Nutrition: Manger comme des Grecs, vivre comme des Méthusalem (How a small California town became America’s hot spot of health and longevity)

Soit donc que vous mangiez, soit que vous buviez, soit que vous fassiez quelque autre chose, faites tout pour la gloire de Dieu. Paul (1 Corinthiens 10: 31)
6 centenaires à Clapiers, pour un village d’un peu plus de 5.000 habitants, ce n’est pas commun. Cette particularité est due au Foyer du Romarin, une maison de retraite créée en 1974 sur les hauteurs de Clapiers, à l’ombre séculaire des pins d’Alep. (…) Le Foyer du Romarin a connu en outre deux hauts faits :  tout d’abord le mariage des « Plus vieux mariés du Monde », dont l’histoire a fait les délices des télévisions du monde entier, tant il n’y a pas d’âge pour l’amour, ensuite, l’hébergement de la doyenne du Languedoc-Roussillon, Marie Combes, décédée en février 2005 à l’âge de 109 ans et 4 mois, la seule centenaire du Foyer des Romarins à l’époque. Montpellier villages
Although their religious beliefs varied, having a strong belief in God was another trait they had in common. This was especially true in the blue zone discovered in Loma Linda, California. Prior to this discovery the extent of the long and healthy lives these amazing people live was not well known to the general public. Loma Linda is the home of Loma Linda University and Adventists make up the majority of the population living there. In addition to being where the Adventist Medical School is located, the university graduates one of the highest percentages of registered dieticians and nutritionists in the world.  Interestingly Loma Linda appears to be maintaining their longevity better than the other blue zones in the study. Obesity has become a problem among the young in Okinawa and fast food has invaded Sardinia, so the faith based component appears to be a bigger factor than originally thought. World life expectancy
Like many Adventists, Marge spends most of her time with other Adventists. « It’s difficult to have non-Adventist friends, » she says. « Where do you meet them? You don’t do the same things. I don’t go to movies or dances. » As a result, researchers say, Adventists increase their chances for long life by associating with people who reinforce their healthy behaviors. The National Geographic magazine
Many Seventh-Day Adventists are vegetarians, physically active, and involved in their community. In other words, their lifestyles are quite unique in an America where community has become less and less important and over one third of the population is obese. Smoking and drinking are discouraged by the faith, as is the consumption of caffeine, rich foods, and certain spices. By most of our hyper-connected standards, the Seventh-Day Adventists are also an isolated community. Unlike other Christian sects that take their Sabbath on Sunday, they take theirs on Saturday. The more conservative members of the religion cut themselves off from popular culture altogether. Because of their unique lifestyle, scientists from a variety of organizations like the National Health Institute and the American Cancer Society have since 1958 been studying how the community’s dietary habits, lifestyle, disease rates, and mortality interact in a series of studies known as the Adventist Health Studies. What they have found in the decades since is remarkable. Loma Linda leads the country in longevity. While the average American woman will live to be 81, vegetarian Adventist women in Loma Linda will on average live to be 86. While the average American man will live until 76, the average vegetarian Adventist man will live until 83. The Adventists are also notably resilient. (…) The death rate from cancer for Adventist men is 60 percent lower than that of the average California male; for Adventist women, it is 75 percent lower. According to Loma Linda University, ground zero in the Adventist Health Studies, « Death from coronary heart disease among Adventist men was 66 percent [lower compared to their California peers]; for Adventist women, it was 98 percent [lower]. Stroke death rates for Adventist men were 72 percent [lower], compared to their non-Adventist counterparts. For Adventist women, death from stroke was 82 percent [lower]. » These facts have led Buettner, a National Geographic Explorer, to label Loma Linda America’s hot spot (or « blue zone ») of health and longevity. Their physical health is not the only thing outpacing that of regular Americans. On measures of mental health and well-being, the Adventists also score much higher than the average American.
Beyond their conservative lifestyle and commitment to faith — research shows that attending religious services regularly is associated with greater longevity and happiness — there is also the matter of what they eat, which is a mostly Mediterranean diet. Eating like Greeks not only can account for their excellent health, but it may also explain why they score higher on measures of well-being. According to research in psychology, happiness is determined by three variables. Your genetic makeup accounts for 50 percent, and your circumstances account for 10 percent. The remainder of your enduring happiness is determined by the choices we voluntarily make — how we think and act and what we do on a day-to-day basis. That 40 percent, as social psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky points out in her book The How of Happiness, can go a long way. According to a new large study, which will be published in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, eating Mediterranean foods is linked to feeling happy. People who eat foods associated with a Mediterranean diet — non-starchy fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, olive oil, legumes, and nuts — experience more of those emotions associated with being happy than people who eat a typically American diet, which consists of high-fat dairy products, eggs, refined grains, and processed food. The health benefits of eating Mediterranean foods have been well documented. People whose diets incorporate a healthy serving of fresh vegetables, olive oil, fish, whole grains, and fruit are at lower risk for heart disease and cancer, the two leading causes of death in the United States. They are also at lower risk for diabetes and Alzheimer’s. They are better able to control their weight and cholesterol levels; they tend to be more alert; they exhibit less depressive symptoms; and they may live longer. (…)  According to Gary Fraser, a doctor and professor at the Loma Linda University School of Medicine, « Adventists who consumed nuts at least five times a week had about half the risk of heart disease of those who didn’t. This was true of men, women, vegetarian, non-vegetarian–we split the population up about 16 or 17 different ways and each time asked the question, ‘Does nut consumption matter?’ And every time we saw that it did. » The nut eaters also lived two years longer than those who did not regularly consume nuts. (…) If you are an Adventist woman who eats tomatoes three or four times a week, you are 70 percent less likely to get ovarian cancer than your friends who eat tomatoes more sparingly. For men, eating tomatoes decreases the chances of getting prostate cancer. Finally, eating meat makes a big difference. Adventist men who do not eat meat outlive American men by seven years. Adventist women who do not eat meat outlive American women by five years. Many Adventists do not eat meat, but even those that do outlive their peers thanks to the amount of vegetables, fruits, and other healthy foods they eat. Meat-eating Adventist men live 7.3 years longer while the women live 4.4 years longer than other Californians. (…) Emerging research in the fields of neuroscience and nutrition show that people who eat a diet of modern processed foods have increased levels of depression, anxiety, mood swings, hyperactivity, and a wide variety of other mental and emotional problems. One study found that adolescents with low-quality junk food diets are 79 percent more likely to suffer from depression. Another found that diets high in trans fats found in processed foods raised the risk of depression by 42 percent among adults over the course of approximately six years. And a huge study of women’s diets by the Harvard School of Public Health concluded that those whose diets contained the greatest number of healthy omega-3 fats (and the lowest levels of unhealthy omega-6s) were significantly less likely to suffer from depression. The Atlantic

