Expert Dan Buettner, who’s spent his career researching how to reach the grand old age of 100, has advised Professor Tim Spector to give up his toaster if he wants to live a healthy life. Mr. Buettner, an American National Geographic fellow, shared his wisdom on the ZOE Science and Nutrition podcast, hosted by Prof Spector of King’s College, London.

And, interestingly, he also suggested getting rid of your mates could be key to living a long life.

Mr Buettner, creator of the Netflix series ‘Live to 100’, is fascinated by world regions where making it to 100 isn’t uncommon – he calls these places the world’s ‘blue zones’. He believes that we shouldn’t just rely on people to make healthy choices, but governments have a part to play too. Mr Buettner said: “You can’t keep flogging the horse of individual responsibility if you want to want to get populations healthier, you have to set up their environment so you set them up for success. You have to create cities where it’s easy for people to move naturally and we’re doing the opposite.”

The hosts, Jonathan Wolf and Prof Spector, asked him how people could change their lives to live longer. He said: “The first thing is to shift away from the ‘silver bullet’ mentality which most of us have to what I call the ‘silver buckshot’ mentality.”

This means making a range of lifestyle changes.

“I wrote a book called the Blue Zone Challenge, where I gathered about 40 or so proven ways for you to set up your kitchen, bedroom and home so you move more without thinking, eat less and better, and socialise more.

“In your kitchen I’m a big believer that we’re all on a see-food diet – we eat the food we see. So if on your counter in America, we start eating a bag of chips [crisps], we don’t finish it, we put a clip on and we put it on the counter. Bad idea!

“Instead, go out and buy yourself the most beautiful fruit bowl you can afford and put that in the middle and keep it full. So when you walk through the kitchen, you reach for the fruit rather than the chips.”

He also suggested that a very popular kitchen gadget should be thrown away. He explained: “The Cornell Food Lab did a study on toasters – very little of what we put in toasters makes something healthy.

“So taking the toaster off the counter means people lose about two kilos after two years as opposed to those who don’t. People who have plants throughout their homes move more because they’re actually watering plants. There are little things you can do to nudge yourself into moving more.”

Mr Buettner pointed out that a simple change in your friend circle can make a huge difference. He explained, “If your three best friends are obese and unhealthy there’s a 150 per cent more chance you’ll be unhealthy yourself. So in other words if your three best friends sit around and eat wieners [sausages], chips, and watch TV, guess what you’ll be doing when you hang out with them. As opposed to friends whose ideas of recreation are biking, or walking or playing tennis.

“We think it’s so hard for middle-aged people but I argue the number one thing you can do to add years to your life is re-curate your immediate social circle – those three friends who you can have a meaningful conversation with. Those three people are going to have a measurable impact on how active you are and what you eat.”

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