Friday, October 16, 2009

Beware of Okinawa Diet scam!

I thought Okinawa Diet case has been rightfully forgotten a few years ago but a recent post on webmd Diet Debate board tries to revive it by linking this article , quote:



...Okinawa Centenarian Study. Okinawa, a chain of islands in southern Japan, has the highest concentration of centenarians. Uniformly these old folks have a vegetable-based, low-calorie, low-fat diet and exercise daily. They eat on average seven servings of vegetables and seven servings of grain per day, several servings of soy products, fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and little dairy or red meat.


My comment: I have come across Okinawa Study and the popular books by Willcox et al. a few years ago and came to a conclusion that it is totally bogus and a scam designed to sell their books, diet plans, supplements etc.

Here is what what do Okinawans probably eat, from WAPF web article :


And what do Okinawans eat? The main meat of the diet is pork, and not the lean cuts only. Okinawan cuisine, according to gerontologist Kazuhiko Taira, "is very healthy-and very, very greasy," in a 1996 article that appeared in Health Magazine.19 And the whole pig is eaten-everything from "tails to nails." Local menus offer boiled pigs feet, entrail soup and shredded ears. Pork is cooked in a mixture of soy sauce, ginger, kelp and small amounts of sugar, then sliced and chopped up for stir fry dishes. Okinawans eat about 100 grams of meat per day-compared to 70 in Japan and just over 20 in China-and at least an equal amount of fish, for a total of about 200 grams per day, compared to 280 grams per person per day of meat and fish in America. Lard-not vegetable oil-is used in cooking. Okinawans also eat plenty of fibrous root crops such as taro and sweet potatoes. They consume rice and noodles, but not as the main component of the diet. They eat a variety of vegetables such as carrots, white radish, cabbage and greens, both fresh and pickled. Bland tofu is part of the diet, consumed in traditional ways, but on the whole Okinawan cuisine is spicy. Pork dishes are flavored with a mixture of ginger and brown sugar, with chili oil and with "the wicked bite of bitter melon."
--------------

19. Deborah Franklyn, "Take a Lesson from the
People of Okinawa," Health, September 1996, pp 57-63


I also found my old post containing some information from Barry Groves (private communication), see what he had to say:

-------
Okinawa (by Heretic on Aug-08-06, webmd)


I am trying to get hold of some papers on the subject. So far I found, surprisingly (or may be not...) that there is just as much confusion about it and contradictions in the literature, as about infamous "The China Study"(*). When I get the article text I will post some quotations. It will require a trip to the local uni library and paying some $$$. Let me quote after Barry Groves (private communication), the following citation:



In 1992 scientists at the Department of Community Health, Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology, Japan published a paper which examined the relationship of nutritional status to further life expectancy and health status in the Japanese elderly[1]. It was based on three epidemiological studies. In the first, nutrient intakes in ninety-four Japanese centenarians investigated between 1972 and 1973 showed a higher proportion of animal protein to total proteins than in contemporary average Japanese. The second demonstrated that high intakes of milk and fats and oils had favourable effects on ten-year survivorship in 422 urban residents aged sixty-nine to seventy-one. The survivors revealed a longitudinal increase in intakes of animal foods such as eggs, milk, fish and meat over the ten years. In the third study, nutrient intakes were compared between a sample from Okinawa Prefecture where life expectancies at birth and sixty-five were the longest in Japan, and a sample from Akita Prefecture where the life expectancies were much shorter. It found that the proportion of energy from proteins and fats were significantly higher in the former than in the latter.


Reference
1. Shibata H., Nagai H., Haga H., Yasumura S., Suzuki T., Suyama Y. Nutrition for the Japanese elderly. Nutr & Health. 1992; 8(2-3): 165-75.



