Interventive Gerontology 1.0.02: First, Try to Make it to the Mean: Diet as a life extending tool, Part 3

The Adventist Health Studies

Figure 1: Survival of California Adventist men (1980-1988) and other California men (1985) beyond the age of 30 years. The difference between the 2 groups was significant (P,.001). These were non-Hispanic white subjects. Hazards for 1989 are used for non-Adventist Californians older than 94 years (see the “Subjects and Methods” section of the text). AHS indicates Adventist Health Study; CI, confidence interval.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDA) is a Christian denomination that was founded in 1963 as an offshoot of the Millerite movement in the US during the middle part of the 19th century. Ellen White, the principal founder of SDA, advocated a lifestyle incorporating the following five behaviors: not smoking, eating a plant based diet, eating nuts several times per week, engaging in regular exercise and maintaining normal body weight throughout the individual’s lifetime[1] Adventists also typically eschew alcohol (~8% drink), tobacco (~1.8% smoke), butter, strong seasonings (including pepper), caffeine (coffee, tea, cola) and consider the eating of pork, shellfish, and other foods proscribed as “unclean” in Leviticus as especially unwholesome.[2]

Beginning in 1960, two studies were conducted to determine the effects of the SDA lifestyle on all-cause mortality, as well as on disease-specific mortality and morbidity. The first study was conducted in the interval from 1960 to 1965. The Adventist Mortality Study, also known as the Adventist Health Study-1 (AHS-1) was comprised of 22,940 California Adventists and consisted of an intensive 5-year follow-up, and a more informal 25-year follow-up.[3] The AHS-1 found that the mean lifespan for California Adventist men was 6.2 years longer than for non-Adventist California men. The mean lifespan extension achieved by SDA women was more modest; a 3.7-year advantage over their non-SDA counterparts. These statistics were based on life table analyses.[4]

The reduction in disease specific mortality was impressive, with the overall death rate from neoplasms being 60% lower for SDA men and 76% lower for SDA women.[3, 5] The incidence of breast and colorectal cancer were dramatically lower than in the control population with SDA women experiencing 85% less breast cancer [6-8]and SDA men and women experiencing 62% less colorectal cancer.[3, 9, 10]The incidence of coronary heart disease (CHD) was 66% lower for SDA men and 98% lower for SDA women.[11-13] On average Adventist men live 7.3 years longer and Adventist women live 4.4 years longer than other Californians.

The second Adventist Health Study (AHS-2) took place in the time period between 1974 and 1988 and involved approximately 34,000 Californian Adventists over the age of 25. AHS-2 was designed to try to determine which components of the SDA lifestyle provided protection against specific types of disease. The AHS-2 found that the consumption of red and white meat was associated with an increase of colon cancer and that, independent of meat consumption, eating legumes was protective against the disease.[5, 10, 14] The consumption of nuts was found to be inversely related to the incidence of myocardial infarction, and regular consumption of nuts several times a week reduced the incidence of coronary heard disease CHD by ~50%.[15-17] A strong inverse relationship was found between the risk of CHD and the consumption whole grain wheat bread, as opposed to white bread (~45% reduction in CAD).[16] In men, the frequent consumption of tomatoes and of soy milk was associated with a ~60% reduction in the incidence of prostate cancer.[16, 18, 19]

Figure 2: Survival of California Adventist women (1980-1988) and other California women (1985) beyond the age of 30 years. The difference between the 2 groups was significant (P,.001). These were non-Hispanic white subjects. Hazards for 1989 are used for non-Adventist Californians older than 94 years (see the “Subjects and Methods” section of the text). AHS indicates Adventist Health Study; CI, confidence interval.

Unlike the Cretan diet, the dietary practices of the SDAs are less homogenous and typically incorporate foods commonly consumed by Americans (although with more moderation), including many associated with degenerative disease, such as refined sugar and snack foods. Similarly, the SDA diet typically strives to replace traditional American foods with healthier alternatives, while maintaining the flavor, texture and appearance of the original dishes.[20] One way this is done is by using a range of proprietary textured vegetable protein products (TVP) derived from wheat or soy (with corn or soy oil providing the calories from fat) as meat substitutes. There is also a heavy emphasis on the consumption of vegetables, nuts, whole grains and fruits.[21, 22]

Figure 3: Examples of textured vegetable protein products made to resemble commonly eaten meat dishes in the US.

These products have historically been manufactured by companies owned by or closely associated with the SDA church[23] and this was an added factor in their widespread use. Lentils are also often substituted for meat in traditional American recipes, such as meatloaf and soup. The use of TVP meat substitutes increase compliance by making products that allow for the preparation of foods that fill the cultural niche of beef, chicken and turkey. There are even faux-meat hot dogs available (Figure 3). Nuts are also commonly used as an ingredient in TVP dishes to provide added flavor and a more meat-like mouth feel.[20] Examples of commonly used SDA “meatless meat products” (Figure 3) along with their ingredients and nutritional content are available at

The primary sources of lipids in the SDA diet have historically been from corn and soy oils, and to a lesser extent oils from nuts (corn oil has partly been replaced by canola oil in the contemporary SDA diet). In examining the commonalities between the SDA and the Cretan diet, the following components seem the most likely candidates to explain the reduction in morbidity and mortality observed in both populations:

  • No or very low consumption of red meat
  • No or low consumption of meat (excluding fish) in general
  • Large consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Use of free range hens’ eggs
  • No or low consumption of butter
  • No or low consumption of unfermented milk products
  • Emphasis on legumes in the diet
  • Emphasis on the regular consumption of nuts
  • Fat intake primarily in the form of polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats of vegetable origin
  • Regular exercise
  • Maintenance of near ideal body weight over the lifespan
  • Abstention from smoking

Which Diet for a New Lifestyle?

Figure 4: The Greek Food Column and the three critically important lifestyle elements that accompany it; balance, proportionality and regular exercise.

The Lyon Heart Study clearly showed that the diet of Crete can be adhered to over a period of 5 years. Figure 4 is the Greek Column Food Guide based on the diet of Crete. The visualization of this food guide in the form of a Greek column includes the concepts of genetic variation and nutrition and balanced energy intake and energy expenditure; it is based on foods, not food groups. Although it excludes certain foods made with hydrogenated oils, it does not restrict the intake of naturally occurring foods. It also takes into consideration moderation, variety and proportionality. Dietary guidelines shown in Table 1 provide further information on how to implement the diet of Crete.

Table 1.
The seven dietary guidelines of The Cretan Diet
1. Eat foods rich in (n-3) fatty acids such as fatty fish (salmon, tuna,
trout, herring, mackerel), walnuts, canola oil, flaxseeds and green
leafy vegetables. Or, if you prefer, take (n-3) supplements.
2. Use monounsaturated oils such as olive oil and canola oil as your
primary fat.
3. Eat seven or more servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
4. Eat more vegetable protein, including peas, beans and nuts.
5. Avoid saturated fat by choosing lean meat over fatty meat (if you
eat meat) and low fat over full fat milk products.
6. Avoid oils that are high in (n-6) fatty acids, including corn,
safflower, sunflower, soybean, and cottonseed oils.
7. Reduce your intake of trans fatty acids by cutting back on
margarine; vegetable shortening; commercial pastries; deep-fat
fried food; and most prepared snacks, mixes and convenience

Studies on the diets of hunter-gatherers suggest that (n-3) fatty acids were present in practically all foods that humans ate, and present in equal amounts with (n-6) fatty acids (i.e., 1:1 ratio). The depletion of the (n-3) fatty acids in Western diets is the result of the industrialization of farming, and to a lesser extent, the recent emergence of aquaculture. The high ratio of (n-6) to (n-3) fatty acids (16.74:1 instead of 1:1) is a consequence of the inexpensive mass production of vegetable oils and their substitution in much of the diet for saturated fats as a consequence of economic considerations, government policy (corn and soy subsidies) and erroneous health advice by the “experts.” The latter, led by Ancel Keyes,  recommended the indiscriminate substitution of saturated fat and butter with oils high in (n-6) fatty acids to lower serum cholesterol. This effort was successful in reducing the incidence of CVD, however it has not reduced the incidence of other pro-inflammatory diseases, and the mean lifespan has not increased fully commensurate with the decrease in CVD mortality.

The results of the Seven Countries Studies and the Lyon Heart Study based on a modified Cretan diet that is balanced in (n-6) and (n-3) fatty acids, rich in antioxidant micronutrients, and in chemoprotective trace minerals  from fruits, vegetables, wild growing herbs and greens is associated with decreased rates of heart disease and cancer; more so than any other diet, drug intervention, or technique. Indeed, all attempts to date to administer nutrients believed to be protective against disease as supplements have been unsuccessful. Attempts to reduce the incidence of CVD with vitamin C, vitamin E and with folic acid and vitamin B-6 (the latter to achieve reduction in elevated serum homocyeteine levels) have failed, suggesting that the biochemical protection these molecules provide in vitro, and in laboratory animal settings, requires the presence of other molecular species in order to act in vivo.

What appears to be unique about the Cretan (and to a lesser extent the SDA diet) is the content of bioprotective nutrients with a broad range of action, specifically the following: 1) a more balanced intake of essemtial fatty acids (EFAs) from vegetable, animal and marine sources; a ratio of (n-6) to (n-3) fatty acids of ;2:1 instead of the 15:1 in most Western diets (it is 16.74:1 in the US); and 2) a diet rich in antioxidants, i.e., high in vitamin C, vitamin E, b-carotene, glutathione, resveratrol, selenium, phytoestrogens, folate, and other phytochemicals from green leafy vegetables; phenolic compounds from wine and olive oil; high intakes of tomatoes, onions, garlic and herbs, especially oregano, mint, rosemary, parsley and dill, which contain  lycopene, allyl thiosulfinates, salicylates, carotenoids, indoles, onoterpenes, polyphenols, flavonoids and other phytochemicals used in cooking vegetables, meat and fish.

