The Greek Keys to Longevity and Possibly Fighting Cancer

Greek coffee and longevity on the Greek island of Ikaria.

In honor of my Greek roots and Greek Independence Day on March 25th, I wanted to discuss a study from 2013 resurfacing on social media about Greek coffee and longevity on the Greek island of Ikaria. This study concluded, “…chronic coffee consumption is associated with improved endothelial function in elderly subjects, providing a new connection between nutrition and vascular health.” Dr. Oz also mentioned this study on his show soon after the study was released.

What is so special about Greek coffee? For starters, it’s prepared differently. The Arabica beans are boiled, and it’s served in much smaller cups than your typical American-sized cups. Greek coffee is believed to be rich in chromogenic antioxidant compounds, which may hold cardiovascular benefits, useful for modifying blood sugars, maintaining weight, reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and reducing the risks of certain types of cancer. But while Greek coffee may be good for you, I don’t believe it’s the magic bullet for longevity and good health.

I spent a lot of time in Greece growing up and am pretty familiar with the country and culture. I argue that mostly everything they do and consume is good for their hearts and is instrumental to fighting cancer on a daily basis. Ikaria is a very hill-laden, non-polluted island in the Aegean Sea. The Ikarians are an isolated population and tend to have strong social bonds with their family and neighbors. Naps are part of the daily routine and 80 percent of the men between the ages of 65-100 claim to be sexually active. Upon wakening in the morning and afternoon, Ikarians indulge in a cup of coffee or local tea, with their family or neighbors. They spend their days hiking up and down the sunny island and build up their vitamin D stores, or in their gardens growing foods. Ikarians also have one the best diets in the world: the Mediterranean diet, filled with lots of herbs, olive oil, honey, fruits, vegetables, legumes, fish, small amounts of goat’s meat, accompanied by a little wine. Their diet does not contain processed foods and they don’t spend a lot of time watching television.

The also don’t subscribe to our concept of time. According to “The New York Times” piece: “…’as one 101-year-old woman put it ... with a shrug, “We just forget to die.’”

As an advocate for those with hereditary cancer, I know many people are desperate to find the magic bullet for longevity and thwarting disease but sadly, there is not one. Like most things, longevity is dependent upon a constellation of positive factors in one’s life: living in a healthy environment, incorporating exercise in your daily activities, increasing vitamin D stores, strong relationships, naps, and eating for nourishment — Greek coffee is simply a small part of the puzzle.