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Life Expectancy Conundrum

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  • Life Expectancy Conundrum

    I'm hoping someone can answer this question for me that comes up when people find out I'm "eating like a caveman." (I apologize if it's been addressed, but I haven't found an answer.)

    The question:

    If the S.A.D. is not optimal for our health, why has life expectancy increased so greatly since the days of our ancestors? By fact, we're living much longer than our older relatives. To what factors can you attribute this change in life expectancy?

    Thanks for any help or direction you can provide!


  • #2
    It's been addressed a million times, but I'll give it another go...

    We live longer, on average, today than we did a long time ago for several reasons. If you look at statistics of people living in primitive conditions, there are several things that are very different from our lives in terms of cause of death. Infant mortality is very high, WAY higher than in modern societies with hospitals, etc. If you look at life expectancy for people who make it through early childhood, the numbers get much higher, I think several decades better. The second thing is violence--murder rates tend to be way higher in primitive societies, especially among younger males. If you control for violent death, the numbers again improve, especially for men. Finally, many people died from acute problems, anything from being attacked by an animal and bleeding to death, getting cut and dying from a simple infection, or breaking a leg when far from home and not being able to move, and starving to death or being eaten. Far fewer people die from that sort of thing today because 1) the most dangerous thing most of do regularly is get in our cars and 2) we have a much higher survival rate from accidents and serious injuries because of modern medicine and 3) modern medicine also prevents minor infections from spreading and killing us in most cases.

    If you control for all of these factors, you actually get a lifespan that is not much different than today's, with those who were lucky enough to survive the perils of primitive life routinely living into their 70s and 80s, with a major difference: those who do make it that long living in primitive conditions are healthier on average than their agemates in modern society. The majority of people that age in our society are quite ill and take several powerful medications just to stay alive. Many of them are unable to walk. This is much rarer in primitive societies.

    You may not know that life expectancy also took a major dip at the advent of agriculture, and has only reattained its former status with the advent of modern hygiene and medicine.

    Sorry I can't dig around for citations for all of this at the moment, don't have time right now.
    Today I will: Eat food, not poison. Plan for success, not settle for failure. Live my real life, not a virtual one. Move and grow, not sit and die.

    My Primal Journal

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    • #3
      Engineers contribute far more to life expectancy than do physicians
      Four years Primal with influences from Jaminet & Shanahan and a focus on being anti-inflammatory. Using Primal to treat CVD and prevent stents from blocking free of drugs.

      Eat creatures nose-to-tail (animal, fowl, fish, crustacea, molluscs), a large variety of vegetables (raw, cooked and fermented, including safe starches), dairy (cheese & yoghurt), occasional fruit, cocoa, turmeric & red wine

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      • #4
        Originally posted by peril View Post
        Engineers contribute far more to life expectancy than do physicians
        Because of safety equipment, or what? I wouldn't be surprised if this was true (but as an engineer myself I am a bit biased )
        Today I will: Eat food, not poison. Plan for success, not settle for failure. Live my real life, not a virtual one. Move and grow, not sit and die.

        My Primal Journal

        Comment


        • #5
          I think it will be interesting to see if life expectancy heads downward in the next few generations. Having done my family history I discovered I have quite a few ancestors who died in their 80's and 90's and a couple over 100. Some who died in their 50's and 60's so a mixture. So living to over 100 was possible way back (not Paleo of course). But child mortality was pretty high and the average life expectancy at the time was recorded as 45 years (mid 19th C). I wonder what how old the oldest Paleo individuals lived.
          My website: http://www.shoppinganywhere.net/

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          • #6
            Originally posted by ninagski View Post
            If the S.A.D. is not optimal for our health, why has life expectancy increased so greatly since the days of our ancestors? By fact, we're living much longer than our older relatives. To what factors can you attribute this change in life expectancy?
            Clean drinking water is the number 1 factor. If that can be attributed to SAD then guilty as charged.

            Hans Rosling has an awesome presentation on population change. I don't think that diet is cited as a key factor anywhere. Watch it and see.
            Disclaimer: I eat 'meat and vegetables' ala Primal, although I don't agree with the carb curve. I like Perfect Health Diet and WAPF Lactofermentation a lot.

