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The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest

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A New York Times Bestseller!

With the right lifestyle, experts say, chances are that you may live up to a decade longer. What’s the prescription for success? National Geographic Explorer Dan Buettner has traveled the globe to uncover the best strategies for longevity found in the Blue places in the world where higher percentages of people enjoy remarkably long, full lives. And in this dynamic book he discloses the recipe, blending this unique lifestyle formula with the latest scientific findings to inspire easy, lasting change that may add years to your life.

Buettner’s colossal research effort, funded in part by the National Institute on Aging, has taken him from Costa Rica to Italy to Japan and beyond. In the societies he visits, it’s no coincidence that the way people interact with each other, shed stress, nourish their bodies, and view their world yields more good years of life. You’ll meet a 94-year-old farmer and self-confessed "ladies man" in Costa Rica, an 102-year-old grandmother in Okinawa, a 102-year-old Sardinian who hikes at least six miles a day, and others. By observing their lifestyles, Buettner’s teams have identified critical everyday choices that correspond with the cutting edge of longevity research—and distilled them into a few simple but powerful habits that anyone can embrace.

304 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2008

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Dan Buettner

28 books456 followers
National Geographic Explorer Dan Buettner has traveled the globe to uncover the best strategies for longevity.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,096 reviews
Profile Image for mark monday.
1,677 reviews5,253 followers
August 31, 2011
i am ashamed to say that i am writing this review of a book that is all about healthier living and living longer with a cigarette in hand. well, it is an american spirit light. those are healthier, right? i firmly believe in Harm Reduction as a model for living.

this is not the sort of book i usually read, although it is actually published by National Geographic (which somehow automatically gives it credence in my mind. why is that?). and it probably would have remained on my desk for who-knows-how-long, except that one of my staff lent it to me. i forsee a bit of stress coming into our relationship in the near future, so i thought it best that i read this quickly. not the best of motives for sure. but there you have it, the un-pretty truth.

there is also a very unappealing photo of the author on the cover, one where he looks smugly complacent, with one of those frozen zesty smiles that remind me of sales personnel.

fortunately, this book is less about being a Guide for Improvement (although there's plenty of that to be had) and more about describing the lives of various centarians around the world, how they've managed to live so long, and how their community came to have so many similarly rigorous old-timers. so if you are looking for Heartwarming, for a gentle study on the importance of community, a sense of humor, and respecting our elders, then this book will be quite pleasing at times. it certainly was for me. at times.

"Blue Zones" are those places in the world where there is an extraordinary number of centarians living in one region. here is what i learned:

- from Sardinia, Italy: drink goat milk and red wine, walk frequently, have a purpose in life, connect deeply with your faith, surround yourself with friends and family.

- from Okinawa, Japan: eat lots of veggies and soy-based foods (particularly fermented soy), walk frequently, have a purpose in life, connect deeply with your faith, surround yourself with friends and family.

- from Loma Linda (California), USA: drink a ton of water and eat lots of nuts, walk frequently, have a purpose in life, connect deeply with your faith, surround yourself with friends and family.

- from Nicoya, Costa Rica: have a long and healthy sex life even if it means you have to step outside of your marriage to accomplish that goal (that's a new one to me), walk frequently, have a purpose in life, connect deeply with your faith, surround yourself with friends and family.

clearly there is a major theme: have a community of support! there is a part of me that felt very sad when comparing most american families with what is described in this book. the idea of different generations coming together on a regular basis, of NOT shuttling off seniors to their own separate lives, of a community that is large & tightly-knit & sticks together unto death...well, i just don't see a lot of that. how depressing.

i also took the online surveys Vitality Compass and the True Happiness Test available at www.bluezones.com.

on Vitality, sadly my score showed that i have an approximate lifespan of 75 years. although this was happy news to me, apparently this is not the greatest score according to Blue Zones. oopsy!

on True Happiness, amazingly i scored an "A-". i suppose i am a Happy Guy. upon receiving my result, i was given some firm advice: find a faith and have more friends who are "happy". that's some nerve ya got there, Blue Zones!
Profile Image for Lauren .
1,735 reviews2,336 followers
July 29, 2009
Seriously one of the best (life-altering) books I have ever read. Much like "Omnivore's Dilemma" in the way that I think this book will have a serious effect on how I view things from this point on, and how I will live my life. It is nothing absolutely revolutionary, no, but the fact that it is all gathered in one place, and so accessible makes this book stand out for me. I have read many books like this, but this one seems one of the most palatable and the easiest to share... perhaps because of the focus on life-long health rather than quick fixes.

Buettner, a journalist who also used to be an endurance cyclist (he has biked from Alaska to Argentina!), has now shifted his focus to finding and studying these special regions of the world (he calls them "Blue Zones") where a large percentage of people live well in to old age. He specifically studies centenarians, people who have reached 100. This book focuses on four locations that have been identified as Blue Zones: Sardinia, Okinawa, Loma Linda, California, and Nicoya, Costa Rica. Along with a traveling team of doctors, demographers, and psychologists, he travels to these places and conducts interviews with these centenarians. He learns about their past and their present, what they do, what gets them out of bed each morning, what they eat, who they socialize with, what experiences have shaped them, and what clues and insights they have as to why they have reached these ages. As he travels to each place, common threads surface.

