Could 'blue zone' centenarians hold the secret to long life?

'Blue zone' centenarians

“Blue zones” is the colloquial term used to describe the regions of the world that have people who live the longest.They are geographic areas of the world that have the most people older than 100 years.

Areas that make up blue zones include Ikaria, Greece; Loma Linda, California; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Okinawa, Japan and Sardinia, Italy.

The daily habits of these older people in the blue zones are interesting and revealing. Most centenarians drink six to seven glasses of water per day and one to three cups of coffee per day, mostly black with no added sugar and very little milk. There are no double-doubles there.

They also drink tea—mainly green, black and herbal teas.

Those that do drink alcohol, drink in moderation, mainly while eating in the company of others. Red wine is the most popular alcoholic beverage consumed among this group.

They eat at least five to seven servings of a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. A colourful array of fruits and vegetables supplies natural phytochemicals that benefit the body. Dark green leafy vegetables, including lettuce, spinach and kale are commonly consumed.

Beans and legumes, like lentils, black, white and garbanzo beans are widely consumed and make up to 20% of dietary caloric intake. Beans and legumes contain up to 20% protein and are also very high in fibre. At least ½ cup of different beans and legumes is consumed daily.

Breads and cereals are consumed as whole grains and not processed. Very little white bread is eaten and if bread, if consumed, is mainly made of natural ferment like sourdough.

Nuts and seeds are liberally eaten and added to foods or as a stand-alone snack. An average of two handfuls of different nuts and seeds are consumed daily.

In blue zones, eggs are eaten in moderation—two to four times per week—and not usually fried. They are mainly free-range eggsand fewer than than six to eight eggs are consumed per week.

When it comes to dairy products, they are consumed in moderation. Very little milk, some yogurt and fermented foods and cheese are eaten in moderation.

Natural plant oils, like olive oil, are used liberally. Very little margarine and butter are used.

Ninety to 95% of blue zone diets are plant based. Red meat is only consumed in moderation (up to 4 times per month) or not at all while chicken and pork up to five times per month and fish up to three times per week.

Sugar is consumed in moderation. Added sugar, including honey, is occasionally consumed and naturally occurring sugar, in fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, grains and cereals, is the major source. Processed foods like candy bars, cakes and donuts are rarely consumed.

Salt is consumed in moderation and added to foods. It is seldom consumed in processed foods like chips, cold cuts and other savoury snacks. Other spices and condiments are liberally used and added to flavour foods.

Other healthy habits of blue zone people include daily exercise. They don’t go to the gym, they don’t go jogging or play organized sports. They are constantly active, whether they are doing yard work, gardening or walking to a neighbour or to a store. They are frequently moving and working. Many don’t have television or computers. They don’t watch endless hours of mindless programs or whittle away hours on YouTube or social media. In-person social interaction with family and friends is important. Spending time together, eating, working or with other activities is a big part of the day.They have a strong sense of commitment to family and friends. They tend to marry for life and divorces are rare. Parents and grandparents live together. Children and grandchildren are firmly entrenched in the social fabric of older adults.

Many centenarians are also firmly rooted in a strong faith and belief. They often can describe a strong sense of purpose in life. Frequently that purpose involves other people, including family and friends.

They get seven to eight hours of good quality sleep that follows the rhythm of the sun and seasons. Went it is dark, they downshift and get ready for bed. When it is light outside, they get ready for the day with work and other daily activities. They are not up late at night or early in the morning on the computers or watching television.

And yes, most blue zone people do not smoke.

Many scientists estimate only 20% of longevity is due to genes and the remaining 80% is due to lifestyle and dietary factors.

If you want to extend your life with relative good health, you can mimic the habits of centenarians in blue zones.

The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute medical advice. All information and content are for general information purposes only.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Doug Lobay is a practicing naturopathic physician in Kelowna, British Columbia.

He graduated with a bachelor of science degree from the University of British Columbia in 1987 and then attended Bastyr College of Natural Health Sciences in Seattle, Washington, where graduated with a doctorate in naturopathic medicine degree in 1991. While attending Bastyr College, he began to research the scientific basis of naturopathic medicine. 

He was surprised to find many of the current major medical journals abounded with scientific information on the use of diet, vitamins, nutritional supplements and herbal medicines.

Doug is a member of the College of Naturopathic Physicians of British Columbia and has practiced as naturopathic family physician for more than 30 years.  He maintains a busy practice in Kelowna where he sees a wide age range of patients with various ailments.

He focuses on dietary modification, allergy testing, nutritional assessments, supplement recommendation for optimal health, various physical therapy modalities, various intravenous therapies including chelation therapy.

An avid writer, he has written seven books on various aspects of naturopathic medicine that are available on Amazon and was also a long-time medical contributor to the Townsend Letter journal for doctors and patients, where many of his articles are available to view on-line. He has also given numerous lectures, talks and has taught various courses on natural medicine.

Doug enjoys research, writing and teaching others about the virtues of natural health and good nutrition. When not working, he enjoys cycling, hiking, hockey, skiing, swimming, tennis and playing guitar.

If you have any further questions or comments, you can contact Dr. Lobay at 250-860-7622 or [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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