Francisco Nunez Olivera lived in his native Spain through both World Wars and the entirety of Franco’s dictatorship. But Olivera died only this week, as the world’s oldest man, at an impressive 113 years of age. And he claimed that the secret of his longevity was a diet “based on vegetables” and a daily glass of red wine.
Olivera’s family and community have come forward to share the story of his full and happy life, and just how he managed to achieve such an old age. According to the Daily Mail, Olivera was born and raised in southwest Spain, and having lived there all his life, his extended family chalked up his long life to the land, where he grew his own vegetables. Something must be in the water, because Olivera was one of 32 people over the age of 90 among the 2,200 people who call the small village home.
The Daily Mail explains that Spain has one of the highest life expectancies in the world, which many experts and health professionals credit to the fact that Spaniards stick to the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet is characterized by many plant-based dishes, unprocessed whole grains, and healthy fats, as well as the occasional glass of red wine.
A 2013 study by the University of Barcelona linked the Mediterranean diet to a healthy heart after studying 7,000 Spanish participants who switched to the diet for 5 years. The researchers behind the study discovered that there was a 30 percent decrease of cardiovascular disease among these high-risk participants following the change of diet.
While red wine is an important aspect of the Mediterranean diet, Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, says that the key to reaping health benefits is moderation—women should enjoy a single 5-ounce glass, and for men, it’s two glasses of the same amount.
Olivera’s daughter Antonia says that her father enjoyed great health throughout his entire life: despite having reached 113 years of age, Olivera only went to the hospital twice. He rarely experienced pains, aches, or serious illnesses, and up until the age of 107, he enjoyed a daily walk into the fields where he often harvested his own vegetables.
While there’s not a single solution to enjoying health at an older age, Olivera’s own life just might be a clue of how to get there. In 2015, he told Spain’s El Mundo that he wanted to live longer even though his friends had passed, adding: “I know I’m old, but I don’t feel old.”
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