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What Is a Blue Zone? Where the Healthiest People Live

Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Dr. Eric Venn-Watson’s Highlights
  • Blue Zones are areas in the world where the residents live to be at least 100 years old. 

    These areas all share some common factors that help people live longer and healthier lives

    By adopting these habits and taking a supplement like fatty15, we can support our own efforts to live longer, healthier lives

How long will you live? If you’re like most people, you don’t give that question much thought until you have reason to truly consider your own longevity. 

Maybe you’ve received a medical diagnosis that could shorten your lifespan. Perhaps you’re wondering how long you’ll get to spend with your children or grandchildren. 

Whatever the reason, at some point, we all consider just how long our bodies will last. There’s good news: scientists are wondering the same thing. In fact, they’ve been researching our longevity for a very long time and studying the lifestyle patterns of those among us who seem to live the longest. 

Centenarians, people who live to be at least 100 years old, might hold the secrets of how to improve longevity. By studying how they live, we can unlock the keys to a longer, healthier life ourselves. 

Let’s take a look at how these people live, where they live, and how we can use the information researchers have collected from them to pattern our lifestyles in a way that can improve and lengthen our lifespans. 

Where Do Centenarians Live?

Your last scroll through Netflix might have brought you across a popular documentary produced by National Geographic entitled Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones. In this documentary, author Dan Buettner travels the world to discover the areas where people are living the longest, healthiest lives. 

In the series, five Blue Zones, or locations where a considerable number of the inhabitants live to be 100 or older, were identified. 

They include:

  • Ikaria, Greece
  • Loma Linda, California
  • Sardinia, Italy
  • Okinawa, Japan
  • Nicoya, Costa Rica

These five regions boasted the places in the world that met certain criteria determined by researchers to qualify them as Blue Zones.

Blue Zone Criteria

To be considered a Blue Zone, these five areas had to meet certain criteria. Meeting these criteria helped researchers determine the validity of these areas and better understand the habits of the populations there that were effective in lengthening their lifespans. 

  • Documentation. The areas where people lived the longest had to have documentation (like birth certificates and death records) that were factual, reliable, and available for review. 
  • Life expectancy of the country. The life expectancy of the population living in the country had to be among the highest in the world. These life expectancy computations took into consideration numerous demographic factors, sex, and overall population age. 
  • Regional life expectancy. Once the first two criteria had been met, the researchers could hone in on the region where the population lived the longest. To determine where that region was, researchers considered the probability of life expectancy at certain ages in each region (the probability that a person would live from age 50 to 80, etc.).

Once these criteria have been met, the researchers dive into the local culture, talking to the residents and observing their lifestyles to determine what sets them apart from the rest of the world. Just how were these people not only living longer but also living healthier?

The Blue Zone “Power 9

After observing the people in the Blue Zones, researchers noticed patterns. Even though these regions were separated by thousands of miles and were located on completely different continents, they all shared nine factors. 

These lifestyle habits, referred to as the Power 9, became the framework for better understanding how Blue Zone centenarians lived and thrived. 

1. Natural Movement 

Physical activity is important, but the type of physical activity enjoyed by the inhabitants of Blue Zones differs from the type of physical activity with which most of us are familiar. Instead of hitting the gym to lift heavy weights, running marathons, or doing strenuous exercise, the centenarians in the Blue Zones live a life of constant, natural movement. 

Walking, gardening, shopping, cooking, and cleaning are examples of these everyday activities that drive Blue Zone inhabitants to move more and sit less. One difference between American movement and the movement in these zones is that the people have less access to modern conveniences like public transportation, gardening and lawn care services, or grocery delivery. 

This lack of modern convenience drives people to move more to accomplish the same things that are accomplished in America without as much movement. 

2. Understanding Purpose

A main theme among the inhabitants of Blue Zones is understanding and having a purpose. Okinawans call it “Ikigai.” 

This sense of purpose is directly tied to a higher life expectancy but also relies on other factors included in the power 9, like a sense of community, continuing to develop and interact with a social network, and enjoying a less stressful life. 

Having a clearly defined reason to live, a “life’s purpose,” was associated with an additional seven years of life.

3. Less Stress, Less Inflammation

Chronic stress is a real problem. Not only does it negatively impact a person’s mental health, but it also breeds low-level inflammation in the body, which is associated with age-related diseases like heart disease and type II diabetes. In Blue Zones, people manage stress daily by praying, meditating, or partaking in happy hour. 

4. Eating Less

Part of a Blue Zone diet includes eating less. Okinawans call it the 80% rule. They eat until they are 80% full and then stop eating. 

This is one reason they experience lower rates of obesity than other regions of the world. In addition, most people living in Blue Zones taper their meals. This means they eat most of their food in the morning, tapering their meals by early evening and not eating the rest of the day. 

5. Less Meat, More Plants

There are numerous benefits of a plant-based diet, like less calorie intake and a reduced risk of certain age-related illnesses. However, observing the diets of centenarians in Blue Zones may make you even more apt to adopt a more plant-forward food journey. 

Blue Zone inhabitants in every region have a diet that consists primarily of plants, specifically legumes like lentils, black beans, fava beans, and soy. They also eat very little meat, usually no more than a small three to four-ounce portion, about five times per month. 

6. Wine Time

There’s conflicting research about the use of alcohol. The World Health Organization has advised against consuming alcohol altogether. However, Blue Zone centenarians might be an exception to the rule. 

Centenarians in Blue Zones (excluding Seventh-Day Adventists) drink wine regularly, but it’s important to note how and when they drink it. According to research, wine is consumed daily after 5:00 p.m. and always with friends and family. 