The last chapter of the book really brings it home: what changes YOU can make to apply these principles of longevity. It is so much more than living longer though - it is about living happier and healthier and surrounding yourself with love and friendship.

After reading this library copy, I bought 2 copies: one for myself, and one for my parents. It's one of those books that you really want to share with others.
Profile Image for David Rubenstein.
816 reviews2,583 followers
July 15, 2015
The blue zones are regions in the world where an inordinate number of people live healthy lives to very old age, often beyond 100. In this book, Dan Buettner personally goes on research expeditions to various locations around the world. He sometimes goes alone, while at other times he brings along with him a team of researchers. Their goal is to determine first whether the people claiming to be very old are, in fact, as old as they claim, and second, to interview the super-seniors to determine the common factors that have contributed to their long, healthy lives.

This fascinating book is an in-depth study of the super-seniors in four locations; Sardinia, Loma Linda in southern California, Nicoya in Costa Rica, and Okinawa. Buettner uncovers a variety of factors that have contributed to their long lives. The lifestyles of the super-seniors include; near-vegetarian diets, daily exercise, social connections through extended families and neighbors, laughter and a sense of humor, and a sense of purpose in living. Reading between the lines, one of the researchers in Nicoya speculates that "sleeping around" might also be a contributing factor!

One of the most striking stories is about a 93-year old man in Loma Linda. In order to save money to construct a fence, he purchased the materials and started building it himself. It involved heavy labor, as the area was on a steep hill. The next week found him in the operating room in open-heart surgery. But he was not on the operating table; he was one of the surgeons!

This is not exactly a self-help book, but the last chapter does review the lessons learned in the blue zones. The lessons show how all of the lifestyle factors help to contribute to a long, healthy life. There are no guarantees of course--they are simply probabilistic factors that have a tendency to help longevity.

I didn't read this book; I listened to the audiobook version, narrated by Michael McConnohie. The narration is very good, and the various accents are done quite well.

I definitely recommend this book to all people who would like to increase their chances of living a long, healthy life.
Profile Image for Kavita.
783 reviews379 followers
April 17, 2015
Living a healthy life is not that difficult if you know how. This is probably what the author was trying to convey in this book, but while the message came through loud and clear, I have to take issue with much of the information provided.

I'll start with the recommendation to drink red wine every day. I don't think that can be particularly healthy, especially if you have certain health complications like diabetes or heart problems. It can also be bad if you are depressed or prone to addiction. This advice can actually be counterproductive since the book does not really go deep into the various different issues related to drinking wine or saké. Anyway, there is still not complete information on this subject, so its a hit and miss.

The author also recommends different ways of keeping fit, but ultimately forgets that not everyone lives in little far-off remote villages where things like growing gardens or hiking over mountains on a daily basis is even possible. I also found some of the suggestions rather superficial and only applicable to middle class or rich people.

Another issue I have is that the author recommends everyone to join a religious community. That simply does not work. For some people (like me, for example), being part of a religious community can actually increase stress due to various factors, but mainly due to the misogyny practised by most religions. Besides, faith does not work that way. You either have faith or you don't. It's a journey you make towards or away this lifestyle. It is never an active choice, though it can be a passive choice by simply remaining in the religion you were born into. But nobody ever just got up one morning and told themselves 'From today, I believe in God', and then started believing it out of the blue.

The same goes for family. Everyone wants to belong to a wonderful and supportive family and most people want to put back in the same support and love, but it's not possible for everyone. In some families, just being together can bring enormous stress. I also found the advice that you take care of your parents because doing otherwise would bring dishonour, terrible. Shaming or forcing people into doing things is not conducive for a stress-free life. The only reason people do things for other people must be out of love and a spirit of giving. How can this be simply made into an issue of honour? In another instance, the author discusses a woman who claims that it's good for people not to have any privacy at all. If your kids misbehave, your neighbor has no problem disciplining them. There is less crime, not because of good policing, but because of the risk of shaming the family. Very much the reason why honour killings happen! This logic is completely screwed up.

This is not to say that the book does not give any good advice at all. It is already well-known that eating more vegetables, fruits and nuts, reducing meat and dairy consumption, keeping in touch with family and friends, having a strong social network, avoiding junk food, regularly exercising and meditating (all of which the author advocates) is beneficial to long-term health. I just did not find anything new in this book that I did not already know.

One thing I really enjoyed in this book is the interviews with the centenarians and the descriptions of their lives and lifestyles. It was really interesting as it depicted a fast-disappearing way of life in different parts of the world. These old people are really resilient and have lived through famines and wars. Their stories are important and interesting and a good depiction of traditional culture in the respective countries.

