We've thought a lot about how pre-agricultural paleos died, but what about us?
To make the question more specific I'll ask it this way: Let's say everyone in the United States (or pick your country) goes paleo -- eats a good diet, does the right exercise, gets lots of sleep, and so on. What will be the top five causes of death 80 years from now?
Oh, and if you say "old age," please tell me what that means, exactly. Because I don't think I know.
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Eaten by mutant zombie bikers when the world ends in 2012?
Seriously, though, excellent question. I'm inclined to think that cancer due to various environmental factors might still get a lot of us; we may be able to improve our diets to something approximating what Grok ate, but we're still exposed to a lot of nasty chemical crap that he never encountered, and who knows what the longterm effects of eating the SAD for x years before going Paleo might be>
We're not going to die. Surely the singularity will have happened by then. :P
We are all going to die from the diseases of civilization as well.
Infectious diseases will probably be the leading killer, follow by CVD and cancer. Maybe we will live a bit longer on average.
With few exceptions, most people eating paleo have 20+ years of damage from SAD under their belt.
Most of us are not going to fully realize the dramatic reductions in CVD & cancer incidence that we see when comparing ourselves to HG + healthy cultures. Inferior diet, lifestyle and environment as archaea pointed out.
William Land's data has CVD incidence dropping to around 25-100 per 100,000 in populations with excellent omega-3 profiles and low processed food consumption (Mediterranean, Inuit, Elderly Japanese).
This is a dramatic reduction from the current rate of 200+ per 100,000 but nevertheless still a lot of deaths.
The causes of death chart is a good place to start. Ignore the ones that are diseases of civilization.
As the immune system weakens the chances of death from all sorts of exotic things rises dramatically.
I think humans have a built in expiration date so that the old ones clear out and make way for the new ones with their new ideas. SO I think we are designed to slowly weaken as we get up there in years, even if living a healthy lifestyle. SO I think similar things will still kill us but just not until we get older on average, things like germs, failed organs, injury that we are not able to heal from (injuries that probably would not have killed a younger version of self), cancer, accidents caused by slower reflexes and attention span, etc. Plus the usual things like vehicle accidents will still be there. And there will be some illnesses that straight paleo will not cure, genetic weaknesses, things we don't yet understand well yet, etc. Or maybe it will be like planet of the apes or genetically modified plants will take over the world and kill us all! ;-) -Eva
Car accidents will probably be a big one.
I follow a paleo approach to eating/living in the hope of not spending years as an incontinent cripple, not really to just have more time alive. I don't care what eventually kills me, as long as it does it clean.
Old age can be quite difficult, but it sure beats the alternative!
probably from lack of meat? (or at least, quality meat)
At AHS 2011, Staffan Lindeberg described how a 70-year-old Trobriander went while they were conducting their research. He fell from a tree.
That, if you ask me, is how we're supposed to go. Either by accident or in our sleep. Quickly, in any case, and not the long, dragged-out technologized torture that's supposed to pass for life these days.
We will probably die from "diseases of civilization", because they are really mostly "diseases of living to an old age" (obviously the risk factors include lifestyle and genetics, but a certain amount of risk will still remain), because generally the alternative is infectious disease (which can do you in pretty easy too when you reach a ripe old age). Because we can survive child birth, control how many children we have, get vaccinated, and survive injuries and accidents we never could before, it makes sense that we would die from essentially a "wearing out" of the bodily organs and a decreasing immune system.
That being said, quality over quantity man. And sometimes there's no reason why people die. In 4 years of high school, we had 6 young, healthy students die: 1 brain aneurism, 2 different car accidents, 1 freak accident (broken neck from a fall), and 2 different suicides. Devastating for a small community. My parent's best friends (who we call aunt and uncle) lost their first child to a totally undetected major heart defect when she was only 8 months old. My great-grandma lived to be 95, and was the cruelest, most bitter, unhealthy, chain-smoking, biscuit-eating lady you've ever met. My mom's dad is still alive at 85, and he's a life-long institutionalized and imprisoned schizophrenic with relatively severe brain damage from insulin therapy who has been eating government-provided food since the 80's. My other grandpa died at 70, weeks after a diagnoses of pancreatic cancer after a health life of an academic AND a farmer. People die, all the time, for all different reasons.
All I ask is that I don't get hit on my bike by a port-a-potty truck. I just think someday I'm going to do one stupid thing too many, and by that time my body won't be as resilient or quick to heal as it is now. But who knows? My grandmother lived to 100, fell many times and never broke a bone- we joked she must have made of rubber to never break her hip!
