Longevity around the world
Recently on the National Geographic web site there was an article about the longevity of people in Costa Rica. In November 2005 National Geographic also had an article about longevity. It focused on three specific groups of people that were known to live longer than average lives – people in Sardinia, Italy and Okinawa, Japan and Seventh-day Adventists in California.
In Sardinia, Italy the number of centenarians is twice as high as the rest of Italy and men live about as long as women. In fact, while the ratio of female to male centenarians in the U.S. is around 4 to 1 – in Sardinia its closer to 1 to 1. Sardinians tend to stay both physically and socially active, eat lots of fruits and vegetables and dairy high in omega-3 fatty acids.
Likewise, Okinawans have an active social life, stay physically active and eat mostly plant derived foods. Seventh-day Adventists in California tend to live 4 to 10 years longer than average Californians. They don’t eat red meat and very little of any other meat. They eat mostly plants: grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts. They also avoid smoking, alcohol and caffeine.
In the recent article about Costa Ricans, Dan Buettner (who also wrote the 2005 article) has found the same characteristics as the people mentioned above – “a plant-based diet; regular, low-intensity activity; an investment in family; a sense of faith; and purpose”. He also says “”We know that people who make it to a hundred tend to be nice”.
Apparently genetics only play a small role in determining longevity – between 6 and 25 percent. The rest seems to be how you live your life (and maybe a bit of luck).
My personal opinion is that it is the plant based diet and regular exercise along with avoiding smoking that makes the most difference. And really none of this should be surprising, we’ve just gotten so used to eating processed foods and too much meat and fat, that we’ve lost touch with common sense when it comes to eating.
In any case Dan Buettner has written a book about the topic: The Blue Zone: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, which is available both in hardcover and with Kindle. (I haven’t read this book so I can’t recommend it one way or the other and Amazon does not provide the ‘search inside this book’ feature for it either.)
For more information about this topic National Geographic has a video story based on the 2005 article: Secrets of Living Longer. (Warning: it has sound and I don’t see a way to turn it off.)
There is also a ‘Blue Zones’ community which I may check into myself soon.
wikipedia entry on Dan_Buettner
How To Live To 100 – Nine Healthy Habits – a Huffington Post story.
Field Notes From Author Dan Buettner – from National Geographic.
For other information about food and eating author Michael Pollan has written much on the topic.
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on July 16th, 2008 at 8:11 pm
Don’t forget that acupuncture is a great preventative medicine – it keeps your systems in balance which can then lead to a long healthy life, too! Even if we don’t feel as if something is wrong, today’s lifestyles do wear on our bodies. With acupuncture and pulse diagnosis, you can catch any imbalances of energy and by re-balancing the body, stop further illness and encourage good health.
Also, growing up in a Chinese home, I’ve always eaten meat, but the portions are smaller than “typical American” portions. My philosophy is a little bit of everything in moderation. But I agree with you about the over indulgence in processed foods that no longer have any nutritional value to offer!
on December 25th, 2008 at 5:22 am
Yes, genetics and lifestyle are certainly important factors in longevity.
Resveratrol may well be one piece in the puzzle of living longer.
However, many people would do well to focus on simple markers which are known to shorten life for very many.
Two obvious examples are:
1. Generalised inflammation, and
2. Homocysteine level.
Identifying indications like these – from blood tests – would have the potential to stop many thousands dying early. Of course they would need to follow the necessary treatment; but in these two cases the treatment is usually fairly simple, and can be monitored by repeating the blood tests.
Then they could reap the benefits of the (healthy) lifestyle choices they made and their inherited DNA.
on June 1st, 2009 at 1:54 pm
I come from a home that has two centenarians both of whom were raised on the mediterranean diet.