Rosemary could be the secret to living to 100 according to researchers investigating 300 centenarians in a remote Italian village.
For the herb appears to be commonly used by a group of pensioners who have a most remarkable record of not just living longer but free of heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
Teams of medical experts have been given permission for the first time ever to examine the residents of a coastal hamlet called Acciaroli, near the resort of Salerno.
Nestled between the sea and the mountains the area has a population of a couple of thousand or so yet among them are at least 300 men and women who are already 100 years old or more.
This is a phenomenal ratio compared to, for instance, America where just 0..02 per cent of the population will live that long.
It is believed that factors for their long life and low rates of both mental and physical illness include the famously healthy Mediterranean diet that is popular throughout the region.
But rosemary is particularly prevalent in their cooking, said researchers from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine and University of Rome, who are carrying out the study.
Other influences include, perhaps obviously, the fresh air and walking - the residents regularly walk or hike through mountains to go to the shops or to work for instance as part of their daily routines.
San Diego doctor Professor Alan Maisel said: ‘We are the first group of researchers to be given permission to study this population in Acciaroli, Italy.’
The teams will look at diet, lifestyle and take blood samples and distribute questionnaires to the 300 centenarians of Acciaroli.
Professor Maisel added: ‘The goal of this long-term study is to find out why this group of 300 is living so long by conducting a full genetic analysis and examining lifestyle behaviours, like diet and exercise.
‘The results from studying the longevity of this group could be applied to our practice at UC San Diego and to patients all over the world.’