In the second Renegade Health Radio show, Kevin and Frederic talk about: what’s a natural death? And paleo fantasies.
Listen here now:
Click the play button to start the call:
SHOW NOTES: The McDougall website mentioned is at www.drmcdougall.com
What’s a Natural Cause of Death?
- Frederic reports on the McDougall Advanced Study Weekend Conference.
- If you’re eating a healthy diet and exericising and doing everything you can to avoid preventable diseases, what is a natural death? What is a natural cause of death?
- Can you be too neurotic about what you eat?
- What is a Paleofantasy?
- Should we really try to eat like our ancestors did 10,000 years ago? Is that really what’s best for us in today’s world?
- Surviving vs. thriving in our modern world—what does it take?
Kevin: Renegade Health Radio, we’re here live.
Frederic: Our first live show, yeah.
Kevin: You guys are like, “what does that mean?” This is a podcast. We are actually in studio here, at the Renegade Health Office.
Frederic: Well, studio is kind of a big word. Kevin has like a microphone set up on a desk. We’re trying to get as close as possible to the microphone without it being completely awkward, and our knees are touching.
Kevin: Awesome. We’re drinking a special tea here that I’ve actually not told Frederic what it is. He just trusted me to be able to just concoct it for him. But instead of just having one tea bag in a cup of tea, I really like getting creative and experimenting. So, for instance, today, Frederic has the “I Can Do It” tea and the “I Can Do It Tea” is a very special Renegade Health blend, and it is one bag of green tea, one bag of cocoa tea and one bag of whole leaf basil tea. So, what this does for you? There’s three things that it does for you. One, it gives you a little caffeine with the green tea, gives you some antioxidants—there’s antioxidants through the whole thing. Two, with the cocoa, it makes you, it gives you better brain aptitude and if you happen to be in high altitude, it’s good for you, but we’re like 37 feet above sea level here in Berkeley so it’s not, you know. And then also has relaxation, so it almost like kind of, it’s almost in perfect harmony with the green tea, so it’s giving you a little bit of relaxation with a little bit of an “I Can Do It” kind of mentality.
Frederic: So Kevin, is this the equivalent of like, coffee and Baileys?
Kevin: No. No, not even close. Do you feel like you can do it today?
Frederic: Yeah, I can totally do.
Kevin: If you guys do this mixture at home, just make sure you take out the green tea early. Frederic reminded me or else it will get too bitter. We’re here. Well, we have two things to talk about today. Do you want to let them know what we’re going to talk about today and leave your tea for a second?
Frederic:Yeah. Well first, why am I here? Because as you might know, I live in Montreal, Canada and Kevin lives in beautiful, sunny Berkeley, California. So I try to come over once in awhile, you know, to talk business, but this weekend there was a seminar that I attended. It’s called the “McDougall Advanced Study Weekend,” so it’s a seminar organized by John McDougall, from the McDougall program, books, and diet and etcetera, and he organizes this webinar, twice a…this seminar, but you can also watch it online as a webinar…
Kevin: Oh cool.
Frederic:…twice a year. And it’s a study weekend of speakers. So some of them are, mostly about the plant-based nutrition kind of aspect, but also bringing in, you know, he’s really good at bringing really awesome doctors, researchers. Last time he had Richard Wrangham, who wrote, Catching Fire from Harvard University, you know, talking about—he has anthropologists, he has all kinds of people talking about different issues.
So this year there was T. Colin Campbell from the China Study Stuff. Dr. Esselstyn. So these two men who brought in a lot of people because they’re popular in plant-based movements. So, Esselstyn is a cardiologist who reverses heart disease through diet, and he had other speakers that I didn’t know, James Hill is a doctor who works in Colorado for a weight loss center. So he talked about all the latest research on weight. He had Marlene Zuk which we can talk about today. She is an anthropologist who wrote a book called Paleofantasy and we’ll talk about, maybe that could be one of the topics for today.
So, yeah, so it was a really interesting conference. I like to go there because you get challenged with new ideas. You meet interesting people and so on, and of all the conferences I’ve been to, this is the one that’s, I would say, at the highest level in terms of you know, the quality of speakers they’re bringing in. And it’s, you know, you’re really like—yeah, really advanced. Not necessarily advanced, but people that have definitely been published in scientific papers and so on.
