Sinh Lam mans an overflowing grill Sunday in Old Sacramento, preparing his San Jose company's Thai Kabobs. A steady stream of Pacific Rim fest visitors kept Lam and other vendors smokin'. [photo: rbyer@sacbee.com]

Noel Coward once sang that only "mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun," but he never attended the Pacific Rim Street Fest, where more than 10,000 visitors poured into Old Sacramento on Sunday.

They lined up in a sunny 86 degrees for tofu, sushi, curry, pho, egg rolls, Thai barbecue, salmon poke and other delicacies that may or may not hold the key to long life.

Through a combination of factors including diet, joy, family and faith, Asian Americans live longer than any other Californians, enjoying an average life expectancy of about 83 years compared with 80.5 years for Latinos, 78 for whites and American Indians, and 72 for African Americans, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.

California's South Asian Indian women top the charts at 88, followed by U.S.-born Chinese of both genders at nearly 87, Vietnamese women at 86 and Korean, Filipino and Japanese women at 85.

Interestingly, Chinese Americans born here live longer than those from China, whose average life span is about 84 years.

While Chinese Americans born in the United States live longer than those born in China, Samoans who come to the mainland die off faster, said James Letoa and Nia Kotobalavu of the Office of Samoan Affairs, which represents about 15,000 people of Samoan ancestry in the Sacramento area.

They and other Pacific Islanders who have seen a radical change in diet are struggling with diabetes, high blood pressure, gout and obesity, Letoa said.

"My great-grandmother in Samoa lived to 106 and only passed away because she slipped in the bathroom, and my grandma is 95 and still strong," Letoa said. "They ate taro, breadfruit, bananas, fish, pork and cabbage, but here we eat processed food.


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