Okinawa actually consists of a group of islands – with the namesake island of Okinawa being the largest and most populated island in the group. The Ryukyuan people, who inhabit the islands, are known as one of the longest living people in the world – with more than 3x the rate of centenarians compared to mainland Japan.
The islands lie within a subtropical climate zone, which supports ample farming of sugar cane, pineapples, and many types of tropical flowers. Okinawa Island, the largest in the group, has an area of 463 square miles, with most of the over one million inhabitants located in the urban areas of the central and southern parts of the island. In the last 40 years, tourism has become the #1 industry in Okinawa, along with the economic impact brought on by a rather large lingering U.S. military presence after WWII.
The purple sweet potato was brought to the island sometime in the 16th century and has become a staple in the traditional Okinawan diet. In the mid to late 20th century, approximately 70% of calories in their diet came from sweet potatoes.
We’ve traveled to all of the world’s Blue Zones, as first identified by Michel Poulain and featured by National Geographic in the early 2000’s, in order to launch a new investigation into the factors that contribute to exceptional health and longevity of the people who live in these unique places.
We also recently attended the Journey to 100 Conference held in Guernsey – part of the Channel Islands located off the French coast – which assembled many of the world’s leading experts on health, longevity, and chronic disease.