Why are people so Healthy in Japan?

When it comes to health, weight of course
is not everything, but since there are so
many health complications from being overweight
or obese, it’s safe to say that Japan with
an obesity rate of 3.5% is generally healthier
than America with an obesity rate of 30%.
Japan isn’t perfect, it has found itself
on the 2012 top 50 list for cancer rates,
but it comes in near the bottom of the list
at rank #48 while America is at rank #6.
I’m contrasting Japan with America simply
because these are the two countries I’ve
lived in.
Last time, I argued that convenient access
to reasonably healthy food in Japan helps
people stay thin.
But what else contributes to health?
In my last video, a lot of comments pointed
out that in Tokyo you end up walking everywhere,
which is true and should help people stay
Also, walking while eating is generally frowned
upon, so more walking means less snacking.
Public transportation is impressively convenient
and reliable – if you’re traveling around
Tokyo, your destination is almost always within a
20 minute walk from that area’s train, subway
or bus station.
However, this is just Tokyo.
Such a population dense part of Japan with
highly organized public transportation unsurprisingly
has the lowest rate of car ownership in Japan.
What’s interesting is that average body
mass index doesn’t change too drastically
prefecture to prefecture, and higher car ownership
doesn’t particularly correlate to higher
body mass index.
That said, more walking surely helps people
stay leaner and healthier, but it’s just
one piece of a bigger puzzle.
Next, the portion sizes in Japan are definitely
Here’s what some typical lunches look like.
When I first came to live in Japan in 2010,
I remember always being a little disappointed
with the size of the meals.
Of course bigger portions and even all you
can eat places are available, but Since food
is more expensive here, I had to just get
used to eating less food.
In 2014, people spent on average about 13.5%
of their income on food, which is more than
twice what people in America spent.
In 2013, 3682 calories were consumed per person
per day in America, but it was only 2726 calories
per day in Japan.
So Japanese people typically spend more money
for less calories.
Although, cheap calories from the sugar in
soda is probably a factor here as Americans
consumed more than 5 times the amount of soda
Japan did in 2011.
Next, the type of food being eaten over here
is of course different.
You may have noticed in the clips I just showed
that everything comes with rice.
The Japanese diet is by no means low carb,
but while Japan and America eat about the
same amount of the two grains Wheat and Rice
combined, Japan eats about half as much wheat
as America.
Cutting out wheat or gluten is usually suspected
to be only a fad, but gluten, found in wheat
and not rice, has been shown to have some
unique properties.
This 2012 Brazilian rodent study for example,
found that putting just 4.5% wheat gluten
in the diet increases body fat, inflammation,
and insulin resistance.
Work by Dr. Alessio Fasano and his team has
shown that the gliadin protein of gluten,
through the stimulation of a protein called
Zonulin, opens up the spaces between the epithelial
cells in your gut.
This allows gliadin fragments to leak through
the gut into the bloodstream, provoking an
immune response and inflammation.
However, since the reaction to gluten differs
person to person and the science is relatively
new and complex, it’s hard to say by what
degree wheat is worse than rice or how much
wheat is too much.
Next is the regular consumption of fermented
foods in Japan.
Élie Metchnikoff, winner of the 1908 Nobel
Prize in Medicine, was the first to propose
the theory that lactic acid bacteria are beneficial
to human health.
He suggested that “oral administration of
cultures of fermentative bacteria would implant
the beneficial bacteria in the intestinal
As research on the gut microbiome develops,
the health effects of certain gut microbes
and bacteria are becoming clearer.
A transplant of the microbes from one overweight
woman to another woman caused the receiving
woman to become obese, and it’s been found
that transplanting microbes from a confident
mouse to an anxious mouse will make that anxious
mouse more confident.
It’s estimated that there are 500 to 1000
species of bacteria just in your gut, and
it’s important to take care of the right
species of these bacteria.
There’s even research showing that certain
microbes produce certain neurotransmitters.
And, fermented foods are supposed to support
the microbes that we do want to have.
Plenty of fermented foods have been part of
the Japanese diet for a very long time.
There’s Natto, soy sauce, miso, fermented
fish and tsukemono which is pickled vegetables.
Kimuchi, a fermented food traditionally from
Korea, is also widely available in Japan.
Fermented foods like these are very easy to
find at the supermarket, and it’s common