The Blue Zones is probably meant only for Americans. The author kept comparing the diet of different regions to eating hamburgers and drinking soft drinks. Surely, Americans eat something else? I thought it was just a stereotype that Americans just gorged on junk food and drank only soda-based drinks. At one point, the author recommended that people start drinking water. Then he ordered a bottle of water with his meal and made it sound like a big deal. What, Americans don't drink water?! I was astounded at this implication. So, either the author is exaggerating American food culture or this book is really a must-read for all Americans. If you are an American, take your pick. If you are from elsewhere, there are free websites out there, which say the same thing better.
Profile Image for Jessaka.
901 reviews136 followers
April 7, 2018
What a entertaining read. I just love reading about different cultures, and this book reminded me of a cultural anthropology course that I once took and loved, but this course is made with a twist of lemon. By “twist of lemon” I mean that it is about food, but it is also about how food affects your longevity. The part I really loved though, was on how the people lived, and that is where the cultural anthropology comes in to play.

The author visits six different cultures that have the same things in common: longevity, the food they eat, and the food they avoid.

I liked the culture on the Greek Island of Ikaria best, as the food and their life style seemed much more appealing to me. So I will just quote a few paragraphs of what he has to say about them:

“For the many religious and cultural holidays, people pool their money and buy food and wine. If there is money left over, they give it to the poor. It’s not a “me” place. It’s an “us” place.” I love that idea.

“The Mediterranean diet, a menu rich in olive oil and vegetables, low in diary and meat, with some alcohol daily. On Ikaria, it also includes an abundance of potatoes, goat milk, beans, and some fruit.”

And here is where my “twist of lemon” comes in:

“Dr. Leriadis mentioned wild marjoram, sage (fiaskomilia), a type of mint tea (fliskouni), olive tree leaf infusions, rosemary, and a tea made from boiling dandelion leaves and drinking the water with a little lemon. ‘People here think they’re drinking a comforting beverage, but they all double as medicine.’” Maybe the author, Dan Buettner’s next book will tell how to make these teas.

“Old people here will start their day with a spoonful of honey. They take it like medicine.”

How do I stack up to this Greek diet? Hmmm. I only drink goat milk, I use only olive oil, but I do eat real butter, whole sprouted wheat bread, fruits and veggies, minus the lemon. I don’t eat sugar, so honey is ruled out. I do eat meat but not much. And once in a while I will have a baked potato with lots of butter. Oh, and forget the alcohol as very little will do me in. As for the beans, well, they taste good in homemade burritos with beef. And while their diet is low of eggs, I probably eat 4 to 6 of them a day. Will I change my diet? Doubt it.
Profile Image for 7jane.
683 reviews267 followers
August 15, 2016
(This is the second edition: it adds a new zone to the book, making it 5 zones to read.)

I first read about this living-longer business in the November 2005 National Geographic magazine article, which I still own. This expands on the subject, and helps one notice all the good points from each zone. It's about how to live a longer, quality-filled life - it's not just about how good your genes are, or necessarily where you live: these tips really could make your life longer and happier. The majority of long-life comes from lifestyle and choices made during life.

The places are in Sardinia, Okinawa, California, Costa Rica and a small island in Greece. Each place has its own chapter, with stories, interviews and at the end points of what each zone can give us in terms of tips for long life. These zones has an unusually high number of 90- or 100-year-olds. They are also often slightly isolated and lives more traditional (which plays part in being healthy).

The text flows easily, easy to understand, and one does developed favorites (my favorite zone is the Okinawan one). There's plenty of information, but not too thickly and one does not really have to fish them out of the text - though a hint or two may pop up separately in the text.

At the end the final chapter gathers 9 common lessons from the zones and gives us guidance to put them in action. It's stated that one doesn't have to tackle all at once, and the order of starting each is up to us. Finally there's a set of questions for reading groups, for discussion.

I found this a light-hearted, fun read. Some lessons were kind of things that I already knew in some manner, but this book motivates to start putting ideas in good use. Well worth the read, and no doubt I will use the tips, and read some parts for fun, again. :)
Profile Image for Jo.
133 reviews13 followers
May 15, 2017
Interesting book looking at populations from around the world with the most people living to be 100. Basics seem to be:
5. Diet - lower in animal products (though they are included) and higher in fruits and veggies and whole grains
4. Work that incorporates being physically active versus no exercise or over exercising which wears out the joints.
3. Feeling that you are still valubly contributing to society
2. Religon/spirituality - not any one in particular but rather a feeling that a higher power is looking out for you and protecting you
1. Family ties

Perhaps a general outlook of not holding onto stress should be added.

And interestingly enough for men, the more daughters they have, the longer they tend to live.

While most of these items are not revolutionary ideas, this book is written by a National Geographic writer so has that nice flow of going back and forth between generalities to really giving individual, human faces to the discussion and there are specifics for each group examined: Seventh Day Adventist in the US, a group in Japan, a group in Italy, and a group in Costa Rica.
Profile Image for William Lawrence.
297 reviews
March 5, 2018
Even better the second time around. Lots of vegetables, beans, & nuts; a little wine & meditation, family, and a mission statement of purpose.

Killer Quotes that will Keep You Alive

"We can live a shorter life with more years of disability, or we can live the longest possible life with the fewest bad years."

"Costa Rica spends only 15 percent of what America does in health care, yet its people appeared to be living longer, seemingly healthier lives than people in any other country on Earth."

