Home Medizin Ist Cilento, Italien, eine unbekannte „Blaue Zone“?

Ist Cilento, Italien, eine unbekannte „Blaue Zone“?

von NFI Redaktion

In a recent review published in Nutrients, researchers used environmental, nutritional, and lifestyle data to determine if Cilento, Italy shares common characteristics with „Longevity Blue Zones“ (LBZs).








Study: A narrative review examining the similarities between Cilento and the already defined „Blue Zones“ in terms of environment, nutrition, and lifestyle: Could Cilento be considered an undefined „Blue Zone“? Image Source: Matthias Jiury Rabbione / Shutterstock.com

What Are LBZs and What Can They Teach Us?

LBZs, often referred to as „Blue Zones,“ are regions around the world with varying geographical profiles but a common long life expectancy among their citizens. These regions include Okinawa, Japan; Nuoro Province, Sardinia, Italy; the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica; and Ikaria, Greece. Many scientists believe that this list is not exhaustive and there may be other LBZs waiting to be discovered.

LBZs are of particular interest to scientists as they not only host the world’s oldest living people, but also have low incidence of age-related complications. Previous studies sought to elucidate the mechanistic basis of these observations and found that genetics account for only 20–30% of the remarkable longevity of LBZ citizens. Therefore, environmental factors, lifestyle choices, occupational habits, and dietary habits are likely responsible for most of these observed benefits.

Cilento is an Italian region in Campania, Salerno, and is known for being the birthplace of the Mediterranean Diet (MD), an increasingly popular dietary pattern consisting mainly of fresh fruits and vegetables, high fiber, extra virgin olive oil, and low meat or processed food consumption. With a high number of centenarians and nonagenarians living in the region, Cilento is becoming the focus of longevity-oriented research.

About the Study

This study aims to assess whether Cilento merits being designated as an LBZ in the future and whether environmental, nutritional, or lifestyle factors support longevity in the region.

The researchers followed the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines with model adaptation. Studies published from 2004 onwards were retrieved from the online databases Scopus, PubMed/MEDLINE, and Google Scholar.

Of the 173 records initially found, 72 duplicates were removed from the analysis. The title and abstract screening led to the exclusion of 77 records, while the full-text screening excluded six studies, leaving a final dataset of 18 publications.

The researchers used a descriptive comparative approach to compare and contrast features between Cilento and current LBZs.

Study Results

Despite the geographical contrast between Cilento and the current LBZs, shared environmental, nutritional, and lifestyle features between these populations may enable Cilento to achieve LBZ-like longevity.

Environmental data suggest that hilly elevations between 355 and 600 meters above mean sea level (MSL) and a mild climate with an average annual temperature of 20 °C may contribute to longevity. Additionally, older Cilento residents were concentrated at 400–600 m altitude, with the region meeting the average annual temperature requirement of 18–20 °C.

Despite differing historical and cultural origins and species composition, Cilento’s predominantly plant-based diet emphasizes the consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains low in processed foods and fats. Similar to Okinawa, Japan, Cilento has found ways to enhance the nutritional quality of potatoes, once considered less healthy than other plant-based foods, through the use of cooking and seasoning techniques with extra virgin olive oil.

It is known that the Mediterranean Diet promotes health, but it is also recognized that not all Mediterranean populations are equally long-lived; these data confirm that longevity is the sum of genetic as well as macro and micro environmental factors and not just the result of a single factor like diet.

Common lifestyle features include occupational and family organization choices. Cilento residents and those in other LBZs, except Loma Linda, predominantly engage in traditional and labor-intensive occupations, place high value on social and family structure, and show a strong religious devotion.

Conclusions

This review sheds light on the similarities and differences between Cilento and LBZs to determine if Cilento meets the criteria for being labeled an LBZ. More importantly, this review highlights the environmental, nutritional, and lifestyle factors that can contribute to longevity, not only for LBZ residents but for the general population.

The insights gained from this discovery could be applied to the general population to protect them from chronic, non-communicable diseases and slow down the aging process.

Journal Reference:

  • Aliberti, SM, Donato, A., Funk, RH, & Capunzo, M. (2024). A narrative review examining the similarities between Cilento and the already defined „Blue Zones“ in terms of environment, nutrition, and lifestyle: Could Cilento be considered an undefined „Blue Zone“? Nutrients 16(5); 729. doi:10.3390/nu16050729

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