by John A. Rush © 2009
NUTRITION and AGING
by Dr. John A. Rush
Most people are under the
impression that we, as a species, are living longer thanks to modern
medicine This is more illusion than fact.
According to Dr. Jonathan Miller, ". . .in the past 50 years
modern medicine has made such an insignificant contribution to human health and
longevity that the enormous expense incurred for developing and administrating
treatments was hardly worth it" (cited in James, W. 1995. Immunization: The Reality Behind the Myth.
Westport, Conn.: Bergan & Garvey, pg.33). As Clark Larson points out (
"Biological Changes in Human Populations with Agriculture." In, Annual Review of Anthropology,
vol. 24,1995:185-213), beginning about 10,000 years ago, "[t]he shift from
foraging to farming led to a reduction in health status and well-being, an
increase in physiological stress, a decline in nutrition, an increase in
birthrate and population growth, and an alteration of activity type and work
load. Taken as a whole, then, the popular scholarly perception that
quality of life improved with the acquisition of agriculture is
Horacio Fabrega has more recently stated (1997. Evolution of Sickness and Healing.
Berkeley: University of California Press, xii), "This (anthropological)
line of investigation tends to support the relatively high nutritional status
and physical health of foragers and hunter-gatherers. Moreover, and
although this is contested, the consensus of opinion seems to point to possible
relative declines in nutrition and health of populations in association with
the major social and economic revolutions involving subsistence patterns and
population density and size."
In short, social complexity does not necessarily mean better
health. Fabrega also goes on to state that, as a medical system evolves,
this does not mean
that there is always "improvement and progress."
In fact, the current myth that we are living longer
has to do with statistics, that is to say, the combining of decreased infant
mortality with other mortality statistics. With a decrease in infant mortality
you statistically (but not in reality) increase life span. Moreover, it
has been the increased awareness in personal
hygiene and garbage/sewage
disposal that has affected health and longevity, not any miracle from the
medical community. The revolutionary use of hand washing before
delivering babies, introduced by Joseph Semmelweis (mid-19th century), was
considered nonsense and useless by the prevailing medical standard. Semmelweis
was in fact tormented and ostracized by his learned peers in the medical
community. But, as this simple procedure caught on, infant mortality and
death of the mother during childbirth decreased dramatically.
We also get the impression that there is a great deal of
knowledge about aging and how the aging process is accelerated or slowed by
nutrition. No one, to date, has followed a large group of people from
birth to death, provided "superior" nutrition, and published the
results. There are certainly problems in conducting such research, not
the least of which is defining what "superior nutrition" should
be. We do have a general idea of what people should consume, but there is little agreement on how and when foods should be eaten. Let
me say this from the start: If you eat balanced meals
(carbohydrates--including fruit, meat, and fat at the same time) according the
the USDA pyramid, this will affect your health in a negative way. In short, you will die of
malnutrition. The USDA pyramid reflects our cultural eating patterns and not what the body necessarily
needs. (You can find a picture of the USDA pyramid on the packaging of many
A third problem involves economics and politics. Keep in mind that it is the groups in power who create the
laws, laws that, for the most part, fit their needs and agendas and not
necessarily the needs of those in society who have little power. The following
quote is from M. Haskell and L. Yablonsky, Criminology: Crime and
Criminality. Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1983, page 16:
organized society is based on an interest structure. Each segment of society has its own
values, norms, and ideological orientations; when these concerns are considered
as important for the existence and welfare of the respective positions, they
may be defined as interests.
Within these segments, groups of persons may organize to promote their common
interests. These groups may be simply called interest groups
The interest structure of politically organized society is
characterized by unequal
distribution of power and by conflict. Interests are structured according
to differences in power and are in conflict. Groups that have the power to gain access to the
decision-making process are able to translate their interests into public
formulated and administered within the interest structure of a politically
organized society. Thus, the content of the law, including
the substantive regulations and the procedural rules, represents the interests of segments of
society that have the power to shape public policy. By formulating laws, some segments
are able to control others to their own advantage. New and shifting demands
require new laws. When the interests that underlie a law no longer are relevant
to groups in power, the law will be reinterpreted or changed to incorporate the
There are large economic interests in the
food we eat and health (actually, illness, because there is little profit in
health at least in the pharmaceutical and Western biomedical industries).
