Japanese diet is not world’s healthiest
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The Japanese diet is praised for its health benefits all over the world. But the fact is that the Japanese diet is not the world’s healthiest, unless you are with 100% of Japanese genes.

We mean what a Latin phrase says: Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi. It is often translated as “Gods may do what cattle may not”. It indicates the existence of a double standard (justifiable or otherwise), and essentially means that what is permitted to one group of people, is not permitted to everyone else.

Yes, the Japanese diet is good. For Japanese.

 

Japanese diet is not world’s healthiest

 

Compared to Europeans and North Americans, Japanese consume much less meat (especially beef), dairy products, sugar and sweeteners, fruits and potatoes, but much more fish and seafood, rice, and salt.

Why the Japanese diet is not world’s healthiest

Highest carbs intake

Rice is a staple food in Japan. Rice is everywhere – at home, in restaurants, and in the school lunch boxes. A typical Japanese person consumes 82.1kg of rice per year, whereas a typical American consumes 10.8kg.

The glycemic index of rice is 73, which is higher than table sugar (65). Eating a bowl of rice it’s like eating a bowl of sugar. No wonder that in Japan the type 2 diabetes rates are on the rise (like in any other developed country, by the way). The prevalence of diabetes in Japanese populations is 7.3%, which is higher than in United Kingdom (4.9%) and lower than in United States (12.3%).

However, we shouldn’t skip the genetic factor. According to the American Diabetes Association, Asian ethnicities are genetically at higher risk for type 2 diabetes than Caucasians.

The good thing is that Japanese people consume not too much sugar – around 26kg annually, which is half of the amount that Americans eat – 64kg.

Highest salt intake

Japanese diet is not world’s healthiest

Known for their long life expectancy, Japanese people are probably less known for their highest levels of salt intake of 11g per day; most “salt-friendly” people in the world. Doctors recommend the maximum salt consumption per day of 6g – that’s around 1 teaspoon. The main salt contributor is soy sauce.

In many developed countries salt has been considered as a primary cause of high blood pressure. However, the researchers from McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences (Canada) have found that excessively low salt intake (below 3g per day) is associated with an increased mortality and higher risk for cardiovascular disease. It makes the low salt diet a myth. But you never know.

Highest cholesterol intake

On the Land of the Rising Sun, people eat cholesterol-rich seafood every day. However, Japan has lower rates of heart disease and the lowest incidence of heart attacks that in other developed countries. In this case, genetics is ruled out by researches: the “good” cholesterol is higher in the Japanese living in Japan than in the Japanese-Americans.

Lowest in calcium

Calcium is an essential nutrient that plays a crucial role in the regulation of many metabolic processes, in neuromuscular events and in bone health. However, calcium intake in Japan is the lowest among Western countries. The sources of calcium are not created equal. Even though Japanese eat lots of leafy greens, calcium bioavailability is extremely low in that type of food. The main sources of bioavailable calcium are milk and dairy products, which Japanese almost don’t consume.

Not enough fruit

Unlike in most countries in the world, fruits occupy a special place in the Japanese diet – they are considered a delicacy, a luxury food that isn’t eaten every day. The general recommendation for fruit intake is at least 200 grams per day, but Japanese eat less than half of that amount.

 

Japanese diet is not world’s healthiest

 

Highest food additives intake

Hundreds of food additives that are not permitted in many developed countries are all categorized as food additives in Japan. Japan allows about 1500 food additives, lots of which are considered dangerous to the human health by the World Health Organization.

Highest harmful chemicals intake

It sounds strange, but the fact is that Japan’s use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides is the highest in the world. Japanese farmers use 11.4kg per hectare, which is almost 5 times higher (!) than in US (2.5kg per hectare). Why do they do it? To improve safety and productivity, but mainly because Japanese shoppers demand perfect-looking produce.

If the Japanese diet is not that healthy, why Japan has the highest life expectancy?

Yes, that is the question: if the Japanese diet is not that healthy, why Japan has the highest life expectancy? According to the World Bank, after Hon Kong, Japan has the second-highest life expectancy of 84.67 years in the world. In Sweden – 82.41, in Canada – 81.75, in UK – 80.90, and in US – 77.28.

No doubts, there are lots of factors that affect life expectancy. However, genetics and diets are the most important ones. Putting genetics aside, let’s make an educated guess as a possible answer to the question.

 

Japanese diet is not world’s healthiest

 

Maybe the sky-high supply of omega-3 fatty acids from fish is the answer?

Let’s see.

Japanese people eat about 100g of fish daily providing them with 0.2g of omega-3s per day; whereas Americans eat fish once a week (hopefully), providing them with almost no omega-3s. European and North American health authorities recommend 200-300g of fatty fish per week, because that amount provides you with enough of Omega-3s.

Even those Japanese with the lowest amount of omega-3 in their blood have levels significantly higher than the average for Americans.

Years ago, researchers observed that fish-eating communities had very low rates of cardiovascular disease. For example, autopsy studies in 1950s in Alaskan Inuit showed the death rate from cardiovascular diseases of 5.8%, whereas in the USA it was 30.6% during the same time period. It’s 5 times lower!!! But only later it was linked to omega-3 fatty acids from fish.

Since then, not too many nutrients have been studied as thoroughly as omega-3 fatty acids. The numerous science-based health benefits of omega-3s have been discovered, just to mention a few:

  • Omega-3s clear build-ups in the arteries and keep blood platelets from clumping together preventing the blood clots formation.
  • Omega-3s reduce the triglycerides level by 15–30%. Triglycerides are a type of fat (lipids) found in the blood.
  • Omega-3s reduce blood pressure.
  • Omega-3s can raise “good” HDL cholesterol and decrease “bad” LDL cholesterol.
  • Being powerful antioxidants, Omega-3s reduce inflammation.
  • Omega-3s can reduce liver fat.

So, not everything that is good for Japanese people might be good for Europeans or North Americans. If you don’t have genes from people of the Land of the Rising Sun, be wise and reasonable with what and how much you eat.

 

Japanese diet is not world’s healthiest

Japanese diet is not world’s healthiest

Japanese diet is not world’s healthiest

Japanese diet is not world’s healthiest

Japanese diet is not world’s healthiest

Japanese diet is not world’s healthiest

Japanese diet is not world’s healthiest

Japanese diet is not world’s healthiest

Japanese diet is not world’s healthiest

Japanese diet is not world’s healthiest

Japanese diet is not world’s healthiest

Japanese diet is not world’s healthiest

Japanese diet is not world’s healthiest

Japanese diet is not world’s healthiest

Japanese diet is not world’s healthiest

Japanese diet is not world’s healthiest

Japanese diet is not world’s healthiest

Japanese diet is not world’s healthiest

Japanese diet is not world’s healthiest

Japanese diet is not world’s healthiest

 

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