27 December 2006

A Jewish longevity gene?

While searching out interesting items for Tracing the Tribe, I came across this new study by Yeshiva University's Albert Einstein College of Medicine. It was published in the December 26, 2006 issue of Neurology.

Einstein's Institute for Aging Research director Dr. Nir Barzilai examined 158 people of Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish descent; all age 95 or older. Those who possessed a particular gene variant were twice as likely to have good brain function based on a standard test of cognitive function. In short, the gene variant linked to living a long life - 90 and older - helps very old people think clearly and retain memories.

Centenarians were three times more likely to have this gene variant, known as CEPT VV, compared with a control group. According to the article, the gene affects the size of "good" HDL and "bad" LDL cholesterol.

The article goes on to suggest the process of how the gene protects the brain and helps people to resist disease.

However, I do wonder why Sephardic centenarians were not tested. Many such studies include very few or no individuals of Sephardic descent.

While this article seems to say this is an Ashkenazi gene variant, Sephardim were not included. Centenarians in that community likely possess the same variant, and such a study would show that the variant was a Jewish trait in general, not merely an Ashkenazi gene, as identified in this limited study.

Food for thought.


  1. Please understand our finding are based on Ashkenazim because of their limited number of founders, but the results are applicable to all peoples. If you are Ashkenazi and over the age of 65, and would like to participate in this groundbreaking study, please email me at longevity@aecom.yu.edu

    1. Anonymous12:25 AM

      I am an Ashkenazi Jew. I will be 65, 4/17/14 and am interested in participating in the study. One branch of my family has many members in their 90's. stevethebiff@hotmail.com

  2. Please email me if you would like to participate in this research. Please mention this blog. Ashkenazim are the focus of our research because it is a "shorthand" way to limit genetic noise, due to the limited number of founders of the Ashkanazi population. The results apply to all peoples, including Sephardim. My email is

  3. Hello, Deborah,

    Thank you for the additional information on the longevity gene study.

    However, you do need to make a concerted effort to include Sephardim and Mizrahim in your study. Limiting a study to Ashkenazim and then talking about an Ashkenazic gene, without including Sephardim, is misleading.

    I believe that including significant numbers of Sephardim and Mizrahim will show the same genes and traits and the results will then be Jewish, not limited to Ashkenazi.

    Additionally, many Sephardim went to Europe and into Eastern Europe likely from the 14th century (pre-Expulsion) or even earlier. Many Ashkenazim today do not even realize they may have Sephardic roots and are presenting as Ashkenazim in your study, which also skews the "naming" of this study.

    Deborah, I will contact you privately.


  4. Thank you for your interesting post!
    I thought perhaps you may also find this related post on centenarian studies interesting to you too:
    Longevity Science: NAAJ Paper

  5. Hello, Leonid,

    Thank you for writing in. On the link, I found the section on longevity and birth order very interesting:

    "Analysis of familial factors suggests that there may be a link between exceptional longevity and a person's birth order. It was found that first-born daughters are three times more likely to survive to age 100, compared to later-born daughters of higher birth orders (7+). First-born sons are twice more likely to become centenarians compared to sons having birth order between four and six."