The Blue Zones?

In 2000, Micheal Poulain and Giovanni Mario Pes documented a group of locations around the world where there was an abundance of people who lived to be over 100 years old.  These areas were called “The Blue Zones” and included:

Photo by Dana Tentis on Pexels.com
  • Ikaria, Greece; (sometimes spelt Icaria)
  • Okinawa, Japan;
  • Ogliastra Region, Sardinia;
  • Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica.
  • Loma Linda, California, USA

It was suggested that a number of factors led to the longer life of people who lived there, including regular exercise, having social circles that reinforced healthy behaviors,  taking time to de-stress, being very family orientated and part of a community.  There was also a dietary element where it was believed that their approach to diet had a very significant impact on their longevity.

Some groups interested in diet have seem similarities between their dietary beliefs and the documented diet of blue zone inhabitants, often using this information to support their ideas and to promote their diet as healthier.  Despite these areas being very geographically and separate from each other and eating quite different diets, these dietary ideas have become blue zone folklore?

Here are some suggested ideas from a recent book titled “The Blue Zones Solution” by Dan Buettner:

  • Stop eating when your stomach is 80 percent full to avoid weight gain.
  • Eat the smallest meal of the day in the late afternoon or evening.
  • Eat mostly plants, especially beans. And eat meat rarely, in small portions of 3 to 4 ounces. Blue Zoners eat portions this size just five times a month, on average.
  • Drink alcohol moderately and regularly, i.e. 1-2 glasses a day.

Some of this advice seems very sensible but we must be very careful when trying to apply what seems to work in one place and time to something happening in another place or time.  For example:

  • Many people living in Northern Europe drink a lot of cows milk and have done so for generations, however most Asians can not tolerate cows milk well due to a lactose intolerance which can make them sick when they consume it.
  • Europeans traveling into malaria infested areas of the World must take special precautions against getting bitten by the anopheles mosquito as they can suffer hugely and die from this disease if caught, while some locals appear to be almost immune from this.
  • Over the years diets change and the diet that sustained a centenarian in the growing and middle age years may be very different from what we see today, which could confound research.  In my own case my family ate lots of delicious meat stews, and porridge as I grew up but we very seldom eat these today.  We also had very limited fruit varieties and fast food was non-existent. 

Another aspect of the blue zones which has been questioned is the validity of the research done.  Mary Ruddick, a renowned nutritionist is married to a Greek and has lived on the island of Ikaria.  She was puzzled by the lack of recognition of the amount of goat meat eaten by the islanders and the suggestion that potatoes was a mainstay of their diet.  In her view the islanders eat goat meat almost daily and potatoes are not a local crop due to the poor soils.  They were introduced some years ago as part of the adoption of more western ways of eating and were never part of traditional diets.  Her suggestion about why goat meat is not recognized is that the questionnaires asked about “red” meat consumption and this to an Ikaria inhabitant translates to beef, which is rarely eaten.  Mary shares her view on this here:

Another blue zone diet claim is that a mainstay of the Okinawa diet is sweet potatoes.  During World War II these people were forced to kill and eat most of the pigs on their islands and as a result made a switch to much more reliance on sweet potatoes.  The diet which centenarians ate over the years was once heavily pork based and this has changed significantly over time.  Okinawa’s people are no longer in the top group.  For more information about this diet confusion, take a look at the post by Angela Stanton in the link below

Another approach in dietary / longevity research is to blame genetics for some of the health problems of today. Any review of non-communicable diseases such as Type-2 Diabetes, Obesity, Macular Degeneration, Kidney Disease, Asthma, Depression, Alzheimer’s Disease, Heart disease or Cancer reveals skyrocketing levels which have risen dramatically since the 1900’s when most of these were rare. Is it possible that some individuals have obesity genes which are turned on or turned off by the poor western diet of high sugar, refined grains and seed oils.

Genetics clearly has an impact in setting different levels of susceptibility to diseases in individuals. For a great example of how genes work, take a look at the honey bee. The queen bee and the worker bee have identical genes, but the Queen is isolated and fed royal jelly with the result being development of the only fertile female egg laying machine in the hive. Genes can clearly be turned off and turned on by external factors such as different foods.

