The Principles of the Blue Zone Diet

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What is the blue zone diet?
Does science back the blue zone diet?
What do clinicians and dieticians have to say about the blue zone diet?
References 
Further reading


A person's health and longevity are directly impacted by the food they eat and the nutritional value the food contains. Diets play a pivotal role in governing and improving one's state of physical and mental health. There are certain geographical locations on Earth where people are comparatively healthier and live longer than the population elsewhere. These regions are referred to as blue zones, and their unique nutritional diet is called the blue zone diet. 

Image Credit: marilyn barbone/Shutterstock.com

Image Credit: marilyn barbone/Shutterstock.com

What is the blue zone diet?

Blue zones were identified in 2004 by Dan Buettner, an American author and a fellow of National Geographic. He led an exploration project with a team of scientists, demographers, and researchers and identified five isolated geographical regions where the population had a longer lifespan. These were the Okinawa island in Japan, the Barbagia region of Sardinia, the peninsula of Nicoya in Costa Rica, the island of Ikaria in Greece, and the city of Loma Linda in California, USA. 

The concept of blue zones originated when a large proportion of male centenarians were identified in Sardinia by Michael Poulain and Gianni Pes, who published their findings in the Journal of Experimental Gerontology.

Later, Dan Buettner and his team conducted further research and identified nine specific habits known as Power 9 that were prevalent in these areas. These include – move naturally, purpose, downshift, 80% rule, plant slant, wine at 5, belong, loved ones first, and right tribe. According to the, one can increase their lifespan by 10-12 years by adopting these habits.

The basic pillars of the blue zone diet are – plant slant, retreat from meat, fish is fine, diminish diary, occasional egg, daily dose of beans, slash sugar, snack on nuts, sour on bread, go wholly whole, eat super blue foods, and drink mostly water.

Does science back the blue zone diet?

A diet comprising plants, especially green leaves such as spinach, kale, beet and turnip tops, chard, and collards, contributes to a longer lifespan. These, along with seasonal fruits, beans, and whole grains, constitute the blue zone diet.

Olive oil, which has been found to lower bad cholesterol and increase the level of good cholesterol in the body, is commonly used. Oleocanthal, a vital component of olive oil, has proven anti-inflammatory properties. According to a report in Ikaria (Greece), a daily consumption of six tablespoons of olive oil can reduce the risk of death by 50% in middle-aged people.

The general mental health and well-being of participants in programs promoting a higher intake of plant-based foods improved as well. It was noted that the depressive symptoms decreased while the quality of sleep increased.

The blue zone diet suggests that a reduced consumption of meat (about two ounces five times a month) can also significantly impact health and longevity. The longest-living Americans were found to be vegans or pesco vegetarians, who followed a plant-based diet with a limited bit of fish. The Adventist Health Study 2 has been tracking 96,000 Americans since 2002. The greatest meat alternative is perhaps provided by Okinawans, which is tofu, a protein and phyto-estrogens-rich food item that can fight cancer.

Eggs form an important part of the blue zone diet and are consumed by Okinawans (boiled egg in soup), Nicoyans (fried eggs), and Mediterranean people (fried egg as a side dish) as well. These are eggs hatched from healthy chickens that grow naturally and mature without any intake of hormones or antibiotics. They are thus rich in omega-3 fatty acids. 

Beans are the most commonly consumed food across all the blue zones due to their high nutritional value. People in the Mediterranean consume a variety of beans, including lentils, garbanzo, and white beans. Soybeans are popular among Okinawans, while the Nicoyans eat the black beans.

The blue zone diet also advocates for an increased consumption of nuts on a regular basis. A mixture of different nuts can provide essential vitamins and minerals to the body – vitamin B (peanuts), vitamin E (almonds), and magnesium (almonds and cashews), among others.

Liquid intake, especially red wine, is also a major dietary habit followed by individuals residing in the blue zone areas. Sardinians moderately consume Cannonau wine, which contains twice the amount of artery-scrubbing flavonoids than other wines.

What do clinicians and dieticians have to say about the blue zone diet?

According to the Physicians Association for Nutrition (PAN), "A diet rich in whole plant foods with little to no animal products might be the best option to support a healthy and long life. People living in the Blue Zones show how it can be done!"

According to a study, individuals following a plant-based diet had higher or similar intakes of vitamins A, E, and C, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, and potassium, and lower or similar intakes of vitamins B6, B12, and D, zinc, iodine, phosphorous, and sodium, compared to those following an omnivorous diet.

Clinical studies over the years have shown that a diet based primarily on plants can cut mortality from all causes as well as the risk of ischemic heart disease. Additionally, it can improve glycemic, cholesterol, and blood pressure control, which can minimize the need for prescription drugs.

Clinical studies show that plant-based diets can reduce cardiovascular morbidity and death. The consumption of fish and its potential to prevent depression is linked to another beneficial correlation between the Mediterranean diet and longevity.

References

Further Reading

 

Article Revisions

  • Feb 23 2024 - Correction, Ikaria (Sardinia) changed to Ikaria (Greece).

Last Updated: Feb 22, 2024

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Comments

  1. Murat Turkoglu Murat Turkoglu Turkey says:

    Ikeria is an island in Greece not in Sardinia...

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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