Monday, April 21, 2008

Korean Centenarians

Originally published at

Regular living habits key to longevity

October 23, 2006

Sleep sufficiently, eat regularly, and eat vegetables, tofu, and ¡°doenjang¡± (bean paste), if you want to live a long life.

A study on Korean centenarians' secret of longevity was released Oct. 18 by Lee Mee-sook, food and nutrition professor at Hannam University, during the International Centenarian Symposium, organized by Sunchang County, North Cholla Province, which has the largest ratio of centenarians in Korea.

Lee conducted a research on eating and living habits of 168 people aged over 90 in Gangwon, Gyeongsang and Cheolla provinces in 2003 and 2004.

¡°South Koreans who are more than 90 years old tend to sleep a lot and eat vegetables frequently,¡± Lee said.

Korean centenarians were found to consume vegetables much more than animal foods with 87 percent of the surveyed people usually eating vegetable-based foods. They had foods made of beans, such as doenjang and tofu, 4.3 times per week, while having animal foods such as meat, egg and fish 3.5 times a week.

¡°Studies on foreign centenarians showed they have a lot of yogurt or seaweed, but Korean centenarians have mainly rice, doenjang soup, vegatables [sic] and ¡°namul,¡± or seasoned wild greens. It is a Korean characteristic to consume beans and namul, which contain antioxidants that prevent aging,¡± she said.

Some 94 percent of the researched elderly had three meals a day, 80.4 percent had their meals with family, and 85.7 percent said they enjoy meal time, showing having meals regularly with family helps people live longer.

They did not have distinctively different living habits from foreign centenarians. About 20 percent of them smoked, and 28 percent drank but in small quantities. The average sleeping time was 9.2 hours.

¡°Korean centenarians did not have big differences from foreign ones in restraining themselves from drinking and smoking and in having regular physical activities such as gardening vegetable patches. But having regular meal portions at regular times was a Korean characteristic,¡± Lee said.

Other experts participating in the symposium also announced their study results.

Yasuyuki Gondo, researcher at Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology, said having an extroversive and earnest personality is the key to longevity based on his survey of 1,812 people aged between 60 and 84, and 70 people aged over 100 in Tokyo.

¡°Those who behave earnestly tended to exercise regularly and restrain themselves from taking part in activities that are bad for health. And extroversive people reduced stress with positive thoughts by blaming others more often than themselves when something bad happens to them,¡± Gondo said.

Michel Poulain, professor at Gedap Universite Catholique de Louvain, also cited stress as the main culprit hindering longevity.

Professor Park Sang-chul at the Seoul National University said villages where residents' average life span is longer than others usually have strong community relations. ¡°People in such villages get along with one another and share their daily interests,¡± he said.

Eat three square meals a day, just like mama said! And make sure they're green!

1 comment:

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