Blue Zones is an anthropological concept that describes the characteristic lifestyles and the environments of the world's longest-lived people. The term first appeared as an international concept in the November 2005 National Geographic magazine cover story "The Secrets of a Long Life" by Dan Buettner. Buettner identified five geographic areas where people live statistically longest: Okinawa (Japan); Sardinia (Italy); Nicoya (Costa Rica); Icaria (Greece) and among the Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California. He offers an explanation, based on empirical data and first hand observations, as to why these populations live healthier and longer lives.
The concept grew out of demographic work done by Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain outlined in the Journal of Experimental Gerontology, who identified Sardinia's Nuoro province as the region with the highest concentration of male centenarians. As the two men zeroed in on the cluster of villages with the highest longevity, they drew concentric blue circles on the map and began referring to the area inside the circle as the Blue Zone. Together with demographers Pes and Poulain, Buettner broadened the term, applying it to validated longevity areas of Okinawa, Japan and among the Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California. Buettner and Poulain, under the aegis of National Geographic, then identified and validated longevity hotspots in Nicoya, Costa Rica and Icaria, Greece.
The five regions identified and discussed by Buettner in the book The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who've Lived the Longest:
- Sardinia, Italy (particularly Ogliastra, Barbagia di Ollolai and Barbagia of Seulo): one team of demographers found a hot spot of longevity in mountain villages where an amazing proportion of men reach the age of 100 years. In particular, a village called Seulo, located in the Barbagia of Seulo, holds the record of 20 centenarians from 1996 to 2016, that confirms it is "the place where people live the longest in the world".
- The islands of Okinawa, Japan: another team examined a group that is among the longest-lived on Earth.
- Loma Linda, California: researchers studied a group of Seventh-day Adventists who rank among North America's longevity all-stars.
- Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica: the peninsula was the subject of research on a Quest Network expedition which began on January 29, 2007.
- Icaria, Greece: an April 2009 study on the island of Icaria uncovered the location with the highest percentage of 90-year-olds on the planet – nearly 1 out of 3 people make it to their 90s. Furthermore, Icarians "have about 20 percent lower rates of cancer, 50 percent lower rates of heart disease and almost no dementia."
Residents of these places produce a high rate of centenarians, suffer a fraction of the diseases that commonly kill people in other parts of the developed world, and enjoy more healthy years of life.
The people inhabiting Blue Zones share common lifestyle characteristics that contribute to their longevity. The Venn diagram at the right highlights the following six shared characteristics among the people of Okinawa, Sardinia, and Loma Linda Blue Zones:
- Family – put ahead of other concerns
- Less smoking
- Semi-vegetarianism – the majority of food consumed is derived from plants
- Constant moderate physical activity – an inseparable part of life
- Social engagement – people of all ages are socially active and integrated into their communities
- Legumes – commonly consumed
In his book, Buettner provides a list of nine lessons, covering the lifestyle of blue zones people:
- Moderate, regular physical activity.
- Life purpose.
- Stress reduction.
- Moderate calories intake.
- Plant-based diet.
- Moderate alcohol intake, especially wine.
- Engagement in spirituality or religion.
- Engagement in family life.
- Engagement in social life.
- Buettner, Dan (2012). The Blue Zones, Second Edition: 9 Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic. ISBN 978-1426209482. OCLC 777659970.
- Buettner, Dan (2010). Thrive : finding happiness the Blue Zones way. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic. ISBN 978-1426205156. OCLC 651074951.
- "Longevity, The Secrets of Long Life - National Geographic Magazine". ngm.nationalgeographic.com. Retrieved 2017-04-03.
- Poulain M.; Pes G.M.; Grasland C.; Carru C.; Ferucci L.; Baggio G.; Franceschi C.; Deiana L. (2004). "Identification of a Geographic Area Characterized by Extreme Longevity in the Sardinia Island: the AKEA study". Experimental Gerontology. 39 (9): 1423–1429. doi:10.1016/j.exger.2004.06.016. PMID 15489066.
- Poulain, Michel; Pes, Giovanni Mario; Grasland, Claude; Carru, Ciriaco; Ferrucci, Luigi; Baggio, Giovannella; Franceschi, Claudio; Deiana, Luca (2004-09-01). "Identification of a geographic area characterized by extreme longevity in the Sardinia island: the AKEA study". Experimental Gerontology. 39 (9): 1423–1429. doi:10.1016/j.exger.2004.06.016.
- Buettner, Dan (21 April 2009) . "Contents". The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest (First Paperback ed.). Washington, D.C.: National Geographic. p. vii. ISBN 978-1-4262-0400-5. OCLC 246886564. Retrieved 15 September 2009.
- "Seulo, il paese più longevo del mondo Soprannomi e segreti del paese dei record - Cronaca - L'Unione Sarda.it". L'Unione Sarda.it. 2016-04-03. Retrieved 2016-11-27.
- Anderson Cooper, Gary Tuchman (November 16, 2005). "CNN Transcripts on Living Longer". Retrieved 2006-08-25. See CNN excerpt on YouTube.
- "Nicoya, Costa Rica". BlueZones.com. Retrieved 2011-03-04.
- Dan Buettner (2007-02-02). "Report from the 'Blue Zone': Why Do People Live Long in Costa Rica?". ABC News. Retrieved 2011-03-04.
- The Island Where People Live Longer', NPR: Weekend Edition Saturday, May 2, 2009.
- Buettner, Dan: "The Secrets of Long Life.", page 9. National Geographic, November 2005.
- Power 9™ » Blue Zones – Live Longer, Better: "Blue Zones – Live Longer, Better", Quest Network, 2006.
- Buettner, Dan (2012-11-06). The Blue Zones, Second Edition: 9 Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest. National Geographic Books. ISBN 9781426209499.