Different population groups around the world, have responded to the western diet in different ways. Some groups have a much less healthy response to the the impact of the western diet than others. For example, the Pima Indians in Arizona are the most obese group in USA and African Americans are more susceptible to Type-2 Diabetes than people of Caucasian origin. These differences may be due to natural selection that has occurred from the impact of different major impacts on the ancestors of the group. Dr. Andrew Jenkinson in his fascinating book “Why We Eat (To Much), covers this in some detail. For example, he suggests that the susceptibility of Pacific Islanders to obesity may come from their past long sea migrations where only those who had the ability to survive these journeys with little or no food, survived to become their ancestors.

As always, for more diet and health information, take a look at my book

“Take Back Your Health”, by George Elder,  available as an ebook or paperback on Amazon.

Book Link: https://amzn.to/3uiehfv

Blog link,  www.takebackyrhealth.com

Red Meat Risk for Health

The “so-called” experts on diet and health seem to be once again twisting the numbers to achieve some alternative gains at the expense of public health. This has been highlighted by Kevin White in the UK publication “The Grocer”.

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There is a group led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, (IHME) at the University of Washington, Seattle (USA), that publish a paper each year which is titled The Global Burden of Disease (GBD). They recently published a paper in The Lancet, which suggested that deaths from eating red meat around the world had risen

  • from 25,000 in 2017
  • to 896,000 in 2019.

This would be a 36-fold (3,484%) increase in the threat to human health from eating meat in two years. These same authors stated in 2017 that red meat was the least important of 15 dietary risk factors studied.

Understandably this has been challenged by nutrition scientists who have requested that the group produce the evidence for this increase. The claim by GBD is puzzling when we realize that after a “forensic examination” of the data and its assumptions by the nutrition scientists – which also includes globally-recognized meat expert professor Frederic Leroy of Vrije Universiteit in Brussels – it was then compared to a collection of global meta-analyses looking at the relationship between eating red meat and human ill health and deaths. The scientists concluded they could “find no relationship” between the meta-analyses and the GBD data.

A big problem with junk science like this is that it is picked up and published and then used as justification for policies. For example:

This “statistic” has been used as part of the justification for a reduction in red meat consumption as published in the “Eat Lancet Diet” and is referenced in major UK policy documents – including Henry Dimbleby’s National Food Strategy. It has also been referenced in publications by the UN Food System Summit, and the EU’s Farm To Fork Strategy. According to an article in “Farming Independent”, by Claire McCormack, Since publication, GBD 2019 has been cited by 635 documents, including 351 scientific papers and nine policy documents such as the UK’s National Food Strategy.

Here is how the Global Burden of Disease study is described on their website:-

The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study is the most comprehensive worldwide observational epidemiological study to date. Led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, Seattle (USA) the GBD study offers a powerful resource to understand the changing health challenges facing people across the world in the 21st century.

Unfortunately a failure to provide the evidence for this will severely undermine the GBD reporting validity and raise serious ethical questions about the motivation of this group and their supporters.

It is very unlikely that a rise of over 3000% in 2 years is even possible, let alone likely.

The great danger of people taking this “junk evidence” seriously Is that it may lead to policies and activities that further erode the understanding of the critical nature of animal food for human health.

To their credit, I understand that the Lancet Publication has also requested evidence to support the GBD claims.

Animal foods are very important for world wide diets because of their high nutrient density. Vitamin K2 for calcium management and vitamin B12 only come from animal foods. Both are critical for reducing heart disease risk. Many people are iron, zinc and folate deficient which is exacerbated by the low bio-availability of these in plant foods. These are much more bio-available in animal foods.

Most plant foods also have some form of anti-nutrient which binds up the minerals in your meal and removes them from your body leaving you under-nourished. For example, wheat flour binds up zinc and iron in your meal so you get less of these essential mineral nutrients from your meal. It is thought that this binding action could be a major factor in the cause of so much poor health in the longer term vegan community.

The very high levels of Omega-6 fats from heavy consumption of vegetable/seed oils and the very low levels of Omega-3 fats is another major concern. Enlightened heath experts recommend a ratio (Omega-6:Omega-3) of these at about 4:1 or less, based on historical levels before the introduction of industrial seed oils to the diet.

