The Okinawa Diet Newsletter

March, 2007

In this issue:

Greetings from the Okinawa Diet Team

Dear Subscriber,

The purpose of this newsletter is to pass on information to you that we feel will be of value in your life, especially concerning the issues of nutrition, healthy aging and life-long healthy weight maintenance.

We are a small group of doctors, nurses, researchers, and other volunteers of the international community who all share in common an interest in the traditional diet and lifestyle of the Okinawans, the world's longest-lived people. Our goal is working together with all of you to preserve traditional, sustainable, and environmentally friendly, diet and lifestyle traditions that help to create healthier societies, both for ourselves, our loved ones and for the world at large.

Each month we will be writing 3 articles providing you with the latest research on nutrition, healthy aging and life-long healthy weight maintenance as well as our latest delicious and healthy recipe. Sometimes the articles will be a response to a new and often controversial research finding, an introduction to new research projects that we are carrying out, or a response to reader's questions. The subjects of nutrition, healthy aging and life-long healthy weight maintenance are broad, and articles may include everything from "How to determine whether or not a particular research finding is evidence-based" to "What are the latest health screening procedures of which I should be?" from "Is it safe for me to take this particular supplement?" to "Why do the Okinawans live so much longer than Americans?"

We hope these articles will inspire you and offer support and encouragement in order for you to undertake health promoting and environmentally friendly lifestyle changes. We also hope they will encourage your own thinking and reactions concerning these subjects. We welcome your feedback via email and will include responses from time to time in upcoming newsletters. In this way we can open a dialogue from which we all can learn.

Please forward this newsletter to anyone you know who is interested in nutrition, health aging and/or life-long healthy weight maintenance. If you are receiving this issue as a forward, and would like your own no-cost subscription please follow the instructions at the end of this newsletter.

PRIVACY POLICY: We will never rent, sell or trade your name to anyone for any reason. Thank you for trusting us with your personal information.

Medical News and Views

Sanpin Tea: The Facts

Dr. Bradley Willcox
by Dr. Bradley Willcox

Tea is gaining increased attention as an important contributor to healthy aging. Many studies have linked tea to risk reduction for cancer, cardiovascular disease, and memory loss, among other health benefits. In addition, tea has been studied for its fat burning properties. Sanpin tea, a form of green tea, is the most popular tea of the Okinawan elders, who rarely drink plain Japanese green tea. Sanpin, though, contains all the goodness of green tea and more. It is made from green tea leaves (and occasionally oolong or black tea) and mixed with fresh sanpin flowers---which gives it its wonderful distinctive aroma and some extra antioxidant benefits. The Chinese name for this unique fragrant tea is Shan-Pien, which translates to "tea with a bit of scent." Sanpin tea is produced in July and August, when sanpin flowers are in full bloom in Okinawa and South China.

Folkloric Claims

Tea has been used for centuries and multiple health claims surround its usage. These claims range from the ability to induce relaxation to slowing the aging process and curing cancer and cardiovascular disease. Buddhist and Shinto priests used tea to help stay awake through long bouts of meditation.

The Evidence

While there is no proven way to "reverse aging", we can all age better and these folkloric claims are increasingly supported by modern science. The antioxidant EGCG (a catechin of the flavonoid class) is thought to be the most active component of green tea's free radical defense system. The question then arises as to whether the health benefits of different teas vary according to their antioxidant capacities. Scientists from Rutgers University recently tested this hypothesis and found that teas, which underwent less oxidation in the natural fermentation process, yielded higher levels of EGCG.

The teas most closely resembling green tea acted as the most powerful antioxidants in the body, in line with the free radical theory ie less fermented (less oxidized) teas should be more powerful antioxidants because more of the original antioxidants are present.

The health benefits of sanpin tea may actually surpass those of green or black teas. Its flavonoid content is roughly equivalent to green tea, since it is minimally fermented but it has a higher lignan content, giving it more antioxidant bang for the buck.

Most tea studies have concentrated on plain Japanese green tea or black tea. One animal study that did focus exclusively on sanpin tea conducted by Dr Hiroko Sho at the University of the Ryukyus found it could lower cholesterol levels. This has been seen in several studies of sanpin tea. Another study by Chinese scientists found that fruit flies, who usually live at most 14-21 days lived an astonishing 40 days, more than doubling their expected lifespan, when sanpin tea was added to their drinking water. Japanese researchers at Nagasaki University School of Medicine replicated this finding with laboratory rats. More study is needed but these findings are exciting nonetheless.

