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Secret to long life in genes, not lifestyle, study suggests

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Thursday, August 4th, 2011

As reported in SMH:

Israeli researchers trying to unlock the secret of longevity studied a population of Ashkenazi Jews who have lived to at least 95 and found their eating and lifestyle habits are no better than those of the general population.

In fact, men in the long-lived group drank slightly more and exercised less than their average counterparts.

The findings are published in the online edition of Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

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”This study suggests that centenarians may possess additional longevity genes that help to buffer them against the harmful effects of an unhealthy lifestyle,” said the senior author, Dr Nir Barzilai, the director of the Institute for Aging Research at Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

The study involved 477 Ashkenazi Jews aged 95 to 122 who were living independently. Three-quarters were women. All were enrolled in a study aimed to uncover the secrets to longevity.

Ashkenazi Jews were chosen because they are more ”genetically uniform than other populations, making it easier to spot gene differences, the study said.

The elder group had similar habits in terms of height-weight ratio, smoking, exercise level and diet as similarly matched people in the general population.

Data on comparison subjects came from 3164 people who were born about the same time as the centenarians and were examined between 1971 and 1975.

Twenty-four per cent of long-living men drank alcohol daily, compared with 22 per cent of the general population, while 43 per cent exercised regularly compared to 57 per cent.

The longer-living group was less likely to reach higher levels of obesity. But researchers cautioned that the older set’s secrets are not a good fit for most.

”Although this study demonstrates that centenarians can be obese, smoke and avoid exercise, those lifestyle habits are not good choices for most of us who do not have a family history of longevity,” Dr Barzilai said.

Agence France-Presse