Contrary to popular belief, living to a ripe old age has nothing to do with eating right, exercising regularly or quitting smoking and drinking. According to a new study, genes hold the key to longer life.
A study of hundreds of centenarians revealed they were just as likely to have vices as other people and in some cases have indulged in them more. Almost 500 men and women aged between 95 and 109 were asked about how they had lived their lives for the study.
Those quizzed were Ashkenazi Jews, whose relatively recent descent from small founder groups means there is less variation in their genes than in the general population, making it easier to spot the effects of genetics.
The results were later compared with the answers of a second group who were born around the same time but had normal lifespan.
If lifestyle was more important than genetics, the results would have shown the centenarians to be less likely to smoke than the others and have led healthier lives. But this was far from the case.
The long-lived men and women were no more likely to have dieted than the others and were more likely to have smoked and got drunk.
“This study suggests centenarians may possess additional longevity genes that help to buffer them against the harmful effects of an unhealthy lifestyle,” researcher Nir Barzilai of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York said.