Live longer on a low-cal diet
April 27, 2005
Study of Japanese centenarians shows they consume lots of food but fewer calories
Want to live to be 100? A study of centenarians on the Japanese island of
Okinawa suggests one of the best ways may be to eat a lot of bulky,
"Okinawa is home to the highest ratio of centenarians among the 47
prefectures of Japan at close to 50 per 100,000 in 2004, many of them
still vibrant and healthy," says Dr. Craig Willcox, a researcher at the
Okinawa Prefectural University College of Nursing. "This is the highest
prevalence of centenarians ever recorded among countries possessing a
reliable age registration system."
Dr. Willcox and his twin brother Dr. Bradley Willcox recently reported
on findings from the Okinawa Centenarian Study, which for the past 30
years has focused on 800 people living beyond the age of 100.
Dr. Bradley Willcox says the Okinawa centenarians manage to stay lean
by eating bulky foods that fill them up but are low in calories. "These
people eat a lot of food, so they are not restricting themselves, only
the number of calories."
"They consume about 1,800 calories a day, compared with about 2,500 calories in most western civilizations," he says. "This lower-calorie-density dietary pattern may have contributed to their smaller body size, lower body fat levels, lower risk for chronic disease, higher physical and cognitive function, and longer lifespans."
The main carbohydrate in the centenarians' diet is a type of sweet
potato that may contribute to their health. Another possible advantage
is the fact they drink a lot of water.
But he warns the islanders' health advantage might not continue, as
there are now more hamburger joints per capita in Okinawa than in the
rest of Japan, largely because of a U.S. military base on the island.
"So the leanest people in Japan are turning into the heaviest and we
are starting to see a decline in health."