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Update 9-Nov-2009

Description of Okinawa food:

http://stanford.wellsphere.com/healthy-eating-article/hara-hachi-bu-lessons-from-okinawa/845480
Quote:



Animal Foods, Seafoods, Fat and Okinawa Cuisine
Traditional foods of Okinawa are extremely varied, remarkably nutrient-dense as are all traditional foods and strictly moderated with the philosophy of hara hachi bu. While the diet of Okinawa is, indeed, plant-based it is most certainly not “low fat” as has been posited by some writer-researchers about the native foods of Okinawa. Indeed, all those stirfries of bittermelon and fresh vegetables found in Okinawan bowls are fried in lard and seasoned with sesame oil. I remember fondly that a slab of salt pork graced every bowl of udon I slurped up while living on the island. Pig fat is not, as you can imagine, a low-fat food yet the Okinawans are fond of it. Much of the fat consumed is pastured as pigs are commonly raised at home in the gardens of Okinawan homes. Pork and lard, like avocado and olive oil, are a remarkably good source of monounsaturated fatty acid and, if that pig roots around on sunny days, it is also a remarkably source of vitamin D.
The diet of Okinawa also includes considerably more animal products and meat – usually in the form of pork – than that of the mainland Japanese or even the Chinese. Goat and chicken play a lesser, but still important, role in Okinawan cuisine. Okinawans average about 100 grams or one modest portion of meat per person per day. Animal foods are important on Okinawa and, like all food, play a role in the population’s general health, well-being and longevity.
Fish plays an important role in the cooking of Okinawa as well. Seafoods eaten are various and numerous – with Okinawans averaging about 200 grams of fish per day.
------

More links (07/06/2010): Okinawa - The Island of Pork


Note (updated 18/12/2011):  Unfortunately the link above with its lovely photo of a market stall filled with pork to the roof, has gone kaput. Enjoy okinawa-information.com instead.   Quote:

 Pork is a very important ingredient, and every part of the pig is used, from pig's feet and pig's ears to pork tripe. Other ingredients include local seafood and native tropical vegetables and fruits.

Update 21-Oct-2010 (from Denise Minger comments on her blog)

Nutr Health. 1992;8(2-3):165-75. Nutrition for the Japanese elderly., Shibata H,et al.

Abstract quote:

The present paper examines the relationship of nutritional status to further life expectancy and health status in the Japanese elderly based on 3 epidemiological studies. 1. Nutrient intakes in 94 Japanese centenarians investigated between 1972 and 1973 showed a higher proportion of animal protein to total proteins than in contemporary average Japanese. 2. High intakes of milk and fats and oils had favorable effects on 10-year (1976-1986) survivorship in 422 urban residents aged 69-71. The survivors revealed a longitudinal increase in intakes of animal foods such as eggs, milk, fish and meat over the 10 years. 3. Nutrient intakes were compared, based on 24-hour dietary records, between a sample from Okinawa Prefecture where life expectancies at birth and 65 were the longest in Japan, and a sample from Akita Prefecture where the life expectancies were much shorter. Intakes of Ca, Fe, vitamins A, B1, B2, C, and the proportion of energy from proteins and fats were significantly higher in the former than in the latter. Intakes of carbohydrates and NaCl were lower.

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Added 24-Jan-2013 (thanks for the paper, Anonymous!):

More quotes from Shibata's paper:


Quotes:

The food intake pattern in Okinawa has been different from that in other regions  of  Japan.  The people  there  have  never  been  influenced  by Buddhism. Hence, there has been no taboo regarding eating habits. Eating meat was not  stygmatised, and consumption of pork and goat was historically high.  It was exceptional among Japanese food consumption.
The intake of meat was higher in  Okinawa... On the other hand, the intake of fish was lower... Intake of NaCl was lower... Deep colored vegetables were taken more in Okinawa... These characteristics of dietary status are thought to be among the crucial factors  which convey longevity and good health to the elderly in Okinawa Prefecture. ....

and the "kicker":

Unexpectedly, we  did not find any vegetarians among the centenarians.


.

21 comments:

Dr. B G said...

