KELLY MCEVERS, HOST: Researchers think they might have found the secret to living a long and happy life, and it lies in a southern Italian village along the Mediterranean. It’s called Acciaroli. About a third of the people who live there – roughly 300 – are more than 100 years old.
ALAN MAISEL: Out of those ones that are over 100, we’re not sure exactly, but we think about 20 percent have reached 110 years of age.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: That’s Dr. Alan Maisel. He’s a cardiologist at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. He’s part of a joint U.S.-Italian research team launching a long-term study of the centenarians of Acciaroli. They want to figure out why so many of them are living so long.
MCEVERS: Maisel has traveled to the village and says people there don’t seem to be trying very hard to stay healthy.
MAISEL: What shocked me is that I don’t see people jogging. I do not see people in active exercise classes. I don’t see them swimming laps in the ocean.
MCEVERS: In fact, he says, many of the elderly residents of Acciaroli are smokers and overweight.
CORNISH: How can that be? Well, Maisel suspects it’s a combination of good genes and good diet.
MAISEL: Everybody ate anchovies. Now, you know, I actually like anchovies on my Caesar salad, but I never thought they would help me live to be 110. But they seem to eat it with every meal.
CORNISH: And another big part of their diet…
MAISEL: Also, every meal they have the plant rosemary in almost everything they cook with. Whatever form they put it in has been shown in scientific studies to reduce cognitive and prevent cognitive dysfunction and some aging.
MCEVERS: Add to this a glass of good, Italian wine and a heavy dash of leisure…
MAISEL: In the evenings, in the late afternoon, they’re all sitting around the cantinas, the restaurants. They’re having some wine, some coffee. They’re relaxed.
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