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HealthWatch: Can Paleo Diet Extend Your Life?

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) - Converts to the trending paleolithic diet say the eating habits of our caveman ancestors, along with exercising and getting enough sleep, will keep your body running smoothly well into your golden years.

"This is a diet that would be good for anybody," said UCSF nephrologist Dr. Lynda Frassetto, who has been studying the paleo diet for years.

CBS 5 HealthWatch Series On Paleo Diet

A key factor, according to Frassetto, is limiting the level of acid in the body. Acids, which are regulated by the kidneys, tend to build up as people grow older and their kidneys work less well.

But paleo proponents believe that the right diet can bring acids back into balance. Specifically, this means eating more fruits and vegetables, the so-called "base foods," and eating fewer animal proteins and grains, which are high-acid foods.

"When you look at things like what do hunter-gatherers and chimpanzees eat, you get a diet that has meat in it, and a lot of fruits and vegetables, and no dairy products and no grains," explained Frassetto.

Video:  Should Everyone Eat A Paleo Diet? - Lynda Frassetto, MD

There is also some evidence that a healthy diet, along with exercise and stress reduction, can help protect a key ingredient in the aging process called telomeres.

"Telomeres are the protective caps on the ends of the chromosomes," explained Dr Elizabeth Blackburn, a 2009 Nobel Laureate. "If the caps are eroded away, the cells will stop replenishing."

But it turns out that telomeres are dynamic - they can change, and the choices people make can affect that change.

"Physiological interventions like exercise and stress reduction and dietary changes are positively associated with improving telomere maintenance," said Blackburn.

No one knows for sure yet whether a paleo diet will actually improve life span. But Robb Wolf, author of "The Paleo Solution," believes his 40-year-old body is a decade younger thanks to his paleo lifestyle.

"I had some biometrics done with bone mineral density and muscle mass, which put me at age 28," said Wolf, "With the telomerase analysis, I'm somewhere around age 32." He said he's been eating like a caveman for 12 years.

Nora Gedgaudas, certified nutritional therapist and author of "Primal Body, Primal Mind," said one of the real strengths of the paleolithic diet is that it helps to keep insulin levels in check.

"There's tremendous anti-aging potential in that. It tends to have the result of normalizing weight levels and improving things like mood and cognitive function," said Gedgaudas. 'Having an anti-aging effect is sort of unprecedented in terms of diet.

"It's the most logical, rational, I think dietary approach, and if it's a fad diet, then it's the oldest fad diet known to humankind."


(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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