Purpose of review
To examine the role of two nutritional factors implicated in the healthy aging of the Okinawans: caloric restriction; and traditional foods with potential caloric restriction-mimetic properties.
Caloric restriction is a research priority for the US National Institute on Aging. However, little is known regarding health effects in humans. Some caloric restriction-related outcomes, such as cause-specific mortality and lifespan, are not practical for human clinical trials. Therefore, epidemiological data on older Okinawans, who experienced a caloric restriction-like diet for close to half their lives, are of special interest. The nutritional data support mild caloric restriction (10–15%) and high consumption of foods that may mimic the biological effects of caloric restriction, including sweet potatoes, marine-based carotenoid-rich foods, and turmeric. Phenotypic evidence is consistent with caloric restriction (including short stature, low body weight, and lean BMI), less age-related chronic disease (including cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and dementia), and longer lifespan (mean and maximum).
Both caloric restriction and traditional Okinawan functional foods with caloric restriction-mimetic properties likely had roles in the extended healthspan and lifespan of the Okinawans. More research is needed on health consequences of caloric restriction and foods with caloric restriction-mimetic properties to identify possible nutritional interventions for healthy aging.