Why Do Sardinians Live So Long?

On my visit to Sardinia, I had the opportunity to visit a wonderful vineyard – Argiolas, a few miles outside of the capital of Cagliari. The wines were spectacular and I was happy to find out that there are exported to the U.S. and available from the distributor Winebow. But the highlight of the visit was meeting 101-year-old Antonio Argiolas, the patriarch of the family, whose father started the vineyard from scratch in 1918. While Argiolas looked frail, his mind was sharp and he was clearly charmed to have so many American visitors. His advanced age reminded us that Sardinia is one of a handful of noteworthy places in the world where a disproportionate number of residents live to be 100.

Later in the day, we went further into the interior of Sardinia to visit an historic farm museum. The owner told us that 35 of the area’s 2,700 residents are over 100 years old and the man who lived next door to him died two years ago at the age of 113!

So what is it about Sardinia? Well Mr. Argiolas drinks a glass of red wine each day. Certainly, the health effects of such a habit have been proven. We heard other theories: lack of pollution, continued physical activitiy, fresh food, lack of stress. The last one – stress- made me want to read up on my history a bit. How badly did the interior of Sardinia suffer, if at all, during the World Wars? The capital city of Cagliari was severely bombed.

This BBC article sheds some light on a strong possibility – genetics and intermarriage. Since these Sardinian families lived for hundreds of years in relative isolation, they intermarried. Professor Luca Deiana tells the BBC, “Marriage among relatives is not the rule but there are some cases of this taking place. From a genetic point of view when this happens there’s a higher probability of having genetic diseases, but also of having positive results like centenarians.”

You may have first read about the longevity of Sardinians in a National Geographic article a few years back. The author of that article has a new book and Web site called Blue Zones devoted to how research on these special communities can help all of us live longer. You can take a free quiz at the Web site that will calculate how long you will live…my results: 91.2 years old.

Related Articles:
Sardinia: A World Apart (paid subscribers only)
Sardinia’s Ancient Oak Forests Enchant (paid subscribers only)
Purchase an immediate download of the back issue containing these two Sardinia articles