World’s oldest people credit drinking and eating junk as the secret to a long life Advertisement

World’s oldest people credit drinking and eating junk as the secret to a long life

We look into the lives of 11 centenarians and burst some myths

By Salva Mubarak  August 2nd, 2017

You don’t get to be over a century old without learning some choice secrets of the universe along the way. Jeanne Louise Calment, who lived to be 122 years old, credited her age to a life lived without worries. She also smoked 2 cigarettes a day and ate nearly 16 bars of chocolate every week. Queen Elizabeth, at 91, eats healthy and spends adequate amount of time outdoors, but also indulges in 4 cocktails every day. 

Is the universe telling us something? Have we been worrying needlessly about our chocolate to kale ratio? Dr Nir Barzilai, director of the Institute for Aging Research, begs to differ.

“Genetic factors are more dominating (than lifestyle factors) at exceptional older ages,” he says, “‘In our (study of) centenarians, almost 50 per cent were obese or overweight, smokers, and not exercising even moderately. That is why we study them — because their interaction with environment is not exemplary and still they make it.” So while the thought of consuming booze and chocolate like there’s no tomorrow for a long life might be appealing, your family health history can put a dampener on those plans.

Since there’s been no progress in the discovery of the Fountain of Youth, we decided to examine the advice of these supercentenarians to see what might actually work. Should you subscribe to a diet of ‘anything and everything you want’ and abstain from men (the secret to 117 year old Emma Morano’s long life)? Let’s separate the myths from the facts.

How to live to be a 100, according to 11 centenarians

Adele Dunlap (lived to be 114 years old)

Secret to long life: Oatmeal

What experts say: Experts give Adele’s hack a big thumbs up. Not only is oatmeal an easy-to-make and well-balanced breakfast option, it also has several important health benefits. The fibre content in oats helps lower cholesterol, regulate your blood pressure and maintain our intestinal health. They also help in controlling your appetite and discourage over eating.

Ana Vela Rubio (115 years old)

Secret to long life: Positive attitude and compassion towards others

What experts say: In a time when it’s perfectly acceptable to cut off ties with friends and kin over Game of Thrones spoilers, Ana’s hack might appear almost incredulous to most. But positive thinking can improve our health. A research published in the American Heart Association’s journal claims that a positive outlook can mean living longer and healthier. The subjects exhibited reduced levels of stress and an increased drive to stay active and exercise.

Jeanne Louise Calment (lived to be 122 years old)

Secret to long life: Smoked 2 cigarettes a day, for 100 years. She only stopped smoking at 119, after losing her eyesight as she didn’t want to burn herself accidentally. She also drank port wine often and ate 2 pounds (that’s nearly 16 bars) of chocolate every week. She also got extra virgin olive oil body rubs regularly . Her life philosophy was that “If you can’t do anything about it, don’t worry about it”. 

What experts say: While the WHO calls tobacco the “single most printable cause of death in the world” and experts unequivocally agree that smoking worsens your health, it might have some health benefits too. For instance, for people who suffer from Inflammatory Bowel Disease, smoking can alleviate the worst of their symptoms. But while it might provide relief, smoking is generally discouraged as it can cause the disease to flare up in some cases.As far as chocolate is concerned, nutritionists recommend eating 80-100 grams of dark chocolate every day.

While there has been no known correlation between olive oil massages and longevity of life, regular massages with it can help keep dry, flaky skin at bay. It can also keep your skin looking younger, according to 61-year old supermodel Yazmeenah Rossi, who relies on a scrub made of olive oil and sugar and has the internet scrambling to look for signs of airbrushing in her pictures.


Besse Cooper (lived to be 116 years old)

Secret to long life: Minding your own business and avoiding unhealthy food.

What experts say: You don’t need to put on lab coat to know that minding your own business can get you out of many a sticky situations, potentially adding years to your life. Clean eating, on the other hand, is tricky. Eating disorder specialist Dr Max Pemberton recently wrote an open letter slamming the health fad, calling it “ugly and damaging”. While processed foods should be avoided as much as you can, it’s inevitable that they filter in your diet from time to time. Here’s how you can regulate what you eat and avoid when it comes to the unhealthy (but necessary) food items.

