The Ageing Young Diet

I

Is there an antivirus diet?

Of course, there is. It doesn’t prevent viral infection in and of itself. But it certainly promotes general health and the immune system.

What does it consist of?

Commonsense!

Simply put: don’t eat crap. Eat as you evolved to do. This is the Ageing Young Diet.

II

Nature bites back

Diet is particularly important with the advent of COVID 19, with viable vaccines and treatments still months away, if not years down a winding road. People are afraid — which is good because fear is the harbinger of change.

Most people have a huge comfort zone — but what to do when suddenly that rather large space of absolute denial shrinks to your apartment or home. With today’s “pandemic”, everything is being questioned, even the once hallowed concepts of globalization and universal mobility as modern virtues. Not to mention, cruise ships and other offenses against nature.

Even if we get vaccines that work — and antigen treatments — this year — what about the next “novel” virus? There are sure to be more contagions.

Why?

It’s just science. And real science is just commonsense.

As I pointed out in two years ago in Books I and II of my Ageing Young series of books, now withdrawn for rewriting in light of current events, human beings evolved to live in small communities of 30 to 50 people, peacefully interacting from time to time with other communities nearby as they moved around within areas limited by the length of our legs. We still got sick and contracted diseases. But a really lethal disease would wipe out an entire community before it had a chance to spread it to another.

Disease is a natural thing. It occurs in all animal and plant populations: it is one way that the eco-system regulates itself, preventing overpopulation while weeding out the weak from the strong. Through disease “ecology’ achieves balance, preventing one species from damaging others.

All animal populations are driven by reproduction as a priority. That’s a problem for, say, bunny rabbits in Australia who don’t have oral contraceptives or natural predators. If, for some reason, Peter Rabbit’s zillion kids eat up all available food and force out other species, you get either famine or disease — or both. Crowding encourages the propagation of pathogens of various kinds, not to mention internecine violence, as we see with all human “civilizations” (sic) — and even with rabbits.

Yes, bunnies murder each other. Bunnies are just human beings with longer ears.

In the animal world, there is such a thing as being too successful. When bunny rabbits overpopulate — or rats —or deer —they will get sick.

Modern human societies since the Neolithic Revolution 7000 years ago have been predicated on the idea that resources are scarce and we must compete and “adapt” to ensure that we — where “we” means the thirty or so people important to us — get enough.

For our hunter gatherer pre-tribal forebears before the Neolithic however, resources were not scarce — they were abundant. Of course, we had to move around a lot , as the seasons changed and with them food availability. We shared and cared. We were egalitarian — we were anarchists. Women were equal to men and spaced their children, which, with high child mortality and infanticide to keep the population in check. With some exceptions, we generally ate better. We were healthier. Stronger. Taller.

But the Pleistocene ended and the Holocene changed all that, forcing unnatural adaptations. The verdant forests of the Sahara turned into dust bowls. The Mega Fauna died out. It was an Extinction Event. Kind of like today.

It is a myth that prehistoric peoples subsisted mostly by hunting large animals. That may have been true of some communities, as an adaptation to local environments and no doubt it is attractive to the legions of mostly male paleontologists who hark back to the days when Men were Men, Hunters and Warriors — and Women were Girls, goo-goo eyed when you brought back the kill.

Sorry, guys. For the most part we were omnivores eating 40 or more different foods a week. Yes, we hunted anything we could kill small or large. And we scavenged too. And women probably contributed the bulk of the foods.

Then came Climate Change. Many species of animals died off. And plants as well. It was hotter and drier. Just like today. to sub-optimal diets, emphasizing just a few foods and chronically under-nourished. We were less healthy, our lifespans suddenly limited. Today, we have “progress” — McDonald’s.

We migrated to the mouths of rivers or places close to the sea, where food was more plentiful and invented agriculture, animal husbandry. One we lived in small reverse dominance societies which were egalitarian and consensus ruled. Now, we were sedentary. There were simply too many people in one place and we developed social hierarchies, “institutions” and the concept of “property” for societal harmony. These were dominance societies. And “property” included people: women became chattel. Others became slaves. Suddenly, just like today, we had to cope with hoarding, violence and war. So, from simple egalitarian communities we evolved simple tribes; then larger tribes, and finally “civilizations . As civilizations grew , population dense communities led to trade, migrations, colonization .

