Longevity Secrets in a Small Italian Village?

On my dad’s 50th birthday, our family started the running joke that he had “50 years down, and 50 more to go.” I’m sure you’ve heard similar sentiments from friends and family, but the unfortunate reality is that only 0.02% of the population gets the chance to blow out a birthday cake with a 100 candles on it. However, researchers from the University of California San Diego think that a small community on the Italian coast may be able to unlock the secrets to living longer. Why? Because 300 of the village’s citizens are over 100 years old.

Surprisingly, this isn’t the only community with a markedly older population compared to the rest of the world. Scientists from National Geographic began studying “Blue Zones” (areas in the world where people live the longest) back in 2004. They identified Blue Zones in areas of California, Costa Rica, Italy, and Japan—and they discovered that the people in these communities not only have longer lifespans, but longer healthspans, too. As Dr. Doug Seals of the Department of Integrative Physiology at University of Colorado Boulder explains, lengthening a person’s healthspan means prolonging the healthy period of life and delaying and compressing the development of diseases to a smaller portion of time at the end of one’s life. Hopefully, this study on the centenarians (people over the age 100) of Acciaroli, Italy will offer further insight into extreme longevity by looking at factors like diet, lifestyle, culture, and genetics.

Studies like this often result in tons of valuable information but tend to take a long time to run. One meta-analysis (an analysis of a bunch of other studies) found certain genetic markers linked to extreme longevity that could help doctors come up with new therapies targeting aging in older adults. So what do we know right now that may help people live longer and extend their healthspan? Lifestyle factors like strong family values, frequent walking, and a lean Mediterranean diet have served the people of Sardinia, Italy well—this city has produced more male centenarians than anywhere else in the world! Maybe it’s factors like these, or maybe it’s their incredible ocean view, but either way, we here at the Healthy Aging Project will be looking to Acciaroli in the hopes of stocking up on more birthday candles down the road!

(Featured image courtesy of pixabay.com)

Nicolette Hoke

Nicolette Hoke is an intern with the Healthy Aging Project, and a student in the Integrative Physiology Department at the University of Colorado Boulder.