By Oliver Renick - Aug 3, 2011
People who live 95 years or more are as likely as the rest of the population to smoke, drink and eat an unhealthy diet, suggesting their survival to that ripe age is based on genetics and not lifestyle, researchers found.
Scientists studied 477 Ashkenazi Jews who were 95 years and older, picking that population for their similar genetic makeup. Along with the lifestyle findings, the researchers discovered shared genetic mutations that may have helped the group survive, and could be the basis for further scientific study, said Nir Barzilai, lead author for the study published today in the journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
“To be 100, you need genetic help,” said Barzilai, director of the Longevity Gene Project at Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, in a telephone interview. “They didn’t do anything special as a group.”
The elderly group showed higher rates of daily alcohol consumption and fattier diets than 3,000 people who died earlier and were interviewed at an average of 70, studied in a previous report. About the same percentage of people in each group were smokers or overweight, according to the study.
Among long-living men, 24 percent consumed alcohol daily, compared with 22 percent of the 70-year-olds, and 43 percent regularly exercised, compared with 57 percent of the younger men. Of elderly women, 35 percent attempted a low-fat diet, compared with 39 percent of the 70-year-old group.
“You want everybody to be 100,” Barzilai said. “The medical cost of that last two years of life of someone who dies at 100 is a third of the last two years of life of somebody who dies at 70.”