For decades we have heard the benefits of a Mediterranean diet with its emphasis on olive oil, nuts and fresh produce, but it could in fact be the lifestyle behind the region’s historically low rates of heart disease.
A team of filmmakers, led by a British cardiologist, have produced a film called Pioppi Protocol, which they say proves the function of the Mediterranean diet has been oversimplified.
Instead, they say, the region’s good health is not only because of the food they eat, but because of the way they live, as well – a point that has been oft overlooked.
According to the New York Times the new film is set in the small town of Pioppi, Italy, just south of Naples. The filmmakers chose the town because Ancel Keys, the first scientist to champion the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, lived there for much of the last three decades of his life.
The film makers were surprised at the lifestyle of the people they encountered – everyone seemed to enjoy and savour their food, turning every meal into an excuse for a social occasion with friends and family.
They noticed that people spent a lot of time outside in the fresh air and instead of designating time to jog or go to the gym their life involved a lot of leisurely physical activity like walking and riding bicycles. Overall they seemed to have low levels of chronic stress.
“We need to redefine the Mediterranean diet,” cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra said.
“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. The question, though, is how can we combine all these lessons from this village with what we know about modern medicine.”