Sardinia Diet Every time we talk about the blue zones, those regions of the planet that Dan Buettner discovered and in which people who are over 100 years old abound, we tend to think of remote regions such as Okinawa (Japan). However, next to our country, just 1,000 kilometers from the Balearic Islands, is Sardinia, the region that gave the blue zones its first name in 2004 and one of the places in Europe where its inhabitants (and best) ) they live. Only Icaria, in Greece, can look him in the eye in a matter of longevity.
Buettner traveled to Sardinia last April to understand a little better what happens there so that, among its 10,000 inhabitants, there are 21 centenarians, an average five times that of the United States. The Minnesota-born author has published his findings in an article in The Wall Street Journal.
Buettner has come accompanied by a demographer, an evolutionary geneticist, and an Italian physicist to understand what factors make, for example, the longest-lived family in the world in 2012 live in the Olgiastra region, to the east of the island, and be formed by nine brothers whose ages totaled 818 years. That is an average of 90 years. But it is not a modern phenomenon: according to a National Geographic article, in Silanus, 91 of the 17,865 born between 1800 and 1900 lived to see their 100th birthday.
It’s not genetics, stupid
During the first years of Buettner’s research, he had suspected that what made the difference between the longest-lived and those who lived the least in similar circumstances of hygiene and sanitary development was their genetic makeup. As was the case in other of these blue zones, the genetic homogeneity of the Sardinians was very high, much higher than usual. However, research by Gianni Pes indicates that the differences in mortality from cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammation are not so substantial that they can be explained for this sole reason.
Westerners make a gross mistake when imitating the behavior of the inhabitants of these areas: we are left with the superficial
In short, in the eternal fight between genetic configuration and life habits, between determinism and free will, the latter wins. Diet does seem to be an important predictor of longevity within a society, but as was the case with the high life expectancy of Japan, the longest-lived country in the world, it is not only due to the nutrients it provides but also to the great number of activities related to a more adequate form of food, its production and the culture that fosters it.
At the dietary level, complex carbohydrates appear to positively influence the longevity of people around the world. Specifically, vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and, above all, beans. According to the calculations of the group of researchers led by Buettner, two tablespoons a day of this food caused the probability of dying to drop by 8%. A portion of food in all these places replaced meat as the main source of protein, while its fiber intake improved intestinal fiber.
Family, friends and no miracles
Buettner recalls that we Westerners make a gross mistake in imitating the behavior of the inhabitants of these areas: we tend to stick with the superficial Sardinia Diet and dismiss what is truly important. It is likely that many readers, discovering the importance of a diet based on legumes, will launch a complete change in their eating habits … and end up leaving them aside in just a few weeks, when they realize that, if they are going to live longer, It may not be worth doing without putting a tenderloin between your chest and back from time to time.
But diet is not enough to live longer. Buettner relates one of his encounters with a family of five women who belonged to three different generations. Every few weeks, they met to cook bread in the traditional way. The secret is in the dough? No, but in everything around her.
To prepare the food, the women had to cut firewood and stoke the fire, as well as knead for almost an hour. A fairly complete physical effort that, by itself, is even more exhausting than a session in the gym. But this was not the most important thing, but to maintain healthy relationships with the people around them.
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“People meet on the street every day and enjoy each other’s company,” Buettner writes in the article. “If someone gets sick, a neighbor is there. If a shepherd loses his flock, others give their animals to rebuild it. ” No one lives alone, even if they stay overnight unaccompanied in their home. As the author recalls, there is nothing more important for a community (and not one of its members) to be long-lived than for its inhabitants to support each other.
On many occasions, this is manifested through strong family ties. No personages in Sardinia thinking that they will end up in a nursing home, but they know that their children – and grandchildren, and nephews, and cousins - will be able to care for them at home until the end of their days.
They didn’t buy a treadmill, sign up for the gym, or go shopping for vitamin supplements
“None of the lively centenarians I have met told themselves at age 50, ‘I am going to adopt that diet of longevity and live another 50 years!'” The author concludes. “None of them bought a treadmill, joined the gym, or went shopping for vitamin supplements.
” Rather, they lived in areas where access to healthy food such as vegetables was easy and simple, they walked everywhere, chatted every day with their neighbors, friends, and family, cleaned their homes themselves, and every 20 minutes made a little physical exercise, such as bending over to pick fruit to walk to a neighbor’s house. The kind of activity that is very difficult to integrate into the day-to-day of an urbanite but that in this kind of rural environment remains an unconscious custom.