Loma Linda Blue Zone: Why Do People There Live So Much Longer?

There’s a city in California where a community of people are living longer, healthier lives than the US average. Known as Loma Linda, it was recognized as one of five shining examples of longevity across the globe, so what are they getting so right?

In You Are What You Eat: A Twin Experiment, the Netflix show highlights how people in Loma Linda eat differently from neighboring communities. Here, there is plenty of access to plant-based and whole foods, while elsewhere in the region, people experience “food deserts” where access to nutrition isn’t a given.

Loma Linda is one of the world’s “blue zones”. What this means is that it’s an area where residents have high longevity, living longer and staying healthier into old age, and it’s a concept that was founded by explorer, journalist, and author Dan Buettner. 

Buettner named Loma Linda in California as one of the five original blue zones across the globe, joining Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and Ikaria, Greece, as a place of exceptional longevity. What makes Loma Linda especially interesting is that it’s a city within San Bernardino County, and yet its 9,000-strong community lives around 10 years longer than those outside the city, with men reaching around 89, while women can expect to live to 91.

A map of Earth’s “blue zones” where communities have high longevity.
Image credit: Dimitrios Karamitros / Shutterstock.com

The blue zone “Power 9®” suggests that there are nine key contributors to long life, and it could be that Loma Linda’s religious beginnings count towards the “Belong” and “Right Tribe” categories. However, another key contributor is diet.

The Loma Linda diet is linked to the faith of the region, as the Seventh-day Adventists promote plant-based eating, exercise, community, and reduced stress as a lifestyle. The “twin experiment” reference in the Netflix series title is out of Stanford University, and it too found that plant-based diets are good news for longevity.

“Our study… suggests that anyone who chooses a vegan diet can improve their long-term health in two months,” senior author Christopher Gardner, a professor of medicine at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, said in a statement.

“Based on these results and thinking about longevity, most of us would benefit from going to a more plant-based diet. A vegan diet can confer additional benefits such as increased gut bacteria and the reduction of telomere loss, which slows aging in the body.”

Plant-based is good, and beans are super.
Image credit: Goode Imaging / Shutterstock.com

If you’re wondering where’s a good place to start, nutritionally speaking, you could do worse than to begin with beans.

“In every Blue Zone, they’re eating about a cup of beans a day,” Buettner said to Insider. “I believe the only superfood there is in the world is beans.”

“Americans don’t have a clue on how to make beans taste delicious,” he said. “People in Blue Zones, their great genius is they know how to make beans sing — on the way in, not on the way out!”

Singing beans is one thing, but as Buettner discovered while he explored the world’s Blue Zones, there’s no one silver bullet for longevity. “I discovered it was really a silver buckshot,” he explained. “Lots of little things, but the same little things.”

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