What the Blue Zones® tell us about longevity

All of the ladies who join me on calls say that they want to live well and actively into their later years. 

So this week’s research update shares the insights that have been uncovered in Blue Zones®; communities where people naturally live well into their 90s and 100s.

What are Blue Zones®?

Researchers Gianni Pes and Michel Poulin first outlined their research in the Journal Of
Experimental Gerontology. They had identified Sardinia as the region that had the most men living into their 100s (centenarians).

Dan Buettner took this work a step further by identifying other communities around the world that experienced longevity too.

As the original researchers had used blue circles to identify villages in Sardinia with the most centenarians, Dan decided to call the communities, Blue Zones®

The research involved interviewing people who lived in these communities to identify the common factors that enabled them to enjoy health and wellbeing later in life.

The five Blue Zones® are:

  1.  The Barbagia region of Sardinia is known for the world’s highest number of male centenarians.
  2.  Ikaria in Greece has one of the lowest rates of middle-age mortality and lowest rates of dementia.
  3.  Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica has the lowest rate of middle-age death and the second highest number of male centenarians.
  4.  Loma Linda, California Seventh Day Adventists live 10 times longer than other North Americans.
  5. Okinawa, Japan has the longest living women, over 70 years, in the world.

Nine lifestyle habits

The research has identified nine lifestyle habits that are common in Blue Zones®. 

  1. Move naturally in day-to-day life – through walking, and gardening.
  2. Having a purpose, otherwise described as “why I wake up in the morning”, can add on an extra 7 years of life expectancy.
  3. Setting up routines to reduce stress, or downshift, such as prayer, remembering ancestors, taking a nap, or meeting with friends for happy hour.
  4. The 80% rule means to stop eating before your stomach is full! This 20% difference is the difference between losing or gaining weight. People in Blue Zones® eat their smallest meal in the afternoon or early evening and then don’t eat anything else for the rest of the day.
  5. The food eaten has a plant slant. Beans, including fava, soy, and lentils are the staple of most centenarian meals. 
  6. Wine @ 5 isn’t a component in all communities, and wine is always limited to 1 to 2 small glasses per day, and is shared with friends and/ or with food. This doesn’t mean you can save up all of the glasses for the weekend!
  7. Only 5 out of 263 centenarians interviewed did not belong to a faith-based community. Attending faith-based services 4 times a month has been shown to add 4 to 14 years onto your life.
  8. Loved Ones First is the motto of successful centenarians; aging parents and grandparents live nearby, they commit to a life partner, and children are given time and love.
  9. Being part of the Right Tribe is being part of a social network that supports healthy behaviours.

The common foods in all communities are legumes and lentils.

Food and eating choices

Foods eaten in the communities are often locally grown and prepared.

  1. Staple foods are fruits, and vegetables, including tomatoes, whole grains, beans (legumes and lentils), and nuts.
  2. The drinking of tap water is commonplace in these communities.
  3. Community-specific staples are potatoes, sweet potatoes, olive oil, mastic oil, and sheep’s cheese, which is high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
  4. Some communities grow and use herbs and spices e.g. use of wild rosemary, sage, and oregano in teas, and in Okinawa, mugwort, ginger, and turmeric are grown.
  5. Meat is eaten rarely and it is eaten as a “side” rather than a main component of the meal.
  6. Some communities drink local goat’s milk.
  7. Fasting occurs in some communities due to religious commitments.

In the Seventh Day Adventist research studies, Adventists who ate legumes 3 times a week had a 30 to 40% reduction in colon cancer.

Early and light dinners

The eating of early and light dinners is in alignment with Eastern nutrition, and mindful eating practices.

Scientific research shows that eating most of your calories in the first half of the day is beneficial for healthy weight and blood sugar control.

Meals are usually eaten and enjoyed with others, which adds nourishment to the occasion too.

The 80% rule, which isn’t really a rule, rather a practice, of finishing eating before feeling full is a central part of eating mindfully. It is believed to help people in these communities maintain a healthy natural weight.

If you are interested in finding a way of eating that will sustain your health and wellbeing for today and your later years, then book in for a free 15-minute call.

This call is specifically for you, if you know what to eat but have trouble maintaining it.

What we discuss in this call will help you take your first step away from the dieting cycle towards a way of eating that produces lasting results.

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