Magic Meat?

One of my favorite teachers, researchers, scientists, and authors, Valter Longo, author of the book, The Longevity Diet has observed that a vegan diet is the best way to get to a healthy 65 years of age. However, he has also observed that there are diminishing returns on that vegan diet and overall mortality beyond the age of 65. His answer is to incorporate a small piece of fish once a week for greater longevity and overall mortality.

Personally, I am not satisfied with this answer. I want to know why.

On the surface, this seems counterintuitive to me because there is nothing magic about eating meat. Nothing special is found in eating meat that cannot be obtained from plant-based sources. True, we cannot get animal-based collagen from plant sources, but animal-based collagen is not a necessary nutrient. Our body makes its own collagen when provided with sufficient amino acids and other nutrients, like copper, zinc, and vitamin C. All things found in plant-based foods.

So what is it that happens at age 65 that would make meat confer greater overall mortality to an aging population? I am thinking that it has more to do with the production of stem cells and an elevated white blood cell count associated with eating cooked foods referred to as digestive leukocytosis. This occurs when any foods, plant or animal-based enter the body that has been cooked. Eating cooked or overheated foods result in an increase in leukocyte production similar to what we see when the body has suffered an injury or some form of infection. Eating raw foods does not have this effect.

Some people, especially raw vegans, and fruitarians might feel that this justifies a completely uncooked diet, however, that is a conclusion that is not really justified in that the solution is to simply eat a diet of both cooked and raw. Dr. Paul Kouchakoff demonstrated all this in two papers he published back in the 1930s. However, most people only read his first paper on the topic published in 1930 that points out that digestive leukocytosis happens when foods are overcooked. It is his second paper published in 1937 that is only available in French that further explains that eating cooked foods isn’t a problem if one also eats even a small amount, some 10%, of the same foods uncooked. But alas, most people only read the first paper that had been published in English while ignoring the second one that was published later, available only in French.

This leads me to suspect that the answer can be found in a process called hormesis, whereby our body’s immune system is upregulated. That a diet that incorporates certain kinds of cooked foods into our diet to trigger an increased amount of neutrophils, eosinophils, basophils, monocytes, and lymphocytes that then go out into the body resulting in a greater level of regeneration. A cleansing effect if you will. Maybe this is why soups have been loved by many as not only comfort food, but one that makes them feel better when they are suffering the effects of the common cold.

I figure I have another 15 years until I see age 65. I imagine that will be long enough to resolve these questions.

500 Words – Raw Vegan Requiem -873-

I recently spent a full year on a raw vegan journey after I found a group on Facebook that promoted Natural Hygiene that promoted a diet that was not only vegan but one that followed a diet primarily based on fruit and gentle leafy greens. I also decided to remove garlic, onions, caffeine, dark chocolate, even added salt, and bore deeply into eating mostly fruit and salads as suggested by this aforementioned group. The only exception was a small amount of homemade hummus added to my salads in place of dressing. So I guess if someone wanted to nitpick a little they could say that I was only 98% raw vegan. There is too much evidence and data demonstrating that those that live the longest eat legumes on a daily basis. That and I just make good hummus.

I feel it was a worthwhile endeavor that allowed me to learn firsthand a lot about how the human body functions when exposed to a raw vegan lifestyle over a long period of time. Not something a lot of people can say. An its overall cleansing effects on my body were well worth the time and effort. I am grateful for what it did for me and I still believe that it was the right thing to do.

Would I recommend this diet to everyone? Not necessarily. It would depend on the individual and what their diet had been like for the year leading up to their wanting to take on such an endeavor. If they had been a strict vegetarian for a year first then by all means. I wouldn’t see any problem in making the shift. If they were omnivores, I would suggest transitioning to a vegetarian diet for a good six months beforehand. I believe healthy and gradual transitions are the best way to find success in dietary changes.

These days I am no longer a raw vegan for a number of reasons, but most importantly is because there is no evidence that it is the best way to go about getting to 120 years of age with a body that looks and feels no more than 34. Aside from the fact that there is no evidence to suggest that such a hygienic Edenic diet would do such, my main concern with the raw vegan or even fruitarian diet is that it is too easy on the body ultimately resulting in a more fragile state of existence, premature decline, and lower mortality overall.

Humans did not become the dominant species by eating a perfect or overly hygienic diet. On the contrary, it is because of much adversity and stress in our lives that brought us to where we are today.

An all-fruit diet in today’s world is problematic because we just don’t have access to enough variety on any given day to have a wide enough diversity of nutrients to make it even feasible to get enough of what we need, in the way our body would need it for our body to thrive.

