The Pioppi diet is one that has been inspired by a village in Southern Italy that is famously known as the healthiest place in the world - residents live 10 years longer than average and don't appear to suffer from chronic diseases that plague the western world. The diet does not involve counting calories or going to the gym and allows you to drink wine!
It has been created by renowned consultant cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra, advisor to the National Obesity Forum, and comprises a 21 day lifestyle plan that aims to help followers to slim down as well as reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes, cancer, dementia and heart disease.
Pioppi itself has some of the healthiest people in the world, with average life expectancy close to 90 for men and women, and many people living healthily to over 100.
As well as busting many myths prevalent in today's diet and health industries, its focus is on lifestyle as a whole, covering nutrition, exercise, stress, sleep and the importance of social interaction. The plan does not involve counting calories – in fact it encourages you just to eat when you're hungry and until you're full, provided you don't snack in between. This is easy to do once the regulating effect of the diet breaks the sugar and refined carbohydrate cycle that many of us are stuck in.
The core principles of the diet plan
- Completely cutting out all added sugars for the first 14 days, this means no bread, pasta or rice.
- Making sure you consume between 2 and 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil per day and a small handful of nuts.
- Do not fear fat - consume butter, cheese and full fat yoghurt as desired
- Walk at least 30 minutes per day
- Aim to sleep for 7 hours per night
- Concentrate on removing stress from your life
What foods can't you eat?
Breads, pasta, rice or added sugars including fruit juice, honey, syrups and smoothies are all off the menu. Also banned are commercially produced seed oils such as sunflower and rapeseed oil.
Is alcohol allowed?
Yes!! However moderation is required, this is not a license to binge drink! The guideline is 14 units a week and the diet plan encourages to drink like they do in the Mediterranean, which means a glass of wine with a meal.
To give you an idea of what 14 units looks like, it is as follows:
14 single measures of spirits (ABV 37.5%); seven pints of average-strength (4%) lager; nine and one-third 125ml glasses of average-strength (12%) wine; seven 175ml glasses of average-strength (12%) wine; four and two-thirds 250ml glasses of average-strength (12%) wine.
What foods should I eat?
The strongest scientific evidence from many studies on positive biological effects that improve health and reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, cancer and dementia come from extra virgin olive oil, nuts, whole fruit and vegetables and oily fish, so the plan is based around them.
The alpha linoleic acid, polyphenols and omega 3 fatty acids within these foods rapidly reduce inflammation, and provide great nutrition.
Is it true you don't need to go to the gym?
Yes, no gym membership required! However there is no getting away from the fact that moving on a regular basis is crucial to good health, in fact our ever increasing sedentary lifestyles are causing a myriad of health issues.
However, while the average village in Pioppi lives longer than the average Tour De France cyclist, they do so without formal 'exercise' instead they just walk everywhere.
The plan advises that you sit no more than 45 minutes at any one time, even if that just means getting up having a stretch and walking around for a few minutes before sitting back down again.
Why is fasting included?
Research as shown that fasting is a very powerful intervention to reduce insulin resistance - the plan advises fasting for a single 24 hour period every week. However this is done without going to bed hungry, ie you fast from dinner to dinner the next day. It is easier to get the 24 hour fasting period in by extending the natural overnight fast this way. It is important to keep consuming fluids during this time though, which can include tea, coffee and water.
Why is sleep so crucial?
Studies have shown that getting an average of less than seven hours' sleep a night is associated with type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity and depression. It's also closely tied into stress.
What has socialising got to do with dieting?
Social isolation is a big risk factor for depression and premature death, especially in the elderly. Positive social interactions and good relationships help mitigate the impact of external stress, which is also linked to inflammation.
How much weight will I lose?
The weight loss will vary from person to person but it's not the main aim of the diet. Instead the plan is designed to make every size and shape healthier with weight loss as a side effect.
The plan concentrates primarily on good health, if you follow it and are overweight or have weight in the wrong place, such as the around your middle section then you'll lose it. However if you have a normal body mass index (BMI), it will put you in better short-term and-long term health.
It's important to note that up to 40% of individuals with a normal BMI will suffer many of the same lifestyle-related diseases as those with obesity, and up to a third of people with type 2 diabetes are normal weight. There is therefore no such thing as a 'healthy' weight, only a healthy person.
The authors of the diet plan suggest that if the whole of the UK adult population followed the diet, we'd quite easily start to see a reversal in the twin epidemics of type 2 and obesity within a year.