The Asian Question

      95 Comments on The Asian Question

One of the yeah-but questions I’ve received frequently in emails is “But what about the Asians?  They eat a lot more carbohydrates than we do, and they’re not all fat and diabetic!”

I usually reply that while it’s true that Asians eat more rice than most Americans, they don’t match our consumption of sodas, pasta, muffins, ice cream, pancakes, cereal and Little Debbie Snack Cakes.  Their total carbohydrate consumption may not be higher than ours, and even if it is, they don’t still consume nearly as much sugar.

I’ve tried without success to find recent statistics on what Americans eat vs. what the Japanese and Chinese eat, but perhaps those figures wouldn’t be relevant anyway.  After all, diabetes is becoming a huge problem in China, so we can no longer point to them as an example of people who eat a high-carb diet without becoming diabetic.  My guess is that as their incomes rose, they began buying more sugary foods.

I did, however, manage to find some data from the late 1990s, when the “Asians eat a lot of carbohydrates but don’t become fat or diabetic” opinion was probably more accurate.  So let’s look at what the data tells us.

According to an article in the Journal of Hypertension, here are (or were) the macronutrient intakes among men in Japan, China, the U.K. and the U.S:

Calories per day
Japan:  2278
China:  2347
UK:  2470
US:  2609

Percent calories as carbohydrates
Japan:  52.3%
China:  61.8%
UK:  46.6%
US:  48.4%

Percent calories as sugar
Japan:  15.8%
China:  7.1%
UK:  17.9%
US:  24.3%

The first thing that jumps out at me is that even in the late 1990s, American men were getting nearly one-fourth of their calories from sugar.  Yeesh.

Plugging the figures above into Excel, here’s what we get for carbohydrate and sugar consumption:

Carbohydrate grams per day
Japan:  298
China:  363
UK:  288
US:  316

As I suspected even before I ran the numbers, Japanese men do not (or did not in the late 1990s) consume more carbohydrates per day than American men.  However, Chinese men do.  So why weren’t the Chinese afflicted with diabetes in the 1990s?  Well, take a look at these figures:

Sugar grams per day
Japan:  90
China:  42
UK:  111
US:  158

In the 1990s, at least according to this study, Japanese men consumed slightly fewer carbohydrates overall than American men and significantly less sugar.  The Chinese consumed more carbohydrates overall, but only about one-fourth as much sugar as American men.

The figures for women are similar.  I won’t go through them all, but here are the numbers for carbohydrate and sugar intake:

Carbohydrate grams per day
Japan:  253
China:  295
UK:  221
US:  231

Sugar grams per day
Japan:  87
China:  39
UK:  92
US:  117

I think the message is clear:  American got itself into a big ol’ health crisis largely by consuming too much sugar.  If you’re metabolically healthy and enjoy rice, fine.  It probably won’t hurt you.  But if you want to remain metabolically healthy, stay away from sugar.


If you enjoy my posts, please consider a small donation to the Fat Head Kids GoFundMe campaign.
Share

95 thoughts on “The Asian Question

  1. Steve G

    Don’t forget that the Chinese are on average 4 inches shorter than men in the US, and they have a much lower life expectancy. So if you want to be malnourished and potentially die earlier, eat all the rice you want and leave the fat and meat for me.

    My sister-in-law read a passage from a book about Genghis Khan to me once over the phone. That passage described how his troops ate a lot of meat and were therefore taller and stronger than the rice-eaters they conquered.

    Reply
  2. Peter

    Asians may weigh less than Americans but they’re no picture of health. Over 50% of Taiwanese and South Korean men are overweight.

    I’ve also read that more “normal weight” Asians these days are of the skinny-fat body type.

    Reply
  3. Lori

    A few other facts about Japanese diets that aren’t often mentioned:

    Like most traditional diets, real Japanese food is high in nutrients (fish, pork, seaweed, natto, rice, tea, etc.) with little if any empty calories like sugar. Remember the research that Gary Taubes dug up on obesity formerly being considered a disease of malnutrition?

    Little or no dairy or wheat. Dairy spikes insulin; wheat spikes insulin and hunger.

    Japan went through a 1,200-year period of enforced pescatarianism that ended only 150 years ago. There may have been some winnowing out of the population that didn’t thrive on a high-carb diet.