Kevin: Yeah. What’s the website someone could got to—
Frederic: They can go to Doctor McDougall. I think it’s Doctor McDougall dot com, http://www.drmcdougall.com and he’s got a like for his events. So there’s another one coming up in September. Well I think you can watch it online for $150.00, which is very affordable.
Kevin: Okay, and it’s very worth it?
Frederic: Yeah. Really cool.
Kevin: Yeah. That sounds great. You know, I didn’t even think to…I like go up and it’s in Santa Rosa. It’s like an hour from here, and I didn’t even think to go up there, but Annemarie was away for the weekend. She was hanging out with some fun people at San Diego. So, before we get into the Paleofantasy, I do want to talk about the other thing we were talking about before, because I think that, I think this is a really interesting topic. It’s actually something that I haven’t really thought of before until you mentioned it, and now that you mentioned, Frederic, just mentioned it to me, like, I don’t know, 30 minutes ago, but my mind has actually kind of been consumed by it for the last 30 minutes trying to think about it.
Frederic: All right let’s talk about it. All right. So during a paneled discussion on Saturday night at the conference, the topic came up on, “What is a natural death?” And, “What is a natural lifespan for humans?” Because once you—the question was asked in this way. Okay, so if we eat in a manner that doesn’t cause heart disease and probably will prevent most cancers—maybe not all of them—so what do people on this diet die of, you know, because we’re all going to die of something? So if you’re not dying of a disease that is preventable, what is a natural death? What is naturally going to happen? And I’m going to answer that question based on what I learned at the seminar, but you know, bigger.
I think the bigger discussion is something that I’ve seen a lot in natural movements—raw foods and so on—as people seem to think that we’re somewhat invincible. You know, they’re never going to die, and when somebody dies at a relatively not-so-old age, let’s say 72 years old, the question immediately is, “Why did he die? Why did that person die?” And it never occurs to most people that well, maybe it was just his time to go, because the body eventually fails and everybody’s got a different lifespan. And who knows if the diet didn’t actually allow the person to live 10 more years? So maybe their genetics or essentially their genetics when they’re eating, say, a poor diet, would have said, “Hey, they’re going to die at 62.” But then they live another 10 years because they’re eating a diet that’s suited for their genetics and they live to be 72.
People like us look at it and say, “Oh it’s a failure. The health expert died at 72.” But what if they were supposed to die at 62 or something like that? So, I don’t know. But, how are we supposed to die? Because you know for me, I don’t even know. I haven’t even thought about that. I mean, I imagine back before, when we were kind of keeping stats on this, people would maybe fall off a cliff or cut their food and get an infection, but how many die from old age? What’s a natural way to go?
Kevin: So, I’ll put you in context because it was kind of fun.
This is how we’re going to die, right? I mean whatever we’re talking about is how it’s going to happen for us, and you, too, because you’re eating a great diet, right?
Frederic:Exactly, so in the conference, you know, there’s John McDougall, there was Dr. T. Colin Campbell, there was Dr. Esselstyn, and the panel was moderated by John McDougall’s son, who is about 30 something years old, so we’ve never seen him on the stage before. He’s a doctor and works in Oregon. So a question was asked and just prior to that question, the topic came up that Dr. Esselstyn is 80 years old now and looking quite good for his age and so on, and T. Colin Campbell is 79, you know, just a few months younger than Dr. Esselstyn. So, they look pretty good for their age and so on, so that came up.
And then, the question came up, “What is a natural death?” And then John McDougall goes on and just says, “Okay so here’s what I think. It’s the heart muscle eventually fails because it’s been used and the natural lifespan of a human is 85 years old.” So then there’s kind of an odd silence and laughter because we’re all—you know and Dr. Esselstyn later makes a joke about it. “While I’m busy dying of heart failure, you guys are going to take over this movement or something,” but anyway, so John McDougall explained that his theory is the heart failure theory. So, the heart muscle weakens and then eventually fails and you die in your sleep and it just, you know, blood fills up the cavities and it’s a pretty peaceful death. So he said, “That’s you know, that’s…
Kevin: Blood filling up my cavities—doesn’t really seem peaceful.
