ORCLS Researchers: Dr. D. Craig Willcox

D. Craig Willcox, MHSc, Ph.D

Co-Principal Investigator, Okinawa Centenarian Study
Professor, Okinawa International University, Department of Human Welfare

Dr. Craig Willcox is an internationally recognized expert in healthy aging and cross-cultural gerontology with training in medical anthropology, gerontology and public health sciences.

A native of Calgary, Canada, he is currently Professor of International Public Health & Welfare and Gerontology, at Okinawa International University, and a Co-Principal Investigator of the Okinawa Centenarian Study, a Japan Society for Promotion of Science funded study of the genetic and lifestyle determinants of exceptional longevity. Dr. Willcox is also Research Associate at Pacific Health Research and Education Institute, where is a co-investigator on several NIH projects exploring the genetic epidemiology of healthy aging. He is also researcher in residence at Okinawa Research Center for Longevity Science.

After completing undergraduate work at the University of Calgary, Dr. Willcox trained in medical anthropology, gerontology and public health sciences at the University of the Ryukyus, where he earned his Master's of Health Sciences degree and at the University of Toronto where he earned his doctorate. He has published and lectured extensively over the past decade in the areas of human ecology and aging, as well as nutritional and public health approaches to successful aging. Besides the epidemiology of healthy aging, Dr. Willcox's current research interests include exploring the interconnections between aging and the disability process among the oldest old in both Okinawa and Hawaii.

Dr. Willcox is a member of several professional societies including the International Epidemiological Association and Gerontological Society of America, among others. His research work has been supported by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, U.S. National Institute on Aging, Medical Research Council of Canada, University of Toronto, The Japan Society for Promotion of Science, and the Japan Foundation, among other sources.

Dr. Willcox is also an adjunct associate editor for several top gerontology journals including the Journal of Gerontology: Medical and Biological Sciences and has co-authored two best-selling books on public health approaches to healthy aging, The Okinawa Program and The Okinawa Diet Plan. The Okinawa Program was a New York Times bestseller and nominated as Best Wellness Book of the Year (Books for a Better Life Awards) as well recognized as one of the Top 50 Books of the Year by both Barnes and Nobles and Amazon.com in 2001.

More information on Dr. Willcox's research and academic publications can be found at: okicent.org and orcls.org

A. Positions and Honors

1994-present Co-Investigator, Okinawa Centenarian Study (OCS).
1995-2002 Research Assoc, Inst. for Human Development, Life Course and Aging, Univ. of Toronto
1997-present Research Assoc, Okinawa Research Center for Longevity Science (ORCLS)
1999-2007 Assistant Professor, Okinawa Prefectural University-College of Nursing
2002-present Research Assoc/Co-investigator, Pacific Health Research Institute, University of Hawaii
2007-2009 Associate Professor, Okinawa International University, Department of Human Welfare
2009-present Professor, Okinawa International University, Department of Human Welfare
Awards and Honors
1985-1986 University of Calgary Dean's List, Undergraduate
1985-1986 Province of Alberta Undergraduate Scholarship
1986 University of Calgary Alumni Award
1986 Calgary Herald Centennial Award
1989 Graduated with Academic Honors (Distinction), University of Calgary
1995 University of Toronto Graduate Assistantship
1995 Ontario Graduate Scholarship
2002 Multiple Sclerosis Society-Best Wellness Book Nomination

