The Mythical “Long List of Vegan and Vegetarian Centenarians”

Oh, how I hate it when mis-truths, half-truths and outright deceptions are used by some to try to promote their agendas! And, oh, how I love busting them. Today, I went to a site I usually like, and found it promoting:       

LONG LIST OF VEGETARIAN AND VEGAN CENTENARIANS – LONGEVITY DIET RESEARCH – PAGE 1 OF 80 – 100+ YEARS OLD

The subtitle on the page, “LISTING OF DOMINANCE OF VEGETARIAN & VEGAN CENTENARIANS”, would lead you to believe that they were going to show you 80 pages of centenarians, and show that vegans and vegetarians (Vs) dominated the list.

Wow! I should check this out. This could really validate Plant Positive’s thesis.  So, I’m reading down the list, and there are absolutely NO non-Vs. …   That’s interesting!

So, altogether on the first page, there’s 15 short bio’s: 13 vegetarians and 2 vegans. I get to the end and look for the link to the purported other 79 pages, and — it is nowhere to be found! So I googled “longevity diet research” and turned up 17 instances of this very same page — verbatim, word for word, the same info — but no links to other 79 pages. Aha, for the ones with no source attribution, this is a clear example of plagiarism in action. But for all of them, it’s an example of confirmation bias … so stuck in their damned preconceptions that they don’t even take 5 seconds to look for the link to the supposed other pages before they pass along some BS garbage. And that’s the generous interpretation. The more critical interpretation would be that these vegan/vegetarian authors knew that the other 79 pages didn’t exist and, for them, dishonesty in the service of their agenda is not unconscionable.

I could leave this right here and say no more, but it brings up an interesting point. What does the centenarian research (if any) say about Vs?

Actual Centenarian Research

Boston University School of Medicine is currently enrolling for a centenarian study.

There’s an ongoing genetic sequencing competition, again seeking enrollees.

The Boston University page also has a summary of research on centenarians, but there’s no mention of Vs; it’s more about genes. Apparently, it’s not splashing anyone in the face that Vs live longer. This is followed by

Key Peer-Reviewed Publications (this list includes articles covering human longevity and “anti-aging”). From list of ~100 articles.”

Looking through the entire list, I find no menti0n of the V-words, or even the word diet. What’s wrong with these scientists? Don’t they know that plant-based diets are what produce superior longevity!! Geez!! Are they idiots!! Isa gonna go to PubMed and do the search myself! — If you want something done right, DIY!

What Does PubMed Have on Centenarian Vs?

Googling “pubmed centenarian vegetarian”, I get only 4 hits with all three words. The rest of the hits have one of the three words crossed out.

  1. This is on WebMD. Apparently the Okinawan’s (known for longevity) are NOT vegetarian. Interesting article – check it out. The Okinawan evidence favors the omnivores:
    1. “1. Nutrient intakes in 94 Japanese centenarians investigated between 1972 and 1973 showed a higher proportion of animal protein to total proteins than in contemporary average Japanese. “
    2. “2. High intakes of milk and fats and oils had favorable effects on 10-year (1976-1986) survivorship in 422 urban residents aged 69-71. The survivors revealed a longitudinal increase in intakes of animal foods such as eggs, milk, fish and meat over the 10 years.”
  2. This is from J Am Geriatr Soc. 2007 Jan;55(1):95-101. It says longevity was associated w a “more frequent protein intake” and ” not associated with appetite, vegetable or seaweed intake”
  3. The other two hits were to the same journal article in Immunity & Ageing 2012. This is a review article; just what we want. The conclusion states: “Although it seems unlikely that there is a particular dietary pattern that promotes exceptional longevity, understanding the heterogeneity in dietary patterns and nutritional status of centenarians may provide a wealth of information relevant to human ageing.”

The review (#3 above) has links to about 20 studies on longevity and diet. I don’t want to go through them right now, so for the moment, I will accept the author’s conclusion that a particular diet is unlikely to get you to 100.

Meanwhile, I want to present one more related piece of information I uncovered today:

UN Population Studies

These are charts I created from the 2012 UN population stats by age groups and geographical area.