Frederic: Well yeah, but you know, it’s better than most deaths, I guess, and if it happens while you’re sleeping, it’s pretty good. And then Dr. Esselstyn said he’s more of another school of thought, which is the immune system failing. So the example he gave was Jack Lalanne, who died at 93. How did he die? He had a heart surgery, not for heart disease, you know, maybe his heart was getting bad or something, but it’s not like heart disease in the sense that his arteries were not obstructed. But he had the surgery and then he got pneumonia shortly after. I mean, the body is just weak at that age, so one of those—the idea is one of those two systems, the immune system or the cardiovascular system, will eventually fail, and that’s how humans are supposed to die.
So what is a natural lifespan? I guess a natural lifespan is around 85 years old, which means some people are going to die older.
Kevin: That’s a natural modern lifespan.
Frederic: Modern yes. Maybe not, you know, in ancient times, but people even in those days, you know, a lot of people reached a relatively old age.
Kevin: So it’s an average thing, though.
Frederic: Yeah, but you—I mean, rarely do you see people living beyond, you know, 95. Occasionally you have people living at 100 years old, but I’ve been around this movement a lot for a while and you know, follow kind of people dying that are raw foodists and so on, and they have an average lifespan, you know. But I think it’s quality of life that matters most. What do you think Kevin?
Kevin: I totally agree. I always think about all these stories about so-and-so dying young, Herbert Shelton and—
Frederic: Herbert Shelton. Wasn’t he, he was like incapacitated for a—
Kevin: Herbert Shelton had Parkinson’s disease. Who knows what caused it. I don’t think it’s the diet, necessarily. And then you know, he was a friend of Renegade Health. Andreas Moritz died of just some complications from some illness that he had in the past. Relatively young. I think he was in his 60s. And so, you know, you look at this and again the first thing that, even if you go to the websites, kind of all the popular health buffs that you see people asking, “What did he die from?” And suddenly they blame it on the, “He didn’t eat enough fruit.” Or you didn’t…
Frederic: People don’t die from nutritional deficiencies. Generally, I mean.
Kevin: I agree.
Frederic: They tend to die of excess much more in our society. And I’m talking in our society, not, you know, in the third world or something. But when you reach that age and you’re not dying of a B12 deficiency in most cases or something like that.
Most people, who died, died of a natural cause like this. I mean, my mentor, one of my first mentors from France, Dr. [inaudible 13:01]. When I was first getting started, I read a lot of his books. I was in correspondence with him for a long time. He died recently. He was around 86 years old and apparently died in his sleep of heart failure. So exactly in line with what John McDougall was saying on the weekend. So, some people die. Of course, you get some examples like Nathan Pritikin died of leukemia, but he got, you know, he died around 70 I think. But his leukemia was diagnosed before he went on these diets. And so I think, you could argue that he had a heart disease and then he cured his heart disease through diet and an autopsy revealed that he was largely free of heart disease when he died. But he died of—some people say he committed suicide, but it was related to the pain caused by leukemia, but he was diagnosed before. So you never know how long someone would live if they had not done these diet changes. And I think we tend to generalize that a diet change will make us live forever and everybody will reach a very high lifespan.
Kevin: 150 right?
Frederic: 150. You know what the theory is?
Kevin: You got to have some friends though, I mean, you’ve got to have some friends who are on it too, because here’s the thing—like if you live to 150 and you outlive everyone, even your kids, I mean, what kind of life…what’s your quality of life? I mean, it’s almost, I mean, I guess you could be like the 150-year-old famous guy, or it’s just…I don’t know. To me, quality of life is so important, and I also think, on the side of moderation in terms of diet, when you’re a neurotic duck eater like I used to be—I’m sure that you were the same way, Fred—just always thinking about that next meal. Always thinking about, “Is it going to be organic? Is it going to be raw?” Which when I was a raw vegan, “Is it going to be vegan?” Again, I still have a lot of these thoughts, but it doesn’t consume me in the same way that it used to, when I felt that that was the only type of diet that I needed. And the stress levels that were there then, compared to what is now, it’s a night and day difference and I’m sure, that stress.
