Blue Zones is a concept made popular by author and now-Netflix series host Dan Buettner. If you are not familiar, a blue zone is an area where people live extraordinaraily long lives. There are apparently five such zones. Why am I suspicious about this story, even though I have written about it in the past myself?
I love stories about longevity. A human being beating the odds. But you have to apply an objective scalpel to the story. The science of longevity is not about feeling good, it is about doing the right things. Dan visits several of the blue zones. Okinawa in Japan and Ikaria in Greece. From his visit, he hones in on the possible reasons why people here live so long.
First, they have a focus on eating plant-based whole foods. Whole foods include grains and cereals. Next, they are active all the time. They tend to their sheep, they climb steep hills, and they garden or work on their farms. Essentially, they live an active life and get in much more than the much-abused and patently incorrect 10,000 steps daily.
They meet in small groups frequently, have strong social bonds, and do things together. They sing, dance, teach, play, and interact well into old age. They have strong family bonds, with the children living with them. Strong social connections, he tells us, increase longevity.
They have a purpose. In Singapore, for example, an old grandfather tends to the grandson while the mother is working. He makes sure they have breakfast and do their homework.
He tends to make sweeping statements along with the people in the film. For example, he says that since you are active, it must be the secret to your longevity. The person featured nods in agreements. So what is the problem?
Go back and look at the factors that predict longevity. If you are in India, I would guarantee that most of these have been true for a large part of India in the past hundred years.
We are predominantly plant-based and have strong social connections. We worked hard since we were all poor, had strong family ties, and so on. Except, apparently, there is no blue zone in India. So is the science wrong? He makes a great case for living a clean, healthy life. Does it really predict longevity? I don't know!