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Can secrets of the ‘blue zones’ help us live to 100?

Published: 13 March 2024 at 13:00

The town of Castelsardo in Sardinia

Cambridge Festival talk discusses why certain populations enjoy greater longevity

The remarkable secrets of ‘blue zones’, small pockets of the globe where people are reported to live a healthier and longer life than elsewhere, will be discussed during a free talk this weekend at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) as part of the Cambridge Festival.

Scientists have identified a series of locations on Earth where an unusually high number of people are living a long time in good health. These include an area of Sardinia in Italy; Ikaria in Greece; Okinawa in Japan; Nicoya in Costa Rica; and Loma Linda in California.

The phenomenon was recently the subject of a Netflix series entitled ‘Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones’, and Professor Justin Roberts and nutritionist Dr Mark Cortnage of Anglia Ruskin University will delve deeper into why these populations live a longer life in good health.

So-called because scientists ringed them with blue pen when first coming across the pattern, Professor Roberts and Dr Cortnage will speak about certain aspects of the diet and nutrients that are popular in these locations and the science behind why they may influence longevity.

Other factors are also believed to be at play, including community cohesion and genetics.

Roberts, Professor of Nutritional Physiology at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said:

“Our fascination with living longer has spawned many multi-billion pound industries, but the presence of these so-called blue zones appears to suggest that some people are getting it right from a nutritional and lifestyle perspective. They are not just living longer, but many are living in good health for longer. The question is how, and we will explore some of the reasons why this may be.”

Dr Cortnage, Senior Lecturer in Public Health and Nutrition at ARU, added:

“We tend to over-generalise when suggesting which factors contribute to longevity, such as eating a Mediterranean diet. But in reality, there are a host of contributing factors from healthcare to genetics. 

“Although ‘longevity’ is a popular topic, we rarely discuss the time we spend living in good health. Both aspects are so closely entwined that we should consider them as a whole.”

Saturday’s event, entitled ‘Longevity and nutrition: can we all really live to 100 and beyond?’ will feature interactive elements and will include opportunities for the audience to participate in polls and quizzes.

It will take place from 11am on Saturday, 16 March at ARU’s Cambridge campus on East Road, and can be attended either in-person or virtually. Places are free but must be booked in advance.