My FIL was as Paleo as a man could be before anyone knew what it was. Hunter, fisherman, elk and caribou and salmon from Alaska, diet heavy in meats and fats and fresh fresh fish, lots of veggies, few grains of any kind ( Lithuanian, he was a potato eater) Died of stomach cancer at 52. Just sayin.
I know what you're getting at--the question could also be framed, "Now that I eat a strict Paleo diet what am I likely to die from?"
-I would still consider cancer your top threat, even though you eat this diet. It's optimal to start the diet when you're in your mother's stomach, so if you lived the standard American life for 30 years that could cause problems down the road. I suggest you get the acid/base balance right, maybe implement occasional intermittent fasting, and stay away from blood sugar spiking tropical and dried fruits.
-Somebody mentioned bone breaks from falls. I somewhat disagree if you're eating the right acid/base balance, getting enough vitamin D from the sun, eat enough magnesium rich foods, and get the important vitamin K2 MK4. The last could be a lifesaver, but I don't see it recommended enough by Cordain, Robb Wolf, et al very much. Moreso from the Weston Price Foundation.
-Accidents are a big issue. Bicycle travel has the most deaths per km traveled, and then it's motorcycle use. The safest thing to do in the USA is to take a bus or train. If you have to drive a car, it's probably best not to drive a compact car. Go for safety features, defensively drive, keep your cool on the road.
-If you look at overall causes of death you don't see Alzheimers and dementia reaching as high as their incidence. Don't quote me but I've read 1 in 2 people have one of those diseases by 80. They "live" with those diseases, but I wouldn't call it much of a life. There's some evidence that Alzheimers might be affected by a high glycemic index and glycemic load diet. I would also avoid antiperspirants and cooking with aluminum cookware and foil. Not sure but I've heard Teflon isn't the greatest either. Maybe somebody can chime in on this one, but I don't think the causes of these two diseases are fully understood.
Some great suggestions already, but I feel the need to point out that just because paleo folks are less prone to "diseases of civilization" doesn't mean that no-one would die of these anymore if everyone went paleo. While this lifestyle significantly decreases our likelihood of getting coronary artery disease, hypertension, diabetes and some types of cancer, there are many other factors such as environmental (non-food) toxins, exposure to viruses, and individual genetic susceptibility that may have a causal role. What I'm saying is that while the aforementioned diseases would probably decrease very dramatically, I'm guessing there would still be a low base rate of these especially in an aging population as there we would still be exposed to other disease-causing elements of "civilization" (like the toxins) even with food and exercise taken care of.
good question. In addition to Fearsclave's response about cancer, I'd possibly add pneumonia. Ordinary pneumonia is a big killer of the elderly. A very aggressive cancer kills in months or years, pneumonia kills in a day or two. Merely flooding the PT with antibiotics is no guarantee for survival. So after reducing CVD risk and glucose related problems, preserving and strengthening the immune system might be the next top priority.
This will never happen. We will die though. I don't expect that the causes will be much different from what non paleos in our respective societies die from.
Paleo longevity and health depends on the same risk factors as any other human. Obesity increases risk however it is caused, and the same is true of the effects from high blood pressure. Genetic factors cannot be controlled, nor can allergic responses. Emotional health is a complete wild card, as are economics, war/violence, epidemics, disease and accidents.
If everything was controlled for, paleo could add possibly 10 years to lifetime, and we would die from loss of ability to heal from pneumonia, flu and infection, and from loss of mental function in senility and dementia. I think that excessive fat consumption would increase risks for at least some paleo dieters, as would high red meat consumption (colon cancer).
While everyone has (presumably) always wanted to live forever, the ability to live longer than 25-30 years is a distinctly Neolithic development. Hospitals, doctors, abundant food, sanitation and dental care are recent developments which measurably increase longevity, and were designed to do so. Our ancestors diet and lifestyle were not designed with any purpose other than survival both to the next meal and to the next generation.
You made a joke about the end of the world, but I'm not sure the earth can sustain as much people for long with the amount of resources we use in industrialized countries. If survival got even easier and people knew how to eat to live long and healthy lives, we would also have to change the way we interact with nature or we would soon exploit everything and end up killing ourselves by starving the planet.
In caveman's time, life was harsh and a lot of people died at birth, from accidents or from the general dangers and pressure of nature. Now that we don't face those dangers and are able to over-populate, imagine if we also all knew how to live about 20 years longer and the effect it would have.