    My full post from last year on the subject in case anyone’s interested:
    http://relievemypain.blogspot.com/2012/05/tips-and-traps-of-japanese-diet.html

    Good points in the post.

    Reply
  4. Beowulf

    Interesting data. I’m working through one of Dr. Lustig’s works, and sugar really does seem to have a particularly high demonic status. The body’s system for dealing with carbohydrate seems to be particularly sensitive to being derailed, especially in some people.

    One big step to health is really to get away from all the @*%# added sugars, but that seems to be near impossible for many people to manage.

    If they eat processed food, it is difficult to avoid sugar.

    Reply
  5. greensleeves

    I actually just came back from Japan’s Ishikawa province 2 weeks ago. We stayed at a ryokan, or traditional bed & breakfast that also served dinner if you asked.

    A traditional Japanese breakfast starts with soup, often cabbage or miso. Then the fried fatty fish, such as salmon or mackerel. Then a large bowl of home-made pickled veggies such as cucumber, daikon radish. A salad of another kind of marinated veggies, such as green beans or wakame seaweed. Sometimes this would include a few paper thin slices of the relatively low-carb lotus root (just 5 carbs per oz) for crunch.

    The rice was served in a side bowl for the whole table and you were given a tiny little bowl for rice, one that couldn’t hold more than 1/2 cup (which would be about 20 carbs).

    It’s rude to have seconds. At lunch, we observed most of our Japanese colleagues having sashimi with more soup, so we had the same, with unsweetened tea.

    For dinner, when we didn’t eat at the ryokan, which served more fatty fish for dinner with the same tiny bowl of rice, we went to the grill restaurant, or izakaya. There our Japanese colleagues ordered various small plates for grilled fish, grilled chicken, and a stew of pork belly, which again came with home-made pickled veggies.

    No rice was served at dinner; the Japanese custom is to finish such a dinner with a small bowl of soup filled with either buckwheat or shirataki noodles. The drinks were dry sake or tea. We never saw anyone eat a “dessert.”

    I would estimate the soup contained at most 1/3 cup noodles, for about 7 total carbs. I came away convinced that most Japanese actually eat about 100-125 total carbs a day on a traditional diet, little if any from sugar, except what small amount might be in the dipping sauces.

    A striking observation however is that fast food is all over Japan. We saw McDs, Mr. Donut, Starbucks, and various French-style pastry places. All the teens and college students were eating in these all the time, and would even walk down the street with a huge Coke in one hand and their cell phones in the other. This is new for Japan, where eating on the street and between meals was until quite recently frowned on.

    As you would expect – the middle-aged Japanese are slender. But the under 25 crowd were frankly quite plump for their height and bone structure. Not morbidly obese. But very soft & jiggly. They’ll be obese in about a decade on their Mr. Donuts.

    That’s what I keep hearing from people who’ve lived in Asia: the diet isn’t as heavy on rice as most Americans think it is.

    Reply
  6. neal matheson

    I lived in Japan for five years and like alot of people who have lived there find the Western idea of the “healthy Japanese” to be a bit different to the reality of having lived there. The baby boomers were (as in the west) in fantastic shape but in general Japanese people seemed pretty unhealthy but thin. I don’t know what Japan the author of the book was talking about but the country I went to shunned brown rice, in fact they feed it to prisoners, didn’t really walk anywhere and every supermarket a convienience store sold bread and milk. Japanese people also complained about being hungry and ate very small amounts of fruit and vegetables.

    Reply
  7. Steve G

    Don’t forget that the Chinese are on average 4 inches shorter than men in the US, and they have a much lower life expectancy. So if you want to be malnourished and potentially die earlier, eat all the rice you want and leave the fat and meat for me.

    My sister-in-law read a passage from a book about Genghis Khan to me once over the phone. That passage described how his troops ate a lot of meat and were therefore taller and stronger than the rice-eaters they conquered.

    Reply
  8. Peter

    Asians may weigh less than Americans but they’re no picture of health. Over 50% of Taiwanese and South Korean men are overweight.

    I’ve also read that more “normal weight” Asians these days are of the skinny-fat body type.