Out of the huge profits develop power and a political structure that has its
own agenda, that is, controlling and distributing power. This is not
good or bad; it just is, and it evolves out of our small group nature (we
are genetically designed to live in small groups of between 25 to 125
individuals). That is to say, we clump into small groups for mutual
support and survival, but this mutual support may be exclusive to a particular group
and mind-set or belief system. For example, think about the thousands and
thousands of people who die each year (approximately 186,000 with another 659,000 hospitalized!)
from taking prescribed medications and hospital procedures (these are called
iatrogenic illnesses or illnesses/deaths caused by the medical community--see
Rush, J. 1996. Clinical
Anthropology. Westport, Conn.:Preager, page 191-192). Compare this
to the very, very tiny number of people who suffer negative effects from taking
herbs, vitamins, and minerals. Realize that a large portion of herbs, and
certainly the vitamins and minerals, have been scientifically proven to be not
only health generating, but absolutely necessary for life. After thinking about that, wonder why the FDA, with
DEA backup, has gone into health food stores at gun point and arrested the
owners? This, in my opinion, has
not been done in the name of public safety but, instead, in the name
of trade restriction, restrictions that benefit special interest groups, that
is, Western biomedicine practitioners and the pharmaceutical companies they
Now, a question: If the medical industry has not
substantially contributed to longevity and health in general, then why does it
have an exclusive concession on health and illness? This is like going
out to buy a car, and the only car available is the "Roadhugger,"
because the owners were able to influences legislation and get the other car manufacturers
So, what does this have to do with aging and
nutrition? Simple. The medical community, because of economics and
power, will go in the direction that maximizes profits; this is
just good, sound business practice, but it is not necessarily good for
your health. Yes, there are many individual physicians who do lean toward
alternatives to Western biomedicine, and some
of these people have been arrested for practicing
"non-traditional" approaches. If those people with the resources
and personnel to conduct research are not thinking in terms of prevention and health, research will go in
the most profitable direction. From an economic standpoint, that direction has to be toward treating illness andnot promoting health, wellbeing,
and longevity. This is not a plot; this is not evil. As an
anthropologist my position is that this is what can happen in systems where
there is free enterprise and where money and power set public (and private)
policy. Where, then, do we start to understand aging and nutrition when
there is little reliable information to back up any position?
Our Ancient Ancestors
Some of our most important
clues come from looking at the remains of our ancient ancestors, especially
dentition or teeth. When we compare our dentition to that of the Australopithecines, who existed
from approximately 5-2 million years ago, we notice that there are few general
differences (see Rush, J. 1997. Aging
and Nutrition. Orangevale, CA.:Humanity Publications).
To really understand what this means the reader needs to understand the
difference between our dentition and that of other animals. The domestic
cat will serve as a good example.
Cat dentition has several functions. The canine teeth
are designed for grasping and stabbing; human canines are pretty useless for
stabbing. Cat molars are also designed for crushing, not grinding, as is the
case for human molars. Overall we see human teeth serving to bite off
chunks of "food" and then grinding it up, mixing with digestive
enzymes in the process. Our teeth, in fact, can be seen as an early
Quisinart. The cat's teeth, on the other hand, are those of a carnivore
or meat eater. Carnivores do not grind their food; they gulp and crush.
Now, here is a big jump. Out teeth can likewise tell
us a great deal about our digestive system, that is, what kinds of food our
ancient ancestors ate. Teeth and the job they perform have to be closely
related. So, what did our ancient ancestors eat? A variety of
fruits, vegetables, tubers, nuts, insects, and a small amount of meat. Although they ate what
nature provided, nature does not usually provide a smorgasbord or all types and
categories of food in the same, immediate location. Any of you who have
planted a garden know that, if not properly tended, "weeds" will
certainly crowd out other plants until they run up against a more aggressive or
resilient species. This is what happens in nature; plants grown in
clumps, and, yes, some plants tolerate or become synergistic to one another and
are thus found in close proximity. However, they are of the same
category, that is, carbohydrates. Nuts and legumes can provide fair
amounts of protein and some fat. Insects, associated with some plants,
can likewise provide protein and well as carbohydrates.
Also, our ancient ancestors (the Australopithecines) were scavengers. They did not
plant food, they did not hunt big game, and there is not evidence of food
processing beyond chewing. Our dentition, and understanding the foraging
behavior of our ancient ancestors, leads us to conclude that we are designed
mainly to consume a fruit/vegetarian diet with occasional meat.
Our ancient ancestors were not hunters; they were the hunted. We
cannot say when large game hunting entered the behavioral patterns of our
ancestors. Recently, archaeologists in Europe unearthed spears,
balanced for throwing, that tentatively date to around 400,000 years ago (Science News, March 1, 1997, p.
134; Science News,
April 12, 1997, p.222). But certainly there is no evidence for hunting
behavior among our Australopithecine
ancestors nor for our Homo
erectus ancestors of 1.5 million years ago.
