We just returned from a long trip through Italy and were struck by Italians' apparent immunity to all the forces of aging that besiege Americans and other members of the First World. "Italian men," said Paolo, our driver, "smoke, drink, womanize and curse all day and live to a hundred." Maybe the answers why are in this new report on Italian longevity.
The genetic component of human longevity: analysis of the survival advantage of parents and siblings of Italian nonagenarians
- 1Department of Cell Biology, University of Calabria, Rende, Italy
- 2Department of Economics and Statistics, University of Calabria, Rende, Italy
Professor G Passarino, Department of Cell Biology, University of
Calabria, 87036, Rende, Italy. Tel: +39 0984 492932; Fax: +39 0984
492911; E-mail: email@example.com
European Journal of Human Genetics (2011) 19, 882–886; doi:10.1038/ejhg.2011.40; published online 16 March 2011
Many epidemiological studies have shown that parents, siblings and offspring of long-lived subjects have a significant survival advantage when compared with the general population. However, how much of this reported advantage is due to common genetic factors or to a shared environment remains to be resolved.
We reconstructed 202 families of nonagenarians from a population of southern Italy. To estimate the familiarity of human longevity, we compared survival data of parents and siblings of long-lived subjects to that of appropriate Italian birth cohorts. Then, to estimate the genetic component of longevity while minimizing the variability due to environment factors, we compared the survival functions of nonagenarians' siblings with those of their spouses (intrafamily control group).
We found that both parents and siblings of the probands had a significant survival advantage over their Italian birth cohort counterparts. On the other hand, although a substantial survival advantage was observed in male siblings of probands with respect to the male intrafamily control group, female siblings did not show a similar advantage. In addition, we observed that the presence of a male nonagenarians in a family significantly decreased the instant mortality rate throughout lifetime for all the siblings; in the case of a female nonagenarians such an advantage persisted only for her male siblings.
The methodological approach used here allowed us to distinguish the effects of environmental and genetic factors on human longevity. Our results suggest that genetic factors in males have a higher impact than in females on attaining longevity.