Netflix’s show ‘Live to 100: the Secrets of Blue Zones’ navigates the lifestyle and dietary habits of individuals living in Blue Zones, regions known for a high number of centenarians and supercentenarians.
The show delves into the dietary practices and lifestyle choices that seemingly contribute to the longevity of individuals in these zones. Or does it?
When you watch the show you see how longevity is a way of life. People in Blue Zones move a lot. They have close relationships with others in the community. They take care of their elderly rather than having the government tackle that responsibility. Which are all good and valuable contributing factors to living a long and healthy life, but when the show's creator and host, Dan Buettner, highlights the dietary practices of people living in Blue Zones, he outright omits a large portion of many of their diets, eating meat.
After each episode you inevitably come to the conclusion that eating a vegetarian, vegan, or plant based diet increases your chances of living longer, and it seems this is on purpose.
At the end of every episode the host concludes that eating a plant-based diet is a contributing factor to longevity, along with other very healthy ways of life.
One of the regions the show highlights, however, got me especially curious, Sardinia. Having been to Italy many times over the years to travel, enjoy the culture, food, or to visit family living there, I was perplexed when the host of the show visits a small town in Sardinia which has an extraordinary amount of centenarians.
The host shows the sheep herders in the region, yet shows no consumption of lamb or meat at all. If you herd sheep, you eat lamb. They're not there just to get you outside, it's a staple of your diet. Which got me thinking, what other Blue Zones did the show and the author outright lie about?
Unveiling the Facts:
Blue Zones, identified in regions such as Okinawa (Japan), Sardinia (Italy), Nicoya (Costa Rica), Icaria (Greece), and Loma Linda (California, USA), are extensively studied for their dietary patterns. It is important to note that these patterns are not uniformly vegetarian or vegan, contrary to what some might deduce from the show.
1. Sardinia, Italy
In Sardinia, a significant intake of lean meat, particularly from locally raised animals, is an integral part of the diet. A study published in the "European Journal of Clinical Nutrition" observed the traditional dietary patterns in Sardinian centenarians, finding a considerable consumption of animal products.
The audacity of removing meat consumption from the diet of Sardinian centenarians was shocking, especially when the viewer can see men herding sheep and tending to livestock, yet meat consumption is barely mentioned, if at all.
Why is that? I can only conclude that it's confirmation bias, or the host's desire to prove a point and alter reality to fit the point he wants to prove, that a plant-based diet is what leads to longevity. But, let's continue.
2. Okinawa, Japan
The diet in Okinawa is recognized for its rich variety. While it includes a variety of plants as a staple of the diet, it does include fish and pork. Research highlighted in the "Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition" reveals that moderate consumption of fish and occasional pork, rich in proteins and essential fatty acids, has been a part of traditional Okinawan diet.
Anyone visiting Okinawa would see this meat and fish consumption, so to omit it seems odd.
3. Nicoya, Costa Rica
Similarly, in Nicoya, the diet is not strictly plant-based. This is the second place that confused me, having been to Costa Rica a couple times, their love of fish and barbecue made me scratch my head as to why it wouldn't be included in the show - especially when you can literally see the barbecue pits in these villages, yet no mention of meat as a staple of their diet was highlighted.
Residents in Nicoya consume meat, predominantly chicken and pork, as per a study in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition".
4. Icaria, Greece
The dietary patterns in Icaria incorporate a range of food items, including fish and goat meat. The “Journal of Aging Research” outlines that the intake of animal protein, coupled with high plant-based foods, characterizes the dietary habits in this region.
Exploring Balanced Diets
We live in a society of tribes. That is, the vegan or plant-based tribe hates meat and does all they can to prove it's unhealthy. The meat tribe does the same to the plant-based tribe. We have conservatives who hate liberals, liberals who hate conservatives. We're inundated with a tribal mindset that removes our ability to find the truth.
Well, the truth is that yes, plants are important to eat, but so are animals.
Animals provide nutrients that plants cannot, including nutrients vital to longevity and health like vitamin B12, iron, taurine, creatine, carnitine, carnosine, and 4-hydroxyproline, among others.
Animals are a rich source of healthy fatty acids and proteins the promote cognitive health and muscular health.
Animal proteins, dairy, and eggs, are also where we get choline, which is vital for long term cognitive health, as studies show.
In short, the host of the show could have highlighted the value of balance. The necessity to include plants in one's diet, while also including meats, but instead chose to remain tribal, to ignore facts, and to push an agenda - I can't see it any other way. Why remove any mention of a portion of a diet that could contribute to long term health unless you have some point you want to prove?
This does a disservice to the millions who have watched the show, who are now considering moving to a solely plant-based diet and removing their access to the nutrients mentioned above that are only found in animals.
Quite frankly, it pisses me off.
Diet Diversity and Longevity
What should have been covered is the diversity in diet that is a common thread across Blue Zones, combining plant-based foods with meat and fish, which could be a contributing factor to longevity. The nutritional balance attained by consuming a varied diet, rich in essential nutrients from both plant and animal sources, possibly plays a pivotal role in promoting health and longevity.
The lifestyles of the centenarians in these Blue Zones are incredibly important, which is highlighted wonderfully in the show. If you're looking for a way of life that will lead to a longer, happier life, the show does a great job of this. However, it doesn't just miss the mark on diet, it seems to actively omit important aspects of dietary practices in Blue Zones, and it seems to do so in an underhanded, purposeful manner, trying to push a view point rather than looking at facts.
If you want to know how to eat, forget fad, restrictive diets that eliminate entire food groups. Plants, fruits, vegetables, roots, and yes, fish and animals, each play an important role in health, performance, and longevity.
Learn more about how to eat a balanced diet, rich in nutrients, proteins, dietary fat, and plants, read The Man Diet.