Some Serious Caveats Regarding the Applicability of Historical Data

In asking people about how long they expect to live, I’m often surprised by the high degree of confidence they exhibit based on the longevity of relatives. If you challenge the assumption that because their aunts, uncles or parents lived into their 80s or 90s that they will too, you will likely be met with the vehement assertion that this fact pretty much guarantees a similar outcome for the respondents. This assertion would be more credible if their long lived 1st or 3rd degree kin were reared under identical, or at least under similar conditions. And therein lies the rub, because this is usually not the case.

Figure 5: Average weekly hours spent on home production from 1900 to 2000 for two aggregates of the population; those in their productive prime, and those in their declining years.

It must be remembered in making historical comparisons with contemporary Westerners in terms of both life expectancy, and dietary or other interventional lifespan studies, that 20th century Cretans and Adventists were, of necessity, far less sedentary than is the average 21st century Westerner today. In this cohort of people housework (household production) involved a considerable amount of exercise, and often no small amount of hard physical labor. Until the middle of the 20th century in the US, laundry was done by hand, in whole or in part, and clothing was hung up to dry, taken down and ironed. Even operating automobiles involved clutching, shifting gears and manual operation of windows – small things by themselves, but cumulatively important.

Figure 6: Between 1950 and 2000 there was a ~ 20% reduction in the types of work classified as “high activity.” What is neither shown nor known is the degree to which both high and low activity jobs have become less strenuous. [24]

Meal preparation in 1965 required ~ 16.5 hours per week and the total numbers of hours spent in home production was on the order of 51.8 hours at that time. [25] As can be seen in Figure 5, time spent on home production decreased significantly beginning around 1960. Beyond the decrease in total hours spent on housework, there was a much larger decrease in the amount of physical effort required. Washing machines and clothes dryers, prepared meal components and entire prepared meals, as well as countless other “labor saving” devices, goods and services have markedly decreased fitness. The same has been true of strenuous physical activity in the work place where the overall number of high activity jobs have decreased by ~ 20% from 1970-2000.[26, 27]  There has also been a large shift in the workplace demographic since the mid-2oth century. Life expectancy increased from 47.3[28] years in 1900 to 77.8 years today, a consequence of which (in part) was the exodus of teens from the workforce. In 1920, ~20% of the US labor force was comprised of males aged 15 to 18 years of age.[28] Today, very few teenagers work full time jobs, and the number of teens employed in summer jobs has decreased from ~60% in 1994, to ~40% in 2008.[29] Of those teens who do find summer employment very few are in physically demanding (and consequently usually hazardous) areas of work, such as construction or agriculture. This change, coupled with increased TV viewing and other sedentary activities, translates into reduced fitness in the age 15-30 demographic.

Figure 7: The graph above shows the distribution of the Body Mass Index between the 1971–1975 and 1988–1994 surveys. Over this time, median BMI increased by 0.9; the 75th percentile increased by 1.5; and the 95th percentile increased by 2.7.[238]

In their article, “Why Have Americans Become More Obese?” Cutler, et al., take the contrary position and argue that it is not reduced energy expenditure (or fitness) in the the population, but rather, the reduced investment required in terms of time per calorie consumed, that has been the primary cause of the change in US, and increasingly Western European eating habits (and thus is responsible for the current epidemic of obesity and type II diabetes).[30] Superior food packaging and preservation have cut not just meal preparation time dramatically, but also cleanup time. The mess generated in the preparation of multiple elements of a meal is now confined to the factory and the cleanup is included in the price of the food. It is also no longer necessary to spend as much time cooking, or even heating food, because it can be rapidly prepared and be made ready to eat in a matter of minutes from refrigerator or cupboard by the use of the microwave oven. These technological changes have thus reduced the threshold for eating formerly time consuming and messy to prepare dishes to the point of almost no effort or expenditure of time at all. It is now almost as easy to eat a piece of cake or pie, a brownie, or complex entree as it once was to eat an apple. All the mess and time involved in baking a cake or a pie from scratch is gone.

Regardless of the cause, we are most certainly not our parents or our grandparents, and as the current epidemic of obesity and type II diabetes attests, we are not likely to age or die as they did, either. Any doubts about the difference between “us” and “them” (or even “us then” and “us now”) should be laid to rest by a careful perusal of Figure 7.

The generations who participated in the AHS and Seven Countries Study were also fed differently. In Europe, they were subjected to nearly a decade of reduced calorie consumption, and even in the US, the relatively high cost of calories (in time, if nothing else) combined with less leisure time and fewer options for sedentary work, no doubt acted to limit calorie consumption, compared to today. This reduced calorie consumption may have been protective, and might have served to add years to life even in the presence or the absence of a more optimal diet. These generations of people were also fed on agricultural products derived mostly from small farms where crops and livestock had the opportunity to acquire a broad range of micro-nutrients and phytochemicals that are now less abundant in the food supply.

How Square is Curve Already?

Figure 8: The death rate from cardiovascular disease in the US has plummeted since the turn of century in part due to the replacement of saturated fats with of polyunsaturated fats in the diet.[31]

It should also be pointed out that data from longitudinal studies like the AHS-1&2 and the Seven Countries Study reach us as light does from a distant star. When we point and look at the star in the crook of the handle of the Big Dipper we say, “Look, there’s Alcor!” But of course that isn’t the Alcors we are looking at, but rather the light that shows what they looked like 83 years ago. Similarly, all of the data in AHS-1&2 and Seven Countries Study is a generation or two (or three!) old by the time we have it. The participants in those studies are mostly dead now, as indeed they would have to be in order for us to be able to plot lifespan curves for them. Thus, it is easy to make the mistake of saying, “If I adopt this diet I can expect 7 additional years of life, or 10 additional years of life, because that’s what the study participants experienced.

At least one problem with that assumption is that some of the benefits from both studies have very likely already been realized in the form of the switch from saturated to poly- and monounsaturated fats in the diet, which began in the early 1960s and continues through the present. The most significant benefit from both the Seven Countries Cretan diet and the Adventist Vegetarian diet has been the reduction in mortality (and morbidity) from CVD that has been ongoing since ~1968 in the US. The death rate from CVD has been halved since 1960 when both of these studies were undertaken (Figure 8). To those who vilify Ancel Keys for not getting it just right, I can only say, “Look at (Figure 8) and try to tell me that you could have done better.” So, we’ve undoubtedly used up some of benefit from these dietary interventions in terms of mean lifespan extension.

Figure 9: These curves show the best case extension of mean lifespan that can be anticipated with the Adventist Vegetarian diet or the Cretan Diet.

Finally, it is critically important to understand that both the Cretan and the Adventist Vegetarian diets are really not “diets” at all, but rather lifestyles. Both lifestyles have in common a strong emphasis on low impact exercise and a non-sedentary way of life. Both lifestyles were a product of a time without televisions or computers, and both lifestyles required then, and will require now, considerably greater time for food preparation and cleanup. The upside of that is that we should also eat less, if Cutler et al., are correct. That is important to consider as well, because, leaving aside whether fats, carbohydrates or protein should comprise X- percentage of a given diet’s calories, one thing both these diets have in common is modest to moderate calorie restriction.  Five, or possibly even 10 extra years of healthy, productive life should hopefully make the practical costs worthwhile.

The Caveman Diet, or Just How Credulous Are You?

“There are races of people who are all slim, who are stronger and faster than us. They all have straight teeth and perfect eyesight. Arthritis, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, depression, schizophrenia and cancer are absolute rarities for them. These people are the last 84 tribes of hunter-gatherers in the world. They share a secret that is over 2 million years old. Their secret is their diet- a diet that has changed little from that of the first humans 2 million years ago, and their predecessors up to 7 million years ago. Theirs is the diet that man evolved on, the diet that is coded for in our genes. It has some major differences to the diet of “civilization”. You are in for a few big surprises.

The basic principles of the Paleolithic Diet are so simple that most high school students can understand them. Within 15 minutes from now you will grasp the major elements. At the technical level, Paleolithic Diet Theory has a depth and breadth that is unmatched by all other dietary theories.” – Dr. Ben Balzer, M.D.

The ideas underlying the Cretan Diet and the SDA Vegetarian diet are complex and do not admit of easy reduction to a catchphrase. The actual foods permitted and consumed in both diets differ markedly – one proscribing all meat, the other urging fish consumption, one obtaining most of the dietary fat calories from PUFAs, and the other from monounsaturated olive oil… It is these differences in the face of the common outcome of greatly improved health and moderate extension of the mean lifespan that are, in fact, key, because they tell us about the likely underlying common mechanisms and thus possibly of their action. They also offer us the opportunity for more choice, and therefore for more flexibility and the likelihood of greater compliance.

The Paleo Diet: A diet so unscientific, only a caveman would do it.

That is not, however, how people make a quick buck. Neither diet is particularly ‘sexy.’ And both diets require an understanding of the underlying biology that makes them work in order to be credible. It’s not possible, or at least not as easy to offer up a one sentence explanation for the feeble minded, such as, “This is a healthy diet that will extend lifespan because it is the natural human diet that our ancestors were evolved to eat.”[32-34] That sounds great because it is simple, easy to understand and “seems right” to a lot of uninformed, ignorant and fearful people. It also speaks to that deep and abiding suspicion that our health (and our other woes) is an artifact of our having lost our way – either from the primordial Garden of Eden, or from our biologically appropriate evolutionary ground state (i.e., before we embarked on agriculture). In fact, the emphasis on a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio of (n-6) to (n-3) fatty acids was derived from observations of contemporary hunter gatherer populations who have a low incidence of inflammatory and age-associated degenerative disease compared to that seen in post-agricultural populations. That was a useful insight that was subsequently validated in many human studies, the best of which extended over a period of decades. That’s the heart and soul of Level 1, Evidence Based Medicine.

