from wiki: People from the islands of Ryūkyū (of which Okinawa is the largest) are reported to have the longest life expectancy in the world. This has in part been attributed to the local diet, but also to other variables such as genetic factors, lifestyle, and environmental factors.
Generally, the traditional diet of the islanders is 20% lower in calories than the Japanese average and contains 300% of the green/yellow vegetables (particularly heavy on sweet potatoes). The Okinawan diet is low in fat and has only 25% of the sugar and 75% of the grains of the average Japanese dietary intake. The traditional diet also includes a relatively small amount of fish (less than half a serving per day) and somewhat more in the way of soy and other legumes (6% of total caloric intake). With exception of pork, almost no meat is consumed; virtually no eggs or dairy products are consumed either. Okinawans include pork in their diets. However, the fat content of the pork is eliminated; prior to the preparation of the pork, the fat is boiled off.
An Okinawan reaching 110 years of age has typically had a diet consistently averaging no more than one calorie per gram and has a BMI of 20.4.
Considering the genetic differences to Europeans or Americans what else is there to make of this especially in contrast to the paleolithic diet/lifestyle?
The data that supports the idea that their diet was low fat and in general miserly unfortunately starts right after WWII when their island was devastated. Before WWII they were doing better, but there were also a series of famines that killed off some of the population which were basically malthusian crises. Interestingly, you see the same in other Blue Zones like the Greek Islands. That supports the idea that so-called long lived birth cohorts might be so long lived because famine killed off the weak in those cohorts. If you averaged the lifespan of all the people born in the years the revered long lived people were born in, it would probably be very low. I can't find data on birth cohorts, but the Okinawan population in 1896 was 440 000. There are 569 centenarians born around then, so that's less than 1% of the original population that survived, which is not very impressive.
I wrote a bit about this in my own blog. They ate lots of yams traditionally and also fed them to their hogs.
The info about them reducing the pork fat is scant and comes from biased sources. In contrast, the info from actual Okinawans seems to support that they prized pork fat.
The benefits of calorie restriction are well documented, the benefits of low-fat are not.
No one seems to disagree that the elderly people on Okinawa who have eaten a traditional diet are pretty healthy.
Everyone seems to try to distort the traditional Okinawan diet to fit with what they already believe is healthy to eat. This is aided by the lack of good statistics on what people there have actually eaten over time.
Some numbers I have found include:
What young people on Okinawa eat today is not good evidence for what the traditional diet consisted of. What people there value most as food is also not a good guide to what they use to eat. When people become modern wealthy consumers they often prize what has previously been rare or expensive.
I don't think the differences are that great to the general principles of a paleolithic diet. Low fat is only a problem if you believe the high-fat dogma of some paleo gurus, the same for high carbs. Or if you believe only certain macronutrient ratios are healthy. The traditional diet it appears is based on root vegetables, colourful leafy vegetables, fruits, seaweed, soy, fish and pork. I don't think soy is a poison in small amounts. They also ate the whole pig, "everything but the oink" from the face to the feet. The diet has low caloire density and high in vitamins and minerals. They also use alot of spices in cooking.
It is perhaps more important what the traditional diet excludes like refined sugar and starch, grains, oils and processed foods in general.
While this may not fit totally with a list of paleo foods I'm not sure how anyone could think this an unhealthy diet for anyone. Arguing over the pork content or how much fat or carbs they must have eaten seems to be missing the point to me.
My wife is Japanese and her image of Ryukyu Ryori (Okinawan cuisine) is fatty pork with some vegetables in a broth. The Japanese generally are not at all "fat phobic" along with their near neighbours the Koreans and just love fatty meats. The trade name "The Okinawa Diet" bears no resemblance to the real thing and is just a load of profiteering crap. I agree that the real diet of the Okinawans isn't far removed from our paleolithic diet.
It's mostly grains, (especially wheat,) sugar and veg. oils that kill people off early. IMO, most people would stand a better chance of living longer/better if they eliminated those 3 things, even if they didn't convert 100% to a Paleo-style way of eating.