Yes. It is a complete stupid hoax. The trad'l elderly Okinawans 70s 80s 90s 100 have HDLs in the 60s.

There is NO WAY IN HECK to get HDLs in the 60s without POUNDING dietary saturated fats.

No amount of exercise (come on they are 70s 80s 90s -- no one is running marathons).
No amount sake, alcohol.
No amount of fiber.
No amount of vegetables.

They eat a relatively high saturated fat diet.

dav0sbooks said...

Stan. Okinawa is quite close to Taiwan and the pork dishes you describe certainly sound familiar to me here. A lot of the pork dishes in Taiwan are of Japanese origin such as Don-katsu which is pork steak deep fried in lard. I've mentioned before that we certainly don't eat rice, as much as some of the high carb proponents would have you believe.

Stan (Heretic) said...

It has to be a hoax! The same applies to any high fat study that resulted in low HDL and high TG - these are obvious signs of data cooking.

From my few short visits to Asia, I was always able to find easily some high fat snacks everywhere, unlike in Europe or in the US. The only country where I could not find fat snacks easily and inexpensively was Ireland. I believe they are experiencing a heart disease epidemics at the moment.

BTW

Thanks for that video link, this is amazing that a vegan for 25 years was able to overcome his pre-conceived notion and just told the truth! He is a true scientist!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eREuZEdMAVo

O Primitivo said...

Hi Stan. And it also looks like Okinawa is longer a place for longevity, because of increased "healthy" vegetable oil consumption. Here is japanese paper, I could only read the summary: "nimal food intakes and lipid nutrition in Okinawa prefecture" - http://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jln/16/1/16_39/_article

Stan (Heretic) said...

Hi O Primitivo,

"In our dietary survey of the main Okinawa island conducted in 1997, the fat-energy ratio in the diet of male subjects 40-59 years was over 32%, which was considered to be due to the use of large amounts of vegetable oil for preparing stir-fried dishes (Champuru) and deep-fried dishes. The EPA(%) of erythrocyte membrane phospholipids was lower in young women about 20 years old of Okinawa as compared with that in their counterparts in the Kanto region, because of the low level of intake of fishes and shellfishes by the Okinawan women. Recently, the life expectancy for men in Okinawa Prefecture fell sharply to 26th among the 47 prefectures of Japan, perhaps attributable to the upward trend of the mortality rate from ischemic heart disease and the cerebrovascular disease."

Low fat believers will undoubtedly be claiming that it is the pork not veg oil, or both responsible for the deterioration. Many vegetarians believe that in the mythical past, some long lived people ate nothing but low fat vegetables and fruit. What is interesting is that some of them like Dr. Fuhrman (not so long ago a vocal advocate of veganism) are now claiming that such diets cause arrhythmia, neurological problems among elderly etc, thus urge taking supplements and/or advise adding some meat, fish or nuts.

Anonymous said...

you guys are idiots, do some damn research.

Stan (Heretic) said...

By "damn research", you must be referring to "China Study" book, aren't you?

Janknitz said...

I know this is an old post, but McDougall is at it again, touting the "starch-based" Okinawan diet as the key to longevity (see his June 2012 newsletter).

I find this amusing because I grew up on the island of Okinawa. My mother was a "locavore" before the world knew what locavores were, and loved exploring the local cuisine in places most Americans never dared, plus we had a maid (I know, but all the American's did in the 60's) who often cooked her traditional dishes for us.

First, I never saw a purple sweet potato in my life until 30 years after I left Okinawa--they were simply not common on the island during my time there. I suspect that when the Okinawans were rendered desparately poor and starving at the hands of the Japanese in the early half of the 20th century, they might have used sweet potatoes as a subsistance diet, but they put that diet far behind as soon as they could.

Perhaps this period of near starvation has more to do with the long lives (as in studies showing that calorie restriction prolongs life) than the starch from the potatoes. I remember being told by one of our Okinawan friends that they were so poor prior to and during WWII that it was impossible to replace broken pair of rubber zoris (flip flops) which cost all of $0.20 in 1965.

