Japan's Diet Said Healthier Than American

The Associated Press
Wednesday, May 24, 2006; 7:43 PM

TOKYO -- Japanese researchers have found what many in the country have long believed _ that its traditional fish-based, low-fat diet is much healthier than the average American menu and contributes to a longer life, officials said Wednesday.

A team of researchers at Japan's respected Tohoku University made the findings during a three-week study involving mice, according to one researcher, who requested anonymity due to policy.

Results of the study were discussed at a meeting of the Japanese Society of Nutrition and Food Science, held in the central city of Shizuoka, May 19-21, said a society official, Reiko Suguro.

A nutritionist created two menus comprising 21 typical foods from the United States and Japan, according to reports of the study seen by The Associated Press.

Each meal, freeze dried and mixed into powder, was given to eight mice for a period of three weeks, the reports showed.

The American menu included hamburgers and fried chicken, while the Japanese menu included sashimi, or raw fish, and rice porridge.

The study found that several genes that work to break down cholesterol and fat were 1.5 times more active in the mice which received the Japanese menu as opposed to those fed with American food.

The study also found that the level of cholesterol was 10 percent higher in the American-food fed mice.

The results endorsed the popular view that traditional Japanese food contributes to a longer life, the study said.

Japan boasts some of the world's oldest people. Life expectancy for Japanese is 86 years for women and 79 for men, according to Health Ministry figures.

The traditional Japanese diet is also touted as the reason for its low levels of obesity.

Health experts, however, are worried about rising rates of obesity, especially among young people who prefer fast food.

The Tohoku University team used data from the Japanese government's nutrition survey and the USDA Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals to make a typical menu for the study.

The team plans to conduct a similar study on humans at a yet-to-be-set date, the researcher said.

© 2006 The Associated Press