Pork lard did not make Okinawans fat & sickFebruary 4, 2007
A report in The Straits Times on Friday tells us that the people of Okinawa, Japan – famed for their longevity and good heatlh – are getting fat and sick. Half the men and a quater of the women there are now overweight or obese. Diabetes is on the rise.
The reason for this? GIs’ diet of American-style barbeque, hambugers and soda.
After the Second World War, the US established a military base there and brought along 36,000 troops and over 100 fast food restaurants including McDonald’s, KFC and A&W. Okinawa even spawned its own fast food chain, MOS Burger.
And so today, the people of Okinawa eat at fast food restaurants up to three times a week, compared to the average Japanese who eats Western style fast foods only once a week.
Before 1945, however, Okinawans consumed mostly fish, soybeans, seaweed, vegetables. tofu and pork.
The report cited 100-year-old Ms Shizu Miyagi, who retains her traditional diet and… “often invites friends home to share a lunch of stewed pork leg, potatoes, rice and red beans.”
Pork leg is, of course, full of fat – saturated fat. In fact, the people of Okinawa cook mainly with pork lard. Yet all that saturated fat and cholesterol did not clog up their arteries. It did not give them heart disease, diabetes or other degenerative diseases, it did not even make them fat!
So what has changed?
Is it because they are now eating beef (in hamburgers) instead of pork? That’s not the likely reason. The Koreans eat lots of beef, yet they, too, are relatively healthy with low rates of heart disease, cancer and obesity.
And it is not just the Okinawans or Koreans who lead healthy lives on a diet with plenty of saturated fat and cholesterol. The French too. And the Greeks, Swiss, Austrians… The extreme case would be the Masai of Africa. They eat only meat, blood and milk. No grains and veggies in their diet. Yet they, too, are healthy and free from degenerative diseases.
So what is it in the American fast food diet that makes people fat and sick?
A more likely culprit is the soda – incredible amounts of sugar in there. Another is, of course, the harmful trans fats present in the hydrogenated oils used by fast food restaurants for frying.
But I would say it is not any one element in the American diet that younger Okinawans have adopted. Rather, it is the entire system of preparing food US-style, a system that is highly processed, highly chemicalised and highly artificial.
Americans get themselves sick by consuming industrial “food”. But they cannot see their own mistakes and folly, so their scientists blame saturated fats and cholesterol, completely ignoring the fact that other cultures enjoy excellent health and longevity on a diet rich in saturated fats and cholesterol.
It is sad that the rest of the world is increasingly adopting the Standard American Diet (SAD).
But the greater tragedy is that learned scientists, doctors and health authorities all over the world – including Singapore – have all blindly embraced the American theory that saturated fats and cholesterol make people fat and sick.
Can’t our scientists, doctors and health authorities think for themselves? Seems that all they do is swallow.