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'The Island of Longevity' ~ by Prof Antonio Giordano, MD, PhD (Director - Sbarro Institute / SHRO)

Updated: Jun 21, 2023

Not just diet... but human connection!

There is a place with the desirable record for the highest percentage of centenarians, where unique circumstances for its inhabitants have favored a strong resistance to time and diseases, especially cancer. This island, as reported by the NY Times, is called Ikaria, a magical place located between Greece and Turkey, where the story of a local, Stamatis Moraitis, is legendary. He returned to spend the last months of his life on the island, and, despite a dire diagnosis of lung cancer, he survived due to a puzzling healing process and lived until he was 98, cultivating the garden behind his house.

It is believed that after years of living on the island, he returned to America for check-ups to find out that the doctors who treated him had already passed away.

There are five places in the world where there is an "exceptionally long-life expectancy". These areas, called "blue zones," include the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, the city of Loma Linda in California, the Okinawa Islands in Japan, Sardinia in Italy, and Ikaria in Greece. Dan Buettner, author of "The Blue Zones American Kitchen," argues that "the dietary habits in these places are very different," and indeed, while red wine is a staple food with a Mediterranean diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables in Ikaria, a diet based on sweet potatoes and tofu is present in Okinawa, while a Mesoamerican diet with foods rich in corn starch, beans, and pumpkin is preferred in Nicoya.

A healthy and balanced diet based on the traditions of the various places mentioned is not the only factor associated with life expectancy as in fact style and "perspective” on life also matter. Certainly, in all the areas considered, centenarians lead a life with high physical activity and spend many hours outdoors. They have strong bonds of friendship and family ties, along with the existence of "a common” purpose and positive outlook on life, exercising kindness and smiling often."

What seems like a myth, is the daily life of these populations who discover in regular activity and contact with nature, the remedy capable of rejuvenating the body and the immune system to the point of "defeating the direst diagnoses." As demonstrated for the inhabitants of Sardinia, another secret of their extraordinarily long life lies in the lack of an enzyme, G6PD.

The pristine landscape, the "slow" and stress-free lifestyle, rich in sharing, is the "common thread" that unites all the zones in which centenarians exist in the world. Predisposition to social life, a diligent work ethic that keeps conflicts at bay, frugal but tradition-based food, spontaneity, and a strong inclination "to let go and smile," to live "grateful and serene" in the face of even harsh, present and daily difficulties.

Thus, the secret of longevity lies not only in an enzyme or legumes but in the depths of the human soul and "the capacity for self-repair, both physically and mentally, of our mind." It is not necessary to live in Ikaria, Greece, to create a favorable environment and a healthy and happy existence.

The Latins used to say, "Transire mare mutat coelum, non animum", which means that we do not need to cross the sea if we carry with us" a culture of competition and conflict" that weakens, poisons, and therefore promotes diseases.

The man who resists, even when attacked by evil, is the man "at peace with himself", the wise one, the one who lives in contact with nature and human nature, even in the frenetic corners of our metropolis and not only in isolated beautiful areas. The indications for frugality are certainly inspiring, but above all, there is a warning for long life, cooperation, and the sharing of experiences and pains of these centenarian peoples, because this way of conceiving life is the true medicine (from the Greek "pharmacon"), the only and most effective "remedy".

This article was first published in Italian for La Voce Di New York by Prof Antonio Giordano, click here to read it.

Check out recent blog posts by Prof Giordano:

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