On the island of Sardinia, they have one of the highest populations of centenarians in the world. These centenarians, people who live to be 100 years old or older, have been a scientist mystery for many years. However, Netflix’s new show, Down to Earth with Zac Efron, takes a closer look at what is increasing Sardinian longevity.
In episode 4, Efron, paired with Darien Olien, founder of SuperLife, visited the island to meet up with scientists Dr. Gianni Pes and Valter Longo. They have been studying Sardinia’s blue zones, areas with high populations of centenarians, for many years. Their research has identified three elements of extended life expectancy: genetics, diet, and environment.
Genetics provides an initial platform for many centenarians, specifically in the town of Seulo. There you will find the world’s highest concentration of centenarians. Pes and Longo traced the genealogy of Seulo’s residents back about 500 years. They found everyone’s lineage went back to 5 families. These findings led to the conclusion that something in these familial genetics plays a role.
Another contributing factor is the low protein diet most Sardinians, and Italians for that matter, maintain throughout their lives. Local dishes center around locally grown vegetables and fruit, and carbs, like bread and pasta. Pes and Longo believe that a diet with less protein slows the aging process and allows these centenarians to continue thriving.
The environment also plays a huge role. In many Sardinian households, multiple generations are living under one roof. This helps the family elders remain mentally active and involved in social gatherings. Residents also benefit from the fresh sea air and a mild climate. They spend more time outdoors and walking is the most popular form of transport in these blue zone areas.
Throughout the episode, Efron and Olien are eager listeners and avid participants. One of the best moments, is when Efron meets local 97-year-old Francesco, who walks a quarter-mile up and down hills and stairs three times a day to have a glass a wine at the local bar. Of course, Francesco proclaims his longevity is due to the wine.
Overall, this episode is a fascinating look into the Italian lifestyle and what makes it so unique. In fact, Efron’s time on the island leaves him contemplating a break from Hollywood in favor of a life lived like the Sardinians.
- Down to Earth with Zac Efron [Netflix]
- Feature Picture: Screenshot from Down to Earth with Zac Efron