Saturday, January 9, 2010

Okinawa: The island of pork

The original inhabitants of the Ryūkyū Islands, of which the island of Okinawa is the largest, are believed to have the highest life expectancy in the world.

One of the staples of their diet is sweet potatoes. The carbohydrate percentage of a sweet potato is about 20; that is, each 100 g of sweet potato mass has about 20 g of carbohydrates. Sweet potatoes have a medium-high glycemic index, and are often avoided by those with impaired insulin sensitivity, and certainly by diabetics.

The other main staple of their diet is pork, as you may have inferred from the title of this post. The quote below is from the first of the three links provided below the quote.
Pork appears so frequently in the Okinawan diet that to say "meat" is really to say "pork." [...] It is no exaggeration to say that the present-day Okinawan diet begins and ends with pork.

So, what is the secret of the Okinawans’ longevity? Maybe it is the diet. Maybe it is the lifestyle. Maybe it is the fact that their mothers and fathers are Okinawans (the heritability of longevity has been estimated to be about 33%, and to be higher among females than males). Here are some interesting points that are worth noting:

- Their diet is not only of meat, but includes plenty of it.

- Their diet is not particularly low in saturated fat, and maybe it is high in it.

- Their diet is not particularly low in dietary cholesterol, and maybe high in it, since they eat the pig whole, including the parts (e.g., organs) rich in dietary cholesterol.

- Their diet is not a no carb diet, not even a typical low carb diet, but it seems to be very low in refined carbs and sugars.


hkay said...

I'm not surprised you're calling it the island of pork. On a visit to Japan, we dined at an Okinawan restaurant in Tokyo and asked for a very typical dish. Well we got several pork dishes, but the most interesting was pig-face soup and yes they actually use skin from the pig's head (o_O). The hostess was excitedly explaining that it's great for the skin, probably to less the shock of the "pig face" part.

Ned Kock said...

Hi hkay.

Thanks for leaving a note. Interesting that she said it was good for our skin.

By the way, Aachen is a great city. Wonderful architecture! I guess Charlemagne like it a lot too - you cannot walk a block there without seeing his name somewhere.

Anonymous said...

Yes they eat pork, but you are leaving out the facts about this that makes this completely misleading. You supply no studies that show the consumption of "alot of pork". Truth is they rarely eat pork, it is only eaten on special occasions (traditional Okinawa, the ones who live past 100). Check Wikipedia that refers to numerous studies to back this up. People see "pork!" and then go nuts with assumptions.

Pork was highly valued, and every part of the pig was eaten, including internal organs. *However*, pork and fish were primarily eaten on holidays, and the everyday diet was almost exclusively plant based.[4] Cooking was sometimes done with lard. Their overall traditional diet would be considered a very-high-carbohydrate by modern standards, with carbohydrates, protein, and fat providing 85%, 9% and 6% of total calories respectively.[5] The consumption of pork in Okinawa in 1979 was 7.9 kg (17.4 lbs) per person per year.[6] This may be contrasted with the average consumption of meat in the United States, which, by 2005, included 62.4 lbs of beef, 46.5 lbs of pork, and 73.6 lbs of poultry per person per year.[7] Virtually no eggs or dairy products were consumed.[8]

Ned Kock said...

Hi Anon.

Consumption of meat in Okinawa might have been a lot higher than that prior to WWII, but we can only speculate.

Melissa has a good post on this:

And I have my doubts that their diet was the key factor. Melissa included an interesting quote, Uffe Ravnskov, commenting on another very interesting study:

"In a study of Japanese migrants in the United States the cultural upbringing was the strongest predictor of coronary heart disease. Those who were brought up in a non-Japanese fashion but preferred the lean Japanese food had a heart attack almost twice as often as those who were brought up in the Japanese way but preferred fatty American food."