Green and black teas as a group (which, of course, includes sanpin tea and oolong tea) were found to be excellent heath boosters in a multitude of studies. The winning components, once again, are artery-cleansing flavonoids (these of the catechin class), which have been the subject of several hundred studies since their discovery in 1979. Tea is one of four main sources of flavonoids in Europe, and has been found to be effective against the development of heart disease and stroke in the European population possibly due to its antioxidant capacity. Multiple studies have also supported the potential role of tea flavonoids in cancer prevention including cancers of the skin, lung, breast, prostate, bladder, stomach and colon. There is also evidence that it may help reduce tooth decay through an antibacterial action.

The chief difference between green tea, sanpin tea, oolong tea and good old English tea (black tea) is oxidation. The teas all come from the Camellia Sinensis plant, but black tea is black because the original green leaves are oxidized---essentially dried and heated--in a natural fermentation process. This somewhat diminishes the quantity of flavonoids, but leaves sufficient quantities for us to reap health benefits. Benefits do seem dose dependent---the more tea you drink, the more benefits.


Since the benefits appear to be dose-dependent, that is, the more you drink the lower your risk for heart disease, cancer, and possibly premature aging. The motto should be the more the better. Since each cup of tea contains between 12-16 mg of flavonoids (and lignans), even one cup a day theoretically should bring you some health benefits. The consumption among Okinawans is about 3 cups per day.

Milk and Tea

Addition of milk to tea has been reported to adversely affect its beneficial effects. One recent study suggested that the casein protein binds catechins and destroys the beneficial effects on artery relaxation. While this may or may not be true and requires more research, there are other benefits of tea that do not appear to be affected. Tea has an ability to modulate oxidative stress and increase antioxidants a recent study showed that milk consumption did not decrease total blood antioxidant activity, or resistance to oxidation. Tea with milk was also able to decreased blood and urinary thiobarbituric acid reactive substance levels. These data suggest that addition of milk may not destroy the ability of tea to modulate antioxidants that consumption of tea with/without milk still prevents can oxidative damage.

Ann Nutr Metab. 2005 May-Jun;49(3):189-95.


Drinking extremely hot tea has been associated with cancer of the oropharynx and esophagus, likely due to recurrent heat injury. Tea does contain caffeine so if you are caffeine sensitive you may wish to limit your intake or use decaffeinated versions. Those with heart arrhythmias should carefully watch their caffeine intake or stick to decaffeinated versions. Late night consumption of caffeinated beverages may also keep you awake so you may wish to curtail your consumption after 6 PM.

Despite early worries about a possible link between bladder cancer and caffeine, there has been little proof that caffeine itself causes any harm to health. Nevertheless, moderation is wise when it comes to caffeine, especially during pregnancy.

The Bottom Line

Your best bet: think tea the next time you reach for an extra cup of coffee. Tea generally contains about half as much caffeine as a cup of coffee (by volume), so if you're really looking for a pick-me-up you may need two cups instead of one ---but then you get more health benefits, a nice trade-off. Don't confuse green, black or sanpin tea with herbal teas such as mint, lemon grass or chamomile. These teas are from entirely different plants, and while they can be delicious, they contain far fewer cancer-fighting flavonoids than true teas.

To your good health!

Dr. Bradley Willcox

News from Okinawa

The Chample Study

Dr. Craig Willcox
by Dr. Craig Willcox

Those of you familiar with the traditional Okinawan diet will no doubt also be familiar with the word "chample." Loosely translated it means "mixed plate" and refers to one of the popular traditional ways to cook Okinawan food: that is, a veggie-heavy, stir fry mixture often accented with tofu and/or small amounts of meat, eggs or fish.

The term "chample" was chosen by our long-term collaborator, Dr. Hidemi Todoriki, a nutritional epidemiologist from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of the Ryukyus, as the title for a recent series of scientific studies. These studies are designed to examine the biological health effects of consuming a diet high in traditional Okinawan vegetables. This is a diet very much like the one we recommend for members of -- a diet that can also be found in our books The Okinawa Diet Plan and The Okinawa Program.

Traditional Okinawan diet and dietary habits are said to be a major contributing factor to the longevity of Okinawans; and all evidence from the healthy and long-lived Okinawan population points to this conclusion. Yet, despite numerous case histories and testimonials from people who have undergone startling health transformations such as reduced weight, better cardiovascular health and improved energy levels, once they took up the Okinawan diet, there are actually relatively few scientific studies of Westerners that show which biomarkers are improved and by how much. Science, however, demands proof. So, with help from 150 Americans living in Okinawa, we recently began The Chample Study: a new study that will allow us to focus the scientific lens ever sharper on just how the traditional Okinawan diet weaves its life extending magic on Westerners.

How did we go about doing it? We asked for healthy, American volunteers between the ages of 40 and 69 to begin an Okinawan vegetable diet, in order to determine whether the diet will cause biological changes that can contribute to a longer, healthier life. Volunteers were split into two groups, and each group was given its own schedule of meals and vegetable juices to consume.

