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Thread: Life Expectancy Conundrum page

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    ninagski's Avatar
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    Lightbulb Life Expectancy Conundrum

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    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!


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    Uncephalized's Avatar
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    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.

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    peril's Avatar
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    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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    Uncephalized's Avatar
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    Quote 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.

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    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.

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    Quote 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.

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    Quote 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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    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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    Quote 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

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    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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