Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
28 Oct

Just How Long Did Grok Live, Really?

humanskeletonIt has become an article of faith among, well, basically everyone, that our ancestors lived short, brutal lives. What are they touting as the average lifespan these days – 35 years old or so? I’ve heard anything between 25 and 40 years. The common counter is that infant mortality rates were higher than they are today, thus skewing the average. It’s also often pointed out that a relatively benign accident or illness by today’s standards – a broken arm, a rolled ankle, or a minor infection – could have prematurely ended Grok’s life. And that these cases say nothing about Grok’s potential to live 70+ years. The “short and brutal” meme has wedged itself in the public psyche, and it’s going to take a lot to extract it from its seemingly intractable position.

I’m going to riff a bit on something I’ve been thinking about regarding ancient human bones. This isn’t an official stance or anything; I’m just thinking out loud. Let me know what you think in the comment board.

Now, bones are notoriously confusing, especially when we’re trying to figure out the age of the individual who died. We learn a lot from studying them, but only to a point. Just how do forensic anthropologists determine the age of death of a particular skeleton’s former owner?

For skeletons of infants, children, adolescents, and young adults, fossil analysis yields accurate age of death estimates. Human growth is fairly reliable for a while, and it’s easy enough to tell a kid apart from a really short adult, but things get tough once people stop growing and become adults. In fact, anthropologists have typically had trouble accurately determining the precise age of death for older adult remains. They’ll even tell you this. They can’t rely on the same methods and must turn to others.

One method is to measure bone mineral density, especially of the femur. It’s a general rule that bone density decreases with age. It’s a pretty accurate method for determining the age of death in modern people, but I’m skeptical of its utility when dealing with the bones of our ancestors. Even its proponents admit that while general age and sex-related trends can be observed for bone loss, there have been cases of “young adult” bone density patterns in skeletons of aged individuals. That is, bone density degradation is not linear, and it’s not set in stone. Instead, it depends on “numerous genetic, environmental, and cultural factors.” Old guys can have young guy bones, but it’s rare. Most modern old guys have old guy bones.

What kind of environmental factors can influence bone density – can give old guys young bones? Remember, environmental factors include anything that the organism interacts with, and as far as bone health, diet, activity level, and micronutrient intake are some of the big ones.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D status is a strong predictor of osteoporosis risk. Folks deficient in vitamin D tend to have lower bone mineral densities and are at a higher risk for breaks and fractures. If you slather on sunscreen, avoid the sun, avoid pastured animal organs and fatty fish, and do not supplement with vitamin D3, like most modern humans, you are most likely deficient and at risk for low bone density. Paleolithic humans, on the other hand, did not sit in offices all day shielded by windows that blocked UVB rays, nor did they wear sunscreen. They didn’t know about vitamin D, either, but they didn’t have to. They either spent most of their lives in sunny, tropical climates with plenty of UVB exposure, or, in the case of Europeans, had lighter skin selected for to ensure sufficient vitamin D synthesis from fewer UVB rays. They also ate plenty of animal foods, and they didn’t shy away from organ meat or fatty cuts. We don’t know exactly what our ancestors’ vitamin D statuses were, but we can surmise that, given their lifestyle, their exposure to the elements, and their diet, they probably had sufficient levels to avoid bone density deficiencies.

Magnesium

Although calcium gets all the press, magnesium is also vitally important for the building and maintenance of strong bones. In fact, serum magnesium levels are a strong predictor of bone mineral density. In “The Paleo Diet,” Dr. Loren Cordain estimates that the magnesium intake of Paleolithic humans ranged between 800 and 1,500 mg per day. Contrast that with the recommended daily intake of 400 mg and consider that very few people even reach that recommended amount – according to Cordain, 65% of the American population. If the average 55 year old American eats an inadequate amount of magnesium and sports a low serum level, while the average 55 year old Paleo (real Paleo, not one of you guys) ate plenty of magnesium and most likely had a high serum level, whose bones are going to be denser? Whose bones might an observer assume to be those of a younger man?

Resistance Training

Strength training builds muscles, but it also builds bones. Like muscles, bones are reactive things that respond to stress. When you lift heavy things, heavy enough to “threaten” your body, you are sending the message that the affected lean tissue must adapt. Muscles adapt by adding fibers; bones adapt by ossifying. Today’s sedentary populations are plagued with osteoporosis, partly because of nutritional deficiencies, but also because they are sedentary. Their bones, by and large, aren’t getting the stimulus required to maintain density. They don’t have to hunt, kill, and carry their food, nor do they have to build their domiciles. Heck, it isn’t even necessary to leave the house. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors, on the other hand, worked for their livelihoods. They were active by necessity; they lifted heavy things because their lives depended on it. Whose bones do you think would receive the stimulus necessary for maintaining density – the sedentary sitters or the active hunters?

The idea of strength training strengthening and fortifying bone is well supported in the literature. It’s true that some results have been mixed, but most reviews of the literature argue that the studies showing little effect employ insufficient intensity or improper training methods.

