If Stress Is A Killer, Then Why Do People In High Stress Countries Like Japan Live So Long?

It’s the food, stupid!

Something off topic today, and intended as food for thought. It’s my infrequent post on nutrition. Yes, I also would like my readers to be healthy and happy.

Stress, lifestyle, pollution are over-rated factors

In western societies, when asked why so many people are getting sick with chronic diseases today, and thus die prematurely, too many medical experts like to blame it on stress!, genetics, pollution, lifestyle, or just plain bad luck. So take my pills!

However, these often cited reasons are all too often bogus explanations designed to get you to accept horrendously costly treatments instead of opting for effective prevention. Prevention and cure, after all, are bad for Big Pharma’s bottom line. The big money is in lifetime treatment.

And in western societies, far too little is being done to drive home the point that the junk-food contaminated Western nutrition is the root cause of many chronic diseases and thus our food supply needs to be revamped radically and rapidly. If this were done, much misery and high costs could be spared.

Life-shortening disease often food-related

What a lot physicians won’t tell you is that many of these diseases are in fact nutrition-related and gradually emerge after years of poor quality (low-nutrient) diets. Many common chronic diseases could be prevented, or at least delayed by years, simply by eating high-nutrient foods. The most important thing you can do to live longer and healthier is to eat correctly, and to start doing so immediately.. Your doctor can tell you to reduce stress and to go for walks all he wants, but unless you wean yourself off the junk food, you’ll very likely end up chronically ill and forever connected to the miserable Big Pharma lifeline.

High stress Japan has highest life expectancy!

To illustrate how stress is an over-rated factor in causing chronic illness, one only needs to check out the countries with the highest life expectancies. Many happen to be high stress environments, like Japan and Europe. Of course stress is generally to be avoided, but is it really the big silent killer everyone makes it out to be? Statistics show us the answer is no. The big killer is junk food.

High stress, urbanized Japan No. 1 in life expectancy. Source: WHO.

Anyone who has ever visited Japan will tell you that most people there live in high-stress, urban environments and work among the longest number of hours annually. Most Japanese in fact do not spend their time meditating in harmonious Zen rock gardens.

Japanese and Mediterranen diets lead to long lives

Arguably the most important factor to Japan’s excellent collective health is its nutritional culture. Whereas in western culture many people stuff themselves with sugary, processed junk foods, snacks, sodas and sweets and bad oils, the Japanese diet is rich in vegetables, high-nutrient carbs, fish, fermented foods, antioxidant super-foods and green tea to name a few.

American (sick) lives simply dragged out by Big Pharma

But what about USA’s relatively high life expectancy? First, it really isn’t that high, and actually ranks a lowly 31st on the WHO list above!

And although the American diet is among the world’s most notorious, American’s do live about 80 years, and so food can’t be the big factor one might argue. Though Americans live relatively long, we need to keep in mind that huge numbers of them are plagued by chronic disease, and many are simply kept alive in a state of limited health or outright misery for years by Big Pharma. The average American today spends some $10,000 annually on health care alone.

Here’s what some countries spend on health care per capita:

The USA spends the most by far on health care, yet does not even make the Top 30 on the list for life expectancy. On the other hand, high stress, urbanized Japan spends near the OECD average on health care, yet has the highest life expectancy. Italy also sees a good life-expectancy-to-healthcare-spending-ratio, arguably in large part due to its health Mediterranen diet. Chart: OECD Data: Health resources – Health spending.

A longer life at a fraction of the healthcare cost

Also we note that poorer Mediterranean countries such as Greece, Cyprus, Spain and Malta spend a mere fraction on healthcare of what Americans spend, yet live longer. It’s the food that makes the difference.

Big Junk driving Big Pharma

According to statista, the U.S. pharmaceutical market represents over 45 percent of the global pharmaceutical market, valued at around 446 billion U.S. dollars in 2016.

With that kind of spending, the country should be way up the top of the list for life expectancy, but at a lowly 31st place it’s not even close to the top. One reason is because bad American junk food is creating sickness and thus a big demand for health care. Big Junk is feeding Big Pharma.

To live longer and healthier, good food is the key. Eat healthy, and the rest will take care of itself.

33 responses to “If Stress Is A Killer, Then Why Do People In High Stress Countries Like Japan Live So Long?”

  1. William Astley

    The science totally supports the assertion that the majority of our healthcare problems are due to diet.