It doesn't seem correct that the Okinawans would boil off fat rather than cook with it.
There are other non-food factors that contribute to longevity, like environment, stress levels, pollution, etc.
The newest evidence that Japan has been engaging in fraud by over-counting centenarians throws a new light on claims that the country's diets are especially healthy...
Dr. Rosedale has a fantastic response: the longevity of the Okinawans and Kitavans:
First of all, population studies are the least scientifically robust form of health science. That being said, there are many speculations of why Okinawans have a high number of centenarians. Firstly, we must distinguish between increasing maximal lifespan that CR has been shown to do and I believe my diet can also do, and increasing average lifespan. Increasing average lifespan is nice but not near as powerful as extending youth and increasing maximum lifespan. For that there are no human counterpart and we have no footsteps to follow, only science as revealed in animal studies. That being said, the Okinawans eat considerably more fish than other groups and a higher percentage of carbohydrates as vegetables i.e. fiber as opposed to starches. Most of the fiber gets excreted, so Okinawans are likely relatively calorie restricted. Also, overindulging in food among Okinawans is very frowned upon. What Nick Lane has said in his book “Oxygen” is the following, p 275; “based on a 25 year study, the book [The Okinawa Way written by a Japanese cardiologist] argues that the secret of the Okinawans... goes beyond genes, diet, and exercise to their relaxed lifestyle and low level of stress. The Okinawans have a word for it, "tege", which means 'half-done': forget timetables, forget finishing today things that can be done tomorrow. I suspect they are probably right.”
In the most comprehensive study pertaining to the Okinawan diet and longevity entitled, "Caloric Restriction, the Traditional Okinawan Diet, and Healthy Aging" published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, the following was found; “Findings include low caloric intake and negative energy balance at younger ages, little weight gain with age, life-long low BMI...and survival patterns consistent with extended mean and maximum life span." The study concluded; "This study [Caloric Restriction, the Traditional Okinawan Diet, and Healthy Aging] lends epidemiologic support for phenotypic benefits of CR in humans and is consistent with the well-known literature on animals with regard to CR phenotypes and healthy aging."... I have not seen a breakdown of the calories eaten, but it's known that they eat more fish and fibrous vegetables and lower calories. Simple logic could conclude that they eat fewer non-fiber carbohydrates, which, along with reduced stress, may account for their increased average lifespan.
Though my knowledge of the Kitavans is less, I believe much the same applies to them, and there are similar myths based on poor science and falsities that is being written about them that unfortunately is getting much unwarranted publicity.
http://drbganimalpharm.blogspot.com/2009/08/benefits-of-high-saturated-fat-diets.html I thought this was a great analysis if interested.
Hear hear. I am afraid I don't know what Okinawans eat, but the Japanese people in china eat a very fatty meaty diet, the kind that would get them a talking to if they were in the US.
Also, Chinese people eat very low carb and very high fat if they can afford it. A dinner out with Chinese people typically has no rice or other carbs. The most common dish is stewed pork fat over greens (said to be chairman maos favorite dish). Fish is served sitting in the bottom of a large bowl of oil, you have to reach in with your chopsticks. When you eat at a stewed catfish restaurant, they come around with a bowl of tallow and spoon a blob into your food.
If rice is eaten at all, it is at the end of the meal as a dessert and is usually picked at or ignored.
There is a book I read called "The Blue Zones," by Dan Duettner that talked about the people who live the longest including the Okinawans. He does point to many factors that help people/or groups of people that live to 100. Close family and social ties also seem to play a role.
I did find it peculiar that some of these groups of people did eat grains and some groups like the Adventist in Loma Linda, California are vegetarian. In my opinion, think one common thread that the 10 "Blue Zone" from around the world had in common was not eating processed foods like American's commonly do. They "worked" at getting their meals prepared, ate nuts, did a lot of socializing, and some drank high quality red wine (Cannonau-Italian made) like those in Sardinia. You were also more likely to live longer if you had daughters.