Eating to Reverse Aging
Octogenarian Dr. Arthur De Vany, renowned for his theory of evolutionary fitness, shares his diet with Tim Ferriss
Dr. Arthur De Vany is 80 years old and he’s ripped. Better known as Art De Vany, he was signed as a professional baseball player in his youth and later earned his Ph.D. in Economics at UCLA. He is most famous for his evolutionary fitness approach to training and diet.
During his time at UCLA, De Vany did many things, including creating mathematical and statistical models to precisely describe the motion picture market. He is Professor Emeritus of Economics of the University of California, Irvine, and is a member of its acclaimed Institute for Mathematical Behavioral Sciences.
A lifelong student of metabolism and fitness, De Vany has lived as a Paleo athlete for more than 30 years and is considered a patriarch of the Paleo movement. He believes there is no such thing as healthy aging and that we can intervene to protect against the aging process.
In an extended conversation for an episode of the The Tim Ferriss Show, De Vany spoke about his daily schedule, workout routines, why he never gets sick, ice ages, economics, philosophies of intermittent everything, and and much more. Below is an excerpt of their conversation, edited by Outside.
You’ve said that aging is not programmed, it’s the result of the failure of a renewal program. What do you mean by that?
The only genes that have been discovered to have any bearing on aging are regenerative or defensive pathways. The aging process is a loss of cell function, a loss of cell integrity, a loss of the ability of stem cells to renew tissues. Aging, basically, is damage.
What’s a diet strategy that can boost renewal?
I eat only twice a day. I do breakfast and dinner because I want a long interval between meals.. You don’t have to cut calories. It’s just the timing. It’s the intervals between meals where you have low insulin signaling, high autophagy to clear the old, damaged proteins. Autophagy peaks four to six hours after exercise. All these guys who guzzle right after their workout, they’re killing their adaptive process. Without proper autophagy, your muscles degenerate.
My theory is this, that ancient humans had to overeat in order to survive. In a random world, you overeat during periods when food is available to store nutrients for the times of scarcity. You also over-proliferate making new proteins. When nutrients are available, the process turns on in a burst. That is what’s killing us today—we’re overeating. And making too many proteins that get misfolded and damaged, there’s no room for them. The architecture of the cell is stretched.
What’s your default breakfast?
A giant smoked turkey leg. They’re very inexpensive and they’re fun to eat. I eat that and maybe a third of a melon. Then I will work out at 11:00am for 15 to 20 minutes. I won’t eat until four hours after.
Do you eat eggs? How do you prepare them?
Sure—fried, boiled, scrambled. If fried, I use a small amount of olive oil and at a moderate temperature. Oil-free would be perfectly fine with me if you had one of these ceramic pans where things slide off.
How about coconut oil and coconut products?
I wouldn’t do it. First of all, it’s an evolutionary non-sequitur. It doesn’t follow. You would not be seeing large amounts of coconut consumption in the Paleolithic. It’s just odd, first of all. It’s kind of a fad, second of all. Who knows who are the manufacturers of these things. There’s all kinds of impurities that are involved. It doesn’t taste good either. Modern meat has got so much fat in it already, why would you ever need to have any additional source of fat? Even olive oil, I’m sparing with.
What do some people in the Paleo movement get wrong?
Frankly, I don’t keep track of those guys. There’s just too many people trying to say too many things. They eat too much fat. Absolutely true. A lot of them went off wildly into fat consumption. So they probably have fatty livers by now. They think there are particular kinds of foods that they have to eat. But really, variety and flavor, texture, color—that’s how you choose your meals.
How can diet impact our mood? What would be your advice for someone who struggles with depression?
Starve and exercise. The starvation part of it is to eat up some of these dysfunctional synapses. My saying is, for every damaged molecule, there’s a damaged thought. Those those are injured neurons inside the brain and you just need to get rid of the dysfunctional molecules that are causing those neurons to malfunction. Then, heal the brain with neurotrophic factors. Be outside. New thoughts, new patterns of behavior. When my first wife was declining from a host of other things, I’d take her walking as much as I could. I would tell her bad jokes. Change her surroundings. The typical things people have to do. Being outside is enormously effective. There’s stimuli you can’t even relate to, but you perceive them. Your unconscious brain is what’s going to heal you first.