Diet, exercise fuel longer lives in 'longevity villages': Research

PHOTO: Diet, exercise fuel longer lives in 'longevity villages': Research

TAIWAN - While Taiwan does have "longevity villages," Taiwanese people need to exercise more and eat lighter, according to research done by a health magazine.

Taiwanese women, on average, live to 82.7 years old, and men to 76.2 years old. As "Health at 2 p.m." researched, according to the Ministry of Interior's demographic data, excluding the areas with abundant medical resources, there exist six townships with populations of over ten thousand people in Taiwan where many elders have reached age 90 and above: Jinhu Township and Jinning Township in Kinmen County, Shuangxi District in New Taipei City, Shihtan Township in Maioli County, Jiangjyun District in Tainan, and Fonglin Township in Hualien County.

The six townships share the common quality of being in rural areas, less polluted and less busy. Elders from these townships are physically active, with some still farming and growing food for themselves. Instead of consuming processed foods, they eat the yam, seasonal vegetables and fruits that they grew.

Taking the healthy elders as example, the health magazine urged those who aim to live a long life change up their habits.

A survey about people's living habits showed that 34 per cent of Taiwanese people do not exercise enough, more than 50 per cent eat out for both breakfast and lunch, and over 30 per cent are in sleep debt, while about 41 per cent have experienced insomnia in the past month.

Chen Liang-gong, head of the Taipei Veterans General Hospital Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology, pointed out that the Taiwanese population is rapidly aging. Staying active and keeping balanced diets are the keys to maintaining one's health, Chen said, yet a great percentage of the Taiwanese population do not exercise enough, with 9 per cent of those interviewed admitting to not exercising at all.

Women who maintain their weight by keeping vegetable-oriented diets should be aware of the fact that without enough vitamins from red meats, in combination with not exercising enough, obesity often follows the onset of menopause.

Genetics also plays a key role in aging. According to Chen, a gene called "Cisd2" was discovered to be related to longevity: if Cisd2 was enhanced, mice's longevity could be increased by as much as 20 per cent. Research has recently begun to monitor the gene's effect in humans, hoping to uncover the secret of aging in homo sapiens, Chen added.