Hunting, or carnivore behavior, involves a very different
strategy than scavenging and gathering. Without technology it would be
very useful to have a physical structure built for game hunting--humans are not
so designed. For one thing, game animals do not want to be eaten and are
mobile. They have to be stalked or run down, and without onboard offensive
and defensive tools (dagger teeth and claws), such adventures would have most
surely ended in injury or death to our ancient ancestors. Human hunting
behavior has to be associated with a hunting
technology, that is, spears, bow and arrow, traps, and so on.
Vegetable foods, on the other hand, are stationary, and many
plants want to be
eaten as it is part of their reproductive strategy. Ever eat an unripe
apple? Did you get a stomachache? The apple is telling you that
the seeds are not ripe, and so, "Don't eat me until I'm
ready!" Likewise, most fruits and seedy vegetable material do
not want to be processed beyond grinding with the teeth. Cooking apples,
for example, denatures the seeds, and other chemicals in the flesh. Keep
in mind that humans have grown up with a very intimate relationship to plants
and this relationship is called synergistic--we
help each other survive. We help them reproduce and they give us calories
and life sustaining chemicals that we cannot produce.
Culture often interferes with this intimate and
"raw" relationship with plants, and in our case, cultural behaviors
have led to poor health.
Our ancient ancestors, then, ate mainly fruits, vegetables,
nuts, and so on, and very little meat. Again, food was not processed
beyond grinding with teeth or perhaps mashing with a rock. There is no
real, hard evidence for the use of fire for cooking until very recent times,
nor does the cooking of many foods (including meat) necessarily increase
nutritional value (cooking of meat, for example, coagulates the protein and in
many cases renders it useless--I will have more to say about some of myths
associated with food processing in a future publication, The Holistic Health Practitioner: Clinical
Anthropology and the Return to Traditional Medicine, available
Nature also told our ancient ancestors how to eat; today culture tells us how to eat,
and what culture tells you may, in fact, negatively affect your health. So how
did our ancient ancestors eat? Simply put, they ate raw foods, one food-type at a time. They did not eat meat, dense carbohydrates,
and fruit at the same setting. Why, you might ask?
Because nature does not provide it in that manner. In those ancient times, any
cultural rules for eating had to have something in common with nature's rules and
regulations. Nature's rules for dispensing food is directly related to our
digestive system, and our digestive system has changed very little over the
past four million years. As the following diagram illustrates, foragers
exploit a geographical area, with the extent of that area depending on several
factors, that is, the richness of food stuffs, natural barriers, the existence
of other tribes, and so on.
As you can see, nature does not
provide all your needs in one spot. We are used to going to the local
grocery store for our "scavenging" activities, spending little time
or immediate energy in the process. Our ancient ancestors had to expend
time and energy getting from one food source to another; this created a natural
sequencing of food. Our
digestive system matches this natural sequencing.
So what does "sequencing mean?" It means
that, in order to efficiently digest your food and obtain maximum nutritional
benefit, it is necessary to eat
only one food type at a time. There are three general food
categories as conceptualized by the USDA: fats (animal and vegetable),
carbohydrates (fruits and vegetables), and proteins. Moreover, there is
no suggestion, by using these foods groups as reference points, that the highly
processed or manufactured foods have any
nutritional value other than carbohydrates (starch) as an energy source. In
other words, the USDA does not distinguish between processed and unprocessed
foods (click on "Fractionated Food" in Mall). What nature forced our
ancestors to eat was whole
There is another factor that is not thoroughly
appreciated in our culture--you do not need protein, you need amino acids.
Dense protein, like meat, fish, chicken, eggs, and so on, can be a good source
of amino acids, but only if they are consumed by themselves and not in the
presence of dense carbohydrates. What this means is that, if you are
going to eat meat, that is all
you eat. You don't eat it with potato, rice, pasta, bread, or
any dense carbohydrates. Now, the reader quickly realizes that our
culture demands that
you eat meat with the other food groups, and to do otherwise is UN-American.
What would that burger be like without the bun and the French fries? What
would that steak be like without that baked potato? What would those eggs
be like without the bacon and hash browns? These are cultural lifestyles,
and it is lifestyle, and mainly diet, that leads you to ill health--most people
in this culture, as strange as it may seem, die of malnutrition.
Why? Because you cannot efficiently digest dense protein and dense
carbohydrates when they are eaten at the same meal.
Most people believe that digestion occurs in the stomach;
this is only partially true. Such a belief, however, leads to the
thinking that the stomach will simply take care of what you put in there.
