Just for fun, what do the experts say about healthy aging, are they right? Let's revisit the wisdom of the Blue Zones Solution by Dan Buettner as summarized by New York Times' columnist Tiffany Frasier, here. She also references a longer discussion of Buettner's approach, by Jeff Gordinier, which you can read here. Frasier's summary numbers 12 easy steps for a "longer life".
One of the issues with seeking a longer life is a poignant question: some strategies which prolong life (periods of extreme fasting) can have adverse affects on quality of life (muscle wasting, in this case). So you actually have to choose: better quality of life or longer life. Of course, we want the best of both worlds, and if you tweak these recommendations, I think that is the course you are plotting: a long life, at optimal health.
Let's take them one at a time, (each rated for accuracy), and see how they stand up:
- Drink coffe (50%): "...one of the biggest sources of antioxidants in the American diet." Technically, that's true, but ONLY and miserably because the standard American diet is woefully low in other antioxidants. Coffee itself has real health benefits other than as a bandaid for a lousy diet. So yes, drink coffee, but worry seriously if it's the biggest source of antioxidants in your diet: eat colorful vegetables and, if you tolerate them, fruits.
- Skip the juicing (50%): he demonizes store-bought juices as he rightly should. But what if your juicing is actually liquifying handfuls of kale and cucumber and avocado drink with your morning eggs. More power to you! If you have any interest in pursuing The Wahls Protocol seriously (lifestyle modifications that halt or reverse multiple sclerosis), a great way to get your nine daily cups of vegetables is to put them in a juicer and drink the whole thing, pulp and all.
- You should also skip the protein shake (50%). A sweet morning drink "healthified" with protein powder is not a good idea, but in the context of a real foods diet, a supplemental whey protein shake can add significantly to muscle strength in older folks. Reversing the age-related tendency to sacrcopenia (muscle wasting) should be a high priority for everyone over 50.
- Go for long walks (100%). Sounds like a good idea: of course cycling and rowing and swimming also work.
- It's OK to drink red wine (100%). As tolerated, keep it moderate.
- High-impact exercise winds up doing as much harm as good (25%). The problem here is that Buettner links together harsh jogging (hard on aging joints for some people) and Cross-Fit, which can easily be adapted for aging joints. The biggest missing factor from older folks' exercise routine, even those who would describe themselves as active, is lifting heavy weights. There is no other good way to reverse muscle wasting. Period: no other way.
- Cook mostly vegetarian meals (25%). Yes, your meals should be mostly vegetables but not vegetarian: too hard to get (and too easy to waste, with grains) crucial vitamins and minerals. Eat some form of animal protein at every meal, and surround generously with vegetables! And of all proteins, the ones I suggest eating most consistently are pasture-raised eggs, small cold-water fish (sardines), and high quality liver.
- Hold the butter (10%). Saturated fats are ONLY a problem for certain genetic types: for the rest of us, butter is a great way to enhance protein digestion, consumption of leafy green vegetables, and adequacy of fat-soluble vitamins. Get grass-fed butter, ideally organic, and apply generously!
- Eat meat and fish only sparingly (0%). Totally missing the boat: eat high quality meat and fish, regularly, at every meal, so that you meet the protein needs of muscle restoration.
- Try to stay away from cow's milk. Use soy milk instead (10%). Misses the main point: choose grass-fed dairy, make it full-fat. So don't drink milk, use cream instead!
- No need to avoid carbs if it's sourdough bread (25%). Well, actually, unless you buy it in Europe (where wheat seems, anecdotally, to be more benign), wheat in general and gluten in particular can be highly inflammatory to a body dealing with any kind of aging complaints. Again the quality of the carbs really matters, and if you have a normal metabolism, there is no need to restrict them. But for two-thirds of Americans who are overweight or obese, there is good reason to limit carbohydrates.
- Eat in good company (100%). Let's wrap this up on a point of agreement: friends are always a good strategy!
Okay it doesn't really work as percentages, so let's convert them to points. If I agreed 100% with all 12 points, I'd give the strategy 1200 points. As it is, I'm afraid 545 points is less than half and not a good strategy in my book.
What of Buettner's points do you agree with? Disagree?