Why are Asian Rice Eaters Thin?

Thin Rice Eater

It’s a common question. If carbs can make you fat, why were some populations (e.g. Japanese people) thin while eating a high carb diet?

Dr Peter Attia has written a nice post on this: The War on Insulin: How do some cultures stay lean while still consuming high amounts of carbohydrates?

I basically agree with his ideas, although I think there is a few more answers to this question: 

The three big reasons

Here are the main reasons why I think populations could stay thin on high carb diets:

  1. Low to insignificant consumption of refined sugar (fructose). This may stop insulin resistance from developing.
  2. Eating mainly unrefined starch (e.g. brown rice, root vegetables) that is slow to digest, due to high fiber content etc.
  3. Traditionally more physical activity then sedentary western population. Compare a Japanese rice farmer (in the field all day) to an American office worker with a car. If you burn more glucose (via physical activity) then less insulin is needed when you eat carbs.

If you avoid sugar (fructose) and refined high GI starch and stay physically active you can probably stay thin and healthy on a high percentage of carbs. Lots of populations have done so.

Three more factors

  1. Poverty: These traditionally thin populations were on average fairly poor by todays standards, meaning perhaps they could not always afford all the food they would like to eat.
  2. Food reward / addiction. This may be controversial but I think there is a point to all this food reward talk that’s been going on in the blogosphere. Our processed junk food and candy is carefully designed to artificially make it taste great and be addictive. It also contains a lot of sugar and starch. It’s like cigarettes: The nicotine makes people addicted, thus they smoke a lot and the smoke gives them cancer. Fast food and candy is also addictive, thus people eat more of it and the sugar / starch overdose makes them fat.
  3. Genetic makeup. Asians do not look like Caucasians or Africans. They have (on average) way less musculature, they have a thinner build. This means that comparisons between the weight of Americans / Europeans and Asians using BMI is misleading, it exaggerates the difference. Asians are often “skinny fat” or even get diabetes at BMI levels that are considered normal for Caucasians (e.g BMI 24).

What do you say?

What do you think about this common question and the possible explanations?

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295 Comments

Top Comments

  1. Lustig can't be wrong because his is all over the place. He's as ubiquitous as Alec Baldwin so at some time he's said everything. "I am not against sugar" but it is a toxin. "I am not opposed to low-carb diets" but he would never use them because patients can't stay on them, never mind that the data show that they have better adherence than others. The problem with Lustig is that he has given up on scientific method and scientific rigor. His indictment of sugar is analogous to banning Hondas because the increase in traffic jams correlates with the increase in Hondas.

    From my perspective, he is making a parody of teaching biochemistry which is my job. A metabolic map is like any map. It tells you where you can go but it doesn't show you the traffic lights or the road construction. Also, what's missing from Lustig's compelling talks is data. The studies that support sugar as toxic are done at a total carbohydrate of 55 %. Under those conditions adding fructose is clearly worse than adding glucose, but is that what we want to know. Science is about the facts and understanding so, in some sense, there are no credentials but Lustig is simply not acting like a biochemist although he wants to take credit for being one. We could be wrong in our methods but he is definitely not a biochemist. The reason real biochemists don't like to jump in here is because we are reluctant to make sweeping statements. But we have some data and as far as we know, the effect of replacing fructose with glucose even under the conditions that he cites, is generally not as great as replacing any carbohydrate with any kind of fat.

    The bottom line from a therapeutic perspective is that the mass of data clearly shows that for diabetes and metabolic syndrome and obesity, dietary carbohydrate restriction is the best bet -- if it doesn't work, thou can try something else. If you want to take sugar out of the diet, even just sugared soda as a strategy for reducing total carbohydrate, that may be very effective for obesity. For diabetes, it may be better to reduce starch depending on the individual case and conditions. What's scary about Lustig is that he is on the American Heart Association panels, the group who have gone out of their way to attack low carb diets and to distort the scientific data.

    In term of the original thread on Asian diets, it is obvious that we don't know enough to make any clear statements although all the comments touch on relevant stuff. Overall, what we know is less than what we don't know but if you give up on scientific method, you've got nothing.

    Read more →
  2. Dear Laura
    I am a Professor of Biochemistry but we all have a lot to learn.