In 1988, S. Boyd Eaton, Marjorie Shostak and Melvin Konner published a book entitled The Paleolithic Prescription: A Program of Diet & Exercise and a Design for Living[32] advocating a diet based on what the authors hypothesized the primordial pre-agricultural human diet was like. Subsequently, well over a dozen books have been published advocating variations on this diet based on arm chair hypothesizing from findings in the scientific and ethnographic literature.  The diet (depending upon the version you come across) is low (10-15% energy) or moderate in fat , low in carbohydrate (20–40% energy), and  high in protein diet (19–35% energy) which provides 55–65% of total calories from meat, 35–45% of calories from non-grain and low glycemic index vegetable sources with a primarily saturated fat intake (10%–58% energy) similar to or higher than that found in Western diets.[35-37]

The first problem with this approach is that the diet is not validated; the AHS and the Seven Counties studies had the considerable advantage of being able to study actual, living human beings under real world conditions, and then apply those insights to other populations, including populations already suffering from CVD. Indeed, that is where so many of the insights, as well as so many of the unresolved questions regarding these diets/lifestyles come from (i.e., the data are complex and robust). Late Paleolithic people are not only long dead and gone, they are really long dead and gone, and contemporary hunter gatherers – the few that remain – cannot be considered equivalent. Ironically, most of the data cited on the relationship between CVD and diet by the originators of the Paleolithic diet are from the Seven Countries Study![32, 37]

Even more to the point, there is present in the hypothesis of Eaton, Konner et al.,[32, 33] the notion that 10,000 years of agriculture is evolutionarily insignificant. In essence, they posit that human evolution with respect to diet stopped 10,000 years ago.[32, 35] At first glance this might seem to be credible, because human evolution has occurred over a period of millions years and it would seem that any changes that would occur in population genetics over a mere 10,000 years must be trivial. However, this is not the case for several reasons. First, the rate of evolution is a function of a complex interplay of multiple factors, including environmental change and selection pressure. It is only necessary to look at the various breeds of dogs, or pigeons created by artificial selection to understand that evolutionary change can be swift.

The introduction of agriculture was a watershed event and it would be astonishing if it was not accompanied by significant evolutionary adaptations to the dietary changes that resulted.  To understand that this is so it is only necessary to examine the strong natural selection for the gene that controls lactase production.[38] Human populations with a long history of cattle herding and milk consumption can metabolize lactose present in cow’s milk throughout adulthood, whereas populations that did not domesticate cattle cannot. Natural selection for the heterozygous carriers of the sickle-cell gene to maintain sickle-cell trait in populations exposed to malaria is another post-advent of agriculture evolutionary adaptation. This adaptation was selected for as a direct result of an agriculture-induced alteration to the environment; the clearance of the tropical forests in central Africa, which in turn led to the explosion in the population of the Anopheles mosquitoes that are the vectors for the Plasmodium parasite that causes malaria.

Recently developed techniques for measuring genetic variability now allow for the determination of selection operating in the human genome.[39] Directional selection has been identified in the glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) gene, which confers resistance to malaria.[40] What is more, G6PD resistance has evolved not once, but twice in humans, in both Africa and in the Americas.[41] Similarly, the genes expressing chemokine receptor 5 (CCR5) among Europeans, which confers resistance to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are likely to have been selected for within this population over a period of several hundred years in response to Yersinia pestis (bubonic plague) and tuberculosis, both of which use the CCR5 receptor as an entry portal into the host.[42]  Numerous other studies have also provided evidence for the recent operation of natural selection on the human genome as a result of very recently developed techniques that allow for comparisons over long sections of DNA.[43-46]

In addition to the conservation of lactase production into adulthood, there is substantial evidence of evolutionary adaptation to the high carbohydrate diet that was a product of agriculture. The incidence of obesity that occurs upon exposure to high calorie “affluence diets” is known to vary greatly by ethnicity. The Pima people (or Akimel O’odham) are a racial group of Amerindians living in central and southern Arizona. One-half of adult Pima Indians have diabetes and 95% of those with diabetes are overweight or obese.

Obesity is thought to be 50-90% heritable. Genome scans in obesity studies are highly reproducible and, despite ethnic and environmental differences, the loci at chromosomes 2 and 10 are generally confirmed as the source of the phenotype. Obesity is “oligogenic,” with expression modulated by “polygenic modifier genes” interacting with the environment in food choices, physical activity, and smoking.[38] Prior to their introduction to the “American” diet after WWII the Pima were not obese and diabetes was extremely rare.[39-41] The diet of the Pima was a very low fat, high carbohydrate diet consistent with the subsistence agriculture of the desert southwest.[42, 43]  Some variations in the ectonucleotide pyrophosphatase phosphodiesterase gene-1 (ENPP1) are associated with a 50% increase in the risk of morbid obesity in adults and a 69% increased risk of childhood obesity. An ENPP1 mutation, for example, which is known to protect against obesity and type II diabetes, is present in about 90 percent of non-Africans, but nearly absent in Africans and, not coincidentally, in the Pima. Human evolution in response to environmental change and in response to dietary change is both ongoing and dynamic.[47][44]

Of course, the Paleolithic diet may be the best diet yet conceived. I could give many reasons why I believe this is not so, but absent hard data gleaned from human trials, I can’t prove much. And that is my final and most important point. I did a Pubmed search using the keywords “Paleolithic diet” and I got 67 hits. Of those 67 hits only 9 were papers that involved actual human or animal application of the diet, or even discussion of same. I’ve copied all of the cites for these studies below:

1: Konner M, Eaton SB. Paleolithic nutrition: twenty-five years later. Nutr Clin Pract. 2010 Dec;25(6):594-602. PubMed PMID: 21139123.

2: Jönsson T, Granfeldt Y, Erlanson-Albertsson C, Ahrén B, Lindeberg S. Apaleolithic diet is more satiating per calorie than a Mediterranean-like diet in  individuals with ischemic heart disease. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2010 Nov 30;7:85. PubMed PMID: 21118562; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3009971.

3: Klonoff DC. The beneficial effects of a Paleolithic diet on type 2 diabetes and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease. J Diabetes Sci Technol. 2009 Nov 1;3(6):1229-32. PubMed PMID: 20144375; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2787021.

4: Eaton SB, Konner MJ, Cordain L. Diet-dependent acid load, Paleolithic[corrected] nutrition, and evolutionary health promotion. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Feb;91(2):295-7. Epub 2009 Dec 30. Erratum in: Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Apr;91(4):1072. PubMed PMID: 20042522.

5: Jönsson T, Granfeldt Y, Ahrén B, Branell UC, Pålsson G, Hansson A, Söderström  M, Lindeberg S. Beneficial effects of a Paleolithic diet on cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes: a randomized cross-over pilot study. Cardiovasc Diabetol. 2009 Jul 16;8:35. PubMed PMID: 19604407; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2724493.

6: Frassetto LA, Schloetter M, Mietus-Synder M, Morris RC Jr, Sebastian A. Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009 Aug;63(8):947-55. Epub 2009 Feb  11. PubMed PMID: 19209185.

7: Osterdahl M, Kocturk T, Koochek A, Wändell PE. Effects of a short-term intervention with a paleolithic diet in healthy volunteers. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2008 May;62(5):682-5. Epub 2007 May 16. PubMed PMID: 17522610.

8: Jönsson T, Ahrén B, Pacini G, Sundler F, Wierup N, Steen S, Sjöberg T, Ugander M, Frostegård J, Göransson L, Lindeberg S. A Paleolithic diet confers higher insulin sensitivity, lower C-reactive protein and lower blood pressure than a cereal-based diet in domestic pigs. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2006 Nov 2;3:39. PubMed PMID: 17081292; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC1635051.

9: Eaton SB, Eaton SB 3rd. Paleolithic vs. modern diets—selected pathophysiological implications. Eur J Nutr. 2000 Apr;39(2):67-70. PubMed PMID: 10918987.

If I enter the keywords “Mediterranean diet” I get 2,269 hits, of which 225 are reports of clinical trials. I will not copy those here!

That’s it. Nine papers of poor quality and not a single clinical trial demonstrating reduced morbidity or mortality – even in CHD or type II diabetes.  Sixty-seven papers of hypothesizing 25 years after this diet was put forth. That is dismal science and it is inexcusable to take a position advocating such an intervention in the complete absence of any evidence that it will actually extend the human (or the laboratory animal) lifespan when there is a large body of high quality data that supports far less extreme, and far more practical dietary and lifestyle interventions that will accomplish those ends.

I have no problem with people coming up with a hypothesis, however kooky or sane, and then proceeding to try it out – even on people – as long as those people have informed consent and the data they are given is accurate. In looking over the various books and the countless media articles on the Paleolithic diet, I was struck by how much the Paleolithic Diet’s hype reminded me of the Pritikin diet hype, and even more so of the Pearson & Shaw Life Extension Revolution circus from 30 years ago. “Live to be 100!” “Feel great! Experience all day energy every day!” “Lose Weight!” Well, at least one of those is very likely true, and that is that most people who undertake any version of the Paleo diets I’ve reviewed will likely lose weight. But as to the other claims? Right now they are preposterous. The sad thing is that for first the time in history we have one diet/lifestyle choice that satisfies EBM-1 criteria, and another that satisfies EBM-2 criteria. Both are “proven” to reduce morbidity from a range of degenerative diseases, and both have been proven to significantly extend mean lifespan…

Max More, CEO Alcor Life Extension Foundation

As I so often say, “You pays your money and you takes your chances.” Still,  it is embarrassing to see cryonicists buy into yet another quick fix cure all, with no appropriate science to back it up. In his article “The Cryo-Paelo Solution”[48] Alcor President Max More advocates the Paleolithic Diet as a life extending add-on to cryonics. This recommendation is supplemented by a web interview.[49] His citations consist these of these popular books on the subject: Loren Cordain, The Paleo Diet; Nora T. Gedgaudas, Primal Body, Primal Mind; Mark Sisson, The Primal Blueprint; Gary Taubes, Why We Get Fat;Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories; Arthur de Vany, The New Evolution Diet. The expert More cites as the one to consult for an introduction to Paleo-dieting is Loren Cordain, author of  The Paleo Diet. The quote that open this section on the Paleolithic diet is by Dr. Ben Balzer, M.D., and is from the “Introduction” to Cordrain’s book. Need I say more?