    It is Science/Honesty/Honour/Courage Vs Marketing and Ignorance. Marketing and Ignorance are currently winning.

    How Sugar Messes up Your Liver and Gives You Diabetes


    The National Soft Drink Association boasts on their website that “Soft drinks have emerged as America’s favorite refreshment. Indeed, one of every four beverages consumed in America today is a carbonated soft drink, averaging out to about 53 gallons of soft drinks per year for every man, woman and child.”


    Type 2 Diabetes: An Epidemic Requiring Global Attention and Urgent Action


    Refined Sugar Consumption Trends in Past 300 Years:
    • In 1700, the average person consumed about 4 pounds of sugar per year.
    • In 1800, the average person consumed about 18 pounds of sugar per year.
    • In 1900, individual consumption had risen to 90 pounds of sugar per year.
    • In 2009, more than 50 percent of Americans consume 1/2 pound of sugar per day, which is 180 pounds of sugar per year (ten times more than the amount of sugar consumed in 1800).

    In 1890, the obesity rate in the US for white males, age group 50′s only, was 3.4%. In 1975, the obesity rate in the US of all population was 15%.
    In 2009, 32% of Americans were obese.

    In 1893, there were fewer than 3 diabetics per 100,000 people in US. Today, there are 8,000 diabetics per 100,000 people in US (roughly 1 in 10).

  2. Michael Jones

    Hi Pierre,

    A good article and a nice bit of variety.

    I agree with much of what you say but not the bit about stress. Many of the countries with high life expectancy are characterized by a strong sense of society, community, identity, family and belonging. What you call stressful work could also be called meaningful, challenging activity done purposefully – to create the resources to lead a better, healthier life.

    If you look at cardiovascular disease stats in particular, countries which undergo major stresses – e.g. those in the former Eastern bloc who experienced the short-term trauma of converting from Communism to relative freedom – show shocking increases in CVD figures shortly thereafter which later recover.

    Granted this is not proof. But I don’t think stress should be discounted.

    Consider the stress hormone cortisol, which elevates blood pressure, truncal obesity, hyperinsulinemia, hyperglycemia, insulin resistance, and dyslipidemia.

  3. Steve

    Lot of factors at play here.
    Without doubt the biggest killers are ( not in any particular order) being overweight, smoking and genetics.

    My advice is to stay out of supermarkets where the aisles are full of packets, cans and bottles of “food” that are laced with sugar and salt.
    So get your BMI under 25 and do not believe the bull dust about cholesterol because people with higher levels of cholesterol live longer than those with lower levels..all over the world.
    And do not forget to smile.

  4. William Astley

    The problem is most people do understand the magnitude of the problem or the science behind the problem. Fizzy sugar drinks is a good example.

    It is interesting how the fizzy sugar drink companies have modified their product to enable them to add absurd amounts of sugar, for example 9.5 teaspoons of sugar in a 12 ounce can of Coke.

    9.5 teaspoons of sugar in a 12 ounce cup of coffee would be undrinkable, silly too sweet.

    To make the super over sweetened fizzy drink, drinkable, they added phosphoric acid which hides the sugar taste.

    Sugar is added to almost every processed (manufactured) food, as it addictive and very cheap. In almost every Super Market ‘food’ store there is an isle of fizzy sugar drinks, an isle of cookies and sweet bars, and an isle of candy.

    Sugar consumption damages the liver in a similar manner as alcohol. There is a maximum daily amount the liver can process and a maximum rate at which it can handle per minute.

    Fizzy sugary drinks are served with fast ‘food’ as the sugar in the drink does not make you feel full.

    Coke Ingredients
    Carbonated water
    Sugar (sucrose or high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) depending on country of origin)
    Phosphoric acid
    Caramel color (E150d)
    Natural flavorings[57]
    A typical can of Coca-Cola (12 fl ounces/355 ml) contains 38 grams of sugar (usually in the form of HFCS),[58] 50 mg of sodium, 0 grams fat, 0 grams potassium, and 140 calories.[59] On May 5, 2014, Coca-Cola said it is working to remove a controversial ingredient, brominated vegetable oil, from all of its drinks.[60]


    The role of fructose-enriched diets in mechanisms of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
    Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) currently affects 20%-30% of adults and 10% of children in industrialized countries, and its prevalence is increasing worldwide. Although NAFLD is a benign form of liver dysfunction, it can proceed to a more serious condition, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which may lead to liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma.