If anthropologists have included fossil bone density as a factor in their determination of age of death, I think the matter of vitamin D, magnesium, and resistance “training” (obviously, they weren’t lifting barbells in the Paleolithic, but they were certainly lifting heavy things, arguably at a greater intensity than many modern lifters) throws the popular notion of hunter gatherer’s lives being short and brutal into question. Were they shorter than ours? Yeah, on average. I’m not tossing everything out entirely. I’m just questioning whether modern bone density data are accurate reference points for analyzing the age of death of Paleolithic remains. It might be more accurate to simply say, “We don’t exactly know,” instead of tossing out the “cavemen died at 30!” knee-jerk response.

What if the dense bones of what appear to have been a robust 30-year old hunter were actually bones of an incredibly capable 60-year old?

Next time, I’ll discuss a paper that takes an in-depth look at hunter-gatherer ages. The results might pleasantly surprise you.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Definitely a compelling argument… but it doesn’t matter how long Grok lived (give me a sec)…

    If you’re healthy eating the way you are now (no noticeable symptoms, blood work is great) the chances that you just tip over and pass away are very slim. The thing is we have the technology today to determine how healthy we are, and we can get a pretty good prediction of how long we’ll live based on that (sans non health related death).

    Just my opinion.

    Ahmed Serag wrote on October 28th, 2010
    • You can’t tell when you will die. Having good health is beneficial in other ways, but if you are eating primal just so you can live longer, you are a bit naive. You could get hit by a meteor tomorrow, live, and then die from tripping over a rock for all you know. Look at Churchill, the ol’ bastard smoked, drank, and ate whatever he wanted. He lived deep into old age, didn’t he?

      And it’s a good thing we can’t predict our deaths. Imagine the chaos if nearly 7 billion people all knew when their time was due.

      Paul wrote on October 30th, 2010
    • The only way to prove anything is for people following the Primal lifestyle to submit their bodies to the same institution for research when they die. We will then have a somewhat controlled population that hopefully supports living primally.

      Chad wrote on November 3rd, 2010
    • 1. The idea that Paleolithic people lived 35-40 years is based on the 35-40-year-life expectancy of people in early historic times. But I’ve read in books by mainstream scientists that people moving from HG to early urban environments experience a dramatic decline in longevity due to a) a less healthy grain-based diet; b) infectious diseases coming from close contact with domesticated animals; c) crowding, which facilitated the spread of those diseases.

      Also, Ootzi, the 5,300-year-old “Ice Man” discovered in an Alpine Glacier in 1993 is estimated to be about 45 years old — and a vigorous 45. He was fleeing over the mountains at the time he was murdered by arrow shot. Believe it or not, he had a full set of teeth and NO CAVITIES. Ootzi wasn’t even a HG, living in a settled rural village and having some grains in his diet. But his example is relevant nonetheless.

      Finally, broken bones did not doom Paleolithic people. There’s lots of fossil evidence, in the form of knitted broken bones, that humans (including Neanderthals), took care of injured members of the group.

      Lots to think about here.

      Chauncey Mabe wrote on November 3rd, 2010
      • Ötzi was discovered in 1991. And it has been determined that he had been very sick on and off again before his death.

        Brian Kozmo wrote on November 4th, 2010
    • I agree. I think this is a great and very valid argument at discounting the .. ahh.. well heck… the attack on the primal diet by claiming Grok only lived to 30 or 40 years of age. As demonstrated this attempt to discredit is based on an assumption that is without scientific fact.

      But what they are doing should be looked at for what it is. The primal diet is supported scientifically and research bears out the benefits. Any lawyer will tell you when the evidence is against you, your only defense is to discredit the witness.

      Mark, you should feel complimented that they can not attack you on science but must resort to something as silly as discrediting your witness based on an assumption that is simply hear say.

      Mark wrote on November 5th, 2010
  2. Fascinating though experiment Mark! It would be interesting to see bone density readings of current hunter-gatherer groups and compare to “expected” density readings for the same age. Also good to review modern hunter-gatherer lifespan- I expect it would be shorter than ancient grok lifespan as most modern hunter-gatherers are pushed into the worst landscapes left.

    Alec wrote on October 28th, 2010
  3. The relationship between age and mortality likelihood is highly non-linear. As Nassim Taleb has argued over and over, including in his book The Black Swan, it is a sin to apply normative statistics (e.g., means and standard deviations) to non-linear data. Thus, even if the calculated mean or median life span is based on highly reliable raw data and methods, it is an irrelevant statistic at best and a misleading one at worst.

    Another thing anthropologists can do (and have done) is to sample the lifespan and health data from extant hunter-gatherer and foraging groups that still subsist in a largely paleolithic manner. These data show that if humans make it into old age (i.e., do not succumb to infant or childhood mortality, or suffer infection or trauma during adulthood) their health is not very different in their 60s, 70s, or 80s as it is in their 20s, 30s, or 40s. When such people do die in old age, they die relatively quickly and quietly (as if the body just shuts down all at once) rather than of degenerative diseases that drag on for months or years (or decades as in modern society).