So if you were to take, I don’t know, let’s see, maybe a piece of small piece of cake, and you were to eat a small piece of cake, and you were to feel the way that your body feels after you eat a small piece of cake, I mean, you might get a little sugar rush or you were to take the feeling that you get just about every day, all day—when you’re stressed about what kind of food you’re going to eat next as a health foodie type of person, that stress energy that you feel is so much more powerful than that sugar energy. And that, to me is, telling me to a very basic level that something is happening in the body that is bad, and you have to get rid of it, and I think that that is more damaging than having an occasional piece of cake. Not that I eat cake, but just saying that I might have a piece of cake if you offered me a piece of cake.
Frederic: You want a piece of cake?
Kevin: No. But if you produce one—
Frederic: Yeah, I think you’re onto something, because it comes back to the idea that diet is—will prevent a lot of diseases, right? But it’s not going to prevent, ultimately, your demise. And your lifespan is fixed probably by your genes or your maximum lifespan, let’s say. So there are a lot of things that will affect your quality of life and stress is one of them. And just being extremely neurotic about food is definitely going to affect your quality of life. Just as, maybe I don’t know, maybe not as much as being an overeater, constantly eats the wrong foods, but it will definitely affect you.
Kevin: All right, let’s move in to diet. Let’s move in to the Paleofantasy.
Frederic: All right. So this comes again from this last weekend seminar. So we want to kind of give you up-to-date research and knowledge.
Kevin: What is a Paleofantasy? Is it like the—tell me. Tell me just what, like, is it someone fantasizing, like, eating bone broth?
Frederic: I think…well first of all, let’s put it in context. Marlene Zuk is an anthropologist. She wrote a book called Paleofantasy. So she’s a PhD researcher. I didn’t read the book, I must say, because I just saw her presentation. She gave a one-hour presentation, but this is a topic—
Kevin: Come prepared man.
Frederic: This is a topic that…I will read the book definitely; this is a topic that’s been around especially in Raw Foods Worlds. Why? Because, first of all, you hear on the one hand, you hear the pretorian saying, “Will she eat a fruit diet because her human ancestors or pre-human ancestors ate a fruit diet, a fruit-based diet and the chimpanzees eat fruit diet and so on.” So, we should eat a fruit-based diet.
And then, on the other hand, you have the Paleo-diet people who say, “Well, the grains aren’t you, you shouldn’t eat any grains because they’ve only been around for 10,000 years. The body hasn’t adapted to them and our ancestors ate plenty of animal protein, so we should eat a diet of animal protein, some fruit, vegetables and so on.”
I think the problem is that we’re all looking at the past as a justification for a diet, in the present. So before we even talk about what Marlene Zuk talked about in her seminar…well, I just don’t, I never thought that it was true because the past is the past. The challenges and the circumstances were way different back then and right now, if we’re trying to find the appropriate diet for us, it might not have much to do with what people ate in the past. Because we ate to survive and the primary concern back then was getting enough calories. So we’re kind of programmed—this is something you probably heard about is that, right now, we have a problem because our genes are adapted to an environment that is no longer our environment. Our genes are adapted to an environment where food is not abundant and exercise is a part of life, because you have to exercise to get food, so your motivation in your genes are to be lazy, because it pays off to be lazy, and if you lived a hundred thousand years ago, you want to rest as much as possible when you get a chance, because you often don’t get a chance to rest. And you also want to consume high-fat, high-calorie-dense foods when you find them, because those foods are not around very much.
So we have a drive to consume these foods because it’s written in our genes. “Hey, these foods, if you eat them, you’re going to survive, because they’re not, they don’t come around very often.” So now we live in an environment that’s a mismatch. Also psychologically at any level our environment, we haven’t had time to evolve and adapt, so we have a problem. So what’s the solution? Is it to go back to the primal ancestors and what they ate? But, what do you think, Kevin, before we jump into what Mrs. Zuk—
Kevin: Well…I just never, you know, every time I go back and I watch the videos when I was talking about why the raw food diet is the best diet for anyone on the planet, I kind of put my head in the ground like an ostrich, like, “Oh my gosh!” Like, I don’t know if that’s true anymore. So for me, I just—any kind of looking back into the past to me in terms of diet, it just, to me now at least, it doesn’t make that much sense to me. I don’t think, I mean, I don’t know what I’m talking about. But you know, I think it’s right, I don’t think it’s right. That’s what it comes down to.
