How far would you travel for the “elixir” to a long life at optimal health? A small village in Italy’s northern Lombardy region is said to have the secret to wellness. 

Limone sul Garda has less than 1,000 residents and is a quaint fishing village. It’s also the most northern location in the world where lemons are grown naturally. The climate is extremely mild even though it’s located at the bottom of the Alps. 

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The village’s secret to long life

Residents of Limone sul Garda can reportedly eat whatever they want without having to think about gaining weight or developing health issues. Their digestive systems are top tier. 

They’re said to have the “Limone gene,” containing a special protein that works to keep blood fluid and destroy lipids.

Under observation

The locals have been under scientific observation for 40 years. Half of the 1,000 residents are born and raised in Limone. Of those half, 60 have the Limone gene. 

Scientists are constantly testing the locals as if they’re lab rats. “Since the 1980s we’ve [his family] been giving away our blood for recurrent tests, we’ve almost been bled out entirely,” says shopkeeper Gianni Segala to CNN Travel.

Segala continued, “They [the scientists] took my blood after each bite [of whipped cream], it was so sweet and greasy I felt nauseous, but even though I ate a lot of it my blood instantly destroyed the fats without assimilating them. By nightfall I almost waited [due to blood loss].”

Scientists’ perspective

Cesare Sirtori is the professor of clinical pharmacology at the Università degli Studi di Milano and leads the team of scientists who first discovered the Limone gene. Sirtori tells CNN Travel that the locals have extremely low HDL cholesterol levels, which is most likely a genetic mutation within the protein carrier. 

He is now using his findings to help fight against atherosclerosis, the thickening of the arteries. Sirtori and his team injected the Limone protein into rabbits and found a decrease in blood clots in the rabbits’ arteries. 

Can they really eat whatever they want?

“I was just a kid when my blood was first tested, and the doctors come regularly to monitor how our gene is behaving,” says Gianni Segala’s son, Giuliano Segala. 

Giuliano says, “The fact that I carry [the gene] gives me a sort of life insurance — I feel more shielded health-wise and confident I won’t have clogged arteries or die of a heart attack when I grow old.” 

He eats whatever he wants and doesn’t feel bad about it. 

“I never get stomach ache and I eat whatever I feel like. I love cotolette (breaded and fried veal cutlets), fried foods, salamis, and I also love to drink. I sleep like a baby,” Giuliano shares. He does, however, still exercise and doesn’t always overeat. 

The unique gene

According to Sirtori, the gene mutation is unique specifically to Limone — not even nearby villages have the gene. It is said that the climate and virgin olive oil are contributing factors to the Limone gene.

What’s natural to them is seen as the ultimate elixir of life for us. 

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