En ces temps étranges où même les nouvelles peuvent se révéler dangereuses pour la santé …

Et de plus en plus d’Occidentaux et surtout d’Américains, sont gagnés par le surpoids et l’obésité …

Retour, avec la revue américaine The Atlantic, sur une petite tribu d’irréductibles qui, à l’instar du village gaulois d’Astérix, résiste encore et toujours au mode de vie ambiant …

Et, mangeant à la grecque, truste les records de longévité à la Méthusalem …

The Lovely Hill: Where People Live Longer and Happier

Emily Esfahani Smith

The Atlantic

Feb 4 2013

In one idyllic community in southern California, Adventists live 4 to 7 years longer — and more healthily and happily — than the rest of the country. A look at their diet, lifestyle, and philosophy

When Ellsworth Wareham was in his nineties, he decided that his house in Loma Linda, California — a beautiful city 60 miles east of Los Angeles, Spanish for « lovely hill » — needed a new fence. But rather than hire a contractor to install the wood fence, as most nonagenarians would no doubt do, Wareham went to the hardware store, bought the supplies he needed, and returned to dig some post holes. As Dan Buettner recounts in his book Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, Wareham proceeded to put the wood fence up himself.

A few days later, Wareham was in the hospital — performing open-heart surgery on a patient.

Wareham has had some extraordinary experiences. During World War II, he was a doctor in the Navy; once, when he was on board a destroyer near the coast of Okinawa, he removed the appendix of an officer as the ship was being tossed about in the middle of a typhoon. In the 1950s, he did pioneering work on open-heart surgery when it was still a new technique. On a U.S. State Department sponsored trip in 1963, some surgeons from Loma Linda — including Wareham — were with a team of doctors that brought open-heart surgery to Pakistan for the first time. And during the Vietnam War, the work that he and other heart surgeons did in Saigon was featured on the Walter Cronkite show.

By many accounts, Wareham, now 98, has led a good, full, and meaningful life. What does he know that we don’t?

As a middle-aged man, Wareham spent a lot of time in the operating room cutting into one patient after another who had heart problems. There, he noticed something: patients who were vegetarian mostly had much cleaner and smoother arteries than those who ate meat. The arteries of meat-eaters tended to be full of calcium and plaque.

So he made a choice. He decided to become a vegan. That decision was not too hard to make given the fact that many of the inhabitants of his southern Californian community were already very health conscious. Consider: there is no meat sold at one of the largest grocery stores in town. In fact, as recently as a generation ago, meat was difficult to find in the grocery stores of Loma Linda, as the New York Times reports. On top of that, smoking is banned in the town; alcohol is scarcely available; and fast food restaurants are hard to come by.

