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The Okinawa diet describes a weight-loss diet based on the eating habits of the indigenous people of the Ryukyu Islands.
Indigenous islanders' diet
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People from the Ryukyu Islands (of which Okinawa is the largest) have a life expectancy among the highest in the world, although the male life expectancy rank among Japanese prefectures has plummeted in recent years.
The traditional diet of the islanders contains 30% green and yellow vegetables. Although the traditional Japanese diet usually includes large quantities of rice, the traditional Okinawa diet consists of smaller quantities of rice; instead the staple is the purple-fleshed Okinawan sweet potato. The Okinawan diet has only 30% of the sugar and 15% of the grains of the average Japanese dietary intake.
The traditional diet also includes a tiny amount of fish (less than half a serving per day) and more in the way of soy and other legumes (6% of total caloric intake). Pork is highly valued, and every part of the pig is eaten, including internal organs.
Between a sample from Okinawa where life expectancies at birth and 65 were the longest in Japan, and a sample from Akita Prefecture where the life expectancies were much shorter, intakes of calcium, iron and vitamins A, B1, B2, and C, and the proportion of energy from proteins and fats were significantly higher in Okinawa than in Akita. Conversely, intakes of carbohydrates and salt were lower in Okinawa than in Akita.
Records from the early part of the 20th century show that Okinawans ate less than 1% of their diet from animals products with no dairy. More animal foods were introduced into the Okinawa diet in the mid to latter part of the 20th century.
The quantity of pork consumption per person a year in Okinawa is larger than that of the Japanese national average. For example, the quantity of pork consumption per person a year in Okinawa in 1979 was 7.9 kg (17 lb) which exceeded by about 50% that of the Japanese national average. However, pork is primarily only eaten at monthly festivals and the daily diet is almost entirely plant based.
The dietary intake of Okinawans compared to other Japanese circa 1950 shows that Okinawans consumed: fewer total calories (1785 vs. 2068), less polyunsaturated fat (4.8% of calories vs. 8%), less rice (154g vs. 328g), significantly less wheat, barley and other grains (38g vs. 153g), less sugars (3g vs. 8g), more legumes (71g vs. 55g), significantly less fish (15g vs. 62g), significantly less meat and poultry (3g vs. 11g), less eggs (1g vs. 7g), less dairy (<1g vs. 8g), much more sweet potatoes (849g vs. 66g), less other potatoes (2g vs. 47g), less fruit (<1g vs. 44g), and no pickled vegetables (0g vs. 42g).  In short, the Okinawans circa 1950 ate sweet potatoes for 849 grams of the 1262 grams of food that they consumed, which constituted 69% of their total calories.
In addition to their high life expectancy, islanders are noted for their low mortality from cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancers. Wilcox (2007) compared age-adjusted mortality of Okinawans versus Americans and found that, during 1995, an average Okinawan was 8 times less likely to die from coronary heart disease, 7 times less likely to die from prostate cancer, 6.5 times less likely to die from breast cancer, and 2.5 times less likely to die from colon cancer than an average American of the same age.
The traditional Okinawan diet as described above was widely practiced on the islands until about the 1960s. Since then, dietary practices have been shifting towards Western and Japanese patterns, with fat intake rising from about 6% to 27% of total caloric intake and the sweet potato being supplanted with rice and bread. This shifting trend has also coincided with a decrease in longevity, where Okinawans now have a lower life expectancy than the Japanese average.
Weight loss diet
The diet consists of a relatively high energy intake, and contains similar foods to the traditional Okinawan diet. The principal focus of the diet consists of knowing the food energy density of each food item.
The proponents of this diet divide food into four categories based on caloric density. The "featherweight" foods, less than or equal to 0.8 calories per gram (3.3 kJ/g) which one can eat freely without major concern, the "lightweight" foods with a caloric density from 0.8 to 1.5 calories per gram which one should eat in moderation, the "middleweight" foods with a caloric density from 1.5 to 3.0 calories per gram which one should eat only while carefully monitoring portion size and the "heavyweight" foods from 3 to 9 calories per gram which one should eat only sparingly.
- Hiroko Sho (2001). "History and characteristics of Okinawan longevity food" (PDF). Asia Pacific J Clin Nutr. 10: 159–164. doi:10.1046/j.1440-6047.2001.00235.x. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 13, 2012.
- Boyle, Marie A.; Long, Sara (2008), Personal Nutrition (7 ed.), Stamford, Conn.: Cengage Learning, pp. 11–12, ISBN 0-495-56008-1
- Onishi, Norimitsu (April 4, 2004). "Love of U.S. food shortening Okinawans' lives / Life expectancy among islands' young men takes a big dive". sfgate.com. Hearst Communications, Inc. Retrieved 2010-12-02.
- Willcox, B. J.; Willcox, D. C.; Todoriki, H.; Fujiyoshi, A.; Yano, K.; He, Q.; Curb, J. D.; Suzuki, M. (October 2007), "Caloric Restriction, the Traditional Okinawan Diet, and Healthy Aging: The Diet of the World's Longest-Lived People and Its Potential Impact on Morbidity and Life Span" (PDF), Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1114: 434–455, doi:10.1196/annals.1396.037, PMID 17986602
- "Nutrition for the Japanese elderly.". Nutr Health. 8: 165–75. 1992. doi:10.1177/026010609200800312. PMID 1407826.
- Economic Structure of Local, Regional and National Hog Markets in the Self-Sufficient Region-Okinawa's Case
- Sho, H. (2001-01-01). "History and characteristics of Okinawan longevity food". Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 10 (2): 159–164. doi:10.1046/j.1440-6047.2001.00235.x. ISSN 0964-7058. PMID 11710358.
- "The old people's village on the island of immortals". p. 2.
- D. Craig Willcox; et al. (2009). "The Okinawan Diet: Health Implications of a Low-Calorie, Nutrient-Dense, Antioxidant-Rich Dietary Pattern Low in Glycemic Load". Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 28: 500S–516S. doi:10.1080/07315724.2009.10718117.
- Gavrilova, Natalia S.; Gavrilov, Leonid A. "Comments on Dietary Restriction, Okinawa Diet and Longevity". Gerontology. 58 (3): 221–223. doi:10.1159/000329894. PMC . PMID 21893946.
- The Okinawa Diet Plan, Bradley Willcox, MD, D. Craig Willcox, PhD and Makoto Suzuki, MD, copyright 2004.