Compiled from UN population data, 2010

Compiled from UN population data, 2010

I’ve sorted this in decreasing order by percent centenarian for each area. The blue is the Centenarian rate per million; the red is actual count of centenarian in thousands. So, worldwide, there were 292,000 centenarians back in Jul 2010, and North America, with 5% of the world population accounted for 22% of the world’s centenarians. I was actually greatly surprised to see that in North America, despite our much disparaged “Standard American Diet” (SAD), North America has the highest rate of centenarians in the world!!

Not saying our SAD should take the credit — I’d guess that’s what the advantage of wealth and freedom from the diseases of poverty will buy you. And it also shows that when you match diseases of affluence vs diseases of poverty, the negative effects of poverty trump that of affluence.

Here it is broken down by country:

From UN population data, 2010

From UN population data, 2010

I made this chart to show you a few interesting points. Firstly, notice that the red bars tell you how many actually centenarians there are in the country; when the red bar is higher, the result has greater significance. And look! There’s that damned French Paradox again!

  • Japan – fish!!
  • France – ah, the home of the magnificent, buttery Béarnaise sauce
  • Italy – the home of the Mediterranean diet
  • UK – deep fried fish and chips
  • USA – Burgers n fries

I put this up mostly facetiously. Anyone who’s read anything here on my blog knows this chart says absolutely nothing about the actual diets of the actual centenarians. But, it certainly is not a demographical indictment of animal products.

You can take that “Long List of Vegan and Vegetarian Centenarians” and shove it where the sun don’t shine.

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About Dan Hunter

Retired software engineer wading through the obfuscation, confusion and contradiction that corporate and political funding of medical research along with ego over science has created.
This entry was posted in Nutrition, Vegan/Vegetarian and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to The Mythical “Long List of Vegan and Vegetarian Centenarians”

  1. Goinglite says:

    I also was wondering what happened to the other 79 pages 🙂 LOL 🙂 There are folks out there such as Dr Joel Wallach that have taught or implied that there has never been a vegan/vegetarian centenarian in all of history. That claim of Dr Joel Wallach and others needed to be corrected. I, myself am not a vegan. I do enjoy my “Low Fat Cottage Cheese/Flaxseed Oil Smoothies 🙂 The purpose of my blog is to promote “Plant Based Nutrition” . Having a little meat is just fine. What I am against are “Heavy Meat Based Diets” loaded with Saturated Fat. Here’s a link that may be of interest for you – http://healthylongevity.blogspot.com/2012/11/traditional-diets-in-asia-pacific-and.html

    • Dan Hunter says:

      Oh yeah! … the other 79, LMAO … and the equally egregious Wallach claims. I hate BS!

      I agree with you on the diet. For me, the jury hasn’t returned its verdict yet, but in the meantime, I think the prudent approach is to go light on animal products. The biggest non-vegan contribution to my diet is organic non-fat Greek yogurt.

      Yes, your link is of interest to me, thanks! Especially, the table on the Okinawan diet. I’ve seen this table before and it contradicts other research I’m turning up on their diet. So, I’m in the midst of trying to understand the discrepancy.

      UPDATE: Oh, and, by the way, one link is interesting; two links are spam.

  2. ronki23 says:

    Hi there, I am a bit lazy at the moment to research properly, but isn’t diet irrelevant as long as it’s not a) veganism or b) high in red meat? Those two are the extremes right? I can’t see the reasoning behind fish eaters living longer than vegetarians or white meat eaters as both have plenty of necessary fats (olive and sunflower oil) and protein (from the meat or pulses). Just wanted to know the reasoning behind pescetarianism

    • Dan Hunter says:

      ronki: sorry, if you’re too lazy to do the research, I’m too lazy to do it for you. Diet is NOT irrelevant. As a clue re fish, research Bill Lands and omega-6 – omega-3 ratio.

  3. Mark says:

    the point is not about how long you live but the QUALITY of life you live. Being a centenarian is not a blessing if you cannot even walk. Vegans are vegans for ethical reasons not just for health. I don’t think a healthy vegan diet is better for you than a healthy omnivore diet, however it is not worse either AND it is more ethical. If you love animals you go vegan….period.

