After years of gaining popularity as some sort of secret aging cure, the traditional Japanese diet and method of preparing food, known as washoku, is under examination to see what could be done to complement the nation’s consistently highest lifespans with more robust healthspans.
The other side of the coin of a long lifespan is an aging population, and as the percentages of the Japanese pensioner-public are high and climbing higher, researchers like Keiko Abe, an applied biology professor at the University of Tokyo, want to see how their cultural eating habits can be leveraged to promote functional aging.
“Traditional foods in Japan are mostly of plant origin and they are already high in health-promoting elements such as polyphenols and microbial enzymes involved in fermentation of lactic acid, amino acids, oligopeptides, and oligosaccharides,” explains Abe, in a news article with Nature.
“These Japanese foods are being investigated for their efficacy in supporting good health, especially those that help slow mental or physical aging”.
Throughout the 1960s and 70s, the life expectancy at birth in the country began to rapidly increase, reaching fifteen years earlier what Britain had achieved by 1980, and eventually surpassing them quite quickly. At the time, researchers noted the diet could have played a large role, but also some mix of the culture and even things like working hours.
An examination from the London School of Medicine found in 1986 that even by the age of 85, Japanese men still had an average of between 9 – 15 years left in the tank. But making sure those years are spent out and about, teaching, nurturing families and communities, and remaining a valued member of society are the things that Japanese scientists hope to work towards.