Going through an old Economist today I read an obituary for possibly the world’s oldest man–Benito Martínez Abrogán. Some interesting things to note from the obituary:
- He lived in Cuba most of his life, though he moved there from Haiti around 1925.
- Cubans longevity matches that of Americans despite underspending the US in healthcare by US$5,460 per person.
- He had no car, walking, biking, and taking the bus to go everywhere.
- Food is rationed in Cuba, so he grew his own food, most of which was starchy cassava and sweet potatoes cooked in pork fat.
- He never married.
- He smoked till he was 108.
- He never saw a doctor till he was 115.
Apparently Cuba has quite a few centenarians, some 2,721 out of 11.2 million people. I don’t know how that compares to the US.
There was an article in the New York Times recently about the effects of calorie restriction on aging. Mice fed a calorie-restricted diet with adequate nutrition (often shortened to CRAN) lived longer and had better health and were more active as they got older. Might the effects of calorie restriction have something to do with the general health of people in Cuba? I wonder if there are any other places to test the effects of this? Cuba and North Korea are two of the only places I can think of where there’s generally not as much food available as many would prefer, but aren’t suffering many of the problems of other poor countries, such as those in sub-Saharan Africa. Unfortunately, North Korea is so closed there’s no way to know what the general health of the people is like. But once North Korea opens up, as I’m sure it will one day, it will be an interesting place to study the effects of long-term calorie-restriction among a large population.
Are the only places where people experience less available food and the people remain in generally good health going to be those where the modern conveniences are not as readily available? The cheap food from modern food processors are making their way to poorer countries as their rising obesity rates may be evidence of.
Are the more advanced countries seeing a decreasing marginal return for the money spent on healthcare? Is it possible there might be better ways to spend the money than on ever more drugs to attack erectile dysfunction?
Several questions raised by his obituary. But as a final note, I hope I can manage to be as healthy and active as I get older as Benito was.