    Reply
  9. Nads

    This is my line of thinking too. That sugar causes the insulin resistance and then the carbs can’t be tolerated. I’m fine with carbs as in they don’t cause me to put on weight. There’s no way I’m going to eat sugar though, and I just don’t think carbs are that nutrient dense, most of thetie now I try to avoid them.

    Reply
  10. Lori

    A few other facts about Japanese diets that aren’t often mentioned:

    Like most traditional diets, real Japanese food is high in nutrients (fish, pork, seaweed, natto, rice, tea, etc.) with little if any empty calories like sugar. Remember the research that Gary Taubes dug up on obesity formerly being considered a disease of malnutrition?

    Little or no dairy or wheat. Dairy spikes insulin; wheat spikes insulin and hunger.

    Japan went through a 1,200-year period of enforced pescatarianism that ended only 150 years ago. There may have been some winnowing out of the population that didn’t thrive on a high-carb diet.

    My full post from last year on the subject in case anyone’s interested:
    http://relievemypain.blogspot.com/2012/05/tips-and-traps-of-japanese-diet.html

    Good points in the post.

    Reply
  11. Beowulf

    Interesting data. I’m working through one of Dr. Lustig’s works, and sugar really does seem to have a particularly high demonic status. The body’s system for dealing with carbohydrate seems to be particularly sensitive to being derailed, especially in some people.

    One big step to health is really to get away from all the @*%# added sugars, but that seems to be near impossible for many people to manage.

    If they eat processed food, it is difficult to avoid sugar.

    Reply
  12. Anna

    I’m Chinese Canadian and many of my immediate family members and myself are thin and diabetic. It is well-known that Asians have a pre-disposition to type 2, regardless of weight. Nobody has really bothered to investigate this further other than to explain it away as ‘genetic’.

    Yup, there are plenty of thin type 2 diabetics out there.

    Reply
  13. greensleeves

    I actually just came back from Japan’s Ishikawa province 2 weeks ago. We stayed at a ryokan, or traditional bed & breakfast that also served dinner if you asked.

    A traditional Japanese breakfast starts with soup, often cabbage or miso. Then the fried fatty fish, such as salmon or mackerel. Then a large bowl of home-made pickled veggies such as cucumber, daikon radish. A salad of another kind of marinated veggies, such as green beans or wakame seaweed. Sometimes this would include a few paper thin slices of the relatively low-carb lotus root (just 5 carbs per oz) for crunch.

    The rice was served in a side bowl for the whole table and you were given a tiny little bowl for rice, one that couldn’t hold more than 1/2 cup (which would be about 20 carbs).

    It’s rude to have seconds. At lunch, we observed most of our Japanese colleagues having sashimi with more soup, so we had the same, with unsweetened tea.

    For dinner, when we didn’t eat at the ryokan, which served more fatty fish for dinner with the same tiny bowl of rice, we went to the grill restaurant, or izakaya. There our Japanese colleagues ordered various small plates for grilled fish, grilled chicken, and a stew of pork belly, which again came with home-made pickled veggies.

    No rice was served at dinner; the Japanese custom is to finish such a dinner with a small bowl of soup filled with either buckwheat or shirataki noodles. The drinks were dry sake or tea. We never saw anyone eat a “dessert.”

    I would estimate the soup contained at most 1/3 cup noodles, for about 7 total carbs. I came away convinced that most Japanese actually eat about 100-125 total carbs a day on a traditional diet, little if any from sugar, except what small amount might be in the dipping sauces.

    A striking observation however is that fast food is all over Japan. We saw McDs, Mr. Donut, Starbucks, and various French-style pastry places. All the teens and college students were eating in these all the time, and would even walk down the street with a huge Coke in one hand and their cell phones in the other. This is new for Japan, where eating on the street and between meals was until quite recently frowned on.

    As you would expect – the middle-aged Japanese are slender. But the under 25 crowd were frankly quite plump for their height and bone structure. Not morbidly obese. But very soft & jiggly. They’ll be obese in about a decade on their Mr. Donuts.

    That’s what I keep hearing from people who’ve lived in Asia: the diet isn’t as heavy on rice as most Americans think it is.