As always, if you want to understand how to improve your health with your diet, take a look at my book – “Take Back Your Health”, by George Elder for sale on Amazon.com or available from the Selwyn District Library, in New Zealand.

www.takebackyrhealth.com

Best of health to you, George Elder.

Overcoming Anxiety

You may have heard of serotonin, the happiness molecule, but do you know what it really does?

Serotonin is a chemical produced in your body, mostly in your gut, but some is produced in your brain. It is a neurotransmitter, which means it helps with nerve signaling, and is involved in sleep, memory, learning, healing and is the chemical that promotes calmness and contentment. People with healthy levels of this are generally happy.

In order to make serotonin, your body needs all the necessary components. Magnesium is needed, but the most important component is the essential amino acid, tryptophan, which comes from various foods, a little from bread, pasta, corn, bananas, and cookies, but the most abundant sources of tryptophan are high protein foods like tuna, dairy products, turkey, beef, pork, chicken, and eggs.

It is easy to get too little of this essential amino acid because if you drink diet sweetened foods or caffeinated drinks, or you are not getting enough healthy fats such as butter, olive oil, and animal fats then your tryptophan levels can be depleted. Tryptophan levels can also be depleted by stress, lack of natural light, low calorie diets, skipped meals or by lack of exercise. While coffee will stimulate dopamine (the pleasure molecule), it will suppress serotonin (the happiness molecule) over time.

In USA in 1989, the FDA called for a voluntary ban on tryptophan supplements due to a faulty contaminated batch and these only became available again without prescription in USA in 2000. In other countries it has continued to be available, while in USA many doctors switched to prescribing Prozac.

All this means is that if you want to be happy, calm and contented, then your diet really matters as does exercise and getting sufficient natural light. This is especially important for women because females typically generate about one third less serotonin than males. For vegetarians or vegans this is even more difficult as the tryptophan level in their diet is usually very low.

This might be much more important than just a happy feeling. People, who have low levels of serotonin can suffer from anxiety, lack of confidence, panic attacks, depression, obsessive behavior and sleep disorders. It seems that the psychology profession is just beginning to realize the importance of this diet and mental health linkage.

The new field of nutrition psychology is gaining traction fast with psychologists now realizing that poor diet is a major factor in many of the conditions patients present with, and often these conditions can be assisted or even corrected by changing the patients diet. Central to these changes is increasing the level of animal protein while reducing grains and sugar.

Unfortunately, I hear that many people on bad diets often don’t know this and never realize their health problems are caused by their diet. It is only after they make major diet changes and begin to feel hugely better that they realize just how sick their diet was making them. This is particularly a problem for those who are very committed to their diet because their beliefs make them reluctant to even test whether a diet change could help.

So to pull all this together, if you suffer from anxiety, worry easily, have panic attacks, have a tendency to be negative, get edgy or irritable easily, have difficulty sleeping, suffer from jaw pain, or can be a bit obsessive or forgetful, then low serotonin might be a factor. Take a hard look at your diet or try a tryptophan supplement. I read that for many people results can be almost immediate.

As always, for more information you can view my blog at: www.takebackyrhealth.com

You will find a link to my book “Take Back Your Health”

Good Health, George Elder.


Learning can be slow in Medicine

In 1847, Ignaz Semmelweis , a young doctor working in Austria noticed that more young women were dying after childbirth in the hospital division where autopsies were also also performed, compared with the division where only midwives assisted birthing. This was before people understood about microbes and hand-washing was not common practice.

After a close friends death from a scalpel wound, Semmelweis discovered that diseases were being transmitted on doctors hands, from the autopsies, to the young birthing mothers. Hand washing was implemented and the death rate plummeted. However the obstetrics head doctor refused to accept the practice and Semmelweis contract was not extended. He was persecuted and eventually died in an asylum.

This is an appalling but true story, the details of which have been used as a basis for the fictional book “Unclean Hands” by Andrew Schafer. A true book about this, Titled “The Doctors’ Plague” has been written by Sherwin B. Nuland. It took at least 10 years after this for hand-washing became an accepted practice in medicine.

Would you be astonished to discover that this horrifying situation has not improved much. Let’s take a look at how our treatment for Type-2 Diabetes reveals this continuing problem.

