We are used to thinking of the Japanese as uniquely healthy and long lived. What isn’t generally realised and I certainly had not realised, is that their longevity is relatively recent. In 1970, their mortality on an age-adjusted basis was the average for the entire OECD area. So what has made the difference?

In a study from the University of Copenhagen, as well as work by the FAO quoted at length by The Economist magazine, the Danish research makes the convincing case that what has made the difference is the increased consumption of meat and dairy products by the Japanese population since 1970. In addition, several studies have identified that a vegetarian diet makes a population more prone to strokes.