Is This Common Herb the Secret to Living Longer?

We all hear about "super" ingredients and foods that can boost our health, but some of them have only been recently discovered and there's no way to tell if they actually do what they claim. However, in this case, the ingredient is tried-and-true, a kitchen staple for hundreds of years, and the proof is there for everyone to see. You just have to travel to Acciaroli, Italy. 

What you'll find there is an abundance of people over the age of 100, living in a remote village between the ocean and mountains on the coast of Italy. So what does this have to do with an all-star herb? Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have been studying this population and discovered that they are known to have very low rates of heart disease and Alzheimer’s, and tend to follow Mediterranean diets that are significantly infused with one herb in particular: rosemary.

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"Fresh herbs can add a variety of nutrients to food and dishes," says celebrity nutritionist Paula Simpson. "Rosemary contains a plethora of antioxidants and health-promoting properties. Based on preliminary clinical studies, it may also help to decrease stress and anxiety. And along with lavender, it’s often used in aromatherapy to promote relaxation. Another interesting thing to note is that adding fresh rosemary to meats when grilling can help neutralize health hazard metabolites that are produced when cooking meats on high heat (heterocyclic amines, HCAs; advanced glycation end products, AGEs; and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, PAHs)."

With an average life expectancy of 78 years old here in the U.S., it piqued the interest of these researchers to figure out why others across the world were living longer. Alan Maisel, MD, lead UC San Diego School of Medicine investigator and professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, said in the findings, that due to the location of the village, locals also walk long distances and hike through the mountains as part of their daily activity. 

“The goal of this long-term study is to find out why this group of 300 is living so long by conducting a full genetic analysis and examining lifestyle behaviors, like diet and exercise,” said Maisel. “The results from studying the longevity of this group could be applied to our practice at UC San Diego and to patients all over the world.”

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Of course we know exercise and diet go hand in hand, so unfortunately just sitting around eating a bunch of rosemary and other Mediterranean foods like fish and avocado isn't going to get you to centenarian status without working out. But, the balanced lifestyle led by these individuals does go to show that it can lead you on the right path for health and wellness and it's worth pursuing.

The UC San Diego researchers have partnered with a team University of Rome La Sapienza to continue studying this group throughout the next six months. “This project will not only help to unlock some of the secrets of healthy aging, but will also build closer ties with researchers across the globe, which will lead to more science and improved clinical care in our aging population,” said Salvatore DiSomma, MD, lead Italian investigator and professor of emergency medicine at University of Rome La Sapienza.