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The Old Woman and the Herring
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The Old Woman and the Herring

Do some people have an advantage when it comes to long life?

It's The Herring, Silly

Want to live to be 100? Well, Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper says eat herring...everyday! Seem like a crazy idea? Well, Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper lived to be 115 years old, so maybe it isn't too crazy. The thing is if it were that simple, we'd probably be seeing a lot more people live to be over 100--people in her native Netherlands consume 13 tons of herring every year! Researchers studying healthy aging have always noted how exceptional these long-lived people are not only in the age they achieve but in how healthy they are while aging. Recent studies indicate that while herring is good for you, so are certain genes.

Extension Investigation

Use the resources below to answer the following questions:

  1. In industrial society, what percentage of people live to be over 100? What kind of health do they display in their 90's? Does this pattern surprise you? Why or why not?
  2. How many genetic markers did people over 100 years old have in common in this study? How consistent were the genetic patterns for people?
  3. How do researchers think that knowledge of these genetic markers may lead to healthier aging in people who do not carry these genetic markers?
  4. Does the existence of a genetic component to aging mean that things like nutrition and exercise are unimportant to aging? Why or why not?
  5. Do people who live extremely long lives show a lower incidence of "disease" genes? Is this why researchers believe they live such long lives?


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