"...Women who consume tomatoes at least three or four times a week reduced their chances of ovarian cancer by 70 percent over those who ate tomatoes less often..."

"...Those who ate meat had a 65% increased risk of colon cancer compared to vegetarians..."

"...Those who ate more legumes like peas and beans had a 30 to 40 % reduction in colon cancer..."
Profile Image for Patrick Boykin.
8 reviews5 followers
June 30, 2009
One problem I have with the book is that, sorry for the offense, the author comes off as a science fan-boy, who really thinks that doing the legwork of data-analysis is just a formality, and really we could figure everything out just chatting with long-lived people.

I'd like to see at least a section on the data analysis to see what, if any, of the recommendations the book makes are supported by rigorous statistics.
Profile Image for Mario Tomic.
159 reviews319 followers
July 1, 2016
Interesting book about the secrets of longevity based on the anecdotal observation of the world's longest living people. The author Dan Buettner traveled the world with a team of scientists and researchers to identify 4 places (called Blue Zones) that had the highest number of people living past the age of 100. His goal was to learn from them, and in the process he distilled 9 lessons that were consistently found within the lifestyles of these oldest people on earth. One interesting fact is how studies on twins found that genetic factors explain about 25% of variation in lifespan. This means that most of us have a lot more control in how long we live than we think. If we adopt the right lifestyle, we could add at least 10-20 high quality active years to our life. Additionally the goal isn't to just live longer on life-support, but to be able to take care of ourselves and add value to the world even in our last couple of decades of life. The book goes into some dietary recommendations, exercise, social life and mindsets of the longest living people. It's mainly based on anecdotes but some of the findings such as higher intake of vegetables, fruits and legumes we already know play a key role in overall health. Also intermittent caloric restriction seems to be very common among the oldest people in the world. As they say "Stop eating when you're no longer hungry, not when you're full.". I found this very interesting because there's some research coming out on the topic that confirms this. Some of the key lessons from the book are:
- Move, incorporate exercise into your lifestyle.
- Prefer foods with lower caloric density and "Stop eating when you're 80% Full"
- Your diet is very right in vegetables and legumes. And you eat a sufficient amount of protein.
- Have planned times to slow down, unwind and de-stress. "Life is short, don't run so fast you miss it"
- Belong to a community. Research has shown that those who are members of strong communities tend to live longer.
- Surround yourself with loves ones. The longest living people live in multi-generational homes where younger generations care for the older ones, with "honor the elders" cultural norms. That's a rarity now in Western societies, and fewer healthy years for the elders is the price.
- Be around the right people. The oldest people in the world are well connected and have social circles that promote the healthy lifestyle.
Definitely a very interesting read, check it out!
224 reviews10 followers
August 2, 2020
Clickbait in paper form.
While this book covers an objectively interesting topic and has a couple of good insights, it is also shallow, unscientific, and lacking in rigor. Buettner—a journalist, not a scientist—chose to write this book as a personal narrative about his time wandering through "Blue Zones" and talking with people, resulting in little more than anecdote and speculation.
I also take issue with the idea of creating a self-help book for individuals on the basis of the Blue Zones. The longevity in these areas is inherently the product of geography and culture, not individual decisions. Urban planners and zoning boards should study Blue Zones to create a geography and foster a culture that promotes public health (walkability, bike infrastructure, social infrastructure, "granny flats," community gardens), but I am doubtful that an individual could "create their own Blue Zone," given the complex nexus of external factors involved in that. This framing may sell books, but it's an intellectually dishonest way to frame the Blue Zone phenomenon. Individuals hoping to live healthier lives within an unhealthy culture should look to other people in their culture who manage to still be healthy rather than pastoralists in Sardinia who live an entirely different lifestyle that would be unachievable and undesirable in, say, an American urban setting.
Profile Image for Janet.
85 reviews15 followers
August 3, 2009
One of the most striking things in this book was how incredibly simple it is to have the type of lifestyle that favors longevity. The centenarians featured in the book are from simple, almost primitive, cultures with strong family ties and daily sense of purpose -- that is, they feel a sense of importance and purpose from the moment they wake up in the morning (usually at sunrise) till they go to bed at night, well in to their later years. They don't have elaborate rituals or search for obscure ingredients; they eat local produce and often have their own gardens. They get a great deal of exercise by staying active throughout their day - usually by taking the long way (literally and figuratively), and by working and walking outdoors.

Rather than focusing on the genetic component to longevity, the book highlights the lifestyle choices that combined, can be accessible to anybody wishing to improve their chance to live a fuller and longer life.

I'm much more hopeful and optimistic about taking control of some key choices that are actually quite easy to change and adopt.
Profile Image for Ken.
Author 3 books968 followers
August 8, 2015
What's a "Blue Zone"? It's Dan Buettner's name for areas in the world where people live a long time: Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Loma Linda, CA; and Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica. Dan and his team of experts determined that diet and certain activities make these people live longer. There are many similarities and some differences.

