I’ve been reading and participating in various health forums on the internet since around 2003. It’s surprising how people can be so set in their beliefs about diet. It’s almost like a religion. If new evidence is presented that contradicts what they are doing, it’s quickly dismissed.
Maybe there’s an emotional element and people get attached to their diets and their way. I understand that not everyone is able to interpret scientific papers and understand them, but educating yourself and keeping an open mind is very important – especially if you’re into extending your life. On the other side, you have people who are constantly changing their diet every few weeks or months and don’t know which way to turn. Indeed, diet and supplements can be confusing, but perhaps we overcomplicate things too much sometimes?
I’ve had times in my life when I used to eat so bad! Days where my diet would consist of nothing but cereal, biscuits, chocolate, sweets, fizzy drinks, yet I felt pretty good! So we have to be careful with how we feel in the short term and use a little common sense, rationality, and look at the science as well as objective measurements of our health to judge whether or not a certain way of eating is good for us.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that I’ve mostly been consistent with my diet over long periods of time. I’ve only made a few big changes, the rest were minor tweaks. Over 10 years a lot can change as we get new information and this can and should help guide us to make better choices. But we have to stay open to new ideas.
Changes I’ve made
I became vegetarian: I quit eating meat on my birthday on the 21st of October 2007. It was a very easy thing to do as I was never a big meat eater anyway. Unbeknownst to my parents, I would often give the meat to my dog. 🙂 Since becoming vegetarian, my compassion for animals had grown to a point where I feel it’s no longer acceptable to eat animals because of ethical reasons. So I’ll never go back to eating meat ever again.
To replace the protein from meat I chose whey protein as a replacement. Unfortunately back then we didn’t know eating a high protein diet – especially whey – could prevent the decrease in IGF-1 hormone which has been linked with longevity in animals and humans. It’s also thought to now be an important part of why calorie restriction works to slow down aging.
I lowered my protein intake: As more evidence was coming in showing low IGF-1 is an important factor in longevity, and possibly part of the reason why calorie restriction extends lifespan, I decided to lower my protein intake by removing whey protein from my diet.
I had held back on making this change for quite some time after a study was published in 2008 showing that we had to lower both calorie intake as well as protein intake to achieve the desired decrease in IGF-1. I guess I was still questioning just how important this hormone was in the CR-effect.
By 2010 I was convinced that there was sufficient evidence to make the change. This was 5 years after I began CRON. I don’t regret consuming the whey protein for much of that time as I had been using it to help heal from bilateral achilles tendonitis which was caused by an antibiotic I took in 2007. The problem persisted for two years and then went away.
Prior to 2010 the macronutrient ratio of my diet was 40% carbs, 30% fat, 30% protein. In 2010 I changed it to 55% carbs, 30% fat, 15% protein. This still wasn’t at the 10% level that was recommended, but a significant decrease from before.
I went Vegan: After coming back from California in 2012 I had decided to become a vegan. I didn’t anticipate any real changes in my health from doing this, but I thought it was the right thing to do. From a health perspective, I wasn’t convinced that being a vegan was better for you than being a vegetarian.
In fact, I believed that most vegans were not paying close attention to their diets and were likely to be missing out on important nutrients. Having spoken with vegans in the past, it became obvious that not all understand the risks and deficiencies associated with such a diet. I remember having a debate with a girl who told me she didn’t need any b12 from her diet. She had been vegan for 6 months and felt totally fine.
The problem was that she didn’t understand the body stores significant amounts of b12 and it can take years for any b12 deficiency symptoms to show up. I always thought vegetarianism is the safer option for children and adults, simply because of the lack of education on nutrition to be able to safely eat this way.
So anyway, now that I’ve taken out dairy and eggs from my diet, my protein dropped to about 10% of my total caloric intake. As expected, no real big change in how I felt other than one small difference: I could breathe more easily than before. I guess I hadn’t realized that I had a problem at all because it was so minor! But removing these animal products from my diet cleared up this issue very quickly. Perhaps I really did have some reaction to the dairy. It’s not that uncommon.
See my article on starting a vegan diet as a beginner.
Supplements: The other big change that I made in 2012 was changing my supplement regimen. I’ve taken a lot of supplements in the past. I would read through forums to find the best ‘ anti-aging’ stack, as I used to believe it would enhance the effect of calorie restriction. I’ve never thought supplements could actually replace calorie restriction as an anti-aging strategy though.
Over the years we’ve seen reports that taking supplements could actually do more harm than good. None of us really wanted to believe this, but sometimes we have to facts. Supplements have repeatedly failed to protect against cancer in multiple clinical trials in humans. Studies have shown that supplements may even increase mortality. Yikes!
Early 2013 a study was published that questioned the use of dietary supplements in life extension. Stephen Spindler conducted a study on F1 Hybrid Mice by giving them a mix of supplements which were thought as the best candidates to mimic the effect of CR or improve health in some other way. These supplements not only failed to have any effect whatsoever.
In 2013 another study was published showing that not only did supplements fail to extend lifespan, in some cases, they actually decreased lifespan! And some of the supplements used are very popular brands and used among many in the life extension community. Now I only take supplements to correct any deficiencies in my diet like vitamin D3, zinc, omega 3 and Allicin.
Be Open to Change
Nutritional science is always changing our ideas what to eat or how much to eat. We all strive to find the best diet that works for us. It can take a while before you find your feet and figure out what works best. We have to stay open-minded and change when necessary. Remember it’s not just about how you feel at the moment, but it’s how you will feel 10 years from now. You might feel ‘energized’ by eating 30 bananas in a day, but what is that going to do over several years? Be careful with what you read and question things more. Do your own research! This is why I often provide scientific references in my posts. 🙂
Becoming vegan was definitely one of the best changes. I feel it is the right choice from an ethical perspective as well as for my health and longevity. And being vegan is super easy! There’s plenty of different foods. It’s really not limiting at all.