The renowned vegan physician Dr Michael Greger has published one of his informative videos on health issues on his website, summarising what we know about the Okinawans when they lived in one of the five blue zones of the planet (zones where human longevity is much higher than average).

Dr Greger found that the evidence shows that the traditional diet in Okinawa, the southernmost and westernmost prefecture of Japan, was based on vegetables, beans, and other plants. The US ran Okinawa until returning it to Japan in 1972, so there are many official records in the US National Archives of their actual dietary intake. This is what a sample of 2,000 Okinawans ate traditionally before the year their jurisdiction changed: less than 1% of their diet was flesh from fishes, less than 1% flesh from other animals, and less than 1% dairy and eggs. Therefore, more than 96% of their diet was plant-based, and more than 90% whole food plant-based. Interestingly, most of their diet was one vegetable, in particular, sweet potatoes (either purple or orange).

Their antioxidant enzyme activity is the same as the rest of the Japanese population, but over 90% of their diet was whole food plant-based food, which is a very anti-inflammatory diet. The results were six to twelve times fewer heart disease deaths than in the US, two to three times fewer colon cancer deaths, seven times fewer prostate cancer deaths, and five and a half times lower risk of dying from breast cancer.

Unfortunately, due to the expansion of the animal agriculture industry and fast-food meat chains, Okinawan longevity is now a thing of the past, as they abandoned their traditional diet and started to eat highly processed meat like the rest of the population (Dr Greger points out that Okinawa now hosts more than a dozen KFC restaurants). Their saturated fat tripled, as did their sodium, and in two generations, Okinawans have gone from the leanest Japanese to the fattest. This is a clear example of how a whole-food-plant-based diet is the best diet for good health.

“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.