traditional diets

Health secrets from a centenarian

Three years ago, on my birthday in mid-August, I found myself in a remote Maasai village, about three hours from Nairobi. There was no need for cake or ice cream or balloons. I received the most FANTASTIC present, first thing. I was given the opportunity to sit at the feet of a 100+ year old man and hear about his life. Dickson, my Maasai host, introduced me to Sankau Ole Sirote. He seemed weathered, but well. Sankau gave me permission to interview him, recording our exchange on my phone. I could hardly wait! What had his eyes seen, over the course of those many decades? And what secrets might I learn (and pass on to my readers and friends) about how to live a healthy, long life?

 Sankau, resting, outside his friend's home

Sankau, resting, outside his friend's home

I was also eager to see for myself if the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) principles would hold water. Did a diet of traditional, unprocessed foods sustain this man to 100 years of age and beyond?

Here are some excerpts from our conversation:

  • what he did as a child and youth

“When I was young, there was no school by that time. So my life was just to go and handle the cattle. That was my daily activity. Getting the cows, and going hunting."

  • on hunting

“When we were morans [young warriors in training], we would really hunt lion, and rhino, elephant, buffalos. We would hunt for fun, not really to eat the meat of the lion or the elephant or the rhino. We would just hunt for fun.

One time we also went hunting, and...[a] companion of mine was attacked by a lion and killed. So I...came back to help the family, to raise the children of my departed friend."

Rhino mama and her baby
Rhino mama and her baby
  • what he would eat as a child

“When we were children...our diets were milk, fat, meat, and also sometimes honey. There was a lot of rain. Wild fruits were available and the milk was plenty. And the cows also were healthy. So everything, when we were young, everything was just healthy."

  • regarding his health today

"I'm getting old because of my eyes and in the morning sometimes I have joint aches. It's just age."

  • regarding his health across the years

No surgeries? "No." No medicine? "No." Any shots? "Recently, because of this hand. It is swelling, so I got an injection. Because of the swelling."

  • regarding the community's health in the past

“There was no one who was sick. We were all very healthy.”

  • regarding the community's health today

“There are so many changes. People are getting sick. There are diseases which…there are many, many diseases, which I cannot even describe. There are a lot of diseases coming, but before, as I said, there were no diseases.

During my days, there were no injections but right now every time, they just say the people need to be vaccinated because a disease is coming, people need to be injected. But when I was a young man I never had an injection.”

  • what people are eating today

“Even food they have changed. Because you have to buy food. Everything you have to buy from the shop so… And during my time you would depend on what is coming from the livestock. But now you have to go and buy."

  • how his diet has changed

"I started having tea in 1916."

  • what he recommends eating for good health

"If you start with milk exclusive, or cream made from milk, just that. That is it. Up to 7 years [of age]. Children were breastfed up to 5 years. Everything [we ate] was from the cow: milk, blood."

  • about his family

"I have more than 17 children. And 5 grandchildren. They are good, good health. I have three brothers. They are still alive. I have one sister. She is still alive."

  • about wealth, cattle and goats

"My sons have taken them."

Goats (but these are not the ones taken from Sankau!)
Goats (but these are not the ones taken from Sankau!)
  • final thoughts

"I am also thankful to God that I have had that opportunity to do good while I have been in this world. I am alive because of God. God formed me in the womb."

There you have it! To me, it's crystal clear that Sankau's traditional diet has contributed to his good health and longevity. And as I see it, the secrets to a healthy life from this centenarian include eating plenty of raw milk (and cream), taking opportunities to do good, and giving thanks to God. What do you see?

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Hilda Labrada Gore is a podcast professional who helps holistic health practitioners launch their own shows! She is the host and producer of the Wise Traditions podcast, sponsored by the Weston A. Price Foundation for wise traditions in food, farming, and the healing arts. She is an integrative nutrition health coach, a fitness professional, and the DC Metro Regional Director for Body & Soul Fitness. She lives in D.C. with her husband, Mitch, their children, and their cat and dog.