It seems like a new study comes out every other day proclaiming the laundry list of benefits associated with the Mediterranean diet. From extending longevity, to fending off breast cancer, the Mediterranean diet is heralded as the diet for good health. Based on the diet of people living in Mediterranean countries, it emphasizes olive oil, fresh produce, lean proteins, and nuts. For years, it was said to contribute to the low rates of heart disease and long life expectancies of people in this region. But now, a team of filmmakers is challenging this long-standing notion. They believe that the health of the region is driven not just by their diet, but also by their lifestyle.
The new film, Pioppi Protocol” is set in the town of Pioppi, Italy, just south of Naples. Ancel Keys, the first scientist to study the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, lived in Pioppi for the last three decades of his life. In addition to the Mediterranean diet, Keys is known for identifying the link between saturated fat and heart disease, and inspiring the adoption of the low-fat diet. The team of filmmakers is led by British cardiologist, Dr. Aeem Malhotra. Upon visiting Pioppi, Dr. Malhotra noticed that diet was one of many factors contributing to the town’s good health. And that’s not a surprise. The average person in Pioppi has a life expectancy of 90 years.
In addition to eating healthy foods, the people of Pioppi savor every bite. Every meal is an opportunity for socializing, extending for hours at a time. This concept is pervasive across most OECD countries, where the average person spends an hour and 41 minutes eating per day. Meanwhile, Americans spend about one hour and 14 minutes. Taking time while you eat allows the stretch receptors in the stomach to signal to the brain that you are full. This can prevent overeating and, consequently, weight gain.
Additionally, the people of Pioppi spend a lot of time outdoors. Instead of designating a certain time of day to jog or exercise, they walk or ride bicycles throughout the day. This type of leisurely but regular physical activity helps keep their stress levels in check, as well as aiding the maintenance of a healthy weight.
“We need to redefine the Mediterranean diet,” Dr. Malhotra told the New York Times. “The truth is that it’s a lifestyle. It’s the whole approach. It’s the food. It’s the social interaction. It’s getting the right kind of exercise. It’s being outside. It’s getting sunlight and sunshine.” For anyone looking to improve their health, these practices are intrinsic to any balanced lifestyle. Whether you’re already following the Mediterranean diet or you’re committed to another healthy eating plan, incorporating these lifestyle changes can only bolster the benefits of your diet.
The accompanying slideshow is provided by fellow Daily Meal special contributor Will Budiaman.