Did Dan Buettner make a Mistake with his Blue Zones?

Dan Buettner is the author of Blue Zones, a book investigating some of the places in the world where people live the longest. Buetter attempts to unlock the secrets of a long healthy life by looking at the nutrition and lifestyles of people from certain parts of Peru, Italy, the United States and Japan.

The book has considerable merit in that it describes in detail many of the lifestyle habits that have been proven to promote longevity. However, Buettner appears to have made a gross error with regards to the nutritional aspects. In particular, I’m referring to his coverage of the Island of Sardinia, Italy.

 Pork Dish Typical of Barbagia Region

Pork Dish Typical of Barbagia Region

 The Barbagia Region of Sardinia, and Surrounding Area

The Barbagia Region of Sardinia, and Surrounding Area

The island of Sardinia not only has a large number of people who live to be more than 100, but it is also one of the few places in the world were men live as long as women. 

Most regions of Sardinia are associated with incredibly good health, however, the region that has been highlighted as having a particularly long life is called Barbagia. 

I have had the privilege of visiting Sardinia, and several other places associated with longevity, during the filming of Statin Nation II. In Sardinia, I found the traditional diet to be in stark contrast to what Buettner describes. He states:

"It’s loaded with homegrown fruits and vegetables such as zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, and fava beans that may reduce the risk of heart disease and colon cancer. Also on the table: dairy products such as milk from grass-fed sheep and pecorino cheese, which, like fish, contribute protein and omega-3 fatty acids. "

Unfortunately, this common myth about the traditional Sardinian diet has been copied by various websites and commentators. 

The cheese part is certainly correct. However, the Barbagia region is for the most part, up in the mountains, away from the coast, and traditionally the people who live there do not eat very much fish. Their diet manly consists of meat. Suckling pig being a particular favorite.

In fact, in 2011, Sardinians called for formal recognition of their diet insisting that the secret to a long life can be found in their traditional diet of lamb, roast piglet, milk and cheese”

 Sardinian Market

Sardinian Market

I believe the reason why Buettner got it wrong was not because of a deliberate attempt to deceive, but more likely its another example of what happens when we look at the world through the current medical dietary dogma. After all, if you believe that meat and animal fats are bad for you, then by default you wouldn’t list them as contributors to longevity. Which is a shame because people might continue to be misinformed. 

Sardinia, along with many other so called paradoxes will be included in Statin Nation II.