    The final important point to make is that it doesn’t matter at what age paleolithic people died if approximating such a diet (avoiding problematic neolithic and industrialized foods) and lifestyle (lots of slow movement punctuated with brief bouts of intense lifting and sprinting, plenty of sleep, etc.) allows us modern folks to live in relatively good health to a ripe old age.

    Aaron Blaisdell wrote on October 28th, 2010
  4. “That is, bone density degradation is not linear, and it’s not set in stone.”

    No pun intended?! I have to know!

    Alex wrote on October 28th, 2010
  5. There is a big difference between the terms life expectancy and life span. Life expectancy is an average that is greatly influenced by environmental circumstances.

    Anyone that has watched the Discovery channel knows that an animal that lives in the wild has to fight for its survival against difficult odds. The very young and the very old are especially vulnerable to this kind of harsh environment.

    For Paleolithic man it was no different. A higher death rate for the very young makes for a shorter life expectancy, but really says nothing about life span.

    Today, because of modern medicine, life expectancy and life span are running neck and neck. For our distant ancestors there was a much wider gap.

    I get the impression that some people believe that because paleolithic man had a much shorter life expectancy, it means that by the age of 25 or 30 they had gray hair, wrinkled faces and feeble bodies. That wasn’t the case.

    Robert wrote on October 28th, 2010
    • Good point about the difference between life expectancy and life span.

      It should be noted that life expectancy in the US has hardly budged in the last few decades in spite of the impressive advances in medicine. We’re just barely treading water here.

      It makes me wonder how long my children will live being raised Paleo and having the benefits of future medicine available to them.

      Matt Lentzner wrote on October 28th, 2010
      • Read “The Singularity is Near” for an answer to that question (“It makes me wonder how long my children will live being raised Paleo and having the benefits of future medicine available to them.”)

        Sanas wrote on October 29th, 2010
  6. I think most people stick with primal because it makes us healthier by modern standards, and gives us a personal sense of well-being. It would be great if our ancestors thrived on this diet, too, but even if they lived on wonderbread and twinkies, I wouldn’t go back!

    fitmom wrote on October 28th, 2010
  7. I did a back of the envelope calculation, assuming the “average” of 35 to be the mean.

    If you look at 100 hunter gatherers and assign 40 of them to die in infancy, say under 10 years, half of the surviving females to die from childbirth or violence by the age of thirty and half of the surviving males are killed by other males, you need to have some well aged indivduals to make the arithmetic work out.

    These figures are pretty rough but are representative of what I have read about this class of society.

    My calculations show that 30 people should survive to a mean of 80 years. This is clearly a bit high, but I once meet a herder in Tanzania about that age, still alert, working and living with 5 wives. Plus he had impressive scarring from his lion hunting days.

    kem wrote on October 28th, 2010
    • cool, man!

      mannishboy wrote on October 28th, 2010
    • I wonder if death in childbirth was really a common issue among hunter gatherers or if it’s an artifact of neolithic nutrition. I always hear apocryphal stories about hunter gatherer societies having easy births. They seem to just squat down and pop out the kid.

      It makes sense to me that the poor bone formation seen with agricultural societies as documented by Price would extend to a lack of female hip development.

      Anyone have any data on childbirth mortality for HG’s?

      Matt Lentzner wrote on October 28th, 2010
      • Death in childbirth in the neolithic era is also effected by the cultural changes to the practice: a woman being on her back versus squatting, the ‘medicines’ and other folk remedies developed that were actual hindrances to dilation, etc. Not to mention that once agriculture set in and life changed culturally there was a lean towards younger pregnancies than paleolithic man practiced (and thus what the body was designed for). Breastfeeding was also shortened and so more births = more complications.

        There is definitely a correlation with death in childbirth and nutrition, but these are also changes that were happening that effected childbirth in the neolithic era and beyond into the present day.

        Sarah Matte wrote on October 29th, 2010
        • I don’t believe that childbirth was a main form of death for Grokettes.

          After a great deal of research I decided to go with a home birth for my second child with an experienced midwife and found that the greatest barrier to a safe and natural (as well as relatively painless) birth was fear and stress.

          My first birth was at a hospital. The body goes into flight, fight, or freeze mode when exposed to stressors (strangers, IVs, bright lights, strange environs.) In a safe environment with loving family and trusted midwives that you know well, care, and don’t change shifts and using steady breathing (I used hypnobirthing deep relaxation techniques), your body releases endorphins which act as opiates and allow you to feel “flow.” It also allows you to work with the uterine muscles in your body to help the process instead of fight it. In stress, your body releases catecholamines which cause pain and you are in fight, flight or freeze mode. Your body reduces oxygen to non-essential organs (uterus and baby) as in nature survival of the mother is paramount – the baby could not survive without it. Animals stop progressing in labor in danger. This can cause women’s labor to stop, stall, “failure to progress,” it can also cause your baby to become stressed and can be a major reason for the WHO shaming the US on our 30%+ cesarean rate. We also have a very high (on par with UAE and Qatar) infant mortality rate.