    • Dan Hunter says:

      1) That’s YOUR point. And that’s fine. But MY point, as stated in my first two sentences is about dishonesty:

      “Oh, how I hate it when mis-truths, half-truths and outright deceptions are used by some to try to promote their agendas! And, oh, how I love busting them.”

      And, please try to remember, this is a blog about resolving the controversies regarding health; nothing more, noting less. This is not a blog about ethics.

      2) Re health of vegan vs omnivore diet: Yes it is possible for a vegan to be as healthy as an omnivore, but it requires knowledge, supplementation and far more care. See Dr. Michael Greger’s (he is a vegan physician specializing in clinical nutrition and director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture for The HSUS) video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFFWstlfDRk

  4. I just wrote a blog today titled The Longevity Lie: The Absence of Absolutes and came across your blog afterwards. You can find mine at http://www.mdprevent.blogspot.com. Same theorem, different approach.

  5. Waking-to Kindness says:

    Are insightful animal-lovers
    vegetarian ? Think again :

    Would you believe that
    far more animals are killed
    ( not only small field mammals
    & v. young\old\disabled birds — & often the young ones’ defending parent(s) too — ,
    plus esp. far far more arthropods e.g. insects & arachnids )
    are killed during modern field-crop sowing, cultivation, & harvesting,
    than are killed in modern livestocking .

    Of course, some major religions e.g. Buddhism & Christianity teach that
    the strongest in the longest run is one’s intentions over one’s actions ;

    if so, _whatever_ one does to keep trying as one can to reduce killing & suffering among all beings
    will in the longest run lead to heaven, all in love .

    Meanwhile, how about both
    (a) meat, inanimate, cultured in huge nutrient vats ;
    (b) skyscraper farms, in which roots grow down thru a membrane into a nutrient mist rather than soil
    ?

    RSVP; TX!
    All only for All ..

    • Dan Hunter says:

      Perhaps, if we (as a species) survive climate change and all the other destruction we have wrecked upon habitats and the biosphere, we will continue to evolve spiritually. Western culture has come a long way since the dark ages, and hopefully someday we will rise to the level achieved by the best of Native American and Eastern cultures.

      I like your cultured vat and nutrient mist ideas.

    • Pispk says:

      Complete load of horseshit. More animals are bred and killed for livestock than accidentally killed in modern harvesting practice, that’s a long time myth.

      Even if it was true, you have to grow tons of grain to feed the animals you raise as livestock, way more land and water is used for that so your point is fucking dumb.

      • Dan Hunter says:

        > you have to grow tons of grain to feed the animals you raise as livestock

        Of course, DUH! Great point! Why didn’t I think of that when I was replying to Waking-to Kindness?

      • Waking-to Kindness says:

        “Pispk” is actually right, I now see,
        that my main point was actually quite “dumb” indeed ;
        I simply hadn’t thought about even just one main stage further back
        within the whole alternative of our eating of animals
        (rather than of our eating plants) :

        Actually, as it seems most experts agree,
        to get most of our nutrients by eating animals (rather than plants) ,
        requires, in amount of crops fed to _them_,
        roughly ten times the amount needed than
        if we ate the crops ourselves [directly] .

        Therefore,
        the number of tiny field animals [bugs, worms, mice, birds, etc] ,
        which are accidentally killed during the growing & harvesting [the plowing, spraying, combining, etc]
        of the crops required just to feed whatever livestock we eat ,
        is roughly _ten_ times the (already incredibly-large) number of such tiny animals
        that would be killed if we were to eat crops instead
        [instead of eating that many livestock] .

        So, until the prevalence of ‘skyscraper farms’
        (in which the crops are grown perhaps in holes along the tops of near-sterile soil-free mist-pipes) ,
        meanwhile,
        it seems that, after all, one can contribute one’s 7-billionth’s worth
        [or, by then, one’s, say, 17-billionth’s worth] of effect toward
        1/10 as much accidental killing
        — as well as to none of the intentional killing —
        of animals of all sizes , done in all food industries,
        by . . by becoming a vegetarian.

