Why Japanese Live Longer

Here at Yutaka, we recently looked at food trends for 2018 that draw on Asian culture (see Asian Trend 2018). It was noticeable that many of these were also healthy. In fact, a report by the British Medical Journal published in 2016, cited diet as the major factor in the longevity of the Japanese population.

Given January is the month people resolve to improve their diet – and it also happens to be #Veganuary when we’re encouraged to drop meat, fish, eggs and dairy – we thought we’d look at why the Japanese diet really is one of the best in the world.  

Globally, Japanese women live longer than anyone with an average life expectancy of 87, whilst the men don’t fare badly either living to around 80. It’s thought that this can be attributed in part to their diet, much of which is plant based.


The research tracked nearly 80K Japanese people over a 15-year period. The findings discovered that those who stuck to the official dietary guidelines issued by the government had a 15% lower mortality rate.

Those who took part were aged between 40 and 75-years-old and lived throughout Japan. All of them completed a dietary questionnaire every five years and the infographic highlights some of the food stuffs they were asked about:

They were scored dependent on how closely they had kept to the recommended intake suggested by the Japanese government. The researchers looked at how individual’s diet impacted on their health but specifically cancers and heart-related disease such as strokes.

People who scored higher had a 15% lower mortality rate, because they had less problems with heart disease. The researchers concluded that this was because the diet focused on grains, vegetables, fruits and fish. Women scored the highest of all and also drank more green tea. Surprisingly, they had a higher calorific score, but this was made up from healthier foods.

It was harder to find a correlation between diet and cancer. However, it seemed that people of a normal weight who adhered to the recommended diet were less prone to cancer than overweight people who also stuck to government guidelines. It was suggested that more research in this area was needed to clarify the impact of diet on cancers.

What’s interesting is that the Japanese intake of vegetables includes the many pickles they serve alongside most meals.

The benefits of seaweed are also huge – an ingredient intrinsic to the Japanese diet. As well as eating more fish than red meat, they also include a lot of soya in their diets such as tofu and the likes of Yutaka’s edamame noodles. And instead of going for super-size portions, everything is done in moderation.

So, if you’re looking to make some healthy changes to your diet as part of your resolutions in 2018, but want to avoid fads and fashions, you might consider eating more Japanese food – a diet that has proved successful for thousands of years.