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Paleo Diet May Slow Aging

Updated on January 9, 2011

When asked about the possibility of biological immortality in the future, physicist Michio Kaku didn’t want to make any promises. He said that the FDA is unable to regulate anti-aging claims by cosmetic manufacturers because the active ingredients don’t penetrate the skin. In other words, only products that have no possibility of working can be pushed upon the public as anti-aging solutions.

Due to a history of charlatanism it’s no surprise that most people remain extremely skeptical that affecting the aging process is possible. Sadly this public opinion makes life hard for bench scientists researching why aging takes place and how the youthful period of life can be prolonged. There is little funding due to lack of awareness. Humans in a youthful state are far less likely to get cancer, type two diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Still, we continue to mop up the floor instead of turning off the faucet as nutritionist Dean Ornish puts it. Old age is the root cause of incalculable human suffering.

Studies have proven that the lifespan of organisms like yeast, flies, worms and mice can be extended through intervention. It is rational to conclude that if we are able to lengthen the life of mammals, doing the same in humans is possible. Proof of concept is in place. Now is the time to move these ideas forward for the benefit of every living person.

Biologist Michael R. Rose, Ph.D.
Biologist Michael R. Rose, Ph.D.

Evolutionary biologist Michael Rose has found in his work with fruit flies that natural selection favours the young. We are aging more rapidly as a by-product of this phenomenon because through our family line our ancestors reproduced early in life. When Rose bred flies that reproduced late in life he found that each generation tended to live longer. Eventually the line produced “Methuselah flies” that lived 51% longer than typical fruit flies.

Rose concluded that flies hit an immortality plateau earlier than modern humans because of their hunter-gatherer lifestyle. To clarify, immortality simply means that the physiological decline associated with aging has stabilized. If the plateau is reached at late life when an individual is frail, death through age-related disease is still a possibility as the risk is present with each passing year.

By eating like our ancestors did before agriculture Rose feels that we may hit the immortality phase sooner. Young people have no problem with a modern grain-rich diet, but as we approach our thirties we are reverted back to a condition favours foods with a longer evolutionary history.

Paleo foods include lean meats from grass-fed animals, seafood, nuts, fruit and vegetables. Foods to be avoided include processed meats, dairy and grains. An easy way to think about it is put yourself in the place of a hunter-gather (at least in your imagination). If it can’t be hunted, picked from a tree, dug out from the ground and eaten raw, chances are it isn’t a caveman approved meal.

The Verdict

Eating a paleo diet certainly isn’t a perfect solution to the problem of aging. Even though it is backed by a credible scientist it is admittedly backed by assumptions and not hard scientific data. Still, it is one of the better shots we have at improving quality of life. As much as we love to sit in front of the TV or computer and munch on potato chips we have to keep in mind that we evolved in a much different environment. This awareness of where we came from will help propel us into a future where aging is seen as the culprit it truly is.

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