WITH a combined age of 818 years between them, this unique set of Sardinian siblings are officially the oldest in the world.

The nine brothers and sisters from the Melis family have entered the Guinness Book of World Records following an extensive seven-year review around the world of potential candidates to the crown.

While good genes, a healthy diet and stress-free lifestyle are considered by most experts as the key to a long life, the Melis clan believes a little minestrone can also help.

‘We eat genuine food, meaning lots of minestrone and little meat and we are always working,’ 89-year-old Alfonso Melis told Italian media.

Another of the family, who hail from Perdasdefogu in the mountainous Ogliastra province, added: ‘You just keep working and you eat minestrone, beans and potatoes.’ At 105, Consolata is the oldest of the group, with nine children, 24 grand-children and 25 great-grandchildren. The next oldest are Claudia (99), Maria (97), Antonio (93), Concetta (91), Adolfo (89), Vitalio (86), Vitalia (81) and Mafalda (78).

‘The Mediterranean lifestyle is always held up as being beneficial to a long, healthy life, and Italians in particular feature prominently in the list of super-centenarians and centenarians,’ said Guinness World Records editor Craig Glenday. He added: ‘To have such a large number of living siblings with an average age of more than 90 years is incredibly rare.                            –GN