We also moved to sub-optimal diets, emphasizing just a few foods and we were chronically under-nourished. We were less healthy, our lifespans limited. Rather like modern America. No America a Big Mac is not food. Not really.

With “patriarchy”, women had no control over their own bodies and had to give birth more often.Populations got progressively larger, even with war.

The end result was that Nature bit back in the form of plagues.

Like today.

III

Diet matters.

Diet matters in any plague, because it is the weakest and most vulnerable who die first — generally those with the poorest diets, living in the most unhygienic conditions. Keep in mind that not everyone died from bubonic plague — perhaps 50 to 70%. Survivors were often well-off or just ate better.

One thing that we have learned from COVID 19 is that while the condition puts older people at risk, some older people do remarkably well. People as old as 106 have recovered successfully while people in their 20s have died. People with optimum diets do better. The malnourished die.

A longevity diet is always an antiviral one since it enhances the immune system and reduces inflammation.

Such a diet usually means a lower BMI since it must eschew processed foods and emphasize variety, to supply the widest range of nutrients. As I said, we were omnivores, evolved to need a lot of different kinds of foods, supplying a very wide range of nutrients and supporting a diverse microbiome. Open your mouth. Look inside. Your teeth tell you what kind of animal you are.

Many studies have shown that obesity is as life threatening as smoking; in the case of COVID 19 much more so. Eat crap food and you end up in the ICU like Boris Johnson who is just 55 and overweight. Eat better food like heath conscious Prince Charles, who is 71 and very careful about what he puts in his mouth, and it’s just a mild infection.

The death rate in Japan, with only a voluntary lock down, was amazingly low. The death rate in Canada with stringent lock down rules was many times higher, even if you figure in reporting errors or governmental obfuscation of statistics. Of course, there are different variants of the virus. And the Japanese have better hygiene.

But…. only 24 % of Japanese are obese. In Canada it is well over 60% — and this in the nominally higher risk groups. Obesity puts extra stress on all organs and their functions and hamstrings the immune system. As a result, fat 20-year-old can be more at risk from a virus than a fit 70-year-old. And a fat five-year-old can develop something that looks like Kawasaki Disease.

The Japanese diet has its pitfalls. Too much salt (heart disease) and iodine (Hashimoto’s Disease) for one thing. But it is still a lot healthier than any Western diet, which emphasize processed foods, not just salt but loads of sugar, unhealthy fats, hormones and antibiotics. Yeah, I know — that shit tastes good. But it’s still shit.

Japanese still eat a lot of raw food, rice rather than bread, and vegetables, usually in smaller servings.

Diet skeptics will say, “ What about Italy and the much touted “healthy” Mediterranean Diet?” . Sorry — only about 40% of modern Italians follow this diet, fewer in Lombardy which was hardest hit by the virus. The traditional Spanish diet as pretty healthy too — depending on region — but McDonald's has conquered the world. Along with Chicago Pizza and microwave dinners.

IV

The Myth of the Hunter

When zoologists study an animal, one of the first things they look at is dentition, which tells them a lot about what the animal evolved to eat. As I said, open your mouth and look. Relatively weak jaws with insignificant canines, clearly designed for chewing and grinding. Our Pleistocene diet included a lot of nuts and seeds, berries, wild fruits and vegetables, birds eggs, and insects, supplemented by birds, fish and small animals. Nope, we did not eat three meals a day. We grazed a lot.

As I mentioned, this narrative is not popular with the mostly male paleontologist community who imagine themselves as the guy below. Maybe we should include anthropologists as well.

Stephen, the nerdy anthropologist, who just wishes that sexy Diana in the Dean’s Office which appreciate the power of his Mind. Stephen spends six months studying the Inuit, who treat him kindly and confirm all his biases, not bothering to mention that, traditionally, their women were polyamorous because men tended to die young in hunting accidents. Nerdy anthropologists die in from heart disease and cancer.

This story is no doubt also appealing to Joe the Office Worker, doing Excel day in and day out and fantasizing about screwing the office girls. Sorry Joe, it s a myth. And Gold’s Gym won’t help you.

Maybe it appeals to some women too, who wish that they had a guy like the one in the picture, without smelly body hair and clad in a leopard skin loincloth, nicely shaved and with his hair style by Maurice downtown. Totally in love with her because she is the only human woman he has ever met. Great for a couple of nights in the jungle.

The fact is that, in the era of MegaFauna, before the Eskimos were marginalized to the arctic in the north and others to the deserts and jungle in other places, it was a major challenge to kill something big because, well, they were really big! They were all big. You try to kill a sabre-tooth tiger with a flint knife!

