What Makes a Centenarian?

What makes a centenarian?  One ingredient, I think, is home cooking.

I had some fun with a nutritional brain teaser not long ago. The point of it was that almost any food – including cookies, ice cream, and potato chips – can be healthy if the ingredients are good, and any food will be unhealthy if the ingredients are toxic. Unfortunately, most prepared foods in supermarkets, and many restaurant foods, are made with toxic ingredients. It’s a sad commentary on today’s world; but if you want a long life, it’s almost essential to cook your own food.

I get a daily Google alert with news stories about centenarians. One of the most common features is that centenarians like to cook. The following three stories all came on the same day:

Via the Leesburg (Florida) Daily Commercial:

Great-great grandmother Mary D. Nix, 101, has a zest for life and believes it’s vital to live by the Golden Rule.

“I’m going to keep on living,” she said….

Born on July 28, 1909, in Leary, Ga., she married her husband, Elijah, when she was 16. The couple lived in Tangerine and Nix worked for more than 40 years as a domestic housekeeper.

“She worked for rich people all of her life, keeping the houses cleaned, their dinners cooked, and children fed,” said Thelma Hayes Wooden, the second oldest of Nix’s 17 grandchildren.

She still thinks a woman’s job is in the kitchen,” Wooden said with a chuckle, recalling her grandmother would share advice with her family and others in her care.

Via the Burton (Staffordshire, UK) Mail:

The birthday girl said she used to enjoy cooking, knitting, sewing and gardening when she was younger.

Mrs Wright said: “I enjoy life very much and especially living in the home….

 “I’ve had so many highlights in my life and I couldn’t tell you what the secret to a long and happy life is, as I’m not sure.”

Via the New Haven (Connecticut) Register:

Her other son, Anthony Monaco of Denver, Colo., said his mother was feisty, a great cook and a hard worker. “She and my dad did a very good job of putting food on the table and raising us,” he said. “She would walk two miles from work to home each night, stop at the store and gather all the ingredients for that night’s dinner, come home, make dinner and get out the ironing board.

“She worked hard all day and pretty much all night. She also was a devout Catholic.”
Monaco died July 12 at age 100….

In her spare time, she liked to play cards, crochet, knit, cook, garden, walk, go to the casinos, dance and listen to Italian music.

Another common feature of centenarians is that they are cheerful and highly sociable. Centenarians always seem to have many friends.

Sociability does not always imply marriage: a surprisingly large number of centenarian women have never married. But marriage is no bar to longevity, as Wook Kundor of Malaysia shows:

Centena­rian Wook Kundor is all alone again.

Her husband Mohd Noor Musa, who is seven decades her junior, was rearrested for a drug-related offence on Sunday….

“He reneged on his promise not to indulge in drugs. But I can’t live without him,” she said when met here yesterday….

“I don’t know what is wrong with him. Probably he is bored without a steady job,” she said.

Wook Kundor said police had told her that her husband had tested positive for heroin….

She married Mohd Noor, her 23rd husband, five years ago.

Perhaps what makes a centenarian is this: “You can go to extremes with impossible schemes / You can laugh when your dreams fall apart at the seams / And life gets more exciting with each passing day / And love is either in your heart or on its way / Don’t you know that it’s worth every treasure on earth / To be young at heart.”

Leave a comment ?


  1. That was cute. 23 husbands! Wow.

  2. I too like to read these kind of news stories to learn about the longevity secrets of the world’s oldest people. I am not surprised to learn that most of them love home cooking; eat nutrient rich food like lard, eggs and liver; do not overdo the grains, and are physically and socially active. Eating nutrient rich food is important during aging because an aging body is less efficient in acquiring nutrients from natural sources like for example vitamin D from the sun.

    Am still waiting for the vegan centenarian by the way but i am not keeping my hope high

    • Hi Daniel,

      I’ll do a few more centenarian posts this week dealing with their diets. There’s never been a vegan centenarian as far as I know but Marie-Louise Meilleur was said to be a vegetarian.

      We have a section on “how to be a healthy vegetarian” in the diet book — because my wife has a lot of vegetarian friends, one of her best friends is a former Buddhist monk — and it can be done although it’s not easy. I don’t think many vegetarians will fall into a healthy diet by accident.

      Best, Paul

      • Dear Paul,

        could you perhaps be a little more specific on where that appendix on “how to be a healthy vegetarian” can be found? I recently bought the book (Scribner 2012) and just cannot find the appendix or much satisfying information on the PHD and being a vegetarian.

        Thanks in advance,


    CHANNEL 8 TV NEWS, United States of America – KGW.com

    A Vegan woman celebrating her 108th Birthday is the oldest in Multnomah County, in the US, and may be the oldest in the entire state.

    Strict Vegetarian Centenarian Loreen Dinwiddie lives at Cherry Blossom Cottage in Southeast Portland, in United States of America.

    A centenarian is a person who has accomplished living to over 100+ years of age. A SuperCentenarian is the rarest of all, and is a person whose longevity has reached 110 years old.

    Only 2 years shy of being a SuperCentenarian, Loreen Dinwiddie looks amazing for her age, her mind is still sharp as a tack, she speaks eloquently, and looks better than many other centenarians. Her skin is clear and radiant with hardly any of the wrinkles you would expect for her age. She eats no red meat and credits her healthy vegan diet of vegetables, nuts and fruits for her long life.

    She is yet another Vegan Centenarian, and she attributes her youthfulness and wonderful health to her vegan diet and says it has been instrumental at keeping her feeling great all these years.



