The longevity secrets of Okinawan centenarians – Health press

It was the Japanese of Okinawa who gave birth in the 19th century to this formidable method of fighting with bare hands, karate. But this island has fascinated scholars around the world for several years for another reason: the extraordinary life expectancy of its inhabitants.

  • joy of life
  • A few lifestyle habits that make the difference
  • The secrets of Getto
  • In addition to a healthy lifestyle, recent observations suggest that certain foods typical of this region could also contribute to this exceptional longevity.

    joy of life

    The small island of Okinawa is part of the Ryukyu archipelago, a series of 160 islands located in southern Japan, off the eastern coast of China. Over the millennia, this geographical position has made Okinawa a crossroads of Japanese and Chinese cultures, and has strongly influenced the way of life of its inhabitants, both in terms of language, food and habits. life in general.

    The main characteristic of the inhabitants of Okinawa is to lead a life that could not be more balanced, combining a healthy diet, regular physical activity, stress reduced to a minimum and highly developed social relationships, including with the elderly.

    longevity of Okinawan centenarians

    Okinawans love life and life makes them feel good: not only does Okinawa have the highest number of centenarians per 100,000 people, but these elderly people are also very healthy and remain active into old age.

    It is not uncommon to see an Okinawan continue to practice martial arts or scuba diving even at the age of 90, a consequence of a robust frame and excellent cardiovascular health.

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    A few lifestyle habits that make the difference

    The longevity of Okinawans is not a recent phenomenon, as evidenced by this ancient inscription, carved into a rock on an island beach: “At 70, you are but a child; at 80, you’re barely a teenager; and at 90, if the ancestors invite you to join them in paradise, ask them to wait until 100, when you will reconsider the question”.

    Food is undoubtedly one of the most important aspects of this exceptional life expectancy of Okinawans. Abundance of vegetables (sweet potato, tofu, seaweed, green vegetables), little meat (fish, pork), very little sugar and abundant consumption of green tea are the main characteristics of the Okinawan diet, in particular tofu and seaweed that is eaten every day.

    One of the most important principles of this diet, however, is the hara ichi bun, that is to say that the stomach should not be more than 80% full and that you should always stop eating before eating. to be too full.

    As a result, overweight is non-existent among these people and the incidence of heart disease and many cancers is much lower than in the West.

    The secrets of Getto

    A Japanese scientist recently made the astonishing discovery that a plant typically eaten in Okinawa could also contribute to the longevity of Okinawans. Getto, a plant from the ginger family that is eaten as an infusion or used to season noodles and coat small rice cakes, has the ability to significantly increase the lifespan of Caenorhabditis elegans, a small worm that commonly used as an animal model in longevity research.

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    The simple addition of extract from this plant to the diet increases their longevity by 25%, an effect even greater than that which had previously been observed for the best molecule that prolongs life in these models, resveratrol from red wine! Of course, the getto alone cannot explain the exceptional longevity of Okinawans; no food is “miraculous” and capable on its own of increasing a person’s life expectancy.

    What must be remembered from the way of life of the inhabitants of Okinawa is that a diet mainly composed of plants, combined with regular physical activity and a stimulating social climate represents the best known combination for this

    day to live a long and healthy life. If the word karate means empty-handed, in relation to the lack of weapons used in this form of martial art, the Okinawan Japanese are far from empty-handed when it comes to their ability to age in health. It is up to us to take advantage of this extraordinary example and apply it on a daily basis to improve our quality of life.


    Sho H. History and characteristics of Okinawan longevity food. asia Pac J clin nutr;10: 159-64.

    Upadhyay a et al. significant longevity-extending effects of alpinia zerumbet leaf extract on the life span of caenorhabditis elegans. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2013; 77: 217-23.


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