The University of Athens conducted a comprehensive study of the elderly residents of the Greek island of Ikaria, who are widely known to live long, healthy lives. They were found to live 8 – 10 years longer than Americans. They also suffered considerably less depression and dementia. Almost 50% of Americans begin to show signs of Alzheimer’s by the age of 85.
1) They take at least one nap per day.
2) They’re not overly focused on exactly what time it is. Lunch can be anytime between 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
3) They don’t care about money. For cultural and religious festivals, they pool their money for food and wine.
4) They daily consume “mountain tea”: made from wild marjoram, sage, wild mint, rosemary, boiled dandelion leaves, and a little lemon. The wild mint is believed to fight gingivitis and gastrointestinal problems and rosemary helps with gout. Most of the herbs they consume contain diuretics, which lowers blood pressure.
5) They wake up naturally, not by the sound of an alarm.
6) A preliminary study by the University of Athens Medical School of Ikarian men age 65 – 100 found that 80% reported to having sex regularly.
7) Their standard breakfast: goat’s milk, wine, sage, tea and/or coffee, honey and bread.
8) Their standard lunch: beans (lentils and garbanzos), potatoes, various greens, and seasonal vegetables from the garden.
9) Their standard supper: bread and goat’s milk. Small portions of larded pork are enjoyed from time to time.
10) From their childhood onward, their Mediterranean diet is essentially low in meat and dairy, except for goat’s milk. It is rich in fresh vegetables, olive oil, honey, beans and modest amounts of alcohol.
11) Some of the benefits of their diet:
--their lower rate of heart disease is due to minimal consumption of saturated fats from meat and dairy;
--their cholesterol levels are healthy thanks primarily to olive oil;
--digestion is aided by goat’s milk;
--some of their wild greens are abundantly rich in antioxidants, as is wine;
-- they drink 2 – 3 cups of coffee a day, which is normally associated with lower risks for heart disease and diabetes.
12) Almost all their food is unprocessed and contains fewer pesticides. They watch some television, but do not face the relentless temptations of the annual $4 billion spent on slick processed food advertising in the U.S.
13) Gary Taub, founder of Nutrition Science Initiative and author of “Why We Get Fat”, commented on the Ikarian’s longevity: “One explanation why they live so long is they eat a plant-based diet. Or it could be the absence of sugar and white flour. From what I know of the Greek diet, they eat very little refined sugar, and their breads have been traditionally made with stone-ground wheat.”
14) The consume 6 times more beans than Americans and about ¼ the refined sugars.
15) Most of the residents, young and old, can’t avoid walking up and down at least 20 hills on a regular day. In the U.S. in 1970, at least 40% of all kids walked to school. Today it is less than 12%.
16) On Sunday they attend church and fast before certain religious festivals.
17) Most nights end laughing with friends and drinking wine. On average they drink 2 – 4 glasses of wine daily.
18) Dan Buettner, researching the longevity of the residents of Ikaria for the National Geographic Society, believes the entire “ecosystem” of the Ikarians is the basis for their health. As Western food culture gradually moves in – potato chips and soft drinks now sell well in the village markets – vibrant health may inevitably be on the decline. He laments: “As soon as you take culture, belonging, purpose or religion out of the picture, the foundation for long, healthy lives collapses.”
19) While many Ikarians attribute their long lives to the clean air, some will tell you: “We just forget to die.”
Dan Buettner, “The Enchanted Island of the Centenarians”, The New York Times Magazine, October 28, 2012
Photo: wikipedia.org CC
Photo: wikipedia.org CC