The Blue Zones of the Earth - Part 2

The Blue Zones of the Earth - Part 2

Science, TLL LongevityLabs

Earlier this month we brought you the Blue Zones places that are characterized by the longevity of their inhabitants. After Ikaria and Okinawa, today we turn our attention to two more Blue Zones by Dan Buettner: Ogliastra in Sardinia and Loma Linda in California.

As a reminder, Dan Buettner traveled the world in cooperation with National Geographic and international scientists in search of "longevity hotspots". In 2005, it presented its findings in the article "The Secrets of Longevity," which named five areas where people grow oldest and stay healthy the longest. We have already presented Ikaria in Greece and Okinawa in Japan. Now we turn our attention to the next geographical fountains of youth.

Ogliastra & the isolated Italians

Ogliastra is the part in the east of Sardinia that faces the Italian mainland. The area owes its name to the wild olive, in local language "Oleaster". The land itself still stands for the untouched and wild nature and is one of the most beautiful and varied regions. Surrounded by mountains in the north, west and south, the central lowlands open up in the east to the Tyrrhenian Sea with its magnificent sandy beaches. The hinterland attracts with magnificent gorges. The Gola su Gorroppu is one of the deepest gorges in Europe.

The island also has much to offer in the way of history and culture: The nuraghi, circular building structures, are still witnesses of an ancient culture that is passed on to younger generations through numerous legends. Their origin lies in the bizarre nature, the impressive rocky landscapes and the heroic deeds of the saints, who are still commemorated with thanksgiving festivals.

It was only in 2005 that Ogliastra became a province in its own right, breaking two records among Italian provinces: It is the least populated and at the same time the most long-lived part of the country, with the highest number of centenarians in all of Italy. Men in particular seem to have found their fountain of youth here. The Ogliastra region is home to the oldest men in the world.

So what do they do differently from us?

The inhabitants live culturally secluded lives in the region and have thus preserved their traditional, healthy lifestyle preserved. The Sardinians still live by hunting, fishing and harvesting their own fields. They are characterized by a close relationship with family and friends and stay with the family throughout their lives. They also have special respect for the elders of society. In their culture, prestige increases with age. Laughing together and drinking a glass or two of red wine are as much a part of their daily lives as exercise and hard work. Many of the men work as shepherds into old age, covering about 8 kilometers a day, which could be one reason for their longevity.

The islanders attribute their good health primarily to their healthy diet. Their diet consists mainly of plant foods such as potatoes, beans, whole grains and vegetables. But dairy products from the grazing animals, which contain many omega-3 fatty acids, are also part of the daily meals. In addition, residents use mastic oil - an oil extracted from the resin of mastic bushes, a wild species of pistachio.

Loma Linda & the faithful Americans

Loma Linda is a small town in San Bernardino County in the southern part of the U.S. state of California. California is one of the largest states by area and by far the most populous in the United States of America. It is located in the west and borders on the Pacific Ocean, three other American states and the Mexican state of Baja California on the peninsula of the same name. The region's official nickname, the Golden State, derives from the California Gold Rush in the 19th century.

The city of Loma Linda has about 20,000 inhabitants and is spread over an area of 19 km2. From the outward appearance, it is like any other US small town. However, the town belongs to one of the largest Seventh-day Adventist (STA) congregations with nearly 9,000 members. The STA denomination is a Protestant free church that is spread worldwide and is similar in doctrine to other Protestant and especially Baptist churches.

This Christian religious community has been the subject of research for some time. The "Adventist Health Studies" wanted to find out whether there is a connection between the dietary habits of Adventists and their high life expectancy. They investigated this over a period of 40 years.

The results of the studies are impressive:

  • The less animal products one eats, the less frequently obesity and other typical civilization diseases such as diabetes, lipid metabolism disorders, heart disease and cancer occur.
  • The more plant foods one eats, the more pronounced the protective effect.
  • Consuming very small amounts of animal products - less than once a month - has no negative effect on health.

As Buettner explained in his report, residents live four to 10 years more than the average Californian. Scientists attribute this longevity to date to the to the Adventists' plant-based and natural of Adventists. Believers view their bodies as temples and abstain from alcohol, nicotine, coffee and pork for religious reasons. Most Adventists eat a whole foods diet, often vegetarian or even vegan.

Loma Linda's Adventists say their faith keeps them healthy. That, too, cannot be ruled out. Some researchers have shown that people with strong faith who attend church regularly get a little older on average and stay healthier longer than average.

Well, we don't want to seduce anyone into faith here, but at least when it comes to diet, we can definitely still learn something from the Sardinians and Adventists. Respecting one's own body as a temple is an approach we think is a good one. Here is the third part of our series, in which we introduce you to the Blue Zones of the earth and what we can learn from the inhabitants there:

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