The Oldest Women in the World and The Role Diet Plays
It cannot be a coincidence that two of the oldest living people in the world happen to also come from countries whose diets are deemed the healthiest too.
After the passing of Japanese woman, 117 year old Nabi Tajima in April, the new title holder goes to another Japanese woman, Chiyo Yoshida, also aged 117, with 112-year-old Ekaterini Kornarou from the town of Krestena in Peloponnese, making it to third place.
What grand old ages those are, and all women, and it’s a well known fact that men die earlier than women. This BBC article lists why that is from cellular structure, height and the ‘female heart’ in menopause.
My own grandmother and namesake Vikentia, lived to be 96 despite two small heart attacks and Parkinson’s disease, her own mother and grandmother died well into their hundreds, with some noting 113 as my great-great grandmother’s age at passing!
The recipe to longevity has most certainly been a healthy diet for my own family alongside good genetics no doubt. The sunshine of Cyprus must have helped as well (hello Vitamin D) and eating a (naturally) mostly plant-based, seasonal diet bursting with fruit, veg and pulses too.
Registered Dietitian and Sports Nutritionist Laura Clark agrees,
‘There is good data to show a diet rich in olive oil, fruits, veg, legumes and unprocessed grains is linked to lower incidence of many chronic diseases including heart disease and diabetes. The benefits of a Greek style diet are not only to do with the nutrients it contains, but also the essence of cooking with ingredients from scratch and sourcing foods locally’.
She continues, ‘A traditional Greek diet would be high in fibre, monounsaturated fatty acids, vitamins C, E and phytochemicals such as antioxidants, polyphenols and carotenoids – all known for their disease fighting properties’.
The daily glass of red wine full of flavonoids also played its part. The Japanese diet is also bursting with disease-fighting nutrients from fresh sashimi and sushi with an abundance of seaweed, to tofu, rice and vegetable dishes all encompassing omega oils, potassium, iron, calcium, iodine, magnesium, B12 and beyond.
These women were not without grave stress though before you start imagining gentle lives, sipping wine in sunny climes. That was but only part of the story.
My own grandmother lost two babies in child birth and raised 5 children, and even protected her village during the political upheavals of the 60s there.
Yiayia (Grandma) Vikentia was under 5ft, as kind as can be but fearless to the core. A role model. Watching video footage and reading interviews with fellow Greek Ekaterini Kornarou reminded me of my late grandma.
She told reporters, ‘I’ve been through sad times. My husband died, my children died at a young age. Luckily, I had great in-laws. My son was in the navy, he was a brigade general. He came to Athens and bought a house. However, he died young and didn’t get to enjoy it’.
She seemed started to be one of the oldest women in the world.
The oldest woman of all time whose age had been verified, was Jeanne Calment (1875-1997) of France, who died at the age of 122 years, 164 days.
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