Dan Buettner is an American explorer, educator, author and public speaker. He also co-produced a documentary and holds three world records for endurance bicycling. He is the founder of the online Quest Network, Inc., which provides opportunities for students to interactively engage with explorers on expedition. In February 2007, an expedition led by Buettner to Nicoya, Costa Rica uncovered the longest-lived people known in the Western Hemisphere.
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Hello, I'm Dan Buettner, and I spent the last 10 years exploring parts of the world where people live the longest along with National Geographic.
I condensed those findings into my book, THE BLUE ZONE SOLUTION, so that getting healthier and living to be 100 can be easier than ever.
You can learn more about the book here: http://www.bluezones.com/blue-zones-solution-2/
I am bringing BLUE ZONES wisdom to 23 cities in America. And you can learn more about that project here: http://www.bluezones.com/about-blue-zones/
Victoria's helping me get started.
Thank you for all the questions and comments! I gotta run but if you think of anymore questions feel free to tweet them at me @bluezones.
Live Large- Dan
So who's the healthiest and what can we do to emulate them?
The healthiest people are also the longest-lived. They live in Sardinia, Okinawa, Ikaria and Nicoya Peninsula. We call them Blue Zones areas. The suffer some of the lowest rates of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and dementia in the world.
Not sure if you remember me or not, but I once carried you at an F3 workout in Charlotte, NC.
My question is this:
My grandma is 97 years old and strong as an ox at roughly 4'9" with a once cracked hip (literally moves her recliner around the room by herself when she decides to change its placement). She ate a lot of salmon and shrimp but her complete diet probably has moving so well unassisted at her age.
However her mind is not there much anymore (Louis Body Dementia). Have you seen or looked at how diet affects the mind later in life? Do you see a lot of cases in your research where the body has thrived to an exceptionally old age while the mind has succumbed to dementia?
Of course I remember you. The F3 Workout was very Bluezoneseque. Good social, moving naturally, and a faith component. I was very humbled by that 5 am run with you guys!
In Ikaria, where people are eating this plant-based diet, low protein, (very little fish, by the way) and coupling it with herbal teas that lower inflammation, they are living long and staying sharp until the end. Also very important: the lived in villages where everyone got around by walking--to the store, their friends' house, the garden etc--several times a day. Walking is an incredibly complex activity, involving dozens of muscles and cognitive engagement.
Thanks again for your friendship to a stranger.
Out of the 5 Blue Zones you detail in your book, which one is your favorite to visit?
Which one has the best tasting food in your opinion?
My favorite happens to be Ikaria. I stay at Thea's Guesthouse there. I have a whole bevy for friends so it feels like a home away from home. It also has the best food in my opinion: the purest form of the Mediterranean Diet in the world. Sardinia is a close second.
What type of diet did you find to be the healthiest? Were you surprised by any of your findings?
We found that a plant-based diet was healthiest. About 90% of all calories came from plant sources. We didn't see much cow's dairy but we did see goat and sheep cheese.
Why did you start thinking about longevity and investigating Blue Zones?
I've been working with National Geographic for the past 15 years. I started out as an explorer and writing. I organized expeditions that sought to unravel ancient mysteries--like why the Maya Civilization Collapsed and Marco Polo's Journey. In 2000, I stumbled across a World Health Organization finding that showed that Okinawans had the longest, healthiest life in the world and I thought: "Now that's a good mystery." I suggested a story to my National Geographic Editor, Peter Miller, who ran it up the flagpole. It became a hugely popular 2005 cover story and Blue Zones was born. I've been studying it ever since.
How much of longevity is genetic?
For the average American, only about 20% of longevity can be explained by genes. The rest is lifestyle, luck and environment.
Nuts. We found that people who eat nuts live 2-3 years longer than people who don't eat nuts. That means all nuts. You might ask if anyone is better and while there are arguments for walnuts and Brazil nuts, I don't specifically recommend them. If you mix it up with your nuts, trying a different one each week, you're less likely to get bored and drop the habit. As with all thinks Blue Zones, the trick is to do them for a long time--decades.
