Many people attribute longevity in Japan to the traditional Japanese diet. Yet even a balanced Japanese meal, full of health-enhancing elements such as taurine, magnesium and isoflavones, typically has two major flaws: too much salt and too little calcium, which can lead to stroke and osteoporosis.

“Japanese people do have long average longevity, but the problem is with their healthy life expectancy,” said Yukio Yamori, a pathology professor at Mukogawa Women’s University who has conducted extensive research on diet and health around the world. “Many people cannot live independently for the last 10 years or so of their lives.”

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