Live Forever or Die in the Attempt

The world’s oldest man died. Long live the world’s oldest man. Have you noticed that being the world’s oldest man is a death sentence? You’re next to go. There’s no one in front of you. The article which notes this event mentions that Japan (the former world’s oldest man was Japanese) has the longest life expectancy in the world. This is typically attributed to the “healthy” Japanese diet which is rich in fish and rice.

No mention of the salt content of the average Japanese diet – the highest in the world. This taste for salt likely explains the high hypertension rate in Japan. Here too they lead the world. Also no mention of the country’s high smoking rate. The country which has the second highest life expectancy is Sweden where diabetes is rampant.

So diet and disposition only explain long life if you’re selective at what you examine and to what you attribute causality. It would be instructive to measure life expectancy in Japanese-Americans who eat a western diet and who tend to be taller and heavier.

The Honolulu Heart Program did just that. “The cohort of Japanese men in the Honolulu Heart Program studies has a life expectancy that is longer than their counterparts in Japan, and Japan has the longest life expectancy of any country in the world.” So I suppose you could conclude that eating an “unhealthy” American diet which Japanese-Americans tend to do lengthens your life expectancy if you start out with good genes.

Being the world’s oldest man is no plate of rice and fish balls. Remember Tithonus. He had a pretty rough deal. Eating a really boring diet may not make you live longer, but like the pilot in Catch 22 who only did boring things, your life will seem longer. Pizza and hamburgers are okay if you use a little common sense. Anybody know who is the current world’s oldest man?

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2 Responses to Live Forever or Die in the Attempt

  1. ““unhealthy” American diet.”

    Which American?? There are so many of us with vastly different foods. I grow a lot of mine, some of which isn’t available in stores. I even had a milk goat! And its usually fun, not dull (except shelling beans) and lots of exercise on very steep hills.

    About 45 years ago I read “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” (1932) by Weston Price. He studied MANY isolated groups and their counterparts using “modern” foods. Quite a vast project. He even got to the Maori headhunters. A book I should read again. See how “modern” research has contradicted or reinforced his findings.

    Thanks for the mythological illusion. I had to look up Tithonus.


  2. Gerhart says:

    Interesting that you mention Sweden, a country I know well. Life in Sweden and Japan could not be more different. The Swedes hav a lot of space and often live far apart from each other. They drink little alcohol, do not smoke much, enjoy clean air and are environmentally conscious, peaceful and generally relaxed – even when sex is concerned, have no mafia, commit few suicides and have not attacked anyone for ages. You may have to wait for some time until you are able to see a doctor. All these factors may contribute to their longevity. It is true that they sweeten almost everything – including bread.
    Since I do not know Japan I cannot compare the two nations. The only thing they seem to have in common seems to be their constitutional monarchy.

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