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Mediterranean Wisdom, by Anthony T. Machi, M.D., L.F.A.P.A.

Updated: Feb 2, 2022

In the Lesson Learned, “The Man Who Taught Us How to Eat'', I write of the life and work of Dr. Ancel Benjamin Keys. In The Seven Countries, detailed at countries, Dr. Keys compiled three decades of international epidemiology (the systematic study of large populations) giving the world an appreciation of the Mediterranean Diet. The website summarizes, “Ancel Keys and his colleague, Flaminio Fidanza, and their "Seven Country Study" colleagues were central to the to the modern definition and promotion of an eating pattern that they found in Italy and Greece in the 1950s and1960s, now popularly called ‘The Mediterranean Diet.’”

Standing on the shoulders of the giants of the "Seven Countries Study", a group of international researchers gathering epidemiological data, gave the world the Blue Zones, popularized by Dan Buettner. Mr. Buettner first wrote of the Blue Zones in National Geographic, In Mr. Buettner's books, Blue Zones Solutions and The Blue Zones, 9 Lessons for Leading a Longer Life, we can learn of centenarians in the five Blue Zones. Three of the five Blue Zones are islands and two are Mediterranean islands, Sardinia and Ikaria.

Through the Blue Zones Project,, as well as Dan Buettner's writing and speaking,, we learn of the wisdom of those who live to be centenarians.

Mr. Buettner writes of the “Seven Sardinia Blue Zone Secrets”.

  • Eat a plant based diet accented with meat.

  • Put family first.

  • Drink goat milk.

  • Celebrate elders.

  • Take a walk.

  • Drink a glass or two of wine daily.

  • Laugh with friends.

Mr. Buettner describes the “Seven Blue Zones Secrets of Ikaria”.

  • Drink goat milk.

  • Mimic mountain life.

  • Eat a Mediterranean Diet.

  • Consume herbs

  • Nap

  • Fast occasionally

  • Make family and friends a priority.

In the Lesson Learned, “The Longevity Diet '', I write about the world class basic science research of Dr. Valter Longo. In his book, The Longevity Diet, he shares the source of his inspiration coming from his visits to the Italian region of Calabria. Dr. Longo writes, ”It was around 2006, and my uncle in Molochio, the village of two thousand people where both my parents grew up, told me that Salvatore Caruso had reached one hundred years of age. Big deal, I thought. But I remembered Salvatore, u ragioniere (the account), who was well known for the interesting stories he told. He had even written a book chronicling his life.”

Dr. Longo continues, “Year after year, the number of centenarians kept on increasing and by 2010, four villagers had reached the age of one hundred. So I started visiting Salvatore and a few others, and I started asking questions about their lifestyle and diet”.

Sicily is an island in the geographical center of the Mediterranean Sea. Sardinia is to its west, Calabria to its north and Ikaria to its east. All four of my grandparents grew up in Sicily.

I am my maternal grandfather, Salvatore Orlando. I am him in appearance and demeanor. He was “Papa” to his grandchildren. Salvatore brought to the United States the rhythms of Sant’ Elia, a fishing village east of Palermo, the historic capital of Sicily. Even after the death of my grandmother, his wife of five decades, he continued the lifestyle patterns of Sicily.

He lived a long productive life. He joked that he lied about his age to obtain his first job and he lied about his age to get his last. He worked as a laborer. After being required to retire at seventy-five years, he gardened and walked. He tended his garden and took pride in the quality of his homemade red wine. I remember as a little boy going on walks with Papa. Walks I thought were very long. One dear memory is of a pleasant Sunday afternoon in which Papa bought a bag of Sicilian cookies for the two of us. He and I walked and walked until we ate them all.

He ate simply of fish several days a week. Pasta with red sauce appeared on the table the other days. He occasionally consumed his favorite meat, rabbit, prepared in a uniquely Sicilian fashion - 'agrodolce' - sweet and sour. Everyday he consumed fruits, vegetables, and his Italian Red. If dessert appeared on the table, it likely was Sicilian cookies.

I was fortunate to see my Sicilian grandfather live by the ancient wisdom of the Mediterranean islands. Frequently being in his presence allowed me to absorb his ways.

The lessons of the Seven Countries, The Blue Zones Solutions and The Longevity Diet share the ways of the ancient wisdom of the Mediterranean islands.

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