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Italian villages may hold key to longevity

AAP logoAAP 12/09/2016

Living in a pretty southern Italian village, with plenty of sun, company and a healthy Mediterranean diet, may be the secret to a long life, according to early findings from a medical research project.

Teams of doctors conducted check-ups on about 30 nonagenarians who live in Cilento, an isolated coastal region about 130km south of Naples, comparing results with those of people aged between 50 and 70 who live in the region, as well as with a control group of people living elsewhere.

"We found that these people not only live long, but also well," Salvatore Di Somma, a professor from Rome's La Sapienza University, who coordinated the project, called Cilento Initiative on Aging Esito (CIAO), told DPA.

Typical old age illnesses, such as Alzheimer's disease, heart deficiencies or eye cataracts "were practically absent," Di Somma said. Also, their levels of adrenomedullin - a hormone that can obstruct blood flow - were "four times lower" than what would be expected, he added.

More research is needed to explain why the people of Cilento age extraordinarily well.

Di Somma said it may have to do with a home-grown diet, low stress levels and the high level of community support that Italian village life normally offers. "For sure, these people do not know what stress is," he said.

The professor also indicated that genetic factors had yet to be investigated.

"Ours is only a pilot project that merits further inquiry. What I can say is that we found very interesting results, which suggest that longevity and quality of live indicators for this area [of Italy] are unique," Di Somma said.

Acciaroli was one of the hamlets included in the research. According to the Cilento tourism board, life expectancy there is 92 for women and 85 for men, against a national average for Italy of 84 for women and 79 for men. The world average is 71.4, according to the WHO.

The San Diego School of Medicine also contributed to the research.

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