The Longest Living People

Healthy Centenarians

There is so much to learn about longevity from the elders in regions where people live long and healthy lives free from disease. Four areas worldwide have been studied and are identified as inhabiting the longest living people and Centenarians. The cultures studied were the Okinawa in Japan, the Abkhasian in Russia, the Vilcabamba in Ecuador and the Hunza in Pakistan. The common chronic diseases seen in North America such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, atherosclerosis, osteoporosis, arthritis and Alzheimer’s are very rarely seen in these four cultures.

What is similar about their diet?

• Organic Plant-Based Whole Foods
• Freshly picked produce from their own garden or locally grown (to avoid nutrient loss & pathogenic microorganisms)
• Phytonutrient-rich & Anti-inflammatory (antioxidants, polyphenols, etc.)
• Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, Nuts, Seeds, Sprouted Legumes, Herbs & Spices
• 90-99% Plant Foods, 1-10% Animal Foods
• 10-15% Protein, 15-20% Fat, 65-75% Carbohydrates, 1800-1900 calories
• Primary Fat Sources – Nuts & Seeds
• Primary Protein Sources – Beans, Pea, Whole Grains, Nuts, Seeds
• Primary Carbohydrate Sources (low glycemic load) – Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables
• At least 2 cups of vegetables per day, especially orange & green (fiber, potassium, vitamin C, antioxidants)
• Phytoestrogens (soy, legumes, flax, broccoli) protective against bone loss
• Not Overeating (eating until only 80% full)
• Emphasis on eating food raw or lightly cooked (steamed or boiled)
• Value organic agriculture and using mineral-rich soil to ensure nutrient-rich food
• Small amounts of salt and animal food on occasion
• No Processed or Fried Foods (artificial flavors, preservatives, chemical additives, white flour, refined sugar, corn syrup, canned foods, oils)
• View food as the best medicine that keeps you strong and healthy

What is similar about their lifestyle?

• Low-intensity physical activity part of the daily routine (ex. gardening, dancing, walking)
• Good relationships with family & friends
• Having purpose and meaning in life
• Positive attitude and outlook on life
• Participate in hobbies
• No smoking

Okinawa Centenarian Study Findings

• 30year study of the healthiest and longest-living people in an island of Japan
• Markers of low disease risk (low cholesterol, clean arteries, low blood free radicals and low body fat)
• Longest life expectancy, high number of centenarians
• Okinawans are 15% of the world’s people over 100 years old
• 95% of people who live to 100 years old are free from disease
• Common to live past 80 years old and beyond 100 years with high quality of life
• Causes of mortality – accidents, sickness from visitors, old-age
• Health and longevity is due to their diet and lifestyle and not the environment
• 3 of their rivers contain toxic chemicals and pollutants, yet they still have low incidence of chronic diseases

Changing Our View Of Aging
The Western view of aging is very negative and hinders people from learning how to lead a healthy life as they age. Aging should not be a stage of mental and physical deterioration. Centenarians are great role models on how to age successfully and maintain mental sharpness and physical independence. The diet and lifestyle choices that we make each day determine if we live a long and healthy life or develop chronic disease. We have the power to take control of our health and maintain a high quality of life as we age. By leading a healthy active lifestyle and consuming a whole foods plant-based diet we can follow in the footsteps of the longest living people and enjoy life well into our senior years.


Healthy at 100: The Scientifically Proven Secrets of the World’s Healthiest and Longest-Lived People, By John Robbins (2006)

Teaching from the Centenarian Hot Spots (2009)

Healthy at 100

Okinawan Diet: health implications of a low-calorie, nutrient-dense, anti-oxidant rich dietary pattern low in glycemic load (2009)

Sociodemographic and lifestyle statistics of oldest old people living in Ikaria island (2011)

By Dana Garcia