“Secrets of the Blue Zones” on The Oprah Winfrey Show

by in Health 07/04/2009


I just finished watching “Secrets of the Blue Zones” on the Oprah Winfrey show, which featured the world’s “Blue Zones” -a few small communities in the world notorious for longevity and profiled in Dan Buettner’s book “The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest“. People in these “zones” are more likely to live beyond 90 years compared to other places in the world.

Dr. Oz visited some of the Blue Zones for the program. It’s impressive that the people of these communities are living into their nineties and beyond, but I was blow away by the quality of life in the elderly individuals featured. I love to travel, and one reason I don’t hesitate to go on my next trip is that I want to go places while I am still capable of physical activity, instead of waiting until retirement when I’m old and less physically competent. Well, on this show today I saw people in their 90s that run circles around me. After today I am rethinking my ideas of the retirement life, and my expectations of growing old.

One gentleman in Costa Rica, Jose, 99 years young, still works in his fields everyday, happy, no complaints, body aches or pains. Doctor Oz gives him a quick physical overview and declares he has the body of a normal man in his mid-forties. He has no health insurance or health care plan, yet is healthier than most people who have them. Another woman, Panchita, 102 years young still chops wood everyday.

A 94 year old heart surgeon, Ellsworth Wareham, in Loma Linda, California, another Blue Zone, has never retired and still practices medicine. He himself does not take any medication or need it. He also works in his yard each week, trimming bushes and the lawn. A total contrast compared to some of my relatives near his age who ingest a daily a cocktail of prescription drugs for various problems and can’t even get outside to water the lawn.

What the secret?

No surprises here: live a low-stress, worry free life, eat right, get regular exercise and have a purpose. What was significant about this program was seeing for myself the people, and not a handful, but communities all living this way, all happy and all living a long, long time. Between all the Blue Zones, the two common threads that stood out to me immediately was the lack of meat in the diets and spiritual belief. The base diet for the Nicoyan community in Costa Rica is corn, beans and fruit. Jose, the 99 year old man featured in the Costa Rica was shown eating his daily meal of grilled corn tortillas and fruit. The Sardinians (another Blue Zone) recommend a plan based diet. Dr. Wareham in Loma Linda, California, eats a strictly vegan diet.

If the US is to reform heath care, and address Medicare problems, the Blue Zone lifestyle is a place to start.

What I enjoyed most about this show was seeing many people, not just one or two, but true communities, confirming the ideal lifestyle for a happy, healthy and long life.


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