    1. The concept of tortuous metabolic pathway is not in the biochemical texts. Both fructose and glucose proceed through separate pathways of glycolysis but converge at the level of the triose-phosphtates so, at that point, they are essentially the same. The difference in metabolism has to do with the relative rates of the different enzymes and depends on a large number of factors. Ethanol does not proceed through this path except possibly under some unusual conditions. Ethanol is oxidized ultimately to acetyl-CoA and goes into the TCA cycle.

    2. Reading your comment, though, it hit me that this process is not called detoxification. In fact, the metabolism of alcohol through the dehydrogenates to acetyl-CoA is not called detoxification either. Detoxification of alcohol usually refers to the process at high alcohol ingestion where alcohol is less like a food than like a drug. In this case, it is not oxidized through the normal pathway but rather through the cytochrome P450 system which is completely different from normal metabolism and is considered detoxification but I don't think that fructose ever enters this system.

    3. On the specific point you raise though, glucose is the major source of protein glycosylation. This is because, although fructose exists to a greater degree in the open (free aldehyde) form, there is much less fructose in the blood. First, there is more glucose altogether but, remember, your body maintains blood glucose while it clears fructose. I challenged Lustig on this once and he did have an example where fructose was more important than glucose but this is rare.

    That's some of the biochemistry that I do have although I admit that I could use more.
    RDF
    (i answered this in email so forgive possible duplication)

    Read more →
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All Comments

  1. kyle
    Are you suggesting that Japan has no rice production? Hm.
    http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2012/01/01/national/rice-farmers-res...
  2. Ogan
    This is a really interesting topic, i've thought about it myself quite a few times. In my opinion, it's just that we generally overestimate the amount of rice asian people eat. I'm Spanish, but I have many asian friends, I remember going out for dinner with them to asian restaurants (chinese and thai) where traditional food was served, I always thought that we were going to get a free bowl of rice for each (just like you get free bread at spanish restaurants), but that was not the case, You always had to order and pay for it.
    In the end, whenever i've dined out in this sort of restaurants, the food was remarkably low in carbs and high in protein and in fat, very much like a low carb diet.
    Whenever I ate at home with them, I was the one that gorged on rice, while they ate just moderate amounts of it.
    I think we mostly overestimate the amount of rice they eat.

    When I compare what my asian pals ate with the way we eat in Spain, the differences in carb consumption are shocking. While you had to order, and pay, for extra rice, in Spain you get unlimited amount of white bread with your food. On the other hand, a lot of spanish dishes have either cereal, potatoes or pulses as their main ingredient, while asian dishes are often built around vegetables and meats.

    Reply: #256
  3. Ogan
    I've just realized that there is another thing that has always shocked me about asian cooking, it might seem trivial, but i think it probably has a bigger impact than we think.

    It's just that proper woks DO NOT have a non stick teflon layer, they are often made of pure stainless steel, they use long spoon like utensils to prevent food from sticking to the bottom. On the other hand, woks are usually sold as being capable of cooking with less fat, which is just FALSE, most of the things made in a wok, in a traditional one, in a traditional way are literally BATHING IN FAT/OIL.

    I do all my lowcarb cooking on heavy bottom pans WITHOUT non stick treatment. It totally changes the way you cook, as you definitely need more fat for things not to stick to the bottom... and things just taste better.

    Reply: #254
  4. Glen0
    I think you are spot on and found myself nodding all the way through both your comments. It is just a false belief that many westerners have that Asians eat mainly rice.
    Reply: #257
  5. Galina L.
    @Ogan,
    Traditional cooking in any country doesn't include the use of a Teflon cookware. I am sure the non-stick cookware is the result of a recent fear of fat and oils, and has a mass appeal because doesn't require any skills. There is a catch - it gradually stops being non-stick with even careful use, you have to buy another pan, which is very good for a business.. The traditional non-stick cooking surfaces are cast iron and carbon steel (thick cast aluminum is not bad at all, but some people unreasonably believe that using it may cause Alzheimer), which work only if you cook with a liberal amount of oil - you have to have some skills to use and care for it, it could rust, and the user makes it nonstick by applying special technics or just by using , not a manufacturer. Cast iron woks are highly praised, and a lot of Oriental restaurants use it because no other material provides such perfect heat distribution and could stand being heated to a very high temperature. There are very high quality cast iron skillets still being produced in Japan according to centuries-long traditions, there is a decent line of modern cast-iron cooking ware in Sweden. I fall in love with american heirloom cast iron pans (Wagner and Griswold) and skillets after I discovered its existence.I am not an American. Modern American cast irons are inferior - the surface is too rough , too heavy, while antique cast iron is smooth and polished inside, much lighter, and not expensive at all when bought from internet, especially considering it would last you a life time. http://www.richsoil.com/cast-iron.jsp However, for acid foods (like anything with tomatoes) I use stainless still with copper bottom or enameled cast iron.
    Reply: #258
  6. HeatherTwist
    I mostly eat Asian-style these days, using Asian recipes. What I have noticed is that my appetite plummeted, and the more so the more authentic the recipe is. We tend to get sort of simplistic about "carbs" vs "fat" vs "protein" ... cooking styles and type of macronutrient are very important.

