What’s the Truth About the Blue Zones?

P. D. Mangan
Jan 3, 2017 · 7 min read
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Traditional dress of Sardinia, one of the Blue Zones
  • Ikaria, Greece
  • Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
  • Seventh Day Adventists — Highest concentration is around Loma Linda, California.
  • Okinawa, Japan

Do Blue Zones even exist?

That’s a strange question to ask, one might think, but given past hype about allegedly long-lived people that turned out not to be true, it pays to be skeptical.

Why are some groups included and not others?

Take the Adventists of Loma Linda, California; male Adventists live about 7 years longer than other white Californians, and this is ascribed to their lifestyle. The Adventist church recommends being vegetarian, although not all Adventists follow that stricture.

The Blue Zones are not in Western Europe

The Blue Zones all lie outside Western Europe, and except for the Adventists, none of the people inhabiting them are of Western European extraction. To a great extent, the factor that unites all of these groups is either being less touched by modernity, or actively rejecting it.

Food and the Blue Zones

What you eat is undoubtedly important for health, but whether it’s important enough to get a larger fraction of people to live to very old ages is another matter. Most non-scientific commentary on the Blue Zones emphasizes that they eat a lot less meat than others.

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  • Moderate fish and marine food consumption. 
  • Lower intake of meat with emphasis on lean meats. 
  • Liberal use of medicinal plants, herbs, spices or oils. 
  • Regular tea consumption and moderate alcohol consumption.
  • less fish
  • less rice
  • more sweet potatoes
  • hormetic phytochemicals
  • something else or a combination of the above.

Iron

Metals in plasma of nonagenarians and centenarians living in a key area of longevity. This study shows that in one of the Blue Zones, in Sardinia, nonagenarians and centenarians had much lower levels of iron than middle-aged controls — almost 40% less. The important health risk factor of iron may be a key point in longevity in the Blue Zones.

Adding longevity factors

An article about the Adventists in JAMA Internal Medicine, Ten Years of Life: Is It a Matter of Choice?, says that the average Adventist man lives 7.3 years longer than other men in California. The article looks at the risk factors to see what are the most important driving the difference. See chart below.

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Conclusion: How to Live Long, and the Truth About the Blue Zones

The factors that make for a long life in the Blue Zone people could be one or a combination of

  • lower body weight
  • less food
  • lower body iron stores
  • less meat eaten
  • less refined carbohydrates eaten
  • more plant foods eaten
  • higher social cohesion
  • religious attendance
  • importance of family
  • greater physical activity
  • less modern life (TV, cars, alienation)

PS: See my books for more on how to live a long time.

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P. D. Mangan

Written by

Health, fitness, and anti-aging through lifting weights, paleo diet, and intermittent fasting. I’ve written 6 books on health and fitness.

Mission.org

A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning. Selected as “Best of 2018” by Apple. Mission.org

P. D. Mangan

Written by

Health, fitness, and anti-aging through lifting weights, paleo diet, and intermittent fasting. I’ve written 6 books on health and fitness.

Mission.org

A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning. Selected as “Best of 2018” by Apple. Mission.org

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