On the Greek island of Ikaria, it is said that people simply forgot to die. The region is one of the five “Blue Zones”. The term was introduced in 2005 and summarizes the areas where people live much longer than average.
Dan Buettner first described these zones in the cover story “The Secrets of a Long Life” in “National Geographic” magazine. Buettner visited all regions himself to get his own impression of the “centenarians” and their way of life. Buettner's new Netflix series "How to Live to 100: The Secrets of the Blue Zones" shows how you should live to reach old age while remaining healthy and not losing your joy in life. A study on the island of Ikaria, for example, found the location with the highest percentage of 90-year-olds in the world - almost one in three will live to be 90 there.
The Blue Zones also include the Italian Mediterranean island of Sardinia, particularly Ogliastra and a village called Seuolo. Demographers have hit on the longevity hotspot here.
From 1996 to 2016, the village held the centenarian record. 20 residents were over 100 years old. Seuolo was therefore recognized as a place "where people live the longest in the world". The island of Okinawa in Japan is also one of the blue zones. As well as the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica and the city of Loma Lina in California - primarily a group of Seventh-day Adventists who are among the longest living people in North America.
Regions that are spread across the entire globe. But what unites these selected places? They have common lifestyle characteristics: family is more important to the residents than other concerns, only a few smoke, they are physically active, socially involved and eat mainly vegetarian food, including a lot of legumes.
The diet of people in the Blue Zones also stems from the fact that it is the most affordable foods: beans, grains, roots, salads, legumes. They have also developed recipes and methods for making tasty dishes from the simplest ingredients. Then eat them together at the same table. In addition, as already mentioned, people not only eat well, but also have active social lives and follow rituals that minimize stress. So what does this mean for our rather hectic lifestyles?
Quite a lot, actually. With the help of Dan Buettner, for example, the first communities in the USA are trying out the “Blue Zone Diet”. With success: In some regions, the obesity rate among children fell dramatically, and Fort Worth in Texas transformed from one of the unhealthiest to one of the healthiest cities in the USA.
So it seems there is something to the good diet of centenarians - and it's worth trying out for yourself. Perhaps people in more urban areas would soon greet each other like the Greeks on the island of Ikaria. They say "Akentannos" as a greeting, i.e. "I'll see you when you're 100".
Sources: National Geographic, CNN