    The traditional recipes tend to be low-uric-acid foods, for starters ... very little beef. Lots of eggs and fish, both of which usually lower uric acid. Very little fructose ... wheat contains a fair bit of fructans, where rice does not. Low amounts of iron ... a properly seasoned wok does not stick and does not require a lot of oil. Asian ingredients tend to be high in anti-angiogenesis factors, which also seem to fight obesity (tea is a big one, for instance).

    As for rice ... richer people may eat less of it, but they do eat plenty of rice! To get an idea you should try reading the book "What we eat". What they do not have so much of is sugar ... the traditional "sweet" is rice syrup, which is mainly dextrose (no fructose).

    Right now on my "low uric acid" diet I've lost 50 lbs or so. I eat about equal amounts of rice and vegies,with some fish and eggs, and the occasional dessert, using dextrose for the sweetener. I love my food way more than I used to, and feel better ... but eat a lot less.

  7. HeatherTwist
    I'd challenge you to look at some real Asian foods from real families (not from restaurants). This is a typical Chinese/Philippine/Thai dish: rice noodles!

    http://youtu.be/XDmw3Z0t0X4

    I mean, these are amazingly tasty and I have them often! Note that the chef says the main foods of China are congee, rice, and rice noodles! Also note that he only uses 2 tsp. of oil in the whole plate of noodles, and only a scant amount of protein (2 eggs and some crab roe). Also note that the chef is nicely proportioned and full of energy.

    Now, then go look at the old ladies making pasta in Italy: http://youtu.be/DesqTlZfB2s .

    Lots of differences between Chinese noodles and Italian Orecchiette ... the Italian dish is wheat based, for starters, has loads of olive oil and cheese and probably beef. But both are decidedly starch-based.

  8. ogan
    Hey Galina L. Thanks for your comment. I totally agree with you about non stick pans being just good for business and just requiring a lot less skill from the user.
    I'm now looking at buying a good cast iron skillet and a good dutch oven (after a whole year living in the US). You can add a lot of new flavors to low carb diets just by using differents methods of cooking.
    And thanks for the link about cast iron skillets, i had read an article about pan dressing in a magazine, but it was not as comprehensive as this one.
  9. Galina L.
    @Ogan,
    People go totally nuts when they discuss cast iron on internet on Chow discussion boards and in comments to the Sheryl Canter articles. I am glad you found my link useful. I think the most important thing to ask specifically from a seller on eBay - "does it sit flat", or even "does it sit flat when heated", if your stove top is a smooth ceramic one.The most useful size is 7 or 8. It looks like for me it is easier to bring skillet to a minimally fit state to start cooking and start cooking than to carefully bake several layers of polymerized oil. Just at the beginning avoid foods which release juices and don't close your skillet with a lid during cooking, if the surface became compromised, heat your skillett up ,put a very thin layer of oil and let it cool , repeat couple times. it takes 2 weeks of everyday use to make your skillet perfect.
  10. Alia
    Farmer? Seriously? Let me break it down to you guys. I am Malaysian "Malay", 5'7, 54 kgs. I eat only white rice, never brown (tastes weird), I eat 3 big meals a day and they all include white rice. My plate consists of some sorta protein be it chicken or fish, gravy or soup and lots and lots of chilli aand raw vegetables. My body fat percentage is 16% and I exercise wice a week. I have never switched to any particular diet, it has been yhe same since I was a kid. Green tea without sugar and lots of water. And most of us eat the same things, same way.

