Hygiene, lower alcohol consumption, and the regular access to an extensive support system were probably the top 3 factors. Less uncertainty, less stress, fewer serious health/mental issues being ignored - all good things in the long run. I'd expect alcohol to be a major contributor to illness at the time (compromised immune system in an already filthy environment and less social pressure to drink in moderation), so the fact that they didn't drink in excess was probably pretty significant
The article mentions 'meat' three times per week, but then implies that eggs and fish were not considered 'meat', which leads me to think they also didn't consider poultry 'meat' either. No special spices or bizarre rituals, so their diet was probably very similar to the old food pyramid, and less so the new food plate thing. The wealthy saw a very minimal increase in lifespan, which was probably not caused by the addition of spices and honey but living in cleaner, less cramped, and more isolated living conditions.
The only thing surprising about the article was that how NOT special their diet was.
It seems the templar got all the nutrients they needed (feast on large amount of protein once a week, plant based diet the rest of the week) while using moderation most of the week and even a fast once a week.
those two paragraphs were a little scattered, but it's 3x per week... Definitely Sundays and then maybe Tuesday/Thursday, but sometimes one of those days was a fast.
> One source suggests that cooks loaded enough meat onto their plates “to feed two poor men with the leftovers.”
Infant mortality does, but that's more than just surviving birth, but more like the first five years to get past the point where it skews results.
> From the sound of it, the knights certainly weren't going hungry
Well, sure, and you wouldn't expect knights—a narrow elite class—to be goings hungry even if food insecurity was common for the masses. But they probably lived longer mostly because the average expectancy for people who had survived to the age at which you become a knight of the order was much greater than the average population-wide life expectancy, because the large proportion that died very young did so earlier.
If you survived your 20s without being killed you were likely to live into your late 50s with little problem.
Being young was dangerous. Being a religious knight meant you basically skipped all that until later (and then put yourself in less harm than the average peasant soldier did)
There certainly was some of that but they were, for the first 100 years or so, glorified bounty hunters fighting bandits & marauding highwaymen around the Holy Land. Basically a religious police force.
They also were the favored money donation/papal favor buying scheme used by nobles. Quite quite rich.
The certainly DID fight of course in things like the defeat of Saladin at Montgisard but they were usually not a very present force (for example there were less than 500 knights in that battle but about about 9000 infantry)
In fact relatively few Knights were combatants! The others acted in support positions to assist the knights and to manage the finances.
They were mostly a rich proto-banking guild by the mid 1100s tbh and by the 1200s they rapidly became utterly pointless.
They had about 50 years of being involved in any real combat and it wasn't very involved when it did. You've been paying attention to too much myth making about them and not their actual deeds.
The very first paragraph of the article:
>For even wealthy landholding males, average life expectancy was about 31 years, rising to 48 years for those who made it to their twenties. The Knights Templar, then, must have seemed to have some magical potion: Many members of this Catholic military order lived long past 60.
What data were available favoured the wearthly, and from them and other, nonstatistical, contemporaneous accounts, it is apparently clear enough to note that the wealthy lived longer lives than the bulk of the population
Many of the poor who died, particularly infants, children, and women, may have left no documentary trace at all.
The average lifespan for all people was 31.
The average lifespan for a subset of those people who lived to age 20 was 48.
The reason for the distinction is infant mortality and other childhood diseases which lingered much longer than they do today because we now have more treatments.
What was the average lifespan for a wealthy landowning male who survived to the age of 20 and was a member of the Knights Templar?
Nah, they lived longer because of reduced stress. "They were not permitted even to speak to women."
Sure they did. They didn't start that diet on day one. Between ideas of nutrition during their lifetimes and however long it took to adopt, formalize and tweak their diet regimen it could have taken years or generations even.
The difference now is we have a deeper understanding of everything involved with nutrition and some of the research we do is determining why we see the effects we do as opposed to the Templars just trying to achieve a desired effect.
It's pretty easy to discount the amount of time that was spent on it and the number of missteps along the way and the unavoidable fluff the Templars also likely engaged in. And then compare that to formalized research and imagine that the Templars had some intuitive insight that makes scientific research look redundant or overly complicated...
Similarly the usual days did not have as much animal produce as today.
Remember that these people were professional soldiers with at least a few hours of strenuous exercise a day combined with relative leisure In prayer. (Compared to peasants or even modern day workers.)
