When life expectancy in developed countries and the Third World has declined, it is no surprise that Dan Buettner’s exploration of the centenarians of the longest-lived communities on Earth is attracting a lot of attention. Dan Buettner is an American writer, speaker, and explorer known for his work in longevity and wellness.
In his new Netflix documentary, “Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones,” there is a picture-postcard scene set against the backdrop of the turquoise waters and sugar sand beaches of Okinawa, a subtropical archipelago about 1,000 miles (1,609.34 km) away south of Tokyo. For example, compared to Americans, Okinawan are three times more likely to turn 100, according to Buettner’s research. Centennials live there, garden, cook, sing, laugh, and play. Their tanned skin and slow gait do not prevent them from living fully, even if it is simply. There are equally beautiful scenes from other long-lived communities, which Buettner calls “Blue Zones,” including Ikaria, an island off the coast of Greece in the Aegean Sea, and the mountain towns of Sardinia, Italy.
“In the Blue Zones, no one thinks about a strict diet or exercise program. People live their lives,” Buettner says. Without realizing it and through their habits, rituals, and cultural norms, these centenarians have created an environment that promotes health and longevity.
People in long-lived communities, incorporate movement into their daily lives, gardening, working the land, and spending time outdoors. “Plant a garden anywhere,” says Buettner. A garden pushes weeding, watering, and harvesting almost daily, keeping them going. Additionally, instead of resting on reclining sofas, they spend more time on the floor, sitting or squatting.
“I sat for two days with a 104-year-old woman who stood up and sat down 30 times,” Buettner recalls. This helps maintain leg strength and contributes to better balance and flexibility, a healthier back, and fewer falls. Falls are the leading cause of injuries and death from injuries in people over 65 years of age in the US.
Buettner describes his encounter with the world’s oldest family, whose collective age of nine siblings is 860 years (an average of 95 years each). His daily staple is a traditional minestrone made with leftover vegetables, beans, a little barley, tomatoes, and olive oil.
Although the Blue Zones are geographically different, their meals are similar. The mainstays of the Blue Zones diet are whole grains, vegetables, legumes, and tubers, such as sweet potatoes. A cup of beans a day is associated with four more years of life expectancy. Most cook their meals and use herbs like fennel, oregano and sage. In Blue Zones, over 95% of dietary intake comes from plant-based foods.
The typical diet in the US includes about 220 pounds (99.79 kg) of meat per year per person. In Blue Zones, it’s about 20 pounds (9.07 kg) a year.