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What I'm reading. The Blue Zone Sham?

Netflix has a new documentary on Blue Zones, regions in the world such as Okinawa Prefecture, Japan; Nuoro Province, Sardinia, Italy; the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica; Icaria, Greece; and Loma Linda, California, where people appear to live “extraordinarily long and vibrant lives.”

What are the secrets of such blue zones and how can you live to be 100?

These blue zones first started to be discussed in the 2000s which means that people aged 100 or older were born sometime around 1900. What do we know about that period of history? It was before vital records were uniformly established. And what happens when state-wide certification goes into effect? Saul Justin Newman shows that the number of supercentarians [100+] drops sharply a hundred or so years later!

…the introduction of state-wide birth certification coincides with a sharp reduction in the number of supercentenarians born in each state. In total, 82% of the GRG supercentenarian records from the USA predate state-wide birth certification. Forty-two states achieved complete birth certificate coverage during the survey period. When these states transition to state-wide birth registration, the number of supercentenarians falls by 80% per year overall and 69% per capita when adjusted relative to c.1900 state population sizes.

The author goes on to show that in many countries the number of of extremely old people is positively correlated with poverty, shorter average life spans and illiteracy. All factors which are difficult to explain if we think these factors are causally related to health but which make sense if we think that the explanation is unreliable birth and death records. Supercentenarian birthdates also exhibit patterns such as age-heaping that are “strongly indicative of manufactured birth data.” ...

Thus, in Blue Zones, people aren’t necessarily living longer lives; they’re just experiencing a ‘senior moment’ with their date of birth.


What hooked me about this was how very Occam's razor it was.

Did people really keep good records 100 years ago? Probably not. So are we sure those people are 100 years old?


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