    Reply
  14. neal matheson

    I lived in Japan for five years and like alot of people who have lived there find the Western idea of the “healthy Japanese” to be a bit different to the reality of having lived there. The baby boomers were (as in the west) in fantastic shape but in general Japanese people seemed pretty unhealthy but thin. I don’t know what Japan the author of the book was talking about but the country I went to shunned brown rice, in fact they feed it to prisoners, didn’t really walk anywhere and every supermarket a convienience store sold bread and milk. Japanese people also complained about being hungry and ate very small amounts of fruit and vegetables.

    Reply
  15. Nads

    This is my line of thinking too. That sugar causes the insulin resistance and then the carbs can’t be tolerated. I’m fine with carbs as in they don’t cause me to put on weight. There’s no way I’m going to eat sugar though, and I just don’t think carbs are that nutrient dense, most of thetie now I try to avoid them.

    Reply
  16. Walter Bushell

    Did I mention here recently that obesity is a defense against diabetes?Just like high cholesterol is a defense against against heart disease and other pathological conditions.

    Of course, one needs to deal with the underling causes. One could develop a medicine that would block insulin and that would certainly be effective for weight loss and how. In fact, some diabetic under dose themselves to lose weight and it really works. *Highly disrecommend*.

    That would be similar to taking statins for high cholesterol.

    Recently added to the warning labels, liver damage, cancer, memory loss, and confusion.

    Perhaps, I should stop before I get STARTED.

    Oh well statins are probably less bad for you than crystal meth.

    Sure, getting fatter is a method of sucking up the excess glucose.

    Reply
  17. Violeta

    But if you want to remain metabolically healthy, stay away from sugar.

    If there is one thing we should teach our kids about nutrition, that would be it. Great post – thank you.

    Reply
  18. Anna

    I’m Chinese Canadian and many of my immediate family members and myself are thin and diabetic. It is well-known that Asians have a pre-disposition to type 2, regardless of weight. Nobody has really bothered to investigate this further other than to explain it away as ‘genetic’.

    Yup, there are plenty of thin type 2 diabetics out there.

    Reply
  19. Tom Welsh

    The British military and naval authorities subscribed to Genghis Khan’s opinion as late as the 19th century. History books abound with remarks by generals and admirals – as well as other ranks – about how the wretched plant-eating natives have no chance in a fight against British soldiers and sailors with their diet of beef, pork, cheese, and rum. (Well, the rum may just have made them THINK they were fighting well…)

    If they were drinking rum, they probably thought they were great fighters, and good-looking blokes too.

    Reply
  20. Cyborcat

    Interesting timing with this one. I made faux-fried rice (shredded cauliflower) last night and got to thinking about this very concept.

    Great minds and all that =P

    Reply
  21. Ellen

    I work with a lady from Burma. She’s in her 50’s and a tiny little thing, not fat at all. She had been asking me recently about my weight loss since I went low carb. She just told me last week that she’s been diagnosed with diabetes. She cooks traditional but loves rice and eats a lot of it. Her doctor actually told her to reduce her rice and other carbs which was a happy surprise. It kind of makes me cringe to think back when I worked at a Japanese owned company about 10 years ago (when I was still eating SAD) and went to a co-workers house for dinner. They served traditional food, sushi and such, and I brought a sugary dessert. Hope I didn’t get them started on sugar!

    I doubt one dessert put them on a path to ruin.

    Reply
  22. Caitlin

    As an adjunct to Galina’s post, here’s a rRecent (Feb 12) article from the heart.org (registration required but a great source of info) about hidden body fat in Asians:

    http://www.theheart.org/article/1505007.do

    “Researchers showed that Japanese American women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes as whites, despite having lower body-mass indexes (BMIs).”

    Reply
  23. Walter Bushell

    Did I mention here recently that obesity is a defense against diabetes?Just like high cholesterol is a defense against against heart disease and other pathological conditions.

    Of course, one needs to deal with the underling causes. One could develop a medicine that would block insulin and that would certainly be effective for weight loss and how. In fact, some diabetic under dose themselves to lose weight and it really works. *Highly disrecommend*.

    That would be similar to taking statins for high cholesterol.

    Recently added to the warning labels, liver damage, cancer, memory loss, and confusion.

    Perhaps, I should stop before I get STARTED.

    Oh well statins are probably less bad for you than crystal meth.

    Sure, getting fatter is a method of sucking up the excess glucose.