Similarities: They eat a lot of homegrown fruits and vegetables. "Organic" isn't some overpriced produce in the grocery stores, it's just the way food is grown and has been grown forever. This was once true in the United States of Big Ag (Chemicals R Us), too. Once. Anyway, they also tend to eat a lot of beans (legumes) and nuts/seeds. What they don't eat much of is meat. Maybe once a week or for celebrations. Eggs are used sparingly, too, as is dairy (the exception being goat and sheep milk/cheese, both more easily digested). Fish? In some cases, yes. In others, no. None of these groups have much use for sugar and salt. They eat whole foods. Bread? OK if whole grain, ixnay on white, sourdough OK, too.

Differences: Many consume lots of coffee, but the Seventh Day Adventists of Loma Linda, CA, shun it. Many consume one or two glasses of red wine with dinner, but again, the Adventists don't drink alcohol. As stated, some do more fish than others. Some (Costa Ricans) more corn and squash than others.

Habits: These people see food as a gift, a blessing. They sit down together -- no electronics ever -- they give thanks, they eat slowly, they enjoy each other's presence and company. They talk, by God! None of them go to gyms or go on diets, but all of them get plenty of exercise from everyday activities, which burn more calories in the long run: herding, gardening, fishing, walking places instead of driving places. Fasts also play a role, whether religiously-based or not. It might be weekly for a day or during special times of the calendar. Not eating some times is a healthy thing.

Many of these cultures eat bigger meals earlier, smaller later. Some eat two meals a day instead of three. In the Adventists' case, a lot of water is consumed (7 glasses a day). All groups get 7 or 8 hours of sleep a night. (Go ahead. Match it. I dare ya.)

So that's Part One of the book. Little magazine-article-like vignettes of the Zones. Part Two talks about trying to "make" blue zones, as is done in a small area of Finland, a town in Minnesota, three beach towns in California, and even a town in the Pig State, Iowa.

Part Three is about food rituals, menus, and everyday living. It's a blueprint for blue zones, a grass roots type playbook. Finally, at the end, we get 77 recipes, each inspired by the five original blue zone areas.

Yes, pretty legit stuff, though it's not exactly a gripping read and the science is off and on. For instance, Buettner still seems to believe the eggs/cholesterol myth, even though most modern studies have dispelled it. Eggs are not scary. He'll dis cow milk by saying it's "a relative newcomer, introduced about 8,000 to 10,000 years ago." Two pages later he celebrates beans, "the consummate superfood," by saying "Humans have eaten beans for at least 8,000 years" (the point being, A LONG TIME, even though the same point meant ONLY RECENTLY in the case of milk). All together now: Huh?

There are lots of little things like that. You'll see a YES for sweet potatoes but a NO for yams. Then, later in the book, in his list of Blue Zone foods, what does he list? You guessed it: Yams. Aye, Dios...

Also, there's more to this than diet and culture. Many of these places are enclaves outside of the super fast lifestyle we live. Little in the way of electronics, technology, cellphones, microwave whatevers zapping bodies 24/7. In short, life before science began simultaneously saving and killing us. Life that's simple enough to make people say, "Stress? What's that?"

But Dan just wants to talk about food and walking, so let's all agree that good food choices, good living habits, good fellowship (rugged individualism, an American staple = bad), and good walking places close enough to walk to will indeed advance our fragile little lives...

Great library loan book. Read, adopt with a friend. And family. Or church group near you.
Profile Image for Sonnet Fitzgerald.
263 reviews8 followers
May 31, 2017
I have to start by saying I know I am absolutely not the right audience for this book. If it wasn't assigned for book club, I never would have picked it up. I don't typically get too excited about non-fiction. Over years of medical issues I have an uncanny ability to sniff out snake oil. And after seeing three of my four grandparents live almost to 100, I have zero, zero desire to ever do so myself.

So that's three strikes right off the bat.

Is it interesting to look at cultures that have higher than usual rates of longevity and try to guess why that is? Sure. That's the best part about this book: the window into different families and neighborhoods around the world, seeing how different and similar we all are.

Is it logical to take piecemeal information from those observations and use it to support a preexisting theory about health? Nope. The author shows his lack of formal education in science and medicine in many ways here, but most of all through his serious case of confirmation bias.

There is a quote right at the beginning of the book that I found fascinating for its inclusion in a work like this. It goes:

S Jay Olshansky of the University of Illinois at Chicago and more than 50 of the world's top longevity experts issued a position statement in 2002 that was as blunt as they could fashion it.
"Our language on this matter must be unambiguous," they wrote. "There are no lifestyle changes, surgical procedures, vitamins, antioxidants, hormones, or techniques of genetic engineering available today that have been demonstrated to influence the process of aging."

Buettner then spends 270 pages trying to convince us of the lifestyle changes that will influence the process of aging.

People, you don't need to live to be 100 to have a remarkable, full life. You already know how to stay healthy. There is no secret. While I appreciate a local guy who encourages others to be as healthy as can be, I can't support giving people false hope of a better life through beans and turmeric.

