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Netflix ‘Live to 100’ Documentary Series Names Singapore as a Long-Living Hot Spot and Reveals Fresh Suggestions for Longevity

For greater than 20 years, longevity researcher Dan Buettner has been traveling the globe to search out and study the places where people are inclined to live the longest, healthiest lives, thriving well into their 100s. Over time, these explorations have yielded five longevity hot spots, which he’s dubbed Blue Zones: Nicoya, Costa Rica; Loma Linda, California; Ikaria, Greece; Sardinia, Italy; and Okinawa, Japan. Using his forays into the livelihoods of the centenarians occupying them, Buettner has written five books on longevity. But his latest ventures are giving us the deepest dive yet into the workings of healthy aging: a sixth book, The Blue Zones Secrets for Living Longer: Lessons From the Healthiest Places on Earth and a recent Netflix documentary series, Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones.

The series, premiering August 30, puts faces and names to the longevity insights around eating, exercise, sleep, and socializing that Buettner has shared through the years, following his conversations with residents in every Blue Zone, in addition to in Singapore, which Buettner calls a “Blue Zone 2.0:” a spot where the federal government has instituted policies designed explicitly to advertise longevity—as opposed to 1 where people have long embraced cultural habits that just so occur to support healthy aging (more on that below).

Spotlighted within the series are the residents of Okinawa, who frequently enjoy plant-focused meals, and of Sardinia, who scale near-vertical hills on day by day walks and at all times make dinner time with family and friends, in addition to the locals of the Nicoyan peninsula, who’re known to embrace a plan de vida, or particular life purpose, as their north star. Another episode takes Buettner to apiaries in Ikaria; and one other takes him to the pickleball courts, kitchens, and worship groups of residents of Loma Linda. It is not until the last installment of the series that Buettner makes his option to Singapore, which he sees because the model for creating additional Blue Zones through infrastructure and policy.

“The biggest opportunity with this documentary was to harness all the scientific research that was done on the Blue Zones and metabolize it into a beautiful story,” says Buettner. He was thrilled to work with director Clay Jeter, who directed episodes of Chef’s Table, to bring the people of the Blue Zones to life.

“We found people within the Blue Zones, and we distilled the science of why they’re making it to 100.” —Dan Buettner, longevity researcher

Buettner hopes that by attending to hear directly from the individuals who live and breathe the principles of longevity on a day-to-day basis, those that watch the series will higher understand how and why they live so long, and feel inspired to adopt similar behaviors. “We found people within the Blue Zones, and we distilled the science of why they’re making it to 100,” says Buettner. But the facility of the show is absolutely in its storytelling around that science. “The best option to any individual’s brain is thru their heart and by telling beautiful stories that move them emotionally,” he adds.

Why Singapore is deemed a “Blue Zone 2.0” in the brand new Live to 100 documentary series

In initially identifying each of the five Blue Zones, Buettner found that they were places where longevity-boosting habits have been passed down through generations and ingrained within the local culture—places where the environment naturally nudges the individuals who live there toward the actions that promote an extended life. “The big insight with the Blue Zones has been that longevity ensues over time,” says Buettner. “It’s not something you could have to attempt to persuade people to pursue; somewhat, it happens where the healthiest alternative is the simplest alternative.”

But within the series, Buettner reveals that Singapore has develop into a long life hot spot in its own right by very different means—through proactive policy changes and investment in infrastructure that supports a healthy lifestyle. “It’s not the identical class as the unique Blue Zones, but what’s unique about [Singapore] is that they engineered a Blue Zone by shaping their environment so the healthy alternative was not only easy, but in some cases unavoidable,” says Buettner, who first began investigating Singapore in his reporting for a 2017 National Geographic story about happiness.

For a pair examples, Buettner points out that Singapore’s government has implemented restrictions on sugary drinks like soda and offers subsidies to food businesses for including nutritious ingredients like whole grains on their menus.

Singapore also has universal health care, the standard of which has been deemed the very best in Asia by the International Trade Administration. Medical facilities are also often incorporated right into housing complexes, a lot of that are designed to recreate a kampung, or “village” in Malay, where people can easily co-mingle—one other longevity-boosting dynamic Buettner explores within the series. The government also offers credits of as much as $30,000 Singapore dollars (about $22,000) to people buying homes with or near their parents or married children to encourage familial support.

Transportation and leisure infrastructure in Singapore has only added to its longevity power: Widely available and cheap public transit facilitates loads of on a regular basis walking, and plenty of recreational parks—a lot of which provide government-sponsored exercise classes—make it easy and nice to spend ample time moving your body in fresh air, says Buettner.

Taken together, these government-directed programs and policies prove that a Blue Zone is feasible to engineer from scratch, says Buettner, which has far-reaching implications for making longevity accessible to more people.

2 other key takeaways from Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones

1. Romantic partnership is a recurrent feature among the many longest-living people

Buettner has long espoused strong social ties as a key tenet of Blue Zones living—but in filming the series, he found that romance, particularly, could also be an especially vital piece of that. “Visiting Ikaria this time, I had a extremely big epiphany around love,” Buettner narrates within the series. “The power of completely satisfied, committed partnerships could appear obvious, but we will’t underestimate how such a connection can result in an extended, more fulfilled life.”

One particularly touching vignette within the documentary series highlights Panagiotis Kouloulias, 96, and Aleka Mazari, 81, a pair living in Ikaria. These two found love later in life, when Kouloulias was a 73-year-old widower. “When my first wife passed away, I had lost my appetite to live,” says Kouloulias within the series. “I would not talk, I would not laugh, I would not eat…I fell into pieces, and [Mazari] brought me back.”

Kouloulias and Mazari’s relationships demonstrates the facility of a romantic partnership to not only boost your happiness, but additionally, to encourage you to partake in healthy habits, says Buettner. Research has shown that we are inclined to mirror the life-style behaviors of our partners, so if we’re romantically involved with someone who’s engaging in longevity-boosting activities all day long, there’s also more of a likelihood we are going to, too.

2. An easy snack can have a big effect in your longevity

Though Buettner identified a plant-based food regimen as certainly one of the unique nine pillars of the Blue Zones, he’s present in the years since that one common piece of that food regimen may play an outsize role in longevity—and that is nuts, particularly walnuts. Indeed, an observational study published in 2021 that assessed mortality in nearly 100,000 people over the course of 20 years found that higher walnut consumption was related to greater life expectancy, likely due to nut’s high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids.

In the series, nuts get their highlight when Buettner visits Loma Linda, where many residents are members of the Seventh-day Adventist faith and thus eat a plant-based food regimen for religious reasons—which undoubtedly contributes to their longevity. In exploring the diets of locals within the episode, Buettner uncovers that “it isn’t just the absence of meat, however the regular presence of whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, and nuts [that makes a difference].”

On nuts particularly, Buettner emphasizes the importance of eating a handful day by day to up your possibilities of living an extended life. And if walnuts aren’t your thing, know that there are health advantages to be gleaned from all types of nuts, that are wealthy in protein and healthy fats.

  1. Liu, Xiaoran, et al. “Association of Walnut Consumption with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality and Life Expectancy in U.S. Adults.” Nutrients, vol. 13, no. 8, Aug. 2021, p. 2699. Crossref, https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13082699.
  2. Nakaya, Naoki et al. “Spousal similarities in cardiometabolic risk aspects: A cross-sectional comparison between Dutch and Japanese data from two large biobank studies.” Atherosclerosis vol. 334 (2021): 85-92. doi:10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2021.08.037

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