        – – – –

        Meanwhile, as for myself:
        Yes; it’s hard to face up to the fact that i really was thinking of
        only the single most obvious stage of an alternative
        calling out so crucially (for the sake of so many billions of animals _&_ humans)
        for clear multi-stage thinking,
        but it’s simply the fact.

        I, and all readers here, should all be so very grateful to “Pispk”
        for taking the time to point that out, for me and for the sake of all of us,
        so that we might not all be further misled by such superficial thinking
        as in that previous misleading comment of mine.

        I will work on thinking of the antecedent and subsequent stages
        of each alternative, as well as the most immediate one(s),
        from now on.

        – – – – –

        Now, as to whether, based on this concession,
        I’ll now become a vegetarian, immediately :

        I’ve done so much research for so many years showing that
        actually the best human diet on-average is the “true paleo” one
        ( i.e., w/ brain-benefiting saturated fats not clogging arteries so long as
        blood-sugar &/or systemic insulin are not elevated ;
        w/ plenty of _both_ main classes of probiotics [in fresh & fermented produce] ;
        and, w/ plenty of the B-12 & Co-Q10 in red meat , as well as etc) ,

        that it’s difficult for me to decide instantly to sacrifice perhaps
        the last 1/3 of one’s remaining actual span of well-functioning life
        [e.g., the last 40-odd years of a +/- 120-yr natural lifespan] ,
        as well as much of one’s best cogency & creativity,
        the suppression of most noncongenital diseases,
        constant energy, and well-optimized body systems,
        which are all likely throughout almost all of one’s remaining years,
        via a true paleo diet .

        Perhaps i’ll come back and leave word here of my decision,
        once i really think it thru, as clearly & –this time– as _deeply_ as i can.

        Any advice here re this decision will be periodically checked-for,
        & much appreciated.

        — “W2K”

      • Dan Hunter says:

        > Any advice here re this decision will be periodically checked-for, & much appreciated.

        Hello again, W2K

        Re your vegetarian dilemma, I have several thoughts:

        1. Your basic dilemma only exists because you choose to elevate your concern for the other life on this planet to a level either on par or above your concern with your own survival / health. That’s your choice, and if you choose to order your priorities in such a manner, than you have to live with the consequences. For myself, I’m happy to act so as to not harm other lifeforms … unless to do so negatively effects myself or my progeny. This is what it means to be alive. ALL. OF. LIFE. IS. IN. COMPETITION. FOR. LIMITED. RESOURCES. Read Dawkins, The Selfish Gene.

        2. Once you accept that life is competition, the question arises, what is the best diet. The answer, obviously, is the diet most compatible with your genetic heritage. There is no one Paleo diet. Back in the day when indigenous populations still resided in their homelands, there was a perfect evolved match between genes and diet – no longer the case.

        3. Still there are absolutes:

        • no one has had time to adapt to the Frankenfoods created by the food industery
        • few can safely metabolize high fructose intakes
        • eating factory farmed animals -> disease (antibiotics, hormones, grain-fed, etc)
        • Paleo people got way more fiber and antioxidants than we do

        4. Best is to check your genetics (23andme.com) and find out what foods are problematic for you. Especially look at your ApoE genotype which will tell you how much saturated fat you can safely handle and how much concern you should give to Alzheimer’s disease. Another big one is your Celiac Disease susceptibility which could have a bearing on how much gluten and lectins you can handle.

        For myself, I’m doing very well on a mildly ketogenic diet, with my only animal products being wild caught salmon and free range eggs, my only plant products being non-starchy veggies and small amounts of legumes.

  6. Waking-to Kindness says:

    Re, in the article,
    the author (D. Hunter) ‘s googling of
    the three terms [pubmed centenarian vegetarian]
    as yielding “only four hits” (in early ’13)
    :

    by now (mid-’17), it yields 22,300 hits .

    (– & the binging of them yields 223,000 ! )

    – – – – –
    Any ideas as to what was changed since then ?

    • Dan Hunter says:

      I’m baffled by this. If I go to google scholar for “centenarian vegetarian”, I get 227 hits prior to 2013 and 359 hits for all time. So since, the start of 2013, the number of scholarly publications only increased by a little over 50%. Maybe Google changed their search algorythm.