Type 2 Diabetes is a disease which many doctors have come to believe is progressive and unable to be reversed. I understand this is what is taught at medical school.

The reality is that the most common cause of this disease is a normal reaction of the human body to continuous excess levels of sugar/glucose in the blood which is usually caused by too much sugar and starches (carbohydrates) in the diet over many years.

Does a days eating often look like this?
Breakfast: – cereals, bread, bagels, toast, fruit juice.
Snack: – cookie, bagel, muffin, fruit, soda, pastry, corn chips.
Lunch: – sandwich, bread, pasta, rolls, fruit, cakes.
Dinner: – pizza, potatoes, fries, pasta, rice, bread, sweet deserts, beer, burgers.
Supper: – muffin, cookie, sweet biscuit, chocolate.

Every single item in the above diet is producing sugar/glucose in the body. Is every celebration accompanied by copious quantities of sugar based treats? Are rewards and treats usually sugar based?
Some people don’t realize that carbohydrates, except fiber, convert to sugar immediately you eat them.

The safe non-toxic level of sugar/glucose in your blood is only about 1 teaspoon. After you have used some for energy, if the level is still higher than 1 teaspoon, the body has to reduce it urgently by releasing insulin which signals to muscles and the liver to manage the glucose out of the blood to get this toxic sugar level back down. To do this your body either converts the glucose to glycogen for storage in muscles or into fat for storage in the liver or in fat cells.

If your sugar and therefore your insulin is continuously elevated, then over time, your body becomes resistant to this and as a result the level of insulin required to manage the glucose down becomes higher and higher. Eventually it becomes so high that your body can not make sufficient and you are classified as a Type-2 diabetic.

Some say that Type-2 Diabetes is not a disease at all. It is the result of your body’s normal reaction to continuous high levels of blood glucose. Many doctors, instead of working with the patient to get their glucose levels down, prescribe medications including artificial insulin to push the insulin even higher to signal the liver and muscles to pull out that glucose.

Unfortunately high insulin levels are also very toxic and “insulin resistance” is now recognized as a cause of many diseases, including promoting obesity, PCOS, kidney disease, fatty liver, blindness heart disease, and nerve damage which can often resulting in limb amputation.

Research over many years has shown that this disease can often be reversed by reducing the level of carbohydrates in your diet. The process takes time and needs to be managed carefully in the first few weeks in order to manage sugar levels in the blood, as your body becomes adapted to the changes. The changes can be so immediate that sometimes injected insulin levels must be reduced within hours.

Some doctors are now treating their Type-2 Diabetes and pre-diabetes patients with low carb diets and having amazing success reversing this “disease”. In USA, Virta Health ( https://www.virtahealth.com) is treating hundreds of patients remotely using low carb diet approaches. In UK, Dr David Unwin and in New Zealand Dr. Glenn Davies are having success with the same approach. Dr Bhakti Paul MD in NC USA has a great interview on YouTube (https://youtu.be/3suCjlPfkgw) describing how she treats her Type-2 diabetic patients this way.

Other doctors, researchers and nutritionists have been persecuted for advising patients of these low carbohydrate dietary approaches. Dr. Gary Fettke, an Australia Orthopedic Surgeon was censured and barred from delivering nutrition guidance to patients after he objected to the high carbohydrate meals being given to his patients in hospital. This restriction has now been lifted. Dr. Tim Noakes in South Africa, had to fight a court battle for over 3 years for retention of his license to practice medicine, because of complaints about his low carb nutrition advice to patients. Maryanne Demasi a medical reporter and investigative journalist was persecuted for a report on Low Carb diets on the ABC in Australia.

I have come to understand that many everyday doctors or GP’s working in clinics are unable to put patients on low carb diets because this is not supported by the “standard of care” they are required to operate within. Unfortunately this can mean that their Type-2 diabetic patients may not be getting the best care possible and are forced to accept supplementary insulin in order to manage their diabetes. Suicide is extremely high amongst doctors and this type of problem may be exacerbating their stress. Those doctors and nutritionists trying to implement new practices are often unreasonably restrained by tradition.