End of Part 3


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50 Responses to Interventive Gerontology 1.0.02: First, Try to Make it to the Mean: Diet as a life extending tool, Part 3

  1. Luke Parrish says:

    In Max’s article on the Paleo diet, he also cites Michael Rose, who endorses it for individuals 35 or 40 and older. See:

    • Abelard Lindsey says:

      I take anything Michael Rose says with a grain of salt. He also subscribes to programmed aging theories, which I do not.

      • admin says:

        My gut feel, since I was teenager, is that there is a major programmed component to aging. Unfortunately for my gut feel, there is really no good science to back it up. I’ve felt that way for two reasons, because of my musing on dogs, mice and men, and because of the uniformity and “precision” of the presentation of aging across all mammalian species. Dogs and mice grow old and die over periods of 10-15 years and ~2 years, respectively, while people go on for 80, or so (when I was a kid), The same horrible process unfolds in the same basic way in three species that I could observe first hand. And the “flesh” of each beast is the “same.” Dogs, mice and men look pretty much the alike if you take them apart. But they age at radically different rates. These are, of course, observations that are as old as the hills. But, alas, they aren’t scientifically validated theory. I think Rose has some interesting arguments, but again, it is necessary to DO THE EXPERIMENTS.

        One other instructive aside. When I was ~18 I heard Ray Alquist, the guy who discovered the beta adrenergic receptor (as in beta blocker drugs) do a brief soliloquy during one of his pharmacology lectures about how he FELT that there was probably a direct environmental process whereby genetic material could be altered in response to the environment in ADAPTIVE ways. He gave his observations as to why he thought that this was likely the case, with the usual caveat that it needed a young mind to go out and find out if it was so – if the glitches and contradictions to conventional evolutionary theory he thought he had spotted were real. His arguments convinced me on the spot, and I asked him if he his position was that of a “NeoLamarkian?” “Awww, you’ve gone and spoilt it boy!” was his response – meaning that as long as the name Lamark wasn’t used in conjunction with the idea that environment could be acting on the genome to effect adaptive change, then the idea might be taken seriously enough to be investigated. From then on, I always described myself as a NeoLamarkian – but NEVER in public, or where it could be misinterpreted, and never with anyone but a few people whom I trusted and whom I had the time to explain the complex ideas that made me have that “hunch.” Of course, as it turned out, Alquist was right, because the thing he was trying to describe and the anomalies that bothered him were nicely resolved by epigenetics – a word so new my spell checker doesn’t even recognize it. And yet, NOBODY uses the name “Lamark” anywhere in conjunction with epigenetics.

        I’m NOT an evolutionary biologist and I can neither do research in that area nor defend my hunches. So, I kept my mouth shut, as well I should. My credibility, and the credibility of others who advocate cryonics is already severely tarnished just because of cryonics. In general, I recommend that cryonicists try to confine themselves to advocating for just one impossible thing before breakfast, because otherwise, if we go about like Alice, believing 12 impossible things before breakfast, we are likely to be taken for having fallen down the rabbit hold and being completely unable to get back up. — Mike Darwin

        • Craig Heldreth says:

          > And yet, NOBODY uses the name “Lamark” anywhere in conjunction with epigenetics.

          In “Evolution in Four Dimensions: Genetic, Epigenetic, Behavioral, and Symbolic Variation in the History of Life” by Eva Jablonka and Marion Lamb, they are not bashful about using the description Lamarckian. I just looked in the index to my copy and there are about a dozen separate entries.

          • admin says:


            Thank you very much for this reference. Lamark deserves some credit for positing the idea of direct environmental feedback into the morphological changes of organisms, including to their genome. One of the things Alquist felt was pivotal in changing his view of evolution was the then newly discovered fact that human colon cells have E. coli DNA functionally incorporated into their genome! Remember, this was 1973-4, and the idea of plasmids as “transporters” of useful traits between bacterial cells of the same species, let alone different species, was not understood. And the idea of viral transfer of non-viral DNA was not known. Alquist saw the clear evidence of inter species transfer of DNA from microbes to human colon cells and reasoned that there must be pathways for useful information to hop from organism to organism in real time and that if such mechanisms existed,they might be ferrying useful blocks of DNA from one species to another. He also thought it likely that environmental effects could silence or activate DNA instructions and that this new “switch positioning” might be heritable. He pointed out that the number of vertebrae some breeds of rat embryos will develop depends upon the breed of female they are implanted into (in some models). Subsequently, their offspring will breed true to the change induced by the choice of the maternal incubator. If those kinds of changes were already in evidence, he argued that it was likely there were more, and that this would help explain the the discordant calculations vs. observations of the rate of evolution in many situations. Turns out, he was right. — Mike Darwin

  2. Abelard Lindsey says:

    The fact that menopause occurs in human females around age 50 suggests that paleolithic humans lived significantly longer than 30 years. Their lifespans were probably not much different than modern humans and that agriculture resulted in a significant reduction of life span, coupled with increased morbidity, due to the reduction of variation in diet and an over-dependence upon grains.

    • admin says:

      Agriculture collapsed the average lifespan to the 30s, or less – but not because of diet, per se – but because of communicable disease. A lesson I learned the hard way in keeping wild caught reptiles (of which I once had many) is that they die of parasitic disease unless prophylactic ally treated and meticulous care of their enclosures is employed. One reason for this is immunosuppression from captivity, but the lager by far is that they are exposed to their own feces and become re-infected with parasites that require passage through the upper gut to be activated. In the wild, these animals are constantly on the move and they “don’t shit where they eat.” So, the first effect of agriculture was to expose humans to their own feces in their food and drinking water, causing a rise in parasitic illness. Nightsoil, human excrement, is still widely used in the Third World as fertilizer for crops. On the heels of that came infectious communicable disease. Smallpox, chickenpox, measles, mumps, rubella, TB, Hepatitis B, influenza, cholera, the list is endless.

      These diseases can only become major human health problems in geographically anchored communities of a certain minimum size. Most of these diseases are not sustainable in communities that are smaller than the mathematically required minimum. So, agriculture’s first big hit was infectious/communicable DISEASE. The only compensation was a big reduction in accidental and violent deaths – but apparently that was a drop in the bucket compared to the increase in mortality from disease. And of course, the parasite burden was terrible in those regions where there were multiple parasites. I used to hang out and drink tea at a couple of pharmacies in North Africa. Pharmacists are the equivalent of GPs in the Third World (as they were in the West well into the 19th century) and if you get something infectious, find out which pharmacist is good, and go to him – not a to a doc in the phone book! The people coming in for really serious advice often had 2 or 3 parasitic infections at once – and schistosomiasis was endemic – you could spot the end-stage cases blocks away because of their ascites distended bellies from liver failure. No question that Ag was a morbidity/mortality disaster – and I’ve long said this…

      However, I am incredulous at the notion of people sitting down, cooking up a diet on the basis of arm chair hypothesizing about what Paleolithic people ate, and then going out and hawking it to people with outrageous claims that it will allow then to live longer, be healthier, feel better, etc., WITH ABSOLUTELY NO SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE that this is so. I’m an old hand at the hypothesis business, and I can tell you that in a lifetime of hypothesizing, few of my ideas have survived contact with the laboratory and NONE have survived intact and unchanged as they were first conceived. I give Pritikin enormous credit because his FIRST experimental subject was himself and he did the experiment using OBJECTIVE measures of outcome. He did not then go out and write a book, but rather did more experiments on other willing and informed people with CHD. And AFTER he wrote the book he CONTINUED TO DO EXPERIMENTS and conducted prospective clinical trials to prove his claims about his diet’s effect on atherosclerosis – which he damn well did!

      What is really obnoxious and potentially very harmful about this Paleo-Fad is that the situation is not one where there are no proven alternatives, no lifestyles that won’t substantially extend mean lifespan over that people in the US and the Developed West can expect, on average, with the diet now being consumed. The claims would still be fraudulent if this was so, but arguably no one would be diverted from a better alternative. That’s a major problem with quackery; it diverts salvageable people from effective care, and it may even be worse than what they doing in the first place.

      Many of the current advocates of the diet also have a psychopathological Luddite idea that “evolution got it just right.” In other words, the hypothetical diet eaten by Paleolithic man was in OPTIMAL evolutionary equilibrium. This is nonsense and it makes about as much sense as arguing that the human back or knee is some kind of perfect design. Rubbish. The human airway is even badly designed (that’s why we choke to death or die of aspiration so often) and other species got a much better job of it. The most you can hope for in terms of dietary fit to optimum human wellness is a very rough fit. There are many deep reasons for this which I’m not going to go into here, but just consider that humans had long undergone Diaspora by the time of the Paleolithic and that the various human populations at that time had inhomogeneous and changing diets. Evolution is much faster than these nutters credit it with. Adaptations to alcohol consumption, to low fat diets, high fat diets and to a range of other agriculture-related conditions are all around us. The selection pressure of evolution on diet as it affects lifespan in old age is probably the area where it is weakest; since survival beyond 50 is not nearly as valuable as survival to 45-50. And yet, the increment of the lifespan BEYOND 50 is where most of our attention as immortalists is focused.

