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Stunned scientists finally admit Japan's high life expectancy linked to diet, not genes


(NaturalNews) To live a long, disease-free life is a dream we all have. While life expectancy has been slowly on the rise in developed countries, being free of diseases and disability, unfortunately, doesn't follow the same trend.

However, a new study, published in the British Medical Journal, may have found the key to longevity. It is no secret that Japanese people are among the healthiest in the world. They have the second-highest life expectancy, and an obesity rate of just 3.5 percent. The U.S. clocks in at 43rd when it comes to life expectancy, and has an obesity rate of 35 percent.

Researchers at the National Center for Global Health and Medicine in Tokyo found that people who follow the Japanese dietary guidelines have a 15 percent lower chance of dying over a 15-year period, compared to people who do not follow these guidelines. The lower risk was especially applicable to death as a result of a stroke.

Japan's nutrition guidelines

In 2005, the Japanese government outlined nutritional food guidelines based on the country's traditional diet, which focuses on a low intake of saturated fat and processed foods, and high carbohydrate intake coming from both vegetables and grains.

While we are familiar with a pyramid or plate to represent our dietary needs, Japan's guidelines are illustrated as a dish-based spinning top. In addition to giving clear instructions on dietary guidelines, it also includes the importance of physical activity and hydration.


"The dish-based method is not only easily understood by those who prepare meals but also by those who eat them," said Kayo Kuratani, a senior researcher at the National Center for Global Health and Medicine in Tokyo, who led the research. "It is expressed in terms of actual dishes eaten at the table rather than the foods selected or used in meal preparation. This makes it readily understandable even for those who rarely cook."

15 percent lower mortality rate

For a long time, Japan's dietary habits have intrigued the nutritional world. On average, the life expectancy of Japanese women is 87 years, and for men 80 years. When compared to the global average of 73 years for women and 68 for men, this is a major difference.

While many scientists have long believed that genes are the main contributor to Japan's longevity, a team of researchers, led by Kayo Kuratani, have now found that diet is the main reason.

For the past decade they have been following the lifestyle habits of 36,600 men and nearly 43,000 women. All of them completed questionnaires about their lifestyles, health and dietary habits at the beginning of the study, and then again at a five- and 10-year reassessment study.

Based on the questions, the researchers were able to calculate how closely the participants stuck to the dietary guidelines. According to their findings, those who followed the guidelines had a 15-percent lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, and in particular, stroke.

They note that people who eat a lot of vegetables and fruits, and enough fish and meat dishes, seemed to fare the best in terms of health. However, they also note that while fish and meat are in the same category in the spinning top, Japanese people eat more fish than beef or pork compared to the Western World.

The study concluded: "Our findings suggest that balanced consumption of energy, grains, vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, eggs, soy products, dairy products, confectionaries, and alcoholic beverages can contribute to longevity by decreasing the risk of death, predominantly from cardiovascular disease, in the Japanese population."

Kuratani further notes that Japan's Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare did make a major update to the guidelines in 2010. While Japanese people mostly eat white rice, which has been linked to a host of chronic diseases, the new guidelines recommend that only 50 to 65 percent of a person's diet should be carbohydrates, and that Japanese people should begin to explore whole grains like brown rice instead.

Sources for this article include:





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