Why Do People Live So Long in This Italian Village?

© MARIO LAPORTA/AFP/Getty Images

By Gillie Houston Posted September 09, 2016

Scientists search for longevity secrets in Acciaroli, Italy, where one in 10 residents lives past 100.

If you're searching for the fountain of youth, you might want to start in Acciaroli, Italy, where a one in every 10 people is over 100 years old. Despite being home to just 700 residents, the southwestern Italian village has caught the eye of researchers from around the globe who are attempting to pinpoint the town's secret to longevity.

Researchers from the University of California San Diego and Rome's Sapineza University  traveled to Acciaroli to take a closer look at the long-living residents. Over a six month period, during which the scientists studied the blood of 80-plus residents, the researchers found that the town's population had one thing notably in common: above-average circulation. The blood samples collected showed that there was an unusually low level of a hormone called adrenomedullin—which causes blood vessels to widen, contract, and cause serious circulatory issues—across the town as a whole.

According to The Independent, researchers said these people had levels of the hormone that would be considered normal for people in their 20s and 30s. The low adrenomedullin levels seemed "to act as a powerful protecting factor, helping the optimal development of microcirculation."

Though researchers have yet to pinpoint a specific reason for the village-wide hormonal trend, they do suggest that the average diet of locally caught fish, vegetables, fruit, olive oil, and home-raised chickens and rabbits could be responsible. They also note that the people of Acciaroli eat an above-average amount of rosemary, which in the past has been associated with longevity and improved brain function.

Study author and cardiologist Alan Maisel of the UC San Diego's School of Medicine says that the Italian herb could be the key dietary factor. "When we tested it, we found a dozen different compounds in there. Scientific studies have shown that acids help the function of the brain," Maisel says. The doctor also notes that the people of Acciaroli and its surrounding region "don't have the sort of chronic diseases that we see in the U.S. such as heart, disease, obesity, and Alzheimer's," and didn't suffer from cataracts whatsoever.

Another added bonus—or perhaps the root—of the Italian village's longevity: plenty of sex. "Sexual activity among the elderly appears to be rampant. Maybe living long has something to do with that. It's probably the good air and the joie de vivre," says Maisel.

Whatever the reason for their remarkable longevity, the people of Acciaroli's appear to be further evidence that a Mediterranean diet just might be the key to living a longer, more healthful life.

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