One of the major critiques of the Paleolithic diet, founded on the hunter-gatherer diet of our ancient Stone Age ancestors, is that cavemen lived short, brutal lives. People often believe that a short lifespan in the Paleolithic period was due to poor diet and poor health. Loren Cordain, one of the top researchers of the paleo diet, argues against this. In fact, Cordain contends that most Paleolithic deaths were due to trauma and accidents rather than diet. Indeed, hunter-gatherer societies still exist in the world. And in such societies, people over the age of 60 are in abundance and are much healthier than their Western peers. In these societies, people are relatively free of chronic disease such as high blood pressure and obesity. Cordain and other paleo advocates believe that the paleo diet can actually increase health in older people and increase longevity.
According to the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation (ARPF), the perfect diet to prevent Alzheimer’s Disease, a degenerative disorder in which the brain’s neurons are attacked, causing memory loss, behavioral changes, and changes in cognition, is strikingly similar to the Paleolithic diet. Fighting this disease calls for a diet that is rich in healthy fats, lean proteins, and complex carbohydrates. The foundation also suggests eating plenty of lean meats, olive oil, avocados, and flax seeds, as well as carbohydrates that come from fresh fruits and vegetables. Because the Paleolithic diet falls in line with this anti-Alzheimer’s diet proposed by the ARPF, a paleo diet can help prevent Alzheimer’s and defend against memory loss.
Similarly, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune, inflammatory disease that occurs most often in people middle-aged or older. The disease primarily affects the joints, but can also affect the skin, lungs, and kidneys, according to an article published on Paleo Village. Dietary modifications can be made to decrease the negative effects of the disease. Increasing dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids while decreasing intake of omega-6 fatty acids from vegetable oils in snack foods and other processed foods can decrease swelling in joints. Indeed, the paleo diet is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and its ability to fight against autoimmune diseases.
The paleo diet can also combat another health risk that those in the population age 65 and older might face: cardiovascular disease. One of the main triggers of cardiovascular disease and its effects, such as heart attack and stroke, is poor diet. Other factors involved in the hardening of arteries include being overweight or obese and lack of exercise. Living a Paleolithic lifestyle or at least adopting a paleo diet, which enables weight loss and encourages an active lifestyle, can decrease all of these risk factors. Bad cholesterol is minimized on the paleo diet, while good cholesterol is increased, combating the hardening of arteries.
It is easy to see, then, that whether young or old, the paleo diet can be a significant contributor to one’s long term health and well-being. From balancing your ratio of good fats to bad fats, to realigning your paradigm on simple carbohydrates to that of our Paleolithic ancestors, this diet has stood the test of time. But, for those living with, or even dying from, some of the health issues that are specific to those older than 65 years, the paleo diet may be just what the doctor ordered.