    Ps: i have never gained weight, been the same and I have abs. So Im not sure why people fuss about white rice so much.

  11. Eunice
    Is wild rice considered a grain or a grass?
    If a grass, is it okay t eat on the LCHF diet?
  12. Zepp
    Grains are concidered grass seeds!

    Sure.. eat a few seeds a day.. cant be any problems.. its when it comes a big part of your food its become a problem!

    "Wild rice (also called Canada rice, Indian rice, and water oats) are four species of grasses forming the genus Zizania, and the grain which can be harvested from them."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_rice

  13. MC
    I lived in Taiwan. It is very simple. The reason is that:

    1. 90% of American food is genetically modified and our diet is comprised mostly of processed foods. Try eating what what the diet is listed below and you too will be lean.

    2. Asians eat a more simplified diet. Little to no dairy. Litlle to no grains other than rice. Fruit and vegetables, rice, protein. No snacking, little alcohol and desserts.

    Reply: #264
  14. Wade Henderson
    Oh dear, you won't get agreement by pointing out the reality in Taiwan.

    No sir, despite the real world situation that anyone can find on the ground, there will be no admitting that eating lots of rice will result in anything other than problems.

    Like you, I spent years in Asia. I saw first hand what the people eat, but if you try to speak about that direct observation the naysayers will throw out facts to counter what was directly in front of your face day after day.

    Some fact or some study or some theory will dispute what you saw in person.
    Or you'll be told that its all changing in Asia and they don't really eat that way anymore, so ignore how they were eating and still eat in many areas.

  15. Soti
    if you think that asian people eat brown rice then not only you haven't had any contact with the asian culture, but haven't done any research at all. so not only you are ignorant but also dangerous to people that look for proper information.
  16. Brian
  17. Kim
    In my country Indonesia, fat people or even overweight people seems to be increasing. I think part of this reason is we love sugary food (unfortunately we use refined sugar today).
    Our rice is polished to be perfect white, and lose the fibre + mineral from epidermis of grain.
    Forgot to mention most of Indonesian seems to love instant noodle from wheat without any fiber.
  18. Amy
    In response to the "ASIAN" question, my family has a natural experiment. My husband is Asian and I am Scandinavian. After 25 years of eating together, I can say that my husband eats a ton more calories than I do, although he is smaller build, and shorter than me. We share the exact same foods, although he goes out to eat on business trips often, and eats out for lunch every day at the food trucks at work. He is skinny as a teenager, and I am overweight. We exercise about the same, which is not much.The Asians NEVER EVER eat brown rice. I sneak it into dinner and they refuse it. My father in law is even skinnier, and he eats more than my teenaged son. The Asians eat FAT FAT FAT actual chunks of stewed pork fat. It makes me sick just thinking about it, but I always give husband the fat off of my meats. He loves it. Most Asians that I know love the fat off of meat, unless they are Buddhist. The main difference between his diet and mine is that I eat much less rice than he does. I also eat less meat. I eat more salad, yogurt, and tofu. So I think maybe eating lots of fat, meat, and rice must be good for the heath of Asian people. Maybe not for white people! Either that or people should eat mostly the diet that they evolved to eat. Maybe I need to eat just sardines, kavli, and yogurt, since that is what my ancestors ate, no wheat, no rice, no vegetables at all. I suspect we will find that different races have different diets that work for them. Like why do the PIMA Indians in the US all get diabetes? It must be the genetics. But as I sit here and do not burn any calories, I have to brag that in the event of a great famine, I would be the genetic group that survives with no food for the longest. Probably the long winters in Scandinavia caused this trait to develop.
  19. Jan
    Very good point made. Which food suits us depends on how we evolved as an ethnic group.
    If our forefathers survived long famine periods, then we have it in our genes to store fat.
    Our metabolism becomes slow to ensure survival. This is actually good. This is exactly what
    Dr.furman says. So some of us need to eat what our traditional food is and in less quantities.
    To be slim. We are confused with too many advises which ar totally contradicting. Some
    Say only meat and veges, no grains ot legumes or dairy. Soe say only grains ,veges,legumes and fruits and so on. The best thing is to follow the diet of our great grand parents in the
    Quantity just sufficient to fullfill our needs. This post was spot on. Thank you.
  20. cimarro
    i am asian, and i agree with the term skinny fat. most malaysians are not eating enough protein. 2 pieces of chicken breasts are too high protein for them
  21. Scott England
    most asians dont own cars, they ride bikes and walk. virtually all americans have a destructive auto addiction that causes obesity. this is simple. boy you americans are dumb!
  22. Meowlicious
    I also believe that it has a lot to do with genetics. I was born and raised in BC. Before pregnancy I was 102 lbs at 5 foot 2.
    My son is now 2 years old and I am now 104 lbs. I haven't exercised since I am the lone care taker of my son who is a momma's boy. I am a bit flabbier around the waist now. But I really think cutting out refined sugars helped. We eat rice everyday for dinner and lunch. For breakfast we have toast, bacon, sausages, hashbrowns and eggs. We don't eat a lot of beef, nor pastries.
    Don't use refined sugar, nor aspartame. Try using stevia, a natural no calorie sugar!
  23. ali
    when an article, or even worse a nutritionist refers to white rice as "refined" i tend to dismiss the whole article or whatever they are trying to say, it's kind of a flag that they have no idea what they are talking about! "white rice" is just rice ("brown rice") that has been physically shaken out of its shell! although, the shell contains a bit amount of Vitamin A so the only difference between white rice and brown rice, as far as it concerns a nutritionist, is that white rice has less vitamin A compare to brown rice! thats it!
  24. Whitney Chao
    I love these confused people here LOL. A diet high in starch, low in fat and protein always keeps people trim. De novo lipogenesis is an uncommon occurance in humans. It's not rocket science, high carb low fat diets are seen throughout history by great civilizations. Check out Dr Mcdougall and you'll see why Americans are fat and rice eating Asians are skinny.
  25. Really ?
    Scott England,

