Friday, April 18, 2008

The Relationship of Longevity and Genetics

The Chinese symbol for longevity. (Photo by Joe Pitz)

I'm leaving the country for a holiday trip tomorrow, so no updates for a week (and definitely no calorie counting).

Trying to educate myself more about the benefits of a low-carb diet, I ran across this piece in NY Times. It's from 2004, but it's rather interesting nonetheless. Dr. Nir Barzilai from the Institute for Aging Research has studied the genes and habits of Ashkenazi Jews who have lived to be an average of 100.

So what was their secret to a long, healthy life? Surprisingly, there was no secret. Of the 300 centenarians interviewed, none had exercised. Yogurt, often touted as some kind of mysterious elixir of youth, played no role either. Most importantly, none of them was a vegetarian.

Perhaps even more surprising is the fact that 30 percent of them were actually overweight, which seems to indicate that caloric restriction (which inevitably leads to a weight loss) is not the only way to increase one's lifespan. The most important cause was genetics - those who had a family history of exceptional longevity lived the longest. That's good news for those of us whose grandparents had a long life and not so good news for those whose grandparents didn't.

Dr. Barzilai does not, however, encourage people to stop exercising or eating a healthy diet.

For more information on anti-aging and longevity, see these posts:

Growing New Body Parts: Breakthroughs in Regenerative Medicine
Drinking 10 Cups of Green Tea Daily and Not Smoking Could Add 12 Years to Your Life
Green Tea Reduces the Formation of AGEs
How the Accumulation of Minerals Might Cause Aging in Humans

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