Now think about this. What are the three most popular over-the-counter
remedies? Digestive aides-- antacids, laxatives, and Preparation-H
(hemorrhoids evolve out of constipation, dehydration, and lack of fiber).
Preparation-H is so popular, but such an embarrassment to buy, that grocery
stores lose thousands of dollars each year because patrons steal itoff the shelves!
Digestive problems are of epidemic proportions in the
country and they go virtually ignored in terms of dealing with cause.
Most digestive problems, rather than being corrected, are suppressed with
various types of antacids. Look at the commercials on TV. There is even
one commercial that tells you to take their product and then you can go out and
eat that bad food, that burger and fries! What they don't
tell you is that, by taking the product, you still cannot digest the
food--you simply won't have the discomfort while the garbage is passing
through your stomach and intestines!
Eating, then, has devolved into an activity of enjoyment,
and this, in itself, is not bad or evil. However, if you want to be healthy
eating has to be an activity primarily designed to obtain nutrients for life
and health. Enjoyment of food is precisely what the food industry is all
about in the country. We do not eat to be healthy; we eat because it
feels good, and the FDA and the USDA do little more than act as reflections of
this cultural practice. This is certainly an interesting cultural
phenomenon, but, besides being interesting, our eating habits lead to most of
the health problems in this country. Western biomedicine, on the
contrary, places most ill health on the shoulders of bad genes and germs, but
this is simply not the case.
So why is it that you should sequence your foods and not mix
dense proteins with dense carbohydrates? Why is it a health risk to not sequence your foods?
A detailed discussion is available in, Aging
and Nutrition by Dr. John A. Rush. What, then, does digestion
have to do with aging? It works like this.
You are building a house and first you have to pour your
foundation. The contractor you hire comes from a family of thieves
and the concrete contains too much sand. But you are ignorant of this, trusting
him to do the right thing.
Then it is time to do the framing and you hire another
contractor. This guy comes with a wonderful reputation, but he hires help
who do not put enough nails into the studs, and the contractor, who is having
marital difficulties at the time, is currently not paying attention to details.
Then you hire a roofing contractor, and he knows what
he is doing. In fact, he overbuilds things, so now you have a real heavy,
Next, you bring in an electrician, and although he appears
to be doing a good job, the electromagnetic fields produced would do Tesla
proud. Then you bring in the plumber, then the sheet rockers, and the
finishing carpenters, who, like cosmetologists and plastic surgeons, hide
everything. It is a beautiful house. You put in beautiful carpets and
drapes, expensive furniture, all the wonderful additions.
But, as time goes on, you begin to notices cracks in the
walls, and there is creaking in the floors. Water starts to seep in
through the weak foundation. . . . You see, if your digestive system is not
functioning properly you cannot properly digest your food. This means that you
are not getting the right mixture of concrete you need and sufficient nails in
the studs, and, although you get adequate rest and exercise, your
"house" slowly, as you get older, falls apart.
Certainly no one believes that we are designed to live
forever, but improper nutrition and malabsorption weakens the foundation and
leads to premature structural failure. How then does one set up a lifestyle for
The following are twelve basic steps:
1. Sequence your foods; do not eat meat,
fish, chicken, pork, or eggs with dense carbohydrates (rice, bread, potato,
2. Avoid fractionated or processed foods (click on "Fractionated
Foods" in the Mall)
3. Consume a large variety of raw (or nearly so), vine ripened fruits and
4. Add more fiber to your diet. You need between 60 and 100 grams
of fiber per day.
5. Add live Lactobacillus
cultures to your diet each day. A lack of Lactobacillus in your intestines can lead to
chronic yeast infections, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and Crohn's disease.
6. You need adequate Monosaccharides (simple sugars, and not just
glucose!) in your diet on a daily basis. A lack of specific
Monosaccharides in the diet can lead to age-onset diabetes, fibromyalgia,
obesity, psoriasis, and many other health problems (see Aging and Nutrition, by Dr,
John A. Rush--order below)..
7. Take vitamin and mineral supplements. Our crops are grown in
mineral deficient soil and it is prudent to take supplements.
8. Don't get dehydrated and get fresh air everyday. Dehydration is
usually not a consideration for the medical community, but dehydration is a
factor in stomach ulcers and a major factor in cellular toxicosis. How
much water/fluid to you need to consume? Click on "Dehydration"
in the Alternative Health Mall.
9. Exercise. You need exercise to help your body remove toxins and
balance your physiology. Just 20 minutes of moderate exercise every other
day will help keep you in shape.
10. You need sunlight. Ten to fifteen minutes a day is necessary for proper
11. You need rest. Rest is the time that your body regroups and heals
12. You need love and acceptance from others.