The modern management of diabetes reversal is initially very critical and some doctors are now finding that fitting CGM’s (Continuous Glucose Monitors) to their patients with a real time link between the patient and the doctor is allowing for very precise management of this critical period of recovery and the beginning of remission.

Dr. Bhakti Paul In conjunction with the website DietDoctor.com have produced a very good overview for doctors about her successful approach to reversing diabetes using this approach. Take a look here on YouTube at: https://youtu.be/3suCjlPfkgw

As always, for health advice and comment check out my blog or find links to my book at: www.takebackyrhealth.com

Regards George Elder

Your Microbiome is You?

Perhaps you are being controlled more than you realize. Ed Yong wrote a fascinating book called “I contain multitudes” in which he highlights the recent research linking your microbiome to many health conditions. Apparently, we are made up of a huge number of organisms that work for us or against us depending on how we treat them. Scientists are focusing heavily on the organisms in your gut (your microbiome), but they are in many other parts of the body as well. I have heard it suggested that your microbiome makes up more than 60% of you.

Mary Ruddick a well-respected nutritionist, says that if you have cravings, this is really the craving of your microbiome that is demanding the type of food it wants. If you have sugar cravings, then your microbiome has a higher level of the bad guys.


Your microbiome is much more important than you may realize. It makes your feel-good chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin, it makes vitamins, it breaks down food and much of the goodness we get from food is a result of it being consumed first by the bacteria in your microbiome. It produces B vitamins for us and can affect whether some of our genes are activated (expressed) or not. 70% of your nervous system is based in your gut lining.


There is a belief that the microbiome must be diverse to be healthy, however testing of some very healthy traditional native groups has shown that you can have low diversity and still be very healthy. Apparently, it is the quality of bacteria in your microbiome and the integrity of your gut lining that matters, whether it is diverse or not, not so much.


How do you know if your microbiome is healthy or not? One clue is whether you are craving sugars and starches. The bad bacteria in your gut including those that can cause overgrowth, thrive on sugars and starches and they will influence your brain to crave them, to ensure that they get the food they want. Your good bacteria can also eat sugars and starches but prefer fats and protein. This suits your body perfectly because your cells also thrive on fats and protein.


If you need to clean up your microbiome, you can use food to do this by starving out the bad bacteria. So, a diet with no sugars or starches is required. However, these bacteria can live for quite a long time, some for over 3 months. If you starve them out for many weeks, but then have a cheat day before they have died off, you will refresh them and you will have to start the whole process all over again. So that slice of pizza or spoonful of dessert at the girl’s night out might be enough to derail your whole campaign. Only 100% adherence to the program will work. This makes it very hard for people to do. In the GAPS diet book, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride suggests that 16 months was the minimum required time for full effective treatment.


How will you know that you have eliminated the bad bacteria? Amongst other benefits, the cravings will be gone, you will wake up refreshed in the morning raring to go and you will feel very calm.


Unfortunately, antibiotics can and usually will damage your microbiome, so if you have taken a dose of these in recent months, you may be having to rebuild your good bacteria as well. Some ways to help with this are:

– Minimize plant foods with oxalate toxins and lectins such as beans and spinach.

– Don’t overdo the fiber and limit grains. Fiber is less important than is commonly believed.

– Eat more animal fats and limit omega-6 seed oils (vegetable oils)

– Get your proteins from a range of animal foods and minimize plant proteins. –

– Remember that vitamins A, E, D and K2 come from animal fats.

– Avoid soy-based food and tofu- Get outside in the mornings to get more vitamin D and to assist with melatonin production.

– Get the sugars and starches out of your diet to stop feeding overgrowth.

– Socialize.


Intermittent fasting with a non-eating window of at least 18 hours can help with microbiome and gut lining repair as it provides an opportunity for your gut to rest and rehabilitate between the sequences of food arriving. It also promotes autophagy where the body can replace proteins, replace damaged cells and run a general maintenance program. An easy way to do this is to finish dinner by about 6pm and then only consume water, coffee, or tea until noon the next day.


For more information about the suggested lifestyle changes and “Taking back your health” with diet as medicine, take a look at my blog page, www.takebackyrhealth.com There you will find a link to my book on Amazon.


Regards George Elder.