The Blue Zones, book review

Originally born as a feature in National Geographic magazine, American writer Dan Buettner's hypothesis that there were important lessons to be learned from the world's Blue Zones (places with an especially high density of centenarian residents) eventually became an in-depth research project that spawned this book.

NatGeo is natural science for the masses and Buettner's tone of voice reflects that, making it an accessible read for all, even those who rarely read a book with an index.

The essential premise here is that by visiting these five longevity hotspots and studying their lifestyles, certain common traits could be identified that would offer guidance in living a long, healthy life. We therefore visit a series of traditional, often fairly isolated communities in Costa Rica, California, Japan, Sardinia and Greece that have largely avoided the onset of globalization, fast food and modern conveniences. Can you see where we're going with this..?

What we found most exciting here were the similarities between Buettner's conclusions and the key tenets of the primal lifestyle or evolutionary health philosophy.  Just look at this list of the key takeouts for a sense of what we mean:

  • Eat a lean, plant-based diet accented with meat
  • Put family first; respect and cherish elders
  • Get gardening, grow medicinal herbs and plants for your kitchen
  • Take a walk, don't shy away from physical work and stay active 
  • Socialize, foster a small group of like-minded friends late into life
  • Have a reason to get up in the morning, an 'ikigai' (Japanese) or 'plan de vida' (Costa Rican)
  • Enjoy some sunshine for Vitamin D production (strong bones means no osteoporosis)
  • Drinks lots of water. Every. Single. Day.
  • Find your sanctuary - take some time each week to step back from the rigors of daily life
  • Fast occasionally - give your digestive system some time off 
  • Inconvenience yourself - ultimately we only become stronger by overcoming mild obstacles

Check out www.bluezones.com if you wish to delve deeper.