While I am in no way a fan of comparing the health of countries I am aware that it happens all the time. One thing I find interesting is the idea that Japan has the highest life expectancy and one of the lowest obesity rates in the developed world therefore they must be ultra healthy. They eat a high carb diet with low amounts of fat and animal products ipso facto so should we in the west. Comparing countries in this way really isn't helpful as there are so many mitigating factors and variables to make any comparison or statistic almost meaningless, and that's before we get into questioning how the statistics were collected, collated and reported. I am one BMI point away from obese (obese! I'm not even overweight) my slender wife is 'obese' and I know many other people who have been amused to find they are overweight/obese.
I lived in Japan for many years and I have since smiled slightly when I hear how healthy they are, as this is certainly not the impression one gets from living there. I won't bore you with the anecdotes or details. In addition life expectancy so often given as a marker of health of validity or life style choices is to my mind of no use unless it is coupled with good health until death. I personally know (and I'm sure you do too) people in their nineties with alzheimer's or severely restricted mobility or other serious health problems, you can keep that sort of longevity (Ancel keyes anyone)?
Regardless of that in the publics' mind and in the mind of the media longevity is the key marker for health, the main purpose for me writing this is that Japan DOES NOT have the highest life expectancy for males. The life expectancy a birth for males in Japan is 78 years while in Iceland it is 79.2 years. This compares with 76 years in the UK .
Japanese women live longest and this drags Japans' total for both genders to the number one spot. When I say this to people I usually get "oh but they have high levels breast cancer and CVD" which is of course quite true but when was the last time someone mentioned Japans' sky high stomach cancer or stroke death rates?
The main reason why I am writing about this is that Iceland eats diet high in saturated fats and animal proteins (dairy and meat) there is lots of rye and oats in there as well as plenty of sugar, it is by no means an ideal diet but it is the diet eaten by the world's longest lived male population.
This should of course be of interest to those of us with a northern European heritage (before my Grandfather died he revealed that our family had emigrated to Scotland from Iceland) and perhaps gives us a better model or basis for our lives and diets. I'm going to try to find more health data for Iceland to share I know that in the savage weather of the 16-18th centuries and after many in Iceland ate no grains but subsisted on dried fish.
Why don't we hear about this much??? If I said vegetarian conspiracy would you hold it against me?