2/5, and I'm being generous.
28 reviews
July 23, 2016
This book was a huge disappointment to me. I am very interested in nutrition and have had my eye on this title for awhile. However, I was surprised to learn that the author is not a nutritionist, a medical professional or even an epidemiologist. He has no credentials whatsoever and this book is based on very thin science. The book largely consists of narrations from his travels around the world to meet centenarians. While these are interesting, they are just that, interesting but not conducted in any kind of formal research methodology. He will meet with people in the blue zone, drink wine with them and observe their life, and then wax philosophy about traditional values and other social factors that may contribute to longevity. He spends a lot of time describing how people look and their personalities, so much so that it turned me off. Very little if any scientific literature is cited to support his claims, and clearly there was no research done other than to interview long lived people and make conjectures about what caused them to live so long. Also, he frankly came off as sexist in some of his descriptions of women in the book (especially younger women who traveled with him), focusing way too much on their physical appearances. This book is sold as an authoritative source on health and how to live longer. Well, folks, correlation is not causation and I was deeply underwhelmed by the scientific evidence presented in this book. There is a reason registered dietitians have to pass years of hard chemistry and biological science classes, as well as learn formal research methodologies. Basing nutrition advice off observational evidence or assumption can have dreadful consequences. Just look at what the whole "low fat" trend caused, a whole bunch of people replacing fats with sugars and simple carbs that have only exacerbated the obesity epidemic. If you care about having real nutrition and wellness information, skip this book!
Profile Image for LaRae.
507 reviews5 followers
June 8, 2018
I got so much out of this book. It looks at the lifestyles and diets of five areas where there is a very high proportion of centenarians as compared to the rest of the world - Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Loma Linda, California; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and Ikaria, Greece.

I found each zone unique and interesting, and I took something away from each that has inspired me to make some changes. For anyone concerned with health and getting the most out of life, I definitely recommend it.
Profile Image for JanB .
1,182 reviews2,794 followers
January 11, 2016
I may not always follow what I learn but I love reading and studying nutrition and health topics. And I have a mother who is very nearly a centenarian. So this book is of particular interest.

The author and his researcher cohorts set out to study the secrets of people who live the longest. "Blue Zones" were identified, which are areas of the world that have the greatest concentration of centenarians, people who have reached 100. This book focuses on these Blue Zone locations: Sardinia, Italy, Okinawa, Japan, Loma Linda, California, Ikaria, Greece, and Nicoya, Costa Rica.

Written in a breezy, conversational tone, and filled with stories and anecdotes from the centenarians themselves, some common threads appeared:

1. Eat simple local foods and in the words of Michael Pollan, "Eat mostly plants, not too much". Not strictly vegetarian. Drink alcohol, but, again, not too much.

2. Move a lot, but do it naturally without having to think about it (I.e. no gym rats or marathon runners in the group!). Activity is built into their daily routines.

3. Have a strong sense of purpose, a reason to get up in the morning and contribute to their families and/or communities.

4. Slow down: less stress means less inflammation that can lead to disease. There is a natural rhythm of work, rest, and play (socializing) to their days. And don't worry, be content. The author points out that none of the centenarians are grumps.

5. Participate in a supportive community with strong social connections. Along the same lines, family is a priority. Multiple generations lived together or were close by. The elderly were revered.

There's more to the book than this, there's much more depth and the words of the centarians themselves. For the most part, it's a way of life that is foreign to us in the U.S. and I loved reading about it. There are no guarantees that if you do x, y and z you will live to a healthy ripe old age. But , if nothing else, these principles can certainly add life to your years. The author ends the book with tips and ideas to put the principles in place.
Profile Image for moonchild.
58 reviews6 followers
January 13, 2023
A perfect book to end the year and the reading challenge with. Short, simple, and straight to the point. No unnecessary details. I’ll definitely apply the things I learned starting sundayyyyy.
August 1, 2021
Denne var interessant. Premisset for boken er at det finnes steder i verden der folk blir veldig gamle og forfatteren har forsket på disse og prøvd å identifisere hvilke faktorer som er viktig. Fokuset er i all hovedsak på hvordan man kan leve sunt og godt, og ikke nødvendigvis lengst mulig, selv om dette er en naturlig følge. Det er et veldig helhetlig fokus på mange faktorer, og selv om den går mye i dybden på kosthold, er det vel så mye fokus på tilhørighet, mening med livet, sosiale bånd og bevegelse. Fikk meg til å reflektere en del over hva som er viktig i livet mitt, vet ikke om det blir en "life-changer", men kan hende jeg prøver meg på noen av tipsene boken gir
Profile Image for Go2therock.
247 reviews9 followers
March 18, 2010
An excellent and easy read about four areas of the world where there is a significant percentage of the population that live to be centenarians+. You may be aware of Okinawa. I have read the Okinawa Diet book a time or two. The other four places were a mountainous area of Sardinia, a remote area in Costa Rica, and a Seventh Day Adventist population in Loma Linda, California, of all places. I was so grateful that we had the Costa Ricans in the mix - at least that added corn tortillas, rice, and beans into this magical diet. But overall, regular exercise that fits naturally into our days; faith; strong family connections that value the aged and keep them around the rest of the family; strong friendships of support; a reason to get up each day (I like the wording in Spanish - plan de vida); eating to 80% (they said they eat til no longer hungry as opposed to til full... interesting, don't you think?); prominence of homegrown vegetables; grains; easy on the meat; easy pace in life. When they died, it might be from cancer or kidney failure or whatever, but it was much later and with more fullness of life until that day, and then simply because their bodies gave out.