    NAFLD is accompanied by obesity, metabolic syndrome and diabetes mellitus, and evidence suggests that fructose, a major caloric sweetener in the diet, plays a significant role in its pathogenesis. Inflammatory progression to NASH is proposed to occur by a two-hit process. The first “hit” is hepatic fat accumulation owing to increased hepatic de novo lipogenesis, inhibition of fatty acid beta oxidation, impaired triglyceride clearance and decreased very-low-density lipoprotein export. The mechanisms of the second “hit” are still largely unknown, but recent studies suggest several possibilities, including inflammation caused by oxidative stress associated with lipid peroxidation, cytokine activation, nitric oxide and reactive oxygen species, and endogenous toxins of fructose metabolites.

    1. tom0mason

      Just to put that in perspective, fructose is fruit sugar —

      100 grams of currents or raisins give you about 38 grams of fructose (and about 65-70 grams total sugars).
      100 grams of fresh apples give you about 7.3 grams of fructose (about 13 grams total sugars).
      [mostly from https://thepaleodiet·com/fruits-and-sugars/ ]
      OK lets have table sugar (aka sucrose)? Well OK except that you body will break each sucrose molecule to a glucose and a fructose molecule.

      OK just eat glucose? OK but it’s not very sweet, fructose tastes just over twice as sweet as glucose, and is also sweeter than sucrose (table sugar). (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fructose#Sweetness_of_fructose), so you’ll tend to eat more to get the sweet ‘hit’.
      [Corn syrup is mostly glucose, fructose is added (approx 1/3 vol) to make it sweeter, approximately equivalent to table sugar]

      Now that bottle of cola is the total sugar equivalent of about 3 apples, or about 50 grams of dried fruit. So why not have an apple and some water? Or a scant handful of currents and some water?
      What no caffeine? OK, large coffee with one spoon of sugar (maximum) every other time you would drink cola, and water and fruit the rest of the time.

      Fructose really is not a problem! It’s the volume of sugars and starches (starches convert to sugar in your gut) consumed and the lack of daily exercise that is the problem. Get fitter, eat less sugar/starch and stay healthy!

  5. Georg Thomas

    (1) I am sympathetic to the notion that the difference between positive or at least sufferable stress and devastating stress can be a matter of perception and socialisation. If her exertions are meaningful and deeply rewarding to a person, I seem entitled to conclude from my own exerience that this kind of stress is likely to be not (or less) injurious to health than stress of the kind that a person feels to be imposed upon her with no meaningful relation to her fundamental personal objectives, values and sense of identity.

    (2) I am ignorant as to the scientific credentials of the Paleo diet. And I am not an ideological follower of this type of diet, which for some reason seems to be rather popular among libertarians. Pragmatically, however, Paleo simply works wonderfully with me. Sticking strictly to it, I become a paragon of health within weeks. I do not keep up the diet constantly, but whenever I return to a strict regime, the effect is absolutely astounding in the most positive way.

    This has convinced me of the pivotal role of a proper diet for a healthy life.

    Mind you, the food infrastructure (takeaways, snackbars, cafes, cafeterias etc.), if I may call it so, in Germany is not exactly supportive of healthy diets.

  6. Yonason (from a friend's comp)
    1. Yonason (from a friend's comp)


      “Poor sleep causes hypertension, heart disease and stroke:”

      Healthy sleep, which is determined by proper vitamin levels, some of which are supplied by the right gut microbes, seems to mitigate the damage caused by stress. I.e., it’s the poor sleep that is the weak link.

  7. tom0mason

    The other strange thing is that Japan is still a nation with many smokers. While “in the United States the “odds ratio” of lung cancer in male smokers vs non-smokers was 40.1 (in other words, male smokers were 40 times more likely to develop lung cancer than male non-smokers in the U.S.), the odds ratio in Japan was 6.3. In other words, male smokers in Japan were only 6.3 times as likely to develop lung cancer as male non-smokers.”


  8. Francis Menton

    So can you kindly enlighten us what are the “high nutrient” foods versus the “junk” foods? For example, my wife is horrified that I like to eat potato chips with a sandwich. She calls them the ultimate “junk” food. Instead, with our dinner, and as part of her special healthy diet, she will laboriously prepare roasted potatoes. The ingredients of her preparation are potatoes, oil and salt. In other words, the exact same ingredients as the chips. I’ve tried to get an explanation as to why this is supposedly healthier, but I’m still waiting.