      There is also the issue of judgment, and what advocating this kind of scientifically unsupported kookiness says about the mind that promulgates it. We are talking about many man years of life here. Hypothetically, let’s assume that 50% of Alcor’s ~1,000 members adopted the Paleo diet and they get no benefit from it in terms of mean or maximum life span extension. Well, aside from loss of credibility for mixing cryonics up with a scientifically unsupported (and questionable) practice, there’s no harm and no foul. But if we reasonably assume that the same percentage of members would adopt the Cretan or SDA diet, and they got just ~2 years of longer life, on average, then you’ve just been responsible for ~ 1,000 years of life lost! Those are big numbers and they deserve serious consideration. When I watched the Snyder Blog interview with Max, my skin crawled; he’s just as casual about these issues as if he were discussing fashion or clubbing. Paraphrasing: “I used to take a lot of supplements but now I only take a multivitamin…I used to believe that a high carbohydrate diet was the best…but recently I’ve become convinced that the Paleo Diet is better…” Where’s the data, or should I say, where’s the beef? Cryonics went through a round of nonsense with Pearson and Shaw, which BTW, Steve Harris and I were the first to debunk in Cryonics magazine. And who was one of the damn fools I argued with about Pearson and Shaw? Why Max More, of course. And so here we are THIRTY YEARS LATER and surprise, there’s Max endorsing yet another evidence-less strategy for life extension.

      I’m justifiably proud of Alcor’s stance on Pearson and Shaw 30 years ago. And I’m satisfied with the judgment we exhibited regarding Pritikin; his claims were real and the work of Ornish and others has validated them regarding type II diabetes and atherosclerosis. There was no Evidence Based Medicine in 1984, and yet we did well because we had the common sense and good judgment and sense of responsibility to look at the primary evidence and evaluate it in a rigorous and responsible way. In the decades since Pearson & Shaw and the Life Extension Revolution, study after study has demolished many of their claims about the efficacy of supplementation for cardiovascular disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. And yet, they could still claim that taking ALL the supplements they recommend is necessary to achieve the results they claim (even though the individual supplements were all suggested on the basis of disease-specific human or animal studies) and there would only be one way to disprove that claim: Conduct a clinical trial in humans under the conditions they specify as necessary. – Mike Darwin

      • Luke Parrish says:

        “The selection pressure of evolution on diet as it affects lifespan in old age is probably the area where it is weakest; since survival beyond 50 is not nearly as valuable as survival to 45-50.”

        This is actually why I was intrigued by Michael Rose’s suggestion that later in life the Paleo diet could be better for us. I can imagine that we adapted very well to the products of agriculture (though not yet to refined sugars and processed foods) for the early part of the lifecycle, whereas later in the lifecycle those adaptations tend to lose their effectiveness because dying from them does not cost much in terms of reproductive potential. The ability to process meats, nuts, and vegetables, since it is evolutionarily older, might therefore extend later into life than grain products.

        Perhaps I misinterpreted events, but it seemed to me that this was Max More’s main justification for endorsing Paleo, not the kind of fundamentalist-style golden-age thinking you seem to be attributing to him. Ironically, Adventists seem to have achieved good results by just such an approach, as their diet is supposed to be closer to the pre-flood diet — meat eating is described as something permitted only after the flood.

        You make a very good point that there is an opportunity cost in advocating Paleo where Cretan or SDA could (and based on available data, should) be advocated instead.

        • admin says:

          I’m replying to both Luke and Abelard at the same time since you each make some of the same points. I’ll address the scientific issues in Luke’s post later.

          My primary problems with the Paleo diet vis a vis Max More are that:

          1) The President of my cryonics organization is taking a position of advocacy for it absent ANY scientific evidence that it extends lifespan (mean or maximum) or reduces the incidence of any disease.There is not even a debate over the quality of evidence in this case, because there isn’t ANY evidence. None!

          2) Physicians and scientists argue over data and practice constantly. Most of the long and ongoing arguments are damn difficult to get a resolution to – and that is where there is often an abundance of data. The various Paelo listserves are ludicrous – people arguing over hypotheticals where there is no data whatsoever, or where the data is someone speculating over what the real data might have been. It’s like people arguing over how much BHT to take in order to extend their lifespans – except BHT doesn’t really extend lifespan except in genetically short live mice (and then only mean lifespan) – let alone in humans. Only credulous fools engage in such behavior if they have any reasonable alternative. BTW, cryonics would be in the same category if we had a better alternative. I would also note that cryonicists who spend most or all of their time constructing imaginary futures based on imaginary technologies are afflicted with the same disease. My point is that absent one holy hell of a lot of qualifications and disclaimers, you not only look like a credulous fool, you ARE a credulous fool if you advocate something like the Paleo diet.

          3) I’ll hazard I know Max More as well or better than Abelard, and I can assure you he is anything but offhand when he believes his competence is being questioned, or that one of his valued ideas is being challenged. Just have a serious stab at “the Proactionary Principle” or “Dynamic Optimism” and watch Max go! It is also a serious mistake to consider Max without also considering Natasha. That’s like (back in the day) considering Bob Ettinger without considering Mae Junod (Ettinger) or Eric Drexler without considering Chris Peterson. If you ever have the good fortune to own a really superbly bred and trained attack dog, you will also have the pleasure of knowing you will never need to raise your voice as long as the dog is at your side. Max’s comments were offhand most probably, and certainly most hopefully, because if they were well considered, then that is really unfortunate.

          4) I had very little luck trying to persuade people to go on the Pritkin diet. This has not been the case with the Cretan or the Adventist diets. For people who are ill and need to improve their health, I’ve found compliance good to excellent. For those who really want to lose weight, I set them up on the Ducan diet for initial weight loss, and then transition to the Cretan or Adventist diets. Most prefer the Cretan diet because of the social stigma associated with not eating meat, and because most people like meat and don’t want to give it up. And while the Adventists fudge about many things, eating meat is not usually one of them. I bring this up because IF it is possible to get a material fraction of Alcor members to modify their lifestyle, then even being very conservative and assuming a population averaged 2 year gain in mean life expectancy, that turns into a LOT of years and a lot of dollars for Alcor. But its more than that, because if you look at the “worst case” data, say from the Lyon Diet Heart Study, what you will see is that there is also a huge reduction in sudden in death. So you’re not just fucking with life expectancy here and now, you’re fucking with chances at a decent cryopreservation versus sitting in a morgue cooler for ~3 days, or getting autopsied, or both. THAT’S WHAT PISSES ME OFF.

          It has nothing to do with fundamentalist golden age thinking – that’s the product of the OTHER nuts out there. What it has everything to do with is responsible decision making and advice that goes beyond personal peccadilloes, or personally held opinions. When I was at Alcor, Max was on about the Paleo diet and I didn’t say a word; what he eats is his business and people who are credulous enough to change their lifestyle based on the extant corpus of the material about the Paleo diet, well, let’s just say I’ve found opening a dialogue on such issues particularly unrewarding. I had no plans to cover the Paleo diet here until I ran across the Cryonics magazine article whilst doing a search related to the Mediterranean diet. Since that article was not part of the regular magazine, I hadn’t seen it before.

          When I read it, I felt ashamed for Alcor, for cryonics and for Max. I have no idea if the Paleo diet is a great diet or not. As Abelard points out, the Eaton version is similar to Cretan/Mediterranean diet – and if you look at the primary scientific literature underpinning the Cretan diet you’ll see that observations about pre-Ag genetics and disease patterns in hunter-gatherers, as they relate to their diet, were important considerations. I have no evidence that the Paleo diet is “bad.” But that’s not the point. I also have no evidence that the lady who lives down the street is wrong when she claims that her special mix of herbs will cure cancer. In the case of Laetril, it took a lot of money and time to prove that it was worthless dross, even though no one who was treated with it that I, or anyone else I knew, was ever cured of cancer. In the context of a CLINICAL or PUBLIC HEALTH recommendation I don’t give a damn what Michael Rose, Linus Pauling, or any other scientist thinks , unless they have data in hand. I’m fascinated and happy to listen to ideas and debate about the issues – as issues. I am not at all happy to see bullshit dispensed to cryonicists – especially not when there is solid, scientific data THAT IS ALSO EASIER TO IMPLEMENT right at hand, and free for the taking. –Mike Darwin

        • admin says:

          Sorry to be delayed in answering your scientific question: “The selection pressure of evolution on diet as it affects lifespan in old age is probably the area where it is weakest; since survival beyond 50 is not nearly as valuable as survival to 45-50.” This is actually why I was intrigued by Michael Rose’s suggestion that later in life the Paleo diet could be better for us. I can imagine that we adapted very well to the products of agriculture (though not yet to refined sugars and processed foods) for the early part of the lifecycle, whereas later in the lifecycle those adaptations tend to lose their effectiveness because dying from them does not cost much in terms of reproductive potential. The ability to process meats, nuts, and vegetables, since it is evolutionarily older, might therefore extend later into life than grain products.”

          You’re right that my assertion cuts both ways. But consider this. For several years now, I’ve been arguing that personal practical immortality is a survival imperative for our species because we cannot afford to lose the wisdom and experience of one generation after another – not when the stakes are as high as they now are with nuclear, bio- and nano-technology. There is growing evidence that evolution “came to the same conclusion,” in other words, that selection pressure acted to radically extend human lifespan. This appears to have happened about 30K years ago during the Upper Paleolithic, and it is posited to have come about as a mechanism to promote the survival of grandchildren, and of the community, by conserving the experience of the previous generation. The full text of the PNAS paper, “Older age becomes common late in human evolution” is available here You’ll note that there was a 4-fold increase in the number of adults old enough to be grandparents over a very short period of time; ~10K years. If that increase was genetic/biological, as opposed to social, then it speaks to two points. The first is the speed with which evolutionary change can occur in hominid populations. The second is that this apparent extension of the mean lifespan was occurring as a result of selection pressure during the LAST HALF of the lifespan. Authors Caspari and Lee posit that it was this increase in the survival of older individuals that led to our subsequent cultural and technological revolutions. If so, that would imply that the last half of the human lifespan was under dynamic evolutionary pressure and selection from before, and probably during and after the advent agriculture. As the Science Daily nicely summed it up:

          “A large number of older people allowed early modern humans to accumulate more information and to transmit specialized knowledge from one generation to another, they speculated. Increased adult survivorship also strengthened social relationships and kinship bonds, as grandparents survived to educate and contribute to extended families and others. Increased survivorship also promoted population growth, the authors explain, since people living longer are likely to have more children themselves, and since they also make major contributions to the reproductive success of their offspring.