And then there is the overly-hygienic state that an all-fruit diet will land your body in that would ultimately leave you with a microbiome that has diminished diversity which is not a good place to be. Our body and mind need to be exposed to small amounts and diversity of stress on a regular basis to maintain a strong state that can better deal with unforeseen future adverse situations. An overly hygienic, or sterile state is not a good place for a human or any other organic life form to be found outside of a sterile or hygienic environment. And none of us live in a cleanroom. We live in a diverse world filled with much adversity and as such our body needs exposure to adversity and even small amounts of environmental stress to remain anti-fragile and strong when unforeseen future adversity should arise.

To be clear, I am still a vegan by definition because it provides us with the greatest opportunity to make it to 120 years with a body that looks and feels no more than 34. However, I don’t believe that we need to limit ourselves to a raw diet and that adding certain plant-based foods that need to be cooked first is an important part of greater longevity and a fuller life experience. They provide a necessary and beneficial derivation through mild adversity that strengthens the body overall.

So rather than arguing about which version of vegan diet is better for every individual, I can say with all certainty that there are other principles that are more important than a list of approved foods that exclude things like cooked legumes, sweet potatoes, and cruciferous veggies. Clearly, some plant-based/whole food is better at cleansing the body than others, but there does come a point where a complex living system can become too hygienic and the needle of health starts pointing in a negative direction. A Natural Hygiene diet is the best for cleansing, but not good for overall longevity and to suggest that it can be a permanent lifestyle is overreaching. A bridge too far.

Adversity and variation are what build a strong and robust body that will make it further down the road while avoiding any states of disease.

Anti-fragility and Hormesis

What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You What?

Is it possible that a random bacon double cheeseburger could ultimately make a vegan live a longer, healthier life? What if a raw vegan or even a frugivore could live ten to twenty years longer by simply eating something that is not within their strict framework every once in a while? Is it possible that consuming a diet that is too easy on the system is actually worse than one that is not?

I am beginning to wonder. Because complex organic operating systems are weakened, sometimes even unto an early demise where there is a lack of stress. And as we have seen over the last few years, 2019-2022, Mother Nature does not favor the weak. On the contrary, she favors the strong.

I can’t imagine each and everyone one of us hasn’t heard this many times over. Kelly Clarkson made a hit song with this title in 2011. It’s not just a catchy song, it is also a very true statement within a complex system that has the ability to adapt. In the scientific and medical worlds, it is referred to as anti-fragility or hormesis.

In Greek mythology, there was a story about a creature with nine heads called Hydra. The monster would occasionally emerge to stir up the people and livestock of the mythical land of Lerna. When someone attempted to defeat this creature by cutting off one of its heads they would find that two more grew back in its place. What didn’t kill Hydra made him stronger.

This concept can also be seen in the plant world through a process called topping in which the main stalk of the plant is cut resulting in the plant redirecting its energy and growth hormones out to the side branches resulting in the branches growing more robustly in an outward fashion instead of continuing skyward. The intended result is a plant that produces more fruit.

And this is why you see so many humans working out. What doesn’t kill us does quite literally make us stronger. You see, some things benefit from a shock to the system that pushes a smooth running organic machine out of balance. Even our bones grow stronger when put under stress by physical activity. But there does come a point where that stress can become too much and the benefits are no longer as robust. This brings me to my another question I will address later. How much is too much?

So, back to the double bacon cheeseburger question. Could an occasional curveball actually be better for the human body than a perfectly executed raw vegan diet? It would seem so. Even Dr. Valter Longo, author of The Longevity Diet notes that those who indulge in a small amount of fish once per week ultimately live longer healthy lives than those on a strict, 100% uncooked whole-food/plant-based diet. Nonetheless, he still stresses the importance of maintaining a 95% whole-food/plant-based diet. But I don’t really remember ever hearing him clearly state what that mechanism of action is by adding a little fish to the diet.

My feeling is that it boils down to the hormetic/anti-fragile effects of the animal food product acting as a small amount of poison that kicks our body’s immune system into high gear. That just a few ounces of fish once per week causes our body to produce an excess amount of neutrophils, eosinophils, basophils, monocytes, and lymphocytes that then go out into the body to fix the problem.

And this is where the magic happens.

Not only is the specific poison addressed by all of those amazing immune cells that our body produces for times just like these, but they also go about cleaning up a whole host of other lesser things that were flying just below the radar at a subclinical level improving the overall health of the human body. Cleaning up other senescent cells that are no longer beneficial to life, but not quite problematic enough to trigger an immune response. Individually, those senescent cells won’t take out the creature(us), but over time they will and do build up to a level that eventually precipitates a health crisis that most aren’t even aware of until we start experiencing systemic inflammation requiring an interventional response.