But make no mistake: Loma Linda is not some bohemian enclave of free-spirited vegans. Rather, what makes the community remarkable — and remarkably health conscious — is that it is home to one of the largest concentrations of Seventh-Day Adventists in the world. A conservative denomination of Christianity founded during this country’s Second Great Awakening in the mid-1800s, the religion advocates a healthy lifestyle as a main tenet of the faith. This is a major reason why Wareham, a Seventh-Day Adventist, takes his health so seriously.

« Adventists believe in the body and soul as one, » according to Dr. Daniel Giang of Loma Linda University’s Medical Center. Pastor Randy Roberts of the same university references scripture to drive the point home: « In Corinthians, Paul speaking of the human body says specifically, ‘you are the temple of the Holy spirit.’ Therefore, he says, whatever you do in your body, you do it to the honor, the glory and the praise of God. » The Seventh-Day Adventists, like Jews and Muslims, stay away from foods that the Bible deems impure, like pork.

Many Seventh-Day Adventists are vegetarians, physically active, and involved in their community. In other words, their lifestyles are quite unique in an America where community has become less and less important and over one third of the population is obese. Smoking and drinking are discouraged by the faith, as is the consumption of caffeine, rich foods, and certain spices. By most of our hyper-connected standards, the Seventh-Day Adventists are also an isolated community. Unlike other Christian sects that take their Sabbath on Sunday, they take theirs on Saturday. The more conservative members of the religion cut themselves off from popular culture altogether.

Because of their unique lifestyle, scientists from a variety of organizations like the National Health Institute and the American Cancer Society have since 1958 been studying how the community’s dietary habits, lifestyle, disease rates, and mortality interact in a series of studies known as the Adventist Health Studies. What they have found in the decades since is remarkable.

Loma Linda leads the country in longevity. While the average American woman will live to be 81, vegetarian Adventist women in Loma Linda will on average live to be 86. While the average American man will live until 76, the average vegetarian Adventist man will live until 83.

The Adventists are also notably resilient. « Some Adventists get personally offended if they get colon cancer or some other disease, » says a doctor from the town.

The death rate from cancer for Adventist men is 60 percent lower than that of the average California male; for Adventist women, it is 75 percent lower. According to Loma Linda University, ground zero in the Adventist Health Studies, « Death from coronary heart disease among Adventist men was 66 percent [lower compared to their California peers]; for Adventist women, it was 98 percent [lower]. Stroke death rates for Adventist men were 72 percent [lower], compared to their non-Adventist counterparts. For Adventist women, death from stroke was 82 percent [lower]. »

These facts have led Buettner, a National Geographic Explorer, to label Loma Linda America’s hot spot (or « blue zone ») of health and longevity. Their physical health is not the only thing outpacing that of regular Americans. On measures of mental health and well-being, the Adventists also score much higher than the average American.

***

What are the Adventists doing differently from the rest of us? Beyond their conservative lifestyle and commitment to faith — research shows that attending religious services regularly is associated with greater longevity and happiness — there is also the matter of what they eat, which is a mostly Mediterranean diet. Eating like Greeks not only can account for their excellent health, but it may also explain why they score higher on measures of well-being.

According to research in psychology, happiness is determined by three variables. Your genetic makeup accounts for 50 percent, and your circumstances account for 10 percent. The remainder of your enduring happiness is determined by the choices we voluntarily make — how we think and act and what we do on a day-to-day basis. That 40 percent, as social psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky points out in her book The How of Happiness, can go a long way.

According to a new large study, which will be published in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, eating Mediterranean foods is linked to feeling happy. People who eat foods associated with a Mediterranean diet — non-starchy fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, olive oil, legumes, and nuts — experience more of those emotions associated with being happy than people who eat a typically American diet, which consists of high-fat dairy products, eggs, refined grains, and processed food.

The health benefits of eating Mediterranean foods have been well documented. People whose diets incorporate a healthy serving of fresh vegetables, olive oil, fish, whole grains, and fruit are at lower risk for heart disease and cancer, the two leading causes of death in the United States. They are also at lower risk for diabetes and Alzheimer’s. They are better able to control their weight and cholesterol levels; they tend to be more alert; they exhibit less depressive symptoms; and they may live longer.

To see what a difference eating Greek makes, consider the effects that just three simple patterns of the Mediterranean diet have had on the Adventists.

The first is the role of nuts, which forms a large part of the Adventist diet in Loma Linda. According to Gary Fraser, a doctor and professor at the Loma Linda University School of Medicine, « Adventists who consumed nuts at least five times a week had about half the risk of heart disease of those who didn’t. This was true of men, women, vegetarian, non-vegetarian–we split the population up about 16 or 17 different ways and each time asked the question, ‘Does nut consumption matter?’ And every time we saw that it did. » The nut eaters also lived two years longer than those who did not regularly consume nuts.