Cave art, the first attempts at human wish fulfillment, notwithstanding, Man was probably more of a scavenger than a hunter, picking the bones of large animals killed by alpha predators. Looking at paleo-art, it is clear that actually hunting anything required a lot of cooperation with others. In the case of something really huge with tusks, it would have required cooperation with others in other bands. Not to mention: effort.

Work. Ugh.

Our ancestors did “work” from time to time, but not all the time.

My point is that an individual good with a bow and arrow or spear was of little use by himself. Cooperative agency made all the difference. Bands leveraged “reverse dominance” and egalitarianism to get tight efficient teamwork — rather like the British SAS during world war II, where rank was less important than efficiency. There were no leaders or “chiefs” in prehistoric bands. Even today, in the remaining marginalized hunting and gathering groups such as the !Kung, the best hunters got a lot of good nature ribbing about their failures and flaws to keep them in place. It is called “insulting the meat”.

https://www.theguardian.com/inequality/2017/oct/29/why-bushman-banter-was-crucial-to-hunter-gatherers-evolutionary-success

In addition, since, as I have indicated, much of the food was gathered — not hunted — often by women — and everything shared, men were rather redundant in most hunting gathering societies. In any case, the death rates for male children in particular were higher. Which lead to at least some of those societies being “matrist”, if not matriarchal.

Clearly, males are the Weaker Sex. Sorry Tarzan.

Women chose men on the basis of personality — and also their ability to sing, dance and play and otherwise entertain — things that Lord Greystoke never learned from the Great Apes.

The Myth of the Hunter assumes scarcity, which, in civilizations, is something created by inequality and hoarding. It also assumes, as I have said, greater effort to survive. It assumes dominance societies.

But in prehistory we didn’t have to work hard — in fact ” no more than 15 hours a week. Somewhere in our heads, a bell goes off after 15 hours. Although we go to the office 40 hours a week, actual productive work is only about 15 hours. The rest? Various forms of play. And play is not about dominance, it is about keeping the game going.

In the office, nobody likes the guy who wins all the time — at anything. Because winning ends the game, usually on a sour note. So it was in prehistoric times. Nothing changes. Only style .

V

You’re lazy

Human beings are the laziest of God’s creatures. Come to think of it, God was lazy too. Almighty but took a day off after six days. Hasn’t been around much, doing anything either. Fire him!

Sloth is an evolutionary trait, actually an advantage. Sheer laziness motivates our big brains to make us very efficient — so we can do things the easy way, without even thinking about it. Unfortunately, in modern America that has resulted in the archetypal Couch Potato, convenience stores — and beer bellies.

We cannot undo evolution. We are always going to be “immediate return” hunters and gatherers at our cores. We are just not very good at long term thinking only at immediate task like getting food the easiest way possible, having fun — singing, dancing, and sex — which today is TV and the Internet and maybe politics. We are driven by our taste buds and our penises or vaginas.

Homo Sapiens? Haha. You wish!

We are not really sapient. For us, long term thinking is half fantasy, predicated by wish fulfillment, bias, and often times frustration. We only get up off the couch under threat or to pee.

Today, however, we face real threat. Climate change. Mass extinctions and the like. Overpopulation. Shortages of critical resources. That was the case at the beginning of the Holocene. Then we adapted because we got hungry. It wasn’t long-term thinking. We just chose the easiest ways to avoid dying.

We haven’t done anything about climate change because things haven’t gotten bad enough. But, today, pandemics make us afraid. Diseases do not discriminate. So, once again, it is adapt or die. Suddenly people question the status quo. Or rather the status quo that used to be.

Fortunately, some of the qualities that made us successful hunters and gatherers — specifically egalitarianism and reverse dominance psychology — and which were liabilities in the new, crowded, sedentary, hierarchical, institutionally sociopathic societies, which developed in the Neolithic — remain.

They never went away, eventually undermining all human “civilizations” and causing them to collapse under their own weight. Call it cultural obesity.

That’s why no human civilization has lasted more than a few centuries, most of them brought down by inequality — leading to war, and also disease, which always affects the poorest and weakest, those most affected by lack of access to good food and water.

Rome, the feudal era in Europe, and the Mayan empire all succumbed to disease as they reached what you might call “peak inequality”. Today, it is the turn of that most evil of evil empires — the US of A, the unhealthiest of unhealthy nations, culturally and physically.

