The Mongolian Diet: A Contrast Between Past and Present

The Changing Mongolian Lifestyle

The mongolian diet and lifestyle is one of the most unique in the world, and it’s undergone rapid change the last twenty years. The winds of modernization have brought about unique challenges to the health of many Mongolians, and health outcomes are beginning to diverge into extremes throughout the country.

Mongolian Nomads

Mongolian Lifespan

It was written before that the Japanese enjoy an unusually long lifespan, thanks in part to their diet. Low calories, lots of greens, and a peaceful lifestyle do a lot to tack on the extra years in old age.

It’s also useful to look at who’s finishing last in the lifespan area, and take heed of why it’s happening.

In this area, it’s important to separate the wheat from the chaff. Life span is a messy statistic, and a lot of variables get cooked into it that are difficult to account for. For this reason, it’s a good idea to exclude countries that rank very low on the human development index because war, AIDS, and extreme poverty reduce life spans without shedding light on the deliberate lifestyle practices of the people involved.

When you account for that, the folks bringing up the rear are Japan’s distant asian neighbor, the Mongolians.

According to the United Nations, the average Mongolian life span is 67 years old, 12 years less than the Japanese. After Mongolians there’s a sharp nose dive in life spans as countries below it are afflicted with violence and human development issues.

The Mongolian diet has undergone a curious transition the last twenty years because it’s one of the only countries with a largely nomadic population, and there are stark differences in how diet affects the sedantary and nomadic population.

Mongolians on a Camel

Mongolian Culture and Lifestyle

Mongolian nomads live in the steppes of the country, and are very horse-centric. They ride them, socialize with them, and eventually eat them. Traditional mongolian diets are very heavy in animal fats and dairy products, and low on plant sources. Vegetation in the steppes is pretty sparse.

In addition to their high-fat diet, Mongolians tend to store fat more efficiently than others, likely as a result of living in harsh winter climates for so long. Mongolians tend to be short and chubby, which is beneficial for their climate. Abdominal fat and a high waist-to-hip circumference ratio aid in heat production.

However, these adaptations stop being useful when you stop moving. The traditional mongolian diet has become life-shortening for many Mongolian urbanites, and the country has seen sharp up-ticks in the usual health bio-markers: plasma cholesterol, insulin sensitivity, BMI, and blood sugar levels, among others.

Curiously, the class disparity is inversed from the Western world. Mongolian nomads, who are poor and low-status, are healthier and live longer than wealthy city-dwellers who have college degrees and high-paying jobs.

 

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Comments

  1. Your are looking at the data completely wrong. The poorer rural Mongolians have less “Western diseases” because they ARE eating their traditional diets not because they do more physical activities. The richer urban Mongolians are experiencing shorter lifespans and higher incidence of obesity, diabetes, heart ailments and cancers precisely because they have adopted a the Western diet of high sugar high carbs not because they are more sedentary. That should be the obvious conclusion.

    • Jonathan Bechtel says:

      Eric, I thought that was my conclusion. What’d I miss?

    • You are correct…I totally agree with you. Despite them eating high saturated fats, they are healthier than us. Fat is not to blame. Their lifespan is lower than ours because of smoking combined with a hard life.

      • I agree with you. Many health professionals blamed to fat. Fat eating diet in Mongolia very common because in harsh winter to be survive. My parents eat fat entire their life and don’t have high cholesterol but they over 90s
        What would you expect that one?

  2. Harry McNicholas says:

    Hm how come then there are very few fat Mongolians?

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