It is well known that certain dietary patterns such as those rich in highly processed foods are associated with increased risk of diet-related morbidities. However, less is known about dietary patterns that promote longer disability-free survival.

It has long been recognized that life expectancy of Japanese men and women tends to exceed those of others. The influence of Japan’s diet on health may be partly responsible.  A traditional Japanese dietary pattern is characterized by high intakes of rice, fish and shellfish, green and yellow vegetables, seaweed, Japanese pickles, green tea, and Miso (a kind of fermented soybean product). Low intake of red meat and coffee are also characteristic of the Japanese diet.

A recent study, published in the July 2019 issue of The Journal of Nutrition, suggests that adherence to the Japanese dietary pattern may prolong healthy life expectancy among the general elderly population.

The study, conducted by Dr. Zhang (Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine) and colleagues, investigated the association between the Japanese dietary pattern and disability-free survival in the elderly Japanese population.  The researchers analyzed follow-up data covering a 10-y period for 9456 elderly Japanese individuals > 65 years of age participating in a community-based cohort study. Dietary habits were assessed using a food-frequency questionnaire and used to calculate the Japanese Diet Index score.

During the follow-up period, 4,233 disability or deaths events occurred. Higher Japanese dietary index scores were significantly associated with longer disability-free survival time. Each 1-standard deviation increase of the Japanese dietary index score was associated with 3.7 additional months of life without disability. Differences were even more dramatic when using a modified Japanese Diet Index score without coffee.  Study findings suggest that adherence to the Japanese dietary pattern may help achieve goals of healthy aging, longevity, and living disease-free for as long as possible.

Reference: Zhang S. Tomata Y, Sugawara Y, Tsuduki T, Tsuji I. The Japanese Dietary Pattern Is Associated with Longer Disability-Free Survival Time in the General Elderly Population in the Ohsaki Cohort 2006 Study. The Journal of Nutrition.  Volume 149, Issue 7, July 2019,
Pages 1245–1251, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxz051

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