Eat your veggies, says study on Okinawa diet
CAMP FOSTER — An answer to staying healthy is in vegetables.
At least that’s what Americans participating in an Okinawa longevity study have taken to heart firsthand.
The study, conducted earlier this year by the University of the Ryukyus, asked 130 American volunteers to eat boxed Okinawan meals for four weeks.
“Remarkable improvements were seen in blood pressure, weight and sodium,” said researcher Hidemi Todoriki, an associate professor of medicinal environmental ecology at the University of the Ryukyus.
Also, the average blood pressure of participants dropped by an amount that would reduce the risks of hypertension and stroke by 25 percent, he said.
During the study, called Chample Study III, volunteers ate boxed meals for lunch and dinner. The menu included stir-fried bitter melon, or goya, in a dish called Goya Chample; stir-fried green papaya; chrysanthemum greens soup; baked tofu Mediterranean style; and Okinawan vegetable curry.
While they were on the diet, volunteers checked their blood pressure, and blood and urine samples were collected regularly for analysis. Researchers collected the same data when volunteers were off the diet.
Similar studies were conducted with Japanese volunteers. Chample Study I looked at Okinawan women in their 20s, and Chample Study II examined Okinawans between 45 and 65.
“The outcome on Americans was much more significant than those on Japanese people,” said co-researcher Yosuke Ohya, an associate professor of cardiovascular medicine at the university. “The levels of drop in the blood pressure were much larger than those in Japanese, and the weight losses were far more significant than those seen among Japanese.”
A reason for that is because the diet used in the study is a radical departure from what Americans usually eat, both in kinds of foods and quantity, Ohya said.
While people have an abstract concept that vegetables are good, the study results are beneficial for all Americans, said Bert Griffith, health promotion manager for Marine Corps Community Services Okinawa.
Tony Ruffin, a counselor at Stearley Heights Elementary School on Kadena Air Base, said the diet made him more committed to healthy eating and regular exercise. Ruffin said he and his wife have started eating a lot more vegetables.
“Chample Study gave me a mission to eat right and to eat better,” he said.
Karen Robertson, a counselor at Bob Hope Primary School, also on Kadena, said she felt a big change after taking part in the study.
“I didn’t feel sluggish,” she said. “Instead, I had more energy.”
She’s also altered the diet prepares for her family,
“We cut back the amount of meat,” she said. “It is a big change for us, who grew up in Texas. The study forced us to rethink how much calories we should eat.”
Participant Ray Welch, Pacific director of advance programs for University of Oklahoma, said he learned that each food plays a different role in keeping healthy. He said he was surprised he didn’t feel hungry eating smaller portions.
“My body is getting nutrients that I need,” he said. “That’s why it is not sending signs that I am starving.”