    I’ve also looked quite hard to see if there is anything close to proof that the “Mediterranean diet” is healthier than anything else. Can’t find it.

    1. Yonason (from a friend's comp)

      Depends, IMO, on the oil. There are some really nasty ones, like cottonseed and canola (see all, 2 half pages, section 10.13), but some others aren’t good either. Otherwise, a few chips are a treat I indulge in, as well. Sometimes I make western fries (1/4 inch thick slices of Idaho potato fried in roasted almond oil) with my lamb chop. The almond oil goes great with potatoes, and is supposed to be reasonably healthy.

      1. tom0mason

        The main problem with so any vegetable oils and fats are their age. Often oils are quite old (up to a year old) when they finally hit the shop shelves, excessive refinement/treatment, and some added preservatives, ensure that they do not taste/appear ‘old’.

        Virtually any nut or seed oil when first pressed is cloudy and will not last too long. Once filtered they are good as a finished product like that, and IMO much healthier, however raw untreated oils have very limited shelf lives (~2-5 months maximum).
        IMO too much ‘processing’ happens to most big producers’ oils to keep them healthy, and there few alternative products on the market. Try finding a reliable supplier of raw, minimally processed oils.
        In the meantime I prefer the best virgin olive oil I can afford, occasionally some coconut oil, and sometime some palm oil.

        If your not a vegetarian use animal fats – render your own, a good butcher can help with the (cheap) ingredients. Rendering fat is just simple (Google is your friend here). The myth that they are unhealthy is just that — a myth.

    2. Yonason (from a friend's comp)

      @Francis Menton – RE “Mediterranean Diet”

      Begin watching at the time set thru 19:16 (punch line is at the end).

      Overall, one of the best introductory videos I’ve seen on the topic, overall.

      Also, see these posts by Pierre.


    3. C3 Editor

      I am unaware of any definitive clinical test that provides proof of the superiority of one dietary plan other another. There are any number of studies that do reveal a possible association of better health measurements with the Mediterranean diet but it remains interesting conjecture at best.

      Whether one is a vegan or a fat-slurping aficionado, there are areas of common agreement on a number of issues: best to eat natural/real foods; either eat a lot of carbs or a lot of fat but don’t follow a diet that has a lot of both; stay away from refined/processed carbohydrates – i.e. fake food; lower the Omega6 intake versus Omega3 intake – both the ratio and quantity are important.

      Regarding ‘high nutrient’ foods, a great source for information on the that subject is the blog https://optimisingnutrition.com . Spend a couple days reading the posts there and one will have a much better grasp of healthy, nutritious food.

      Finally, on the subject of potatoes, they are great sources of a wide variety of nutrition. Even when baked or boiled, they remain highly nutritious, especially if grass-fed butter is added. But when they are fried in an oil, the nutrition of a potato takes a big hit, plus the high temps in oil do create the non-desirable side byproduct known as acrylamide. Another concern for oil-fried potato chips is the high amount of omega6 that equals 2,492mg per ounce of potato chip versus 9mg per ounce for a boiled potato. (That omega6 info is from the excellent site http://www.nutritiondata.self.com)

      I absolutely love potato chips but they blast my blood sugar to another galaxy and thus rarely eat. “Dammit, Jim!”

  9. M E

    You could,if interested,look into F O D M A Ps
    Most of the Japanese and Chinese diets are on the lists of what not to eat!
    Fermented food and rice,many vegetables,fish eggs chicken pork etc.
    Many people are affected unwittingly. It is a current area of investigation for food scientists.Look up scientific sites..there are a lot of nutitional rubbish sites

  10. M E

    nutrition! Also it is not just I B S but things like food sensitivities.Those with Fibromyalgia ,a circulation problem it now seems,benefit from a low FODMAPs diet,especially.

  11. AndyG55

    CO2 give spinach more punch !!


    CO2 promotes growth of tropical diatom


    And makes better, tastier onions


    1. AndyG55

      And the really big one as far as food security is concerned


      Thing is that most plants cease to grow at CO2 levels of around 200-250 ppm aCO2

      At our current 400ppm, that is really only 150-200ppm available aCO2 for enhanced growth.

      If we could push the aCO2 up to 550ppm (as in this study), that gives 300-350ppm of available aCO2.

      No wonder the plants are so happy.

      This CO2-hatred industry/agenda has to be brought to account !!

    2. AndyG55

      “CO2 promotes growth of tropical diatom”


      How did that get in there.????

      Was meant to be about human food. !

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