EVERFIT book Review : How to Prolong Life

Book Reviews, October 25, 2019

This book reinforced for me that WELLNESS wisdom has been around for hundreds if not thousands of years. How has society got into the health mess that we are in?

The subtitle of the book reads - "An inquiry into the cause of old age and natural death showing the diet and agents best adapted for a lengthened prolongation of human life on earth." The opening quote in the preface of this fascinating book published in 1910 got me thinking - "If my abilities were equal to my wishes, there should be neither pain nor poverty in the universe." Addison. The world unfortunately is full of poverty and the pain that poverty produces. Poverty is not just the lack of money and resources but lack of community, love, and hope  for the future (as Dr. Lance O'Sullivan unpacks in his book The Good Dr.).  It's all very well to discuss prolonging life but as a wellness advocate I am far more interested in talking how we can enrich all lives on this planet by living with a greater understanding of the connections between us, and the earth's ecosystems that literally sustain life. 


The following is extended notes from this book and some of my views from my recent research on the subject of longevity and optimal functionality. I have sprinkled many quotes that come up during this book as they speak to our generation as much as 100 years ago when this book was written. I have come to understand that WELLNESS information have roots in ancient civilizations and we really have complicated this information by reductionist research and thinking.  


There is a state of body we term HEALTH; plus or minus divergences from this healthy path that is termed disease. The object of medicine (according to Evans in 1910) is to guide these variations to a given centre of bodily equilibrium - finding dietetic and other rules on general principles to preserve the body in health - therefore prolonging life.  Dr. Kearney in an article on aging in the Translatantic Monthly stated that there was no reason why human life should not last 200 years, and many other writers around the time agreed. Throughout the book Evans talked about ossification and how our bodies as we age returns to an earthly state "the amount of early compounds in the bones gradually increases from birth to old age." This happens in the muscles as the fibers become rigid and less contractile.....not influenced by stimuli to the same extent as in youth." Other body structures like tendons and ligaments harden and stiffen and even ossify with a "diminution in the fluid in the sheaths of the tendons."  The arteries as we age become "thickened and lessened in calibre from fibinous, gelatinous, and earthly deposits." Ossification is detected with the naked eye in the arteries; but it occurs in them frequently and to a very great extent especially as we age. 


This ossification has been linked by many authors to chronic inflammation. We now understand that inflammation occurs as a result of many factors, high cholesterol, elevated blood sugar, toxicity in the blood (heavy metals, preservatives and other toxins in our environment), and high blood pressure. This inflammation creates the environment for plague build up on the walls of the blood vessels. Last week (Oct 2019) I was reading an article about the prevalence of kidney disease in our society. Up to 1 in 3 people have signs of kidney disease, 1 in 7 has serious issues and up to 1 out of 1500 people will require dialysis! (this is end stage of kidney function). This is linked to diabetes which is becoming more common. Type 2 diabetes is strongly linked to poor lifestyle habits - namely poor diet, lack of exercise/movement, excessive weight, and too much screen time and not enough time in nature.  All of these create stress on the system creating low grade inflammation, and "ossification" of arteries and other blood vessels throughout major organs. Hippocrates philosophy about the importance of lifestyle behaviors for good health were conveyed in his quote:“If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health"  and an English physician Thomas Syndenham (1624-1689) stated"A man is only as old as his arteries."More recently, two-time Nobel laureate Linus Pauling extolled the virtues of a healthy diet, stating, “Good nutrition will prevent 95 percent of all diseases.”Despite this long-held recognition about the importance of good nutrition and lifestyle practices, we are confronted with an epidemic of nutrition- and lifestyle-related diseases that have created a huge burden on society. In NZ alone we spend almost 20 billion dollars a year on health - 80% is on lifestyle disease. Consequently, there is an urgent need to advocate for healthy lifestyle practices, including good nutrition and movement, to reduce the national and indeed the global burden of many chronic diseases (Check out my article on NZ green vs medication prescription - https://everfit.co.nz/articles/treat-lifestyle-disease-with-lifestyle-change )


"He who writes, or speaks, or meditates, without facts as landmarks to his understanding, is like a mariner cast on the wide ocean, without a compass or a rudder to his ship." 


The book talks abut the importance of a whole food plant based diet to support longevity. In was noted that in old age as well as fibrin, a large quantity of gelatin accumulates in the body. "Gelatin is never found in vegetables nor dies it exist in the blood - but it is found in the animal economy." The author came up with the observation "thus the fibrous and gelatinous accumulations found in old age are caused by the action of that never resting, active corroding, and destroying element, atmospheric oxygen." Evans does go on to say that no matter what kind of food we eat the earthly salts contained within them ALL have the same source - the earth. So if we can regulate our diet better to NOT overly partake and only take in what is required for growth and nourishment then our arteries would not harden, skin would not wrinkle and the body "would retain it's fluidity, elasticity, and activity, and the brain it's mental capabilities." G.H Lewis stated in the book "The Physiology of Common Life" If the repair were always identical with the waste, never varying in the slightest degree, life would then only be terminated by some accident, never by old age. 