A 4 pound chicken will get you about 2000 calories after it is cooked, whereas the same chicken would lay approx 5 eggs/week, each @ 75 calories, or 375 calories/week. So, it would only take 6 weeks for a chicken to output as many calories as exist within it, and chickens lay eggs productively for 4-5 years.
Monks work, a lot, both in order to maintain the monastery itself and to produce goods for the outside community.
You can easily see this for yourself in Eastern Europe: except for a few highly touristic sites, you are generally welcome to stay at a monastery for a time without being asked to pay anything, but you will be expected to assist the monks in the work they do each day. The work – from chopping wood to weeding gardens – is exhausting. It is a mystery to me how the monks manage to keep up with everything and maintain a very positive attitude, all on 4 hours of sleep a night and diet that is fasting half the year.
Unlike mental exhaustion, physical exhaustion makes it very easy to fall asleep and sleep deeply. This is the real secret to the monks' success. Those of us who tax our minds with knowledge work don't get the benefits of physical exertion that the monks enjoy.
not sure where you got 4 hours of sleep. Monks generally wake up early but they also retire early.
For example: http://www.stmarysmonastery.org/daily_life.html wake at 4:35, retire (though not necessarily sleep) at 20:15. The schedule has about 6~7h of work tops:
* following Mass + Terce + community meeting of 0930 (so probably about 1000~1015) until 1300
* following the Office of Nones (which starts at 1500) until 1800, and that can also be studies
This is not to say the monks didn't work or didn't follow ascetic regimens, but they weren't doing all the work of keeping the monastery running.
There's the secret.
I'm kidding, non-male members of HN!
On a more serious note: "even though it was “understood that the custom of eating flesh corrupts the body.”
As a vegetarian, I find this intriguing. Why, if it was understood thus, did meat eating become so prevalent?
The source material  that the quote is taken from has a footnote that says "The Cistercians held that rich food increases sexual appetite"
It would seem that the "corruption" here is related to keeping ones libido in check.
The problem is that, before modern refrigeration was introduced, it was very easy for meat to go bad and make people ill. This was very common in warm countries, and so it ended up codified in religious cultures from those areas. Around the Med, it was no biggie: vegetables were pretty easy to grow in large quantities.
However, the type of doctrine that ended up as commonplace in Europe (because of military and economic developments) was a very Northern interpretation of Christianity, coming from places where people had to eat meat because vegetables were hard to grow in cold climates. A lot (or rather most) of the Templars themselves were French or German knights; they came from places were meat was a firm staple of rich diets.
And so most of the warnings against meat went out of the window, never to return. It probably helped that "the Enemy" had gone the opposite way.
Sure life expectancy was low, but that’s mainly because people died young. Out of 14 children in a royal family you’d expect less than 5 to reach the age of 15, and that was for royalty.
That doesn’t mean the people who didn’t die at birth or as young children died before they grew old.
If you factor out all the child deaths, the average life expects wasn’t that much lower for a Knights Templar than it is for you. Hell, if you’re a poor 20+ American, you’ll probably live shorter, even with the help of modern medicine.
> Sure life expectancy was low, but that’s mainly because people died young ... If you factor out all the child deaths, the average life expects wasn’t that much lower for a Knights Templar than it is for you
Where literally the second damn line of the article:
> For even wealthy landholding males, average life expectancy was about 31 years, rising to 48 years for those who made it to their twenties.
Tl;dr: Life expectancy at 25: ~50 in 1300-1350ish, lower during the plague.
on edit: they said factor out all the early childhood deaths - which probably aren't factored out for 'average' life expectancy.
Even for wealthy families infant mortality was a problem.
The AVERAGE is always the wrong metric!
It's not the middle ages but Victorian Britain, so still before widely available modern medicine, but in this lecture (transcript available):
the professor mentions as an aside that
> And what is interesting, if you take out the childhood mortality, the Victorian person between 1850 and 1880 lived slightly longer, if he was a male, than you do today. So, your life expectancy at five, in England, as a male, in 1870 was slightly longer than it is now, which is an extraordinary statistic, slightly shorter then if you were a female.
So it seems to me that medicine's main contribution to life expectancy is for women (making giving birth much less risky) and for children. The rest of life expectancy gains probably is from gains in sanitation, clean water, nutrition, life/work conditions. It seems that the lives saved by antibiotics did't actually move the statistics by all that much, never mind all the other stuff medicine came up with.
