TOKYO Overweight local government officials in Japan have slimmed down with a three-month "samurai" diet, soldiering on despite a fellow samurai's death.
The mayor of the city of Ise in west Japan and six officials joined forces as the "Seven Metabolic Samurai," after Akira Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai" movie, to fight the so-called metabolic syndrome -- excess belly fat, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.
The program took an unexpected and unfortunate turn when one of the samurai, a 47-year-old city official, died in August from heart failure while he was jogging, a spokeswoman for Ise's public health department said, confirming earlier news reports.
But the remaining samurai continued with the plan, which involved eating healthy food and exercising.
When the program ended Thursday, Mayor Takao Morishita had shed 5.6 kg (12 pounds) and trimmed his waistline by 5 cm to 85 cm (33 inches). At least two other officials also succeeded with the diet, while the city is waiting to hear results from the others.
"There was a time when things were rough, but I was able to reach my goals," the mayor said on a panel that showed his diet results. "I want to make sure that my weight won't bounce back."
Metabolic syndrome has become the new buzzword in health-conscious Japan, where nearly 30 percent of Japanese adult males are overweight, according to a government survey from 2005.
Two male officials in the health ministry kept blogs earlier this year to show their efforts in combating the syndrome, while tummy-tightening briefs and "fitness phones" targeting fat-fighting middle-aged men have come on the market.