Frederic: I used to think in terms of, well, it’s not true. I would look at the past and think humans didn’t eat a fruitarian diet and they also didn’t eat a diet rich in animal foods necessarily. Maybe some of them did. But now I think it actually doesn’t matter what they ate because likely human beings in different parts of the world ate a different diet based on their environment, and as far as your genes are concerned, it doesn’t matter if you die of disease as long as you get to pass on your genes. That’s what truly matters in a sense.
Kevin: So, are [inaudible 22:19].
Frederic: It is, but you know, that’s how it works, because those genes are around because they’ve been passed along generation after generation. So as long as they’re passed, they’re passed. So what Marlene Zuk talked about was that evolution is not perfect. People think, “Hey, we may have kind of reached a pinnacle of evolution in the human being,” but it just has to be good enough. And the example was that everything is a tradeoff.
So there’s an insect that lives on a leaf and looks a lot like the leaf, so it’s a camouflaged system. But in order to look like the leaf, it has to be green and have little black dots because the leaf has these black dots, too. And it turns out that in order to make these black dots, it kind of reduces its immune function. I think it’s the same kind of pigment that’s used. Whatever. So I don’t know exactly the scientific reason, but what I know is it’s a trade off. So the creature wants to look like a leaf. Actually it doesn’t even want to. It just happens automatically because the ones that look like the leaf end up surviving. But it’s a trade off because it’s giving up something.
Kevin: It just wants to look like a disco ball.
Frederic: Exactly. So, it’s also, for us, it’s also a trade off, right? Everything is a trade off if you look at the human being the way we’re constructed. It’s pretty much a mismatch. Mismatch of, you know, we’re a copulation of all the genes that survived from different creatures. It’s not created by, sorry for anybody if I offend anybody with more religious tendencies, but it’s really not created by an engineer. It’s more, it just turns out to be—I don’t remember exactly what she said—but in terms of, she had like a quote about, “An engineer wouldn’t come up with that because—
Kevin: The engineer would be more efficient, number one.
Frederic: He would decide in advance, you know, you want to build a bridge? What pieces do you need? But in our case, and the cases of creatures on the planet, it’s more like, “What’s available in the environment?” And we’re going to kind of make a bridge out of stuff that is all over the place. And so that’s how the body is created.
So it doesn’t…it’s not perfect. The human body is not perfect. No creature is perfect on the planet. But it doesn’t have to be perfect. We don’t have to be perfect. We just have to be good enough to survive and pass on our genes and be resourceful, too.
The interesting thing is, if you look at all the systems, you kind of scan the systems in the body and say, you have, you’re overtaxing your adrenals, so you’re stressing out, and you’re sex hormones are dropping, but your body is still trying to pull all the resources it can to not only support your adrenals, but also continue to do all the functions of your body. So it’s always trying to, like, to pull itself into balance. It’s probably…and I don’t believe it’s ever in balance, right? But it’s always like, it’s always this play of making sure that it’s getting just close enough to balance for you to thrive. That’s kind of how I see it.
So I like the way it’s portrayed there, because it really makes total sense. It’s not perfect enough to be designed by an engineer in that way. The engineer is much more calculated, I guess, but it’s amazing all at the same time.
Kevin: It’s amazing man.
Frederic: Yes, it’s amazing. We share genes with bacteria. We share genes…we have genes that are so ancient it boggles the mind.
Kevin: I’m 2.9 percent Neanderthal. So only 22 percent of the people on this planet have more Neanderthal than me. And you can tell.
Frederic: It’s your hair. A good friend that took the 23 and me test.
Kevin: DNA testing—
Frederic: DNA testing, yeah, yeah. It just gave us that truth that we’re just two white guys pretty much. “Oh 99.3 percent European.” Oh really? I wanted something exciting.
Kevin: I know, I know.
Frederic: But yeah. So one thing that was discussed also is the fact evolution can happen pretty fast. So it’s not true to say that we hadn’t adapted since agriculture has been around, because one example is the lactase persistence gene, which is a gene that probably many of our listeners have. If you’re from European descent, you might have probably have this genem which makes it that you can digest lactose in milk. So we didn’t have this gene before.
Kevin: Just not in the hormones. Just not the hormones that they pump into regular—
Frederic: It doesn’t mean that it makes milk good for you, but it means you can use it as a source of nourishment. And so if people who have this gene a long time ago were more likely to survive because they could get this alternative source of nutrition, that means the gene got passed along, and it only takes about 30 generations for a gene to be widespread in that population when it gives only a slight like 2 or 3 percent survival advantage. So it can happen real fast.