They did eat starch regularly, in the form of rice just like the customary Japanese diet, but also PLENTY of meat, fish, and vegetables, and no stinting on fat. I would hardly call it a "starch-based diet".

Anonymous said...

I think there are many factors that can alter health rather than age, but one thing i know from great aunts & uncles and their friends is that from traditional islamic diet, one should eat 1/3 full of their stomach, 1/3 of water & 1/3 of air.
So in essence eat what you want within reason but dont eat too much!
Happy living!

Stan (Heretic) said...

Anonymous,

There is something in it, especially about the idea of eating only once a day (for example only after sunset).

Making very long breaks in between the meals does seem to allow the body to switch to a vital ketogenic cycle during the long breaks, even on a high carbohydrate diet.
H.

Stan (Heretic) said...

Re: Janknitz description of Okinawa's diet

I have seen many reports corroborating your experience: high in fish, high in pork and high in green vegetables. It reminds me of Korean cuisine (except beef not pork).

I have been discussing this phenomenon (of vegan promoters' misinformation) with meany people and I still cannot understand this fully: why exactly are so many vegans willing to repeat that lie without bothering to check the facts?

Heretic

Anonymous said...

This is very misleading because the diet of Okinawa changed dramatically in the 60s and 70s. Consumption of meat and fat exploded, and by the mid 70s, life expectancy in Okinawa fell in relationship to mainland Japan:

http://ir.lib.u-ryukyu.ac.jp/bitstream/123456789/6775/1/KJ00004245918.pdf

The traditional Okinawan diet was very plant-based, predominantly vegetables and grains. You can see a detailed breakdown on page 71 of The Okinawa Program.

I have access to the full Shibata et al paper. The authors shoot themselves in the foot later by pointing out that none of the correlations were statistically significant.

Stan (Heretic) said...

Anonymous,

If you have an access to the full Shibata's paper "Nutrition for the Japanese elderly.", could you email it to me to stanbleszynski_hotmail C O M .

Thanks.

I have a note somewhere about a study of Okinawan diet in the 50-ties. Will try to dig it out.

Shibata's study abstract says:

1. Nutrient intakes in 94 Japanese centenarians investigated between 1972 and 1973 showed a higher proportion of animal protein to total proteins than in contemporary average Japanese. 2. High intakes of milk and fats and oils had favorable effects on 10-year (1976-1986) survivorship in 422 urban residents aged 69-71.

It is only theoretically possible that they have suddenly changed their diet between 1900 and 1970-ties but it is probably very unlikely for the elderly. People in their seventies do not generally switch their diets.

Regarding your link to "The Effects of Post-War Dietary Change on Longevity and Health in Okinawa", I consider Willcox brothers to be somewhat untrustworthy due to their popular diet/health book "Okinawa Program..." that predates that paper. There seems to be a conflict of interest here.
H.

Anonymous said...

Are you still after this?

http://pdfcast.org/download/nutrition-for-the-japanese-elderly.pdf

http://pdfcast.org/pdf/nutrition-for-the-japanese-elderly#

Stan (Heretic) said...

Thanks Anonymous for the pdf!

Fascinating data, it seems to completely undermine Willcox book thesis!

Not only did Okinawan centanarians consume more proteins and fat, they also consumed more animal protein and more animal fat! The centenarians' total cholesterol was higher and HDL much higher!

Quotes:

The food intake pattern in Okinawa has been different from that in other regions of Japan. The people there have never been influenced by Buddhism. Hence, there has been no taboo regarding eating habits. Eating meat was not stigmatised, and consumption of pork and goat was historically high. It was exceptional among Japanese food consumption.

The intake of meat was higher in Okinawa... On the other hand, the intake of fish was lower... Intake of NaCl was lower... Deep colored vegetables were taken more in Okinawa...
These characteristics of dietary status are thought to be among the crucial factors which convey longevity and good health to the elderly in Okinawa Prefecture.
....


and

Unexpectedly, we did not find any vegetarians among the centenarians.

