by Nils Osmar. February 16, 2022
David Sinclair and others have pointed out the possible benefits of plant-based diets. There are many studies to back up Sinclair’s contention that eating largely plant-based is an easy way to activate the AMPK (longevity) pathway, which correlates with greater longevity in lab animals. (Life extension can’t yet be measured in humans, but we can study animals and extrapolate from the results.) See study.
Other Points of View
Paul Saladino has claimed that eating an animal-based diet can also have benefits both to health and longevity. He eats a diet which is mostly (thought not totally) carnivore.
It’s an important discussion. I hope people will watch the video and listen to all of Saladino’s points before assuming they know the answer.
My own answer would be that the answer would depend on a number of factors, with two big ones being:
- what other foods we’re eating
- whether we’re eating nose to tail (which Saladino recommends).
Glycine and Methionine
If we do eat red meat, in my understanding, it’s important to also have food sources of glycine or collagen in our diets to counterbalance the methionine. (This is the benefit of nose to tail eating.) Methionine (found in meat) does appear to be pro-aging, but this can be counteracted by eating enough glycine (found in collagen) in the same meals .See this study.
Those eating red meat and other animal based foods also need to be aware of the interaction between mTOR and AMPK. There’s strong evidence that mTOR activates growth pathways; AMPK activates longevity pathways; they (usually) can’t both be on at once.
Plant foods tend to activate AMPK (as long as their carbs and protein are both low); animal foods like meat activate mTOR.
Saladino is correct when he states that carbohydrates can activate mTOR and suppress AMPK activation too. Constant eating and nibbling can too. So just saying “Don’t eat meat” is not necessarily the only shortcut to AMPK activation. It is possible to eat some meat and still have AMPK activated most of the time.
What I’m Doing
Personally I eat an omnivorous diet that is mostly plant-and fungus-based by volume but includes some fish, poultry, eggs, dairy and meat (along with lots of legumes, beans, root vegetables, leafy greens, berries and cruciferous vegetables).
My diet is about 7/8ths plant based by volume, but most of the complete proteins in it come from animal food sources. (I also include fungal foods such as mushrooms.)
Are Plants Harmful?
I find Saladino’s contention that (most) plant-based foods should be avoided because of the toxins in them (which plants developed to protect themselves from being eaten) to be interesting but unconvincing. People and other animals co-evolved alongside plants and have had hundreds of millions of years to sort out how to incorporate foods from all three kingdoms (plant, animal and fungal) into our diets.
(I should clarify Saladino is no longer avoiding, or recommending avoiding all plant-based foods. He recently expanded his diet to include not just animal-based products but also fruit. He also eats honey, which some carnivores avoid, though he views it as animal-based because it’s manufactured by bees.)
There could be some health benefits to going carnivore (or carnivore plus fruit) for a short period of time, just like there can be benefits to going vegan for a short period of time, but both diets lead to excluding many beneficial and nutritious foods. I haven’t seen convincing evidence that either of them is ideal as a long-term diet.
At least such diets aren’t right for everyone. I was vegan for three years and my health first improved, but then suffered greatly by the end of the third year; I was then carnivore for three months; I ended up find that (at least for me) an omnivorous diet including foods from all three kingdoms is the most workable approach.
We Need to Factor in Fasting
I am interested in extreme longevity so I do try to keep AMPK activated more often than mTOR.
I deliberately raise my mTOR on my workout days. I work out in the morning, then eat a protein rich, largely animal-based breakfast around noon. (Doing this drives the mTOR activation into muscles, where its health benefits outweigh its harm.)
But I lower then mTOR and activate AMPK on non-workout days.
I also do a lot of fasting. and eat some totally vegan meals, both of which activate AMPK, to balance out the carnivore/omnivore meals like those that include meat.
In my opinion and understanding it’s good to have mTOR activated about 1/4 or 1/3 of the time, but to have AMPK activated the rest of the time, to get the best of both worlds. We don’t have to avoid meat entirely or avoid plants entirely. It’s a question of finding the right balance.