Revealed: Secrets of the ‘world’s healthiest village’ where residents can live to 100!
- A leading doctor found Pioppi, in Italy, has little diabetes or heart disease
- Villagers eat a high-fat, low sugar diet – having a sweet treat just once a week
- Their diet is rich in vegetables, fish, olive oil and contained omega-3
- Pioppians eat little dairy, meat and refined carbohydrates, it was found
- Lack of stress, getting seven hours of sleep and physical activity also factors
- Dr Aseem Malhotra calls for ‘sugar tax’ on soft drinks to cover all confectionery
A leading doctor has studied the ‘world’s healthiest village’ – and revealed the secret to the remarkable longevity of its residents who live to over the age of 100.
Cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra found many of the locals in Pioppi in southern Italy consume very little sugar – despite a high fat diet.
The villagers rarely suffer from diabetes or heart disease – which he says is down to them eating sugar just once a week.
As well as diet, other key factors were lack of stress and getting seven hours of sleep a night – and they even have a glass of wine a day.
Pioppi is protected by UNESCO as the home of the Mediterranean diet.
A Mediterranean diet rich in vegetables, fish and olive oil is linked to good health (file)
Dr Malhotra – who has spent years investigating rising heart disease and obesity in Britain – argues our fear of fat is to blame for increased consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates.
It is this which has fuelled rises in heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes, he claims.
‘Adopting a high-fat Mediterranean diet, quitting smoking and engaging in mindful movement and stress reduction are more powerful than any drug in the prevention and treatment of many chronic diseases, including heart disease,’ he said.
A founding member of pressure group Action on Sugar, he is now calling for next April’s ‘sugar tax’ on soft drinks to cover all confectionery products.
Pioppi residents – who had no supermarket – were found to eat a diet rich in vegetables, fish and olive oil, which was low in sugar, dairy, meat and refined carbohydrates. They eat pasta and bread, but in small quantities.
‘Pioppi may lie in a historically poor region of Italy, but its health bounty is rich, plentiful and unadulterated,’ said Dr Malhotra.
‘We did find that those in Pioppi didn’t have a diet rich in dairy products other than cheese, but this wasn’t out of choice; other dairy products simply weren’t widely available.
‘Nor did they eat a lot meat; it was expensive. A diet with hardly any sugar and one that was rich in locally sourced vegetables and fish, with olive oil eaten with practically every meal, gave them significant health benefits.’
He pointed out that they only eat dessert on a Sunday and had pizza once or twice a month.
And while it may have not been intentional, ‘intermittent fasting’ was a natural part of life in the village.
Dr Malhotra says this has an anti-ageing effect, as the body responds with a ‘health positive’ hormonal storm. Fasting may therefore possibly delay the decline in human growth hormone (HGH) which occurs naturally as we age.
And while they do not undertake Western-style exercise, the Pioppians are ‘constantly on the go’.
He also noted all the villagers retire for the traditional siesta each afternoon.
DR MALHOTRA’S 8 STEPS TO A LONG LIFE
The right balance of fats
Dr Malhotra says diet is the number one issue, which above physical inactivity, smoking and alcohol, contributes to more disease and deaths.
He urged people to stop counting calories, ditch the scales and to ensure they eat their greens every day.
We should also set aside our misplaced fear of saturated fat, and instead focus on getting the right balance of omega-3 and omega-6, two types of polyunsaturated fatty acid.
He said foods branded ‘low fat’, ‘gluten free’ or ‘heart healthy’ are more likely to damage your health.
‘Like many households, we had replaced butter with ‘heart healthy’ margarine back in the 1980s.
‘My mum began to cook with ‘healthy’ sunflower oil, and full-cream was replaced with semi-skimmed milk in our house. We all feared fat.
‘Many believe that it’s not just individual components of the Mediterranean diet but in the synergy of the foods when eaten together that the added benefits lie.
‘For example, olive oil increases the uptake of omega-3 fatty acids into the cell membrane, whereas the omega-6 from corn oil competes with the uptake.
‘Remember: omega-6 is also an essential fatty acid, as it plays a role in the immune response to infections.
‘The problem in the western diet is getting too much of it from processed foods and also not getting enough omega-3.’
Foods high in omega-3 include oily fish, flaxseed oil, chia seeds, walnuts and soybeans.
Potential NHS savings
Dr Malhotra said that adopting the lifestyle of the Pioppians would mean a reduction in the 20 million annual deaths worldwide caused by cardiovascular disease.
And he says it would also curb soaring rates of type 2 diabetics which would transform NHS budgets.
He called for the Government to introduce more drastic measures to achieve this – including the banning of vending machines and junk food in hospitals.
His recommendations, outlined in his book The Pioppi Diet: A 21-day Lifestyle Plan, has won praise from Andy Burnham, former Secretary of State for Health.
‘This book has the power to make millions of people healthier and happier,’ the publishers quote him as saying.
‘If we all adopted The Pioppi Diet we would quickly reverse the obesity epidemic and be able to sustain our National Health Service.’
VILLAGERS IN NORTHERN CRETE HAVE LOW RATES OF HEART DISEASE DESPITE FATTY DIET
People living in isolated Greek mountains villages live long and healthy lives thanks to a unique gene that protects them against heart disease, recent research has found.
Scientists studied the villagers in an area of northern Crete because they had low cases of heart disease despite eating lots of animal fats.
The study, for the first time made a genetic portrait of the population of of Zoniana and Anogia by sequencing the entire genome of 250 individuals.
They found a new genetic variant, common among villagers, which appears to protect the heart by lowering levels of ‘bad’ fats and cholesterol.
Researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute found that the variant is 40 times more common in this small Greek population than in other European populations.
Lead author Professor Eleftheria Zeggini said: ‘Genetic studies like this can help us begin to understand why this is.’