Book Review: 'The Okinawa Program'

How the World's Longest-Lived People Achieve Everlasting Health

Okinawa Program book coverI first read The Okinawa Program some years ago, and it permanently changed my eating habits for the better. When I looked into it recently, I was pleased to discover that it is still circulating well at the library, still being sold and highly recommended on Amazon, and still one of the most readable books on aging well.

It is an account of the study by American scientists, over a number of years, of the centenarians of Okinawa, a place with an unusually high percentage of people over 100 years of age. Japanese scientists had began the studies, so there is a long set of data available, and accurate birth records too, which isn't the case in some areas with a reputation for longevity.  Since this is an even bigger topic now than when the book first came out, this seems a good time to call people's attention to a classic in the field.
 
There are footnotes in plenty for those who want the detailed research, but the book itself brings all the raw data to life, and keeps you reading. The accounts of the lifestyle and dietary habits of these centenarians compared to the younger Okinawans, and to Americans, and the health consequences for all three groups, are thought-provoking, and potentially life-changing. Of course, the most engaging sections tell the stories of some of the individuals studied, who are still "doing their day job," and enjoying life at 100 or older.

One of my favorites stories is of the research team's visit to a centenarian out on a farm; they were greeted on arrival by a man with his gardening tools, about to go out to the fields to get some work done. They asked where his father was, and to their surprise, he turned out to be their interviewee himself.

The authors provide a great deal of information to enable others to adopt the healthful features of these centenarians' lifestyle -- details on the food, with recipes, and also on exercise and social and spiritual practices. I found the book both educational and inspiring.

-- P. Wood