Ending the Food Wars: Vegans, Carnivores and Omnivores All Make Good Points
by Nils Osmar. August 4, 2022. Medical Disclaimer
We have people in the Facebook Anti-Aging and Life Extension Group who are vegan or vegetarian (eating all, or almost all, plant based foods and little or no animal foods); people who are pescatarian (adding fish and other foods from the sea to a vegetarian diet); people who are omnivores (eating plants, animals, and seafoods); and people who are carnivores (eating only animal based foods; no plants). (One variation on the last category is carnivore/fruitarians, who eat only meat and fruit.)
Whatever our food choices, from an anti-aging perspective, there are potential problems we need to be aware of. But there are also potential solutions that don’t require that we all make the same food choices. (Note: In this article I’ll be looking at diet from the POV of health and longevity, not from moral or ethical viewpoints; those will be looked at soon in a separate article.)
Vegans and carnivores are both “right”
- Starting with vegans and vegetarians — they often point out that red meat is high in methionine and leucine, and that both are pro-aging. They’re right on both counts.
- However, we can include meat in our diets without incurring pro-aging effects if we’re thoughtful about it.
- Methionine is an essential amino acid — we need some in our diet — but it is pro-aging. In fact, diets based around methionine restriction are one well-established way of extending the lifespan.
- See study: Perspective: Methionine Restriction–Induced Longevity—A Possible Role for Inhibiting the Synthesis of Bacterial Quorum Sensing Molecules
- However, damage from methionine can be prevented by eating foods rich in glycine. Our ancestors who ate nose-to-tail would have been getting a lot of glycine in their diets, so would not have experienced methionine toxicity. Eating nose to tail, taking gelatin or collagen, or taking glycine supplements, completely prevents the methionine toxicity problem.
- See study: Effect of dietary glycine on methionine metabolism in rats fed a high-methionine diet
- Re: leucine, it’s a matter of quantity and timing. It does activate mTOR. Some mTOR activation is necessary; we can’t live without it. But too much is pro-aging, mainly because when mTOR is “on”, AMPK (the longevity pathway) is usually”off.”
- However, even vegans and vegetarians can have too much mTOR activation if they eat too many carbs, or if the carbs they eat are too high-glycemic:
- See study: Carbohydrate-Induced Insulin Signaling Activates Focal Adhesion Kinase: A Nutrient and Mechanotransduction Crossroads .
- Just as vegans have a point in their criticisms of meat, carnivores have a point in their criticism of plants. Like animals, plants want to live. They can’t run away or fight back against insects and animals eating them in the way animals do, so they’ve developed compounds, including their own internal insecticides, which can sometimes sicken insects and animals that eat plants.
- Carnivores also post out that most plant based proteins are incomplete, missing essential amino acids, and are lower quality than those in meat. They’re right about this too.
- See article: What is the Difference Between Plant and Animal Proteins?
- However, again, people who avoid animal based foods can, get complete amino acids by combining food sources.
Different strokes for different folks
- The truth appears to be that people can thrive on all kinds of diets. And they can all push back against aging if they’re thoughtful about it.
- AMPK can be activated by eating zero animal foods, or by eating a vegetarian or pescatarian diet. But it can also be activated by eating a high animal-food diet or all animal-food diet, but doing lots of fasting. (AMPK will come on during stretches of fasting.)
- We can get complete amino acids by eating animal foods, but we can also get them by combining plant food sources carefully.
No need for food battles
- “Food battles” can be avoided if we recognize that there’s more than one path to the goal of having AMPK activated most of the time but having enough mTOR activation to build and maintain muscle and have strong immune systems, both of which are essential to healthy aging.
- I grew up eating a standard American diet; it was awful My health improved when I cut back on sugar and started eating highly nutritious all-organic foods.
- Years later, I went began for three years. My health initially seemed to improve, then went downhill. I developed mood and memory problems, lost muscle, lost my sex drive, my eyesight went bad, and my teeth started hurting all of the time. Friends told me I just wasn’t doing veganism “right” so I tried hard to fix these problems while staying vegan. I finally stopped being vegan, and all of these problems resolved virtually overnight.
- But that was me; it doesn’t mean that no one can thrive on a vegan diet.
- I later went carnivore for a while. Again, there was some initial improvement. Then I started having mood problems and feeling awful a lot of the time.
- But, again, that was just me; some people report wonderful health benefits of being on a carnivore diet.
- After three months, I went back to eating an all-organic diet that includes foods from the plant, animal and fungal kingdoms, is rich in nutrients, is mostly local and very fresh, and has foods from both land and sea. To me, this has turned out to be the best solution.
- I eat meat, eggs, fish, poultry, salads, beans and lentils, greens, mushrooms, some fruit and berries, and cruciferous vegetables. I balance mTOR and AMPK activation (leaning into activating AMPK most of the time) by doing lots of fasting. My lipids, blood glucose, testosterone levels, sex drive, mood and mental clarity are all great. My doctor says that I’m in amazing health for a guy who is 69 years old at the time I’m writing this.
Vegan breakfasts… carnivore lunches
One thing that I’ll often do is to either fast or have vegan breakfasts, followed by carnivore lunches.
For example, I got up around 6:15 a.m. yesterday, had a big glass of water with electrolytes, then a cup of coffee (a vegan drink).
Around 10 a.m., I had breakfast, a vegan fasting mimicking smoothie: tomato and avocado in water, along with some supplements. We wake up with AMPK activated because we haven’t eaten for several hours. I like to extend the stretch of activation, either by fasting (which keeps AMPK activated) or having a vegan drink with almost zero protein or carbs (which has the same effect),
Around 2 pm I had lunch – a mostly carnivore, scrambled eggs with fish. mTOR is activated by this meal. By most accounts, its activation lasts around 2-4 hours, depending on how fast your meal is digested and how much protein and leucine it contains.
Around 6 pm, I had dinner, made up of meat and vegetables served along with Jasmine rice (chilled to turn it into a resistant starch), a big green salad and some soup. By the time I go to bed, the mTOR activation should be fading, and I’ll be back in an AMPK state again.
To intensify the AMPK activation, I’ll sometimes eat zero calories (all day) or eat zero calories until dinner.
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