A daily serving of pickled herring and raw eggs might not sound appetising, but these are just some of the unique dietary habits of the oldest verified people in the world.
The world's oldest people are often asked about their secret to living a long life. Common responses include having a positive outlook on life, being independent, living without regret and staying in shape. But many of the oldest people also believe that their diet is responsible for their amazingly long lives. Today we're taking a look at the unique diets of some of the oldest people to have ever lived.
Living to be 100 years old is perhaps more common than you think; around 13,000 centenarians are believed to be living in the UK1. Some regions of Japan, Italy, Greece, Costa Rica and America boast an unusually high number of centenarians and people living in these locations, known as blue zones, generally have a higher life expectancy than the rest of the world. Here, people typically eat lots of fresh produce, keep active throughout life and maintain a strong sense of community, all of which may explain why they live longer lives2. But today we're focusing on the oldest of the old, the super-centenarians, a term applied exclusively to people aged 110 and over. Could their diets have extended their lives?
Most of us tuck into a bowl of cereal or a few slices of toast for breakfast, but many of the world's oldest people have a different take on breakfast. 117-year-old Filomena Taipe Mendoza of Peru put her amazing longevity down to never consuming processed food or soft drinks. Her typical breakfast consisted of local goats cheese, washed down with a glass of fresh milk. Eating a fat-heavy breakfast can help us to feel fuller for longer as the high-energy content of fat can fuel our body throughout the day.
America's Susannah M Jones, who lived to 116, ate a simple breakfast of scrambled eggs, porridge and four slices of bacon to start her day. Emma Morano, the last person born in the 1800s, had a slightly different take on the first meal of the day. She consumed raw eggs for breakfast every day, from her teens until her passing in 2017 aged 117. This quirky routine is not backed by science; cooked eggs and raw eggs are nutritionally very similar, there's no health benefit from eating them raw. From what we can gather, almost all super-centenarian breakfasts are small, simple and filling.
There's only one common factor in almost all super-centenarian diets: vegetables. Love them or hate them, vegetables form the bulk of many super-centenarian diets and they're a cornerstone of all heart-healthy diets. Diets vary from country to country, but super-centenarian meals are typically smaller than an average lunch here in the UK. Nabi Tajima, who was born in 1900, lived to the ripe old age of 117 and frequently tucked into sushi, noodle soup and other 'delicious things'. Enjoying the food you eat is perhaps equally as important as its nutritional value. Many of the world's oldest people seem to stick with healthy, nutritious foods that they want to eat.
Similar to lunch, the super-centenarians eat a variety of different foods at dinner time; there are no common themes. Yisrael Kristal, formerly the world's oldest man, ate pickled herring every day and lived to be 113 years old. Unlike many of the other people we've mentioned here, Kristal wasn't that concerned with the food he ate. According to his daughter, he ate to live, he didn't live to eat. The oldest man in recorded history, Jiroemon Kimura of Japan, ate a typical Japanese diet of fish, vegetables, rice and occasionally meat. He believed that only eating until he was 80% full gave him such a long and healthy life of just over 116 years. Eating like this is commonplace in Japan, where the concept is known as hara hachi bun me.
Pudding is arguably the best part of any meal and many of super-centenarians aren't afraid of. Richard Overton, America's oldest veteran, followed a diet more akin to a teenager than a pensioner. He was known to eat butter and pecan flavoured ice cream every night, often straight from the tub. He enjoyed the finer things in life as well, starting each day with coffee, whiskey and a cigar until his death in 2018 aged 112. This blog post wouldn't be complete without mentioning Jeanne Calment, the world's oldest verified person. She lived for an astonishing 122 years, despite smoking , skipping breakfast, drinking a glass of Port daily and eating more than two pounds of chocolate each week.
It's important to note that following any of the eating habits mentioned here probably won't extend your life. Our longevity is strongly affected by our genetics, but following a healthy diet and active lifestyle can help you stay healthier for longer. As time goes on, we're learning more about the complex systems that keep us alive – in the distant future, living beyond 100 years of age may even become the norm. To help support normal heart function, we've developed Kwai Heartcare and Kwai Heartcare+, natural garlic-based supplements that can help to reduce cholesterol levels and relieve temporary oxidative stress. Both of these unique products contain a standardised dose of Allicin, an active ingredient in garlic with health-supporting properties. Find out more about our full range of supplements by clicking here . The Kwai blog is not a source of medical advice; always talk with your doctor before making changes to your diet and lifestyle.