  7. Waking-to Kindness says:

    Thank you, Dan, for your earlier reply to me here (on July 3)
    with perspectives re my dilemma (posted the day before,
    in my concession to “Pispk” re my short-sighted thinking) ,

    that of the apparent unavoidability of trading off between
    [A] optimal health (via some variety of a +/-paleo diet)
    & [B] minimizing as much as poss. the sufferings of others
    ( of all species, e.g. livestock & tiny field-creatures) .

    I will be mulling over, & reading up upon, your suggestions .
    Esp., I’ll be reading Dawkins re “Life is competition” ASAP .
    My thinking re that slogan so far has long been a combo of :

    [1] what the Dalai Lama teaches , to the effect that
    the _wise_ selfish being will actually act _altruistically_ ,
    being wise enough to know that their _own_ best welfare ,
    in the _longest_ run, is actually only what is best for _all_ ;

    [2] sketchy research into cases large & small showing that
    the _most_ -successful patterns, organisms, or organizations
    are far more often — in the _longest_ run, that is — those which
    are not only _internally_ the most symbiotic [ie intelligent] ,
    but also are _externally_ the most symbiotic (even fractally laminar)
    –i.e., the most ‘loving’ — with all other entities interacting w/ them .

    (– BTW: This supposition has meanwhile greatly helped to reduce
    my general paranoia, since not only any organism’s or organization’s
    viability, but indeed its greatest power, would, if true, be mainly
    a function of its intelligence, which –as here supposed–
    is actually how _symbiotic_ it is, both internally _&_externally_ ;
    then, since, –as here supposed– actually, external symbiosis is
    synonymous with _altruism_ [indeed, i.e., with universal love] ,
    it could finally be concluded that the more intelligent an entity is ,
    the more likely that it is . . well, _loving_ .

    { i hope to prove this much more solidly, ASAP . . — esp.,
    before we humans are faced with a swarm of incoming beings
    who are obviously far smarter than we ! }

    Anyway, again, this was just a “BTW” , re more perspectives
    upon that supposition or slogan that “Life is competition” .
    )

    So, to apply in this context that contrary supposition ( that
    the long-term most successful life-forms are the most _altruistic_ ) :
    the implication seems to be that, in the longest run, over millennia,
    {— even while consuming all the B-12, Co-Q10, omega-3’s etc, that
    we seem to thrive on (enough of them only in an animal-based diet
    or in one in which they are supplied +/- ‘unnaturally’ ) —}
    , at the same time, the more that we can learn to reduce as poss.
    any harm to each other _and_ to those of other species
    [ i.e., the more symbiotic (rather than competitive) we become
    w/ all others (even those of other species too) around us ] ,
    then, the more successful , at least in the longest run, that we,
    or at least our far-future |: great 😐 grand-children, will be ?

    I.e., “The meek [as in ‘cooperative’] will inherit the Earth” ,
    after all ??

    — Well, all this is just my thoughts _so_far_ ,
    _before_ having read Dawkins . So, we’ll see . .
    Meanwhile, thank you, Dan, for your kind ideas !
    Hope to be talking again w/ you, now & then .
    RSVP –Dan or anyone– w/ yet more perspectives,
    as time allows, plz . -Tx .

    – “W2K”: email: RepayingKindness at-sign G-rnall dotcorn .

  8. Dan Hunter says:

    Hello yet again, W2K!

    I see that you want to believe that reproductive success is strongly linked – if not predicated upon – altruism. I understand the desire and how it can be calming to your fears, but one needs to always be on guard against confirmation bias.

    Our species is seen as having come to totally dominate the planet. Our success here is based on our intelligence, our adaptability, and our ability to communicate / cooperate with each other. But cooperation is not altruism. Dawkins, in the book I mentioned, as well as some of his other writings, really goes into the basis for altruism; I found it fascinating. After you finish reading the book, come back to me and then try to make a coherent case for altruism.

    And by the way, I would dispute that we are the dominant life form on the planet. I would vote for bacteria; obviously no altruistic behavior there. Although they do mutate to form symbiosis with their hosts, that is not the only way for them to succeed. Bacteria have many survival strategies. As you will learn from Dawkins, the ultimate vehicle for success is adaptability.

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