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Blue zone folk are religious
October 02, 2020

Blue zone folk are religious

It came as a surprise to me that in all five areas of the world where longevity reigns that Blue Zone folk are religious; but they belong to different faiths.

Greetings from Bernard Preston to this nineth email about how to create a cyan zone at your home; caring for yourself, your loved ones and for the planet.

This has been a difficult newsletter for me to write; it may be hard for you to read, but I hope you don't shun it. It may be a great step forward for you as you struggle for better health.

I have said it before, and it bears repeating, that caring for Mother Earth has at heart an understanding that there is something sacred about our home; and that we have the responsibility to hand it on to our children, certainly no worse than when we ourselves were born.

That for most of us reading this newsletter is not particularly difficult, I suspect. There is of course a lot of lip service with do as I say, but not as I do.

More difficult perhaps is accepting that caring for ourselves is not just common sense but a spiritual issue.

Caring for the temple

I find it fascinating that in all five blue zones of the world where living to a vibrant old age is the norm, and ten times as many people live to one hundred, that the folk are religious.

But they belong to different religions. In the Nicoya peninsular of Costa Rica and Sardinia, the people are predominantly Roman Catholic. A large proportion of the population still attend mass weekly.

In Ikaria, an island in the Aegean Sea, the people are largely Greek Orthodox.

In Loma Linda, California, the folk are fiercely Seventh-day Adventists.

And lastly in Okinawa the religion is what is often called a hybrid, combining many beliefs such as Taoism and Buddhism that have developed from animism; an assumption that all things including animals, mountains and rivers have a soul; the sun and moon too.

Whether the Rhino peak in the Drakensberg has a soul or not, is not the point here; I think we are all agreed that it needs to be treated with respect and care. That is at the spiritual heart of all conservation.

But what about our own bodies?

As we humans have moved away from religion, calling it the opiate of the masses, a scientific Darwinism or simply the agnosticism of Dawkins, Adams and many others, so it would seem to me that we have lost that deep inner respect for our own bodies.

The mocking chide of believing in fairies at the bottom of the garden for me is but a distraction.

We would shudder at the thought of littering along the path up the Rhino, or the Swiss Alps; but we have become quite blase about treating our own bodies with contempt.

Blue zone people are not like that; the outward working of their inner faith has been to treat the human body with respect.

St Francis of Assissi

St Francis, the twelfth century Catholic mystic, was in many ways an animist; he called all creatures his brothers and sisters, was reported to have preached to the birds and in his writings spoke of Brother Sun and Sister Moon. The wind and the water too need to be treated with respect and awe.

On Sunday, 4th October, many will celebrate Francis' life as patron saint of all plants, animals and the environment; and of a simple, uncomplicated lifestyle.

Perhaps less known is his struggle with another animal, describing his body as Brother Ass, the creature that bore the real him; it is no coincidence that he chose a useful and sturdy beast for such a caricature. It is lovable, obstinate and infuriating too.

If one of the most venerated patron saints found it difficult to tame and control his own body, does it come as any surprise that we too have such a struggle?

Treat brother Ass kindly

The Protestant faith

I have a deep personal sadness that my own faith is not represented in any of the religions of the Blue Zones. Some may quibble but I believe it to be true, a generalisation I will acknowledge, that Protestant Christians do not attach the same importance to caring for their bodies.

Seeing Brother Ass as the creature that not only carries us, but also Almighty God, is given lip service only. I have not once in my whole life heard a sermon from the pulpit on caring for the temple, the place where He dwells.

"Do you not know that you yourselves are God's temple, and that his Spirit dwells in you?"

- 1 Corinthians 3:17

Much has been written about how a society grows great when we plant trees under whose shade we know we never may sit.

That may be so, but it is my understanding that Blue Zone people plant trees expecting to sit in their shade, sipping tea and watching the great-grandchildren grow up.

Whatever their religion they know that care of the body, and the mind too is a spiritual business; it's soul work.