For those of an You Gotta Go Sometime mentality, I quote: "The calculus of aging offers us two options: We can live a shorter life with more years of disability, or we can live the longest possible life with the fewest bad years."

The choice is up to us.
Profile Image for Christopher.
182 reviews
March 25, 2018
Fascinating look at areas in the world with long-lived people. The conclusions that are drawn are sometimes hyperbole or not necessarily accurate, but when you look at common elements in various areas of the world some truth can be found. This book was given to me by my friend John Brieby, who knows of my interest in medical topics.
Profile Image for Tex.
1,393 reviews19 followers
January 2, 2019
I generally say that this kind of information could be presented in a pamphlet and move on. However, to describe the Blue Zones required the anecdotes that Buettner provided. There were some pretty clear messages to be had here: moderate exercise, positive social activity, simple consumption. It is making an impact to the start of my 2019.
Profile Image for Jes.
290 reviews19 followers
February 2, 2021
secrets for longevity: (1) have a strong social support network ie friends or family you talk and laugh with every day (2) eat tons of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains (3) avoid all processed foods and limit meat (4) have a strong sense of purpose related to work, family, or community that you retain even after retirement (5) cultivate a cheerful, playful mindset even amidst hardship and loss (6) have faith (mostly because it helps you cultivate optimism in the face of adversity, strengthens your sense of purpose, and ensures social connection to a larger caring community) (7) be active at moderate levels of intensity as much as possible—not just setting aside times to exercise but integrating movement into every part of your waking life (8) sleep seven to eight hours a night (9) get lots of sunshine
Profile Image for Ha Tran Nguyen Phuong.
163 reviews9 followers
June 15, 2022
I’m lowkey surprised at how much of the centenarians’ lifestyle involves both work/ purpose and being part of the community (although it became pretty obvious once I look at my life I see the same patterns as well). I think we focus too much on diets/ exercise/ special snake oils etc. but even if you have the healthiest diet in the world but feel isolated or deprived of purpose, you probably won't be able to live long. This has reinforced a lot of my thoughts on what I want to prioritize in life e.g. live close to people I love, and work on meaningful things. Sure, diets and exercise are still important, but they are secondary to (or at least, only as important as) other social aspects that we rarely associate with health.

Also I love the idea of a moai hahaha I can imagine myself at 80 years old having a gossip group and we just go and talk to each other every day hahahahha.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
208 reviews1 follower
May 23, 2022
I was excited to read this until I saw the cover of a glamor shot picture of the author.  I almost didn't read it, thinking it would be another pretentious self help book.

This book truly proved to me not to judge a book by its cover.  Essentially it was a book of short stories on the lives of those who lived to an old age in these "blue zone" communities. It was interesting to hear their stories and the different theories on why they lived so long.  The stories were the theme and that is what for me made it such an enjoyable book.

There were some commonalities: positivity/gratefulness, mostly plant based diet, strong family/friend network, faith, reduced stress and staying active.

Anyways, the stories were great and hopefully by reading I added a couple years to my life!
Profile Image for Jen.
37 reviews
December 18, 2018
Concepts in this more than ten-year old book are lauded by many of the podcast bio-hacking bros of today, and for good reason. Dan Buettner's study of communities with the highest number of centenarians reviews the diet, lifestyle, activities, relationships and spirituality of each community along with the impact and changes taking place due to encroaching development.

This is worth a read for those interested in longevity, though the book could have been better written, it's an easy read with tips from each community as to how to live a longer and healthier life.
Profile Image for Ivo Damjanovski.
14 reviews5 followers
April 9, 2023
I suppose it wasn't as impactful for me as I've been reading about nutrition and longevity lately, but it still feels good to have explored the blue zones to the core.

The lessons are mostly what you'd expect, so living healthy is most times something we already know how to do (just lack the framework and spark). And learning how other people live, especially people as unique as centinarians, could provide that spark.
Profile Image for Josh reading.
311 reviews10 followers
July 13, 2019
A very interesting read by Dan Buettner chronicling several regions around the world when’re there are larger than normal populations of centenarians (those that are 100+ years old). The book articulated the commonalities that each of these groups have and also numerous differences. It is amazing though to see what the traits are of those that are living well long into their lives. The book takes Dan from Sardinia to Okinawa, to Costa Rica, and beyond. An engaging and enlightening read with some wonderful advice. No book had all the answers to grand challenges but this book has some great insights.
Profile Image for Teo 2050.
840 reviews82 followers
April 5, 2020


Buettner D (2008) Blue Zones - Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest


Preface: Get Ready to Change Your Life
• The Blue Zones Quest
• Life Changes
• Return to Ushi
• Centenarian Wisdom
• Longevity Lessons

1. The Truth About Living Longer: You May Be Missing Out on Ten Good Years
• Facts about aging
• What exactly is aging?
• What is the average American lifespan?
• What are the chances of living to 100?
• Is there a pill that can extend life?
• Are vitamin supplements helpful?
• What's a smart diet for longevity?
• What can add on more good years?
• Does going to the gym help?
• How can we maximize the good years?
• Into the Blue Zones