    Reply
  24. Jason

    I tried zero carb for around five months. It definitely wasn’t for me; my metabolism ground to a halt, my hormones were screwed up, and my immune system was shot. I do much better with a few “refeeds” of around 200 grams of carbs every other day or so.

    I’ve also played around with different carb choices. One thing I’ve realized big time: 200 grams of sugar can be consumed no problem………..and you are hungry within the hour. 200 grams of rice or potatoes is a true challenge to eat. 150 grams of potatoes is equal to TEN SERVINGS of potatoes! Think about the caloric density of sugar. What would you rather eat? A large bag of Skittles or a flipping mixing bowl full of potatoes?

    I totally agree, our problem isn’t entirely with carbohydrate consumption, but the carbohydrate choices we make as well.

    Reply
  25. Violeta

    But if you want to remain metabolically healthy, stay away from sugar.

    If there is one thing we should teach our kids about nutrition, that would be it. Great post – thank you.

    Reply
  26. Tom Welsh

    The British military and naval authorities subscribed to Genghis Khan’s opinion as late as the 19th century. History books abound with remarks by generals and admirals – as well as other ranks – about how the wretched plant-eating natives have no chance in a fight against British soldiers and sailors with their diet of beef, pork, cheese, and rum. (Well, the rum may just have made them THINK they were fighting well…)

    If they were drinking rum, they probably thought they were great fighters, and good-looking blokes too.

    Reply
  27. BillP

    Then there’s the noodle shops in Japan, made famous in the great movie, Tampopo, made in the ’80’s.

    Reply
  28. Cyborcat

    Interesting timing with this one. I made faux-fried rice (shredded cauliflower) last night and got to thinking about this very concept.

    Great minds and all that =P

    Reply
  29. Ellen

    I work with a lady from Burma. She’s in her 50’s and a tiny little thing, not fat at all. She had been asking me recently about my weight loss since I went low carb. She just told me last week that she’s been diagnosed with diabetes. She cooks traditional but loves rice and eats a lot of it. Her doctor actually told her to reduce her rice and other carbs which was a happy surprise. It kind of makes me cringe to think back when I worked at a Japanese owned company about 10 years ago (when I was still eating SAD) and went to a co-workers house for dinner. They served traditional food, sushi and such, and I brought a sugary dessert. Hope I didn’t get them started on sugar!

    I doubt one dessert put them on a path to ruin.

    Reply
  30. Eric

    I have a surmise with respect to carbs, weight gain and the skinny-fat body type:
    A plausible theory of weight gain is that the liver becomes more insulin resistant than other tissues, leading to a miscalibration of the fat burning cycle.
    A plausible theory of insulin resistance is that full glycogen storage and mass insulin signaling causes cells to down regulate receptors similar to a “no vacancy” sign.
    Given that fructose is only processed by the liver, it is plausible that fructose hits the liver harder than other tissues.
    The surmise from this is that the more of your carbs come from fructose, the more likely your liver goes insulin resistant first, leading to more weight gain compared to equivalent carbs from non-fructose sources.

    Reply
  31. Caitlin

    As an adjunct to Galina’s post, here’s a rRecent (Feb 12) article from the heart.org (registration required but a great source of info) about hidden body fat in Asians:

    http://www.theheart.org/article/1505007.do

    “Researchers showed that Japanese American women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes as whites, despite having lower body-mass indexes (BMIs).”

    Reply
  32. Nowhereman

    “That’s what I keep hearing from people who’ve lived in Asia: the diet isn’t as heavy on rice as most Americans think it is.”

    I recall that a lot of this misperception of the Japanese, particularly the Okinawan diet came from diet surveys that were done in the late 1940s, giving the impression that Okinawans ate very little meat and lots of rice and soy. It turned out that the reason for this was that they were surveying these people when they were still suffering from the severe post-World War 2 shortages. The normal prewar diet was actually very much as one of the posters here described; lots of fatty fish and other seafood, along with lots of fatty pork meats with only a small amount of rice, veggies, and fermented soy on the side.

    Do you, Tom, or anyone else recall this study?

    I don’t recall that particular study, but this study suggests that among the Japanese elderly, protein and fat are associated with a longer lifespan. (Observational study, so not exactly conclusive, but interesting.)

