Sardinian family credit minestrone for world record age

From front left: Maria (97), Vitalia (80), Concetta (91), Mafalda (78), Claudina (99), Consolata (105), Adolfo (89), Antonino (93), Vitalio (86)

Doctors, dietitians and divines have long sought to identify the secret of a long life. The answer minestrone soup, according to nine siblings from Sardinia who were on Tuesday recognised as the world’s oldest in terms of combined age.

The oldest member of the Melis family, Consolata, will be 105 on Wednesday, while the youngest of her siblings, Mafalda, nicknamed “the Little One” by her older sisters and brothers, is 78…

Scientists have to tried to work out what makes Sardinians live so long – 371 are over 100, or 22 for every 100,000 – and credit genetic heritage, frugal Mediterranean diet and a hardy lifestyle.

“We eat genuine food, meaning lots of minestrone and little meat and we are always working,” said Alfonso Melis, 89, who narrowly escaped being captured by Nazi soldiers during the second world war and can be found today discussing bond spreads with customers in the cafe he runs.

“Every free moment I have I am down at my vineyard or at the allotment where I grow beans, aubergines, peppers and potatoes,” he told the Guardian.

You just keep working and you eat minestrone, beans and potatoes,” added his older sister Claudia, 99, who attends church every morning…

The world’s oldest man living is Jiroemon Kimura, 114, from Japan. But Guinness World Records editor in chief, Craig Glenday, said that seven out of the 70 people known to be older than 110 are Italian.

And Sardinia is the perfect environment to produce centenarians…The prevalence of farming and shepherding means people are physically active.”

Food was also key, argued Prof. Luca Deiana. “A glass of red and a chunk of sheep’s cheese or goat’s ricotta is the standard meal for these 100-year-olds – all local, genuine food,” he added.

The article has a few humorous anecdotes, Sardinian versions of urban legend – and the genes help, of course.

The Mediterranean diet is what I grew up with. I always credit my Highland genes; but, my Italian-American mom did all the cooking. So, maybe I’ll last as long as some of these folks.

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