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Journal Articles Experimental Gerontology Year : 2004

Identification of a geographic area characterized by extreme longevity in the Sardinia island

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Abstract

High prevalence and low female/male ratio for validated centenarians are observed in Sardinia and these findings appear to be thus far
unique to this island. Moreover a specific region on the island is characterized by exceptional male longevity. We calculated the extreme
longevity index (ELI), defined as the percentage of persons born in Sardinia between 1880 and 1900, who became centenarians. A gaussian
smoothing method was used in order to identify the so-called ‘Blue Zone', where longevity is concentrated in the central-eastern part of the
island and covers all the mountainous areas of central Sardinia. The estimated life expectancy in the ‘Blue Zone' is longer than in the
remaining territory of the island especially for men and the male to female ratio among centenarians born in this area is 1.35 compared to 2.43
in the rest of Sardinia. The specific mechanism by which persons living in this territory were more likely to reach extreme longevity remains
unknown but it is interesting to note that most of the ‘longevity hot spots' identified in various regions of the world over the years have been
located in mountainous geographical areas even if none of these longevity regions have been fully validated. An alternative and interesting
hypothesis is that the high rate of inbreeding determined by frequent marriages between consanguineous individuals and low immigration
rates have progressively decreased the variability of the genetic pool and facilitated the emergence of genetic characteristics that protect
individuals from diseases that are major causes of mortality particularly in older individuals. Given the exceptionally high prevalence of male
centenarians in the ‘Blue Zone', it is reasonable to assume that either the environmental characteristics or the genetic factors, or both, exert
their favorable effect more strongly in men than in women. Thus, the mechanism involved may be modulated by the hormonal milieu, or may
be associated with genes located in the sex chromosomes.
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Dates and versions

halshs-00175541 , version 1 (03-10-2007)
halshs-00175541 , version 2 (22-06-2018)

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Michel Poulain, Giovanni Mario Pes, Claude Grasland, Ciriaco Carru, Luigi Ferrucci, et al.. Identification of a geographic area characterized by extreme longevity in the Sardinia island: the AKEA study. Experimental Gerontology, 2004, 39 (9), pp.1423-1429. ⟨10.1016/j.exger.2004.06.016⟩. ⟨halshs-00175541v2⟩
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