alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.

Scientists Crack Code of How to Live Past 100: Vegetarianism, Religion, Good Genes

A group of US scientists studying human longevity believe they've gathered some invaluable evidence in the quest to predict which people will live to be older than 100. Based on genetic 'signposts', the scientists have worked out a mathematical model that determines a person's chance of living to be a centenarian. To gather the data, they looked at the biggest study yet done on centenarians, and found that there were common lifestyle choices and habits amongst those who lived longest: Vegetarianism, avoidance of alcohol, and a strong religion, to name a few. Beyond that though, it's up to having the right genes . . .

The BBC has more on the study:

only one in 6,000 people in industrialised countries reaches such a ripe old age. And 90% them are still disability free by the age of 93. The researchers now think they have cracked the genetic secret of this longevity.

They identified genetic markers that are "most different" between centenarians and randomly selected individuals ... "We tested our model in an independent set of centenarians and achieved an accuracy of 77%," explained Professor Sebastiani. "So out of 100 centenarians we could correctly predict the outcome of 77."

Their work builds on a previous study, which looked at a group of the longest-living Americans: Seventh Day Adventists. They were found to have the highest average life expectancy, at 88 years. One of the researchers explains the significance of that finding: "They get there by virtue of the fact that they have a religion that asks them to be vegetarian, they regularly exercise, they don't drink alcohol, they tend to manage their stress well through religion and time with family and they don't smoke."

But in order to make it 10 or more years longer, "genetics plays an increasingly important role."

The scientists are now setting to work devising a website that would allow the public to enter personal data in order to find out how long the model predicts they'll live. Which is kind of creepy. But also useful -- such a tool could eventually play a role in helping people prepare treatments or therapy plans accordingly. Perhaps if you knew how long your genes may allow you to live would act as a motivator for pursuing healthy eating and living habits. Of course, it could depress the hell out of you, pushing you into living a life of excess and indiscretion as well ...

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.