The quest for immortality is one that has spanned generation upon generation, dating back to the legendary quest for the fountain of youth and beyond. However, scientists are now focusing their attention on a small village in Italy that may hold the secret to a long life.
Only 85 miles from the well-known city of Naples, the village of Acciaroli, Italy isn’t a location you’re going to find on most people’s travel bucket lists. However, the tiny village has been attracting the attention of scientists and researchers for one very intriguing reason… More than 1 in 10 people living there today will live to be over 100 years old. In fact, at the time of this article, over 300 centenarians call the village home. It’s a feat that many celebrate, and with good cause! In the United States, the average life expectancy is 78.7 years old. So, how do these Italians do it? What allows them all to live so long?
In an effort to better understand this, a team of researchers has been studying the village and its residents for approximately 6 months. Taking blood samples from 80 different people, the scientists are searching for some form of answer or pattern among the residence, something to give insight into why these Italians are able to live a so long while simultaneously experiencing an extremely low rate of disease and illness including Alzheimer’s, cancers and heart disease.
There are a number of environmental conditions that could easily play into this trend. Living out near the Mediterranean away from the pollution of many big cities, the residents are breathing cleaner, fresher air. Furthermore, their diet is reminiscent of the popular ‘Mediterranean diet’, which has been praised by many doctors and researchers. With a nutritional focus on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fish, it’s no wonder that the diet has been associated with a decreased risk of heart disease. However, neither of these points are unique to this area.
“Things didn’t seem to add up: [They were] smoking and fat, but so relaxed and unstressed… At first, I asked if it was the Mediterranean diet, but they do that all over Italy,” stated Dr. Alan Maisel, a cardiologist, and professor at the University of California at San Diego.
The researchers did, however, undercover one big similarity among the residents. “Everybody eats rosemary – they all grow it, they use it as a garnish, they use it in oils,” Dr. Maisel explained. The herb can be used as an herb while cooking or a garnish for your meals, or it can be made into rosemary tea or rosemary water to enjoy the benefits. “When we tested it, we found a dozen different compounds in there,” Dr. Maisel described “Scientific studies have shown that acids [in rosemary] help the function of the brain.”
While further research is required to definitively prove the reason for the long life of Acciaroli residents, the combination of health benefits from the rosemary water and the Mediterranean diet help to improve blood circulation, reduce levels of the hormone adrenomedullin (a hormone that impacts the condition and function of blood vessels), and improve both heart and brain health.
Scientists and researchers continue to work to better understand the phenomenon. As Salvatore DiSomma, MD, a lead Italian investigator and professor of emergency medicine at University of Rome La Sapienza declared in a statement, “This project will not only help to unlock some of the secrets of healthy aging, but will build closer ties with researchers across the globe, which will lead to more science and improved clinical care in our aging population.”