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=AbstractPlus&list_uids=1407826&query_hl=7&itool=pubmed_docsum

    Reply
  33. commonchild2

    Another point when looking at average nutrient intake for whole nations/groups – what is the standard deviation? I bet the US has a larger standard of deviation and therefor more people on the fringes/extremes. The average sugar intake could be 24.3% of calories for the US as a whole, but the percentage could be 14.3% for a portion of the population and 34.3% for another portion of the population. Guess who is getting diabetes?

    Excellent point. The average carb intake for American men was listed at 316, but I’m sure many carb addicts are way beyond that.

    Reply
  34. Jason

    I tried zero carb for around five months. It definitely wasn’t for me; my metabolism ground to a halt, my hormones were screwed up, and my immune system was shot. I do much better with a few “refeeds” of around 200 grams of carbs every other day or so.

    I’ve also played around with different carb choices. One thing I’ve realized big time: 200 grams of sugar can be consumed no problem………..and you are hungry within the hour. 200 grams of rice or potatoes is a true challenge to eat. 150 grams of potatoes is equal to TEN SERVINGS of potatoes! Think about the caloric density of sugar. What would you rather eat? A large bag of Skittles or a flipping mixing bowl full of potatoes?

    I totally agree, our problem isn’t entirely with carbohydrate consumption, but the carbohydrate choices we make as well.

    Reply
  35. cTo

    I’ve never been to Asia, but I’ve frequented Asian grocery stores here in the US over the last 5-10 years, and while they’ve always had a lot of interesting (some might say bizarre, but not me!) sweet treats, recently it seems that “Western-ized” treats of wheat-flour pastries, wheat-flour cookies, western-style candy, and nutella have become more and more prominent, and the Asian-style treats based on sesame, red bean, young coconut, ubi, and rice-flours are being pushed more to the side.

    Not a good development for them.

    Reply
  36. Craig

    Traditional Asian diets were also much, much lower in grains than a typical U.S. diet. A lot of “safe starches” like rice and potatoes are only safe for people who never damaged their metabolisms with excess wheat and sugar.

    Reply
  37. Eric

    I have a surmise with respect to carbs, weight gain and the skinny-fat body type:
    A plausible theory of weight gain is that the liver becomes more insulin resistant than other tissues, leading to a miscalibration of the fat burning cycle.
    A plausible theory of insulin resistance is that full glycogen storage and mass insulin signaling causes cells to down regulate receptors similar to a “no vacancy” sign.
    Given that fructose is only processed by the liver, it is plausible that fructose hits the liver harder than other tissues.
    The surmise from this is that the more of your carbs come from fructose, the more likely your liver goes insulin resistant first, leading to more weight gain compared to equivalent carbs from non-fructose sources.

    Reply
  38. Nowhereman

    “That’s what I keep hearing from people who’ve lived in Asia: the diet isn’t as heavy on rice as most Americans think it is.”

    I recall that a lot of this misperception of the Japanese, particularly the Okinawan diet came from diet surveys that were done in the late 1940s, giving the impression that Okinawans ate very little meat and lots of rice and soy. It turned out that the reason for this was that they were surveying these people when they were still suffering from the severe post-World War 2 shortages. The normal prewar diet was actually very much as one of the posters here described; lots of fatty fish and other seafood, along with lots of fatty pork meats with only a small amount of rice, veggies, and fermented soy on the side.

    Do you, Tom, or anyone else recall this study?

    I don’t recall that particular study, but this study suggests that among the Japanese elderly, protein and fat are associated with a longer lifespan. (Observational study, so not exactly conclusive, but interesting.)

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=AbstractPlus&list_uids=1407826&query_hl=7&itool=pubmed_docsum

    Reply
  39. commonchild2

    Another point when looking at average nutrient intake for whole nations/groups – what is the standard deviation? I bet the US has a larger standard of deviation and therefor more people on the fringes/extremes. The average sugar intake could be 24.3% of calories for the US as a whole, but the percentage could be 14.3% for a portion of the population and 34.3% for another portion of the population. Guess who is getting diabetes?

    Excellent point. The average carb intake for American men was listed at 316, but I’m sure many carb addicts are way beyond that.

