Following the death of a 114-year-old woman from Pennsylvania named Delphine Gibson, 113-year-old Lessie Brown of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, is officially the oldest person in the United States. Her secret? According to her 88-year-old daughter Bernie Wilson, it’s sweet potatoes. Brown ate a sweet potato (often referred to as a yam) every single day until she was 110 years old, only changing her diet in her extreme old age.
In 2015, when his mother turned 111 years old, Wilson told WJW-TV that Brown inspired others to try eating sweet potatoes. “They thought that would give them longer lives too,” said Wilson.
Lessie Brown was born in Georgia on September 22, 1904. According to the local station’s reporting in 2015, Brown has 24 grandchildren, 44 great-grandchildren, and 26 great-great-grandchildren.
Nowadays, Brown spends most of her time in bed, sleeping, but she was pleased to hear the news of her newly awarded status of the oldest person in the U.S. “That’s good,” she reportedly replied before drifting back asleep.
Brown was awarded the title of the oldest person in the U.S. by the Gerontology Research Group, which keeps a ranking of the world’s supercentenarians. Supercentenarians are people who live past 110 years old — there are currently 35 living supercentenarians in the world, 33 of whom are women. There are many factors involved in living a lengthy life, gender included. Seventy percent of all the world’s supercentenarians are women.
Diet, however, also probably plays a role. While there’s no way to definitively say that her daily dose of sweet potato kept Brown alive this long, the tubers couldn’t have hurt her health. According to a study review published in 2016, sweet potatoes offer “numerous desirable nutritional and health benefits such as antioxidative, hypoglycemic, hypocholesterolemic, antimicrobial, and immunomodulatory activities.”
Delphine Gibson, the former oldest person in the U.S. who recently passed, attributed her longevity to her faith in God. Every supercentenarian’s secret is different — here’s what more of the world’s oldest people eat (or ate) to outlive us all.