          I found my research to be truth in action. My first birth was 24 hrs/4hrs pushing with the full interventions common in modern hospital birth (though it was vaginal due to tenacity) and a baby that was subjected to antibiotics due to meconium from stress. 10 lbs 3 oz babies, both. The second birth took 2.5 hrs. I had no idea I was fully dilated and there are photos of me smiling, no pain until the ring of fire (crowning) and a pink, healthy, perfect, non stressed baby nursing within 20 minutes. (No the first one doesn’t “blow a hole open” for the second!)

          Nancy Wainer was my midwife (she has written amazing acclaimed books) and she teaches the primal version of birth. Every woman in my hypnobirthing class had a fantastic experience and a healthy baby as well. The fear-mongering is terrible as they will publicize a home birth death, but not the same one in the hospital which is far more common. My home birth was far safer for my baby.

          Beth wrote on November 17th, 2011
  8. Gruven and Kaplan show, in a paper called “Longevity Among Hunter-Gatherers: A Cross Cultural Examination” that 2/3 of the HG live to be grandparents and live in that status for 20 years on average if the pass puberty. Chimpanzees live 3 times longer in captivity (food, saefty, medical care) while Americans live only 12% longer than HG.
    Link: https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http://www.anth.ucsb.edu/faculty/gurven/papers/GurvenKaplan2007pdr.pdf&pli=1

    Miki wrote on October 28th, 2010
    • Nice citation for the topic, thanks!

      Jenny wrote on October 29th, 2010
    • Does any study discuss bone density among current hunter-gatherer populations? Somebody knows if 60 year old hunter gatherer bones look like 30 year old SAD eater bones. Wouldn’t that be a relatively easy thing to find out and be a solid clue one way or the other?

      Paul C wrote on October 29th, 2010
      • Unfortunately it is indeed significantly easier to determine age amongst youths archaeologically. You can do it with bone fusion levels, which isn’t so useful after maturity. You can also do it with tooth wear analyses, but Grok tended to use his/her teeth as multipurpose tools, the way we used to as kids before our parents yelled at us. Grok also would have often eaten things of a texture that isn’t equivalent to that of modern industrial diets, and tooth wear even in molars would have been different than ours today. Still, I think tooth wear analysis is most reliable so long as it’s calibrated to accomodate the relevant Grokian lifestyle.

        Jae wrote on May 30th, 2011
        • If you want an approximation of how old people would have lived in the Paleolithic, try looking at analogous ethnographic records of hunter gatherers in modern times.

          Jae wrote on May 30th, 2011
  9. Nice article but, I don’t think it matters how long they lived. It is hard to estimate how long they would have lived now if, they had kept their diet and work routine.
    Eating better and so on will go a long way to make sure anyone lives a long and productive life.
    But it is fun to see we might have lived way back when depending on where we are from. Is it me or do the studies tend to emphasize an European heritage. Just wondering about the acient Asian, Africain, Polanesian,and so on.

    primal tree top wrote on October 28th, 2010
  10. Just looking around the office and the mall I rarely see anyone over 35 who has the physical wherewithal to survive as a HG. Degenerative disease has already set in big time for most.

    So who has the shorter life expectancy when we start to compare apples to apples?

    The counter point to make is that neolithic agriculturalists had much shorter lifespans than contemporary hunter gatherers.

    Matt Lentzner wrote on October 28th, 2010
  11. Fascinating stuff, I’ve always wondered about the accuracy of this kind of dating.

    I think what really counts though isn’t the number of years you notch up but the quality of those years.

    Give me shorter, healthy with a swift end than long, lingering degeneration any day of the week.

    Kelda wrote on October 28th, 2010
  12. I wondering how Paleolithic peoples consumed 800mg to 1500mg of Magnesium everyday. A quick look at a list of foods high in Magnesium makes me think it wouldn’t have been easy.

    How does Cordain come up with the 1500 number? What were these people eating? Pounds of almonds?

    Aaron wrote on October 28th, 2010
    • I second that question. I eat my dark greens and yet I still can hardly nick the edge of 400 mg of magnesium a day.

      Benpercent wrote on October 28th, 2010
      • I third that question. I never seem to eat enough Magnesium and am thus very curious as to how our paleolithic ancestors ate so much and what can us modern primal people eat to up our intake? Should we all be taking a magnesium supplement?

        Primal Toad wrote on October 28th, 2010
        • Have any of you tried counting the magnesium intake you get from your meat?

          Eating plants is nice, but to get concentrated nutrients, let a friendly cow eat tons of the stuff for you and concentrate all those wonderful minerals in its own tissue for you to consume marinaded and rare.

          Erik wrote on October 29th, 2010
        • Tubers.

          StephenAegis wrote on October 29th, 2010
        • It would take 3 cups of a mix of equal parts almonds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds or 2 cups of just pumpkin seeds to provide 1500 mg of magnesium. That’s a lot of nuts. Alternatively, 10 cups of cooked spinach or swiss chard would provide the same amount. Considering that most HGs probably didn’t boil their greens, that’s a heck of a lot of food. Meat sources provide 20-30mg per serving (except for the richest meat source of magnesium, salmon, which provides 138 mg per serving).