The two factors most important in pandemics are overcrowding and mass migration. These two things necessitate extended supply chains, allowing disease to spread quickly. For example, the Bubonic Plague was introduced into Europe by rats on a single ship from Asia. It spread quickly through Europe’s overcrowded cities. The Spanish introduced European diseases to the Maya Empire which decimated their overcrowded cities, although the Mayans had already been weakened by parasitic infections from Africa. Mass migration, which is inevitable in unstable and unequal societies introduces new diseases to other cultural environments.

A diet restricted to a few staples, leads to nutritional deficiencies and poor health. The Roman diet was abysmal, as was diet in feudal Europe. The Mayans were better off — but not in the cities. 21st Century America? Simply dreadful. Donald Trump is Captain America. Fat. Boorish.

Imagine the mortality rates without modern medicine! 80% of you reading this article would be dead. Unless you lived like, say, American Indians used to.

VI

Lessons from First Nations Peoples

By contrast, American Indians in what is now the US and Canada had excellent diets but still succumbed to smallpox to which they had no immunity at all. European settlers also died. Their death rate was about 30% — or higher, actually about the same as in Indian communities, thanks to inferior hygiene and food. But the American settlers had an inexhaustible supply of recruits from Europe to replace their deaths and a higher birth rate among their female slaves; ie: wives.

The death rate for Indians is hard to verify. But they were hardest hit in the late 18th and early and mid 19th Century, when Europeans used infected blankets as a form of bioweapon. While the Six Nations were still a viable force in French-Indian wars of the mid 18th Century, bio-warfare eventually reduced their populations to the extent that they could no longer challenge the settlers militarily.

An additional problem, rarely remarked on, is the colonization of the native diet. Native Americans had micro evolved to a certain diet based on the local environment. They could not handle lactose or gluten or unrefined glucose like Americans, yet quickly became addicted to foods with these things in them. Their famous intolerance for alcohol, a sugar, is part of this. Sugar and alcohol were their opium.

Even after smallpox had been eradicated through inoculation programs, the standard of health among Native Americans (First Nations people in Canada) has suffered, with their lifespans shorted by a host of degenerative diseases, especially Diabetes Type 2. Naturally, they are much more at risk for a disease like COVID 19, where co-morbidities are important. One can only guess at how many indigenous people might have survived, it their bodies had not been weakened.

In British Columbia in the 1860s, estimates of mortality from induced small pox vary but generally are higher than 70%, up to 90%, with tribes numbering over 6000 reduced to a few hundred. The colonization of the Americas was the first and greatest Holocaust and it continues today.

The Indians that survived bio-warfare and direct slaughter ended up on reservations.Their ability to live traditional lifestyles was limited, first of all by lack of education: their children were taken from them and put into residential schools, fed a substandard diet that killed many and “de-educated”. When they returned to their reservations, they had no useful skills, little sense of their history or language and were dependent on government handouts. Yup. Sugar and salt.

Apartheid might have been a step up since at least Apartheid openly acknowledged the racism of the dominant, white community.

Only recently has there been a movement back to traditional indigenous diets — with excellent results. It’s called the “Decolonizing Diet” program. This in fact a modified hunting and gathering diet, emphasizing a very wide range of natural foods.

Simple Cherokee succotash. Add just about anything

You would do well to de-colonize — or de-civilize — your diet.

An ageing young antivirus diet is basically a “de-civilized” diet.

Forget Paleo (based on the Great Hunter Myth) or Intermittent Fasting (based on the fact they we didn’t evolve for scheduled meals).

Don’t eat processed foods, except occasionally. Don’t add sugar or salt to anything and beware of hidden sugar and salt. Eat the widest variety of vegetables, fish, de-fatted chicken and the like. Don’t eat bread unless you make your own. Eat brown rice. Eat fermented foods. If you are eating 40 different foods a week — good.

Eat like a hunter-gather, when you feel like it. Graze. Munch. Eat bugs if you want. Nothing like a crunchy locust or juicy cicada!

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Canadian media analyst / writer. 40 years in Japan. Study evolution, psychology, anthropology, zoology, music, art, neurology. I see, think, am.

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Julian Macfarlane

Julian Macfarlane

Canadian media analyst / writer. 40 years in Japan. Study evolution, psychology, anthropology, zoology, music, art, neurology. I see, think, am.

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