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123-year-old Bolivian man credits Andean diet for his longevity

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 19th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Bolivian farmer Carmelo Flores, who lives in a straw-roofed hut, may be the oldest person who ever lived. Flores claims to be 123 years old, and he credits his longevity to quinoa grains, riverside mushrooms and continual chewing of coca leaves.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Flores explains that the traditional Andean diet has kept him alive for 123 years. "Potatoes with quinoa are delicious," Flores says in the Aymara dialect, the only language he speaks.

The poverty-stricken, landlocked South American country of Bolivia only started issuing official birth certificates in 1940 - and so it is not possible to verify Flores' true age. He claims his baptism certificate lists his birthday as July 16, 1890 and he has national identity documents based on the certificate.

Bolivia's Civil Registry Office says it's investigating the validity of the documents and cannot comment until the investigation is completed.

In spite of this, many Bolivians are already celebrating Flores' longevity. A local government official plans to award him the title of "Living Heritage of Humanity" on August 26.

According to the Guinness World Records organization, the title of oldest human being ever to have lived belongs to France's Jeanne Calment, who died at the age of 122 in 1997. Guinness did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on Flores.

Still strong enough to take daily walks in shoes made of recycled tires, Flores spends most of his time lying on a blanket watching village life go by.

His life was not always this leisurely. Flores said he fought in the brutal 1932-35 Chaco War between Bolivia and Paraguay, and had to hunt skunks to feed himself.

He also briefly lived in La Paz, 50 miles away, but never took to the bustling capital. "My father told me that he felt like he was in jail, locked up with a key," Flores' only living son Cecilio, 67, who cares for him says. "He ... just wanted to return to his land."

Back in his village of Frasquia, Flores is something of a loner now that his generational peers have long since died.

"Everyone who lived here has already died, men and women, I am the only who is still alive. Even my wife died. I don't know how long I shall live," he adds. "Only God knows. He'll tell me if I will die or keep living."

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