MTOR AND LONGEVITY – Should we really go plant-based if we want to live long, healthy lives?

This article is copyright © Nils Osmar 2019.

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An issue we keep circling around in the Facebook group “LIFE EXTENSION & ANTI-AGING: NAD Boosters, NR, NMN, Resveratrol & More” is the question of mTOR and longevity.

Many studies have shown that too much mTOR activity can accelerate aging.  Lowering mTOR has been shown to increase the lifespan in several different species, including mice, yeast, worms and flies.  Two eminent scientists, Dr. David Sinclair and Dr. Valter Longo, have done a good job of publicizing these studies.

But jumping from this knowledge to concluding that we anything that might raise mTOR is bad for health and longevity strikes me as an oversimplification, and one which has been distorted by the current push in the mainstream media to portray plant based foods as “better for us” than animal based foods.

We appear to have evolved eating both animal based and plant based foods, and it’s likely that we have a need for both.

Too little mTOR activity also has several negative effects:

  1. Too little mTOR activity can slow and disrupt healing.
  2. Too little mTOR contributes to diabetes and insulin resistance.
  3. Too little mTOR can cause specific health problems such as cataracts in mouse models.
  4. The approaches some people use to lower their mTOR, such as eating less protein, can be terribly damaging, and result in muscle wasting, particularly in elderly people.
  5. None of this is to negate that there can be benefits to lowering mTOR activity. But it does not need to be low all of the time. And there can be serious health problems if it goes too low.

What about veganism?

One way of lowering mTOR is to eat a vegan diet. But I personally don’t think it’s the best or healthiest way to do it.

I was vegan myself for almost three years, carefully balancing my foods to make sure I was getting enough complete protein, vitamins and minerals without eating any food from animal sources.

I was hoping this would improve my health, but in the long term it didn’t. After what seemed like some initial benefits, I experienced a large number of health problems, including memory and mood issues and issues with my eyesight and my teeth, which rapidly cleared up when I added eggs, dairy and meat back into my diet. 

I’ve also seen sharp declines in friends of mine who gave up animal based foods thinking it would improve their health. Two of them experienced a rapid progression toward frailty, memory problems, and dementia. One got rail-thin and started losing her hair and having tooth problems, then later became morbidly obese.

Re: the reported benefits from plant-based diets, I suspect they are largely because plant-based diets tend to be so low in protein that they stimulate autophagy, a process in which the body, in desperate need of protein, scavenges our cells for it and cleans debris and clutter from the body. This can be beneficial for a time (and is one of the benefits of fasting). But as time goes by, the deficiency of protein and other nutrients starts taking a toll on the body.

Vegan diets can have adequate protein if they’re well planned, but the protein from plants tends to be lower in quality and bioavailability than the protein from meat and other animal sources. I learned how hard it was to plan and execute a well-balanced vegan diet when I was vegan. I tried hard and put a lot of thought and energy into it, but the results were still devastating to my health.

(Of course, diets that include meat can also be unhealthy if the meat if from factory farms and is full of synthetic hormones and pollutants.) (The meat I added back into my diet was from grass-fed animals raised on small family farms.) (And if you eat a lot of meat without doing any fasting, your mTOR will likely be going through the roof, improving your immediate health and muscle growth but very possibly shortening your life.)


Even carnivores can have low mTOR

Even carnivores (who eat no plants at all) can successfully lower their mTOR eating one meal a day, or restricting their meals to four hours a day, or doing every-other-day eating. Their mTOR goes up when they’re eating, then down again during their fasts. Their net mTOR should in theory end up being moderate or low.

My current diet includes both plant-based and animal based foods.

Some plant-based foods I eat include:

  1. Broccoli.
  2. Cabbage.
  3. Parsley.
  4. Celery.
  5. Cucumbers.
  6. Mushrooms.
  7. Red onions.
  8. Garlic.
  9. Tomatoes and cherry tomatoes.
  10. Apples (in small amounts).
  11. Pomegranate arils.
  12. Dark chocolate.
  13. Blueberries.

Some animal-based foods I eat include:

  1. Pastured eggs
  2. Wild sockeye salmon roe
  3. Sardines (including bones) (in olive oil).
  4. Wild Pacific salmon.
  5. Organic free-range poultry.
  6. Chicken hearts.
  7. Chicken liver.
  8. Organic grass-fed beef
  9. Organic grass-fed beef heart and liver.
  10. Butter and cream from pastured/organic cows.

Now and then I’ll do a carnivore day (no plants at all). When I do, I limit my feeding “window” to four hours, and fast for the other twenty. This cycles me between high mTOR activity when I’m eating and low mTOR the rest of the time.

I also sometimes do vegan days in which I eat no animal-sourced food at all, and do five-day fasts and fasting-mimicking diets in which I eat less than 15 grams of protein for a few days, which both lowers mTOR and cranks up autophagy and apoptosis.

P.S. An odd side effect of the anti-mTOR “movement” in the anti-aging community is that some people have become afraid of exercising due to a fear of activating mTOR. Doug McGuff addresses these (misguided) concerns in this video.