Thesis #54 – Older adults with significant agricultural ancestry cannot sustain their health with either agricultural or industrial patterns of nutrition and activity, and should instead switch to hunter-gatherer patterns of nutrition and activity in order to slow their later aging and possibly hasten its cessation.
No one who has any alternative should sustain an industrial diet of heavily processed, highly sweetened, pre-packaged foods. Acute starvation or the consumption of pathogen-ridden foods would be worse, but even if overall calorie intake is somewhat reduced, we would be better off forswearing such diets. Indeed, industrial foods are probably better regarded as early-stage substances of abuse, substances that induce cycles of dependence, addiction, and binging that prepare young consumers for later careers abusing alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, and other drugs of addiction or abuse. Industrial patterns of consumption abuse our bodies, and set our brains up to sustain patterns of compulsive and extreme use of still more dangerous substances. Of particular note is the point that, as industrial “foods” chronically inflame our tissues, they foster degenerative processes that will eventually make us dependent on painkillers that will lessen the chronic pain and suffering that these substances engender. Thus industrial foods foster the profits of pharmaceutical companies.
There is really only group that one can recommend an organic agricultural diet to, the young people with ancestry solely from long-established agricultural populations. It is even possible that they will fare better on this diet than they would on a hunter-gatherer diet, although one cannot be certain of this.
For EVERYONE else, the agricultural diet and lifestyle should be considered a potential health risk. I have already discussed the remarkable opportunities that may be available to those who have little agricultural ancestry, if they revert to their recently ancestral lifestyle. At this point, I would like to propose further that all older adults consider trying elements of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, with respect to both nutrition and activity. For most of us, it is quite likely that our aging phase will be greatly ameliorated. I would expect many to enjoy a reduced level of risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and metabolic disorders, like type II diabetes. This does NOT mean that I expect such chronic disorders to be cured, once they have arisen, or to be entirely prevented. My view is that every adult is at some risk of dying from these chronic disorders, including those on mortality plateaus after the cessation of aging. The prospect instead is that the rate at which such chronic disorders arise, and their severity, should fall among many of those older people who stop living in a manner which elicits the physiological effects of an agricultural way of life, or the still-worse effects of an industrial way of life.
An interesting and important question is whether those with agricultural ancestry who make a later-life “paleo-switch” will also enjoy an earlier cessation of their aging. This is a research question that my laboratory is actively working on at the moment. Early results suggest that there may be an earlier cessation of aging upon such switching, but we are still working on it.
We also do not know if there is a critical age past which making such a switch has no beneficial effect. That is also a research question, one that we have yet to address. We hope to do so soon.