to get a side of Japanese pickles with your
The next point is balanced meat consumption.
In 2017, total meat consumption in the U.S.
per capita was 98.4 kg where 51.4kg of meat
per capita were consumed in Japan.
American people per capita ate only 7 kilograms
of seafood in 2015, while Japanese people
ate 27.3 kilograms of fish and fish products
in 2014.
If the meat everyone was eating was antibiotic
free grass fed meat, high meat consumption
might not be a bad thing, but in any case
we can agree that a higher fish intake is
generally good for you.
And I don’t think it would surprise you
to hear that it’s really easy to get fish
wherever you are in Japan.
But there’s another kind of balance that
might be a factor – it’s the muscle meat
to organ meat ratio.
Organ meats have not usually been much of
a component of the American diet.
During World War 2, people were encouraged
to eat organ meats as part of the food rationing
Articles like this one in this 1943 issue
of Time Magazine sold organ meats as highly
nutritious and explained how to cook them.
The effort had some success in changing people’s
views on organ meats, but the effect, didn’t
last much longer than the war itself.
This is unfortunate because, as the time magazine
issue shows, organ meats are rich in certain
vitamins that muscle meat is not.
And, glycine, an amino acid found in skin,
cartilage and connective tissue has several
important health benefits- from being an anti-inflammatory
to improving skin elasticity, improving insulin
response, and it has been shown to ameliorate
oxidative stress and lower blood pressure.
This study found that you could get a 30%
increase in lifespan in rodents by restricting
methionine, an amino acid found in muscle
meat, or you could get a 30% increase in lifespan
by supplementing glycine.
Glycine supplementation also reduced fasting
blood sugar, fasting insulin and even triglycerides.
So it looks like the potential negative effects
from eating too much muscle meat can be counteracted
by simply consuming more of things like skin,
cartilage, connective tissue, and bone broth.
Now in America you can surely find organ meats
at some supermarkets, but in my 20 years in
America, organ meats were rarely on the menu,
though chicken skin is easy enough to find.
Over in Japan, organ meats aren’t eaten
every day of course, but they are more common.
You can find them at the supermarket, or at
Barbeque places and HorumonYaki places specialize
in organ meats,
you can also get them on skewers at Yakitori
Pork is a big part of Okinawan cuisine and
they don’t waste much of the animal
Another thing is green tea consumption.
Green tea has been found to have anti-inflammatory,
antioxidant and anti-cancer effects as well
as blood sugar lowering effects thanks to
the catechins in it.
Though, I’m betting green tea being healthy
isn’t new information to you.
Back when I lived in the states, the reason
drinking it didn’t become a habit was that
it was simply annoying to have to buy it at
the supermarket and then come home and make
Here, pretty much any restaurant serves it,
sometimes for free, and you can always buy
it from one of the many many vending machines
prevalent throughout the country.
What might be an even bigger benefit from
regularly drinking green tea and other teas
is that it keeps people from drinking sugary
Here, I rarely see people here drinking soda
with their meal, but I see people drinking
tea all the time.
One last point is the food being served to
young children.
In Japan, school meals are planned out by
a nutritionist, cooked mostly from scratch
from local ingredients, then served in the
classroom by the students and eating manners
are taught by the teacher.
The only drink allowed is milk, so students
can’t be drinking juice or other sweet drinks.
The meals aren’t always perfect, but they’re
a lot better than what I remember getting
from the cafeteria in grade school in the
There’s plenty more things about Japan I
haven’t mentioned here, some that I even
expect would be bigger determinants of health
like consumption of Processed Foods, Sugar
and processed corn, seed and soy oils.
In short, it seems that people in Japan eat
a lot more food rather than food like products.
Japan’s food culture has contributed a lot
to health over here, and I expect a lot more
could be learned from looking at other countries’
food environments.
This video was sponsored by Audible… which
is something I use almost every day.
I’ve gotten a lot comments before asking about
my research process.
And, honestly most of it is just reading all
the time and taking notes.
Most of my reading is actually listening to
non-fiction books on Audible.
I usually set the playback speed to twice
as fast and when I come across a bit that
sounds important, I use the bookmark function
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  1. never ate organ meat until Japan. (cow tongue, pig intestine, etc). back in the day people would eat stuff like gizzards and liver in the US all the time

