Can Moving to a Blue Zone Cure Disease?

Dan Buettner is the author of the book, The Blue Zones and founder of Blue Zones, a longevity research foundation established to identify populations throughout the world who suffer low rates of disease and live well into their nineties and perhaps one-hundreds.

So far, Mr. Beuttner and his team have identified five communities they have labeled “Blue Zones,” areas where people are healthy, happy, and live long lives. As of today, these communities are:

  • Ikaria, Greece
  • Loma Linda, California (in a Seventh-Day Adventist community)
  • Nicoya, Costa Rica
  • Okinawa, Japan
  • Sardinia, Italy[i][ii]

If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably read the New York Times story by Dan Beuttner titled, The Island Where People Forget to Die. It’s a fascinating account of a man named Moraitis who was born in Ikaria, Greece and moved to New York in 1943. Thirty-three years later he was diagnosed with lung cancer and given nine months to live. He was in his mid-sixties. He decided to forego popular cancer treatments and return to his island of Ikaria to die in peace. Over the course of six months, he gradually regained his strength and ambition. He reconnected with his faith, friends, family, culture, and relaxed island lifestyle. He kept on living for years and at ninety-seven years of age he was cancer free. The article doesn’t say exactly when he became cancer free, but from the sound of things, his health was being restored and cancer was being eradicated from his body within months of living in Ikaria.[iii]

I have been following these Blue Zone stories on Dr. Oz’s show and website, bluezones.com, sommunity.sw.org, and other sites on the internet. The Blue Zone goal appears to be to identify specific attributes of healthy, happiness and longevity in certain population in order that others throughout the world can learn from, copy, and attain those populations and become just as healthy and happy.

This is a worthy goal. To copy the diets and lifestyles is very possibly beneficial to many people—at least, that’s what we hope. But is this sufficient? There are many factors involved in the health of a Blue Zone. It’s not just diet, not just lifestyle; there’s when people eat, how relaxed people are when they eat, portion sizes, conversations occurring during meals, climate, weather, being outdoors, how much sunshine people get on their skin…. I could go on and on.

Has anyone already moved to a blue zone and cured his or her disease? If so, I’d like to read about it or follow someone’s online blog journey to healing in a Blue Zone. I mean, for those suffering from serious diseases, is it enough to merely copy the diets and lifestyles of Blue Zone peoples and remain living in one’s same city or town? It’s the best most of us can do, I know, but don’t you think it might be prudent to conduct a grand experiment with volunteers who are willing to move to various Blue Zone, immerse themselves in the five distinct cultures, and possibly experience a higher than average chance of healing?

Of course, there are questions to be answered regarding such an experiment (not the least of which is cost), but I’ll save those questions for a future blog and leave you to mull over the idea for a while. I, for one, would love to move to a Blue Zone for several months to see if various health problems and issues lessened. I can dream, can’t I? And you have to admit it does sound fun! And I’m serious about those who have either lived in Blue Zones or who are living in them now. Wouldn’t it be great to hear how those people are faring health-wise?

Advertisements

Memories of My Great Grandparents

Reprinted from an article I wrote on September 20, 2012

My GG and GG…. They lived healthy lives–no strokes, no Alzheimer’s, no dementia, no heart disease, no cancer…. (I do remember, however, that my Grandma GG’s long-term memory was sharper than her short-term, and she told me lots of stories of her childhood.)
I must also add that my great grandparents were quite thin. I mean, my Grandma GG wore the same clothes in her eighties that she wore when she was in her teens and she did not weigh much over one-hundred pounds. Both of my great grandparents were both spry, active, energetic individuals. My Grandpa GG was born in 1889 in Indiana and died at age 90; my Grandma GG was born in 1894 in Illinois and died at age 91.
I interviewed my dad, my grandpa, and my paternal grandma with regard to memories of my great grandparents, but I remember them well myself. Going to visit GG and GG was a great treat. They spoiled my cousins, brother and sister and me with lots of love, stories of the old days, hugs, and delicious food. In fact, the smell of bacon and coffee always reminds me of being in their home.
Grandma GG was well known for her cooking and butter was especially important to her. Even during the Great Depression, she believed that eating real butter would keep her family healthy. Even during those hard times, they never went without butter. (I might also add that their butter was never refrigerated. I wonder… Does leaving it out all the time help to culture it?)
My great grandparents lived on a ranch in Southern California, where they raised chickens and grew oranges commercially (although the chickens were raised on a relatively small scale). They also had a big garden and raised at least one hog a year. Consequently, they ate a lot of chicken, pork, eggs, oranges, grapefruit, and vegetables.
Breakfast: As far as everyone can remember, Grandma GG served eggs and bacon every morning—with bread. She fried the eggs in bacon grease. They also drank a lot of coffee with either full cream or half and half. It is my recollection that they sipped coffee throughout the day and not just for breakfast. There was a sugar bowl on the table, so I imagine they added sugar to their coffee, as well—at least, occasionally.
Lunch: Sandwiches… My dad and grandparents remember eating only sandwiches for lunch. I imagine they were made with either pork or chicken.
Dinner: My great grandparents had an abundance of chickens, so Grandma GG often prepared fried chicken and potatoes. She fried the chicken in pork lard and her potatoes were bathed in plenty of butter. There was always bread, as well.
Desserts and Snacks: My great grandma had a sweet tooth. When she baked any dessert, she had a habit of adding a little extra sugar and butter “to make it richer.” Chocolate fudge, persimmon cookies, and angel food cake were a few of her specialties. She and Grandpa GG ate little hard candies throughout the day. I remember eating those little Brach’s candies in mint, cinnamon, butterscotch, coffee, and fruit flavors.

