Food is Medicine: Japanese diet linked to 15% reduction in mortality rates!

Numerous studies show that Japan ranks among the nations with the greatest life expectancy in the world, and while the factors that contribute to longevity are complex, we all know that a healthy diet can play a fundamental role in helping people reach old age.

Now a new study suggests that dietary guidelines introduced by the Japanese government in 2000 might have played a vital role in keeping the Japanese population healthy since then, with those adhering to its advice shown to have a lower risk of death from all causes, including death from cardiovascular disease and particularly stroke.

“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,” researchers from the National Centre for Global Health and Medicine (NCGHM) in Japan write in The BMJ.

Japan’s dietary guidelines

Based on the 2000 guidelines, Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries created the “Spinning Top,” which is a graphic that represents the Japanese version of the food pyramid. At the top of list are grain-based dishes like rice, bread, noodles and pasta, followed by vegetable based dishes, and then fish, eggs and meat dishes. At the bottom of the list are fruits and dairy.

Serving sizes are relatively small, with a vegetable recommendation of 70 grams per serving. Water and tea ought to be drunk regularly, and highly processed snacks should only be consumed in moderation. The guidelines also underscore how important physical activity is to a healthy lifestyle.

The link in between dietary practices and cancer death rates wasn’t as simple. Although a healthy diet plan appeared to be beneficial to people who kept a regular weight, the link was not significant for overweight or obese people in the research study. The authors keep in mind that extra research study is required on who specifically take advantage of a Japanese diet and for what factors.

The authors of the research study conclude: “Our findings recommend that balanced consumption of energy, grains, vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, eggs, soy items, dairy products, confectionaries, and liquors can add to longevity by reducing the risk of death, predominantly from cardiovascular disease, in the Japanese population.”

Japan as a model for healthy eating habits

The researchers also wanted to examine whether specific meats, like fish, had more of an impact on health than others, like red meat. In order to do this, the scientists put together a modified food rating that identified red meat from fish. The distinction did not make much of a difference with regard to morality rates in the study, possibly due to the fact that Japanese individuals currently have the tendency to consume more fish than red meat in comparison to the Western World.

Typically, Japanese individuals succeeded with regard to following the dietary standards. The typical food rating on the Japanese Food Guide Spinning Top was 47 out of a possible 70. People with greater dietary scores were most likely to be older, females and have high energy intake, and less likely to smoke, take in alcohol weekly or have a history of hypertension.

“We can learn a lot about the best ways to be healthy from the Japanese, and it actually comes down to ‘consume real food’ and ‘workout,'” said James DiNicolantonio, a cardiovascular research researcher at St. Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute, who was not included in the research study.

Although the research study was restricted to the Japanese population, the outcomes show that optimum health isn’t shackled to the bogey of genetic determinism, but is an item of exactly what food individuals choose to put into their bodies. In reality, a number of the major illnesses that plague Americans, consisting of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and at least one-third of cancers, are mismatch illness, suggesting they are a product of culture instead of biology. Possibly it’s high time the U.S. plannings to Japan as a model for healthy eating habits.

However, as mentioned above, there are a bunch of factors that can contribute to longevity, so we can’t assume that the Japanese diet is the guaranteed life-extender — the way of life in Japan is different to our lifestyles in the West in many ways, so it could be a combination of various things.

Nonetheless, using the guidelines to make healthy changes to your lifestyle could make a huge difference. A 15 percent reduced mortality rate doesn’t sound so bad after all.