  2. "Portion sizes are smaller. Here is a typical lunch" That is small? I would hate to see what you used to eat. That is more than I have for lunch and I am huge.

  3. It’s frustrating that a lot of the “fresh” products being sold in supermarkets is GMO or has other chemicals commonly used in agriculture. Unfortunately it’s pretty hard to find true natural products in the US and U.K. as we’ve become accustomed to huge ripe looking fruits and vegetables looking more appealing than natural produce from farm shops or organic companies. Not to mention that organic products are dramatically more expensive.

  4. In America people have no time for healthcare because of overload of work they take processed food and also most of the Americans are obese due to that… They even take shower once in 3-4 days…

  5. Damn I saw my country at the 37 place in the top countries with the most cancers 00:20 …guess them "béké" really got us with their kepone huh.

  6. I'm skeptical about this: I don't think Japan is the healthiest country in the world considering everywhere you go you see vending machines scattered around, where artificial goods are stored. Not to mention the price of the fruits are so damn high.

    The only thing I'm sure of is that, the Jap people are well discipline, they eat food moderately that's why they remain slim.

  7. But then I still got fat when I stayed in Japan for just only 3 months. I think discipline is their secret which also applies on their eating habit.

  8. Soo if you don’t wanna have cancer go to PUERTO RICO AND eat organic natural non consentrated quimic fnk fake nasty food and eat there all natural😍❤️

  9. Meanwhile in America, there's people obsessed with a diet trend where you eat tons of fat and avoid white rice (and all carbs)

  10. I used to live in Shanghai but I've been to Japan a couple of times, mostly to Tokyo, Nagano, and Hokkaido. But I love it there, the food is fantastic, I love the people and culture. I find it very hard not to like japan

  11. Fermented food in Japan is different from just having distilled vinegar in your food. They do it naturally, promoting health. Vinegar is generally just for taste. Look up "BEGIN Japanology – Tsukemono Pickles".  Also there is a "Japanology Plus Fermented Foods" which I have not watched yet, but will.  The pickled episode is really good though.

  12. For one thing, they aren't stressed out by their government infesting their country with millions of third world primitives, many with diseases probably not seen in Japan in decades, if ever.

  13. ughh… I cant stand organs… its definitely an aquired taste.. a taste,that in america… we dont really aquire growing up… probably not a good thing…

  14. They don't put the 52 different types of sugar in 80% of their foods like the U.S. does! And they walk, bend, lift, actually move their bodies daily!

  15. Ppl always say Americans like we're all together. U have the ppl who r intelligent and who make good choices for themselves and the kids they care for and u have the willfull slobs who pig out on shit all day and abuse their kids w this shit all day. Make ur own food and stop blaming fast food places for ur problems.

  16. I liked this video. I often wonder how many people are sick or dying just through dietary ignorance.

    oops! I've rambled on a bit, so I hope I don't bore you, but the study of nutrition has become a teensy bit of an obsession with me, as I've begun to realise it is a matter of life and death. (also I've found some tasty meals!)

    I started studying nutrition for my own sake about 10 years ago and it never fails to astonish me how little I knew (I'm 64 & live in Scotland) I really did spend about 4 years researching full time to write a book. (about how nutrition can help overcome depression)

    One major theme that struck me was how much the pharmaceutical industry is involved in the food chain, not only irradiating seeds but right through to the plate from the use of herbicides, pesticides and artificial fertilisers that are bereft of the 18 nutrients plants need for healthy growth – then you've got how they manage the animals we eat too and things like antibiotics, unhealthy environments and stressful despatching and transport. Then there are additives like preservatives and colourants and those "E-numbers" (some of which were even banned – although they were once acceptable".

    Then we've got the packaging – and if you're microwaving the food in the packaging that should be considered too.
    I've missed out how food is artificially processed to speed up or increase production. Things like the fact traditionally Tofu was a long, slow process, but now it is done chemically – and maybe that's not so healthy.
    Likewise to squeeze the last drops of apple juice out of pressed fruit they use enzymes to break up the cell walls of the pulp.

    I've also realised that the gut bacteria is important, (you've likely got a couple of kilos of flora and fauna helping you to digest your food – so it is almost like another organ in your body)
    So, I am very interested in fermented foods, so I already liked Kimchi, but am very keen to get hold of some Natto and have been trying some sauerkrauts too.

    One of the key things (especially at my age and with the way I had treated my body) is atherosis, which may be due to calcium build up in the arteries – and apparently Vitamin K2 may help to reduce this, so I'm hoping to introduce Natto to my dietary regime.
    Currently I am COMPLETELY revising everything I eat – and I am still wondering why they don't teach us about nutrition at school in a much more detailed and thorough way – because it is SO important to health.

