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...Okinawa Centenarian Study. Okinawa, a chain of islands in southern Japan, has the highest concentration of centenarians. Uniformly these old folks have a vegetable-based, low-calorie, low-fat diet and exercise daily. They eat on average seven servings of vegetables and seven servings of grain per day, several servings of soy products, fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and little dairy or red meat.
And what do Okinawans eat? The main meat of the diet is pork, and not the lean cuts only. Okinawan cuisine, according to gerontologist Kazuhiko Taira, "is very healthy-and very, very greasy," in a 1996 article that appeared in Health Magazine.19 And the whole pig is eaten-everything from "tails to nails." Local menus offer boiled pigs feet, entrail soup and shredded ears. Pork is cooked in a mixture of soy sauce, ginger, kelp and small amounts of sugar, then sliced and chopped up for stir fry dishes. Okinawans eat about 100 grams of meat per day-compared to 70 in Japan and just over 20 in China-and at least an equal amount of fish, for a total of about 200 grams per day, compared to 280 grams per person per day of meat and fish in America. Lard-not vegetable oil-is used in cooking. Okinawans also eat plenty of fibrous root crops such as taro and sweet potatoes. They consume rice and noodles, but not as the main component of the diet. They eat a variety of vegetables such as carrots, white radish, cabbage and greens, both fresh and pickled. Bland tofu is part of the diet, consumed in traditional ways, but on the whole Okinawan cuisine is spicy. Pork dishes are flavored with a mixture of ginger and brown sugar, with chili oil and with "the wicked bite of bitter melon."
19. Deborah Franklyn, "Take a Lesson from the
People of Okinawa," Health, September 1996, pp 57-63
In 1992 scientists at the Department of Community Health, Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology, Japan published a paper which examined the relationship of nutritional status to further life expectancy and health status in the Japanese elderly. It was based on three epidemiological studies. In the first, nutrient intakes in ninety-four Japanese centenarians investigated between 1972 and 1973 showed a higher proportion of animal protein to total proteins than in contemporary average Japanese. The second demonstrated that high intakes of milk and fats and oils had favourable effects on ten-year survivorship in 422 urban residents aged sixty-nine to seventy-one. The survivors revealed a longitudinal increase in intakes of animal foods such as eggs, milk, fish and meat over the ten years. In the third study, nutrient intakes were compared between a sample from Okinawa Prefecture where life expectancies at birth and sixty-five were the longest in Japan, and a sample from Akita Prefecture where the life expectancies were much shorter. It found that the proportion of energy from proteins and fats were significantly higher in the former than in the latter.
1. Shibata H., Nagai H., Haga H., Yasumura S., Suzuki T., Suyama Y. Nutrition for the Japanese elderly. Nutr & Health. 1992; 8(2-3): 165-75.
Animal Foods, Seafoods, Fat and Okinawa Cuisine------
Traditional foods of Okinawa are extremely varied, remarkably nutrient-dense as are all traditional foods and strictly moderated with the philosophy of hara hachi bu. While the diet of Okinawa is, indeed, plant-based it is most certainly not “low fat” as has been posited by some writer-researchers about the native foods of Okinawa. Indeed, all those stirfries of bittermelon and fresh vegetables found in Okinawan bowls are fried in lard and seasoned with sesame oil. I remember fondly that a slab of salt pork graced every bowl of udon I slurped up while living on the island. Pig fat is not, as you can imagine, a low-fat food yet the Okinawans are fond of it. Much of the fat consumed is pastured as pigs are commonly raised at home in the gardens of Okinawan homes. Pork and lard, like avocado and olive oil, are a remarkably good source of monounsaturated fatty acid and, if that pig roots around on sunny days, it is also a remarkably source of vitamin D.
The diet of Okinawa also includes considerably more animal products and meat – usually in the form of pork – than that of the mainland Japanese or even the Chinese. Goat and chicken play a lesser, but still important, role in Okinawan cuisine. Okinawans average about 100 grams or one modest portion of meat per person per day. Animal foods are important on Okinawa and, like all food, play a role in the population’s general health, well-being and longevity.
Fish plays an important role in the cooking of Okinawa as well. Seafoods eaten are various and numerous – with Okinawans averaging about 200 grams of fish per day.
Pork is a very important ingredient, and every part of the pig is used, from pig's feet and pig's ears to pork tripe. Other ingredients include local seafood and native tropical vegetables and fruits.
The present paper examines the relationship of nutritional status to further life expectancy and health status in the Japanese elderly based on 3 epidemiological studies. 1. Nutrient intakes in 94 Japanese centenarians investigated between 1972 and 1973 showed a higher proportion of animal protein to total proteins than in contemporary average Japanese. 2. High intakes of milk and fats and oils had favorable effects on 10-year (1976-1986) survivorship in 422 urban residents aged 69-71. The survivors revealed a longitudinal increase in intakes of animal foods such as eggs, milk, fish and meat over the 10 years. 3. Nutrient intakes were compared, based on 24-hour dietary records, between a sample from Okinawa Prefecture where life expectancies at birth and 65 were the longest in Japan, and a sample from Akita Prefecture where the life expectancies were much shorter. Intakes of Ca, Fe, vitamins A, B1, B2, C, and the proportion of energy from proteins and fats were significantly higher in the former than in the latter. Intakes of carbohydrates and NaCl were lower.
The food intake pattern in Okinawa has been different from that in other regions of Japan. The people there have never been influenced by Buddhism. Hence, there has been no taboo regarding eating habits. Eating meat was not stygmatised, and consumption of pork and goat was historically high. It was exceptional among Japanese food consumption.
The intake of meat was higher in Okinawa... On the other hand, the intake of fish was lower... Intake of NaCl was lower... Deep colored vegetables were taken more in Okinawa... These characteristics of dietary status are thought to be among the crucial factors which convey longevity and good health to the elderly in Okinawa Prefecture. ....
Unexpectedly, we did not find any vegetarians among the centenarians.
Daily intake of fruit and vegetables was associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease when combined with a high dairy fat consumption (odds ratio 0.39, 95% CI 0.21-0.73), but not when combined with a low dairy fat consumption (odds ratio 1.70, 95% CI 0.97-2.98).
Low consumption of dairy fat was defined as milk with 1.5 percent fat or less, no butter and seldom or never intake of cream. All others were denoted high consumption of dairy fat.
In the prospective population-based Malmö Diet and Cancer Study, total fat and saturated fat were not associated with cardiovascular events . Evidence support harmful effects of trans-fatty acids on coronary heart disease, but there is insufficient evidence of associations between saturated fat and heart disease . We lack a clear understanding of the complex effects on health of fats in relation to other components in dairy products [32,33]. A recent review and meta-analysis of 15 cohort studies of vascular disease and milk and dairy consumption found lower relative risks of stroke and/or heart disease in subjects with a high milk and dairy consumption relative to the risk in subjects with low consumption .