B. Selected Peer-reviewed Publications

Scientific Manuscripts
Suzuki M, Willcox BJ, Willcox DC. Implications from and for food cultures for cardiovascular disease: longevity. Asia Pacific J Clin Nutr 2001;10(2):165-171.
Takakura M, Nagayama T., Sakihara S, Willcox DC. Patterns of risk behavior among high school students. J School Health 2001;Vol 71(1):23-29.
Willcox DC, Willcox BJ, Suzuki M. Evidence-based exceptional longevity: The demography of centenarians in Japan. J Cheju Island Studies 2002;22:85-86.
Todoriki H, Willcox DC, Kinjo Y, Takakura M, Sasaki S, Ariizumi M. The post-war nutrition transition in Okinawa: Changes in body composition and fat intake. Japanese J Human Health Ecol 2002, 68:56-57.
Suzuki M, Tamaki M, Higa K, Willcox DC. ADL and its relation to personality in Okinawan-Japanese community dwelling centenarians. OIU J Social Welfare and Psychology 2003; 1 (1):39-49.
Todoriki H, Willcox DC, Willcox BJ. The effects of post-war dietary change on longevity and health in Okinawa. Oki J Amer Studies 2004;1:55-64.
Willcox BJ, Abbott RD, Yano K, Rodriguez BL, Willcox DC, Tanaka B, Curb JD. C-reactive protein as a novel risk factor for CVD: Is it ready for prime time? Cardiovascular Rev Rep 2004;25;66-69.
Willcox BJ, Abbott RD, Yano K, Rodriguez BL, Willcox DC, Curb JD. C-reactive protein, cardiovascular disease and stroke: new roles for an old biomarker. Expert Rev Neurotherapeutics 2004;4:507 - 518.
Willcox BJ, Yano K, Chen R, Willcox DC, Rodriguez BL, Masaki KH, Donlon T, Tanaka B, Curb JD. How much should we eat? The association between energy intake and mortality in a 36-year follow-up study of Japanese-American men in Hawaii. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2004;59:789-95.
Suzuki M, Willcox BJ, Willcox DC. Successful aging: secrets of Okinawan longevity. Geriatrics and Gerontology International 2004;4(4):S180-1.
Bernstein AM, Willcox BJ, Tamaki H, Kunishima N, Suzuki M, Willcox DC, Yoo K, Perls T. Autopsy of an Okinawan-Japanese centenarian: Absence of many age-related diseases. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2004;11:1195-9.
Willcox DC. Okinawan longevity: Where do we go from here? Nutrition and Dietetics 2005; 8 (1):9-17.
Willcox BJ, Willcox DC, He Q, Curb JD, Suzuki M. Siblings of Okinawan centenarians exhibit lifelong mortality advantages. J Gerontol Biol Med Sci 2006;61(4):345-54.
Willcox DC, Willcox BJ, Todoriki H, Curb JD, Suzuki M. Caloric restriction and human longevity: What can we learn from the Okinawans? Biogerontology 2006;7:173-77.
Willcox B, Willcox D, He Q, Masaki K, Grove J, Chen R, Yano K, Curb JD, Suzuki M. Insights into Healthy Aging: The Okinawa Centenarian Study and the Hawaii Lifespan Study. International Centenarian Symposium Proceedings 2006;(7):63-67.
Willcox BJ, He Q, Chen R, Yano K, Masaki KH, Grove JS, Donlon TA, Willcox DC, Curb JD. Midlife risk factors and healthy survival in men. JAMA 2006;296:2343-2350.
Willcox DC, Willcox BJ, Hsueh WC, Suzuki M. Genetic determinants of exceptional human longevity: insights from the Okinawa Centenarian Study. AGE 2006;28:313-32.
Willcox DC, Willcox BJ, Shimijiri S, Kurechi S, Suzuki M. Aging Gracefully: A Retrospective Analysis of Functional Status in Okinawan Centenarians. Am J Geriatr Psychiatry 2007;15:252-256.
Willcox DC and Willcox BJ. The cultural context of successful aging among older women in a northern Okinawan village: the role of productive activity. J Cross Cultural Gerontol 2007;22:137-165.
Willcox DC. The biodemography of exceptional survivorship and the emergence of supercentenarians in Okinawa. OIU J Social Welfare and Psychology 2007 6:(1):
Willcox DC. Why do women live longer than men? A demographic analysis of male-female mortality differences in Okinawa and Japan. OIU J Scientific Research 2007; 11:1-16.
Willcox BJ, Willcox DC, Todoriki H, Fujiyoshi A, Yano K, He Q, Curb JD, Suzuki M. Caloric restriction, the traditional Okinawan diet and healthy aging. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2007;1114:434-55.
Willcox BJ, Donlon, TA, He Q, Chen R, Yano K, Masaki KH, Grove JS, Rodriguez, BL, Willcox DC, Curb JD. FOXO3A Genotype is Strongly Associated with Human Longevity. Proc Nat'l Acad Sci U S A. 2008;105:13987-13992.
Suzuki M, Willcox DC, Willcox B. The historical context of Okinawan longevity: Influence of the United States and mainland Japan. Okinawa J American Studies 2008;4:46-61.
Willcox BJ, Willcox DC, Todoriki H, Yano K, Curb JD, Suzuki M. Caloric restriction, energy balance and healthy aging in Okinawans and Americans: biomarker differences in septuagenarians. Okinawa J American Studies 2008;4:62-74.
Willcox DC, Willcox BJ, He Q, Wang N-C, Suzuki M. They really are that old: a validation study of centenarian prevalence in Okinawa. J Gerontol: Biol Med Sci 2008 63(4):338-49.
Willcox BJ, Willcox DC, Ferrucci L. Secrets of healthy aging and longevity from exceptional survivors around the globe: lessons from octogenarians to supercentenarians. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2008 Nov;63(11):1181-85
