In all centuries and on every continent, people have been looking for the secret to longevity. The focus of many health experts today is the food we continue to eat or quit eating to prolong our lives. If you are a carb-lover, here’s some good news for you: eating carbohydrates may help you live longer according to recent studies.
Here at 5 Fun Facts, we were very impressed with the news, and we can’t wait to try the “longevity diet”.
Eating carbohydrates may explain the incredibly high life expectancy of people from Japan.
It sounds unbelievable, but Okinawa has 68 centenarians for every 100,000 inhabitants which is more than 3 times as many found in the US. Okinawans live long even by the standards of Japan, a place that is known for its high life expectancy. People from Okinawa have a 40% higher chance of living to age 100 than people from other parts of the country.
While trying to find out the secret of the Okinawans’ longevity, scientists analyzed their habits and lifestyle, diet, and genes. They discovered that after being isolated throughout history, these remarkable people have developed a unique genetic profile which protects the cells from aging and related illnesses. But genes don’t answer all these questions.
In order to learn more about the healthy diet and lifestyle of the Okinawans, scientists have been running the Okinawa Centenarian Study, or OCS, since 1975. By 2016, the OCS had studied around 1,000 centenarians from the Okinawa prefecture, and the results of the study were just amazing.
It turned out that despite living longer, the Okinawans managed to delay typical age-associated diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and dementia. It may sound surprising, but the researchers found that Okinawans stick to a carb-rich diet which may be a clue to longevity.
The 10:1 “Okinawan ratio” of carbs to protein may be the secret to a long and healthy life.
If you’ve ever thought of losing some weight or keeping fit, you’ve probably heard of popular low-carb diets which are quite the opposite of what the Okinawans are actually doing. In fact, the carb to protein ratio typical of their diet is 10:1. Surprisingly enough, human and animal trials suggest that a low-protein and high-carbohydrate diet can cause physiological responses protecting us from age-related diseases we mentioned above. Yet, it’s not only about eating carbs, but it’s also about eating them in a wise way.
Being particular about how much you eat is crucial.
Unlike in the rest of Asia, the basis of the diet in Okinawa is not rice, but rather, sweet potato. They also eat fish, pork and other kinds of meat, and a lot of soy products. Even though these foods are high in carbs, the Okinawans are particular about how much they eat and they restrict their calories. What’s more, is they eat an abundance of green and yellow vegetables — the bitter melon is one of their favorites. So, we can say now that the longevity secret of the Okinawans lies in the combination of a high-carb and low-protein diet and calorie restriction.
The exact mechanisms that allow a diet rich in carbs to slow down the aging process are still under research. But even though we still have much to discover, similar studies across the world show similar results. Other long-living populations such as Kitavans from a small island in Papua New Guinea and the South American Tsimane people, tend to follow a Mediterranean diet which is low in protein and high in carbohydrates.
Instead of stating that we all should eat more carbs, these studies suggest that we shouldn’t run to extremes and thoughtlessly exclude vital ingredients from our diets, be that proteins or carbs. Listen to your body when making up your diet plan, stick to a healthy lifestyle and do medical examinations — this is probably the key to living a long and happy life.
Is your diet low or high in carbs? Do you think that changing your diet plan can help you live a longer and happier life? Tell us what you think in the comment section!