In your experience, does religion play a role in the longevity of the people you've studied?
I'm not sure of my beliefs, but I understand the benefit of faith as long as people aren't killing one another. I'd love to hear about the role religion plays in life expectancy. Thank you!
Yes. I'm not a particularly religious person but I can tell you that belonging to a faith-based community is part of successful strategy for living longer. My pal, Dr. Gary Fraser has done a meta analysis and discovered that people who show up to church or temple or mosques live 4-14 years longer than people who don't. We don't know if that's because they 1) are downshifting routinely, or 2) They have a healthy social network or 3) they're less likely to get involved with risky behaviors or 4) if there's a God and God favors church-goers. It's an association but being religious appears to stack the deck in favor of longevity.
Hi Dan, thanks for doing this AMA! I have just a few questions:
What's the closest near-death experience you've had on one of your global expeditions?
What's the craziest thing that happened on one of your record setting bike trips?
Best place to eat in Minneapolis?
Hi Ye_Kitty, thanks for the question!
To cover question 1&2 I would say it was in 1992 during AfricaTrek, my bicycle expedition across Africa. I stopped in South Africa for a quick bite to eat and was attached from behind by a crowd of people with clubs. Luckily I had my helmet on because one swing ended up cracking the helmet, thankfully not my skull. Luckily a good samaritan pulled me to safety.
I love going to SpoonRiver right by the Guthrie Theater in downtown. Great menu and tons of items that fit in with the diets of the longest lived. Check it out, tell them I sent you!
Would you ever consider doing another TED talk? Your first was amazing, and I thought I would link it here for everyone to enjoy.
I would be ecstatic to do another TED talk! Hopefully I will be requested back in the near future.
I did get the opportunity to do a TEDMED talk in addition to the TED talk which can be seen here. Thanks for sharing the link!
Now that you have researched this so much, how do you live your life? What are some eating habits, hobbies, and other things you have changed?
I started our as a long distance cyclist. I hold records for biking around the world, across Africa and from Alaska to Argentina (sounds tough but it was all downhill...). After 120,000 miles, I've decided to go easy. I do yoga. I walk with my friends, I Rollerblade around the lake in front of my house and cross-country ski.
I've also reconnected with my faith, spend more time with my kids and purposefully live in a neighborhood--the Uptown area of Minneapolis--that has sidewalks and good neighbors. Finally, I've become a pesco-vegetarian. I'm mostly vegan these days but I do eat some fish.
It's working for me. I was at the Mayo Clinic three weeks ago and the Dr. told me I have the body of a 35 year old. I'm 54
How can we put these principles into our daily lives here in the US? I eat out at restaurants often and when I go to my friends they tend to not eat healthy as well. Where do I start?
The Blue Zones Solution offers a few chapters on how to set up your kitchen, your social network and your home so that you burn more calories and consumer fewer calories, mindlessness. But the real focus has to be put on our communities. To your point, we like in America where everyone lives with in a mile of 7 fast food restaurants. How do you avoid the junk. The packaged food industry spends $9 billion a year to convince us to eat foods that aren't all that good for us.
For the past 6 years, I've been working with Healthways, a well being company that has helped us scale the Blue Zones approach. We started in Albert Lea, Minnesota and proved it worked. Now we're we've teamed up with Wellmark, HMSA, Texas Health Resources and the Beach Cities Health District to bring Blue Zones to 23 cities across America. Our approach involves working with city council to help them adopt the policies that favor fruits and vegetables over junk food, to adopt an active living policies. Our teams go into every restaurant, grocery store, school and workplace and coach them how to set up nudges and defaults so the healthiest choice is easiest. Then we get a critical mass of people to take the Blue Zones Pledge to optimize their own home. Take a look at