The Italian Village Known for its ‘Elixir’ of Healthy Living

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Limone sul Garda, a picturesque fishing village located on the shores of Lake Garda in Italy’s northern Lombardy region, is home to just 1,000 residents. The village is known for its terraced lemon groves and a unique gene carried by some residents that aids in fat digestion. This gene, known as the “Limone gene,” contains a special protein that destroys lipids and keeps blood fluid.

The village is the northernmost place in the world where lemons are naturally grown, thanks to its exceptionally mild climate despite being located at the foot of the Alps. This combination of factors has led to claims of a secret “elixir” to a healthy, long life among the villagers.

Many locals have great digestive abilities that allow them to consume cream-filled cakes and greasy cold cuts without worrying about expanding waistlines or heart problems. For the past 40 years, scientists have been studying the villagers who carry this gene.

Out of the 1,000 residents, half are born and bred in Limone, and out of those 500, 60 carry the gene. The gene carriers have been subjected to numerous tests over the years, with one resident jokingly referring to the villagers as “blood bags” for scientists.

Cesare Sirtori, professor of clinical pharmacology at the Università degli Studi di Milano, leads the team that first identified the “elixir” protein, which he named A-1 Milano. According to Sirtori, people in Limone have exceptionally low HDL cholesterol levels due to a genetic mutation within the protein carrier. Despite HDL cholesterol being classified as ‘good’ cholesterol, having low levels is usually detrimental and leads to heart problems. However, in the case of the Limone locals, it has an inverse positive effect.

Sirtori and his team have been studying the Limone gene to see how it could further the fight against atherosclerosis. In 2000, they synthesized the Limone protein in a lab and injected it into rabbits, which resulted in a significant decrease of blood clots in their arteries.

The gene was first identified in the blood of a train driver from Limone who had been involved in an accident in Milan. The doctors who treated him were surprised by his remarkable blood results, which led to a massive screening campaign in the village. The residents of Limone believe that their surroundings, climate, and natural produce play a key role in the presence of this gene.

Despite the unique genetic mutation, life in Limone sul Garda remains normal for its residents. The village’s beautiful setting and relaxed atmosphere attract tourists from around the world, contributing to its thriving tourism sector.


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