The Japanese junk food champs
Posted by ampontan on Thursday, December 30, 2010
THE UN still cites the Japanese as having the world’s longest life expectancy from birth at 82.6 years for everyone, and 86.1 years for females. The CIA World Factbook offers similar figures, but ranks the country third behind the mini-states of Macau and Andorra.
A Japanese doctor once told me that if I wanted a long life, I should follow the dietary habits of Japanese women 50 years ago—in other words, chow down on fish, rice, and soy-based products. That diet is one of the keys to Okinawan longevity, which for years was the highest in Japan, until the younger Okinawans started eating like Westerners. (There’s more information on the Okinawan Centenarian Study here.)
Not all Japanese are interested in healthful diets, of course. Those who might have wondered who in Japan has the worst dietary habits now have an answer—the residents of Oita City, Oita, on the southern island of Kyushu. Oitans are known as the national leader in the consumption of chicken and dried shiitake mushrooms, but a recent Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications survey reveals they are also tops nationwide in junk food consumption.
The ministry’s survey, which covered all the prefectural capitals and 49 other major cities, showed that Oita City led the nation in purchases of purin (a commercially prepared custard pudding), packaged snacks, and chocolates. They also ranked second nationwide in purchases of instant noodles of all types and third in hamburger consumption. Meanwhile, they were at the bottom of the table by a substantial margin in purchases of spinach and other fresh vegetables.
By the numbers: The amount of money spent in Oita City annually by households with two or more members on purin totaled JPY 2,240 yen, or roughly $US 27.27 (JPY 1,788 nationwide) JPY 5,816 (JPY 3,819) for snacks, and JPY 1,552 (JPY 1,058) for chocolates. They’ve led the nation in snack and chocolate purchases for two years running.
The ministry said these proclivities had a greater impact on men than on women. A 2008 government white paper found that 34.1% of the men aged 20 to 69 in Oita City were overweight, compared to 29.3% nationwide. A total of 14.19% of 12 year olds in the city were classified as junior porkers, compared to a national percentage of 12.41%.
The women of Oita City came off slightly better—27.7% of females aged 40 to 69 were overweight, compared to 26.6% nationwide. They ranked dead last, however, among all Japanese women in the consumption of vegetables.
To probe even further, three year olds in Oita Prefecture have an average of 2.03 cavity-infected teeth compared to 1.16 nationwide, ranking it among the worst three prefectures in the country. The news is even more painful for the local 12 year olds—they average 2.7 cavities against 1.6 nationwide, placing them next to the worst in Japan.
The ministry reports that 19,052 people in the city received annual physical checkups through work, etc., and of these, 3,334 were warned about the possibility of developing metabolic syndrome. That’s a bit more than 17% of those studied, compared to estimates of 20% to 25% in the United States. Those estimates also probably apply to Great Britain and Australia, as the problem is said to be just as severe in those countries.
At least the folks of Oita City can take consolation that their junk food jones doesn’t include deep fried candy bars, which has become a popular snack at fish and chip shops in Scotland. According to the Scottish government, almost two-thirds of their men (66.4%) and more than half of the women (59.6%) were overweight in 2008.
Maybe if they exported purin to Scotland it could help wean them off the hard stuff!
American health and fitness guru Jack LaLanne, still going strong at age 96, once said that the only part of a doughnut worth eating was the hole.
He could have said the same about jelly roll, too.
This entry was posted on Thursday, December 30, 2010 at 3:09 pm and is filed under Food, Popular culture, Social trends. Tagged: Japan, Oita, Okinawa. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.