Evans was a religious man and goes into great detail about the patriarchs in the bible. "It is probable, and quite possible that the patriarchs lived to their recorded ages." This was possibly due to their diets (consisted firstly of fruit), eating only once a day, the soil quality was incredibly high (contained more potash and less lime - the greater amount of lime in the blood the more deposited in the system, and the more ossification). Fruits have the least amount of early matter - most contain a large quantity of water - very pure water -a distilled water of nature. Porphyry (Platonic philosopher of 3rd C and a man of great learning and talent) stated "The ancient Greeks lived entirely upon the fruits of the earth." He talked about how the body of humankind is perfect, it's Creator saw it was good - this same Creator gave to man wisdom and it is our duty to use wisdom in gaining knowledge which will able to keep our bodies in good working order.  Methusaleh and Adam were said to live for over 500 years! The longevity in the generations following gradually decreased. The well know expression "The days of our years are threescore years and ten is not an edict from God, but simple a lamentation that the term of life has been reduced by the ignorance of society - I would add that our society have put money, and greed ahead of caring for nature (our literal life support system) and that is creating an environment that is degrading and therefore degrading us in turn. 


"Nature is frugal, and her wants are few. Man in the savage state is generally healthy, in the civilized state he is generally unhealthy......there is no doubt that a simple diet is more fitted to accelerate health than unnatural and stimulating foods." Dr. Thompson 

"It may with truth be asserted that the greater part of mankind eat more than is necessary; and by being crammed and over fed in infancy, we are deprived of that natural sensation which ought to tell us when we have enough." Hufeland. 


"We cannot expect a nation to bound and stride into perfection at once. It is by slow painful efforts that a nation works out it's redemption from darkness and ignorance." Lord Rosebery. 

"The human body, as a machine, is perfect...it is apparently intended to go on for ever." Dr. Munro


The Main rules of eating from the book.........

1)Eat moderately, always remembering that you eat to live - to give balance to the system (Check out my article on fasting -  https://everfit.co.nz/articles/fast-for-wellness )
2)Avoid eating large quantities of bread, pastry, and other farinaceous (consisting or made of flour or meal) foods. 
3)Eat fruits if possible at every meal, and commence with them; if the appetite is not moderately satisfied, finish with the ordinary articles of diet. A fruit diet gives to a great extent freedom from disease. As a jet kept free from clogging and obstructive matter, and supplied with pure gas, will continue to burn, independent of time, so the human body supplied with food free from earthly and obstructive matter will retain the flame of life. The beneficial effects of fruit as an article of diet both in health and disease CANNOT be overrated.


Chapter IV of the book was fascinating as the author listed hundreds of cases of humans living more than a century from all over the world. The author noticed a great divergence both in habits and diet but in the cases where they were able to get reliable accounts of diet there was one major commonality - MODERATION IN QUANTITY OF FOOD. Less is more in terms of food consumed. The next most commonality to the longevity was marriage. Marriage as Hufeland states "tends to moderate overstrained hope and enthusiastic speculation as well as excessive care.....everything by the participation of another being is rendered milder and more supportive." (Check out my article on The importance of relationships for WELLNESS -  https://everfit.co.nz/articles/the-wholistic-runner-part-4-relationships )


For example - Mr. Dobson of hatfield, farmer died in 1766 aged 139 "By much exercise and temperate living he preserved the inestimable blessing of health." - Henry Grosvenor, of Inch, county Wexford, a gentleman of French extraction, surveyor of the coast of blackwater, died in 1780 aged 115. "He was very sparing in his diet, and used MUCH exercise, and was an agreeable, cheerful companion at 100 when he married his last wife." 

The case of Miguel Solis of Bogota, San Salvador who lived to at least 180 years (BUT his neighbours stated he was considerably older) to be very interesting. His signature in 1712 is said to have been discovered among those who assisted in the construction of the Franciscan convent at San Sebastian. Dr. Hernandez found this incredible individual working in his garden. He attributed his long life to his daily habits.
  • eating only once a day for only 30min. He believed that more food that could be eaten in half an hour could not be digested effectively in the remaining 23.5 hrs.
  • He fasted on the first and fifteenth of EVERY month - drinking large quantities of water on those days.
  • He chose the most nourishing foods and took all things cold, he had meat twice a month  (Lancet Sept 7 1878)
Under the prevention of disease chapter I was excited to see more information to support my morning cold shower habit "For those in fair health a cold bath each morning will be found a great safeguard against sickness, and an invigorating practice." The author went on to say "Sea bathing is beneficial to man persons..." Under the heading exercise it was stated that there is no greater preservation of health than regular exercise......walking is the very best.  The fashionable pastime of cycling if not pushed beyond reasonable limits is beneficial and exhilarating." It was written that exercise nourished the frame due to increased blood flow and the major organs were strengthened. For sleep it was recommended that 7-8 hours sleep is necessary  for the equalization of the circulation, the rest and recuperation of the body, and the proper nourishment of the brain. The author warned against late night snacking "late suppers are injurious, do not eat within 2 hours of going to bed." 
Another interesting comment was warning against starting children too early in organised learning "We constantly witness the bad effects of too early and excessive mental application, which induces imperfectly formed limbs, round shoulders, muscular weakness and narrow chests from the confined and unnatural sitting postures in which children at a young age are kept." 


"What is a man (or women) without health, even if endowed with riches?" Evans pg 210


In the conclusion Evans talked about how EVERYTHING is connected - one branch of science is dependent upon another - each forms a part, all united a WHOLE - for nature is one. To recognise one and ignore another portion or an entirety - each part of which is dependent upon unity - is to break a rule which remains unbroken.

"The prolongation of the life of the people must become an essential part of family, municipal, and national policy.....for untimely death is a great evil." Evans pg 211