Many months ago I worked up a solid draft about the Blue Zones charade. I didn’t publish it right away, but knew someday that I would.
And folks, Blue Zones Kitchen hitting #1 on all of Amazon this week is just the catalyst I needed to enthusiastically call bullshit on the what has been bothering me for a long, long time: this phony Blue Zones fad.
Recently, someone who I’ve known for a long time asked me a question about my diet, which is devoid of most vitamin A. For those of you who are just discovering this blog, this diet has given me profound results in terms of alleviating my asthma and pet allergies. I love it. I wouldn’t consider anything else unless I start having other problems, or it stops working to control my asthma.
This person asked me in a discussion about whether vitamin A is bad for you. He/She argued, “Why do people in countries that consume the most vitamin A have the longest lifespans and lowest rates of heart disease?” He/She was referring to Japan and France, specifically.
This comment really set me off. Obviously, I have no interest in going and running around trying to make my decisions about what to eat based on what somebody in Japan is eating. My dietary decisions are solely based on what is alleviating an actual health problem. I have no interest, nor care, nor any regard whatsoever, for what anybody else on the planet is eating, however or wherever they are eating it. It makes absolutely no difference to me. And it certainly shouldn’t make a difference to you.
If there is something – a diet or anything at all – that has a potential therapeutic effect, then having to run it through some kind of blue zone approval process is completely absurd! This wacky idea takes me back to the days when everyone felt obligated to run every single idea pertaining to health and nutrition through some kind of caveman approval process. Or somehow tried proving it through the nature approval process, as if nothing in the world could possibly have any validity if there wasn’t some barefooted caveman, in a loincloth, doing the same thing thousands of years ago.
It’s just not relevant. But as I go and look deeper into the issue of longevity and different health statistics in different areas all over the world, I continue to encounter all kinds of contradictions in what people believe, and I just can’t ignore those contradictions anymore. Today, we’ll drop a bomb to, hopefully, and finally, rid the world of this blue zone bullshit forever.
If you just look at the longevity statistics of people in Japan and France, for example, on the whole, they do actually live longer than other people in different countries. If you take a look at the world data, it shows that Japan is number one in life expectancy at 83.7 years. Clearly, the Japanese people must be doing something really spectacular if they are leading the world in life expectancy, right?
But if you take a closer look at the life expectancy of Asian Americans from each state of the US, you’ll see numbers that far exceed the life expectancy of a typical Japanese person. For example, in the United States, the state of Hawaii has the highest life expectancy rate of 81.5 years. What’s even more interesting is that the life expectancy for Asian Americans in the state of Hawaii is 83.5 years. Wow! That’s almost exactly the same as the Japanese life expectancy of 83.7.
Already we’re seeing that this relationship and this belief that the Japanese have exceptional longevity is starting to erode, but wouldn’t it be more surprising if Asian Americans living in Hawaii actually had one of the lowest life expectancies of any state in the US?
These are some of the states that trump the life expectancy of Asian-Americans in Hawaii:
· California – 86.3 years
· Colorado – 87.4 years
· New York – 88.6 years
· Connecticut and Massachusetts – 89.1 years
· New Jersey – 89.4 years
· Florida – almost 89 years old
· Maryland and Texas – Over 88 years old; and
· Pennsylvania – 89 years
And the list just goes on and on from here. What we’re seeing is that Asian Americans live longer than actual Asian Japanese! These life expectancies are higher than all of the official “blue zones!”
Still convinced that the Japanese are the almighty beacon of life expectancy? Let’s look at another telling example and compelling contradiction in the world of longevity research and life expectancy. One of the most well-known factors that influence life expectancy is height. In a study entitled, “Impact of Height and Weight on Lifespan,” it was found that the men with a height of 175.3 centimeters or less, lived an average of 4.95 years longer than those who are over 175.3 centimeters tall, while men whose height is 170.2 centimeters or less, lived a whopping 7.46 years longer than those with a height of at least 182.9 centimeters. Right here you can see that an inch in height is worth at least a year of life expectancy. Essentially, the shorter you are, the longer you live.
It’s very understandable to go crazy and get all excited about the longevity statistics of Asians. But before you start jamming your pie holes full of rice, with the idea that this will help you add an extra 10 years to your life, I think you must consider the fact that the more feasible explanation here is that the boost in life expectancy seen amongst Asians is due primarily to affluence and shorter height. Their diet isn’t the primary reason for this occurrence.