White rice

In a fascinating, huge study following hundreds of thousands of people in 21 different countries, researchers found that there is a strong correlation between consumption of white rice and type 2 diabetes. I believe this would be equally true of all refined grains, be they from corn, oats or wheat.

Meaning of starch

Yet Protestant Christians would find it absurd were I to suggest that consumption of white rice, cake flour or cornflakes for breakfast was a sin; pseudo-foods that undermine the temple where Almighty God dwells.

This has been a disturbing journey for me in the pursuit of better health. Each of must make what we will of it no matter our religion; or lack thereof.

Chicken and celery soup

We do our level best to make sure there is always a soup at hand; it's wonderful to have a nutritious meal immediately available when in a rush. The alternative is some sort of convenience food, perhaps a pizza or Kentucky Fried Chicken.

The recipe calls for white rice, which of course I eschewed, using the unpolished brown grain instead. I doubt you could taste the difference though it took a little longer to cook.

Always striving for more coloured foods in our diet, I added some broccoli florets. I refuse to be trapped by a recipe, simplifying and trying to create something even more nutritious. A tablespoon of lentils added yet more variety.

Lies, and damn lies

I believe it would be true to say that all religions would gainsay the telling of an untruth. Yet there is a big fat lie that we quietly ignore, and mostly are silent about.

It is world-wide accepted that millers may label flour as "wholemeal" provided that no more than 40% of the grain has been extracted; much of the bran and the germ which is where the fibre, vitamins and minerals are to be found.

It is this lie that has totally undermined the health of all nations. Removing the best part from meal, and having the brazen audacity to call it "whole grain" is a crime against the people; a wickedness beyond comprehension.

“What hurts the victim most is not the cruelty of the oppressor but the silence of the bystander.”

- Elie Wiesel.


I am prediabetic myself. For example, if I drink a glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice, the citrus from our green home, my blood glucose rockets up. What fascinates me is that if, after the OJ, I take a short ten minute brisk walk, the reading remains quite normal.

And my HbA1c is quite normal at 5.4.

Blood sugar is turned into glycogen if we exercise after a starchy meal; if we don't it is stored as adipose. It makes us fat.

Raised blood glucose is deadly for the tissues, inflaming the linings of the capillaries; so the body stores it as quickly as possible, using a squirt of insulin from the pancreas.

However the big fat lie makes us insulin resistant, that blood glucose is not stored as it should be and our bodies become red-hot and angry; we hurt. There are a host of consequences, one of the more deadly being non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Role of flavonoids in treating chronic inflammatory diseases

“Lying is done with words, and also with silence.”

- Adrienne Rich

So recognising that if we want to emulate the good things about the Blue Zone people, we have to face up to the truth that we must avoid refined carbs; and take daily exercise. Let's talk it up; keeping silent, heads in the ground like ostriches, has no merit.

The alternative is too ghastly to contemplate; falling short of the mark, becoming increasingly disabled and losing our marbles. Dropping dead long before our time is a great sadness.

I know that I am treading on holy ground. Yet I have no shame in admitting that it is my express intention to pop a stone into your shoe; may it irritate and help you to ring in the changes of lifestyle that will reward you with a long and fruitful life. It's never too late to start.

The CEO of a leading medical insurance company reminded us recently that sparking good health has 80% to do with lifestyle, and only a fraction of that can be blamed on our genes.

Take control of Brother Ass

It's time to master the stubborn beast that is our body; pull back on the reins, tug even if the bit hurts and dig in the stirrups. Whether you are religious or not, Brother Ass must carry you for a many a mile yet.

Good luck, and God Bless; he's a difficult beast!

Next week

Next week features a Green Zone issue; something that will help preserve Mother Earth for our children and their offspring.

Pass this newsletter on to friends and family, but only if you feel it is of value; we all get more than enough spam.

And start thinking about how you are going to reduce your refined carbs and get more exercise; drastically if your BMI is over 30.

Look after yourself; take care of the planet. Plan to live to a strong and zestful ninety, and who knows perhaps even one hundred.

Till next month,


1. Bernard Preston Homepage.
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