Willcox DC, Willcox BJ, Wang T, Rosenbaum M, Suzuki M. Life at the extreme limit: phenotypic characteristics of supercentenarians in Okinawa. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2008; Nov;63(11):1201-8.
Willcox DC, Willcox BJ, Todoriki H, Suzuki M. The Okinawan diet: health implications of a low-calorie, nutrient-dense, antioxidant-rich dietary pattern low in glycemic load. J Am Coll Nutr. 2009;28:500s-516s.
Dodge HH, Katsumata Y, Todoriki H, Yasura S, Willcox DC, Bowman GL, Willcox B, Leonard S, Clemons A, Oken BS, Kaye JA, Traber MG. Comparisons of plasma/serum micronutrients between Okinawan and Oregonian elders: a pilot study. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2010;65:1060-1067.
Scientific Abstracts
Willcox DC, Willcox BJ. Okinawan longevity: Demographic and epidemiological perspectives. J Okinawa Chubu Hospital 2001;27(suppl.2):24-25.
Willcox BJ, Willcox DC, Todoriki H, Suzuki M. Successful aging in Okinawa: Low cardiovascular risk in Japan's oldest-old. JAGS 2001;49(4):P102.
Willcox BJ, Willcox DC, Suzuki M. Evidence-based extreme longevity. The case of Okinawa, Japan. JAGS 2001;49(4):P397.
Willcox BJ, Willcox DC, Jenkins DJA, Todoriki H, Suzuki M. Successful aging in Japan's longest-lived people: the role of the traditional Okinawan diet. Gerontology 2001;47(suppl.1):539.
Willcox BJ, Willcox DC, Todoriki H, Suzuki M. Lifestyle and successful aging in Okinawa: what can we learn from Okinawan centenarians? J Okinawa Chubu Hosp 2001;27(suppl.2):18.
Willcox BJ, Willcox DC, Suzuki M. Built to last? Past medical history of Okinawan-Japanese centenarians. JAGS 2002;50(4):S139.
Willcox BJ, Willcox DC, Suzuki M. Defining cardiovascular health in a large population-based study of exceptional survivors. Circulation 2003;107(19):E157.
Willcox BJ, Todoriki H, Willcox DC, Suzuki M, Yano K, Abbott R, Rodriguez B, Curb J. Early life caloric restriction and exceptional survival in Okinawa: 50 years of population data. Gerontologist 2003;43 (Sp.Iss. 1):2.
Martin P, Fry P, Willcox BJ, Willcox DC, Poon L, Rott C. Personal and familial characteristics of exceptional survivors. Gerontologist 2004;44(Sp. Iss. 1):596-7.
Willcox DC, Suzuki M, He Q, Yoo K, Curb JD, Willcox BJ. All in the Family: Do Siblings of Centenarians also live longer? Abstracts of the 57th Annual Scientific Meeting, Gerontological Society of America. November 2004. Washington, DC.
Willcox BJ, Masaki K, Grove J, Fong K, Yano K, Willcox DC, Curb JD. Defining the phenotype of the exceptional survival: a 36-year follow-up of non-smoking, middle-aged Japanese-American men. Abstracts of the 57th Annual Scientific Meeting, Gerontological Society of America. November 2004. Washington, DC.
Willcox DC, Willcox BJ, Todoriki H, Yano K, Curb JD. Can lower energy intake reduce mortality risk in human populations? XVII World Congress of Epidemiology Abstracts 2005:342.
Willcox BJ, Hsueh WC, He Q, Willcox DC, Curb JD, Suzuki M. Substantial advantage for longevity in siblings of Okinawan centenarians. Genetic Epidemiology 2005;29(3):286-7.
Schell J, Allman R, Sawyer-Baker P, Willcox B, Dodner E, Willcox DC. Life space mobility among rural Okinawan older adults. The Gerontologist 45;2007:593-594.
Willcox DC, Willcox BJ, Shimijiri S, Kurechi S, Suzuki M. A Retrospective Analysis of Functional change in Okinawan Centenarians. Gerontologist 2005, 45 (Sp.Iss.2):593-594.
Willcox BJ, Willcox DC, Curb JD, Allman RM. Exceptional longevity in Okinawa: Interdisciplinary and cross-national perspectives on healthy aging. Gerontologist 2005;45(Sp. Iss. 2):593-4.
Willcox DC, Todoriki H, Willcox BJ. Mortality Risk and Caloric Intake in Human Populations: Is there a relationship? Japanese Journal of Public Health, 2005, 52:8:996.
Willcox B, Willcox D, Gondo Y, Yashin A, Hsueh W, Curb JD. The Genetic Epidemiology of Healthy Aging: Disentangling the Effects of Genes, Ethnicity and Environment. Gerontologist 2006, 46:137.
Willcox D, Willcox B, Curb J, Suzuki M, Hsueh W, He Q. Longevity and gene-environment Interactions in Okinawa: A bio-cultural perspective. Gerontologist 2006, 46:137.
Willcox DC, Schell J, Sawyer P, Willcox BJ, Bodner E, Allman R. Multi-ethnic comparisons of life space. Abstracts of the Annual Meeting of the Japan Society of Health and Human Ecology 2007:168-169.
Hsueh W-C, He Q, Willcox DC, Suzuki M, Chen JW, Chen R,Yano K, Donlon T, Curb JD, Grove J, Browner WS, Cummings SR, Boehnke M, Kwok P-Y, Willcox BJ. Comparisons of Genome Diversity between the Okinawan and Four HapMap Populations. Abstracts of the American Society of Human Genetics 57th Annual Meeting 2007:1332.
Willcox DC, Willcox BJ, Hsueh W-C, He Q, Curb JD, Suzuki M. The genetics of longevity in Okinawa and Hawaii. The Gerontologist 47;2007:401.
Willcox BJ, Willcox DC, He Q, Chen R, Yano K, et al. Biological insights for healthy aging. The Gerontologist 47;2007:465.
Willcox BJ, Willcox DC, Curb JD. The genetic epidemiology of human longevity: healthy aging around the globe The Gerontologist 47;2007:401

