Why Hispanics Live Longer

Population demographics show that Hispanics in the United States are living on average two years longer than Anglo whites, and and more than seven years longer than blacks.The Chicago Tribune reports:

A Hispanic born in 2006 could expect to live about 80 years and seven months, the government estimates. Life expectancy for a white is about 78, and for a black, just shy of 73 years.

Some demographers are calling this the “Hispanic paradox,” unexpected longevity in a population many of whose members are poor and relatively uneducated.

One theory is that the Hispanics represent the healthiest of people from their countries of origin. Approximately 40 percent of them are immigrants. Their journeys to the U.S. are often arduous, and they frequently work as manual laborers.

There may be another factor, however. First generation immigrants generally eat a much more natural diet than the average American, and they are much more physically active. Those benefits generally disappear after a couple of generations, however, as the children of immigrants become accustomed to the standard American diet, and qualify for more sedentary occupations.

It is clear that eating a diet high in processed food shortens your life expectancy. Ninety percent of the money Americans spend on food is allocated to processed food. The number one source of calories in the standard American diet is high fructose corn syrup, a staple ingredient in practically all processed foods, including frozen dinners, condiments, snacks, and of course, soda.

Hispanic populations in their countries of origin, and for at least the first generation living in the U.S., have strong culinary customs in which food is prepared from scratch with fresh, natural ingredients. This factor, more than any other, may hold the key to longevity.

The idea that “native diets” are superior to modern diets of the Western world extends back to Dr. Weston A. Price, a dentist and researcher who, in the early 1930s, investigated the effects of diets around the globe. He was interested in determining why native populations often exhibited perfect physical health well into advanced age.

In his book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Dr. Price showed that native populations suffered a decline in health when they began to abandon their traditional diets and adopted industrially processed foods. The change in food production and consumption began in the early 1800s, when vacuum bottling was invented, followed by canning technology. Pasteurization was discovered in 1862, which triggered a move away from the consumption of raw dairy foods.

Dr. Price’s research among remote tribal communities of Swiss, Eskimos, Polynesians, Africans, New Zealanders, and others, convinced him the development of degenerative diseases was related to the adoption of processed foods. Of course, the standard American diet has only deteriorated since the era in which he did his research.