One of my favorite teachers, researchers, scientists, and authors, Valter Longo, author of the book, The Longevity Diet has observed that a vegan diet is the best way to get to a healthy 65 years of age. However, he has also observed that there are diminishing returns on that vegan diet and overall mortality beyond the age of 65. His answer is to incorporate a small piece of fish once a week for greater longevity and overall mortality.
Personally, I am not satisfied with this answer. I want to know why.
On the surface, this seems counterintuitive to me because there is nothing magic about eating meat. Nothing special is found in eating meat that cannot be obtained from plant-based sources. True, we cannot get animal-based collagen from plant sources, but animal-based collagen is not a necessary nutrient. Our body makes its own collagen when provided with sufficient amino acids and other nutrients, like copper, zinc, and vitamin C. All things found in plant-based foods.
So what is it that happens at age 65 that would make meat confer greater overall mortality to an aging population? I am thinking that it has more to do with the production of stem cells and an elevated white blood cell count associated with eating cooked foods referred to as digestive leukocytosis. This occurs when any foods, plant or animal-based enter the body that has been cooked. Eating cooked or overheated foods result in an increase in leukocyte production similar to what we see when the body has suffered an injury or some form of infection. Eating raw foods does not have this effect.
Some people, especially raw vegans, and fruitarians might feel that this justifies a completely uncooked diet, however, that is a conclusion that is not really justified in that the solution is to simply eat a diet of both cooked and raw. Dr. Paul Kouchakoff demonstrated all this in two papers he published back in the 1930s. However, most people only read his first paper on the topic published in 1930 that points out that digestive leukocytosis happens when foods are overcooked. It is his second paper published in 1937 that is only available in French that further explains that eating cooked foods isn’t a problem if one also eats even a small amount, some 10%, of the same foods uncooked. But alas, most people only read the first paper that had been published in English while ignoring the second one that was published later, available only in French.
This leads me to suspect that the answer can be found in a process called hormesis, whereby our body’s immune system is upregulated. That a diet that incorporates certain kinds of cooked foods into our diet to trigger an increased amount of neutrophils, eosinophils, basophils, monocytes, and lymphocytes that then go out into the body resulting in a greater level of regeneration. A cleansing effect if you will. Maybe this is why soups have been loved by many as not only comfort food, but one that makes them feel better when they are suffering the effects of the common cold.
I figure I have another 15 years until I see age 65. I imagine that will be long enough to resolve these questions.