Longevity Hot Spots – What I Learned About Living to 100
There are “Longevity Hot Spots” in the world where obesity is unheard of; places where the residents have no word in their vocabulary for diabetes, cancer is rare and the people regularly live healthy vital lives well into their 90s and even 100s. Understanding them maybe the key to discovering the fountain of youth.
There is an undeniable truth in our society today. Even as we make advancements in modern medicine, our health is getting steadily worse as incidents of heart disease, diabetes and cancer increase. Obesity is at epidemic proportions and worsening. At the same time, we are suffering from symptoms of malnourishment even as we get fatter and fatter!
For the first time in the history of our planet there are more people who are overfed (overweight) than underfed or starving. But I discovered there are some places in the world, called “Longevity Hot Spots”, where obesity is unheard of; places where the residents have no word in their vocabulary for diabetes, cancer is rare and people regularly live healthy vital lives well into their 90s and even 100s. What makes these places so different? How can their health be so robust while ours seems so fragile?
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My passion is to uncover exactly what it is that is making us sick and what we can do to help us achieve optimal health. My story may not be so different than yours. In fact, it can be depressingly all too common in today’s society – poor nutritional habits, premature death of loved ones, and general ill health that we all learn to live with at some level. I finally said enough is enough and was determined to find a better way.
Discovering Longevity Hot Spots
In the early 2000s I had a business associate who relocated to Costa Rica and was doing very well investing in real estate there. I went to visit him to see if there were any opportunities for me as an entrepreneur. Sam had grown up in the U.S. not far from where I live and he moved to Costa Rica after falling in love with the area while on a surfing trip. Costa Rica is known for its rugged and scenic terrain; volcanoes, tropical rain forests, and tropical sandy beaches.
Sam lives in a remote area on the Pacific Ocean called the Nicoya Peninsula in the small village of Nosara. Nosara is literally an hour’s drive from the nearest paved road, and has become very popular for American and European surfers and yoga enthusiasts.
We don’t have nursing homes or places like that.
Isolated as it is, there’s still a very cosmopolitan feel to it. I enjoyed myself tremendously while I was there, taking in the local culture and opening my eyes to their laid back way of life. Sam and I were having breakfast one morning at Cafe De Paris near Nosara and he said, “William, you wouldn’t believe how many people in this tiny village are in their 90’s and even over 100 years old who cook, clean and tend their garden. We don’t have nursing homes or places like that.”
This took me by surprise a bit and he went on, “Did you see a hospital here? No because there isn‘t a need for one. I know several people personally who are over 100 and there’s not that many people here. How many 100 year-olds do you know back in the states?” I thought about this for a bit and he was right. There didn’t seem to be any sick people and I did see several older folks. I had assumed them to be in their 60s and 70s but Sam assured me that anyone that looks “old” to our western eyes isn’t 70, they are probably 90 or older.
Initially it was intriguing because it’s just not something one might expect in a remote area like Nosara. But it became really interesting the next day during a conversation with my driver, Marco, on the long two hour ride back to the airport through many jungle dirt roads. Marco is a tico, meaning a native to the area. He has lived his entire life in this longevity hot spot of Costa Rica.
I asked point blank, “What do people die of around here?” He paused and thought for a little bit. He seemed honestly confused.
I had gotten to know Marco over the past week pretty well, so I decided to test my friend Sam’s observations. I started by asking Marco if he’d ever heard of people there with cancer or heart disease. He shook his head no. I wasn’t sure I was getting through (I thought perhaps there was a language barrier) so I asked point blank, “What do people die of around here?” He paused and thought for a little bit. He seemed honestly confused. Finally he said, “Well… I guess people get hit in the street by cars sometimes.”
Now this was when the light bulb started to come on in my mind. Ask anyone in the U.S. what people die of and you get an immediate litany of chronic conditions: heart disease, diabetes, and cancer would certainly be first. Go ahead try it. Ask anyone this question right now and I bet you one of these diseases will be one of the first things out of their mouths. And they won’t have to stop and think about it like my driver in Costa Rica did. It will come out almost before you finish asking the question.
But here in this longevity hot spot on the edge of the world, my driver had to think hard before coming up with a random answer that was clearly the result of his professional experience as a taxi driver. People didn’t know about diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease… all the things that took my loved ones from me at an early age.
