Healthy at 100 by John Robbins. A review.
I enjoy reading books on health and nutrition.
Not only does it keep me up-to-date on the latest health studies and research in a world where we need to know the latest data to be at the forefront of our game, but I also truly enjoy the process of learning in a field I am passionate about.
From this I decided I would share my thoughts and reviews of health books as I read them.
The latest book I read was Healthy at 100 by John Robbins. Before reading, I didn’t know much about the book nor the author. The book got good reviews on Amazon and Dean Ornish called it a “Masterpiece”, so I thought it must have some good information.
Every page I turned I was amazed at the summary of the studies on the longest living people in the world.
The book goes in depth into 4 populations that have records of the longest living people – Abkhasians, Vilcabambians, Hunzans & Okinawans.
Not only were a majority of these populations living to an age over 100, they were doing so free of disease and with an active & healthy life that is rarely seen in the Western world.
The commonalities between the lifestyles of these four populations are key to what has allowed them to thrive at an age we can only dream of living to.
- Eating a diet high in unprocessed fruit, vegetables and grains and low in fat (less than 10% of their diets came from animal products)
- Eating less
- Living an active life – constantly moving throughout their day, everyday
- Having close bonds within their community & family
- Elders within the communities are respected and seen as wise & almost sacred
- Money is not a sign of wealth – health & happiness are
- Life priorities are spending time with family and friends – although they work hard and mostly doing manual labour, work does not dictate their lives.
- Family time is always a number 1 priority.
The statistics of heart disease, diabetes and cancer are almost non-existent in these populations too. Most die from old age and their body knowing it is time to shut down.
For example, breast cancer is non-existent among Okinawan women. There has to be 100,000 Okinawan women for six to die from breast cancer (pg 76), compared to 1 in 3 women in many Western countries like Australia and the United States.
These populations are also not tarnished by the overwhelming amount of processed foods that we have in the West. We are exposed to an endless array of fast food restaurants, packaged foods and “convenience” meals that are high in refined carbs and saturated fats. This results in most people eating an excessive amount of calories.
Eating more calories than we burn, especially from processed foods, leads to weight gain and a multitude of lifestyle diseases. The average man in these regions eats 1,950 calories a day, whereas in the United States the average man is eating 2,650 calories a day (pg 80) and expending a lot less energy.
The book not only delves into the lifestyles of these populations but puts their lifestyle habits against those of us living in the West.
For me, this really brings to light the destructive behaviour and habits we have that really jeopardise our health.
The average American drinks 55 gallons (208 litres) of soda a year (pg 94). Yes in ONE YEAR.
The longest living people drink no soda. High fructose corn syrup is more addictive than cocaine. It shouldn’t be in drinks being sold to children, ultimately getting them addicted for life.
Although I loved all the health insights and comparisons between the longest living people and us living in modern society.
I knew most of this information and it just reinforced why I live the lifestyle I do and want to share my knowledge and learnings with others.
The part of the book I truly enjoyed reading about most was the strong sense of community, support and caring for each other that was a priority among all of these populations.
Something which I feel is missing for many of us in today’s world.
There is a whole chapter of the book suitably titled ‘What’s love got to do with it?’ That looks at the positive and negative health impacts that love and a lack of love in our lives can have respectably.
The healing power of relationships (pg 224) discusses surveys conducted with men and women in relationships.
Researchers in Cleveland Ohio asked ten thousand men with no prior history of angina (chest pain indicating heart disease), taking into consideration their physical health and medical history, they found that men who answered “yes” to the question “does your wife love you?” had significantly less occurrences of angina compared to men who answered no to the same question (pg 225).
Overall mortality rates for all causes of death in the United States are consistently higher for divorced, single and widowed individuals of both sexes (pg 230). Healthy loving relationships are shown to increase longevity across all people.
The last significant difference between these long living people and us is the emphasis on material things and wealth.
The Abkhasians, Vilcabambians, Hunzans & Okinawans see wealth a lot differently than we do.
This sentence in the book stood out for me and made me somewhat bitter against society and what we have become.
Pg 268: In the 1990s, no state in the United States generated more wealth than California. Both Silicon Valley, the epicenter of the computer industry, and Hollywood, the center stage of the world’s entertainment industry, were generating new millionaires by the minute. But instead of circulating through the culture, this wealth was concentrating in the hands of an ever smaller portion of the population.
The richest 1 percent of Californians now earn more per year than the bottom 60 per cent combined.
I didn’t only take away from this book the sadness that I feel when I know so many of us are living a life we think will make us happy and live long and prosper when it is doing the exact opposite.
We are always searching for the next thing, item or person who will make us happy or bring us temporary joy.
I did learn that it is possible, even in the modern world we live to enjoy a life similar to that of the longest living populations on earth.
We too can live a long life, be happy and share in the beauty of simple things like the company of our friends and family.
This book gave me insight into how we can improve our lives and those around us to be better humans in a world where we need more love.