This has led scientists to study the Sardinian population, in an attempt to unravel the secrets of longevity. There have been a number of explanations, such as quality of life or diet, but also specific genetic factors that would interact together with environmental factors.
Longevity in Sardinia
A case study: Silanus
In an interview the town's mayor, Antonio Mario Attene, was asked his opinion on the high number of centenarians in his village, whether due to climate, diet or lifestyle. "I think it's a combination of all these factors, but I will not get into a scientific explanation of the genetic causes of longevity, that I'll leave to scientists. I think the type of life is important, without too much stress and conditioning. Our centenarians are people who are used to work in the countryside, mostly as farmers or shepherds. They are simple people, who have always loved to live simply.
They share a long working life, they worked up to eighty years of age. But I think there is another factor with a great influence on their longevity: community life and family, which is strong, enlarged; they have siblings, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, almost three generations around them. The elderly are never alone, they continue to be of great significance in the community, are not closed in elderly homes with other elderly people. They are happy to live and are convinced that it is worth living even if they are weak, just because there is the affection of children, grandchildren, friends."
Both objectives are pursued through the study of genetic markers in the population using a multidisciplinary approach involving biology, medicine, statistics, bioinformatics, biotechnology, archaeology, anthropology and paleontology. The intensive research activity is basically covered within two projects: "ProgeNIA" and "Akea".
The ProgeNIA Project
The project aims at identifying the genes and environmental factors responsible for aging, and led to the discovery of the existence of a relationship between adiposity, waist circumference and amount of insulin present in the individual. A relationship was identified in the formation of cholesterol, between heredity and environment (which includes diet and lifestyle), where heredity accounts for 40% and enviromnent 60%. And again, it was found that among the elderly longeval inheritance has more weight in women than in men, and that, depending on how a number of life features and health status combine, the influence of genes is triggered earlier or later.
The Akea Project
The Blue Zone
Buettner identified longevity hotspots in Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Icaria, Greece; and among the Seventh Day Adventists in Loma Linda, California, and offered an explanation, based on empirical data and first hand observations, as to why these populations live healthier and longer lives, with a Venn diagram.