Health and Longevity Secrets

HB Treatments“Okinawans have the highest per capita population of centenarians and the longest disability-free life expectancy on the planet” says a Honolulu researcher, Dr. Bradley Willcox, who has been studying this phenomenon for more than a decade.

This report is based on his interview with Lee Imada for Maui News
Okinawans have a life expectancy of 81.2 years, compared to the Japanese, who were second at 79.9 years. As for centenarians (people who live to be 100 or more), Okinawa had 40 centenarians per 100,000, Japan 20 per 100,000 and the US. 10 per 100,000. Besides living longer, Okinawan centenarians are highly functional people with low rates of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Dr. Willcox believes that while genetics may play a role in the Okinawan phenomenon, diet and lifestyle have played a strong role in this healthy longevity phenomenon. The fact that those who have left Okinawa and have adopted different diets and lifestyles have higher rates of mortality seems to confirm this.

So what are these environmental and lifestyle factors? The Okinawan diet is low in calories and high in nutrient density, with high antioxidant loads, which has been linked to lower cancer rates The purple sweet potato, imo, is the core food, and the diet is high in vegetables, balanced by a high consumption of soy foods, and some fish with limited amounts of pork. This diet coupled with physical activity, (farming, fishing), is a recipe for longevity.

There is also a cultural component, according to Willcox. The Okinawans are a tightly knitted community that has placed an emphasis on ‘yuimaru,’ which literally means a connecting circle. The elderly are supported and cared for; neighbors check on neighbors. You see 80 year-olds caring for 100 year-olds.

Okinawa, which is a prefecture of Japan, has always been the poorest of the prefectures, yet they have the longest life expectancy. Affluence is not a major component to longevity in Okinawa, but attitude might be. Okinawans don’t watch the clock and don’t feel much tension. Willcox describes Okinawans as optimistic, adaptable, easygoing, and full of self-confidence.
As Willcox and his colleagues continue this study, they are seeing the invasion of modern outside forces beginning to disturb this healthy phenomenon. The influence of American fast food and the replacement of the main carbohydrate, the Okinawan sweet potato, with white rice have impacted negatively on their body fat. The sweet potato digests slowly into blood sugar, but white rice is like eating white sugar and spikes glycemic load. Those ups and downs of sugar in the blood stream can eventually burn out the pancreas and cause diabetes.

“The oldest generation 65-plus, is still phenomenally healthy”, said Willcox, “when their generation dies out, we may be seeing the end of Okinawan longevity.”

Dr. Bradley Willcox, is a physician-investigator in geriatrics at the Pacific Health Research Institute and an assistant professor at the John A. Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawaii. He has been studying the Okinawan phenomena for over a decade.