Then there are tomatoes, a staple of the Mediterranean diet. If you are an Adventist woman who eats tomatoes three or four times a week, you are 70 percent less likely to get ovarian cancer than your friends who eat tomatoes more sparingly. For men, eating tomatoes decreases the chances of getting prostate cancer.

Finally, eating meat makes a big difference. Adventist men who do not eat meat outlive American men by seven years. Adventist women who do not eat meat outlive American women by five years. Many Adventists do not eat meat, but even those that do outlive their peers thanks to the amount of vegetables, fruits, and other healthy foods they eat. Meat-eating Adventist men live 7.3 years longer while the women live 4.4 years longer than other Californians.

On the other side of the spectrum, we know that certain dietary patterns, like eating lots of fatty foods, are associated with depression and mental illness.

Drew Ramsay, MD, of Columbia University elaborates:

Emerging research in the fields of neuroscience and nutrition show that people who eat a diet of modern processed foods have increased levels of depression, anxiety, mood swings, hyperactivity, and a wide variety of other mental and emotional problems. One study found that adolescents with low-quality junk food diets are 79 percent more likely to suffer from depression. Another found that diets high in trans fats found in processed foods raised the risk of depression by 42 percent among adults over the course of approximately six years. And a huge study of women’s diets by the Harvard School of Public Health concluded that those whose diets contained the greatest number of healthy omega-3 fats (and the lowest levels of unhealthy omega-6s) were significantly less likely to suffer from depression.

While scientists know a lot about the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet and eating patterns associated with mental illness, they know far less about the eating habits that are related to a thriving and good life. This new study steps in to fill that void.

« Much of the published research has focused upon food’s association with depression and foods association with disease, » Patricia Ford, the lead author of the study, tells me. « This study is focusing upon positive health and positive well-being. »

Ford and her team at Loma Linda University examined the eating patterns of over 9,000 healthy Seventh-Day Adventists in North America over a four-year period. How often did they eat fast food? Did they eat meat? What kinds of dairy products were they consuming? What about nuts? Desserts? Fish? They then examined their self-reported feelings of positive and negative emotions–how often did they feel inspired? Excited? Enthusiastic? Upset? Scared? Distressed?

The researchers found that those who eat like Greeks feel more inspired, alert, excited, active, inspired, determined, attentive, proud, and enthusiastic than those who consume a more typically American diet consisting of highly processed foods, soda, and sweets like cookies and doughnuts. People who eat foods associated with a Mediterranean diet also experienced less negative emotions like being afraid, nervous, upset, irritable, scared, hostile, and distressed. The more people ate those foods that are more typically American — specifically, red meat, sweets, and fast food — the less of these positive emotions they felt.

For women, the findings of Ford’s study were particularly dramatic. Though men ate more red meat, processed foods, desserts, sodas, and fast foods than women, when women ate unhealthily, they experienced more emotional distress. Not only did those who ate red meat and fast food frequently experience less positive moods, but they also experienced more negative feelings, a pattern not seen in men who ate less healthy foods.

There’s More to Life Than Being Happy

Those women might look to the life of Marge Jetton for inspiration. Like Wareham, Jetton is a model of the Adventist lifestyle. At 100 years old, Jetton, a former nurse, would wake up at 4.30 am each morning. After getting dressed and reading from the Bible, she would work out. When she completed her mile-long walk and 6-8 miles on the stationary bike, she had oatmeal for breakfast. For lunch, she would mix up some raw vegetables and fruit. Occasionally, she would splurge on a treat like waffles made from soy and garbanzo beans. That wasn’t all. The centenarian volunteered regularly, barreled around town in her Cadillac Seville, and pumped iron. She also tended to a garden that grew tomatoes, corn, and hydrangeas.

Though she was sad and lonely after her husband died in 2003, she found happiness in serving other people. « I found that when you are depressed, that’s when you do something for somebody else … My motto is: A stranger is a friend we haven’t met yet. » Another motto: « Try to be happy in spite of your trials. »

She died in February 2011 at the age of 106. Her friends and community remembered her as being quick-witted and funny. « She represented the promise of good living, » Buettner said when she died.

Voir aussi:

LONGEVITY HOT SPOTS – Highest Life Expectancy In The World?

THE LONGEST LIVING PEOPLE ON EARTH CALL THESE PLACES HOME

Only five official Blue Zones exist in the entire world. They are located in regions of different countries where people commonly live active lives past the age of 100. It took several years of research for scientists and demographers to find them and even longer to classify them. Each longevity « hot-spot » required intense study to determine the healthy traits and life practices they had in common that caused them to lead, healthier and happier lives. A blue zone is considered to be a « longevity oasis » and the people who live there are believed to have the longest life expectancies on earth.