Falls that lead to cracked bones and infection.
Length of life is secondary to quality of life for me. Quality of life is not just influenced by how healthy you are, as we can see from all the emo teens out there. it has a lot to do with your outlook and especially how you deal with adversity/setbacks. so my mom can still enjoy herself on a vacation to see the sequoias even though she has terminal bone cancer and is going through the ringer daily with side effects from chemo. this is because she can control her emotions to a certain extent and try to make the best out of a bad situation.
I'd guess organ failure and infections. As you get older, your whole body just wears out a little, some faster than others, and can't fight things off as well.
But I could imagine living to 115 on a lifetime of a Paleo diet, with pretty full health and mental abilities until the last little stretch. I know my great-grandmother lived to be 100, and lived on her own until she was 95, she lived a pretty healthy life. At the very end she went senile, made it to her 100th birthday, and said that was enough of that.
Actually, I bet we would die because we chose to and we are done with living. There are plenty of stories of people who lost their spouse who died within a year, because they didn't want to go on with out them. I have another grandma who said "I think I'm ready to go to heaven now" and died the following week.
Wouldn't that be nice, to not have to deal with all the hospital bills and struggles of being sick?
Accidents - you NEVER know what 2 mins into the future will hold for you. I was in a bad car accident in Philadelphia when a cell phone driver ran a red light ( and on the wrong side of the roadway which is why I didn't see him at first) and did me in. My car saved me but anything can happen without warning......................
Your heart just gives up. If you're around 90-100, that's how you die. Your heart stops pumping one day. You don't have a heart attack, as in stenosis or thrombosis. Your heart muscle has been pumping for 90-100 years. As a tissue, it atrophies after a century of pumping and not missing the beat. The beat does not go on forever.
I'm hoping to go down in a hail of gunfire at some unbelievably outlandish party turned riot thing that gets plastered over the world wide news/interweb. I guess that doesn't seem to be very paleo though.
So, I would also accept one of those epic fights like between Peter Griffen and the Rooster that stems across the world and history.
Whatever it is, I just hope it's badass and people talk about it for years to come.
Old age is when you get old, duh!!!
to quote Robb wolf - Paleo solution Ep 67. I will die from telomere depletion....
So when our cells divide, there are these things, telomeres, which kind of -?????-????? if you think about the wire ties that wrap up like red bags and just kind of plastic bags and stuff, telomeres work a little bit like that. So when our DNA replicates, it gets unwound. And then when it gets wound back, the things that kind of prevent it from just unwinding and freaking out are these telomeres. Different things like stress can accelerate the degradation of telomeres. Each time a cell replicates, there's this thing called a Hayflick limit which you get -?????-????? I think it's 50 total replications, and then your telomeres are pretty much done. And when the telomeres are done, the DNA breaks down, degradation, starts happening really, really rapidly. And I think that that's largely what you see in this centenary. You know these really, really healthy populations that live to the late '90s and beyond. The folks tend to be very, very relatively fit, relative active, sharp mental acuity, and then usually you see about a two to three week downturn, and they're done. And that's a lot of what's happening. When the wheels finally fall off the wagon, you have kind of a system wide meltdown where you've had all the cells in the body -?????-????? the stem cells have been depleted, so we have a pool of stem cell. A lot of them hang out in the adipose tissue. Those guys are kind of hanging out waiting to help repair, damaged or missing cells and tissues in the body.
In addition to what everyone else has said about paleo not eliminating the diseases of civilization, I'll add a few thoughts about some of my longest lived relatives. My mom's relatives in particular typically live to over 80, my grandfather is currently 93 and still living independently. From looking at their experience (paleo or not) if you manage to dodge the NAD, you're got to worry about falls/injuries, infections and the effects of dementia on your risk of injuries & infections. When you are very elderly your immune system declines and both infections and injuries take much longer to recover from. And while one is resting and recovering, muscle wasting happens at an accelerated rate compared to young people. My grandfather had a minor fall that resulted in a few days of bed rest and then needed physical therapy to get back to walking safely and steadily again. I don't there's any nutritional status that is going to magically make a 90 year old recover from injury like a 30 year old. And in the cases of my elderly relatives who've developed various forms of dementia there is almost always an intersection of dementia, infection and injury when they've passed away.
Robots or zombies. Zombies you have higher chance of survival though.
Our water supply will become too contaminated with pharmaceuticals and what not and we will become sterile.
I think the only remaining threat is probably the Zombie Apocalypse.
Most of us have consumed some of this crap, so obviously we're doomed.