Could the secret to a longer life possibly be to drink more alcohol and exercise less?
A study of long-lived Ashkenazi Jews has found that those who drank slightly more and exercised less than their average counterparts lived longer. The group was also reportedly less likely to reach higher levels of obesity.
God was apparently not a factor.
The study was carried out by researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and the findings published in the online edition of Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, the Telegraph reports.
''This study suggests that centenarians may possess additional longevity genes that help to buffer them against the harmful effects of an unhealthy lifestyle,'' senior author, Nir Barzilai, the director of the Institute for Aging Research at Yeshiva University's Albert Einstein College of Medicine, was quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying.
The study reportedly involved 477 Ashkenazi Jews aged 95 to 122 who were living independently, three-quarters of them women.
Ashkenazi Jews were chosen because they are more ''genetically uniform than other populations, making it easier to spot gene differences," the study reportedly said.
Twenty-four percent of the men in the study group drank alcohol daily, compared with 22 percent of the general population, while 43 per cent exercised regularly compared to 57 percent, the SMH reports.
But critics have reportedly already pointed out that the individuals in the study had lived healthier lives than others, which was more important for longevity.
And Barzilai himself "emphasized that the research did not mean most people could live unhealthy lives and not expect to pay a price in the end," the Telegraph reports.
"Although this study demonstrates that centenarians can be obese, smoke and avoid exercise, those lifestyle habits are not good choices for most of us who do not have a family history of longevity.
''Although this study demonstrates that centenarians can be obese, smoke and avoid exercise, those lifestyle habits are not good choices for most of us who do not have a family history of longevity."
He said one woman he interviewed, a 109-year-old, had smoked 40 cigarettes a day for 90 years. However, he was "horrified when, after a television appearance, a man addressed him in Starbucks and said he would never exercise again, because his grandmother had lived to 102."
He said the study provided evidence that "longevity" genes — "variants that exert particular physiology effects, such as causing significantly elevated levels of HDL or 'good' cholesterol" — helped to buffer them against the harmful effects of an unhealthy lifestyle.
When he asked centenarians their views about why they had lived so long, he reported — perhaps surprisingly — that "God, religion or spirituality" did not get much credit, cited by only 7 percent of women and 2.5 percent of men.