Quoted from The Hundred-Year Lie: Scattered around the planet are communities of people for whom living to one hundred—and doing so in a state of good health—is considered normal and expected. Two pockets of longevity in particular, the Hunzas of Pakistan and the Okinawans of Japan, offer us clues about how to achieve our own naturally occurring states of health with extended age.
The Hunza people live in a remote valley of far northeastern Pakistan, completely enclosed by mountain peaks. They are less than fifty thousand in number, and their average age at death is at least ninety, compared with seventy-seven in the United States. What impresses visitors more than their long lives is how vigorous and healthy they normally remain right up until death.
American cardiologists Paul White and Edward Toomey conducted a medical study of twenty-five Hunza men between the ages of ninety and 110 and discovered that not a single one of them displayed any signs of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or coronary artery disease. Optometrist Allen Banik studied the eyes of the oldest Hunza and pronounced them “to be perfect.” He later wrote about his findings in a book, declaring “everything that I had read about perpetual life and health in this tiny country is true.”
The Hunzas’ farming methods are entirely organic, and processed foods and synthetic chemicals are foreign to their experience. Most food is eaten raw, and during the late spring the people traditionally engage in fasting before the new harvest becomes available. All children are breast-fed, birth defects are almost nonexistent, and during the entire 2,300-year recorded history of the Hunza only two hermaphrodites are known to have been born.
On the Japanese island of Okinawa, a government census in 2001 found 457 people aged one hundred or more, or about thirty-five centenarians for every one hundred thousand islanders, the highest ratio in the world. By contrast, the United States reports about ten centenarians living for every one hundred thousand people. Equally important to longevity is the quality of life, and Okinawans are known to have the longest disability-free life expectancy of any people.
Rates of heart disease and cancer among Okinawans are less than one-quarter the rate in the United States. Bradley Willcox of the Harvard Medical School faculty has studied these people for over a decade and found strong evidence that their longevity and good health have little to do with their genes. Younger Okinawans who patronize fast-food restaurants located around American military bases have Japan’s highest rates of obesity, heart disease, and premature death. Similarly, those Okinawans who emigrate to the United States or Brazil and adopt new eating habits lose their health and life-expectancy advantages.
New York University professor of nutrition Marion Nestle notes that the longest-lived populations in the world “traditionally eat diets that are largely plant-based. Such diets tend to be relatively low in calories but high in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other components of plants [phytochemicals] that—acting together—protect against disease.”
Fitzgerald, Randall. The Hundred-Year Lie: How to Protect Yourself from the Chemicals That Are Destroying Your Health (pp. 195-197). Plume. Kindle Edition.