C. Research Support

Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (Willcox DC) 04/01/06-present
The purpose of this study is to assess the prevalence and timing of age-related illness among centenarians in Okinawa from the Okinawa Centenarian Study (OCS) from the years 2000-2008 and compare the findings to other centenarian studies in the U.S.
Role: Principal Investigator
Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (Todoriki H) 04/01/06-present
The Chample Study
In this project we are carrying out an intervention study that will examine oxidative stress markers among middle-aged participants fed a diet of traditional Okinawan vegetables.
Role: Co-Investigator
5 U19 AG023122-03 (Cummings) 07/01/06-06/30/07
California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute
The Genetic Basis for Exceptional Longevity in Okinawa
Aims: Investigate the linkage disequilibrium patterns of Okinawans and determine whether this genotyping platform provides adequate coverage for a larger genome-wide association study.
Subcontract Co-PI
Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (Todoriki H) 04/01/02-03/31/05
Public Health and Culture Change in Post-war Okinawa
In this study we documented the post-war establishment of public health in Okinawa and the accompanied epidemiological transition from 1945 to the present.
Role: Co-Investigator
1 KO8 AG22788-01 (Willcox B) 09/30/03-12/31/05
Defining the Genetics of Exceptional Human Survival
Aims: Career development award that provided salary and educational support to help plan a study of cross-national survival characteristics of Okinawan Japanese with other cohorts of exceptionally long-lived men and women, particularly the Honolulu Heart Program cohort, in order to determine the etiological factors important for the healthy aging phenotype.
Role: Co-Investigator
1 R03 AG21293-01 (Willcox B) 09/30/02 - 08/31/03
The Genetics of Exceptional Longevity in Okinawa-Japan
The major goals of this project are to identify single nucleotide polymorphisms associated with exceptional survival in Okinawan-Japanese Centenarians from the Okinawa Centenarian Study (OCS).
Role: Co-Investigator
48553 (Willcox B) 07/01/01 - 06/30/02
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center/Warren-Williams-Richardson Fellowship
Harvard Medical School
Successful Cognitive Aging in Centenarians
The major goals of this project were to study the prevalence of dementia in a population-based study of centenarians in Okinawa (OCS).
Role: Co-Investigator
Japan Foundation (Willcox DC) 04/01/01-03/31/02
Lifestyle Determinants of Healthy Aging in Okinawa
With this grant we analyzed lifestyle and related factors that may be responsible for the increase in life expectancy in post-war Okinawa and produced an educational video based on the findings of the Okinawa Centenarian Study for public distribution.
Role: Co-Principal Investigator
Japan Ministry of Education, Culture,
Sports, Science and Technology (Willcox, DC) 10/01/96 - 03/31/99
Community Health, Longevity and Related Factors in Okinawa, Japan
An investigation of the role of community health in the growth of life expectancy and the profusion of centenarians (from the OCS) in post-war Okinawa, Japan