It’s also important to note that the amount of wine consumed is limited (no more than one to two small glasses). The type of wine, usually Sardinian, is also important. 

7. Establish a Sense of Belonging

The centenarians that were interviewed for the NatGeo documentary all belonged to some type of faith-based community except five. These types of communities establish a sense of belonging, bring purpose and meaning to life, and help people continue to feel needed and purposeful. 

8. Keep Family Close

Researchers noticed that in Blue Zones, nursing homes and extended care facilities were almost non-existent. Why? Families in these areas cared for their ailing and aging relatives themselves in their own homes. 

Keeping their families close had benefits not just for the aging but also for children living in the home. It also established a pattern that was adopted by children brought up in these households; they, too, assumed the responsibility of caring for aging parents. 

9. Support One Another

The longest-living people were found in groups of supporting, caring people. These people had either chosen their tribe or been born into them. 

The Okinawans refer to them as moais. These groups of people take care of and look after one another. Whether it means taking each other to doctor appointments or simply meeting for breakfast, these small social groups helped increase the well-being of the members and supported a longer, happier life. 

Healthy behaviors are contagious, and simply surrounding themselves with like-minded people helped increase the lifespan of Blue Zone centenarians. 

How Do I Adopt a Blue Zone Lifestyle?

You don’t have to live on the Nicoya peninsula or move to California to work on increasing your longevity. The information we’ve collected from Blue Zones allows us to adopt certain lifestyle habits and support a longer, healthier life. 

Stay Active

Movement is important, and it’s foundational to all Blue Zones. Walking more than you sit is key if you want to live a healthy life free from injury and avoid losing your mobility. 

Rethink Your Diet

Maybe a meatless diet sounds impossible. That’s okay. You can still opt to include more meatless dishes and make replacements to help establish a healthier diet. 

Substituting whole grains for refined carbohydrates, choosing lean meats and fish when you eat meat, and increasing your intake of legumes are great ways to start. 

Build Your Tribe

A longer life is consistently associated with a continued interest and involvement in a social network. If you find it hard to connect with others, consider checking out faith-based communities or groups that meet to discuss hobbies or interests you share. 

Take a Supplement

In addition to diet, exercise, and social activity, new research has linked a particular fatty acid supplement to healthy aging and longevity. Pentadecanoic acid, also known as C15:0, is an odd-chain, saturated fatty acid that is essential and helps support a long life by fortifying your cellular health.

The foundation of our health lies in our cells, and when they begin to lose function with age, so do we. C15:0 helps reverse cellular aging and repairs damaged cells by:

  • Keeping cell membranes strong. A sturdy fatty acid, C15:0 integrates into cell membranes, strengthening them by 80%. 
  • Activating AMPK. AMPK is a molecule the body uses to clear away damaged cells that can lead to inflammation and toxicity. It also helps establish homeostasis with functions like glucose uptake. By activating AMPK, C15:0 helps ensure these processes are working properly. 
  • Stemming cellular senescence (zombie cells, a key hallmark of aging). C15:0 inhibits mTOR. This nifty skill helps to effectively knock out dysfunctional ‘zombie cells’ that damage our bodies and result in aging-related breakdown.
  • Regulating inflammatory response. C15:0 significantly lowers and calms levels of proinflammatory cytokines, molecules that are a key driver in the aging process. 
  • Restoring mitochondria. Aging mitochondria can’t power your cells like they should. They produce less ATP (cellular energy) and more ROS (reactive oxygen species). C15:0 helps restore failing mitochondria by decreasing ROS output by 45% and increasing ATP by up to 350%.
  • Activating PPARɑ and PPARẟ receptors. These receptors regulate immunity, sleep, mood, and even appetite. By activating them, C15:0 helps establish balance and regularity with these functions. 

Foundationally, C15:0 is one of the healthiest and smartest ways to take care of your body and live a longer, healthier life. Getting it into your body is easy when you take fatty15.

Fatty15 is the world’s first and only C15:0 supplement that contains the pure, sustainable, and vegan-friendly version of C15:0. Just one capsule per day is all you need to restore your circulating levels of C15:0 and support a longer, healthier living you.

Bring On the Blues

Learning from Blue Zone centenarians can help us understand the lifestyle habits that can help us lead longer, healthier lives. Combining their lifestyle habits with fatty15 can give our bodies a chance to live longer and age more healthfully. 

Aging happens, but our bodies don’t have to break down with age. Following the Blue Zone criteria and taking fatty15 can help you be proactive in your body’s healthy aging. 

Sources:

Blue Zones Criteria|Blue Zones.com

Power 9® - Blue Zones|Blue Zones.com

From Ageism to the Longevity Revolution: Robert Butler, Pioneer | The Gerontologist | Oxford Academic

Nutritional Update for Physicians: Plant-Based Diets | PMC

Social networks, social support, and life expectancy in older adults: the Cardiovascular Health Study

Efficacy of dietary odd-chain saturated fatty acid pentadecanoic acid parallels broad associated health benefits in humans: could it be essential? | Scientific Reports

A review of odd-chain fatty acid metabolism and the role of pentadecanoic Acid (c15:0) and heptadecanoic Acid (c17:0) in health and disease

Profile photo for Eric Venn-Watson

Eric Venn-Watson M.D.

Eric is a physician, U.S. Navy veteran, and Co-founder and COO of Seraphina Therapeutics. Eric served over 25 years as a Navy and Marine Corps physician, working with the special forces community to improve their health and fitness. Seraphina Therapeutics is a health and wellness company dedicated to advancing global health through the discovery of essential fatty acids and micronutrient therapeutics.

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