The Japanese Connection


How much of your living is dedicated to try and avoid dying?  Every second magazine (especially women’s mags) has some advert for something that will extend the readers’ lives, be that taking megavitamins or doing colonic washouts.

I have dealt with the megavitamin myth before, so I won’t cover that again today, but colonic washouts have been spared my pen dipped in hemlock – until now.  Just how, pray tell me, does sticking 300 mm of garden hose up your fundamental orifice assist you to become more healthy?  Let me assure you that the colon was designed to cope with human poo.  It was not designed to cope with garden hose loaded with mystical ingredients that will make you live longer.  Put the garden hose away.  It will not work.  However, I should point out that a medical colleague does believe and attributes his recovery from cancer on his coffee enemas.

However, we still all want to be immortal, so if your ambition is to live to be 100, the Okinawa Express is now leaving from platform number three.  According to an article I have read, the Japanese Health Ministry claims that Okinawans have an average life expectancy of 81.2 years – 86 for women and 75 for men (note for the marriageable – choose an Okinawan woman 11 years older than you are and go for a double cremation).

The other amazing fact was that Okinawan centenarians come in at about 34 per 100,000 of the population, almost three and a half times more than the figures from America.

So what are the Okinawans doing right?  Is it the center of colonic washouts?  Or what is it that we are doing wrong?  When you look at this conundrum, it is interesting to note that if you take the Okinawans out of Japan and relocate them in another culture, they end up with the same statistics as the culture in which they are now living.  The same has been shown in comparative statistical examinations of all races, for all diseases.  East Africans do not get tooth decay, but when working for British Rail (“Mind the gap!”) and living in the UK, end up with a set of typical British rotting teeth – or a fine set of NHS dentures (mind the gap, again)!

So the true story is probably not lucky genes, but revolves around diet and lifestyle.  Okinawans are doing better because their lifestyle suits them better, and their diet isn’t poisoning them or blocking their arteries.

The lifestyle on Okinawa is apparently very slow and the stress experienced by the local populace is not high.  Now if this were the be all and end all, my car washer will live to be 134 years old, but Thais, despite a nice slow pace don’t do all that well in the longevity stakes either.  So there’s more.

The researchers cite diet, and the Okinawans are apparently strong on fruits, vegetables, fish and ‘moderation’.  (Once again, the middle way looks like being the best, as a simple Buddhist observation.)  Looking at one of their recipes, it ends up being a tofu mish-mash with 59 calories per serving.  It is certainly not the high cholesterol stew that we as farangs tend to eat.

The other factors associated with longevity – or the lack of it – cigarettes and booze, were not mentioned in the article – because I think it would be there that you would find another clue.  Despite Uncle Ernie who lived to be 103 and smoked 60 cigarettes a day and drank a bottle of bourbon before lunch and died when shot by a jealous husband, we do know that smoking doesn’t help you live longer (when I typed that last phrase, I had inadvertently put “love” longer – but that’s true too).  Like wise, we know that with alcohol, the middle way is also best.

So, rather than take the train to Okinawa, look at your diet, look at your stresses in life, stop smoking, drink in moderation and you too may make a 100.  Of course, if you die of boredom aged 103, it wasn’t really worth it, was it!  Has anyone seen my garden hose?