            Griff's cholesterol primer
            5,000 Cal Fat <> 5,000 Cal Carbs
            Winterbike: What I eat every day is what other people eat to treat themselves.
            TQP: I find for me that nutrition is much more important than what I do in the gym.
            bloodorchid is always right

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            • #7
              Originally posted by jo View Post
              I think it will be interesting to see if life expectancy heads downward in the next few generations. Having done my family history I discovered I have quite a few ancestors who died in their 80's and 90's and a couple over 100. Some who died in their 50's and 60's so a mixture. So living to over 100 was possible way back (not Paleo of course). But child mortality was pretty high and the average life expectancy at the time was recorded as 45 years (mid 19th C). I wonder what how old the oldest Paleo individuals lived.
              Sometimes I wonder, if given a total paleo diet, clean water, and working all of you basic exercise needs into a day if you could actually live as long as some claimed in the Bible. Not that I believe much in the bible, but Methusela was said to have lived to 969.

              Also provided of course that your ancestors had this as well.

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              • #8
                Thanks all, for your input. I personally love the paleo lifestyle and am looking forward to continuing on it for quite some time (only 2 weeks in). Now I'll have some answers in my arsenal when people question me. Thanks!

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Milty View Post
                  Sometimes I wonder, if given a total paleo diet, clean water, and working all of you basic exercise needs into a day if you could actually live as long as some claimed in the Bible. Not that I believe much in the bible, but Methusela was said to have lived to 969.

                  Also provided of course that your ancestors had this as well.
                  From what I can tell ~125 seems to be the upper limit. But who knows, I guess. 125 is damn old.
                  Today I will: Eat food, not poison. Plan for success, not settle for failure. Live my real life, not a virtual one. Move and grow, not sit and die.

                  My Primal Journal

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    The same paradox exists in animals. Animals in the wild have a much shorter lifespan than animals in captivity. For instance, Polar Bears are known to live a max of about 15 years in the wild, but have lived almost 40 in a zoo. The zoo raised bear ate a diet totally inconsistant with it's evolution: fruits, vegetables, and processed chow. However, the bear in captivity didn't have to deal with fighting, starvation, weather extremes, and hunting for it's next meal.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Uncephalized View Post
                      From what I can tell ~125 seems to be the upper limit. But who knows, I guess. 125 is damn old.
                      I recently read about a woman who was 110, said she ate 2lbs of dark chocolate a week. Resveratrol?

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                      • #12
                        Some folks have always gotten to be very old, there's just a greater percentage of them now. Reductions in infant mortality as well as disease control account for most of the number anyway, the extraordinary interventions we've become used to don't move the needle all that much and mainly address poor lifestyle issues. The latter are going to push the number down and bust the treasury as well.
                        Wheat is the new tobacco. Spread the word.

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                        • #13
                          I remember being in the Cotswolds in England on a day tour. We were in a graveyard and I was amazed at just his old all the people in the graves were when they died. A vast majority were over 75 with a large amount being 90+. The graves ranged from the 1600's to the 1700's.

                          So I don't think it's that we've suddenly discovered how to live longer, but rather that the majority of us are being given the chance to live longer (better living conditions, hygiene etc).

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Uncephalized View Post
                            Because of safety equipment, or what? I wouldn't be surprised if this was true (but as an engineer myself I am a bit biased )
                            Clean water supply. Sewers
                            Four years Primal with influences from Jaminet & Shanahan and a focus on being anti-inflammatory. Using Primal to treat CVD and prevent stents from blocking free of drugs.

                            Eat creatures nose-to-tail (animal, fowl, fish, crustacea, molluscs), a large variety of vegetables (raw, cooked and fermented, including safe starches), dairy (cheese & yoghurt), occasional fruit, cocoa, turmeric & red wine

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by sroelofs View Post
                              I remember being in the Cotswolds in England on a day tour. We were in a graveyard and I was amazed at just his old all the people in the graves were when they died. A vast majority were over 75 with a large amount being 90+. The graves ranged from the 1600's to the 1700's.

                              So I don't think it's that we've suddenly discovered how to live longer, but rather that the majority of us are being given the chance to live longer (better living conditions, hygiene etc).
                              I've noticed this in lots of rural English churchyards. Derbyshire, Sussex, Northumberland - lots of people reached their eighties and nineties. And a lot of gravestones recording long lived parents also have a sad list of their children who died young.

                              I think, though, that a lot of people living and working in cities (read hard industry, long hours, poor food, no access to sunlight and from childhood) died awfully young, so skewing the figures badly.

                              And when you read some of the weird things that used to be prescribed as medicine, I'm not surprised that a lot of people who got ill died!

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