The Secret to Living Past 100, According to Some of the Oldest People on Earth

The dietary staples of the world's centenarians are probably not approved by your doctor.
January 22, 2017, 4:00pm
Photo via Flickr user cyclonebill

Whenever someone dies young—and it seems like our definition of "young" is a sliding scale based on our own age at the time—everyone seems to shake their heads and then quietly talk about everything that person did right. It doesn't make sense, you'll say softly. They didn't drink or smoke or eat anything you'd see offered as a T.G.I.Friday's appetizer. The older we get, the more we realize that doesn't matter. And nobody knows that better than centenarians.

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"You gotta be god damned lucky for 100 years," Paul Marcus, who lived to be 103, once told the Denver Post. "And try not to eat anything that's healthy. The secret to longevity is ice cream." Or is it bacon? Earlier this week, Ruth Benjamin celebrated her 109th birthday, and the Illinois native is giving the credit to heavily processed pork products. "I never smoked a cigarette in my life, I never drank liquor in my life, and I had one husband for 43 years," she told WGN. "And I love bacon!"

OK, Ruth, you're 1-for-4 when it comes to being fun, but we won't argue. She and Paul Marcus aren't alone. Other centenarians say the secret to trying to out-old Gandalf is in eating hot dogs, downing sodas, or chugging a lot of booze. If you want to live to see the next century, here are a few tips that even lazy fast-food lovers can follow.

Helen Diekman was all for hot dogs, especially those at her beloved Portillo's restaurant in Elgin, Illinois. She lived just past her 100th birthday despite—or possibly because of—her diet, which was heavy on almost-all-the-way dogs. According to the Daily Herald, Diekman went to Portillo's three times a week, always ordering a dog with everything but hot peppers, an order of fries, and a Diet Coke.

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Speaking of soda, when Elizabeth Sullivan turned 104, her cake was shaped like her favorite thing: a can of Dr. Pepper. ""I started drinking [Dr. Pepper] about 40 years ago. Three a day," she bragged to CBSDFW. "Every doctor that sees me says they'll kill you, but they die and I don't. So there must be a mistake somewhere." Sullivan starts every day with a can from the Good Doctor, and last April, she was still feeling good (and caffeinated) enough to throw out the first pitch at a Texas Rangers game.

105 years young & Elizabeth Sullivan throws a dart for today's 1st pitch! pic.twitter.com/3aUCBhXJUR

— Texas Rangers (@Rangers) April 6, 2016

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Suzannah Mushatt Jones, who lived to be 116 years and 311 days old, was also on Team Bacon, eating four pieces of bacon and scrambled eggs for breakfast every day. "She'll eat bacon all day long," one of the supercentenarian's aides told the New York Post. Pearl Cantrell, who died a month before turning 106, would've high fived Jones for that. ""I love bacon, I eat it every day," she said shortly after her 105th birthday. Her love for pork products was so legendary, that Oscar Meyer sent one of its Weinermobiles to her Texas home, just to hand-deliver (what else?) a case of bacon.

When Agnes Fenton turned 110, she credited the advice of the world's best doctor, who told her to "drink three Miller High Lifes a day." So for 70 years, Fenton downed her three beers and a shot of Johnnie Walker Blue Label, every day, without fail. Unfortunately her killjoy caregivers ended her Miller High Life habit in 2015. Fenton turned 111 last August and, hopefully, somebody slipped her a can or three of the Champagne of Beers.

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Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, 100-year-old Gladys Fielden is quick to credit Guinness. "I have a Guinness at 10:30 every morning with a bag of salt and vinegar crisps and it's what has kept me going all these years," she told the Daily Express. She started drinking beer when she was 30 and pregnant, after hearing about "the health benefits." Yeah, so maybe don't try this one.

And it's probably best if you don't try to keep up with Antonio Docampo García either. The Spaniard, who lived to be 107, said that his secret was downing four bottles of wine every day. Docampo, who—surprise!—owned a vineyard, had two bottles with lunch and two more with dinner. "He could drink a litre and a half all at once," his son said. "He never drank water."

Finally, Mariano "Pops" Rotelli starts each day strong, with a shot of Jim Beam Black before breakfast. "I've had a shot of whiskey in my coffee every morning for 100 years," he said at his 107th birthday party. "I went to the doctor three times in 100 years. He's dead. I'm still living."

All right. Fatty foods and a shit-ton of alcohol. We're starting this diet tomorrow and we're definitely going to live forever—assuming it doesn't kill us on Day One.