Back in the 1950’s, American scientist Ancel Keys began to research the Mediterranean diet in Italy‘s Cilento peninsula. He eventually moved to the peninsula and lived to only two months shy of his 101st birthday. Now researchers from Rome’s La Sapienza University and the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) teamed up to zero in on Acciaroli, a town in the Cilento peninsula where one in 10 residents reach the age of 100, and better understand the secrets of a longer life.
Not only do people live to 100 and beyond, but many are still independent and active. Antonio Vassalo, 100, and Aminda Fedollo, 93, said they eat healthy food like fish, chicken, rabbit, olive oil, and vegetables and fruit they grow. Fedollo told the AFP, “We consume what we produce.” Residents garden, walk, or go fishing to exercise.
The two universities launched a six-month study in which they took blood samples from 80 residents. They discovered surprisingly low levels of adrenomedullin, a hormone. High levels of adrenomedullin hinder circulation, while low levels promote circulation. Generally as people age, adrenomedullin builds up in the body, but the levels seen in the Acciaroli elderly are similar to what researchers would expect to see in the blood of a person in their twenties or thirties.
The researchers don’t yet know why the residents possess such low levels, but could think it could be a combination of the healthy local diet, genetics, and exercise. Rosemary could be another key component to longevity: widely used by residents, rosemary is said to boost brain function, according to researchers.
From UCSD, Alan Maisel said the elderly of Acciaroli don’t suffer from maladies commonly faced by the elderly, like Alzheimer’s, cataracts, or heart disease. He warned there’s no “magic bullet” to prevent such diseases, but that people worldwide could learn from the way people in Acciaroli live.
The researchers plan to continue studying the Cilento peninsula. Out of 60,000 people, 2,000 in the region are 100 or older, and the researchers would like to focus on those centenarians. Professor Salvatore di Somma of La Sapienza University said they hope to create a “tool” based on the lifestyles of these healthy old people to offer those interested suggestions on how to age well.
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