          “Significant longevity came late in human evolution and its advantages must have compensated somehow for the disabilities and diseases of older age, when gene expressions uncommon in younger adults become more frequent,” the authors noted.

          “There has been a lot of speculation about what gave modern humans their evolutionary advantage,” Caspari said. “This research provides a simple explanation for which there is now concrete evidence: modern humans were older and wiser.”

          – Mike Darwin

  3. Abelard Lindsey says:

    Your Cretan diet and the Paleo diet are not too dissimilar. You can probably do both of them at the same time. It is certainly true that paleolithic man was not optimized for his environment, let alone the diet. However, humans lived in the paleo-state far longer than they have since the neolithic revolution (about 10,000 years). 10,000 years is long enough for some genetic change to have occurred, but probably not enough for us to have become completely optimized to the diet. Human evolution, particularly in cognitive ability, does seem to have accelerated in the past 10,000. Gregory Cochran’s book, “The 10,000 Year Explosion” discusses some of the recent changes, including cognitive ability, lactose intolerance, and the like.

    Max More comes across in a nonchalant manner in the Snyder blog. This is his natural affect. In my experience, he has always been like that. I would not make too much of it.

  4. Bob Fordice says:

    You use a lot of words and ideas to say something that I’d say by telling this story about my dating days. When a girl I was talking with started asking me what my “sign” was, or going on about chakras and the like I thought to myself: flake. I didn’t want to spend an evening with someone like that let alone a lifetime. With cryonics it looks to be pretty much the same kind of process of elimination. I look at Alcor and I see the company has most recently been run by a guy who claims he found Noah’s Ark, a woman who wears a helmet whenever she drives in her car (very bad idea) and now a guy who thinks he knows what cavemen ate and that if you eat the same thing it will make you live longer. Flakes. A lot more important than the CEOs being flakes is that they were chosen for the job by the directors of the company. More flakes. I don’t want to spend the maybe 50 years I’ve got left with flakes. At least in the case of cryonics I wouldn’t have to worry about spending eternity with them because flakes can’t pull it off.

    • Mark Plus says:

      You forgot the homophobic Adventist guy. At least he probably got the diet right.

    • unperson says:

      you cannot get through to cryos about how different they are. There is an internal psychological block there. You might as well try to argue with GOP and Democratic activists on forums online.

      I posted a number of times on cryonet on this same topic, and not one single reader there posted anything indicating that they even understood what I was getting at.

      You might as well try to rationally discuss cryonics with the average human. They just do not get the fundamental idea of it. Has nothing to do with IQ. Just that once an adult human has accepted a certain worldview, it’s all over.

      • Mark Plus says:

        Un, why didn’t the Adventist CEO bring more members from his church into cryonics? He could have done that without sounding fraudulent like your efforts.

        • unperson says:

          now you bring up another issue entirely from what I was referring to in my post above. You refer to my oft-mentioned idea that religion is the way to bring in new cryonicists. In answer to your question, I do not know why waynick, who was apparently a seventh day adventist, did not bring in new members via his religion. I know next to nothing about waynick. Maybe he rarely went to church? Maybe his personality was grating? Who knows? Maybe seventh day adventists are not the right audience for a cryogospel approach. I know little about seventh adventists. My suggestions about a cryogospel have been along the lines of linking it to a TRADITIONAL protestant theology, which is not what seventh day adventism is. That much I do know about it.
          I have only ever met a couple of seventh day adventists. Yet there are americans everywhere who are connected in some significant way to mainstream protestantism.

          So, anyhoo…

          Now, back to the point I was actually making: religion aside, cryonicists seem to me to be blissfully unaware of how outre, exotic, eccentric, unusual, or ‘flaky’ we actually are. We are so unusual when compared to the average american.

          You and many other cryos often post newspaper articles that purport to show how “everything is coming our way,” to quote some old song lyrics. But when I look at the people around me, I see nothing like that. And I talking about the gamut here–from people with graduate degrees to high school diploma types. Virtually no one I know ever seems to even consider the ideas we consider.

          We are outliers, extreme outliers.
          I don’t know how much it has that much to do with IQ. Maybe some. But IQ is just a representation of the ability to do mental gymnastics.
          Certainly it is associated with being well read. But there is more than that.

          But regardless of what the cause is, the fact remains that as far as I can tell, cryos are mainly unaware of how different we are, how differently we think. Maybe if we were more aware of how different we are, we might be better able to grow cryonics.

  5. Bob Fordice says:

    Homophobic Adventist one? Which one was that? Is that why Mike Darwin included the stuff on the Adventist Diet?

      • Abelard Lindsey says:

        How many CEO’s has Alcor been through? I remember at one point, it seemed like every time I checked out their website (maybe once a year or so), they had a new CEO. Perhaps they will get some longevity (no pun intended) with Max More.

    • admin says:

      My contact with Adventists and the AHS long predates Waynick’s tenure at Alcor. I first heard of the AHS around 1982-3 when one of my co-workers at St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, CA answered a question I had asked about “what she did to stay so young looking.” She was SDA, and she told me about their vegetarian diet and about the AHS – which was then called the Adventist Mortality Study. A few months later, I quit eating meat – not just because of the SDA experience, but because I was disgusted at what saw in abattoirs. I do eat fish, but no land vertebrates. In 1987-8 I met my partner, who is also SDA and eats a typical SDA diet. He was raised on the SDA “veggie meat products” and I find them OK; they provide some variety. But they are now really expensive compared to even salvage grocer salmon, or Walmart tuna.

      I should also add that Waynick was just as homophobic to my partner who is not only also SDA, but who is black, as well.

      As to the SDA diet. The problem with the SDAs in terms of mapping over to cryonicists/immortalists is that they are, like the Mormons, “clean living, upright, folk.” For many years I had a physician colleague who was raised as a Mormon in Salt Lake City. He reported that octogenarian Mormons that he saw in his gerontology practice there were healthy and vital on average. He had also worked at the VA in Los Angeles, and he said that the average patient he saw there was in very poor condition and that they were often dying in their 50s, 60s and 70s. Tobacco and alcohol abuse no doubt are major players in the disparity. But I have the strong suspicion that it goes deeper – that there really is such a thing as “clean living,” or put another way, “low wear and tear and high repair opportunity living.” Sincere religious faith no doubt reduces stress and a fixed routine of healthful practices such as scheduled meal times, daily exercise, commitment to work, abstention from sexual promiscuity (as well as from alcohol, tobacco) and caffeine may interact in positive ways. The only problem with caffeine is that it raises heart rate and BP in many people and recent research has shown that the vascular endothelium is exquisitely sensitive to injury from increased pressure and from turbulence. Each heart beat causes turbulent blood flow in certain areas of the arterial tree, such as bifurcations, or sharp turns. The blood ejected from the left ventricle, for instance, causes shear injury to the endothelium of the aortic arch – so that is a common location for atherosclerotic plaque. A “smooth” consistent life routine may be easier on the machinery. — Mike Darwin

      • unperson says:

        Mike wrote:
        “For many years I had a physician colleague who was raised as a Mormon in Salt Lake City.”

        you are referring to dr steve harris, no doubt. You speak as if he is now deceased, but to my knowledge he is not deceased. I take it then that he is ‘dead to you,’ as the saying goes, or that you are ‘on the outs,’ as another saying goes. You have previously admitted here that your prior relationships with a number of longtime cryonicists are in a similar state. Is this an issue with you or with cryonicists in general, do you think?

        • admin says:

          Yes, it was Steve Harris I was speaking of. Steve Harris and I have not been in regular contact with each other since I left CCR in 2001. I think the last time we met was at the SA conference several years ago, and we exchanged pleasantries and chatted briefly. I worked with Steve on and off in various capacities from the mid-1980s till 2001. Cryonics is a rough business and we had our ups and downs, but it was a very good experience on balance, and I learned a great deal from him about medicine and about many other areas in the sciences. I can’t say that Steve and I had any major scientific or administrative differences during that period.

          You ask: “Is this an issue with you or with cryonicists in general, do you think?” Obviously, I can’t really give any kind of objective answer to that question.

          I wish I could say that I’ve never seen such an inter-personally dysfunctional place as cryonics, but that wouldn’t be true. The world is teeming with them and on every level. A few day ago I found out that one my gangster friends from San Bernardino has been killed. Some kind of disagreement over “disrespect.” You and most people work for a business or an institution, and if you work there for very long that means that institution has most likely found the tools to stop the internecine fighting, or to at least keep it to a tolerable level. Even so, many workplaces are vipers dens of hatred and distrust. They “work” because people need the job and there is a system of rules in place to keep order and minimize the mayhem. Professionalism is a HUGE part of that in medicine. My own work experiences as an employee, with a couple of exceptions, have been good to OK. Both my hospital jobs were great – nice places to work, a lot of fun, and great learning experiences for me. But, for some of the other people who worked there the jobs were awful. Me, I was a technician – no career track, no management positions, just do your job and go home. The people I worked with in Indiana in the 1970s were mostly young, liked to smoke dope and do an occasional line of coke at a party, and were mostly in the business of settling into relationships and having kids. In California, the people I worked with were 10 to 15 years older than me and were all RNs. The only “misery” I suffered was when their conflicting ambitions made the workplace tense. But again, that was their problem, not mine.

          So, you (and others out there) tell me, how well and how long do your relationships with your coworkers proceed? How well do you get along with your fellow employees after you’ve been made their supervisor? What is the usual interpersonal outcome in start-ups – especially if they are successful? How well do J. Craig Venter, Steve Jobs, Michael West, and Bill Gates’ former associates get on with them? If you do a search for famous entrepreneurs and then you read a biography of them, or their companies, you will almost invariably read tales of acrimony and broken relationships. Exceptions that come to mind for me are Oprah Winfrey, Ben & Jerry and maybe Walt Disney. Settle down with good biography of the Wright brothers if you want a tale of bitter acrimony.