2. The Sardinian Blue Zone: Where Women Are Strong, Family Comes First, and Health Springs from the Rugged Hills
• A reputation for longevity
• Blue Zone's Beginning
• Is it in the genes?
• Dueling centenarians
• Wine goat's milk and mastic oil
• The power of loving?
• "Sardonic" is right
• Humbled by a hundred-year-old
• Sardinia's longevity secrets
• Sardinia's Blue Zone lessons
• • Eat a lean, plant-based diet accented with meat
• • Put family first
• • Drink goat's milk
• • Celebrate elders
• • Take a walk
• • Drink a glass or two of red wine daily
• • Laugh with friends

3. The Blue Zone in Okinawa: Sunshine, Spirituality, and Sweet Potatoes
• An unlikely paradise
• The power of the garden
• Soy and a sense of purpose
• Centenarian clutch
• Garden secrets
• Outer limits of the human machine
• Power of now
• Life: a popularity contest after all?
• All different
• Another visit with Ushi
• Okinawa's longevity lessons
• • Embrace an ikigai
• • Rely on a plant-based diet
• • Get gardening
• • Eat more soy
• • Maintain a moai
• • Enjoy the sunshine
• • Stay active
• • Plant a medicinal garden
• • Have an attitude

4. An American Blue Zone: The Longevity Oasis in Southeast California
• Island in the big city
• Benefits of a lifestyle
• Genesis of the Adventist way
• A little exercise to stay young
• Converting strangers to friends
• Sanctuary in time
• Open-heart surgery on Tuesdays
• Part of the club
• Hold the bacon
• Loma Linda's Blue Zone secrets
• • Find a sanctuary in time
• • Maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI)
• • Get regular, moderate exercise
• • Spend time with like-minded friends
• • Snack on nuts
• • Give something back
• • Eat meat in moderation
• • Eat an early, light dinner
• • Put more plants in your diet
• • Drink plenty of water

5. Discovering Costa Rica's Blue Zone: Tortillas and Beans, Hard Work, and Something in the Water?
• Searching in Central America
• A new Blue Zone?
• First foray
• Return to Nicoya
• The first clues
• Chorotega factor
• Something in the water?
• Safety nets
• God will provide
• Doctors' diagnosis
• What little is saved
• Costa Rica's longevity secrets
• • Have a plan de vida
• • Drink hard water
• • Keep a focus on family
• • Eat a light dinner
• • Maintain social networks
• • Keep hard at work
• • Get some sensible sun
• • Embrace a common history

6. Your Personal Blue Zone: Putting the Blue Zones Lessons to Work in Your Life
• First steps
• Lesson one: Move naturally
• Lesson one strategies
• • Inconvenience yourself
• • Have fun. Keep moving
• • Walk
• • Make a date
• • Plant a garden
• • Enroll in a yoga class
• Lesson two: Hara hachi bu
• Lesson two strategies
• • Serve and store
• • Make food look bigger
• • Use small vessels
• • Make snacking a hassle
• • Buy smaller packages
• • Give yourself a daily reminder
• • Eat more slowly
• • Focus on food
• • Have a seat
• • Eat early
• Lesson three: Plant slant
• Lesson three strategies
• • Eat four to six vegetable servings daily
• • Limit intake of meat
• • Showcase fruits and vegetables
• • Lead with beans
• • Eat nuts every day
• • Stock up
• Lesson four: Grapes of life
• Lesson four strategies
• • Buy a case of high-quality red wine
• • Treat yourself to a "Happy Hour"
• • Take it easy
• Lesson five: Purpose now
• Lesson five strategies
• • Craft a personal mission statement
• • Find a partner
• • Learn something new
• Lesson six: Down shift
• Lesson six strategies
• • Reduce the noise
• • Be early
• • Meditate
• Lesson seven: Belong
• Lesson seven strategies
• • Be more involved
• • Explore a new tradition
• • Just go
• Lesson eight: Loved ones first
• Lesson eight strategies
• • Get closer
• • Establish rituals
• • Create a family shrine
• • Put family first
• Lesson nine: Right tribe
• Lesson nine strategies
• • Identify your inner circle
• • Be likable
• • Create time together
• The choice is up to us

Illustration credits
Profile Image for Silvia Feldi.
87 reviews10 followers
August 26, 2022
Very pleasant and interesting read about those few places in the world with great food, lots of sunshine and lots of centenarians!
However, contrary to popular belief, food is actually somewhere lower on the scale of importance when it comes to making it to 100 years old, the main factors being a sense of purpose/ a strong reason to live, family and social connections ( long, daily interactions), lack of stress and belief in a higher divine power/strong religious community. Therefore you can eat your mediteraneean diet every day but if you do it watching tv and in total isolation for weeks it won't matter that much.
Either way, don't feel too guilty, the blue zones way of living is unfortunately dissappearing and the young generation in those areas are fitting in the usual health and lifespan standards that we encounter all around the world. It was a pleasure though to travel mentally to those archaic communities and get some inspiration from their lifestyle which is impossible though to replicate 100% nowadays in bigger cities.
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