Volunteers will eat a Western diet for the first two weeks. Group A will then begin eating the Okinawan diet, while group B continues the Western diet. The groups will then switch diets after four weeks and continue that way for the remaining four weeks. Subjects will record daily blood pressure readings with a blood pressure device that we have provided to them and have blood and urine tested three times throughout the study.

The schedule is intended to allow us to examine how group A's health is affected after the intervention period when group members are no longer restricted to the Okinawan diet. We also plan to track group B's health on the Western diet to see how their health changes once they are put on the Okinawan diet. Vacuum packaged pouches, which we have termed "bentos", after single-portion takeout meals common in Japanese cuisine, are provided to the test subjects. Participants receive vegetables such as goya, green papaya, handama and sakuna. A four-day supply of lunch and dinner bentos is delivered once a week to pick-up points around the main island of Okinawa where the study subjects are concentrated.

Subjects can eat breakfast at their own discretion. Subjects on the Okinawan diet have "ad-lib days" Friday through Sunday, which allow them to eat whatever they want. However, subjects are encouraged to maintain the Okinawan diet on ad-lib days as well, and they must drink goya juice on those days. They are also supplied with a complimentary copy of our book, The Okinawa Diet Plan, so that they can experiment with the recipes, as well as with a month's free membership to our website: The subjects will have full access the support tools available to all members of These include the recipe database, diet e-tools such as meal planners and nutrition calculators and the community that includes discussion boards and chat rooms and access to instant feedback support and motivation.

Here's what we heard from one participant just this morning:

I would like to thank the Doctor's of the Chample Study committee for giving me my life back again. The food is wonderful and my health has greatly improved. I have walked with the aid of a cane for two years now. My cane now is in the car if I should need it.

It feels so good not to be in pain. I do not take the mobic pill for pain, because there is no pain in my knees, back and the calf of the right leg. My agility has greatly improved.

The company that prepares the bento meals for this program, do they sell the meals in the Japanese grocery store? I am interested in buying the meals. Also where can I buy the goya juice? I would like to add the Japanese vegetables to my diet.

Thank you,
Ms. HB, Okinawa, Japan

Will the traditional Okinawan diet work as well as people claim it does in individual testimonials? Stay tuned... results will be reported come summer time. In the meantime, why not join our Chample Study participants and try out the Okinawa Diet for yourself? You have nothing to lose but perhaps a few extra inches around the ol' waistline and perhaps a lot to gain in many more years of optimum health... Join us at!

Yours in Good Health!

Dr. Craig Willcox

Sayaka's Kitchen

Featured Recipe: Easy Okinawan Vegetable Chample

Sayaka Mitsuhashi
by Sayaka Mitsuhashi

Easy Okinawan Vegetable Chample: Serves 4


6 ounces firm tofu, lite, excess water squeezed out with a paper towel
1 1/2 cups sliced green beans, in 2-inch-long pieces
1/2 small cabbage, chopped
1/2 cup soybean sprouts
1 pinch sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


1. Coat a large skillet with nonstick canola spray. Cut the tofu into 1-inch cubes and place in the skillet. Cook over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes or until golden. Set aside.
2. Coat the same skillet with canola spray and stir-fry the green beans, cabbage, and bean sprouts. Cook over medium heat until tender, 4 to 5 minutes.
3. Return the tofu to the skillet and toss with the vegetables. Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper. Evenly divide among 4 plates and serve.


1 serving:
Caloric Density 0.24; Calories (Kcal) 47; Protein (g) 4; Carbohydrate (g) 7; Total Fat (g) 1; Saturated Fat (g) 0; Monounsaturated Fat (g) <0.1; Polyunsaturated Fat (g) 0.1; Dietary Fiber (g) 2.9; Flavonoid and Other Phyto(mg) ; Cholesterol (mg) NA; Sodium (mg) 81; Vitamin A (IU) NA; Vitamin C (mg) NA; Calcium (mg) 60; Iron (mg) 1.4; PERCENTAGE (%) Protein 36; Carbohydrate 56; Fat 16; Alcohol NA;

For more great tasting and healthy recipes, cooking tips, plus personalized meal plans and much more, join us at The Okinawa Diet Program today!

We hope you enjoyed this issue of the Okinawa Diet Newsletter
-The Okinawa Diet Team

To find out more about The Okinawa Diet go to To find out more about The Okinawa Centenarian Study go to

The Okinawa Diet Newsletter, © 2007 Okinawa Diet NPO. All rights reserved.

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A gentle reminder...

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Your discount savings code entitles you to a 10% savings discount off the total price of your Okinawa Way Organic Sanpin Tea purchase.

Just cut and paste the code in the area marked "Discount Coupons" during the checkout process when buying your tea and your total purchase price will be automatically discounted by 10%.

Many people have asked us if they can share this code with friends and family. The answer is yes -- you can share this discount code with all of your friends and family but it will only work once for each of them.

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