The longest living women were found in Okinawa, Japan. Another blue zone was discovered in the mountains of Sardinia, Italy where even men reach the age of 100 at an amazing rate, another was discovered on the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica in 2007. Only one of the blue zones is located in the United States. It was found when researchers, who were studying a group of Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California, discovered they suffered from a fraction of the diseases that commonly kill people in other parts of the United States and throughout the developed world. The final blue zone was found on an expedition to the island of Ikaria, Greece where they have 50% lower rates of heart disease, 20% less cancer, and almost zero dementia.

Women live longer in Okinawa than anywhere in the world

What’s their secret formula for adding another 10 healthy years? Funded in part by the U.S. National Institute on Aging, scientists focused on these longevity hot spots to answer that question and found that while it helps to have good genes, that’s less than 30% of the equation. If you adopt the right lifestyle, they concluded the other 70% can be up to us. « The secret of good health is to move, » says 88-year-old Hoei Tabaru, who keeps in shape spearing octopus from the sea, picking vegetables in his garden and by biking through his village on the island of Okinawa. Tabaru, who has never driven a car, hopes modern technology will not transform island life. « The world is too easy today, » he says, « at least for an old man like me. » Other traits the people living in the blue zones have in common include, less stress and more socializing, strong emphasis on family, a fresh natural plant based diet (eat lots of beans), very little red meat and they exercise daily. Living their lives with a sense of purpose was a big factor. It insures they look forward to getting up in the morning.

Ikaraia peninsula, Greece

Although their religious beliefs varied, having a strong belief in God was another trait they had in common. This was especially true in the blue zone discovered in Loma Linda, California. Prior to this discovery the extent of the long and healthy lives these amazing people live was not well known to the general public. Loma Linda is the home of Loma Linda University and Adventists make up the majority of the population living there. In addition to being where the Adventist Medical School is located, the university graduates one of the highest percentages of registered dieticians and nutritionists in the world.

Interestingly Loma Linda appears to be maintaining their longevity better than the other blue zones in the study. Obesity has become a problem among the young in Okinawa and fast food has invaded Sardinia, so the faith based component appears to be a bigger factor than originally thought. The blue zones have had significant media coverage, including ABC News, World News Tonight and a National Geographic study… Dan Buettner wrote a book about the blue zones and if you’re into longevity it is a must read.

Voir enfin:

The Secrets of Long Life

Residents of Okinawa, Sardinia, and Loma Linda, California, live longer, healthier lives than just about anyone else on Earth.

Dan Buettner

National Geographic

November 2005

What if I said you could add up to ten years to your life?

A long healthy life is no accident. It begins with good genes, but it also depends on good habits. If you adopt the right lifestyle, experts say, chances are you may live up to a decade longer. So what’s the formula for success? In recent years researchers have fanned out across the globe to find the secrets to long life. Funded in part by the U.S. National Institute on Aging, scientists have focused on several regions where people live significantly longer. In Sardinia, Italy, one team of demographers found a hot spot of longevity in mountain villages where men reach age 100 at an amazing rate. On the islands of Okinawa, Japan, another team examined a group that is among the longest lived on Earth. And in Loma Linda, California, researchers studied a group of Seventh-day Adventists who rank among America’s longevity all-stars. Residents of these three 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. In sum, they offer three sets of « best practices » to emulate. The rest is up to you.

Sardinians

Out in the work shed behind his house in the village of Silanus, 75-year-old Tonino Tola emerges elbow-deep from the steaming carcass of a freshly slaughtered calf, sets down his knife, and greets me with a warm, bloody handshake. Then he takes his thick glistening fingers and tickles the chin of his five-month-old grandson, Filippo, who regards the scene from his mother’s arms. « Goochi, goochi goo, » Tonino whispers. For this strapping, six-foot-tall shepherd, these two things—hard work and family—form the bedrock of his life. They may also help explain why Tonino and his neighbors are a hot spot of longevity.

A community of 2,400 people, Silanus is located on the sloping fringes of the Gennargentu Mountains in central Sardinia, where parched pastures erupt into granite peaks. In a cluster of villages in the heart of a region called the Blue Zone by demographers, 91 of the 17,865 people born between 1880 and 1900 have lived to their hundredth birthday—a rate more than twice as high as the average for Italy.

Why the extraordinary longevity here? Lifestyle is part of the answer. By 11 a.m. on this particular day, Tonino has already milked four cows, split half a cord of wood, slaughtered a calf, and walked four miles (6.4 kilometers) of pasture with his sheep. Now, taking the day’s first break, he gathers his grown children, grandson, and visitors around the kitchen table. Giovanna, his wife, a robust woman with quick, intelligent eyes, unties a handkerchief containing a paper-thin flatbread called carta da musica, fills our tumblers with red wine, and slices a round of homemade pecorino cheese with the thumping severity of a woman in charge.