    Most asian don't own cars? Really? Which hole have you been hibernating?

  26. Really ?
    I am asian and I live in USA.

    What contributes to weight gain - sugar the main culprit and fat.

    Asian diet is low in sugar, we hardly eat dessert. We don't bake cakes, cookies, no butter, no coffee with cream or pancakes with ice cream. People don't realize how detrimental the dollop of cream is to the waist line.

    A lot of us cook at home and the food is healthy, we use less oil and definitely NO MSG.

    However, the problem is Asians are generally skinny fat because they don't lift omg. Some do (like me) but a lot don't!!! Don't even bother introducing weight lifting to the female, they'll cringe and say you are crazy.

  27. Really ?
    I'd also like to add there is no added fat in the rice (carbohydrate) we consume. Americans tend to add tons of butter in mashed potato, sandwiches bread, lots of olive oil in oven roasted potatoes etc. While olive is good for you however the real problem here is total calories.

    So even though majority of asians eat white rice on a daily basis, it doesn't contribute to obesity or any type of health concern.

    Source -
    I am an asian female fitness model. I grew up in Asia and have been living in United States for many years.

    And Scott England....most asian families in South East Asia (where I come from) own 3 cars per family. We are not farmers!!!!

  28. Really ?
    Sorry for multiple postings. I feel the need to further elaborate my point here.

    We generally eat rice without fat but an occasional fried rice or noodle does NOT contribute to weight gain.

  29. Really ?
    Bottom line - very often it all boils down to HOW you prepare the food.

    Remember that Oil is oil is oil... if you pour oil in salad without knowing how much you have just poured prepare to have problem with weight loss. If you decide to binge on unhealthy junk food you will never lose weight. If you think rice is bad, in all honesty it doesn't really make you fat. Proportion control is key. It's like eating bread and pasta.

    Do yourself a favor today and cut down sugar you will see amazing result.

  30. Jas
    Hi guys. Wow, lots of misconceptions in the article itself and the comments!

    1) Low consumption of sugar: This is so not true. I'm Chinese, and live in Hk. Frequent deserts that are super popular includes egg tart. It's this custardy-egg mixture with tons of sugar in a flaky tart. Or there's 'dragon's beard candy' which is literally spun sugar, with cocunut pieces and peanuts. Kinda like cotton candy. And mooncakes, steamed thousand layer cake, liquid egg custard buns. They're all make with refined sugar now and we locals eat them almost daily.

