The Oldest Person in the World and the Secret to Her Longevity

Emma Morano, 116, is believed to be the last person alive born in the 1800s.

Emma Morano is now the oldest person in the world. (Antonino Di Marco / AP)

The oldest person in the world died Thursday night in New York, and that title passed to Emma Morano, who at 116 is believed to be the last person alive born in the 1800s.

Morano lives in the Italian mountain town of Verbania, and she was born November 29, 1899. She has seen her country transition from a constitutional monarchy to a republic. She’s lived through two wars and two decades of Fascism. In 2015 she told The New York Times about her secret to longevity:

Ms. Morano has no doubts about how she made it this long: Her elixir for longevity consists of raw eggs, which she has been eating — three per day — since her teens when a doctor recommended them to counter anemia. Assuming she has been true to her word, Ms. Morano would have consumed around 100,000 eggs in her lifetime, give or take a thousand, cholesterol be damned.

She is also convinced that being single for most of her life, after an unhappy marriage that ended in 1938 following the death of an infant son, has kept her kicking. Separation was rare then, and divorce became legal in Italy only in 1970. She said she had plenty of suitors after that, but never chose another partner. “I didn’t want to be dominated by anyone,” she said.

Scientists are studying the secret to long life, and one place they are looking at is Sardinia, which last year had 21 centenarians. Besides Iceland, it’s the most genetically homogenous place in the world. For a long time, scientists thought the residents’ longevity was because of their genes. But recently researchers have looked into diet as the strongest factor in long life. The secret food? Beans.

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