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You’ve heard, no doubt, of the miraculous Mediterranean diet, which is said to keep Italians and Greeks living healthy lives into their 80s and beyond. The Japanese diet is popular too, as the Japanese live the longest lives in the world. Then there’s the Nordic diet, full of fish and dairy that help make longevity in Sweden and Norway among the longest in the world.

Countless studies have tried to identify the critical ingredients in these diets. Should we eat grilled squid like the Greeks? Or more lingonberries like the Swedes?

But the closer you look at the link between specific diets and health, the fuzzier the link becomes.

The French live some of the longest lives on earth. The oldest known person was Jeanne Calment, a French woman who lived to 122 (and a half). And yet, the French diet has become known as “the French paradox,” because it’s suspiciously high in saturated fat.

The diet-focused answer? The red wine must protect them! Other countries, like Germany and Canada, have long lifespans, yet no one puts schnitzel and poutine on our list of health foods.

What if the apparent link between a country’s diet and its health is an illusion?