Longevity is a very fun space to practice medicine. With amazing technology, science and opportunities at my fingertips leading the Optimal Human Health team is an opportunity I accept with gratitude daily.
Longevity is a very fun space to practice medicine. With amazing technology, science and opportunities at my fingertips leading the Optimal Human Health team is an opportunity I accept with gratitude daily. Unfortunately, within this space there is a tremendous amount of misinformation and agenda pushing. Something I'm obsessed with is helping people sort through nefarious claims for my patients and beyond. One such claim is the idea of reducing protein consumption for longevity. There is a huge discrepancy in this philosophy that needs to be understood.
The very short background on the topic is of course rooted in the vegetarian and vegan belief system. Multiple authors with an agenda have published books over the years with biased reporting of statistics to help reinforce their beliefs. The China Study, How Not to Die and The Plant Based Solution are a few examples. One book that comes up repeatedly with patients though is The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner. Here he argues that elimination of animal protein is the key to longevity in the longest lived regions of the planet. Except, like many books before his the data doesn't support his biased conclusions.
Many speakers and influencers join the momentum behind this theory with the objective argument that reducing protein consumption reduces IGF-1 (Insulin Like Growth Factor 1) which promotes longevity! IGF-1 is a biomarker that gives us an idea if you are in a "building phase" (when it's high) or a "breakdown phase" (when it's low). The idea that lowering IGF-1 promotes longevity is true, in mice and yeast. The problem with this argument in humans is that we are infinitely more complex and live much longer than either of these species. In order to lower this biomarker consistently you have to do one of two things; calorie restrict or reduce protein consumption. Intermittent calorie restriction does have a place in longevity protocols but I'll leave that for another day. Restricting protein consumption does help you achieve the goal of reducing IGF-1 but at what cost?
Reducing protein consumption results in loss of lean muscle mass, reduced bone quality and in many increased adiposity (fat). Mice and yeast can reduce protein consumption and live longer because they don't need as much muscle (or any for yeast) to maintain balance, strength and to prevent falls. The proponents of reducing IGF-1 can argue the potential benefit of reducing cancer, our number two killer of adults, but this has never been proven in humans. What is VERY clear however is that FALLS KILL.
The above graph represents data from the CDC demonstrating that falls are clearly the biggest cause of accidental death as we pass the age of 65. For those looking to optimize longevity this is critically important. While accidental death is not as common as heart disease and cancer deaths it follows close behind. Prevention of the leading two causes of death is highly controversial but how to maintain muscle mass, strength and prevent falls is not. Eliminating animal protein and restricting protein consumption to lower your IGF-1 WILL PUT YOU AT RISK FOR EARLY DEATH. There is no debate on this perspective and yet the myopic view persists.
So, in short. If you want to live longer, optimize protein consumption. If you want to eat the highest quality protein with the best absorption at the lowest cost to the environment, eat local, pasture raised animal protein. Don't be fooled by the agenda of a vocal minority. Eat to optimize your lifespan and healthspan. I don't want to live to 130 but be in a wheel chair from 80 on. I bet you don't either.
For current patients stop there
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