    Enter “KGW 8 VEGETARIAN CENTENARIAN” into GOOGLE in order to obtain more information for yourself. Including pictures, photos, and video footage including vegan centenarians.

    Note to the public:

    There are in fact multitudes of vegetarian centenarians and vegan centenarians.


    The user posting the insinuation that there are none, is found to be incorrect. The user is parroting a false line that has been traced back to an article by Brian White who is linked to a known front-group called the “naturalhygeinesociety” which spreads false and misleading information across the internet.

    The doctor named Paul Jaminet is also found perpetuating the wrong information, however not intentionally as in the user, but rather simply because the doctor does not know. He simply does not or did have the information on the subject. This is different from the user identified as “Daniel”, who is pushing a Lard Meat Anti-Grain agenda (this is a actually material pushed by a Paleolithic “Caveman” diet lobbyist. The Paleo diet has now been found debunked. It was pushed by several individuals who claimed paleolithic humans did not eat grains, and only began eating processed grains just 10,000 years ago(false) Until scientists, researchers, archaeologists and paleontologists revealed paleolithic man DID INDEED EAT PROCESSED GRAINS. 30,000 years ago. In other words the anti-grain caveman paleo diet has been exposed as scientifically false.)


    The doctor is different from the original fake “natural hygeiene society” and CCF frontgroups which have now been found lacing the internet with intentional fallacious information and found spreading anti-health information, with ties to food processing corporations and the livestock industry. These front groups receive cash from corporations and the livestock industry and on their behalf they create falsified information, sites, and articles to push sales of goods which these diets recommend healthwise against. (Example, Livestock Industry has a financial interest in discrediting vegan and vegetarian diets for it will lower their profits on sales of meat.) Unlike the user, the doctor is found not associated with the frontgroups, just unaware of the full information that there are vegan centenarians and an rich supply of centenarian vegetarians. Even including entire populations of vegetarians which hold the records for an inordinate amount of cases of remarkable longevity.

    The doctor posts that “Marie-Louise Meilleur was said to be a vegetarian.” The information that Marie Louise Meilleur, the oldest person to this day in entire Canadian history, and the fourth longest (verified) lifespan of any human on earth belongs to a Vegetarian, is found to be CORRECT. The statement by the Doctor revealing that a Vegetarian Centenarian not only holds the Canadian national record, but also at one point a Vegetarian held the Guiness World Record for the oldest living person on the face of the earth, is CORRECT.



  4. The point is, that there are people with all kind of habits that live over 100. For instance, Jeanne Calment, the oldest recorded woman did smoke few cigarettes per day for 80 years.

    From wiki:
    She ascribed her longevity and relatively youthful appearance for her age to olive oil, which she said she poured on all her food and rubbed onto her skin, as well as a diet of port wine, and ate nearly one kilo of chocolate every week.[10]

    In article “Seven Foods to Balance Your Blood Sugar Levels” author claims that “In fact, steady blood sugar levels are the one thing that every person who lives over 100 (centurion) has in common”. She didn’t provide evidence but it does make sense.

    My first neighbor will have 100 years this year. She lost both her sun and husband 60 years ago which almost drive her insane and she was making cakes for other people for free until she improved. She is always positive now, always with smile and has indeed many friends and likes to cook.

    I doubt cooking is the key as many people I know cook every day. Furthermore, she uses standard ‘junk’ ingredients like sugar, a lot of wheat and so on…

    Its probably genetic superiority then anything else.

  5. I have researched longevity for 36 years and published about 37 books and scientific papers on this subject.

    Certainly many factors play a role in reaching 100 years of age. For example, genetics, medical care, socializing, liking your self and other humans, keeping mentally active, adequate rest, exercising, and nutrition. I personally favor a vegetarian or vegan diet although most centenarians have eaten meat during much of their lives.

    Most research also indicates a lean body is good to have for a long life but there are exceptions. Being shorter than average also seems to be a factor in longer life. Most centenarian studies indicate that being shorter than average is a common characteristic. Chan, Suzuki, and Yanomamo reported that being short and lean were advantages for attaining a long life. A new study by Poulain, Gianni and Salaris also found a town in Sardinia, noted for its short height, had an exceptionally high number of centenarians. In addition, men and women were equally represented. This is unusual since women generally outnumber men as centenarians by a large margin.

    If body size and its relation to health and longevity is of interest to you, see the book: Human Body Size and the Laws of Scaling, Nova Biomedical, NY, 2007 or website: http://www.humanbodysize.com. Please be warned that the book is not for everybody because it is rather technical with lots of charts, tables and scientific data. A less technical book is The Truth About Your Height by Samaras, TT.

    Tom Samaras

  6. Hi Tom,

    It sounds like a fascinating book. Thanks for letting us know about your research. I read a news report about your “good to be small” paper, it’s nice to make your acquaintance.

    Best, Paul

  7. Hi Paul,

    Good to make you meet you too.

    Thanks for your input. Do you remember where you read about my paper: It’s Good to be Small?

    Best regard,


  8. Hi Tom,

    I have an article of yours in my notes: http://www.news-medical.net/news/20110315/Human-growth-height-size-Reasons-to-be-small.aspx.

    Presumably that’s what I was remembering. I didn’t record how I found it.

    Best, Paul

  9. “The world’s oldest living person celebrated her 120th birthday on Saturday in Leshan, Sichuan Province.Du Pinhua, listed in the Guinness World Records as the oldest living person, celebrated her birthday with dozens of relatives and locals.Du said she has been vegetarian for her whole life. Locals describe Du as a tolerant and happy lady, who never argues with others.”

    Stop spreading lies because of your hate for that which is different than you.


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