Why Okinawans Live So Long

The search for the “elixir of youth” has spanned centuries and continents, but recently the hunger has centered on Okinawa, where the inhabitants enjoy the longest life expectancy of anyone on earth. For every 100,000 inhabitants, Okinawa has 68 centenarians — more than three times the number found in U.S. populations of the same size. Scientists have now discovered that the peculiar ratio of carbs to protein is the source of most of their calories. The traditional Okinawa diet is low in calories and fat while high in carbs. It emphasizes vegetables and soy products alongside occasional — and small — amounts of noodles, rice, pork, and fish. According to researchers, a low-protein, high-carb diet sets off various physiological responses that protect us from various age-related illnesses, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. While the Okinawan diet plays a major role in the longevity of the residents there, researchers point out that there are other lifestyle factors that are equally as important. Okinawans are less likely to smoke than most populations, and since they work predominantly in agriculture and fishing, they have a high level of physical activity. Their tight-knit communities also provide social interaction that has been shown to improve health by reducing stress.