          So supposing that a HG encountered a magnesium-optimum diet, he could eat 1 cup of mixed nuts, the equivalent of 3 cups of boiled greens, and two servings of salmon in a day and obtain 1500mg of magnesium. Certainly achievable, but likely difficult to obtain in many situations.

          Curt wrote on October 30th, 2010
    • A “quick look at a list of foods” isn’t good enough. You are surely looking at statistics of modern fruits and vegetables. The history of foods is actually quite interesting. Avocados, strawberries, blueberries, peanuts, tomatoes and potatoes, for example, all came from the Americas and wouldn’t have been available to Europeans in ancient times. Lettuce, onions, carrots (which were originally purple), and cucumber as well as oats and wheat come from the middle east, and apples, chicken, eggplant and coconut from Asia. Fruits and vegetables native to Europe are things I have never even eaten before.. blackcurrant, angelica, rapeseed, damsons, parsnip. Not to mention all the modern fruit and veggies we see today (including meat!) has gone through a horrific process of becoming bigger, tastier or sweeter, and a change in color. Who knows how nutrient dense ancient foods would have been? Modern cows and pigs certainly wouldn’t been wandering around, either. I’m sure they ate fowl, duck and other birds, rodents, and bigger animals like bear and deer.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_food_origins

      Brian Kozmo wrote on October 29th, 2010
  13. Hi Mark – first time blogging on your **great** site –

    Being currently immersed in the Weston Price book – especially regarding our dental woes in modern culture – am i right in assuming that age determination is also attempted via dental condition of the skeletons? and therefore, would not our CW bias that teeth simply and always decay attribute the presence of a good set of choppers to a younger being? WP found that this is definitely NOT so in more primal-eating cultures–

    moksha wrote on October 28th, 2010
  14. we could always argue the if’s, when’s, how’s etc, but in the end of the day we do not know. And does it matter?
    Not to me, I eat the way and live the way I do, because I like it and I feel great doing so. If Grok got 5 or 150 not matter to me. The argument about us living longer today is silly in my opinion as one part the people who live longer at present are coming from a healthier upbringing and surrounding, their kids, grandkids and so forth are getting weaker each generation do due food and lifestyle. (Pottengers cats)
    Plus do we live longer or do we die longer? When I was younger and I am not that old, many diseases were regarded rare and/or diseases for old people. Now we have to invent new names for these old people diseases.

    Patrick wrote on October 28th, 2010
  15. Was thinking the other day.. no organisms are meant to live forever. There’d be no need to reproduce, no means for genetic strengthening of the organism, or evolution for that matter. Thinking about all the things we eat in that kill us (through cancer, for instance). Maybe it’s the way it’s meant to be.

    Also wonder if our life expectancy will head downward in the future, due to obesity-related illnesses. Bet that’s a first for the human race!

    Rich wrote on October 28th, 2010
  16. If you think about it, the women were grandmas by what, age 30?

    Julie Aguiar wrote on October 28th, 2010
  17. Just a thought on this – the best way to investigate Mark’s idea about delayed-onset bone weakening in prehistoric humans would be to compare bone strength between sedentary people and “Grok-like” modern humans. Parts of Himalayan India, for instance, still feature a diet which leans towards the primal, and heavy labour as a key activity. If bone strength is preserved longer in these people, it would be interesting to consider them as a “control set” to check fossil bones against.

    Jayant S wrote on October 28th, 2010
  18. On the issue of starting to see humans live less long it is already happening; I’ve read that the current generation of children will be the first to be outlived by their parents (in terms of age at death). And as Professor Dawkins noted recently we are effectively devolving now that we control reproduction and treat many diseases we are circumventing the natural processes of evolution.

    Kelda wrote on October 28th, 2010
  19. … and enough women had to live to about 50 for menopause to evolve. We are the only mammal to be selected for such a trait.

    kem wrote on October 29th, 2010
    • !!!!!

      StephenAegis wrote on October 29th, 2010
    • Ooh, good point!

      Jenny wrote on October 29th, 2010
  20. Even if the argument against Paleo dieters, that cave man lived to be 35, is used and were assumed correct, I don’t see how that’s an efficient argument because it relies on the assumption that living beyond 35 is a good thing – (not to mention the assumption that the diet played a roll at all in age). Of course every person on the planet wants to live to 90, but is an early death such a bad thing as we make it out to be?

    Brian Kozmo wrote on October 29th, 2010
  21. Oh, one more point: when people talk about cave man, or the stone age period, that would include a timeframe of about 3,500 years ago, and not only 10,000. There’s a huge difference between paleo humans and stone-aged humans, which would also include such periods as the neolithic.

    Brian Kozmo wrote on October 29th, 2010
  22. Bottom line: we live to long today! There are people kept alive by artificial means such as drugs. We are not a survival of the fittest culture. We are EXTREMELY overpopulated and I believe it’s because of the poor choices we make. Babies having babies….keeping murderers alive….big pharma drugs extending a week person alive. I realize I sound extreme but I believe it’s the truth. Any ecologist will tell you there are about 5 billion too many people on the earth.

