What is a Blue Zone, and is the United States one? Firstly, the term “Blue Zone” is a title developed for places in the world where people live the longest, and currently, there are five of them: Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece, and Loma Linda, California. As an entire country, no, the United States is not a Blue Zone. In fact, “The United States ranks 26th of 35 OECD [Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development] countries for life expectancy, with an average life expectancy of 79 years” (“Comparison with Other Nations”). By delving into the dietary lifestyle of Ikarians and comparing it to the dietary lifestyle of Americans, we can see that this is one reason why members of this Greek island live about eight to ten years longer than Americans do (“A Greek Island’s Ancient Secret”).
Ikarians are credited with eating the “strictest version of the Mediterranean diet in the world,” and this is a diet that primarily consists of “fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes, red wine, and olive oil,” all of which are nutrient-dense and high-antioxidant foods (“A Greek Island’s Ancient Secret”). On the contrary, Americans consume a diet that is high in fat, sugar, refined grains, sodium, and saturated fat with a national average for regular produce consumption at 57.7% (“Facts and Statistics”). Both countries’ food choices visibly differ from the other, and it is unquestionable that the dietary choices from Ikarians favor longevity and wellness. To verify this claim, we can analyze the life expectancy from this Blue Zone, and we see that the life expectancy is above 90 years old, a stark contrast to the United States’ life expectancy of 79 years (“Ikarian People”). It is easy to become acclimated and accustomed to following the dietary patterns from one’s own country, but it is fundamentally crucial to examine and reflect on our food choices and recognize that these choices are capable of influencing our health and the duration of our life.
As an American myself, I notice that it is dangerously easy for just about anyone to gorge themselves with takeout and skip the fruits and vegetables and opt for high-sodium french fries because we are given this option on just about every other street corner we drive by. When I was in Switzerland, I remember my parents wrangling to find a McDonald’s to quench the Americanized palettes of both my brother and I, two kids who grimaced at the fresh produce and artisan cheeses on the country’s street corners. An adult now, I have embraced recognizing the importance of what I put on my plate, and I certainly encourage everyone to think about how, perhaps, your own country may have a prevalent influence on your dietary choices, choices that ultimately have an impact on your life expectancy.
“A Greek Island’s Ancient Secret to Avoiding Alzheimer’s.” Blue Zones, 3 June 2020, www.bluezones.com/2018/11/a-greek-islands-ancient-secret-to-avoiding-alzheimers/. Accessed 20 January 2020.
“Comparison with Other Nations.” America’s Health Rankings, www.americashealthrankings.org/learn/reports/2016-annual-report/comparison-with-other-nations. Accessed 20 January 2020.
“Ikarian People.” Ikarian People – Visit Ikaria, www.visitikaria.gr/en/ikaria/ikarian-people#.YAjorS1OLmo. Accessed 20 January 2020.
“Facts & Statistics.” HHS.gov, US Department of Health and Human Services, 26 Jan. 2017, www.hhs.gov/fitness/resource-center/facts-and-statistics/index.html. Accessed 20 January 2020.