    Reply
  40. Peter

    Fascinating topic, Tom. Left Hong Kong about 30 years ago for the US and we ate traditional ‘healthy’ Chinese, loads of white rice, complex carbs, loads of green veggies, nil sweets/sugar, lean meat and tofu, and nil fat. All of us stayed lean as we aged.

    My parents, now , in their 60’s and eighties, have metabolic disorders: hypertension, gingivitis, glaucoma, high blood sugar and high triglycerides. They remain thin in weight.

    Their docs just blamed their disorders on their genes, since they adhered to the ideal SAD.

    Type 2 diabetes is becoming very common amongst Asians here and in their native countries. And worst yet, many of them believe, just like us here in the US, that dietary fat, especially saturated fat, is the the root cause.

    Telling East Asians to ditch rice and eat lard w/ green veggies to improve their health, well, is like altering their cultural and racial identity, a huge paradigm shift.

    Reply
  41. K2

    Hi Tom,

    Yeah, the Asian question was a conundrum for me. There are so many factors involved. Thanks for doing the research and the math to make it a little clearer. What you present here really does make sense.

    As for the many factors involved, a few other commenters pointed out small portion sizes for the rice. I’d say it is that way – or WAS that way – particularly in China. Yep, they are being Wal-Martized just like we have been, so they are getting more of the bad stuff and are starting to reap the consequences.

    As someone who has studied Chinese language, I’d like to share an interesting note that goes along with Asians, and Chinese in particular, being historically thin. I think it really boils down to portion size and especially food availability. In Chinese, there are “counters,” words that kind of tell you about another word. For example, a piece of paper or a wall has a counter that means a flat-surface-thing. For people, the counter is “mouth,” so when you ask someone how many people are in their family, you literally are asking how many “mouth-people” are there, or basically how many people they have to feed. Enough food has been an issue for the Chinese for a long time, so much so that it impacted the very language. It makes sense, then, that they were very lean for most of history. But now…well, with Starbucks, Coke, fast food, etc, they might have to change their “counters” to match the new reality of obesity and diseases in their culture.

    Thanks again for the always interesting and thought-provoking posts.

    K2

    They’re victims of their own success.

    Reply
  42. Marilyn

    Just remember, Yudkin said it first. Or was there someone before him? 🙂

    Try entering the two words “cancer” and “sugar” together in a google search. It’s a battleground out there. From what I’ve read, low carb might help in the fight against some cancers, but not all. It depends on the type of cancer. But I found this woman’s defense of sugar to be rather extreme. Check out the third paragraph:

    http://gboncology.com/does-sugar-cause-cancer-cells-to-grow/

    Reply
  43. cTo

    I’ve never been to Asia, but I’ve frequented Asian grocery stores here in the US over the last 5-10 years, and while they’ve always had a lot of interesting (some might say bizarre, but not me!) sweet treats, recently it seems that “Western-ized” treats of wheat-flour pastries, wheat-flour cookies, western-style candy, and nutella have become more and more prominent, and the Asian-style treats based on sesame, red bean, young coconut, ubi, and rice-flours are being pushed more to the side.

    Not a good development for them.

    Reply
  44. Craig

    Traditional Asian diets were also much, much lower in grains than a typical U.S. diet. A lot of “safe starches” like rice and potatoes are only safe for people who never damaged their metabolisms with excess wheat and sugar.

    Reply
  45. Peter

    Fascinating topic, Tom. Left Hong Kong about 30 years ago for the US and we ate traditional ‘healthy’ Chinese, loads of white rice, complex carbs, loads of green veggies, nil sweets/sugar, lean meat and tofu, and nil fat. All of us stayed lean as we aged.

    My parents, now , in their 60’s and eighties, have metabolic disorders: hypertension, gingivitis, glaucoma, high blood sugar and high triglycerides. They remain thin in weight.

    Their docs just blamed their disorders on their genes, since they adhered to the ideal SAD.

    Type 2 diabetes is becoming very common amongst Asians here and in their native countries. And worst yet, many of them believe, just like us here in the US, that dietary fat, especially saturated fat, is the the root cause.

    Telling East Asians to ditch rice and eat lard w/ green veggies to improve their health, well, is like altering their cultural and racial identity, a huge paradigm shift.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.