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Nicoya peninsula, a blue zone

Blue Zones are regions of the world where Dan Buettner claims people live much longer than average. He identified five regions as "Blue Zones" : Okinawa (Japan); Sardinia (Italy); Nicoya (Costa Rica); Icaria (Greece); and among the Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California. He offers an explanation, based on data and first hand observations, for why these populations live healthier and longer lives than others.

It all started with the identification of Sardinia's Nuoro province as the region with the highest concentration of male centenarians. Zeroing in on the cluster of villages with the highest longevity, concentric blue circles were drawn on the map and began referring to the area inside the circle as the "Blue Zone". Together with demographers Pes and Poulain, Buettner broadened the term, applying it to validated longevity areas of Okinawa, Japan and among the Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California, Nicoya, Costa Rica and Icaria, Greece.

Blue Zones

The five regions that are identified are:

  • Sardinia, Italy (particularly Ogliastra, Barbagia of Ollolai, and Barbagia of Seulo): One team of demographers found a hot spot of longevity in mountain villages where a substantial proportion of men reach 100. In particular, a village called Seulo, located in the Barbagia of Seulo, holds the record of 20 centenarians from 1996 to 2016, that confirms it is "the place where people live the longest in the world".

  • The islands of Okinawa, Japan: Another team examined a group that is among the longest-lived on Earth.

  • Loma Linda, California: Researchers studied a group of Seventh-day Adventists who rank among North America's longest-lived people.

  • Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica: The peninsula was the subject of research on a Quest Network expedition which began on January 29, 2007.

  • Icaria, Greece: An April 2009 study on the island of Icaria uncovered the location with the highest percentage of 90-year-olds on the planet, where nearly 1 out of 3 people make it to their 90s. Furthermore, Icarians "have about 20 percent lower rates of cancer, 50 percent lower rates of heart disease and almost no dementia."

Residents of these places produce a high rate of centenarians, suffer a fraction of the diseases that commonly kill people in other parts of the developed world, and enjoy more years of good health.


The people inhabiting Blue Zones share common lifestyle characteristics that contribute to their longevity. The Venn diagram highlights the following six shared characteristics among the people of Okinawa, Sardinia, and Loma Linda Blue Zones: though not a lifestyle choice, they live as isolated populations with related gene pool.

  • Family – put ahead of other concerns

  • Less smoking

  • Semi-vegetarianism – the majority of food consumed is derived from plants

  • Constant moderate physical activity – an inseparable part of life

  • Social engagement – people of all ages are socially active and integrated into their communities

  • Legumes – commonly consumed

Venn diagram of longevity clues from Okinawa, Sardinia and Loma Linda
Venn diagram of longevity clues

In his book, Buettner provides a list of nine lessons, covering the lifestyle of blue zones people:

  1. Moderate, regular physical activity.

  2. Life purpose.

  3. Stress reduction.

  4. Moderate caloric intake.

  5. Plant-based diet.

  6. Moderate alcohol intake, especially wine.

  7. Engagement in spirituality or religion.

  8. Engagement in family life.

  9. Engagement in social life.

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