Now that we were conversing about the health of the local people, Marco began telling me about his grandparents. He said that all four of his grandparents were in their 90s ranging from mid to upper with the oldest being 98. And he told me that all of them were leading active lives, taking care of themselves, tending their gardens and cooking the family dinner on Sundays. This was astonishing for me. In my family, it’s unusual for people to reach their 80th birthday and 90 is just unheard of… but for all four of his grandparents to be alive and active and each pushing 100?
That resonated deeply with me. I saw my grandfather literally get cut down by diabetes at a relatively young age. When I was eight years old my father died of a stroke before his 40th birthday. My grandmother died of cancer when I was just three. So by the tender age of ten, I had lost my grandfather, grandmother and father. In my late teens, my other grandmother died of diabetes and my grandfather died of heart failure while I was in my early twenties. My mother died of cancer when I was in my thirties. By the time I was the same age as Marco I had not only lost all four of my grandparents, I had also lost both of my parents as well. All of them died from preventable lifestyle diseases: cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
I had also experienced firsthand how nutrition can effect health. Years before I had become dependent on pain medication resulting from an accident that left me without the use of my legs for a period of time. I was prescribed more and more medications to offset the side effects of the pain medications. In no time I was on a cocktail of medications and over a period of years the meds had a deleterious effect on my health. For the first time in my life I began to develop a variety of chronic disease.
Chronic dry eyes, chronic dry skin, chronic migraines, indigestion, sleeplessness and depression. I was sick constantly. For the life of me, I could not get well and I was constantly on antibiotics. Eventually I was able to restore my health by discontinuing the medications, totally changing my diet and employing methods of fasting and cleansing. So what I saw in this Costa Rican Longevity Hot Spot confirmed what I had experienced with my own health. Given proper nutrition and abstaining from toxicity the body will restore and heal itself.
Why is Understanding Longevity Hot Spots So Important?
When I got back to the states, I began doing some research and learned that this area of Costa Rica is known for its tremendous health and longevity and is actually considered a longevity hot spot. There are also several other areas in the world with similar demographics such as Okinawa, Japan; Italy’s island of Sardinia; and yes, even a U.S. town called Loma Linda in California. There are others and more will be discovered as more research is conducted.
These areas have been researched extensively by Duke and Harvard universities, and organizations such as the National Institute on Aging, National Geographic and even the Italian government. They have been reported on by researchers Sally Beare and Dan Buettner. Dan Buettner, an explorer and researcher for National Geographic, calls these areas “Blue Zones” and has written extensively about them (http://www.bluezones.com). In her book 50 Secrets of the World’s Longest Living People Sally Beare shares secrets leaned by studying the healthiest people on earth (http://www.sallybeare.com).
What Do All These Places Have in Common?
And more importantly, how can we learn from them? I wanted to learn as much as I could, and then bring whatever I discovered about the way these people are eating and how they are living… to people in the U.S. My hope is to reverse the epidemic rates of chronic disease we currently experience, and reduce the emotional and financial drain these diseases cause for our people.
We formulated our first product, Fermented Essentials based on a key principles observed while studying the diets of people living in Longevity Hot Spots. The most fascinating discovery was that people living in Longevity Hot Spots consume fermented foods with nearly every meal. During the process of fermentation, the food is broken down and made much easier to digest. And there are also secondary metabolites created during the process that makes the food more nutritious than it was prior to fermentation. So fermentation actually enhances the nutrition in foods.
This is truly an amazing discovery. Most people living in the US saw fermented foods leave our diets several decades ago. Most of our grandparents stored food for the winter and this was a fermenting process. But now with modern refrigeration and chemical food preservatives we no longer consume those fermented foods. We also don’t eat nearly enough fruits, vegetables and herbs so we created Fermented Essentials to bridge the gap in the diets of people living in Longevity Hot Spots and people living here in the US.
I discovered through this research and through years of my own experience with nutrition, that we can most definitely reverse this trend of sickness and disease. It is well within our reach to prevent and even reverse chronic illnesses and create a much healthier and happier society. Armed with the proper knowledge and determination, we can overcome these diseases, lose weight and have a healthier and more prosperous society as a result. My own personal journey of overcoming severe chronic illness through periodic regimens of fasting and consuming super-nutrition was a long and sometimes arduous one.
All of these experiences, combined with my knowledge and the knowledge of other wellness experts, doctors and scientists, we decided to form the The Nutra Company in order to bring the secret of fermented food back to our regular diets.
The Nutra Company’s first product, Fermented Essentials, will be available August 2016.
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