Like many wives here whose husbands are busy tending sheep, Giovanna shoulders the burdens of managing the house and family finances. Among Mediterranean cultures, Sardinian women have a reputation for taking on the stress of these responsibilities. For the men, less stress may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, which may explain why the ratio of female to male centenarians is nearly one to one in some parts of Sardinia, compared with a four to one ratio favoring women in the United States.

« I do the work, » admits Tonino, hooking Giovanna around the waist, « my ragazza does the worrying. »

These Sardinians also benefit from their genetic history. About 11,000 years ago, hunter-gatherers from the Iberian Peninsula made their way eastward to Sardinia. After several millennia the Bronze Age Nuragic culture arose on the island’s fertile coastal plains. When military powers such as the Phoenicians and Romans discovered Sardinia’s charms, the natives were forced to retreat deeper and deeper into the highlands. There they developed a wariness of foreigners and a reputation for banditry, kidnapping, and settling vendettas with the lesoria, the traditional Sardinian shepherd’s knife.

In their isolation native Sardinians became genetic incubators, amplifying certain traits over generations. Even today roughly 80 percent of them are directly related to the first Sardinians, says Paolo Francalacci of the University of Sassari. Somewhere in this genetic mix, he says, may lie a combination that favors longevity.

Tonino’s family’s diet is another factor. It’s loaded with homegrown fruits and vegetables such as zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, and fava beans that may reduce the risk of heart disease and colon cancer. Also on the table: dairy products such as milk from grass-fed sheep and pecorino cheese, which, like fish, contribute protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Tonino still makes wine from his small vineyard of Cannonau grapes, which in this mountainous part of Sardinia contain two to three times as much of a component found in other wines that may prevent cardiovascular disease.

But with globalization and modernization, even remote Sardinia is changing. Cars and trucks have eliminated the need to walk long distances. Young people are more outward-looking and less traditional. Obesity, virtually nonexistent before 1940, now afflicts about 10 percent of Sardinians. « Children want potato chips and pizzas. That’s what they see on TV, » says Tonino. « Bread and pecorino are old-fashioned. »

One thing that hasn’t changed: the Sardinians’ dedication to family, which assures both support in times of crisis and life-extending care for the elderly. « I would never put my father in a retirement home, » says Tonino’s daughter Irene. « It would dishonor the family. »

For Tonino, the workday still includes a late afternoon trek to pasture his 200 sheep. Looking jaunty in his cap, coat, and leather gaiters, he strides through a narrow opening in a stone wall, counting his sheep as they follow him. When three sheep try to squeeze through, they knock over a section of the wall. With disquieting ease, Tonino hoists the heavy rocks back into place. Then he leans back on a rock outcropping and assumes the age-old role of sentinel, a routine he has performed for many decades.

« Do you ever get bored? » I ask. Before the words leave my mouth, I realize I’ve uttered a heresy. Tonino swings around, pointing at me, dried blood still rimming his fingernail, and booms: « I’ve loved living here every day of my life. »

Okinawans

The first thing you notice about Ushi Okushima is her laugh. It begins in her belly, rumbles up to her shoulders, and then erupts with a hee-haw that fills the room with pure joy. I first met Ushi five years ago at her home in Okinawa, and now it’s that same laugh that draws me back to her small wooden house in the seaside village of Ogimi. This rainy afternoon she sits snugly wrapped in a blue kimono. A heroic shock of hair is combed back from her bronzed forehead revealing alert, green eyes. Her smooth hands lie serenely folded in her lap. At her feet sit her friends, Setsuko and Matsu Taira, cross-legged on a tatami mat, sipping tea. Since I last visited Ushi, she’s taken a new job, tried to run away from home, and started wearing perfume. Predictable behavior for a young woman, perhaps, but Ushi is 103. When I ask about the perfume, she jokes that she has a new boyfriend, then claps a hand over her mouth before unleashing one of her blessed laughs.

With an average life expectancy of 78 years for men and 86 years for women, Okinawans are among the world’s longest lived people. More important, elders living in this lush subtropical archipelago tend to enjoy years free from disabilities. Okinawans have a fifth the heart disease, a fourth the breast and prostate cancer, and a third less dementia than Americans, says Craig Willcox of the Okinawa Centenarian Study.

What’s the key to their success? « Ikigai certainly helps, » Willcox offers. The word translates roughly to « that which makes one’s life worth living. » Older Okinawans, he says, possess a strong sense of purpose that may act as a buffer against stress and diseases such as hypertension. Many also belong to a Okinawan-style moai, a mutual support network that provides financial, emotional, and social help throughout life.