    Aaron Curl wrote on October 29th, 2010
    • I wouldn’t necessarily say we live too long. We are only kept alive by artificial means because of the western diseases that we have. If it weren’t for western diseases, meaning, if we still lived in the paleolithic period, we’d be living more than likely that long anyways. “Babies having babies”… I’m guessing that in the paleo period that humans were meant to have babies once females started ovulating, around age 12 on average (8-17). Why else would females start ovulation so early if it weren’t meant to keep the species alive?

      We humans are just overpopulated today because somebody around 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent learned how to plant wheat. And because they learned to plant so much food, it resulted in a population boom.

      Brian Kozmo wrote on October 29th, 2010
      • The study that wacked me on the head was the one where you put 20 monkeys in a cage and give them 20 monkeys worth of food – what happens? population stays at about 20 monkeys give or take.

        put in 25 monkeys worth of food and guess what? same effect only opposite if you reduce to 15 monkeys worth of food – the populations will follow the available foodstuffs.

        pretty damning information w/regard to our so called “humanitarian” efforts to stop hunger by providing more food (and not some kind of intelligent, humane population control alongside…)

        ps – i quote this study having remembered reading it years ago – would greatly appreciate if someone had a link to the actual data/abstract…

        moksha wrote on October 29th, 2010
      • Here’s a link to an interesting article regarding women in “foraging” societies. It indicates a later start to ovulation (around 16) and more pregnancies and longer breast feeding, resulting in much fewer menstruations, all of which is correlated with less breast, uterine, and overian cancer.

        http://webpub.allegheny.edu/employee/r/rmumme/FS101/ResearchPapers/RachelBayer.html

        Maxmilliana wrote on October 29th, 2010
      • I agree with you 100%. What I mean by babies having babies is….well I am for abortion big time. The large % of humans walking this earth today should not reproduce. Maybe its all the grains making them STUPID! I’m not joking about this. If meat and fat made our brains grow….then grains make us stupid! In 50,000 years humans will read about the stupidity of us! Probably sooner than this.

        Aaron Curl wrote on October 29th, 2010
        • Even if the large percentage of humans were extremely intelligent, we’d still have a population problem. Unfortunately not reproducing goes against our biological urges. How one deals with population without killing and/or controlling everyone, though, is beyond me.

          Brian Kozmo wrote on October 30th, 2010
        • Weston Price says in his book that a lot of tribes actually did population control.
          They even had members of the tribe agree to not have children because their food supplies (wilderness) couldn’t support it.

          Nowadays you have every stupid clown out there wanting a baby because it’s THE AMERICAN WAY.

          Inge wrote on January 19th, 2012
        • I came on here curious about the paleo diet, and associate it with some negative connotations due to some people that are on it having a superior attitude, and that they are better and smarter than people who aren’t. Aaron thanks for supporting this theory.

          You misused the words “week” and “to” and need “A” in place of “The”. I’m not joking about this, maybe the government should make it illegal for people to reproduce that cant use a language properly? Maybe you have had too many grains today. Or perhaps we should just appoint you to make the rules up on that? I’m pretty happy with the fact that we aren’t cave men, and we aren’t helpless to “survival of the fittest”, and when your dad/mom/sister/brother has a fatal but easily treatable disease, I’m sure you will feel the same way.

          Dan wrote on July 18th, 2013
  23. Keep in mind, the biggest additions to life expectancy were inoculations/immunizations (drastically lowered the infant mortality rate) and antibiotics. In the U.S. the average life expectancy was only 54 years (in 1915).

    Jeff wrote on October 29th, 2010
    • oops Jeff – argumentative – this is conventional medicines CW – their dearly held claim that they “wiped out diseases with vaccines” – i realize this is another whole can of worms to discuss here – but as someone who has gone into this quite deeply, (and now distrusts almost totally most conventional medicine’s claims) – it is as readily arguable that the turn of the century (1900 on) brought huge increases in the standards of living and sanitation in this and other developing countries. Best way to cross-check your vaccine claim is to look at the disease curves against when the vaccines were introduced – all were introduced in the last 20% of the “epidemics” they purported to cure.

      Sure we have suffered from certain diseases over the course of evolution (most brought on by our more urban living tendencies) – but do you really believe that humans (or any other animal/living organism) would be successful in our biological system if it did not – properly fed and nourished – have the immune system to sustain in the face of even the most virulent diseases? (remember that the black plague, bubonic, etc did not kill EVERYONE, how did the survivors survive? their immune systems…)

      moksha wrote on October 29th, 2010
      • Not to mention that many of the diseases were the result of so many living so close together, a result of the agricultural and industrial lifestyle, not the peleolithic.

        Ken wrote on October 29th, 2010
  24. Two other things that will destroy your bone density: drinking coffee and drinking soda. Coffee, especially coffee drinks that have chocolate in them, buffer the calcium in your blood and prevent it from being deposited in your bones.

    Best thing to build bone density: activity and weightlifting. It’s far less about nutrition for those of us on any kind of modern diet because if you eat animals, you’ll have far more than enough of the materials somewhere in your diet, you just need a reason for your body to use them. They’ve shown that seniors with osteoporosis can greatly improve bone density with just moderate additions of physical activity to their lifestyle.

