The people of Okinawa, Japan seem to have one.
In fact, their little island seems to be the best place on earth for healthy aging.
Studies have shown that:
- Okinawa has more people over 100 years old than anywhere else in the world
- They also have the lowest death rates from cancer, heart disease and stroke
- They also have the highest life expectancy for both males and females over 65
- And females in Okinawa have the highest life expectancy in all age groups
We’re not just talking about staying alive longer here – hobbling about in a walker or sitting in a nursing home watching Jeopardy all day. No I’m talking about LIVING. Not only being 90 or 100 years old, but also HEALTHY – as in exercising, running races, gardening, dancing, putting in 11 hour work days, climbing trees….and with very little sickness and disease.
Impossible? Apparently not. Okinawa is just one of several ‘blue zones’ in the world where the population’s life expectancy is higher than anywhere else in the world.
You’re probably wondering if we have a blue zone in the United States… Actually we do have one, in Loma Linda, California. Loma Linda happens to have a large population of 7th Day Adventists, and most of them just happen to be vegetarian.
So is that the secret – a vegetarian diet?
Now depending on where you look for your information, you’ll find tons of information on the Okinawan Diet.
Some researchers say their traditional diet is low-fat, mostly vegan. Other researchers say the majority of their calories come from carbs – mainly sweet potatoes and rice.
And of course the Paleos will be the first to point out that the Okinawans also eat a lot of seafood and meat, especially pork. Everything is fried in pork lard and none of the animal is wasted – and I mean none. They eat everything but the oink.
So who’s right?
Honestly, I’m like you – all I have to go on is the internet, where you can find any viewpoint you’re looking for if you just dig long enough. But one thing I discovered that I find interesting is this:
How many times have you heard the statement:
“It must be in my genes – it’s hereditary”
Well Okinawa throws that theory out the window. Because sadly, the younger people of Okinawa are now getting sick and dying. The causes of death are obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. (sound familiar?)
They say a picture is worth 1,000 words.
Thanks to the influence of American Military Bases, Okinawa now has more fast-food restaurants per capita than anywhere else in the country. Their very first fast food outlet was built in 1963, seven years before Tokyo.
And now they’re suffering.
The Second Okinawan Invasion
According to Yoko Asato, a spokesman for the local health department, research is now showing that today’s younger Okinawans consume more fat, more alcohol, and more tobacco than the average Japanese.
The generation that grew up eating American food is now reaching their middle age years and they’re overweight and at risk from diabetes. Almost 30 per cent of Okinawan men die before reaching 65, and nearly half of men in their forties are obese.
They’re becoming Americanized.
They’ve walked away from their traditional diets and are now eating our SAD diet of Hamburgers and Fried Chicken.
And now they’re dying.
In the census of 1995, Okinawa had the highest longevity of all 47 prefectures of Japan but by 2000, it had dropped to 26th. As the older generation die off, longevity will finally fall.
Dr Hideaki Tanaka, of Naha, the islands’ capital, has long warned about the threat. “I consider this the second Battle of Okinawa. Our island was invaded during the Second World War and now we are suffering a cultural invasion.
When people reach 99 we have celebrations and take commemorative photographs. Often we can see the 99-year-old next to his grandchildren who will be overweight.
“The son isn’t there because he is dead.”
Image Source: Flickr/Centenarian Diet Research