|97-year-old Stamatis Moraitis tending his vineyard and olive grove on Ikaria.|
The Island Where People Forget To Die, New York Times Magazine, 24 October 2012
Here's a snapshot of how Ikarians live:
"Like that of almost all of Ikaria’s traditional folk, their daily routine unfolded much the way Leriadis [an Ikarian physician] had described it: Wake naturally, work in the garden, have a late lunch, take a nap. At sunset, they either visited neighbors or neighbors visited them.Here's a little more about their diet:
Their diet was also typical: a breakfast of goat’s milk, wine, sage tea or coffee, honey and bread. Lunch was almost always beans (lentils, garbanzos), potatoes, greens (fennel, dandelion or a spinachlike green called horta) and whatever seasonal vegetables their garden produced; dinner was bread and goat’s milk."
"The Ikarians’ diet, like that of others around the Mediterranean, was rich in olive oil and vegetables, low in dairy (except goat’s milk) and meat products, and also included moderate amounts of alcohol. It emphasized homegrown potatoes, beans (garbanzo, black-eyed peas and lentils), wild greens and locally produced goat milk and honey.So, If I lived in Ikaria, I would wake up late, say 11 am. I would have some wine, bread, milk, and honey then tend to my garden. I would come in for a big afternoon meal, wash it down with wine, take a long nap, have some tea, wine, bread, and socialize until late in the evening.
[Ikarians] consumed about six times as many beans a day as Americans, ate fish twice a week and meat five times a month, drank on average two to three cups of coffee a day and took in about a quarter as much refined sugar — the elderly did not like soda. She also discovered they were consuming high levels of olive oil along with two to four glasses of wine a day."
Do you see it? Where does the midday meal come from? Who is cooking all those beans? Who is doing the dishes? The laundry? Who is cleaning the house? Who is going to market? Who is caring for the children? (75% of the population is under 65.) Do children rise at 11? What about school? Who is running the businesses? How do you run schools and businesses without clocks (which the story said explicitly are not used)? Do Ikarians have personal assistants, maids, and cooks? I wonder what the lifestyle of women is like in Ikaria, and if it differs from men. I wonder if they are as relaxed with abundant time to sleep, socialize, and imbibe. Perhaps, but I noted that Moraitis' wife, 12 years his junior, died at the age of 85, having spent 30-plus years in this supposed idyllic existence.
This story is too romanticized. It's not realistic. It will have people longing for a utopia that doesn't exist. One other thing not mentioned in this story is healthcare. Who would pay if Moraitis needed a foot amputated? Needed eye surgery? Needed kidney dialysis? The government, because Ikaria has Universal Healthcare.
You know what helps people live a long life? I'll entertain my arrogance and tell you ... No. One. Thing. There were very likely elements of Moraitis' diet that worked against long life, but were offset by positives. Gary Taubes (who was consulted for his opinion in the story) may have said that all that bread would do him in. Drs. Esselstyn and Campbell may have said all that meat and dairy would lead to chronic ailments and early death. Ikarians drank almost enough daily alcohol to invite a label.
The story may have been romanticized, but it was also telling, especially the guts of this paragraph that began:
"If you pay careful attention to the way Ikarians have lived their lives, it appears that a dozen subtly powerful, mutually enhancing and pervasive factors are at work."And this:
"For people to adopt a healthful lifestyle, I have become convinced, they need to live in an ecosystem, so to speak, that makes it possible. As soon as you take culture, belonging, purpose or religion out of the picture, the foundation for long healthy lives collapses. The power of such an environment lies in the mutually reinforcing relationships among lots of small nudges and default choices."Buckshot. So, a lot of small things, done over and over, in an environment where everyone else is also doing those small things, could very well keep us sipping the mountain tea into our 90s.
There’s no silver bullet to keep death and the diseases of old age at bay. If there’s anything close to a secret, it’s silver buckshot."