    Angela wrote on October 29th, 2010
    • Is it true about the coffee?!! If so I need to stop drinking it.
      I drink one cup of black coffee a day

      Danielht wrote on October 29th, 2010
      • oops – another one of those “argumentative” statements – do a google on it – lots and lots of different opinions and study results – hormones come into play – timing of coffee consumption vs calcium consumption as well as **many** other general health conditions specific to the individual –

        are you pretty healthy, getting enough sleep, moving and working your body and eating “primally” well? then enjoy your cup or two–

        moksha wrote on October 29th, 2010
  25. Interesting argument, but with one caveat.

    distinguish african vs. non-african populations.

    Humans evolved in Africa. There are natural barriers to population growth there — disease, predators, etc.

    Once we left africa we became an invasive species with few if any predators and little disease. Nothing to stop us from moving to the top. Perhaps we can live longer then.

    charlie wrote on October 29th, 2010
    • We didn’t leave Africa. Africa didn’t exist at the time when we evolved which was on planet pangea.
      We drifted north and ended up in todays europe…you don’t evolve into a blue eyed, white skinned Hick by marching to another continent 30k years ago, that’s ret…..

      They have found graves with domesticated animals older than that (in belgium, about 35000 yrs old).

      We have also always walked upright, and never evolved while being hunched over for 200k years or more? Ya know what that would do to your spine?????
      Our arms would be 2 meters long.

      They already found hte missing link to humankind, which is Ida, a Lemur found in central europe, who —– walked up right!

      Inge wrote on January 19th, 2012
  26. I think you’re trying too hard Mark :)

    PB is a fine lifestyle and those who’ve tried it seem to like it. That’s probably the best evidence out there. I’d rather see you post more good workouts and recipes than a discussion of how long some hunter lived tens of thousands of years ago.

    Gal @ 60 in 3 wrote on October 29th, 2010
    • Completely disagree

      StephenAegis wrote on October 29th, 2010
    • I think he does have to try hard, because too many unhealthy forces have too much power. If the primal movement can be dismissed with ‘cavemen led short brutal lives’, then what chance do we have to improve school lunches, get people on food stamps away from devastating cheap calories, change nutrition policy, and…well I could go on for hours.

      Paul C wrote on October 29th, 2010
  27. It is ironic that the HG societies themselves don’t really track time in the way we are discussing here. You are an infant, a weaned child, an adult, and past child bearing. They are not parsing things beyond that. Live life, rather than worrying too much about the quantity. Of course in our highly unnatural civilization you can’t just relax and do that. Oh irony, how ironic you are.

    Ken wrote on October 29th, 2010
  28. Read this article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oldest_people, it’s about how long the oldest living humans on record have lived. All are close to, but under 120 years with two exceptions (one disputed). And just because the other one isn’t disputed doesn’t mean it’s true.

    Then the LORD said, “My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years.” Genesis 6:3

    Steve wrote on October 31st, 2010
    • Psalms 90:10 “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” I’m pretty sure that adds up to 70 years — 80 if God doesn’t like you much.

      Chauncey Mabe wrote on November 3rd, 2010
  29. Not one of these folks posting here is sitting in the sun. No vitamin D for them, eh? Too bad. We like a nice fresh piece of manflesh that is healthy, full of vitamins and dripping with blood.

    Uruk-Hai wrote on November 3rd, 2010
  30. in a different life time..I read the bible a lot. My favorite chapter being Genesis. A lot of people lived over 100 years. Maybe there was something to it..!

    rik wrote on November 3rd, 2010
    • I think you’re right Rik. I view 120 as the max age and things like pollution, inadequate exercise, bad nutrition, etc. all subtract years from our lives and we live to 70 or 80. If we even make it that long.

      Steve wrote on November 3rd, 2010
  31. Fascinating thought, Mark. I’m passing this article on.

    Tribe of Five wrote on November 3rd, 2010
  32. How about that guy from the bible: Methuselah who lived to be 900 years old?
    Since it was in Genesis, he was 10th generation from Adam who ate fruits and veggies in the Garden of Eden and his son Cain started eating animals; sounds like Primal eating to me.

    Edie Zaprir wrote on November 3rd, 2010
  33. This is a misinformation!

    Gift Economy wrote on November 3rd, 2010
  34. There is much more involved in living a long life than what one eats. The genetic factors are more determinative. Those telomeres keep getting shorter regardless of your diet.

    Henry Barth wrote on November 4th, 2010
  35. Has anyone read the oldest history book known to man. There are plenty of examples of people living to well over 100 hundred in it.

    Warren Coop wrote on November 5th, 2010
  36. The diets most associated with longevity (in good shape) are the Mediterranean and Okinawa diets. That’s not to say one can’t live a long time on a Paleo diet either though. More important than the kind of diet (vegetarian, paleo, etc) is just eating healthy foods. Any diet that avoids processed foods, sugar, salt, refined carbs and excessive saturated fat will likely lead to a long healthy life (assuming they’re thin, see a doc regularly, and remain active); aside from that the rest probably only makes a difference at the margins.

