., the one that’s right for us – but may not be for our neighbor) can help prevent sarcopenia, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other maladies. The right anti-aging supplements can (I think) also help us to reach the optimal human lifespan in a state of near-perfect health. But if our goal is to live past 120 or 125, it will take interventions beyond diet and exercise to get there.

What a healthy diet can accomplish, in my opinion, is to keep us around, and healthy, long enough to still be here when more effective medical interventions arrive. Those interventions (which could include future iterations of existing compounds such as the ones found in AKG, glucosamine, NAD+ boosting, and fucoidan-containing supplements) may then get us to 150, 200, 500 years of age or beyond.

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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