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If You Want To Live to Be 100 - Don't Eat So Darned Much
"May you live to be 100" used to be how you wished somebody extreme good fortune. Maybe not anymore. The number of centenarians in the USA doubled in the 1980s and then doubled again in the 1990s. The total now exceeds 70,000 and if some projections are on the mark the number of centenarians in the USA alone could top 800,000 by the year 2050. Studies show the same trend in other industrialized countries.
One offshoot of having a large and growing number of 100 year old folks around is that researchers get a statistically significant sample size to research and publish studies about 100 year old folks. And research and publish they do. There are active centenarian studies in the USA, China, Okinawa, Italy, Sweden, and Denmark to name just a few.
By and large these studies report that centenarians are about as active at 100 as they were at 90, or 80, or 70, and for many even younger than that. The Okinawa study reports several subjects actively involved in rather rigorous tai chi training. The other studies report what may be an amazing number for some of 100 year old golfers, bikers and hikers.
The good news is that most people who get to 100 arrive there vibrantly and in relatively good physical and metal health. One other significant characteristic of the centenarians is that they continue to constantly challenge their minds with reading, the arts, and learning.
Good genes, macro and micro environmental factors, improved medical care, and a host of other variables undoubtedly play a role in the increasing number of centenarians, but it is still instructive to know that 100 year olds populate almost every ethnic group and geographic area. Longevity statistics favor women and
suggest that there may be some protective genes on the X chromosome, the sex chromosome that women have two copies of and men only one. Another possibility is that gender itself is neutral but social conditions favor long life for women. A rather scurrilous old XY wag says that the reason men die before their wives is because they want to.
The Okinawa study revealed that Okinawans who permanently move away from the home island and adopt a more Western diet and lifestyle do not make the century mark nearly as often as their stay-at-home counterparts. When you tie-in the Okinawa study with an unrelated study of Seventh Day Adventists in California who regularly outlive their fellow Californians, a few healthy eating characteristics stand out.
* The 100 year olds gained little or no weight during adulthood. There are a few 100 old smokers but there are almost no 100 year old tubbies.
* They consume about 10% - 20% fewer calories per day than the average American.
* Their diets are rich in fruits and vegetables and balanced among proteins, carbohydrates and fats. The Okinawa study showed, however, that Okinawan centenarians consumed about 26% "good" fats which is somewhat less than the 30% good fats in low-carbohydrate diets like The Zone.
So, who knows what the fates will bring, but it looks like if you want a shot at playing 18 holes under your age, lose weight and stop eating so darned much.
About the Author: ((c) 2006 by Peter Somerville. Peter is a former military officer, attorney, writer, and the creator of The Paratrooper's Guide To Fitness and Weight Loss. Peter also contributes to You Look Good - What Diet Are You On?