Why do Sardinians live so long?

Posted on September 4th, 2013

You might recall this time last year I visited the Blue Zone in Ikaria, where people live a ludicrously long time. No? Well, I spent six weeks on the rugged Greek island with National Geographic, looking at various factors contributing to their abnormal longevity.

Sardinian mural... of men...

Sardinian mural…of men.

To refresh, I found that pork, wine, walking and eating no sugar all play a role. Now, to complete a bit of a circle, I’ve just left Italian island Sardinia, another of the five Blue Zones (the others are Okinawa in Japan, Nicoya in Costa Rica and Loma Linda in CA) and I’m trying to form a picture of what might be contributing to this freaky phenomenon.

Cop this: on an island of about 1.6 million people, 371 (as of last year) are over the age of 100. It’s accepted as a “thing” that islanders have an expression: A Chent’Annos (“May you live to 100”). I should highlight, though, that the phenomenon here applies in particular to men. Yes! Weirder, still!

Having spoken to a bunch of people in the past three weeks of travelling across the island, including through the isolated and largely unvisited interior where most of the centenarians live, I’ve ascertained a few factors. Pretty much all of them are things I bang on about here on this blog as general wellness advice.


Sardinia is rugged and mountainous, as is Ikaria. This has meant to get anywhere the locals – mostly shepherds who had to wander after their stock all day – had to hike. Not just walk, but hike, which adds an extra dimension of robustness to things. I posted my thoughts on hiking and healing yesterday.

The wind.

One Sardinian academic believes the wind adds a certain element to the air here. They also attribute the long-living tendencies to the magnetic fields on the island. Everywhere I went folk mentioned the “energy” of the Read more

Are the nutritionists lying to us? (a podcast, plus five *more* copies of Big Fat Lies to giveaway)

Posted on March 7th, 2012

This post has been updated.

Last week I chatted to David Gillespie about some of the food myths he debunks in his new book Big Fat Lies. Today we have a quick chat about why the “lies” continue. I reckon you’ll like this one.

image via Marina Giller

It’s easy to conclude from what David exposes in his book and in the podcast that there is a conspiracy going on. I prefer – and so does David – to be more moderate and get informed as to why the bodgy science got off the ground in the first place. And how it then formed the basis of most nutritional thinking in the Western world – everything from our food pyramid to taglines in infomercials.

It’s almost comical. But understandable. The world wanted answers when rates of heart disease suddenly soared in the 1950s. A President had a heart attack. All that was available at the time was a silly study on rabbits from 30 years earlier that everyone had dismissed at the time as proving nothing of any worth.

But everyone latched on to the faulty science.  The lies kind of domino-ed from there.

David is careful to say “ignorance” and commercial reality is to blame. Perhaps. But a breakfast cereal company selling us sugary flakes with clever marketing is only one part of the problem.

The bigger problem, to my mind, is that some of the peak nutritional bodies here and in other parts of the Western world, and many of the doctors, “experts” and nutritionists who we trust to tell us the truth, are often actively peddling these lies – and in the face of conflicting evidence. What’s more…

Some of the more vocal and influential nutritionists are paid by breakfast cereal companies and the like.

And many of the peak bodies are funded by major soft drink and junk food companies.

I won’t draw conclusions for you. I’m not saying such funding (which is often necessary for some of these organisations to survive) results directly in vested outcomes. But it’s good to know the full picture, right? Sadly, we’re rarely given it.

Anyway. You make up your own mind…

While you’re listening, you may like to check out these links. They highlight the various multinational sugar-based and low-fat companies that fund the major nutritional bodies in Australia and the US. As I say, make up your own mind…

Also, you might also be interested to read this article on how the sugar industry sugar industry muzzles journalists or those who speak out.

And here’s the original column from the Daily Mail on how much sugar there is in breakfast cereals. A quote from the article that I found pertinent: “It would take a very brave government to pick a fight with the corporations that have built such lucrative businesses on the back of our addiction to sugar.”

As I’ve commented before, there’s not going to be a major campaign any time soon to get us off sugar. It’s just not going to happen. We have to take the responsibility on ourselves.

Someone on twitter also sent me this one – a rundown of how PepsiCo do their spin, including this: “Hiring respected public health experts and medical doctors to represent the company, creating an illusion of having a health-oriented mission, instead of being driven by profit.” Sigh…

Oh yes. The book giveaway…. Read more

six big fat myths about fat: a podcast with David Gillespie (plus I’m giving away 5 copies of his new book!)

Posted on March 2nd, 2012

You may remember David Gillespie from previous discussions such as Why Sugar is Really Grim For You. He’s the author of Sweet Poison and over the past 13 months since I quit sugar we’ve been in regular dialogue.

image via Bon Appetite

Sometimes we talk about the fact that much of what we know about sugar and fat is a big fat lie. Wonderfully, David has now published a book on this very point. Today we’re chatting about his new book Big Fat Lies: How the Diet Industry is Making You Sick, Fat & Poor. If you’ve been wondering, if sugar is bad and saturated fat is actually good, then why are we not been told as such, then this is your weekend read.

But curl up now with a nice buttery piece of toast and enjoy our “fact or fiction” rundown of some common nutritional advice we all get fed…

The five myths we cover off are:

1. eating fat causes heart disease

(For a little more background on the bodgy science that tried to convince us of this myth, see my blog on Ancel Keys‘ fat study.)

2. cholesterol is bad

3. egg yolks are the devil! Read more