Pork meat and longevity: is there really a link?

The secret of longevity is a mystery that each of us would like to discover and scientists have always tried to reveal its possible causes, going to look for them mainly in what we eat and in our lifestyle.

As we saw on the occasion of the Longevity Run, longevity is a typical Italian characteristic, and principally linked both to our lifestyles and to what we eat. Analyzing, for example, the diet of the longest-lived populations or hearing about the centenarians through interviews, there is surprisingly a singular point in common. In their diet there is always pork meat. But could there really be a link between the consumption of this meat and longevity?

An evident example comes from the inhabitants of Okinawa, in Japan, among the most long-lived in the world and able to remain active and healthy beyond the ninety years. Looking at their food pyramid it turns out that it is not so different from our Mediterranean Diet, with which it shares very similar culinary traditions.

Longevity is a typical Italian characteristic, linked both to our lifestyles and to what we eat. Click To Tweet

In particular, pork seems to be vital in their culture: nothing is wasted on this animal, valuing it in all its parts, to the point of being famous the phrase “the only thing you don’t eat of pig is his voice“: head, feet, stomach, tongue and especially the entrails and ears, still very much consumed today, are essential ingredients of a wide variety of traditional dishes, as well as using the head or parts of the pig as decorations on special occasions and on holidays.

From the nutritional point of view, the result is a large intake of B vitamins, especially B3, niacin, and vitamin B1, which helps increase metabolism, convert fat into energy and plays a key role in reducing bad cholesterol. It is said that this is the secret of the hardworking inhabitants of Okinawa to always feel healthy and full of energy, to relieve fatigue and survive the hot season. But above all the good dose of selenium and zinc, omega 3 monounsaturated and long chain PUFA fats, and low levels of omega 6 and saturated fats.

Pork is also an excellent source of collagen and glycine, a non-essential amino acid that has revealed many health benefits, including an actual prolongation of life span. Click To Tweet

Pork is also an excellent source of collagen and glycine, a non-essential amino acid that has revealed many health benefits, including an actual prolongation of life span in rats given glycine supplements and the content of bioactive substances antioxidants such as vitamin E, coenzyme Q10, taurine, glutamine, creatine, creatinine, carnosine and anserine definitely increasing the interest in this type of meat, which could really make a significant contribution to the well-being and life expectancy of the population.

There is also a belief that the inhabitants of Okinawa used to eat the internal organs of the pig because, being the most similar to those of humans, they would be able to provide “spare parts” to repair their organs and prevent pathologies. According to this way of thinking, being the pig genetically similar to humans, its proteins would be more successful than others in repairing arterial damage and thus avoiding cardiovascular diseases. These are only beliefs, for now without scientific foundation, but still very suggestive and curious.

Indeed it is not necessary to go far to reveal the mysteries of longevity: even our Sardinia is part of the Blue Zones of the planet, which has aroused considerable interest in its traditional foods as potential causal factors, with a society organized around an efficient pastoral economy, mainly dependent on cattle breeding and therefore with a rather high consumption of animal-derived foods. Even today, a large part of Sardinian population, especially the over one hundred-year olds, follows the traditional diet and it could be hypothesized a link between the health benefits with these nutrient dense foods.

Porceddu, the suckling pig cooked on a spit, is a specialty of the Sardinian culinary tradition studied for its possible correlation with longevity. Click To Tweet

Also in this case pork, along with sheep meat, retains its place of honour: just think of the famous porcetto or porceddu, the suckling pig cooked on a spit, a specialty of the Sardinian culinary tradition that, with other excellences of the territory such as wild boar or pork hams raised in the wild and typical cheeses, they constitute a heritage of genuine local products to be studied for the search for a possible correlation with longevity.

Even if at the moment the secret of longevity has not yet been revealed, one thing is certain: pork along with a long list of simple and healthy foods and an active (even socially) lifestyle has always been part of our Mediterranean culture, and it is certainly an excellent starting point for a long and healthy life.


The "Sustainable Meats" Project aims to identify the key topics, the state of knowledge and the most recent technical scientific trends, with the aim of showing that meat production and consumption can be sustainable, both for health and for the environment.