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Okinawa’s ‘long life’ reputation losing some of its clout

Date Posted: 2004-12-24

Okinawans have been credited with living longer than any other people on earth.

That’s now changing, according to scientists, nutritionists and health care professionals. The latest area to feel the challenge is in liver disease.

A new study of 750,000 people ages 20-75 shows that liver problems are far more prevalent than thought. It’s brought the Okinawa male longevity mark down to 27th from number one. Women continue to be ranked at the top, with Okinawa women living to an average age of 87.

The Toukui University Medical Research Team has discovered that men under 60 years of age are experiencing many more liver ailments than expected. It’s attributed to lifestyle and diet changes since World War II. They say that even younger men 30-40 are showing symptoms of liver problems 50% higher than in other cultures. Foods, they say, are the main culprits.

Researchers compared 24 different things in men’s bodies, including blood pressure, sugar levels and fat tissue. They also checked and found that women 30-35 years of age were prone to a 50% higher risk of liver damage. Again, foods were defined as the cause.

Professor Takeo Shibata says “the differences in over 60 year old men and those under 60 are people’s health, and foods are a factor. Okinawan longevity is talking about over 60 years of age, not under. It’s bad that we’re looking at younger people with health problems.” Shibata says young people are eating too many fatty foods, and says “the age of longevity will be going down and down more because the social life style in Okinawa has changed to a very western way.”

Prefecture Union Health Center’s Kouzen Kinjo says we must think about what good food is, and eat it.” He notes that older people eat very healthy foods. Herbal foods, vegetables, fish and natural foods are good. He urges younger people to change their lifestyles quickly, warning they’re going to “get fat and live unhealthy lives” if they don’t.

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