A research team that includes a demographer, an evolutionary geneticist, a physician and a National Geographic fellow (and award-winning author) studies longevity around the world. They’ve identified “blue zones”…places where people live the longest and have among the lowest rates of chronic disease. Sardinia (Italy), for example, has 21 centenarians in a population of about 10,000, as compared to the United States, where “about four in 10,000 Americans reach the 100-year mark.”

Dan Buettner (@BlueZones) shares some of the team’s findings in an important piece for the Wall Street Journal.

Some takeaways? Community support is vital. Physical activity is built into daily life. Buettner writes:


“People in the blue zones were nudged into physical activity every 20 minutes, my team estimated. This activity not only burned 500 to 1,000 calories a day; it also kept their metabolisms humming at a higher rate.”


Diet is also important. A key finding? “The cornerstone of every longevity diet in the world was the humble bean.”

And this:


“More than 65% of what people in the blue zones ate came from complex carbohydrates: sweet potatoes in Okinawa, Japan; wild greens in Ikaria, Greece; squash and corn in Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula. Their diet consists mainly of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and other carbohydrates. They eat meat but only small amounts, about five times a month, usually on celebratory occasions.”


Buettner closes with this, which might provide an excellent policy roadmap for our nation.


“Instead, they lived in cultures that made the right decisions for them. They lived in places where fresh vegetables were cheap and accessible. Their kitchens were set up so that making healthy food was quick and easy. Almost every trip to the store, a friend’s house, work or school occasioned a walk. Their houses didn’t have mechanized conveniences to do house work, kitchen work or yard work; they did it by hand.”


An absolutely remarkable piece.


Related Links:

Study finds colon cancer risk may be reduced by rural African diet

Opinion: The myth of high-protein diets

Op-Ed: “The diet we need for a sustainable planet.”