Willcox advocated this approach — indeed, the Okinawan dinner time mantra, hara hachi bu, means “eat until you are 8/10s full” — but Mather is more sceptical.
“If you are a mouse, it’s good news,” he says. “If you are a human there is really no good evidence about dietary restriction.”
In potentially encouraging news for gluttons, he points out that recent large-scale tests on rhesus monkeys have given conflicting results on CR: those at the US’ National Institute on Ageing were healthier, but lived no longer on a CR diet, while those at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center saw a survival rate improvement of 30 percent. CR societies, meanwhile, point out that keeping monkeys in cages is unlikely to tell us anything about human longevity.
So, what have the Guinness World Records’ oldest people eaten? Kimura recommended porridge, miso soup and vegetables. His motto “eat light to live long” certainly chimes with CR thinking. His successor as oldest person in the world, 115-year-old Misao Okawa, reportedly celebrated her new title with her favorite dish of mackerel sushi.
The oldest person ever to have lived, Frenchwoman Jeanne Calment, who died in 1997, aged 122, was a noted chocoholic who doused her dinner in olive oil and drank red wine daily. The man the Russians once claimed as their oldest, sawmill worker Magomed Labazanov, who died last year, aged an undocumented 122, recommended wild garlic. Britain’s oldest person, 113-year-old Grace Jones of Bermondsey, southeast London, is quoted as preferring “good, English food, never anything frozen” and enjoys a glass of sherry with friends from time to time.
And Britain’s oldest man, 109-year-old Ralph Tarrant smoked until he was 70 and likes a whisky. For the record, his favorite meal is cottage pie.
I knew that there had to be a silver bullet somewhere.
Tokyo’s traditional diet
By Justin McCurry
Michiko Ono and Masaru Nishimori are both in their 80s, have never suffered a serious illness and deal with the Japanese capital’s city heat better than their interviewer.
In the Sugamo district of northern Tokyo the capital’s older people — today braving 30°C heat and energy-sapping humidity — come to shop, eat and pray for even longer lives.
The object of their desire is Sugamo’s famed shio daifuku. The heavy, glutinous patties of pounded rice containing salted, rather than the usual sweetened, bean paste are the perfect accompaniment to an afternoon cup of green tea. The sweets are perhaps the one guilty pleasure that elderly shoppers here will own up to in a diet that is otherwise faultless in its simplicity, not to mention its commendable lack of transfats and refined sugar.
Diet is part of the reason for Japan’s impressive longevity, exemplified by Jiroemon Kimura, the world’s oldest person until his death two weeks ago at the age of 116.
For Michiko Ono, an 82-year-old from Tokyo, accompanying her daughter on a shopping expedition, the day begins with an unusually carbohydrate-heavy meal of white rice with a raw egg cracked into it, an unbuttered bread roll and the first of several cups of green tea.
The Japanese originally drank green tea, or ocha, for strictly medicinal purposes, convinced that it lowered blood pressure, aided digestion and prevented certain cancers. Green tea consumption is in decline among younger Japanese, but the drink still looms large in the diet of their grandparents and great-grandparents.