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Italian centenarians: longevity secrets

Italy is not known for its delicious cuisine, gorgeous landscapes, or rich cultural legacy. Or, more accurately, it is also this, but there is much more. Italy has one of the world’s five blue zones, which are the places where life expectancy exceeds significantly the worldwide average. We’re talking about Seulo, Sardinia. Learn more about this small village in the Sardinia hinterland and its inhabitants by clicking here.

Good kitchen habits to increase life expectancy

Italian centenarians understand that small actions can have far-reaching consequences. According to the most recent census, there is one centenarian for every 198 people in Italy. Centenarians prefer the Mediterranean diet, and our country is ideal for completing it.

Italian centenarians soup
Centenarians’ Soup | Credit

YES to proteins, but watch out for meat

When it comes to cuisine, centenarians are extremely picky. They not only adopt a well-balanced diet, but they also avoid all vices and overeating. Because the diet is primarily plant-based, legumes have become a staple meal and need in daily life.

It’s impossible not to highlight the centenarian soup’s special recipe, the secret of which resides in the ingredients: legumes, vegetables, pecorino, fregola, and spring water! Pecorino Sardo is one of Sardinia’s oldest cheeses, with references dating back to the 18th century! The Rosso Fino and the Affumicato, two variations of the famed Sardinian pecorino, have been passed down through tradition. Pecorino is not only one of the main ingredients in the famous minestrone, but it is also the symbol of Sardinian cuisine.

Pecorino DOP
Fiore Sardo DOP – Pecorino | Credit

Fruits and vegetables should never be missed

It is no secret that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables each day has numerous health benefits. Even in the instance of Italian centenarians ‘ diets, nothing appears to have changed. Centenarians choose seasonal fruits and vegetables cultivated locally by farmers.

Among the most well-known local products enjoyed by residents, the following stand out:

  • Arancio di Muravera
  • Pesca di San Sperato
  • Capperi di Selargius
  • Asparago selvatico sardo
  • Finocchietto sardo (mata faua)
  • Carciofo spinoso sardo DOP

Choosing sheep’s milk over cow’s milk

Sardinia is the leading producer of sheep’s milk in Italy. Its nutritional properties make it an excellent ally in cheese manufacturing. In terms of nutrition, centenarians pick sheep’s milk as a viable substitute for cow’s milk. The last is lower in lipids, proteins, lactose, mineral salts, and some micronutrients like Calcium and Iron. Which sheep breed contributes the most to Sardinia’s primacy? Without a doubt, the Sardinian breed. It now encompasses almost 40% of the total national sheep population, which our centenarians appreciate.

Sarda Ovine Breed
Sarda Ovine Breed | Credit

Alcohol is permitted, but only in moderation

Except for a small handful of Loma Linda residents, all blue zone residents use alcohol. Residents of Sardinia’s blue zone have a glass or two of Cannonau red wine every day. It was discovered that it has twice as many flavonoids than other vines, therefore within specific limitations, it can help maintain a particular level of arterial cleanliness.

Cannonau Red Wine

What are the statistics on Italian centennials?

In general, the average life expectancy in Italy is increasing, as is the number of centenarians. Italy has 17,177 residents aged 100 and more as of January 1, 2021. 83% of these are female. “We expect a doubling of centenarians between now and 2032,” theorizes Niccolò Marchionni, Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Florence and President of the Italian Society of Geriatric Cardiology. Over a hundred years was a pretty rare first thing, and it is becoming increasingly rare.”

Achent’annos! It exclaims in Sardinia, wishing the interlocutor a long and healthy life. Even if science has not yet provided a definitive explanation for Sardinian distinctiveness.

Seulo - Italian centenarians
Seulo – Sardinia | Credit

The gift of longevity is passed down from generation to generation: there are around 35,000 surnames in Sardinia, but the centenarians are concentrated in a circle of only 1200. Luca Deiana, professor of Clinical Biochemistry and Clinical Molecular Biology at the University of Sassari’s Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, has built the world’s largest database on longevity. His investigations on 3,800 centenarians have shown that genetic protection defends centenarians from a variety of illnesses, including cardiovascular and oncological diseases.


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