We all are constantly bombarded with the latest health advice which seems to be forever changing, we went from low fat to low carb to low sugar and now we are going even more specific with keto, carnivore and vegan diets which all claim to be the greatest for our health. Which is the best? And which makes us live the longest? Well, you’ll be surprised to find out it probably doesn’t even matter that much and here’s why.
But before we get to that, I want to write this blog in honour of Karla Mans Giroux who was recently on The Power is Within Us podcast . Karla is an incredibly inspirational woman who has not once but twice beaten cancer. She has now so radically taken control of her health and taken control of her life that she is a cancer coach and helps guide people through their own cancer journeys. When we had our conversation Karla brought up the 10 Healing Factors from the book Radical Remission, & more recently, Radical Hope, by Dr. Kelly Turner.
What struck me about these 10 factors was how similar they were to another study I had read on longevity across the world in the Blue Zones. They are geographically defined areas with the highest percentage of centenarians (Loma Linda, CA, USA; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Sardinia, Italy; Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan) where people reach age 100 at 10 times greater rates.
Healing and longevity are inevitably linked because the premise is the same. You are essentially trying to create an environment for your body where it can live healthily and when your body is in an optimal environment, it has incredible powers within that can heal, it’s what our immune system was made for.
So what are the factors for optimal healing from the book radical remissions:
- Radically changing your diet.
- Taking control of your health.
- Following your intuition.
- Using herbs and supplements.
- Releasing suppressed emotions.
- Increasing positive emotions.
- Embracing social support.
- Deepening your spiritual connection.
- Having strong reasons for living.
Compare these with the power 9 from blue zones – the 9 factors the lifestyles of all Blue Zones residents shared.
- Move naturally.The world’s longest-lived people live in environments that constantly nudge them into moving without thinking about it. They grow gardens and do not have mechanical conveniences for house work.
- Purpose.Simply knowing why you wake up in the morning. Knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to 7 years of extra life expectancy.
- We all experience stress. Stress leads to chronic inflammation, associated with every major age-related disease. What the world’s longest-lived people have that others do not are routines to deal with stress. Ikarians take a nap; and Sardinians do happy hour.
- Don’t overeat.People in the Blue Zones eat local meals intuitively and don’t over indulge. Their smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening, and then, they do not eat any more the rest of the day.
- Plants.Beans, including fava, black, soy, and lentils, are the cornerstone of most centenarian diets. Meat—mostly pork—is eaten on average only 5 times per month. Serving sizes are 3 to 4 oz, about the size of a deck of cards.
- Wine @ 5.People in all Blue Zones (except Adventists) drink alcohol moderately and regularly. Moderate drinkers outlive nondrinkers. The trick is to drink 1 to 2 glasses per day (preferably Sardinian Cannonau wine), with friends and/or with food. And no, you cannot save up all week and have 14 drinks on Saturday.
- All but 5 of the 263 centenarians interviewed belonged to some faith-based community. Denomination does not seem to matter. Research shows that attending faith-based services 4 times per month will add 4 to 14 years of life expectancy.
- Loved ones first.Successful centenarians in the Blue Zones put their families first. This means building families and committing to a life partner which can add up to 3 years of life expectancy. Investing in their children with time and love also helps build the family and the kids will then be more likely to care for their aging parents when the time comes.
- Right tribe.The world’s longest-lived people chose—or were born into—social circles that supported healthy behaviours, Okinawans created moais—groups of 5 friends that committed to each other for life. Research from the Framingham Studies2 shows that smoking, obesity, happiness, and even loneliness are contagious. So the social networks of long-lived people have favourably shaped their health behaviours.
For the full Blue Zone study go to https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6125071/
What stuck out to me specifically was that 6 out of 9 in Radical remissions and 6 out of 9 in The Blue Zone study had nothing to do with diet at all. That’s to say two thirds of what can help us heal and live longer is fundamentally down to our social and emotional state. Having a purpose, having a social tribe around you, and of course being with your loved ones are what make us live long and healthy lives.
The diet element wasn’t particularly consistent across Blue Zones but what was consistent was that food was a social occasion and it brought the family together to enjoy local and seasonal food. Perhaps it’s time we rethink how we live our lives?