Why do people in Japan have some of the longest life spans in the world? The answer may be on their dinner plates, according to a study published in the BMJ. The study found adherence to the Japanese dietary guidelines, called the Japanese Food Guide Spinning Top (JFGST), was associated with a lower risk of death from any cause and from cardiovascular disease (particularly from cerebrovascular disease). Cerebrovascular disease includes stroke and other problems affecting blood flow to the brain. The JFGST recommends getting five to seven servings of grains, five to six servings of vegetables, three to five servings of fish and meat, two servings of fruits, and two servings of dairy each day. It also recommends plenty of water and teas and a limited intake of snacks, sweets, and other beverages.
For the study, researchers looked at data from 36,624 men and 42,970 women, ages 45 to 75, who were already participating in the Japan Public Health Center-based prospective study. The participants had no history of cancer, stroke, ischaemic heart disease, or chronic liver disease when they enrolled in the original study. At five- and ten-year follow-ups, the participants answered surveys, which included questions about how much and how often they ate and drank 147 specific foods and beverages. After comparing the participants’ diets to the JFGST, researchers found:
Participants with the highest adherence to the JFGST had a 15% lower risk of death from any cause, compared with participants with the lowest adherence to the guidelines.
Participants with the highest adherence to the JFGST had an 11% lower risk of cerebrovascular disease, compared with participants with the lowest adherence to the guidelines.
While these findings don’t necessarily shed light on the secret to longevity, they do support other research showing that a diet rich in vegetables and whole grains, that includes fish and fruits, and that limits snacks and sweets, has the potential to add years to your life. If you’d like to try cooking up a well-balanced Japanese dish for your next meal, stir-fry brown rice or whole grain noodles for your grains, seaweed and shiitake mushrooms for your vegetables, and fish or soybeans for your protein.