          People who do fundamentally new things that ruffle feathers or that make lots of money are usually not easy going. In fact, being an easygoing nice (nonjudgmental) guy is almost an absolute contraindication to effecting change in any human system. It’s not that most people won’t speak out when they see something really wrong, or see a better way to do something, it is that they CAN’T – they literally are not capable of it. In reading the firsthand accounts of the French Revolution I was struck by the horrible savagery and the arbitrariness of so many of the actions of the mob. They killed their own for no reason – on a whim – and in hideous ways. That’s what happens when you take the lid off and people act on all the dammed up rage they have. In good times, there isn’t that much rage, but in bad times, it builds and builds; in large measure I think because people are designed not to rock the boat. Given what a chronic mess the world is in, and has been in since day 1, this is probably necessary for the survival of the species. — Mike Darwin

  6. Bob Fordice says:

    Why did they do that? I found out about cryonics by getting referred to this site by stumbled upon. I read the article on technological inevitability and then later I got another referral to the article on cryonics and the survival of personal identity. That clicked with me and I decided cryonics made sense. I began looking at the Cryonics Institute and Alcor websites. Alcor appealed to me because of the professionalism of their approach and the articles in their library. I know amateur when I see it and professional when I see that. When I called Alcor and asked technical questions I was put on the phone with their biochemist who was vague and who seemed evasive. The woman I talked to about making cryonics arrangements was robotic and unhelpful.

    Who are the directors that run the company? How did they get their positions and how involved are they in cryonics? I found a lot of information about Kent, Wowk and Merkel on the web. Clement runs something called the Inner Space Foundation & which has a “it’s broken we’re fixing it” website that I associate with dead or dying companies or with phony operations. Riskin’s website made me think of Law&Order or one of those Dateline episodes about swingers and sleazy crime Seidl is apparently a bankruptcy/collections lawyer Dr. Jain is apparently someone who makes his patients angry since that was all that my search on him returned. Nothing to inspire confidence that’s for sure.

    • unperson says:

      Heh heh, I know. Most prominent cryonicist activists seem to parade their eccentricities as if they were virtues. Me, I am eccentric as hell, and I know it. But I hide it.

    • unperson says:

      bob wrote:
      “Who are the directors that run the company? How did they get their positions and how involved are they in cryonics? I found a lot of information about Kent, Wowk and Merkel on the web. ”

      Well, the whole issue of Alcor directorship is a controversial one. The directors run the show, and they are self elected. Maybe that all that great a structure. Who knows?

      They do however have alcor’s best interests at heart. Many of these people have dedicated their lives to cryonics, regardless of their public eccentricities.

      Clement was a scientist, if I recall correctly, with a good deal of success, if I recall correctly.

      Jain is a specialist doctor, I believe. One or two bad comments on some internet ratings site is not really a black mark for a doctor, don’t you think? I mean, come on–if you have some sort of public service business, you are going to have the odd dissatisfied customer. Just goes with the business.

      Merkel, a comp sci/math professor with some prominence in his field based on his early works.

      Wowk is a scientist who has pretty been dedicated his professional career to it.

      And as for Kent, yeah, you are going to find some stuff written about him out there to make him look bad. And you could even say some bad things about his business that might be true, in my opinion. But the man has poured a LOT of money into cryonics, and in fact, dedicated his life to it.

      Riskin, well….uh…. he seems to be a true blue cryonicist, that is all I cam say….

      The important thing to realize is that these people do have their hearts in the right place. They want to live forever, and they are going about it in the best way they see fit, under the circumstances. I myself would choose a somewhat different tack/approach for cryonics. But, hey, that’s just me. Different strokes.

      Now what about you? A professional person, perhaps? Successful, yes? Cryonics could use people like you in leadership. Get involved. You may be able to make some changes…

  7. Mark Plus says:

    Speaking of ineffective interventions:

    Boomers will be spending billions to counter aging

  8. Bob Fordice says:

    My wife is a psychiatric nurse practitioner and since she has flexible hours and a little more time than I do plus her medical training she has been doing most of the research and reading about cryonics. Your response got her hackles up and she said these organizations are not doing business in the land of OZ and that you need brains as well as a heart. (I added that from what I’ve seen here you need courage too.) You say these people have their hearts in the right places. Why do you say that? Also, why should that make any difference to me and my family if they don’t know what they are doing or they are careless? Our daughter had open heart surgery two and half years ago and we spent a lot of time researching the best surgeon and I will tell you that competent surgeons all have their hearts in the right place. That doesn’t mean they have a great bed side manner but they all really care about their work and their patients. Surgeons who are not so good may be very nice and easy to talk to and have lots of time to spend with you. But what good does that do if your little girl ends up dead or has complications? We don’t want just heart we want brains and skill too.

    Maybe Dr. Jain is a great doctor. I don’t know. But we know a lot about checking out doctors and it is unheard of in our neck of the woods for a doctor to have negative feedback come up on a search practically right after his name. Cindy, my wife, has lots of troubled patients and they are often unhappy because of medications or hospitalizations and she has no feedback like that. Most companies work hard to get that kind of feedback removed and it is usually fairly easy to do. So that gives me reasons to wonder.

    All I know about the Alcor board of directors is that other than Wowk, Kent and Merkel none of those people has any kind of record of having done anything in cryonics and that concerns me because of the decisions they have made to hire the kind of people Cindy sees in her practice not just once but three or four times says to me that they don’t know what they are doing. If they don’t have enough sense to see that someone like Riskin is a terrible liability then that is as bad or maybe worse. Cindy says he’d be in jail if he worked here. So the two medical people on their board of directors have clouds over them.

    • Mark Plus says:

      If they don’t have enough sense to see that someone like Riskin is a terrible liability then that is as bad or maybe worse.

      Michael Riskin has a license in Marriage & Family Therapy in the state of California and apparently has stayed in good professional standing in that state:$LCEV2.QueryView?P_LICENSE_NUMBER=8768&P_LTE_ID=720

    • admin says:

      I really can’t argue with most of what you say. I know Brian Wowk, Michael Riskin, Saul Kent, Ralph Merkle and Ravin Jain, reasonably well. I’ve briefly met Michael Seiedl who seemed pleasant and professional. Brian is a brilliant man and a genuinely nice person, but he is not a leader and definitely not a “boat rocker” in the sense of doing whatever is necessary, even if confrontational or disruptive in the short run, to effect reform. That doesn’t make him a “bad” director – he’d be an excellent director in a healthy organization. And he understands cryonics intimately on multiple levels; social technical, scientific, political. Michael Riskin is a very nice man who is a committed cryonicist. Like Mark, I’ve sought professional advice from him to good end. The problems are (as I gather you have discovered) is that he uses or has used paid “sex surrogates” in his practice and his books advocate therapies that many psychologists and psychiatrists consider unethical. While I don’t consider surrogate sex therapy prostitution as some have claimed, I do understand that it is a complex issue in terms of its ethics and its efficacy. I honestly don’t know much about it, and can’t say I’m anxious to learn – it just doesn’t interest me. Michael also has a history of some kind of involvement with off-shore gambling enterprises, if I recall correctly as an accountant. This has been a source of concern that I’ve heard voiced in the past because that industry’s links to organized crime and tax evasion. Many years ago as a teenager I worked for Automatic Retailers of America (ARA). ARA had the contract to build the (then) Sears Tower and they were a giant in the vending machine and concessions businesses. Where there was a cash business, ARA was there. The big boss at the convention center where I worked was about as mobbed up as it was possible to be. So I guess I’ve worked for mafia too ;-0. Merkle is a brilliant mathematician/cryptographer with impeccable credentials in those fields. He also believes he is a brilliant professional cryonicist specializing on the reanimation part of the procedure and the public promotion of cryonics. Many share this view. I suppose it would be neither here nor there if he confined his judgment to what he believes will happen in the future,. Regrettably, he uses his judgement about his hypothetical future to guide his decision making in the decidedly non-hypothetical present. Saul Kent is someone who I still consider a dear friend and who was once a great mentor to me. I think his time and efforts would be better served off the Alcor board due to age and health considerations. I have serious reservations about Ravin Jain based on my personal interactions with him over the years. However, that’s a personal opinion of the kind an employer might make about a prospective employee in deciding to hire him, or not. I have no concrete feedback on his professional life or on his performance as an Alcor Director. My contact with the other Alcor Directors has been slight or nil.

      The rest of your arguments are pretty much the same ones you’ll find spread out here. I strongly believe in compassion and charity in cryonics – in having a “good heart.” But that’s not the same as competence, and one without the other can be disastrous. Africa is a hellhole of a mess – it is a disaster so great I don’t think any of us can fully understand the implications. It got that way in large measure because of people with their “hearts in the right place” but no brains. And to a lesser extent, because of people with brains, but with no hearts. The Christian missionaries who invaded Africa over the past two centuries decided to completely rework tAfrican societies and introduce (minimal) sanitation and widespread vaccination. They forbade birth control, abortion, and infanticide – all of which were critical population controls for the African continent. Through vaccination, the introduction of bottle feeding, and countless other interventions they caused a population explosion the likes of which has not been seen before. What they did not do was to put into place the phenomenally costly educational, social, industrial, medical, corporate and other infrastructure to cope with that population explosion. And of course, there really was no way that ANY technology could cope with that population explosion, because absent control over reproduction it is EXPONENTIAL, and within a short while the earth becomes a solid mass of humanity expanding into space at the speed of light. Since that is clearly not possible, something has got to give. And it has. These cretins had their hearts in the right place, but their brains surely weren’t where they belonged!

