"Hara hachi bu": The Japanese 80 percent rule is the key to a longer life

Living a long life in good health – this is the dream of many people.

"Hara hachi bu": The Japanese 80 percent rule is the key to a longer life

Living a long life in good health – this is the dream of many people. But in some regions of the world it comes true more often than in others. An unusually large number of 100-year-old people live in the province of Ogliastra in Sardinia, as well as on the Greek island of Ikaria, the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, the city of Loma Linda in the US state of California and the island of Okinawa in Japan. These five regions belong to the so-called “Blue Zones”.

This term is used to describe the regions of the world where people live much longer than average. The term goes back to the American bestselling author Dan Buettner: He first discussed it in the cover story “The Secrets of a Long Life” in the magazine “National Geographic”. Buettner visited all regions himself to get his own impression of the “centenarians” and their way of life.

Watch the video: "Regulated traffic, quiet places and growling stomachs - How rules and shame determine Japanese culture."

He made an observation on Okinawa in Japan. Here there are more than 60 100-year-olds for every 100,000 inhabitants – three times more than in the USA. Why is that? Buettner believes, as he writes in a guest article for "CNBC", that it is due to the diet of the Japanese.

One of the most important principles there is the “Hara hachi bu”. Behind this lies the Confucian rule of only eating until your stomach is 80 percent full - and not, as in many parts of the world, until you are completely full. In this way, the calorie intake is limited, which according to Buettner on Okinawa is around 1,800 to 1,900 kilocalories per day.

In order to be able to apply the "Hara hachi bu", one must first understand how the human body's feeling of satiety works. Science assumes that the body only registers whether the stomach has reached its capacity after about 15 to 20 minutes. Conversely, this means: the slower you eat, the sooner you register the point at which your body is full.

Studies show again and again that in many Western countries, people on average consume more calories than they need. In the long term, this leads to obesity and serious health problems such as metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes mellitus, diseases of the cardiovascular system, knee or hip arthrosis or infertility in men.

Dr. Brian Wansink, author of the best-selling nutrition book "Mindless Eating," tells CNBC: There is a significant calorie gap between the time an American says, "I'm full," and the time an Okinawan says, "I'm full." 'I'm not hungry anymore.'" He continues: "We gain weight gradually, either by stuffing ourselves or by eating a little too much every day - thoughtlessly."

However, Buettner advises against strict diets and excessive calorie counting. "The Okinawan way is to do all things in moderation. Practice mindfulness while eating by listening to your body." All foods are allowed as long as they are eaten in moderation - this also applies to meat and fish.

It is more important to eat slowly in order to be able to react to the body's signals. It also helps to remove sources of interference such as smartphones or the running television from the environment. Another tip: get into the habit of serving food on small plates. This makes you eat less without even thinking about it.

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