    2) Eating mainly unrefined starch: Again, not true. Have you eaten at a traditional japanese restaurant that makes sushi with brown rice? Of course not, because we Asians never eat brown rice! We do eat roots (carrots, lotus root, radish mostly) but usually we eat green vegetables like choi sum, bak choi and cabbage. Chinese people cook in all ways, and we do deep fry a lot in pig oil.

    3) Traditionally more physical actvity then Westerners: Your comparison between Japanese farmers and American Office worker made me cringe. Not all Japanese are farmers and not all Amercians are office workers. Look at Tokyo, the capital city of Japan and its most prosperous and famous. How many farmers do you think can work in a metropolitan city? Most likely they are office workers instead, and they are the thin, skinny people that are shown in magazines and tv shows. If we are going to talk about tradition, this makes more sense: Traditionally, the Japanese didn't eat meat. Yeah, Kobe beef and all that, but the practice of eating meat was brought by the Europeans when Japan reopened to the world. The Japanese enjoys eating meat, but to them it is less important as fish.

    4. Poverty: Ha. Let's go back to my city, Hong Kong. It's one of the largest financial center of Asia, with a large middle class in this society. Also, this is where the 'east meets west', so we have food that comes from all around the world. Easy. If you don't believe me, google the name of a country, with 'food' and 'HK'. 10/10 chance there would be a list of restaurants in the results. And it's kinda cheap, as well. For USD 50 dollars we can eat any type of cruisine.
    Then we have the people that really are in poverty, who lives with less than 1.25 USD per day. The ones living in slums. The ones we has no flesh and we can see bones poking out of their skin, the ones that look like skeletons. That IS NOT THIN.

    Food reward: I agree on this. In our traditional society, we have to obey our parents! If we don't do it, they punish us instead of enticing us with rewards as we believe it breeds a sense of entitlement.

    Genetic makeup: Again, I agree. The BMI says that I'm underweight, but not really; I just have less muscle amount and more fat. Of couse, we do lots of exercise and don't eat a lot as well ever since we hit puberty.

    Reply: #285
  31. Sarah
    oh! we are not thin... not anymore... not those of us who do not have to do physical labour... Even if we look thin, many of the high carb eaters have excess belly fat and most of us have a host of problems like insulin resistance, high BP, cholesterol, etc.. Though there are still a few amongst us who stay stick thin inspite of no physical activity and eating large amounts of carbs... But most of us are getting fatter.... I'm from the South Asian country of India, by the way
  32. Tsadi
    East Asians have a high rate of a genetic trait which allows them to process carbohydrates in a way that prevents them from experiencing the negative effects which all or essentially all members of all other races do.
  33. Leonie
    Hi everyone, I have a question. I'm about to go to Indonesia for four weeks this summer. Can someone tell me if it's possible to stick with the lchf lifestyle?
  34. Don Largo
    I am sick and tired of this nonsense about the Japanese not eating sugar. The fact is that the Japanese diet is full of sugar. All those great vegetables--soaked in sugar; all that healthy fish--soaked in sugar; sushi-soaked in sugar. Pasta, tomato-sauce, etc.--soaked in sugar. There is so much sugar (a lot of it in the form of what appears to be HFCS) that you get fat when you come to Japan. If you watch a cooking program or see someone actually cooking, the holy trinity of cooking in Japan is: shouyu, mirin, and sugar.

    Modern Japanese generally have a terrible diet. At offices all of the country you will find people who purchase cartons of instant ramen which they will take out one at a time to have for lunch--mainly because it is cheap and a penny-pincher is considered wise. In the evening, it is off to the Izakaya pubs to snack and to suck down carbs in the form of lousy beer.

    Some will argue that the Japan diet in the past was healthy, and there is some argument for this--depending on your definition of healthy. People in Japan today eat much much more protein than before. Nutrition programs are in place in the schools and as prenatal care to see to this and to develop different eating habits than before. The results are obvious inasmuch as younger generation Japanese are taller and stronger than previous generations. It should be mentioned that there is visibly more obesity in Japan today.

    During the war, many Japanese did not have much to eat. In some parts of Japan, people's diet consisted almost solely of satsumaimo (sweet potatoe) which would be pure carbohydrate, and they were thin. Their offspring ate almost nothing but fish--and they were thin. Today they eat cup-o-noodle (UFO being the brand of choice for price) and beer--carbohydrate and who knows what (cup-o-noodle, you know) and they are still thinner than their western counterparts. And why? I would suppose it is either genetics (as Taube suggests) or failure to thrive under malnutrition (my own little pet theory which has no scientific basis whatsoever).