Also, another example is the enzyme we make to break down starch, which is called amylase. So it’s more prevalent in areas of the world that have more of a past of cultivating grains. So, hunter, gatherers, or maybe the natives of Australia, don’t have as many copies of this gene. They do still have it, but not as many as let’s say an Asian person who’s been eating rice for ten thousand years. So, that’s the thing. We can’t say that we haven’t adapted. We cannot say that we live in perfect harmony before, and what worked then will work now, because it’s not the case. We live under different circumstances.
What mattered before was survival. What matters today is thriving. Those are very different things. We don’t face the same challenges. Now the challenge that we have are regarding getting too much of food, being overweight. And it’s not the same, you know. Those are not the same challenges.
So I think that the optimal diet nowadays has something to do, maybe with, the fact the we should eat natural foods and so on, but nothing to do with what our ancestors necessarily ate a hundred thousand years ago. It doesn’t matter. We have to find with current evidence, right now, what’s healthy. That’s all that matters.
Kevin: I think that’s great. I don’t have anything else to say to that. And usually, I’ve got something to say. I’m good. I’m clear.
Frederic: Wow. I get an edge this week because I just attended this seminar, so I’m pretending to know all kinds of new information.
Kevin: Frederic will recant about 75% of what he says on next week’s podcast.
Frederic: I think it makes sense.
Kevin: I do, too.
Frederic: The genes stuff is great. I mean, not only can we look at genes…obviously, what happens those still as if you run the risk of going too far, looking at something like it is the definitive way to look at things. You can do with diet, you can do with the managing your stress, you can do with just anything. I mean, even science. You can say, “Oh well, creation.” Or you can say theology. Like once you go so far one way and essentially ignoring all the other factors around, then it can become a problem.
I think gene stuff study is probably going to be the same way, where we just use it as a tool as you use blood testing, as you use how you feel, as you use maybe [inaudible 30:35] point tapping, as you use all these tools to kind of create your perfect balance in terms of your own life, your own health, your own—the motivations that you have personally, and the things you are able to do. All those combined together. That’s your real science, right? Not just looking at one thing or the other.
But I think what this gene stuff adds is that there is a little bit of a little kernel of definitiveness in some way, where we can look back at our genes and say, “Oh hey, I can actually digest lactose.” But that doesn’t mean you might be able to eat hormone-ridden conventional cow’s milk or cheese or go to McDonald’s and have a cheeseburger if there’s even cheese in that stuff. But it does mean that you might be more suitable to doing that, and what it also means is that you’re different than the next person. So, when expert A goes up on stage and tells you that you should never eat salt or never eat this or that, well, look at that with a grain of sea salt and say, “Hey maybe they’re just doing this because it’s their experience and what they’ve found has worked for them based on their genetics, based on their personal experience, based on their health histories. And it may work for you, or it may completely take you in the wrong direction.
Kevin: I just want to say one final thing. I got an idea from what you were saying and it’s—you don’t burn it. Slow burner.
Frederic: You mentioned we’re all different, and this is something that came up during the weekend for me. Thinking about a gene becomes prevalent in a population because those initially, a few individuals with a mutation. So a few odd people had an odd gene, for example, for digesting lactose, and that gave them an advantage, a survival advantage, so that gene became prevalent. So there are all kinds of genes. There are some that are not so good, right? As well that are all over the place.
And so if you feel there’s something that is truly unique about you…for example, maybe you’re not handling caffeine very well and everybody tells you, “Well, you should be. It’s just half a cup of coffee.” What could possibly happen? Because they don’t have any problems with it. But maybe you have something in your body, a gene, that just doesn’t handle, you know, makes it that you don’t handle caffeine very well. Or not—nobody will be able to identify this with precision. But you can tell with your own feedback system. So I think there’s a diet, there’s general principles that pretty much apply to everybody, but the small things like that, I think, are truly unique, and you got it find it out for yourself.
Kevin: I agree. Find it out for yourself guys. This is Renegade Health Radio with Frederic Patenaude [inaudible 33:27]
Frederic: Thank you.
Your question of the day: What topics do you want us to cover in the future?