  17. What is so "healthy" about cancer? What is healthy about men preferring cartoon characters to come home to, instead of a real wife? What is so healthy about not having children?

  18. Assalamualaikum (peace be upon you)
    Some of the main reasons of cancer in Japan is pork meat and alcohol.
    WAllah may people be guided towards the mercy of Allah

  19. In terms of food culture, Japan and my country Malaysia is the same. But the difference is that Malaysia is not so pedestrian friendly and most Malaysians prefer to ride their own cars and motorcycles to go around, even to someplace close. We don't walk often.

  20. In Japan Roads are for people imagine one of the industrialize nation yet they were walking wow that's freaking amazing that's why they have no traffic.

  21. I think the food producing companies in Japan have much more integrity and don't want to sell disease-causing foods to the public, whereas in America the food corporations don't give a shit and they'll poison the shit out of you just to make as much money as possible. Japanese consumers also care more about buying healthy foods, whereas many Americans are stupid, ignorant assholes who will just buy something that's cheap and tastes good even though it'll make them sick later.

  22. I couldn't agree more with your video. I lived in Japan for three years and this is so true! I miss Japan so much!

  23. Fail to mention how the guys look like weak little girls and when they reach 35 they look like 55. japanese are constantly complaining about health problems, constantly coughing, sneezing, rubbing their eyes, terrible skin irritations just to mention the most obvious. the statistics dont show the whole picture. Not to mention the mental states. People walk around talking to themselves everywhere you go and cant have a descent conversation for more than 3 minutes even in their own language. Also living condition below sub standards, Nobody can state that a whole country is healthier than another using those few statistics. Being healthy certainly also includes quality of life and happiness, which is absolutely lacking in Japan.

  24. Because they are a disciplined society. At night at a stoplight they even turn their headlights off not to blind people.

  25. Great info. It’s so true about the “nose to tail” eating of meat. We need the balance of amino acids to be healthy. Muscle meat is so high in methionine, that needs to be balanced by eating other parts, or take collagen or glycine supplements.

  26. Fat/unhealthy people are every where, and nobody makes you eat junk/processed food, you CHOSE to eat them. and blame your parents, didn't educate you well.

  27. 0:26 the reason Denmark is higher than Norway, is that I am betting it is so flat in Denmark, so you don't need to walk uphill, so you don't sweat so much and don't get the hidden workout.

  28. Would like to add that in Asia, the sugary beverage and dessert contain less than 1/3 of the sugar as in US. For Asian people American dessert is terrible!

  29. Italy is really similar to Japan , fast foods are not an everyday opinion, most people go there only once or twice a month and some cities don’t even have a fast food lol, we are more likely to eat real food, even if we go to work we have the tradition to bring leftovers from home, we rarely buy already cooked meals if we go working

  30. How come Australia wasn't in the graph on how much food was being spent here? Is it because it's higher than the above? or our spending is a lot lower? Intriguing video re Japan..

  31. The Japanese don't use shovels to eat they use sticks . So I believe they aren't filling up with as much food as other nationalities. It just takes longer to eat with chop sticks and they fill up with less quantity.

  32. Also, americans cook vegetables in the blandest of ways. Try adding some spices or small pieces of meat with vegetables.

  33. I have seen literally thousands of videos since YouTube was created and I'm still wondering why schools don't play music in classrooms while teachers are teaching…and this goes for doctors, lawyers, people giving lectures, etc…this message wasn't sponsored and goes to the up-loader and all who ask why people leave 'dislikes'.

  34. 2726 calories = 11000 kJ. I can't lose weight on 18 hour waster fasting and less than 7000 kJ per day. Something else is going on here.

  35. the difference is walking to the MRT. I America if you walk to the MRT the predators will rob you at night. Many Trains are unsafe because crime is so prevalent when a child let alone my mom who wants to go home. THEY WAIT FOR MY MOM

  36. People aren't healthy in big cities in Japan. A shockingly high percentage of people you see on the train show symptoms of colds or flus (I don't just mean wearing masks, some of these are to protect themselves). People are thin, look tired and depressed. They fall asleep as soon as they sit down. Catch a train in Tokyo, then tell me they are healthy.

  37. Dude you need to elaborate on fermented foods.

    Natto provides tons of vitamin k2 something nearly everyone else in the world is lacking in their diets.

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