There have always been tales told of the Fountain of Youth. A mythical tale of a hidden water source that allowed the drinker to stay forever young. Or the many tales of Nicolas Flamel, a fourteenth century scribe who is said to made an elixir of life and achieved immortality. But where these stories dabble in fiction there are communities sprinkled over the world that do have a proven record of people living longer. Much longer, with growing numbers of octogenarians, nonagenarians and centenarians. These blue zones are found in Sardina, Italy, Okinawa, Japan, Loma Linda, California, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica, and Icaria, Greece.
So obviously, there have been many studies done to find out what is helping these people live so long. And in their research they have found some similarities. Dan Buettner’s Book “The Blue Zones” give 9 common lifestyle characteristics
1. Moderate, regular physical activity
2. Life Purpose
3. Stress Reduction
4. Moderate Caloric Intake
5. Plant-based Diet
6. Moderate Alcohol intake, especially wine
7. Engagement in spirituality or religion
8. Engagement in family life
9. Engagement in social life
Not that these cultures are all exactly the same. Each of these locations does have a unique flavor to their way of life. On the island of Icaria in Greece many of the people studied are walking so much because the island has very steep hills so they are climbing regularly. In fact the researchers who were twice as young would have a hard time keeping up with them. Whereas the older generations in Okinawa, Japan do not have a lot of furniture in their homes and when eating or resting will sit on the ground so that exercise of getting up and down several times a day has helped keep their muscles and bones stronger. The older generations on the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica actually were found to be drinking water percolates through the limestone that is very high in calcium and magnesium which does seem to have helped in having healthy bones.
A plant based diet does seem to run very consistently through each of these communities. They eat a lot of vegetables, fruits and complex carbohydrates. About 95% of their caloric intake is plant based while only 5%is from animal products. Which is very different than what we have heard from the cultural phenomenons of the Atkins and Paleo Diets. They also regularly snack on nuts.
We may not have found the fountain of youth but we may have found a way to live a longer and happier life.