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Could the Okinawan Diet Help with Alzheimer’s Prevention?

Posted by on Sunday, December 11th, 2016

 Bitter melon for Alzheimer's prevention

When considering healthy diets, many experts were curious about the food eaten by some of the longest living people on the planet-the Okinawans.  This Island, located off the shores of Japan, is a geographic area with more inhabitants surviving to a 100-year age span (and beyond) than any other known region of the world.  In fact, there are 25 centenarians in every 100,000 inhabitants of Okinawa.  Why are these people living so long, what do they eat? Could the Okinawan diet help with Alzheimer’s prevention?

Scientific Studies on the Okinawan Diet

One study, conducted by Dr. Bradley Wilcox, looked at the diet and lifestyle of over 900 Okinawan centurions and other Okinawans  in their later years (the 70’s to 90’s).  What the scientists discovered was that while genetics played somewhat of a role in the longevity of lifespan in Okinawans,  lifestyle factors such as diet were very important.  When the Okinawan diet was compared to that of other Japanese diets, the researchers found that the Okinawan people ate less carbohydrates (such as rice and other grains).   They also ate more vegetables rich in antioxidants.  One of the most interesting facts about the Okinawan diet that scientists discovered was that overall, the Okinawans ate less food overall.  In fact, they consumed  approximately 10 to 30 percent fewer calories than other Japanese people. The Okinawans consumed between 1,800 to 1,900 calories each day, compared to the average American diet consisting of between 1,800 to 2,600 calories per day.  Okinawans practice a ritual called Hachi bu, translated to mean “eat until you are about 80% full.” This calorie restricted diet began as a tradition, partially due to agricultural necessity-the Okinawans were farmers who expended a lot of energy all day long when farming.  The diet consisted of vegetables low in calories but high in nutrients, such as the Okinawan sweet potato. 

Foods Included on the Okinawan Diet

So, just what do the Okinawans eat on this world class healthy diet?

BITTER MELONS: (Featured in the photo above)  Known as goyain Okinawa, bitter melon is eaten frequently as a combination with vegetables in a stir fry dish called goyachampuru.  This is known as the cornerstone of the Okinawan diet.  Studies indicate that bitter melons have a powerful blood sugar lowering effect that may work as well as anti-diabetic medications.

TOFU: Tofu is a staple in the Okinawan diet.  It’s eaten in place of bread or potatoes in the western diet.  Okinawans consume about eight times more tofu than Americans eat.  Tofu is well known for protecting the heart and lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels (as compared to consumption of meat products).  

SWEET POTATOES: The Okinawan sweet potato, also called the “imo” is a purple sweet potato (a cousin of the western orange variety), that is supercharged with a high level of antioxidants called sporamin.  Sporamin is thought to have powerful anti-aging properties. Rich in flavonoids, vitamin C, fiber, carotenoids, and slow-burning carbohydrates, the imo is considered one of the healthiest foods on the planet!

TURMERIC: The health benefits of turmeric for Alzheimer’s prevention were discovered when scientist became interested in learning why people who eat Indian foods with curcumin (the anti-aging ingredient in curry) on a regular basis have a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s than those who consume the Western diet.  Turmeric was found to have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects on the brain. Turmeric is thought to be able to simulate calorie restrictions in the body.  Curcumin has also been found to slow down the progression of dementia. 

BROWN RICE: Brown rice is a staple In Okinawa.  Okinawan brown rice is considered better tasting than that of western cultures.  It is soaked in water to germinate until it starts to sprout.  This process unlocks enzymes which break down the sugar and protein-giving the rice a sweet flavor and soft texture.

SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS: Shitake mushrooms are well known as being some of the best tasting, they are considered a delicacy.   These smoky-flavored fungi grow wild in thickly forested areas.  Okinawans eat shitake mushrooms in a variety of dishes including miso soup and stir fry dishes.  Mushrooms are known to absorb and eliminate toxins in the body, they are also a great source of many vitamins and trace minerals.

SEAWEEDS (KOMBU AND WAKAME): Seaweeds are popular foods in many eastern cultures, including Okinawa.  The most common seaweeds in Okinawa include, kombu and wakame. Seaweed is rich in anti-oxidants (carotenoids), folate, and other vitamins and minerals.  Seaweeds are unique in that they have as many as 6 different compounds, found only in sea plants, that seem to serve as effective antioxidants at the cellular level. 

Learn more about brain healthy foods and Alzheimer’s prevention by CLICKING HERE to purchase the book, Alzheimer’s Treatment and Prevention, written by Harvard trained neurologist, Dr. Richard Issacson, M.D. 

For more easy to follow nutrition advice check out The Alzheimer’s Diet: A Step-by-Step Nutritional Approach to Memory Loss Prevention and Treatment, or visit to learn more about Neurologist, Dr. Richard Isaacson's 9 week diet plan and his cutting edge approach in the fight against AD in Alzheimer's Treatment | Alzheimer's Prevention: A Patient and Family Guide 2012 Edition. Also, sign up for the newsletter to get the latest updates in AD treatment and prevention news.

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