Note: This isn't saying "there was no progress" (it comes from a professor of medicine after all, and obviously there was a lot of progress overall), it is about identifying the specific areas where progress was made, and what specifically lead to progress in what area. So you don't look at different groups and strata and not one single population number.
According to the person you're quoting, that's because Victorians ate more good food, ate less bad food, and smoked less. Medicine got better at fixing us, but we got more inclined to break ourselves, so the needle didn't move much
E.g. for the cohort born in 1851, and who survived childhood disease, there was an annual risk of dying between the ages of 20 to 60 that was very much greater than the same for the cohort born in 1931.
You are correct in that most of this improvement can be accounted for by improvements in treating and preventing communicable disease, and prevention of septicemia, including but certainly not limited to those acquired during childbirth, as well as better management of the birth process itself.
Its just cheap energy behind all those factors (ie, burning fossil fuels).
- Plato died at 80.
- Confucius at 72.
- Michelangelo at 88.
- Sun Tzu at 75.
When we point out that our current life hygiene practices may be unhealthy, people tend to respond that "we live longer than ever".
But then you have security: you are much less likely to get killed by a thief today, or a rapist.
Then you have the comfort: we have running water, electricity, much easier work load, holidays, transportation and we eat everyday.
well, if you take the rich, famous or protected people from many years ago, they already lived quite long because they had security and comfort.
So basically, yes it's good to be able to eat everyday. Yes we live longer because of it. No that doesn't mean it's ok to avoid the debate about pesticides or nanoparticles.
Yes, it's good that vaccines eliminate the most terrible disease on earth. Yes we live longer because of it. No that doesn't mean it's ok to avoid the debate about a new vaccine or vaccine policy.
Yes it's good that we have less very hard physical work. Yes we live longer because of it. No that doesn't mean it's ok to avoid the debate about the stress or lack of meaning we created in our society.
> - Confucius at 72.
> - Michelangelo at 88.
> - Sun Tzu at 75.
> - Etc.
These men were also not your common laborers or soldiers.
Being rich and/or powerful has always been a benefit to your lifespan.
Unless you were Japanese nobility centuries ago. Then your noble diet of polished white rice caused thiamine deficiency, leading to the development of kakke and an early death.
He was a stonemason's son, a stonemason himself, and an infantry soldier.
In addition, holding the Prytany at one point indicates that Socrates was far from common ...
The concept of a weekly diet, one that can be followed month after month, is a very modern thing. You ate what was in season. You didn't eat meat when there was plenty of vegetables available. You shoved the extra vegetables into animals, which you then ate during the seasons when the vegetables weren't available. This concept of a "balanced" diet between the two would have been impractical and extremely wasteful.
Also, be careful with the word meat in old texts. The meaning changes depending on context. Western cultures generally don't count fish as meat but others do. Similarly, 'game' and even 'fowl' are sometimes not included, with 'meat' reserved for the slaughter of domesticated animals. So a text about people not eating meat at particular times doesn't necessarily mean they weren't getting a pile of fats and proteins from something that we today would consider meat.
> Vegetables were only available at certain times of the year. The rest of the time it would be a combination of bread (grain) and meat.
That's not. Plenty of fruits & vegetables can be put up for quite a long time. Root vegetables can be stored for many months (almost a year) by digging them up and piling in 'silos,' which alternate layers of soil or sand & vegetables. Apples can be stored in barrels. Cabbages can be covered in leaves, or fermented. Beans & peas can be dried. Almonds can be used to make milk (in fact, in the middle ages almond milk was more common than cows' milk).
Christians have been fasting on Wednesdays & Fridays, Lent & Advent for millennia, well before refrigeration and modern foodstuffs.
Got a link for that? Seems highly unlikely to me...
I am amazed if you truly cannot imagine a root cellar, just a generation or two ago.
A Scottish surgeon in the Royal Navy, James Lind, is generally credited with proving that scurvy can be successfully treated with citrus fruit in 1753.
Reminds me of the barnacle goose.
Folks in the middle ages had some confused ideas about where the adult geese came from (thinking they started life as barnacles!) and thus meat from this one particular bird was approved to eat on fast days.
Temperate climates, perhaps like the Mediterranean? Which is where most of the Templars lived?
The article explicitly discusses meat, fowl, flesh, fish etc as different things.