The mystery of these 5 regions of the world where the most healthy centenarians live

In his bestselling book, The Blue Zones Solutions, author and longevity expert Dan Buettner identified 5 regions in the world with an abnormally high number of very old people, centenarians. These are the island of Okinawa located in the very south of Japan, Sardinia in Italy, the small town of Loma Linda in California, Ikaria, Greece and the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica.

In these regions for the most part paradisiacal and with a mild weather, Dan Buettner sought to better understand the origin of such longevity. Although genetics and certain environmental factors such as pollution, smoking or alcoholism play a significant role in life expectancy, we know that nutrition also has a very important impact. This is what the author, also a journalist at National Geographic, sought to better understand by sifting through the diet of these very old people in these 5 regions of the world.

A plant-rich diet

  • Buettner conducted a meta-analysis on the diet of people over the age of 100. It appears from his work that most centenarians feed mainly on plants, in about 90% of cases. This is why the scientist recommends consuming about 95% foods of plant origin and only 5% of animal origin. The diet of these centenarians is also based a lot on carbohydrates, especially slow sugars found in whole grains or cereals, corn or beans. For the author, food is important, but linked to the environment and social relations. In other words, in these 5 regions which are not large metropolises (Loma Linda being at a certain distance from Los Angeles) there are also strong social and family ties. Regular physical exercise, such as walking, also partly explains this abnormally high life expectancy.
  • Ikaria: Rosemary herbal tea
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    On the Greek island of Ikaria, located a few hours by boat from Athens, the quality of life is extraordinary with little stress and pollution, a diet based on fruits, wild vegetables and goat’s milk, but also the daily consumption of herbal teas based on rosemary, sage, oregano or mint with diuretic and antioxidant effects without forgetting honey. On this island, there are almost no cases of age-related dementia like Alzheimer’s disease. The rate of depression is low compared to the rest of Greece. Genetics seems to be the main reason for longevity on this island but not excluding lifestyle. The latter also influences genes by creating a virtuous circle. The exceptional longevity of the inhabitants of the island of Ikaria has been known since at least the 17th century, a Greek bishop wrote a book about it almost 400 years ago.

  • Sardinia: Olive oil
  • In Sardinia, olive oil seems to be an important cause of this life expectancy, which is much higher than in other regions of the world. The Sardinians also consume sheep’s milk, a very healthy food that contains potassium and tryptophan, a molecule against stress.

  • Okinawa: Tofu and sweet potato
  • In Japan, without too much surprise, it is soy, in particular tofu, which is at the center of the diet of the inhabitants of the city of Okinawa. Tofu is rich in flavonoids. These Japanese also eat a kind of sweet potato, a food with an excellent nutritional profile rich in particular in beta-carotene. Other foods such as green tea or brown rice guarantee the inhabitants of Okinawa a very high life expectancy. The island of Okinawa is located in the very south of Japan, that is to say in a sunnier zone than the northern region of Japan (including Tokyo), which favors a synthesis during almost the whole year of vitamin D by the effects of the sun.

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  • Nicoya: vegetables and sunshine
  • In Costa Rica, on the Nicoya Peninsula, the diet is mainly based on corn, beans, yam, but also squash. This plant-rich diet logically helps promote longevity. Costa Rica, a tropical country, also enjoys favorable sunshine which promotes a regular synthesis of vitamin D thanks to UV rays.

  • Loma Linda: Faith
  • In Loma Linda, a small town in the suburbs of Los Angeles of just over 20,000 inhabitants, the reasons are to be found in the Christian religion. Indeed, this city is home to the renowned Loma Linda University, the largest university in the Seventh-day Adventist Church movement. There is therefore a large community of this Christian denomination. This evangelical church has millions of members around the world and recommends that its followers not eat meat and instead consume foods of plant origin (eg seeds).

    The author also observed that in this city, centenarians ate a lot of salmon. It should also be noted that the faithful of this form of Protestantism generally do not drink alcohol and soda. Loma Linda residents have an average life expectancy 10 years higher than the general US population.


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