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  • Writer's pictureRené Pothetes

Incomplete studies, helpful or harmful?

Debunking the Blue Zone studies

Last week, Mark Sisson wrote an interesting article questioning whether we're doing more harm than good based on incomplete, and often wrong information.

An excerpt:

"Blue zone" science is less than perfect, that it turns out the regions of the world with high volumes of people living past 100 tend to have really poor birth records, and that when you introduce birth certificates these areas suddenly stop pumping out so many centenarians. I'm going to expand on this today.

Science, particularly the life sciences, are rather "dirty." Not that people are maliciously falsifying data. It's that so much of what we hold to be true rests on shaky ground.

Rendering an entire ancient hominid skeleton from a back molar.Sifting through some ashes at a single site from 60,000 years ago, creating a narrative about what it means for diet and lifestyle and culture of the people who lived there, and then extrapolating it out to the species at large.

Constructing THE final story of human prehistory based on things dug up at random sites around the world, forgetting or ignoring that water levels have risen hundreds of feet and a large portion of ancient coastline—where humans tend to gather and settle—is now underwater. What are we missing? What's gone? How much of the story is incomplete?

Asking someone about their typical daily diet ten years ago, expecting them to remember what they ate and how much of it, tracking their health markers and disease incidence in the proceeding years, then using that single murky snapshot of a day long past to make huge claims about the effect of diet on disease and health.

Gathering up all this dirty murky data from dozens of studies and throwing them together in a "meta-analysis" to make a definitive statement on medical truth. 

It's not just this. We see scientists rushing to switch or swap genes "known" to be detrimental or insert ones "known" to be beneficial without enough consideration for the pleiotropic effects. What if that gene does more than one thing? What if it does thousands of things? What's more likely? "

When you look at the Blue Zone website and the towns that are part of the controlled experiments, they're doing some great things! Improving walkable areas, increasing outdoor activities, getting businesses and communities involved and asking people to be more mindful of food choices. What percentage relapse and negate the gains? I'd like to see those studies.

I love that the Blue Zone Diet recommends getting more than 75% of your meals from vegetables and yet it's still focused on fruits and whole grains, and protein sources should include beans, peas, nuts, seeds and soy.

The five blue zones are as follows:

The Italian island of Sardinia.

Okinawa, Japan.

Loma Linda, California.

Costa Rica's isolated Nicoya Peninsula.

Ikaria, an isolated Greek island.

Their systems have evolved, and adapted to the foods in their respective regions, just as we did. What do they not eat that we devour in abundance? Processed foods.

So is their diet better or is our just pure crap?

Personally, I don't believe it...

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