(CNN) — It’s a place of terraced lemon groves, a paradoxically heat mountain breeze, and a highly effective fat-killing gene carried by a few fortunate residents.
Limone sul Garda, a picturesque fishing village set on the shores of Lake Garda in Italy’s northern Lombardy area, is an uncommon vacation spot of barely 1,000 residents.
It is essentially the most northern spot in the whole world the place lemons are naturally grown and has an exceptionally gentle local weather, contemplating its location on the ft of the Alps.
Perhaps this combine of things is what has led to the village’s claims of a secret “elixir” to a wholesome, lengthy life.
Many locals are apparently blessed with nice digestive talents that enable them to stuff themselves with cream-filled muffins and greasy chilly cuts with out worrying about increasing waistlines or coronary heart issues.
These residents have what they name the “Limone gene,” which accommodates a particular protein that destroys lipids and retains blood fluid.
The ‘tremendous human’ Segala household who carry the gene.
For 40 years, the individuals of Limone sul Garda have been underneath scientific commentary, with gene-carrying villagers examined as lab rats.
Of the 1,000 residents, half are Limone born and bred; and of these 500, 60 have the gene.
“The gene runs in my family,” says shopkeeper Gianni Segala, who jokes that the villagers are used as “blood bags” for scientists.
“My brothers and I, my mother — who’s 96 and still very bright — and all my children carry it.
“Since the Nineteen Eighties we have been giving freely our blood for recurrent exams, we have virtually been bled out completely,” he adds wryly.
He recalls the first time the doctors had him swallow a sugary dose of whipped cream every two hours to monitor his bloods.
“They took my blood after every chew, it was so candy and greasy I felt nauseous, however despite the fact that I ate a lot of it my blood immediately destroyed the fat with out assimilating them. By dusk I virtually fainted [due to blood loss],” he says.
However, even though people like Segala may never have to fret about clogged veins and blood clots, he says he leads a very normal life and is “no Superman.”
Cesare Sirtori, professor of clinical pharmacology at the Università degli Studi di Milano, leads the team that first identified what Limone locals dub the “elixir” protein, calling it A-1 Milano. He says the people of Limone have exceptionally low HDL cholesterol levels (in a 7-15 range when normally it should be 40-60) which appears to be the result of a genetic mutation within the protein carrier.
“Having low HDL ldl cholesterol — on condition that it’s classed as ‘good’ ldl cholesterol — is dangerous for you and results in coronary heart issues corresponding to potential strokes, however in these locals it has an inverse constructive impact,” he says.
“And whereas 99% of protein genetic mutations set off ailments and pathologies, this one has decided the absence of vascular ailments in carriers.” Sirtori is now studying the Limone gene to see how it could further the fight against atherosclerosis.
He discovered that in Limone it is a dominant gene, found in the DNA of five-year olds, youths and elderly alike.
‘Free to eat whatever I want’
Limone is a tiny fishing village on Lake Garda.
Jorg Greuel/Stone RF/Getty Images
The gene was first identified in the blood of a Limone train driver, an ancestor of Segala, who had been involved in an accident in Milan (hence the protein name A-1 Milano) and was taken to the hospital. Doctors who cured him were baffled by his astounding blood results, and kickstarted a massive screening campaign in the village.
“I used to be simply a child when my blood was first examined, and the medical doctors come recurrently to watch how our gene is behaving,” says Giuliano Segala, Gianni’s son.
“The undeniable fact that I carry [the gene] offers me a type of life insurance coverage — I really feel extra shielded health-wise and assured I will not have clogged arteries or die of a coronary heart assault after I develop previous.”
Even though he does occasionally feel like a guinea pig, Giuliano, who’s slim and fit, admits to happily indulging in greasy cured meats including mortadella, salami and even lard — just like his grandmother, who looks after herself and cooks for the whole family. The younger Segalas inherited the gene from her.
“I by no means get abdomen ache and I eat no matter I really feel like. I really like cotolette (breaded and fried veal cutlets), fried meals, salamis, and I additionally like to drink. I sleep like a child,” says Giuliano. But just because he’s a carrier of this superb gene doesn’t mean he always over-eats. He also exercises regularly, hiking with his father up mountain peaks to enjoy the spectacular views of nearby Lake Garda.
Sirtori is still hoping to analyze what happens if two carriers conceive a child. So far it’s been either the father or mother of a carrier to pass on the gene.
A powerful mix of factors
Limone’s lush location has drawn tourists for centuries.
Sirtori says that this genetic mutation, and its associated health benefits, is unique to Limone — and can’t even be found in nearby villages. However, he isn’t interested in digging into why that is.
But others have. Antonio Girardi, a local hotelier who has traced back the entire family tree of the Limone gene transmission to the 18th century, believes the surroundings, climate and natural produce play a key role.
“It may be this heat local weather year-round — we by no means have snow or ice, which can be why lemons have been rising on this northern space right here for hundreds of years,” he says.
“Or maybe it is due to the extraordinary additional virgin olive oil we’re all weaned on, and the contemporary lake fish we eat.”
Ever since the Renaissance, wealthy families have flocked to Limone’s shores for vacations, breathing in the sweet Alpine air mixed with citrus fragrances, and benefiting from the climate.
Girardi keeps a phone book with the contacts of all 60-something gene carriers. The other residents are split between those born in Limone and those from from neighboring towns or abroad, lured by the paradisaical setting and sleepy vibe of Limone’s maze of cobbled alleys, and white passageways and dwellings.
In the past villagers were either fishermen or mountain woodcutters who transported logs on donkey to be sold to the ships at the harbor. Today they all work in the tourist sector which draws big money.
Families stroll along the picturesque harbor and tourists visit the fishing museum. The cozy beaches lure sunbathers and sailing amateurs in summer while hikers explore the ragged tall cliffs looming over the lake.
“These mountains act as pure shields defending us from chilly winds and capturing the solar, protecting temperatures continually warmish,” says Girardi.
“We should thank this very nice, extraordinary micro-climate which has gifted our individuals with such a pure elixir.”