Promising biotechnologies currently in development will eventually make human aging obsolete and particular diet prettymuch irrelevant to health. Cellular and molecular damage will be easily and cheaply repairable. Once we can achieve longevity escape velocity, human beings can live youthful healthy lives indefinitely even on a delicious SAD.
A good pubmed summary of this prospect from de Grey et al. is here:
Aging is a three-stage process: metabolism, damage, and pathology. The biochemical processes that sustain life generate toxins as an intrinsic side effect. These toxins cause damage, of which a small proportion cannot be removed by any endogenous repair process and thus accumulates. This accumulating damage ultimately drives age-related degeneration. Interventions can be designed at all three stages. However, intervention in metabolism can only modestly postpone pathology, because production of toxins is so intrinsic a property of metabolic processes that greatly reducing that production would entail fundamental redesign of those processes. Similarly, intervention in pathology is a "losing battle" if the damage that drives it is accumulating unabated. By contrast, intervention to remove the accumulating damage would sever the link between metabolism and pathology, and so has the potential to postpone aging indefinitely. We survey the major categories of such damage and the ways in which, with current or foreseeable biotechnology, they could be reversed. Such ways exist in all cases, implying that indefinite postponement of aging--which we term "engineered negligible senescence"--may be within sight.
Optimistic forecasts have this technology being largely available in just a few decades. Some alive today may live 100s of years or more. Assuming this optimistic scenario obtains, would you continue to eat paleo (or "primal" or "archevore" or "realwholefoodstm" or whatever you call it) if you could easily remedy any biological damage from sugar, wheat, peanut butter, BBQ sauce, etc. etc. and do so continually for centuries while maintaining youthful health?
Definitely not. I eat the way I do because I want to be healthy. If I could eat the same old stuff I used to eat and still be healthy, I would do it in a heartbeat.
If they can't make a prescription medicine for itchy hands that doesn't cause cancer of the anus, what makes you think that any of this will ever come to fruition?
I can see the ads now..."Immortabex, your ticket to endless life! [Side effects may include: Anal cancer, chemical castration and death.] Ask your doctor about Immortabex today!"
No. I don't have the confidence there will be enough knowledge about unintended consequences, which quick fixes usually have. There are too many biochemical unknowns.
Besides, wtf wants to live to be 1000? I don't think the human psyche is built to handle that.
Now this is what I call a question. Dayum.
When I was eating the SAD, my answer would have been clear: Hell, no, I wouldn't restrict my food choices if I could pop a pill (or whatever) and fix the damage. But then, my only food-related thoughts during those decades were that I must be eating too much, since I was fat. It hadn't occurred to me yet that I was eating the wrong foods, in any amount.
When I was eating VLC (Atkins, then Eades, then a desperate carousel of other LC dietary approaches), I think my answer would still have been clear: Hell, no, again. I wanted to go back to the "full banquet," to eat the food everyone else around me ate and not have to pay attention, count, restrict, whatnot. I was still mainly concerned with weight, and a bit more with health beyond obesity. Low-carbing was hard -- not impossible, obviously, but a strain on my willpower (I still had cravings, for instance), and on my social self-consciousness (I was tired of being lectured at by lipophobic friends and so on).
But now, eating meat-only, I think my answer would be yes, I'd keep eating this way. Taking the health benefits off the table -- all of them, including the loss of the last bunch of body fat -- and looking only at the act of eating itself, I can honestly say I enjoy my food now more than I ever did when I was eating more broadly. It was one of the biggest surprises of undertaking this way of eating (when I started ZC, it was, as always, strictly about getting the weight off). I realized a few months in that my food tasted better to me, and furthermore, I was waaaay less worried about food on just about every front imaginable.
And maybe it's my inner laziness (in fact, I'm sure that's most of it), but not having to plan meals has freed up an enormous chunk of time and energy for me. I used to spend half the damn day thinking about shopping for food and cooking -- and eating -- and I wasn't even aware I was doing that. Now I can go all day without thinking once about dinner, either its preparation or its consumption. This lets me devote more attention to things that I've always put on the back burner, like making art. I don't want to go back to planning meals every night, lol.
But I'm still looking forward to whatever technological miracles Aubrey de Grey and his colleagues (and competitors) come up with. Especially if they can tack an extra century or more onto the average life span.
No. When diet becomes irrelevant to health, I'll stop eating completely.
Seriously though, I can't see how this would work. Would this thing really prevent EVERY facet of damage: from heart disease, to slower recovery from exercise, to diminished coordination, to emotional corruption, to skin dryness, etc?
There's just such a ridiculously long list of what our diet affects. I can't imagine some sort of procedure that would simply prevent eating the SAD from messing up my emotional structure, drying out my skin, chapping my lips, putting me in a mental fog, and so on. Seriously. Just imagine how incredibly complicated and insane that procedure would have to be.
Do I just not understand what this thing is getting at? It seems pretty crazy to even CONSIDER the idea that some sort of procedure any time in the near future could completely (or even mostly) negate the health differences between the SAD and something reasonable such as paleo or whatever, but of course I could be missing something important.
P.S. Checked your blog. Always nice to see somebody familiar with anti-statism of the Austrian School variety.
I have often found it amazing that someone as concerned with ageing and metabolic damage as de Grey hasn't yet noticed that ketogenic diets address all the points he works on better than anything else we know of. I think it will be a long time before we can replicate that artificially, and I'd be pretty leery of any claims that it has been done.
However, if I became convinced of it, and if it were somehow also affordable, I would probably at least test it out at some point just for the pleasure of eating some food that is currently off-limits to me. Like Rose, though, I'm actually surprisingly content with my lot as a carnivore. The idea was daunting before I tried it, but it feels good and sustains itself.
Well, if health stopped being an issue, I'd switch from choosing my foods for health reasons to choosing my foods for moral/ethical reasons. If I found that the paleo diet was the most ethical one, then I'd continue to eat paleo.
I don't think any of us would have a choice as to whether we could continue eating a truly Paleo diet. If humans live to extreme old ages (really, if they live even 20 years longer on average), we will quickly run out of space to pasture cows and chickens. If human lifespan increases by 20%, the world population will also increase by that much (at least in the short term, until overcrowding causes increased disease and violent death). Given that world population is already predicted to be at 9 billion by 2050, that would be a lot of extra people. Feedlots and industrial farms would be the only method of providing meat to such a large population - in fact, we may be forced to rely on grains and artificially produced "food products" just to be able to afford enough calories to live.
I'm not trying to be alarmist, but there are downsides to unlimited lifespan.
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