They call it the “Village of Long Life.” Mylopotamos is a tiny Greek municipality in northern Crete famous for the fact that its inhabitants live extraordinarily long, healthy lives. The longevity of this small Mediterranean village was a mystery… until now. Scientists believe that they have found a genetic variant, to which some isolated Greek populations are predisposed, that protects the heart against the “bad” fats that can contribute to cardiovascular disease.
Scientists at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, near Cambridge in the U.K., published the results, in the open-access scientific journal Nature Communications, of a study that sequenced the genomes of 250 individuals living in isolated villages in Crete. The genome sequences were then compared to those of approximately 3,200 other people not from the area. The results are extraordinary.
The researchers found a genetic variant known as rs145556679 that is almost entirely unique to the DNA of Mylopotamans. The gene is associated with lower levels of potentially harmful fats and cholesterol, and thus acts as a cardiovascular protectant. A similar genetic variant has been found in isolated Amish populations in the United States.
"By studying isolated populations, we are able to identify those genetic variants that are at a higher frequency compared to cosmopolitan populations, and this in turn increases our power to detect if these variants are disease causing,” Lorraine Southam, joint first author from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, told Science Daily. “With isolated populations, we can get a unique view into rare genetic variants that play important roles in complex human diseases.”
You may not be from an isolated Greek village, but you can certainly imitate the diets of people from countries with the longest life expectancies.