A lean diet may also be a factor. « A heaping plate of Okinawan vegetables, tofu, miso soup, and a little fish or meat will have fewer calories than a small hamburger, » says Makoto Suzuki of the Okinawa Centenarian Study. « And it will have many more healthy nutrients. » What’s more, many Okinawans who grew up before World War II never developed the tendency to overindulge. They still live by the Confucian-inspired adage « hara hachi bu—eat until your stomach is 80 percent full. »

And they grow much of their own food. Taking one look at the gardens kept by Okinawan centenarians, Greg Plotnikoff, a traditional-medicine researcher at the University of Minnesota, called them « cabinets of preventive medicine. » Herbs, spices, fruits, and vegetables, such as Chinese radishes, garlic, scallions, cabbage, turmeric, and tomatoes, he said, « contain compounds that may block cancers before they start. »

Ironically, for many older Okinawans this diet was born of hardship. Ushi Okushima grew up barefoot and poor. Her family scratched a living out of Ogimi’s rocky terrain, growing sweet potatoes, which formed the core of every meal. To celebrate the New Year, her village butchered a pig, and everyone got a morsel of pork.

During World War II, when U.S. warships shelled Okinawa, Ushi and Setsuko, whose husbands had been conscripted into the Japanese Army, fled to the mountains with their children. « We experienced terrible hunger, » Setsuko recalls.

Ushi now wakes every morning at six and eats a small breakfast of milk, bananas, and tomatoes. Until very recently she grew most of her food (she gave up gardening when she took a job). But her tradition-honored daily rituals haven’t changed: morning prayers to her ancestors, tea with friends, lunch with family, an afternoon nap, a sunset social hour with friends, and before bed a cup of sake infused with the herb mugwort. « It helps me sleep, » she says.

Back in Ushi’s house we’re finishing our tea. Outside, dusk is falling; rain patters on the roof. Ushi’s daughter, Kikue, who is 78 and finds little amusement in the attention her mother draws, shoots me a glare that I take to mean « you’ve overstayed your welcome. » (When Ushi ran away from home, she was actually fleeing an argument with Kikue. She packed a bag and boarded a bus without telling her daughter. A relative caught up with her in a town 40 miles (64.4 kilometers) away.)

Ushi, Setsuko, and Matsu take the cue and fall silent in unison. These women have shared each other’s fortunes and endured each other’s sorrows for nearly a century and now seem to communicate wordlessly.

What is Ushi’s ikigai, I ask—that powerful sense of purpose that older Okinawans are said to possess?

« It’s her longevity itself, » answers her daughter. « She brings pride to our family and this village, and now feels she must keep living even though she is often tired. »

I look to Ushi for her own answer.

« My ikigai is right here, » she says with a slow sweep of her hand that takes in Setsuko and Matsu. « If they die, I will wonder why I am still living. »

Adventists

It’s Friday morning, and Marge Jetton is barreling down the San Bernardino Freeway in her mauve Cadillac Seville. She peers out the windshield from behind dark sunshades, her head barely clearing the steering wheel. Marge, who turned 101 in September, is late for one of several volunteer commitments she has today, and she’s driving fast. Already this morning she’s walked a mile (1.6 kilometers), lifted weights, and eaten her oatmeal. « I don’t know why God gave me the privilege of living so long, » she says, pointing to herself. « But look what he did. »

God may or may not have had something to do with Marge’s vitality, but her religion has. Marge is a Seventh-day Adventist. We’re in Loma Linda, California, halfway between Palm Springs and Los Angeles. Here, surrounded by orange groves and usually blanketed in mustard-colored smog, lives a much-studied concentration of Seventh-day Adventists.

The Adventist Church—born during the era of 19th-century health reforms that popularized organized vegetarianism, the graham cracker, and breakfast cereals (John Harvey Kellogg was an Adventist when he started making wheat flakes)—has always preached and practiced a message of health. It expressly forbids smoking, alcohol consumption, and eating biblically unclean foods, such as pork. It also discourages the consumption of other meat, rich foods, caffeinated drinks, and « stimulating » condiments and spices. « Grains, fruits, nuts, and vegetables constitute the diet chosen for us by our Creator, » wrote Ellen White, an early figure who helped shape the Adventist Church. Adventists also observe the Sabbath on Saturday, socializing with other church members and enjoying a sanctuary in time that helps relieve stress. Today most Adventists follow the prescribed lifestyle—a testimony, perhaps, to the power of mixing health and religion.