Anonymous said...

My mother is s korean and growing up rarely had meat. When they had meat they would consume the whole thing. Pork usually. I am guessing other asian countries experienced the same. She eats meat daily now in the us.

Anonymous said...

can't believe this scam and the bunch of lying bastards show up on tv again after a long break ---
perhaps they were in jail for fraud and got out so they're back --- just goes to show that the suckers are still out there --- they have no money for the necessities but they have money to give to these thieves --- isn't there any shame in this country of scams and gambling lotteries that screw the suckers out of their money? --- by the way, take that phony doctor and deport him

zotium said...

Hello Stan,

I'm very interested in the topics of longevity and diet. While reading a lot of articles about the diet in Okinawa and came across your post here: http://stan-heretic.blogspot.com/2009/10/beware-of-okinawa-diet-scam.html

I've read the Willcox brothers' published papers and okicent.org, and I'm wondering how you came to the conclusion that they or their books are a scam?

Moreover, what have you found to be the optimal diet for yourself?

Cheers,
Rick

Stan (Heretic) said...

Hi Rick,

I came to this conclusion based on the disconnection between what Willcoxes wrote about their "Okinawa" diet and what Okinawans really seem to eat (based on many sources, Japanese and American). I was myself quite surprised when I found out. The most notable discrepancy being the highest proportion of pig meat, pig fat and fish among all Japanese prefectures, based on Japanese publications covering not only the recent post 1970-ties but also earlier historical data. This is the fact that Willcoxes completely glossed over and were either unaware of due to perhaps their lack of knowledge and poor research done on their part (which I doubt) or perhaps it may have been an intentional omission?

In view of this I am inclined to conclude that Okinawan longevity is probably IMHO solely due to their diet that is the highest in animal fat and fish among Japanese and the lowest in starch. The recent fall in longevity stats is most likely due to unhealthy effect of Western commercial junk food high in wheat, sugar, polyunsaturated vegetable oils and hydrogenated fats, that has been widely available since the WWII.

I found that my optimal diet consists of 60-80% of fat, mostly animal (but I do not exclude vegetable fats in seeds and nuts, in smaller quantities) and the rest is protein (mostly meat, organ meat, fish, eggs and dairy), and carbs (mostly vegetables and fruit). I have been eating like that since 1999, it is 14 years to-date.

I do not exclude any food but I rarely eat processed packaged food and if I do I always "read" the food labels using Jeff Novick's innovative way:

"If it has a label don't buy it"

8-:)

Regards,
Stan (Heretic)

Fran said...

I totally agree. I was born in Okinawa and go back once in awhile, and I have never seen a day there without a piece of fatty pork belly.

When I first read that thing about Okinawan diet being "low fat", I was surprised and confused because I had never heard of an Okinawan cuisine that was particularly low in fat, except raw vegetables or fruits.

You are totally right that Okinawans love meat, and from almost any part. I was often fed this soup that has weird chunks of meat that looks wrinkly and thin and must be part of the inner organs like intestines or something.

On a diet like this, my great grandmother had passed away at about age 102 or 112(forgot which).

I was reading about the "high-fat low-carb" diet just before, and I started to wonder if that was similar to the diet of Okinawans, but I am still not sure since I just learned about it.

I think it's definitely worth researching, though.

Thank you for informing people that the "low-fat" bit of the Okinawan diet was totally fake.

Anonymous said...

Hi Stan,
I found you page very interesting. Here in Spain where I now live, our diet is very healthy with tons of veggies, fruit, extra virgin olive oil, grains, fish and some meat (pork).
As a kid in London my mother always used pigs lard to fry with. During the 80s it was considered a dreadful thing to do as it would give you heart attacks etc........but everything used to taste SO good.
What do you think? Can I use it to fry the few fried foods we have with it?