Lose weight, 'live to 100' and eat LOADS more carbs on the Okinawan diet

WANT to live until you're 100 – and stay slim while you're at it?

Well, you may want to take inspiration from one area of Japan, which has one of the world's highest rates of centenarians.

Almost two-thirds of the people in the Okinawa region are able to live independently until the age of 97.

For every 100,000 inhabitants, there are 68 people over the age of 100.

That's three times the numbers found in the USA, and even in Japan, people in the area have a 40 per cent greater chance of making it to 100 than those living elsewhere in the country.

So what's their secret?

Scientists believe it's their ultra-high carb, low protein diet.

The "Okinawa diet or ratio" is 10:1 carbs to protein, which experts believe has been protecting people in the region from various age-related illnesses like cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer's.

The Okinawan region is a group of islands situated in the southernmost part of the country.

The area's traditional diet is rich in sweet potatoes, as well as plenty of other brightly coloured veg – notably green and yellow – which tend to contain a load of vitamin C, E and A.

They eat very little protein and when they do have it, it tends to be soy or fish.

Although they're big on carbs, the number of unprocessed grains they consume is actually very little.

Unlike the rest of Asia, the Okinawans don't rely on rice as their main source of calories – filling up on sweet potatoes instead.

And despite their carb-loading ways, they tended to eat around 11 per cent fewer calories than the recommended daily allowance for adults.

The group's longevity is so amazing that their diet has been the subject of a study, called the Okinawa Centenarian Study (OCS), which has been investigating the health of the region's aging population since 1975.

The study has found that the diet is high in fibre and low in refined carbs, which probably has an anti-inflammatory effect on the body – and that prevents age-related illnesses.

Not only is it low in saturated fat, but it's also high in omega 3 fatty acids.

While those are generally found in oily fish, the Okinawa diet gets most of its fatty acids from soy.

And of course, the diet is low in sugar spikes because it has next to no refined carbs.

Sugar spikes are thought to be linked to inflammation on the body – increasing the risk of chronic illnesses like cancer, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer's disease.

A recent study has been looking at what effects different ratios of carbs to protein can have on brain health.

The optimum ratio for slowing down signs of aging in the brain? 10:1 carbs to protein – the same as the Okinawans.

Other factors may also play a role

People in the region may be genetically gifted when it comes to longevity, but their lifestyles have a massive impact on their continued good health.

They're less likely to smoke and because they tend to be involved in farming and fishing, they're physically active every day.

And they're close-knit, meaning that there are loads of socialising and less isolation as people get older.

That social aspect is huge. Loneliness has been found to be as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

But some scientists suggest that the region's longevity may be less to do with the carb-to-protein ratio, and more to do with the amount of fruit and veg the region eats.

Karen Ryan, a nutritional biologist at the University of California, Davis, told the BBC that while a low protein diet may be beneficial up until the age of 65, above that, people tend to benefit from eating more protein.

She says it may be more to do with where you get that protein from that matters.



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Plant-based proteins like soy – which the Okinawans eat – may be better for you in terms of reducing inflammation than things like meat and dairy.

And the Okinawans' may be living longer due to the fact that they mainly live off fruit and veg (and that all-important sweet potato), than the high carb, low protein content.

Either way, it's one in the eye for the carb naysayers!

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