As part of the International Union of Nutritional Sciences (IUNS) Food Habits in Later Life Project, a group of 89 free-living Japanese aged 70 years and over (43 men and 46 women) residing in semiurban Okazaki, located in the middle of Honshu Island in Japan, were studied. They were followed up in order to determine whether nutrition plays a role in Japanese longevity. Information on food and nutrient intake was collected at study entry. During 55 months follow-up, eight men and five women died. The consumption of various food groups, after adjustment for energy intake to 10.5 MJ for men and 8.4 MJ for women, was similar for survivors and deceased, but there was a greater consumption of mushrooms and fats and oils among the survivors (p<0.05). Furthermore, survivors had a higher intake of total n-3 fatty acids, especially alpha-linolenic acid, compared with the deceased (p<0.05). Subjects who were not chronically energy deficient (BMI >= 18.5 kg/m2) showed a better survival probability with a higher intake of total n-3 fatty acids (>= 2.1 g/day, 25th percentile). A similar result for total n-3 fatty acids and alpha-linolenic acid was found using Cox proportional hazards analyses adjusted for age, gender and smoking status (p<0.05). After adjustment for bodyweight, the conditionally essential amino acid tyrosine was higher in women who survived (p<0.05). These findings suggest that the intake of n-3 fatty acids and of certain amino acids might be particularly important in elderly people for living longer.