Rise of Meat Consumption Wiping Out Blue Zones

Designated areas with high centenarian populations are consuming more meat and dying younger.

A recent feature in Canadian media outlet MacLean’s explored a phenomenon plaguing blue zones—or areas with the largest concentrations of individuals over 100 years old. In 2009, Michael Poulin began to study blue zones—namely Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and Ikaria, Greece—to determine the commonalities between the areas, and found that one common thread was residents followed a mostly plant-based diet. Poulin’s new research of younger generations in the blue zones indicates that they will not live as long as their predecessors due to an increase in meat and junk food consumption. The American diet brought to Okinawa via a United States military base in the 1940s will wipe out the blue zone there in 10 to 15 years. “We won’t speak of extraordinary longevity in Okinawa anymore,” Poulin says. Researcher Diane Kochilas confirms the same fate for Ikaria and states, “Meat is prevalent, and fast-food and souvlaki, potato chips and junk food are common.” In Costa Rica, Nicoya is now home to many Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonalds' fast-food chains, and as a result is undergoing a “nutritional transition,” according to global health scholar at Macalester College Eric Carter. Outside of the disappearing blue zones, the spread of the Western diet—characterized by higher sugar, saturated fat, and meat consumption—into areas such as China and Africa, has been credited for increases in obesity rates and nutritional deficiencies.

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