An ancient plant that grows in Japan and that is locally known as “getto” can prolong life by a fifth and might be the secret behind the long life people in southern Japan live, researchers say.
“Okinawa has for decades enjoyed one of the longest life-expectancy rates in the world and I think the reason for this must lie in the ingredients of the traditional diet,” said Tawada, a professor of agronomy at the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa.
Tawada has been studying getto, part of the ginger family known variously as Alpinia zerumbet, pink porcelain lily or shell ginger, for the last 20 years and he is now collecting the fruits of his work.
The scientist made a recent experiment on worms and discovered that those fed on a daily diet of getto lived an average of 22.6 percent longer than the control group.
The plant has been a main ingredient in the diet of Okinawans for centuries. While they did not know the plant is rich in resveratrol, a strong anti-oxidant that can also be found in grapes, they knew however that the plant was good for them, Tawada said.
“Traditionally, Okinawans have always felt that eating muchi, a winter dish consisting of rice paste wrapped in a getto leaf, would protect us from colds and give us strength,” he said, according to the international press.
While the local traditional diet is losing ground to the fast food, women in Okinawa still live a very long time 87 years on average, one of the highest rates in Japan. But men have tumbled down the rankings and, at 79.4 years, are now 30th among the country’s 47 prefectures, and below the national average.