Leisurely meals, world-class wine, beautiful scenery – Italians know what it means to live the good life. But one village may hold the secret to something even more significant: longevity.
Situated on the western coast of southern Italy is Acciaroli, a town with a disproportionately high number of centenarians. Roughy a third of its residents are over 100 years old, and of the ones who have hit that benchmark, around 20% have reached 110 years of age. Scientists are now researching why life spans in Acciaroli are so long.
Dr. Alan Maisel, a cardiologist at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, recently spoke with NPR about the study. “What shocked me is that I don’t see people jogging. I do not see people in active exercise classes. I don’t see them swimming laps in the ocean,” he said. In fact, many of the elderly residents of Acciaroli are smokers and overweight. So what’s going on?
The doctor suspects it’s a combination of good genes, diet, and lifestyle. Anchovies, which are packed with brain-boosting omega-3s, are a staple of Acciaroli nutrition. So is Rosemary, which has been shown in studies to reduce and prevent cognitive dysfunction, improve memory and mood, and slow aging.
Dr. Maisel says relaxation is also key to the long lives of Acciarolians. “In the evenings, in the late afternoon, they’re all sitting around the cantinas, the restaurants,” he says. “They’re having some wine, some coffee. They’re relaxed.” Studies show that stress can speed up cellular aging, while relaxation and techniques like mindfulness meditation can promote positive molecular changes.
Over the next six months, Maisel and his research team will extensively analyse the habits of Acciaroli’s centenarians in hopes of uncovering more secrets to their long lives.