|From CBS News.|
Earlier this year I began hearing for the first time about the Blue Zones study led by Dan Buettner. The goal of this study was to locate populations around the world with the greatest number of healthy centenarians, and to attempt to determine why the people in these regions were living longer and healthier lives than members of other populations. The first stage of the project identified five specific geographical regions with such populations. These five regions are:
1) Okinawa, Japan
2) Loma Linda, California, USA (Seventh Day Adventists)
3) Sardinia, Italy (Nuoro and Ogliastra provinces)
4) Ikaria, Greece
5) Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
After extensive comparison of the lifestyles in these five regions, Buettner concluded that there were nine characteristics shared by all of the populations:
1) moderate but constant physical activity
2) life purpose (no need for retirement!)
3) stress reduction
4) moderate calorie intake
5) plant-based diet, especially legumes
6) moderate alcohol intake, especially wine
7) engagement in social circles
8) community-based spiritual/religious participation
9) focus on family
National Geographic recently published a special issue entitled "Blue Zones: The Science of Living Longer". I bought a copy and am reading it now. The first part discusses the five Blue Zones mentioned above. The second section suggests ways anyone can incorporate the nine Blue Zones lifestyle characteristics into their own life. Interspersed thoughout this section are descriptions of communities which have decided to adopt the Blue Zones Project lifestyle and how they have implemented their plans. The last part focuses on recipes based upon the Blue Zones diets.
When I decided several months ago to incorporate healthier foods into my diet and try to eliminate unhealthy options, I decided that the Blue Zones suggestions seemed sensible and adopted many of them. I now look and feel healthier, and best of all I find that it is really quite easy to follow and stick to my new diet. In just two days my body adjusted to an almost total elimination of refined sugar and reduction by half of all other processed carbohydrates. I already avoid red meat because of allergies, and I am quite happy to eat more legumes, vegetables, fruits, and especially nuts (which are one of my favorite foods). I eat less dairy, but still eat cheese and yogurt. I do not necessarily follow all of the Blue Zones dietary guidelines, but I have figured out which ones work best for me. Now all I have to do is decide how to best add the other Blue Zones lifestyle suggestions to my everyday life!
If you find yourself interested in the Blue Zones study, there are a number of information sources to check out. Dan Buettner has published several books on the subject, and there are videos on YouTube to watch for an introduction to the topic (check out a summary of the study by Buettner at the bottom of the page). There is also a Blue Zones website. If you can find a copy of the National Geographic special issue, I highly recommend it, as it does an excellent job of summarizing and condensing the information into a format that is quickly and easily read and understood. While I am not one to wholeheartedly endorse anyone's ideology, as I mentioned earlier I find a lot of the Blue Zones guidelines to be sensible and not that difficult to implement in my own life, and you may decide that the same is true for yourself. I figure that the lifestyle changes cannot hurt me, I can always stop if I dislike them, and, who knows, they may actually make a positive difference!