    My own experience in coming and going from Japan is that I invariably get fat while in Japan and start to slim down upon leaving. These days, I never eat out, and I don't buy prepared products. I have learned to read labels with very fine print in Kanji to avoid nasties like HFCS, and the result is that I am beginning to slim down again.

    Either way, please stop perpetuating the myth of the happy, healthy Japanese or their equally mythical spirituality.

  35. Don Largo
    Yes, quite right. Especially girls in Japan have traditionally been allergic to exercise, perhaps fearing that they will lose even more distinction between the sexes. Only recently, girls are out playing sports, soccer and tennis being particularly popular. Oh, and another sport which has apparently taken Japan by storm is cycling. Everybody and their mother is now on a bike--real bikes, not the Chinese 200-pounders with the squealing breaks which deafen. Cycling is probably the single best form of exercise or at least finds itself tied with swimming.

    The strange thing about Japanese women, as noticed by my wife, is that they are strangely spongy to the touch--apparently somewhat disconcerting. In other words, they may look thin, but they feel fat.

  36. Mary
    And I've also noticed that western serving portions are bigger compared to asian counterpart. Say a large fizzy drink in Asia is equivalent to a kids size. Or one plate of dinner is already big enough for three people. Then the large burger in Asia is also kids size in the west...
  37. Mary
    Asian diet, we eat rice in every meal and our desserts is also mostly rice based or sweet potato/plantains. A typical meal will be a bowl of rice and a protein in a form of fish chicken or pork. Then a bit of vegetables like Bok choy.We even eat the fat trimmings and all the fat bits from the pork. My grandmother and grandfather lived till their 90s with this type of diet. And they are not fat.I've also noticed that Asians don't have a lot of cream based food (dairy) and if we have curries it's coconut milk that we use. Our seasonings are also pretty basic like soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic, mirin, ginger, chillies. We don't muck around with a lot of cheese nor do we use a lot of wheat. But we cook with a lot of oil. And sugar we don't use a lot of it too. Maybe it's just the biochemistry on how we cook and how it's all processed in the body. Because my brother he enjoys american food like french fries and hamburgers and cakes and he is overweight. Whereas the ones who just eat the typical food doesn't get fat. And we eat a lot of deep fried stuff with rice , but don't get fat
    Reply: #288
  38. erdoke
    Your brother is a good example for the theory of how heated, omega-6 rich vegetable oils and refined carbs work together and induce a hormonal imbalance and subsequently obesity.
    These are exactly the 2 types of food that have significantly increased their ratio in the Western diet during the last 35 years.
  39. Kaisar
    >283 Just a little suggestion. When you're in Indonesia, only buy foods from "warung nasi" or "rumah makan". Don't buy from restaurants as they serve fewer vegetables and they cost much more expensive.

    Indonesia serve so many fresh vegetables at our "warung nasi" and "rumah makan", and they're everywhere. Even we serve unsweetened tea for free. Hence why we're the top 2 if not the top 1 country with the lowest obesity rate.

  40. John
    I am not sure about Asians being less muscular than Europeans. Europeans in my experience tend to be less muscular than Americans. Many Asians are actually quite muscular, particularly those from Korea, also Japanese Sumo wrestlers have hulking bodies.

    The reason Asians appear different from Westerners is due to diet and lifestyle. Asians tend to eat less protein. If you see Asian people in Western countries, their bodies are not much different than those of white Europeans because in the West they tend to eat the same kinds of foods.

    Bread and dairy, which are staples of the Western diet, are omitted from the plates of Asians. Asians do eat meat in smaller quantities than Westerners. I do think that the lack of dairy and less meat are the reason why Asians seem smaller, at least those in Asia.

    In America the tallest people by far are black, which is interesting because most blacks cannot tolerate milk and dairy. And milk and dairy is supposed to be the reason why Western people tend to be taller. But even that seems speculative as not all Europeans are tall. People from Southern Europe and France do not tend to be that all. The French consume a lot of dairy and meat. I noticed when I was in Spain that I was considerably taller than most men.