      Some of the scientists and business people who supplied the technology to the missionaries were aware that the entire undertaking was a disaster in the making. They just didn’t care. Most of the white men who sold guns to the Amerindians were not the least bit concerned with the welfare of the indigenous peoples; they just wanted to make money, and it didn’t matter if one of their own took a bullet for it. Most of the people who assisted the missionaries in Africa (and elsewhere) did so out of a misguided belief that they were behaving in the highest moral fashion, as did most of the missionaries themselves. But that doesn’t change the outcome and it doesn’t undo millions upon millions of man years of senseless suffering. At least in South America in the 20th century, their efforts mostly resulted in the more or less immediate extermination of the peoples they came into contact with because those people, so long cut off from the great herd of humanity, lacked the genetic resources to deal with the to us trivial diseases the missionaries brought with them – not the least of which was common influenza. — Mike Darwin

  9. Mark F. says:

    I was having a conversation with a friend the other day. He opined that Obama’s “heart” was in the right place, even if his policies were wrong. I responded that I couldn’t care less about people’s “hearts.” For all I know, Hitler really thought killing Jews and invading Europe and Russia was a good thing. The point is whether a policy is good and/or whether people are acting in a rational manner and giving good advice.

    • admin says:

      That’s the devil of it! Obama is probably a nice, likable and decent man. He certainly seems that way. My Mom was the same kind of person, however I would NOT have wanted my Mom as President. People we love dearly might perform terribly in a great man positions – as would we ourselves. Just because we love them for very good reasons as spouses, friends parents or people, that doesn’t mean they are competent to be the President or to do brain surgery. Hitler is a good example because he did in fact viscerally believe the Jews were subhuman monsters. That’s crazy and evil, but it is infinitely more “moral” than a cold blooded psychopathic opportunist like Stalin, who killed 10 million people because he was having some bad hair days. However, in the end, it really doesn’t matter if you or yours are among the victims. — Mike Darwin

      • Abelard Lindsey says:

        I always thought Stalin was worse than Hitler. I consider Mao to be more guilty of criminal negligence than anything else.

        • admin says:

          I suppose it depends on how you define evil, and how you hold people accountable for it. All three men had in common a willingness, if not an eagerness to ruthlessly and casually kill people who had not just been personally close to them, but who had enabled their rise to power. Hitler first did this on a large scale with the ‘Night of the Long Knives,’ when he disposed of most of the leadership of the SA – primarily because they were unacceptable to the Army, whose support was essential to his consolidation of power. Stalin murdered just about everyone who was close to him, including, ultimately, Beriia. Mao was no different. All three men were mass murderers on an epic scale. Arguably, Hitler and Mao were motivated, to some extent, by a “genuine” belief in the bankrupt ideologies they advocated. There can be little doubt that Hitler genuinely believed in the tenets of Nazism (including a genuine belief that the Jews were responsible for Germany’s troubles; past,present and future). Mao, similarly, appears to have believed in the communist ideology he espoused. The best evidence is that Hitler had no plans for systematic Jewish genocide until the problem of “relocation to the East” became insurmountable. Some might therefore argue that “the Ultimate Solution” was a simple an artifact of expediency – a kind of negligence based upon the unwillingness of other nation-states to accept the “vermin” Hitler was trying to force out of Germany, coupled with the exigencies of war and the attendant poverty of resources… This is an argument I find ridiculous.

          By contrast, Stalin appears to have been a “pure psychopath,” concerned only with his own survival, and it seems likely he would have been as at home in any ideological, political or social system which allowed him unfettered access to power the Mafia or the Soviet Union – either would have suited him just fine).

          Similarly, all three men were responsible for millions of deaths as “collateral” to their central actions. The millions who died as an “indirect” result of Hitler’s actions in WWII, the millions who died in the de-kulakization of Ukraine, and the millions who died as a result of Mao’s decision making, from the Long March onward, might be viewed as “negligence.” Might be, but again, not by me. In terms of raw numbers of deaths, intended or otherwise, Mao was the clear leader, followed by Stalin, and then Hitler. Both men deliberately and knowingly condemned millions to death, torture, and years of interment under brutal conditions of privation, torture and utter hopelessness. Stalin seems to have been the most arbitrary and “irrational” in his actions in this regard, followed by Hitler and Mao. But negligence? No, nowhere does negligence enter the picture. If you want to appreciate the sheer magnitude of Mao’s knowing evil, I strongly recommend two books: MAO: THE UNKNOWN STORY and WILD SWANS, both by Chang and Halliday. These two books were well researched and draw heavily on first-hand accounts of Mao’s life and actions. THE UNKNOWN STORY was ten years in the writing.

          My problem in assigning “blame” in the case of these three men is that it is largely an exercise empty of meaning, except for any utility it may have in understanding the underlying psychopathology present in these men and perhaps, in finding a way to prevent or treat it in the future. Otherwise, it is a sterile exercise, akin to trying to determining how many devils can dance on the head of a pinpoint of empathy and humanity. — Mike Darwin.

  10. Bob Fordice says:

    Why do they think he is doing a good job?

    • Mark Plus says:

      I suspect Alcor needs two CEO’s: The good looking, personable guy who talks at conferences and to the media; and the frumpy but capable guy who stays at the lab and makes sure that everything runs properly.

    • admin says:

      Clinton is the classic, medically indicated candidate for the Ornish diet (which is a better designed diet in terms of fats). This is a guy with one bypass under his belt and recurrent coronary disease in just a few years while being on a statin. Typically, that type of patient progresses to intervention after intervention until they either die from a MI acutely, or die from congestive heart failure (CHF) after becoming a cardiac cripple. Cancer, providing there is no loss of local control, is an easy death by comparison. If he remains compliant on the diet, controls his BP, and is medicated for mood problems as needed, he should make it to the mean lifespan without problems. If he gets cancer – well, a far better death that it is than CHF and he will probably have lived longer. I wonder how Darth, er, I mean Dick Cheney is doing these days? — Mike Darwin

      • gwern says:

        Pretty badly apparently:

        Wikipedia seems to be incomplete; I remember reading the other day an article on his new autobiography which said he had spent something like a week unconscious after one of the surgeries. Which certainly doesn’t sound good.

        • Mark Plus says:

          Considering that Cheney acted as the de facto president, with Bush as a kind of mikado figurehead, you have to wonder if Cheney’s health problems cognitively impaired him.

          • admin says:

            Ha, ha!

            Mark, I would point out that there is a difference between cognitive impairment and moral impairment. I don’t think the impairment in Cheney’s cognition had nearly as much impact on his actions as the impairment in his morality. The vast majority of 60 year old men have suffered much more cognitive impairment from aging than would be incurred from an hour or so on the heart lung machine. Of course, they ARE additive… But remember, Cheney’s actions and ideology are not unique to Cheney, or not men with severe heart disease and a history of CABG. — Mike Darwin

        • admin says:

          Ummm. I guess that’s relative. He has done quite well with his LVAD, and my guess would be he’ll take a heart if he can get one. He will be on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno this Friday hawking his book. If he refuses a heart transplant he will have a comparatively short life with an LVAD. I’m assuming he received the Thoratec HeartMate II, which has a mean survival rate of 68% at one year and 58% at 2 years for patients with end-stage CHF. If Cheney got a good match, which is mostly chance with hearts (normally there isn’t time to do high quality tissue typing and the match is by ABO blood group alone; of course, if you could, say, screen thousands of healthy young men, one of whom might have a bad accident or bullet wound to the brain, you could potentially find a perfect D locus match… nah, nobody’s that evil…) and altered his diet, he could conceivably live another decade – or longer. The 10-year survival rate is ~50 percent and ~15 percent of heart transplant patients survive ~20 years. Watching LVAD patients die is fascinating, because the majority of them die of infections. Those that survive the first year, and especially those that go out past 2 years, often experience a preceding period of wasting decline which reminds me a great deal of the end stage of AIDS. LVAD support compromises cellular immunity via down-regulatory cytokine imbalance and emergence of suppressive T-regulatory cells. This kind impaired T-cell immunity is a shared featured with HIV infection and LVAD patients get some of the same weird fungal infections seen AIDS; lots of thrush and systemic candida. However, unlike AIDS patients, LVAD patients also get gram negative infections including sepsis. One theory is that the profound immunosuppression seen in LVAD recipients is due to leaching of the titanium ion into blood/tissues primarily from the impeller and housing of the pump. I’m not convinced of this, but in any event, it remains a fascinating problem because infection secondary to LVAD induced immunosuppression is currently THE barrier to long term survival with an LVAD. Crack that nut and survival could climb to 5 years or more. That would cause real fiscal chaos because the number of potential LVAD recipients would climb to 50K a year, or more. One “nice” subjective side effect of LVAD implantation is that most patients remark that their various age associated aches and pains go away. This is due to the profound suppression of proinflammatory cytokines, like TNF and IL-6. — Mike Darwin

  11. Abelard Lindsey says:

    A little off-topic, but one aspect of the future world that may affect cryonics around 2040 or so:

  12. Bob Fordice says:

    Hi. You didn’t answer my question about how the people who run Alcor know that Max More is doing a good job. When I asked questions on the cold filter chat about who the people were who that thought Mike Darwin was bad for cryonics my questions never showed up and I never got an answer. Do you work at Alcor or are you friends with the staff there or the management there?

  13. Shannon Vyff says:

    Darwin does not work at Alcor, but knows people there, he also is one of the handful of people that know enough about cryonics that they could help run an organizations, do suspensions and contribute to research.

    I don’t think Max has been at Alcor long enough at all to be able to evaluate how he is doing yet. He has been more public, which has been nice.

    It is disheartening to find out about the backgrounds of many in cryonics, but thankfully not all are highly eccentric or on the fringe of normal society. It is a very small community however, there are not a lot of members to draw from for leadership (less than 2000 signed cryonicists). It has been growing over time, but really anyone who starts to delve into how cryonics is run realizes they either have to help out, or make do with how things are.

  14. Perry Metzger says:


    Thank you so much for writing this. I’ve been saying this quietly more and more to my friends hopping on the Paleo bandwagon, and it has been hard getting anyone to listen terribly much.

    Reasoning from evidence is the core of science. The evidence for Paleo pales in comparison for the evidence for the Mediterranean diet and variations on it. I can’t for the life of me understand how so many intelligent, thinking people have jumped off a cliff together. Perhaps it is some sort of herd mentality in action.

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