    One other thing I did want to point out is that aside from eating healthy foods and exercising, probably the most important thing is eating the right amount of food. There has been a well-established inversely proportional relationship between caloric intake and lifespan. (assuming u get good nutrition) So whatever diet one chooses, eating fewer calories and staying on the thin side of normal (not JUST avoiding obesity) is a good idea. Here’s a pretty good cache of evidence and info on this point: http://www.longevitymeme.org/topics/calorie_restriction.cfm

    P.S. I wouldn’t put a whole lot of stock into what the Bible or other ancient books say about people’s lifespans. They say lots of stuff that has been disproved. (like the Earth only being thousands of years old) They aren’t health guides.

    Kim wrote on November 5th, 2010
    • Kim,

      Don’t you think it’s interesting that the Bible says that mans years will be capped at 120 and that most of the oldest people in the world live to just shy of 120? (with 2 exeptions)

      I wasn’t saying that Grok lived a natural life to 120. Just that he had the potential.

      I am a Christian and I think the earth is about as old as secular scientists say it is. Where does the bible say that the earth is only thousands of years old?

      Steve wrote on November 5th, 2010
      • It also says it is flat and the rest of the universe rotates around it. there is not 1 thing in the bible that has any relation to fact, history or truth. Just being on this site should prove that. Man is over 2,000,000 years old, the earth is 4.5 billion years old, not 6,000.

        B wrote on December 27th, 2011
        • B- just curious, where does the Bible say the earth is flat?
          While I agree with you on most points concerning the Bible, there is a ton of health information contained in the Pentateuch that still holds true today. In fact, some good stuff echoed in the Primal Blueprint.

          Mike Phelps wrote on December 27th, 2011
        • Sup B?

          Actually it refers to the earth as a sphere. Isaiah 40:21-22—“the sphere (חוג—chuwg) of the earth”. Job 26:10 refers to the waters of the Earth as “compassed”. The only way one could think the Bible says it is flat is if one doesn’t get the phrase “four corners of the Earth”, a reference to the directions of a compass & a naval phrase often used independently of scriptures.

          As far as your suggestion that you know how old the Earth is, try this the following. Work out the number of evolutionary steps and generations to make a human, then the number of seconds in 4.5bil years, then calculate the average number of generations we should have observed every second so far. It is astronomical. You’ll need to be good at using powers of ten. You’ll soon see that even 4.5billion years for human life is a more preposterous proposition than the alternative view. You might have to add a few more zeros to the age of the Earth or, at least, the age of life life to make your bellicosely religious view work.

          I’m a former evolution believer and one of the things I love about Mark’s site and book is it does not set out to prove evolution (Mark just uses his perogative to take it as a given). He then merely uses the theory as a launching pad to develop his hypothesis. The areas of science that seriously validate the concepts herein are the likes of biochemistry and neuroscience. I’m sure this comment comes much to the ire of many, but there are plenty of people in the AH community that hold an evolutionary view yet disagree with the notion that the primal approach can be justified with evolution.

          But hey, judging by the gross generalizations in your comment you just sound angry. Maybe a respectful discussion is too late?

          Btw Mark, love what you do, keep it up.

          Tim wrote on January 19th, 2012
    • The tomato was imported to italy in 1550’s.
      The grains were also imported, it was a trade good.
      Olives also are not italian.

      The italians true, primal food was seafoods. The pizza is a made-up modern food. Most people think mediterranian means italian and so they load up on rancid olive oil, nightshades and grains…don’t fall for it.

      Inge wrote on January 19th, 2012
  37. Steve,
    I agree with you about the 120 years. In the early Bible days people did not have pollution or pesticides or trans fats or processed foods or mortgage payments for that matter. They could have easily lived to 120 if they didn’t get killed by each other. Today, most people living past 100 live in remote regions although there are a few in the U.S. but they are the exceptions.

    Edie Zaprir wrote on November 5th, 2010
    • In Bible days there was agriculture and grains. and people killed each other in massive numbers fighting over whose god was the right god. And the bibles mean nothing in terms of fact and truth.

      B wrote on December 27th, 2011
      • Religion came AFTER the grains. With grains came population, with population came dissease, with disease came the question who or what is doing this?
        With that we went looking for answers (witches, devils) and with it all the perfect “book to rule them all with fear” was born: the bible.

        Written, rewritten, translated, written, rewritten and retranslated…and read to someone who can’t write to tell someone who could write then rewritten and retranslated, edited, written again and reedited…
        you get todays bible.

        Inge wrote on January 19th, 2012
        • You are both guilty of misreading. Edie was referring to a period in time. To be taken more seriously cut the emotional bigotry. You sound like religious zealots.

          Tim wrote on January 19th, 2012
  38. Is Grok Cro-Magnon and proto-European?

    Jon wrote on November 9th, 2010
  39. Any statistics yet on longevity of people today, who have practiced the paleo way?

    john wrote on November 10th, 2010
  40. I like the helpful information you provide in your LED WRITING BOARDS articles. I will bookmark your blog and check again here frequently. I am quite certain I will learn lots of new stuff right here! Good luck for the next!

    Sydney Boughamer wrote on June 18th, 2011

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