Jessie Gallan (lived to be 109 years old)

Secret to long life: Lots of porridge and no men. “They’re more trouble than they’re worth,” she said.

What experts say: Like Emma Morano, Jessie credited her long life to healthy eating and avoiding men. As we mentioned earlier, being single can be good for your health, but being in a relationship will have no direct effect on your age either. Eating porridge everyday could be the key to a long and healthy life, according to a study done by Harvard University. Whole grains reduce the risk of dying from heart diseases and have several important long-term health benefits.


Misao Okawa (lived to be 117)

Secret to long life: “Eat and sleep and you will live a long life,” she said. She indulged in all her favourite things, including ramen noodles and beef stew, and advised others to do the same.

What experts say: Moderation is key. Over indulgence can cause an imbalance in your body, leading to health issues. Sleep, on the other hand, is always recommended. Gwyneth Paltrow claims that ‘clean sleeping’ is the new health trend to look out for. 

Pauline Spagnola (102 years old)

Secret to long life: “Lots of booze,” is all she says, when quizzed about the secrets to her longevity.

What experts say: Drinking alcohol may offer some health benefits, especially for your heart. But too much alcohol can increase your chances of health problems, including liver failure. The key, once again, is moderation. Experts recommend one drink a day for your health. Before you gleefully bring out your big novelty wine glass, the recommended quantity is 355 ml for beer, 148 ml for wine and 44 ml for the distilled spirits.

Violet Brown (117 years old)

Secret to long life: She prefers to eat small meals at short intervals and likes meat and fish, over pork and chicken. She also likes locally grown produce like sweet potatoes, breadfruit. oranges and mangoes.

What experts say: Eating little and often is good for your body. London-based nutritionist Antony Haynes agrees and adds, “Large meals burden the digestive system, often causing bloating and lowered energy while the body struggles to digest them.” 

Batuli Lammichane (113 years old)

Secret to long life: Smokes 30 cigarettes a day, but only locally made beedis. Avoids commercially produced ciggies. Avoid stress and stay active. “People of this modern age have too much stress. Those who don’t work and are idle in their old age won’t live long,” she says.

What experts say: Cigarettes are not good for you, commercially made or hand-rolled (see first slide for more information). But Batuli might be onto something with her ‘no stress and staying active’ approach. It will be stating the obvious if we claim that stress has adverse effects on your health. Chronic stress increases your chances of coronary distress and the mechanisms to cope with your mounting stress levels, including smoking and over eating, will also weaken your health. Regular physical and mental activity has several long-term health benefits. It also enables you to sleep better.

Emma Morano (lived to be 117 years old)

Secret to long life: 3 eggs (2 of them raw) a day and staying single. Loved indulging in an occasional cookie.

What experts say: Eggs are a great source of protein, but eating them raw is usually not recommended for the risk of salmonella. Additionally, avidin (a protein present in egg whites) can block the absorption of Vitamin H, which helps regulate our metabolism. If you eat an egg in the morning, it’s recommended that you keep other sources of cholesterol limited for the rest of the day, as one large egg contains 212 mg of cholesterol. Staying single, on the other hand, might not be the worst thing for your health. According to this research, single people are more likely to be healthy than their coupled counterparts. However, there’s no direct scientific correlation between your relationship status and the longevity of your life.

Susannah Mushatt (lived to be 116 years old)

Secret to long life: Bacon. Lots of it. Everyday for breakfast, she liked 4 strips of bacon with eggs and grits.

What experts say: Bacon and other cured meats are usually treated with chemicals to increase shelf life and improve appearance. Diets high in processed meats like these are linked to chronic diseases like kidney disease, heart failure, migraines and several types of cancer. Eating bacon might not be bad for your health, but consuming it regularly in such high quantities will definitely raise the risk to your health exponentially.