From 1976 to 1988 the National Institutes of Health funded a study of 34,000 California Adventists to see whether their health-oriented lifestyle affected their life expectancy and risk of heart disease and cancer. The study found that the Adventists’ habit of consuming beans, soy milk, tomatoes, and other fruits lowered their risk of developing certain cancers. It also suggested that eating whole wheat bread, drinking five glasses of water a day, and, most surprisingly, consuming four servings of nuts a week reduced their risk of heart disease. And it found that not eating red meat had been helpful to avoid both cancer and heart disease.

In the end the study reached a stunning conclusion, says Gary Fraser of Loma Linda University: The average Adventist lived four to ten years longer than the average Californian. That makes the Adventists one of the nation’s most convincing cultures of longevity.

I meet Marge at the Plaza Place hair salon in Redlands, where she’s kept an 8 a.m. appointment with stylist Barbara Miller every Friday for the past 20 years. When I arrive, Marge is flipping through a copy of Reader’s Digest as Barbara uncurls a silver lock of hair. « You’re late! » she shouts. Behind Marge a line of stylists languidly coif other heads of hair, all in varying shades of gray. « We’re a bunch of dinosaurs around here, » Barbara whispers to me. « You may be, » Marge shoots back. « Not me. »

Half an hour later, her hair a cottony tuft, Marge leads me to her car. She doesn’t walk, quite, but scoots with a snappy, can-do shuffle. « Get in, » she orders. « You can help. » We drive to the Loma Linda adult services center, a day-care center for seniors, most of whom are several decades younger than Marge. She pops open her trunk and heaves out four bundles of magazines she’s collected during the week. « The old folks here like to read them and cut out the pictures for crafts, » Marge explains. Old folks?

Next stop: delivering recyclable bottles to a woman on welfare who will later redeem them for deposits. On the way Marge tells me she was born poor, to a mule skinner father and homemaker mother in Yuba City, California. She remembers the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, when she was just a toddler, and the aftershock that reached her family farm and sloshed water out of the animal trough. She worked as a nurse, put her husband through medical school, and raised two children as a doctor’s wife. Her husband, James, died two days before their 77th anniversary. « Of course I feel lonely once in a while, but for me that’s always been a sign to get up and go help somebody. »

Like many Adventists, Marge spends most of her time with other Adventists. « It’s difficult to have non-Adventist friends, » she says. « Where do you meet them? You don’t do the same things. I don’t go to movies or dances. » As a result, researchers say, Adventists increase their chances for long life by associating with people who reinforce their healthy behaviors.

At noon, back at Linda Valley Villa, where Marge lives in a community of retired Adventists, she treats me to lunch. We sit by ourselves, but a stream of neighbors stop by to say hello. Over tofu casserole and mixed green salad, I ask Marge to share her longevity wisdom.

« I haven’t eaten meat in 50 years, and I never eat between meals, » she says, tapping her perfect teeth. « They’re all mine. » Her volunteer work helps her avoid the life-shortening loneliness suffered by so many seniors—and gives her a sense of purpose, which imbues the lives of other successful centenarians. « I realized a long time ago that I needed to go out to the world, » she says. « The world was not going to come to me. »

I have a last question for Marge. After interviewing more than 50 centenarians on three continents, I’ve found every one likable; there hasn’t been a grump in the bunch. What’s the secret to a century of congeniality?

« Well, I like to talk to people, » she says. « I look at strangers as friends I haven’t met yet. » She pauses to rethink her answer. « Then again, people may look at me and wonder, Why doesn’t that woman keep her mouth shut! »

3 commentaires pour Nutrition: Manger comme des Grecs, vivre comme des Méthusalem (How a small California town became America’s hot spot of health and longevity)

  1. jcdurbant dit :

    It turns out that there are blue zones all over the world, where people live extra-long and extra-healthy lives. And their diets seem to have very little in common. Scientists have found blue zones in Corsica; Costa Rica; Okinawa, Japan; and Loma Linda, Calif.

    Loma Linda is home to the largest population of Seventh Day Adventists in the U.S., and has a significantly lower mortality rate. Part of the reason may be because Adventists don’t drink or smoke, and most eat little or no meat. But the Adventists actually have much more in common with the Ikarians than anything diet-related.

    They live in a community where they feel connected, they have a sense of belonging, and ultimately they feel cared for. Mario Garrett, a profession of gerontology at San Diego State University, says that Loma Linda, Ikaria, and other blue zones offer what is apparently the biggest health benefit of all: Connection to others.

    « That’s why they’re living longer as a cluster, » Garrett says. « If there was no social environment we would find centenarians scattered across the world. »

    http://healthyliving.msn.com/blogs/daily-apple-blog-post?post=99263c66-d36b-4a8c-ac93-50db5ed17d7e&_nwpt=1

    J'aime

  2. Vernita dit :

    Remarkable! Its genuinely amazing article, I have got
    much clear idea about from this article.

    J'aime

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