Don’t believe that height has anything to do with life expectancy? Well, here’s another example. Certainly, you know that men tend to die younger than women. It’s known worldwide that men have about a 9% shorter life expectancy than women. I’ve heard all kinds of laughable and ludicrous theories about this. Women live longer from lower iron levels from menstruating? Rolling on the floor laughing.
The actual reason why men live shorter lives is that they are 8% taller than women, which in turn shortens their life expectancy by 9%. This data correlates exactly with the data I provided about how the height of a person is linked to their lifespan. The differences in height between males and females explain the difference in life expectancy 100%. End of story. No further explanations needed. It’s not salad; it’s not menstruation; it’s definitely not getting pregnant and having babies. It’s simply the height.
Now back to the blue zones. Did you know that Okinawans have a life expectancy of 85.3 years? And, did you also know that the average Okinawan is only 4’11”? They’re about 8 inches shorter than an average American; yet, here they are living about eight years longer than an average American. Those precious Okinawans. We should all get down on our knees, praise and worship them, and stuff our mouths full of soy to be just like them!
Note: I’m not really paying much attention the the OTHER blue zones in this post, since Okinawa is kind of considered the king of the blue zones. Other supposed blue zones have even less impressive longevity stats than Okinawa.
But take a close look at these next things I’m about to say. If you do the math and adjust for the differences in height, Okinawans actually have an age-adjusted life expectancy that is THE SAME as a typical American of any race. And Okinawan lifespan is mind-bendingly lower than the average life expectancy of your typical Asian American.
Now let’s look at France. France’s life expectancy is 82.4 years and is ranked ninth in the world. French citizens are almost a hundred percent white in ethnicity. Yet, if you look at the life expectancy of white people in the United States, you’ll see that most of the states range from 79 to 81 years of life expectancy. It’s not too big of a difference between France. The longevity of Australians is actually higher than in France. And, Australia is one of the most obese countries in the world. You cheese eaters might want to ease up off of France’s nuts!
I’m not saying that there aren’t lifestyle and dietary factors that impact your overall health and your life expectancy. I’m sure there are. While we don’t know exactly what those are, it’s clear that anything you do or any change that the masses try to undertake to expand their lifespan is very unlikely to make a significant impact.
Affluence, ethnicity, and total body size, height especially, are the primary factors that determine your lifespan. There is no such thing as a “blue zone” where people are living an insanely long anomalous lifespan when tweaked for ethnicity and size. It’s a complete and total farce! If there is a blue zone, it’s Asian Americans living in the BLUE STATES!
The creator of this idea has totally infused his personal dietary beliefs into his research and conclusions about the blue zones, saying that eating a predominantly plant-based diet is the key to longevity. Not only is this idea completely false, but also very presumptive. As you can see, there are no special zones where people live a long, bizarre lifespan compared to everyone else.
The fact that the author, Dan Buettner, had the nerve to write a book full of recipes, as if recipes could actually have a meaningful impact on your lifespan, is deeply insulting to people who care about the truth.
But it sells! Of course it does. We’d all eat some magical recipes if it made us live an extra decade, but such a recipe does not exist. You’re better off spending a lot less time thinking about your food, chilling out, and focusing on creating more financial security for yourself and your family. If you need a guru to lead you, no one ever said it better than the Maniac in Black, Mr. Snoop Eastwood.
“I’ll be rollin’ down the street smokin’ indo, sippin’ on gin and juice. Laid back. With my mind on my money and my money on my mind.”
In conclusion, shut the fuck up about the blue zones! Don’t make your dietary or lifestyle decisions based on what some four foot nothing Okinawan gardener is doing (although they have a great reputation for being excellent Karate instructors!). Dietary and lifestyle interventions based on fabricated blue zone insights are an idiotic way to go about trying to improve, treat, overcome, or prevent individual health problems. Be open to any and all research and ideas and what other people are doing to successfully conquer the same health problem that you’re looking to fix.
Or ignore all of it and live your life the best you can with the time you’ve got.
Just don’t spend decades of your life trying to live longer by eating scant portions of bland salad-like food. That’s not a recipe for long life. It will just make your life SEEM longer.