    Here in America you can see the effect of the Western diet and lifestyle on Asian people. I have seen a lot of fat and large Asians here. I am a little over 6 feet tall, and I have seen many young Asians that are much taller than me, also wider, these are Asians living in the US.

    I think diet and lifestyle plays a role much more than genetics than anything. Sure genetics will affect to us to a degree but I believe what people put in their mouths and what they do are more important.

  41. Hamish
    I don't think you're right there John. Northern China produces some very tall people. There's a region in the north that I read about that fields 200 basketball teams and no player is under 6 foot. Could be down to diet but I think it's extremely unlikely.
  42. Grace
    As someone of East-Asian descent, I can say #2 is completely wrong. The Japanese and Chinese ALL eat only white rice, never brown. I do agree with #3, they move around quite a bit. Public transit is great there and so most people do not drive. I know that when I was in Taiwan on vacation, I walked most of the day, going from train to bus and such. Even compared to living in NYC at the time, the amount of walking in Taiwan was pretty high. However, I do wonder how Asians in Asia treat diabetes. I have type2, and use a LCHF diet to help keep my numbers down. Meat protein in Asia is expensive, and it is a starch-based society. Does everyone just use insulin?
  43. Mary
    As a southeast asian female, I've noticed that Asians:

    1) don't use a lot of creams, dairy , mayonnaise and sugar in their food, ingredients are mostly
    Spices, vinegar and salt, soy sauce, cooking is simple
    2) desserts aren't too sweet and most of the time we skip eating dessert and don't eat appetizer
    3) smaller serving portions compared to western portions
    4) rarely have sweet tasting drinks

  44. Zeta
    Well I'm from Sydney, Australia and for many many years working in Sydney I walked everywhere, ran for buses, trains, ferries - you name it! I reckon I walked about 2 hours per day 5 x week. I lived on the Northern Beaches which also meant that on weekends I walked the length of 5 major Sydney beaches because i had a little dog and I loved it. I was plumpy and never lost an inch of weight by walking or running or aerobics etc...

    I started to lose the weight when I started to eat real food. I went off all gluten, all sugar except a little honey with a little full cream yoghurt and a little hard cheese. A little fish, a little grass fed meat and no chicken because of the hormones. I hated brown rice so i only ate white rice all the time. Lots of vegetables, lots of fruit and all sorts of beans (which i really hate and only ate sparingly ), and some walnuts because they were nice in the rice.

    The fats i was allowed was either a little butter OR a little extra virgin olive oil, I was allowed lard but I didn't know what it was so i didn't eat it. I dropped 2 stones in about 6 months and all my cellulite went. I looked fabulous! It was hard because at lunch time i had no idea what to eat since I couldn't take my lunch with me and the food outlets sold food that was over the top in oil, sugar and salt. I gave up and put on the weight again, even though I ate healthier breakfasts, and dinners. In the end, the great Western Food won and i got fat again.

    So white rice won't make you fat if you eat it like the Asians eat it. Ask yourself what you eat with your meals ... how much fat do you eat? a teaspoon per meal? or 2 tablespoons per meal? if you say 1 teaspoon per meal, and you eat fruit instead of baked sugar and you don't eat a whole cow in one week, then you should be thin.

    Walking to lose weight is a myth, and dangerous if you are obese, but necessary to help digestion and circulation so go easy if you are large. But don't walk to lose weight, reduce your fat intake to lose weight (and eat real fat like butter, lard or olive oil) and don't eat sugary foods, and don't eat a tonne of meat, you don't really need to. Eat fruit instead of sugary foods and eat vegetables too. Trust me, it works, but you have to cook, and do this every day for the rest of your life. You'll be glad in a few months you did this.

    and as for milk, if you can do so, ditch it. It's a food that helps you grow sideways. If you can't ditch it, minimise it to 1/2 cup per day - just for the addiction.

    Reply: #295
  45. Galina L.
    I am a person who ate real self-cooked traditional Russian food all the time , and limited fat most of my life because I had a gallbladder inflammation until it was removed when I was around 40. I also love vegetables and indifferent to sweets. My weight was creeping up steadily until I started a LC diet 7 years ago to curb my migraines, I increased fat consumption, severely restricted starches and even fruits. I also do less cardo exercises now.
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