There were nuts too, sitting in a bowl on the living room coffee table. My dad, grandpa, and great grandpa would sit on the sofa, talking or watching television, cracking nuts, and popping them into their mouths. Another favorite snack was popcorn, with lots of butter, of course. Grandma GG loved chocolate. She used to set out a bowl of semisweet chocolate chips for everyone to nibble on. Daddy recalls that she liked milk chocolate. I also remember See’s candies at their house and how my siblings, cousins, and I were allowed to choose one or two from the large assorted box–a great treat.

All these memories add up to a list of common denominators in my great grandparents’ diet: lots of butter, pork, chicken, lard, sugar, hard candies, citrus fruits, coffee with cream, and vegetables. Despite the apparent indulgences in their diet, my great grandparents remained thin and strong on this so-called “unhealthy” diet.
P.S. I’ll add to this blog as I learn more about memories of my great grandparents from other friends and family. Maybe I’ll even get some recipes and post them here. (In fact, I have my Grandma GG’s persimmon recipe somewhere….)

The Skinny on Animal Fats

Contrary to popular belief, when a person eats the fat from an organic animal (including butter, milk, and cream), there is a decrease in heart disease, stroke, diabetes, inflammation, blood sugar (insulin) imbalance, cancer, weight gain, and stored body fat. In other words, eating organic, grass-fed beef and milk/cream/butter from such cows helps to prevent weight/fat gain and prevents disease.
Butter and cream from pasture fed cows contains a form of rearranged Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), which has strong anticancer properties.  It also encourages the buildup of muscle and prevents weight gain.  CLA disappears when cows are fed even small amounts of grain and processed food. They must be fed grass only to produce milk with CLA.
The fat in whole milk contains glycosphinogolipids, a type of fat that protects against gastrointestinal infections, especially in the very young and the elderly. (For most people, the butter does not have to be raw or organic to obtain the benefits, but due to my dairy fat allergy, I find that raw and/or cultured butter fat is the only milk fat I can digest without allergy complications.)
Both butter fat and coconut oil contain medium chain fatty acids, a saturated fat that is antifungal, antimicrobial, anti-tumoral, and is supportive to the immune system. One can eat a small amount of butterfat or large amounts of coconut oil to get this into his/her system. (For most people, the butter does not have to be raw or organic to obtain the benefits, but due to my dairy fat allergy, I find that raw and/or cultured butter fat is the only milk fat I could eat at first without allergy complications. As I heal my gut, I’m able to enjoy more raw, organic dairy products without reactions.)
Butter contains a perfect balance of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Most people get too many omega 6 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids are found in organic, free-range chicken eggs (not in commercial eggs), fish, walnuts, and flax seeds. Omega 3s reduce inflammation in the body, help to prevent arthritis and depression, and many other good things.
Most Americans get too many omega 6 fatty acids in their diet and relation to omega 3s. We need both, but they need to be in balance to be healthy. Omega 6 fatty acids are from vegetable oils, like canola, sunflower, safflower, corn, sesame, peanut, and soy.  Too much omega 6 in the diet leads to:
·         cardiovascular disease
·         type 2 diabetes
·         obesity
·         metabolic syndrome
·         irritable bowel syndrome & inflammatory bowel disease
·         macular degeneration
·         rheumatoid arthritis
·         asthma
·         cancer
·         psychiatric disorders