Are We Really Living Longer?


(DGIwire)   With the Paleo diet movement becoming more popular, some people wonder why they should eat more like our ancestors did, often referencing their lower life expectancy.  This topic and its implications today are worth examining.

Unlike what most people tend to think, life expectancy is not a measure of how long people are living.  It is an abstract concept that summarizes the health and threats to longevity that exist at a particular point in time.

If the life expectancy of prehistoric man was say 30 or 40 years old, what does that really mean?

Modern conveniences like housing, heating and air conditioning, sanitation, modern medical facilities were non-existent.  People at that time often lived in extreme conditions.  Due to the hazards of the hunter/gathering culture, one could expect to encounter predatory animals and large prey animals that often killed or seriously wounded the predator humans.

Death at childbirth, both natural and intentional, was common.  Life expectancy is calculated from the time of birth.  Following birth, death from all causes becomes part of the calculation.  Some people most certainly lived longer than 40 years but since so many didn’t, we are looking at the average.   With high infant mortality rates, a calculation of the life expectancy started at birth is highly sensitive to the rate of death in the first few years of life.  Because of this, simple life expectancy at age zero can be subject to gross misinterpretation, leading one to believe that a population with a low overall life expectancy will necessarily have a small proportion of older people.

“Today, many conditions and diseases that plagued ancient man have been eradicated.  If you have a serious accident today, many times you will be repaired at the local hospital and go on with your life.  Our ancestors didn’t have these modern life extending benefits.  If ancient man managed to stay healthy, he may have lived as long as we do today in spite of his much harsher living conditions,” according to  Tom Griesel, co-author of the health book, TurboCharged.

Time passing as sand in an hourglass trickles and life runs outHere in the United States, despite having per capita spending on health care that is 50% higher than European countries, we rank 35th in the world in terms of life expectancy and we are falling further behind with each passing year.  In fact, there are many areas within the U.S. today that are actually seeing flat or falling life expectancy rates.  Why?

Tom Griesel adds, “It should not be surprising that the life expectancy is lowest in the areas where the obesity rates are the highest.  Although we have conquered almost all the hazards that our ancient ancestors faced, we are now faced with eating ourselves into an early grave. The proliferation of manufactured and refined foods is taking its toll.  Our bodies have never adapted to these so-called “foods” or the general over-consumption so easily achieved in today’s world.”

Staying active, avoiding modern day hazards and consuming a more natural diet, based on our long evolutional history. A diet that satisfies all our nutritional requirements offers the best chance to exceed any life expectancy statistic regardless of where you live.