Why do Japanese people live for so long?


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I have lived abroad in Asia for six years and something I hear a lot is the long lifespans of Japanese people. I always thought this to be bizarre because they also have one of the highest suicide rates in the world. Japanese men have an average lifespan of 79 years old, and women, a little of 86 years old. This makes them the country with the oldest life expectancy in the world. It got me thinking, what makes them live long? Is it genetic? Is it something they eat or drink? Is it their lifestyle?

Turns out, it has nothing to do with genetics (the Japanese had one of the lowest life expectancies after World War II due to the atomic bomb). So it's their diet and lifestyle that keeps them living to ripe old age.

Not Your Typical Sushi...
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I am not a food or health expert, but just by looking at the diet of a Japanese person to the diet of an American, it is obvious that the Japanese eat a lot healthier. Japan, being the strip of islands that it is, causes the Japanese to have a diet that is heavy in seafood and less in red meats. Red meat has higher cholesterol levels than fish. High cholesterol levels can lead to an increase risk in heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes in the future. In Japan, fish is their "meat" or their main source of protein. This allows them to keep their cholesterol at a healthy level and consume fish oil, which has multiple health benefits, such as improved immunity and depression and anxiety relief. The only "genetic" part of the long lifespan of the Japanese is probably the fact that they are more prone to be lactose intolerant. Japanese people haven't been dependent on dairy to keep reproductive success, therefore lactose (milk) has never been a heavy part of the Japanese diet, and that's when the tolerance forms. Despite milk's many health benefits, it also contains excess cholesterol which a Japanese won't consume into their bodies. Japanese people also eat rice, which is low fat and high in nutrients, soy, which is contained in tofu and bean sprouts, which is also rich in protein and helps reduce high blood pressure and heart disease (which is killing a lot of Americans.), seaweed, which contains iodine and can help fight against cancers.
According to to the US National Academy on an Aging Society, Japanese people consume a third of the calories Americans eat.

Stand and Squat
I have been to Japan and have seen it with my own eyes: people walk in fast paces, people stand in lines, and there are a lot less cars. A large portion of Japanese people walk, bike, or take the train (walking to the train station). This means they're standing for longer periods of the day. Researchers at the Louisiana University have proved that 27 percent of all deaths in America are partly caused by adults spending too much time spending down. Hence it can be concluded that since Japanese people tend to walk around more, they can have a longer lifespan. There are also studies that have shown that squatting while pooping is healthier than sitting. I don't want to go into details because they're quite vivid explanations, but it can be read about here. To put it in a nutshell, the position in which you are pooping can be either good or bad for you. Sitting is an unnatural posture to poop in while squatting is not.
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The Japanese lifestyle is evidently healthy and is the reason for the long. So how do we live that same healthy lifestyle in the US? It's not like we can drastically change how we live our daily lives, but we can take smaller steps. We can always choose to cut down the unhealthy foods in our diet. Many Americans do a great job in exercising, I believe if they can keep that up with a healthy diet, the average lifespan can also increase. What do you think?

Works cited:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2004/jun/10/thisweekssciencequestions1
http://www.tofugu.com/2010/10/06/why-do-japanese-people-live-so-long/

1 Comment

As someone who's been trying to eat a little healthier the past few months, I appreciated reading this post. All my life, I've only been told the benefits of consuming things like red meat and dairy products-- and I've eaten them in abundance-- but people always fail to mention some of their detrimental effects on our health. I think Americans would adjust their diets to be more similar to the Japanese if they could, but Asian dietary staples like seafood aren't as easy to come by at a reasonable price hear. Let's not forget that Japan is an archipelago, located on the Pacific Ocean. There's virtually no shortage of seafood, which means it can be sold on the cheap. With the exception of smaller port cities, we do not have that luxury here in America. I think if the prices of seafood were lower, Americans would eat more fish as an alternative to red meat. Granted, that only tackles one food group, but it would still be a step. Thanks for sharing!

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