Blue Zones: The secret of a long life

Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / PICNIC_Fotografie

The Blue Zones fascinate scientists: nowhere else do people get so old and stay healthy for so long. What can we learn from the Blue Zones?

In 2005 the article “National Geographic” publishedThe Secrets of Long Life”By Dan Buettner. He traveled with some scientists around the world for years to find areas where people grow oldest and stay healthy the longest. He identified five such “blue zones”:

  • Ikaria in Greece
  • Okinawa in Japan
  • Ogliastra in Sardinia
  • Loma Linda in California
  • the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica

Buettner asked the people there about their way of life. In this way, he wanted to find out why many of them are getting so old. Are there any similarities that make it possible to uncover the secret of a long life?

1. Blue Zone: Ikaria in Greece

Olive oil is a central component of the Mediterranean diet.
Olive oil is a central component of the Mediterranean diet. (Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / stevepb)

Ikaria is a Greek island with about 8000 inhabitants, which stands out among other things because it has one of the lowest death rates in middle age worldwide. Buettner attributes this to, among other things, the very healthy one Mediterranean diet with lots of vegetables, olive oil and fish back.

A Residents on the other hand, believes that in addition to the many organically grown vegetables and clean water, it is above all the steady wind from the sea that is so healthy. Other residents emphasize the special warmth and sense of community on the island.

2. Blue Zone: Okinawa in Japan

Okinawa is located in the very south of Japan.
Okinawa is located in the very south of Japan. (Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / MacotoSeimori)

Okinawa is also an island in the south of Japan. It has a subtropical climate in which people, among other things Sweet potatoes, soy and grow a lot of vegetables. Okinawa was declared the Blue Zone mainly because the oldest women live there National Geographic.

The magazine spectrum this is not only due to the largely plant-based diet and moderate food, but also to the principle “Ikigai“: The word means something like” worth living “and is firmly anchored in the life of the Japanese and especially on Okinawa. It is more important than material success that you find and live your calling in life – into old age. In his article, Buettner reports, for example, about 80-year-olds who still train daily for the annual decathlon.

3. Blue Zone: Ogliastra in Sardinia

In Sardinia, people stay in the family for life.
In Sardinia, people stay in the family for life. (Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / sabinevanerp)

The Ogliastra region in Sardinia is known as the Blue Zone for the fact that the oldest men worldwide live here. Many of them work as shepherds into old age. They believe that they are mostly through their healthy eating grow old: The menu mainly contains plant foods such as Potatoes, Beans, cereals and vegetables, as well as pasture dairy products, many Omega-3 fatty acids contain. According to the spectrum, people get particularly old here because they stay in the family for their whole life and their reputation grows with age.

4. Blue Zone: Loma Linda in California

Growing old with God's help: the Seventh-day Adventists
Growing old with God’s help: the Seventh-day Adventists (Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / congerdesign)

The small town of Loma Linda in California is home to a particularly large number of Seventh-day Adventists. This Christian religious community has long been the subject of research: In the “Adventist Health Studies“Over a period of 40 years, it was examined whether there is a connection between the Adventist’s eating habits and their high life expectancy. According to Buettner’s report, they live four to ten years more than the average Californian. The scientists believe that residents are less likely to develop cardiovascular diseases and cancer because the Adventists eat a plant-based and natural diet.

Adventists from the Blue Zone Loma Linda also say that their beliefs keep them healthy. That cannot be ruled out: some scientists have proventhat people who have strong faith and go to church regularly get older on average and stay healthy longer than the average.

5. Blue Zone: Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica

Regular exercise is healthy.
Regular exercise is healthy. (Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / MabelAmber)

Buettner and his team also identified another blue zone on the American continent: the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica. According to National Geographic, the mortality rate is lowest in middle age and there are the most men over 100 years old after the Blue Zone in Sardinia. According to Buettner’s report, this is primarily due to the strong social and spiritual community of the people and regular exercise.

What do we learn from the Blue Zones?

Despite the rather simple lifestyle, the Blue Zones have modern health care.
Despite the rather simple lifestyle, the Blue Zones have modern health care. (Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / sasint)

First of all, you can see that life in the Blue Zones has some things in common. The scientists who accompanied Buettner in his search count The following points on:

  • All blue zones are in a way isolated: These are islands, peninsulas, mountainous regions or small towns.
  • People still live comparatively traditionally. They live mainly from agriculture, as shepherds or fishermen and are accordingly regularly on the move and in the fresh air.
  • It also fits that people mainly eat what grows or can be caught in their immediate vicinity. Processed foods are rarely eaten. Interestingly, that is Nutrition in the different blue zones apart from that quite different. For example, people eat in Nicoya on average more meat than in the other blue zones.
  • The social networks in the Blue Zones are very strong: people remain involved in family and friends until old age and actively help shape life.

Despite the comparatively original lifestyle, it should not be neglected that the Blue Zones now also have a modern health care feature. In Ikaria, for example, there is one based on the number of inhabitants big hospital. This is likely to help extend people’s lives.

It may also be no coincidence that all blue zones are located in subtropical to tropical regions: Scientists suspect that a lack of vitamin D is the lifespan shorten can. In the Blue Zones people get a lot of sun on average, so Vitamin DDefects are unlikely.

Blue Zones: is it that easy?

Does this unlock the secret of a long life? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Because one There is no systematic investigation and comparison with other population groups. For example, it would be interesting to know if there are other areas that also apply to the above points and where people still don’t grow old. A items formulates the problem as follows: “The world is so big, you will always find places where people are particularly fat, thin, tall or short – or just become particularly old.”

It would also be interesting to investigate how old people in the Blue Zones will be if they don’t live according to the above points. Such an experimental building would not be possible for ethical reasons.

Overall, it is therefore difficult to say how much the four aspects really contribute to people getting older than average and staying healthy for a long time.

Blue Zones: is it just the genes?

Is the secret of the blue zones in the genes?
Is the secret of the blue zones in the genes? (Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / qimono)

Another question arises: may it be you Geneswho make people in the Blue Zones grow old? Do you just have particularly good genes? Studies on twins like that Danish twin study disprove this claim: the genes only appear at one time small part to influence.

A examination the Nicoya people come to a similar conclusion. There it was found that residents of Nicoya who move out of the Blue Zone no longer live above average.

However, the residents of the Blue Zones could be different influence each other: Long-term studies like that Framingham Heart Study have shown that people are more likely to become overweight if they are surrounded by overweight people. Blue Zones may work similarly, but there are no studies on them.

Observations from the Blue Zones are not evidence, but they are understandable

People who reach very old age are mostly satisfied with their lives.
People who reach very old age are mostly satisfied with their lives. (Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / Free-Photos)

So far, it has not been clearly proven why people in the Blue Zones grow so old – whether it is just a coincidence, people mutually influencing each other or actually lifestyle playing the most important role.

However, it is clear that the lifestyle in the Blue Zones largely coincides with what we generally think is healthy. People eat fresh, unprocessed food and exercise regularly in the fresh air. Studies on over 100 year olds in Germany also show that they are mostly satisfied with their lives, still get involved in society and see a meaning in their existence. This coincides with the observations from the Blue Zones. Age research will have to reveal more about the secret of a long life in the coming years.

Read more on utopia.de:

  • Cooking healthy: This is how you prepare your food optimally
  • WHO study: why men live shorter – 4 reasons
  • World Happiness Report 2019: People are happiest here

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