The Big ‘Blue Zone’ Lie

The Blue Zone was an informal study done by author Dan Buettner a few years ago.  It’s been touted as the next big thing in longevity research.

It’s also a complete lie.

At least what Dan and his marketing buddies are promoting now sure is.  See, somewhere along the way, Dan decided that Blue Zones ate at least 95% plants.  On his own website, under the ‘Blue Zone’ diet you’ll see this as the very first rule:

SEE THAT YOUR DIET IS 95-100 PERCENT PLANT-BASED

Say what now?  He’s saying to live longer, we need to cut out meat and animal products entirely.  Can that be true?  Or is this just another case of a food zealot bending the truth to suit their own diet?

Let’s break it down.

First off, if Dan thinks that people in the Blue Zones don’t eat much meat, he’s either lying or blind.

In Sardinia, one of the first countries he visited, large of plates of cured meat are served at nearly every meal – especially at breakfast.

In fact, it’s rare to find fruits and vegetables at breakfast in Europe in general. There is almost always a large plate of cold meats, cereal, cheeses and pastries at the breakfast buffet. Fruit is more often found in the jellies, and veggies are nowhere to be found.

You’re more likely to find this at a Sardinian breakfast than a plate of vegetables.

This food blogger who traveled Sardinia extensively found the same thing I did when I visited Italy (Sardinia is a region of Italy).  The Italians and the Sardinians LOVE their meats.

And let’s not forget cheese.  In fact, so much cheese is made in Sardinia it’s one of their top exports.  It would be kind of weird for a 95% plant-based society to be eating and producing cheese by the literal boatload, wouldn’t it?

Ditto in Costa Rica, another Blue Zone according to Dan.  When I visited, pork was the primary protein offered at restaurants. In fact, I distinctly remember a waitress looking mystified as one of my fellow travelers asked for vegetarian options.

And if we dig deeper – yep 5 of 9 most popular Costa Rican foods have either pork or beef in them. Not vegan Dan!

How about Okinawa, they must eat 95% veggies, right?  Well I’ve never been to Japan so I had to dig around.

If you look beyond the ‘Okinawa Diet’ hustlers who are simply trying to latch onto the Blue Zone trend, and see what REAL Okinawan’s eat, you’ll be shocked to find stacks and stacks of meat!

A Japanese staple is noodles with meat cooked rare.

In fact in this ‘local’s guide’ written by someone who lives there, 6 of the top 10 dishes have pork in them.  And if you look Okinawan cookbooks, their main staple – ramen noodles – are most often served with rare-cooked beef and pork.

Weird!

But Dan doubles down on the Blue Zone diet despite the obvious lack of evidence.  You have to wonder what countries he actually visited.

Look at this version of Blue Zones food pyramid:

I’d love to see the look on people’s faces in Japan, Costa Rica, and Italy when you told them they could only eat 10 ounces of meat per month!

He even suggests cutting back on fish, which is a major staple in every Blue Zone! Sardinians eat some kind of fish (often sardines – which wow – that’s where that name came from) almost every day.

And don’t forget to reduce dairy (unless you’re from Sardinia where they eat it 3 times a day).

Somehow, even tea gets the ‘moderation’ warning.  Of course he ignores the fact that 72% of Japanese people drink tea at least once a day and there is a mountain of clinical evidence that most tea is very good for you.

So, should we just throw out everything he says? No, there is plenty of good advice in the Blue Zones.  Eat whole foods, exercise moderately but consistently, take part in your community.  That will always be good advice.

But you can put his dietary advice in the dumpster with the 3-day-old fish. He clearly has an agenda, and thinks everyone should be vegan.

Don’t get me wrong, the vegan diet is a great option for some people. But, keep in mind if you go vegan you have to supplement your diet with essential vitamins and minerals only found in meat.  And there is ample evidence that vegan diets will lead to lower growth rates for kids.  

So it’s hard to say that a diet is ‘the best’ for longevity or long term health when it requires mass supplementation and causes slower growth in children, right?

There is a lot of muddy data on longevity and diet.  There are some extremely long-living carnivores and vegetarians on this planet.  Anyone who tells you different is probably trying to sell you something.

What do you think about the Blue Zones diet?  Hit us up at [email protected] with your comments.